I've been following the Iraqi prisoner abuse cases very closely, and I have a hypothesis as to why these abuses are taking place.
Remember after 9/11, when the CIA said "we need to hire more 'bad apples' in order to make our nation secure"? I'm paraphrasing, but basically, the argument was, that during the cold war, the CIA hired all kinds of unsavory characters to do their bidding. International terrorists, arms dealers, drug dealers. They were all made CIA agents, even though they were despicable people, simply because they had the know-how and underground contacts to get the job done. After the cold war ended, congress decided they should put some pressure on the CIA to fire a lot of the "bad apples" because they were no longer needed. That was one of the main arguments from the CIA about why they didn't know about 9/11: "We didn't have enough good agents."
So, fast forward to a few years later. We've been hiring all sorts of unsavory characters to work in intelligence services for the last couple of years. These guys are the scum of the earth, but they seem to get results. Some of them are put in charge of interrogation/intelligence extraction efforts at Abu Ghraib. They are told by senior military officers: "Get the information; I don't want to know how you get it; just get it." So now you've created an environment where the MP officers are ordered to do these things by the intelligence officers who are in charge of interrogation. When deplorable and dehumanizing acts like these are sanctioned by those in charge (rogue CIA agents), it doesn't take long before all kinds of depraved acts are being perpetrated on the prisoners. It's just human nature that these things start to happen. I find it similar to the "power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely" argument. If you put MP officers in a position of power over the prisoners, and encourage the use of torture and other methods used to break the willpower of a subject, you are asking for trouble. Human rights abuses will happen, and it's no great mystery that they are happening right now.
Right now the military has to make a tough decision: Which is more important, the basic human rights of the Iraqi prisoners, or our current administration's need to find WMDs before the election? It's obvious which one they've chosen up until now, and this is going to backfire bigtime for us. It's pretty hard to demand that the Iraqi militias treat foreigners they capture as hostages properly, when we're sodomizing their fellow Iraqis in prison. Likewise, it is hypocritical for us to demand the Iraqi militias follow the Geneva Convention when we have such blatant disregard for it.
What should the US do to solve this problem? Here are the steps I believe they should take:
Publicly apologize to the Iraqi people. Make the most sincere effort you can.
Replace all current intelligence officials at Abu Ghraib. These problems were started by senior intelligence officials who either ordered these abuses to take place, or turned a blind eye while their associates ordered them to take place. For that, they should be delivered to the Hague to stand trial for war crimes.
Replace all MP officers who were directly involved in the abuses. Even if they were ordered to do these things, the fact that they have performed these acts without reporting them to someone higher in the chain of command indicates that they have become corrupt with power and have the potential to abuse again.
What will happen? This is a totally different story. I think what we will see happen is this:
The US military will seek to blame all of the abuses on the MP officers at the lowest possible level, making them scapegoats for the abuses, even though they were ordered to do so by intelligence officials.
Several MP officers will be court-martialed.
The commanding officer of the prison will be sacked (already happened, I believe).
Basically, the CIA and DOD are looking for a scapegoat, and the MPs who performed the abuses will do just fine. That way nobody has to know about those shady folks that the CIA is hiring, and all of their wily ways. We can keep them on the payroll and keep extracting information from Iraqi prisoners. The human rights abuses will most assuredly continue, because this administration desperately needs to find WMDs before the election. They will just enact new rules such as banning digital cameras in order to make sure there are no leaks this time.
I find the methods our government uses deplorable. During the Iraqi invasion, the administration openly criticized the Iraqi government for airing pictures of American POWs. They said this was against the Geneva Convention (something about parading POWs in front of cameras to embarass them). How can a country that performs these vile acts on their own POWs have any recourse with the Geneva Convention? The answer is, we can't. We've become a nation of hypocrites, forcing other countries to adhere to the same code of conduct that we have no regard for.
Long live Pax Americana. I have a feeling we'll probably see the entire country crumble to bits in my lifetime and it's not going to be a pretty thing.