Monday, September 20

When Ends justify the means, Torture that is.

A year ago, after the deaths of the sons of saddam failed to have the desired impact on the growing insurgency, Iraq was beginning to become a political liability for the President. There is little question at this time that the white house was applying a large amount of pressure on the DOD to gather intelligence to quell the insurgency, the occupation was taking a turn for the worse. We started the practice of busting down doors in the middle of the night and taking males of age (14-60) for questioning. On the occasions that we were looking for someone specific and they were not at home, family members would be swept up in the hopes that the suspects would turn themselves in. I remember reading a story about a neighbor who left his house to see what was going on next door, and discovered that we were looking for his neighbor who was not home at the time, so they picked the neighbor up instead.

I am sure that alot of the information regarding the location of the insugents was provided by informants. I would like to think that some of these folks provided reliable information, but would not be suprised if some of these informants were taking advantage of the system to settle old scores. Needless to say, lots of innocent people were rounded up and interrogated, and in many cases subject to torture. The following tale from the Guardian paints a terrifying picture of the situation on the ground.
Monday September 20, 2004
The Guardian

It began with a phone call. In November last year 39-year-old Huda Alazawi, a wealthy Baghdad businesswoman, received a demand from an Iraqi informant. He was working for the Americans in Adhamiya, a Sunni district of Baghdad well known for its hostility towards the US occupation. His demand was simple: Madame Huda, as her friends and family know her, had to give him $10,000. If she failed to pay up, he would write a report claiming that she and her family were working for the Iraqi resistance. He would pass it to the US military and they would arrest her.

"It was clearly blackmail," Alazawi says, speaking in the Baghdad office of her trading company. "We knew that if we gave in, there would be other demands." The informant was as good as his word. In November 2003, he wrote a report that prompted US soldiers to interrogate Alazawi's brother, Ali, and her older sister, Nahla, now 45. Wearing a balaclava, he also led several raids with US soldiers on the families' antique-filled Baghdad properties.

On December 23, the Americans arrested another of Alazawi's brothers, Ayad, 44. It was at this point that she decided to confront the Americans directly. She marched into the US base in Adhamiya, one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces. "A US captain told me to come back with my two other brothers. He said we could talk after that." On Christmas Eve she returned with her brothers, Ali and Mu'taz. "I waited for four hours. An American captain finally interrogated me. After 10 minutes he announced that I was under arrest." Like thousands of other Iraqis detained by the Americans since last year's invasion, Alazawi was about to experience the reality of the Bush administration's "war on terror".
I read too many accounts similar to this one to believe that this was an isolated case. And once caught up in the web of presumed guilt, the nightmare begins. Think for a moment, put yourself into the shoes of an innocent person facing interrogation. The interrogator is convinced that you know something, and you are unable to convince him otherwise. The stakes are raised as you are unable to provide the necessary information. Stress positions, and other "torture lite&trade" are used in an attempt to break you, when that doesn't work, and it won't, because you don't know anything, more disturbing means are used to convince you to come clean. Sexual humiliation, flashlight sodomy, dogs, I am sure that you have seen the pictures.
"They handcuffed me and blindfolded me and put a piece of white cloth over my eyes. They bundled me into a Humvee and took me to a place inside the palace. I was dumped in a room with a single wooden chair. It was extremely cold. After five hours they brought my sister in. I couldn't see anything but I could recognise her from her crying."

Alazawi says that US guards left her sitting on the chair overnight, and that the next day they took her to a room known by detainees as "the torturing place". "The US officer told us: 'If you don't confess we will torture you. So you have to confess.' My hands were handcuffed. They took off my boots and stood me in the mud with my face against the wall. I could hear women and men shouting and weeping. I recognised one of the cries as my brother Mu'taz. I wanted to see what was going on so I tried to move the cloth from my eyes. When I did, I fainted."

Like most Iraqi women, Alazawi is reluctant to talk about what she saw but says that her brother Mu'taz was brutally sexually assaulted. Then it was her turn to be interrogated. "The informant and an American officer were both in the room. The informant started talking. He said, 'You are the lady who funds your brothers to attack the Americans.' I speak some English so I replied: 'He is a liar.' The American officer then hit me on both cheeks. I fell to the ground.
Imagine if that was your brother, sister, mother, or son. The great thing about the use sexual humiliation (for the torturers that is) is that the people subjected to it are so ashamed that they are likely to keep quiet about their experience.
Alazawi says that American guards then made her stand with her face against the wall for 12 hours, from noon until midnight. Afterwards they returned her to her cell. "The cell had no ceiling. It was raining. At midnight they threw something at my sister's feet. It was my brother Ayad. He was bleeding from his legs, knees and forehead. I told my sister: 'Find out if he's still breathing.' She said: 'No. Nothing.' I started crying. The next day they took away his body."

The US military later issued a death certificate, seen by the Guardian, citing the cause of death as "cardiac arrest of unknown etiology". The American doctor who signed the certificate did not print his name, and his signature is illegible. The body was returned to the family four months later, on April 3, after the Abu Ghraib torture scandal broke. The family took photographs of the body, also seen by the Guardian, which revealed extensive bruising to the chest and arms, and a severe head wound above the left eye.

After Ayad's body had been taken away, Alazawi says that she and 18 other Iraqi detainees were put in a minibus inside the military compound. "The Americans told us: 'Nobody is going to sleep tonight.' They played scary music continuously with loud voices. As soon as someone fell asleep they started beating on the door. It was Christmas. They kept us there for three days. Many of the US soldiers were drunk."
Again I ask you to to think about this happening to your own mother and brother.
Alazawi is reticent about the question of sexual abuse of Iraqi women but says that neither she nor any of the other women in Abu Ghraib at the time were sexually assaulted by US guards. In his subsequent report into the scandal, however, Major General Antonio Taquba found that at least one US military policemen had raped a female inmate inside Abu Ghraib; a letter smuggled out of the prison by a woman known only as "Noor", containing allegations of rape, was found to be entirely accurate. Other witnesses interviewed by the Guardian have said that US guards "repeatedly" raped a 14-year-old Iraqi girl who was held in the block last year. They also said that guards made several of the women inmates parade naked in front of male prisoners.
All the other women detainees, meanwhile, have refused to talk about their ordeal; she is the first to give testimony. As Iraq lurches from disaster to disaster, from kidnapping to suicide bombing, from insurgency towards civil war, from death to death, what does she think of the Americans now? "I hate them," she says.
It can be argued and it has, that this was the tipping point. when we started abusing and torturing innocent Iraqi civilians, we showed our true face to the Iraqi's. This is when we lost the war. It is becoming increasingly obvious to anyone with a brain that the situation in Iraq is getting worse, regardless of the protestations to the contrary made by the President and his handpicked thug Allawi. I am left to wonder who would Jesus torture?