Saturday, April 21, 2007

Iraqis "do the dirty work" (torture)

The New York Times revealed again in detail, as it has often over the past years, the ways in which the US military allows Iraqi security forces to torture and abuse detainees to gather information. In West Baghdad, Alissa Rubin quotes Iraq security forces bragging about how they whipped a detainee before his two colleagues, and after this the detainee led American forces to their safe house and IED supplies.

What is amazing in this article is the use of loaded words like "culture," "civilization," and "conscience" by both sides. To the US military abuses in Abu Ghraib were a terrible aberration and the whipping of detainees is merely "part of their culture." According to them, it's not "civilization." But then according to the Iraqi Captain, he was simply acting according to his "conscience."
The Iraqi officers beamed. What the Americans did not know and what the Iraqis had not told them was that before handing over the detainees to the Americans, the Iraqi soldiers had beaten one of them in front of the other two. The stripes on the detainee’s back, which appeared to be the product of whipping with electrical cables, were later shown briefly to a photographer, who was not allowed to take a picture.

To the Iraqi soldiers, the treatment was normal and necessary. They were proud of their technique and proud to have helped the Americans.

"I prepared him for the Americans and let them take his confession,” Capt. Bassim Hassan said through an interpreter. "We know how to make them talk. We know their back streets. We beat them. I don’t beat them that much, but enough so he feels the pain and it makes him desperate." [...]

The Iraqi soldiers were ecstatic. They had delivered. They snapped photos of each other in front of the cache with the blasting cords in their mouths, grinning. The Americans were nervous. "One spark will blow this place up," said First Lt. Michael Obal as an Iraqi soldier flicked a lit cigarette butt within inches of one cache of explosives. "It’s highly unstable TNT."

Later, the Americans plotted into their computers the location of each of the Al Qaeda safe houses that [detainee] Mr. Jassam had pointed out. “He was singing like a songbird,” said First Lt. Sean Henley, 24.

After the prisoner was returned to the Iraqis, Captain Fowler was asked whether the Americans realized that the information was given only after the Iraqi Army had beaten Mr. Jassam. "They are not supposed to do that," Captain Fowler said. "What I don’t see, I don’t know, and I can’t stop. The detainees are deathly afraid of being sent to the Iraqi justice system, because this is the kind of thing they do. But this is their culture."

Lieutenant Obal, the captain’s deputy, was distraught at the thought that the detainee had been beaten. "I don’t think that’s right," he said. "We have intelligence teams, they have techniques for getting information, they don’t do things like that. It’s not civilization."

About 30 yards away, on the other side of the wall, the Iraqi soldiers suggested that the Americans were being naïve. The insurgents are playing for keeps, they say, and force must be answered with force.

"If the Americans used this way, the way we use, nobody would shoot the Americans at all," Captain Hassan said. "But they are easy with them, and they have made it easy for the terrorists."

"I didn’t beat them all, I beat Mustafa in front of the others. We tell him we’re going to string him up." He demonstrated his arms spread wide. "And, I made the others see him," he said.

Captain Hassan and his colleagues said they knew the Iraqi Army has rules against beatings, but "they tell us to do what we have to do," he said.

"For me it’s a matter of conscience, not rules," he said.

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