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Iraq: A cluster of torture prisons

Ghali Hassan, Online Journal Contributing Writer

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Mrch 8, 2006

After the US's deliberate and unprovoked war on Iraq, "reconstruction" becomes one of the US's moral clichés to justify crimes against the Iraqi people and ongoing Occupation. In reality, the "reconstruction" of Iraq is the continuation of the destruction of Iraq and humiliation of Iraqi society.

Countless prisons have been built where the practice of humiliation, sadistic torture, sexual abuse and rape of Iraqi men, women and children are used on daily basis to force the entire Iraqi population into submission.

The $20 billion initially appropriated by the US administration to "reconstruct" Iraq were a gift to US corporations and the Bush cronies. The only visible construction in Iraq today is the rise in the construction of prisons. According to Reuters; "The U.S. State Department is winding down its $20 billion reconstruction program in Iraq and the only new rebuilding money in its latest budget request is for prisons . . . State Department Iraq coordinator James Jeffrey told reporters he was asking Congress for $100 million for prisons but no other big building projects were in the pipeline."

We constantly hear about Abu Ghraib (US-run) and Camp Buucca (British-run), but there are countless numbers of prisons. Many of these new prisons have been established at military bases and airports, such as the US Military compound at Al-Dhiloeia, north of Baghdad, Camp Cropper Centre at Baghdad International Airport, the Hilla military compound, a joint US-Polish base, old Iraqi military barracks, and public buildings across Iraq. Many of Iraq’s schools and colleges have been converted into detention centres and barracks for the occupying forces.

In August 2004, a Michigan a legal team headed by Mohammed Alomari, Media Director of Focus on American & Arab Interests & Relations (FAAIR) -- an American non-profit, non-governmental organization -- met with former Iraqi prisoners in Baghdad and found that Iraqi prisoners were mistreated, abused, tortured and raped on daily basis at some 38 U.S. military-run detention centers in Iraq. The "list includes everything from resort islands to aircraft hangars to college student housing facilities converted to U.S. military bases with military detention centers.  Most of the airports have detention centers, including Baghdad International Airport, Mosul Airport, Baquba Airport, etc."

Today, Iraq is a cluster of countless prisons and detention centres. Many Iraqi towns and villages have been walled in with sand and razor-wire barriers, and turn into large prisons.

In addition, different militias and death squads created, trained and armed by the US forces and their allies have their own torture chambers in prisons hidden inside bunkers in the Interior and Defence ministries, police stations and clandestine locations across Iraq. This allows the US, Britain and now Amnesty International (AI) to shift the blame of torture and abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US and British soldiers solely on the thugs of the Interior and Defence ministries, as if they are really independent ministries in a sovereign (not brutally occupied) country. Furthermore, many Iraqi prisoners are also held in secret facilities or "black sites" as part of a large covert prison system set up by the CIA in 2001 outside legal and international laws, and are known to only a handful of US officials and President Bush.

Once in prisons, the prisoners are routinely abused, tortured, sexually abused and, in many cases, murdered in gross violations of the Geneva Conventions and international law. The Bush administration and the military are trying to find ways to avoid the jurisdiction of the Geneva Conventions in order to normalise the use of torture on Iraqi prisoners and other foreign nationals held in US-run prisons in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and other "black sites" around the world.

The official number of Iraqi men, women and children in US-run prisons in Iraq is said to be around 16,000, reported ABC News in June 2005. The number has since rocketed, and Iraqi sources put the number as high as "hundreds of thousands" prisoners languishing in prisons across Iraq. FAAIR estimated the number of Iraqis who have been detained by US and British forces (from March 2003 to October 2004) to be over 156,000. The majority of these prisoners are innocent civilians rounded up from their homes and businesses during random raids by US forces and their collaborators. There is no justice or legal process and there is no law to certify and register prisoners. Families and relatives of prisoners are left in the dark about their loved one. Hundreds of Iraqis have simply disappeared after they were taken prisoners.

John Pace of the UN Human Rights in Iraq, a pro-Occupation propaganda mouthpiece, said recently that; between "80 percent to 90 percent were innocent people" rounded up "quite blindly," and taken to prisons. They are abused, tortured and often murdered by occupying forces and their collaborators. Furthermore, in an op-ed in the New York Times on 28 February, Anthony Lagouranis, a former US army interrogator (aka torturer), admitted, "From January 2004 to January 2005, I served in various places in Iraq (including Abu Ghraib) as an Army interrogator. Following orders that I believed were legal, I used military working dogs during interrogations. I terrified my interrogation subjects, but I never got intelligence (mostly because 90 percent of them were probably innocent, but that's another story)." He added, "Perhaps, I have thought for a long time, I also deserve to be prosecuted."

Janis Karpinski, the former brigadier general in charge of the 800th Military Police Brigade in Iraq, where she supervised detention operations at Abu Ghraib and prisons elsewhere told FRONTLINE, "About 90 percent of them [prisoners] were innocent of any terrorism or related activity."

Karpinski blamed the practices of abuse and torture of Iraqi prisoners on the top Pentagon officials and the US administration. "The secretary of defence would not have authorized [it] without the approval of the vice president," she said. "They could make it appear any way they want. I will not be silenced, and I will continue to tell the truth. And I will continue to ask how they can continue to blame seven rogue soldiers on the night shift, when there is the preponderance of hard information from a variety of sources [that] says otherwise," added Karpinski. She also rightly, pointed the finger at the role of the Israeli Mossad in the abuses, torture and murder of Iraqi prisoners.

Indeed, some of those Americans involved in torture of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib have attended training courses in Israel, where torture, abuse and murder of Palestinians have been part of Israel’s brutal policy since its creation on Palestinian land. "In January and February of 2003, Israeli and American troops trained together in southern Israel's Negev desert . . . Israel has also hosted senior law enforcement officials from the United States for a seminar on counter-terrorism," reported the Associated Press.

Furthermore, the top echelon at the Pentagon -- Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Elliott Abrams, Douglas Feith and Abram Shulsky -- who made the policies are the same hardcore Zionists who fed George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld fabricated lies -- WMD and "terrorism" -- to justify an illegal war of aggression on Iraq in defiance of the UN Charter. The US invaded and occupies Iraq to enhance US imperialist domination and to expand Israel’s Zionism, not for "democracy" and for the sake of the Iraqi people.

As the Iraqi people continue to endure the brutality of the Occupation, the UN, the Red Cross, countless Western NGOs and human rights organisations have been unwilling to intervene in the ongoing gross human rights violations, including daily arbitrary arrests, indefinite detentions, abuse and torture of innocent Iraqi civilians by the occupying forces and their collaborators. The ruling elites and their propaganda rants in the West who are "protesting" the torture and abuse of Iraqi prisoners are protesting out of concern for the safety of US and British soldiers, and "images" of Western imperialism. Their concerns have nothing to do with human rights of Iraqis and other foreign national prisoners languishing in US-run prisons.

Prior to the invasion and occupation of Iraq, Western NGOs and human rights groups were fanning out across Iraq, sniffing for clues to demonise the regime of Saddam Hussein. However, since Iraq was illegally invaded, destroyed and forced under US-British Occupation, these "defenders" of human rights remain silent despite the greater level of human rights violations and crimes committed by the occupying forces. For example, in one of its reports, AI, said; "Conditions of detention at the Camp Cropper Centre and at Abu Ghraib prison may amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment." Notice the word "may" and the deliberate vagueness of the language. In fact if one reads AI’s new report, one is convinced that the US and British occupying forces (not "US-led Multinational Force" as AI called the Occupation) are not guilty of any wrongdoing. AI's figure of 14,000 Iraqi prisoners is the lowest by any estimate. Given AI's interest in the treatment of prisoners and prison conditions, one would expect AI to be the guardian of US-run prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. The opposite is true. Powers are protected, and only criticised for their own good.

Those who committed these heinous crimes against the Iraqi people, including the murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians, mostly women and children, remain at large. They are protected by a variety of new draconian laws that criminalise dissent, and strip ordinary citizens of their democratic rights and civil liberties. Their roles in the war and the crimes of torture are deliberately omitted by the mass media. Instead, their crimes are blamed on a "few bad apples" in the military, as if the "few bad apples" are not the product of imperialist racist policies made at the top echelon of the Pentagon and the Bush administration, including Vice President Dick Cheney.

This is also true for the British government and its role in the crimes committed by British soldiers against Iraqi civilians. The bellicose British Defence Secretary John Reid was very clear about his government role in torture. Reid said recently that; we need to "re-assure" British soldiers against the "perception that human rights lawyers and international bodies such as the International Criminal Court [in The Hague] are waiting in the wings to step in and act against them." He added; "The reality is that they operate under British law." Indeed, none of the British soldiers involved in the abuse, torture and murder of Iraqi prisoners have been convicted for crimes.

From the outset, the US war on Iraq was an illegal and unprovoked act of aggression. Instead of building Iraq, the US has converted Iraq into a large cluster of torture prisons, and has deprived the Iraqi people of their liberty and their human rights in gross violations of international law and human decency. An occupying power is obliged -- under the Geneva Conventions -- to protect the civilian population and provide them with security.

What this adds to is the use of murder, sadistic torture, humiliation, sexual abuse and rape as a campaign strategy to force the entire Iraqi population into submission and obedience. Since March 2003, the occupying forces and their collaborators are killing, arresting, imprisoning and torturing Iraqi civilians, and destroying Iraqi properties with impunity. The deliberate and uncontrolled daily bloodshed and terror of all kinds generate chaos, dehumanise the Iraqi people and label them as violent savages, and in the process focus people’s attention away from the Occupation. This way, the enemy is always reduced to a stereotype that is easier to demonise and kill. Anyone buying into such imperialist distortion is denying the Iraqi people their rights to resistance and national liberation.

How could US citizens be fooled and continue to support a criminal war against defenceless people? Instead, they should demand that those who instigated the war be held accountable for their crimes.

Almost all Iraqis have rejected the presence of foreign troops and have long called for the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. Only an immediate and a full withdrawal of US forces from Iraq will provide the chance for a peaceful solution and a return to normality.

Ghali Hassan lives in Perth Western Australia.

Copyright © 1998-2006 Online Journal


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