No Right Turn: F**k Iraq, Part IV
F**k Iraq, part IV
Why did America invade Iraq? With the WMD pretext thoroughly discredited, Bush and Blair have increasingly relied on humanitarian reasons. Saddam's government had to be overthrown to end oppression, torture, and human rights abuses in Iraq. The problem? Those abuses haven't stopped. People are being tortured in the "new Iraq", just as they were in the old. The only difference is that it is now being done in the name of a nominally elected government rather than an unelected dictator.
An investigation by the Observer has revealed some of the extent of torture in the new Iraq. It begins by describing the body of Hassan an-Ni'ami, an Iraqi captured by commandos from the American-established and backed "Rapid Intrusion" force:
What happened to him in his 24 hours in captivity was written across his body in chapters of pain, recorded by the camera. There are police-issue handcuffs still attached to one wrist, from which he was hanged long enough to cause his hands and wrists to swell. There are burn marks on his chest, as if someone has placed something very hot near his right nipple and moved it around.
A little lower are a series of horizontal welts, wrapping around his body and breaking the skin as they turn around his chest, as if he had been beaten with something flexible, perhaps a cable. There are other injuries: a broken nose and smaller wounds that look like cigarette burns.
An arm appears to have been broken and one of the higher vertebrae is pushed inwards. There is a cluster of small, neat circular wounds on both sides of his left knee. At some stage an-Ni'ami seems to have been efficiently knee-capped. It was not done with a gun - the exit wounds are identical in size to the entry wounds, which would not happen with a bullet. Instead it appears to have been done with something like a drill.
What actually killed him however were the bullets fired into his chest at close range, probably by someone standing over him as he lay on the ground. The last two hit him in the head.
But this is not an isolated incident. All over Iraq, people are being arbitrarily detained, tortured, and executed, by troops and "police" who appear to be little different from those who did the same work under Saddam. Six months ago, Human Rights watch detailed the abuse in their report The New Iraq? Torture and ill-treatment of detainees in Iraqi custody, alleging that detainees were subjected to
routine beatings to the body using cables, hosepipes and other implements. Detainees report kicking, slapping and punching; prolonged suspension from the wrists with the hands tied behind the back; electric shocks to sensitive parts of the body, including the earlobes and genitals; and being kept blindfolded and/or handcuffed continuously for several days. In several cases, the detainees suffered what may be permanent physical disability.
Since then it has only got worse. Now Iraq has a network of secret torture centres, run by the Interior Ministry. Instead of being released, detainees turn up dead - as in the case of Tahar Mohammed Suleiman al-Mashhadani, whose body had been tortured almost beyond recognition, or the farmers abducted from a marketplace in Baghdad by Iraqi police, whose bodies were later discovered in shallow graves in a rubbish dump, bearing the marks of "strangulation or asphyxiation", broken bones, extensive bruising, burning, "identical puncture wounds, fist-width apart, suggesting the use of a spiked knuckle-duster" - and gunshot wounds to the head. None of these people are being put on trial for their crimes. Instead, they are simply being tortured and murdered.
The new Iraqi government is not interested in talking about this. Its ministers have repeatedly refused to meet with officials from NGOs like Human Rights Watch. Its judiciary does not care. Its Ministry of Human Rights does - but is grossly underfunded and lacks the resources to fight against the belief, rapidly becoming institutionalised among the police and security forces, that "human rights and the Convention against Torture are stupid".
Again, it has to be asked: did those who so enthusiastically backed war in the name of human rights imagine it would turn out like this? Do they think that a regime which tortures Sunnis rather than Shi'ites and Kurds is worth the deaths of (at last count) almost 26,000 innocent civilians? And if not, why aren't they speaking up about it?
As for the Iraqi government, as I've said in the past, they do not deserve our support. No government which uses torture does. Instead, they deserve to be prosecuted. And that applies to Iraq's present government every bit as much as it does to Saddam.