An Iraqi Response to Torture Houses and Chemical Weapons

November 19th, 2005 - by admin

Riverbend, Girl Blog from Iraq – 2005-11-19 09:26:24

House of Horrors…
Riverbend, Girl Blog from Iraq

… I’ll meet you ’round the bend my friend, where hearts can heal and souls can mend…

BAGHDAD (Friday, November 18, 2005) — The talk of the town is the torture house they recently found in Jadriya.

The whole world heard about the one in Jadriya, recently raided by the Americans. Jadriya was once one of the best areas in Baghdad. It’s an area on the river and is special in that it’s greener, and cleaner, than most areas.

Baghdad’s largest university, Baghdad University, is located in Jadriya (with a campus in another area). Jadriya had some of the best shops and restaurants — not to mention some of Baghdad’s most elegant homes…… and apparently, now, a torture house.

We hear constantly about these torture dungeons. Right after the war, certain areas became infamous for them. The world knows them as ‘torture houses’ for the obvious reasons — they were once ordinary homes, and now they’ve become torture centers for suspects and innocents alike. The Iraqi government conveniently calls them ‘detention centers’ and the Iraqi Ministry of Interior oversees and funds them.

One area which was well-known for its torture houses immediately after the war was Sadir City in Baghdad. Except they weren’t called torture houses back then. The people who ran them called them ‘maakim’ or ‘courts’. They would bring ‘suspects’ in for interrogation — often ordinary citizens — and beat and whip them for various confessions involving accusations and alleged crimes.

A ‘Sayid’ would then come in and sentence the culprit — the sentence would sometimes involve cutting off a hand or a foot and at other times it might be death. We heard this from an aunt’s neighbor who was mistakenly taken in and beaten as a suspected former security agent. His family connections with influential Shia clerics in the area were the only things that got him out alive — bruised and broken — but alive.

The US Knew: Why the Sudden Outrage?
These torture houses have existed since the beginning of the occupation. While it is generally known that SCIRI is behind them, other religious parties are not innocent. The Americans know they exist — why the sudden shock and outrage? This is hardly news for Americans in the Green Zone.

The timing is quite interesting — it shouldn’t matter that this raid came immediately after the whole white phosphorous story came out, but the Pentagon and American military have proven to be the ultimate masters of diversion.

Only last year, in an area called Ghazaliya, one such house was discovered. It was on a smaller scale though. My cousin lives in Ghazaliya and he said that when the Americans got inside, they found several corpses and a man hanging from the ceiling on a makeshift noose.

The neighbors had tried to get the Americans to check the house for months — no one bothered. They finally raided it because they got information from someone in the area that it was an insurgents’ hiding place.

I read once that in New York, if a woman is being raped, she should scream ‘fire’ instead of ‘rape’ because no one would come to save her if she was screaming ‘rape’. That’s the way it is with Iraqi torture houses — the only way they’ll check it is if you tell them it’s a terrorist cell.

And another thing — you know when they say ‘men dressed in Ministry of Interior uniforms’ or ‘men in official cars claiming to be from the Ministry of Interior’, etc. when describing some horror committed by the new Iraqi security forces in the news? Here’s a thought: they aren’t ‘claiming’ and they aren’t in costume — they actually ARE from the Ministry of Interior!

One would think they’d do this covertly so as not to enrage Iraqis or humanitarian organizations, except that it doesn’t matter to them because SCIRI and Da’awa aren’t out to win hearts and minds. They have American favor — what more does one need in the New Iraq?

Corpses Turning Up All over Baghdad
For over a year, corpses have been turning up all over Baghdad. Corpses of people who are taken from their homes in the middle of the night (lately they’ve been more brazen — they just do everything in the light of day) and turn up dead somewhere.

That isn’t as disturbing as the reports about the bodies — the one I can’t get out of my head is that many of the corpses are found with holes in the skull left by an electric drill.

I guess the lucky ones go to Abu Ghraib……

And it’s not only ‘suspected insurgents’ who disappear — Iraqi security forces have been known to raid complete areas and detain any males from the ages of 12 to 60 — especially in Sunni areas. Those ‘suspected terrorists’ that are rounded up and taken away — you know where they disappear to now.

Interior Minister Bayan Jabr (SCIRI) is mollifying Iraqis with this little gem: “…the group included Shiites as well as Sunnis…… ”

I’m sure we can all sleep better at night with the knowledge that SCIRI/Da’awa torturers don’t discriminate according to religious sect — under the new constitution, American military guidance, and the blessings of the Pentagon — all Iraqis will be tortured equally.

posted by river @ 12:02 AM

Conventional Terror…
Riverbend — Girl Blog from Iraq

BAGHDAD (Thursday, November 17, 2005) — It sat on my PC desktop for five days.

The first day I read about it on the Internet, on some site, my heart sank. White phosphorous in Falloojeh. I knew nothing about white phosphorous, of course, and a part of me didn’t want to know the details. I tried downloading the film four times and was almost relieved when I got disconnected all four times.

E. had heard about the film too and one of his friends S. finally brought it by on CD. He and E. shut themselves up in the room with the computer to watch the brief documentary. E. came out half an hour later looking pale — his lips tightened in a straight line, which is the way he looks when he’s pensive… thinking about something he’d rather not discuss.

“Hey — I want to see it too…” I half-heartedly called out after him, as he walked S. to the door. “It’s on the desktop — but you really don’t want to see it.” E. said.

I avoided the computer for five days because every time I switched it on, the file would catch my eye and call out to me… now plaintively — begging to be watched, now angrily — condemning my indifference.

Except that it was never indifference… it was a sort of dread that sat deep in my stomach, making me feel like I had swallowed a dozen small stones. I didn’t want to see it because I knew it contained the images of the dead civilians I had in my head.

Few Iraqis ever doubted the American use of chemical weapons in Falloojeh. We’ve been hearing the terrifying stories of people burnt to the bone for well over a year now. I just didn’t want it confirmed.

I didn’t want it confirmed because confirming the atrocities that occurred in Falloojeh means verifying how really lost we are as Iraqis under American occupation and how incredibly useless the world is in general — the UN, Kofi Annan, humanitarian organizations, clerics, the Pope, journalists… you name it — we’ve lost faith in it.

My Nightmares Brought to Life
I finally worked up enough courage to watch it and it has lived up to my worst fears. Watching it was almost an invasive experience, because I felt like someone had crawled into my mind and brought my nightmares to life.

Image after image of men, women and children so burnt and scarred that the only way you could tell the males apart from the females, and the children apart from the adults, was by the clothes they are wearing… the clothes which were eerily intact — like each corpse had been burnt to the bone, and then dressed up lovingly in their everyday attire — the polka-dot nightgown with a lace collar… the baby girl in her cotton pajamas — little earrings dangling from little ears.

Some of them look like they died almost peacefully, in their sleep… others look like they suffered a great deal — skin burnt completely black and falling away from scorched bones.

I imagine what it must have been like for some of them. They were probably huddled in their houses — some of them — tens of thousands of them — couldn’t leave the city. They didn’t have transport or they simply didn’t have a place to go. They sat in their homes, hoping that what people said about Americans was actually true — that in spite of their huge machines and endless weapons, they were human, too.

And then the rain of bombs would begin… the wooooosh of the missiles as they fell and the sound of the explosion as it hit its target… and no matter how prepared you think you are for that explosion — it always makes you flinch.

I imagine their children covering their ears and some of them crying, trying to cover up the mechanical sounds of war with their more human wails. I imagine that as the tanks got closer, and the planes got lower — the fear increased ˆ and parents searched each other’s faces for a solution, for a way out of the horror.

Some of them probably decided to wait it out in their homes, and others must have been desperate to get out — fearing the rain of concrete and steel and thinking their chances were better in the open air, than confined in the homes that could at any moment turn into their tombs.

That’s what we were told before the Americans came — it’s safer to be outside of the house during an air strike than it is to be inside of the house. Inside of the house, a missile nearby would turn the windows into millions of little daggers and walls might come crashing down. In the garden, or even the street, you’d only have to worry about shrapnel and debris if the bomb was very close — but what were the chances of that?

That was before 2003… and certainly before Falloojeh.

That was before men, women and children left their homes only to be engulfed in a rain of fire.

Last year I blogged about Falloojeh and said: “There is talk of the use of cluster bombs and other forbidden weaponry.”

I was immediately attacked with a barrage of emails from Americans telling me I was a liar and that there was no proof and that there was no way Americans would ever do something so appalling! I wonder how those same people justify this now. Are they shocked? Or do they tell themselves that Iraqis aren’t people? Or are they simply in denial?

The Pentagon spokesman recently said: “It’s part of our conventional-weapons inventory and we use it like we use any other conventional weapon.”

This war has redefined ‘conventional’. It has taken atrocity to another level. Everything we learned before has become obsolete.

‘Conventional’ has become synonymous with horrifying. Conventional weapons are those that eat away the skin in a white blaze; conventional interrogation methods are like those practiced in Abu Ghraib and other occupation prisons…

Quite simply… conventional terror.

– posted by river @ 1:32 AM