Tuesday, August 02, 2005

There was a calamity in Iraq a few weeks ago. A small one --- no fatalities even, and perhaps no permanent consequences. Amid all the suicide bombings, a mere false arrest might well be beneath notice. And yet. It has nothing to offer directly on the insurgency or its death toll. (The signal fact is that the people arrested were not involved). Nor on the economy. Nor on the infrastructure. (Saddam was corruptly siphoning off even the limited revenue that he was allowed under our quasi-embargo to build his own palaces! The electricity situation is improving! We'll have the power on as long as he did any day now!) But it does have a bit to say about the kind of society we're creating in Iraq, as Tom Friedman advocated before the war, as a showcase of what Western democracy has to offer to the rest of the region.

The calamity was the false arrest of Khalid Jarrar, apparently for reading web pages in English (comments on his brother's blog) which someone somehow misunderstood as jihaddi propaganda. He did, I hasten to note, get out --- perhaps due to the fuss stirred up by other Iraqi bloggers, starting with his brother Raed, and he now has a post up on the experience. It will be no surprise that he was beaten, of course, as part of his basic interrogation:

They started by asking me: "What's the connection between you and the London Bombs?" !!!

And I was like: "haaaaa???!!.". I said: "London Bombs???! Nothing!"


A heavy hand landed on my neck, my brain was too busy to feel the pain.

Though it could have been worse:

I was so lucky that I was taken to the Mokhabarat directly. Usually you have to go through a police station or a center of the national guards to get there, where the standard procedure of torturing is hanging people upside down and beating them with cables for hours, pinching their bodies with electrical drills, burning them with hot water, ripping out their finger nails, breaking bones, using acids on the wounds after whipping them, the dead bodies that are found in the dumpsters in Baghdad even had their eyes taken out of them, and a lot of these things happened with people that I know, or with people that were detained with the people that were with me in this jail, before they were brought here, and the list of torturing techniques is long, and you don't want to hear them or know about them if you want to sleep at night.

What's really striking, to me, though, isn't that, or Khalid's prison companions who were beaten into false confessions. It's what it takes to earn this sort of treatment:

Firas: a 26 years old light skinned guy, was walking in the street with grocery bags in his hands when a car attacked an American convoy, he ran away, in a normal reaction, so the police followed him and caught him, and beat him continuously for 7 hours with pipes while he was tied up to a chair, and when he didn't confess of attacking the US troops or Iraqi police, his investigators wrote a report that he must have been trained in foreign terrorists camps to tolerate torturing, and sent him to this place, supposedly a place for more expert interrogators.

Another guy has been cooped up for months because his friends call him "Abu Ayid", and that sounded to someone a bit like all the other terrorists that call themselves "Abu something-or-other". Because it's a common way for Arab men to refer to each other.

The public excuse for the invasion was the threat of Saddam's WMD. The Downing Street Memo says that Dubya's crew was perfectly well aware that other countries had a much greater WMD threat, and we now know Saddam presented none. There were his ties to "terror", too --- but our allies, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, are much more implicated in international jihaddi terrorism than Saddam ever was.

What's left as an excuse for the invasion is Saddam's cruelty to his own people, who were subject to bombing and mortar attacks if they happened to live near rebels (though not around Fallujah --- Saddam got along with that crowd), who could be grabbed and tortured for any reason or no reason at all. And we claim to be making things better. So read Khalid's account. These are the blessings of democracy.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home