Running Scared: Observations of a Former Republican
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"Losing my faith in humanity ... one neocon at a time."

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Terrorism: It's Not Just for Insurgents

posted by Jazz at 12/29/2004 08:41:00 AM


Regular readers know that we follow the stories told by Iraqi bloggers quite closely here. They have shared with us a number of stories of some of the heavy handed treatment which civilians receive at the hands of "coalition" forces around their country. Now some volunteers who monitor the stories of detainees have provided shockingly similar testimony in a recent BBC interview.

The volunteer in question is Peggy Gish of Christian Peacemaker Teams. (You might want to visit their website. They do a lot of other peacekeeping work, including walking Palestinian children to school every day past Israeli guard posts to prevent attacks on them.) Peggy reports that the detainee situation in Iraq is somewhat better since the Abu Ghraib scandals came to light, but conditions and army protocol still remain brutal.
We were not allowed to go into prisons, so our contact was with the families of detainees and freed detainees. We got very careful testimonies.

We were hearing some of the same stories from people all over Iraq, so we were fairly certain what we were hearing was accurate.

We heard about very violent house raids in the middle of the night, in which US soldiers would storm in, and if the men did not get down immediately, they would knock them down and beat them.

Then their house would be ransacked, often with property damage. Many would report that at the end of that time jewellery and money would be missing. Then the men of the household would be taken away.

We also heard about sexual abuse and beatings when they were being questioned. If they did not give information about an explosion or something they would be knocked down, kicked in the groin, and hurt in other ways.

Apparently some of our "informants" are not just turning over real insurgents to the American troops. They are also reporting people with whom they have personal grudges, knowing that their enemies will then "disappear" for long periods of time.
In fact, we came to the conclusion that 80% to 90% of the prisoners had never been involved in any violent action. This is an estimate that tallies with the estimates of other groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

A common reason for men to be detained is because an informant in the neighbourhood has given their name to US military and claimed that they are part of the resistance.

Informants get money for each name they give, and many people have told us that informants use the system to revenge personal grudges.

They say it is rather like life under Saddam Hussein. Many Iraqis use an Arabic expression, "Same donkey, different saddle".

I can believe that, originally, a large part of the first insurgency fighters were composed of former Saddam loyalists and outside terrorists looking for an opportunity to attack Americans following the breakdown of social order in Iraq. Now, however, I can't help but believe that we are fueling the recruitment drive of the resistance with actions like this. It's rather hard to feel "liberated" when you are being dragged out of your house in the middle of the night, locked up for months with no charges filed against you, and your family's possessions are being looted.