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(en) Canada, Autonomuy & Solidarity* Pamphlet on Occupation, Prisons and Torture

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Tue, 4 May 2004 18:04:34 +0200 (CEST)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E
News about and of interest to anarchists
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Sumoud (a political prisoner support group) and Autonomy &
Solidarity have created a pamphlet on "Occupation, Prisons
and Torture." The pamphlet analyzes imprisonment and torture
in the context of the occupation of Iraq. It argues that
torture is a strategy of US imperialism and that the racism
involved is nurtured by the logic of war and occupation. The
pamphlet includes photos and can be printed for distribution.
You can download the flyer from the A&S site: http://auto_sol.tao.ca
Following is the text without the photos, layout, etc.
Text - Occupation, Prisons and Torture

The Logic of Occupation

Horrific pictures showing torture of Iraqi prisoners at the hands of
US military personnel in Abu Ghraib prison gained world-wide
attention in the last few days of April 2004. These photographs,
which were broadcast on the US program 60 Minutes and made the
front page of newspapers in the US, Britain and Europe, show US
soldiers posing alongside naked Iraqi prisoners stacked in human
pyramids and forced to engage in sexual acts with each other. One
prisoner was shown hooded and draped in a long black cape with
electrical wires connected to his hands. He was told, according to
his captors, that if he fell from the pedestal on which he was
standing he would be electrocuted.

Days after these photos were released British newspapers printed a
series of photographs of British soldiers also engaged in torture of
Iraqi prisoners. In this case, photographs in the Daily Mirror show
an Iraqi being battered with rifle butts, threatened with execution,
and urinated on by British troops. During his eight-hour ordeal, the
detainee had his jaw broken and teeth smashed. He was later
driven from the prison by British troops and hurled off the back of a
truck. No one knows if he lived or died (Daily Mirror May 1,2004).

The US and British governments were quick to condemn the
photographs, calling them ‘disgusting’ and promising
investigations and punishment of the soldiers involved. Both
George Bush and Tony Blair insisted that these were the actions of
a few bad soldiers, unrepresentative of troop behavior in general.

Facts, however, indicate otherwise. One of the officers responsible
for Abu Ghraib prison, Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, was a high
ranking commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade. She told
the New York Times that the cellblock where the torture took place
was under the direct control of US military intelligence, who, along
with the CIA, “were in and out of the cellblock 24 hours a
day.” (Aljazeera. Net 2 May 2004). One of the soldiers pictured
in the torture photographs claimed that when he questioned
interrogation methods he was told, “This is how military
intelligence wants things done.” (VOA May 3 2004).

Furthermore, well before the invasion of Iraq, the US government
was deliberately transferring detainees “off-shore” to
facilitate their torture without the restrictions of US law and public
attention. The shocking stories of torture taking place in
Guantanamo Bay are a direct result of this practice. The new head
of the Iraqi prison system is Major General Geoffrey Miller, who
was previously commander of the Guantanamo Detention Center.
In fact, a shadowy network of detention centers and torture
chambers exist across the globe under the supervision of the
Pentagon, CIA and private contractors. James Risen and Thom
Shanker of the New York Times describe this as “A global
detention system run by the Pentagon and the CIA... a secretive
universe... made up of large and small facilities scattered
throughout the world ... Officials described the network of
detention centers as a prison system with its own unique hierarchy,
one in which the most important captives are kept at the greatest
distance from the prying eyes of the public and the media. And it is
a system in which the jailers have refined the arts of interrogation
in order to drain the detainees of critical information.” (New
York Times, 18 December 2003).

Reports of torture and mistreatment have been coming out of Iraqi
prisons ever since the beginning of the one-year US occupation of
Iraq. These reports have been widely corroborated by human rights
organizations, journalists and Iraqis themselves.

These facts indicate that torture and abuse are not the actions of a
‘few bad soldiers’. They are conscious and systematic
policies applied by the occupying forces. They form one part of a
deliberate strategy that is designed to strengthen the continued
occupation of Iraq.

This occupation is sustained by a deliberately fostered racism that
encourages those in the West to see Iraqis as somehow less than
human. “Uncivilized terrorists” who need
“democracy” brought to them by the bullets and torture
chambers of the US military.

The same strategy is practiced by a different occupying power a few
miles to the west of Iraq. The patterns of arrest, detention and
torture now evolving under the US occupation of Iraq are strikingly
similar to those employed by the Israeli military, police and secret
service against the civilian population in occupied Palestine. For
the 6000 Palestinian political prisoners currently in Israeli detention
the stories coming out of Iraq are all too familiar.

Iraqi Prisoners Under the US Occupation

Thousands of Iraqis are currently ‘missing’ - disappeared
within the vast occupying prison system or, as many fear, killed by
US or coalition soldiers following their arrest.

There are five prisons in Iraq whose location is known and at least
ten whose whereabouts are secret. The most infamous is the Abu
Ghraib prison near Baghdad where the US photographs released in
April 2004 were taken, as well as al-Kazimah, ar-Rusafah, a prison
at Umm Qasr; and one in an-Nasiriyah.

The number of prisoners in Abu Ghraib is unknown to all except
the US military. The Iraqi Occupation Watch estimates around
80,000 prisoners in Abu Ghraib alone, while the occupying forces
website lists only 8,500 prisoners. Most of these prisoners are being
held for indefinite periods of time without charge (Amnesty
International, 18 March 2004).

The US Military Order system, modeled on the Israeli system in
the West Bank and Gaza Strip, allows the occupying forces to hold
prisoners for 90 days without being brought before a judge (CPA
Memorandum no.3). The same military order removes the
occupying forces from any jurisdiction by Iraqi courts (AI 18 March
2004). In other words, US, British and other occupying soldiers are
considered to be completely above the law in their actions - due to a
military order that these same forces passed in the early days of the
occupation. Iraqi political prisoners are called ‘security
prisoners’ by the occupying forces - the same language used by
Israel to describe Palestinian political prisoners. These prisoners
have no right to a lawyer for their defense nor does anyone else
have the right to defend them or follow their cases (Iraq Occupation
Watch). Simply put, these prisoners just disappear into the
occupation prison system where their location is unknown and they
have no contact with theirfamilies or any legal support.

Testimony of Prisoners

According to Amnesty International, many Iraqi political prisoners
report cases of torture and mistreatment. Methods used by the
occupying forces include prolonged sleep deprivation; beatings;
prolonged restraint in painful positions, sometimes combined with
exposure to loud music; prolonged hooding; and exposure to bright
lights. Virtually none of the allegations of torture or ill-treatment
has been adequately investigated. (Amnesty International, March
18 2004). The list of torture methods reads the same as countless
reports of the Israeli prison system.

In the British-controlled prison where the recent photographs that
appeared in the Daily Mirror were taken, at least four Iraqis have
been killed while in custody (Amnesty International, March 28
2004). Reports of deaths in custody in Abu Ghraib prison and other
detention centers are also widespread. In February 2004, a former
US marine testified that it was common practice to kick and punch
prisoners who did not cooperate. This soldier was testifying during
a hearing into the death in June 2003 of Najem Sa’doun Hattab
at Camp Whitehorse detention centre near Nassiriya. Hattab had
been beaten and choked by a US marine reservist (Amnesty
International, March 18 2004).

Over 1500 Iraqi women and girls are also being held as political
prisoners with ages ranging from 12 to those in their sixties (Iraqi
Occupation Watch). Many of these female prisoners, like
thousands of other Iraqis in detention, are being held solely as a
means of pressuring their relatives to turn themselves in. They are,
in effect, hostages of the occupying forces.

A range of testimonies from both soldiers and ex-prisoners confirm
these patterns of abuse:

“As we took him back he was getting a beating. He was hit
with batons on the knees, fingers, toes, elbows, and head...
Because it was so hot we put him in the back of a four- tonner
truck which has a canopy over it. That’s where the photos were
taken. Lads were taking turns giving him a right going over,
smashing him in the face with weapons and stamping on him. We
had him for about eight hours...You could see blood coming out
early from the first ‘digs’. He was pissed on and there was
spew. We took his mask off to give him some water and let him
have a rest for 10 minutes. He could only speak a few words,
pleading ‘No, mister’ . No, mister’” A British
soldier’s report of torturing an Iraqi prisoner. (Daily Mirror, 1
May 2004)

Abdallah Khudhran al-Shamran, a Saudi Arabian national, was
arrested in al-Rutba in early April 2003 by US and allied Iraqi forces
while travelling from Syria to Baghdad. On reaching an unknown
site, he said he was beaten, given electric shocks, suspended by his
legs, had his p-e-n-i-s tied and was subjected to sleep deprivation. He
was held there for four days before being transferred to a camp
hospital in Um Qasr. He was then interrogated and released
without money or passport. He approached a British soldier,
whereupon he was taken to another place of detention, then
transferred to a military field hospital and again interrogated and
tortured. This time torture methods reportedly included prolonged
exposure in the sun, being locked in a container, and being
threatened with execution. (Amnesty International March 28,

72-year old Shaykh al-Qubaysi’s was arrested from his house
by US soldiers and taken to Abu Ghraib. One evening as he was
sitting in his cell, an American woman soldier came in and ordered
him to remove all his clothes. She insisted upon it despite his
protestations, and then paraded him around in front of the inmates
in the prison. (Iraq Occupation Watch)

Photographer Sahib ‘Umran who was held in Abu Ghurayb for
three months, describes the US treatment of Iraqis in the prison as
“humiliating and degrading.” “They would allow us to
bathe only once a month, and that was at four in the morning and
in extremely cold water. The American occupation forces also
prevent prisoners from going to toilets, just in order to humiliate

Sahib added, “we wore red overalls like those that the prisoners
in Guantánamo wear. And even when the weather was extremely
cold, the air conditioners would be left running. Food was cold, to
say nothing of being spoiled.” He said that the Americans
would try to break the morale of the prisoners by claiming that they
had killed or arrested members of the prisoner’s family. (Iraq
Occupation Watch)

Arshad Fadl, 19, says that he was forced to stand on his feet for
three consecutive days with his hands in chains and his head in a
sack. Throughout this entire period, Fadl says, he was not allowed
to drink water, to eat, or even to go to the toilet. (Iraq Occupation

“[19-year old] M. and her mother were taken to the airport for
interrogation. M. remembers being in a room, with a bag over her
head and bright lights above. She claimed she could see the shapes
of figures through the little holes in the bag. She was made to sit on
her knees, in the interrogation room while her mother was kicked
and beaten to the ground.... After a couple hours of general abuse,
the mother and daughter were divided, each one thrown into a
seperate room for questioning. M. was questioned about everything
concerning their family life - who came to visit them, who they
were related to and when and under what circumstances her father
had died. Hours later, the mother and daughter were taken to the
infamous Abu Ghraib prison... A couple of terrible months later-
after witnessing several beatings and the rape of a male prisoner by
one of the jailors - in mid-January, M. was suddenly set free and
taken to her uncle’s home where she found her youngest
brother waiting for her. Her uncle, through some lawyers and
contacts, had managed to extract M. and her 15-year-old brother
from two different prisons. M. also learned that her mother was still
in Abu Ghraib but they weren’t sure about her three
brothers.” (http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com/)

The Violence of Occupation

The US and British military and secret services have a long history
of promoting and engaging in torture. The US military academy,
The School of the Americas (SOA), has for decades been training
Latin American military personnel in techniques of torture and
‘counter-insurgency’. British soldiers have pioneered the
use of torture against the Irish Republican movement in the north
of Ireland.

The logic of occupation demands the use of torture and mass
imprisonment as a state-backed policy designed to intimidate and
break the morale of an occupied population. Torture is not aimed
solely at the victim, but is part of an overall system of control
targeting the population as a whole.

Thousands of Iraqis have simply disappeared into the prison system
where their whereabouts and conditions are unknown. Reports of
torture, violent mistreatment and deaths in custody are well-known
to all Iraqis and have been consistently documented by human
rights organizations, journalists and websites across Iraq.
Thousands of Iraqis are being held as hostages by the occupying
forces solely to pressure their relatives. The occupying forces
deliberately prevent any outside monitoring of these prisons
including visits and other family contact, access to lawyers,
journalists and human rights organizations. The occupying forces
even refuse to disclose the location of at least ten prisons in Iraq.

The one organization that has visited some of these prisoners - the
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) - is prevented by
its mandate from speaking publicly about the conditions inside the
prisons. The ICRC makes closed-door consultations with the
occupying forces themselves, in effect politely asking the torturers
to stop their torture but promising not to tell the world what they
know. The question must be asked - did the ICRC know of the
torture that occurs in Abu Ghraib prison?

All those who see the photographs of US and British troops
engaged in torture will be rightly disgusted. That young soldiers
can take so much delight in these types of abuse that they wish to
capture them on film is an indication that the occupation is not only
killing Iraqis. It has also killed the humanity of ordinary US and
British people who have been enlisted to fight a war on behalf of
imperial interests. Endemic to these interests is a vile racism that is
integral to sustaining occupation and is internalized by all those
who participate in maintaining this system.

We should not forget, however, that this abuse is only a tiny
proportion of the violence of the occupying regime in Iraq. The
massacres that have taken place in Fallujah and other cities of Iraq
by the occupying troops deserve just as much repulsion and horror.

The solution is very simple. The occupation must be ended
immediately and those responsible for these crimes brought to

Close Down Abu Ghraib Prison!

Release all Iraqi and Palestinian Political Prisoners!

End the Occupations of Iraq and Palestine!
*[Ed. note: posted by A&S - an antiauthoritarian anticapitalist
revolutionary initiative, on infoshop.org]

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