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September 29, 2005, shortly after 8 p.m., Amal Kadhum Swadi, and her youngest
son Safa were arrested by U.S. forces in the Ghazaliya district of Baghdad on
suspicion of planting an improvised explosive device.
were just leaving their Baghdad home with other family members, and had opened
their garage door to take out the family car, when the Swadi family were swarmed
by multiple Humvees and numerous heavily armed U.S. Soldiers with weapons
by headlights and surrounded by agitated soldiers, mother and son were separated
from each other and hidden from view of other family members behind a wall of
troops and humvees. They were blindfolded and handcuffed tightly with the
plastic zap straps and hoods that have become potent symbols of the
dehumanization Iraqis under occupation.
Swadi and Safa were made to squat on the highway's dirt embankment while Zaid,
her eldest son, was issued a handwritten receipt for his mother and brother. As
Zaid yelled into the crowd of soldiers, trying to get response from his mother,
Ms. Swadi and Safa were being packed into humvees for the trip to the Airport
Detention Facility http://web.amnesty.org/pages/irq-torture-eng
for further processing, leaving
Zaid in a cloud of dust, clutching his receipt and trying to console his sobbing
first met Amal Swadi http://www.peacewomen.org/news/Iraq/June04/pattern.html
in Istanbul, at the culminating session of The World Tribunal on Iraq http://www.worldtribunal.org/main/.
Ms. Swadi was part of the Iraqi delegation invited to give testimony on their
experiences of occupation; as a lawyer representing women held in Abu Ghraib and
other U.S. and British detention facilities in Iraq, Ms. Swadi was there to
speak on the degenerating state of human rights.
found out, Ms. Swadi http://www.uruknet.info/?s1=1&p=11094&s2=15 is no
stranger to the occupation, or the media
it. As a lawyer willing to take on the mass of occupation, she is well known for
her outspoken advocacy for those unfortunates caught in the machinery of
Swadi is 52, and was accompanied to the Istanbul tribunal by her daughter, and
eldest son Zaid, who is also a lawyer. At the events opening party, I was
presented to Ms. Swadi and Zaid, whose love and respect for his mother were
instantly apparent. He studied me closely as I was introduced, and when I put my
hand out to shake his mother's, he smiled and took it warmly.
Swadi, a humble religious woman, immediately forgave my lack of understanding of
Islamic culture, and after a short conversation, agreed to be interviewed (the
video of this interview will be available shortly).
Swadi's involvement with investigations into female prisoners of the occupation
started when she was told about a message the women detained in Abu Ghraib were
trying to get to the resistance. The message, which had become public knowledge
in the streets of Bagdad, was begging the resistance to attack Abu Ghraib with
rockets, as the women held inside had given up hope, and could no longer bare
the gross abuses and torture inflicted upon them daily. In Islam, as in
Christianity, suicide is regarded
as an ultimate sin, so these women were asking to be killed.
then, Ms. Swadi has tirelessly worked for the recognition and release of these
detainees (at the time I met her, she was representing nine of these shadow
Swadi told me of her visits to Abu Ghraib, and the difficulties she experienced
in trying to gain access to the women held inside, including U.S. force's
outright denial of the women's existence. When attempts to intimidate her did
not work, dismissive guardsmen simply turned her away. When Ms. Swadi returned
to Abu Ghraib for her second visit, she was accompanied by a determination cast
in the previous sleepless night.
resolve was eventually rewarded, and after waiting all day in one of the
compound's courtyards under the desert sun, without water or food, she was
finally allowed access to her clients (six in total). Ms. Swadi told me the
emotion of the experience was overwhelming, and she broke down and sobbed along
with the first detainee presented. Detainees were presented to her in a small,
dark cement room that looked to be set up for interrogations. The women were
escorted into the room through
a heavy door behind a chair and desk. The guards accompanying her remained
inches from these broken souls throughout the visits (it is referred to as being
'in control' of their subject).
first woman detainee presented was a young woman in her 20's. She was in poor
condition, pale and gaunt, barely able to stand, and looked to be suffering from
mental collapse. The woman stared at the floor, and when she did finally look up
and see her visitor from the outside world, the two broke
her brief interview, hindered not only by the woman's captors who hovered only
inches away at all times, but also by the woman's fragile, quivering voice, Ms.
Swadi learned how this woman's young son and brother were killed in front of her
during a raid on her home conducted by U.S. forces. She carried a crudely
stitched wound the length of her forearm, which came from the bayonet of a
soldier involved in the raid.
her arrest, the woman had been held naked in a small cement cell, without proper
bedding or toilet. The woman spoke of rape and torture at the hands of her
American and Iraqi captors. With Congress being presented with the images of
Iraqi women forced to bare themselves as U.S. soldiers held guns to their heads,
and with the Pentagon's own acknowledgment of rape in their detention
facilities, it is not hard to give credence to Ms. Swadi's claims.
appointed to head the Pentagon's investigation into Abu Ghraib torture and abuse
allegations (which was restricted to investigation into members of the 800th
Military Police Brigade http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4953497/),
acknowledged that U.S. soldiers participated in rape at the prison. This
acknowledgment came in the form of an inter-Pentagon memo in which General
Taguba referred to images of American guards 'having sex' with female Iraqi
Taguba's choice of language when referring to rape is revealing, and further
clarifies the Pentagon's desensitized, casual attitude towards these crimes.
images clearly depict violent sex crimes http://www.aclu.org/SafeandFree/SafeandFree.cfm?ID=18395&c=206,
congressman who was given access to these images collected by the Pentagon,
stating that he believes the release will spark massive demonstrations and
endanger Americans abroad http://www.house.gov/apps/list/press/ma05_meehan/NR040512AbuGhraib.html
the image of 'consensual sex' alluded to by Taguba).
Taguba also reported that U.S. soldiers made videos of these violent sex crimes
a common practice amongst sex offenders, who often take trophies from their
crimes to help them relive the event later; it is a practice that has aided
greatly in prosecuting these offenders and will hopefully do the same in these
cases. General Taguba has also acknowledged at least two pregnancies resulting
from these sex crimes involving female detainees in Abu Ghraib.
recent attempt by the Senate to ban the Pentagon's use of torture, and President
Bush's response of threatened veto of this bill, along with White House
to exempt the CIA from any restraint with regards to torture, the image of a
systematic use of torture http://www.aclu.org/SafeandFree/SafeandFree.cfm?ID=19398&c=206
becomes illuminated. For those already aware of the Phoenix Operation http://www.serendipity.li/cia/operation_phoenix.htm
and the CIA's past publication of torture manuals, this comes as no surprise.
January 27, 1997, Baltimore Sun journalists Gary Cohn http://www.pulitzer.org/year/1998/investigative-reporting/bio/,
Mark Matthews ran a story in their paper under the headline "Torture was taught
by CIA". The reporters relied heavily on two manuals printed by the CIA, and
released under pressure from the Sun's 1994 freedom of information challenge.
The first manual, entitled KUBARAK
Interrogation July 1963, along with the updated Human Resources Exploitation
Training Manual 1983 Human Resources Exploitation Training Manual 1983
paint a picture of decades of CIA torture policy.
the Pentagon has maintained that these manuals were created only for educational
purposes, in order to help U.S. troops identify torture facilities, the manuals
themselves refute this position. The 1963 manual states in the section entitled
The Coercive Counterintelligence Interrogation of Resistant Sources that "drugs
(and the other aids discussed in this section) should not be used persistently
to facilitate the interrogative debriefing that follows capitulation. Their
function is to cause capitulation, to aid in the shift from resistance to
cooperation. Once this shift has been accomplished, coercive techniques should
be abandoned both for moral reasons and because they are unnecessary and even
1963 version also deals with the layout of 'interrogation' facilities, as noted
in the Sun's article. The manual states: "the electric current should be known
in advance, so that transformers or other modifying devices will be on hand if
needed." It is
important to note that the updated 1983 manual first came to light publicly when
it was recovered by resistance forces in Guatemala http://www.gwu.edu/%7Ensarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB122/,
who recovered it from
U.S. backed military death squads in that country, who
manual from the CIA School of the Americas http://www.soaw.org/new/ training camp in
Fort Benning, Georgia. It is also important to note that the U.S. embassy in
neighboring Honduras has been generally accepted as the headquarters of CIA
operations in Central America, with John Negroponte http://counterpunch.org/hassan06042004.html
acting as ambassador during the bloody 1980's (the same
to Iraq when torture policy in Iraq first came to light).
two manuals, and the visage of years of torture policy in Vietnam under the
watchful eyes of the CIA, leave any argument of 'rogue element' responsibility
for torture rather than systematic policy, totally unbelievable and
closing years of the U.S. occupation of Vietnam, and as it became more publicly
obvious the U.S. was fighting those it claimed to protect (that in fact attacks
on U.S. forces deep inside South Vietnam were being launched by the South
Vietnamese themselves), the CIA launched a massive counter intelligence campaign
aimed at targeting the South Vietnamese resistance, http://www.parascope.com/articles/0497/phxcomic.htm
code named Phoenix.
the Phoenix operation, the CIA started to compile lists of Vietnamese persons of
interest. These lists were based on collected data and information gathered
during subject 'interviews', and listed men, women and children as young as 15
http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=42192&SelectRegion=Iraq_Crisis&SelectCountry=IRAQ and as
old as 70. http://www.estripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=31989&archive=true
intelligence‑gathering program was jointly run by US agents and those they
recruited amongst the South Vietnamese forces. The administration of this
program was eventually handed over completely to South Vietnamese forces, which
kept no record of their victims; The CIA however, did, and by the end of
official CIA involvement in Phoenix, over 20,000 Vietnamese listed had been
tortured and murdered.
1971, Bart Osborn http://www.ocweekly.com/ink/04/19/news-schou.php,
former CIA agent, told Congress "I never knew in the course of all those
operations, any detainee to live through his interrogation. They all died. There
was never any reasonable establishment of the fact that any one of those
individuals was, in fact, cooperating with the VC, but they all died and the
majority were either tortured to death or . . . thrown out of
Nick Schou reports http://www.ocweekly.com/ink/04/19/news‑schou.php,
"Operation Phoenix detainees were tortured with electric shocks applied to their
genitals, while women prisoners were typically raped, occasionally with foreign
(hauntingly similar to claims of treatment of modern Iraqi detainees).
Schou also points out in his article: Operation Phoenix Rises from the Ashes of
History, that the CIA is now employing the Saddam era Mukhabarat (Iraqi Secret
Intelligence similar in scope to the CIA) to investigate resistance support. Mr.
Schou relies on statements by Vincent Cannistraro, a former chief of CIA
counter-terrorism, to highlight what this means. Cannistraro was quoted in the
Sunday Telegraph as saying "They're clearly cooking up joint teams to do
Phoenix-like things, like they did in Vietnam."
advocate for those held without charge or trial by an occupation rooted in
illegality, and under the increasing scrutiny of a world skeptical of U.S.
intentions in Iraq, Amal Swadi is a person of interest indeed.
Swadi and her 17 year old son Safa, were brought into the heart of the machinery
of occupation for processing. Ms Swadi blindfold and shackles were removed and
she was instructed by her interrogator to answer questions related to her
person. Ms. Swadi and Safa, were fingerprinted and made to undergo retinal
Her name, her husband's name, and the names of her children were all documented.
She was also asked her age, her address, and her occupation. Most alarming
however was the collection of data on her religious status; apparently the U.S.
military occupation felt it was pertinent to document if Ms. Swadi was Shia or
must be addressed is the motivation of U.S. occupational forces in recording
individual's religious affiliations in a country that is increasingly being
divided along these very same religious lines, both in reality and by an
oversimplified, blood frenzied corporate media intent on enflaming old
rivalries. Why would U.S. forces be creating databases of information that could
further pressurize this unstable situation
(this also at a time of U.S. collusion with Saddam era secret
the years of heavy U.N. sanctions, most in Iraq depended upon government
assistance to supplement their nutritional needs. This aid came in the form of
food rations, and was facilitated through the issuance of ration cards. In order
to receive a card, information was given and processed, but the question of
religious affiliation was not included. Much like in Tito's Yugoslavia, the
secular Saddam era Iraq did not want religious distinction to become paramount.
This lack of statistical data leaves in question population figures with regards
to religious denomination continually referred to by occupational forces and
parroted by the corporate media.
Saddam Hussein, as it was for Tito http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tito,
national identity was key to maintaining power, which simply meant stripping
religion of any importance
in public life. It was in fact this disregard for religion that made
fundamentalist al-Qa'ida and Saddam Hussein bitter enemies. The effect of this
continual simplification of issues into Shia and Sunni has helped fuel a civil
divide that is now being used as an excuse for occupation http://www.voanews.com/english/2005-11-11-voa3.cfm (Simply
argued by both the British and U.S. occupational forces; if we leave
they will kill each other).
also hints of what was referred to as the 'Vietnamising of the war' http://movies2.nytimes.com/gst/movies/movie.html?v_id=225829
in the later stages of that occupation. In an effort to reduce American
casualties, the Pentagon trained native troops to do most of the heavy casualty
fighting of occupation by fueling communist/capitalist phobias much in the same
way religious difference is being highlighted now.
Ms. Swadi and Safa's stories end for the time being on the limited high note of
release (after being 'tagged' and 'processed' like livestock, mother and son
were released back into the general population without further harm), the
experience forewarns the enormity of the human rights disaster being perpetrated
against the civilian population of Iraq in the name of democracy. It also
explains why this information remains a mystery to most Americans, as this
arrest clearly demonstrates the tactics used by a corrupt occupation to
intimidate any daring to
generally unreported, this physical and psychological genocide is well underway
and is being carried out by a U.S. Administration and Pentagon learned in the
powers of terrorism and civil divide. It is a leadership willing to rape,
torture, and murder much in the same way the U.S. war machine did in Vietnam,
and as in Vietnam (which saw over 4 million direct deaths and countless others
who continue to die from the arbitrary use of the WMD Agent Orange), this
current illegal and emboldened
occupation will likely post similar genocidal tallies if not made to immediately
account for its activities and be held responsible for these
Andrew Stromotich is an independent journalist and
founding member of
Video interview of Ms. Swadi at the Istanbul WTI shot for Dropframe
Rana Al-ioubi and Andrew Stromotich will be released soon
with author's permission.
Posted December 14, 2005
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