FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Fanning the Flames of Hatred in Iraq

by ROBERT FISK The Independent

If anyone wants to know why Iraqis set bombs for American soldiers, they had only to sit in the two-storey villa in this little farming village and look at the frozen face of Ahmed al-Ham and his angry friends yesterday.

Ahmed’s 50-year-old father, Sabah, was buried just a week ago–35 days after he died in American hands at the Abu Ghraib prison–and the 17-year-old youth with his small beard and piercing brown eyes blames George Bush for his death. “Pigs,” he mutters. Ahmed was a prisoner, too, and his father died in his arms. According to a cousin of Sabah’s, their tragedy began at 3am on 3 August when about 40 US military vehicles arrived in Saqlawiyah, a Sunni village 10 miles from Fallujah, the scene of dozens of fatal attacks on US occupation troops. A framed and undamaged photograph of Saddam Hussein hangs on the wall above us as we talk.

The cousin, a retired farmer with prostate problems who pleads that his name should not be used lest he be rearrested, says that he willingly allowed the Americans to search his home–just as Sabah al-Ham did a hundred metres away–and freely walked across to a group of US officers outside his house when was asked to do so.

“I gave my name and told them who I was and then some military police arrived,” he says. “I was asked to walk inside a barbed wire enclosure where about 30 other village men were brought. Ahmed was there with his father, Sabah. We were kept there for seven hours, sitting on the ground. Then they bound our hands and blindfolded us and put us on a truck. That’s when it went bad. The next night, we were kept in an old army base. Each of us was locked inside a toilet cubicle.”

None of the men was known to be on any wanted list and Sabah–who had high blood pressure and breathing difficulties–was, his cousin says, a mere “under-officer” in the Iraqi army, equivalent to a second lieutenant.

“We complained about our health problems. I can only urinate through a catheter and Sabah kept saying he needed cold water. We were then taken by lorry to a big hall where we had to spend a day, sitting or ordered to stand with our hands bound and then afterwards taken to the prison camp at Baghdad airport. Here they had just three questions to ask us: ‘Have you attacked Americans?’ ‘What type of attacks did you stage?’ ‘Do you know any officials of the previous regime?’ We all said no.

“That was all the interrogation we had. Sabah was always asking for water but they did nothing else for him though we told them he had very high blood pressure. Then they moved us south to Nasariyah, into a desert camp under tents which was about 55 degrees. Sabah was in a bad way.”

After four days, during which an American medical officer administered liquid by tube for dehydration to Sabah, the men were all trucked north again, this time to Abu Ghraib. On the way, according to Ahmed, his father pleaded for cold water but the soldiers would give him only hot water and a tiny piece of ice to put in his mouth. In a tent in the heat again at Abu Ghraib, Sabah quickly lost consciousness.

“We asked again and again for help and they gave him the drip feed again but they wouldn’t send him to hospital or let him go,” Ahmed says.

Ahmed held his father as he died in the medical tent. “I washed his body and the prison imam said prayers over him and then they told me his body would be taken to his family village in three days. They said ‘sorry’.” But when, a month later, Ahmedand the others were freed, they returned to Saqlawiyah to find his family asking where he was. The Americans still had his body. “We dared not tell most of his family that he was dead,” the cousin says.

Only after they had asked the Red Cross for help did the Ham family trace Sabah’s corpse. It had been stored at Baghdad airport, they were told, and eventually found in a refrigeration area close to the old presidential palace in Baghdad. With much anger–and with guns fired into the air–the village buried Sabah on 17 September. No American offered the family compensation or formally expressed regret to them.

The cousin did say that there was a “good American” at Abu Ghraib who believed all the men were innocent. “He told us how sorry he was when Sabah died. And when we were freed, he came up to each one of us and shook us by the hand. His name was Johnson. He was a good man. The rest were bad.”

Meanwhile, the war goes on. In Baghdad yesterday, a roadside bomb blew up shortly after a US patrol had passed–tearing apart a city bus, killing one passenger and wounding 20.

Robert Fisk is a reporter for The Independent and author of Pity the Nation. He is also a contributor to Cockburn and St. Clair’s forthcoming book, The Politics of Anti-Semitism.

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared. 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up (Bad News for Keystone XL)
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
Rob Urie
Boris and Natasha Visit Fantasy Island
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
Ben Debney
Outrage From the Imperial Playbook
Michael J. Sainato
Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics
Bill Willers
Volunteerism; Charisma; the Ivy League Stranglehold: a Very Brief Trilogy
Lawrence Davidson
Moral Failure at the UN
Pete Dolack
World Bank Declares Itself Above the Law
Nicola Perugini - Neve Gordon
Israel’s Human Rights Spies
Patrick Cockburn
From Paris to London: Another City, Another Attack
Ralph Nader
Reason and Justice Address Realities
Ramzy Baroud
‘Decolonizing the Mind’: Using Hollywood Celebrities to Validate Islam
Colin Todhunter
Monsanto in India: The Sacred and the Profane
Louisa Willcox
Grizzlies Under the Endangered Species Act: How Have They Fared?
Norman Pollack
Militarization of American Fascism: Trump the Usurper
Pepe Escobar
North Korea: The Real Serious Options on the Table
Brian Cloughley
“These Things Are Done”: Eavesdropping on Trump
Sheldon Richman
You Can’t Blame Trump’s Military Budget on NATO
Carol Wolman
Trump vs the People: a Psychiatrist’s Analysis
Stanley L. Cohen
The White House . . . Denial and Cover-ups
Farhang Jahanpour
America’s Woes, Europe’s Responsibilities
Joseph Natoli
March Madness Outside the Basketball Court
Bruce Mastron
Slaughtered Arabs Don’t Count
Pauline Murphy
Unburied Truth: Exposing the Church’s Iron Chains on Ireland
Ayesha Khan
The Headscarf is Not an Islamic Compulsion
Ron Jacobs
Music is Love, Music is Politics
Christopher Brauchli
Prisoners as Captive Customers
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Robert Koehler
The Mosque That Disappeared
Franklin Lamb
Update from Madaya
Dan Bacher
Federal Scientists Find Delta Tunnels Plan Will Devastate Salmon
Barbara Nimri Aziz
The Gig Economy: Which Side Are You On?
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Marines to Kill Desert Tortoises
Louis Proyect
What Caused the Holodomor?
Max Mastellone
Seeking Left Unity Through a Definition of Progressivism
Charles R. Larson
Review: David Bellos’s “Novel of the Century: the Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables”
David Yearsley
Ear of Darkness: the Soundtracks of Steve Bannon’s Films
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail