FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Fanning the Flames of Hatred in Iraq

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.

More articles by:

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

August 14, 2018
Daniel Falcone
On Taking on the Mobilized Capitalist Class in Elections: an Interview With Noam Chomsky
Karl Grossman
Turning Space Into a War Zone
Jonah Raskin
“Fuck Wine Grapes, Fuck Wines”: the Coming Napafication of the World
Manuel García, Jr.
Climate Change Bites Big Business
Alberto Zuppi - Cesar Chelala
Argentina at a Crossroads
Chris Wright
On “Bullshit Jobs”
Rosita A. Sweetman
Dear Jorge: On the Pope’s Visit to Ireland
Binoy Kampmark
Authoritarian Revocations: Australia, Terrorism and Citizenship
Sara Johnson
The Incredible Benefits of Sagebrush and Juniper in the West
Martin Billheimer
White & Red Aunts, Capital Gains and Anarchy
Walter Clemens
Enough Already! Donald J. Trump Resignation Speech
August 13, 2018
Michael Colby
Migrant Injustice: Ben & Jerry’s Farmworker Exploitation
John Davis
California: Waging War on Wildfire
Alex Strauss
Chasing Shadows: Socialism Won’t Go Away Because It is Capitalism’s Antithesis 
Kathy Kelly
U.S. is Complicit in Child Slaughter in Yemen
Fran Shor
The Distemper of White Spite
Chad Hanson
We Know How to Protect Homes From Wildfires. Logging Isn’t the Way to Do It
Faisal Khan
Nawaz Sharif: Has Pakistan’s Houdini Finally Met his End?
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Versus Journalism: the Travails of Fourth Estate
Wim Laven
Honestly Looking at Family Values
Fred Gardner
Exploiting Styron’s Ghost
Dean Baker
Fact-Checking the Fact-Checker on Medicare-for-All
Weekend Edition
August 10, 2018
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Militarizing Space: Starship Troopers, Same As It Ever Was
Andrew Levine
No Attack on Iran, Yet
Melvin Goodman
The CIA’s Double Standard Revisited
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The Grifter’s Lament
Aidan O'Brien
In Italy, There are 12,000 American Soldiers and 500,000 African Refugees: Connect the Dots 
Robert Fantina
Pity the Democrats and Republicans
Ishmael Reed
Am I More Nordic Than Members of the Alt Right?
Kristine Mattis
Dying of Consumption While Guzzling Snake Oil: a Realist’s Perspective on the Environmental Crisis
James Munson
The Upside of Defeat
Brian Cloughley
Pentagon Spending Funds the Politicians
Pavel Kozhevnikov
Cold War in the Sauna: Notes From a Russian American
Marilyn Garson
If the Gaza Blockade is Bad, Does That Make Hamas Good?
Sean Posey
Declinism Rising: An Interview with Morris Berman  
Jack Dresser
America’s Secret War on Yemen
Howard Lisnoff
The Use and Misuse of Charity: the Luck of the Draw in a Predatory System
Louis Proyect
In the Spirit of the Departed Munsees
Binoy Kampmark
Banning Alex Jones and Infowars
Mundher Al Adhami
On the Iraqi Protests, Now in Their Second Month 
Jeff Mackler
Nicaragua: Dynamics of an Interrupted Revolution
Robert Hunziker
Peter Wadhams, Professor Emeritus, Ocean Physics
David Macaray
Missouri Stands Tall on the Labor Front
Thomas Knapp
I Didn’t Join Facebook to “Feel Safe”
John Carroll Md
Are Haitian Doctors Burned Out?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail