Iraqis: Disgusted, But Not Surprised at Torture


Iraqis were disgusted yesterday at further accusations of brutality and torture at the hands of western troops, but few expressed surprise.

“I expect much worse than that to come out,” said Abu Hashem, an engineer, said, referring to the pictures of naked detainees being ill-treated by US guards in Abu Ghraib prison. “They said they were liberators but in fact they are occupation troops.”

There have been rumours of torture in US-run prisons in Iraq for months, so many Iraqis said the latest revelations only confirmed what they suspected.

Karim Hassan, a retired teacher, said: “There was a story going around that the Americans were torturing people, and the imam in the local mosque said female detainees were raped by American soldiers.”

Kamal Hassan, the younger brother of Karim, said: “I was shocked at what I saw. In the beginning I thought the Americans really were liberation forces. Now what is the difference between them and Saddam? They also are killing and torturing.”

Only one of those interviewed defended what had happened. Ziyad Rabiya, a petrol pump attendant, said: “They deserve what happened to them. Either they were killers or looters. I heard from one of my friends, who was picked up because he was wearing black and the soldiers thought he was one of Saddam’s fedayeen, that he was well treated. Of course, if they belonged to the resistance they did not deserve it.”

In three of Asia’s main Muslim countries, the alleged abuse of prisoners by US and British forces was condemned as a “despicable” show of western hatred of Muslims, and their immediate departure from Iraq was demanded. In Pakistan, an important ally in the US-led war on terrorism, Masood Khan, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said: “Our revulsion at the sadistic and shameful nature of the treatment given to the prisoners is shared by people across the globe.”

Newspapers in Malaysia and Indonesia – South-east Asia’s two biggest Muslim populations – had front-page photographs showing a hooded Iraqi prisoner reportedly beaten by British troops. Other media carried pictures of US soldiers giving thumbs-ups signs beside hooded, naked prisoners.

Nasharuddin Isa, the secretary general of the fundamentalist Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, the country’s largest opposition political group, said: “Such despicable acts prove the double standards of America, a country that preaches about human rights to the rest of the world. The US and British troops must leave Iraq immediately. Their actions have clearly shown the hatred of their countries toward Islamic people. How can they continue to say their intention all this time has been to liberate the Iraqis?”

Activists in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, said more mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners might have remained unreported.


Patrick Cockburn’s past columns can now be found at The I. Patrick Cockburn is the author of War in the Age of Trump (Verso).