CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
On January 11, 2005, some of the detainees from Abu-Ghraib prison who have been unknown but for the digital photos the world has seen gave their account of events in Iraq from the autumn of 2003. The following is excerpted testimony from a videotaped deposition of Hussein Mutar, entered into evidence by the prosecution in the court martial of Spc. Charles Graner, convened at Ford Hood, Texas. Mr. Mutar was an Iraqi prisoner arrested on suspicion of theft before the US invasion of Iraq and held in the encampment section of Abu-Ghraib in November 2003, when the events he describes occurred. The following excerpt was taken down in longhand by an observer at the trial. Official transcripts are not available. Government attorneys began the questioning, followed by defense counsel’s cross-examination.
Q: How did you get [from the encampment] to the Abu-Ghraib cells?
A: You mean when they sent us to be tortured?
A: They took us one by one and grabbed me by the collar and threw me to the ground. They threw us one on top of another. I heard someone run and dive on me and put his elbow into my shoulder.
Q: Were you afraid?
Q: Were you crying?
Q: Were other men around you crying?
Q: Were there screams from the other men?
Q: What were the soldiers saying?
A: They were screaming and laughing.
Q: What happened to you next?
A: They took us one by one; they cut the ties from our hands, took the masks off our heads and undressed us.
Q: After they took the hood off, what happened to you?
A: They took us one by one, and whoever could take their clothes off quick enough was able to take their clothes off; otherwise, they ripped our clothes off with a knife.
Q: What happened next?
A: They took our clothes off and faced us to the wall naked, with our faces to the wall.
Q: At any time were you ever punched?
A: They started to take every person one at a time, twisting their arms behind their backs. When my turn came, they twisted my hand behind my back and punched my chest.
Q: How hard were you punched?
A: He hit me in the center of my chest. I fell down and said I was sick. They brought a doctor to check me. I told them I was sick. I demonstrated with my hand that I needed an inhaler
I was afraid of getting beaten up and I wanted to see who was hitting me.
Q: And did you see who hit you?
A: I didn’t see who hit me because a bag was over my face, but I did see two people.
Q: What happened next?
A: I was put to the wall and set by the wall but from the side of my eye I could see my friend was being forced to masturbate over another one of us.
Q: Were you forced to masturbate?
Q: Did they make you masturbate over another of your friends?
Q: Mr. Mutar, how did this make you feel at the time?
A: I couldn’t imagine it in the beginning that this could happen. But I wished for my death, that I could kill myself, because no one over there would stop what was going on.
They took us and placed us on the floor two by two. They put me on top and one fellow hit my ears simultaneously [claps], a smack at the same time.
[Prosecution shows him a photo of the human pyramid]
Q: Do you recognize this photograph?
Q: Do you recognize yourself in this photograph?
Q: How do you recognize yourself?
A: I have a scar on my left hip. I have another mark on my arm.
Q: Is that you on the top of the stack of individuals?
[Prosecution shows him another photo of the human pyramid]
Q: Mr. Mutar, do you recognize yourself in this photo as well?
Q: You mentioned you had a mark on your arm. And do you recognize the mark on this photo?
Q: Again, is that you on the top of this pile of individuals?
Q: And you were naked on top of your other friends?
Q: And were the other soldiers watching this?
A: I don’t know; there was a bag over my head.
Q: Did you hear soldiers?
A: Yes, I could hear their screaming and laughing.
Q: And were there women soldiers as well?
Q: Do you know if they were taking photographs?
A: I didn’t know then. There was a bag over my head.
Q: Did you see flashes through the bag?
A: There was a bag over my head.
Q: What happened next?
A: They took us to the cell one by one, and lifted our arms. Each cell had been flooded with water and soaked.
Q: Was it cold at this point?
Q: Was there anything to cover you?
A: No, there was nothing. We were sleeping on water.
Q: After you were in the prison cells, you were taken to the encampment again, correct?
A: After the torture?
Q: After the incident you describe, you were brought back to the encampment, right?
A: No, we stayed in the cells for 25 days.
Q: Where were you in the cells? Were you in Wing 1, Alpha?
Q: What area of the cells did you stay in for 25 days?
A: In the isolated cells, for 25 days. After completing 25 days, I was taken back to the encampments.
Q: Do you know the names of the people who made you masturbate?
A: No, I don’t.
Q: Do you know the names of the people who stacked you on top of your friends?
A: There was a bag over my head. I don’t know the names.
Q: Do you know the name of the person who ran and dived on top of you?
A: No, I don’t.
Q: Do you know the name of the person who made your friend masturbate?
A: I don’t know. There was a bag over my head.
Q: During this time how many American soldiers were around you? How many people were around you?
A: When they removed the bag over my head I saw two persons immediately. They put a bag over my head [again], and I didn’t see anything else. I saw one person with prescription glasses and a tattoo on his arm and another with a tattoo on his neck.
Q: Who put the bag on your head? Do you know which person?
A: They put it on from behind [gesturing]. I didn’t see it.
Q: Do you know how many people ran and dived on top of you?
A: I don’t know.
Q: So you don’t know if an American soldier ran and dived on you, is that correct?
A: You could tell he was an American from his voice, and from his laughter.
When they punched me, I saw only two people. I saw one person with prescription glasses and a tattoo on his arm and another with a tattoo on his neck.
Q: How were you positioned when you saw the people you saw?
A: The first thingthey lifted the bag from my head and a female doctor came and gave me an inhaler, and then they faced me to the wall.
Q: But you don’t know who punched youbecause you had a bag over your head.
And you also didn’t see the person who ripped off your clothes with a knife.
A: It wasn’t me whose clothes were ripped off with a knife; it was my friend. I took my clothes off and they put a bag back on my head quickly.
Q: And you didn’t see the person who forced your friend to masturbate.
A: When I was facing the wall?
Q: You said you didn’t see the person who forced your friend to masturbate, correct?
A: The person with the prescription glasses.
Q: But you said you had a bag over your head.
A: I could see from the side of my eyes, my friend being forced to masturbate.
Q: Which happened first: you being piled on top of your friends, or you being forced to masturbate?
A: They forced me to masturbate; then they put me in the pyramid. If they had killed us all at that time no one would have been able to question them. Because when they tortured us, no one stopped them. And when they tortured us, it was like theater for them. This changed the perspective on all Americans, and anything they were doing, no one could question them.
Q: OK, sir, how long were you in the pyramid?
A: You mean one on top of the other?
Q: That’s correct.
A: I don’t remember.
Q: How long between the time a soldier ran and dived on you, and when you were hit in the head?
A: I don’t remember.
Q: Do you remember how long you were forced to masturbate?
A: I don’t remember.
Q: Is it safe to assume you were pretty upset that night?
Q: And that you had trouble thinking clearly that night.
A: Yes, I remember-because this had never happened to me before.
Q: Is it correct to say that your sense of time and the passage of time was different that night? Because of your emotional state you could not tell the length of time you spent doing these things and the order in which they occurred.
A: The length of time I don’t remember because I was extremely emotional. Saddam didn’t do this to us.
Mr. Mutar’s videotaped deposition was entered into evidence by the prosecution a second time, as testimony in the sentencing phase of the trial, on January 15, after Graner had been found guilty of assault, dereliction of duty, indecent acts, conspiracy, battery and maltreatment of subordinates. The prosecution began the questioning:
Q: Mr. Mutar, when you were brought to the hard site, did you think this was going to happen to you?
Q: Why not?
A: Because the Americans came to free the Iraqi people from Saddam. I didn’t
Q: Do you think Americans are generally good?
A: When they came in and took Saddam out of power, it appeared they were good. But this incident changed the entire picture of what Americans look like.
Q: How did it change the picture?
A: With these incidents of torture that happened.
Q: Did soldiers seem to enjoy what was happening?
A: Yes, because they made us a theater in front of them, and [they were] laughing.
Q: When you look at the photographs how do you feel?
A: What do you think our feelings are? This has never happened to us before. I think I’m going to have an emotional breakdown. I want to kill myself because my friends, my family, all people in my neighborhood knew about this incident. When I get released how would I go and see these people? What’s ironic is that the Americans are taking my rights. How would I go out right now and face the public with myself?
Q: Mr. Mutar, you’re currently living at home, correct?
A: No, I am in prison.
Q: Which prison are you in currently?
A: What exactly?
Q: Are you in an American prison or an Iraqi prison?
Q: And when were you transferred to this Iraqi prison?
A: In December 2003. After the torture they took me to this location.
Q: And the guards there are Iraqi, right?
A: And the people responsible for them, the CPA [Coalition Provisional Authority].
Q: It’s the Iraqi government that’s kept you in prison since December 2003, correct?
A: At that time there was no government.
Q: Let’s say currently the Iraqi government is keeping you in prison, correct?
Q: OK. Have you been able to see your family while in prison?
A: How am I going to see my family?
Q: Do they come to visit you?
A: No they don’t. Under what face do they come to see me? How would they come?
Q: Does anyone come and visit you at the prison-friends, anyone?
Q: Mr. Mutar, are you angry because you were placed in prison?
A: How am I not angry?
Q: Do you believe you were placed in prison unjustly?
A: Yes, because I’m innocent of everything.
Q: Sir, are you angry at the Americans who put you in Abu-Ghraib prison?
Q: How do you feel about the Americans who worked in the hard site on the night that you talked about?
A: You mean the people who tortured me?
Q: The people in the incidents you describe, yes.
A: It’s not my choice to have any emotion right now, because Americans were in control at that time and still are.
Q: Are you afraid that if you say something bad about the Americans something bad will happen to you? If you express how you feel about the Americans at the hard site that night that other Americans will take action against you?
A: Of course I’m afraid.
Q: Thank you, Mr. Mutar.