Brutality at US prison camps in Iraq

Fred Feldman ffeldman at
Fri Jul 25 23:55:03 MDT 2003

United States Concentration Camps in Iraq
The Ugly Truth Of America's Camp Cropper,
A Story To Shame Us All

by Robert Fisk
July 24, 2003

Now here's a story to shame us all. It's about
America's shameful prison camps in Iraq. It's about the
beating of prisoners during interrogation.

"Sources" may be a dubious word in journalism right
now, but the sources for the beatings in Iraq are
impeccable. This story is also about the gunning down
of three prisoners in Baghdad, two of them "while
trying to escape". But most of all, it's about Qais
Mohamed al-Salman. Qais al-Salman is just the sort of
guy the US ambassador Paul Bremer and his dead-end
assistants need now. He hated Saddam, fled Iraq in
1976, then returned after the "liberation" with a
briefcase literally full of plans to help in the
restoration of his country's infrastructure and water
purification system.

He's an engineer who has worked in Africa, Asia and
Europe. He is a Danish citizen. He speaks good English.
He even likes America. Or did until 6 June this year.

That day he was travelling in Abu Nawas Street when his
car came under American fire. He says he never saw a
checkpoint. Bullets hit the tyres and his driver and
another passenger ran for their lives. Qais al-Salman
stood meekly beside the vehicle. He was carrying his
Danish passport, Danish driving licence and medical

But let him tell his own story. "A civilian car came up
with American soldiers in it. Then more soldiers in
military vehicles. I told them I didn't understand what
had happened, that I was a scientific researcher. But
they made me lie down in the street, tied my arms
behind me with plastic-and-steel cuffs and tied up my
feet and put me in one of their vehicles."

The next bit of his story carries implications for our
own journalistic profession. "After 10 minutes in the
vehicle, I was taken out again. There were journalists
with cameras. The Americans untied me, then made me lie
on the road again. Then, in front of the cameras, they
tied my hands and feet all over again and put me back
in the vehicle."

If this wasn't a common story in Baghdad today - if the
gross injustices meted out to ordinary Iraqis and the
equally gross mistreatment in America's prison camps
here was not so common - then Qais al-Salman's story
would not be so important.

Amnesty International turned up in Baghdad yesterday to
investigate, as well as Saddam's monstrous crimes, the
mass detention centre run by the Americans at Baghdad
international airport in which up to 2,000 prisoners
live in hot, airless tents. The makeshift jail is
called Camp Cropper and there have already been two
attempted breakouts.

Both would-be escapees, needless to say, were swiftly
shot dead by their American captors. Yesterday, Amnesty
was forbidden permission to visit Camp Cropper. This is
where the Americans took Qais Al-Salman on 6 June.

He was put in Tent B, a vast canvas room containing up
to 130 prisoners. "There were different classes of
people there," Qais al-Salman says. "There were people
of high culture, doctors and university people, and
there were the most dirty, animal people, thieves and
criminals the like of which I never saw before.

"In the morning, I was taken for interrogation before
an American military intelligence officer. I showed him
letters involving me in US aid projects . He pinned a
label on my shirt. It read, Suspected Assassin'."

Now there probably are some assassins in Camp Cropper.
The good, the bad and the ugly have been incarcerated
there: old Baathists, possible Iraqi torturers, looters
and just about anyone who has got in the way of the
American military. Only "selected" prisoners are beaten
during interrogation. Again, I repeat, the source is
impeccable, and Western.

Qais Al-Salman was given no water to wash in, and after
trying to explain his innocence to a second
interrogator, he went on hunger strike. No formal
charges were made against him. There were no rules for
the American jailers.

"Some soldiers drove me back to Baghdad after 33 days
in that camp," Qais al-Salman says. "They dropped me in
Rashid Street and gave me back my documents and Danish
passport and they said, Sorry'."

Qais al-Salman went home to his grief-stricken mother
who had long believed her son was dead. No American had
contacted her despite her desperate requests to the US
authorities for help. Not one of the Americans had
bothered to tell the Danish government they had
imprisoned one of its citizens. Just as in Saddam's
day, a man had simply been "disappeared" off the
streets of Baghdad.

Robert Fisk is a journalist for the Independent Of
London and writes frequently on Middle Eastern politics
and events.

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