[Marxism] New Yorker article on the murder of an Iraqi prisoner

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Nov 7 08:18:40 MST 2005

This is titled:
Can the C.I.A. legally kill a prisoner?

It is first-rate investigative journalism, on a par with what Seymour Hersh 
has written for this magazine which started off as a gung-ho supporter of 
the war in Iraq. There are obviously a number of high-profile prowar 
supporters there, including George Packer whose opposition to the war is 
based simply on the fact that it is not going well. And Jeffrey Goldberg, 
who wrote the same kind of bullshit as Judith Miller.



Manadel al-Jamadi arrived at Abu Ghraib naked from the waist down, 
according to an eyewitness, Jason Kenner, an M.P. with the 372nd Military 
Police Company. In a statement to C.I.A. investigators, Kenner recalled 
that Jamadi had been stripped of his pants, underpants, socks, and shoes, 
arriving in only a purple T-shirt and a purple jacket, and with a green 
plastic sandbag completely covering his head. Nevertheless, Kenner told 
C.I.A. investigators, “the prisoner did not appear to be in distress. He 
was walking fine, and his speech was normal.” The plastic “flex cuffs” on 
Jamadi’s wrists were so tight, however, that Kenner had trouble cutting 
them off when they were replaced with steel handcuffs and Jamadi’s hands 
were secured behind his back.

Staff Sergeant Mark Nagy, a reservist in the 372nd Military Police Company, 
was also on duty at Abu Ghraib when Jamadi arrived. According to the 
classified internal documents, he told C.I.A. investigators that Jamadi 
seemed “lucid,” noting that he was “talking during intake.” Nagy said that 
Jamadi was “not combative” when he was placed in a holding cell, and that 
he “responded to commands.” In Nagy’s opinion, there was “no need to get 
physical with him.”

Kenner told the investigators that, “minutes” after Jamadi was placed in 
the holding cell, an “interrogator”—later identified as Swanner—began 
“yelling at him, trying to find where some weapons were.” Kenner said that 
he could see Jamadi through the open door of the holding cell, “in a seated 
position like a scared child.” The yelling went on, he said, for five or 
ten minutes. At some point, Kenner said, Swanner and his translator 
“removed the prisoner’s jacket and shirt,” leaving him naked. He added that 
he saw no injuries or bruises. Soon afterward, the M.P.s were told by 
Swanner and the translator to “take the prisoner to Tier One,” the agency’s 
interrogation wing. The M.P.s dressed Jamadi in a standard-issue orange 
jumpsuit, keeping the sandbag over his head, and walked him to the shower 
room there for interrogation. Kenner said that Jamadi put up “no resistance.”

On the way, Nagy noticed that Jamadi was “groaning and breathing heavily, 
as if he was out of breath.” Walter Diaz, the M.P. who had been on guard 
duty at the prison, told C.I.A. investigators that Jamadi showed “no 
distress or complaints on the way to the shower room.” But he told me that 
he, too, noticed that Jamadi was having “breathing problems.” An autopsy 
showed that Jamadi had six fractured ribs; it is unclear when they were 
broken. The C.I.A. officials in charge of Jamadi did not give him even a 
cursory medical exam, although the Geneva Conventions require that 
prisoners receive “medical attention.”

“Jamadi was basically a ‘ghost prisoner,’ ” a former investigator on the 
case, who declined to be named, told me. “He wasn’t checked into the 
facility. People like this, they just bring ’em in, and use the facility 
for interrogations. The lower-ranking enlisted guys there just followed the 
orders from O.G.A. There was no booking process.”

According to Kenner’s testimony, when the group reached the shower room 
Swanner told the M.P.s that “he did not want the prisoner to sit and he 
wanted him shackled to the wall.” (No explanation for this decision is 
recorded.) There was a barred window on one wall. Kenner and Nagy, using a 
pair of leg shackles, attached Jamadi’s arms, which had been placed behind 
his back, to the bars on the window.

The Associated Press quoted an expert who described the position in which 
Jamadi died as a form of torture known as “Palestinian hanging,” in which a 
prisoner whose hands are secured behind his back is suspended by his arms. 
(The technique has allegedly been used in the Israeli-Palestinian 
conflict.) The M.P.s’ sworn accounts to investigators suggest that, at 
least at first, Jamadi was able to stand up, without pain: autopsy records 
show that he was five feet ten, and, as Diaz explained to me, the window 
was about five feet off the ground. The accounts concur that, while Jamadi 
was able to stand without discomfort, he couldn’t kneel or sit without 
hanging painfully from his arms. Once he was secured, the M.P.s left him 
alone in the room with Swanner and the translator.

Less than an hour later, Diaz said, he was walking past the shower room 
when Swanner came out and asked for help, reportedly saying, “This guy 
doesn’t want to coöperate.” According to the NPR report, one of the C.I.A. 
men told investigators that he called for medical help, but there is no 
available record of a doctor having been summoned. When Diaz entered the 
shower room, he said, he was surprised to see that Jamadi’s knees had 
buckled, and that he was almost kneeling. Swanner, he said, wanted the 
soldiers to reposition Jamadi, so that he would have to stand more erectly. 
Diaz called for additional help from two other soldiers in his company, 
Sergeant Jeffery Frost and Dennis Stevanus. But after they had succeeded in 
making Jamadi stand for a moment, as requested, by hitching his handcuffs 
higher up the window, Jamadi collapsed again. Diaz told me, “At first I 
was, like, ‘This guy’s drunk.’ He just dropped down to where his hands 
were, like, coming out of his handcuffs. He looked weird. I was thinking, 
He’s got to be hurting. All of his weight was on his hands and wrists—it 
looked like he was about to mess up his sockets.”

Swanner, whom Diaz described as a “kind of shabby-looking, overweight white 
guy,” who was wearing black clothing, was apparently less concerned. “He 
was saying, ‘He’s just playing dead,’ ” Diaz recalled. “He thought he was 
faking. He wasn’t worried at all.” While Jamadi hung from his arms, Diaz 
told me, Swanner “just kept talking and talking at him. But there was no 

Frost told C.I.A. investigators that the interrogator had said that Jamadi 
was just “playing possum.” But, as Frost lifted Jamadi upright by his 
jumpsuit, noticing that it was digging into his crotch, he thought, This 
prisoner is pretty good at playing possum. When Jamadi’s body went slack 
again, Frost recalled commenting that he “had never seen anyone’s arms 
positioned like that, and he was surprised they didn’t just pop out of 
their sockets.”

Diaz, sensing that something was wrong, lifted Jamadi’s hood. His face was 
badly bruised. Diaz placed a finger in front of Jamadi’s open eyes, which 
didn’t move or blink, and deduced that he was dead. When the men lowered 
Jamadi to the floor, Frost told investigators, “blood came gushing out of 
his nose and mouth, as if a faucet had been turned on.”

More information about the Marxism mailing list