[Marxism] "They asked where are the weapons of mass destruction . . ."

Brian Shannon Brian_Shannon at verizon.net
Tue Nov 15 21:56:45 MST 2005

The classic expression “hoist by one’s own petard” is seldom used  
today. It may even be considered hackneyed. Shakespeare gives the  
following line to Hamlet: "For tis the sport to have the enginer Hoist  
with his owne petar". In this well-known incident from the play, Hamlet  
plans to substitute Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s names for his own in  
the death warrant that they carry from King Claudius.

In the play, Hamlet becomes an agent for “hoisting the petard.”  
However, he alludes to its inner meaning which is that without anyone  
else’s intervention, the trickster is caught in his own trick. When the  
final chapters of the Iraq war are written it may be that the search  
for the Weapons of Mass Destruction may have been one of the most  
important fuels for igniting the Iraq resistance. If so, it is even  
more ironic that a “petard” was an explosive devise of the late middle  
ages used to blow open doors and gates. Not exactly a WMD, but close  

There were many arguments given for invading Iraq. However, the one  
that had the greatest weight was that Iraq had not destroyed its WMDs,  
which the western countries knew it once had because they had been  
complicit in supplying them. Passing over the fact that all WMDs had  
been destroyed after the defeat of Iraq in the first Gulf War, and that  
false evidence was created to “prove” that Iraq had them and was even  
planning or developing nuclear weapons, it remained the main  
justification for war.

So when that is the main rationale for invasion, what do you have to do  
after you win?

The answer of course is to look for those weapons of mass destruction.  
You can’t just stop and say to your soldiers: “Guys we were only  
kidding; there are no WMDs and there never were; that was just our  
excuse for taking over this country for its oil and its strategic  

You can't do that; you have to be consistent. So, in addition to  
looking for Hussein and his fellows in the Deck of Cards, the soldiers  
have to go on search and destroy and torture missions to get those  
WMDs. Not only was that their main mission as declared to the world, it  
was also the main mission given to the soldiers and explained to their  
parents and other loved ones. Just as important, it is also a mission  
that will save their own lives. Since the WMDs exist, unless they are  
taken out, they most likely will be used against the coalition forces  

The following extract gives an example of how this mission worked in  
practice. However, since there is a sensationalist aspect to it,  
involving, of all things, lions being used in psychological torture, I  
follow it with several extracts taken from a report of the Christian  
Peacemaker Teams that went to Iraq in 2003 and 2004. There are many  
more stories related than the ones selected. However, these seem to  
focus on the search for WMDs and allies of Hussein. I am sure that if  
we had the organization and time to search other stories and  
dispatches, we could piece together a good case for the dramatic speed  
of development and relatively quick success of the Iraq resistance  
having been created in large part by U.S. imperialism’s own petard*—the  
search for the weapons of mass destruction.

Brian Shannon
* Petard comes from the French, meaning to pass gas or fart. A nice  


They both described standing in front of a lion cage, and said they  
could hear other prisoners screaming as the metal cage door creaked  
open and slammed shut.

“They threatened that if I did not confess they would put me in the  
cage,” said Khalid, adding that the soldiers kept asking him where  
Saddam was. “I laughed, I thought they were kidding me. They asked  
where are the weapons of mass destruction. I was very surprised and I  
thought it was weird.”

But when he laughed, he said, he was only beaten more. And he said they  
pushed him into the cage three times, pulling him out as the lions  
moved toward him.

ACLU lead counsel Lucas Guttentag said the lion cage was not mentioned  
in the initial legal filing because lawyers considered that part of the  
charges of mock executions, which would later be detailed. He said  
media reports in summer 2003 documented that American soldiers had  
access to the lions.


“It started with a polite interview,” he said, “and then the  
interrogation became more harsh and threatening. We were guilty until  
proven innocent.” They demanded that he tell them where weapons of mass  
destruction (WMD) are. When he told them he didn’t know about any,  
interrogators insisted he was lying. “They asked me over and over,  
telling me I was lying. That was the hardest part. When they asked why  
I wasn’t telling the truth, I answered, ‘Are you interested in the  
truth, or just in what you want to hear?’

“We explained in detail how our systems work. The judgment of all in  
the group of scientists I know, is that WMD do not exist here or  
elsewhere in the country. The interrogators referred to a ‘reliable  
source’ claiming the existence of a secret underground laboratory. We  
were honest. We knew of no such place. I finally said, ‘Then bring that  
person here and let him find it for you!’”
. . .

The soldiers pointed guns at the whole family, including the children,  
and kept them under guard in the kitchen. Four soldiers kept their  
weapons trained on one of the women as they forced her to show them  
every possible hiding place in their house. When they entered Masseh’s  
room, a soldier shot into the pillow beside his face to wake him. They  
tied each man’s hands behind his back, put a sack over his head and  
forced him to kneel. A child who was present through all of this now  
shakes and has nightmares. He thinks the helicopters took away his  

“The soldiers said they were searching for weapons, but didn’t find any  
so took my sons instead,” says Zakia. The soldiers also took about  
300,000 Iraqi dinars ($150), and the family’s supply of sugar and rice.  
Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) observed that there were few  
furnishings in the home. A television speaker was shot through. “We  
have nothing, we are poor, simple people,” Zakia told the soldiers.

Ma’ad, Masseh, and Omar are being held in Bucca prison. Their family  
has gone to the U.S. military authorities and to the International  
Committee of the Red Cross but no further information about their  
status is available. When Zakia visited CPT in January 2004, they still  
had not been able to visit the men in prison.
. . .

“This whole experience is so unreal, it’s like science fiction,” an  
Iraqi science professor told us when recounting to us his three-month  
ordeal being interrogated in more than a dozen meetings with the U.S.  
“Scientific Assessment Team.” Many other scientists he knew had similar  
experiences. One professor he knew was taken away and detained for two  
weeks. Another was still in detention. “I wish there was something I  
could do to close this file,” he lamented.

“It started with a polite interview,” he said, “and then the  
interrogation became more harsh and threatening. We were guilty until  
proven innocent.” They demanded that he tell them where weapons of mass  
destruction (WMD) are. When he told them he didn’t know about any,  
interrogators insisted he was lying. “They asked me over and over,  
telling me I was lying. That was the hardest part. When they asked why  
I wasn’t telling the truth, I answered, ‘Are you interested in the  
truth, or just in what you want to hear?’

“We explained in detail how our systems work. The judgment of all in  
the group of scientists I know, is that WMD do not exist here or  
elsewhere in the country. The interrogators referred to a ‘reliable  
source’ claiming the existence of a secret underground laboratory. We  
were honest. We knew of no such place. I finally said, ‘Then bring that  
person here and let him find it for you!’”
. . .

The Case of Dr. Talib and His Sons

In late August, we visited the home of Dr. Talib, a retired physician  
and his wife, Nawal, a practicing dentist. They told us their story.

Just after midnight, August 1, 2003, they woke to the sounds of  
shooting and the crashing in of the outside door. Their first thought  
was that it was thieves, so the oldest son shot their gun into the air  
to scare them away. The response was heavy firing on their house from  
every direction. They then realized it was American soldiers. For the  
next two and a half hours Dr. Talib went toward the door and called out  
in good English, “Come in. We are not violent!” and every time he did  
this, the shooting would start up again. The family members were afraid  
they would all be killed.

Finally about 3:00 a.m., the father crawled near the door and called  
out. “I am coming to open the door. One soldier answered nervously,  
“Open the door!” When he did, the soldiers rushed in and started  
hitting and kicking him and his three adult sons, knocking them to the  
floor, now covered with kerosene from a punctured tank. They handcuffed  
them behind their backs, stepped on their heads, and continued kicking  
them. Meanwhile other soldiers ransacked the house, destroying  
household furnishings. The only weapons soldiers found were a legally  
permitted small pistol and automatic rifle.

One of the soldiers asked the father if his name was Akif. He replied,  
“No, my name is Talib. Akif’s house is farther down on this street.”  
The soldiers realized they had made a mistake and had come to the wrong  
house. The captain apologized. Then they got into an incredible  
conversation. Dr. Talib asked the soldiers, “Why didn’t you just ring  
the doorbell. We would have let you in.” The captain replied, “We were  
scared.” The captain asked Dr. Talib, “Do you like America?” “I did  
until this happened,” Dr. Talib said. “I thought you were from a  
country of freedom and democracy. Is this freedom? Is this democracy?”  
The captain replied, “You don’t know how many of our people are being  
killed each day.”

When they were ready to leave, the captain said he would have to take  
the three sons. All of Dr. Talib’s pleading did not stop the soldiers  
and they took them away. We were there one month later and the family  
still didn’t know where the sons were. We saw the physical damage done  
to the house, but we saw a deeper damage in their faces. Evident in  
their eyes was the strain of fear, pain and worry the family was  
carrying for their sons.
. . .

We were horrified by this story, and the team continued to document  
other such cases. Here are some of them:

Imad Abdul Raheen; Kamel Hassen Khoumais [1]

On December 16, 2003, U.S. forces surrounded the farming village of Abu  
Siffa at 2:00 a.m. and, in the course of a 14-hour operation, detained  
80 men and three teenage boys (ages 14, 15 and 16). Abu Siffa is  
located on the outskirts of Balad, a city of 90,000 people about 50  
miles north of Baghdad.

According to Mohammed Jasim Hassan Altaai, “The Coalition Forces were  
looking for one person but they searched all our houses. It was a rainy  
night and they surrounded our whole village (about 25 homes) with tanks  
and Humvees. They surrounded the farmers’ fields with tanks and  
destroyed the fences. They destroyed the doors of our houses and kicked  
down our bedroom doors, or used their weapons to open them, while we  
were sleeping. They didn’t allow anyone to remain in the houses while  
they searched. They stole 14 million dinars from Imad’s house and more  
than 4 million from Kamel’s house (in all the equivalent of about  
$17,000). They gathered the men together and beat them severely. A  
70-year-old man suffocated and died when they put a black plastic hood  
on him.”

The object of the raid was to capture Kais Hattam, a prominent Baath  
Party official. According to the military commander who conducted the  
raid, Colonel Nate Sassaman, Saddam Hussein was captured with documents  
directly linking him to Kais Hattam. Sassaman said they found weapons,  
confiscated $1.9 million dollars in cash, and detained 72 men in the  

On December 31, 2003, U.S. forces returned to Abu Siffa and shelled the  
home of Abas Muhamed Abd Wahid, a 41-year-old primary school teacher  
currently in detention. The front of the simple brick building, which  
once housed 16 people, was completely destroyed. The interior of the  
house was full of rubble and its contents removed.

Three days later, on January 2, the U.S. military attacked a second  
house belonging to four brothers: Hamis (35), Abd Kadir (28), Jasim  
(30) and Mohammed (16). Their father, Tarik, is deceased. All of the  
brothers are detained. The main entrance and two of the house’s support  
pillars were destroyed by tank fire. Soldiers punched holes through  
interior walls and riddled the ceilings in every room with scores of  
bullets leaving the six-room house uninhabitable.

When asked if there was any reason why these particular houses were  
destroyed, Altaai said, “No. They just choose every sixth house, ones  
that are hidden away so no one will see.”

“They have detained all of the men in our village,” said Altaai. “Jamal  
and I are the only two men still living in the area. They took about  
fifteen teachers from the secondary school, so now there aren’t enough  
teachers to give lessons.” Police officers, farmers and students are  
also being held.
. . .

The family believed Dr. Ali was arrested because another American  
weapons inspection team had returned to Iraq for another search for  
WMD. U.S. forces had arrested at least six other scientists in this  
latest search, despite the fact that the head of the previous  
inspections team recently returned to the U.S. declaring that there had  
never been any such weapons, that they were destroyed in the early to  
middle 90’s.

On March 4 we got a call saying that after 38 days, Dr. Ali was free. A  
week later he told us his story.

 From the GIC he was taken to the Green Zone where soldiers put him in a  
three-meter by three-meter wire cage that he likened to an animal cage.  
It was out of doors, unprotected from the weather, and was next to  
15-20 other cages that held prisoners. “I was treated like a dangerous  
person,” he said. He was only there until dark when U.S. military  
police in two Humvees transported him to Cropper Camp at the Baghdad  

Dr. Ali assumed that the camp he was taken to was under the auspices of  
U.S. military intelligence. Upon entry, guards took his picture, did an  
eye print, took fingerprints, and, with their computer, printed out a  
wristband that gave him a prisoner of war number.

While he was there he tried to find ways to resist being dehumanized by  
his experience. Guards put him in a small cell about the same size as  
his earlier cage. “As a biologist I prefer not to call my humiliating  
confinement a ‘cell,’ one of the essential building blocks of all of  
life which God had called ‘good.’ And I made friends of the guards. I  
refused to call them my enemy.”

For five days he stayed in solitary confinement before he was able to  
question guards about the reason for his arrest. Ten days later guards  
gave him a pencil and paper to write the anonymous person in charge to  
ask that same question. “Two men came the next day and told me, ‘We  
didn’t know you were here. Sorry, you shouldn’t be here.’ I replied,  
‘So, let me go home.’ They answered, ‘This bureaucratic system won’t  
easily get you released.’ ‘Will I be here for days or weeks?’ I asked.  
They said, ‘We don’t know.’”

Some time later, after he gave up hope for an early release, guards  
took him to another location where three people questioned him for two  
hours. One he knew as Brenda, one of the interrogators from last  
summer. They admitted that some of the questions were the same. After  
they asked questions, he wrote the answers, and they sent the report to  
Washington, D.C. Dr. Ali commented after his release, “They are looking  
for ‘true lies,’ which don’t exist.” This was the only time during his  
confinement that he was questioned.

Some days later, guards came to his room and said he could go home.  
After 38 days in detention he arrived on his doorstep and greeted his  
surprised and delighted wife, son, and daughter. At the university,  
colleagues and students sacrificed three sheep to recognize his return,  
a ritual reminiscent of Abraham’s sacrifice and often done after a  
person goes through a grueling event.
. . .

Two brothers from the city of Samara came to our apartment to tell us  
the story of the death of their father while he was being detained. The  
following is a shortened version of the story according to Abdulkahar:

“On December 21, 2003 at 9:30 p.m., U.S. soldiers surrounded our house  
and crashed in the front gate with a tank. When we opened the house  
door to see what was happening, about 15 soldiers rushed inside, broke  
open cupboards and cabinets and ransacked the house. The brothers saw  
soldiers dividing up family money they took during the search. Soldiers  
pushed around our 70-year-old father, Mehide Al Jamal, who had recently  
had a hip replacement operation and had difficulty walking. Our father  
was a former surveyor and planner for the rural areas around Samara,  
and was well respected in the community.

“Soldiers handcuffed four of us, our father, my brother, and my uncle.  
They put plastic bags over our heads and took us away in an armored  
military vehicle.

“My father started gasping for breath and called out ‘Help me! I can’t  
breathe!’ The soldiers responded with ‘Shut up! Shut up! F___ you!’  
When I pleaded for the soldiers to loosen or take the bag off my  
father’s head, soldiers cursed me and hit me in the chest with a rifle  
butt. I heard one soldier say, ‘The f___ing old man may be dead.’

“My brother, uncle, and I were then transferred to another vehicle and  
taken home and released. There we found the body of our dead father. A  
soldier told us that our father had died of heart failure, but I  
responded angrily, ‘No, you killed my father. You soldiers treat us  
like animals!’

“After the funeral service, we filed a claim against the U.S. Military  
and a man in our community who we believed accused our father falsely.  
Many in the community hated him because he had been an informant for  
the former regime. Now he was doing it for the U.S. Col. Nate Sassaman,  
commander of the unit involved, told us he would bring the informant to  
us, but we said, ‘No, we don’t want revenge. We want justice.’ Sassaman  
then said he would investigate the informer, but later told us that he  
was innocent.”
[1] The October 23, 2005, NYTimes had a long article by Dexter Filkins  
on Colonel Nate Sassaman, titled “The Fall of the Warrior King”  
essentially portraying this scholar/athlete as a tragic figure,  
destroyed by the difficulty of the war and his own hubris. It is clear  
that Filkins idolized him. He may even have insisted that the article  
run, for all of the events covered in the article are more than a year  
      Filkins’s telling left out this story of Abu Siffa, where all the  
men but two were abducted from the village and sent to Abu Ghraib  
prison. I have gathered many articles on Sassaman and will forward them  
to anyone who requests them.

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