Standard disclaimers are in order for this post for its inflamatory nature.
Common Dreams: The Two Troublemakers by Kathy KellyThis story highlights all too clearly what I’ve talked about earlier on this blog… that is how military training turns some (but not all) of those who go through it into monsters.
Here’s the story (my comments are in black type, the original piece is in red):
- Published on Monday, December 22, 2003 by CommonDreams.org The Two Troublemakers by Kathy Kelly Last evening, in Amman, we met with Fadi Elayyan and Jihad Tahboub, two Palestinian young men who were imprisoned for two months, without charge, by US Occupying forces who seized them, in Baghdad, on April 10, 2003They are trying to help four of their companions who are still held by the US military, presumably in a prison compound at Umm Qasr, in southern Iraq.
“On April 10, the US Marines kidnapped us,” Jihad began in a matter of fact tone. “We were students, and we stayed in Baghdad during the war because we did not want to give up our studies or leave our friends. The Marines wanted to occupy our building because it is high and gives a good view of the area. ”
Some of the students had Palestinian passports. When they asked what they were guilty of, the soldiers said, “You are guilty of being Palestinian.” The soldiers told them, “You are not studying education in Baghdad. You are studying terrorism.”
“We said that we had citizen IDs and we are students,” said Fadi, but the soldiers insisted, with guns pointed at their heads, “You are in Iraq and you are terrorists.”
Fadi, age 24, had been living in Baghdad for six years. At the Mustansariya University, he was three months short of achieving a degree in environmental engineering. Jihad, age 23, studied hotel management.
Fadi and Jihad were released from a prison in Umm Qasr, in southern Iraq, two months later, on June 10, after a US military Tribunal issued each of them signed but undated documents stating that there was no evidence to support a claim that he committed a belligerent act against the Coalition forces. Before being released, they had to sign a document stating that the US military bore no responsibility for what had happened to them while they were in custody.
This is outrageous. I think someone needs to file a FOIA request to get their hands on these statements. The fact that the military thinks it is neccesary to get these statements is to me a constructive admission of the mistreatment of prisoners.
- “It was inhuman, the way they treated us,” said Fadi. “For the first seven days we were given no food or water.” On the first day, they were handcuffed and taken to the Hasan Al Bakr Palace where they stayed overnight on wet ground, outdoors. “We tried to bury ourselves in the sand to keep warmer,” Fadi recalled. “All the time they were pointing their guns at us. They made us feel that we are going to die now, they gonna kill us now.” The next day they were taken to Saddam Airport where they were again held outside, in the cold, without food. “They were laughing while they were searching us and throwing us on the ground. They took pictures of us which they said they would send back to their families in the US.”It was a full month before the International Commission of the Red Cross enabled any contact between the students and their families.
From the Saddam Airport, they were taken to the Imam Ali Air Base at Nassiriyeh, traveling by truck. They stayed there two days, again outdoors. If anyone screamed out, they were beaten, by hand or by rifle butts.
From the Imam Ali Air Base, they were moved to a huge prison compound in Umm Qasr where approximately 10,000 prisoners were held. Civilian prisoners were separated from combatants. At first they were held in an area which consisted of 15 compounds, each compound holding around 500 prisoners. “They give you one blanket, but it’s not enough. We did not cover ourselves with the blanket, we used it as a mat,” said Fadi.
“There was no place for us to stay in the big tent,” he continued, “so we built our own tent by sticks. I asked for a stick from a guard who was outside the fence. He didn’t respond, so I asked, `Why don’t you answer me?’ He said, `You are my enemy. I don’t have to speak with you.’ I asked, `Who said I am your enemy?’ He said, `If you say one more word, I will kill you.'”
What is wrong with this picture? How can one human being speak to another one like this… the prisoner is no longer a human but now is “the enemy.” This is a prime Grade-A example of how military training rots the conscience.
- After initial processing in the large compound they were moved to a second part of the prison called “Bucca,” named after a fireman who was killed at The World Trade Center.”There was a picture of the twin towers in front of the prison,” said Jihad, “just to make the soldiers feel they are doing the right thing, just to make them feel it is in the right way.”
This is rather interesting… especially since it is now abundantly clear that there was no connection between Iraq and Al-Queda.
- Fadi and Jihad particularly detested the way their captors treated the children who were imprisoned with them. “There were 13 year old kids in with us,” Fadi said. “Sometimes they would throw candies from their humvees, shouting `Bark like a dog, and I’ll throw you the candy’..Some of the small children were crying in the night, asking to go home to their families. We were trying to get them quiet.””Some of the prisoners were criminals, thieves. They put the children with them. Some of them tried to abuse children. We told the guards, they started laughing.”
“One prisoner tried to rape a kid and he refused, so they made a cut on his face.”
May God have mercy on us all.
- Occasionally, Fadi and Jihad would refuse to take their food because of the way soldiers in “The Feeding Team” taunted them. “Say that you love Bush and I will give you food,” a soldier would say, before handing them a bowl. “I told them, `I don’t love Bush. I don’t love Saddam, I love only myself,'” said Fadi, but a person has to have some honor. Telling them to keep the food, Fadi added, “Let me go and I will cook my own food.'”
I admire Fadi and Jihad for doing this, for refusing to be dehumanized like this. If only more had their courage to keep some honor is a horrible situation like this.
- Fadi and Jihad tried to speak up on behalf of other prisoners. “They called us ‘the two troublemakers’ because we were the only two that spoke English in the whole compound.”After seven days we tried to make our demands more organized. We didn’t ask anything about our legal situation because when we asked them they said it is not our responsibility, so we started trying to make our living conditions better.”
“We were asking for enough food, potable water, water for washing ourselves,– skin diseases are contagious one from another. We were asking for more medical support. Many people had to make a dressing change. Many had to take injections.”
They refused all our demands.”
That last sentence says it all.
- Sensing that some of the soldiers would be aware of Fadi’s and Jihad’s strength of character, we asked if they ever encountered some sensitivity on the part of the soldiers. “Seldom would you find someone with feeling,” was Fadi’s response. “Maybe the girls, they would have more feelings than men, but even they kept on laughing when they’d see someone injured or in pain.””The US soldiers are young, in their twenties, I don’t believe that any one of them will feel regret. Most of them were saying, `If you do any wrong thing I will kill you.’ Most of them don’t have feelings, any kind of feelings. They just do what they are told to do.”
“They don’t care,” Jihad added. “One soldier was in a truck and she pointed at the American flag and she said, `This is your flag.'”
Those last few paragraphs are the most powerful to me because they scream out at what military training has done to our young men and women. — Particularly the statement about the flag curdles my blood. No longer is the flag a symbol of “liberty and justice for all” it is now symbol of neo-colonial oppression.
- When they were finally brought before a tribunal, interrogators asked them if they had any information about weapons of mass destruction or if they knew the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein. The judge at the tribunal, a military officer, determined that they should be released from administrative detention. Soldiers drove them to Basra, the nearest large city, gave them each five dollars, and set them free.Now “the troublemakers” are deeply troubled by the fate of their four companions who are still imprisoned at Umm Qasr, “guilty” of being Palestinians.
Kathy Kelly is a co-coordinator of Voices in the Wilderness. She is traveling to Iraq with a Voices team which will be in Baghdad for the next two weeks.
The idea that my tax dollars pay for this is revolting. I swear Canada looks better and better everyday. I know this, that those of us who are disturbed by this story (and the others coming out of Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere) must begin working to combat militarism in this country through peaceful means. We must continue to speak out against the lies of military recruiters (particularly to awaken our nation’s young people to the many, many opportunties that available to them in this nation… no one should feel that the military is their only choice). We also desperately need to be assisting those who are in the military and want out and most of all we need to badger our elected officials and tell them that we do not want our tax dollars to be used for training our young people to kill without feeling guilt. This kind of brain washing is vile and wrong and must be stopped.
And most of all we need to pray. I get frustrated with God pretty often because I feel like the world keeps getting worse and worse, but at the same time I see too much good in this world to give up hope. I know some folks would say the idea of a war-free world or even a military-less USA is impossible but God can do the impossible. My only fear is that God is willing to act but he wants to act through the hearts of good folks here on earth, and that it is our cowardice that is keeping peace from coming.