An intellectual freedom blog with an emphasis on libraries and technology

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

The Prisoner

There's an article in that tells the story of a young naive man from New Zealand who entered Iraq while backpacking his way through the region, seeking a job with an NGO. He spent 3 months as a secret prisoner that the U.S. continues to deny knowing anything about despite the fact that U.S. military personnel interrogated him repeatedly. I realize that many people do not like subscription-based web news, but this article alone is definitely worth a subscription to salon. Some highlights from the article (A prisoner's tale, By Graeme Wood):

When Andreas Schafer was released from a prison in Iraq earlier this year, the Iraqi police apologized abjectly for having inconvenienced him for three months. They made sure he knew that if ever he wanted to get back at the arresting officer by, say, slaying the man's brother, it would be all right by them. And he could expect not to be prosecuted for the crime.

It says something about Iraqi justice and the American-led occupation that Iraq's finest viewed an invitation to murder as a triumph of decency and due process.

Many of his fellow prisoners were former new Iraqi police.

The "Mukhabarat", Saddam's former secret police, continue to function under the direction of the coalition forces.

Schafer claims to have seen beatings and torture by Iraqi police and that Americans visited the prison regularly and did nothing to stop or discourage the torture.

Of his U.S. military interrogators:
The failing most relevant to Schafer was the Americans' failing of imagination. "They cannot imagine that someone would come to a country less pleasant than their own, unless they're invading it or have got a really good job."

He described the illiterate Iraqi Shi'ites in the prison with him thus:
"They all confused democracy with anarchy," Schafer says. "They thought democracy was lawlessness. They thought it was anarchy where everything works properly, where you can walk into shops and just take things."