Skip to comments.Abu Gharib Prison: Nowhere in Iraq was butchery more rife
Posted on 04/13/2003 6:33:18 PM PDT by ellery
A huge mural just inside the gates of Abu Gharib Prison depicts a smiling Saddam Hussein and a row of black-hooded executioners.
Bit redundant, that. The Iraqi president has been known to pull the trigger himself when in the mood for a spot of blood-letting or political avengement. But such was the frequency of formalized extermination under the Baath party regime that executioners were practically guaranteed tenure.
Nowhere was the butchery more rife than Abu Gharib, a notorious penitentiary/gulag 40 kilometres west of the capital, and sprawling for miles behind thick stone walls along the main highway into town.
It's a desolate place now, with heaps of spindly steel cots in the prison yard, cell doors hanging by their hinges, exposed wires springing from the walls, rusty hooks studding the ceiling and piles of green Republican Guard uniforms moulding in what used to be the sewing room because prisoners turned out military fatigues for the army, rather than licence plates for the public.
But Abu Gharib has always been a desolate and dreaded place, the most infamous of all jails in a country saturated with horrific prisons, warehousing in misery an entire sub-population of the incarcerated. The condemned and the damned: murderers, thieves, political prisoners, dissidents, Communists, Baath party opponents, and just about every poor wretch who happened to make a passing, overheard, intemperate remark about the Saddam regime.
Iraq is a country where typewriters were licensed so that security forces could take imprints of every key to trace anti-government literature, where five separate security forces poked into every aspect of a civilian's life, where Article 225 of the penal code stated that anyone who criticized the president, his party or the government could be put to death.
In such a country, tens of thousands would every year fall afoul of the law.
Judgment was prompt and harsh, confessions of sins never committed elicited pulled from howling victims at the end of an electrical prod ... or by forcing the suspect to sit on a bottle until it penetrated the anus ... or suspending the subject from one of these ceiling hooks.
Some prisoners, it has been reported, were used as guinea pigs for the testing of biological weapons.
Army deserters were branded on the forehead, their ears lopped off forever identifiable as turntails.
At Abu Gharib, it's difficult to tell where the torture chambers were located it all looks menacing and dungeon-grim, no less so in the "Short Sentences" wing, for men doing five months to five years; the cells tiny, but none so small as the 1.5-metre square lockdown holes, for punishing those who somehow transgressed the prison rules, where occupants could sleep only curled up in the fetal position or standing upright.
Cruelty defined the Saddam regime, an extension of the man himself.
It elevated cruelty to a public spectacle hanging alleged anti-government plotters in public squares and leaving their bodies to dangle on display for days.
No humiliation, degradation or defilement was beyond the pale.
As Iraq expert Kenneth Pollock wrote in The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq: "This is a regime that will gouge out the eyes of children to force confessions from their parents and grandparents. This is a regime that will crush all of the bones in the feet of a 2-year-old girl to force her mother to divulge her father's whereabouts. This is a regime that will hold a nursing baby at arm's length from its mother and allow the child to starve to death to force the mother to confess. This is a regime that will burn a person's limbs off to force him to confess or comply.
"This is a regime that will slowly lower its victims into huge vats of acid, either to break their will or simply as a means of execution. This is a regime that applies electric shocks to the bodies of its victims, particularly their genitals, with great creativity ..."
Sam Jason his anglicized name is an Iraqi-born American citizen who was arrested when he returned to the country after attending university in the United States.
Somebody tattled, that he was anti-Saddam, because that's what Iraqi citizens were trained to do, right from the cradle.
Last Thursday, he was wandering in bewilderment around the capital, one day after escaping with 40 other non-Iraqis from Abu Gharib.
With U.S. forces in the city Alpha Troop 3-7, part of the 7th Infantry Division advancing down the very highway that runs parallel to the prison, in a three-day tank battle the inmates had demanded their release, and surprisingly obtained it. With no money, Jason had walked all the way into the city, turning up to gaze at another notorious building Al Hakmiyah (Judgment) Centre in eastern Baghdad where he'd been originally and viciously interrogated in 1996, accused of being a U.S. spy.
"Nine years I spent in jail for saying three banned words that Saddam would go either by negotiation, bribe or force. I didn't know they had bugged my office. Nine years for three words. They tortured me, they beat me, they used electrodes on my lips, ears, and other parts, and they burned me with cigarettes until I finally said what they wanted to hear."
Fainting from the ordeal, Jason woke up to see a coffin in the corner. That was one of the little games prison officials would use on their terrified wards forcing them to occasionally lie in coffins, as if in preparation for their own burial.
"When I was sentenced, I appeared in front of three judges in civilian clothes. One told me I had been sentenced to death. Another walked over with a pistol, put it to my head and fired. It was a blank bullet. He laughed and said: `Did you think we were going to kill you and let you rest? No, we are going to torture you to death. Death is a rest and we are not going to give you that privilege.'"
Jason's sentence was 28 years.
Last October, Saddam declared a general amnesty for all Iraq prisoners except murderers unless their victims' families agreed to their release.
It was timed to coincide with a new seven-year mandate for the Revolutionary Command Council.
It was also intended to win public favour in advance of another war, although most Iraqis didn't warm to the idea of hardened criminals walking the streets.
Thousands came streaming out of Abu Gharib.
But clearly not all.
Amnesty International later accused the regime of executing 23 political prisoners there.
Yesterday, the wretched place was inhabited only by feral dogs. And ghosts.
Indeed it would. But the failure to bring these monsters to justice does not mean that they will never face an eventual true justice in the afterlife, which will be a lot worse than anything we or even the Baathist monsters themselves can imagine.
1 Corinthians 2:14 certainly describes you.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.