A Baghdad Love Story

Who knows how things went down in the sweltering dusty heat at Abu Ghraib. Lord knows, but their probably isn’t air conditioning in a prison like that. And with the sand berms and prison walls so high surrounding the place, there doesn’t seem much chance for a cooling breeze to happen by.

Within this setting, one must admit to a degree of curiosity as to how Pfc. Lynndie England and Spc. Charles Graner happened to fall in love, if in fact they did at all. Perhaps there was an element of the “difficult circumstances bring you together” sort of thing. Perhaps it was more complicated; perhaps more simple…

The fact of the matter is, somewhere around the time Graner and England were taking pictures of themselves smiling at hooded Iraqi prisoners’ genitalia, arranging them in naked pyramids, or putting dog leashes around their necks, something else seems to have taken place. According to England’s family lawyer back in West Virginia, England is 5 months pregnant with Graner’s child.

My, my: the occupation of Iraq’s first love story.

Given the occupation’s build up, it’s not surprising it looks like this.

But one has to admit that a series of questions flood the imagination and stokes even more curiosity. Questions like: what will the child say when it is old enough to ask its parents why everyone knows them? Or what will happen once he/she is old enough to calculate the months backwards trying to explore in what environment s/he was conceived in? Or how s/he will ponder in disbelief when attempting to come to terms with the infamous snide grins and thumbs up of his/her parents? Or whether England herself will quit smoking throughout the course of her pregnancy, given the pressure she is undergoing, (not to mention the cheap tobacco available in North Carolina, as she awaits her day in military court in Fort Bragg)? Perhaps she doesn’t smoke at all, and the cigarette was just a prop to begin with?

Maybe these questions have already begun to pose themselves to Graner and England. But even if they haven’t gotten there yet, one can be sure that they will get there in due course. In the end, these are questions only they can answer, and surely no one envies them in this regard.

With this said, the weight of another displeasing set of questions pose itself like the cumulous clouds of blood silently dissipating throughout still water.

Why is it, that despite the fact that Israel and the Israeli press usually takes the liberty to comment on everything from America’s policies in Iraq, to the upcoming US election, as though they were domestic issues, a deafening silence is heard today across the invisible borders drawn by Sykes and Picot in 1915, between Iraq and Palestine? Why is it, that not a peep has been heard from Israel regarding the US torture scandal, which, like the smell of cow manure, won’t go away it seems, even for a second – as though it were an infinite source of both disbelief and disgust?

Could it have anything to do with the fact that torture has been routinely practiced in Israeli prisons against Palestinian detainees since the 1967 occupation? Or that in the 1970s for example, Israel routinely used electric shock torture? Or that in the 1980s, Israel’s High Court sanctioned the use of what it termed “moderate physical pressure”? Or that more recently, this same High Court withdrew its sanctioning of some of these forms of “moderate physical pressure”, but still tolerates the continued use of beatings, shining a hot burning light into the eyes and face of detainees at close range, sleep deprivation, solitary confinement, painful shackling, and forcing prisoners to remain in excruciating positions for long periods of time? Has anyone considered the fact that because Israel’s techniques are designed to inflict maximum pain while minimising physical blemishes, Israeli torturers must now look upon their American counterparts as being so amateurish? Has anyone yet gotten a catalogue of the equipment and paraphernalia of “professional” torture, which according to Amnesty International, Israel is amongst the foremost in selling on the free market?

Since the 1967 occupation began, no less than 106 Palestinians have died in the detention and interrogation facilities of “the only democracy in the Middle East.” Furthermore, since 1967 over 600,000 Palestinians have been held in Israeli jails for periods ranging from one week to life, 80% of whom are estimated to have been tortured.

All this takes place in the well-known “above ground” interrogation centers of Ashkelon, Petah Tikva, Gush Etzion, Jalameh, or Jerusalem’s infamous Moskobiyya. These prisons at least get visits by the Red Cross, even if this doesn’t stop the use of these techniques.

Of course this pales in comparison to the track record of Facility 1391, located somewhere between Hadera and Afula. Though only publicly acknowledged to be in existence recently, Facility 1391 continues to be removed from maps and airbrushed from aerial photographs. It is here where Israeli interrogators tell their prisoners that they are “on the moon”, or “in Honolulu”. One former inmate alleges he was raped twice – once by a man and once with a stick. Other former prisoners have described how they were stripped naked for interrogation, blindfolded and handcuffed while a stick was pressed against their buttocks as they were threatened with rape.

Those searching for clues as to what might soon emerge from the stories of the US administered prisons in Iraq, are likely to find some by turning ones gaze to Israel’s practices with Palestinian and Arab prisoners throughout the last 56 years. And they are, as US Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld has given us ample forewarning, unlikely to be a pretty sight.

As for the thousands of Palestinian victims of Israeli torture, the era of digital video has come too late: the banality of Israel’s routine practices of torture are so institutionalized, that they scarcely draw the opprobrium of the “current American scandal”.

But then again, why is this about America anyway? Why is so much effort and attention devoted to the understanding of “how this happened” or “why this took place”?

Are these really the appropriate questions to ask after 1.5 million Iraqi people (half a million of whom were children) have died because of 12 years of UN imposed sanctions? Or after at least 10,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed during this most recent occupation alone?

As the pundits and politicians scurry to “control the damage”, preoccupied with what this has done to “America’s image”, where are those who have thought of the Iraqi wife who recognized the body of her naked hooded husband, though she could not see his face?

Here lies the final crime and hypocrisy of this occupation, and all other occupations who think themselves immune from the hubris and fates of preceding colonial enterprises: the colonial mentality which nurtures the racist dehumanization of Arabs, and which subsequently facilitates the torture of Iraqis and Palestinians, has long ago dehumanized the colonizer him/herself. And no colonial enterprise is immune to this, despite the enormous asymmetrical power advantages it so sinisterly enjoys.

Leave a comment