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Commentary :: Human Rights
The Advocate - Latest Iraq Dispatch from Dahr Jamail
20 Nov 2005
** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches **
** Visit the Dahr Jamail Iraq website **
** Website by **
Abu Ghraib Treatment.jpg
The following piece was written by Andrew Stromotich for the 'Forum'
section of the website. If you would like to
comment on it, please visit:

November 09, 2005

The Advocate

On September 29, 2005, shortly after 8 p.m., Amal Kadhum Swadi, and her
youngest son Safa were arrested by U.S. forces in the Ghazaliya district
of Baghdad on suspicion of planting an improvised explosive device.

They were just leaving their Baghdad home with other family members, and
had opened their garage door to take out the family car, when the Swadi
family were swarmed by multiple Humvees and numerous heavily armed U.S.
Soldiers with weapons drawn.

Haloed by headlights and surrounded by agitated soldiers, mother and son
were separated from each other and hidden from view of other family
members behind a wall of troops and humvees. They were blindfolded and
handcuffed tightly with the plastic zap straps and hoods that have
become potent symbols of the dehumanization Iraqis under occupation.

Ms. Swadi and Safa were made to squat on the highway’s dirt embankment
while Zaid, her eldest son, was issued a handwritten receipt for his
mother and brother. As Zaid yelled into the crowd of soldiers, trying to
get response from his mother, Ms. Swadi and Safa were being packed into
humvees for the trip to the Airport Detention Facility
<>; for further processing,
leaving Zaid in a cloud of dust, clutching his receipt and trying to
console his sobbing sister.

I first met Amal Swadi
<>; in Istanbul,
at the culminating session of The World Tribunal on Iraq
<>;. Ms. Swadi was part of the Iraqi
delegation invited to give testimony on their experiences of occupation;
as a lawyer representing women held in Abu Ghraib and other U.S. and
British detention facilities in Iraq, Ms. Swadi was there to speak on
the degenerating state of human rights.

As I found out, Ms. Swadi <>;
is no stranger to the occupation, or the media
covering it. As a lawyer willing to take on the mass of occupation, she
is well known for her outspoken advocacy for those unfortunates caught
in the machinery of occupation.

Amal Swadi is 52, and was accompanied to the Istanbul tribunal by her
daughter, and eldest son Zaid, who is also a lawyer. At the events
opening party, I was presented to Ms. Swadi and Zaid, whose love and
respect for his mother were instantly apparent. He studied me closely as
I was introduced, and when I put my hand out to shake his mother’s, he
smiled and took it warmly.

Ms. Swadi, a humble religious woman, immediately forgave my lack of
understanding of Islamic culture, and after a short conversation, agreed
to be interviewed (the video of this interview will be available shortly).

Ms. Swadi’s involvement with investigations into female prisoners of the
occupation started when she was told about a message the women detained
in Abu Ghraib were trying to get to the resistance. The message, which
had become public knowledge in the streets of Bagdad, was begging the
resistance to attack Abu Ghraib with rockets, as the women held inside
had given up hope, and could no longer bare the gross abuses and torture
inflicted upon them daily. In Islam, as in Christianity, suicide is
regarded as an ultimate sin, so these women were asking to be killed.
Since then, Ms. Swadi has tirelessly worked for the recognition and
release of these detainees (at the time I met her, she was representing
nine of these shadow women).

Ms. Swadi told me of her visits to Abu Ghraib, and the difficulties she
experienced in trying to gain access to the women held inside, including
U.S. force’s outright denial of the women’s existence. When attempts to
intimidate her did not work, dismissive guardsmen simply turned her
away. When Ms. Swadi returned to Abu Ghraib for her second visit, she
was accompanied by a determination cast in the previous sleepless night.
Her resolve was eventually rewarded, and after waiting all day in one of
the compound’s courtyards under the desert sun, without water or food,
she was finally allowed access to her clients (six in total). Ms. Swadi
told me the emotion of the experience was overwhelming, and she broke
down and sobbed along with the first detainee presented.

Detainees were presented to her in a small, dark cement room that looked
to be set up for interrogations. The women were escorted into the room
through a heavy door behind a chair and desk. The guards accompanying
her remained inches from these broken souls throughout the visits (it is
referred to as being ‘in control’ of their subject).

The first woman detainee presented was a young woman in her 20’s. She
was in poor condition, pale and gaunt, barely able to stand, and looked
to be suffering from mental collapse. The woman stared at the floor, and
when she did finally look up and see her visitor from the outside world,
the two broke down.

During her brief interview, hindered not only by the woman’s captors who
hovered only inches away at all times, but also by the woman’s fragile,
quivering voice, Ms. Swadi learned how this woman’s young son and
brother were killed in front of her during a raid on her home conducted
by U.S. forces. She carried a crudely stitched wound the length of her
forearm, which came from the bayonet of a soldier involved in the raid.

Since her arrest, the woman had been held naked in a small cement cell,
without proper bedding or toilet. The woman spoke of rape and torture at
the hands of her American and Iraqi captors. With Congress being
presented with the images of Iraqi women forced to bare themselves as
U.S. soldiers held guns to their heads, and with the Pentagon’s own
acknowledgment of rape in their detention facilities, it is not hard to
give credence to Ms. Swadi’s claims.

General Antonio Taguba
<,,1-1106383,00.html>;, appointed
to head the Pentagon’s investigation into Abu Ghraib torture and abuse
allegations (which was restricted to investigation into members of the
800th Military Police Brigade <>;),
acknowledged that U.S. soldiers participated in rape at the prison. This
acknowledgment came in the form of an inter-Pentagon memo in which
General Taguba referred to images of American guards ‘having sex’ with
female Iraqi detainees.
Mr. Taguba’s choice of language when referring to rape is revealing, and
further clarifies the Pentagon’s desensitized, casual attitude towards
these crimes.

These images clearly depict violent sex crimes
<>;, with
one congressman who was given access to these images collected by the
Pentagon, stating that he believes the release will spark massive
demonstrations and endanger Americans abroad
(hardly the image of ‘consensual sex’ alluded to by Taguba).

General Taguba also reported that U.S. soldiers made videos of these
violent sex crimes
<>;, a
common practice amongst sex offenders, who often take trophies from
their crimes to help them relive the event later; it is a practice that
has aided greatly in prosecuting these offenders and will hopefully do
the same in these cases. General Taguba has also acknowledged at least
two pregnancies resulting from these sex crimes involving female
detainees in Abu Ghraib.

With a recent attempt by the Senate to ban the Pentagon’s use of
torture, and President Bush’s response of threatened veto of this bill,
along with White House negotiations
<>; to exempt the CIA
from any restraint with regards to torture, the image of a systematic
use of torture
<>; becomes
illuminated. For those already aware of the Phoenix Operation
<>; and the CIA’s past
publication of torture manuals, this comes as no surprise.

On January 27, 1997, Baltimore Sun journalists Gary Cohn
<>;, Ginger
and Mark Matthews ran a story in their paper under the headline “Torture
was taught by CIA”. The reporters relied heavily on two manuals printed
by the CIA, and released under pressure from the Sun’s 1994 freedom of
information challenge. The first manual, entitled KUBARAK
Counterintelligence Interrogation- July 1963, along with the updated
Human Resources Exploitation Training Manual-1983 Human Resources
Exploitation Training Manual-1983
<>;, paint a
picture of decades of CIA torture policy.

Although the Pentagon has maintained that these manuals were created
only for educational purposes, in order to help U.S. troops identify
torture facilities, the manuals themselves refute this position.

The 1963 manual states in the section entitled The Coercive
Counterintelligence Interrogation of Resistant Sources that “drugs (and
the other aids discussed in this section) should not be used
persistently to facilitate the interrogative debriefing that follows
capitulation. Their function is to cause capitulation, to aid in the
shift from resistance to cooperation. Once this shift has been
accomplished, coercive techniques should be abandoned both for moral
reasons and because they are unnecessary and even counter-productive.”

The 1963 version also deals with the layout of ‘interrogation’
facilities, as noted in the Sun’s article. The manual states: “the
electric current should be known in advance, so that transformers or
other modifying devices will be on hand if needed.”

It is important to note that the updated 1983 manual first came to light
publicly when it was recovered by resistance forces in Guatemala
<>;, who recovered it
from U.S. backed military death squads in that country, who acquired
this manual from the CIA School of the Americas
<>; training camp in Fort Benning, Georgia. It is
also important to note that the U.S. embassy in neighboring Honduras has
been generally accepted as the headquarters of CIA operations in Central
America, with John Negroponte
<>; acting as ambassador
during the bloody 1980’s (the same Negroponte
<>; apointed
ambassador to Iraq when torture policy in Iraq first came to light).

These two manuals, and the visage of years of torture policy in Vietnam
under the watchful eyes of the CIA, leave any argument of ‘rogue
element’ responsibility for torture rather than systematic policy,
totally unbelievable and impotent.

In the closing years of the U.S. occupation of Vietnam, and as it became
more publicly obvious the U.S. was fighting those it claimed to protect
(that in fact attacks on U.S. forces deep inside South Vietnam were
being launched by the South Vietnamese themselves), the CIA launched a
massive counter intelligence campaign aimed at targeting the South
Vietnamese resistance,
<>; code named Phoenix.

With the Phoenix operation, the CIA started to compile lists of
Vietnamese persons of interest. These lists were based on collected data
and information gathered during subject ‘interviews’, and listed men,
women and children as young as 15
and as old as 70.

This intelligence-gathering program was jointly run by US agents and
those they recruited amongst the South Vietnamese forces. The
administration of this program was eventually handed over completely to
South Vietnamese forces, which kept no record of their victims; The CIA
however, did, and by the end of official CIA involvement in Phoenix,
over 20,000 Vietnamese listed had been tortured and murdered.

In 1971, Bart Osborn <>;,
a former CIA agent, told Congress "I never knew in the course of all
those operations, any detainee to live through his interrogation. They
all died. There was never any reasonable establishment of the fact that
any one of those individuals was, in fact, cooperating with the VC, but
they all died and the majority were either tortured to death or . . .
thrown out of helicopters."

As Nick Schou reports
<>;, “Operation Phoenix
detainees were tortured with electric shocks applied to their genitals,
while women prisoners were typically raped, occasionally with foreign
objects.” (hauntingly similar to claims of treatment of modern Iraqi

Mr. Schou also points out in his article: Operation Phoenix Rises from
the Ashes of History, that the CIA is now employing the Saddam era
Mukhabarat (Iraqi Secret Intelligence similar in scope to the CIA) to
investigate resistance support. Mr. Schou relies on statements by
Vincent Cannistraro, a former chief of CIA counter-terrorism, to
highlight what this means. Cannistraro was quoted in the Sunday
Telegraph as saying "They’re clearly cooking up joint teams to do
Phoenix-like things, like they did in Vietnam."

As an advocate for those held without charge or trial by an occupation
rooted in illegality, and under the increasing scrutiny of a world
skeptical of U.S. intentions in Iraq, Amal Swadi is a person of interest

Amal Swadi and her 17-year-old son Safa, were brought into the heart of
the machinery of occupation for processing. Ms Swadi blindfold and
shackles were removed and she was instructed by her interrogator to
answer questions related to her person.

Ms. Swadi and Safa, were fingerprinted and made to undergo retinal
scans. Her name, her husband’s name, and the names of her children were
all documented. She was also asked her age, her address, and her
occupation. Most alarming however was the collection of data on her
religious status; apparently the U.S. military occupation felt it was
pertinent to document if Ms. Swadi was Shia or Sunni.

What must be addressed is the motivation of U.S. occupational forces in
recording individual’s religious affiliations in a country that is
increasingly being divided along these very same religious lines, both
in reality and by an oversimplified, blood frenzied corporate media
intent on enflaming old rivalries. Why would U.S. forces be creating
databases of information that could further pressurize this unstable
situation (this also at a time of U.S. collusion with Saddam era secret

During the years of heavy U.N. sanctions, most in Iraq depended upon
government assistance to supplement their nutritional needs. This aid
came in the form of food rations, and was facilitated through the
issuance of ration cards. In order to receive a card, information was
given and processed, but the question of religious affiliation was not
included. Much like in Tito’s Yugoslavia, the secular Saddam era Iraq
did not want religious distinction to become paramount. This lack of
statistical data leaves in question population figures with regards to
religious denomination continually referred to by occupational forces
and parroted by the corporate media.

For Saddam Hussein, as it was for Tito
<>;, national identity was key to
maintaining power, which simply meant stripping religion of any
importance in public life. It was in fact this disregard for religion
that made fundamentalist al-Qa'ida and Saddam Hussein bitter enemies.

The effect of this continual simplification of issues into Shia and
Sunni has helped fuel a civil divide that is now being used as an excuse
for occupation <>;
(Simply argued by both the British and U.S. occupational forces; if we
leave they will kill each other).

It also hints of what was referred to as the 'Vietnamising of the war'
<>; in the
later stages of that occupation. In an effort to reduce American
casualties, the Pentagon trained native troops to do most of the heavy
casualty fighting of occupation by fueling communist/capitalist phobias
much in the same way religious difference is being highlighted now.

Although Ms. Swadi and Safa's stories end for the time being on the
limited high note of release (after being 'tagged' and 'processed' like
livestock, mother and son were released back into the general population
without further harm), the experience forewarns the enormity of the
human rights disaster being perpetrated against the civilian population
of Iraq in the name of democracy. It also explains why this information
remains a mystery to most Americans, as this arrest clearly demonstartes
the tactics used by a corrupt occupation to intimidate any daring to
stand up.

Although generally unreported, this physical and psychological genocide
is well underway and is being carried out by a U.S. Administration and
Pentagon learned in the powers of terrorism and civil divide. It is a
leadership willing to rape, torture, and murder much in the same way the
U.S. war machine did in Vietnam, and as in Vietnam (which saw over 4
million direct deaths and countless others who continue to die from the
arbitrary use of the WMD Agent Orange), this current illegal and
emboldened occupation will likely post similar genocidal tallies if not
made to immediately account for its activities and be held responsible
for these actions.

Andrew Stromotich is an independent journalist and founding member of
Dropframe Communications.

Video interview of Ms. Swadi at the Istanbul WTI shot for Dropframe by
Rana Al-Aioubi and Andrew Stromotich will be released soon at

(c)2004, 2005 Dahr Jamail.
All images, photos, photography and text are protected by United States and
international copyright law. If you would like to reprint Dahr's Dispatches on
the web, you need to include this copyright notice and a prominent link to the website. Website by photographer Jeff Pflueger's
Photography Media . Any other use of images,
photography, photos and text including, but not limited to, reproduction, use on
another website, copying and printing requires the permission of Dahr Jamail. Of
course, feel free to forward Dahr's dispatches via email.

This work is in the public domain
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