January 26, 2009, - 11:54 am
By Debbie Schlussel
For all the hype about Abu Ghraib and the alleged “torture” of Americans forcing Iraqis to wear hoods, the bottom line is no surprise. Iraqis are afraid of their own people and prefer the humane Americans. Many Iraqis with family members in prison in Iraq dread the current transfer of Iraqi prisoners from U.S. detention to Iraqi detention. It reminds me of the Palestinians, many of whom, off-the-record, dread Palestinian control and prefer living under the far more humane Israelis.
Rana Karapha gazed through a Plexiglas partition and wondered when her husband on the other side would come home.
More than a year after U.S. soldiers raided their home and brought him to this detention center near Baghdad, he is still being held without charges. Now he has another worry: a possible transfer to an Iraqi-controlled prison.
“We are afraid if the Iraqi forces took him. The treatment there is very bad,” Karapha, 28, said during a recent visit with their two preschool children.
She said she has a brother-in-law in an Iraqi prison who has been beaten and must pay bribes for food and showers. The detention center here, operated by the U.S. military, is better, she said.
Starting Feb. 1, the U.S. military will release up to 1,500 detainees a month to the Iraqis, as part of the security agreement that went into effect Jan. 1 to give the Iraqi government more authority.
The pact calls for the U.S. military to transfer wanted criminals to Iraqi custody. All other detainees must be released “in a safe and orderly manner.” A record 18,500 Iraqi detainees were freed in 2008. No one has been let go since New Year’s Day, and 15,100 remain.
“We’re a turnstile operation now,” said Lt. Col. Brad Graul as he walked through the processing center where detainees will be given a set of clothes and $25 in Iraqi dinars.
The first 1,500 to be released are considered low-risk because they joined the insurgency for money or because their families were threatened. The military is scrambling to ensure there is no way out for 5,000 “unreconcilables,” as Brig. Gen. David Quantock calls the most hardened prisoners. . . .
Brig. Gen. Robert Kenyon, who runs Camp Cropper, said many of those 3,000 men will go free unless the United States can persuade Iraqi judges to loosen their traditional rules that require two witnesses or a confession to convict someone. The United States argues that forensic evidence such as bomb residue and fingerprints should be accepted to prosecute detainees, some of whom were rounded up years ago in military operations.
Iraq’s Ministry of Justice declined to comment. . . .
Signs at Camp Cropper order guards to “treat detainees with dignity and respect.”
Some doubt that sentiment is shared in Iraqi prisons.
Last month, the monitoring group Human Rights Watch reported widespread abuses in Iraqi prisons, such as beatings, electric shocks and forced confessions.
“The Americans tortured five or six people, but (Shiite) militias killed thousands” in Iraqi jails, said Agahad Shalal, a member of the local council, whose office is next to Abu Ghraib. . . .
“The U.S. is transferring detainees at a time when the Iraqi police, army and criminal justice system are not yet ready to absorb them,” said Anthony Cordesman, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “There are no historical cases where states as shattered as Iraq have suddenly become models of Western concepts of the rule of law.”
In the town of Abu Ghraib, construction foreman Mohammed al-Khalde stood on a concrete slab that will soon be a new market and reflected on how much has changed.
“In 2004, I was against the Americans. They looked at me like the enemy. But now I respect them,” he said. “I prefer the Americans keep charge of the detainees. . . . Most Iraqis are incompetent and think in sectarian ways.“
Yes, there will be plenty of real torture–as there already is (and as there is throughout the Muslim world)–in Iraqi prisons, unlike the exaggerated version of events that happened under U.S. control in Abu Ghraib.
But, mark my word, there will be no “60 Minutes” or CBS News or Seymour Hirsch exposes of Iraqi Shi’ite Muslim torture of prisoners. There will be no outcry from the international media or Al-Qaeda recruitment videos about it.
Muslims are allowed to torture and brutally slay other Muslims and those of every other religion and background. But Westerners aren’t allowed to give them even an accidental. papercut.