The Ugly Truth Of America's Camp Cropper, A Story To Shame Us All
by Robert Fisk
Now here's a story to shame us all. It's about America's shameful prison camps in Iraq. It's about the beating of prisoners during interrogation.
"Sources" may be a dubious word in journalism right now, but the sources for the beatings in Iraq are impeccable. This story is also about the gunning down of three prisoners in Baghdad, two of them "while trying to escape". But most of all, it's about Qais Mohamed al-Salman. Qais al-Salman is just the sort of guy the US ambassador Paul Bremer and his dead-end assistants need now. He hated Saddam, fled Iraq in 1976, then returned after the "liberation" with a briefcase literally full of plans to help in the restoration of his country's infrastructure and water purification system.
He's an engineer who has worked in Africa, Asia and Europe. He is a Danish citizen. He speaks good English. He even likes America. Or did until 6 June this year.
That day he was travelling in Abu Nawas Street when his car came under American fire. He says he never saw a checkpoint. Bullets hit the tyres and his driver and another passenger ran for their lives. Qais al-Salman stood meekly beside the vehicle. He was carrying his Danish passport, Danish driving licence and medical records.
But let him tell his own story. "A civilian car came up with American soldiers in it. Then more soldiers in military vehicles. I told them I didn't understand what had happened, that I was a scientific researcher. But they made me lie down in the street, tied my arms behind me with plastic-and-steel cuffs and tied up my feet and put me in one of their vehicles."
The next bit of his story carries implications for our own journalistic profession. "After 10 minutes in the vehicle, I was taken out again. There were journalists with cameras. The Americans untied me, then made me lie on the road again. Then, in front of the cameras, they tied my hands and feet all over again and put me back in the vehicle."
If this wasn't a common story in Baghdad today - if the gross injustices meted out to ordinary Iraqis and the equally gross mistreatment in America's prison camps here was not so common - then Qais al-Salman's story would not be so important.