Who should we believe?

first published in the New Statesman, Monday 10th May 2004

The more people are victimised, the less account we take of their witness to torture and abuse.

By Stephen Grey

Abdullah crouched down until his knees just about touched the ground, nearly but not quite, and his head rested against a concrete wall. It was in this excruciating position that he was made to stay, blindfolded, for hours on end. “If I touched the floor with my knees,” he explained, “they would come behind me and strike with their boots, or with rods.”Freed after four months in detention, Abdullah was describing his experience of a special US interrogation centre inside the Baghdad airport base. His worst moment, he said, was the electric shock treatment. Drawing a detailed diagram, Abdullah showed how crocodile clips had been attached to his genitals and then wires passed to a device which looked like a wind-up field telephone that generated a painful electric current.”I could not believe they would treat a human being like this,” said Abdullah, who was accused of involvement in the insurgency against US troops. Continue reading Who should we believe?

The Sound of Freedom

First published in the New Statesman, Monday 22nd March 2004

Across much of “liberated Iraq”, you can search in vain for irony. Despite

what conspiracy theorists may say about America’s designs over oil, most US

officials really do want to make a success of a free Iraq. They believe in

it with that kind of deep stare that makes you want to start fidgeting.

On completion of their time in Iraq, senior officials are presented with a

signed certificate from L Paul Bremer III, thanking them for bringing

democracy and freedom to the country. The Brits sometimes giggle at the back

of the room, murmuring “inshallah” (“God willing”). The near-Messianic

commitment extends to the US military. The other day, an Iraqi journalist

asked a military spokesman what should be said to children scared by

low-flying US helicopters. “Tell them it’s the sound of freedom,” he

replied, without batting an eyelid. Continue reading The Sound of Freedom

US learns the Bogside lessons

first published in the New Statesman, Monday 8th March 2004

Observations on Iraq by Stephen Grey

The first sound was a low roar; then the windows began rattling. Families

woke up and looked outside to see the tanks, armoured cars, trucks and

bulldozers of the British army. It was 4am on 31 July 1972, and 20,000

troops were sweeping into the IRA’s “no-go zones”.

The launch of Operation Motorman brought an end to “Free Derry” in the

Bogside and to IRA control of parts of West Belfast. Twenty-two years later,

as insurgents cause havoc across northern Iraq, most recently with the

blasts in Karbala and Baghdad, US commanders are preparing for operations

similar to Operation Motorman in an attempt to defeat the resistance.

I have just returned from seven weeks in Iraq, and my impression from

talking to US military officers, resistance fighters and ordinary people in

the Sunni Triangle is that there are two distinct threats. Most Iraqi

resistance fighters will tolerate almost any attack on Americans and their

local “collaborators”. But they do not support the cells of mainly foreign

fighters who kill civilians indiscriminately with the kinds of attacks seen

on Tuesday. Continue reading US learns the Bogside lessons

Dunya's WAR: Fallujah, Feb 2004.

By Stephen Grey, Falluja.

THE WAR for little Dunya Hamid began and ended in a warm afternoon last

autumn. She was playing with her sisters in a dusty palm grove when the

American army opened fire on her hamlet.

Just two years old, Dunya had no words to utter but ”mama”’ and ”dadda,”

when just after 4pm, the soldiers approached her village from two sides in

armoured Humvees cars. Dunya ran for safety but she was cut down, shot in

the head with a machine gun bullet before she could reach the back door of

the family’s squat four-bedroomed bungalow.

Her sister, Manal, aged seven, who was injured from shrapnel, recalled: “I

saw Dunya playing outside. When she heard the shooting she wanted to go

inside but then I saw her falling to the ground. Then I was hit. I didn’t

feel anything bu I saw my blood come out. We were very afraid.”

In the fast-moving pace of events in Iraq, Dunya’s death and the injuries of

four other children in the hamlet merited just a brief paragraph in

newspaper accounts of a bloody day of fighting between American forces and

guerrilla fighters. A day earlier, in the same town of Fallujah, US troops

also shot dead ten Iraqi policemen by mistake. Continue reading Dunya's WAR: Fallujah, Feb 2004.