Friday, March 18, 2005


The Ugly and the Bizarre

The latest distraction in Iraq has been a series of 'interviews' with terrorists on TV publicly confessing their crimes. Every night, around nine, most Iraqis switch to the official channel for the 'series'. A wide variety of characters are shown: Jihadists, rapists, criminals and robbers.

In that series of 'interviews' with terrorists and confessions made by them, one could see an astonishing variety of people with an even more astonishing variety of mentalities, motives and means of committing murder. Some of them really make you sick to the bone. But there are some bizarre, almost unbelievable things to see.

The Cheapest Terrorist in Town

The road going south from Baghdad became known as Death Road for the past year. Numerous senseless murders were committed there. Many of them took a sectarian nature.

One character who operated on that road was a man in his mid-twenties. He looked almost normal! He admitted killing two people for money using a sword. He was paid the equivalent of about $7. Yes, seven US dollars per head. No religious fervor, no politics, just money... and so little of it. A casual laborer's daily earning... for killing a human being.

Before this man's confession, the running average going rate that we were hearing was something like $200 per killing, with explosives operators who targeted Iraqi civillians getting around $5,000 per operation. that man must have been the cheapest terrorist in town!

In addition to his own story, he told of another murder of two truck drivers whose trucks were hijacked, the two poor men killed and their bodies dumped in the Razzaza Lake near Kerbala. The trucks were sold near the Saudi border for $10,000. On their way back, the villains were caught by American soldiers who stripped them naked, spent a good portion of the night beating them up, took the money and left them stranded in the near-desert area.

Another character who was active in that area as a Muslim jihadist from Lebanon who went by the name of Abu Ali turns out to be Christian with the name of Haikel Lewis.

Terrorist Human Rights?

A few nights ago, on March 8th, and within the running series of 'interviews with terrorists' there was one particular such person that caught my attention. He was a policeman working for the terrorists. From his own account, he seemed to be quite a nasty character. He had cold-bloodedly killed several people by shooting them in the head at close range... and was paid $200 each time. What was troubling, was that the man had several bruises on his face, two particularly bad ones around the eyes and was having extreme difficuly talking. He was obviously in much pain. I could only guess at the amount of torture and beating that he had received.

This is not the first time that we have seen such things on the TV in Iraq. It was common practice during the previous regime's early years. But those people never exhibited any detectable signs of torture; interrogators were always careful to avoid the face and other visible parts of the body. They never showed any person who 'confessed' giving any hint whatsoever of having been tortured. But this was different. It was so clear that the man had been badly tortured. They could have at least given him a few days to heal.

The question is: why? It could not have been an oversight. The only rational explanation I could find is that they wanted it to be seen as such. It showed a government that was ruthlessly firm with the terrorists. Perhaps this is the message the government wanted to get across!

But what about human rights? Both Human Rights Watch and the US State Department in their latest reports on human rights had some harsh words for the Iraqi Interim Government regarding their conduct in unlawful detention, bad treatment of prisoners and detention conditions. This public display of harsh treatment only confirms those charges.

Perhaps getting that message across was more important than those human-rights considerations. From what I hear, the message does indeed seem to be "selling" well with large segments of the population.

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