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They Saw No Evil, Heard No Evil, and Certainly Will Not Speak of It
Published on Thursday, August 12, 2004 by the Sydney Morning Herald / Australia
They Saw No Evil, Heard No Evil, and Certainly Will Not Speak of It
by Paul McGeough
 

Now there is unambiguous proof of two things we knew were happening in liberated Iraq - Iraqi prisoners are being abused by the new, US-appointed regime; and the Americans, as a matter of policy, refuse to do anything about it.

They did nothing in the wake of last month's Herald report of eyewitness allegations that the interim Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, murdered six prisoners; and they refuse to act on a Red Cross report on systematic abuses at half-a-dozen Baghdad police stations, including the Al-Amariyah police center where Allawi is alleged to have carried out the summary executions in the days before Washington gave him control of the country.

Now we have a chilling report by Mike Francis, of The Oregonian, which is published in the American northwest, of on-the-record, eyewitness accounts by US national guardsmen who intervened to stop the torture and abuse of dozens of prisoners - only to be ordered to withdraw by their military superiors.

And these abuses were not being carried out in a suburban police station. They took place in a courtyard at the Interior Ministry in east Baghdad, within screaming distance of the office of the Interior Minister, Falah al-Naqib, who, according to the Herald's witnesses, was present and had congratulated Allawi after the Al-Amariyah executions in late June.

The guardsmen uncovered a torture chamber at the ministerial headquarters and they treated prisoners who were so bruised and broken that they could barely walk. The US embassy in Baghdad confirmed to The Oregonian that it had raised the June 29 "brutality" with al-Naqib, but said it would be "inappropriate" to divulge the content of confidential diplomatic discussions. But action - and inaction - speaks louder than words.

The US State Department deliberately ducked the allegations against Allawi, leaving it to the embassy to sweep them under the carpet.

But persistent questioning at a regular State Department press briefing in Washington last week revealed what can only be assumed to be a policy-driven refusal to investigate any excesses by the Allawi regime, even when Americans have witnessed the abuses - and may be complicit because of their refusal or failure to stop them.

Read the transcript of the briefing and see how departmental spokesman Richard Boucher simply refuses to answer a very simple question:

Question: "Has the US Government or the State Department made any attempt to ascertain the truth or otherwise of reports that [Allawi], on about the third weekend in June, while the US was still in charge in Iraq, executed six prisoners in front of witnesses reported to include US security personnel? If not, will you do so, given the serious nature of the charge [as claimed] by two independent witnesses to an Australian journalist?"

Boucher: "I think this is something that has been dealt with and discussed in Baghdad and here. Prime Minister Allawi himself has said there is nothing to these reports. I think he's responded very directly when asked about them.

"We have said before we had no information to indicate such an event had taken place. And that's where I stand at this point."

Question: "But my question is whether you had done any investigation, since there were Americans allegedly present."

Boucher: "I don't know who those Americans might have been. I don't know if any of the armed forces or other units in Baghdad might have done some sort of investigation. But I'm told the US Government has checked and that we don't have any information that would indicate those reports are true."

Question: "So, you are satisfied there is absolutely no truth to those reports?"

Boucher: "We have nothing to indicate those reports are true."

The next question was not properly recorded, but you get the gist of it from the answer.

Boucher: "I'm not going to rephrase it. I can tell you the extent of our knowledge. But that's the extent of our knowledge."

Question: "But you're not making any effort to extend the extent of your knowledge?"

Boucher: "I'd say we have checked on what information we do have. We don't have any information that would indicate those reports are true."

Question: "And you're not looking to make any further investigations..."

Boucher: "We're always open to any further information or investigations that might be done."

Despite international calls for an investigation of the charges against Allawi, ministers in coalition governments, including Australia's, inanely suggested that the matter be reported to the Baghdad police. Never mind that al-Naqib is the minister for police or that Iraq's Human Rights Minister, Bakhtiar Amin, sent a clear message to his own staff before ordering them to investigate when he said that he did not believe the charges.

The likes of Tony Blair and Alexander Downer claimed that the Iyad Allawi they had met could not do such a thing - but neither volunteered whether they had read the MI6 and CIA files of the interim Prime Minister who, according to former CIA operatives, was a hit man for Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Britain and Europe.

What we are seeing in Iraq now, with charges against the disgraced Ahmed Chalabi and his nephew, Salem Chalabi, is the tenacious pursuit of those who are deemed to be opponents of - or threats to - the regime. But it seems that if you have Washington's backing, you can get away with murder.

Copyright © 2004 The Sydney Morning Herald.

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