a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Everybody heard him cry out and thought it was funny

Posted by Thomas Nephew on May 24th, 2005

Tim Golden had a two part series (In U.S. Report, Brutal Details of 2 Afghan Inmates’ Deaths, Army Faltered in Investigating Detainee Abuse) in the New York Times this weekend about two prisoners who died in U.S. custody at Bagram, Afghanistan, about how badly they were mistreated, and about how pathetic the investigation into their deaths was. One of the victims, Dilawar, was kneed so often just above the knees (a so-called “peroneal strike”), that the coroner said “I’ve seen similar injuries in an individual run over by a bus.” She also used the word “pulpified.”

I’d read about the case before. When the first reports about it surfaced a couple of years ago, there was a lot of chin pulling (including my own) about what had likely happened, why it had happened, what might justify it, et depressing cetera.

In the event, it was pitiful, shameful, and devoid of any shred of redeeming meaning. By the time Dilawar’s martyrdom — dozens of “peroneal strikes,” chained to a ceiling overnight, sleep deprived, mocked, thirsty — was nearly over, one soldier (Sergeant Yonushonis, not among those charged or responsible) recalls that “most of us were convinced that the detainee was innocent.”

Even if he’d been Osama Bin Laden himself, what happened to him would have been wrong. But Dilawar, it turned out, really was just a skinny, scared cab driver, given up to the Americans by an Afghan warlord on a flimsy suspicion. Then mutual incomprehension, sadism, racism, and the United States of America cost him his life, an inch at a time. From the first article:

“He screamed out, ‘Allah! Allah! Allah!’ and my first reaction was that he was crying out to his god,” Specialist Jones said to investigators. “Everybody heard him cry out and thought it was funny.”

Other Third Platoon M.P.’s later came by the detention center and stopped at the isolation cells to see for themselves, Specialist Jones said.

It became a kind of running joke, and people kept showing up to give this detainee a common peroneal strike just to hear him scream out ‘Allah,’ ” he said. “It went on over a 24-hour period, and I would think that it was over 100 strikes.”

It must have been all right with the chain of command, though:

…many of the Bagram interrogators, led by the same operations officer, Capt. Carolyn A. Wood, were redeployed to Iraq and in July 2003 took charge of interrogations at the Abu Ghraib prison. According to a high-level Army inquiry last year, Captain Wood applied techniques there that were “remarkably similar” to those used at Bagram.

One Response to “Everybody heard him cry out and thought it was funny”

  1. » Blog Archive » About those photos — Part II Says:

    […] Geoffrey Miller and Captain Carolyn Wood who oversaw the torture and abuse at Guantanamo and Bagram, respectively, were in leadership roles for Iraqi detainee operations (including Abu Ghraib) before […]

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