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"Now I Will Die": Beaten and Held in Prison Without Charge by the U.S. in Iraq

Hussam Amin's story is not one the Bush Administration meant to be heard, at least not for a while.

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While Amin and others were sitting in their cells, the U.S. District Court in Washington on July 7, 2003, issued one of the clearest definitions to date regarding torture in Iraq. The historical irony: The case involved not Iraqis in U.S. detention, but rather American servicemen who had been held by Saddam Hussein’s regime during the first Gulf War.

The case, Acree v. Republic of Iraq, is named after retired Marine Col. Clifford Acree, who was taken prisoner and horrendously beaten after his OV-10 "Bronco” aircraft was shot down over Iraq on July 17, 1991. Acree suffered a fractured skull and broken nose, and lost 30 pounds during the ordeal. He and 16 other American POWs filed suit in 2002, naming as defendants the Republic of Iraq, the Iraqi Intelligence Service and Saddam Hussein.

Awarding the plaintiffs combined damages of $959 million, the court noted among other things that "the torture inflicted included severe beatings, mock executions, threatened castration, and threatened dismemberment. The POWs were systematically starved, denied sleep, and exposed to freezing cold. They were denied medical care and their existing injuries were intentionally aggravated.” The Bush Administration sought, successfully, to overturn the Acree decision so as not to place a financial burden on the new Iraqi government.

Freedom:‘Poor Those Who Imprisoned Me’

In early 2004, Amin notes in his diary, his captors finally provided him with proper medical treatment: "After all the suffering, I was taken to day to Ibn Sina Hospital while handcuffed,” he wrote on Jan. 5. "They also put a bag over my head so that I don’t see anything. I was diagnosed with gastric ulcer accompanied with interior bleeding. I felt that [my wife] and the girls were thousands of miles away, when they were only 2,000 meters away…”

Amin said he lost 50 pounds in his first year of captivity. His diary notes that in February 2004 "they started giving us rice after all we had [previously] was MREs [military-issue Meals Ready-to-eat]. Apparently the Red Cross had interfered when they saw we were losing weight. They began giving us an apple or an orange every day. When I came here, I was 86 kg [190 lbs]. After two months, my weight became 76kg [168 lbs]. Now I am only 64kg [141 lbs]…”  A month later, on March 25, he wrote: "According to the medical check, 15 of the prisoners were diagnosed with TB. They were all taken to building #6 so that they won’t spread the sickness to others.”

I read those entries to a Red Cross official, who said neither marked weight loss or disease were acceptable, and the weight loss in particular is hard to justify given the US military’s ample food supplies in Iraq. One explanation may be the use of "dietary manipulation,” which has been cited among the "enhanced interrogation techniques” employed by U.S. military interrogators in Iraq.

Dietary manipulation was one of 14 interrogation techniques that were outside the Army Field Manual but used as a matter of policy by the Joint Special Operations Command in Iraq when it was under the leadership of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who President Obama has now tapped to run the war in Afghanistan. The 14 techniques were more "than…any other military organization at that time,” according to a 2004 report by Vice Admiral Albert T. Church, then the Naval Inspector General. Other techniques including use of muzzled dogs, "safety positions,” sleep adjustment/management, "mild” physical contact, isolation, sensory overload and sensory deprivation.

McChrystal’s tenure began shortly after Amin’s five-day stay at Camp Nama but coincided with the abuses alleged in the New York Times and Human Rights Watch reports.

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