No Comment — May 13, 2007, 6:10 pm

19,000 Iraqis Disappear Into U.S.-Run Prisons

Last summer, the Associated Press and New York Times each did stories on the detention facilities operated by the United States inside of Iraq. The conclusions of each investigation were roughly the same. At the time, they noted roughly 14,000 Iraqis were being held in a “legal vacuum.” The detention facilities were chaotic, a large portion of the persons held were taken in on sweeps through their neighborhoods and were suspected and charged with nothing. No trials occur, but the detainees languish often for many months – in some cases for more than a year. “They may not be enemies when they enter these prisons,” one Army officer told me, “but you can count on it that they are insurgent sympathizers by the time they leave.” He was alluding not just to the treatment standards, which he called “nothing I would be proud of as an American,” but the fact that the facilities are allowed to function as recruitment and training centers for the insurgents. Politically uninvolved Iraqis enter. But to find a way of surviving in the brutal gang reality of the prisons, they cast their lot with insurgent groups.

The United States government views this as a “security detention” system that has nothing to do with justice. They are literally right about that. The system has no legal basis. When challenged for authority, spokesmen for U.S. Forces in Iraq constantly cite Security Council Resolution 1546. However, this resolution does not authorize the detentions. To the contrary, it, and the letter from Secretary of State Colin Powell which accompanied it, make clear that detentions must be made in accordance with the Iraqi Constitution and laws. And Iraqi law requires any detention to be justified before a magistrate in a matter of only a few days. One of the most striking features of the U.S. detention regime in Iraq is, however, its complete contempt for the requirements of Iraqi law.

But beyond this, it’s a formula for how to lose a civil war.

Today, McClatchy reports on the situation and finds the conditions are essentially the same as found by the AP and New York Times in the fall, except that the number of persons under detention has now spiraled to nineteen thousand. But the McClatchy piece puts its focus on ten thousand Iraqis who have simply gone missing – as family and friends are unable to establish any connection with persons in detention, even to establish whether they are simply still alive.

There’s no accurate count of the missing since the war began. Iraqi human rights groups put the figure at 15,000 or more, while government officials say 40 to 60 people disappeared each day throughout the country for much of last year, a rate equal to at least 14,600 in one year.

What happened to them is a frustrating mystery that compounds Iraq’s overwhelming sense of chaos and anarchy. Are they dead? Were they kidnapped or killed in some mass bombing? Is the Iraqi government or some militia group holding them? Were they taken prisoner by the United States, which is holding 19,000 Iraqis at its two main detention centers, at Camp Cropper and Camp Bucca?

You were wondering perhaps, how do you completely alienate and infuriate a population under military occupation? Well, this is how.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

No Comment, Six Questions June 4, 2014, 8:00 am

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

June 2015

Loitering With Intent

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Polite Coup

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Findings

What Went Wrong

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Shooting Down Man the Hunter

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
What Went Wrong·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“In the seventh year of his presidency, Barack Obama was presenting himself as a politician who followed the path of least resistance. This is a disturbing confession.”
Photograph by Pete Souza
Article
Surviving a Failed Pregnancy·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“If this woman — who spent her days studying gray screens for early signs of gestation — could not see my pregnancy, what were the chances that anyone else would?”
Illustration by Leigh Wells
Article
Interesting Facts·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“My husband is forty-six. I am forty-five. He does not think that, in my forties, after cancer, chemotherapy, and chemically induced menopause, I can get pregnant again, but sisters, I know my womb. It’s proven.”
Photograph by McNair Evans
Post
Kid Chocolate’s Place·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Cuban eyes often look close to tears.”
Illustration by the author
Article
Thirty Million Gallons Under the Sea·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“If you short-circuit the bottom, you threaten the entire cycle,” Joye told me. “Without a healthy ocean, we’ll all be dead.”
Illustration by John Ritter

Length in days of the sentence Russian blogger Alexei Navalny served for leading an opposition rally last year:

15

Israeli researchers developed software that evaluates the depression of bloggers.

A teenager in Singapore was convicted of obscenity for posts critical of Lee Kuan Yew, the country’s founding father, that included an image of Lee having sex with Margaret Thatcher.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today