April 5 —
Police will be needed to maintain order in postwar Iraq, but the
country's cops are notorious for yanking out tongues, dipping
dissidents in acid and feeding people to meat grinders.
The Bush administration has said little about how the U.S.-led
coalition plans to impose law and order in a country where the
criminal justice system is also the main criminal element.
Some security experts say nothing short of martial law may be
needed to keep Iraq from drifting into chaos and factional fighting.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Friday that U.S. troops
"will stay for as long as is necessary to provide the security," but
military commanders abhor the idea of getting involved in local law
That worries some experts who saw security unravel in places like
"Changing a regime has radical consequences," said Sandra
Mitchell, a lawyer who led the evidence-gathering for the current
war crimes trial of former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. "How
are they going to restore public order in Iraq when the goal is to
replace the current security regime?"
A sampling of a scenario that security specialists long predicted
took place Thursday in the Iraqi city of Numaniyah, where looting,
vandalism and general anarchy broke out the day after U.S. Marines
took the town.
Some relief groups say they won't enter Iraq unless some sort of
justice system is in place either through martial law or the culling
of the worst of existing police officers and judges.
"We're not going to start handing out food, supplies and clean
water if it's anarchy," said Joel Charny, an analyst for the
Washington-based lobby group Refugees International. "The military
was acknowledging up front that they were not going to be involved
in policing. And now we see the danger of that strategy."
While humanitarian groups are leery of working with the military,
they fear that unless coalition troops are made responsible for
order there will be ethnic and religious feuding, guerrilla warfare
and mass population movements once Saddam Hussein's grip is
"Stabilizing Iraq is going to be more difficult, or as difficult,
as getting rid of the regime," Mitchell said.
Since taking charge of Iraq's internal security forces in 1968,
and then taking full power 11 years later, Saddam has run his
country like a huge prison camp. Soldiers and police are at the top
of a social order built on a foundation of fear and
Though the degree of Saddam's threat to world peace is a topic of
divisive global debate, human rights groups are unanimous in their
assessment of his abuses.
Mental health professionals say the torture techniques practiced
by Iraqi police are at the extreme edges of human depravity.
1 "The Iraqi victims are the worst," said psychologist Andrea
Northwood, who has provided therapy to torture victims from more
than 60 countries. "Their torture was severe and absolutely
Some examples: "Tongues pulled out, watching people put through
meat grinders. Tapes of a woman screaming and (police) saying,
`That's your wife we're raping.'"
British troops this past week got a grisly glimpse into the
system when they checked out the police station in Basra. They found
a meat hook in one blood-splattered cell and live wires apparently
used for electric shocks in another.
In 1991, an Associated Press reporter being held in Baghdad's
police headquarters saw a screaming soldier being lashed with a
thick cable as he was dragged off to a cell. His infraction: using
the food ration card of a higher-ranking military man.
Iraqi jails are considered such horrible places and filled with
political prisoners that Shiite Muslims in southern Iraq immediately
opened the cells when they briefly held a handful of towns during a
failed uprising after the first Gulf War in 1991.
The psychological wreckage could be harder to clean up than the
bombed buildings and broken bridges from the current war.
"When somebody has intentionally gotten creative to come up with
new versions of sadism, that's far more difficult to grasp," said
Northwood. "It keeps intruding in the form of nightmares,
flashbacks. The mind is trying to integrate them."
Many Iraqis in the United States are being "re-traumatized" by
the war but can't get enough of the news coverage, she said.
Trauma centers dealing with torture victims have cropped up
across the United States in the past decade, a reflection of the
brutal levels to which some countries sank in the power vacuums
created by the end of the Cold War.
Northwood said one of the major problems that trauma centers face
is infiltration by secret police from authoritarian countries.
Iraqi refugees in particular are paranoid about associating with
each other or forming communities like other immigrant groups. "We
(sometimes) hear that someone's family was harassed and tortured
back home based on their connection with someone here," Northwood
She said the culture of fear among the victims and the sense of
superiority among the authorities put in power by Saddam could be an
impediment to rebuilding Iraq. Every judge, prosecutor and security
officer used to strait jacket the country had to take an oath of
loyalty to Saddam's Baath party.
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