Saturday, February 21, 2009

The prison-industrial-complex in Iraq

In a sign of just how quickly the US needs to leave Iraq before it does further damage, consider this sentence: "The government says it sorely needs Abu Ghraib -- now Baghdad Central Prison -- and other detention centers around the country being refurbished with American money because of overcrowding at prisons and continued threats to security, said Safaa el-Deen al-Safi, who was the acting justice minister for almost two years, until Thursday." That's from Sam Dagher's "With New Name and Mission, the Infamous Abu Ghraib Prison Is to Reopen" in today's New York Times. The article's worth reading in full but let's focus on that sentence for a bit.

The puppet government needs to reopen Abu Ghraib -- which the US had been running until the human rights violations and war crimes became known. It needs and other prisons, there is "overcrowding at prisons" and new ones are being built (not noted in this article, but the Times has noted that before, including when Michael Gordon was attempting to 'reassure' about the Iraqi 'justice' system and he noted the makeshift prisons being created). The article tells you that the US still has 14,500 imprisoned Iraqis.

Now take that figure and note that approximately 2 million Iraqis have fled the country (external refugees) and approximately 1.6 million Iraqis have been killed since the start of the illegal war. Note that the imprisoned tend to be pre-adult and adult males between the ages of 16 and 45. Note that this grouping is also the same age group that has died in the highest number from violence since the start of the illegal war.


Before the start of the illegal war, Iraq was not an oasis of justice. Saddam Hussein was more than happy to imprison large numbers of people (and to torture). Saddam Hussein was a dictator and had an ugly reputation around the world (he wasn't Hitler -- the US didn't install Hitler in Germany).

Yet with 3.6 million Iraqis having either fled Iraq or been killed since the start of the illegal war, with a population that trends more female and more young and elderly than prior to the start of the illegal war, with the US imprisoning 14,500 Iraqis, the puppet government still needs more money for prisons and more prisons. And, to be really clear, this isn't all of Iraq. The article's not covering the Kurdistan Regional Government (northern Iraq) because the KRG has their own set up.

And also note that the approximately 2 million Iraqi refugees (external) does not take into account the number of Iraqis who left in early waves after the start of the illegal war -- the "brain drain," technocrats, doctors, ect.

Yet somehow, as the population numbers have dropped, the central government has a need to imprison even more Iraqis than ever before?

No, it doesn't make sense. Yes, Nouri and his thugs do arrest for political reasons.

Abu Ghraib existed and was a torture chamber under Saddam Hussein. It's not as though Saddam was some peacenic or softie. Iraqis knew all about injustices and abuses before the start of the illegal war but grasp that things are so out of control in Iraq now that there is more of a need for prisons than under Saddam's rule.

Grasp that and grasp the US role in that. The United States needs to pull all troops out of Iraq and do so immediately.

Sam Dagher notes how some would prefer to see Abu Ghraib closed and either destroyed completely or turned "into a museum to immortalize Iraqis' suffering." Nouri's bag boy Safaa el-Deen al-Safi (former Minster of Justice -- left that Thursday) nsists, "Yes, this prison has a bad reputation, but this is not an excuse in itself to demolish this prison, given that we need it."

That's a curious definition of the term "need." (It's not needed, it's "wanted" by al-Maliki.)

Near the end of the article, Dagher discusses of Assad (first name only) and Hassan al-Azzawi who waere imprisoned at Abu Ghraib (while it was under US control) and "is among more than 300 former inmates suing two American contrators, CACI International and the Titan Corporation, for torture and abuse in American courts." Assad's story includes:

He said he was made to stand for hours under a freezing cold shower until he collapsed. He was then dragged to the celblock's hallway, where he said he had to crawl naked on the hard floor as he was punched by guards and threatened with rape. Assad, 36, said he was once shackled to his bed for more than a day.

And if you're not getting how disgusting the reopening of Abu Ghraib is, check out Kim Gamel's AP report on the re-opening tours being given by "judicial authorities" and puzzle over the insanity of Iraqi Rehabilation Department assisant director Mohammed al-Zeidi's claim, "We turned it to something like a resort not prison."

On the topic of refugees, the International Organization of Migration issued the following press release yesterday:

Iraq - A continued lack of food, adequate shelter, health care, employment and concerns over security among the more than 1.6 million people internally displaced by the violence that followed the bombing of the Al-Askari mosque in Samarra in 2006, has meant that three years on, their future remains as uncertain as ever without greater humanitarian intervention, says IOM.
IOM's annual review of the needs of those displaced by the Samarra bombing on 22 February 2006 finds that although there are by far fewer Iraqis displaced by violence these days, with many governorates having now stopped registration of internally displaced people (IDPs) altogether, their number remains worryingly high.

Representing about 5.5 per cent of the Iraqi population, their plight has changed little in the past three years. IOM assessments of 80 per cent of the 1.6 million post-Samarra IDPs show that priority needs remain adequate shelter, food and access to work.
The majority of these IDPs (59 per cent) live in sub-standard but expensive rented accommodation, and with the passage of time and without work, their financial resources have dwindled significantly. Others have had to resort to living with host families in overcrowded and difficult conditions while 22 per cent of the IDPs are living in collective settlements, public buildings or makeshift shelters. Some of these are under the constant threat of eviction. With only 16 per cent of all post-Samarra IDPs able to access the homes they left behind, a lack of clean water, sanitation and electricity is a daily reality for the IDPs.
The IOM needs assessment also reveals that across the country, 19 per cent of the post-Samarra IDPs still do not have any access to the government's public food distribution system (PDS) upon which much of the Iraqi population is dependent. And with 44 per cent having only occasional access to the PDS, 81 per cent of all the IDPs cited food as a priority need.
The health too of the IDPs is of growing concern, particularly due to their precarious living conditions, lack of potable water and sanitation or protection from the elements. Although the vast majority of the displaced say they can access health care, the IOM assessment argues that a lack of qualified staff, medicine and equipment and often damage to medical facilities doesn't ensure the health care is of good enough quality.
Conditions for the nearly 297,000 people, including refugees, who have returned to their former homes, are also harsh with people having to cope with damaged property, infrastructure and loss of livelihood. IOM assessments of returnees show that as a result, food, fuel and non-food items feature highly in their needs in addition to health care, employment and clean water.
Overall, 61 per cent of all post-Samarra IDPs would like to return to their places of origin but in many cases, they do not have the means to do so to move ahead with their lives, even when the security situation permits.
Despite limited funding and insecurity, IOM continues to assist the displaced, returnees and host communities with emergency food, water and household item distributions and community assistance projects. Since 2006, IOM has successfully completed 315 projects in 952 locations with direct costs of over USD 32 million.
However, overall assistance to these vulnerable communities remains inadequate.
"We and others working on the ground are doing all that we can to help, but the needs are still so great and so diverse. We urgently need a much greater level of humanitarian response and funding to meet the challenges. The future of Iraq depends on the resolution of the displacement crisis," says Rafiq Tschannen, IOM's Chief of Mission in Iraq. "However, the fact that people are returning home, although in smaller than expected numbers, is a positive development which we hope will gather pace."
To access the IOM Emergency Needs Assessment report, please go to:
For further information on IDPs and returnees in Iraq, please contact:
Martin Ocaga

IOM Iraq Program Manager
Liana Paris

IDP Monitoring Program
Tel: +962 6 565 9660 extensions 1061 and 1033

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