Skip to comments.Inside the hell of Saddam's torture chambers
Posted on 04/08/2003 2:55:08 PM PDT by MadIvan
ABID HUSSAN took one step inside the foul-smelling prison cell and began to shake. Beads of sweat ran down his forehead and behind his gold-rimmed spectacles. The 45-year-old shopkeeper pointed to the electric cables hanging from the ceiling where President Saddam Husseins security police would torture him three times a day.
People tried to elbow their way inside this impossibly small 6ft by 4ft torture chamber. They were anxious to sift through the documents carpeting the floor to see if it gave a clue as to what became of a loved one, or friend, who had been dragged inside here and was never heard of again.
Until yesterday, when British troops finished their search for booby traps inside the State Security headquarters, no one in Basra would have dared to set foot in this building. It was forbidden even to walk on the pavement outside what residents nicknamed the white lion, a big white building, a fearsome creature that devoured people. But everyone knew what went on behind the thick concrete walls.
The torture cells lay in squat, rectangular rows in landscaped grounds tucked behind a six-storey tower block, where floor after floor of filing cabinets were stuffed with the records of untold numbers of citizens.
One old man studying the jumble of paperwork pointed out that the files with red edges were of those who had been executed.
Saddams jailers were meticulous record-keepers. They pinned photographs inside the documents showing how the prisoner was bearing up to various stages of torture. They finished with pictures of the battered and bloodied body after execution.
Standing inside his former cell at the end of a dark corridor, Mr Hussan described, in a low whisper, how he had been seized in the street in March 1999 because he was standing close to a prominent Shia cleric in Basra.
I didnt know the man, I never spoke to the man and Im not even a Shia, but they held me in this stinking hole for ten months, he said.
The only dim light came from a small, barred window. There was a hook in the ceiling and Mr Hussan demonstrated how his hands had been tied behind his back and how he had been suspended from it for up to three hours a day.
He lifted his shirt to show the scars and weals on his painfully thin legs where he had been whipped with electric cable. All day and night you would hear terrible screams, and some were from children.
After a couple of minutes he could not bear to stay in the room any longer and dashed off around the corner to what he called the cages: long, red-painted wire-mesh cells, where inmates would be forced to watch others being tortured as they awaited their turn to be dipped into a rusty metal bath and electrocuted.
Around the edge of this torture yard were cells for some of those sentenced to death, including a couple where an adult would have had to bend double to fit inside. There were prisoners here until five days ago, when their captors, realising that British tanks were coming, abandoned the centre.
Walking around the centre yesterday, nervous locals pointed discreetly to a couple of heavily built men who they suspected of working there and who had, perhaps, returned to cover up their work.
To try to disguise the true purpose of this building, Saddam placed a secondary school across the road in what was the fashionable suburb of Ashar. On the corner were the courts of justice, although most punishment was meted inside the white lion out without the need for a trial.
Raad Azoor, 32, waved a document that he said, showed how the torturers had executed his brother, an army officer, in 1991, claiming that he was a traitor for questioning an order over the invasion of Kuwait.
There is not a house in Basra that has not had someone taken to this place. Some were freed. Thousands were not, he said, spitting at an official crest lying amid the debris.
These were not just the wild claims of those delighted to see the back of a cruel regime. Proof of systematic, state-orchestrated violence against citizens was strewn across the courtyard, with documents, files, signed confessions and interrogations being blown around by the hot wind.
One file being trodden underfoot involved an 11-year-old boy accused of treason. His crimes, apparently, included writing seditious messages on a school exercise book.
There was a separate section for women, with girls as young as 13 included in records in a red-bound book recovered by one man who clutched it to his chest for safekeeping.
The trouble for the allies who might want to use such evidence in future war crimes hearings is that most who stampeded through the skeleton of Basras most-hated building were only too happy to start bonfires in every office, using the prison records.
Every few minutes flame and smoke belched through another broken window as looters finished cannibalising the electric fittings and water pipes, then decided that what they could not steal they would burn.
On the street, the crews of a couple of British armoured personnel carriers paused briefly to watch the frenzied crowd hurling filing cabinets from top-floor windows, then accelerated away. All day a growing number of people, finally believing that the grip of Saddams regime is finished in Basra, stumbled over the rubble for a tour of the white lion.
There were those like Abu al-Mansoori, who was jailed here with his wife for five months for attending prayers in a Shia mosque and who argued with those who wanted this loathed symbol razed to the ground. Leave it, he said, and let people truly see what bad things were done to us. It is truly incredible what was done in here.
We must remember that it was the Clintons, Sarandons and Sheens of the world who defended this stuff and would be more than happy to subject us to it if we allow them the opportunity!
It also throws people like Baghdad Bob into a new light. He's no longer comical to me. For his defence of this evil regime, his head should be severed from his neck and stuck on a pike.
huh? did they kill all the smart ones so that the only ones left were all too stupid to realize what they were doing?
If we can get our hands on the employment records of this organization it may help ensure that these guys don't come back. We could, of course, see that they end up in the hands of the new Iraqi government and the victims of the old one...but hey, the UN might object to that...
Then as now, the Leftists were left scrambling for an explanation - in Stalin's day, they said that because of the superiority of the socialist system, children developed faster into adults.
I wonder what excuse the anti-war people will come up with this time.
Isaiah 11:9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
Revelation 21:4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
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