"The Secret of the Hooded Man"
Remember this picture? It was printed around the world as evidence of the supposed cruelty of Americans and our penchant for torture. Indeed, the actions of the miscreants at Abu Ghraib are indefensible. (So, don't email me to say that I am defending this because I am not.)
However, few seemed particularly interested in the background of the hooded figure. Laura Mansfield points us to an article from the German publication Die Presse, which investigated the background of the hooded man ("The Secret of the Hooded Man"). I have obtained a copy of the article via the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (no link available).
The man pictured above is Haj Ali al Qaisi, a former goon for Saddam Hussein. He now lives in Jordan and heads the "Organization of Victims of US Occupation Prisons," a group he uses to spread his message about the inhumane treatment Americans dole out to Iraqi prisoners.
It turns out, according to Iraqi exiles and German government officials, that he is no saint. Die Presse reports:
Haj Ali had also wanted to come to Italy and Austria to inform the public there of his dreadful experiences -- on the ORF "Vera" broadcast, for instance. Both of these countries, however, have denied him entry.
"Haj Ali al-Qaisi shows up in the Schengen database," the interior ministry says, in response to an inquiry from. "The entry comes from Germany, and it involves matters from the Saddam Husayn period." The ministry refuses to divulge details about this. Haj Ali's life did not first begin with his arrest by US soldiers. Before the United States marched into Iraq, he was an official of Saddam's Ba'ath Party and Mukhtar -- village governor -- in al-Madifai, a small village near Abu-Ghurayb.
According to his own account, he did not do anything wrong during that time. Former Iraqi exiles see it differently, however: "Haj Ali was a secret service henchman. During his time as local governor, 38 persons were executed. Another 17 are still missing," reports Ali al-Zahid to. Because of critical statements by his father, al-Zahid and his entire family were maltreated for several months in one of Saddam's prisons. Today, the young man lives in Munich and Vienna. He is a leading member of the new "Iraquna" Austrian-Iraqi friendship society.
Al-Zahid says that in his investigations, for instance, he came across the case of a 17-year-old from al-Madifai, who was murdered by the regime in 1998. "I spoke with the victim's mother. She told me that her son had been taken away by Haj Ali and secret service agents." Twenty-eight days after the arrest, Haj Ali personally dropped off the 17-year-old's blood-soaked shirt with the words, "He cried like a girl." That, at least is what the abducted victim's mother says.
Was Haj Ali then a victim, a perpetrator, or both? First a governor by the grace of Saddam and an alleged secret service informer, he was later himself a victim of torture. It is a fate that is contradictory and symptomatic for Iraq, two and a half years after Saddam's overthrow.
Funny how none of this works its way into the media's Abu Ghraib narrative...