March 11, 2006

Ali Shalal Qaissi, the man in the hood.

The NYT has an article about Ali Shalal Qaissi, the man underneath the black hood in the photograph that came to symbolize the abuses of Abu Ghraib:
Under the government of Saddam Hussein, Mr. Qaissi was a mukhtar, in effect a neighborhood mayor, a role typically given to members of the ruling Baath Party and closely tied to its nebulous security services. After the fall of the government, he managed a parking lot belonging to a mosque in Baghdad.

He was arrested in October 2003, he said, because he loudly complained to the military, human rights organizations and the news media about soldiers' dumping garbage on a local soccer field. But some of his comments suggest that he is at least sympathetic toward insurgents who fight American soldiers.

"Resistance is an international right," he said.

Weeks after complaining about the garbage, he said, he was surrounded by Humvees, hooded, tied up and carted to a nearby base before being transferred to Abu Ghraib. Then the questioning began.

"They blamed me for attacking U.S. forces," he said, "but I said I was handicapped; how could I fire a rifle?" he said, pointing to his hand. "Then he asked me, 'Where is Osama bin Laden?' And I answered, 'Afghanistan.' "

How did he know? "Because I heard it on TV," he replied.

He said it soon became evident that the goal was to coax him to divulge names of people who might be connected to attacks on American forces. His hand, then bandaged, was often the focus of threats and inducements, he said, with interrogators offering to fix it or to squash it at different times. After successive interrogations, he said he was finally given a firm warning: "If you don't speak, next time, we'll send you to a place where even dogs don't live."...

Despite the cruelty he witnessed, Mr. Qaissi said he harbored no animosity toward America or Americans. "I forgive the people who did these things to us," he said. "But I want their help in preventing these sorts of atrocities from continuing."

UPDATE: The NYT notes questions raised by Salon about whether Qaissi really was the man in the hood.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The NYT admits that Qaissi was not the man in the hood in the famous photograph.


Rick Lee said...

So... he was, almost certainly, a member of the Baath Party which was responsible for torturing (even children) to horrible extremes... and NOW he wants to prevent "these sorts of atrocities." I'm really impressed.

Icepick said...
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Icepick said...

Rick, he's seen the light, but only after he himself was sent to a very dark place.

Alcibiades said...

As you say, Rick, but a point that the NYTimes could not bother to ask him about - because a little factual nuance would spoil the whole point of their piece. And also the extremely recent hand injury - uh huh. Yeah, I believe on his say, and no other confirmation, that he got that from an ancient gun.

Moreover, the countries he is visiting to show them about American prisoner abuse all have a worse record of prison abuse than Iraq has, even with Abu Ghraib as a reference point.

Of course he has no animosity to America.
Though it is easy enough to speculate that he is receiving financial remuneration for this from all sorts of nasty quarters, but no questions about that either by the Times reporter to add some nuance to the story.

Very bizarre piece.

I'm not sure what Ann meant by putting it up.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

My guess is this is another of Ann's Rorshach tests, in which she provides the rope and lets her echo chamber hang itself.

I don't think Ann approves of torture, or the rationalization of torture and she wants to find out which of in her posse does.

Thanks for playing.

sfletcher99 said...


I don't think Ann approves of torture, or the rationalization of torture and she wants to find out which of in her posse does.

Please describe the 'top 5' "proven incidents" that were committed with approval from a superior and that you feel should be considered 'torture'...

How many of those incidents do you think are similar to what I saw or experienced as a "detainee" in America- both as a juvenile and as an adult?

(Hint--- The first day of a "permanent commitment" to the 'Ohio Youth Commission' in 1980 had me locked in a 7' x 9' solitary confinement cell in the room right next door to a 16 yr. old who was literally straight-jacketed to his bed with a large dose of phenobarb pumped into him after he suffered a serious '4-way beat-down' from the 'staff'...)

Thanks for playing!

Alcibiades said...


I don't think Ann approves of torture, or the rationalization of torture and she wants to find out which of in her posse does.

Really, quxxo, what a false dichotomy. You don't have to "approve of torture" in order to notice that the NYTimes piece has huge holes in its story and fails to follow up on asking Ali Shalal Qaissi all the difficult questions.

It's part of a trend of newsreporting which believes that the recipient of the news prefer a simple narrative rather than a fully nuanced story.

In this case, the nuances ruin the simple, rhetorical mood they wanted to get across to their readers, all about the evils of Abu Ghraib and the American occupation of Iraq, so they left them out as besides the point.

That's not a rationalization of torture, btw. That's just pointing out the shoddy journalism of the NYTimes.

They could have told a story about how Qaissi once participated in a regime that tortured men, women and children; but the full horror of what was happening to those people never occurred to him until it happened to him as well. That would have been a truer story. But then oh, yeah, there is still the difficult part about him going for support to various Arab regimes that still torture their prisoners.