My Testimony on 'Enhanced Interrogation Techniques'

On the 27th of August 2008, I was kidnapped from Baghdad International Airport by American civilians with no known affiliation except an insignia on their vehicle which indicated that the vehicle belongs to Global (Global Strategies Group) a security company contracted by the Iraqi Government to protect Baghdad International Airport at the time. I was blindfolded in the car and taken to a facility where I was initially interrogated in a hostile way. Afterward I was flown blindfolded to another facility where I was subjected to what is known today as "enhanced interrogation techniques". I was deprived of decent food, knowledge of time and normal toilet facilities and prevented from practicing my religion.

On frequent occasions I was interrogated and accused of all kinds of crimes without any evidence and frequently told that if I cooperated by denouncing Dr. Ahmad Chalabi and signing onto lies about Dr. Chalabi then those charges would be set aside and I would be released. When I refused to do this pressure was increased.

I was put in a deliberately filthy and hot place under severe inhumane conditions. When I continued not cooperating, they started practicing all sorts of shameless psychological torture against me and my family. In one instance I was terrified to see my interrogator (a young blonde man in his late twenties) spreading photos of my wife and six kids -- and then asking me who would be killed first while tearing the pictures one by one in front of my face. In another instance I was told that Dr. Chalabi was ambushed and killed and no one will defend or support me. I discovered that the death of Dr. Chalabi was a lie only after I was transferred from the secret prison to Camp Cropper where I talked to my wife on the phone with the help of the Red Cross. I was completely shocked when my wife informed me that Dr. Chalabi is helping her and supporting my family during my captivity.

Then I was flown to another secret location where I was put in front of a TV monitor with a camera and microphone. General Petraeus appeared on the monitor and addressed me by my full name. Reading from a paper the General leveled charges against me. He requested me to "cooperate" with the interrogators and all charges would be dropped and told me "your problems will be solved by cooperating fully with the interrogators."

During the Spring of 2008, I had different encounters with General Petraeus and his aides when Dr. Chalabi was heading the Popular Mobilization Committee and I was the liaison between the committee and the US military. I always thought highly of the General and considered him as a sensible smart man but when he talked to me on the monitor I was very disappointed and felt betrayed and misled.

I refused again and I was subjected to further pressure and torture. Then I was polygraphed ten times and I passed the test. Only then I was transferred to a normal detention facility run by the US military. My incarceration in the secret prison lasted from 27th of August 2008 to 3rd of October 2008 until I was released on the 14th of August 2009.

I write this introduction in order to relay my personal experience of torture and pressure at the hands of US civilians -- probably contractors working for US Government Agencies. This episode demonstrates to what level the US military and security administrations in Iraq has sunk. The fact that I would be imprisoned for 351 days and run through this gauntlet of humiliation on the say-so of paid informers and twisted interpretations of intercepted phone calls has demonstrated to me that the US military and security presence in Iraq has become an unbearable yoke on the Iraqi people and a historical embarrassment to the US.

The fact that the early promise of liberation from the brutal dictatorship would be transformed by an act of the US Government to a regime of occupation and five years later would act against Iraqi personalities in ways which are similar to behavior of the Saddam's security forces is a sad and damming testimony on the Bush administration, which was given all the benefit of the doubt by most of the Iraqi people when they helped us get rid of the dictatorship.

I was a follower of the late Sayyed Mohammed Mohammed Al Sadir, father of Sayyed Muqtada Al Sadir. After the liberation I worked as a deputy to a member of the US-appointed Governing Council member Sheikh Abdul Kareem Mahood (Abu Hatem) when I first met with Dr. Ahmad Chalabi. I was under the impression that he was a lackey of the Americans and did their bidding without question. I soon discovered the true relationship between Dr. Ahmad Chalabi and the Americans from the way he stood up for Iraqi interests and confronted Ambassador Bremer at every turn when Iraqis were mistreated, threatened or humiliated by the American occupiers. I became increasingly anxious about the attitude of Bremer and his associates towards Dr. Ahmad Chalabi and their tendency of using violence against him. This came to pass in May 2004 when he was nearly killed by an American-led raid on his home and office on the 20th of May 2004.

I am always questioning myself and I am proposing this questioning to public opinion. Is it possible that US civil organizations which are working in Iraq would behave in this heinous way because of my relation with a person whom I believe that he is honest, patriotic and efficient? I have come to realize that without Dr. Ahmad Chalabi, Saddam Hussein would have never been brought down. I also came to realize that his contribution to resolving violent conflicts by negotiations. Also I believed that if it was not for Ahmad Chalabi, there will be no sovereignty for Iraq (although Iraqi sovereignty is still violated due to behavior of Iraqi political forces). Also it should be realized if it was not for Ahmad Chalabi the shedding of blood between Iraq's different sectors will continue.

A testimony on this is Chalabi's reconciliatory stance between the Iraqi Government and the Sadrists which led to the cessation of the fighting and the blood in Najaf and the rest of the areas in different provinces in Iraq. I am very disappointed and dismayed that Chalabi's goodwill mediation in Spring 2008 in which I participated between the Shia militants, the Iraqi Government and the US led Coalition would be tuned into a conspiracy against us.

Dr. Chalabi has played an effective role in forming civil society organizations which have effectively participated in the reduction of and the return of thousands of Iraqi families who were forcefully deported from their hones in Baghdad. Does it make sense that I pay the price for my support to this by fabricating false charges against me? Does it make sense that I was blackmailed in order to conspire against Ahmad Chalabi?

Mr. Ali Faisal Al Lami is an Executive Director at the Debaathification Committee.