We’ll Make You See Death

A very interesting article in Salon today that I think is worth reading in light of recent unconvincing arguments

April 10, 2008 | On a recent trip to Amman, Jordan, during a visit to the home of someone who had been detained by the Jordanian intelligence service in 2002, I was given two very thin strips of paper covered with Arabic writing and marked with a thumbprint. Curled up into a tight spiral, they were no bigger than the cap of a pen. My contact, who had smuggled the papers out of intelligence detention a few years previously, told me that the message therein had been written by a prisoner who had been detained with him. He said it gave a detailed account of that person’s experiences.

That evening, in my hotel room, an Egyptian colleague translated the text, word for word. Stunned by its contents, I transcribed the message into electronic form and sent it into cyberspace for safekeeping. The message’s author was a Yemeni terrorism suspect named Ali al-Hajj al-Sharqawi, who was arrested in Pakistan in February 2002. Though the message was undated, it was clear from the narrative that it had been written in October 2002.

Sharqawi said that he had been delivered to Jordan by the CIA. Unknown to the outside world, he was held as a secret prisoner by the Jordanian intelligence service: unregistered, cut off from all communication and hidden during visits by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross. In the note, which he managed to slip to my contact without his captors noticing, he gave what he called a “short summary of my sufferings.”

“They beat me up in a way that does not know mercy,” Sharqawi wrote, referring to his Jordanian captors, “and they’re still beating me. They threatened me with electricity, with snakes and dogs … [They said] we’ll make you see death.” [source]


  • And then the Jordanian regime plays dumb when innocent Jordanians suffer from retaliatory attacks in Jordan or somewhere else. That’s the price we have to pay for US aid that rarely benefits Jordanians, as we can see from the horrific economic situation and from the sweeping failures in public infrastructure services.

  • Man, if only the king and queen knew about such stuff happening behind their back!

    They would be V-blogging about it ,
    and they may even launch a couple of initiatives,
    and then parlay that into a guest-speaking appearance at an anti-torture conference
    and then they can V-blog about that too…

  • Man, if only the king and queen knew about such stuff happening behind their back!

    You know, it’s too hard to believe that such things would go on in Jordan without at least the king knowing about it. It might not be the sort of thing where the king actually orders it, but it might be the sort of thing where he says something like “take care of it, i don’t care how,” or “give them [US] what they need.”

    Whether he knew or not, he is still responsible because he’s in a position of absolute power in the country. If he knew, then he was complicit. If he didn’t, then he failed to lead. In other words, his job IS to be responsible when stuff like this happens.

  • Sharqawi described his interrogations, explaining that the Jordanians were feeding his responses back to the CIA. “Every time that the interrogator asks me about a certain piece of information, and I talk,” Sharqawi said, “he asks me if I told this to the Americans. And if I say no he jumps for joy, and he leaves me and goes to report it to his superiors, and they rejoice.”

  • Wow, so now a gang of 14 terrorists is becoming a credible source of information. Maybe you all should invite them to your homes for dinner as an indicator of sympathy. I care less for the human rights of Qaeda members who gave themselves the right to kill other people in hundreds and thousands. But I hope our GID will not get involved in distorting the image of this country with the involvement with these criminal gangs.

  • Batir, before you make it seem like we’re terrorist-lovers, let’s remember the democratic ideal of “innocent until proven guilty.” None of these detainees have been charged in either the US or Jordan. This is exactly why the US sends them to Jordan, to try to get something out of them. Confessions induced under torture are not acceptable by my standards, or many other countries and HR groups. If the US really had any piece of evidence, they would be charged and tried there.

  • Moi, those people of Al Qaeda do not give their victims any chance of ideal interrogation. I do not see any reason why they should be given the benefit of doubt. They chose to kill people based on their owm assumptions and they should accept the consequences. It really makes me sick to see Al Qaeda terrorists seeking the support the human rights principles while they kill their victims without any mercey.

  • Let me carefully word this for my own sake…

    I think that until now, every report has focused primarily, if not exclusively, on the accounts of ex-detainees, and you can’t really blame them because if, hypothetically, torture were taking place in any country, no government or security apparatus would give a tour of the dungeons. That being said, the accounts and their corresponding credibility is based on perceptions; or in other words, what we as the people on the outside-looking-in choose to believe. So opinions will vary, and until there’s an “abu-ghreib” tape, those opinions will always vary and always differ.

    That being said.

    Jordan is a signatory to articles and declarations against torture, to say nothing of international law, so legally they cannot participate in acts of torture, even if it’s the devil himself.

    The religion of the state is also constitutionally declared as Islam, and torture goes against the very core of Islamic principles, even if it’s the devil himself.

    To say nothing of the questions of morality that arise.

    To say nothing of the majority of detainees who are not charged and who tend to be unaffiliated with any organized group, as was seen in the rounding up of hundreds of Jordanians post amman bombings.

    So legally, morally, religiously, torture goes against the very principles this country was supposedly built upon or has sought to be a part of.

    As for “states of exception”, well, any political thinker/scientist will tell you that that is a whole other can of worms you don’t even want to open.

  • batir, your opinion of alqaeda is irrelevant to the issue and trying to paint us as qaeda sympathizers is very lame of you.
    as the lebanese ppl say “khayyit bghair hal msalleh”.

    also, yes alqaeda are bad .. but why didnt u say anything about doing business with the CIA .. wila hadol 7abayibna?

    to me the real issue here is not the ideology of those being tortured, but rather the fact that we are torturing ppl on behalf of the US government .. ino la hal daraje i7na puppets.

    p.s. judging by ur reply, im guessing that u have no problem with guantanamo.

  • Batir- your statement goes against the most basic notions of democracy which you claim to hold in such high regard. But it appears that you are selective in granting those democratic rights and ideals as you see fit. You insist that they are Alqaeda terrorists when you and the GID and the CIA provide no proof at all. I am a believer in the principle of innocent until proven guilty. The burden is on the state to prove guilt, not on the suspect to prove their innocence. For those who kill and maim, it is the responsibility of the state to arrest them, present them to the judiciary, and provide the evidence that will result in their conviction and sentencing.
    You are dehumanizing these individuals by accepting the state line that they are terrorists. Have you heard of Maher Arar? The Canadian citizen of Syrian origin who was sent to Syria, through Jordan, by the CIA using the policy of “extraordinary rendition”. He was tortured in Jordan and Syria. Nobody knew where he was, or any information about him. When he was finally released and sent back to Canada, where a subsequent federal investigation concluded that he had ABSOLUTELY NO ties to terrorism and they paid him millions in compensation. http://www.maherarar.ca/ for more information. I’m not saying all the suspects are innocent, but I simply cannot accept the idea that ONE innocent man/woman will be tortured and deprived of their humanity to justify anti-terrorism policies. If we’re waiting for the smoking gun–another Abu-Ghraib scandal with photographic evidence– to condemn this policy, then we would have waited too long.

    Nas- You and I both know as students of politics and IR that int’l declarations and laws are not nearly as effective because there is no int’l body that can hold countries accountable for their violation of these agreements. There simply is no enforcement, so the fact that KSA has signed CEDAW means NOTHING for Saudi women. If you meant that torture in Jordan is an “exception to the rule”, I would highly disagree.

  • moi: i agree that international law is still lacking enforcement, and a lot of it hasn’t even been written yet, however there are declarations under the UN which I believe Jordan is signatory to. although i also agree that most of the things we’ve signed are things we ignore.

    as for “states of exception”, torture is an issue that conjures questions of morality, religion, humanity, law as well as political questions, the latter focusing greatly on the states of exception and emergency rule…that question is highly debatable. for example: is there a case when torture can be deemed “legitimate” i.e. if it could save lives. this is just an example, my answer to such questions is irrelevant, i was just pointing out that it is a whole other matter.

  • Moi, those people of Al Qaeda do not give their victims any chance of ideal interrogation…

    Batir, this is not about the people that do the things you talk about. This is about suspects who were detained and then released.

    Why were they released if they did the horrible things that you think they did?

    It’s because they didn’t do them.

    So, this is not about torturing proven terrorists. It is about torturing suspects who are innocent until proven guilty.

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