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Victims recall U.S. abuse; other Iraqis shrug
Thu May 28, 2009 9:21pm EDT
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By Mohammed Abbas
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The marks on Firas al-Sammarrai's body from when he says U.S. soldiers repeatedly electrocuted him are one reason he can't forget his abuse at their hands, even if other Iraqis want to move on.
U.S. President Barack Obama this month blocked the release of new detainee abuse photos on fears they may trigger more attacks against the U.S. military. The move enflamed Western opinion, but elicited little response in Iraq.
After years of bombings and sectarian slayings many Iraqis say they have seen worse, and some add the release of the photos has much to do with the U.S. image abroad as Obama attempts to mend ties with the Muslim world.
He is due to give a major speech in Egypt on June 4.
Sammarrai, a senior Foreign Ministry official under Saddam Hussein, said he was stripped naked, had cold water thrown over him in winter and was repeatedly beaten and electrocuted.
He says there are still pits in his elbows and knees where the electrodes were attached.
"Iraqis at times are trapped between wanting to forget and wanting to remember," he told Reuters by phone from Sweden, where he fled after being released. He found it hard to describe what had happened to him.
"They want to forget so they can move on, but at the same time they don't want to forget because it was such a scandal.
"But deciding to cover the photos up in order to manipulate world opinion ... I believe this is another crime against the Iraqi people and humanity in general."
Mohammed Ali, 23, is another person who says he was abused by U.S. military. Speaking from Falluja in Anbar province, he recalled hearing U.S. soldiers take photos while he was beaten, a bag shoved over his head. He needed two operations to repair damage to his stomach, he said.
"I was sat on the floor. (They) would beat me two at a time. They put cigarettes out on me and threw cold water on me. That lasted for two days," he said.
"I think it's better for the pictures to be released so those in the Middle East and the West can see what happened."
Many Iraqis who never faced alleged U.S. abuse greeted Obama's decision to block the release of new photos of torture with a shrug.
"I think the pictures won't affect Iraqis, but it will affect world opinion. The methods of the Americans are well known to Iraqis, who see worse than this every day," said Hameed Fadhil, an engineer out with his family in a Baghdad park. Continued...
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