|News and opinions on situation in Iraq|
|22/06/04||(Un)Covering Torture: We've done our best; now we need your help|
There is new stuff up all over the TNS site and Dahr's blog, but tonight all thoughts are on one thing…
The family of Sadiq Zoman, an Iraqi tortured to the verge of death while in US custody, needs the help of concerned Americans — people just like you— to get the answers and compensation they've sought for nearly a year.
NewStandard Editorial | June 22, 2004 web version with links and photos: newstandardnews.net/content/?action=show_item&itemid=579
On May 4, we published a story about Sadiq Zoman, an Iraqi who US troops abducted from his home in Kirkuk and, one month later, dropped off at a Tikrit hospital in a “persistent vegetative state,” his body exhibiting telltale signs of torture. We told the story of Mr. Zoman's family — nine daughters and a wife who have sold every last possession to pay for his care as he lies unresponsive and helpless. They are desperate for answers and accountability from the foreign forces occupying their country, and who, from all evidence, deprived them of a husband and father as they knew him.
We know the Zomans' story was compelling to many of our readers. Several of you wrote in to ask how you personally could donate to Sadiq Zoman's family. We were moved by your generosity and your desire to see the Zoman family cared for after the tragedy that has been inflicted upon them, quite likely with money taken from you in the form of taxes. We heard your outrage, and we share it. Since then, the National Grassroots Peace Network has started a fund for donations to help the Zoman family (see below for more information).
>From the time that our Baghdad correspondent Dahr Jamail and Middle East editor Brian Dominick began trying to piece the story of Sadiq Zoman together, the US military has been largely uncooperative with our requests for information.
When we started The NewStandard we envisioned our readership as active participants in the world around them — engaged with the news, instead of passively consuming it. From your letters and phone calls, we know you are that readership. Through no insignificant effort, Dahr uncovered a remarkable amount of evidence implicating the military in the terrible suffering of Sadiq Zoman and his family. He spent days gathering information from Zoman's family, and from the US military and Iraqi civilian medical records that had followed Zoman through his capture, custody and aftercare.
The NewStandard tried to get an official version of the story from the Public Affairs Office at the 4th Infantry Division — the unit ultimately responsible for Zoman while he was in US custody. We learned very little from Major Joslyn Aberle, with whom we spoke numerous times. She offered only blanket denials, saying the US Armed Forces — and in particular her outfit — do not torture prisoners.
We didn't think that would be reassuring to Zoman's family.
Mr. Zoman's case is unlike most other cases involving alleged or known torture of Iraqis by US personnel. On one hand, Zoman survived his ordeal in US custody. On the other, he cannot tell his story, because he cannot speak. He was not murdered, yet the details of his treatment are a mystery.
We told Major Aberle about the documentation and testimony gathered by The NewStandard, which strongly suggests Mr. Zoman underwent severe torture, but she did not seem interested. We told her about the statements we have from numerous physicians who say, based on the US's own medical records on the case, Mr. Zoman was mistreated in American care.
We even reminded Major Aberle that several US Army generals and Pentagon officials have gone on record as saying that all claims of mistreatment and abuse of Iraqi prisoners at the hands of their US jailers have been immediately investigated.
Yet there has been no investigation into the case of Sadiq Zoman, even with so much evidence suggesting severe mistreatment. And as far as we've been told, no investigation is planned.
When we published the Zomans' story last month, we knew it was incomplete because, while we presented much evidence, we could not present a clear narrative of just what befell him while in US hands. Since then, Dahr Jamail has spent more days in the field, trying desperately to determine what happened to Mr. Zoman. We also assigned stateside work to one of our best investigative reporters, Jeff Shaw. With bare minimal cooperation from the military, we could only uncover more speculation of torture and a cover-up.
Iraqi doctors who treated Zoman shortly after his release confirmed there were point burns on his feet and hands, lash marks on his back, bruises on his arms and a blunt force injury to the back of his head. Video stills obtained from an Aljazeera TV crew that visited Zoman at the time depict many of these injuries.
Physicians at top hospitals in the US suggested that symptoms listed in Zoman's American medical paperwork are completely inconsistent with the diagnosis military doctor Michael C. Hodges wrote was the cause of Zoman's current, unresponsive condition.
Mr. Zoman's family physician said he had no heart problems, but American doctors who reviewed the report said it shows the initial treatment Army medics gave Zoman was for a very specific, pre-existing heart condition. The medical report is so inconsistent with appropriate assessment and treatment that some doctors suspected a cover-up, and all thought the report alone warranted a full investigation of the entire case.
What's more, men who were held with Sadiq Zoman told Dahr Jamail that guards at the facilities where they were detained regularly tortured many of the prisoners. They said that one night Mr. Zoman was taken away, and thereafter guards would only tell them that Zoman had died.
Even the New York Times picked up on our May 4 article and described the Zoman family's ordeal in a feature story on torture victims and their relatives.
Still, the United States Army will not answer most of our questions on the matter.
Finally, since we first told this story, a number of startling military reports have emerged to bolster our suspicions and contradict Major Aberle's official denials.
Various reports and eyewitness accounts suggest jailers have subjected prisoners to extreme heat for prolonged periods. Doctors have said Mr. Zoman's symptoms are more consistent with heat stroke than heart attack, and men with whom he was held have said they were kept in unbearably hot conditions.
Another report, uncovered by Miles Moffeit at the Denver Post, showed that the military has blamed murders on heart attacks — just like the heart attack it appears Sadiq Zoman did not have — and other “natural causes.” It claimed one terminal head injury, probably sustained during a beating, was a result of the inmate having fallen out of bed — later disproved by an autopsy. During an intitial interview, Major Aberle was quick to speculate that Mr. Zoman's head injury was the result of a fall.
A second leaked military report shows that two Marines have pled guilty to using electrical shock to punish an Iraqi prisoner in their custody. They used a car battery and a couple of wires touched to the prisoner's legs. That prisoner survived. The military tried to cover the incident up.
We believe the military owes the American public — and the Zoman family— a clear explanation of how a man who entered their custody in perfect health wound up on the verge of death three weeks later.
When we started The NewStandard we envisioned our readership as active participants in the world around them — engaged with the news, instead of passively consuming it. From your letters and phone calls, we know you are that readership. As we strive to provide you with daily news from a perspective you can relate to, we need your help. Gathering the news need not be reserved for professionals. Sometimes a story can only be acquired through collective action.
We are asking you, and everyone you know, to take a few minutes to help us demand answers from the US military. With your help maybe we can unravel a mystery and help ten impoverished Iraqi women gain some peace of mind.
++ Two Ways You Can Help
The US Army needs to hear that the American public wants the truth about what happened to Sadiq Zoman. If the military does not already know the real story, it should immediately investigate, and it should cooperate with The NewStandard's own investigation into the story.
+ You can help pressure the military. Call the following people and demand answers:
Major Joslyn Aberle, Assistant Public Affairs Officer of the 4th Infantry Division: 254-287-7013
Her boss, Lieutenant Colonel Bill McDonald: 254-287-7011
Colonel Campbell, who signed a paper releasing Sadiq Zoman to the hospital, already in his current, “vegetative” condition: 254-287-7280
If you think there is any chance your Congressional Representative or Senators might take a personal interest in this case and put pressure on the Pentagon to initiate an investigation, please ask them to do so.
Please also write to us and let us know what action you have taken and what kind of response you have received: iraq [at] newstandardnews [dot] net.
+ While we at The NewStandard firmly believe it is the responsibility of the US military to compensate the Zoman family for Sadiq's injuries and suffering, many of our readers have expressed the desire to personally provide for the Zoman family. The National Grassroots Peace Network in Alaska has set up a fund to help the family of Sadiq Zoman and asked us to help promote it. The NewStandard is not involved in the funds collection, and the Zoman family is not aware that a collection is being taken. All money collected through this fund drive, minus the amount required to wire it to Baghdad, will be delivered directly to the Zoman family. Secure online donations can be made to a PayPal account via this site:
Dahr Jamail is Baghdad correspondent for The NewStandard. He is an Alaskan devoted to covering the untold stories from occupied Iraq. You can help Dahr continue his crucial work in Iraq by making donations. For more information or to donate to Dahr, visit newstandardnews.net/iraqdispatches .
The Iraq Dispatches list exists to keep readers of The NewStandard updated on reports by Baghdad correspondent Dahr Jamail. To manage subscriptions, or for more information and an archive of Dahr's writings and photographs: newstandardnews.net/iraqdispatches
To contribute to The NewStandard and support Dahr Jamail's crucial work in Iraq, go to: https:/secure.peoplesnetworks.net/estore/?action=show_donation_registration
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