(ANTIMEDIA) For some time now, there have been reports that in 2004, current ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi spent time as a prisoner of the American occupation in Iraq before heading out into the world to form ISIS. The Intercept confirmed last week that Baghdadi was not just any prisoner, but a prisoner who spent most of his time at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison, the U.S. has finally admitted.
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In case you have been living under a rock, prisoners at Abu Ghraib endured abusive treatment, including being punched, slapped, kicked, and jumped on, videotaped and photographed naked (both male and female), and forcibly arranged in sexual positions to be photographed. In one instance, one detainee was forced naked onto a box with a sandbag on his head and wires attached to his fingers, toes, and penis to simulate electric torture.
According to The Intercept, Abu Ghraib attained a reputation of being a “jihadi university” where extremists were able to recruit and indoctrinate inmates who were less radical. It was at detainment facilities like Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca where analysts suspect Baghdadi made full use of his time to maintain relationships with other jihadis and former Iraqi military officials who would later take up high-ranking positions within ISIS leadership.
One of these former Iraqi military officials was Haji Bakr, a former colonel in Saddam Hussein’s defense force. He was not a radical Islamist by any account, but due to America’s de-Baathification policy, he lost his job following the invasion. Bakr is speculated to be the real mastermind behind ISIS’ infrastructure, as well as responsible for their military strategies.
Investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill was one of the first analysts to point out this relationship between former Iraqi military officials and the growth of ISIS:
“One of the top – and this almost is never mentioned in corporate media coverage of this – one of the top military commanders of ISIS is a man named Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri al-Takriti. Who is Izzat Ibrahim? Izzat Ibrahim is the leading Baathist, who was on the deck of cards, that the United States has not captured. He was one of Saddam Hussein’s top military commanders. He was not just some ragamuffin Baathist. He actually was a hardcore general in the Iraqi military during the Iran-Iraq War, and he was a secular Baathist.
“Why is he fighting with ISIS? Well, when Bush decided to invade Iraq … when Paul Bremer was put in charge of the occupation of Iraq, one of the first things he did was to fire 250,000 Iraqi soldiers simply because they were members of the Baath Party. As one senior US official at the time said, it was the day we made a quarter of a million enemies in Iraq. All of these Baathists have been jerked around by the United States.”
Going out on a limb, one might be so bold as to argue that groups like ISIS are created through the exact combination of factors the Iraqi people have experienced. Perhaps the firing of hundreds of thousands of former servicemen and the torturous and humiliating experiences of thousands of prisoners could have been avoided.
In 2014, the Washington Post reported on the ways Camp Bucca enabled terror groups to grow:
“According to former prison commanders, analysts and soldiers, Camp Bucca provided a unique setting for both prisoner radicalization and inmate collaboration — and was formative in the development of today’s most potent jihadist force.”
As Mitchell Gray, a former guard at Camp Bucca, recounted:
“You never see hatred on the faces of Americans like you saw on the faces of these detainees. When I say they hated us, I mean they looked like they would have killed us in a heartbeat if given the chance. I turned to the warrant officer I was with and I said, ‘If they could, they would rip our heads off and drink our blood.’ ”
But don’t they hate us for our freedoms — not our actions? They hate us for who we are, not what we do, right?
If you need proof U.S. foreign policy has created a breeding ground for radical groups like ISIS, look no further than the former product of Western terrorism himself, Osama bin Laden:
“Contrary to what [President George W.] Bush says and claims — that we hate freedom — let him tell us then, ‘Why did we not attack Sweden?’”
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