By Mansoureh Tajik for the Saker Blog
The United States of America and its European posse regularly make allegations of human rights abuses against any nation that opposes their policies in the world, resists their aggressive rules, and creates obstacles to their hegemony. In atrocities committed against humans and their rights in real and tangible ways, however, said horde is not only an avant-garde of convoluted methods but also a seasoned practitioner of their own crafts.
A real challenge for the US/West, nevertheless, arises when there is indisputable evidence of a clear disconnect between beautiful speeches they deliver on the subject of human rights and atrocious deeds they exact upon humans and their rights anywhere on the planet where they are allowed to do so. With every use, this tool gets dull rendering it ineffective though.
The jig was up for a lot of people decades ago. As Ayatullah Khamenei, the Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Islamic Revolution reminds us time and again, these shameful entities are nothing but savages and vicious wolves dressed like gentlemen with iron fists wrapped in velvet gloves. As part of an address to a group of Revolutionary Guard Commanders a while back, he described how human rights, as defined and implemented by the US and the West, had touched the lives of so many in the world, including himself and many other Iranians. He said,
“The attractive world the Westerners illustrate – in which human rights and freedom of choice exist – we have experienced that in our own lives during Pahlavi period. We understood the meaning of democracy and human rights in those days. [The US] Americans themselves collaborated with Pahlavi Regime in establishing horrific torture chambers that used torture devices and methods to capture our young people and crush our nation! This is that liberal democracy they are promising the world and their radios advertise to the people of the Third World inviting them to rush to it! They say these things to us, too. We have experimented and experienced this in our own lives. It is not something unfamiliar to us! We have personally touched the dark dictatorial rule of Pahlavi from whose claws blood dripped, from whose entire fabric corruption oozed; all these under the protective umbrella of [the US of] America, with the help of [the US of] America, with reliance on [the US of] America, it repeated these crimes and we literally touched them! These sorts of events are not unfamiliar to us. We saw [the US] American human rights right here in the corners of prison cells and in torture chambers and we felt them with our own meat and skin. Would our people forget these things?!”
Ayatullah Khamenei experienced, firsthand and for years, the torture chambers of then SAVAK (the information and security apparatus of Shah), the entity that had been established by the CIA. SAVAK enjoyed immensely the patronage of the US/West in all its torture endeavors. These first-hand experiences occurred decades before Abu Ghraib photos were released. At that time, the true nature of the US/West’s illiberal inhumanity had not been yet transparently exposed to many in the world.
To address a very real challenge the US/West was facing in terms of human rights manure it was feeding the world and its own actual conduct in that arena, after decades of thinking, experimenting, and grappling with various solutions, the US/West found its Eureka moment. Finally, it came up with a state-of-the-art and well-crafted solution that has been operationalized since: Triple “F”, or F3 for First, Fast, and Forceful. That is, in every situation, to be the first to get its narrative across, to be fast in doing so, and to be forceful in drilling its talking points through every channel it gets.
A segment titled, “Controlling the Strategic Narrative,” from a US Army operational manual dispensed from Fort Benning, reads [with no emphasis]:
“With the instantaneous nature of global communications via ICT, the importance of rapid and credible perception management is growing at an exponential rate. In the past, if an event could not be hidden from sight, the actors involved could reveal information slowly and in the manner of their choosing. With mounting transparency and actor empowerment, it is no longer the party that explains his case best that wins the argument, but the one who explains it first. The ability to decide on a narrative and get it out into public view in a timely fashion is paramount: the first narrative presented is seen as authoritative, and those holding other views are automatically put in defensive mode—they must hope to persuade their intended audience of the correctness of their view and the wrongness of the other, whereas the holders of the first narrative have no such difficulties. This has strong implications for both the political and military variables, as modern governments and militaries are usually constrained by some form of approval chain that limits their ability to rapidly respond to events, whereas their opponents have no such constraints.”
Trillions of dollars in allocated funds, ever-increasing budgets for an already expensive military and this is the solution the exceptional minds have produced. Anyone with a mediocre mind has understood that time has never been on the side of untruths and half-truths. No matter how fresh and steamy false narratives and manures look at the start, no matter how fast and forcefully you churn them out and try to beat others to the punch, they rot and get noxious with every passing hour. Then, you just have to spend billions more to cover up your own foul smell and mask the stink of your own creation. Death spiral is what false narratives fall into.
The slow-paced, truth-telling nations with the right narrative have to just watch you squirm your way through all media and outwait you. And, “God is with those who patiently wait.”
Mohammad Bolandian is an Iranian man who waited 19 years to tell his story. He was kept as a prisoner in Abu Gharib torture cells by the US army for a year and then sent to a tent camp outside of the building for a few more months without any trial before he was let go.
An IRIB television channel, Chanel 2, conducted and broadcast a short interview with Mr. Bolandian this week. He is now 42 years old. He explained that he is speaking now so that he can expose the human rights model of the civilized West and the United States of America. The fact that he is giving such vivid details and explanations about these very difficult episodes of his life in a public interview is quite unusual in our culture. Nevertheless, I have transcribed and translated for you segments of this interview which is in Farsi.
For specific reasons, I have translated the segments just as he is describing them and have taken momentary screenshots from the interview for the images and clipped out portions of shots. However, you could skip through the details of his explanation or the images if you are more comfortable doing so. You could access the actual interview in Farsi here.
Mr. Bolandian began his journey from the city of Qom on a pilgrimage to Karbala on 13 of Rajab, year 1382 (Solar Hijri calendar, or 1424 Lunar calendar.), which would be exactly on September 10, 2003, about 6 months after the collapse of Saddam’s regime. At that time, Iraq was under US American and British control.
Mohammad Bolandian: “I spent about 16-17 days in Karbala. I then went to Kazimayn for 2 to 3 days. [Note: Tombs and shrines of Imam Hussain and Hazrat Abbas are in Karbala; Tombs and shrines of Imam Musa Kazim and Imam Javad, seventh and ninth Imam of Shi’a Twelve-Imami are in Kazimayn]. At night, they had curfews. That evening around sunset, since the hotel did not serve any food, I went to a restaurant across the street from the hotel to get some food. I ate my food and heard the sounds of shootings. The fellow there, as soon as he heard the sounds of shootings, he hurriedly said something which meant don’t go! Don’t go!… I thought he was saying hurry up and leave! So, I rushed out of the restaurant!”
That is when Mr. Bolandian gets arrested by some Iraqi soldiers and shoved into a van and taken away.
Mohammad Bolandian: “They had taken us to Abu Ghraib prison. They took us in and got these wristbands and took our pictures. With all our identification information printed on the wrist band, they tied it around our wrists.” He shows his wristband:
Interviewer: “I couldn’t believe one of those truly bitter photos that are on the internet belonged to you! Is this you?”
Mohammad Bolandian: “This is me. They took off my clothes and put me in a solitary cell and they let loose the dogs on me. This first dog, this black dog, this is the first one they brought in. I, as soon as I came out, I just, from fear, I just was screaming. I was screaming that nothing would happen to me…”
Interviewer: “Is this you as well, with the two dogs in front?”
Mohammad Bolandian: “This is me, too. Their saliva was spraying all over me. As soon as I’d move a little, they’d order the dogs to attack me. This black dog took a bite out of my leg and left. But the other one had taken a bite and wasn’t letting go.”
Interviewer: “And the American soldiers?”
Mohammad Bolandian: “They were just standing there. Quite casually.”
Interviewer: “What is this picture?”
Mohammad Bolandian: “After the dogs bit me, then, well, I just became weak with no energy and collapsed unconscious. If you notice in this picture, they again put their boot on my chest again. You can see the American’s boot. He put his boot there and then without injecting any anesthetics, without anything, they supposedly began to suture up the wound. This lady is suturing up my leg.”
Interviewer: “Is this the place the dog had bitten off?”
Mohammad Bolandian: [Nodding affirmative.] “This is what they are.”
Interviewer: “What is this scene?”
Mohammad Bolandian: “This is the scene when they were turning me over on my chest…This one was really tragic. He told me from that distance to, like about four, five meter to crawl on my chest. And he himself put two boots on my chest and said, ‘You must crawl on your chest into your cell.”
Interviewer: “What were they telling you? What were they telling you about your crime? What did they say your crime was? What did the Americans allege against you? What were they saying?”
Mohammad Bolandian: “This is it:”
Interviewer: “What is this?”
Mohammad Bolandian: “This is supposedly the charge they brought against me.”
Interviewer: “They are saying you attacked the American forces.”
Mohammad Bolandian: “Yes, says that I attacked the American military force. There was also another piece of paper. They had written there that I had caused the explosion in Hotel Baghdad. When they were saying this, I was saying, “baba, I was in jail that day. They would just mock me.”
Interviewer: “That means, with nonsense allegation. An allegation they just wrote here. And these are the things they did to you?”
Mohammad Bolandian: “We had to stand like this bent for so long that…”
Interviewer: “They have covered your head…”
Mohammad Bolandian: “They had these empty sacks they would put over our head and it had a string or an elastic band. They would bring those and put them over our head…”
Interviewer: “They would keep those over your head for how long?!”
Mohammad Bolandian: “They would keep those over our head for such a long time that our hands and legs would lose their senses and we would fall. Again, they would hit us and we had to do it again. This was, for instance, one of their tortures. Or, if they were in a good mood and they liked to pleasure themselves, they would do this artificial drowning thing. They would put a towel over our face and would pour water non-stop over the face. When they were pouring the water, every minute you feel you are drowning that minute. You feel you are choking.”
Interviewer: “They did all these to you?”
Mohammad Bolandian: “When it was finished here, we went to a camp where they gave us a tent. It became a new misery.”
Interviewer: “In the camps? What would they do?”
Mohammad Bolandian: “Every time they saw it got crowded, the crowd is too much, they would shell it. Anyone who was there would turn into pieces…”
Interviewer: “They would kill people?!”
Mohammad Bolandian: “They did. In every camp once or twice they would shell…there were these three American women that I will never forget…They would, from the bottom of their hearts, May God be my Witness, they would laugh… as if they were enjoying this immensely. This atmosphere they were seeing… And they would give us plastic bags so that we ourselves collect the [human] meats… we would collect them and put them into plastic bags and give them to those gentlemen. Still, at nights, I don’t say I’m seeing nightmares but suddenly with a feeling of high anxiety, I wake up.”
Mohammad Bolandian: “I have come in front of the camera not to play a victim. Nor would I want to say I was jailed and the things the Americans do to me, nor do. I don’t wish to do any maneuvering and I am not connected to any place or any establishment. I am just a regular ordinary person in my country. I have come before a camera to just say to the people, to the young people, to those around our age group who may see America and think it is this polished thing. They claim they are the flag bearers of human rights in societies all over the world. Let people know…”
Mohammad Bolandian: “… I am really an injured person by the Americans. I have lost 20 years of my life…”
Interviewer: “Agha Muhammad, how did you get free from them?”
Mohammad Bolandian: “They concluded that… ‘we have taken this fellow. We have put him through all these tortures…whatever we did so that he would die, he didn’t….he didn’t die…why should we keep him now,…for what? They came one day and read my number…they said 152678…this is how I came back…”
Interviewer: “You came back. Thank God. Any last words? Do you have anything else to add?”
Mohammad Bolandian: “These photos are describing American Human Rights. Go and research each and every one of them and see for yourself that this is the human right that America has had for us. They have had this in Afghanistan. They have had this in Iraq. They have had that in Guantanamo. And let them see for themselves that if the utopia is there and those dear ones in our own country we have who are dual citizens and they go to America and return and they really love America, let them see these sides of things, too. At the least, they should know they had a fellow countryman that America did this to him. Take these pictures to them, show them say, “Sir, take a look, this is how it is. This is your human rights.”
Interviewer: “I pray to God, Inshallah, He grants you peace in your heart.”
Mohammad Bolandian: “Inshallah.”
Interviewer: “So that this stress goes out of your heart so that you could continue your life more comfortably and with peace.”
Mohammad Bolandian: “Inshallah.”
This interview did not appear to be a very easy interview for Mr. Bolandian to do. He also explained some of the psycho-social difficulties he and his family had to endure because of the aftereffects of those Abu Ghraib experiences. I can only pray to God and wish him and his family peace and serenity of heart, and justice in just courts of this world (when such courts materialize soon) and on the Day of Judgment, Inshallah.
It is instructive to explore the lenses through which the other side viewed the events. Sgt. Joseph Darby of the US military was one of the whistleblowers about the events of Abu Ghraib. National Public Radio (NPR) conducted an interview with him on August 15, 2006, about these occurrences. In that interview, Mr. Darby explained:
“The compound had a main prison, which was two stories high, a series of smaller prisons, an administrative building, and a small building called the Death Chamber. That’s where Saddam used to torture his prisoners. There was a room with ceramic tile on the walls, floor, and ceiling so the blood would come off easily. Outside, there was a tent camp. That’s where we housed the prisoners who’d committed normal crimes. Some of them were really minor offenses that would only get a two-month sentence, but they might be housed for three years while they waited for trial. The system was that backed up. As long as the mortars landed on a building, it wasn’t a big deal — they weren’t powerful enough to pierce the roof. But if one landed in the yard or in the tent camp, it could do a lot of damage.”
Somehow it appears Mr. Darby was trying to whitewash things. He suggested the tent camps would get crowded due to some backlog of cases before trial as if there were any trials at all. In addition, the mortars, he suggested, were landing accidentally inside the camp and over the tents, by some attackers, I suppose. This is contradicted by Mr. Bolandian’s account of things.
Firstly, they tortured him before any trial and before sending him to the tent camp. They sent him to the tent camp after had tortured him, without any trials, for a year in solitary cells. Secondly, the shelling of the tent camp seems to have been rather calculated and on purpose to “de-populate” a crowded camp, as Mr. Bolandian explained.
Mr. Darby further stated in his interview with NPR that:
“Another time, they dropped one in the middle of a prisoner prayer group. That was pretty bad. These guys had just been sitting in rows, facing Mecca and praying, when the mortar came in. We had fifteen to sixteen dead and a bunch more wounded. We had to dig through the bodies, put them in body bags, and take them to the processing area to check them out of the prison. Whenever a prisoner was brought in, we would ID them with a retina scan and fingerprints, so when they died, we had to process them out the same way. Which meant that, for the rest of the day, we were digging through body bags looking for eyeballs. Sometimes there wasn’t an eyeball we could use, so we’d look for a finger. You just had to tune it out. You couldn’t let it get to you. You got numb.”[Ibid]
Here again, according to Mr. Bolandian, the prisoners who had survived would be handed plastic bags to collect the remains of those killed. Perhaps the US Americans would rummage through the remains and collect the eyeballs and fingers first and then hand the plastic bags to the surviving prisoners to collect the rest of the body pieces.
In one part, the torturers and the tortured appear to share similar experiences later on in life, albeit on a completely different set of trajectories in life. Mr. Darby had said in his interview:
“But it catches up to you later, when you get home. Like, I slept fine while I was there, but now I have nightmares. And a few days before my unit left Abu Ghraib, all of a sudden people started worrying about mortar attacks for the first time. It was weird. They’d be huddling against the wall together. I found myself crouched in a corner, praying. The numbness was wearing off. That’s one of the things you have to keep in mind when you look at the pictures. We all got numb in different ways.”[Ibid]
Engaging in heinous crimes and nefarious deeds are just other ways of getting numb. Surely, we should not judge them since it is only a different way the defense mechanisms of these outstanding men and women in uniform of the United States of America’s military were working:
“You’ve probably seen pictures of that prisoner with Graner and Harman crouching next to his dead body, giving the thumbs-up. Well, that’s the guy. Everybody takes that picture at face value, but the truth is, Graner and Harman didn’t kill him. And when something like that happens, it stretches the limits. Maybe Graner and Harman came away thinking, Okay, let’s take it further.”[Ibid]
Donald Rumsfeld, May God make his grave quite uncomfortable for him, was the US Secretary of Offense [spelling is correct] at that time. That is, he was Graner, Harman, and Darby’s big boss. He, too, dissected those infamous occurrences very eloquently and in a very thoughtful manner during his testimony before the House Armed Services Committee on May 7, 2004. He nailed the real problem:
“It’s an enormously difficult question, Congressman. As I indicated in my remarks, we are constantly finding that we have procedures and habits that have evolved over the years from the last century that don’t really fit the 21st century. They don’t fit the Information Age. They don’t fit a time when people are running around with digital cameras. Second, with 24-hour news and digital cameras, something like this can have an impact that is just enormous.”
So, the problem was not all those criminal and illegal acts materialized by an illegal and criminal war. The problem was with those “damn digital cameras!” Mr. Rumsfeld, you wretched food for worms, why could you not have realized when you were alive that before the Information Age, before all the digital cameras, before the 24-hour news, and after all these gadgets are long gone, too, God is always watching?
The farce cannot be completed without taking a peek at another segment of Rumsfeld’s rich testimony:
Mr. Chairman, that’s why this hearing today is important and it’s why the actions we take in the days and weeks ahead are so important, because however terrible the setback, this also is an occasion to demonstrate to the world the difference between those who believe in democracy and in human rights and those who believe in rule by terrorism. We value human life. We believe in individual freedom and in the rule of law. And for those beliefs, we send men and women in the armed forces abroad to protect that right for our own people and to give millions of others who aren’t Americans the hope of future freedom.[Ibid]
I began the essay with a quote from the Leader of the Islamic Revolution and I wish to seal the essay with another quote from him. Perhaps, there would be a blessing for all of us in this. To a crowd of pilgrims to Imam Reza’s shrine more than a decade ago, the Leader said:
“Today, [US] America is hated and isolated in the world’s public opinion. Their slogans, too, do not have the color and gloss in people’s eyes and no one believes them. Who believes that the US regime is a defender of human rights and democracy? [US] American human rights! Since Shahrivar 1380 event of twin towers in New York, the United States’ government has investigated 32 million people inside the [US] America itself! Thirty two million people! This is based on their own statistics. They have eavesdropped and controlled people’s calls. They have tortured people inside their prisons. In their congress, they passed a law against torture but the current president of [the US] America vetoed it! Rejected it! That means, torture is not forbidden! Do these people even have a clue what the meaning of human rights is?! [The US] America now has nearly 200 secrete detention centers all over the world several of which are in Europe. The Europeans for whom human rights trips off their tongues so easily and in every direction they go, and they constantly bring up the subject of human rights and say, ‘we are committed to human rights!’ Is this the human rights you are talking about?”
 Ayatullah Khamenei, “Speech in a visit of a group of Revolutionary Guard Commanders.” Shahrivar 24, 1381 (September 15, 2002). Accessed online at: https://khl.ink/f/3143
 Fort Benning US Army. “Operational Environment to 2028: The Strategic Environment for Unified Land Operations,” August 20, 2021, Training and Doctrine Command (TRACOC)-G2. Accessed online at https://www.benning.army.mil
 Michele Norris, “Abu Ghraib Whistleblower Speaks Out.” All Things Considered, National Public Radio (NPR), August 15, 2006. Accessed online at: https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5651609
 “Testimony by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld before the House Armed Services Committee, May 7, 2004. Accessed online at: https://www.ruhr-uni-bochum.de/gna/Quellensammlung/13/13_testimonybysecretaryofdefense_2004.htm
 Ayatullah Khamenei, “Speech to a group of pilgrims to Haram Muttahar Razavi,” Farvardin 1, 1387 (March 20, 2008). Accessed online at: https://khl.ink/f/3424