Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Palestinian Chair

In its ceaseless campaign to wipe Palestine and Palestinians off the map, Israel has devised (and field-tested) many a fiendish device. One of these, if not already in use in your country's dungeons, could well be on your president/ prime minister/ king/ dictator's wish list as we speak. Meet the Palestinian chair:

"As a former interrogator in Iraq working as a military contractor for the private security firm CACI, Eric Fair was stationed at the Abu Ghraib prison and in Fallujah in 2004. While in Fallujah, he witnessed a torture device known as the Palestinian chair. He writes in his new book, Consequence: A Memoir, that the chair was a way to immobilize prisoners in order to break them down both physically and mentally. He also wrote that the Israeli military taught them how to use the Palestinian chair during a joint training exercise...

Amy Goodman: This is Democracy Now!,, The War & Peace report. I'm Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh. Our guest is Eric Fair, an Army veteran who worked as a contract interrogator at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq as well as other places. He's the author of the new book, Consequences: A Memoir. You've said that what happened outside Abu Ghraib, what contractors did, in terms of torture, was often worse than inside Abu Ghraib.

Eric Fair: That was certainly my experience. And again, I'm focusing on my own sort of behavior, my own sort of actions. So, for me, yes, personally, Fallujah was worse than Abu Ghraib.

Amy Goodman: So, why don't you read for us from your book, Consequence?

Eric Fair: We pass by the interrogation room where Tyner has been working on Raad Hussein. We haven't heard Tyner scream or throw anything today. The door to the room, a flimsy sheet of plywood, has blown open in the hot desert wind. Inside, Raad Hussein is bound to the Palestinian chair. His hands are tied to his ankles. The chair forces him to lean forward in a crouch, forcing all of his weight onto his thighs. It's as if he's been trapped in the act of kneeling down to pray, his knees frozen just above the floor, his arms pinned below his legs. He is blindfolded. His head has collapsed into his chest. He wheezes and gasps for air. There is a pool of urine at his feet. He moans: too tired to cry, but in too much pain to remain silent. 'Henson comes out into the hallway and walks past the room. He covers the side of his face as he walks by and says, 'I don't even want to know.' I am silent. This is a sin. I know it as soon as I see it. There will be no atonement for it. In the coming years, I won't have the audacity to seek it. Witnessing a man being tortured in the Palestinian chair requires the witness to either seek justice or cover his face. Like Henson in Fallujah, I'll spend the rest of my life covering my face.

Amy Goodman: Why did they call it the Palestinian chair?

Eric Fair: I was never clear on the actual origin. The rumors within the interrogation cell were that Army interrogators had learned to use this chair by Israeli interrogators, and the Israeli interrogators presumably called it the Palestinian chair because they were torturing Palestinians in it. I certainly don't know if that's true. And quite frankly, for my own story, I am not sure that it necessarily matters.

Nermeen Shaikh: Well, in the book, you write that interrogators in Iraq said the Israeli military taught them how to use the Palestinian chair during a joint training exercise. In response to this revelation in your book, Sarah Lee Whitson of Human Rights Watch said, quote, 'The description by an American interrogator of a 'Palestinian chair' torture device that he says the Israeli military taught US soldiers how to use is disturbing and shameful on more than one level, suggesting as it does a means of torture used against Palestinian detainees eagerly copied by Americans seeking to interrogate and torture Iraqis... You also sat in the Palestinian chair. Could you talk about what that experience was like?

Eric Fair: I did. I mean, recognizing that there was an actual device that we were using in interrogation was - I was surprised by that. And so a close friend of mine and I made sure that we - I think we at one point had been tempted to use it. I did not use the chair. And that's not to suggest that I wouldn't, if I had stayed longer. But we thought that if we were going to use it, we should sit in it, and we should get a sense of what it was. And so we strapped each other in. And it locks you into what is essentially a squat, a permanent squat, from which you can't recover. We only lasted about a minute...

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