ALLAH’S FOOL — A One-Act Play*

By Pat McGeever

Setting: Baghdad
 
Time: Present, with flashbacks

A minimal set may be used.  At least two sections of the stage can be illuminated separately.  A back wall or screen will be used for projecting words and images.

Characters
SHANDRA RAMADI — late fifties, Iraqi, passionate and excitable, wears traditional dress and headdress
DR. ALI RAMADI SHINAN — Shandra’s husband, about sixty, Iraqi, dignified, reserved, wears professional Western dress and glasses with very thick lenses
BEN DAGLEISH [pron: DOG-leash] — about forty, American, smart-mouthed, likeable, can-do kind of guy, dresses in office-casual
CARL [O.S. throughout]*
DR. AMY FRIEDMAN — about 40, a military doctor, intense, dedicated, complex, wears hospital scrubs
DR. JUDY LEVINE — about 30, also a military doctor, with a novice’s enthusiasm, usually wears hospital scrubs
BBC REPORTER*
NAVAL SEAL*
U.S. MARINE SERGEANT*
*These characters can all be played by the same actor.

Prologue

Lights up. The actors stand downstage in a single row facing the audience.  They read the following quotations and authors’ names.

BEN
“I’m not going to address the ‘torture’ word.” –- Donald Rumsfeld

JUDY
“The photographs are us.”Susan Sontag
 
REPORTER, etc.
“This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation.  And we’re going to ruin people’s lives over it?  And we’re going to hamper our military effort?  And then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time?”Rush Limbaugh

ALI
[Torture is] “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession… No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”1984 Convention Against Torture, signed by the United States

AMY
“These prisoners, you know they’re not there for traffic violations.  If they’re in cellblock 1-A or 1-B, these prisoners, they’re murderers, they’re terrorists, they’re insurgents.  Many of them probably have American blood on their hands, and here we’re so concerned about the treatment of those individuals.”Sen. James Inhofe, Senate Armed Services Committee

SHANDRA
This is torture’s true purpose: to terrorize—not only the people in Guantánamo’s cages and Syria’s isolation cells but also, and more important, the broader community that hears about these abuses.  Torture is a machine designed to break the will to resist—the individual prisoner’s will and the collective will. –- Naomi Klein

Scene 1

Four chairs in a neat row face the audience.  SHANDRA stands behind them.

SHANDRA
I was a mere slip of a girl when first I met Ali Ramadi Shinan.  He was not yet “Doctor Ramadi,” but a student at a university far away.  My father, may Allah have mercy on his soul, was not about to commit his only daughter to a pre-arranged marriage.  He knew me better than that!  So Ali had to come to our house and meet me, face to face.  But of course an unsupervised encounter was utterly unthinkable.

From behind the second chair from Stage Left, SHANDRA takes a life-sized picture, from head to waist, of a dour-looking man in traditional Arab dress.  She places it on the chair, facing front.  She sits in the chair to Stage Left.

SHANDRA (CONT.)
My father was his usual dignified and impassive self.  But I could barely contain my excitement as we waited for my prince.  I couldn’t wait to feast my eyes on his noble countenance and bearing!

ALI enters Stage Right.  He wears Western dress and thick glasses.  He takes another picture of a dour-looking man in traditional Arab dress from behind the second chair from Stage Right and places it in the chair, facing front.  He sits in the chair to Stage Right. 

SHANDRA (CONT.)
Some prince!  Shy, dressed like a foreigner, and glasses thicker than my thumb. 

A silence ensues.  ALI coughs, blows his nose. 

SHANDRA (CONT.)
And with the sniffles!

ALI
[Clearing his throat, addressing SHANDRA’s father:]  Allah’s peace be upon this house.  I am Ali Ramadi Shinan.  May I introduce my father, Abdullah Ramadi Aziz.  It was most gracious of you, sir, to invite us to your home.

SHANDRA
[Leaning forward:]  Do you have a cold?

[ALI, confused, glances at her father and then his own (neither of whom responds), then at SHANDRA:] 

ALI
Ah, er, um…  Did you speak?

SHANDRA
Yes, I spoke.  I asked if you have a cold.

ALI
Sir, may I have permission to speak directly to your daughter?

SHANDRA
[In a deep voice:]  Permission granted!

ALI
Oh.  Um, yes.  Yes, I suppose I do.  Usually.  That is to say, with the cold and rainy climate at Cambridge, I often have a little catarrh in my throat…

SHANDRA
So it’s chronic.  What do they give you for it?

ALI
They?  [Beat.]  Well, you see, we study every imaginable illness, but, as far as…  Well, one wouldn’t go to the infirmary for a trifle like this.

SHANDRA
You live alone?

ALI
Alone.  Yes.

SHANDRA
Among infidels.  With no one to give you honey and lemon.  I will make you some, before you go.

ALI
You are most generous.  Generous and somewhat…forward.

SHANDRA
Do you find that objectionable?

ALI
Quite the contrary.  I like to see the inner strength of a woman shining forth.  But among Arab women it is not often apparent.

SHANDRA
Perhaps because among Arab men it is not often welcome.

ALI
Touché.

SHANDRA
In your cold, wet university, do you have a specialization?

ALI
Indeed I do.  It is the human eye, one of the great marvels of all Allah’s creation.  Do you realize that when a baby is first conceived within a woman, the cells that will eventually make up the eyes are undifferentiated from other cells around them?  But as the baby grows, they organize themselves to make two tiny cameras.  They can take in light from the world around them, and shape it to focus on objects nearby, like a mother’s face, or far away, like the stars of the heavens.

SHANDRA
So the baby’s eyes are twin miracles, to take in the other miracles of creation.

ALI
Yes!  Exactly.  Of course, not all eyes are equally powerful.  My own, for example, are terribly near-sighted.  They could not quite focus the light from the stars, or even from your face, which at the moment is quite distant.  Today, medical science is able to remedy such problems by placing additional lenses in front of the…

While ALI speaks, SHANDRA rises and walks toward him.  ALI rises, his voice trailing off.  SHANDRA stands quite close to ALI.

SHANDRA
There.  Can you see my face better now?

A long pause.

ALI
Much better, dear lady.  But there is a problem.

SHANDRA
Which is…?

ALI
My glasses are beginning to fog up!

SHANDRA
I must confess you are not quite what I expected.

ALI
You were expecting, perhaps, a prince?

SHANDRA
[Nods.]  Silly of me.  I am not a princess.

ALI
Now there I must disagree.  From this day forward, you will always be my princess.

ALI freezes in place.  SHANDRA turns and walks downstage.

SHANDRA
I fear we upset our elders that day.  But within the year we were man and wife.  Ali was always a frail man, but a strong and courageous one.  He rose within his profession of optometry to a prominent position in our nation.  He even became an undersecretary in the Ministry of Health.  We raised a large family and prospered in Allah’s grace.  But that seems like another world now, before Saddam Hussein and long before the Americans.

Lights down.

Scene 2

BEN
Hi.  I’m Ben, Ben Dagleish, civilian volunteer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  They recruited me to organize the cleanup at Ground Zero.  When we wrapped up there, I was ready to head to the tropics to soak up some rays.  Stupid me, I gave the guys in Washington my cell number.

His cell phone rings.

BEN (CONT.)
Ben Dagleish here.

VOICE (O.S.)
Yo, Ben, it’s me.

BEN
Hey, Carl, how’s it hangin’?

VOICE
Not bad.  Look, the President wants me to tell you how delighted he was with your work at Ground Zero.

BEN
Really?  The President himself?

VOICE
Absolutely.  The way you pulled all those volunteers and contractors together to shape the place up so quickly was nothing short of amazing.

BEN
The spirit there was terrific.  Everybody pitched in.

VOICE
Yeah, but everybody pitching in can be a prescription for disaster.  You’re the one who made it all happen, and everybody knows it.  [Pause.]  Which brings me to the purpose of my call.  The President needs you in Baghdad.

BEN
Baghdad?   You gotta be shittin’ me!  The troops’re still lightin’ the place up every night.

VOICE
But the minute the shooting’s over, we’re sending in top-echelon personnel to begin the reconstruction.  Paul Bremer will head up the Coalition Provisional Authority, and he’ll have a dozen people under him with specific portfolios.  We want you to be one of them.

BEN
Which portfolio?

VOICE
Ministry of Health.  We want you to get the hospitals up and running again.

BEN
Hospitals my ass!  They’ve all been looted and the doc’s are long gone. 

VOICE
We’re going to appoint you acting Minister of Health, as a civilian with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, just like at Ground Zero.  You’ll make the decisions, but the Army’ll be there to back them up.  Look, Ben, this is the perfect career move.

BEN
Career move?  Into the number one hell-hole on God’s earth?

VOICE
Understand this.  The President is a man who never forgets a friend.

BEN
Or an enemy?

VOICE
Your words, not mine.  Look, you pull this one off the way you did Ground Zero, and after we get reelected next year, you’ll be in line for an ambassadorship.  [Pause.]  Can we count you in, Ben?

BEN
Well, I sure as hell don’t want to piss off the President.

VOICE
Good boy.

BEN
I just wonder where I’m gonna find doctors in Baghdad.

Lights down.

Scene 3

A doctors’ office at Abu Ghraib Prison, Baghdad.  DR. AMY FRIEDMAN sits at the desk, writing. On the desk is a photo of the Manhattan skyline, including the Twin Towers.  AMY wears army fatigues, and a gold necklace with a Star of David.  DR. JUDY LEVINE enters.

JUDY
Thank God—air conditioning!

AMY
You Doctor Levine?

JUDY
Judy.  Baghdad’s a freaking sauna.

AMY
I’m Amy Friedman.

JUDY
Oh yeah, my mentor. [Shakes hands.]  Excuse my manners, I’m not real civil when my shorts are sticking to my butt.

AMY
That’s OK.  The heat you can adjust to.

JUDY looks around.  She picks up the picture from FRIEDMAN’s desk.

JUDY
You from New York?  [FRIEDMAN nods.]  Same here.  I’d forgotten what it looked like with the Twin Towers.

AMY
[With surprising vehemence.]   I’ll never forget!

There is an awkward pause.  JUDY gets close enough to AMY to see her necklace.

JUDY
Holy shit!  You wear that all the time?

AMY
What?

JUDY
The Star of David.

AMY
Why shouldn’t I?

JUDY
You’re dealing all day with Muslims.  I’d say it’s a shade… inflammatory?

AMY
I’m proud of who I am.  If the haji’s don’t like it, that’s their problem.

JUDY
I’m also proud of being a Jew, but … well, to each her own.

AMY
How’d you end up here, Judy?

JUDY
Army Reserve helped put me through med school, and I took some Arabic in undergrad.  How about yourself?

AMY
I volunteered.  Of course I didn’t realize what a hell-hole this was.

JUDY
The heat IS bad…

AMY
…but the hajis’ll kill ya. 

JUDY
Um, yeah.  You know, this used to be a beautiful part of the world.

AMY
What?

JUDY
Babylon was near here, one of the wonders of the ancient world.  Some scholars think the Garden of Eden was between the Tigris and Euphrates.

AMY
And just look what Saddam’s turned it into now.

JUDY
Yeah.  You know the Iraqi flag?

AMY
Not really.

JUDY
Stripes of red, white and black.  Red for sacrifice, white for purity.  Black for the dark past.

AMY
Well, they got that part right.  The present’s pretty grim too.

There is a long, loud scream.  JUDY jumps.

JUDY
Oh my god!  What was that?

AMY
An interrogation in progress next door. 

JUDY
Are they torturing him?

AMY
We don’t use the torture word around here.  That means the kind of pain resulting in organ failure or death.  That’s not what our guys do.

JUDY
What do “our guys” do?

AMY
They use professional interrogation techniques.

JUDY
Aha.  But that godawful scream…

AMY
If milder techniques don’t work, they can go to C.I.D. [She pauses expectantly, then continues.]   C.I.D. are cruel, inhuman or degrading treatments, that don’t cause organ failure or death.  Haven’t you read the manual yet?  It’s all spelled out.

JUDY
Somebody just handed it to me five minutes ago.

AMY
Make it a priority, doctor.  This war is different from what you read in the textbooks.  There are times you’ll listen to the haji’s scream.  You better find a way to deal with it.  Otherwise you go nuts.

Lights down.

Scene 4

Baghdad, the Ministry of Health.  BEN DAGLEISH, carrying a brief case, enters and stands alone.

BEN
Hello!  Is this the Ministry of Health?  Hello!

A small group of people gathers.

BEN (CONT.)
Hi.  I’m Ben Dagleish, civilian volunteer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  I’ve been sent by the Americans.

Long pause.  No response.

BEN (CONT.)
So, who’s in charge?

Some foot shuffling, but still no response.  BEN folds his arms, lets the silence drag on.

BEN (CONT.)
OK, who speaks English?  Who’s the most senior person in the room?

The group of people parts, leaving ALI in the middle.  ALI steps forward.

ALI
I am Doctor Ali Ramadi Shinan.  I suppose I am the most senior. 

BEN extends his hand.  They shake.  BEN reaches into his brief case, takes out a document, and hands it to ALI.

BEN
Nice to meet you, Dr. Ramadi.  I’ve been appointed acting head of the Ministry of Health, by the President.

ALI
President Hussein?

BEN
[Flabbergasted:]  Saddam Hussein?  Why…no.  I mean President Bush…

ALI
Of course, Mr. Dagleish.  I was merely having a little fun with you. 

BEN
Hey, you had me going for a minute, Ali.  May I call you Ali?

ALI
Of course.  You Americans are so informal.  Endearingly so. 

BEN
And I’m Ben.

They shake hands again, more warmly.

ALI
How may I be of assistance, Ben?

BEN
Get doctors and nurses back into the hospitals.  Bombing must’ve driven them out.

ALI
Before that it was the presidential family.  With them gone, I think I may be able to convince some people to return.

BEN
Terrific!  Presidential family?  You mean Saddam’s?

ALI
One time, Uday Hussein tried to commandeer the entire drug supply of Baghdad Hospital for a party he was having.  It was left to me to turn him down, to his face.

BEN
Sounds dangerous.

ALI
Dangerous enough.  But I had the advantage of having seniority in the Party.

BEN
WHAT?  You were a member of the Baathist Party?

ALI
I still am.  It was a prerequisite to advancing in any profession. 

BEN
Sweet Jesus.  If I tell the brass I’m doing business with a Baathist…  Look, would you be willing to renounce your membership?

ALI
They would kill me.

BEN
We’ll protect you.

ALI
Yes, the omnipotent U.S. military.  Which controls every square foot of the country.

BEN
OK, OK.  Ali, I need someone with some status.  Someone willing to take a risk.  Otherwise…

ALI
Otherwise my people will continue to die without medical attention.  Very well, Mr. Dagleish.  I shall write a letter resigning my membership in the party.

They shake hands, and embrace. 

Lights down.

Scene 5

ALI’S home.  Lights  up on ALI and SHANDRA.

SHANDRA
You did WHAT?  My dear husband, have you taken leave of your senses? 

ALI
I had to, Princess.  Otherwise I could not work with the Americans.

SHANDRA
The Americans are the invaders!  They are the occupiers!  They are not our friends!

ALI
Mr. Dagleish is my friend.  He calls me “Ali.”  I call him “Ben.”  It is the way with the Americans.

SHANDRA
The Americans are fools!  And only Allah knows what a great fool you are.

ALI
Surely He does.  But Allah gives his special protection to fools.  That is why I survived under Saddam, when so many others perished.

SHANDRA
Like Walid.  I know.  I never stop thinking about him.

ALI
Your brother is with Allah now.

SHANDRA
He was innocent!  The Baathists killed him for no reason.  Think what they will do to a traitor.

ALI
He was indeed innocent, but proud.  Too proud to humble himself before them in prison.

SHANDRA
What did you do when they put you in prison?

ALI
I don’t want to talk about that.

SHANDRA
You never have, all these years.  I am tired of being ignorant.  Ignorant and afraid.

ALI
[Long pause.]  It’s all over, now that the Americans are here.  It was merely a misunderstanding.

SHANDRA
A misunderstanding.

ALI
There were rumors of a plot against Uday.  Someone must have thought I was involved.

SHANDRA
What did they do to you at Abu Ghraib?

ALI
They asked me questions.

SHANDRA
For two weeks?  Who can ask so many questions?

ALI
Apparently you can.  You are my hardest interrogator.

SHANDRA
I am your wife!  I want to know.

ALI
Princess, there are some things that must remain unsaid.  I have learned that the price of survival is circumspection.

SHANDRA
You haven’t survived, not yet.  The Baathists are everywhere, and they are armed. As soon as they learn you’ve resigned from the party, they will come.  Here.  To our house. 

ALI
They have other fish to fry.  Policemen.  Soldiers.  The Americans themselves.

SHANDRA
They will kill you if you cooperate with the Americans.

ALI
It is…possible.

SHANDRA
Then why in the name of Allah are you doing it? 

ALI
Because I want the Americans to succeed.  Only they can bring peace to our land, and I believe this is what they want to do.  But to succeed they must have help.  We must get the hospitals open, or hundreds of our people will die every day.  Needlessly.

SHANDRA
So, instead, you will die.  Needlessly.  [Pause.]  Don’t think they’ll stop with you.  They will kill me, the children, the grandchildren.  They’ll take revenge on your cousins, on everyone connected to you.  They know who we are, where we live.

ALI
Princess, I must do what I am doing.  But I promise you this.  Whatever I can do to avoid antagonizing the Baathists, I will do.  I must walk a tightrope between them and the Americans, but I will walk it very carefully.

SHANDRA
[Sighs.]  I suppose there is no changing you.  [Long pause.]  This Mr. Dagleish, this “Ben.”  You really think he can be trusted?

ALI
Yes, I do.  He is an honorable man.  Naïve about some things, perhaps, but honorable.

Lights down.

Scene 6

Some weeks later.
Abu Ghraib, doctors’ office.

AMY and JUDY are catching up on paper work.

JUDY
What’s this? “B.S.C.T.”

AMY
That’s Biscuit.  Behavioral Science Consultation Team.  It’s usually headed up by one of our psychologists.

JUDY
OK, cool.  They want info on my patients.  What kind of info?

AMY
Anything that’ll help them plan interrogations.

JUDY
Pardon me?

AMY
Their job is to consult with the interrogators.

JUDY
With interrogators!  They’re going to tell interrogators what’s in the file?

AMY
Of course.  You can put in your own recommendations on how to proceed.

JUDY
Are you yanking my chain?  The only recommendation I’d make to those sadists is not to proceed at all. 

AMY
They’re not sadists.  They’re highly trained professionals.

JUDY
Well, I’m not helping them.

AMY
Doctor, our advice can make things better for everyone.  One detainee had a phobia about dogs.  I told Biscuit to just let him see an attack dog on his way in.  That’s all it took.

JUDY
Time out!  That’s confidential patient information.  Information you had as a doctor, a healer.

AMY
Information is the most important commodity on today’s battlefield.  We have to use it to exploit the enemy’s weaknesses when we can.

JUDY
Even by torturing him?

AMY
We’ve been over this before. It’s not torture.

JUDY
Waterboarding is not torture?  Sleep deprivation is not torture?  Solitary confinement and nudity?  That’s not what the Geneva Conventions say.

AMY
The Geneva Conventions don’t apply to these guys; they’re illegal combatants.

JUDY
Illegal combatants?  Who says?

AMY
Our Commander-in-Chief.

JUDY
Bush?  George W. Bush decides who has rights and who doesn’t?

AMY
Our procedures were approved at the White House.

JUDY
Screw the procedures.  Screw the White House.  I signed up to be a doctor.

AMY
But you’re also a soldier.  With a duty to help your buddies survive.  That means doing whatever it takes to get good intelligence out of detainees.

JUDY
Intelligence?  When you hurt people you don’t get intelligence.  Torture a man long enough, he’ll say whatever he thinks you want to hear.  The real purpose of torture is to break people.  Break their spirit. 

AMY
You want to talk about torture?  Under Saddam, they poured acid on people’s faces, they cut off hands and feet.  Executions were scheduled every Wednesday.  Right out there in the courtyard.  Every Wednesday!  It’s us against them, Doctor, and you’d better decide whose side you’re on!

Lights down.

Scene 7

A press conference at the Ministry of Health.

Lights up on a podium.  ALI and BEN walk towards it.  They are holding hands. 

BEN
Ladies and gentlemen of the press, welcome to our first press conference since the Liberation.  These are hard times, but here at the Ministry of Health we have been making progress toward a better tomorrow.  Most of the hospitals in Baghdad are now open, and our staffing improves day by day.  Much of the credit is due to my colleague and friend, Dr. Ali Ramadi Shinan.  Dr. Ramadi will read a detailed statement, and then take your questions.  Dr. Ramadi.

ALI stands behind the podium, and pantomimes reading a press release.  BEN stands off to one side, speaks to the audience.

BEN (CONT.)
Now don’t get the wrong idea.  About the hand-holding, I mean.  In that part of the world, it’s accepted that men are more physical in showing friendship than in the States.  And by then, Ali and I were certainly good friends.  [Pause.]  The press conference went very well: Ali handled himself superbly in Arabic and in English.  But there was one question we all knew was coming.  At the end, a reporter from the BBC stood up and asked it.

REPORTER
Dr. Ramadi, is it true that you are a member of the Baath Party?

ALI
No, it is not.  I have resigned my membership.

REPORTER
But have you denounced the party?  In public?

ALI
I have not.

REPORTER
Well, this is your opportunity.  Would you like to condemn the Baath Party right now?

Silence.

REPORTER (CONT.)
Doctor Ramadi?

ALI
No, I would not.

REPORTER
[Incredulous:]  You refuse to repudiate the party that has terrorized this country for a generation?  How can you, as a doctor, justify ever being a Baathist?

ALI
That is a very long story.  But to make it short, I was simply doing my job.

BEN throws up his hands in a gesture of despair.  He puts an arm around ALI’s shoulders as they walk away from the podium.

ALI (CONT.)
I am sorry if I failed you.  But had I denounced the party, the revenge on my family would have been merciless.

BEN
No, no, I understand, Ali.  I think even Paul Bremer will understand.  What they won’t understand is the line about “just doing my job.”

ALI
But that is the truth!  I was an optometrist and a deputy minister of health. I stayed away from the cruel side of the party.

BEN
I believe you, Ali.  But that’s the same statement the Nazis made after World War II. 

ALI
Ah.  I see.  So to the Western world I sounded …

BEN
Like the guys that ran the death camps. 

ALI
Truly I have failed you.  You who have been like a brother to me.

BEN
We are brothers, Ali. 

ALI
Tomorrow I shall send you my letter of resignation.

BEN
The public spotlight can be very cruel; I’m sorry I put you in it.

ALI
Ben, I wonder if I could presume upon your kindness to ask one final favor.

BEN
Anything, Ali.

ALI
Once I have left office, I wonder if I could continue, as an optometrist.

BEN
You still want to grind glasses?

ALI
I still want to feed my family.

ALI exits.

BEN
When he left, we both had tears in our eyes.  [Beat.]  Then Paul Bremer took over as head of the Coalition Provisional Authority. On May 16 he issued his de-Baathification order.  All high-level Baathists like Ali were out, period.  So were the lower-level ones, but some of them could appeal.  Essentially Bremer fired the entire civil service.  They also sent 400,000 soldiers home—with their guns, of course. 

That’s when the Insurgency got legs.  Occupations are inherently stupid.  Just how stupid, I didn’t know until I got a visit from one of our own military doctors.

JUDY
Are you aware that prisoners at Abu Ghraib are being tortured?

BEN
Good God, no.

JUDY
Yeah, with help from the doctors.

BEN
Doctors?  American doctors?

JUDY
They give confidential patient information to the interrogators.  When prisoners get injured or killed, they make up phony reports.  They…

BEN
Let me stop you before you go any further, Doctor.  Abu Ghraib isn’t in my jurisdiction.

JUDY
Right.  And the people who do have jurisdiction don’t care. 

BEN
What about the Red Cross?

JUDY
They’ve already written the place up, but their reports go straight in the trash.  If the Red Cross goes public, they lose their access to the prisoners.

BEN
What you need is…

JUDY
What I need is, somebody with some status, who’s willing to take a risk.

BEN
[Beat.]  And you think that’s me.

JUDY
I hope it’s you, because I’m about out of options here.  The word is you have connections in Washington.  I need someone to take my research directly to the top.

BEN
Your research?

JUDY
I’ve been digging through the files, making copies.

BEN
Can I see it?

JUDY
Can I trust you not to reveal the source?  Special Forces types are already monitoring my e-mails

BEN
OK.

JUDY
OK.

JUDY reaches into her briefcase and pulls out a thick file.  She hands it to BEN, who puts it on the desk.  They begin to page through it.  Behind them, images appear on the screen or wall, representing each case.

JUDY
This detainee’s hand was oozing pus from being tortured; they refused to treat it.  He was also bleeding from the ear, but the physician wouldn’t treat it in the clinic.

This guy had a torn rotator cuff in his shoulder, extremely painful. At the clinic they told him to keep the shoulder immobilized.  But they also told the interrogator, and he decided to hang the guy up by the shoulder.

This one had cuts and burns on his back from an interrogation.  The medic refused to treat him, and told a GI with no training to sew him up.

The family found this guy three months after he’d been brought here.  He was in a Baghdad hospital, comatose, three skull fractures, a severe thumb fracture, and burns on the bottom of his feet.  The American medical report said his coma was caused by a heat stroke; no mention of the injuries.

Here’s a detainee who was beaten, tied to the top of his cell door, and gagged.  He suffocated.  The death certificate said he’d died of natural causes…during his sleep.

This was Iraqi Major General Mowhoush.  Interrogators pushed his head into a sleeping bag and sat on his chest.  He suffocated too.  A surgeon stated he died of natural causes.1

BEN
This isn’t America.

JUDY
No.

BEN
This is truly awful.  I really wish there were something…

JUDY
But you know people in Washington.

BEN
I wouldn’t know them for long, if I started sending stuff like this.

JUDY
[Beat.]  Sorry to waste your time, Mr. Dagleish. 

JUDY picks up the folder and stands.

BEN
Wait.  Leave it.

JUDY
You sure?

BEN
I’ll see what I can do.

JUDY
You’re not gonna just deep-six it?

BEN
No.  This story’s got to get out.  Somehow.

JUDY puts the folder back on the desk, shakes BEN’s hand, and exits.

Immediately after her, a NAVAL SEAL enters.

SEAL
Good morning, sir.  I’m looking for an Ali Ramadi Shinan.  Our information says he works here.

BEN
What do the SEALS want with Dr. Ramadi?

SEAL
That’s confidential.

BEN
He doesn’t work here any more.

SEAL
No?  What’s his home address?

BEN
That’s confidential.

SEAL
[Awkward pause.]  Sir, I have orders to speak with Ramadi.  Urgent orders.

BEN
[Resting a hand on JUDY’s file:]   “Speak” with him in the sense of an interrogation?  Are your orders to arrest him, Lieutenant?

SEAL
Sir, I’m not at liberty…

BEN
No, I’m sure you’re not.  Nor am I.  I’m not at liberty to give you confidential information.

SEAL
[Pause.]  Then good day, sir.

SEAL exits.

BEN
Sure enough, within a week, I get a ringy-dingy from the White House.

BEN answers his cell phone.

CARL
[Furious:]  Ben, what the hell’s this I hear about you interfering with a commando operation over there?

BEN
This Seal barged into my office demanding personal information on one of my most trusted associates…

CARL
FORMER associate, I think you mean.  Ramadi was fired when it came out he was a Baathist, wasn’t he?

BEN
No, he resigned.  He’d already left the Baathist Party.

CARL
You mean you didn’t even have the guts to fire him?  Jesus, Ben, I’m beginning to think I was all wrong about you.  You knew he was a high-level Baathist, with inside information about Saddam.  Our guys need to talk to him, urgently.

BEN
Carl, they’re wrong about Ramadi.  He wasn’t political, at all.

CARL
That’s what they all say, now.

BEN
He’d never hurt anybody. 

CARL
He was a personal friend of Saddam Hussein.  Ate dinner with his family more than once.

BEN
Look, I know the man personally.

CARL
Yeah.  You raised some eyebrows back here, with your hand-holding.

BEN
Oh, come on!  You know the culture over here!

CARL
I don’t give a flying fuck if he was your little Baghdad bitch!  We need to talk to him, and you know where he lives.  [Beat.]  If you don’t give us the information, we’ll get it elsewhere.  It’s your future that’s at stake.  I told you, you can write your own ticket if you pull this job off.  But if the President starts thinking you’re not really a team player… well…

BEN
Can I have some time to…?

CARL
You’ve had it, Ben!  Right now or I’m hanging up.  Where does Ramadi live?

BEN
[Long pause.]  OK.  It’s on Mohammed Street near the Sunni mosque.  There’s an optometrist’s sign out in front.

CARL
Welcome back, Ben.  Welcome back to the winning team. 

BEN hangs up.

BEN
After I hung up, I tried to call Ali to give him a heads-up.  But his phone had been disconnected.

Scene 8

SHANDRA
Allah’s fool.  That was my husband.  He trusted the American, who dismissed him when he became inconvenient.  He practiced optometry for a while at our home, but after the de-Baathification order our telephone was disconnected and customers stopped coming.  To eat, we had to beg from family and friends.  And every night, we waited for the knock at the door.  We thought the Insurgents would come for revenge.  But as it turned out…

Loud knocking and searchlights.  The NAVAL SEAL reads from a clipboard as SHANDRA and ALI wait in the darkness.

SEAL
Ali Ramadi!  Ali Ramadi, come out!  You have 10 seconds.  [Beat.]  Then we start shooting.

ALI steps into the searchlight wearing pajamas, and speaks calmly.

ALI
I am Doctor Ramadi.  What do you want?

SEAL
We want you, Ramadi.

ALI
There is no God but Allah.  Leave my family alone, and I will come with you.

SEAL
Put your hands out.

ALI
Please.  Our neighbors are watching.  Can we dispense with the handcuffs?

Incensed, the SEAL pushes ALI to the ground.

SEAL
No more lip from you, asshole.

ALI
Why are you doing this to me?

The SEAL kicks ALI.

SHANDRA
They broke four of his ribs that night.  Then they took him to a detention camp in Sadr City, not far from the hospital where he had worked.  He was in horrible condition when I saw him.  We believe he had a heart attack, perhaps more than one.  But I was able to visit him every day, and bring him his favorite soups.  Slowly, he began to recover.  He told me they had questioned him about the Insurgency, but of course he knew nothing.  He was certain they would release him soon.  But one day I came and he was gone.  Officially, no one knew where he was.  But I had made friends with one Iraqi guard, and he told me Ali had been transferred.  “Where?” I asked.  His answer made my blood run cold.

Light up on ALI and a Marine SERGEANT

SERGEANT
Welcome to Abu Ghraib, Ali Baba.

ALI
Abu Ghraib.  I am in luck.

SERGEANT
In luck?  Right!  The place they had you before was a five-star hotel.  This is the real deal.

ALI
You have medical facilities here.  I must see a doctor.

SERGEANT
You “must,” huh?  Well, now you may have trouble seeing anything. 

SERGEANT removes ALI’s glasses, drops them to the floor, and mashes them underfoot.  Lights down. 

Scene 9

Abu Ghraib doctors’ office.  JUDY LEVINE is sitting and writing.  AMY FRIEDMAN enters.

AMY
Well, I’m out of here at oh-five hundred hours tomorrow.  Direct flight to Germany.

JUDY
Congratulations.  Will you be getting some time with your family?

AMY
I don’t have much family any more.  I live alone and my parents died some time back.

JUDY
Well.  Germany should be nice.

AMY
Compared to here, anywhere would be nice.  [Beat.]  Any questions before I go?

JUDY
No, I think I’m all set.

AMY
Good, then.

JUDY
Yeah, good.

A loud yelling Off Stage

SEAL
Medic!  Medic needed, right away!

SEAL enters, dragging ALI, who is unconscious.  JUDY confronts the SEAL.

JUDY
What do you think you’re doing?

SEAL
Oh no, not you.  Where’s Dr. Friedman?

JUDY
Get used to it Lieutenant.  She leaves tomorrow.

AMY
[Stepping forward into the SEAL’s view:]  What’s happening?

SEAL
All right!  Little Saddam here passed out on us.  Need you to wake him up, so we…

JUDY
Lieutenant, I’m on duty this evening.  I’ll examine him

JUDY works on ALI.  At length he begins to moan and sits up.  She checks his vital signs and physical condition.

SEAL
OK, good enough.  I’ll take it from here.

JUDY
I’m sorry; this man’s in no condition for further interrogation.  He’ll have to go to the clinic in the morning.

SEAL
I say he’s faking.  We were just starting to get somewhere with him, when he hit the deck.  We gotta push him, now.

JUDY
I said no, Lieutenant.

SEAL
Which one of you has rank?

JUDY
We’re both captains.

AMY
I have more seniority, Lieutenant. 

SEAL
OK, I’m asking you.  I need to question this sand nigger tonight.

JUDY
This is ridiculous.  The man is old and frail and he has fresh contusions on his ribs.

AMY
Dr. Levine, the officer has a job to finish.  This man’s life is obviously not in danger, so we have no business interfering.  Proceed, Lieutenant.

The SEAL half-pushes, half-drags ALI away.

SEAL
Thanks, Doc.  At least I know whose side you’re on.  [Exits.]

JUDY
Why in God’s name did you do that?  They’re torturing that old man.

AMY
The Seals are on to you, Judy.  They know you’ve been snooping around trying to get them in trouble.

JUDY
Thanks.  I can take care of myself.

AMY
You think so?  Seals can become very hostile when someone interferes with their mission.

JUDY
Well, my mission is to take care of my patients.

AMY
We’re not dealing with patients here.  We’re dealing with animals.  Very cunning animals.  The kind who brought the towers down. 

JUDY
Now you sound like a Nazi.

AMY
How dare you!!  The Nazis were murderers. 

JUDY
Only after they convinced themselves that Jews were animals.  Very cunning animals.  I don’t understand you, Amy.  At all. 

AMY
Why is it so hard to understand I hate this place?  I hate everything about it!  The heat.  The sand.  The ugliness.  The people.  Their vile religion.  I hate that I came here at all.

JUDY
You volunteered.  

AMY
[Pause.]  Yeah.  To pay them back for September 11.

JUDY
You know the Iraqis had nothing to do with 9-11.

AMY
I don’t care!  They’re all the same.  They’re all terrorists.

JUDY
Oh, come on, now.  You’re an educated person.  A doctor.  A Jew.

AMY
A woman.  And the only man I’ve ever loved is dead just because he went to work the day these rag-heads decided to fly a plane into his building to make some stupid point about their shitty lives.  So fuck them.  Fuck every last one.  I had to listen to my husband die, on voicemail.  And someone’s gonna pay.  You think I should care if somebody roughs up a prisoner or two?  Please.

JUDY
Oh my God, Amy.  Oh my God.  I didn’t know.

AMY
I feel nothing for these people.  Sometimes I hate them, but usually it’s just nothing.

AMY exits.
Lights down.

Scene 10

SHANDRA
This time it was several months before I had any word of my husband.  I began making the rounds of Baghdad hospitals and morgues, but always the answer was no.  Finally I went to see the American and told him my story.

BEN
Mrs. Ramadi, this is terrible.  I knew de-Baathification was going to be rough, but I had no idea something like this could happen.  Not to Ali.

SHANDRA
No idea.

BEN
Of course not.  [Pause.]  Tell you what.  Let me make some calls and see what I can find.  I’ll get back to you.

SHANDRA
Thank you, Mr. Dagleish.

BEN
Please.  Call me Ben.

SHANDRA
I think not, Mr. Dagleish.  I don’t know you well enough, not yet.  But my husband said you were a man of honor.

BEN
[Beat.]  I’m going to get to the bottom of this.

BEN exits.

SHANDRA
Well, he investigated.  He learned that my husband was no longer at Abu Ghraib.  But they had no record of where he was.  We feared he was dead.  But after several more weeks, Mr. Dagleish called me again.

BEN
I have news.  On the positive side, Ali is alive.

SHANDRA
Allah be praised!

BEN
But his condition is touch-and-go.  Two skull fractures and he’s in and out of a coma.  He keeps having heart attacks.

SHANDRA
Two skull fractures?!  Who could do such a thing to that poor sweet man?  Where is he?

BEN
Sadr City Hospital.

SHANDRA
WHAT?  His own hospital?  Just yesterday they said he was not there.

BEN
They had their orders.  But I told them to let you in.

SHANDRA
I could scarcely believe my eyes when I saw him.  He had aged twenty years.  His head bundled in white bandages.  No glasses, and his eyes sunken into his face.  Obviously near death.  But when I called his name, his eyes opened.

ALI
Ah.  My princess.

SHANDRA
My love, my love, what have they done to you?

ALI
Do I look so terrible? 

SHANDRA
Hush now, hush.  Save your strength.

ALI
I tried to walk the tightrope.  Alas, I have fallen off.

SHANDRA
Tightrope?  The Baathists never bothered you.  It was all the Americans.

ALI
They mean well.  But…

BEN enters, hurrying.

BEN
Oh my god.

SHANDRA
Husband, the American is here.

ALI
[Excitedly:]  Ben, Ben, is it you?  Is it you, my brother?

BEN
Here I am, Ali.  I got here as soon as I could.  It’s really hectic down at the ministry, with all the new…  But I wanted…  Ali.  Brother.  [He takes ALI’s hand.]   What happened?

SHANDRA
Tell him, husband.  Tell him what the Americans did to you. 

ALI begins to sit up.  Gently, SHANDRA pushes him back down.  Determined, ALI waves her off and sits up.  As he speaks, he becomes more agitated.

ALI
When Saddam sent me to Abu Ghraib, they tormented me every day.  They gave me electric shocks.  They held my head under water.  They were cruel.  But one thing they did not do.  They did not break my glasses.  This the Americans did.  They took away my dignity.  Casually.  Pointlessly.  Before asking me the first question.

BEN
Easy now, Ali.

ALI
They do this to every prisoner every day.  They must stop before they take away the dignity of the entire nation.  Stop before they become the Baathist Party they wish to eliminate!  You have influence, my friend, you can tell them the truth.

BEN
To them, I’m just an errand boy.

SHANDRA
They made you head of a ministry.

BEN
They can make me do whatever they want.

Silence.

SHANDRA
What did they “make” you do, Mr. Dagleish?

BEN
After you were gone, Ali, they came looking for you.  I sent them away.  Powerful people called.  From Washington.  Made terrible threats.  Finally, I…I gave them your address.  I didn’t know what would happen.

SHANDRA
Perhaps you thought they would come with gifts.

ALI
They would have found me in any case.

SHANDRA
The honorable man.  Your American brother.

ALI
Enough.  Princess, my throat is parched.  Kindly go and get me some water.

SHANDRA
But…

ALI
Please.

SHANDRA exits, hurriedly.

BEN
Ali, what I’ve done is unforgivable.

ALI
To the contrary, Ben.  I already forgave you, weeks ago.

BEN
You knew?

ALI
It was the first thing the interrogators told me.

BEN
Why?

ALI
To break my spirit

BEN
How could you forgive … that?

ALI
Ben, you and I live at the mercy of men with power.  Years ago, when Saddam’s police imprisoned me, they soon found I was innocent.  But they wanted names.  I knew none.  The beatings continued.  “One name,” they said, “and we will stop.” Finally, I blurted out the name of my wife’s brother, Walid.  Why Walid?  I do not know.  But he was a relative, and that convinced them.  They released me and arrested Walid.  He told them nothing, and the following Wednesday he was executed.  I have never been able to tell my wife.  Ben, what you did is as nothing. 

ALI falls back on the bed, exhausted.

BEN
Ali, that was under torture.  I was just…

SHANDRA returns with a cup of water.  She bends over ALI to give it to him.   ALI does not respond.

SHANDRA
Here is the water, drink.  … What is wrong?  … Husband! 

BEN
Ali!

SHANDRA feels for a pulse.  Pause.  Shakes her head.

SHANDRA
He is gone.

BEN
Wait!  Let me call a doctor.  Maybe…

SHANDRA pulls the sheet up over ALI’s face.

SHANDRA
I told you: he is gone.

BEN
We need a defibrillator.  We can try to resuscitate him…

SHANDRA
Please.  Leave me alone with my husband

BEN
I can’t just leave you like this.  It wouldn’t be…  I’ve got to do something…

SHANDRA
You have already done quite enough.  Now please get out of my sight.

BEN
Please, Mrs. Ramadi. 

SHANDRA
Mr. Dagleish, you are like the other Americans.  You think you come here with the best of intentions, but your actions say otherwise.  There is nothing more for you to do.  Please leave us alone.  Please go.  Now.

Reluctantly, BEN turns and exits.
 

Lights go down briefly.  BEN crosses to the other side of the stage. 
The lights come up again on BEN who is speaking into his cell phone.

BEN
Hi, Carl.  Guess I missed you.  I’m putting two items into the diplomatic pouch tonight; you should get them tomorrow.  The first is my resignation, effective immediately.  The other’s a report from inside Abu Ghraib.  The press will also get copies of the report tomorrow.  Sorry things didn’t work out.  I just can’t do this any more.

Ben hangs up.

The End

Note
*“Allah’s Fool” grew out of a drama project for the Midwest Peace Summit in Indianapolis in March 2005, with the support of IUPUI Students for Peace in Iraq and the Indianapolis Peace and Justice Center.  It was performed at the Phoenix Theatre August 20-27, 2005.

1. These cases and others were reported in “Abu Ghraib: its legacy for military medicine” in The Lancet (medical journal), vol. 364, no. 9435, 21 August 2004.

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