Tara McKelvey

Tara McKelvey, a senior editor at the Prospect, is a research fellow at NYU School of Law's Center on Law and Security and the author of Monstering: Inside America’s Policy on Secret Interrogations and Torture in the Terror War.

Recent Articles

Marla in Baghdad

Seven weeks before she was killed, Marla Ruzicka promised me she wouldn't leave the hotel in Baghdad. She had called me about an article on female detainees at Abu Ghraib I'd written for The American Prospect . As the founder of an organization called Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, she was eager to help the women file military claims with the U.S. government. I knew the women would be nervous if an American -- even a well-intentioned one like Marla -- got in touch with them. I said I couldn't just hand over their phone numbers. Within days, Marla had called again and said she was going to Baghdad. Would I help her get in touch with the female detainees? “You're crazy,” I said. “You'll end up in an orange jumpsuit.” “I'm going to have a hotel room, and the women will come and see me,” she explained. “I won't go anywhere.” I put her in touch with my translator and eventually, with the permission of the detainees, handed everything over to her -- my electronic files,...

Ritual Abuse

The walls and ceiling were painted black. Acid rock blared around the clock. It was cold in the tiled room, located in a building outside Baghdad International Airport, on January 1, 2004. But despite the chilly temperature, Mohamed (he asked me to use a fake name), a 36-year-old sound engineer from the al-Bunuk district of Baghdad, was sweating. The interrogators had forced him and another hooded detainee to run back and forth in the room for hours. When Mohamed and the other detainee bumped into each other, a husky American in a T-shirt and camouflage pants would grab the loose cloth on the back of their hoods and crack their skulls together. “Bang,” says Mohamed. “He kept doing that for a while.” Sitting in a hotel room in Amman, Jordan, on December 6, 2004, less than a year after being captured by U.S.–led forces in Iraq, Mohamed describes how three interrogators later pushed his limp body back and forth across the slick tiles. “I was like a ball, you know, a punching ball,” he...

Unusual Suspects

On the morning of September 24, 2003 -- five weeks after the suicide bombing of a United Nations compound in Baghdad killed 23 people, including top envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello, signaling an intensified phase of Iraqi insurgency -- a group of American soldiers burst into Selwa's villa near the banks of the Tigris River in Samarra, Iraq. Samarra, at the time, was under siege; after the team burst in, one of the soldiers pointed his rifle at Selwa (she asked me to use a pseudonym), a 55-year-old wife and mother, and her daughters and grandchildren began screaming. She, and everyone in the villa, was terrified -- and with good reason. The soldiers had raided their house exactly four months earlier, and she remembered vividly what had happened that night. On May 24, 2003, three weeks after George W. Bush had declared that major combat operations in Iraq were over, the soldiers stormed across the villa's marble floors, rifled through family photographs, and searched inside a French cabinet...

Vanishing Bipartisanship

Warren Rudman has spent years perfecting the art of bipartisanship. Called a “consensus-forging leader” by Senator Olympia Snowe, Rudman, who served two terms as a U.S. senator from New Hampshire (1980– 92), is well-known for his role in bipartisan deficit reduction and, more recently, for his work on the United States Commission on National Security, which he co-chaired with then–Senator Gary Hart. In November, he talked about how members of both parties can work together more effectively. Tell me about your work on the United States Commission on National Security. We had people as diverse as Newt Gingrich and Lee Hamilton and Andrew Young -- all serious-minded people who agreed there was a terrific problem and were focused on trying to find a solution. We worked together very, very well. The commission predicted what would happen with terrorism in this country, and it recommended the creation of a Department of Homeland Security long before [September 11]. Was there a high point of...

Don't Bank on It

The flurry of changes in Washington is not going to end anytime soon. Besides nominating new secretaries of state and agriculture, a new national security adviser, and filling other top-level positions, President George W. Bush will soon turn his eye to the World Bank. While it may not have the muscle of the Department of Defense, the World Bank nevertheless yields considerable power over the economic and social policies of countries around the world and is one of the most vocal forces in fighting poverty. Led by James Wolfensohn, the World Bank has provided $20.1 billion for projects in developing countries in 2004 and currently employs 9,300 people. "It's like a gigantic ship," says Nancy Birdsall, president of the Washington-based Center for Global Development and co-author of a 2003 paper titled "Why It Matters Who Runs the World Bank and the IMF." "It's very hard to turn it, but, when it gets turned, it makes a very big difference." In the coming weeks or months, the ship may...

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