To speak out for human rights in an occupied land — to investigate and publicize the systematic tortures and atrocities practiced by the client regime of the occupying power — is a dangerous, often deadly business. Harith al-Obaidi found that out in Iraq this week, when he was gunned down in a Baghdad mosque a day after he condemned the American-installed government for its flagrant abuses. The New York Times reports:

The Sunni leader, Harith al-Obaidi, was leading Friday prayers at al-Shawaf mosque in the upscale neighborhood of Yarmouk, and also gave a sermon complaining about the abuses, when a gunman entered the mosque and fired at him…Mr. Obaidi, who was deputy chairman of the human rights committee in Parliament, actively campaigned against what he saw as abuse in Iraqi prisons.

“He was probably the No. 1 person in defending human rights,” said Alaa Maki, a senior member of Tawafiq, the Sunni bloc that Mr. Obaidi headed. “And he was the No. 1 person visiting and touring the Iraqi jails.”

…In his work, Mr. Obaidi was fighting against such practices as torture and delayed releases for prisoners, as well as to improve their sleeping quarters.

The prisons of the American-installed, American-trained, American-maintained government led by the longtime violent religious extremist Nouri al-Maliki are notorious hellholes of torture, deprivation, murder and injustice — just as they were under Saddam (whose party was installed in power in the 1960s with CIA assistance), and just as they have been under the American occupation. The Americans still hold more than 10,000 captives in their own facilities; at one time, the International Red Cross estimated that between 70-90 percent of America’s captives had committed no crime whatsoever, much less any violent action against the occupation forces. And of course, the progressive champion of open government, Barack Obama, has just won another court battle to bury evidence of American atrocities written on the bodies of Iraqi captives.

As the Iraqis used to say just after the American invasion in 2003: “The pupil is gone; the master has come.” Now new pupils are passing on the master’s lessons. And those who dare speak out against the fruits of this sinister education find themselves in the cross-hairs of the client government — and of those who do its dirty work “on the dark side, if you will.” It is, as our eloquent president has said of the million-killing act of aggression in Iraq, “an extraordinary achievement.”

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