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Whistleblowers Describe Routine, Severe Abuse in Iraq & Afghanistan

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  • Dan Clore
    News & Views for Anarchists & Activists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo September 24, 2005 Whistleblowers Describe Routine, Severe Abuse by Jim Lobe As a
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 24 2:55 PM
      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:

      September 24, 2005
      Whistleblowers Describe Routine, Severe Abuse
      by Jim Lobe

      As a military jury in Texas considers the fate of Lynndie
      England, the low-ranking reservist pictured in the notorious
      photos of the abuse of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison
      in late 2003, two sergeants and a captain in one of the U.S.
      Army's most decorated combat units have come forward with
      accounts of routine, systematic and often severe beatings
      committed against detainees at a base near Fallujah from
      2003 through 2004.

      According to their testimony, featured in a new report by
      Human Rights Watch (HRW), beatings and other forms of
      torture were often either ordered or approved by superior
      officers and took place on virtually a daily basis. The
      soldiers, all of whom had also been deployed to Afghanistan
      before coming to Iraq, testified that the same techniques
      were used in both countries.

      The beatings were so severe that they resulted in broken
      bones "every other week" at Forward Operating Base (FOB)
      Mercury, where detainees would ordinarily be held for three
      or four days before being transferred to Abu Ghraib. In one
      case, an Army cook broke the leg of a detainee with a metal
      baseball bat, according to one of the sergeants quoted in
      the report, entitled "Leadership Failure."

      Residents of Fallujah, an insurgent stronghold since the
      2003 invasion, referred to the unit as "The Murderous
      Maniacs," because of their treatment of detainees, according
      to the report.

      Although none of the three soldiers has been deployed to
      Iraq this year, they all said they believed that practices
      they witnessed at FOB Mercury continue, according to the report.

      The three -- all active-duty members of the 1st Battalion,
      504th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the Army 82nd Airborne
      Division -- said that they had repeatedly sought guidance up
      the chain of command on the applicability of the Geneva
      Conventions or other rules to regarding the appropriate
      treatment of detainees in Iraq, but to no avail.

      The captain, referred to as "Officer C" in the report, said
      he had made persistent efforts over 17 months to raise
      concerns about the abuses and obtain clearer rules about the
      treatment of detainees but was consistently told by
      higher-ups to ignore abuses and to "consider your career."

      "In many cases, he was encouraged to keep his concerns
      quiet; his brigade commander, for example, rebuffed him when
      he asked for an investigation into these allegations of
      abuse," according to the report. Only when he began taking
      his concerns to members of Congress, according to the
      report, did the Army agree to investigate his complaints.

      However, "just days before the publication of this report he
      was told that he would not be granted a pass to meet on his
      day off with staff members of U.S. Senators John McCain and
      John Warner," who, along with two other Republican senators,
      have sponsored legislation that would require the Pentagon
      to abide by the Geneva Conventions and the Army Field Manual
      in its treatment of all detainees.

      Their effort has so far been frustrated by opposition from
      the George W. Bush administration, notably Vice President
      Dick Cheney, who has personally lobbied against the
      provision, and the Republican leadership in Congress.

      When the Abu Ghraib scandal broke nearly 18 months ago, the
      Bush administration claimed that only a handful of poorly
      trained reservists were responsible. But in the intervening
      months, hundreds of other cases of abuse in both Iraq and
      Afghanistan have come to light through the release of U.S.
      government documents, reports by the International Committee
      of the Red Cross, media reports, and detainee accounts.

      While the Pentagon has initiated investigations,
      administrative hearings and, in a few cases, courts-martial,
      they have been confined mostly to low-ranking personnel,
      permitting the administration to claim that whatever abuses
      have taken place were isolated or spontaneous.

      But the firsthand accounts by the three soldiers, according
      to HRW, "suggest that the mistreatment of prisoners by the
      U.S. military is even more widespread than has been
      acknowledged to date, including among troops belonging to
      some of the best trained, most decorated and highly
      respected units in the U.S. Army."

      Suspected insurgents, according to the testimonies, were
      called PUCs, for "Persons Under Control," to distinguish
      them from prisoners of war, or POWs, a practice that first
      began in Afghanistan after the Pentagon announced that it
      did not consider detainees captured there subject to the
      protections afforded by the Geneva Conventions for POWs.

      PUCs were held in tents at FOB Mercury that were surrounded
      by concertina wire and were routinely subjected to abusive
      techniques that included "smoking," which was normally
      ordered by Military Intelligence before interrogations and
      involved 12 to 24 hours of stress positions, sleep or liquid
      deprivation, and physical exercises sometimes to the point
      of unconsciousness, and "f**king," which referred to beating
      or torturing detainees severely.

      Frontline and other soldiers were invited to take part in
      both practices, according to the report, while, if the
      detainees were injured as a result of the abuse, a
      physicians' assistant would administer an analgesic and sign
      off on a report stating that the injury took place during

      The beatings and other abuses served mainly to relieve
      stress, according to the three soldiers. "On their day off
      people would show up all the time," said one sergeant.
      "Everyone in camp knew if you wanted to work out your
      frustration you show up at the PUC tent. In a way it was sport."

      The soldiers blamed the abuses in large part on the failure
      of civilian and military leaders to clarify what was and was
      not permitted, particularly in light of the administration's
      position that the Geneva Convention, in which the unit had
      been trained, did not apply to detainees captured in

      "We knew where the Geneva Conventions drew the line, but
      then you get that confusion when the (Secretary of Defense)
      and the president make that statement," said the captain.
      After the invasion of Iraq, "none of the unit policies
      changed. Iraq was cast as part of the war on terror, not a
      separate entity in and of itself but a part of a larger war."

      "Leadership failed to provide clear guidance so we just
      developed it," said one of the sergeants. "They wanted intel
      (intelligence). As long as no PUCs came up dead it happened.
      We heard rumours of PUCs dying so we were careful. We kept
      it to broken arms and legs and shit (like that)."

      The administration has strongly resisted calls by HRW and
      other rights groups, as well as Democrats and some
      Republicans, for the appointment of independent bipartisan
      commission to carry out a comprehensive investigation of
      detainee abuses, including the responsibility, if any, of
      senior military officers and government officials.

      Civilians believed to have been Central Intelligence Agency
      (CIA) officers had their own interrogation facilities at the
      base and at another known as FOB Tiger close to the Syrian
      border. They sometimes removed prisoners -- and all their
      records -- from the bases, apparently to eliminate evidence
      of their having been held there.

      (Inter Press Service)


      Dan Clore

      Now available: _The Unspeakable and Others_
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