Saturday, September 24, 2005
Whistleblowers Describe Routine, Severe Abuse
GOI: I've copied and pasted the most important parts of this article but it's still long but I know you'll want to read the whole thing. Just a warning though: You'll be pissed as hell at the end.
WASHINGTON - 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".
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".
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.
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.
Front-line 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 capture.
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."
"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.
GOI: Makes you sick, huh?
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