portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reposts global

imperialism & war

Mission Accomplished

cf 85General, 6 others punished in Iraq: New prisoner abuse allegations emerging
By THOM SHANKER

New York Times

WASHINGTON -- The senior U.S. commander in Iraq has ordered the first punishments in the abuse of prisoners by U.S. soldiers, issuing severe reprimands to six who served in supervisory positions at Abu Ghraib prison and a milder "letter of admonishment" to a brigadier general.

The officers and noncommissioned officers received penalties that likely will end their military careers, although they were not demoted or discharged. They have not been charged with any criminal activity; six subordinates accused of carrying out the abuse already face criminal charges.

"They did not know or participate in any crimes," a senior U.S. officer in Baghdad said of the officers who received the reprimands, issued by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the senior U.S. commander in Iraq. "Their responsibility is to set the standards in the organization. They should have known, but they did not."

As more details emerged of widespread problems in the detention system in Iraq, President Bush on Monday telephoned Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld "to make sure that appropriate action was being taken against those responsible for these shameful, appalling acts," said Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman.

Meanwhile, Houston Democratic Rep. Chris Bell began recruiting help to pressure the Pentagon into launching a broader investigation into the prisoner abuse, to be headed by the Defense Department's inspector general.

In a letter to Rumsfeld, Bell argues that the inspector general should be brought in for the sake of the credibility of the U.S. mission.

"The images of brutalized Iraqi prisoners of war, broadcast throughout the word by Arab language media outlets, have possibly done the most damage to American credibility, intentions and policies in the Middle East region to date," Bell said.

The military's investigative report into the abuses of detainees in Iraq, by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, described broader problems in the prison system throughout Iraq, as well as pervasive flaws in the leadership, training and morale of military police assigned to guard Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq. It suggested that these problems had contributed to abuses of prisoners over many months, even after earlier instances were reported and punished.

The report found, for example, that after several detainees were beaten at Camp Bucca, another detention site in Iraq, in May 2003, nothing was done to make clear to military police elsewhere that this was not to be tolerated. Soldiers responsible for those earlier abuses were charged and punished late last year.

Edward Diamantis, a captain with the 800th Military Police Brigade who has returned to his home base in Uniondale, N.Y., served directly under Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski at the brigade's headquarters just east of the runways of the Baghdad International Airport. He spent most of his days there, but made several journeys to the Abu Ghraib prison and other detention facilities.

He said he first heard rumors of the mistreatments that were uncovered at Abu Ghraib in January, and during a conversation with Karpinski later that winter she told him that something "very, very bad" had been happening in the prison, he said. "There's some very, very stupid people, and they're going to bring some stuff down on our heads," Diamantis recalled the general saying.

The Central Intelligence Agency is also investigating reports of detainees dying during incarceration, and even interrogation, while in U.S. custody in Iraq, a CIA official said Monday. The official said the agency's inspector general was investigating the possible involvement of CIA personnel in the deaths of two prisoners in Iraq, one at Abu Ghraib in November and another elsewhere at an unspecified time.

But the CIA official said that abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib was "not something to the best of our knowledge my agency has any involvement in." Altogether, the CIA official said, the agency was involved in the interrogation of no more than two dozen individuals at Abu Ghraib between last September and December.

The commander of the military police battalion at AbuGhraib, who confirmed that he received a serious rebuke, known as a "General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand," wrote in an e-mail message that the abuse was carried out by a handful of soldiers who sought to hide their behavior from commanders by demeaning and humiliating detainees late at night.

Lt. Col. Jerry Phillabaum, who has been relieved of command of the 320th Military Police Battalion and whose performance was severely criticized in Taguba's report, said he was aware that military intelligence had asked MPs to "deprive some prisoners of clothing to humiliate them" and to "limit their sleep to four hours in a 24-hour period. But "taking these prisoners out of their cells and staging bizarre acts were the thoughts of a couple of demented MPs," he wrote, "who well know such acts are prohibited."

Military officers would not say publicly whether Karpinski, commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade and the senior officer at Abu Ghraib, was among the seven who received reprimands. But Taguba's 53-page report on the military's inquiry into abuse at Abu Ghraib said she received a "General Officer Memorandum of Admonishment" from Sanchez.

In the criminal portion of the investigation, six enlisted personnel or non-commissioned officers of the 372nd Military Police Company, who were assigned to the sprawling prison west of Baghdad that was notorious under Saddam Hussein for overcrowded cells and torture chambers, face charges of assault, cruelty, indecent acts and maltreatment of detainees.

The Taguba report indicates that military police may have been used to "soften up" detainees in Afghanistan before interrogations there, as well.Without providing details, the report includes a reference stating that recent intelligence collection in support of the Afghan operation utilized military police to "actively set favorable conditions for subsequent interviews."

Arabic-language television networks aired interviews Monday with two of the Iraqis said to be depicted in the photographs taken with the American guards.

In a brief interview on al-Jazeera, Haishem Mohsen, a man who said he was one of the Iraqis shown in the photos, described his abuse at the hands of U.S. soldiers. Mohsen said that when he was detained in January, he was interrogated by U.S. intelligence officers and Iraqi and Egyptian interpreters.

"They covered our heads with bags, they beat us with the butts of their guns without any fear that we would die of the blows."

"They made us take our clothes off and they pushed us against the wall," he said. "They did things to us that I am unable to talk about."

The other Iraqi, Haider Sabar, said a U.S. intelligence officer, along with an Iraqi and an Egyptian translator, showed him "immoral photos of the acts that took place," apparently to frighten him.

The names of both the men in the al-Jazeera report roughly matched those on a list of abused Iraqi detainees named in an investigation conducted by the U.S. military.

homepage: homepage: http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/world/2547531