NOTE: Where so the insuregents come from? As you read this, realize that it was reported in Iraq, and the rest of the Arb world, as torturing Iraqis was our policy all along. And further, that any trials were for show, and few if any would result in punishment. And of course, anyone who is released after this tells their story to their families and friends.
Few inquiries led to punishment, documents show
By R. Jeffrey Smith and Josh White
Updated: 12:00 a.m. ET Jan. 25, 2005
Army personnel have admitted to beating or threatening to kill Iraqi detainees and stealing money from Iraqi civilians but have not been charged with criminal conduct, according to newly released Army documents.
Only a handful of the 54 investigations of alleged detainee abuse and other illicit activities detailed in the documents led to recommended penalties as severe as a court-martial or discharge from military service. Most led to administrative fines or simply withered because investigators could not find victims or evidence.
The documents, which date from mid-2003 to mid-2004 and were obtained by five nongovernmental organizations through a joint lawsuit, suggest that the pursuit of military justice in Iraq has been hampered by the investigators' closure of many cases without reaching a determination of likely innocence or guilt.
Poor record-keeping hampers probes
In the case of Hadi Abdul Hasson, an Iraqi who died in U.S. custody at a prison near the southern port of Umm Qasr, Army criminal investigators were unable to locate meaningful prison or military records on his capture or fate.
"Due to inadequate recordkeeping, this office could only estimate that Mr. Hasson possibly died between April-September 2003," and so the case was closed, the Army's Criminal Investigation Command said in October. Hasson's death was evidently not noticed until mid-2004, when disclosures of detainee abuses at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad prompted a review of records and sparked many new abuse allegations by Iraqis.
The newly released reports detail allegations similar to those that surrounded the documented abuse at Abu Ghraib — such as beatings with rifle butts, prolonged hooding, sodomy, electric shocks, stressful shackling, and the repeated withholding of clothing and food — but they also encompass alleged offenses at military prisons and checkpoints elsewhere in Iraq. The elite soldiers with Army Special Forces and other Special Operations personnel stationed in various parts of Iraq were also implicated in some of the abuse but did not admit involvement, according to the documents.
The reports, drawn directly from Army case files, also explain for the first time exactly how many of the abuse allegations were investigated and adjudicated.
A January 2004 probe, for example, found that nine soldiers in the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment based at Fort Carson, Colo., and deployed in Iraq "were possibly involved in a criminal conspiracy to rob Iraqi citizens of currency" at traffic-control points. Two members of the unit affirmed the plan in sworn statements and named its participants. But the investigation was terminated after the commander "indicated an intent to take action amounting to less than a court proceeding," the report said.
ACLU: Investigations 'woefully inadequate'
Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, which published the documents on its Web site, said they showed that the investigations of torture and abuse "have been woefully inadequate" and, in some cases, a whitewash. Army spokesman Dov Schwartz responded that "the Army has aggressively investigated all credible allegations of detainee abuse and held soldiers accountable for their actions."
Schwartz said that more than 300 criminal investigations so far have resulted in some type of action against more than 100 military personnel. The 54 investigations outlined in the released documents are among those 300.
Some of the cases involved petty crimes as well as assaults. In one case, a platoon of infantry troops beat Iraqis and stole money, calling it a "Robin Hood tax," to support a fund used to buy soda, food, beer, whiskey and gin for the platoon. In another case, two soldiers burst into a civilian's home, stating they were looking for weapons, and stole cash and jewelry. In another, two other soldiers pushed an Iraqi man into the back of their five-ton truck, drove him to an isolated area, stole his watch and money, and punched him in the face.
Many of the participants in such crimes were referred for courts-martial, while those who participated in beatings or abuse generally received lesser punishments, according to the documents.
'We all gave a hooah'
An officer in the 20th Field Artillery Battalion deployed in Taji, for example, was given an unspecified nonjudicial punishment and fined $2,500 after he admitted to threatening to kill an Iraqi, firing a pistol next to the man's head, placing the man's head in a barrel, and watching as members of his unit pummeled the man's chest and face.
One of those who administered the beating told investigators that the officer "had given us a talk about how some circumstances bring about extra force." Another said the officer told them after it was over: "This night stays within" the unit. "We all gave a hooah" before parting, the soldier said. The document indicates that four soldiers received suspended nonjudicial punishments and small fines, while a decision on a fifth soldier was pending.
Another of the cases described in the documents involved an unnamed service member's allegations in late 2003 of "war crimes" at a Baghdad holding facility known as Camp Red. The member complained that Iraqis were made to sit for hours or stand on a brick in the hot sun, hooded and with their hands bound; that they were frequently pushed and kicked; and that soldiers would deliberately drive an armored vehicle next to where they were seated to "spook" them.
An officer at the camp told investigators that such treatment was needed to keep Iraqis from "acting up." The case was closed because "serious injury" was not proved, according to the document.
Elderly woman alleges sexual abuse
Another case involved a 73-year-old Iraqi woman who was captured by members of the Delta Force special unit and alleged that she was robbed of money and jewels before being confined for days without food or water — all in an effort to force her to give the location of her husband and son. Delta Force's Task Force 20 was assigned to capture senior Iraqi officials.
She said she was also stripped and humiliated by a man who "straddled her . . . and attempted to ride her like a horse" before hitting her with a stick and placing it in her anus. The case, which attracted the attention of senior Iraqi officials and led to an inquiry by an unnamed member of the White House staff, was closed without a conclusion.
The military eventually released her and reimbursed her "for all property and damage" after her complaints, the report said; details of the Delta Force investigation remain classified.
In several cases, Army investigators concluded that the allegations were without merit. An inquiry begun after a Washington Post article detailed the shooting death of a Baghdad man by U.S. forces last summer ruled that the shooting was a "justifiable homicide."
Sajid Kadhim Bori Bawi's family had said that U.S. soldiers stormed into their home, accused him of crimes against coalition forces and dragged him into a room away from other family members. He was shot five times after yelling out.
Army investigators ruled that a soldier shot Bawi while "engaged in a struggle" with him, during which Bawi allegedly tried to grab a soldier's M-4 carbine rifle. They ruled that a soldier fired his pistol repeatedly at him "to nullify the threat to himself and the other soldiers." Military lawyers ruled it a "good shoot."
Cases dropped for lack of 'sufficient' evidence
More often, Army investigators closed their cases after finding insufficient "evidence to prove or disprove the allegations." That was their conclusion after a detainee in Mosul reported that a Navy SEAL team beat him for two to three days and threatened his family after taking him into custody in May. "They took me back to a small room and they left me for two days without food and drinks and the bag was over my head and my hands were cuffed and then they threw cold water and ice and they banging me on the wall once," the detainee, whose name was blacked out on the reports, told an interpreter during the investigation.
An Air Force captain who examined the detainee after the alleged abuse reported the man had bruises on his shoulders. A military lawyer issued an opinion on July 6 that the evidence was inconclusive, ending the investigation of aggravated assault and cruelty and maltreatment.
Another detainee said he was whisked off a Baghdad street by two U.S. soldiers, blindfolded and taken to an unknown location, where he was beaten by wooden sticks, sodomized and given electric shocks during an interrogation session. He was also one of three detainees who said in separate cases that he was forced to drink urine.
"They made me take a picture with the captain giving me a hundred-dollar bill," the detainee said. "They then threatened to show the picture to the Iraqis and say I was working with them."
Medical examinations corroborated the injuries to the detainee's wrists and noted injuries to his anus. Military lawyers ruled that the "investigation did not further diminish the integrity or credibility of [the] allegation," according to a report dated Aug. 5.