Abuse of Iraqi Prisoners VII
Some interesting developments on this one are coming out this morning.
Presented with reports of abusive behavior by U.S. military guards at Baghdad’s main prison, the Army two months ago quietly dispatched to Iraq a team of about 25 military police experienced in running detention facilities to shore up training and supervision, Army officials said yesterday.
It was the first group of such specialists sent to Iraq since the invasion last year, the officials said. The move followed an internal Army investigation that found military police at the Abu Ghraib prison largely unprepared for their role as guards and accused them of grossly mistreating Iraqi detainees, the officials said.
The decision to send the special team reflected an acknowledgement by U.S. military commanders that the abuse of detainees and laxness in oversight evident at the prison may extend beyond the small group of enlisted soldiers and officers charged or reprimanded so far and require broader remedial action.
Although military police are frequently used to take control of prisoners in the field and escort them to detention centers, most are not trained to operate prisons, the officials said. That responsibility falls to a tiny share of the Army’s military police force — about 970 out of 38,000 troops — who receive specific training to run correctional facilities. The Army maintains several such permanent prisons in the United States and abroad.
The 25 specialists dispatched to Iraq will operate as a “mobile training team,” the officials said, working with military police units that have rotated into the country in recent weeks to replace other forces.
Obviously, a good move if rather belated. That said, one doesn’t need special training to understand that putting a chem light up someone’s rectum and forcing them into a naked homoerotic pyramid is unacceptable conduct.
As the repercussions of the abuse controversy widened, there were new disclosures Monday regarding the influence that military intelligence, or MI, operatives wielded inside the prison, which houses 5,000 of the 8,000 detainees held by the United States in Iraq.
Military interrogators routinely used sleep deprivation and other forms of psychological intimidation to elicit information from prisoners in the cellblock where the alleged abuses occurred, according to the former top military police commander in Abu Ghraib.
“The purpose of that wing of the prison was to isolate prisoners with intelligence, so that they would provide it during MI interrogations,” the commander, Lt. Col. Jerry L. Phillabaum, wrote in a statement to The Washington Post.
Overall, the report portrays the prison as being run by a poorly led, undermanned and demoralized group of U.S. soldiers. Because of Army personnel policies, it notes, the 800th MP Brigade did not receive replacements as members left for medical reasons or because their terms of service were finished. Also, the report found, the troops’ quality of life was “extremely poor.” They lacked many of the facilities provided to soldiers at other U.S. bases in Iraq, such as mess halls, barbershops and post exchanges, which offer magazines, toiletries and other personal items for sale.
The report repeatedly criticizes commanders’ decisions, but especially focuses on Phillabaum, calling him “an extremely ineffective commander and leader.”
Taguba found “clear friction and lack of communication” between Karpinski, who oversaw detainee operations inside the prison, and Col. Thomas M. Pappas, commander of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, who had control of the overall detention facility.
“There was no clear delineation of responsibility between commands, little coordination at the command level, and no integration of the two functions,” Taguba wrote. “Coordination occurred at the lowest possible levels, with little oversight by commanders.”
The senior American commander in Iraq has ordered the first punishments in the abuse of prisoners by American soldiers there, issuing severe reprimands to six who served in supervisory positions at Abu Ghraib prison and a milder “letter of admonishment” to a seventh.
The officers and noncommissioned officers received penalties that most likely will end their military careers, although they were not demoted or discharged. They have not been charged with crimes; six subordinates accused of carrying out the abuse already face criminal charges.
“They did not know or participate in any crimes,” a senior American officer in Baghdad said of the officers who received the reprimands, issued by Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the senior American commander in Iraq. “Their responsibility is to set the standards in the organization. They should have known, but they did not.”
While one would think this point obvious, none of the other reports I’ve seen makes it.