Sivits Gets Big Chicken Dinner

AP/Army Times — Soldier sentenced to year in prison, bad conduct discharge in first abuse trial

Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits received the maximum penalty Wednesday — one year in prison, reduction in rank and a bad conduct discharge — in the first court-martial stemming from mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. forces at the Abu Ghraib prison.

Sivits, who pleaded guilty to four abuse charges, broke down in tears as he apologized for taking pictures of naked Iraqi prisoners being humiliated.

“I’d like to apologize to the Iraqi people and those detainees,” he said in his statement. “I should have protected those detainees, not taken the photos.”

During the hearing, Sivits, 24, told the court he saw one U.S. soldier punch one Iraqi in the head and other guards stomp on the hands and feet of detainees. He also recounted that prisoners were stripped and forced to form a human pyramid.

His lawyer had appealed to the court for leniency, saying Sivits could be rehabilitated and had contributed to society in the past. Sivits himself pleaded with the judge, Col. James Pohl, to allow him to remain in the Army, which he said had been his life̢۪s goal.

It’s an interesting life goal for a Reservist. But, obviously, he couldn’t be permitted to stay in the Army other than as a prisoner at Leavenworth.

Sivits got the maximum sentence possible for the crimes with which he was charged. Others will get more:

Earlier Wednesday, three others from Sivits’ company accused in the abuse — Sgt. Javal Davis, Staff Sgt. Ivan L. Frederick and Spc. Charles Graner Jr. — appeared for arraignment in the courtroom at the Baghdad Convention Center, located in the heavily guarded Green Zone.

The three waived their rights to have charges read in court, and their pleas were deferred pending another hearing June 21 after the defense complained it had been denied access to two victims of abuse who were government witnesses. The judge asked prosecutors for an explanation.

The story doesn’t provide that explanation. My guess is it won’t much matter and these three will face much stiffer sentences.

Will this assauge the bad feelings caused by the incident within Iraqi society? Not in the short run:

Arab television stations appeared deeply skeptical of the proceedings, with reporters from the Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya satellite networks questioning why cameras were barred from the courtroom. Others demanded that higher-ranking American officials be punished.

“Those who are executing the laws and the orders are not the problem … Punishment of the officials who gave the orders is what matters,” Samer al-Ubedi, who claimed his brother died in U.S. custody, told al-Jazeera. “The punishment must be as severe as the crime.”

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the chief military spokesman in Iraq, said a fair and impartial trial “will go a far way in demonstrating to people that, yes, these pictures did happen, yes, these acts did happen, but we’re taking the right corrective action to investigate, prosecute and bring to trial those accused of these crimes. “

Clearly, a disconnect in attitudes: Old Testament versus New.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. denise says:

    “The punishment must be as severe as the crime.”

    Which is more severe:

    1) having your picture taken with women’s underwear on your head
    OR
    2) a year in Leavenworth?