US Army Report Details Afghan Prisoner Abuse
More reports of soldier abuse of prisoners is out today, and the source isn’t Newsweek but the U.S. Army.
US Army Report Details Afghan Prisoner Abuse (VOA News)
A U.S. newspaper report says a confidential U.S. Army document details widespread abuse of Afghan detainees by American soldiers. The New York Times says the abuse, along with details of the deaths of two detainees at the Bagram detention center in Afghanistan in late 2002, emerged from a file of the Army’s criminal investigation into the deaths. The Times report published Friday, says the nearly 2,000-page file obtained by the newspaper depicts young, poorly trained soldiers in repeated incidents of abuse. The newspaper cites testimony from soldiers who say some harsh treatment was for interrogation or punishment, but other torment was driven by boredom or cruelty.
Even as the young Afghan man was dying before them, his American jailers continued to torment him. The prisoner, a slight, 22-year-old taxi driver known only as Dilawar, was hauled from his cell at the detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan, at around 2 a.m. to answer questions about a rocket attack on an American base. When he arrived in the interrogation room, an interpreter who was present said, his legs were bouncing uncontrollably in the plastic chair and his hands were numb. He had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days. Mr. Dilawar asked for a drink of water, and one of the two interrogators, Specialist Joshua R. Claus, 21, picked up a large plastic bottle. But first he punched a hole in the bottom, the interpreter said, so as the prisoner fumbled weakly with the cap, the water poured out over his orange prison scrubs. The soldier then grabbed the bottle back and began squirting the water forcefully into Mr. Dilawar’s face. “Come on, drink!” the interpreter said Specialist Claus had shouted, as the prisoner gagged on the spray. “Drink!”
At the interrogators’ behest, a guard tried to force the young man to his knees. But his legs, which had been pummeled by guards for several days, could no longer bend. An interrogator told Mr. Dilawar that he could see a doctor after they finished with him. When he was finally sent back to his cell, though, the guards were instructed only to chain the prisoner back to the ceiling. “Leave him up,” one of the guards quoted Specialist Claus as saying.
Several hours passed before an emergency room doctor finally saw Mr. Dilawar. By then he was dead, his body beginning to stiffen. It would be many months before Army investigators learned a final horrific detail: Most of the interrogators had believed Mr. Dilawar was an innocent man who simply drove his taxi past the American base at the wrong time.
The story of Mr. Dilawar’s brutal death at the Bagram Collection Point – and that of another detainee, Habibullah, who died there six days earlier in December 2002 – emerge from a nearly 2,000-page confidential file of the Army’s criminal investigation into the case, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times.
Like a narrative counterpart to the digital images from Abu Ghraib, the Bagram file depicts young, poorly trained soldiers in repeated incidents of abuse. The harsh treatment, which has resulted in criminal charges against seven soldiers, went well beyond the two deaths. In some instances, testimony shows, it was directed or carried out by interrogators to extract information. In others, it was punishment meted out by military police guards. Sometimes, the torment seems to have been driven by little more than boredom or cruelty, or both. In sworn statements to Army investigators, soldiers describe one female interrogator with a taste for humiliation stepping on the neck of one prostrate detainee and kicking another in the genitals. They tell of a shackled prisoner being forced to roll back and forth on the floor of a cell, kissing the boots of his two interrogators as he went. Yet another prisoner is made to pick plastic bottle caps out of a drum mixed with excrement and water as part of a strategy to soften him up for questioning.
The Times obtained a copy of the file from a person involved in the investigation who was critical of the methods used at Bagram and the military’s response to the deaths.
The CNN account differs at least on the last part:
The Army released the documents this week as part of a Freedom of Information Act request by the ACLU. The same request resulted in the release of several thousand pages of similar documents earlier this year. “The Army does not tolerate detainee abuse and will continue to aggressively investigate all allegations of abuse and hold individuals accountable when appropriate,” an Army spokesman said.
At least three soldiers were investigated and reprimanded for handling detainees outside of authorized military parameters, according to the documents.
Obviously, this is shameful conduct that undermines the mission. The only good news here is that the Army geniunely understands that is seems commited to punishing the perpetrators and figuring out how to revamp training and supervisory procedures to root out those unfit to serve.