Abuse Probe Backs 82nd

January 29th, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: Abuse Probe Backs 82nd

Fayetteville (NC) Observer
January 28, 2007
Pg. 1

By Kevin Maurer, Staff writer
An Army investigation into allegations that 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers abused Iraqi detainees in 2003 reportedly found probable cause to charge five soldiers with assault.
But overall, according to sources familiar with the probe, investigators found that while there were some command failures, the 82nd’s soldiers were adequately trained on handing Iraqi prisoners.
Chris Grey, an Army Criminal Investigation Command spokesman, did not return calls Friday seeking comment on the five soldiers charged with assault. Grey said earlier this month that the investigation into Capt. Ian Fishback’s allegations of abuse by 82nd soldiers was closed.
Fishback, who was a company executive officer in the 1st Battalion of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, alleged that Iraqi detainees were stripped, deprived of sleep, exposed to the elements and forced into stress positions for long periods of time in order to get information. His accusations were made public in a September 2005 report by the advocacy group Human Rights Watch.
He alleged that the chain of command didn’t act when alerted to possible abuses and that paratroopers did not get clear guidance on how to handle detainees.
Paul Boyce, an Army spokesman, said the Army Inspector General investigation is complete.
“This report is the result of extensive coordination across the many levels of oversight,” Boyce said. “The Army aggressively has pursued the allegations and issues raised in this case and continues to implement corrective actions as appropriate.”
Boyce said the Army is “committed to incorporating lessons learned into training,” including stressing detainee operations before deployments and updating Army training manuals.
Fishback, who is based at Fort Bragg and is completing Special Forces training, was unavailable for comment.
At the time Fishback’s allegations surfaced, officers and enlisted soldiers who had served with him denied that the abuse he described occurred.
But Fishback’s accusations gained national attention and prompted Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona to draft anti-torture legislation.
McCain attached his measure, which forbids cruel and inhuman treatment to any detainee in U.S. custody, to last year’s defense appropriations bill. The administration threatened to veto it but later relented.
President Bush signed the bill in January.
Fishback never saw any beatings in Iraq, but two noncommissioned officers told Human Rights Watch about detainee abuse at Forward Operating Base Mercury.
Human Rights Watch has not disclosed the names of the sergeants, but The Fayetteville Observer was able to contact one.
The sergeant, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said his unit didn’t receive any training on how to handle detainees or on interrogation techniques before it deployed to Iraq.
He said paratroopers beat detainees to relieve stress, put detainees in stress positions and made them exercise to exhaustion. “We thought this was acceptable, so this is how we operated,” he said.
Charges against soldiers
According to sources, the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command charged five soldiers with assault based on its investigation.
One paratrooper was tried by court-martial, another is awaiting court-martial and three others were being punished by their commanders.
Sources said the investigation’s findings did not have the soldiers’ names or units.
The former 82nd sergeant who spoke with the Observer was not charged and believes no one should be punished.
“This was the guidance we were given,” the sergeant said. “I’ll take the responsibility for what I did because I thought I was doing the right thing.”
Marc Garlasco, a senior military analyst with Human Rights Watch, said the central issue is command responsibility
“Soldiers should not be scapegoated when they were ordered to commit acts contrary to the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) or believed those acts were sanctioned.”
Garlasco said he found it preposterous that the Army Inspector General found that the paratroopers had received adequate training on detainee operations.
He said the unit’s soldiers told Human Rights Watch that they had “received minimal detainee handling training before being sent to Iraq and none at all on confinement. How can that be considered adequate?”
Fishback said in a May 2004 memo to his commander that he had served under three battalion commanders that accepted violations of the Geneva Conventions.
“My commanders issued guidance that the Geneva Conventions did not apply or provided reasoning why actions that violated the Geneva Conventions were morally acceptable,” he wrote.
According to a source, the investigation found that the former commander of one of the battalions — it did not specify which battalion — failed to report incidents between detainees and soldiers.
The investigation also found that the paratroopers of the 1st Battalion of the 504th did not move prisoners out of Forward Operating Base Mercury, a base manned by the 82nd in western Iraq, in a timely manner.
The unnamed sergeant said some of the detainees were at the base for a week or more and then shipped to Abu Ghraib.
Fishback said in the Human Rights report it is against Army doctrine for units to hold prisoners they’ve captured.
“It’s Army doctrine that when you take a prisoner, one of the things you do is secure that prisoner, and then you speed him to the rear,” he said. “Well, we didn’t do that. We’d keep them at our holding facility for, I think, it was up to 72 hours. Then we would place him under the guard of soldiers he had just been trying to kill.”
January 29th, 2007  
Well, if you ask me, if the Decider in Chief would not keep changing policy, and saying he can do what he wants, and call people what he wants, no matter the Law, it would be easier for Troops to just go by the book.

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