More prisoner abuse is reported in Iraq.
An Army captain, Ian Fishback, whose allegations about ongoing prisoner abuse in Iraq were recently published in a report by a human rights group, has been grilled by investigators and pressured to reveal sources, but the investigators did not pursue questions about the abuse itself, such as what officers may have known. Captain Fishback, a West Point graduate whose father fought in Viet Nam, has been lodging complaints with the Army since this spring to no avail, so he took his concerns to the Senate Armed Services Committee and Human Rights Watch. He says the abuse of prisoners is a "systemic" and a "leadership problem".
Stopdown note: Claims by non-officers, prosecuted for the abuse of prisoners, that they were told to commit abuses by officers and supervisors have been dismissed by the military courts.
Stopdown note: According to various reports, the U.S. has been arresting Iraqi men and boys, since the occupation began, and putting them in prison without charges and refusing to give any information to their families. Officers have acknowledged that only a few of these detainees are actually insurgents. This wanton abuse may be a major factor in fueling the resistance. It is like spitting in the face of families of non-combatants. It is important remember that the Iraqi people have not forgotten, as have the American people, that the U.S. supported Sadam Hussein as a Cold War and anti-Iran ally, during his long career of butchering civilians including using chemical weapons to kill about 30,000 Kurds. And yet it is possible the U.S. could have had peace instead of war in Iraq, following the invasion, simply by treating people with respect. It is true that in Mosul, where General Petraeus tried to pursue civil, humane and inclusive policies, the rebellion has flared anyway. But that doesn't mean that a nation-wide policy of humane treatment of individuals might not have resulted in a very different picture from the war zone we're looking at today. The same argument can be made about many Cold War theaters, where U.S. gave free rein to ally dictatorships in the exterminate, as communists, civilians who spoke up for human rights. This fueled rebellions that might have fizzled against a government that did not do these things.
The New York Times, Sept 28, 2005 pA10(L)
Officer Criticizes Detainee Abuse Inquiry. (Foreign Desk)(Ian Fishback) Eric Schmitt.
Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2005 The New York Times Company
An Army captain who reported new allegations of detainee abuse in Iraq said Tuesday that Army investigators seemed more concerned about tracking down young soldiers who reported misconduct than in following up the accusations and investigating whether higher-ranking officers knew of the abuses.
The officer, Capt. Ian Fishback, said investigators from the Criminal Investigation Command and the 18th Airborne Corps inspector general had pressed him to divulge the names of two sergeants from his former battalion who also gave accounts of abuse, which were made public in a report last Friday by the group Human Rights Watch.
Captain Fishback, speaking publicly on the matter for first time, said the investigators who have questioned him in the past 10 days seemed to be less interested in individuals he identified in his chain of command who allegedly committed the abuses.
''I'm convinced this is going in a direction that's not consistent with why we came forward,'' Captain Fishback said in a telephone interview from Fort Bragg, N.C., where he is going through Army Special Forces training. ''We came forward because of the larger issue that prisoner abuse is systemic in the Army. I'm concerned this will take a new twist, and they'll try to scapegoat some of the younger soldiers. This is a leadership problem.''
In separate statements to the human rights organization, Captain Fishback and the two sergeants described abuses by soldiers in the 82nd Airborne Division, including beatings of Iraqi prisoners, exposing them to extremes of hot and cold, stacking prisoners in human pyramids, and depriving them of sleep at Camp Mercury, a forward operating base near Falluja. The abuses reportedly took place between September 2003 and April 2004, before and during the abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.
After fruitlessly trying for 17 months to get his superiors to take action on his complaints, Captain Fishback said, he finally took his concerns this month to aides to two senior Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee, John W. Warner of Virginia, the committee chairman, and John McCain of Arizona. When the Army learned he was talking to Senate aides, Captain Fishback said that Army investigators suddenly intensified their interest in his complaints.
Senior Pentagon and Army officials said Tuesday that the new allegations, which focus on the division's First Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry, were being pursued vigorously. ''All I know is that the Army is taking it seriously,'' Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said at a Pentagon news conference. ''To the extent somebody's done something that they shouldn't have done, they'll be punished for it.''
Col. Joseph Curtin, an Army spokesman, added: ''But it will take time, given the period of time that's elapsed since when these allegations took place.''
Captain Fishback, 26, a West Point graduate from Michigan and son of a Vietnam War veteran, said he was troubled by the Army's response to his concerns, starting in the spring of 2004 after the abuses at Abu Ghraib became known, about the treatment of detainees that he believed violated the Geneva Conventions.
In the months before, Captain Fishback said he had seen at least one interrogation where prisoners were being abused and was told about other ill treatment of detainees by his sergeants. But he said his commanders left the impression that the United States did not have to follow the Geneva Conventions when dealing with prisoners in Iraq, so he did not report the incidents.
That changed, he said, after he heard Mr. Rumsfeld testify to Congress after the Abu Ghraib abuses became public that the Conventions did apply in Iraq. But when he took his complaints to his immediate superiors, Captain Fishback said his company commander cautioned him to ''remember the honor of the unit is at stake.'' He said his battalion commander expressed no particular alarm.
As he moved up his chain of command, he said no one could give him clear guidance on how the Geneva Conventions applied in Iraq.
''We did not set the conditions for our soldiers to succeed,'' said Captain Fishback, who has served combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. ''We failed to set clear standards, communicate those standards and enforce those standards. For us to get to that point now, however, we have to come to grips with whether it's acceptable to use coercion to obtain information from detainees.''
By this summer, Captain Fishback had met with Human Rights Watch researchers several times. He gave the organization the names of other members of his unit who could support his allegations.
Captain Fishback said that when his command learned about 10 days ago that he was preparing to speak to Senate aides about his concerns, they directed him to talk to criminal investigators, which he said he did for 90 minutes on Sept. 19. But when he refused to divulge the sergeants' names, he said, investigators told him there wasn't much they could do immediately.
But last Thursday, a day after Human Rights Watch notified the 82nd Airborne that it would be releasing a copy of its report outlining the allegations, Captain Fishback said he was summoned back to Fort Bragg from field training for six hours of questioning by investigators.
The report was made public last Friday, and Captain Fishback said investigators had questioned him for about an hour on Monday and again on Tuesday. ''They're asking the same questions over and over again,'' he said. ''They want the names of the sergeants, and they keep asking about my relationship with Human Rights Watch.''
Captain Fishback said he has refused to disclose the names of the two sergeants -- one who has left the Army and another who has been reassigned -- because he promised not to disclose their identities if they came forward. But he said his command told him Tuesday that he could face criminal prosecution if disobeyed its ''lawful order'' to disclose.
Captain Fishback said he had no regrets about coming forward, adding, ''It's the right thing to do.''