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Saturday, May 15, 2004

Yahoo! News - World Photos - AFP

US soldier, Private First Class Francisco Padilla, a gunner for K troop, 3rd Squadron, 2nd Armed Cavalry Regiment (ACR) sits on the turret of a Humvee next to a sign adorned with a poster of wanted radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr as he and other members of his unit patrol a local market in Diwaniya, south of Iraq AFP/Roberto Schmidt) Yahoo! News - World Photos - AFP

Friday, May 14, 2004

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Army Times - News - More News

May 12, 2004

Military opens investigation into alleged prisoner abuse in Afghanistan

By Stephen Graham
Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan — The U.S. military has opened an investigation into allegations that an Afghan police officer was stripped naked, beaten and photographed at a U.S. base in Afghanistan, the American embassy in Kabul said Wednesday.
The alleged abuse occurred in August 2003 at the American base in the eastern town of Gardez, 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of the capital, Kabul, an embassy statement said. U.S. officials learned of the allegations from the media, it said.

“The U.S. military has launched an immediate investigation,” the statement said.

Lt. Col. Tucker Mansager, a U.S. military spokesman, said the case was only brought to the military’s attention on Tuesday, and that it was being investigated by the army’s Criminal Investigation Department.

He would not discuss the details of the allegations, saying the military wanted the investigation to be conducted in a “totally impartial manner.”

The New York Times quoted the former police colonel, Sayed Nabi Siddiqui, 47, as saying he was subjected to sexual abuse, taunting and sleep deprivation.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time anyone in the military chain of command or the United States Embassy has heard of this alleged mistreatment,” U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said in the statement.

“We are not aware of the existence of any photos of the alleged incident,” he added.

Ahmed Zia Langari, a member of the Afghan Human Rights Commission, which has been involved in Siddiqui’s case, said it informed the United Nations of 44 total complaints of ill-treatment, but that none of the other complainants had alleged torture or physical abuse.

Langari said the commission brought Siddiqui’s case to the attention of the United Nations last August and requested that the world body help set up a meeting with coalition forces. Such a meeting has not yet taken place, he said.

The commission has requested access to the U.S. jail at Bagram and at holding facilities elsewhere, but the military has so far refused, Langari said. Mansager said the request was “being mulled over.”

Photographs allegedly showing abuse of prisoners by U.S. soldiers in Iraq have angered many in Afghanistan, Langari said.

“Afghan citizens have seen the situation in Iraq on their televisions, so naturally they are concerned that this kind of treatment is going on here,” Langari told AP. “If this is proved, then it is the duty of the coalition forces to deal with the perpetrators.”

Khalilzad said he was confident the military’s investigation would be thorough and lead to “appropriate action” if the allegations are true.

On Tuesday, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan said the military had made “very significant changes” to the way it handles prisoners in Afghanistan after alleged abuse, including the deaths of three prisoners.

Lt. Gen. David Barno said the military had investigated “challenges and problems” at outlying bases and that it decided to transfer suspects to the main holding facility at Bagram, north of the capital, more quickly.

Barno made no mention of Gardez or the allegations made by the police officer.

The New York Times quoted Siddiqui as saying he was wrongly detained on July 15 after he reported police corruption and that someone then accused him of being a member of the Taliban. He said he was held for about 40 days at three different U.S. bases: at Gardez, Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, and Bagram.

He described being humiliated repeatedly during his detention in all three places.

Siddiqui told the Times that for the 12 days he was in Kandahar, detainees were packed into wire cages and forced to use a bucket as a toilet in front of other detainees.

He also said soldiers threw stones and bottles at detainees.

“It was like stoning monkeys at the zoo,” he told the New York Times. “They brought buckets of stones and they were laughing as they did it.”

The U.S. military opened a formal investigation into the deaths of two Afghans at Bagram’s closely guarded jail in December 2002, but says it has had trouble gathering evidence and has yet to release results.

Military autopsies found that both men died of blunt force injuries.

A third Afghan died last June at a holding facility in eastern Kunar province.

A U.S. intelligence official said last week that the CIA inspector general is investigating that death because it involved an independent contractor working for the agency.

Afghan government officials have expressed concern that any sign of widespread abuse could turn ordinary Afghans against the presence of foreign soldiers, but remain supportive of the presence of 20,000 U.S.-led troops here.

The U.S. military views Taliban and al-Qaida prisoners as “unlawful combatants,” and has held hundreds captured in the war that ousted the Taliban in late 2001 for more than two years without formal charge or access to lawyers.

Army Times - News - More News

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Iraq War News-Email received

Life at FOB Bernstein near Tikrit is, well, rustic. There are no MWR facilities with gyms or televisions like at some other bases. And while they do have internet and phones, the base has had substantial problems with the system crashing. (They are currently in the process of upgrading the system.) Forget about indoor plumbing. They do not even have chemical latrines, but rather use sunken PVC pipes for urinals (this is a Cavalry and Infantry forward base--there are no women), and have wood outhouses with toilet seats over metal buckets for, shall we say, other tasks. The mail was delayed for a couple of weeks this last time, and they are still waiting for some equipment and personal effects that was sent over in large seaborne containers when they left the States. When the mail finally did arrive this last week, the soldiers described it as being like Christmas. Packages and letters from loved ones, friends, and neighbors filled the cots. In addition to letters from people they know, the DOD distributes mail addressed to "Any Soldier" among the troops. It was good to see from the letters how communities were coming together. For example, a Lieutenant from North Carolina got a package from one of his neighbors, who explained how the other neighbors on the block were helping the soldier’s wife by mowing the lawn, and doing repairs around the house. The mail service and the internet service are supposed to be improving soon, and this will be good for the soldiers. While they understand that they have it much better in terms of communication than their brethren who fought in previous wars, it is nonetheless difficult to be out of touch with their families for extended periods of time. (Robert Alt of No Left Turns, May 10)

Iraq War News

Monday, May 10, 2004

News Feature

U.S., Britain, Seek to Contain Iraq Abuse Scandal
By: Reuters

Mon May 10, 2004 06:58 PM ET

WASHINGTON/LONDON (Reuters) - The United States and its main Iraq war ally, Britain, sought on Monday to limit fallout from the Iraq prisoner abuse scandal as a leaked report said the Red Cross alerted them months ago to such mistreatment.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, facing calls he resign over the scandal that has outraged the Arab world and shaken U.S. prestige, got a resounding vote of support from President Bush, after a one-hour meeting at the Pentagon.

Bush also viewed more graphic photographs of prisoner abuse, which the Pentagon was considering making public

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, already under pressure at home for backing the Iraq war, followed Bush in apologizing for the mistreatment.

"We express our total condemnation and disgust at any abuses that have been carried out," he said, while his government said some soldiers implicated in the mistreatment could soon face prosecution.

A new opinion poll showed support for Blair's Labor Party has fallen to its lowest level for 17 years following the reports of abuse of Iraqi prisoners.

A Feb. 4 Red Cross report that appeared on the Wall Street Journal Web site on Monday said delegates of the international relief agency saw U.S. troops keeping Iraqi prisoners naked for days in darkness at the Abu Ghraib jail in October, and were told by the intelligence officer in charge it was "part of the process."

The report also described British troops forcing Iraqi detainees to kneel and stomping on their necks in an incident in which one prisoner died.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it had repeatedly alerted U.S.-led occupation authorities to practices it described as "serious violations of international humanitarian law" and "in some cases tantamount to torture."


U.S. officials have described the abuse as isolated. Bush on Saturday called the acts the "wrongdoing of a few."
Bush told reporters after his meeting with Rumsfeld he continued to stand firmly behind Rumsfeld despite calls by some Democrats for the secretary to resign. Rumsfeld said last week he would not quit "simply because people try to make a political issue out of it."

"You're doing a superb job. You're a strong secretary of defense and our nation owes you a debt of gratitude," Bush told Rumsfeld.

But pressure on top officials showed no signs of abating.

The independent Army Times newspaper, widely read in the U.S. military, rebuked Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Monday for "a failure of leadership," and added that accountability might mean "relieving top leaders from duty in a time of war."

A member of U.S.-backed Iraqi Governing Council said senior U.S. officials should be held accountable for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners, while the U.S. ambassador to NATO said the scandal had plunged the Bush administration into crisis.

The U.S. Senate on Monday unanimously passed a resolution condemning the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners, as Congress awaited arrival of new images of abuses of detainees at the prison.

Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita told reporters that officials hadn't ruled in or out release of the unpublished photos seen by Bush.

Di Rita said the pictures included "inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature," but provided no details. He also did not specify the content of the pictures Bush viewed.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush had seen more than a dozen photographs and his reaction "was one of deep disgust and disbelief that anyone who wears our uniform would engage in such shameful and appalling acts. It does not represent our United States military and it does not represent the United States of America."

News Feature

Sunday, May 09, 2004

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