Lone US military officer goes on trial for Abu Ghraib abuseSun Aug 19, 2007 08:38
Lone US military officer goes on trial for Abu Ghraib abuse
AFP - Sunday, August 19
WASHINGTON (AFP) - - Lieutenant Colonel Steven Jordan, the only military officer charged in the prisoner abuse scandal at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib jail, goes before a court martial Monday in Fort Meade, Maryland.
More than three years after snapshots of Iraqi prisoners humiliated by their prison guards shocked the world, only a handful of US soldiers have been convicted, but none of their military or civilian superiors.
The pictures showed naked prisoners piled in pyramids, tied to each other with electric wire, threatened by dogs, wearing women's undergarments on their heads and forced to parade naked before female guards.
The graphic abuse cut short the widespread feeling of sympathy the September 11, 2001 attacks had generated for the United States, In 2006, US President George W. Bush admitted the Abu Ghraib scandal was the biggest mistake his government made in Iraq.
Donald Rumsfeld, the controversial defense secretary at the time, said he had twice tended his resignation over the scandal, which he blamed on just "a few bad apples" out of hundreds of thousands of US servicemen.
Only 11 soldiers have been convicted so far in the scandal. They have received sentences from a few hours of community work to 10 years behind bars. Most said they were simply following orders.
Among the higher ranks, former general Janis Karpinski, prison commander in Iraq at the time of the scandal, was sanctioned with a demotion, but was never put on trial.
After shedding her uniform, Karpinsky said in a book published in late 2005 that the Abu Ghraib abuses "were the result of conflicting orders and confused standards extending from the military commanders in Iraq all the way to the summit of civilian leadership in Washington."
According to different Pentagon reports, Jordan, 51, was part of the confusion.
At Abu Ghraib he was officially responsible for the interrogation center, but due to his lack of experience he devoted his time to trying to improve conditions for the soldiers posted in the prison who felt they had been abandoned as cannon fodder.
The army reservist who specialised in analysing intelligence, not gathering it, did not supervise interrogations, allowing the abuse to flourish among his badly-stretched staff who were under constant pressure to produce results.
He is accused of forcing prisoners one night to strip naked, before threatening them with attack dogs and of lying to investigators that he had not witnessed any abuse or naked inmates at the prison.
He is charged with obstructing justice, failing in his duties, lying to investigators and of conduct unbecoming an officer. He faces a maximum of 16 and a half years in prison. The court martial is expected to last two weeks.
Jordan's case has drawn little attention by US media, which in just a few articles describe him as a scapegoat in the scandal. Only 20 reporters have signed on to cover his court martial.
Even civil rights groups are keeping a low profile.
Iraqis Being Abused by US Personnel
(CBS) Last month, the U.S. Army announced 17 soldiers in Iraq, including a brigadier general, had been removed from duty after charges of mistreating Iraqi prisoners.
But the details of what happened have been kept secret, until now.
It turns out photographs surfaced showing American soldiers abusing and humiliating Iraqis being held at a prison near Baghdad. The Army investigated, and issued a scathing report.
Now, an Army general and her command staff may face the end of long military careers. And six soldiers are facing court martial in Iraq -- and possible prison time.
Correspondent Dan Rather talks to one of those soldiers. And, for the first time, 60 Minutes II will show some of the pictures that led to the Army investigation.
According to the U.S. Army, one Iraqi prisoner was told to stand on a box with his head covered, wires attached to his hands. He was told that if he fell off the box, he would be electrocuted.
It was this picture, and dozens of others, that prompted an investigation by the U.S. Army. On Tuesday, 60 Minutes II asked Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of coalition operations in Iraq, what went wrong.
“Frankly, I think all of us are disappointed by the actions of the few,” says Kimmitt. “Every day, we love our soldiers, but frankly, some days we're not always proud of our soldiers."
For decades under Saddam Hussein, many prisoners who were taken to the Abu Ghraib prison never came out. It was the centerpiece of Saddam’s empire of fear, and those prisoners who did make it out told nightmarish tales of torture beyond imagining – and executions without reason.
60 Minutes II talked about the prison and shared pictures of what Americans did there with two men who have extensive interrogation experience: Former Marine Lt. Col. Bill Cowan and former CIA Bureau Chief Bob Baer.
"I visited Abu Ghraib a couple of days after it was liberated. It was the most awful sight I've ever seen. I said, ‘If there's ever a reason to get rid of Saddam Hussein, it's because of Abu Ghraib,'” says Baer. “There were bodies that were eaten by dogs, torture. You know, electrodes coming out of the walls. It was an awful place."
"We went into Iraq to stop things like this from happening, and indeed, here they are happening under our tutelage,” says Cowan.
It was American soldiers serving as military police at Abu Ghraib who took these pictures. The investigation started when one soldier got them from a friend, and gave them to his commanders. 60 Minutes II has a dozen of these pictures, and there are many more – pictures that show Americans, men and women in military uniforms, posing with naked Iraqi prisoners.
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