Residents of Fallujah called them "the Murderous Maniacs" because of how they treated Iraqis in detention. They were soldiers of the US Army's 82nd Airborne Division, 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, stationed at Forward Operating Base Mercury (FOB Mercury) in Iraq. The soldiers considered this name a badge of honorThe Human Rights Watch report, as excerpted at NYRB. What was that about "a few bad apples"?
One officer and two noncommissioned officers (NCOs) of the 82nd Airborne who witnessed abuse, speaking on condition of anonymity, described in multiple interviews with Human Rights Watch how their battalion in 2003–2004 routinely used physical and mental torture as a means of intelligence gathering and for stress relief. One soldier raised his concerns within the Army chain of command for seventeen months before the Army agreed to undertake an investigation, but only after he had contacted members of Congress and considered going public with the story.(emphasis added)
According to their accounts, the torture and other mistreatment of Iraqis in detention was systematic and was known at varying levels of command. Military Intelligence personnel, they said, directed and encouraged Army personnel to subject prisoners to forced, repetitive exercise, sometimes to the point of unconsciousness, sleep deprivation for days on end, and exposure to extremes of heat and cold as part of the interrogation process. At least one interrogator beat detainees in front of other soldiers. Soldiers also incorporated daily beatings of detainees in preparation for interrogations. Civilians believed to be from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) conducted interrogations out of sight, but not earshot, of soldiers, who heard what they believed were abusive interrogations.
All three soldiers expressed confusion on the proper application of the Geneva Conventions on the laws of armed conflict in the treatment of prisoners. All had served in Afghanistan prior to Iraq and said that contradictory statements by US officials regarding the applicability of the Geneva Conventions in Afghanistan and Iraq (see Conclusion) contributed to their confusion, and ultimately to how they treated prisoners. Although none were still in Iraq when we interviewed them, the NCOs said they believed the practices continue.
The soldiers came forward because of what they described as deep frustration with the military chain of command's failure to view the abuses as symptomatic of broader failures of leadership and respond accordingly.
And lest we forget:
When the Abu Ghraib scandal broke in April 2004, senior officials in the Bush administration claimed that severe prisoner abuse was committed only by a few rogue, poorly trained reserve personnel at a single facility in Iraq. But since then, hundreds of other cases of abuse from Iraq and Afghanistan have come to light, described in US government documents, reports of the International Committee of the Red Cross, media reports, legal documents filed by detainees, and from detainee accounts provided to human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch.Tie it in with what James Yee reported, and start making this rather curious connection while you're there:
Much of modern Christianity focusses on charity, which we seem to be directed to by John the Baptist and by Jesus. But what does the Lord require of you, according to Micah? First, to do justice. How often is charity even mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures? How often does it even appear in the Gospels? And why this question, in this context? Because, as Michael Eric Dyson pointed out for me this morning, if you have justice, you don't need charity. And I'm beginning to think we like avoiding justice, and think we make up for it by our charity. As Randy Newman sang: "No one likes us, I don't know why/We may not be perfect, but heaven knows, we try." How often do we, as a nation, complain that our "foreign aid" doesn't buy us any gratitude, while we ignore the simpler, and more basic demands, of justice?
What this Administration has done in our collective name is hideous, but they do no more than represent the dark national Id that we do very little to suppress, and spend a great deal more energy, simply denying.
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