Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 24, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

A FEW BAD APPLES....An officer and two NCOs in the 82nd Airborne Division have reported to Human Rights Watch that brutal and casual torture of prisoners held by their unit was (a) routine, (b) well known at "varying levels of command," and (c) directed by military intelligence personnel. From the HRW report:

The officer and NCOs interviewed by Human Rights Watch say that torture of detainees took place almost daily at [Forward Operating Base] Mercury during their entire deployment there, from September 2003 to April 2004.

....The acts of torture and other cruel or inhuman treatment they described include severe beatings (in one incident, a soldier reportedly broke a detainees leg with a baseball bat), blows and kicks to the face, chest, abdomen, and extremities, and repeated kicks to various parts of the detainees body; the application of chemical substances to exposed skin and eyes; forced stress positions, such as holding heavy water jugs with arms outstretched, sometimes to the point of unconsciousness; sleep deprivation; subjecting detainees to extremes of hot and cold; the stacking of detainees into human pyramids; and, the withholding of food (beyond crackers) and water.

....Detainees at FOB Mercury were held in so-called PUC tents....The torture of detainees reportedly was so widespread and accepted that it became a means of stress relief for soldiers. Soldiers said they felt welcome to come to the PUC tent on their off-hours to Fuck a PUC or Smoke a PUC. Fucking a PUC referred to beating a detainee, while Smoking a PUC referred to forced physical exertion sometimes to the point of unconsciousness.

The soldiers said that when a detainee had a visible injury such as a broken limb due to fucking or smoking, an army physicians assistant would be called to administer an analgesic and fill out the proper paperwork. They said those responsible would state that the detainee was injured during the process of capture and the physicians assistant would sign off on this. Broken bones occurred every other week at FOB Mercury.

Needless to say, not all of these detainees turned out to be guilty of anything. The New York Times reports that the Army has launched a criminal investigation and that high-ranking Senators are aware of the charges in the HRW report:

The 30-page report does not identify the troops, but one is Capt. Ian Fishback, who has presented some of his allegations in letters this month to top aides of two senior Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee, John W. Warner of Virginia, the chairman, and John McCain of Arizona. Captain Fishback approached the Senators' offices only after he tried to report the allegations to his superiors for 17 months, the aides said.

According to Time magazine, Bill Frist is also aware of the charges. If you have the stomach for it, the full HRW report is here.

Kevin Drum 2:38 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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