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Torture of Iraqi POWs in Baghdad's Abu Ghraib Prison

www.globalresearch.ca   2 May 2004

The URL of this article is: http://globalresearch.ca/articles/CBS405A.html

CBS 60 Minutes, 28 April 2004

Court Martial in Iraq; US Army soldiers face court martials for actions at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib Prison



DAN RATHER, co-host:

Last month, the US 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 Iraqi prisoners at a prison near Baghdad. The Army investigating 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. Tonight, you will hear from one of those soldiers, and for the first time, you'll see some of the pictures that led to the Army investigation. We want to warn you the pictures are difficult to look at.

(Photo of hooded prisoner; Mark Kimmitt and reporter)

RATHER: (Voiceover) Americans did this to an Iraqi prisoner. According to the US Army, the man was told to stand on a box with his head covered with 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 US Army. Yesterday, we asked General Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of Coalition Operations in Iraq, what went wrong.

General MARK KIMMITT: Frankly, I think all of us are disappointed at the actions of the few. You know, every day we love our soldiers and--but frankly, some days we're not always proud of our soldiers.

(Footage of Abu Ghraib; prison wall; bars; trap door falls open; pipes; floor; shoe; Bill Cowan, Bob Baer and reporter; Cowan; Baer)

RATHER: (Voiceover) Abu Ghraib under Saddam Hussein was infamous. For decades, many who were taken here never came out. And those prisoners who did make it out told nightmarish tales of torture beyond imagining and executions without reason. Abu Ghraib was the centerpiece of Saddam's empire of fear.

We talked about the prison and shared pictures of what Americans did there with two men who have extensive interrogation experience, former US Marine Lieutenant Colonel Bill Cowan and former CIA bureau chief Bob Baer.

Mr. BOB BAER: I visited Abu Ghraib a couple days after it was liberated. It was the most awful sight I've ever seen. And I said, 'If there's ever a reason we want to get rid of Saddam Hussein, it's because of Abu Ghraib.' There were bodies that were eaten by dogs, torture, you know, electrodes coming out of walls, scratches on the--it was an awful place.

Lieutenant Colonel BILL COWAN: We went into Iraq to stop things like this from happening and, indeed, here they are happening under our tutelage.

(Censored photos of hooded nude prisoners; censored photo of man, woman and nude prisoners; photo of slur; censored photo of nude prisoners; censored photo of woman and nude prisoners; photo of man, woman and stacked prisoners)



RATHER: (Voiceover) 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. We have a dozen of them. There are many, many more. The pictures show Americans, men and women, in military uniforms, posing with naked Iraqi prisoners. There are shots of the prisoners stacked in a pyramid, one with a slur written on his skin in English. In some, the male prisoners are positioned to simulate sex with each other. And in most of the pictures, the Americans are laughing, posing, pointing or giving the camera a thumbs-up. We were only able to contact one of the soldiers facing charges. The Army says they're all in Iraq awaiting court-martial hearings. Again, General Mark Kimmitt in Baghdad.

What can the Army say specifically to Iraqis and others who are going to see this and take it very personally?

Gen. KIMMITT: Well, the first thing I'd say is we're appalled as well. These are our fellow soldiers. These are the people we work with every day. They represent us, they wear the same uniform as us, and they left their fellow soldiers down. Our soldiers could be taken prisoner as well, and we expect our soldiers to be treated well by the adversary, by the enemy. And if we can't hold ourselves up as an example of how to treat people with dignity and respect, we can't ask that other nations do that to our soldiers as well.

So what would I tell the people of Iraq? This is wrong. This is reprehensible, but this is not representative of the 150,000 soldiers that are over here. I'd say the same thing to the American people. Don't judge your Army based on the actions of a few.

(Photo of Chip Frederick; photo of hooded prisoner; documents; excerpt from documents; censored photo of woman pointing to nude prisoners; photo of Frederick; documents; excerpt from documents; telephone; reporter on telephone)

RATHER: (Voiceover) One of the soldiers facing court-martial is Army Reserve Staff Sergeant Chip Frederick. He is charged with maltreatment for allegedly participating in setting up this photo and for posing for a photograph sitting on top of a detainee. Sergeant Frederick is also charged with an indecent act for observing this scene. He is charged with assault for allegedly striking detainees and ordering detainees to strike each other. We talked with him by phone from Baghdad where he is awaiting court-martial. He told us he is pleading not guilty, claiming the way the Army was running the prison led to the abuse of prisoners.

(To Frederick by phone) When you first arrived at--at the prison, Sergeant, what happened, and what didn't happen?

Staff Sergeant CHIP FREDERICK: Just everything. We had no support, no training whatsoever. And I kept asking my chain of command for certain things, like rules and regulations, and it just--it just wasn't happening.

(From video diary) Hey, sweetie. Hi, Tyler and...(unintelligible). How y'all doing?

(Footage of Frederick)

RATHER: (Voiceover) This is Sergeant Frederick in Iraq six months before he faced a court- martial. He sent home a video diary of his trip across the country.

Sgt. FREDERICK: (From video diary) See all these kids? They really love us here. It makes you proud to be American.

(Photo of Frederick and men; photo of Frederick)

RATHER: (Voiceover) Frederick, a reservist, said he was proud to serve in Iraq, and he seemed particularly well-suited for the job at Abu Ghraib. He is a corrections officer at a Virginia prison whose warden described him to us as "one of the best."

(To Frederick by phone) Did other Americans come into the prison at any time, uniform or otherwise?

Sgt. FREDERICK: (By phone) Yes, sir. We have military intelligence. We have all kinds of other government agencies, FBI, CIA, all those that I didn't even know, recognize.

(Footage of letters and e-mails; excerpts from documents; prison; bars; hallway; bars)

RATHER: (Voiceover) Sergeant Frederick's letters and e-mail messages home offer clues to problems inside the prison. Frederick wrote that he was helping the interrogators. Quote, "Military intelligence has encouraged and told us 'Great job.' They usually don't allow others to watch them interrogate, but since they like the way I run the prison, they've made an exception. We help getting them to talk with the way we handle them. We've had a very high rate with our style of getting them to break. They usually end up breaking within hours."

According to the Army's own investigation, that's what was happening. The Army found that interrogators asked reservists working in the prison to prepare the Iraqi detainees, physically and mentally, for questioning.

What, if any, actions are being taken against the interrogators?

Gen. KIMMITT: I hope that that investigation is including not only the people that actually committed the crimes but some of the people that might have encouraged these crimes as well because they certainly share some level of responsibility as well.

(Footage from car interior; cars; document; excerpts from document; reporter on telephone)

RATHER: (Voiceover) But so far, none of the interrogators at Abu Ghraib is facing criminal charges. In fact, a number of them are civilians, and military law doesn't apply to them. But one of the civilian interrogators at Abu Ghraib was questioned by the Army, and he told investigators he had "broken several tables during interrogations unintentionally" while trying to, quote, "fear up" prisoners. He denied hurting anyone. In our phone conversation, we asked Sergeant Frederick whether he had seen any prisoners beaten.

Sgt. FREDERICK: (By phone) I saw things--we had to use force sometimes to get the inmates to cooperate just like our rules of engagement said. We learned a little bit of Arabic, basic commands. And they didn't want to listen, so sometimes you would just give them a little nudge or something like that just to get them to cooperate so we could get the mission accomplished.

(Footage of Gary Myers and reporter; photo of Frederick and men)

RATHER: (Voiceover) Attorney Gary Myers and a judge advocate in Iraq are defending Chip Frederick. They say he should never have been charged because of the failure of his commanders to provide proper training and standards.

How could such a person described almost universally by people who know him as "a good guy," get himself into this kind of jam?

Mr. GARY MYERS: The elixir of power, the elixir of believing that you're helping the CIA. For God's sake, when you're from a small town in Virginia, it's intoxicating. And so good guys sometimes do things believing that they are being of assistance and helping a just cause and in--and--and helping people who they view as important.

(Photo of Frederick; photo of documents; men at prison; reporter on telephone)

RATHER: (Voiceover) Sergeant Frederick says he didn't see a copy of the Geneva Convention rules for handling prisoners of war until after he was charged. The Army investigation confirms that soldiers at Abu Ghraib were not trained at all in Geneva Convention rules, and most were reservists, part-time soldiers who didn't get the kind of specialized prisoner of war training given to regular Army members. And Chip Frederick says there were far too few soldiers there for the number of prisoners.

(To Frederick by phone) About how many prisoners were there?

Sgt. FREDERICK: (By phone) There was--when I left, there was over 900.

RATHER: (By phone) Mm-hmm.

Sgt. FREDERICK: (By phone) And there was only five soldiers plus two noncommissioned officers in charge for those 900--over 900 inmates.

(Footage of Kimmitt and reporter)

RATHER: (Voiceover) We asked General Mark Kimmitt about understaffing.

For those people, and there are bound to be some, who extrapolate from this and conclude that at least part of it results from the Army being stretched too thin and asked to do too much, your response to them would be what?

Gen. KIMMITT: That doesn't condone individual acts of criminal behavior. No matter how tired we are, no matter how overworked we are, no matter how stretched we are, that doesn't give us license, and it doesn't give us the authority to break the law. That may have been a contributing factor, but at the end of the day, this is probably more about leadership, supervision, setting standards, abiding by the Army values and understanding what's right and having the guts to say what's right.

Brigadier General JANICE KARPINSKY: (To man) There's a lot of work going on out here now. We're changing everything.

(Footage of Janice Karpinsky; Abu Ghraib; Karpinsky; Karpinsky, Steve Kroft and man)

RATHER: (Voiceover) This is Brigadier General Janice Karpinsky who ran Abu Ghraib for the Army. She was also in charge of three other Army prison facilities housing thousands of Iraqi inmates. The Army investigation determined that her lack of leadership and clear standards led to problems system-wide. General Karpinsky talked with " 60 Minutes "'s Steve Kroft last October at Abu Ghraib before any of this came out.

Brig. Gen. KARPINSKY: This is international standards. It's the best care available for--in a prison facility.

(Footage of Karpinsky, Kroft and man walking; Karpinsky, Kroft, man and prisoners; Karpinsky and man; reporter on telephone)

RATHER: (Voiceover) But the Army's own investigation found serious problems behind the scenes. The Army has photographs that show a detainee with wires attached to his genitals, and another that shows a dog attacking an Iraqi prisoner.

(By phone) Were dogs ever used on the inmates?

Sgt. FREDERICK: (By phone) Yes, sir. They were used for intimidation factors.

(Reporter on telephone; footage of document; excerpt from document; photo of beaten prisoner)

RATHER: (Voiceover) Part of the Army's own investigation is a statement from an Iraqi detainee who charges a translator hired to work at the prison with raping a male juvenile prisoner. "They covered all the doors with sheets. I heard the screaming. And the female soldier was taking pictures." And then there is this picture of an Iraqi man who appears to be dead and badly beaten.

Gen. KIMMITT: It's reprehensible that anybody would be taking a picture of that situation.

RATHER: Be reprehensible that anybody would be taking a picture of that situation, what about the situation itself?

Gen. KIMMITT: Well, I don't know the facts surrounding what caused the bruising and the bleeding. If that is also one of the charges being brought against the soldiers, that, too, is absolutely unacceptable and completely outside of what we expect of our soldiers and our guards at the prisons.

RATHER: Any indications, General, that anything approaching these kinds of things have happened in other prisons?

Gen. KIMMITT: Well, Dan, I'd like to sit here and say these are the only prisoner abuse cases that we're aware of, but we know that there have been some other ones since we've been here in Iraq.

(Footage of Saddam Hussein picture; writing on wall; Iraqis; man, woman and reporter)

RATHER: (Voiceover) When Saddam Hussein ran this prison, Iraqis were too afraid to come to Abu Ghraib and ask for information on their family members. When we were there last month, hundreds had gathered outside the gates worried about what's going on inside.

Lt. Col. COWAN: We will be paid back for this. These people at some point will be let out. Their families are going to know, their friends are going to know.

(Footage of helicopter; soldiers running; Cowan; photo of soldier)

RATHER: (Voiceover) This is a hard story to have to tell when Americans are fighting and dying in Iraq. For Colonel Cowan, that's a personal issue. His son is an infantry soldier serving in Iraq for the last four months.

To that person who's sitting in their living room saying, 'I wish they wouldn't do this. It's undermining our troops, and they shouldn't do it'...

Lt. Col. COWAN: If we don't tell this story, these kinds of things will continue, and we'll end up getting paid back 100 or 1,000 times over. Americans want to be proud of each and every thing that our servicemen and women are doing in Iraq. We want to be proud, we know they're working hard. None of us, now, later, before, during this conflict shouldn't want to let incidents like this, things like this, just pass.

(Footage of Kimmitt and reporter)

RATHER: (Voiceover) General Mark Kimmitt says the Army will not let what happened at Abu Ghraib just pass.

General, what is the most important thing for the American people--and for that matter, any people who see these pictures and absorb these terrible facts--in your judgment, what's the important thing for us to know about this?

Gen. KIMMITT: I think two things. Number one, this is a small minority of the military.

And number two, they need to understand that is not the Army. The Army is a value--values-based organization. We live by our values, some of our soldiers every day die by our values. And these acts that you see in these pictures may reflect the actions of individuals, but by God, it doesn't reflect my Army.

RATHER: A postscript. Two weeks ago, we received an appeal from the Defense Department, and eventually from the chairman of the military Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, to delay this broadcast given the danger and tension on the ground in Iraq. We decided to honor that request while pressing for the Defense Department to add its perspective to the incidents at Abu Ghraib Prison. This week, with the photos beginning to circulate elsewhere and with other journalists about to publish their versions of the story, the Defense Department agreed to cooperate in our report.


Thanks to Global Free Press and the Memory Hole for making these screen-captures available.

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