Pentagon Denies Military Leadership Ordered Abuse in Iraqi Prisons

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As the Senate Armed Forces Committee holds hearings with Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba on Iraq prison abuse, Cliff Kindy from the Christian Peacemaker Team reviews the abuse his organization chronicled months ago. [includes rush transcript]

The Army general who first investigated abuses of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, testified yesterday before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Taguba’s critical report on the mistreatment of Iraqi detainees was first reported by Seymour Hersh last week in The New Yorker amid the release of photos depicting the abuse and humiliation of prisoners by US military. The report and the photos have caused international outrage and a political firestorm at home–forcing President Bush to publicly apologize and prompting calls for the resignation of Defense Secratery Donald Rumsfeld.

  • Sen. John Warner (R-VA) and Carl Levin (D-MI) questioning Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) questioning Taguba
  • Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK)

That was Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe speaking at yesterday Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. His comments come despite a report from the International Committee of the Red Cross in which military intelligence officers estimated that 70 to 90 percent of the 43,000 Iraqis detained over the past year were innocent. According to CNN, Senator John McCain walked out during Inhofe’s statement.

We are joined now by Cliff Kindy who is mentioned in Seymour Hersh’s expose in the New Yorker on the prison abuse scandal.

  • Cliff Kindy, member of the Christian Peacemaker Team who has spent extensive time in Iraq over the past 2 years. Before the current prisoner abuse scandal became a major story, the CPT was documenting these types of human rights violations by US forces. In January, the group released a report called “Report and Recommendations on Iraqi Detainees.” Kindy has had substantial contact with Iraqi detainees and their families and with U.S. soldiers and higher-ups.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined on the phone by Cliff Kindy, a member of the Christian Peacemaker Team who has spent extensive time in Iraq over the past two years, before the current prisoner abuse scandal became a major story. The Christian Peacemaker Team documented these types of human rights violations by US Forces. In January, the group released a report called, “Report and Recommendations on Iraqi Detainees”. Kindy has had substantial contact with Iraqi detainees and their families and US Soldiers and higher-ups. We welcome you to Democracy Now!

CLIFF KINDY: Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: What did you know and when did you know it?

CLIFF KINDY: I’m going to say a few things that might be helpful. We met with Ambassador Richard Jones, who was brought in to solve the detainee problem. He said–we met with him the 23rd of January–I think it was, he said at that point, “We were overwhelmed by the detainee problem.” We met with Colonel Fishburn, Major Chrinsy, some of the officers in the field. We met with them at the Iraq Assistance Center on the 22nd of December. They said, “The problems we are facing now…” and they affirmed the study in our report. They had seen our report. They said, “This goes beyond the Iraq Theater.” They said, “Things need to change. People need to develop policies that take into account long-term security interests as well as short-term security interests.” We were involved in the incidents in Al-Jazeera village where four US Soldiers were killed by friendly fire. In their frustration, they executed three of their prisoners and then opened fire on people leaving a mosque after prayer and five neighbors were killed by tank fire. That report didn’t hit the press. We visited a village, a razor wire community about 50 kilometers north of Baghdad. A commander from a nearby base said they had instituted collective punishment. They razor wired the city and instituted a curfew from 7:00 p.m. until 8:00 in the morning. That was in place five months ago and may still be. Now, those are detainees in one sense. We were in another village, a village along the Tigris River. One person was wanted. He was on officer in the Ba’ath party. 83 men and boys were swept up in that village. There were two males left in that village after the sweep. It seems practices are much broader than just inside Abu Ghraib prison. It seems that there are, well, as Fishers and Clinesy said there are no policies in place. Policies need to be developed that are accountable. Those things haven’t been happening.

AMY GOODMAN: What What did US Military and those in the US Occupying Forces say to you as you were raising these issues?

CLIFF KINDY: They affirmed our findings. They said, “Yes, we have found these kinds of stories and worse.” That was with Ambassador Richard Jones in the January meeting. They said, “Yes, we have a bureaucracy, and a bureaucracy moves slowly. We have suggestions on things that will help to improve this.” They tried to institute those, but I think it is true, bureaucracy moves slowly. We’re seeing the results of that.

AMY GOODMAN: What is your response to the release of the photographs of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib? Were you surprised?

CLIFF KINDY: Well, our sense from talking with detainees, their families and working with Iraqi human rights groups was that the most serious problem was in the temporary facilities in the US Military bases at the initial intake stages for detainees. That’s when the stories we got seemed to indicate the worst treatment, the lack of a routine that meant that they were often without water or food or toilet facilities or water to clean up or they were treated with torture or hostility, humiliation. And so when we heard what was happening in the main facilities, although we had had some indication of that, it confirmed for us the much wider breadth of the problem and what we had been hearing from our small slice of the picture.

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