Thursday, December 08, 2005
By Will Dunham Wed Dec 7, 6:18 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top U.S. general in Iraq was aware in June of reports that Iraqi security forces had abused prisoners in their custody, months before U.S. forces in November found a bunker filled with detainees badly beaten by Iraqi personnel, a memo obtained on Wednesday showed.
"Over the past several months, I have received reports of serious physical abuse of detainees by ISF (Iraqi Security Forces)," Army Gen. George Casey, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, said in a June 22 memo obtained by Reuters.
"I have forwarded those reports to the Iraqi ministries of defense and interior for appropriate action," Casey added. The memo did not state the nature of the abuse.
Casey added that abuse of detainees by the American-trained Iraqi security forces "is a violation of Iraqi law and counterproductive to all of our intended efforts here."
During a raid at a secret Baghdad bunker, U.S. forces on November 13 found 173 men and teen-age boys, many of them malnourished, beaten and showing signs of torture.
After the Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabor days later played down the incident, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad said such abuses will not be tolerated and, "The Iraqi government must take measures to ensure this kind of thing does not happen again."The United States drew international condemnation last year after photographs were made public showing American forces physically abusing and sexually humiliating Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison on the outskirts of Baghdad. The jail had been a notorious torture center under deposed President Saddam Hussein.
'ALL REASONABLE ACTION'
In his memo, Casey said he expected U.S. personnel in Iraq to be proactive in encouraging, training and mentoring Iraqi security forces on the respect for human rights in the treatment and interrogation of detainees.
Casey also said it was the responsibility of U.S. personnel in Iraq "to take all reasonable action, in accordance with the rules of engagement, to stop or prevent any observed or suspected instances of physical or mental abuse likely to lead to serious injury or the death of detained persons in Iraqi custody."
The memo stated that U.S. personnel also had the responsibility to "promptly report the details through their chain of command so those acts can be appropriately addressed with Iraqi government officials."Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wants to nail down specifically what Casey meant by saying "all reasonable action."
Rumsfeld has asked military commanders to devise clear rules for how U.S. personnel worldwide should take action if they see detainees being abused by foreign forces outside the United States.
"It's for him to better understand what the policies and procedures are, and to also make sure that we understand that the sergeant, the private, the lieutenant, the captain on the ground have a clear understanding of what they're responsibilities are," Whitman said.
This comes after Rumsfeld and Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, last week appeared to differ over such rules.
At a Pentagon news conference, Pace said, "It is absolutely the responsibility of every U.S. service member, if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene to stop it."
Rumsfeld interjected, "But I don't think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it. It's to report it."
Pace responded, "If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it."
But your headline is the story.
It'll be interesting to see which interpretation the media chooses.