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Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Only the soldiers will get the blame 

MSNBC has posted the U.S Army report on prisoner abuse. This is the report that Bush, Rumsfeld and Myers have spent the last two months NOT reading. The damning parts, I think, are not just the well-publicized descriptions of how prisoners were tortured, but also the unreported descriptions of how the US Army was treating its own soldiers. Tabula writes:
. . . members of the 800th MP Brigade believed they would be allowed to go home when all the detainees were released from the Camp Bucca . . . on May 2003. . . . In late May-early June 2003 the 800th MP Brigade was given a new mission to manage the Iraqi penal system and several detention centers. . . Morale suffered, and over the next few months there did not appear to have been any attempt by the Command to mitigate this morale problem. . . . soldiers throughout the 800th MP Brigade were not proficient in their basic MOS skills, particularly regarding internment/resettlement operations . . . not adequately trained for a mission that included operating a prison or penal institution . . . Brigade personnel relied heavily on individuals within the Brigade who had civilian corrections experience, including many who worked as prison guards or corrections officials in their civilian jobs. . . . the 800th MP Brigade as a whole, was understrength for the mission for which it was tasked. . . . the quality of life for Soldiers assigned to Abu Ghraib was extremely poor. There was no DFAC, PX, barbershop, or MWR facilities. There were numerous mortar attacks, random rifle and RPG attacks, and a serious threat to Soldiers and detainees in the facility. The prison complex was also severely overcrowded and the Brigade lacked adequate resources and personnel to resolve serious logistical problems. Finally, because of past associations and familiarity of Soldiers within the Brigade, it appears that friendship often took precedence over appropriate leader and subordinate relationships. . . . In addition I find that psychological factors, such as the difference in culture, the Soldiers’ quality of life, the real presence of mortal danger over an extended time period, and the failure of commanders to recognize these pressures contributed to the perversive atmosphere . . . we observed many individual Soldiers and some subordinate units (who) overcame significant obstacles, persevered in extremely poor conditions, and upheld the Army Values. We discovered numerous examples of Soldiers and Sailors taking the initiative in the absence of leadership and accomplishing their assigned tasks. . . .
I wonder how many other aspects of the occupation of Iraq have been as half-assed, patched-together, and poorly-managed as the prison operation apparently was? The PR hype portrays the American army as the best Army in the world, but the performance of the military command in many aspects of the occupation of Iraq will trash that reputation, leaving the soldiers to bear the blame and the shame.

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