Righting the Wrongs of Abu Ghraib: In January 2004 a Concerned Military Police Soldier at a Prison near Baghdad Reported What He Believed to Be a Pattern of Inapprorpriate Behavior by His Fellow MPs

By Hasenauer, Heike | Soldiers Magazine, November 2004 | Go to article overview

Righting the Wrongs of Abu Ghraib: In January 2004 a Concerned Military Police Soldier at a Prison near Baghdad Reported What He Believed to Be a Pattern of Inapprorpriate Behavior by His Fellow MPs


Hasenauer, Heike, Soldiers Magazine


In August 2003, when U.S. Soldiers detained the first suspected Iraqi insurgents at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad, many Americans knew little about Saddam Hussein's former torture chamber and could never have imagined the attention that would be focused on it.

In January 2004 a concerned military police Soldier at the prison, SGT Joseph Darby, reported, through his chain of command, what he believed to be a pattern of inappropriate behavior by some of his fellow MP guards.

By August--seven months after the first allegations of abuse became known to officials--at least a half-dozen investigations and inspections into the abuse had been launched by Defense Department officials, the Army and other agencies. [See related chronology of events.]

Efforts Since Incident Broke

Beginning in 2003, well before news of the abuses at Abu Ghraib broke in April, the Army began initiating changes in oversight and organization to address some of the issues associated with detainee operations. Since the abuses at Abu Ghraib first came to light, Army officials have further examined the roles of military police, intelligence personnel, and civilian contractor-interrogators--any or all of who could have contributed to an environment in which such behavior occurred, Army officials said.

Some argued that the abuse was due to a lack of guidance and supervision by superiors, and that MPs were carrying out the orders of MI personnel, or misinterpreted procedures for acquiring information when they interrogated detainees.

The level of training of Reserve Soldiers who were assigned to the prison, overcrowded conditions and a low MP-to-detainee ratio were all areas of consideration.

Investigation Results Released

In August, the Department of Defense released results of two investigations in the same week.

The first, known as the Schlesinger Report, resulted from an independent review by a four-member panel, appointed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and headed by former Defense Secretary James R. Schlesinger. Its focus: DOD detention-facility operations.

The report cited failure by senior leaders to provide supervision and needed personnel, specifically interpreters, as some of the factors that contributed to detainee abuse.

Results of a long-anticipated investigation into interrogation procedures by MI personnel at Abu Ghraib were disclosed in the Fay-Jones Report, named for its top investigators, U.S. Army Reserve MG George Fay and LTG Anthony Jones, of U.S. Training and Doctrine Command.

The commander of Army Materiel Command, GEN Paul Kern, headed the investigation.

"Our investigation revealed what happens when leadership doesn't stand up and perform its critical role to set standards and ensure they're enforced," Kern said. "If we had had the leaders in place at Abu Ghraib who possessed the proper values and had taken them to heart, we wouldn't have had to conduct this investigation.

"When we give orders, we need to make them clear, simple and concise, to ensure that what we want to happen is understood by the most junior person in the chain of command," he added.

"The predominant number of people involved in the detainee abuse were very junior," Kern said. "The combination of the lack of leadership with the junior people not getting clear and concise orders led to many of the abuses we found."

"We also found," Jones said, "that the events of Abu Ghraib have overshadowed the selfless service, courage and commitment shown by all service men and women, not only in Iraq, but in Afghanistan. They're doing tremendous work for our nation, and we owe them a debt of gratitude."

Contributing Factors to the Abuse

The Fay-Jones investigation looked into abuses that occurred between July 2003 and January 2004, said Fay.

At the time most of the abuses occurred, "the area around Abu Ghraib was known as the 'Wild West,'" Fay said. …

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