How to vastly increase the odds you have atrocities:
By MATT KELLEY, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON – Pentagon officials rejected an Army plan last year to send an experienced military lawyer — who is also a Republican member of Congress — to help oversee the unit blamed for prisoner abuse at the Abu Ghraib complex outside Baghdad.
That left the prison complex, which holds up to 7,000 Iraqis, without an onsite lawyer to guide interrogations and treatment of prisoners.
The top lawyer for the 800th Military Police Brigade, the Army unit in charge of detainees at Abu Ghraib, later came under fire in an Army report about the abuse for being ineffective and “unwilling to accept responsibility for any of his actions.”
The rejected lawyer, Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ind., and other experts say having had a lawyer at the prison might have prevented or at least mitigated the beatings, sexual humiliation and other abuse detailed in photographs and the Army probe.
“It's always good to have a lawyer around so you've got a conscience for the command and an opportunity to vet questions,” said retired Army Maj. Gen. William L. Nash, who commanded an armored brigade during the 1991 Gulf War (news – web sites).
Pentagon officials confirmed there was no onsite lawyer at Abu Ghraib, but spokesmen for Army Secretary Les Brownlee and Pentagon personnel officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment Friday. Bryan Whitman, a spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, referred questions to the Army.
Buyer, a strong supporter of the Iraq war and a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves, had volunteered to go to Iraq shortly after the invasion in March 2003.
In a telephone interview Friday with The Associated Press, Buyer said military officials all the way up to the Joint Chiefs of Staff had approved his assignment to the 800th Military Police Brigade, which has handled Iraqi prisoners of war since the beginning of the conflict.
Pentagon personnel officials and Brownlee rejected the assignment, saying the Army could fill the requirement another way. Brownlee also wrote to Buyer that his high-profile status could bring danger to the troops around him.
Buyer said he objected to David Chu, the Pentagon's personnel chief, and Charles Abell, Chu's deputy.
“I expressed the importance of having a (lawyer) at the camp,” Buyer said. “You have to ask, when you had a qualified officer, and the civilian leaders, Dr. Chu and the secretary of the Army, said no, who did you send in his place?” …
Buyer served as a lawyer at a prisoner of war camp run by the 800th Brigade during the first Gulf War. His duties, Buyer said, included helping the International Committee of the Red Cross monitor conditions and ensuring guards followed international law such as the Geneva Conventions. He said he also questioned some Iraqis suspected of war crimes.
“The 800th MP Brigade performed exemplary service in the Gulf War,” Buyer said. “There was no hint of any mistreatment or maltreatment of prisoners. It never happened. They had excellent leadership.”
How to keep the lid on:
Electrolite: If we only had a press. Email from a friend with contacts among American troops in Iraq prompts me to wish some journalist would investigate reports that the military has ordered KBR, which provides net connectivity for US camps and bases in Iraq, to cut off all soldiers’ “inessential” access to email and the net for the next 90 days.
I understand that KBR also handles paper mail services to and from serving soldiers in Iraq, and that pickup and delivery are often little better than once a month.
I’d also like someone to investigate what our soldiers actually know about Abu Ghaib, both the events themselves and their political impact in the rest of the world.
If it’s true that the average soldier’s email is being curtailed, and if (as I suspect) many of them have only a patchy knowledge of the scandal and its impact, it would seem that many of our soldiers are about to lose a major lifeline to home without being told why.
Extend it for three months after that, and you are past the election. Which means that MaxSpeak's prophecy…
“The troops will be the peace movement.” As the Iraqi mission disintegrates, the troops will be the first to know, then their families, then everybody.
…just might have hit a speedbump.