Eyewitness to ‘Iraqitraz’

Sadly No! posts the text of an email from from John Heacock, “who served for nearly a year in Iraq with the 267th MP Company from the Tennessee National Guard.” It has very credible-sounding details about the treatment of under-18 detainees in Iraq.

The writer blames the mistreatment of detainees on three causes:

1) soldiers asked to be guards without proper training responding to their own fear by trying to be as intimdating to prisoners as possible;

2) bureaucratic failure: no one made any decent plans to cope with a number of forseeable contingencies, e.g. child prisoners; and

3) what I see as plain bad faith on the part of ranking officers (see the end of this paragraph):

The problems with the treatment of the kids at Camp Bucca was about the same as the flaws with the other prisoners: lack of a policy regarding standards of guilt or length of imprisonment, bureaucratic indifference, laziness of those of high rank whose job it was to process prisoners, scarce resources, and conflicting guidance from above. Consequently, we had hundreds if not thousands of prisoners that we didn't know why they were being held, who would never be convicted of a crime under any civilized standard of proof, and who spent more time awaiting a hearing than they would have been held in prison if convicted. A typical example: men held for months for stealing gasoline or butting in lines, when their sentence would have been 2 weeks or 30 days. I once asked the sole JAG attorney (a 1st Lt., BTW, the lowest rank for JAG) why we weren't following the Geneva Convention rules about hearings and length of incarceration, and he expressed shock; when I told him he could go to either the main camp or Iraqitraz [the nickname for the high-threat detention area], to see the shortcomings for himself, he told me that the camp commander wouldn't let him into either site. It's hard to do your job ensuring that the military follows its rules when you can't even see what's going on.

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