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Sunday, July 11, 2004

Hellhole 

U.S. News has put its mitts on 106 classified annexes to the Taguba report on prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib:
Daily life at Abu Ghraib, the documents show, included riots, prisoner escapes, shootings, corrupt Iraqi guards, filthy conditions, sexual misbehavior, bug-infested food, prisoner beatings and humiliations, and almost-daily mortar shellings from Iraqi insurgents. Troubles inside the prison were made worse still by a military command structure that was hopelessly broken.

Taguba focused mostly on the MPs assigned to guard inmates at Abu Ghraib, but the 5,000 pages of classified files in the annexes to his report show that military intelligence officers-­-dispatched to Abu Ghraib by the top commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez-­-were intimately involved in some of the interrogation tactics widely viewed as abusive.

Col. Henry Nelson, an Air Force psychiatrist who prepared a report for Taguba on Abu Ghraib, described it as a "new psychological battlefield," and detailed the nature of the challenge faced by the Americans working in the overcrowded prison. "These detainees are male and female, young and old," Nelson wrote; "they may be innocent, may have high intelligence value, or may be terrorists or criminals. No matter who they are, if they are at Abu Ghraib, they are remanded in deplorable, dangerous living conditions, as are soldiers" . . . .

The most serious riot, at Camp Vigilant, took place on the night of November 23 when guards shot and killed four detainees. "The prisoners were marching and yelling, 'Down with Bush,' and 'Bush is bad,'" another Army review said. "They became violent and started throwing rocks at the guards, both in the towers and at the rovers around the wire..." Guards feared for their lives "the sky was black with rocks," the report saidand a mass breakout appeared imminent. The review of the November riot cited the failure of guard commanders to post rules of engagement for dealing with insurrections. Soldiers were hesitant to shoot, and when they did shoot, they often didn’t know whether they were using lethal or non-lethal ammunition because they had mixed the ammo in their shotguns.

Another classified annex reported that the prison complex was seriously overcrowded, with detainees often held for months without ever being interrogated. Detainees walked around in knee-deep mud, "defecating and urinating all over the compounds," said Capt. James Jones, commander of the 229th MP Battalion. "I don't know how there's not rioting every day," he testified.

Among the more shocking exchanges revealed in the Taguba classified annexes are a series of E-mails sent by Major David Dinenna of the 320th MP Battalion. The E-mails, sent in October and November to Major William Green of the 800th MP Brigade, and copied to the higher chain of command, show a quixotic attempt to simply get the detainees at Abu Graib edible food. Dinenna pressed repeatedly for food that wouldn't make prisoners vomit. He criticized the private food contractor for shorting the facility on hundreds of meals a day, and for providing food containing bugs, rats, and dirt.
The story goes on to note that "ultimately, the food contract was not renewed," although the (unidentified) contractor "holds other contracts with the military."

The article contains no new information on these horrors.

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