An Army investigation has found no systematic abuse of prisoners in Iraq or Afghanistan and says nearly half of the accusations of mistreatment involved detainees "at the point of capture" on the battlefield.
"[Soldiers] face the daily risks of being attacked by detainees, contracting communicable diseases from sick detainees, being taunted or spat upon, having urine or feces thrown upon them and having to treat a detainee humanely who just attacked their unit or killed a fellow soldier," said the report released yesterday by the Army's inspector general, Lt. Gen. Paul Mikolashek.
The Army inspector general portrayed the abuses as sporadic, not systematic.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has said his review of investigative material shows no evidence that senior civilian or military leaders condoned or ordered the abuse.
The highest-ranking US general in Iraq authorised the use of interrogation techniques that included sleep manipulation, stress positions and the use of dogs to "exploit Arab fears" of them, it emerged today.
A memo signed by Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez authorised 29 interrogation techniques, including 12 that exceeded limits in the army's own field manual and four that it admitted risked falling foul of international law, the Geneva conventions or accepted standards on the humane treatment of prisoners.
The memo, dated September 14 2003, also stated that the Iraq interrogation policy was modelled on the one used at Guant?namo Bay "but modified for applicability to a theater [sic] of war in which the Geneva conventions apply".
"The memo clearly establishes that Gen Sanchez authorised unlawful interrogation techniques for use in Iraq, and, in particular, these techniques violate the Geneva conventions and the army's own field manual governing interrogations," ACLU lawyer Amrit Singh said in a statement. "He and other high-ranking officials who bear responsibility for the widespread abuse of detainees must be held accountable."
When it says that interrogation techniques were "modified for applicability" to a jurisdiction in which the Geneva Conventions would apply, the implication is that techniques used at Guantánamo Bay were even harsher.
The "few bad apples" defence simply doesn't work anymore. When you let the troops know with a nudge and a wink that the law and the field manual don't apply anymore, you can't claim to be surprised when they go beyond what was in the memo.
And it appears that Gen. Sanchez may have lied to Congress.