Report Awaited on Alleged Prisoner Abuse in Iraq

By Gerry J. Gilmore

The U.S. military’s top officer said Sunday he’d soon review results of an investigative report conducted on detainee operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Appearing on CBS "Face the Nation," Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers said he was "appalled" by reports of alleged prisoner abuse, and was personally following the investigation.

Conducted from December through February, the theaterwide investigation was prompted by reports of alleged abuse of Iraqi detainees by U.S. troops working in Abu Gharib prison in Baghdad. Some photographs allegedly depicting U.S. soldiers humiliating naked Iraqi detainees were aired April 28 on CBS’ "60 Minutes II" and in other media outlets since then.

Myers noted that any troops found to have abused prisoners would be brought to justice. Such aberrant behavior, if proven true, he emphasized, doesn’t reflect the ethics of the U.S. military.

"This is not acceptable behavior," Myers declared. "All you have to do is look at the photographs and know that’s not how we do business. We don’t torture people."

Coalition Provisional Authority chief spokesman Dan Senor, appearing on CNN’s "Late Edition" today, also agreed. He noted that those found guilty will be punished. The possibility that U.S. soldiers abused Iraqi prisoners, he said, "offends the sensibilities" of all Americans, including "the overwhelming majority of men and women in uniform over in Iraq," as well as Iraqis.

Senor asserted the vast majority of U.S. service members in Iraq perform their duties "with the highest degree of ethics and morality."

Myers said the investigation was also examining reports that some U.S. military guards working in the prison claim military intelligence authorities coerced them to humiliate detainees.

He also discussed if having an Iraqi force go into Fallujuh to restore order was a change of U.S.-coalition strategy. U.S. Marines were not leaving Fallujah, he pointed out, noting that insurgents operating in and around the city still "will have to be dealt with."

Senor reacted to news that Iraqi Maj. Gen. Jassim Mohammed Saleh, reportedly a former member of Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard, is the chief of the Iraqi- manned Fallujah Brigade tasked to bring peace to the city. Senor pointed out that Saleh — as well as other former Saddam regime members — would undergo an intensive vetting process by U.S. and Iraqi officials. If "blood" were to be found on any Iraqi’s hands after being hired, Senor emphasized, then they’d be removed.

The four-star-general confirmed earlier reports that Thomas Hamill, the Kellogg, Brown and Root contractor who had escaped his captors today, was in good shape. "The hunt continues for those who are still held hostage" in Iraq, Myers pointed out, adding, "We’ve got forces focused just on that."

A Combined Joint Task Force 7 news release reported a wounded man claiming to be an American today approached a New York Army National Guard unit assigned to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team operating in Balad. Hamill identified himself and took the patrol to the house where he had been held captive. The unit conducted a hasty cordon and search of the area and detained two Iraqi citizens with one AK-47 rifle. A medevac helicopter transported Hamill to a nearby military base and subsequently to Baghdad.