Soldiers in the Army's elite 82nd Airborne Division vented their frustration by systematically torturing Iraqi detainees from 2003 into 2004, hitting them with baseball bats and dousing them with chemicals, a U.S. rights group alleges in a new report.
The Human Rights Watch report, issued Friday, was compiled from interviews with a captain and two sergeants who served in a battalion of the 82nd Airborne that was stationed at a military base called Mercury near Fallujah, the insurgent stronghold retaken by U.S. forces last year.
The soldiers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the abuse took place almost daily and often came under orders. Anything short of causing an inmate's death was allowed, they said.
The residents of Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, nicknamed soldiers at the nearby base "the Murderous Maniacs," New York-based Human Rights Watch said. "The soldiers considered this name a badge of honor."
It said soldiers in the elite 82nd Airborne deprived detainees of sleep, food and water, subjected them to extreme heat and cold, stacked prisoners in human pyramids, kicked them in the face, and put chemicals on exposed skin and eyes.
One of the sergeants allegedly told the group that military intelligence personnel, eager for information, often instructed soldiers to "smoke" detainees — called Persons Under Control or PUCs — during questioning, the report said. "Smoking" prisoners meant physically abusing them until they lost consciousness.
But the motive was not always to gain intelligence, one sergeant was quoted as saying.
"Everyone in camp knew if you wanted to work out your frustration you show up at the PUC tent. In a way it was sport," he reportedly said.
"One day (another sergeant) shows up and tells a PUC to grab a pole. He told him to bend over and broke the guy's leg with a mini-Louisville Slugger, a metal bat."
The soldier said anything short of death was acceptable.
"As long as no PUCs came up dead, it happened," he said. "We kept it to broken arms and legs."
The timing of some of the alleged tortures coincided with the prisoner abuse by American forces at Abu Ghraib near Baghdad in fall of 2003.
"These soldiers' firsthand accounts provide further evidence contradicting claims that abuse of detainees by U.S. forces was isolated or spontaneous," the report said. "The accounts here suggest that the mistreatment of prisoners by the U.S. military is even more widespread than has been acknowledged to date, including among troops belonging to some of the best trained, most decorated, and highly respected units in the U.S. Army."
If the Bush Administration (via Abu Gonzales to his boss's undoubtedly vengeful consent) hadn't encouraged this conduct, its determination to cover it up makes them as complicit as the soldiers who did it. They've bent over backwards to claim the abuse at Abu Ghraib was isolated, it clearly was not.
It is a shame on all Americans -- made worse by the nations ratification (if not many of us specifically) in reelecting them (or electing for the first time depending on your point of view).
In any case, this is fucking unacceptable.
What would Jesus do?
He'd be fucking ashamed to be associated with these people, the whole lot of them for one.
Perusing the Blogs, Digby is on this story too and makes a very good point. Let's hear no more about the "savagery" of New Orleans in its chaos. This was "disciplined" American soldiers allowed to take out their frustrations on the "swarthies" and I'm betting the freeps so quick to pounce on rumors of New Orleans are getting themselves a small chubby (do they have any other kind?) over this bit of barbarism while humming, "Proud to be an American".