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HINTS OF IRAQ ABUSE IN DECEMBER

I should have seen this coming. In December, in a report for the Chicago Tribune, I noted how member of the 800th Military Police brigade -- the same unit now implicated in the Abu Ghraib torture scandal -- were using electricity-spewing taser guns on its prisoners. Why? Because Saddam's thugs employed similar tactics to enforce their will.

"The previous regime used batons to beat the populace, and electrical torture devices on dissidents. Thus judicious use and control of the riot baton and introduction of the TASER has intimidated the former members of the regime, and saved soldiers and civilians lives," reads a personal report, circulating through the Defense Department, from recently retired Lt. Col. Wesley "Bo" Barbour, now a contract employee for the Army's Training and Doctrine Command...The taser's value as a particularly ferocious behavior-modification tool became clear at a prisoner-of-war camp holding "high-value detainees currently depicted in the 'deck of cards'" -- the list of the 55 most wanted leaders of Saddam Hussein's government.Members of the 800th Military Police Brigade had to use lethal force several times to quell prisoner uprisings, the report says. But such rebellions reportedly came to an end after a military police officer demonstrated the taser's power--more than 50,000 volts of electricity, enough to cause muscles to fail after a shock of a few seconds."Holy shit! That was the expression" when the prisoners saw the taser demonstration, said Sergeant Major Charles Slider, with the Military Police School based out of Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. He was part of Barbour's team in Iraq. "They moved away, they got it in line. It was a significant event for them."
Now, we know that this wasn't the only time American guards used electricity -- or the threat of it, at least -- to enforce their will on prisoners."One Iraqi man," the L.A. Times notes, "had a slur written on his skin in English. Another was directed by Americans to stand on a box with his head covered and wires attached to his hands. He was informed that if he fell off the box, he would be electrocuted."THERE'S MORE: TalkLeft says that "there have been hints, reports, investigation and hearings into abuse of Iraqi POW's all along." Back in May of '03, the blog passed along word of possible abuse by British soldiers.AND MORE: The L.A. Times publishes excerpts from a secret Army report detailing "systemic" abuse at Abu Ghraib.Maybe now that the report's segments are online, Defene Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will actually bother to read it."Appearing on three Sunday talk shows," the New York Times notes, "General Myers insisted that the instances of mistreatment were not widespread and were the actions of 'just a handful' of soldiers who had unfairly tainted all American forces in Iraq. But when pressed, he acknowledged that he had not yet read a classified, 53-page Army report completed in February by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba..."A spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said that the secretary had not been briefed on General Taguba's report either."
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