Joe Stork, a senior official with Human Rights Watch in Washington,D.C., said Monday that groups dedicated to the welfare of prisonershave had little access to prison facilities operated by the U.S.military. The secretive manner in which the United States hashandled prisoners in Iraq terrorism suspects is unprecedented, hesaid.
Fodder for protesters
Whether isolated incidents or part of a larger problem, the reportsof abuses may become potent propaganda.Mr. Cirincione noted that Mr. Bush said that the war ended thetorture chambers and mass graves in Iraq. But those who oppose theU.S. efforts in Iraq may point to the photographs of U.S. personnelabusing Iraqi prisoners.“From an American viewpoint, we think these are exceptions or mistakes that are committed in war,” Mr. Cirincione said. From theIraqi viewpoint, he said, these may be seen “as the norm of anAmerican occupation.”The role of private contractors in the interrogation of Iraqi prisoners also has come into question as a result of the recentallegations. In a recent statement, Human Rights Watch officialsraised concerns that private contractors “operate in Iraq withvirtual impunity” - not subject to prosecution by Iraqi courts andnot in the jurisdiction of the military or U.S. legal system.Initial reports on the prison incident focused on Army reservistsserving as guards, but, as the story has unfolded, the conduct of the contractors and intelligence operatives conductinginterrogations is being scrutinized as well. Emerging evidencesuggests that the reservists may have been acting on intelligenceofficials’ orders to soften the prisoners up for interrogation.Mr. Stork, Washington director-Middle East division for HumanRights Watch, said it makes little difference whether U.S. servicemembers, or private contractors, or someone else was responsiblefor the abuses.“The United States is still responsible for what goes on in theterritory it controls, in this case Iraq - or Afghanistan or Guantánamo,” he said.
Report expected soon
The Senate Armed Service Committee may receive a briefing from theDepartment of Defense on the allegations as soon as today, at therequest of Sen. John W. Warner, R-Va., the committee’s chairman.“These allegations of mistreatment, if proven, represent anappalling and totally unacceptable breach of military conduct thatcould undermine much of the courageous work and sacrifice by our forces in the war on terror,” Mr. Warner said in a writtenstatement. “This is not the way for anyone who wears the uniform of