- The Washington Times - Monday, March 24, 2003

CAMP AS SALIYAH, Qatar Iraqi forces paraded five captured American soldiers, including a woman, before television cameras yesterday in a display that U.S. military commanders described as "disgusting."
The Iraqi television footage, replayed to the Arab world on the Qatar-based Al Jazeera network, also showed the bodies of at least four other soldiers, two of whom appeared to have been shot in the head, raising suspicions that they had been executed after being captured.
U.S. officials did not release the identities of the prisoners, but confirmed that a 12-member engineering team had gone missing after an ambush near Nasiriyah, about 225 miles southeast of Baghdad.
Anecita Hudson of Alamogordo said she saw her 23-year-old son, Army Spc. Joseph Hudson, who was stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, interviewed in the Iraqi video, which was carried on a Philippine television station she subscribes to.
"I'm just praying that the other people [in the military] will get him out of there," Mrs. Hudson told the Associated Press.
Lt. Gen. John Abizaid, the deputy commander of the allied forces, said at a briefing here that he did not know where the Iraqis were holding the soldiers the first coalition prisoners of war to be captured during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
However, U.S. Special Forces are known to have rehearsed routines for rescuing missing or captured personnel in Iraq.
Asked whether he believed the dead men had been executed, Gen. Abizaid declined to comment but added that he thought the pictures were "disgusting."
"We expect them to be treated humanely, just like we'll treat any prisoners of theirs that we capture humanely," President Bush said as he returned to the White House from a weekend at Camp David. "If not, the people who mistreat the prisoners will be treated as war criminals."
Iraqi Defense Minister Sultan Hashim Ahmed told reporters in Baghdad that Iraq would honor the Geneva Conventions and that the prisoners would not be mistreated, but a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross said Iraq had already violated the conventions by placing the prisoners on television.
Iraq's information minister declared last week that captured allied troops would be regarded as "criminals and bandits" rather than prisoners of war.
The U.S. military's Central Command confirmed that it was missing 12 soldiers from the 507th Maintenance unit who had become separated from the advancing combat troops during heavy fighting near Nasiriyah.
There were conflicting accounts of how many bodies were visible on the video, but all agreed that at least four persons could be seen in U.S. Army uniforms, some of them lying in pools of blood. At least two of them appeared to have died from wounds to the head.
The video also showed individual interviews with five prisoners, several of whom appeared to be extremely frightened.
The one woman among the prisoners had a large bandage around her ankle, and one of the men was lying on a blanket and had to be assisted to sit up.
Two of the prisoners identified themselves as being with the 507th Maintenance unit.
When asked why he had come to Iraq, one soldier said, "I came to fix broke stuff." Another, who said he was from Texas, answered simply, "I follow orders."
Gen. Abizaid warned that any state-owned television station showing such pictures was violating the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of war prisoners "and will be held accountable."
He also said he considered the broadcast of the video by Al Jazeera to be "absolutely unacceptable."
The display also prompted an angry reaction from Washington. Sen. John McCain, a former POW, called for U.S. authorities to threaten "severe punishment and reprisals" if American prisoners are not treated according to the Geneva Conventions.
But Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammed Aldouri, asked about the incident by MSNBC television, said: "War is war, and you are occupying our country."
Concerns are heightened because of Iraq's record for poor treatment of prisoners captured during the 1991 Gulf war.
Seventeen U.S. servicemen are embroiled in a lawsuit they brought in April against the Iraqi government regarding abuse, electric shock and torture they say they suffered after capture in 1991. A British pilot has written a book describing his months of torture.
The use of such methods is hardly unusual in Iraq. Amnesty International and the U.N. Commission on Human Rights have regularly exposed grisly Iraqi security practices, including amputation and shock treatment meted out to many people suspected of being domestic opponents or miscreants.
Iran says that tens of thousands of its soldiers were subjected to the severest torture and depredation after capture in the long-running Iraq-Iran war of the 1980s.
One American is still listed as missing from the 1991 war, and there is some intelligence information suggesting he may have been held for years in one of the many security buildings that are now being targeted by coalition missiles and bombs.

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