- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 25, 2003

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — One of four American MPs charged with beating prisoners of war at a detention camp in Iraq said yesterday: “We were doing our jobs. … It is war. It is not back home where everybody is safe.”

Shawna Edmondson, a 24-year-old Army reservist, accepted a demotion and a discharge rather than face a court-martial, and returned to her hometown in northeastern Pennsylvania last week.

Three other members of Miss Edmondson’s Military Police unit refused to accept a plea bargain and were placed on restricted duty in Kuwait. They could go to jail if convicted of abuse and misconduct.

Fellow soldiers testified that the four Pennsylvania reservists punched and kicked prisoners who were being brought to an American camp in southern Iraq on May 12. One prisoner suffered a broken nose.

One soldier said that during the attack, a beaten prisoner was “screaming for his life.” Another testified that Miss Edmondson told her that the attack was to “teach the prisoner a lesson on how to treat women.”

The reservists have said they were acting in self-defense.

Miss Edmondson, a former student and security guard at the University of Scranton, would not discuss the charges in detail yesterday, saying she probably would be called back to Iraq to testify.

But, speaking by telephone from her parents’ home in Clarks Summit, about 110 miles north of Philadelphia, she said conditions in the camp were frightening and unsafe. Sometimes as few as 100 MPs were guarding 8,000 prisoners, she said.

“We were doing our jobs, and that’s about all I can say. People don’t understand the conditions out there. It is war. It is not back home where everybody is safe,” Miss Edmondson said. “Mistakes will be made. People are dying. Our soldiers are dying every day. But they seem to want to be nicer to the Iraqi POWs than our own people.”

Miss Edmondson said she will try to get her old job back at the university. Her discharge, which came after a demotion from sergeant to private, probably will bar her from pursuing her plan to become a police officer.

Miss Edmondson said she joined the reserves 4 years ago with the intent of getting training that would be useful in a career in law enforcement.

“I was naive. I never thought I’d have to go to war,” she said.

She said she has received a warm reception in her hometown from family and friends but also has encountered some coldness.

“There are some people who are not so proud,” she said. “There are always going to be mixed feelings and mixed emotions. Me, I’m just glad it’s over.”

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