- The Washington Times - Friday, May 14, 2004

From combined dispatches

Prison guard Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits, who took photographs of abuse at the Abu Ghraib detention center in Iraq, described soldiers laughing and joking as they beat, stripped and sexually humiliated detainees, according to newspaper reports.

Spc. Sivits, the first soldier scheduled to be court-martialed in the abuse scandal, was expected to plead guilty Wednesday in Baghdad. He has cooperated with prosecutors and faces lesser charges than his colleagues.

He said the mistreatment was not authorized by higher-ups in the chain of command.

“Our command would have slammed us,” he said. “They believe in doing the right thing. If they saw what was going on, there would have been hell to pay.”

Spc. Sivits’ statements are the most in-depth descriptions of the abuse by a defendant to have been made public. Lawyers for the soldiers that Spc. Sivits named said his statements were “fabricated” and questionable because of his plea deal.

In one instance, a prisoner handcuffed to a bed with bullet wounds in his legs screamed “Mister, mister, please stop,” as Military Police Cpl. Charles A. Graner struck him with a police baton, according to statements Spc. Sivits made to military investigators.

“I was laughing at some of the stuff that they had them do,” he told investigators in January. “I was disgusted at some of the stuff as well.”

The Army filed criminal charges against Cpl. Graner including adultery, maltreatment of detainees, dereliction of duty, committing indecent acts and obstruction of justice, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said yesterday.

Guy Womack, an attorney for Cpl. Graner, said Spc. Sivits’ statement was of questionable value because he appeared to have agreed to a plea bargain with authorities.

In yesterday’s Des Moines Register, Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican, said the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers was little more than “hazing.”

The congressman said the mistreatment at Abu Ghraib prison does not compare to what Iraqi insurgents have done to Americans.

“The dismembered and charred corpses of American contractors dangling over the Euphrates River, in comparison to the abuse committed by a few soldiers at Abu Ghraib, are like the crimes of Jeffrey Dahmer compared to those of Heidi Fleiss,” Mr. King said. “What amounts to hazing is not even in the same ballpark as mass murder.”

Defense officials said yesterday that the military has banned several interrogation methods in Iraq, including sleep and sensory deprivation and body “stress positions,” the Reuters News Agency reported.

The officials, briefing reporters on the condition of anonymity, said these techniques previously required high-level approval from the military leadership in Iraq, but now will be prohibited. The officials said the decision was made Thursday by the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez.

A senior Central Command official said the military leadership in Iraq never actually approved a request from personnel at any prison to use any of the techniques that are being prohibited, although these methods had been listed as among those for which approval could be requested.

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