Thursday, May 27, 2004

The New York Times has two stories about abused Iraqi prisoners who didn't have a damn thing to tell us in the first place.

You may have already read one of the stories -- "Prison Interrogations in Iraq Seen as Yielding Little Data on Rebels":

The questioning of hundreds of Iraqi prisoners last fall in the newly established interrogation center at Abu Ghraib prison yielded very little valuable intelligence, according to civilian and military officials.

...civilian and military intelligence officials, as well as top commanders with access to intelligence reports, now say they learned little about the insurgency from questioning inmates at the prison. Most of the prisoners held in the special cellblock that became the setting for the worst abuses at Abu Ghraib apparently were not linked to the insurgency, they said.....

But there's also this, about Colonel Allen West. Colonel West was told a man named Yehiya Kadoori Hamoodi was part of a plot to kill him and endanger his men; the colonel had Hamoodi arrested.

During the interrogation, [Hamoodi] said, the translator kicked him in the shin and told him he needed to confess before Colonel West showed up to kill him.

Mr. Hamoodi said he felt relieved to hear the colonel was expected. He considered Colonel West to be "calm, quiet, clever and sociable." When the colonel first entered the interrogation room, Mr. Hamoodi said, he thought, "Here is the man who will treat me fairly."

Then, he said, Colonel West cocked his gun.

Colonel West said that he did not then put a round in the gun's chamber but that he did place the pistol in his lap. He asked Mr. Hamoodi why he wanted to kill him. Mr. Hamoodi said that he protested, "I've worked with you, I like you," but that Colonel West silenced his protest. Colonel West pressed for the names and locations of those involved in the supposed plot, and he got no answers.

Soon, the soldiers began striking and shoving Mr. Hamoodi. They were not instructed to do so by Colonel West but they were not stopped, either, they said. "I didn't know it was wrong to hit a detainee," a 20-year-old soldier from Daytona Beach said at the hearing. Colonel West testified that he would have stopped the beating "had it become too excessive."

Eventually, the colonel and his soldiers moved Mr. Hamoodi outside, and threatened him with death. Colonel West said he fired a warning shot in the air and began counting down from five. He asked his soldiers to put Mr. Hamoodi's head in a sand-filled barrel usually used for clearing weapons. At the end of his count, Colonel West fired a shot into the barrel, angling his gun away from the Iraqi's head, he testified.

According to the interpreter, Mr. Hamoodi finally "admitted there would be attacks, and called out names." Mr. Hamoodi said that he was not sure what he told the Americans, but that it was meaningless information induced by fear and pain.

At least one man named by Mr. Hamoodi was taken into custody, according to testimony, and his home was searched. No plans for attacks on Americans or weapons were found. Colonel West testified that he did not know whether "any corroboration" of a plot was ever found, adding: "At the time I had to base my decision on the intelligence I received. It's possible that I was wrong about Mr. Hamoodi."

We all go to movies and watch TV. We all "know" that you can "get someone to talk." But sometimes what we know just ain't so.

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