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Sunday, May 01, 2005

US captain stands by and watches Iraqi commandos beat a detainee

Today a report by Peter Maass will be published in the New York Times. In it, the reporter will describe raids performed by joint teams of US G.I.s and Iraqi commandos. These Interior Ministry counter-insurgency commandos have been gaining increasing notoriety amongst the Iraqi civilian population for abusing, torturing, and killing detainees (ref 1, ref 2, ref 3), sometimes with the passive support of US forces. The reporter's description of an incident that occurred during the raid follows
The officer in charge of the raid -- a Major Falah -- now made it clear that he believed the detainee [they had picked up earlier in the night] had led them on a wild-goose chase. The detainee was sitting at the side of a commando truck; I was 10 feet away, beside Bennett and four G.I.'s. One of Falah's captains began beating the detainee. Instead of a quick hit or slap, we now saw and heard a sustained series of blows. We heard the sound of the captain's fists and boots on the detainee's body, and we heard the detainee's pained grunts as he received his punishment without resistance. It was a dockyard mugging. [Captain] Bennett turned his back to face away from the violence, joining his soldiers in staring uncomfortably at the ground in silence. The blows continued for a minute or so.

Bennett had seen the likes of this before, and he had worked out his own guidelines for dealing with such situations. "If I think they're going to shoot somebody or cut his finger off or do any sort of permanent damage, I will immediately stop them," he explained. "As Americans, we will not let that happen. In terms of kicking a guy, they do that all the time, punches and stuff like that." It was a tactical decision, Bennett explained: "You only get so many interventions, and I've got to save my butting in for when there is a danger it could go over the line." But even when he doesn't say anything, he explained, "they can tell we're not enjoying it. We're just kind of like, 'O.K., here we go again.'"


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