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 - Prison Guard Calls Abuse Routine and Sometimes Amusing - Iraq

    Prison Guard Calls Abuse Routine and Sometimes Amusing

    In a sworn statement to investigators, Pfc. Lynndie England explained the mystery of why soldiers at Abu Ghraib took pictures of detainees masturbating and piled naked with plastic sandbags over their heads by saying, "We thought it looked funny so pictures were taken."

    Private England's statement, made May 5, narrates the graphic photographs now at the center of the prison abuse scandal in specific detail and a matter-of-fact tone, describing the abuse as routine and sometimes amusing, but almost never, to her mind, out of bounds.

    She explains how she put a strap around a detainee's neck and forced him and others to run and crawl down a hallway for "approximately four to six hours;" how one soldier would regularly throw a Nerf football at detainees with bags over their heads "to scare them;" how one soldier would kick detainees and cause open wounds, then "would personally stitch detainees if the wound weren't too bad," according to a copy of her statement given to The New York Times.

    Asked if she ever physically abused a detainee, Private England said, "Yes, I stepped on some of them, push them or pull them, but nothing extreme."

    She described how Staff Sgt. Ivan L. Frederick II punched detainees, "and the normal stuff as far as lean on them or push them."

    "He also played some mind games with some of them with chemical lights," she added. "He would tell them to lift their legs and place the chemical light under their feet and tell them it was a knife. The chemical light would then be broken and spilled on the ground, the detainee would then be forced to crawl through it and then placed in a dark cell, this would freak out the detainee because they would glow."

    "Picture 000015 was basically us fooling around," she said, pointing to a photograph of detainees stacked naked in different positions in 1A, the area of the prison where the soldiers now charged with abuse worked.

    "She wanted a picture because she wrote `I'm a rapist' on one of the detainees," Private England explained, pointing to two pictures she said were taken by Specialist Sabrina Harman.

    Pointing to picture 000019, which shows her pointing at a detainee masturbating, she explained, "Staff Sgt. Frederick had removed the bags from the detainee's head and motioned for them to masturbate themselves. The detainee I'm pointing at didn't stop so we took a picture of it."

    Private England, who has been the most public face of the scandal, jauntily giving a thumbs up over a pile of naked prisoners, said that the prisoners were put on leashes to intimidate them, trying to get them to confess to raping a 15-year-old Iraqi boy.

    The detainees were stripped, handcuffed together, and told to lie on the floor, she said, then forced to run and crawl up and down the hallway. "Was there anything done to these detainees that you felt was `going too far?' " she was asked. "No," she replied.

    Asked later if she thought anything was inappropriate, Private England replied that only the masturbation was. But throughout the statement, she repeats that she and other soldiers were ordered to do the things they did, which has been the defense made by lawyers for the soldiers and the soldiers themselves.

    When pressed, however, she said there were no specific orders on how to "break" the detainees for interrogation. But, she said, military intelligence soldiers and others "would tell us to keep it up, that we were doing a good job" aiding the interrogations. Asked who told them to instruct the detainees to masturbate, she said, "I was just told we were doing a good job," according to the statement.

    Now pregnant and at Fort Bragg, N.C., Private England had refused to talk to investigators without a lawyer on April 30, but changed course and agreed to speak on May 5.

    Source: The Guardian, David Leigh -
    May 16, 2004

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