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May 19, 2006

A voice from the Front.

The Castle has several readers who are deployed, been deployed, are deploying. All have been offered this space to tell their stories - starting with Master Sergeant (now 1st Sergeant) Keith, who regaled us (and teased me with guns) with Tales From The Pjanshir Valley.

Comes now Flip, from Iraq.

The other day I received an offer to post my inside view on the state of the Iraq war on this site. Considering that the political minefields are far worse than the IEDs I initially declined. However, checking the news after my mission today I decided some things needed to be said.

The first article to grab my attention was the UNHRC report. In which such stalwarts of human compassion and due process such as Azerbaijan, China, Cuba, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe are kind enough to give us lessons on the humane treatment of prisoners. Amongst the UNHRC’s demands were the closing of camp Gitmo and that we “broaden the definition of acts of psychological torture.”

The irrelevance of the United Nations grows greater every day. Condemnations of US prisoner treatment from countries that routinely jail and torture dissidents and even host the occasional genocide are amazing. Of course what else would you expect from an organization that believes that welfare is a human right?

The general facts about what exactly happens to a prisoner in US custody are deemed irrelevant when the agenda is simply to backstab the United States. The first misconception is the status of these prisoners. They are not POWs (or in current military parlance, EPWs-Enemy Prisoners of War) they have no uniform no insignia, no clearly identifiable rank or chain of command. In plain black and white the Geneva Convention specifically denies them EPW status. With that said the US has in all documented cases not condoned torture. Abu Ghraib was a reprehensible event. However, it was the work of miscreants and not SOP. Additionally it seemed a lot milder than what I hear the squids have to go through the first time the cross the equator.

Examining the “tales of torture” one cannot find a shred of evidence amongst the claims. I especially like the allegation that we send victims of extraordinary rendition to countries such as Syria and Egypt, allow their security services to interrogate them by torture and then reap the rewards. Highly believable since the US and Syrian intelligence communities have such close ties.

The United States military has prosecuted 103 service members by courts martial with 89 convictions. I can tell you from experience that it does not take much of an allegation for CID or NCIS to come knocking on your door. Recently a soldier on my FOB was investigated and spared courts martial only through bad paperwork for detainee abuse. His crime? The horrific torture of writing the word “pussy” on a detainee’s forehead with permanent marker.

Every detainee is photographed and examined by the medics immediately upon intake, this documents the condition in which he arrived. The detainee then may be held for no more than 18 hours before he must either be released or transferred. As I have just returned from a detainee run, allow me to explain the process. From my FOB to the next higher detention facility is a 67 mile one way trip. The road is abundant with concrete patchwork to fill in the holes from the ubiquitous IEDs. The trip must be made with no less than four vehicles so that it may self extract and self medivac if it is ambushed en route. The round trip for four trucks burns at a minimum 100 gallons of JP8. The run must be made daily, even if there is only one prisoner in the holding cell.

Twelve men and four vehicles that could be better put to use patrolling our sector are squandered on these excessive detainee runs. We traverse a heavily mined road risking life, limb and equipment and needlessly waste resources in order to avoid even the possibility of suspicion.

War may be an extension of politics, but that gives politicians no right to dictate its execution.