Sunday, May 30, 2004

Detained for Expressing "Displeasure or Ill Will"

"A confidential report in February by the International Committee of the Red Cross said that 'military intelligence officers told the I.C.R.C. that in their estimate between 70 percent and 90 percent of the persons deprived of their liberty in Iraq had been arrested by mistake'" (Douglas Jehl and Kate Zernike, "Scant Evidence Cited in Long Detention of Iraqis," New York Times, May 30, 2004). Now, the New York Times obtained an unpublished Army report (completed on November 5, 2003) by Maj. Gen. Donald J. Ryder, which confirms the Red Cross's findings: "General Ryder, the Army's provost marshal, reported that some Iraqis had been held for several months for nothing more than expressing 'displeasure or ill will' toward the American occupying forces" (emphasis added, Jehl and Zernike, May 30, 2004). The article by Douglas Jehl and Kate Zernike included a particularly telling remark attributed to "an American general at the headquarters in Baghdad":
In one incident described in detail by the senior Army officer [who gave interviews after the Red Cross's February report], an aggressive round-up in September brought 57 Iraqis into custody. But a review by military intelligence officers at Abu Ghraib determined that only two of them had intelligence value and that the rest should be freed.

A U.S. general at the headquarters in Baghdad overruled that decision, and dictated that all 57 Iraqis be kept in custody. The senior Army officer quoted the general as saying something like, "I don't care if they are innocent; if we release them, they'll go out and tell their friends that we're after them." (emphasis added, Douglas Jehl and Kate Zernike,"Report Warned Hundreds Held in Abu Ghraib on No Evidence: Top U.S. Brass in Baghdad Vetoed Release," San Francisco Chronicle, May 30, 2004).
What is a little odd is that, while the National Edition (in print) of the New York Times and the online edition of the San Francisco Chronicle, both of which published Jehl and Zernike's article, included the general's remark quoted above, the online edition of the New York Times somehow omitted it.

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