Iraq Detainee Abuse Investigations…Just Forget about It
Monday, June 20, 2011
In the early years of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, a half dozen military personnel performed the thankless, and now forgotten, task of investigating reports of detainees abused by American forces.
The six-member Detainee Abuse Task Force (DATF) operated out of a one-room office at Camp Victory, located on the mammoth Victory Base Complex surrounding Baghdad’s airport. DATF’s work was a daily grind: 12-hour days trying to solve hundreds of alleged abuse cases, many of which had little solid information to go on.
The military investigators had to perform their mission without an established definition of what constituted abuse, especially if the treatment occurred during military interrogations. They also dealt with problems of missing evidence, noncooperation from military units under investigation, and a lack of competent Arabic translators.
Jon Renaud, who headed the task force for a time in 2005 before retiring from the U.S. Army, told Joshua E. S. Phillips, author of None of Us Were Like This Before: American Soldiers and Torture, that DATF “didn’t accomplish anything—it was a whitewash.”
The work did not lead to a single court-martial hearing, according to Renaud and other members of the task force.
Today, the Army refuses to acknowledge DATF even existed. It has refused to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests by journalists, claiming there was no official organization with that name.
In 2006, Human Rights Watch estimated that more than 600 U.S. personnel were involved in the abuse or killing of Iraqi detainees.
Inside the Detainee Abuse Task Force (by Joshua E. S. Phillips, The Nation)
“No Blood, No Foul”: Soldiers’ Accounts of Detainee Abuse in Iraq (Human Rights Watch)
By the Numbers: Findings of the Detainee Abuse and Accountability Project (Human Rights Watch)
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