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Bad Troops, Poor Leaders Responsible for Detainee Abuses

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 22, 2004 – A few "bad apples" and a lack of proper supervision not a failure in military training, doctrine or policy were responsible for detainee abuses in Afghanistan and Iraq, senior Army leaders told a Senate committee today.

Referring to a recently completed Army inspector general report on detainee operations and policies in U.S. Central Command, Army Secretary Les Brownlee told the Senate Armed Services Committee that 94 cases of alleged detainee abuse weren't precipitated by a systemwide collapse of military ethics.

The Army inquiry, Brownlee acknowledged, was in part initiated as the result of reports of detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.

However, "we were unable to identify systemwide failures that resulted in incidents of (detainee) abuse," he pointed out.

The IG report, he continued, "indicates that these incidents of abuse resulted from the failure of individuals to follow known standards of discipline and Army values and, in some cases, the failure of a few leaders to enforce these standards of discipline."

All of the more than 650 enlisted soldiers and officers interviewed for the IG report, Brownlee emphasized, "understand the requirement and obligation to treat all detainees humanely and they are doing so." Some 16 overseas detainee facilities were inspected during the five-month-long IG investigation, as well as stateside military police and intelligence schools.

The inspection did reveal some shortfalls in Army detainee operations, Brownlee noted, such as some confusion over the roles of military police and interrogators.

The report, he said, makes recommendations to improve the effectiveness of Army detainee operations. These recommendations, he added, are being reviewed and implemented "as quickly as possible." Since the war on terrorism began on Sept. 11, 2001, Brownlee noted, the U.S. military has processed 50,000 detainees.

On Feb. 10, 2004, Brownlee said he directed Army Inspector General Lt. Gen. Paul T. Mikolashek to initiate an investigation of U.S. military detainee operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Mikolashek and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker accompanied Brownlee at the hearing.

Mikolashek told committee members his report wasn't a criminal investigation of alleged soldier abuse of detainees, noting such investigations are still ongoing. Yet, "the inexcusable behavior of a few," Schoomaker pointed out during the hearing, "is not representative of the courageous and compassionate performance of the majority of our soldiers."

The Army IG report, he noted, "confirms that belief."

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Gen. Peter Schoomaker, USA
Army Secretary Les Brownlee

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