Inside Iraq's House of Horrors
A father's love and the horrifying facts of the case may not coincide. According to the Army, Frederick and six other members of the 372nd Military Police Company are at the heart of the burgeoning scandal, whose images of American troops parading naked Iraqi detainees, forcing them to simulate sexual acts and threatening them with electrocution have generated cries of outrage around the world, especially in Arab countries. An angry President Bush has said that he shares "a deep disgust" at the prisoners' treatment. "That's not the way we do things in America," he said.
And yet there are new indications that even graver offenses may have been committed. Portions of a confidential Army review published in The New Yorker disclose evidence that some Iraqis were systematically beaten—with one even allegedly sodomized with a foreign object—all with the knowledge and tacit approval of senior officers. The U.S. military is also investigating the deaths of 25 prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan. "The rules for the treatment of prisoners of war are very clear," said Sen. John McCain, who spent 5½ years as a POW in North Vietnam, during which he himself was tortured. "There is no justification for this kind of treatment."
The abuse apparently took place starting last fall at the sprawling Abu Ghraib facility. Under Saddam Hussein the prison served as the regime's main chamber of horrors for political prisoners; after Saddam's fall it became a U.S.-run detention center for Iraqi detainees. Frederick, who is charged with aggravated assault and possibly battery, dereliction of duty and other offenses, contends that during his time as a guard he complained to superiors about the treatment of the prisoners, to no avail. "I have asked for help and warned of this and nobody would listen to me," he says in one e-mail.
Frederick also maintains, without providing much detail, that other soldiers committed worse acts than those of which he is accused. In a message to his family on April 30, he mentions taking a picture of the body of a prisoner packed in ice. Frederick writes, "The question I keep asking myself is...'Why are they getting away with killing innocent people?' "
But Frederick apparently did not press any concerns he might have had. In December, in fact, he bragged that the methods employed by his unit had proven effective. "We have had a very high rate with our style of getting them [the prisoners] to break," he wrote to his family. "They usually end up breaking within hours." The military began cracking down on the abuse earlier this year after one MP, Spc. Joseph Darby, who stumbled across the pictures of torture on a CD-ROM, came forward and furnished the Army's Criminal Investigation Division with the disk. "He felt something was wrong, and I couldn't be more proud of him," Darby's wife, Bernadette, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
An Army review of the scandal found that at the very least, Army brass had turned a blind eye to the abuse, and that military intelligence officers even encouraged it. Frederick's civilian lawyer Gary Myers seemingly intends to argue that his client was just doing what he was told. "Events can occur that do not give rise to criminal responsibility," says Myers cryptically. "They maybe offensive events, but they do not give rise to criminal responsibility." George Washington University Law School professor Stephen A. Saltzburg, however, points out that the Uniform Code of Military Justice doesn't make allowances for following unlawful orders. "After World War II," he says, "the world sent a message to the Germans and Japanese: Following orders is no defense to certain crimes against humanity."
Bill Hewitt. Robert Schlesinger and Macon Morehouse in Washington, D.C.