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There will be 'no scapegoats' in Iraqi prisoner abuse

May 02, 2004|by DAVID DISHNEAU

CRESAPTOWN, Md. - The investigation into abuse of Iraqi war prisoners will hold accountable anyone found responsible, but there will be "no scapegoats," the Army Reserve said Saturday, as its top commander met with family members of the unit at the center of the probe.

Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly, chief of the Army Reserve, spoke with about 90 family members during a three-hour closed-door meeting. Helmly condemned the alleged abuses.

"If such acts occurred, this kind of treatment, these allegations go against the grain of everything America's Army stands for," Helmly said. "It undermines our values of respect, dignity and honor, and we hold those values deeply."

The allegations have raised questions about the soldiers' training. The general said he has started a study to determine whether there's sufficient training for Army Reserve soldiers to handle civilian detainees and enemy prisoners of war. He said he wants to know to what extent ethics are incorporated into reservists' training.

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Al Schilf, a spokesman for the National Army Reserve, said family members mainly were concerned with the unit's extended deployment through early September. The approximately 130 soldiers in the 372nd Military Police Company had been scheduled to return home in April from a 14-month deployment.

Regarding the abuse allegations, Schilf said: "We want to get to the bottom of this, and if these allegations prove true - that any individuals that are responsible need to be held accountable, from the lowest to the highest. No scapegoats. Anyone responsible needs to be dealt with."

Schilf said family members weren't shy about asking questions, and "they're being answered."

The meeting was held in a one-story red brick building in the small, working-class community of Cresaptown, on a mountain road about five miles south of Cumberland. The area is among the poorest in Maryland. In the past 40 years, it has lost thousands of tire, glass and textile manufacturing jobs, which have been replaced partially by lower-paying employment at telemarketing centers and a state and a federal prison.

The New Yorker magazine obtained a U.S. Army report that said Iraqi detainees were subject to "sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses" at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.

Six U.S. soldiers facing courts-martial in the abuse allegations have been reassigned in Iraq; their boss, Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade, and at least seven others have been suspended from their duties at the prison, according to the U.S. military.

The six soldiers criminally charged are members of the Maryland-based 372nd, according to William Lawson, the uncle of one of the soldiers - Staff Sgt. Ivan L. Frederick II. Besides Frederick, the soldiers include Pvt. Jeremy Sivits, Spc. Charles A. Graner, Sgt. Javal Davis, Spc. Megan Ambuhl and Spc. Sabrina Harman, Lawson said. Another member, Lynndie England, has been reassigned to Fort Bragg, N.C., where she's being detained, Lawson said. It's not clear whether she'll face charges.

Frederick's father told NBC's "Today" show that he didn't believe the allegations.

"None of the photos that I've seen has shown my son abusing anybody, which I don't think he ever would," said Ivan L. "Red" Frederick.

President Bush has condemned the mistreatment, saying he shared "a deep disgust that those prisoners were treated the way they were treated." He said that is "not the way we do things in America."

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