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'It Looked Weird and Felt Wrong'

Eighteen hours later, an Army investigator began to look into the incident, according to an internal Army summary. Maj. Frank Rangel Jr., the executive officer of a military police battalion attached to the 4th Infantry, was assigned to investigate. He didn't believe the soldier's account that Radad was trying to escape.

"I thought the suspect might have committed negligent homicide" and lesser offenses, Rangel said later. Lt. Col. Poirier, Rangel's commanding officer, thought the shooter should be court-martialed. "This soldier had committed murder," Poirier said.

But Odierno overruled that recommendation, and ultimately the soldier was simply discharged from the Army for the good of the service. "I made the decision to dishonorably discharge him because of mitigating circumstances," Odierno said in an interview. "He was a cook, he didn't get proper training, and this detainee was very aggressive, a bad guy."

On Sept. 21, 2003, Odierno issued a memorandum on the treatment of detainees to everyone in his division. "Soldiers will treat all detainees with dignity and respect, and, at the very least, will meet the standards for humane treatment as articulated in international law," he ordered. "While detainees in U.S. custody may be interrogated for intelligence purposes, the use of physical or mental torture, or coercion to compel individuals to provide information, is strictly prohibited. . . . Neither the stresses of combat, nor deep provocation, will justify inhumane treatment."

Some Early Warnings

Yet the abuses continued. A few months later another 4th Infantry soldier, the staff sergeant overseeing the interrogation section at the division's main detainee holding pen in Tikrit, was reprimanded after an Iraqi was beaten with a baton while being questioned.

"These acts could . . . bring extreme discredit upon the U.S. Army," Lt. Col. Conrad Christman, the commander of the 104th Military Intelligence Battalion, warned him in writing on Nov. 6. The incidents of abuse of the detainee, his letter added, "show a lack of supervisory judgment on your part."

The sergeant, whose name was redacted from official documents before they were released, hurled those conclusions back at his chain of command.

"With the exception of myself, all interrogators at the TF IH ICE [Task Force Iron Horse Interrogation Control Element] were, and most remain, inexperienced at actual interrogation," the sergeant wrote. The division's intelligence efforts generally were "cursory," he added, because of "insufficient personnel, time and resources."

Nor had the Army prepared the sergeant and his soldiers for the job they'd been assigned. "Our unit has never trained for detention facility operations because our unit is neither designed nor intended for this mission. . . . [My soldiers] are assigned a mission for which they have not trained, are not manned, are not equipped, are not supplied and . . . cannot effectively accomplish."

What's more, he wrote, the institutional Army hadn't even taken the proper steps to prepare for this kind of war. "To my knowledge, no FM [field manual] covers counterinsurgency interrogation operations."

But most striking from this NCO was a lengthy denunciation of the strategic confusion of those leading the Army in Iraq. "I firmly believe that [name of subordinate soldier redacted in document] took the actions he did, partially, due to his perception of the command climate of the division as a whole." He noted, for example, that division leaders had made comments such as, "They are terrorists, and will be treated as such."

As was occurring elsewhere in Iraq, the sergeant reported signs of U.S. forces practicing a form of hostage taking, detaining family members of suspected insurgents to compel those suspects to surrender.

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