I am a sergeant in the Arkansas Army National Guard, and I was in Iraq from April 2004 to March 2005. My job was that of fire-team leader, responsible for three soldiers. We patrolled the streets of Baghdad daily, conducted raids, manned checkpoints, and cleared houses and other buildings. During our stay in Iraq, we detained dozens of Iraqis.
So I was somewhat astounded at Capt. Ian Fishback's letter to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) about what he saw and observed in Iraq concerning beatings, broken bones and other improper treatment of prisoners [op-ed, Sept. 28]. His experience and observations are inconsistent with mine.
Our unit was attached to the 1st Cavalry Division. We worked with active-duty soldiers, and when I moved to a forward operating base known as Headhunter, I worked every day with the 1st Cavalry, which I found to be a professional organization.
We never experienced the confusion that Capt. Fishback and his soldiers evidently experienced. Our directives were clear and our approach to treating detainees was consistent: I never saw a U.S. soldier physically mistreat an Iraqi. I saw professional treatment of detainees from the top to the bottom, and I was proud to be part of this great combat team.
I do not challenge Capt. Fishback or his observations. But I saw U.S. soldiers, both active-duty and National Guard, conduct themselves professionally on a daily basis.
ROWE P. STAYTON
I read with interest and emotion Capt. Ian Fishback's letter to Sen. John McCain.
I was born in Germany in 1942. I learned to admire the kindness with which U.S. soldiers treated us children. The worst thing that could happen to one of us in the late 1940s and early '50s was to get hit on the head with a chocolate bar tossed to us by soldiers passing by on the way to the Czechoslovakian or East German border. They were good men, and Germans learned to adore them for the generous and admirable philosophies they preached.
In 1966 I came to the United States, and I enlisted in the U.S. Army. I fought in Vietnam, where I lost my leg in 1967. As I grew older I watched some of my GI friends die embittered because they felt the country had changed and lost its idealism.
Then I read Capt. Fishback's letter, and I knew all was well. I had been looking for that letter and those thoughts for a long time.
When I read the captain's letter, I knew I was not alone and that some people still remember the ideals those post-World War II GIs preached to German youngsters. I hope Mr. McCain will help keep this young officer from becoming a victim of his idealism.
ROLAND J. SCHECK
Regarding Capt. Ian Fishback's plea to understand "what constitutes lawful and humane treatment of detainees":
Is it not common sense that the practices he named -- "death threats, beatings, broken bones, murder, exposure to elements, extreme forced physical exertion, hostage-taking, stripping, sleep deprivation and degrading treatment" -- are not lawful and humane? How could he or his troops be confused?