Forty-four separate incidents are graphically recounted in the new Army report on abuse committed by U.S. soldiers against Iraqis in their custody at the Abu Ghraib prison. They include direct physical assault of inmates, required nakedness, forced sexual posing and an alleged sexual assault.
Most of the major incidents are already known, either through previous reports or in media accounts. Many were powerfully documented in the photographs that leaked out in the spring, spurring a series of Pentagon investigations and congressional hearings.
But the report yesterday is likely to stand as the definitive encyclopedia of abuse at Abu Ghraib.
The abuse began in September 2003 amid an erupting insurgency that surprised U.S. commanders and strapped some Army units. In the following months, as described by investigators, Abu Ghraib went over the edge. "What started as nakedness and humiliation, stress and physical training (exercise), carried over into sexual and physical assaults by a small group of morally corrupt and unsupervised soldiers and civilians," the report says.
In mid-September, Abu Ghraib was hit by mortar shells, killing two soldiers and wounding 11 others. Immediately after the attack, two Iraqis were brought in, and military intelligence soldiers were seen hitting one of them. When a military police officer told them to stop, the soldiers insubordinately told him that it was not his concern. "We are the professionals; we know what we are doing," they said, according to the report.
In a second sign of the indiscipline that led the way to later abuse, the soldiers refused to identify themselves, as they are required to do when asked by a superior officer. In an inquiry by local commanders, the accounts of the incident offered by military intelligence soldiers and military police clashed. The detainee was found not likely to have been involved in the mortar attack and was released the next day, the report notes.
The involvement of military intelligence soldiers in that incident appears to be significant. Of the 44 incidents detailed, 16, or more than one-third, were at the request or encouragement of those troops, the report said. That finding appears to counter the view first advanced by some Republicans that the scandal was the work of a handful of rogue MP soldiers.
Also in mid-September, an MP ordered a detainee to be stripped of his clothing. This was the first recorded use at Abu Ghraib of an interrogation technique that had been employed against suspected al Qaeda and Taliban fighters held at the Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and also against detainees in Afghanistan.
The Army report said the technique was brought to Iraq by soldiers who had served in Afghanistan. But in an atmosphere of poor supervision and poor leadership, it was used less discriminately, in ways that the report notes violated the Geneva Conventions governing the treatment of prisoners of war.
In the following months, the abuse increased in severity.
One Iraqi, identified in the report only as "Detainee 7," described how in October of last year, he was made to bark like a dog and crawl on his stomach while U.S. soldiers spat and urinated on him. He also was beaten into unconsciousness. On another occasion, he was forced to lie on the ground while MPs jumped on his back and legs. He also was sodomized with a police stick, the report said.
"It is highly probable Detainee 7's allegations are true," the report noted.
In November, the soldiers of Abu Ghraib found other perverse forms of brutality. Some detainees were forced to masturbate. Others were "ridden like animals."
In late November, police dogs were brought in by top commanders to help control prisoner demonstrations and riots. Instead, their presence created the conditions for what Gen. Paul J. Kern, who oversaw Maj. Gen. George R. Fay's investigation, described as the worst of the 44 incidents.
"I think the most horrific one that we found from my perspective is the case of where MP dog handlers were subjecting two adolescents to terror from the dogs for the purposes of playing a game," Kern said. Dog handlers competed, he said, "specifically to see if they could get [the juvenile detainees'] bowel movements and their urination to work."
"Soldier 27 allowed the dog to enter the cell and 'go nuts on the kids,' barking and scaring them," the Fay report states.
Many of the incidents detailed are presented in the report as established fact, but the allegation of the rape of a young male detainee is described as unconfirmed. In that alleged incident, the report said, a civilian contractor working as an interpreter was reported by "Detainee 5" to have raped a male adolescent, who screamed during the act. A female soldier allegedly took pictures of the incident. But, the report said, "No other reporting supports Detainee 5's allegation, nor have photographs of the rape surfaced."