Skip to comments.From the Frontlines: A Combat Soldier's View of the Iraq Prison Abuse Case
Posted on 05/05/2004 5:13:45 PM PDT by Ragtime Cowgirl
||For Release: May 5, 2004
Contact: Amy Ridenour at (202) 371-1400 x110 or firstname.lastname@example.org
From the Frontlines: A Combat Soldier's View of the Iraq Prison Abuse Case
Letter from Iraq Gives Soldiers' Reactions
The National Center for Public Policy Research this week has posted online two letters received from a soldier, Spc. Joe Roche, who presently serving on the front lines in Iraq.
The first letter provides a glimpse of the attitude of rank-and-file combat soldiers in Iraq to the news of abuse of Iraqi prisoners in Iraq.
"I'm at a place right now where there are thousands of U.S. soldiers. I went to breakfast and dinner at the KBR dining hall here. It is huge, hundreds of soldiers gathered to eat. Around us are large-screen tvs, and yes, the news was mostly about the prison abuse. Everyone is so angry. I mean, angry! It is as if those soldiers hurt us more than the enemies here in Iraq have. I don't think that if that RPG last week had hit and killed us in my hummwv, there would have been any of the damage done to our cause here that those soldiers have done."
"As you know, we have done raids and captured some of the top terrorists in Baghdad over the past months. My sister has some dramatic pictures of at least one raid. In all of those, we handled the enemy w/ respect. Our big bosses always pressed us on the Geneva Convention rules before raids, and we have taken many classes on ROEs (rules of engagement) and on the proper treatment of prisoners. There are rosters w/ all our names on them for these classes because dealing w/ prisoners is major concern of our leadership. My battalion has caught car bombers, weapons' smugglers, and those laying IEDs to kill us. We've even captured in raids those who fired mortars at our base on Baghdad Island. And EVERY TIME, we treated them w/ respect and took care to give them full medical treatment, food and clothing."
"Let me recount to you a story... One day [two American soldiers] were hit by an IED in a hummwv... They got the one soldier out who was badly injured, but the fire was so bad that they couldn't get his friend out. They don't know if he was alive as he burned, but they had to watch. Now, that street that this happened on was one where they had built schools, improved much infrastructure, many many projects to make it a better and safer place. ...When the IED blew, across the street were some of those very same neighborhood people cheering. They cheered as our fellow American burned and the other one was dragged out. Now, these are tankers, and they have big BIG guns, and all were ready to fire. The soldiers, all of them seeing the tragedy of the attack, and seeing the sick group cheering across the street, they all held their composure. No one fired a shot, no one did anything inappropriate. They did exactly as they were trained."
The second gives an idea of the response of soldiers to "care packages" -- gifts of snacks, toiletry supplies and leisure items such as books and DVDs -- sent by Americans to troops serving in combat abroad.
"...One of the most inspiring and important things to us has been the incredible arrival of care packages from people all over the country. It is overwhelming."
The text of the first letter can be accessed at http://www.nationalcenter.org/2004_05_01_BlogArchive.html#108373189457257523 online; the second at http://www.nationalcenter.org/2004_05_01_BlogArchive.html#10836356378620677 online.
The letters' author, Spc. Joe Roche, serves with the 16th Engineering Battalion of the 1st Armored Division, which is part of a quick deployment force tasked with dealing with sudden eruptions by enemy forces within Iraq. More information about Joe, other commentaries he has written, and information (including an address and suggested items) about sending care packages to soldiers fighting in Iraq can be accessed at http://www.nationalcenter.org/RochePage.html online.
The National Center for Public Policy Research is a non-partisan, conservative/free-market think-tank established in 1982 and located on Capitol Hill. It can be visited at http://www.nationalcenter.org online.
Washington, D.C. 20002
Fax (202) 408-7773
A Soldier's Judgement from his God
To all who serve, or love or care for those who do...
The soldier stood and faced his God,
Which must always come to pass.
He hoped his shoes were shining
Just as brightly as his brass.
Step forward now, you soldier,
How shall I deal with you?
Have you always turned the other cheek?
To My Church have you been true?
The soldier squared his shoulders
And said, No Lord, I guess I ain't
Because those of us who carry guns
Can't always be a saint
I've had to work most Sundays,
And at times my talk was tough;
And sometimes I've been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough.
But, I never took a penny
That wasn't mine to keep...
Though I worked a lot of overtime
When the bills just got too steep,
And I never passed a cry for help;
Though at times I shook with fear.
And sometimes, God forgive me,
I've wept unmanly tears.
I know I don't deserve a place,
Among the people here.
They never wanted me around,
Except to calm their fear.
If you've a place for me, Lord,
It needn't be so grand.
I never expected or had too much;
But if you don't, I'll understand.
There was silence all around the throne,
Where the saints had often trod.
As the soldier waited quietly,
For the judgment of his God.
Step forward now, you soldier,
You've borne your burdens well.
Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets;
You've done your time in Hell.
This is exactly how I feel. Those creeps that did this and were in charge of this abuse, have put us all in danger. They have done a greater job at ruining our mission than the enemy! They are the ones who fired the most deadly shot!
Not only that, it was 'a shot heard around the world'.
A secondary goal is to attempt to portray the US in an extremely bad light to the international community in general and to any mid-Eastern country which might be sitting on the fence at the present time.
That's exactly why many of us at home are angry about it too.
ABU GHRAIB, Iraq (AP) -- The commander of U.S.-run prisons in Iraq apologized Wednesday for the "illegal or unauthorized acts" committed by soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison, where photographs showed Iraqi prisoners being abused by smiling American guards.
"I would like to apologize for our nation and for our military for the small number of soldiers who committed illegal or unauthorized acts here at Abu Ghraib," Miller told the touring reporters.
Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, spokesman for the U.S. command, also apologized for actions at the prison, which was a notorious center for torture and killings under Saddam Hussein.
"My Army has been embarrassed by this. My Army has been shamed by this. And on behalf of my Army, I apologize for what those soldiers did to your citizens," Kimmitt said. "It was reprehensible and it was unacceptable."
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