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Iraqi abuse scandal: Local reservists singled out in report

| Thursday, Aug. 26, 2004

A Fayette County soldier was singled out as a central figure in the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal in a military investigator's report released Wednesday.

The report authored by Maj. Gen. George R. Fay identifies Cpl. Charles A. Graner Jr., of Uniontown, as a major player in the abuse of Iraqi detainees last year. Graner, who is facing court-martial, was linked in the report to 11 of 44 abuse incidents.

The 177-page document also indicates that New Stanton native Capt. Donald Reese, commanding officer of the 372nd Military Police Company, of Cresaptown, Md., was aware that Iraqi detainees were paraded around the prison naked as an interrogation technique.

Fay's report contradicts statements Reese made during an interview with the Tribune-Review last week.

Reese said the alleged abuses occurred over a three-day period shortly after the unit was ordered to run the prison last October. However, Fay identified 27 abuse incidents between early October 2003 and Jan. 8, while the prison was under Reese's command.

Reese, who returned home earlier this month, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The Fay Report was publicized a day after the release of a separate independent review of detention operations in Iraq. Both placed much of the blame for alleged abuses on military police officers and military intelligence officers at the prison.

Reese, a window blind salesman in civilian life, has not been accused of abusing prisoners. However, Fay wrote that Reese knew something appeared out of the ordinary.

"There's a lot of nude people here," Reese is quoted as saying to military officials upon his arrival at the prison last October.

Some of the nudity was attributed to a lack of clothing and uniforms for detainees. However, Fay said it could not be determined what happened to the prisoners' original clothing.

The report noted the lack of clothing was used as an interrogation technique, but "is significant in that it likely contributed to a dehumanization of the detainees and set the stage for additional and more severe abuses to occur."

Although Reese, the unit's commander, also is named in a section of the report that describes Iraqi detainees being stripped of their clothing and forced to wear women's underwear on their heads, he was not identified as a participant in that incident.

Reese was not named specifically, but his judgment was criticized in the separate independent review released Tuesday. That report, authored by commission Chairman James Schlesinger, concluded that the 372nd Company reservists were not properly trained for prison duty and that they were thinly stretched in dealing with the large number of detainees.

"With little experience to fall back on, the company commander deferred to noncommissioned officers who had civilian correction backgrounds to work the night shift. This deference was a significant error in judgment," Schlesinger wrote.

Graner -- who was photographed posing with naked Iraqi detainees -- became one of the international faces of the abuse case after the photos were published around the world. He faces a lengthy military prison sentence if convicted.

Fay's report and Schlesinger's review each accuse Graner of participating in physical and mental abuses of Iraqi prisoners. He was one of two guards assigned leadership duties while on night shift at the prison because of his background as a corrections officer.

Graner, who worked in civilian life as a guard at the State Correctional Institution at Greene County, has argued that he acted at the behest of military intelligence officers. The reports, though, suggest Graner and six other military police officers in his unit were primarily responsible for their actions.

"The aberrant behavior on the night shift in Cell Block 1 at Abu Ghraib would have been avoided with proper training, leadership and oversight. Though acts of abuse occurred at a number of locations, those in Cell Block 1 have a unique nature fostered by the predilections of the noncommissioned officers in charge. Had these noncommissioned officers behaved more like those on the day shift, these acts, which one participant described as 'just for the fun of it,' would not have taken place," according to the independent review.

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