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Context of 'July 28, 2003: The 320th MP Battalion Sets Up at Abu Ghraib'

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Four soldiers from the 320th Military Police Battalion severely beat prisoners after transporting them to Camp Bucca in southern Iraq. Soldiers spread the legs of some prisoners while others kick them in the groin. One prisoner allegedly has “his face smashed in.” The incident is reported by the MPs of another unit. After the soldiers are charged, one of the soldiers being investigated writes to his relatives to explain the charges: “A few of my MPs were assaulted by the enemy prisoners, and we had to use force to regain control, all justifiable.” (Associated Press 7/27/2003; Higham, White, and Davenport 5/9/2004) The four MPs of Lt. Col. Jerry L. Phillabaum’s 320th Military Police Battalion will be given less than honorable discharges, but not prosecuted. (US News and World Report 7/9/2004)

The 320th Military Police Battalion, headed by Lt. Col. Jerry L. Phillabaum, sets up its headquarters in Abu Ghraib. It is also assigned command over the 72nd MP Company, the unit that was initially put in charge of the facility. The 72nd MP Company is from Henderson, Nevada, commanded by Capt. Troy Armstrong, and was earlier part of the 400th MP Battalion. (US Congress 9/9/2004 pdf file)

The US military reopens the Abu Ghraib prison facility in Baghdad, which had been the main prison used by Saddam Hussein. Lt. Col. Jerry L. Phillabaum, a reservist who commands the 320th Military Police Battalion, is put in charge of the prison. He reports directly to Army Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski. (Higham, White, and Davenport 5/9/2004)

Staff Sgt. Ivan L. Frederick II, a member of the 372nd Military Police Company who will be a central figure in the prison photos scandal, sends a letter to relatives back home. In his letter he says: “I questioned some of the things that I saw… such things as leaving inmates in their cell with no clothes or in female underpants, handcuffing them to the door of their cell-and the answer I got was, ‘This is how military intelligence (MI) wants it done.‘… MI has also instructed us to place a prisoner in an isolation cell with little or no clothes, no toilet or running water, no ventilation or window, for as much as three days.” Frederick goes on to say that the military intelligence officers have “encouraged and told us, ‘Great job,’ they were now getting positive results and information. CID has been present when the military working dogs were used to intimidate prisoners at MI’s request.” When Frederick asked his superior officer, Lt. Col. Jerry Phillabaum, the commander of the 320th MP Battalion, about the abuse of the prisoners, “His reply was ‘Don’t worry about it.’” (Hersh 5/10/2004)

Gen. Janis Karpinski is disciplined by Lt. Col. Ricardo S. Sanchez with a Memorandum of Admonishment and relieved of duty. She herself suspends Lt. Col. Jerry L. Phillabaum and Cpt. Donald Reese from their duties. (US Department of the Army 3/9/2004)


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