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Context of 'July 27, 2003: Pentagon Announces Charges Against Four Soldiers over Detainee Abuse in Iraq'

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Kurds gassed in Halabja.Kurds gassed in Halabja. [Source: PersianEye / Corbis]Days after the end of the Iran-Iraq War (see August 20, 1988), Saddam Hussein begins the first of a series of poison-gas attacks on Kurdish villages inside Iraq. A September 1988 report by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee states: “Those who were very close to the bombs died instantly. Those who did not die instantly found it difficult to breathe and began to vomit. The gas stung the eyes, skin, and lungs of the villagers exposed to it. Many suffered temporary blindness… . Those who could not run from the growing smell, mostly the very old and the very young, died.” While the gas attacks are continuing, Deputy Secretary of State John Whitehead circulates a highly classified memo among senior State Department officials recommending that the US cultivate even closer ties with Iraq, whom it supported over Iran in the last few years of the war (see Early October-November, 1986). Whitehead offers a Cold War rationale: “[Soviet] clout and influence is on a steady rise as the Gulf Arabs gain self-confidence and Soviet diplomacy gains in sophistication. The Soviets have strong cards to play: their border with Iran and their arms-supply relationship with Iraq. They will continue to be major players and we should engage them as fully as possible.” Whitehead adds, “It should be remembered… that we have weathered Irangate” (see January 17, 1986). More must be done to develop closer ties with “the ruthless but pragmatic Saddam Hussein.” (Also see September 8, 1988.) [New Yorker, 11/2/1992]

Entity Tags: Saddam Hussein, John Whitehead, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, US-Iraq 1980s

L. Paul Bremer.L. Paul Bremer. [Source: Public domain]The White House announces its intention to appoint L. Paul Bremer III as special envoy and civil administrator for Iraq. Bremer, described by media reports as an expert on terrorism, is a former managing director of Kissinger Associates (1989 to 2000). [Newsweek, 4/30/2003; Washington Post, 5/2/2003]

Entity Tags: L. Paul Bremer

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

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; Washington Post, 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]

Entity Tags: Jerry L. Phillabaum

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

The Pentagon announces that four US soldiers from a Pennsylvania-based Army Reserve have been charged with punching, kicking, and breaking the bones of Iraqi captives at Camp Bucca near Umm Qasr in connection with the May 12 incident (see May 12, 2003). This is the first known case where US soldiers are charged for alleged illegal treatment toward prisoners of war. [Associated Press, 7/27/2003] By January 2004, the soldiers will have all been discharged after Brig. Gen. Ennis Whitehead III determines that they had kicked prisoners or encouraged others to do so. [Associated Press, 11/25/2003; Associated Press, 1/16/2004]

Entity Tags: Ennis Whitehead III

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

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