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Comments by YACCS
Saturday, August 05, 2006

About that mutilation thing

Steven Green

G.I. Crime Photos May Be Evidence

Published: August 5, 2006

On March 13, a group of American soldiers sitting at a checkpoint south of Baghdad were asked to look into a horrible crime: a 14-year-old Iraqi girl had been raped, then killed along with her family in their house nearby in Mahmudiya.

The soldiers knew the house. They had been there only the day before, military prosecutors now say, committing the crime.

Those soldiers, along with others from their checkpoint, walked over and took detailed forensic photographs of the charred and bullet-riddled bodies, as if it were a routine investigation of an insurgent attack, according to a defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Now, those photographs are likely to serve as evidence in the military’s prosecution of the case, which opens a new chapter tomorrow when an Article 32 hearing, the rough equivalent of a grand jury proceeding, begins in Baghdad for five soldiers accused in the crime.

The case, which was first widely reported in June, raised alarm about the military’s conduct, infuriating Iraqis and setting off a public bout of shame and soul-searching for the American command. And as details trickle out, a troubling picture is emerging of an Army unit numbed by months of extreme combat stress and left at one of the deadliest security checkpoints in Iraq without experienced leaders — a point that will be central in building a legal defense, lawyers in the case say.

Many questions persist about the crime in Mahmudiya. Prosecutors initially said that only two of the accused soldiers had raped the girl, and that Steven D. Green, a private who was discharged in May after a psychiatric evaluation, was the ringleader. It now appears that at least three soldiers, including Mr. Green, raped her, according to a legal memo filed by a military magistrate. Prosecutors now believe the other two soldiers raped her first and later set fire to her dead body, two lawyers involved in the case said.

At the time, the men’s squad leader and the overseeing platoon commander — both highly respected leaders — were on leave, said a sergeant in the same company as the men. He provided some details through e-mail on condition of anonymity.

“I know none of that would have happened if he was around,” the sergeant said of the squad leader.

At least one staff sergeant in the unit repeatedly complained that checkpoints were under-manned, said David P. Sheldon and Capt. James D. Culp, lawyers who represent Specialist James P. Barker, one of the accused men. He and Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman, Pfc. Bryan L. Howard and Sgt. Paul E. Cortez have been accused of rape, murder and arson. The fifth soldier in the hearing, Sgt. Anthony W. Yribe, is accused of dereliction of duty for not reporting the crime, but he is not thought to have been at the house. Mr. Green is being tried in civilian criminal court.

Even relatives back home knew the men were stretched. Pfc. Shane Hoeck, a soldier in the unit, shared his worries with his brother Cody, 16, in frequent e-mail messages.

“They lost so many guys they don’t have enough manpower to cover things,” Cody Hoeck said in a telephone interview.

The military is still trying to determine whether the rape and killings in March have any connection to the torture and murder of three soldiers from the same platoon in June. Insurgents posted a video on the Internet last month showing images of two soldiers who had been kidnapped and castrated, one of them headless, and called it revenge for the rape

Whenever you see the word mutilated to describe someone killed, it's politese for castration.

posted by Steve @ 1:42:00 AM

1:42:00 AM

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