During the fall of 2003 most of our nights in Adhamiya, Baghdad consisted of raiding the homes of Iraqis whom we suspected of being involved in the insurgency. As soldiers we did not ask questions about the intelligence provided to us that sparked these raids and usually passed the target off expecting them to be dealt with by a judicial system.
Certain targets stood out in our minds--especially high value targets from the "deck of cards". One night, my battalion was sent out to raid a house where we believed four brothers were building explosives to be used in a plan to kill Tony Blair when he visited Iraq. The raid was captured on film by Michael Tucker and used in the documentary about my unit, Gunner Palace.
Watching the film while sitting comfortably in my living room here in the States I was drastically reminded of the fact that we never found any evidence of bomb building in their house. It was not until I read Michael Tucker's "My Prisoner, My Brother" in Vanity Fair this week did I realize that the brothers we captured were INNOCENT and spent eight months in Abu Ghraib where they were interned in tented camps where they endured horrible living conditions and insurgent attacks.
Tucker's story provides evidence of how our detention system in Iraq was broken and puts a human face on the thousand of innocent people whose lives have been destroyed by a systematic indifference to basic human rights. In the end, we alienated the very people we were sent to liberate.
As American soldiers, we expected the prisoners captured to be handled in a judicious fashion. The raids we executed and the targets we captured were from the neighborhoods we were responsible for. When parents, wives, and children came looking for their sons and husbands and wondered why they were taken away, we had to deal with them. If their anger turned to aggression, we had to deal with them. Often we did not have answers. Once we transferred prisoners to our higher unit they left our control, we did not have any influence over the process, but assumed that the process was fair.
I expected a system to be in place to deal with the targets our battalion captured, and I had faith it was done. After reading Tucker's piece, I question much of what we did in Iraq and it frustrates me to know that with all the effort our ground troops are putting in to secure their neighborhoods, the leadership has failed miserably in protecting innocent civilians.
Once Yunis was our prisoner, but now I feel like he is a brother.