Photos of Iraqi prisoners being abused by grinning U.S. troops have horrified many around the world, not least those in this community who cheered on some of the same soldiers before they deployed.
“I was appalled by the pictures,” said Becky McClarran-Mizak, mother of Spc. Daniel Mizak. Her son, who had worked as a prisoner escort in the unit, is not among those under investigation.
Six soldiers in the Cumberland-based 372nd Military Police Company were charged in March with physical and sexual abuse of 20 prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.
Families of some of those charged say their loved ones were following orders and have been treated unfairly. Staff Sgt. Ivan L. “Chip” Frederick II “never did do anything to hurt anyone,” said his wife, Martha, of Buckingham, Va.
Lack of training alleged
Daniel Sivits, of Hyndman, Pa., said his son, Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits, 24, who faces a possible court-martial, wasn’t prepared for prison-guard duty. “Jeremy is not a trained MP. He is a trained wheeled-vehicle mechanic,” he said.
The photographs, apparently taken last year, show members of the 372nd grinning, clowning and giving thumbs-up signs beside naked, hooded prisoners posed in humiliating positions. CBS aired the images last week.
The 372nd, a source of pride for this western Maryland city, had been showered with love during rallies on the downtown pedestrian mall. Reservists’ photographs were displayed at Wal-Mart and inside a courthouse.
Spc. Rodney Bird, 24, of Oakland, Md., worked at the Iraq prison but is not charged. His wife, Jennifer, 23, said the actions of a few have disgraced the unit.
“I think it’s awful that they’re over there supposed to be doing their jobs and they’re treating those people like that. I think it’s very bad,” she said.
But McClarran-Mizak said the 372nd deserves the community’s continued support.
‘I wish it would have never happened’
“Do I think anybody should be humiliated? No, I don’t. I wish it would have never happened,” she said. “But there were 164 soldiers sent over there and there were not 164 soldiers involved in that incident.”
The disturbing photos also prompted defense contractor CACI International to begin investigating whether any of its employees acted improperly, even though the company says it has no information that is the case.
An Army report provided to The New Yorker magazine identifies two CACI employees as being “either directly or indirectly responsible for the abuse at Abu Ghraib.”
CACI President and chief executive J.P. “Jack” London issued a statement Monday saying that one of the two employees cited in the report has no connection to Arlington, Va.-based CACI. London declined to discuss specific names, citing security concerns.