In Cumberland, Md., where patriotism is always in fashion, the local reservists went off to war last year as hometown heroes. Now the town is in shock.
“It’s tragic for how people look at America now and how people look at Cumberland, Md.,” said Cumberland resident Bob Buck.
Since Pvt. Lynndie England appeared in the now-infamous photos, her picture has been removed from the Wall of Honor at Wal-Mart.
Her close friend says she’s innocent. “They were doing what higher-up expected of them, told them to do, and told them not to question it,” said Destiny Goin.
All six soldiers who are accused of physical and sexual abuse of some 20 Iraqi prisoners are from the 372nd Military Police Company based in Cumberland. None had been in trouble before.
The most senior officer, Staff Sgt. Chip Frederick, was a prison guard in Virginia for six years.
“About 18 months ago he saved a prisoner’s life who was trying to commit suicide and received an award from the state of Virginia,” said William Lawson, Frederick’s uncle.
The report supports soldiers’ claims they were “not adequately trained” for their mission. Some were trained as mechanics or, in the case of Cpl. Charles Graner, as a traffic cop.
Graner’s lawyer says ugly things happen during war. “It’s offensive to all of us, but perhaps it’s best that we don’t know everything that is going on,” said Guy Womack.
Many point fingers at civilian contractors. The report found two contractors were “directly or indirectly responsible” for the abuses.
Experts say using private contractors as interrogators is dangerous. “The contractors are not subject to the basic laws and rules that limit what they can do to and protect citizens and others against abuse,” according to Dan Guttman.
But now, at least eight firms are still hiring private interrogators for Iraq. Five years of experience is required, salary up to $115,000. Only some mention that applicants must abide by the Geneva Convention.