Veteran sergeant accounts US torture coverup

Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Sacramento, CA — A US veteran sergeant reports witnessing torture in Iraq and the cover-up activities of his commanding officers.

Honorably discharged US veteran, Sergeant Frank "Greg" Ford reports that he witnessed war crimes in Samarra, Iraq.

Democracy Now! interviewed David DeBatto on it's December 12, 2004 show. David wrote Whitewashing torture?, which is an account of Sergeant Frank "Greg" Ford's report on Iraqi prisoner abuse at his base in Samarra, Iraq. DeBatto, a former counterintelligence officer in Iraq, is currently authoring a four-part fiction series, as well as working as a journalist.

In Whitewashing torture?, DeBatto explains that Sergeant Ford witnessed the torture and abuse of Iraqi detainees over a two to three week period in the spring of 2003 by his fellow intelligence operatives. Ford attempted to confront his team leader several times without success, and eventually went to his commanding officer Captain Victor Artiga in order to file a formal complaint. According to Ford, instead of an investigation being conducted, he was given thirty seconds by Captain Artiga to retract his complaint. When Ford didn't comply, he was immediately stripped of his weapon and assigned a 24-hour escort. Shortly after he was told to report to an army psychiatrist for a "combat stress evaluation". The psychiatrist deemed Ford to be "completely normal" and filed her report with Captain Artiga.

According to a witness, Sergeant First Class Michael Marciello, when Artiga saw the psychiatrist's report, Artiga was, "livid". He "stormed" back to the psychiatrist and "browbeat" her to change her report to read that Ford was mentally unstable, and ordered her to have Ford shipped out of the country. Ford was later strapped to a medical gurney and medvac'd out of Iraq. He was initially sent to Kuwait and eventually to Landstuhl, Germany. Ford then underwent psychological evaluation in Germany and also two bases in the United States for approximately 8 months.

David DeBatto indicated he reviewed hundreds of documents regarding Ford's case and couldn't find any of the required documents that should be filed when a soldier is medvac'd from one area to another. David also stated that every doctor that evaluated Ford found him to be completely normal, with absolutely no psychological or mental health issues.

DeBatto reported that Ford was not the only soldier to have this happen to him. According to Col. C. Tsai, a military psychiatrist who examined Ford at the Army Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany, there had been three or four other soldiers who had been sent there under very similar circumstances. Specifically, the soldiers had made allegations of abuse or mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners. DeBatto indicated he had even came across a decorated veteran from the first Gulf War who made allegations and has committed to a mental ward in Kentucky. According to DeBatto, that officer is still fighting his committal. Tsai had found nothing at all unstable about Ford.

DeBatto reported that Ford was eventually given an honorable discharge in February, 2004. He is currently looking into filing civil and criminal charges against the officers involved. He has contacted the FBI, the Department of the Army's Office of the Inspector General, as well as the Army's Criminal Investigation Division. All three agencies have initiated criminal and administrative investigations into the incident.