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In the giddy spirit of the day, nothing could quite top the wish list bellowed out by one man in the throng of people greeting American troops from the 101st Airborne Division who marched into town today.
What, the man was asked, did he hope to see now that the Baath Party had been driven from power in his town? What would the Americans bring?
"Democracy," the man said, his voice rising to lift each word to greater prominence. "Whiskey. And sexy!"
Around him, the crowd roared its approval.
Warning: Graphic descriptions of sex and violence follow.
In Baghdad, Saddam Hussein was preparring his own welcoming committee:
Colonel Raaed Faik was riding with fellow Republican Guard officers on a civilian bus thirty-two kilometers northeast of Baghdad that morning, trying to obey an order to rush to Baghdad to join in the defense of the city. They were to help keep Highway 8 open for a counterattack. Faik was a senior signal officer in the Republican Guard, but he was dressed now in civilian clothes. The chief of staff had radioed an order for this division to fight without uniforms in hopes of mounting an effective guerilla war against the American forces on the streets of Baghdad. But some officers had not received the order, and they were still in their uniforms. They bickered with the plainclothes officers over how to dress for the battle.While it may have seemed foolish, it was part of a larger plan to welcome the bringers of Democracy to the capital city of Iraq.
Faik was disgusted. He took pride in being a member of an elite unit, but now they were like women trying to decide what outfits to wear. They were fools led by imbeciles.
Meanwhile, in America, three soldiers were out of their uniforms, too, and enjoying a brief vacation prior to joining the battle...
In March 2003, she went with Graner and another soldier to Virginia Beach. During the trip, Graner took pictures of himself having anal sex with England. He also photographed her placing her nipple in the ear of the other soldier, who was passed out in a hotel room. Soon, it became their new game: Whenever Graner asked her to, England would strike a pose.She probably was. And perhaps Graner really did hand over those pictures "by mistake". Regardless, England and Graner would soon bring their brand of "sexy" to Iraq.
After the Virginia Beach expedition, England and Graner rented a car and drove to eastern Kentucky, where her parents and grandfather were turkey hunting in Daniel Boone National Forest. Sitting between Graner and her parents at a picnic table, England asked Graner to share some scenic pictures from their trip to Virginia Beach. Graner handed an envelope to England's father, who opened it and scanned the images, then handed them to Terrie. They showed nudity and sexual scenes. Apparently, Graner had given them the wrong vacation shots. "I was really bent out of shape," Terrie says.
In addition to his own troops in civilian clothes, Saddam had some "out of town help" waiting for Americans in Baghdad:
Just south of the spaghetti junction, beyond the row of greenhouses on the west side of the highway, Yusef Taha and his brother Ziad were huddled in the rear downstairs room of their two-story stucco home in the shade of the nursery awnings. The Taha brothers owned one of the greenhouses, which had been shredded by coax from the Rogue Bradleys two days earlier. They had stayed in the war zone to protect their house - not from the Americans but from the Syrian mercenaries who had arrived several days earlier to seize control of the entire greenhouse complex. The brothers knew that if they fled, the Syrians would have set up sniper's nests on their roof, drawing tank rounds that would have flattened their modest little home. So now they were hunkered down inside with twelve family members - aunts and uncles, in-laws and children - praying that the Americans would pass by quickly and leave their house intact.
Yusef was a heavyset forty-two-rear-old, with a thick mustache and the beginnings of a beard. Ziad was twenty-six, thin and handsome and had a trimmed mustache. The brothers had pleaded with the Syrians, begging them to find some other place to fight the Americans. But the Syrians said the greenhouses and nurseries occupied a strategic stretch of territory along the Hillah Highway - Highway 8 - controlling access to the airport and to the government palace complex downtown. They set up RPG teams inside the greenhouses, joined by Republican Guard troops in their dark green uniforms with distinctive maroon insignias. It seemed to the Taha brothers that the Syrians were in charge. They were certainly more fanatic and energized than the Republican Guards. They spoke often of jihad, of dying while killing American infidels. Some of them strapped packs of explosives to their chests and spoke of ramming suicide cars into the tanks and Bradleys. Some of them brandished swords, like Saladin, the Arab conqueror. The brothers did not particularly welcome the American invasion - and certainly not the devastating firepower brought to bear on their nursery business - but they resented the Syrians, who were invaders in their own right.
Lynndie England had joined the Army National Guard at age 17. Two years later she married Jamie Fike, with whom she had worked at a grocery store and a chicken-processing plant near her home town of Ft Ashby, West Virginia. Life was set.
But employed by the Guard as an administrative specialist, that life would change one drill weekend when she met another soldier who had just joined the unit.
She met him while processing his paperwork for the 372nd Military Police Company after he arrived in Cresaptown, MD, in November 2002. He was 15 years older. He used to follow her out to the smoking area. Graner didn't smoke, though; he just wanted to see her. "He was funny, the jokester," she says. "Was he too old for me? I didn't think about it at the time. He acted like he was 3 years old." He was loud, raunchy, and bad to the bone. "An outlaw," she calls him.Charles Graner had been a prison guard for several years. According to his ex-wife,
"Graner was the total opposite of Jamie [Fike, England's husband]," says Jessie. "Lynndie told me, 'He's real open. He likes to do stuff. Wild things.'" England didn't know about his past. According to court documents, Graner beat his former wife, Staci Morris, and dragged her by the hair across a room. A former civilian prison guard, he'd also been accused in a federal lawsuit of assaulting an inmate at Pennsylvania's State Correctional Institution-Greene in 1998 and putting a razor blade in the inmate's mashed potatoes.
"The whup ass [beatings] ran like a river," Ms Morris quoted Graner as saying about the frequent beatings of prisoners. "He had complete contempt for prisoners; as far as he was concerned they had no rights," she said, summing up his attitude as a prison officer in Pennsylvania.He wasn't always a soldier. In fact, he had joined the Marine Corps Reserve shortly after graduating high school in 1986. He married the former Staci Michelle Dean on June 15, 1990 - on their marriage license application, Graner listed his full-time occupation as construction worker. But not long after, he would be activated to deploy in support of Operation Desert Storm, where he would serve as a guard at a prison camp:
KDKA-TV reporter Ross Guidotti served with Graner in a military police company when both were members of the Marine Corps Reserve. For about six weeks in early 1991, both were guards at a prison camp for Iraqis captured during the Gulf War.His first child was born while he was in Iraq.
He said he was shocked to hear that Graner has been accused of mistreating prisoners, in part because of the training they and other guards received years ago. "It was drilled into our minds well before we left the continental U.S. what we were allowed to do, and not allowed to do, relative to the treatment of prisoners."
They moved to Uniontown and had two children, Brittni Stacia, born Jan. 21, 1991, and Dean Charles Graner, born two years later on Feb. 9, 1993.That may be the first evidence of Graners fascination with photography.
By 1997, the marriage was foundering. In May, Staci filed for an emergency custody ruling, alleging that Graner had taken the children and wouldn't give them back. She filed for divorce on June 4, 1997, contending in court papers that Graner had thrown her and her children out of their home.
At this point, he was working at the State Correctional Institution Greene in Greene County, according to court papers.
In June, Staci filed for the first of the three protection-from-abuse orders, alleging that in May he'd threatened to kill her, made harassing telephone calls and told her mother that "she could keep his guns because he did not need them for what he was going to do to her.''
Common Pleas Judge Ralph Warman issued an order on June 16, 1997, barring Graner from having any contact with Staci for six months except for exchanging their children for visitation. Those exchanges were to take place at the Uniontown police station.
Staci was back before Warman on Feb. 2, 1998, contending that Graner had stalked and verbally abused her, hidden her keys and thrown her against a wall and into furniture. She also testified that Graner offered to move out of their former home so that she could return with the children, then installed a secret video camera and showed her tapes of herself.
One night, Staci Morris awoke to find then husband Charles Graner holding a large knife to her throat and openly pondering whether to kill her. In subsequent days, he pretended nothing had happened.His civilian career as a prison guard ended at about the same time as his marriage
"He's like my Hannibal Lecter, he really is. He's the monster in my life,"
"He is a sexual deviant," she said. "He was very sexually strange, into very strange things."
As their relationship was faltering, Graner twice set up covert video surveillance of Morris's bedroom - and then told her about it. On other occasions Graner recounted to guests invented tales about their sexual exploits, Morris said.
The night before she went back to court, she said he crouched and hid in her laundry room until she walked by, then jumped out to scare her.But when one door closes, another opens, as they say. Graner joined the Army National Guard in 2002, and met Lynndie England. Shortly thereafter, she brought him home to meet her folks (no word on the whereabouts of Lynndie's husband at this time).
Warman issued another protection-from-abuse and no-contact order, this time for a year, and ordered Charles to return the tapes.
The Graners' divorce was final in 2000. She sought yet another protection-from-abuse order in March 2001, filing a five-page handwritten statement detailing an encounter in which she said Graner told her she was still his wife and tried to get her to go to bed with him.
She said he dragged her around the house by the hair, banged her head off the floor and tried to throw her down the stairs in front of their weeping, frightened children.
Warman issued another one-year protection-from-abuse and no-contact order on March 22, 2001. By then, Graner was listed in court papers as working for TOPS Temporaries at Sony in New Stanton.
England brought Graner home with her to Fort Ashby in early 2003. With a foul mouth and pierced nipples (they saw those later), he didn't make a good impression. That day, recalls Terrie, he stood in their living room and slowly looked around.They grabbed their cameras, and off they went to the beach.
"Charles, you're more than welcome to sit down," she told him.
He remained standing.
"He couldn't wait to get out of there," says Terrie. "I don't know if he thought we were nothing or what. I said, 'You're nothing but trying to get into my daughter's pants.' He said, 'No, ma'am, my intentions are honorable.' He was blowing smoke up her ass. I said, 'Here's the door and don't let it hit you on the way out,'" she recalls.
"We were just like, 'There is something wrong with this guy,'" says Jessie.
Worth says that in addition to photos of inmate abuse, investigators found photos of England topless on a beach. Also, one photo showed a soldier sleeping as a male soldier (he thinks Grainer) held his penis near the sleeping soldier's head. In another photo, England leans topless over the same soldier, with her breasts near the sleeping soldier's head.
First witness via telephone is Spc. Stephen Stephen Strother (name uncertain)...
Strother visited Virginia Beach with Grainer and England. They stayed in a hotel together. England went swimming topless. Grainer was nude. Photos taken after he passed out as described yesterday. Grainer exposing penis, England topless...
In Baghdad, US Soldiers confronted Iraqi army units in civilian clothes, foreign fighters who'd come for the jihad, and another group:
At Abu Ghraib, the most notorious prison, 150 inmates were crammed into cells designed for 24. The torture chamber was next to the hanging chamber, whose clanging iron trap doors were a vivid reminder of the fate awaiting those who refused to pledge loyalty to the regime.Here's one reason:
In the fall of 2002, Hussein unexpectedly released thousands of rapists, murderers and other criminals for reasons still not totally clear.
The enemy kept coming. Soldiers and civilian gunmen were arriving now in every available mode of transportation-hatchbacks, orange-and-white taxis, police cars, ambulances, pickups, big Chevys, motorcycles with sidecars. Major Nussio, the battalion executive officer, opened fire on a huge garbage truck with a soldier at the wheel. He was thinking to himself as the soldier keeled over and the truck crash-landed: A garbage truck? These people are so stupid - stupid but determined.Chaos and carnage, as described in the book Thunder Run: The Armored Strike to Capture Baghdad, and encouraged by none other than Mohammad Saeed Al-Sahhaf - dubbed "Baghdad Bob" he had become a source of comic relief to many. Few will forget his insistence that there were no Americans near Baghdad, a claim delivered straight-faced as US battle tanks rumbled in the background.
They were not giving up. It seemed suicidal - men with nothing more than AK-47s or wildly inaccurate RPGs were charging tanks and Bradleys. It was like they wanted to die, or worse, they just didn't care. That disturbed some of the tankers. They weren't trained to fight people who didn't give a damn. Nor were they quite prepared to fight people who didn't have a plan - didn't have a clue. As each RPG team or pack of dismounts attacked with utter disregard for what the other Iraqis or Syrians were doing, the tankers kept thinking: It's all a big trap. They really do have a plan. They're just luring us in with those haphazard, disjointed tactics. Sometime soon, they're going to get organized and attack with some serious tactics.
At one point, a little white Volkswagen Passat suddenly appeared on the highway. It came off one of the access ramps. Before anyone could react, the Passat turned sharply and smacked into one of the Bradleys. Everyone thought it was a suicide car, but nothing exploded. The driver opened the door and stepped out, his hands raised over his head. He was a portly middle-aged man with a trim black mustache and wavy silver hair. He wore an Iraqi military uniform with a colonel's gold rank on his epaulets. There was a pistol on his hip.
The Bradley commander radioed Captain Hilmes. "Sir we got an Iraqi general here," he said, misreading the colonel's rank. "He just crashed his car into our Bradley. What do you want us to do with him?"
"Capture his ass," Hilmes ordered.
Several infantrymen climbed out of the Bradley's hull and snatched the colonel and dragged him inside. Later under interrogation by U.S. military interpreters, the Iraqi said he was the military quartermaster for all of Baghdad. He was a brown shoes guy, a desk officer. He had been driving to work, minding his own business - and suddenly he was involved in a fender-bender with an American Bradley Fighting Vehicle. He told his interrogators that he had no idea American forces were in Baghdad. From what he had been hearing on government-controlled radio, American forces had been stopped cold below the Euphrates River, well south of the capital. He certainly never expected to see tanks in Baghdad. Every officer he knew was convinced the Americans were afraid to bring tanks into a city.
It was baffling. Senior Iraqi officers in the capital seemed content to believe their own lies, that the war was going well and the Americans were bogged down south of the city. Even many ordinary civilians seemed unaware that there was a war going on. Despite the columns of black smoke from burning vehicles and the thunderous pounding of the tanks and the Bradleys, civilians in family sedans were coasting down the southbound lanes of Highway 8 and along the access roads, like it was just another Saturday morning in the suburbs. For all they knew from listening to government radio, the war was confined to the southern desert, where American forces were being routed. It was only the Fedayeen and Syrians, and unknown numbers of Special Republican Guards, who seemed to understand that American forces were invading the capital. And if these soldiers and fighters and militiamen were disorganized and poorly trained, they did not lack for determination or gall - and there seemed to be an endless supply of weapons and ammunition, and of gunmen eager to fight and die.
But he was an integral part of the plan for the defense of Baghdad - a long, bloody siege, fought by soldiers in civilian clothes on streets crowded with actual civilians. With no hope of military victory, the leadership in Iraq wanted to create a global outrage, fueled by media reports of civilian casualties (actual and otherwise) and other atrocities, to the point where the US would ultimately withdraw humiliated. Far from being humorous, the claims of Mohammad Saeed Al-Sahhaf - made willingly or witlessly - had a deadly serious purpose: maximize the number of real civilians on the streets along with those soldiers posing as the same. The goal? Photographs of mounds of civilian corpses splashed across front pages and news broadcasts worldwide.
But they hadn't expected tanks in Baghdad.
Suddenly they were rolling into a traffic circle - Qahtain Square in the Yarmouk section of Baghdad. Gruneisen radioed the captain: "Did you go through a traffic circle?"However, not everyone ran:
Iraqi military trucks were parked along the square. Soldiers were milling around. It was a staging area for attacks on the column. The tank rumbled into the square. The Iraqi soldiers stared up at the big tan machine, shocked to see an M1A1 Abrams barreling down on them. The tank crew stared, too. They had never expected to confront the enemy in such a personal way - literally face-to-face. There was a brief, suspended moment.
"Oh shit," Gruneisen said.
The Iraqi soldiers didn't open fire. They ran - they scattered everywhere. It struck Hernandez as preposterous. There were five Americans surrounded by dozens of Iraqis in the heart of the Iraqi capital, and the Iraqis were fleeing. He had a mental image of cockroaches scattering when you turn on the kitchen light.
Gruneisen ordered Peterson to speed through the circle. There wasn't enough time to back up and turn around. He wanted to just plow through the circle, past the trucks and soldiers, and head back the way they had come. The soldiers scattered out of the way. Gruneisen couldn't tell whether anyone was firing at them. As they rolled into the circle, Hernandez saw yellow pickup truck speeding toward them with two men in the front seat. There wasn't time for a warning shot - no time to determine whether these were wayward civilians or militiamen trying to ram them. Hernandez got off a burst from the M-240. He saw a spray of blood stain the windshield and watched the passenger go down. The driver hit the brakes and the pickup spun and went into a skid.In other news of the day from Baghdad:
Freed journalists tell of eight-day Iraqi prison ordealBut not for long. For in the chaos following the fall of the regime, the walls literally came down:
Tortures and beatings heard by four released from notorious jail after pleas for help to Vatican and Arafat
Peter Beaumont in Amman
Thursday April 3, 2003
A group of western journalists held in a notorious Baghdad prison on suspicion of spying described yesterday how other prisoners were tortured and beaten in the corridors outside their cells.
Matthew McAllester, a Briton employed by the US newspaper Newsday, described the terror of his eight days in Abu Ghraib prison just outside Baghdad, one of the biggest prison complexes in the Arab world.
"There were beatings and torture going on outside our cells, in the corridor," McAllester said immediately after his release. He described hearing the screams of other prisoners being tortured and saw some with eyes and faces bloodied and swollen.
"Other inmates hobbled around, apparently because the soles of their feet had been burned or otherwise injured. We thought we were going to be killed at any moment," McAllester said.
McAllester, 33, and Moises Saman, 29, a photographer for Newsday, were picked up by Iraqi secret service agents nine days ago, with Molly Bingham, 34, a freelance US photographer, and Johan Rydeng Spanner, a Danish freelance photographer. McAllester and Saman were handcuffed and taken downstairs from their hotel room in the service elevator, and transported to Abu Ghraib prison just outside Baghdad.
"We could hear screams, especially during the night," McAllester said yesterday. "The Iraqi prisoners were occupying the cells opposite us. We would hear them being taken to and from a session.
The release of the journalists, and a peace activist who had been held with them, came after frantic efforts by Newsday editors and prominent international figures and journalist advocacy groups.
Newsday editors had contacted everyone from the Vatican to Iraq's ambassador to the UN and diplomats in the region and, through an intermediary, the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, whose intervention is understood to have been crucial in securing the release.
McAllester added a note of caution: "We are free because we had the support of such a great network of people. There are Iraqis still in that prison who do not have that support."
Looters had a field day. They stole all the doors, the windows and in some locations, they took the bricks out of the walls and the tile off the floor. They even pulled out the wiring.Which seemed to be the end for Abu Ghraib.
Prior to the beginning of hostilities, planners estimated 30-100 thousand enemy prisoners of war would need to be secured, segregated, detained, and interrogated. The 800th MP Brigade was given the mission to establish as many as twelve detention centers, to be run by subordinate battalion units. As of May 2003, BG Hill reported that only an estimated 600 detainees were being held -- a combination of enemy prisoners and criminals. As a result, additional military police units previously identified for deployment were demobilized in CONUS. The original plan also envisioned that only the prisoners remaining from the initial major combat operations would require detention facilities, and they would eventually be released or turned over to the Iraqi authorities once justice departments and criminal detention facilities were re-established,Unfortunately, there were few prisoners because many of those soldiers had fled to fight another day - alongside the foreign fighters who were already in place, and ready for the jihad.
In June 2003, a group of about 20 soldiers, including England, Graner, Specialist Sabrina Harman, Staff Sergeant Ivan L. Frederick II, and Specialist Joseph M. Darby, were deployed for duty in Iraq. The first stop: the Hilla camp, 58 miles south of Baghdad, where the army was training new Iraqi police officers. The American forces took up residence in an abandoned date-processing factory, a big, open space, like an airplane hangar, but screaming hot and full of bird shit.But soon they would be forced to leave leave their pets behind. Orders to a new location were on the way.
Not long into their stay, two of the soldiers appeared at the base one day with animal carcasses. They'd found a dead goat and a dead cat somewhere and started slicing them up. Someone took a photo of a soldier pretending to have sex with the goat's head. "Then they cut off the cat's head and shoved it on the top of a soda bottle," England says.
For several weeks, the decaying animal heads provided entertainment for the soldiers. "Someone put sunglasses on them, and put the rifle next to the heads and took a picture. Some soldiers put a cigarette in the cat's mouth," she says. The soldiers stashed the severed heads in their rooms.
"It was funny," England says. "So funny."
More to follow.
Fantastic work, but goddamned depressing. I almost want to believe that if Graner hadn't existed, the press would have found someone else to fill the same role--but how could anyone do the job so well? What a scumbag. And yet, as I read through all the details, the lie of Abu Ghraib is reconfirmed and can't help but wonder: who is more of a scumbag, Graner, or all the journalists who pretended he wasn't an anomaly, who used him to undermine the moral authority of our presence in Iraq. Times like this, I feel a black disgust well up. But what does it help? I'm not a child anymore! Move along.
Thanks, keep up the good work.Posted by clazy at November 28, 2006 10:32 PM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(1) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)