View Full Version : U.S. Soldier Tortures Iraqi General to Death

15-04-06, 04:30
Long story but interesting topic

Death Of A General
(CBS) In this time of war, how far should a soldier go when interrogating a prisoner? Is torture OK? What if the prisoner knew where Saddam Hussein was hiding? What if the prisoner knew how to stop the attacks on our troops? How far is too far?

That was the dilemma facing Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer while interrogating an Iraqi major general, among the most important prisoners of the time. During interrogation, the general died. Did Welshofer go too far to protect his fellow soldiers? The army thought so — and has charged him with murder.

Welshofer tells his side of the story for the first time to correspondent Scott Pelley.


In the fall of 2003, American troops had defeated the Iraqi army, but they were still losing lives to a well-funded insurgency. Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer was under pressure to stop the killing and maiming of Americans that he saw every day.

"The ambulance come in and it’s got a guy, maybe you know him, maybe you don’t. But he’s yelling and screaming," Welshofer recalls. "You know, he’s missing a body part. Blood all over the place. And you just tell yourself, you know what? This has got to stop. You have to protect these guys."

The way to protect them, according to the military, was by finding Saddam Hussein — who was then still at large — and by cracking the insurgency. One day, the key to the solution appeared on Welshofer’s doorstep: an Iraqi major general with close links to Saddam. His name was Abid Hamed Mowhoush.

Welshofer says he thought Mowhoush might know where Saddam was hiding and also help him understand how the insurgency was organized and financed.

Welshofer questioned Mowhoush, didn’t lay a hand on him, and got nothing out of him. So he turned up the heat.

"I put him on his knees and I used the facial slap," recalls Welshofer.

How did the general react?

"I sent a very clear signal," says Welshofer. "And he received it in a very clear manner. His complete demeanor changed at that point. He understood that this was not just some friendly conversation anymore, and that we meant business."

But the general insisted he knew nothing about Saddam or the insurgency — so after three days of fruitless interrogation and sleep deprivation, Welshofer got creative.

He remembered that years before, in an approved training exercise, he helped stuff American soldiers into oil drums to induce claustrophobia and panic. The idea was to teach our soldiers for what could happen if they were captured. In Iraq, Welshofer did much the same thing, this time, with a sleeping bag.

Asked to explain how the sleeping bag was used on Mowhoush, Welshofer said, "Take the sleeping bag and he’s standing up. And you take the bag and you kind of put it down upside down, so that his head ends up where the feet normally would be."

Welshofer explained the bag came down over the general's head, and was open at the bottom and open at the back.

Mowhoush weighed more than 250 pounds. He was 56 years old and not in good shape. Welshofer took an electrical cord, wrapped it around Mowhoush’s middle to hold the bag in place, and put Mowhoush on his stomach. Then he straddled him.

"The idea is you are putting him in a close confinement. You want to maximize the idea of him not being able to move," says Welshofer.

But when Mowhoush didn’t give him the answers he was looking for, Welshofer says he put his hand over his mouth, while the general was in the sleeping bag.

"Over his mouth and nose?" Pelley asked.

"No, over his mouth," Welshofer replied. "And he continues to talk underneath my hand. He continues to — you know — 'Wallah, wallah,' you know, 'I’m not who you think I am,' things like that."

After about 30 minutes, Welshofer decided to give up trying to get the general to talk. He removed the bag.

"The general had a smile on his face. An honest-to-God grin on his face. So I’m thinking he’s messing with me. So, I grabbed a little bit of water and sprinkled it on the general’s face, because he was not responding to any questions, any type of conversation at all. I saw that the water pooled in his mouth, and it was at that point that I realized there was a problem here. The general’s dead," Welshofer recalls.

"I have to imagine that as the paramedics took the general out of the interrogation room you might have thought to yourself, 'I just killed that guy,'" Pelley said.

"No. I didn’t think I killed him," Welshofer replied.

"He was dead. You wrapped him up in a sleeping bag and electrical cord and kneeled over him … put your hand over his mouth and now he’s dead," Pelley continued.

"And each time I put my hand over his mouth for a period of, say, three to five seconds, after I removed my hand, he continued to talk. He continued to be responsive. He was responsive up until the very end," Welshofer explained.

The Army's official press release, said the general met his end through "natural causes." But later the autopsy found that he died of "asphyxia due to smothering and chest compression."

Welshofer was given a letter of reprimand and he thought that was the end of it. He went back to work and was even selected for promotion. But three months later, the notorious pictures from Abu Ghraib prison, far from Welshofer's base, changed everything. A month after that, the Army looked at Welshofer's case again — and this time, it charged him with murder.

"They’ve revisited each of these cases that were all known even before Abu Ghraib and now because of the outcry and the aftermath of Abu Ghraib they want to show that they’re cleaning house," says Frank Spinner, Welshofer's lawyer. "I think it’s more of a political decision-making process that’s taking place than what I would call a classic military justice decision-making process."

Asked if he though Welshofer was being made a scapegoat, Spinner said, "I think you can use that term."

Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez understands that point of view. She’s a member of the House Armed Services Committee who pressured the Pentagon for answers in the so-called torture death of Mowhoush. She felt the Pentagon’s top brass was evasive, and the Army declined 60 Minutes' request for an interview. Sanchez says responsibility for the death lies with the top leadership at the Department of Defense.

"At a time when we were telling our soldiers, our interrogators, 'We need information. And you need to get it out of these guys.' And yet, they floated all these memos and sort of made the line, the demarcation, what is torture and what is just, you know, uncomfortableness almost go away on purpose, one would say," says Rep. Sanchez.

She points to an e-mail Welshofer and other interrogators received from headquarters in Baghdad. "The gloves are coming off, gentlemen, regarding these detainees. Col. Boltz has made it clear we want these individuals broken. Casualties are mounting and we need to start gathering info to help protect our fellow soldiers from any further attacks," the e-mail read.

"'Take the gloves off,' you know, while it may not seem specific to you, from our point of view, the intent behind that is fairly clear. You know, we need to win. What do you need to do in order to win?" says Welshofer.

What did he need to do in order to win?

"Well, the techniques that we learned simply were not sufficient. You know, we need to take it up a notch or two," says Welshofer.

To "take it up a notch," the top general in Iraq, Ricardo Sanchez, approved new interrogation rules allowing harsher treatment. But the Pentagon couldn’t decide what was legal, so the rules were issued, changed and re-issued three times in 30 days. Gen. Sanchez OK'd vague "stress positions" that may have violated the Geneva Convention and the Army’s own field manual.

"It says in General Sanchez’s memo: 'stress positions … use of physical postures … sitting … standing … kneeling prone, etc.' What does 'et cetera' mean?" Pelley asked Welshofer.

"Now you're getting into the crux of all the confusion that was going on. Things like 'et cetera' were never specifically spelled out," he replied.

That's why, before he put Mowhoush in the sleeping bag, Welshofer went to his commanding officer, Maj. Jessica Voss, for permission. She granted it.

In a statement, Voss said, "I assessed the use of this technique as an appropriate method to be used to glean intelligence from detainees. At no time did I perceive any violations of (official) policy or laws of war.”

"Chief Welshofer did not do this in a closet. He didn’t do it in the middle of the night when nobody else was looking. He was open about what he was doing," says Spinner. "So if he really thought he was doing something that violated either General Sanchez's directions or the Geneva Convention or the rules of engagement, it was there for anybody to see and report."

If Welshofer thought what he was doing was open and aboveboard, there was another group of interrogators that was operating in secret.

Two days before he died, Gen. Mowhoush was visited by a team from U.S. Army Special Forces and the CIA, men who came equipped with rubber hoses. When the general continued to insist he knew nothing, Welshofer watched the session turn violent.

"There were probably five or six guys who, you know, are hitting the general. And he’s rolling around on the floor trying to move away from one guy who’s hitting him. But as he rolls away from one, he happens to roll into where another guy is at. And then that guy hits him," Welshofer recalls.

Welshofer says there was slapping, says he did see a kick that got the general on the side and recalls that there were two rubber hoses.

The session, says Welshofer, lasted "about five" minutes.

What kind if shape was the general in after it was over?

"He was still lying on the ground, you know, rolling around a little bit like that, you know, yelling and screaming a little bit," says Welshofer.

The blows took their toll on the general, as a picture and the Army autopsy show. “Findings included rib fractures, numerous contusions (bruises), some of which were due to impacts with a blunt object(s),” the autopsy read.

It’s not known what role the beating may have played in Mowhoush’s death, which came two days later. But Rep. Sanchez thinks the buck should not stop at Welshofer’s door.

"It happened in Abu Ghraib. It happened in Afghanistan. It happened in Guantanamo Bay. When you see this across three different arenas and in many different places, it is no longer just a few guys got it in their head to do this," says Rep. Sanchez. "It is coming from somewhere else. And it’s got to come from above."

In January, Welshofer faced court-martial for murder. After a week of testimony, a sympathetic jury of officers convicted him of a lesser charge, negligent homicide, and sentenced him to 60 days confinement to his barracks

"In my mind, the Lewis Welshofers of the world are to be respected," says Spinner, "because they are doing the best they can to serve America’s interest and to keep their fellow soldiers alive. Even if they may step over a line, let’s give them a little bit of understanding."

Welshofer was implicated only in the death of the general, who was one of more than 600 prisoners that Welshofer interrogated in Iraq.

Asked if he would do all this again, Welshofer says, "I helped save soldiers lives. I'm 100 percent convinced of that. If I had done anything less than what I did, if one soldier more had died because I had done anything different, I find that even more reprehensible — even more unacceptable."

Produced By Harry Moses © MMVI, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

15-04-06, 04:51
This will never end, will it? :(