Classified memo reveals
Iraqi prisoners as "starving"
By Jason Leopold
Online Journal Contributing Writer
A classified memo written by a top military official stationed in western Iraq reveals that a prison in downtown Fallujah is so overcrowded and dirty that it does not even meet basic “minimal levels of hygiene for human beings.”
“The conditions in these jails are so bad that I think we need to do the right thing in terms of caring for the prisoners even with our own dollars, or release them,” says the memo, written late last month by Maj. Gen. John Kelly, commander of U.S forces in western Iraq.
The classified document, leaked to Wikileaks, a website where whistleblowers can "reveal unethical behavior in their governments and corporations," was authenticated by the organization.
The memo contains other shocking revelations about conditions at the jail, including a massive shortage of food and water. The prison is said to be run by Iraqi officials. US Marines oversee operation of the facility.
“I found the conditions there to be exactly (unbelivable [sic] over crowding, total lack of anything approaching even minimal levels of hygiene for human beings, no food, little water, no ventilation) to those described in the recent (18 February) FOX news artickle [sic] by Michael Totten entitled the "Dungeon of Fallujah.,” says Kelly’s memo. “We need to go to general quarters on this issue right now . . . To state that the current system is broken would erroneously imply that there is a system in place to be broken."
Totten, an independent journalist, said the prison can house a maximum of 110 prisoners but he discovered that there were more then 900 cramped into the facility. US contractors built the prison in 2005, which is located next to the US Joint Communications Center.
It is unknown who Kelly sent the memo to. A Pentagon spokesman did not return calls for comment late Wednesday.
Kelly wrote that when he inspected the prison “iraqis [sic] and marines present throughout my inspection as to why these conditions existed, three conditions were universaly [sic] cited as problems in Fallujah as well as the rest of Anbar.”
“First, there is zero support from the government for any of the jails in Anbar. No funds, food or medical support has been provided from any ministry,” Kelly added. “Second, the police that run Anbar's jails are the same personnel responsable [sic] for investigating crimes. These jailer/investigators are undermanned and more often than not spend most of their time out begging and scavenging for food than investigating crimes. (It is unlikely the prisoners will eat today) . . . I believe the Iraqi police are doing the best they can, and they literally begged me on humanitarian, moral and religious grounds to help them help the prisoners by somehow moving the government to action.”
In a report published earlier Wednesday, Lt. Col. Michael Callanan told United Press International that following an inspection of the prison by Kelly, US forces decided to “advise and assist” Iraqis managing the jail and are providing food to the prisoners.
"They are being fed now," Callanan told UPI.
The US military turned over control of Fallujah to the 1st Iraqi Army Division in December 2006. Since then, the US military and top White House officials have cited Fallujah as a city where efforts to install democratic values and the rule of law have paid off. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent in that city alone to train Iraqi police and security forces.
But Kelly’s memo contradicts the Bush administration's claims.
He describes how the US military, after five years since the US invaded the country and more than a half-billion dollars spent by US taxpayers, still cannot seem to find success training Iraq security forces.
“The Iraqi police will ultimately be the ones whose shoulders the burden of winning or losing the fight will be carried,” the classified memo says. “To date, little attention has been paid to the Iraqi corrections system in Anbar and its current discrepancies will prevent the [Iraqi police] from becoming a professional law enforcement force unless immediate and significant support is provided.”
Jason Leopold is the author of the National Bestseller, "News Junkie," a memoir. Visit www.newsjunkiebook.com for a preview. He is also a two-time winner of the Project Censored award, most recently, in 2007, for an investigative story related to Halliburton's work in Iran. He was recently named the recipient of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation’s Thomas Jefferson Award for a series of stories he wrote that exposed how soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan have been pressured to accept fundamentalist Christianity. Leopold is working on a new nonprofit online publication, expected to launch soon.