The top US Army general said Monday that US forces tried to stop prisoner abuse by Iraqi authorities, denying suggestions in documents released by whistleblower site WikiLeaks.
General George Casey, the Army chief of staff who earlier headed forces in Iraq for nearly three years, said there was “some suggestion in the press reports that we turned a blind eye on Iraqi prisoner abuse.
“That’s just not the case. Our policy all along was when American soldiers encountered prisoner abuse, it was to stop it and then report it immediately up the American chain of command and up the Iraqi chain of command,” he told reporters.
The trove of classified US military documents provide graphic accounts of abuse of prisoners inside Iraqi prisons. Human rights group have urged the United States to reveal how much it knew and whether it transferred inmates to Iraqi custody despite the risk of torture.
WikiLeaks says that the documents also reveal around 15,000 more civilian deaths than were previously disclosed.
Casey denied any policy of under-counting civilian deaths, saying that US forces regularly inquired at morgues about death tolls.
“It doesn’t ring true with me. We actively went out and tried to understand the impact of both our actions and the militant groups’ actions on civilians,” he said.
President Barack Obama opposed the Iraq invasion and has declared an end to the US combat mission. But his administration fought the release of the documents, saying they could pose risks to US forces and their operatives in Afghanistan and Iraq.
A military task force sifting through the released documents has determined that WikiLeaks removed the names of the more than 300 individuals who would have been at risk, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan said.
“However, information remains in the documents posted that could lead to the identification of those individuals,” such as their titles or positions, Lapan said.
The accounts in WikiLeaks focus primarily on alleged abuse by Iraqi authorities, piling pressure on Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki as he seeks a second term in office.
The US image worldwide was badly hurt when images emerged of US soldiers’ abuse of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison. Some inmates were shown in humiliating positions, as US troops proudly posed with battered corpses and nude, injured prisoners.
US military courts have found 11 soldiers guilty over the abuse, handing them sentences of up to 10 years in prison.