Washington, March 24 (Reuters): US prisoners of war in Iraq risk being beaten, tortured and held in dank concrete jails without medical attention, POWs from the 1991 Gulf War said yesterday, based on their own experiences in Iraqi hands.
Iraqi television filmed five shaken US soldiers — one an injured woman — and the bloodied bodies of up to eight uniformed men, all apparently captured or killed near An Nasiriyah in southern Iraq. At least two of the dead had head wounds.
The footage of the first known US POWs in the conflict included brief interviews with the five and was relayed internationally by the Arabic network, Al-Jazeera.
Americans who were POWs in the 1991 conflict with Iraq said the US captives faced grim conditions. “The first few days are usually the worst. The physical beatings, most of them were in the first few days,” Lt Col Dale Storr, who was held for 33 days in Iraq in 1991, recalled in an interview with the CNN yesterday.
Sunday’s images revived memories of how in 1991 three Americans, two Britons, an Italian and a Kuwaiti, bruised and disoriented, were shown by Baghdad in televised messages seen around the world.
“I think our leaders and our people have wrongly attacked the peaceful people of Iraq,” navy Lt Jeffrey Zaun said in that 1991 broadcast. And Guy Hunter of the Marine Corps called the war, “an aggression against peaceful Iraq”.
US President George W. Bush demanded that the captured Americans be treated humanely as dictated by the Geneva Convention, and Iraqi officials promised they would respect the Convention in their treatment of the prisoners.
But US soldiers who had a similar experience during the 1991 Gulf War expect no compassion from Baghdad.
Zaun, whose battered face became one of Americans’ most memorable images of the 1991 war, told NBC television news, “This kind of thing shouldn’t be unexpected.” Zaun said he was isolated for weeks at a time and then regularly subjected to karate chops to the throat and blindfolded for mock executions.
Asked if he expected Iraq to honour the Geneva Convention while holding the US prisoners, Storr said: “No. I don’t. It is a terrible, terrible thing. I feel so sorry for those guys. My heart goes out to them and their families.”