The military has sure learned its lesson from Abu Ghraib!

After being detained and jailed for three days in Fallujah, “19 employees of North Carolina-based Zapata Engineering, including 16 Americans,” were released and have resigned. The team of security guards was accused of firing at civilians and troops.

Several of the detained Zapata employees said that they were stripped and threatened by a snarling military dog while Marines jeered and took photos.

“I never in my career have treated anybody so inhumane,” one of the contractors, Rick Blanchard, a former Florida state trooper, wrote in an e-mail message. “They treated us like insurgents, roughed us up, took photos, hazed us, called us names.”

[T]he men were not allowed to call their families or others during their detention.

The Marines “‘slammed around’ several contractors, stripped them to their underwear and placed a loaded weapon near their heads,” reports the LAT.

“‘How does it feel to be a big, rich contractor now?’ the Marines shouted at the men.”

When the shoe’s on the other foot: We know that contractors get off for detainee abuse and murder, but it turns out they don’t have any rights either when they’re the ones being roughed up:
The LAT covers the legal limbo that contractors find themselves in:

The incident has reignited debate about the accountability of security contractors in Iraq, where they operate in a legal gray zone. Contracting experts said it was unclear what authority the U.S. military would have to detain American civilians in Iraq.

“Two years into the [Iraq war], and there’s still a hole when it comes to a legal structure,” said Peter W. Singer, a Brookings Institution scholar who has written extensively on private military contractors.

“Where in the chain of command do [contractors] fit? Where is the accountability? If something bad happens, who investigates it, who prosecutes, and who punishes?” he asked.

An attorney for the men said he has contacted the FBI and a U.S. Congressman’s office about the treatment of the contractors.

What exactly happened that led to the contractors’ arrest and detention? The stories vary:

“Our personnel did not fire on the Marines,” said Mary Richards, Zapata’s senior vice president for operations. “Based on everything that we know and everything that we have collected, they followed the rules that are required when working as a contractor in Iraq.”

Lapan, the Marine Corps spokesman, gave a different account of the circumstances leading up to the detention.

On May 18, he said, a Marine patrol in Fallouja reported receiving fire from a convoy of late-model trucks and sport utility vehicles. The Marines also saw gunmen in the convoy fire at civilians in the streets of Fallouja, where reconstruction was taking place.

Three hours later, a second set of Marines at an observation post reported receiving fire from vehicles matching the description of the convoy involved in the earlier incident, Lapan said.

The Marines stopped the convoy using spiked strips in the road and took 16 Americans and three Iraqi translators into custody. Of the Americans, 14 were armed security personnel, according to the Corps of Engineers. …

Update [2005-6-8 7:36:57 by susanhu]:

This morning, Amy Goodman is interviewing a French journalist who was mistreated by U.S. troops. The audio and video are up; the transcript will be up later. The interview blurb:

French TV journalist Grégoire Deniau describes his ordeal in U.S. custody in Iraq. He was detained for a day during the siege of Fallujah in April 2004. He says despite showing his passport and French press ID, U.S. soldiers forced him to kneel for hours, gaffer-taped a hood over his face and hurled insults at him, calling him a dog and accused him, as a Frenchmen, of being pro-Arab. Deniau says he was released late at night, in the middle of the desert and was warned by the soldiers that US forces shoot everything that moves.
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