By Sophia A. Niarchos
OYSTER BAY, N.Y. — Two Greek-Americans have been featured in news reports about the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq. One of them taught interrogation techniques to military intelligence personnel; the other claims to not have been trained in the use of those techniques at all.
The news of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib wasn’t a total surprise to U.S. Army Reserves Captain Edward Diamantis, who served directly under Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski in Iraq until his recent return to New York. Karpinski was suspended in January as an investigation into the abuse was initiated. According to a recent article in the New York Times, Diamantis was assigned to the brigade’s headquarters east of the runways of Baghdad International Airport and made several journeys to the now-infamous prison. He first heard rumors in January of the mistreatments uncovered at Abu Ghraib, and there were indications of trouble ahead in a conversation he had with Karpinski later in the winter.
Diamantis told the Times that Karpinski said something “very, very bad” was occurring in the prison and “some very, very stupid people…are going to bring some stuff down on our heads.”
An officer with the 800th Military Police Brigade based in Uniondale, Long Island, Diamantis also recalled the nature of the training he received as a reservist in the Times article, noting that monthly weekend training sessions covered the military’s policies on such things as sexual harassment and homosexuality. Training days were also spent on drug tests, and there were some training sessions when instructors were absent. But members of the unit assigned to Abu Ghraib received minimal training in how to handle prisoners.
For Col. Thomas Pappas, however, interrogation training was part of the program at Camp Huachuca’s Army Intelligence Center in Arizona, where he was a senior commander. The nature of that training may have contributed to the current situation at Abu Ghraib, where he commanded the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade.
Two ex-trainees at the camp, Margaret Chaiken and her husband Refael, were interviewed on ABC’s World News Tonight last week. Margaret said interrogators were taught how to “bend the rules in order to get the information that they need.” That included putting prisoners “in humiliating positions, stress positions, sleep deprivation, those kinds of techniques,” according to the Republic report.
Refael Chaiken said even a medical intravenous injection could be used to advantage.
“Sometimes it takes them three or four times to poke you till they put the needle into the vein,” he said in the broadcast. “Well, it can also take 12 times, and you’re not breaking the Geneva Convention.”
Though denied by a base Army Intelligence Center spokeswoman, if found to be true, these allegations may provide a link to Col. Pappas, a 32-year military veteran who already has been presented by the Greek press as a “sadistic torturer” and who higher-ups in the military are holding partly responsible for the abuses at Abu Ghraib.
Pappas was division chief of the Futures Development Integration Center at Fort Huachuca, which plans and designs the future of the Military Intelligence Corps and develops intelligence concepts and training. He left that position four years ago.
News reports quote soldiers who refer to Pappas as having expanded the types of techniques used to elicit information from detainees in Iraq, which were grouped according to their severity into an “A” list, which interrogators could use at their will, and a “B” list, which required Pappas’ or his designate’s approval. But in November, according to the Baltimore Sun, Pappas issued an order that was interpreted as allowing interrogators to beat prisoners; and the soldiers told the Sun that the military intelligence interrogators and private contractors did nothing to discourage them.
Though the soldiers rarely saw Pappas at the prison, they said they feel sorry for him. As a result of the investigation by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, he has received a severe letter of reprimand which is likely to end his career.
However, Taguba also reported that Pappas, who was highly praised by other officers he worked under in the past, had been ordered to take charge of Abu Ghraib prison, an assignment he found incompatible with the duties of an intelligence brigade, which he said should have been left to military police.
As for Diamantis, in an e-mailed statement to GreekNews, he said he was instructed by The Public Affairs Office of the 77th Regional Readiness Command at Fort Totten not to further comment on the abuse scandal pending the investigation. He was, however, clearly proud of his heritage and his service to his country.
Diamantis recalled his own father’s enlistment in the U.S. Army in the ’50s as well as his work in the Apollo Space Program. Raised in Syracuse, N.Y., Edward and his brother both attained the Boy Scouts of America’s highest rank, that of Eagle Scout, and Edward received an ROTC scholarship.
“I graduated from Worcester Polytechnic University in Massachusetts in 1993, and received my commission in the U.S. Army Reserves,” he noted, adding that the “post-Cold War draw downs led to his “sadly bouncing around to a lot of different units as reserve units were closed. I eventually found my way back to New York City, serving my reserve duty in Uniondale, Long Island.
“In 2001, I was transferred to the 340th Military Police Company, in Jamaica, Queens, which had been activated for a tour of duty peacekeeping in the former Yugoslav area of Kosovo. While there, I got to serve side-by-side with soldiers from Greece. My rusty Greek came in very handy during these tours.”
His pride in his heritage was evident as he described the last line of his dog tags, which read “Greek Ortho” for burial service preference.
“It makes a good conversation piece in the U.S. Army, which I find is mostly Baptist, Methodist or Catholic. I never fail to give a history of the Byzantine Empire, to tell of the customs of my Church, to express the closeness of the Greek community, and to show them that they are making the sign of the cross backwards!”
Back from Kosovo a year, Diamantis’ company received orders in January 2003 to participate in Operation Enduring Freedom in Kuwait, where he arrived in February 2003, and, one month later, in Iraq.
“I came home in February 2004, very proud at that time of the job we had done,” he added.
*compiled primarily from published news reports