Ikhwanweb :: The Muslim Brotherhood Official English Website

Tue109 2018

Last update19:14 PM GMT

Back to Homepage
Font Size : 12 point 14 point 16 point 18 point
:: Issues > Torture
U.S. Soldier Who Killed Herself--After Refusing to Take Part in Torture
U.S. Soldier Who Killed Herself--After Refusing to Take Part in Torture
With each new revelation on U.S. torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gitmo (and who, knows, probably elsewhere), I am reminded of the chilling story of Alyssa Peterson, who I have written about numerous times in the past three years but now with especially sad relevance. Appalled when ordered to take part in interrogations that, no doubt, involved what we would call torture, she refused, then killed herself a few days later, in September 2003
Saturday, April 25,2009 00:04
by Greg Mitchell EditorandPublisher.com

With each new revelation on U.S. torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gitmo (and who, knows, probably elsewhere), I am reminded of the chilling story of Alyssa Peterson, who I have written about numerous times in the past three years but now with especially sad relevance. Appalled when ordered to take part in interrogations that, no doubt, involved what we would call torture, she refused, then killed herself a few days later, in September 2003.

Of course, we now know from the torture memos and the U.S. Senate committee probe and various new press reports, that the "Gitmo-izing" of Iraq was happening just at the time Alyssa got swept up in it.

Alyssa Peterson was one of the first female soldiers killed in Iraq. A cover-up, naturally, followed.

Peterson, 27, a Flagstaff, Ariz., native, served with C Company, 311th Military Intelligence BN, 101st Airborne. Peterson was an Arabic-speaking interrogator assigned to the prison at our air base in troubled Tal Afar in northwestern Iraq. According to official records, she died on Sept. 15, 2003, from a "non-hostile weapons discharge."

A "non-hostile weapons discharge" leading to death is not unusual in Iraq, often quite accidental, so this one apparently raised few eyebrows. The Arizona Republic, three days after her death, reported that Army officials "said that a number of possible scenarios are being considered, including Peterson"s own weapon discharging, the weapon of another soldier discharging, or the accidental shooting of Peterson by an Iraqi civilian." And that might have ended it right there.

But in this case, a longtime radio and newspaper reporter named Kevin Elston, not satisfied with the public story, decided to probe deeper in 2005, "just on a hunch," he told me in late 2006 (there"s a chapter about it in my book on Iraq and the media, "So Wrong for So Long"). He made "hundreds of phone calls" to the military and couldn"t get anywhere, so he filed a Freedom of Information Act [FOIA] request. When the documents of the official investigation of her death arrived, they contained bombshell revelations. Here"s what the Flagstaff public radio station, KNAU, where Elston then worked, reported:

"Peterson objected to the interrogation techniques used on prisoners. She refused to participate after only two nights working in the unit known as the cage. Army spokespersons for her unit have refused to describe the interrogation techniques Alyssa objected to. They say all records of those techniques have now been destroyed."

According to the official report on her death released the following year, she had earlier been "reprimanded" for showing "empathy" for the prisoners. One of the most moving parts of that report is: "She said that she did not know how to be two people; she ... could not be one person in the cage and another outside the wire."

Peterson was then assigned to the base gate, where she monitored Iraqi guards, and sent to suicide prevention training. "But on the night of September 15th, 2003, Army investigators concluded she shot and killed herself with her service rifle," the documents disclose.

A notebook she had been writing was found next to her body. Its contents were redacted in the official report.

The Army talked to some of Peterson"s colleagues. Asked to summarize their comments, Elston told me: "The reactions to the suicide were that she was having a difficult time separating her personal feelings from her professional duties. That was the consistent point in the testimonies, that she objected to the interrogation techniques, without describing what those techniques were."

Elston said that the documents also refer to a suicide note found on her body, which suggested that she found it ironic that suicide prevention training had taught her how to commit suicide. He filed another FOIA request for a copy of the actual note.

Peterson, a devout Mormon, had graduated from Flagstaff High School and earned a psychology degree from Northern Arizona University on a military scholarship. She was trained in interrogation techniques at Fort Huachuca in Arizona, and was sent to the Middle East in 2003.

A report in The Arizona Daily Sun of Flagstaff -- three years after Alyssa"s death -- revealed that Spc. Peterson"s mother, Bobbi Peterson, reached at her home in northern Arizona, said that neither she nor her husband Richard had received any official documents that contained information outlined in Elston"s report.

In other words: Like the press and the public, even the parents had been kept in the dark.

Tomorrow I will write about Kayla Williams, a woman who served with Alyssa, and talked to her about her problems shortly before she killed herself, and also took part in torture interrogations. She observed the punching of detainees and was forced to take part in one particular tactic: prisoners were stripped naked, and when they took off their blindfolds the first thing they saw was Kayla. She opted out, but survived, and is haunted years later.

Here"s what Williams told Soledad O"Brien of CNN : "I was asked to assist. And what I saw was that individuals who were doing interrogations had slipped over a line and were really doing things that were inappropriate. There were prisoners that were burned with lit cigarettes."

All of this only gains relevance in light of the current debate over whether those who were "just following orders" in torture routines should be held accountable today.

Greg Mitchell"s latest book is "Why Obama Won." His previous book on Iraq and the media was "So Wrong for So Long." He is editor of Editor & Publisher.

The Source

 


Posted in Torture , Human Rights  
Add Comment Send to Friend Print
Related Articles
US Must Prosecute Bush Torture Memo Lawyers: UN Torture Envoy
Investigating Bush’s Crimes
Mohamed Khodr - Bush’s Farewell to Israel: The Genocide of Gaza with American Arms
Brace yourselves - George Bush Will Soon Be Free To Do Just What He Wants
The Bush Legacy Ctd.
2008: Wesley Clark on Democratization After Bush
What Bush Hath Wrought in the Middle East
Bin Laden’s aims with 9/11 and Bush’s in Iraq:
McCain Suggests Bush Has Endorsed Torture
Joel Brinkley: Bush gave Egyptians false hope
Egypt takes a step back from Bush embrace
Bush Administration Middle East Policy: What Went Wrong?
Bush’s speech to Dafus Economic Forum is “Provocative”, says MB MP
Ruqub: Bush’s threats hollow and do not frighten Hamas
Bush says Saudi oil boost doesn’t solve US problem
Bush chides ’poisonous’ Mideast TV stations
Prepared Text of Bush’s Speech To the World Economic Forum
Bush lectures Arab world on political reform, women’s rights
Bush pivots to Arab side of Mideast peace dispute
Statement: The Muslim Brotherhood Condemns Bush’s Visit
Bush Presses Congress on Economy
Top Bush aides pushed for Guant?namo torture
What’s Left of Bush’s Democracy Agenda?
Bush scolds Congress about Iraq
Bush Blisters the Truth on Iraq
Anti-War Demonstrations in US Cities to Protest Bush’s ’Major Victory’
Mr. Bush You Are A Fascist
Bush’s Freedom Agenda: Alive but Not Kicking
News and Opinion on U.S. Foreign Policy After Bush
Bush Admits He Plans to Attack Iran ?
George Bush Delivers the Horse’s Head
Bush’s New War Budget
British MP: Bush supports Israeli murder of Palestinians
EGYPT: Bush Visit Brings Rift with Washington
What Bush left behind
Bush: Last stop on Middle East freedom tour
Bush’s Double-Talk Fits Mubarak’s Egypt
Egyptian Public Opinion Denounces Bush’s Egypt Stop
Leadership, Bush and the New York Times
Mishaal: Bush is fully responsible for the Israeli massacre in Gaza