From the Frontlines: A Combat Soldier’s View of the Iraq Prison Abuse Case

The National Center for Public Policy Research this week has posted online two letters received from a soldier, Spc. Joe Roche, who presently serving on the front lines in Iraq.

The first letter provides a glimpse of the attitude of rank-and-file combat soldiers to the news of abuse of Iraqi prisoners in Iraq.


“I’m at a place right now where there are thousands of U.S. soldiers. I went to breakfast and dinner at the KBR dining hall here. It is huge, hundreds of soldiers gathered to eat. Around us are large-screen tvs, and yes, the news was mostly about the prison abuse. Everyone is so angry. I mean, angry! It is as if those soldiers hurt us more than the enemies here in Iraq have. I don’t think that if that RPG last week had hit and killed us in my hummwv, there would have been any of the damage done to our cause here that those soldiers have done.”

“As you know, we have done raids and captured some of the top terrorists in Baghdad over the past months. My sister has some dramatic pictures of at least one raid. In all of those, we handled the enemy w/ respect. Our big bosses always pressed us on the Geneva Convention rules before raids, and we have taken many classes on ROEs (rules of engagement) and on the proper treatment of prisoners. There are rosters w/ all our names on them for these classes because dealing w/ prisoners is major concern of our leadership. My battalion has caught car bombers, weapons’ smugglers, and those laying IEDs to kill us. We’ve even captured in raids those who fired mortars at our base on Baghdad Island. And EVERY TIME, we treated them w/ respect and took care to give them full medical treatment, food and clothing.”

“Let me recount to you a story One day [two American soldiers] were hit by an IED in a hummwv… They got the one soldier out who was badly injured, but the fire was so bad that they couldn’t get his friend out. They don’t know if he was alive as he burned, but they had to watch. Now, that street that this happened on was one where they had built schools, improved much infrastructure, many many projects to make it a better and safer place. …When the IED blew, across the street were some of those very same neighborhood people cheering. They cheered as our fellow American burned and the other one was dragged out. Now, these are tankers, and they have big BIG guns, and all were ready to fire. The soldiers, all of them seeing the tragedy of the attack, and seeing the sick group cheering across the street, they all held their composure. No one fired a shot, no one did anything inappropriate. They did exactly as they were trained.”

The second gives an idea of the response of soldiers to “care packages” — gifts of snacks, toiletry supplies and leisure items such as books and DVDs — sent by Americans to troops serving in combat abroad.

An excerpt:

“…One of the most inspiring and important things to us has been the incredible arrival of care packages from people all over the country. It is overwhelming.”

The text of the first letter can be accessed at online; the second at online.

The letters’ author, Spc. Joe Roche, serves with the 16th Engineering Battalion of the 1st Armored Division, which is part of a quick deployment force tasked with dealing with sudden eruptions by enemy forces within Iraq. More information about Joe, other commentaries he has written, and information (including an address and suggested items) about sending care packages to soldiers fighting in Iraq can be accessed at online.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a non-partisan, conservative/free-market think-tank established in 1982 and located on Capitol Hill. It can be visited at online.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.