Army uses Iraqi women as bait for insurgents

The ACLU uncovers documents saying U.S. troops seized suspected insurgents' wives to use as "leverage."

Published January 27, 2006 11:33PM (EST)

In case anyone missed it over in War Room, the Associated Press reported today that the Army has been kidnapping the wives of suspected Iraqi insurgents to use as bait for their husbands. Kind of an "if you surrender, we'll give you your woman back"-type arrangement. It's not clear how common the practice is, but the AP says it has happened at least twice; in one case "a secretive task force locked up the young mother of a nursing baby."

U.S. command spokesperson Lt. Col. Barry Johnson told the AP that only those Iraqis who are deemed to pose an "imperative threat" are held in long-term custody, and that in these instances the women were jailed because they were thought to be involved in potential terrorist operations. But internal memos (you can read them here and here) indicate that the women were detained primarily so they could be used as "leverage" against their husbands: "During the pre-operation brief it was recommended by [task force] personnel that if the wife were present, she be detained and held in order to leverage the primary target's surrender," an intelligence officer for 14 years wrote in a memo describing the nursing mother's detainment.

And we wonder why Iraqi insurgents think taking a woman hostage and attempting to use her as a bargaining chip might be an effective tactic?

By Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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