On Memorial Day, 2002, FNC's Hannity and Colmes held an interview with U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Troy Dunlap, who was held in Iraq as a POW during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and his attorney, Steve Fennell, to discuss a lawsuit against the Iraqi government because of torture Dunlap and other POWs endured. During the current debate over how high-level Al-Qaeda prisoners should be treated, and the practical impact harsh interrogations may have on the treatment of American POWs in future wars, it is noteworthy that this kind of review of the violent treatment American POWs have a history of receiving, even before the debate over waterboarding terrorists even began, has been so absent in the media.
Fennell summed up the treatment POWs endured in 1991 in Iraq, despite the fact that the country was a signatory of the Geneva Convention:
We have 17 POWs, the injuries range from broken legs, fractured skulls, beatings that were so bad that the body looked like it had been dipped in indigo dye. Techniques that were used where things such as beatings to the point where most of the beatings stopped only when the POW reached unconsciousness, use of electric shock, cattle prods, drug injections.
On April 5, 2002, the Washington Post article, "Hussein Sued by Ex-POWs; U.S. Gulf War Veterans Say They Were Beaten, Tortured," by Peter Slevin, reported:
In another case described in the lawsuit, Navy Cmdr. Lawrence Randolph Slade remembers fearing for his life "every single second" of his six weeks in captivity. Guards broke his teeth and his nose, ruptured his eardrums, fractured vertebrae and knocked him unconscious. On four occasions, they put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger.
A surface-to-air missile knocked Slade's F-14 fighter out of the sky on Jan. 22, 1991. Slade and his radar officer ejected. In captivity, Slade was battered so severely that "his body was completely blue, as if he had been dipped in indigo dye." At one point, guards stuffed toilet paper into his flight suit and ignited it. Guards inspected his genitals for circumcision to see if he was Jewish, an experience also endured by other prisoners.
On April 10, 2002, the Chicago Sun-Times article, "POWs Sue Saddam for Gulf War Torture," by Andrew Herrmann, reported:
The 200-page suit details beatings of American POWs with pistols, weighted rubber hoses, blackjacks and fists. POWs were subjected to mock executions, threatened castrations and electrical shock. Some were kicked with steel-toed boots or hit on their knees with mallets. In at least one case, a POW plaintiff was so severely starved he ate the scabs off his own body.
Dunlap, then a 20-year-old staff sergeant, was aboard a search-and-rescue helicopter when it was shot down Feb. 27, 1991, killing five of its eight-member crew. After Dunlap was captured, an Iraqi officer shouted "Kill him!" while a soldier clicked an unloaded gun at his temple.
In the next seven days, he was tied to a chair and wrapped in a kerosene blanket, taken to a town where civilians hit him and spit at him, and kicked in the legs and head. His captors burned the back of his neck with scorching spoons. He lost 18 pounds.
"The first night I was there I was sure I was going to die," the 31-year-old Dunlap said Tuesday. "I had watched a lot of Vietnam movies as a kid." What kept him going, he said, was that a fellow captive was a female flight surgeon, who was seriously injured and sexually assaulted. "I felt like I had to be strong for her," he said.
"These guys were put through the wringer," said Stephen A. Fennell, a Washington lawyer for the group who filed the suit last week.
Below is a complete transcript of the segment from the May 27, 2002, Hannity and Colmes on FNC:
ALAN COLMES: During the Gulf War, nearly two dozen U.S. service members were taken prisoner by Iraq. Now, 17 of them are suing Saddam Hussein for hundreds of millions of dollars over their treatment while in captivity. The POWs say they were tortured, whipped and beaten by their captors, and suffered prolonged mental anguish from constant threats, but can POWs win a lawsuit against a country and its leader? Joining from us Chicago, Gulf War POW Army Staff Sergeant Troy Dunlap, and, from Washington, his attorney, Steve Fennell. Welcome to both you and Troy. First of all, to you on this Memorial Day, thank you for serving our country, sir.
STAFF SERGEANT TROY DUNLAP, U.S. ARMY: Thank you.
COLMES: Appreciate your being here, and let me begin the questioning with your attorney. Steve, tell us about the suit and how you plan to accomplish this.
STEVE FENNELL, ATTORNEY OF TROY DUNLAP: What we plan to do with the suit is we will go to a hearing in front of a judge and present all the evidence that we've already laid out in writing, a 162-page piece of paper that we filed with the court. We don't expect Iraq or Saddam Hussein will show up. We will ultimately get a judgment, and then we will attempt to execute on that judgment.
COLMES: Troy, tell us about what happened to you. When we hear the word "torture," that brings all sorts of images forth, but can you give us a little more specificity about that. What are we talking about here?
DUNLAP: Well, there were different points during my captivity, different people that held me captive. Some of them were in the military, were republican guards or were just Iraqi civilians and between being bounced around from prison camp to prison camp, you know, I received different types of treatment from the different people that held us, anywhere from being spit on or slapped to burning hot spoons on the back of my neck, blindfolded. I was punched while I was blindfolded repeatedly, things of that nature.
COLMES: You know it's just, it's hard to hear about that. I can only imagine what it's like talking about it. Do you, do you have nightmares?
DUNLAP: A couple of times a week, I still, you know, loud noises will set it off, or Memorial Day, you know, Veterans Day, different things in the military happening around the world, it brings it back quite often.
COLMES: Do you have any regrets about what you did for your country?
COLMES: You'd do it again?
COLMES: Is that generally the sentiment among people with whom you served?
DUNLAP: Yes. From everybody I've talked to, yes, it is. And for everybody I haven't talked to, I would certainly hope it would be.
COLMES: You know we're talking about perhaps going back to Iraq. Do we think twice, given that, you know, if it does happen again, more Americans could be tortured?
DUNLAP: Well, sir, I think when you get in the military, that's something that you are faced with, you know, whether you want to do it or not, but I think that is something that you are faced with, and if that comes, then you just have to deal with it when that time happens.
HANNITY: Steve, let me go back to you for just a second, if I can, and welcome both of you to the program, and, Troy, thanks for everything you've done for this country. Steve, you mentioned earlier, you plan to bring this suit and you want to execute on judgment. I know there are, what. still Iraqi assets frozen in the United States.
FENNELL: There are. We've heard reports that there may be $1.5 billion of frozen Iraqi assets under the control of the United States.
HANNITY: Would you have access to them? Would a court be allowed to order some of that money turned over to you?
FENNELL: We would have to go to Congress and also deal with the administration. We're not writing on a blank slate. There are others who have gone before us, for example, Terry Anderson, the journalist who was-
FENNELL: -held in Lebanon. There has been an act of Congress that allowed Terry Anderson to be paid with the expectation it would be taken out of frozen Iranian assets.
HANNITY: Okay. Now, do you in this particular case, do you have to present evidence? Do you have-
HANNITY: Go ahead.
FENNELL: The law requires us, even if Iraq and Saddam Hussein don't show up, but to have the judge satisfy himself that we've met all of the requirements of the law including presentation of evidence on what our damages are.
HANNITY: What will you be presenting? Can you tell us?
FENNELL: Yes, we're going to be presenting the kinds of evidence that Troy was talking about. We have 17 POWs, the injuries range from broken legs, fractured skulls, beatings that were so bad that the body looked like it had been dipped in indigo dye. Techniques that were used where things such as beatings to the point where most of the beatings stopped only when the POW reached unconsciousness, use of electric shock, cattle prods, drug injections. We will present all of that evidence. The bottom line will be that we believe anybody listening to the evidence will find it to be extremely barbaric treatment, a gross violation of the Geneva Convention to which Iraq has been a signatory since the 1950s.
HANNITY: It sounds overwhelming and incontrovertible. How long, Troy, were you held captive?
DUNLAP: Nine days.
HANNITY: Nine days and some of your friends, though, were held a lot longer?
HANNITY: How long were they held?
DUNLAP: Some of them were shot down during, at the first hours of the war on January 16th of '91.
HANNITY: And these are guys that got the cattle prods and broken bones and broken legs and so on?
FENNELL: I should add that in addition to that, the longest was 47 days. Most of them underwent systematic starvation.
FENNELL: None of them went to Iraq as aviators with any body fat. On average those who were held from 30 to 45 days lost 30 to 45 pounds.
HANNITY: Yes, it's pretty, it's pretty difficult. The only thing I'd ask you, Troy, is this a matter of principle for you? Why do you go forward with it from here?
DUNLAP: Sir, I'm not looking for anything monetary damages for myself. I'm thinking from all of the other POW families both in the past and in the future, you know, God forbid, but it will happen with any war we get involved in. It will happen.
DUNLAP: And I think that countries, you know, that we get into conflicts with need to hold the Geneva Convention, you know, they need to-
HANNITY: Well, good for you. I wish you luck.
COLMES: Thank you so much, Troy, for being here on this Memorial Day.
DUNLAP: Thank you for having me.
COLMES: And thank you for all you've done for your country and for our country. Steve Fennell, thank you as well.