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S.D.-Based Commander: Major Improvements at Iraq Detention Facilities

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The Deputy Commander of the Navy Region Southwest says the culture at U.S. detention facilities in Iraq has changed dramatically since the abuses were uncovered at Abu Ghraib. Admiral Gar Wright addressed defense contractors in the San Diego Chapter of the National Defense Industries Association today.

The Deputy Commander of the Navy Region Southwest says the culture at U.S. detention facilities in Iraq has changed dramatically since the abuses were uncovered at Abu Ghraib.

Admiral Gar Wright addressed defense contractors in the San Diego Chapter of the National Defense Industries Association today.

Wright was Commander of Detention Operations in Iraq in 2008. He says at the peak, he was responsible for more than 125,000 Iraqi men and 14 Iraqi women, who were held in detention there.

Under a major strategy shift ordered by General David Patraeus, Wright says his task force improved health care, giving detainees access to the same care U.S. personnel had access to. Family visits to detainees increased from 40,000 in 2007 to 150,000 in 2008. Plus the detention centers set up schools for literacy, since fewer than a third of the detainees could read and write.

"Task Force 134 ran the largest school in Iraq,” Wright says. “It was accredited by the Minister of Education, and I had hundreds of requests from parents whose children were not detainees, but they wanted them detained so they would get an education.”

Wrights says research on the detainees showed more than 50 percent of them were married and almost 80 percent had children. Most of them lived with extended families. The poll showed more than 70 percent did not attend mosque fastidiously before they were detained, in fact 36 percent said they had never been inside a mosque.

One thing that surprised Wright was the lack of ethnic tension in the detention centers. He says 80 percent were Sunnis, but both Sunnis and Shia were happy to play soccer with each other.

Wright says thousands remain in detention in Iraq and the U.S. Army is working with the Iraqi government to hand over control of the detainees. He says the doctrines governing detention, written in World War II, are outdated, and no definitive new detention doctrine has replaced them.

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