Published March 24, 2003
DOHA, Qatar – One captured American, speaking in a shaky voice, said he had nothing against Iraqis. "They don't bother me, I don't bother them," he said.
A woman soldier with a bandaged ankle held her arms tightly in her lap, her eyes darting back and forth.
Another soldier, lying wounded on a mat, swayed slightly when Iraqis tried to prop him up for the camera.
All five U.S. captives appeared terrified as they were thrust in front of an Iraqi TV microphone Sunday and peppered with questions. The footage also showed at least four bodies.
U.S. officials confirmed that 12 soldiers were missing after Iraqi forces ambushed an army supply convoy around An Nasiriyah, a major crossing point over the Euphrates northwest of Basra. Relatives in New Mexico and Kansas identified two of the soldiers.
Scenes of interrogators questioning four men and a woman were broadcast by the Arab satellite station Al-Jazeera with footage from state-controlled Iraqi television. Each was interviewed individually.
A senior defense official said the Pentagon did not know precisely how many captives there might be and would not identify the unit. Some of the prisoners are from Fort Bliss, Texas, said Jean Offutt, a U.S. Army spokeswoman at the base.
Several families of the soldiers gathered at the base Sunday evening. "The mood, of course, is very tragic," she said.
The 507th Maintenance, part of the 111th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, is stationed at Fort Bliss, and at least two of the interviewed prisoners said they were with the 507th.
President Bush, returning to the White House from Camp David, demanded that the POWs be treated well.
"We expect them to be treated humanely, just like we'll treat any prisoners of theirs that we capture humanely. If not, the people who mistreat the prisoners will be treated as war criminals," he said.
International Committee of the Red Cross spokeswoman Nada Doumani said the showing of the prisoners on TV violates Article 13 of the Geneva Conventions, which says prisoners should be protected from public curiosity. But she stressed that the priority at the moment is to get access to them.
Relatives in Alamogordo, N.M., who saw footage of the prisoners on a Filipino station, identified one of the prisoners as Army Spc. Joseph Hudson, 23. Another prisoner was identified by his family as Pfc. Patrick Miller of Park City, Kan., the father of two young children.
Each prisoner shown on television spoke American-accented English. All looked terrified.
The woman's eyes darted back and forth and her voice very shaky. She said she was 30 years old, from Texas, and part of the 507th Maintenance. She had a big white bandage around her ankle.
Another prisoner, who said he was from El Paso, Texas, stared directly at the camera and spoke in a clear voice. He often shook his head and cupped his ear slightly to indicate that he couldn't hear a question. He said: "I follow orders."
A 31-year-old sergeant from New Jersey sat bolt upright in a chair. His hands in his lap, he answered questions in a clipped fashion and said he was with the 507th.
The narrator provided an Arabic translation, but it was possible to hear some of the comments in English.
The captive identified as Miller answered in a shaky voice, his eyes darting back and forth between the interviewer and another person who couldn't be seen on camera.
Asked why he came to Iraq, he replied, "I come to fix broke stuff."
Prodded again by the interviewer, he was asked if he came to shoot Iraqis.
"No, I come to shoot only if I am shot at," he said. "They (Iraqis) don't bother me, I don't bother them."
Another prisoner, who also said he was from Texas, was lying on an elaborate maroon mat. One of his arms appeared to be wounded and folded across his chest.
Iraqi TV attempted to interview him, at one point trying to cradle his head to steady it for the camera. They eventually helped him sit up, but he seemed to sway slightly.
The Iraqi government has said it would give the International Committee of the Red Cross freedom to move about the country to perform its traditional tasks, which include monitoring the care and treatment of POWs.
The U.S. military says it has more than 2,000 Iraqi prisoners of war.