I hate Iraqis, rape accused tells military court

By Mail & Echo

11/17/06 "
icWales" -- -- One of four US soldiers accused of raping a 14-year-old Iraqi girl showed little remorse, and even smiled during a confession to charges he conspired to kill her and her family.

Even before the hearing at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to announce a plea agreement, Spc James Barker, 23, slapped hands with other soldiers and grinned as he smoked a cigarette in the rain. A bailiff scolded him.

And when he described for the judge the assault in his own words, he gave vivid details of the rape with deadpan delivery.

"That’s pretty much all I have to say," Barker muttered with a shrug after describing raping the screaming girl.

Barker agreed to plead guilty to the charges to avoid the death penalty, his civilian lawyer David Sheldon said. The agreement requires him to testify against three other soldiers and a former US Army private also accused in the March 12 attack in Mahmoudiya, 20 miles south of Baghdad

At one point, the military judge presiding over the case, Lt Col Richard Anderson, asked Barker why he had decided with other soldiers to commit the rape and murders.

"I hated Iraqis, your honour," Barker answered. "They can smile at you, then shoot you in your face without even thinking about it."

Anderson accepted the plea agreement, which calls for Barker to serve life in prison. The judge will decide later today in a hearing whether Barker should be allowed to seek parole.

Sgt Paul Cortez, 24, and Pfc Jesse Spielman, 22, members of the 101st Airborne Division with Barker, are also charged in the case. Cortez deferred entering a plea during his court appearance yesterday. Spielman will appear in December.

The fourth soldier, Pfc Bryan Howard, 19, had also deferred entering a plea at his appearance in October.

A fifth person, former army private Steve Green, 21, pleaded not guilty last week to civilian charges including murder and sexual assault.

The soldiers were stationed in a violent area known as the "Triangle of Death" because of frequent attacks on soldiers patrolling the roads. Soldiers in Barker’s unit, the 502nd Infantry Regiment, were often asked to spend weeks manning remote checkpoints, where several from the unit died.

Sheldon told reporters during a news conference following the hearing that Barker took responsibility for his actions, but he also said the US Army was to blame for the way the war in Iraq was being fought.

"The US Army did not staff, did not put enough soldiers on the checkpoints," Sheldon said. "It’s very important that the public knows that this type of thing can happen again if the army doesn’t take measures to put enough troops on the front line in the war against terrorism, the war in Iraq."

Barker, who whispered frequently during the hearing to his military lawyer, Captain James Culp, told the judge that Green approached him with the plan to attack the family while they were drinking whiskey purchased from Iraqi Army soldiers.

Barker described changing clothes, then climbing through back gardens as the five left the checkpoint. He also described in vivid detail raping Abeer Qassim al-Janabi with Cortez and Green before Green killed the girl, her younger sister and parents.

The defendants also are accused of burning the girl’s body to conceal the crime, which is considered among the worst in a series of alleged attacks on civilians and other abuses that tarnished the US military mission in Iraq

Barker did not name Spielman and Howard as participants in the rape and murders though he said they were at the house when the assault occurred and had come knowing what the others intended to do.

Howard and Cortez, who with Spielman could face the death penalty if convicted, watched with straight faces as Barker described the assault. They were accompanied by their lawyers and declined to comment. Cortez and Spielman are being held in confinement while Howard is restricted to post.

Barker said he, Green and Cortez raped the girl, and Green killed the girl, her parents and her sister. He said Spielman was in the room, but was holding a door closed during the rape.

Green was discharged from the army for a "personality disorder" before the allegations became known and prosecutors have yet to say if they will pursue the death penalty against him.

owned by or licensed to Western Mail & Echo Limited 2006

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