While Saddam Hussein parades a handful of allied pilots before TV cameras, American forces are constructing huge barbed-wire compounds in Saudi Arabia to house as many as 20,000 prisoners expected to be captured in the first week of the ground war against Iraq.
“The tempo of the battle is going to be swift,” said Maj. Gary Kosinuk, an Army operations officer who is drawing up plans for the camps. “If you have a large number of prisoners in the way, it slows down combat power.”
Initially, Iraqi prisoners will be kept in large open areas ringed with barbed wire. Officers, enlisted men and civilians will be segregated. Later, the Army’s military police intend to set up tents and possibly permanent structures in the desert to protect prisoners. Minor medical problems will be treated at the camps, Kosinuk said. Prisoners requiring more serious care will be sent farther south to military medical facilities.
“Nothing will be done to degrade prisoners,” he said. “We certainly would try to treat them as close as possible to our own soldiers.”
The Army’s plans even call for gas masks seized from Iraqi supplies during the planned assault to be distributed to the prisoners.
U.S. troops do not expect the first Iraqi soldiers they face to be Hussein’s toughest. But the caliber of their opponents is expected to increase as they advance.
This story was compiled from pool reports reviewed by military censors.