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Better Care of Allied POWs Urged : Troops: A new group has begun a letter-writing campaign asking Iraq to treat prisoners properly and to release them when the fighting ends.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Aided by the wife of a captured Camp Pendleton Marine, a newly formed organization Wednesday demanded better treatment by Iraq of allied prisoners of war and their immediate release when the fighting stops.

The POW/MIA Liberty Alliance for Operation Desert Storm announced it has begun an international letter-writing campaign urging Iraq to improve conditions for prisoners and to disclose the names of all coalition troops it holds, including those officially listed as missing in action.

“Our goal is to effect the immediate release of all coalition POWs upon the cessation of hostilities,” said alliance President Pat Antosh, whose husband took command of a Marine aircraft unit from Camp Pendleton after two of its officers were captured.

They are Lt. Col. Clifford Acree and Chief Warrant Officer Guy Hunter, whose OV-10 Bronco was shot down on a reconnaissance mission in southern Kuwait days after the war began. Acree had commanded the unit.

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Cindy Acree, the colonel’s wife, has helped the alliance and issued a statement Wednesday saying: “I feel encouraged and optimistic by the news that the war is in its final stages and victory is near.

“I am also heartened by President Bush’s commitment to keep the POW/MIA issue at the forefront of peace negotiations.”

Iraq is holding 13 American military personnel as prisoners; another 28 are unaccounted for, according to the nonprofit alliance that is funded by private donations and works closely with families of POWs.

“Some of them are working with us behind the scenes,” Antosh said. “We have agreed to keep their names private.”

Acree and the alliance want to initiate an international letter-writing campaign aimed at the Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations seeking more humane care for prisoners.

So far, “several thousand” letters have been directed to the ambassador, but there has been no reply, Antosh said.

Retired Navy Capt. Bill Stark of Coronado, a six-year prisoner of war during the Vietnam conflict who is assisting the alliance, said the letter-writing effort will bring pressure on Iraq.

“World opinion is not a force to be ignored or flaunted,” he said.

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Stark added that “the sickening sight of watching (allied POWs) beaten and coerced” by Iraq “hammered home for me the sad conclusion that once again, POWs are being brutalized and exploited for propaganda purposes.”

After their capture, Acree and Hunter were shown on Iraqi television Jan. 20, looking haggard and seemingly speaking under intimidation. Other pictured allied prisoners clearly appeared to have been beaten.

The alliance hopes that through its efforts prisoners will be permitted to receive correspondence from their families through an international organization recognized by the Iraqi government.

Antosh wants all servicemen to be accounted for when Operation Desert Storm is completed. The alliance wants the Red Cross or its Iraqi equivalent, the Red Crescent, to obtain a list of allies held captive to clear up any questions about missing individuals.

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Iraqi officials have refused to let the Red Cross see prisoners, but Antosh hopes a massive letter-writing drive will “pressure Iraq to let them in.”


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