Sgt. Michael Smith, who was convicted yesterday on charges of tormenting prisoners at Abu Ghraib, has been sentenced today by a military jury.
The unrepentant Sgt. Smith received a measly six month sentence for mistreating Iraqi prisoners with a snarling, unmuzzled, black Belgian Shepherd.
“Soldiers are not supposed to be soft and cuddly,” he told the court.
Among other things, Smith allowed his dog to participate in videotaped lewd acts (licking peanut butter off of one soldier’s testicles and another’s breasts in separate dares), and competed with another dog-handler — who will be tried in May — to frighten detainees into soiling themselves.
Several of the photos introduced as evidence are familiar around the world as part of the much criticized images of American soldiers abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib that were released to the public in 2004.
“What you’re seeing is what the department has committed itself to — a very broad and a very deep review of its detention operations across the board,” said a Pentagon spokesman.
Human rights groups are disappointed with the leniency of the sentence and argue that responsibility for clarifying unconventional interrogation techniques lay at the highest levels of government.
“Our soldiers shouldn’t be forced to sort out what manners of interrogation are permissible by watching who is convicted of what,” said Jean Aylward, a lawyer for Human Rights First.
Sgt. Smith, who must also pay $2,250 in fines, will be released from the military with a bad conduct discharge — one step above “dishonorable discharge” — following his six month sentence.
Smith could have faced up to 24 years if convicted on all 13 counts (he was convicted on 6). He was sentenced instead to a mere 179 days — one of the shortest sentences for our Abu Ghraib symbols of scandal.