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Former commander at Abu Ghraib to speak tonight in Crookston

A former commanding officer in Iraq will give eyewitness account Monday in Crookston on the aftermath of the scandal of prisoner abuse at a U.S. military facility in Iraq nearly a decade ago.

Martin Breaker

A former commanding officer in Iraq will give eyewitness account Monday in Crookston on the aftermath of the scandal of prisoner abuse at a U.S. military facility in Iraq nearly a decade ago.

Retired Army Reserves Col. Martin Breaker will speak at 7 p.m. Monday at the Morgensol Sons of Norway regular meeting in the Golden Link Senior Center, 324 N. Main, less than two blocks south of Arby's in downtown Crookston.

He was a commanding officer at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad shortly after abuse of Iraqi detainees came to light, highlighted by photos taken by U.S. personnel of naked Iraqis appearing to be humiliated and abused.

According to online sources of previous talks he has given and organizers of today's event, Breaker argues that the news media's accounts of the scandal leave much to be desired and haven't given a clear picture of what really happened.

Breaker served as a commander at Abu Ghraib for several months and then at a forward operating base at Camp Cropper, near the Baghdad airport, including when former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was jailed there awaiting his trial and eventual hanging by Iraqi government officials in December 2006.


In August, the alleged ringleader of the group of 11 at Abu Ghraib -- seven guards and four low-ranking soldiers -- convicted in the case, Charles Graner Jr., was released from Fort Leavenworth prison in Kansas after serving the longest sentence: 6½ years of a 10-year sentence, according to The Associated Press.

Graner was an Army Reserve corporal when he and others were charged in 2004 with abusing Iraqi detainees in the prison. He's appealing his conviction, saying Pentagon officials aren't allowing key evidence to be released in his defense, which is that the alleged abuse was ordered by higher military intelligence officers to facilitate interrogations of prisoners.

Breaker, hired last fall as a teaching specialist in the business department at the University of Minnesota Crookston, grew up near Chicago. At 12, he chose to attend Shattuck-St. Mary's military prep school in Faribault, Minn., he told the school's magazine a few years ago.

After earning a degree from the University of California in Santa Barbara, he served three years in the Army, then joined the Army Reserves.

He has a law degree from UND, a master's degree from the Army War College and an master's degree in business administration from the Kellog school at Northwestern University in Chicago.

He retired from the Army Reserve in 2003, only to volunteer for recall to duty in Iraq from 2005 to2008.

It was less than a year after the Abu Ghraib scandal came to light.

"I asked for this assignment to insure nothing like that happened again and to work at restoring American dignity, honor and integrity," Breaker told officials at Shattuck-St. Mary's in 2007 for an article in the school's magazine.


In early 2007, he was part a command that established a new combat counseling center at Camp Cropper to care for soldiers under the stress of war, according to a U.S. military news story.

Breaker told his alma mater he couldn't say much about his duty because of security concerns.

"I can say this. Americans can be very proud of the good jobs that their young men and women do over here. I have thousands under my command most in their early to mid-20s and some even in their late teens. They do magnificent job without complaint in a hard and dangerous environment. They work very hard and been very successful at restoring American honor so callously lost in the Abu Ghraib scandal a few years ago."

According to UMC, Breaker was awarded the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star for his service in Iraq.

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