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Iraq incident requires answers

Wyden wants to know who ordered Oregon soldiers to withdraw; so do we

Oregonians have even more reason now to be proud of their children, spouses, neighbors and co-workers serving in the military in Iraq. It remains to be seen whether that pride will extend up the chain of command.

A reporter for The Oregonian, embedded with the Oregon National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, reported last weekend that soldiers discovered Iraqi jail guards beating prisoners on June 29, Iraq's first day of sovereignty since the U.S. invasion.

As we would expect American soldiers to do, the guardsmen intervened. They radioed for help, disarmed the Iraqi jailers and administered first aid to the prisoners.

The detainees told the soldiers they had been beaten, starved and deprived of water. Guardsmen found metal rods, rubber hoses, electrical wires and bottles of chemicals, apparently used to inflict torture.

It is not surprising that the abuse was occurring, in a country with a long history of ethnic conflict and official brutality. What is surprising ' and disturbing ' is the response of those in command of the Oregon soldiers.

As the soldiers were treating the wounds of the injured prisoners, orders came down to return the prisoners to their abusers and leave the scene.

— We won't speculate on the reasons for those orders. But we will join Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden in calling for an investigation by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Wyden wants to know who gave the order to withdraw, and whether the order was proper. So do we, and so do those Oregon soldiers, who discussed the incident with The Oregonian.

One soldier, Capt. Jarrell Southall, provided a written account, despite orders not to discuss the incident. He is to be commended for that.

This incident is more evidence, if any were needed, that creating some semblance of a democratic government in Iraq that respects human rights is not an easy task. Military commanders who order their troops to look the other way when confronted with abuses do great damage to that effort.

A positive outcome

Earlier this week, investigators began a probe of Oregon's nine bingo parlors, prompted by charges against a White City woman who allegedly stole some &

36;50,000 from Cascade Bingo in White City since 1977.

While it's unfortunate when money is embezzled from a charitable bingo operation, this case may have a positive outcome in the long run.

Under state law, proceeds from vending machines in bingo halls must benefit a licensed charity, in this case the White City Community Improvement Association.

The arrest of Judith Ann Burns alerted state regulators, who had never looked closely at profits from bingo hall vending machines.

The state allows bingo ' essentially legalized gambling ' as long as the proceeds benefit charity. Patrons of these operations deserve to feel confident that their money is going to a legitimate cause.

We applaud the decision to audit all licensed bingo operations in the state. With only nine statewide, the audits shouldn't take long, and shouldn't carry a big price tag.

It's entirely appropriate that state regulators make sure all the operations are above-board.