[Updated] A story in the New York Times written by Eric Schmitt says a “new review, by the Army inspector general, Lt. Gen. Stanley E. Green,” has cleared Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez and Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski of accusations “of responsibility for the abuse of detainees” in Abu Ghraib. The review also failed to substantiate accusations against Maj. Gen. Barbara G. Fast and Col. Marc Warren. A similar story by Josh White appears in the Washington Post.
Only “Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, an Army Reserve officer who commanded the military police unit at the Abu Ghraib prison, was relieved of her command and given a written reprimand. She has repeatedly said she was made the scapegoat for the failures of superiors,” according to Schmitt’s story. Karpinski was relieved of her command at Abu Ghraib in May 2004, but White’s story also states, “The administrative reprimand Karpinski is expected to receive is the kind of punishment that can end a military career, and officials said it is possible she could be relieved of her command as a result.” Neither story states what command she currently holds.
It seems implausible that Karpinski, alone amongst the Army brass, can be held solely responsible. Democracy Now! reports that “Human Rights Watch is demanding that a special prosecutor be named to investigate Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, former CIA director George Tenet and other top officials for possible war crimes related to the torture and abuse of prisoners.” The Human Rights Watch analysis is here. Reed Brody, who appeared on Democracy Now! for Human Rights Watch, points out that “Abu Ghraib was just the tip of the iceberg. The mistreatment of Muslim prisoners has been widespread in three countries, at these so-called secret locations where the C.I.A. is holding suspected al Qaeda leaders, as well as in the dungeons of third countries to which the United States has rendered detainees.” These “extraordinary renditions” have continued since May 2004, when Karpinski was relieved of her command.
[W]e have seen very hesitantly a few prosecutions of the lower level people, people like Lindy England and Charles Graner, whose pictures were taken at Abu Ghraib. But it’s obviously — it’s not them who told the President of the United States that he could commit torture. It’s not Lindy England who ripped up the Geneva Conventions. It’s not Lindy England who authorized the use of guard dogs to terrorize prisoners. These decisions were made by people like Donald Rumsfeld.
A CNN story cites earlier reports including one prepared by Maj. Gen. George Fay:
The report criticized Sanchez for his handling of the situation. It did not find him culpable, but did find him “responsible for the things that happened,” Gen. Paul Kern, the appointing authority of the investigation, said at the time. He said Sanchez put great emphasis on getting intelligence from prisoners to stop insurgent attacks against U.S.-led coalition forces.
He said the report found that the abuse was the result of several contributing factors, ending in “a lack of discipline and lack of leadership.”
Two other reports reached similar conclusions.
An independent four-member panel headed by former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger blamed abuses at Abu Ghraib and other prisons on a failure of leadership throughout the chain of command.
Schlesinger’s panel released the results of its investigation in August, the same week Fay and Kern released their report. Schlesinger said at the time that the higher chain of command held direct and indirect responsibility but noted that there was “no policy of abuse.”
This curious distinction between responsibility and culpability does not help the Pentagon’s credibility. I have every reason to anticipate I’ll see more on this story. As Reed Brody said:
[I]t’s just not credible for the army to keep investigating itself and keep finding itself innocent. And, you know, I think this is largely part of a damage control exercise, obviously, in the United States, but what many Americans don’t realize is how this plays abroad. I mean, I spent a lot of my time, you know, hassling other governments for what they’re doing, and the answer is always Abu Ghraib. Look, the Americans commit torture, and they get away with it.