Monday, June 18

The Abu Ghraib Cover-Up

Seymour Hersh appeared on CNN's Late Edition to discuss his article in The New Yorker which reveals that Former SecDef Rumsfeld lied to Congress when he claimed that the first time he heard about the abuse at Abu Ghraib was when the photos hit the press.



The article reveals how Maj General Taguba, who had been put in charge of the Abu Ghraib investigation was threatened by top Pentagon brass.

A few weeks after his report became public, Taguba, who was still in Kuwait, was in the back seat of a Mercedes sedan with Abizaid. … Abizaid turned to Taguba and issued a quiet warning: “You and your report will be investigated.”

“I wasn’t angry about what he said but disappointed that he would say that to me,” Taguba said. “I’d been in the Army thirty-two years by then, and it was the first time that I thought I was in the Mafia.


Pressure also applied to Senator Warner, then head of armed services to "back off".

A former high-level Defense Department official said that, when the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, Senator John Warner, then the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, was warned “to back off” on the investigation, because “it would spill over to more important things.” A spokesman for Warner acknowledged that there had been pressure on the Senator, but said that Warner had stood up to it — insisting on putting Rumsfeld under oath for his May 7th testimony, for example, to the Secretary’s great displeasure.


That Lt. General Sanchez clearly knew what was already going on.

Taguba came to believe that Lieutenant General Sanchez, the Army commander in Iraq, and some of the generals assigned to the military headquarters in Baghdad had extensive knowledge of the abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib even before Joseph Darby came forward with the CD. Taguba was aware that in the fall of 2003 — when much of the abuse took place — Sanchez routinely visited the prison, and witnessed at least one interrogation. According to Taguba, “Sanchez knew exactly what was going on.


Yes, of course he did. Sanchez is the one who oversaw and installed Gen Geoffrey Miller as commander of Tier 1A/1B immediately after he arrived from instituting "Alternative Interrogation Techniques" authorized by SecDef Rumsfeld at Gitmo.

Contrary to claims that these were merely "frat-boy pranks", Taguba reported to Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz that this was far more than just simple "abuse".

In the meeting, the officials professed ignorance about Abu Ghraib. “Could you tell us what happened?” Wolfowitz asked. Someone else asked, “Is it abuse or torture?” At that point, Taguba recalled, “I described a naked detainee lying on the wet floor, handcuffed, with an interrogator shoving things up his rectum, and said, ‘That’s not abuse. That’s torture.’ There was quiet.”


And there was more which Taguba revealed to Hersh.

I learned from Taguba that the first wave of materials included descriptions of the sexual humiliation of a father with his son, who were both detainees. Several of these images, including one of an Iraqi woman detainee baring her breasts, have since surfaced; others have not. (Taguba’s report noted that photographs and videos were being held by the C.I.D. because of ongoing criminal investigations and their “extremely sensitive nature.”) Taguba said that he saw “a video of a male American soldier in uniform sodomizing a female detainee.” The video was not made public in any of the subsequent court proceedings, nor has there been any public government mention of it. Such images would have added an even more inflammatory element to the outcry over Abu Ghraib. “It’s bad enough that there were photographs of Arab men wearing women’s panties,” Taguba said.


Rather than wanting to discover the truth, the brass at the Pentagon did everything they could to stay at arms length from the facts and the pictures.

When Taguba urged one lieutenant general to look at the photographs, he rebuffed him, saying, “I don’t want to get involved by looking, because what do you do with that information, once you know what they show?”


After watching Rumsfled's performance before the Senate, Taguba was appalled.

“The whole idea that Rumsfeld projects—‘We’re here to protect the nation from terrorism’—is an oxymoron,” Taguba said. “He and his aides have abused their offices and have no idea of the values and high standards that are expected of them. And they’ve dragged a lot of officers with them.”


It was also clear to Taguba that there were others in the chain of command above Lindy England and Sgt Graner, as well as Military Intelligence were involved in all this.

“From what I knew, troops just don’t take it upon themselves to initiate what they did without any form of knowledge of the higher-ups,” Taguba told me. His orders were clear, however: he was to investigate only the military police at Abu Ghraib, and not those above them in the chain of command. “These M.P. troops were not that creative,” he said. “Somebody was giving them guidance, but I was legally prevented from further investigation into higher authority. I was limited to a box.”

...

Taguba’s assignment was limited to investigating the 800th M.P.s, but he quickly found signs of the involvement of military intelligence—both the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, commanded by Colonel Thomas Pappas, which worked closely with the M.P.s, and what were called “other government agencies,” or O.G.A.s, a euphemism for the C.I.A. and special-operations units operating undercover in Iraq. Some of the earliest evidence involved Lieutenant Colonel Steven L. Jordan, whose name was mentioned in interviews with several M.P.s. For the first three weeks of the investigation, Jordan was nowhere to be found, despite repeated requests. When the investigators finally located him, he asked whether he needed to shave his beard before being interviewed—Taguba suspected that he had been dressing as a civilian. “When I asked him about his assignment, he says, ‘I’m a liaison officer for intelligence from Army headquarters in Iraq.’ ” But in the course of three or four interviews with Jordan, Taguba said, he began to suspect that the lieutenant colonel had been more intimately involved in the interrogation process—some of it brutal—for “high value” detainees.


Jordan was eventually charged but his attorneys have vigorously defended him claiming that he wasn't properly advised of his rights prior to his interrogation by Taguba. Now isn't that ironic?

During his investigation Taguba discovered that there were likely only one or two possible al-Qeada members in all of abu Ghriab. Most prisons were either guilty of petty crimes or completely innocent. But that didn't seem to sway the Pentgon brass to be as cautious with their rights as they were with Jordan's.

The former senior intelligence official said that when the images of Abu Ghraib were published, there were some in the Pentagon and the White House who “didn’t think the photographs were that bad”—in that they put the focus on enlisted soldiers, rather than on secret task-force operations. Referring to the task-force members, he said, “Guys on the inside ask me, ‘What’s the difference between shooting a guy on the street, or in his bed, or in a prison?’ ” A Pentagon consultant on the war on terror also said that the “basic strategy was ‘prosecute the kids in the photographs but protect the big picture.’ ”


After the investigation Taguba was demoted and eventually fired.

Taguba had been scheduled to rotate to the Third Army’s headquarters, at Fort McPherson, Georgia, in June of 2004. He was instead ordered back to the Pentagon, to work in the office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs. “It was a lateral assignment,” Taguba said, with a smile and a shrug. … A retired four-star Army general later told Taguba that he had been sent to the job in the Pentagon so that he could “be watched.” Taguba realized that his career was at a dead end. …

In January of 2006, Taguba received a telephone call from General Richard Cody, the Army’s Vice-Chief of Staff. “This is your Vice,” he told Taguba. “I need you to retire by January of 2007.” No pleasantries were exchanged, although the two generals had known each other for years, and, Taguba said, “He offered no reason.”


So with a wimper rather than a bang, ended the 35 year career of a fine officer who withstood open bigotry to rise to the rank of General and still managed kept his integrity and values intact.

Vyan

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