Individual Incident or Policy of Abuse?

The American People Want to Know

As new pictures emerge and the charges continue to build up,many Americans have one question for the United States military,who is to blame for the abuse of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prisonin Iraq? 


“We believe that there is institutional andpersonal responsibility right up the chain of command as far asWashington is concerned,” said James Schlesinger, chairman of thefour-member advisory panel appointed by Secretary of Defense DonaldRumsfeld in early May to investigate abuse allegations. Commanders at Abu Ghraib did not “adequately supervise” the actionsby the people involved in the abuse, said Schlesinger.


Four generals, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, histop deputy, Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski, Intelligence Chief, Maj.Gen. Barbara Fast, and the Army Reserve brigadier general, JanisKarpinski are all criticized in the report in which Schlesingernoted, there was no policy of abuse. “Senior officials repeatedlysaid that in Iraq, Geneva regulations would apply.”


In another 53-page report written by MajorGeneral Antonio M. Taguba, which was obtained by The New Yorker andnot meant for public release, was completed in late February. Its conclusions about the institutional failures of the military’sprison system were devastating.


Specifically, Taguba found that betweenOctober and December of 2003 there were numerous instances of”sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses” at AbuGhraib.  This systematic and illegal abuse of detainees,Taguba reported, was perpetrated by soldiers of the 372nd MilitaryPolice Company, and by members of the American intelligencecommunity.  (The 372nd was attached to the 320th M.P.Battalion, which reported to Karpinski’s brigade headquarters.)


Taguba’s report listed some of the wrongdoingincluding homosexual acts, which according to Bernard Haykel, aprofessor of Middle Eastern studies at New York University, areagainst Islamic law. 


“Being put on top of each other and forced tomasturbate, being naked in front of each other—it’s all aform of torture,” Haykel said.


Pentagon officials told the Baltimore Sun lastweek that a continuing report, being supervised by Maj. Gen. GeorgeFay on interrogation practices at the prison, exposes cases ofabuse that are even more disturbing than the images that surfacedthis spring.