By Jon Christian Ryter
May 11, 2004
Rumsfeld testifies before both Houses of Congress. Abuse scandal will get worse, Rumsfeld says. One Army captain now charged. Three senior officers received career ending rebukes. More to follow.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter warned the worst is yet to come. Based on the Article 15-6 Report issued by Maj. Gen. Taguba, Duncan claims that the investigation will ultimately reveal instances of rape and perhaps even murder at Abu Ghraib.
The entourage from the Defense Department was led by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Richard B. Myers. Following them was the Central Command's Deputy commander, USAF Lt. Gen. Lance L. Smith and the acting Secretary of the Army, Les Brownlee who came to Capitol Hill to face a very irate Congress for six hours on Friday, May 7. During the dual hearings, several liberal Democrats suggested that Rumsfeld, who accepted ultimate responsibility for the abuses that took place in Abu Ghraib prison, should resign.
Earlier that week I remarked that the liberal Democrats in both the House and Senate would seize the opportunity to turn the prisoner abuse scandal into an election issue. On Thursday of last week, Congressman Charles Rangel [D-NY] filed impeachment charges against Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and Diane Watson [D-CA] argued that "...[t]his is the biggest coverup of all administrations. I would go so far as to ask for the impeachment of the commander-in-chief." (I guess when Hillary Clinton spent two years carrying the Rose Law Firm billing records around with her as she patiently waited for the criminal statute of limitations to expire before suddenly "finding" the files and surrendering them to Congress after claiming—under oath—that she didn't know where they were, that didn't constitute a coverup in Watson's mind.) Several liberal members of Congress—in both the House and Senate—have demanded that Rumsfeld step down. Rumsfeld replied that he would not resign "...simply because people [are trying to] make a political issue of it."
Several Congressmen and liberal Senators attempted to paint the picture that the Abu Ghraib abuses had been covered up by the military and that they became public only after they were revealed by CBS. In point of fact, the Pentagon advised Congress and the White House, in January. In March, Gen. Antonio M. Taguba's Article 15 Report about prisoner abuses in Abu Ghraib was reportedly in the hands of the White House and the appropriate military oversight committees in Congress. While none of those parties— Rumsfeld and Myers included—had yet seen the sex abuse photos, or fully appreciated the potential ramifications of what was aired by CBS on Wednesday, May 5, the Article 15 Report painted an ugly enough picture The decision by CBS to release them has little to do with "the right of the public to know" and more to do with partisan politics. It's a safe bet that had CBS received those photos on the watch of a liberal Democratic president they would not have aired them on the grounds of "bad taste." For those who took Myers' statement about viewing the photos with raised eyebrows, a comment in Gen. Taguba's Article 14-5 Report bears attention: "...The pictures and videos are available from the Criminal Investigative Command and the CTJF-7 prosecution team..." Rumsfeld noted that two CDs containing the explicit photos accompanied the Article 15-6 Report, but that neither he nor Myers saw any of the damning photographs until Thursday, May 6—the day after they aired on CBS. Rumsfeld noted that there were two CDs which he thought were identical in content. But the one he and Myers viewed apparently did not contain a video stream that was included on the second CD. But the Article 15-6 Report clearly and succinctly states that one of the CDs was surrendered to the Criminal Investigative Command and the other to the JAG Corp which would prosecute those charged.
Although it was, and continues to be, alleged by liberal Democrats in both the House and Senate, that there was a coverup by the Pentagon and the Bush Administration to prevent members of Congress from learning about the sex abuse allegations, there was in fact no coverup on the part of anyone in the military—even though Sen. Mark Dayton [D-MN] accused Rumsfeld of trying to suppress the CBS 60 Minutes II story where the shocking photos from Abu Ghraib were first shown to the nation and the world. According to Gen. Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs who was the person who asked CBS to hold off showing the photos, when he saw the photos that CBS planned to show, he called 60-Minutes II and asked them to hold off on the story until the heavy fighting around Fallujah stopped. Myers knew the photos would inflame the Muslim extremists and that more American lives would be lost.
Over the weekend, charges were filed against U.S. Army Captain Donald J. Reese, 39, the commander of the 372nd Military Police Company. Reese is charged with failing to properly supervise his soldiers. To date, he is the highest ranking officer to be charged. Many in the military hope that Reese becomes their "Lt. William Calley," but that is not likely.* (Calley, you will recall bore the brunt of alleged rampant atrocities in Vietnam.) A career-ending reprimand was issued to Col. Thomas M. Pappas last week. Pappas, who is now the third senior officer to receive a severe rebuke, is billeted in Germany. He commands the 205th Intelligence Brigade which handles interrogations not only in Abu Ghraib, but in all of the detention centers related to the War on Terrorism. In addition to 16 additional criminal investigations of military personnel, 42 civilian intelligence contractors are also under criminal investigation at this time..
The photos were made public last Wednesday as CBS used them to promote a segment they were showing on 60-Minutes II that evening. The photos showed two of the three female soldiers thus far charged— Pfc. Lynndie England, 211, and Spc. Sabrina D. Harman, 26—humiliating naked prisoners. While Harman was among the six who initially charged, England was quietly pulled from Iraq and reassigned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina while the investigation into her conduct continued. Charges were filed against her on Friday. She will face an Article 32 hearing to determine if she will stand a general court martial. England, who has been romantically linked with Corporal Charles A. Graner, Jr. (who is pictured behind Spc. Sabrina Harman, below), is four months pregnant. Also charged thus far are Graner, S/Sgt. Ivan "Chip" Frederick, Sgt. Javal S. Davis, Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits, Spc. Megan M. Ambuhl, Spc Sabrina Harman and Capt. Donald J. Reese. And, while she has not yet been charged, it is likely that a fourth female soldier, Spc. Lucinda Spencer, of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade will be charged with misconduct for forcing a detainee to strip and marching him, naked, back to his cell.
Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, head of the 800th Military Police Brigade, who commanded all of the troops stationed at Abu Ghraib as well as the other fifteen military prisons in Iraq—seldom if ever went there. Karpinski was formally reprimanded for the conduct of the troops under her command. When the 60-Minute II report aired, Karpinski was fired. In military parlance, the reprimand memo that removed her from her command position was a career-terminator.
After she was formally reprimanded by Gen. Sanchez, Gen. Karpinski appeared on ABC's Good Morning America with her attorney, Neal Puckett. Karpinski argued on Good Morning America that if the military decides that she is "responsible" for what happened at Abu Ghraib—which they did when thhey relieved her of command—then, she said, the military should also hold Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez equally responsible. Since her Good Morning America appearance, Karpinski has appeared on several talk shows, arguing that if any military officer is responsible for what happened in her prisons it is Gen. Sanchez and not her. Karpinski and her attorney are trying hard to spin the media into convicting Sanchez—as the commander of all Iraqi troops—in the court of public opinion. Off course, the her liberal friends in Congress are trying hard to make Rumsfeld the sacrificial lamb on this one. When the flap ends, Karpinski will likely be forced into retirement. In a Clinton-world, Gen. Janis Karpinski—a feminist military officer—would be exonerated and male subordinates would become the sole sacrificial lambs. In the Clinton military the buck never stops at the top unless the person at the top is a middle class white heterosexual career male officer with an impeccable military record.
In her argument to the media Karpinski ignored the fact that in her assignment in Baghdad she was the defacto "warden" of Abu Ghraib and the other 15 penal institutions in Iraq. What happened within the prison's walls was her specific assigned responsibility. The fact that she was also the warden of fifteen other prisons does not lessen her responsibility at Abu Ghraib. And, the fact that she chose to be an absentee manager, or failed to appoint good deputies at Abu Ghraib does not mitigate her culpability. If anything, it actually makes her even more indictable since it was her responsibility to make sure that each prison had capable administration and that the proper code of conduct was observed by the guards of all the prisons under her charge at all times. The buck, in this case, stopped at her desk, not at Sanchez's. When it is your responsibility, you have an obligation to make certain the rules of good military conduct are observed at all times. That is, after all, why she wore the big single silver stars on her collars.
Gen. Karpinski told Good Morning America that had she known those types of abuses were going on, she would have acted very quickly to put a stop to them. Of course she would have. But, it can be argued that had Karpinski had a firm control of the prison system she was supposed to be overseeing, she should have known everything that was going on at Abu Ghraib and the other prisons in her care That was, after all, her responsibility.. Karpinski further ducked her responsibility by arguing that the CIA was theoretically in charge of the section of the prison where the abuses took place and, therefore, it was out of her purview. But, as the commander of the prison system, she should have known what was happening on her watch.
Spc. Harmon from Lorton, Virginia, claims that the 372nd Military Police Company took their orders directly from Army Intelligence—meaning Pappas' 205th Intelligence Brigade, from CIA operatives and from civilian intelligence personnel at the prison. Harman is specifically charged with taking many of the inflammatory photographs. Specifically the pyramid photo in which she is posed. She also videotaped detainees who were forced to masturbate to the amusement of Harmon, England and Ambuhl. In emails Harmon sent home to her family, she told those receiving her emails that detainees would be handed over to her unit by Army intelligence officers, by CIA operatives or by the civilian contractors, to "soften up" before they were interrogated by the :professionals." The operative who brought the detainees to them, she said, would determine whether or not the 372nd should be 'nice to them" or not. If the prisoner was cooperative, they were allowed to keep their clothing—and their mattresses. They would even be allowed cigarettes and hot meals. Those who did not cooperate were treated like animals.
Army Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba was independently charged with performing the initial investigation into the sex abuse scandal. His 53-page internal report to Gen. Sanchez was to determine if there were grounds to court martial any of those who were involved. Gen. Taguba said there was "...no clear line of authority at the prison..." Taguba's findings dovetailed with the view of Gen. George Casey, the Army's vice-chief of staff who said that there was a complete breakdown of discipline in the Iraqi prison system under the authority of Karpinski. Taguba, however, specifically blamed Lt. Col. Jerry L. Phillabaum who was in command of the 320th Military Police at Abu Ghraib. Phillabaum was Karpinski's man on the ground at Abu Gharib. Phillabaum—like Karpinsski—received a career-terminating reprimand and was relieved of his command. The report, which appears to have circulated quite freely within the military chain of command, was kept from the civilian authority in the Pentagon and from the oversight committees in Congress until this week. Now construed by the Democrats in the House and Senate Armed Services Committees as a coverup, the Abu Gharib incident will become an election issue with Democrats blaming Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for the coverup. On Tuesday Senate Democrats accused Rumsfeld of concealing the full scope of the investigation in an effort to make Rumsfeld culpable in order to tie the scandal to the Bush Administration for electioneering purposes.
Excerpts from the overview of the Article 15-6 Report (below) paint an alarming picture of the abuses going on at Abu Ghraib—even without reading the entire 53- page report. The words are graphic enough. There is no need to see the photographs to understand the wanton abuses that took place within Tier 1A of Abu Ghraib. There is not a Congressman or Senator on either the House or Senate Armed Services Committees that did not know that substantial abuses took place at Abu Ghraib. Nor is there any doubt that the CBS leak came from the liberal members on one, or both, of those committees. If that can be substantiated, whatever member, or members, of Congress involved in the sharing of classified information needs to be impeached and removed from office since that individual, or individuals, willfully committed an act of sedition against the United States of America. This is not a partisan political issue, this is a matter that concerns the national security of the United States, and those who released this information to the news media need to held accountable for their actions just as those who committed these vile acts need to be held accountable for their actions as well.
The overview of the Article 15-6 Report begins with a comment that the "...numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses were inflicted on several detainees. This systemic and illegal abuse of detainees was intentionally perpetuated by several members of the military police guard force (372nd Military Police Company, 320th Military Police Battalion, 80th MP Brigade). In Tier 1-A of the Abu Ghraib Prison. The allegations of abuse were substantiated by detailed witness statements (ANNEX 26) and the discovery of extremely graphic photographic evidence. Due to the extremely sensitive nature of these photographs and videos, the ongoing CID investigation, and the potential for the criminal prosecution of several suspects, the photographic evidence is not included in the body of my investigation. The pictures and videos are available from the Criminal Investigative Command and the CTJF-7 prosecution team."
Gen. Taguba's report continues: "...I find the intention abuse of detainees by military police personnel included the following acts: [a] Punching, slapping, and kicking detainees; jumping on their naked feet; [b] videotaping and photographing naked male and female detainees; [c] forcibly arranging detainees in various sexually explicit positions for photographing; [d] forcing detainees to remove their clothing and keeping them naked for several days at a time; [e] forcing naked male detainees to wear women's underwear; [f] forcing naked male detainees to masturbate themselves while being photographed and videotaped; [g] arranging naked male detainees in a pile and then jumping on them; [h] positioning a naked detainee on a MRE box, with a sandbag on his head, and attaching wires to his fingers, toes and penis to simulate electric torture; [i] writing "I am a rapeist" [sic] on the leg of a detainee alleged to have forcibly raped a 15-year old female detainee, and then photographing him naked; [j] placing a dog chain or strap around a naked detainee's neck and having a female soldier pose for a picture; [k] a male MP guard having sex with a female detainee' [l] using military working dogs (without muzzles) to intimidate and frighten detainees; [m] taking photographs of dead Iraqi detainees." Also alleged are the following criminal offenses that violate the international protocols of interrogation:  breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on the detainees;  beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair;  sodomizing male detainees with a broom handle shoved up their rectum, and threatening to sodomize them with fluorescent tubes:  threatening male detainees with rape;  and threatening detainees with a loaded 9mm pistol.
Several of those charged provided Taguba's investigators with signed confessions. By doing so, they waived their Article 32 rights—the equivalent to a preliminary hearing. Each of them will stand before a general court martial. Very likely, the defense of the enlisted personnel from the 372nd Military Police Company will be twofold: First, that they were simply obeying orders. Second, the argument of their lawyers will be that none of them were appraised of the international protocols that govern the conduct of prisoners of war and of political detainees. The legal argument for the first defense fails before it begins since none of the members of the 372nd who have been charged were specifically ordered to physically or psychologically sexually abuse any of the detainees. According to the Spc. Harman's email records (which were seized in the investigation), the 372nd participants were never specifically ordered to do anything demeaning to any of those within their "care." Because even if the part-time soldiers in the 372nd Military Police Company did not know the protocols of the Geneva Convention, the interrogators from the 205th Intelligence Brigade and the CIA did. They knew plausible deniability existed for them only if they did not have any first hand knowledge of the wrongdoing they hoped the 372nd inflicted would soften up the detainees enough that they would get the Intel they needed to find the remaining leaders of the resistance not only in Iraq but in Afghanistan—and perhaps in the United States—as well.
The most immediate result of the sexual abuse was a greatly increased number of detainee escapes and attempted escapes. Scores of detainees—sometimes with the assistance of Iraqi guards—escaped or attempted to escape from Abu Ghraib since the spring of last year. In one instance, on June 9, 2003, several detainees jumped an MP, beat him, and then overwhelmed their MP guards. Military police guarding the fence line fired on the detainees as they attempted to climb the fence. Five detainees were wounded. In another escape incident, on June 12, 2003, the 800th Military Police Brigade was told that a mass escape was planned within 24 hours The only precautions taken were announcements, made in Arabic, informing the detainees of camp rules—one of which was that they were not to attempt to escape. When the escape happened, detainee #7166 was shot and killed by a MP guard.. Escapes were so common, Taguba's report states, that investigations simply didn't occur. No effort was made to find out how the detainee escaped. The reports only noted when it was discovered that the detainee was gone.
By the time this investigation is complete and Congress defangs the military intelligence community, the CIA and DIA will likely discover they are not going to be allowed to question any detainee without a UN official present. And the much needed Intel that our enemies get from using pretty much the same, if not worse, means of interrogation, will no longer be available. America's intelligence community will then be as blind as this nation's civilian intelligence agencies. When that happens, the antiwar members of Senate: Teddy Kennedy, John Kerry, Carl Levin, Robert Byrd, Hillary Clinton, Diane Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Mikulski, Chuck Schumer, Ron Wyden and Mark Pryor, will feel they have done their party a good service. I wonder why it is that so many of those in the US, Senate who hate the US military are on the Senate Armed Services Committee? Is it possibly to make it easier for them to deconstruct the military? The American people need to remember that it was the "enemy within"—our own Congressmen, Senators, Hollywood celebrities and members of the "unbiased" media that caused America to lose the war in Vietnam. Those same sinister faces are once again painting us as the Ugly Americans.
© 2004 Jon C. Ryter - All Rights Reserved
Jon Christian Ryter is the pseudonym of a former newspaper reporter with the Parkersburg, WV Sentinel. He authored a syndicated newspaper column, Answers From The Bible, from the mid-1970s until 1985. Answers From The Bible was read weekly in many suburban markets in the United States.
Today, Jon is an advertising executive with
the Washington Times. His website, www.jonchristianryter.com
has helped him establish a network of mid-to senior-level Washington insiders
who now provide him with a steady stream of material for use both in his
books and in the investigative reports that are found on his website.
"The American people need to remember that it was the "enemy within"—our own Congressmen, Senators, Hollywood celebrities and members of the "unbiased" media that caused America to lose the war in Vietnam. Those same sinister faces are once again painting us as the Ugly Americans."