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Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Why is Rummy Still Here?

A few good apples, at most:
The abuses took place, the files show, in a chaotic and dangerous environment made even more so by the constant pressure from Washington to squeeze intelligence from detainees. Riots, prisoner escapes, shootings, corrupt Iraqi guards, unsanitary conditions, rampant sexual misbehavior, bug-infested food, prisoner beatings and humiliations, and almost-daily mortar shellings from Iraqi insurgents--according to the annex to General Taguba's report, that pretty much sums up life at Abu Ghraib.
That's from U.S. News and World Report, which I believe has generally been considered well to the right of its more successful competitors, Time and Newsweek. A friend in high school always referred to it as "Useless News and World Distort." So while the source is probably less likely to be trustworthy than, say, Michael Moore, it is a lot easier to deflect criticism from the right when quoting sources like these. Besides, the article is based mostly on 106 annexes to General Taguba's report, so the information basically comes from the Pentagon. Anyway, more from the article:
It was an environment for which not just Reese's reservists but many regular Army troops were singularly unprepared. Col. Henry Nelson, an Air Force psychiatrist who prepared a report for Taguba on Abu Ghraib, described it as a "new psychological battlefield" and detailed the nature of the challenge faced by the Americans working in the overcrowded prison. "These detainees are male and female, young and old," Nelson wrote; "they may be innocent, may have high intelligence value, or may be terrorists or criminals. No matter who they are, if they are at Abu Ghraib, they are remanded in deplorable, dangerous living conditions, as are the soldiers."
Weak leadership in the prison meant soldiers couldn't accomplish basic tasks, like feeding their detainees. Without a clear chain of command, especially after Sanchez informed Karpinski that military intelligence authorities would assume responsibility for running a key area of Abu Ghraib where Iraqis were detained for interrogation, some soldiers just ran wild. "One of the tower guards was shooting prisoners with lead balls and a slingshot," a company commander testified. Karpinski, in her interview with Taguba, said some soldiers likened the place to "the wild, wild West." Soldiers ran around in civilian clothes and covered latrines with so much graffiti a commander had them painted black. An Army captain photographed female subordinates showering in outside stalls while private contractors smuggled beer into the prison.
Abu Ghraib wasn't the only prison where abuses took place. The problems there, the newly available documents show, had their roots months earlier at another U.S.-run detention center in southern Iraq called Camp Bucca. Evidence showed that MP s viciously attacked prisoners there, including one who had his nose smashed in. Four soldiers were given less than honorable discharges but were not prosecuted. "I'm convinced that what happened [at Abu Ghraib] would never have happened if" the Camp Bucca cases had been prosecuted, Maj. Michael Sheridan, who worked at Abu Ghraib, told General Taguba.
But at the same time, soldiers complained in testimony, there seemed little interest from the top brass in providing the prison facility with what it needed to get the job done. None of the top commanders wanted to hear about the lack of prison guards, lack of guns for MP s or floodlights to bathe the compounds at night and prevent escapes, almost a constant threat at Abu Ghraib. Soldiers complained that there weren't enough of them to properly man guard towers or patrol perimeters. The detainees were often separated from freedom by little more than a few strands of wire and were always on edge because of the dismal living conditions and the shortage of edible food.
Another classified annex reported that the prison complex was seriously overcrowded, with detainees often held for months without ever being interrogated. Detainees walked around in knee-deep mud, "defecating and urinating all over the compounds," said Capt. James Jones, commander of the 229th MP Company. "I don't know how there's not rioting every day," he testified.

Among the more shocking exchanges revealed in the Taguba classified annexes are a series of E-mails sent by Maj. David Dinenna of the 320th MP Battalion. The E-mails, sent in October and November to Maj. William Green of the 800th MP Brigade and copied to the higher chain of command, show a frantic attempt to simply get the detainees at Abu Ghraib edible food. Dinenna pressed repeatedly for food that wouldn't make prisoners vomit. He criticized the private food contractor for shorting the facility on hundreds of meals a day and for providing food containing bugs, rats, and dirt. "As each day goes by, tension within the prison population increases," Dinenna wrote. " . . . Simple fixes, food, would help tremendously." Instead of getting help, Major Green scolded him. "Who is making the charges that there is dirt, bugs, or whatever in the food?" Major Green replied in an E-mail. "If it is the prisoners, I would take that with a grain of salt." Dinenna shot back: "Our MP s, medics, and field surgeon can easily identify bugs, rats, and dirt, and they did." Ultimately, the food contract was not renewed, an Army spokeswoman says, although the company holds other contracts with the military.
Whatever battles there were between the top generals, many soldiers felt abandoned by their chain of command. In testimony, they complained about the lack of toilet facilities, unsanitary conditions, and their unnecessary vulnerability to frequent mortar attacks when they slept out in the compounds. "If you are talking about soldier life support, it's been horrible," Capt. Mark Hale, an MP at Abu Ghraib, told Taguba's staff last February. He added: "The only guidance my guys got was the guidance I gave them. . . . When you tried to go up, you basically got blown off."