Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Only Among the Guards 

Brigadier General Janis Karpinkski, former head of Abu Ghraib prison, told a BBC interviewer that there was a high-level conspiracy to prevent her from finding out about detainee abuse.

Meanwhile, Rolling Stone has acquired the 106 classified "annexes" -- six thousand pages in all -- that the Pentagon withheld from the Taguba Report. Based on their summary we can only conclude that, conspiracies notwithstanding, Brigadier General Janis Karpinski must be deaf, dumb, and blind.

In addition to the familiar catalogue of sadism, torture, rape, and murder:
The secret files make clear that day-to-day living conditions at Abu Ghraib were "deplorable" for soldiers as well as prisoners. The facility was under constant attack from mortars and rocket-propelled grenades. The files make no reference to the number of attacks, but a partial list obtained by Rolling Stone indicates that there were more than two dozen explosions between July and September alone. Six detainees and two soldiers were killed, and seventy-one were injured. But officers at Abu Ghraib told Taguba that their repeated requests for combat troops and armored vehicles to protect the facility were ignored by top brass. "I feel, and my soldiers feel, that we're just sitting out there, waiting to die," said Cpt. James Jones of the 229th MP Company. "As a commander, I'm charged with bringing my soldiers home, but how do I control that? It's frustrating. It's frightening."

In a series of increasingly desperate e-mails sent to his higher-ups, Maj. David DiNenna of the 320th MP Battalion reported that food delivered by private contractors was often inedible. "At least three to four times a week, the food cannot be served because it has bugs," DiNenna reported. "Today an entire compound of 500 prisoners could not be fed due to bugs and dirt in the food." Four days later, DiNenna sent another e-mail marked "URGENT URGENT URGENT!!!!!!!!" He reported that "for the past two days prisoners have been vomiting after they eat."

Officers reported that their repeated pleas for adequate food and supplies went unheeded, even though prisoners were attacking soldiers. "I don't know how they're not rioting every day," Jones told Taguba. The worst riot occurred on November 24th. According to an internal investigation, prisoners in one compound "were marching and yelling, 'Down with Bush,' and 'Bush is bad' and other slogans to that effect." The detainees threw rocks at guard towers and at soldiers on the other side of the concertina wire. One guard said that "the sky was black with rocks"; another added that he "feared for his life." The riot quickly spread to other compounds, where several guards were injured by flying debris. The soldiers fired nonlethal ammunition at the mob but quickly exhausted their meager supplies. Fearing they were on the verge of a mass prison break, the guards were given the go-ahead to use deadly force, and they opened fire with live ammunition. Three detainees were killed and nine were wounded. Nine soldiers were also injured in the riot . . . .

According to an internal Army investigation contained in the secret files, the civilian-run Coalition Provisional Authority had hired at least five members of Fedayeen Saddam -- a paramilitary organization of fanatical Saddam loyalists -- to work as guards at the prison. An Iraqi guard, probably one of "Saddam's martyrs," had smuggled the gun and two knives into the prison in an inner tube, placed them in a sheet and tossed them up to the second-story window of Cell 35. In May, when Taguba testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Wayne Allard asked him a direct question: "Did we have terrorists in the population at this prison?" Taguba answered, "Sir, none that we were made aware of." His own files make clear, however, that a more accurate response would have been: "Yes, sir -- but only among the guards."

Taguba was only authorized to investigate the role of military police in the torture at Abu Ghraib -- even though the Hard Site was controlled by military intelligence when the worst abuses occurred. Nevertheless, the classified annexes indicate that responsibility for the torture extends at least as high as several top-ranking officers in Iraq who have yet to be disciplined or removed from command. Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast, who remains director of military intelligence in Iraq, was aware of the conditions at Abu Ghraib and received regular reports from officers at the prison. Lt. Col. Steven Jordan, who directed intelligence at the prison, admitted to Taguba that he did not actually report to the British colonel who was supposedly his supervisor. "On paper, I work directly for him," Jordan told Taguba. "But between you, me and the fence post, I work directly for General Fast." Fast is currently under investigation, but unlike lower-ranking officers and soldiers, she has not been reprimanded or charged in the abuses.
For her fine efforts, Fast received a second star -- and was subsequently tapped to run the U.S. Army's Military Intelligence School at Fort Huachuca near Tucson. (See Digby for further details.)

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