Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Of Foxes and Chicken Coops

Predictably, the recent investigation by the United States Army of the abuse of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq has cleared almost all of the top officers who were responsible for overseeing prison policies and operations there. Left out twisting in the wind was, reserve Brig, Gen. Janis Karpinski, who commanded the military police unit at Abu Ghraib. She was relieved of her command and given a written reprimand. She maintains that she was the scapegoat for the failures of her superiors.

An earlier independent panel charged with investigating the Abu Ghraib scandal, and headed by former Defense Secretary James R. Schlesinger, concluded that General Ricardo S. Sanchez, the former top commander in Iraq, had failed to insure that his staff was dealing with Abu Ghraib’s problems. A separate Army investigation found that General Sanchez approved the use of severe interrogation practices which led to some of the abuses. The Schlesinger panel also found that Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdalowski failed to make urgent requests to higher levels for more troops at Abu Ghraib. Unfortunately, none of these panels had the authority to impose punishments; that was left up to the Army.

To date, only a few low-level soldiers have been courts marshaled for there involvement in abuses at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. A number of others have had administrative discipline imposed for abusing prisoners at others sites across Iraq.

The new review by the Army inspector general, LT Gen. Stanley E. Green, cleared General Sanchez and General Wojdakowski of any misconduct. It also cleared Maj. Gen. Barbara G. Fast, the former chief intelligence officer in Iraq who oversaw the interrogation center at Abu Ghraib and Mark Warren, the commands chief legal officer. But, the Schlesinger panel concluded that Colonel Warren had failed to report to his boss prisoner abuses witnessed by the Red Cross, and that General Fast had failed to advise General Sanchez about the interrogations at the prison.

Unfortunately, this seems to be a theme with not just of the military, but the Bush administration as a whole: no one at the top level is responsible for any of the actions taken no matter how wrong they were or how seriously they undermine the integrity of the United States. Serious misuses of intelligence, lying to the public, misrepresenting issues have no consequences to any of the top officials of this administration. Quite the contrary, they are rewarded for their misdeeds. Any investigation of misdeeds, if undertaken at all, is typically done by those who are at the very least sympathetic to the administration and all too often the investigators are investigating themselves.