AN ISOLATED INCIDENT?….James Joyner writes the following about Abu Ghraib:
The idea that these isolated abuses are a systemic problem that reverberate up the chain of command, though, is incredibly dubious. There?s no evidence whatsoever that has been adduced to indicate that it was more than some very young soldiers committing crimes. The ones who committed them will go to jail. It?s likely their front line supervisors will be relieved of command and have their careers ended. Absent evidence I?m not aware of, I doubt seriously any of them will face criminal sanction. Certainly, though, no one of high rank has any responsibility for this. Clearly, the command climate was such that when others discovered the abuses, they reported them.
I would really like to believe this. But here’s the summary paragraph of Seymour Hersh’s piece in the New Yorker based on the Army’s own investigation:
As the international furor grew, senior military officers, and President Bush, insisted that the actions of a few did not reflect the conduct of the military as a whole. Taguba?s report, however, amounts to an unsparing study of collective wrongdoing and the failure of Army leadership at the highest levels. The picture he draws of Abu Ghraib is one in which Army regulations and the Geneva conventions were routinely violated, and in which much of the day-to-day management of the prisoners was abdicated to Army military-intelligence units and civilian contract employees. Interrogating prisoners and getting intelligence, including by intimidation and torture, was the priority.
It’s only been a few days since this became public, but so far the evidence incriminates both American and British soldiers; it goes all the way up to the level of colonels and lieutenant colonels; the command climate within the prison was pretty clearly responsible for this becoming a widespread and common practice; it was apparently encouraged by intelligence officials as the best way of breaking Iraqi prisoners; and it was brought to light only because of the actions of an MP who went outside his chain of command.
I have a sick feeling that we are going to be hearing a lot more about Abu Ghraib over the next few weeks. Read Hersh’s piece and you’ll probably agree.