Seymour Hersh’s article on General Taguba’s investigation of Abu Ghraib came out today.  It shouldn’t be much of a surprise to learn that Mr. Rumsfeld’s – led DoD sidelined this investigation and ignored it–and in fact lied about their knowledge to Congress.  I find it interesting, however, that General Taguba was not dismissed during Mr. Rumsfeld’s tenure, but rather under the tenure of the present Secretary of Defense, Mr. Gates.

Gen. Taguba, 2005 TestimonyIn General Taguba’s report, p. 11, item 5: Military police do not participate in Military Intelligence.  They are supposed to set favorable conditions for an interview.  This means that Grainer and England and others were supposed to make a secure prison where inmates were disposed to talk to intelligence officers (see previous post on Intelligence Science Board).  Instead, the language of differing duties came to mean something else entirely: “sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses.” 

Sergeant Kenneth Davis, a witness in the Abu Ghraib trials, has been featured at The Huffington Post.  However, the best of his accounts that I have found is in the book What was asked of us, a series of interviews that returning Iraq veterans did with Trish Wood.  NY: Little, Brown, 2006.  Sgt. Davis’ account, pp. 88-99, isn’t entirely about Abu Ghraib, although it is a constant backdrop.  Here is an excerpt:

We lived in prison cells, and Specialist Charles Graner lived across the hall from me.  He was my next-door neighbor.  One time he walked in, and he was hoarse, and I said, “What’s the matter, are you sick?”  And he says, “No, I’m hoarse because they are making us yell at detainees.”  And he says, “I’ve got a question for you.  They’re making me do things that I feel are morally and ethically wrong.  What should I do?” And I said, “Don’t do them.”  He says, “I don’t have a choice.”  And I said, Well, yes, you do.  What do you mean you don’t have a choice?”  Graner says, “Every time a bomb goes off outside of the wire:–which is outside the walls of Abu Ghraib–“one of the OGA members would come in to say, Tha’ts another American losing their life, and unless you help us get this information, their blood is on your hands as well.”

Whether one has much sympathy for Grainer or not, it’s very important to look at this exchange.  It shows that OCA manipulated detainees–but also fellow military members–and the result has been a loss of human capital for Iraq and for the United States military as well.  It has abused prisoners and perpetrators, its bystanders, assessors, and dissenters.  

This system was well-known within private circles in advance: there can be no question.  The most important question remaining: What do we do now to secure a better practice?

Further reading:
Washington Post, June 17, with a preview of the New Yorker article
Mr. Hersh’s May 10, 2004 article on Abu Ghraib torture and responsibility
Abu Ghraib News Archive at The Jurist of the University of Pittsburgh
Global Security’s Timeline of Abu Ghraib events
The Taguba Report, 53 pages, pdf.  Other reports also available on Jurist page.