- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 26, 2004

An Army investigation and congressional hearings have spotlighted a series of conflicting statements about Iraqi prisoner abuse between the top brass and the general who once ran Abu Ghraib prison and who was stripped this week of her brigade command.

Some military advocates say Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski received light punishment because she is one of the Army’s few female generals. Recommended for a reprimand, she instead received a minor letter of admonishment.

At first, she kept her command of the 800th Military Police Brigade. But as pressure mounted from Congress to punish higher-ups — not just enlisted MPs at the prison — the Army this week temporarily reassigned her to a reserve unit at Fort Jackson, S.C.

The differences pitting Gen. Karpinski against superiors go to the heart of why the infamous prison near Baghdad was dysfunctional and why it became the venue for continued physical and psychological abuse of Iraqi detainees by military police.

Gen. Karpinski, a reservist who lives in Hilton Head, S.C., and works as a business consultant, says the scandal stemmed from a lack of manpower at Abu Ghraib and no clear direction from the military command in Baghdad led by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez. She denies knowledge of any abusive behavior before the scandal broke.

But Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, who completed the first of several ongoing administrative investigations, lays some blame squarely at the feet of Gen. Karpinski. His report says she did not act on recommendations from a series of fault-finding inquiries before the ill treatment began in October.

“Had the findings and recommendations contained within their own investigations been analyzed and actually implemented by Brig. Gen. Karpinski, many of the subsequent escapes, accountability lapses and cases of abuse may have been prevented,” Gen. Taguba wrote.

Some pro-military persons have seized on the Abu Ghraib scandal as an example of a “politically correct” military that does not want to punish a female general.

“I think they’ve been handling her with kid gloves,” said Elaine Donnelly, who heads the Center for Military Readiness. “The fact that she is a woman general who portrayed herself as a victim may have had something to do with it.”

On her suspension, Mrs. Donnelly said, “Frankly, I wonder why it has taken so long. She was there before, during and after the worst of the abuse. I’m not convinced at all by her argument she did not know.”

William S. Lind, who directs the Center for Cultural Conservatism at the Free Congress Foundation, writes in a column this week that, “The apparent breakdown in discipline among the MPs at Abu Ghraib may relate to the presence of women, and especially to the fact that the commander was a woman. … The climate of ‘political correctness’ (or, to give it its true name, cultural Marxism) that has infested and overwhelmed the American armed forces makes it almost impossible to discipline a woman — and risky for a man to attempt to do so.”

Whatever the reason, one theme is clear: Abu Ghraib was a disaster waiting to happen. Rules on uniforms were not enforced; soldiers wrote poems and other sayings on their helmets; saluting of officers was not enforced. Records on inmates and escapes were spotty. Regulations were not posted; no MP had been trained adequately in detainee operations.

“I have never seen a more dysfunctional command relationship in the history of me looking at the military like that jail,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, told Gen. Sanchez at a Senate hearing last week.

“Sir,” the three-star general responded, “It was dysfunctional before the 19th of November.”

His reference to that date was a message to his critics, including Gen. Karpinski. She has blamed problems on the turnover of prison command from her 800th Brigade on that date to the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade. Some MPs accused of misconduct contend they acted on orders from 205th officers. But most abuses occurred in October and early November prior to the 19th, according to Gen. Taguba.

The exchange was just one example of disputes of fact between the one-star general and more senior officers:

• At the same hearing, Gen. Sanchez was asked about Gen. Karpinski’s statements that she objected to the 205th taking over the jail. “Senator,” Gen. Sanchez replied, “General Karpinski never talked to me about interference. … There was never a time where General Karpinski surfaced to me any objections to that tactical control order.”

• Gen. Karpinski has quoted Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller as saying he came to Iraq to “Gitmo-ize” Abu Ghraib. It was a reference to Gen. Miller’s tenure as the top jailer at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where suspected terrorists from the Afghanistan war are being held.

Said Gen. Miller, “Senator, I did not tell General Karpinski I was going to ‘Gitmo-ize’ Abu Ghraib. I don’t believe I have ever used that term ever.”

cGen. Karpinski told Gen. Taguba that she paid regular visits to various detention centers. But the Taguba report states, “The detailed calendar provided by her aide-de-camp does not support her contention. Moreover, numerous witnesses stated that they rarely saw Brig. Gen. Karpinski.”

cAsked by Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, to respond to Gen. Karpinski’s assertion she was excluded from certain sections of Abu Ghraib where the abuse occurred, Gen. Taguba answered, “I disagree with that.”

Gen. Karpinski could not be reached for comment this week. But in a previous interview, and in a written rebuttal to Gen. Taguba dated April 1, she vigorously defended her tenure as Iraq prison warden.

“The brigade suffered with diminishing personnel strength, without the benefit of a personnel replacement system,” she wrote. “We were successful in all missions, despite numerous challenges and while operating in a combat zone, because the brigade was determined and committed to do so.”

As to Gen. Taguba’s comment that she was “extremely emotional” during her testimony to him, Gen. Karpinski wrote, “The comments describing my emotional demeanor during a portion of my interview are misconstrued. Any implication of soldiers or the unit failing will elicit a strong emotional response from a caring and compassionate commander. The emotion was intense passion for my soldiers.

“Throughout my tenure in command I escorted hundreds of VIPs and media representatives through the numerous facilities the 800th Military Police Brigade secured. I consistently received rave reviews from all in attendance.”

Gen. Karpinski, who took control of the penal system in Iraq on June 30, 2003, is now back home in South Carolina. She has waged a spirited media campaign on cable TV news channels to defend her record and to warn she will not be scapegoat.

The Army granted her permission to talk as long as she does not appear in uniform and does not disparage the Army.

Gen. Taguba recommended she be reprimanded and stripped of her command — a career-ending move. Gen. Sanchez apparently overruled him, sticking by an admonishment issued in January.

Gen. Sanchez said at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that some of those already punished could face additional penalties. Gen. Karpinski’s lawyer, Neal A. Puckett, said he does not think the statement applies to his client, who had no knowledge of the abuse until a soldier blew the whistle in January.

A Pentagon official said Gen. Karpinski is not the subject of any criminal investigation but is “still vulnerable to further administrative charges.”

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