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Monday, January 17, 2005

Posted by Jake
Graner Gets 10 Years for Abuse at Abu Ghraib (washingtonpost.com):

"I know the Geneva Conventions, better than anyone else in my company," Graner said. "And we were called upon to violate the Geneva Conventions."

The Conventions, an international treaty covering treatment of prisoners in war zones, have been a subject of hot debate recently. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales advised the president that the United States could legally ignore the treaty in certain circumstances. Critics in Congress and in legal and military circles have contended that this advice filtered down through the chain of command and contributed to the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. In November, Bush nominated Gonzales to be attorney general.

Graner named a series of Army officers, ranking from lieutenant to full colonel, who gave orders, he said, to mistreat prisoners -- particularly those described as "intelligence holds" who were believed to have information about the Iraqi insurgency that grew up after the fall of Baghdad. Those he named included Col. Thomas M. Pappas, commander of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade in charge of the prison; Lt. Col. Steven Jordan, the senior Military Intelligence officer; Capt. Donald J. Reese, commander of the 372nd Military Police Company; Capt. Christopher Brinson, platoon leader; and 1st Lt. Lewis Raeder, platoon leader in the military police command.


I am not entirely ready to believe that the Rumsfeld and Gonzalez were responsible for this particularly Gonzalez. I think Gonzalez was doing his job telling the Pentagon and the President what in his legal opinion was permissible and not permissible, not telling them what they should and should not do. This may contribute to this behavior -- the awareness that what you are doing is not technically illegal -- but is certainly not Gonzalez's fault.

However, I still remain very skeptical of the "lone bad apple" explanation of these acts. The testimony in these proceedings and others seems to confirm that these soldier's superiors were aware of what was going on and condoned this behavior. How far that knowledge goes up the chain of command remains a question, and I would be skeptical about a statement that Rumsfeld or the planners at the Pentagon knowing about it directly. Still, realizing that it was more than just the soldiers on the ground makes me decidedly unsatisfied with how this situation is being handled. The soldiers involved need to be punished, but the role of their superiors and how high up this knowledge goes needs to also be investigated and the problem corrected. It would appear that the first is happening but the second is decidedly not happening.


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