Generals may pay price for Iraq prisoner abuse
WASHINGTON – The Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal could effectively end the careers of four Army generals who are linked indirectly to the misconduct but face no criminal charges.
The four are singled out for varying degrees of criticism – mixed with instances of praise – in two comprehensive investigative reports released last week. The investigators conclude that the generals are partly responsible, but not legally culpable, for the abuse last fall.
All four are “essentially finished in the military,” even if they are not forced to resign, said Dan Goure, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute think tank. “At the very minimum, you could argue that they lost control” of their subordinates, he said.
The most senior of the four generals, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, already has been passed over for promotion to a four-star slot as chief of Southern Command because of an expectation by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that Sanchez would face trouble in a Senate confirmation hearing.
Sanchez was the top U.S. commander in Iraq until the restoration of Iraqi sovereignty in late June, when he returned to Army 5th Corps headquarters in Germany, where he is the commanding general.
Further complicating his situation is the fact that as 5th Corps commander he would be the person to make decisions about pursuing possible criminal charges against soldiers of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade who are implicated in the latest Army report. But since his own role in Iraq is under scrutiny, that responsibility may be shifted elsewhere.
Sanchez and his top deputy, Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski, are cited in an Army investigation for failure to “ensure proper staff oversight of detention and interrogation operations” in Iraq, specifically at the Abu Ghraib prison where Iraqi detainees were physically abused and sexually humiliated by military police and intelligence soldiers in the fall of 2003.
That probe was conducted by Maj. Gen. George Fay and focused on the role of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade at Abu Ghraib, although it also assessed the performance of commanders and senior staff officers higher up the chain of command.
It found no evidence that the abuse was carried out under military orders, or in accordance with any Pentagon policy, but was attributed to misconduct and, in some cases, confusion and inadequate supervision.
Wojdakowski had responsibility for detention operations at Abu Ghraib but was not based there. Separately, the intelligence soldiers who conducted interrogations at Abu Ghraib reported through Sanchez’s intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast.
“These arrangements had the damaging result that no single individual was responsible for overseeing operations at the prison,” according to a report by an independent panel of nongovernment experts, headed by former defense secretary James Schlesinger, also released last week.
Fast, Wojdakowski and Sanchez, as well as Janis Karpinski, the Army Reserve brigadier general who commanded the 800th Military Police Brigade in Iraq, are criticized in both the Fay and Schlesinger reports.
The Schlesinger report says Wojdakowski failed to call for more military police at Abu Ghraib after it became clear that more were needed.
It faults Fast for improperly advising Sanchez on operating the interrogation center at Abu Ghraib and for failing to appropriately monitor the activities of the CIA, whose officers participated in some interrogations at the prison and who allegedly persuaded the Army to hold “ghost” detainees without registering them as required by law.
The Schlesinger report blamed Karpinski for leadership failures that “helped set the conditions at the prison which led to the abuses.” She failed to ensure that Iraqi prisoners were protected by the Geneva Conventions and failed to deal with ineffective commanders below her. It recommended that she be relieved of command and given a letter of reprimand.