Sam Skolnik / Seattle Post-Intelligencer – 2005-11-05 08:44:39
(November 2, 2005) — Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the highest-ranking Army officer to be punished for the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, said Tuesday night that blame for the incident should go as high as Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Karpinski, an Army Reserve officer who had been in charge of 17 prison facilities including the Abu Ghraib prison compound in Iraq, has said repeatedly she’s been made a scapegoat for the failures of others. She was in Seattle to speak at Town Hall about her recently published memoir, “One Woman’s Army.”
In her speech, she admonished several Army superiors, saying they allowed the interrogations of Iraqi prisoners to become increasingly brutal. “People have escaped blame, all the way up to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the vice president,” she said.
Her speech found a supportive audience of about 200. She received loud applause and a partial standing ovation when she took the stage. “I’m not angry. I’m not avoiding blame,” she said. “It’s about the truth.”
Abu Ghraib is the prison compound where Iraqi detainees were abused and sexually humiliated by U.S. military police and intelligence soldiers in late 2003.
The abuse came to light in April 2004 when photographs of hooded, naked Iraqi prisoners stacked in pyramid formations and of the men simulating sexual acts were shown on television.
Human rights groups strongly condemned the practices, describing them as torture. President Bush publicly apologized. Bush said at the time that the mistreatment of prisoners “does not reflect the nature of the American people. That’s not the way we do things in America. I didn’t like it one bit.”
The Only Officer Disciplined to Date
Karpinski, of Hilton Head, S.C., is the only general to have been disciplined so far by the Army. Earlier this year, she was demoted to the rank of colonel for dereliction of duty and shoplifting.
She also received a written reprimand by Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard Cody and was formally relieved of command of the 800th Military Police Brigade on April 8, according to the Army. She had assumed command of the brigade in June 2003 and was responsible for 17 prison facilities overseen by more than 3,000 troops.
An Army investigation finished in April exonerated four of the top Army officers responsible for prison policy in Iraq. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top commander in Iraq from June 2003 to June 2004, was among those cleared of wrongdoing. Sanchez had been accused of leadership failures but not of any specific criminal misconduct.
In May, when Karpinski’s demotion was announced, the Army also announced that one colonel and two lieutenant colonels linked to detainee abuses in Iraq and Afghanistan had been given unspecified administrative punishment.
Two other lieutenant colonels were given letters of reprimand, and more than a dozen other lower-ranking officers also have received various punishments.
Army Capt. James Yee, who was arrested on suspicion of espionage and held in solitary confinement for 76 days before being released and ultimately exonerated, said during the question-and-answer period that he applauded Karpinski for telling her side of the story.
P-I reporter Sam Skolnik can be reached at 206-448-8334 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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