Saturday, January 15, 2005

Reports on Abu Ghraib

Yes, I know the big news today is that Graner was sentenced to ten years for his abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, and he's claiming that he was following orders. But my attention was was caught by the report from the Army investigation into the situation. One of the highlights picked out by the Washington Post is the finding that the chain of command was not directly involved in approving the abuse, but "circulated policy memos led indirectly" to abuse.

Gee, Heather MacDonald said those memos were never seen by the folks on the ground and therefore had no influence on what happened. The Army says differently.

The report also says that the abuse was not due to "one single factor", but a combination of problems from "individual criminal propensities" to "dysfunctional relationships among commanders."

The entire report is also available, from which I'll pick my own highlights:

*There is a wide variance in standards and approaches at the various detention facilities.Several Division/Brigade collection points and US monitored Iraqi prisons had flawed or insufficiently detailed use of force and other standing operatingprocedures or policies (e.g. weapons in the facility,improper restraint techniques, detainee management, etc.)

*The management of multiple disparate groups of detained people in a single location by members of the same unit invites confusion about handling, processing,and treatment, and typically facilitates the transferof information between different categories of detainees. [This refers to the fact that common criminals were kept in with those suspected of being terrorists or insurgents.]

*The prison was understaffed, with no procedures for replacing staff.

*Military Police, though adept at passive collection of intelligence within a facility, should not participate in Military Intelligence supervised interrogation sessions. Moreover, Military Police should not be involved with setting "favorable conditions" for subsequent interviews. These actions, as will be outlined in this investigation, clearly run counter to the smooth operation of a detention facility.

*That between October and December 2003, at the Abu Ghraib Confinement Facility (BCCF), numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses were inflicted on several detainees. This systemic and illegal abuse of detainees was intentionally perpetrated. The report then goes into detail about instances of abuse. It includes things approved of by Rumsfeld, like stripping prisoners naked.

*There is a general lack of knowledge, implementation, and emphasis of basic legal, regulatory, doctrinal, and command requirements within the 800th MP Brigade and its subordinate units.

*The handling of detainees and criminal prisoners after in-processing was inconsistent from detention facility to detention facility, compound to compound, encampment to encampment, and even shift to shift.

*Basic Army Doctrine was not widely referenced or utilized to develop the accountability practices throughout the 800th MP Brigade's subordinate units. Daily processing, accountability, and detainee care appears to have been made up as the operations developed with reliance on, and guidance from, junior members of the unit who had civilian corrections experience Of course, we don't, in civilian corrections, do the kind of things that were done there, either -- although I don't doubt that some cops would if they thought they could get away with it. The report also speaks of lack of training and preparation of the staff, generally.

*The Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca detention facilities are significantly over their intended maximum capacity while the guard force is undermanned and under resourced. This imbalance has contributed to the poor living conditions, escapes, and accountability lapses at the various facilities. The overcrowding of the facilities also limits the ability to identify and segregate leaders in the detainee population who may be organizing escapes and riots within the facility. There is a whole section of the report devoted to the problem of escapes at the prison, which is something I wasn't aware of. I do know that an old, inadequate facility contributes to the ease of escape -- we had that both at our county jail and juvenile hall until more modern facilities were built.

* Concerning the officer in charge: BG Karpinski was extremely emotional during much of her testimony. What I found particularly disturbing in her testimony was her complete unwillingness to either understand or accept that many of the problems inherent in the 800th MP Brigade were caused or exacerbated by poor leadership and the refusal of her command to both establish and enforce basic standards and principles among its soldiers. She apparently blames "the ideas" for the abuse on Military Intelligence. However, the person who wrote the report is clearly skeptical of much of what she said to try to excuse herself, and he found no evidence that she did anything either to adequate train her staff, or to prevent or stop the abuse. In fact, she doesn't appear to have even been in contact with them that much. There is a long list of recommendations for disciplinary action against those involved, from Karpinski on down.

A helluva way to run a war -- what a mess!

No comments: