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  • Sunday, November 13, 2005


    Janis Karpinski and Abu Ghraib

    While I haven't read Col. Karpinski's book One Woman's Army: The Commanding General of Abu Ghraib Tells Her Story (with Steven Strasser) (Miramax, 2005), she strikes me as a competent and imposing figure in all the interviews I've seen with her during the tour promoting the book. Her explanations of chain of command issues and responsibility make sense to me as a non-military person who nonetheless has a little understanding of military culture and structure.

    While some people might say she is presenting a self-serving story and narrative, she has consistantly taken personal responsibility for the parts of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse events within her control. However, she makes cogent arguments about the interrogators who were not under her command and her superiors who were not only unpunished but promoted in the aftermath of the investigation. Also of interest to me is her observation that one of the infamous Abu Ghraib photos showed thirty-two boots in the picture, indicating that at least sixteen non-prisoners were present. Um-hum, seven bad apples.

    Here's a little from a Democracy Now! interview with Col. Karpinski.

    COL. JANIS KARPINSKI: General Miller was sent to visit Iraq by Secretary Rumsfeld and the Undersecretary Cambone. And they came -- General Miller came to visit from Guantanamo Bay. He was the commander of detention operations at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and he was sent to assist the military intelligence interrogators with enhancing their techniques. And he brought with him the techniques that were tested and in use at Guantanamo Bay. And he brought a team of about 20 people, 22 people with him to discuss all aspects of interrogation operations, and actually, he did an in-brief. I was invited to participate or to attend to listen to his in-brief, because he was working almost exclusively with the military intelligence people and the military intelligence interrogators while he was there.

    But we owned the locations that he was going to visit, and he ultimately selected Abu Ghraib to be the focus of his efforts, and he told me that he was going to make it the interrogation center for Iraq. He used the term, he was going to “Gitmo-ize” the operation and use the M.P.s to assist the interrogators to enhance interrogations and to obtain more actionable intelligence. I explained to him that the M.P.s were not trained in any kind of interrogation operations, and he told me that he wanted me to give him Abu Ghraib, because that's the location he selected.

    AMY GOODMAN: You're both generals?

    COL. JANIS KARPINSKI: Yes. He was a two-star.

    AMY GOODMAN: What about the dogs? Is that when the dogs were introduced?

    COL. JANIS KARPINSKI: Shortly after his visit, he -- again, he was spending most of his time with the commander of the Military Intelligence Brigade, Colonel Pappas. In his in-brief, his introduction when he first arrived there with his team, he responded to one of the interrogators, the military interrogator's question, and he was listening to the comments, the criticisms that they were doing these interviews and they were not obtaining really valuable information, so he was there to assist them with different -- implementing different techniques to get more actionable intelligence.

    And one of the interrogators just asked the question about what he would recommend that they could do immediately, because they thought that they were doing a pretty good job with identifying the people who may have additional value or more military intelligence value, and General Miller said -- his first observation was that they were not -- they were being too nice to them. They were not being aggressive enough. And he used the example at Guantanamo Bay that the prisoners there, when they're brought in, that they're handled by two military policemen. They're escorted everywhere they go -- belly chains, leg irons, hand irons -- and he said, “You have to treat them like dogs.”

    AMY GOODMAN: You were there when he said this?

    COL. JANIS KARPINSKI: Yes, I was there when he said that. And he said, “They have to know that you are in charge, and if you treat them too nicely, they won't cooperate with you. And at Guantanamo Bay, they earn -- the prisoners earn every single thing they get, to include a change of color of their jumpsuits. When they get there, they're issued a bright orange jumpsuit. They're handled in a very aggressive, forceful manner, and they earn the privilege of transitioning to a white jumpsuit, if they prove themselves to be cooperative.”

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