Around the halls of the Pentagon, a term of caustic derision has emerged for the enlisted soldiers at the heart of the furor over the Abu Ghraib prison scandal: the six morons who lost the war.
Indeed, the damage done to the U.S. military and the nation as a whole by the horrifying photographs of U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi detainees at the notorious prison is incalculable.
But the folks in the Pentagon are talking about the wrong morons. [...] The entire affair is a failure of leadership from start to finish. From the moment they are captured, prisoners are hooded, shackled and isolated. The message to the troops: Anything goes.
In addition to the scores of prisoners who were humiliated and demeaned, at least 14 have died in custody in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army has ruled at least two of those homicides. This is not the way a free people keeps its captives or wins the hearts and minds of a suspicious world. [...]
Army commanders in Iraq bear responsibility for running a prison where there was no legal adviser to the commander, and no ultimate responsibility taken for the care and treatment of the prisoners.
Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, also shares in the shame. Myers asked "60 Minutes II" to hold off reporting news of the scandal because it could put U.S. troops at risk. But when the report was aired, a week later, Myers still hadn't read Taguba's report, which had been completed in March. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld also failed to read the report until after the scandal broke in the media.
By then, of course, it was too late.
Myers, Rumsfeld and their staffs failed to recognize the impact the scandal would have not only in the United States, but around the world. [...] On the battlefield, Myers' and Rumsfeld's errors would be called a lack of situational awareness -- a failure that amounts to professional negligence.
To date, the Army has moved to court-martial the six soldiers suspected of abusing Iraqi detainees and has reprimanded six others.
Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who commanded the MP brigade that ran Abu Ghraib, has received a letter of admonishment and also faces possible disciplinary action.
That's good, but not good enough.
This was not just a failure of leadership at the local command level. This was a failure that ran straight to the top. Accountability here is essential -- even if that means relieving top leaders from duty in a time of war.
-- Military Times editorial, May 17 issue
The editorial ran in all of the Military Times' newspapers -- Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps. These are civilian-run newspapers that let the military and their families know what's happening in the military -- they contain, as they put it, "exclusive, original, in-depth news and analysis about your career, pay and benefits and issues impacting your professional advancement. In addition to vital career news, [Military] Times is packed with community information and active lifestyle features of interest to [Military] personnel and their families. [Military] Times offers over 18 supplements throughout the year, including valuable military resource guides, a special annual historical issue, military healthcare specials and important second career and educational supplements".
One wonders if the military will actually let this copy of the Times through to serving personnel and allow it to be distributed on base. Leaving aside that it has particulars of some of the cases at issue, they might cavil a bit at allowing soldiers to read a semi-official military paper calling for the heads of the civilian and military leaders of the armed forces.Posted by iain at May 11, 2004 11:00 AM