You may read the article in its entirety by following the link at the end of this posting. I am grateful to my friend, Luke, for making me aware of this article.
The article chronicles the response the Maj. Gen. Taguba has received as a result of the report that he wrote concerning the abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison. The allegations outlined by Hersh are deeply troubling on many levels – painting a picture of a conspiracy of silence and plausible deniability leading all the way to the office of the Secretary of Defense. Having been tasked to write a report on the scandal, limited in scope to investigating only the Military Police who were operating Abu Ghraib, but not their superior officers, Taguba still managed to offend and alienate senior military and civilian Department of Defense officials, up to Rumsfeld himself.
A culture of plausible deniability has existed in
Sadly, I must admit that the revelations in Hersh’s article and the testimony of Taguba did not come as a surprise to me. I have the benefit of prior awareness of the Pentagon’s conflicted and ambivalent response to the Abu Ghraib affair.
I have a friend, who shall remain nameless, who is a retired military officer. He has earned enormous respect in the military community, academic world and private sector. He was asked by the Pentagon to conduct a thorough investigation of the Abu Ghraib fiasco. He accepted the assignment, but when he began digging for answers, he was met with stonewalling tactics on every front – from the very people who purported to want to know what had happened. Shades of Jack Nicholson’s character, Col. Jessep in “A Few Good Men”: “You can’t handle the truth!” Knowing that he could not, with integrity, produce a report without unrestricted access to the full story, he walked away from the assignment. And our nation is poorer as a result of this cover-up.
It is axiomatic that war is hell and abuses and atrocities have occurred throughout the history of warfare. I have come to see that in this flawed and broken world, war is probably a necessary evil. And as long as war is inevitable, as a nation we need to prepare for the possibility of war by training our best young people to fight in defense of freedom. I have close personal relationships with many of these professional warriors. And I have the highest respect for them and their willingness to serve and to sacrifice. As an American, it troubles me to the depth of my soul that we would ask our sons and daughters to turn themselves into fighting machines, and then set them up to become scapegoats when abuses occur. The conduct of Secretary Rumsfeld and some of his chief aides in this affair is not consistent with my understanding of honor or of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Shame on them - and shame on us for letting them get away with it.
When we stoop to justifying and condoning abuse, and then vilify those who would hold us accountable, we start the long slide down the slippery slope that led to the horrific acts that were eventually revealed at Nuremburg. I don’t have any easy answers, but I thank the likes of Maj. Gen. Taguba, Seymour Hersh and others for having the courage to help us to ask the right questions.