General Suggests Abuses At Iraqi Jail Were Encouraged

By Philip Shenon 

May 2, 2004 " New York Times"
-- WASHINGTON -- An Army Reserve general whose soldiers were photographed as they abused Iraqi prisoners said Saturday that she knew nothing about the abuse until weeks after it occurred and that she was "sickened" by the pictures. She said the prison cellblock where the abuse occurred was under the tight control of Army military intelligence officers who may have encouraged the abuse. 

The suggestion by Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski that the reservists acted at the behest of military intelligence officers could be supported in a still-classified Army report on prison conditions in Iraq that documented many of the worst abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison, west of Baghdad, including the sexual humiliation of prisoners. 

New Yorker Magazine said in its new edition that the report by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba found that reservist military police at the prison were urged by Army military officers and C.I.A. agents to "set physical and mental conditions for favorable interrogation of witnesses." 

According to the magazine, the Army report offered accounts of gruesome abuse that included the sexual assault of an Iraqi detainee with a chemical light stick or broomstick. 

In a phone interview from her home in South Carolina in which she offered her first public comments about the growing international furor over the abuse of the Iraq detainees, General Karpinski, who is still the commanding officer of the 800th Military Police Brigade, said the special high-security cellblock at Abu Ghraib had been under the direct control of Army intelligence officers, not the reservists under her command. 

She said that while the reservists involved in the abuses were "bad people" who deserved punishment, she suspected that they were acting with the encouragement, if not at the direction, of military intelligence units that ran the special cellblock used for interrogation. She said that C.I.A. employees often joined in the interrogations at the prison, although she said she did not know if they had unrestricted access to the cellblock. 

She said she was speaking out because she believed that military commanders were trying to shift the blame exclusively to her and other reservists and away from intelligence officers still at work in Iraq. 

"We're disposable," she said of the military's attitude toward reservists. "Why would they want the active-duty people to take the blame? They want to put this on the M.P.'s and hope that this thing goes away. Well, it's not going to go away." 

The Army's public affairs office at the Pentagon referred calls about her comments to military commanders in Iraq. 

General Karpinski said in the interview that the special cellblock, known as 1A, was one of about two dozen cellblocks in the large prison complex and was essentially off limits to soldiers who were not part of the interrogations, including virtually all of the military police under her command at Abu Ghraib. 

She said repeatedly in the interview that she was not defending the actions of the reservists who took part in the brutality, who were part of her command. She said that when she was first presented with the photographs of the abuse in January, they "sickened me." 

"I put my head down because I really thought I was going to throw up," she said. "It was awful. My immediate reaction was: these are bad people, because their faces revealed how much pleasure they felt at this." 

But she said the context of the brutality had been lost, noting that the six Army reservists charged in the case represented were only a tiny fraction of the nearly 3,400 reservists under her command in Iraq, and that Abu Ghraib was one of 16 prisons and other incarceration centers around Iraq that she oversaw. 

"The suggestion that this was done with my knowledge and continued with my knowledge is so far from the truth," she said of the abuse. "I wasn't aware of any of this. I'm horrified by this." 

She said she was also alarmed that little attention has been paid to the Army military intelligence unit that controlled Cellblock 1A, where her soldiers guarded the Iraqi detainees between interrogations. 

Copyright: The New York Times

Join our Daily News Headlines Email Digest

Fill out your emailaddress
to receive our newsletter!
Powered by

Information Clearing House

Daily News Headlines Digest