May 10, 2004

The official chain of command flows from General Sanchez, in Iraq, to Abizaid, and on to Rumsfeld and President Bush. “You’ve got to match action, or nonaction, with interests,” the Pentagon official said. “What is the motive for not being forthcoming? Th

The Emperor has no uniform...

Seymour M. Hersh, New Yorker: The Pentagon official
told me that many senior generals believe that, along
with the civilians in Rumsfeld’s office, General
Sanchez and General John Abizaid, who is in charge of
the Central Command, in Tampa, Florida, had done their
best to keep the issue quiet in the first months of
the year. The official chain of command flows from General Sanchez, in Iraq, to Abizaid, and on to Rumsfeld and President Bush. “You’ve got to match action, or nonaction, with interests,” the Pentagon official said. “What is the motive for not being forthcoming? They foresaw major diplomatic problems.”

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How the Department of Defense mishandled the disaster
at Abu Ghraib.
Issue of 2004-05-17
Posted 2004-05-09
In his devastating report on conditions at Abu Ghraib
prison, in Iraq, Major General Antonio M. Taguba
singled out only three military men for praise. One of
them, Master-at-Arms William J. Kimbro, a Navy dog
handler, should be commended, Taguba wrote, because he
“knew his duties and refused to participate in
improper interrogations despite significant pressure
from the MI”—military intelligence—“personnel at Abu
Ghraib.” Elsewhere in the report it became clear what
Kimbro would not do: American soldiers, Taguba said,
used “military working dogs to frighten and intimidate
detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance
actually biting a detainee.”

Taguba’s report was triggered by a soldier’s decision
to give Army investigators photographs of the sexual
humiliation and abuse of prisoners. These images were
first broadcast on “60 Minutes II” on April 28th.
Seven enlisted members of the 372nd Military Police
Company of the 320th Military Police Battalion, an
Army reserve unit, are now facing prosecution, and six
officers have been reprimanded. Last week, I was given
another set of digital photographs, which had been in
the possession of a member of the 320th. According to
a time sequence embedded in the digital files, the
photographs were taken by two different cameras over a
twelve-minute period on the evening of December 12,
2003, two months after the military-police unit was
assigned to Abu Ghraib.

An Iraqi prisoner and American military dog handlers.
Other photographs show the Iraqi on the ground,
One of the new photographs shows a young soldier,
wearing a dark jacket over his uniform and smiling
into the camera, in the corridor of the jail. In the
background are two Army dog handlers, in full
camouflage combat gear, restraining two German
shepherds. The dogs are barking at a man who is partly
obscured from the camera’s view by the smiling
soldier. Another image shows that the man, an Iraqi
prisoner, is naked. His hands are clasped behind his
neck and he is leaning against the door to a cell,
contorted with terror, as the dogs bark a few feet
away. Other photographs show the dogs straining at
their leashes and snarling at the prisoner. In
another, taken a few minutes later, the Iraqi is lying
on the ground, writhing in pain, with a soldier
sitting on top of him, knee pressed to his back. Blood
is streaming from the inmate’s leg. Another photograph
is a closeup of the naked prisoner, from his waist to
his ankles, lying on the floor. On his right thigh is
what appears to be a bite or a deep scratch. There is
another, larger wound on his left leg, covered in

There is at least one other report of violence
involving American soldiers, an Army dog, and Iraqi
citizens, but it was not in Abu Ghraib. Cliff Kindy, a
member of the Christian Peacemaker Teams, a
church-supported group that has been monitoring the
situation in Iraq, told me that last November G.I.s
unleashed a military dog on a group of civilians
during a sweep in Ramadi, about thirty miles west of
Fallujah. At first, Kindy told me, “the soldiers went
house to house, and arrested thirty people.” (One of
them was Saad al-Khashab, an attorney with the
Organization for Human Rights in Iraq, who told Kindy
about the incident.) While the thirty detainees were
being handcuffed and laid on the ground, a firefight
broke out nearby; when it ended, the Iraqis were
shoved into a house. Khashab told Kindy that the
American soldiers then “turned the dog loose inside
the house, and several people were bitten.” (The
Defense Department said that it was unable to comment
about the incident before The New Yorker went to

When I asked retired Major General Charles Hines, who
was commandant of the Army’s military-police school
during a twenty-eight-year career in military law
enforcement, about these reports, he reacted with
dismay. “Turning a dog loose in a room of people?
Loosing dogs on prisoners of war? I’ve never heard of
it, and it would never have been tolerated,” Hines
said. He added that trained police dogs have long been
a presence in Army prisons, where they are used for
sniffing out narcotics and other contraband among the
prisoners, and, occasionally, for riot control. But,
he said, “I would never have authorized it for
interrogating or coercing prisoners. If I had, I’d
have been put in jail or kicked out of the Army.”

The International Red Cross and human-rights groups
have repeatedly complained during the past year about
the American military’s treatment of Iraqi prisoners,
with little success. In one case, disclosed last month
by the Denver Post, three Army soldiers from a
military-intelligence battalion were accused of
assaulting a female Iraqi inmate at Abu Ghraib. After
an administrative review, the three were fined “at
least five hundred dollars and demoted in rank,” the
newspaper said.

Army commanders had a different response when, on
January 13th, a military policeman presented Army
investigators with a computer disk containing graphic
photographs. The images were being swapped from
computer to computer throughout the 320th Battalion.
The Army’s senior commanders immediately understood
they had a problem—a looming political and
public-relations disaster that would taint America and
damage the war effort.

One of the first soldiers to be questioned was Ivan
Frederick, the M.P. sergeant who was in charge of a
night shift at Abu Ghraib. Frederick, who has been
ordered to face a court-martial in Iraq for his role
in the abuse, kept a running diary that began with a
knock on his door by agents of the Army’s Criminal
Investigations Division (C.I.D.) at two-thirty in the
morning on January 14th. “I was escorted . . . to the
front door of our building, out of sight from my
room,” Frederick wrote, “while . . . two unidentified
males stayed in my room. ‘Are they searching my
room?’” He was told yes. Frederick later formally
agreed to permit the agents to search for cameras,
computers, and storage devices.

On January 16th, three days after the Army received
the pictures, Central Command issued a blandly worded,
five-sentence press release about an investigation
into the mistreatment of prisoners. Secretary of
Defense Donald Rumsfeld said last week that it was
then that he learned of the allegations. At some point
soon afterward, Rumsfeld informed President Bush. On
January 19th, Lieutenant General Ricardo S. Sanchez,
the officer in charge of American forces in Iraq,
ordered a secret investigation into Abu Ghraib. Two
weeks later, General Taguba was ordered to conduct his
inquiry. He submitted his report on February 26th. By
then, according to testimony before the Senate last
week by General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, people “inside our building” had
discussed the photographs. Myers, by his own account,
had still not read the Taguba report or seen the
photographs, yet he knew enough about the abuses to
persuade “60 Minutes II” to delay its story.

At a Pentagon news conference last week, Rumsfeld and
Marine General Peter Pace, the Vice-Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, insisted that the investigation
into Abu Ghraib had moved routinely through the chain
of command. If the Army had been slow, it was because
of built-in safeguards. Pace told the journalists,
“It’s important to know that as investigations are
completed they come up the chain of command in a very
systematic way. So that the individual who reports in
writing [sends it] up to the next level commander. But
he or she takes time, a week or two weeks, three
weeks, whatever it takes, to read all of the
documentation, get legal advice [and] make the
decisions that are appropriate at his or her level. .
. . That way everyone’s rights are protected and we
have the opportunity systematically to take a look at
the entire process.”

In interviews, however, retired and active-duty
officers and Pentagon officials said that the system
had not worked. Knowledge of the nature of the
abuses—and especially the politically toxic
photographs—had been severely, and unusually,
restricted. “Everybody I’ve talked to said, ‘We just
didn’t know’—not even in the J.C.S.,” one
well-informed former intelligence official told me,
emphasizing that he was referring to senior officials
with whom such allegations would normally be shared.
“I haven’t talked to anybody on the inside who
knew—nowhere. It’s got them scratching their heads.” A
senior Pentagon official said that many of the senior
generals in the Army were similarly out of the loop on
the Abu Ghraib allegations.

Within the Pentagon, there was a spate of
fingerpointing last week. One top general complained
to a colleague that the commanders in Iraq should have
taken C4, a powerful explosive, and blown up Abu
Ghraib last spring, with all of its “emotional
baggage”—the prison was known for its brutality under
Saddam Hussein—instead of turning it into an American
facility. “This is beyond the pale in terms of lack of
command attention,” a retired major general told me,
speaking of the abuses at Abu Ghraib. “Where were the
flag officers? And I’m not just talking about a
one-star,” he added, referring to Brigadier General
Janis Karpinski, the commander at Abu Ghraib who was
relieved of duty. “This was a huge leadership

The Pentagon official told me that many senior
generals believe that, along with the civilians in
Rumsfeld’s office, General Sanchez and General John
Abizaid, who is in charge of the Central Command, in
Tampa, Florida, had done their best to keep the issue
quiet in the first months of the year. The official
chain of command flows from General Sanchez, in Iraq,
to Abizaid, and on to Rumsfeld and President Bush.
“You’ve got to match action, or nonaction, with
interests,” the Pentagon official said. “What is the
motive for not being forthcoming? They foresaw major
diplomatic problems.”

Secrecy and wishful thinking, the Pentagon official
said, are defining characteristics of Rumsfeld’s
Pentagon, and shaped its response to the reports from
Abu Ghraib. “They always want to delay the release of
bad news—in the hope that something good will break,”
he said. The habit of procrastination in the face of
bad news led to disconnects between Rumsfeld and the
Army staff officers who were assigned to planning for
troop requirements in Iraq. A year ago, the Pentagon
official told me, when it became clear that the Army
would have to call up more reserve units to deal with
the insurgency, “we had call-up orders that languished
for thirty or forty days in the office of the
Secretary of Defense.” Rumsfeld’s staff always seemed
to be waiting for something to turn up—for the problem
to take care of itself, without any additional troops.
The official explained, “They were hoping that they
wouldn’t have to make a decision.” The delay meant
that soldiers in some units about to be deployed had
only a few days to prepare wills and deal with other
family and financial issues.

The same deliberate indifference to bad news was
evident in the past year, the Pentagon official said,
when the Army conducted a series of elaborate war
games. Planners would present best-case,
moderate-case, and worst-case scenarios, in an effort
to assess where the Iraq war was headed and to
estimate future troop needs. In every case, the number
of troops actually required exceeded the worst-case
analysis. Nevertheless, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and
civilian officials in the Pentagon continued to insist
that future planning be based on the most optimistic
scenario. “The optimistic estimate was that at this
point in time”—mid-2004—“the U.S. Army would need only
a handful of combat brigades in Iraq,” the Pentagon
official said. “There are nearly twenty now, with the
international coalition drying up. They were wildly
off the mark.” The official added, “From the
beginning, the Army community was saying that the
projections and estimates were unrealistic.” Now, he
said, “we’re struggling to maintain a hundred and
thirty-five thousand troops while allowing soldiers
enough time back home.”

In his news conference last Tuesday, Rumsfeld, when
asked whether he thought the photographs and stories
from Abu Ghraib were a setback for American policy in
Iraq, still seemed to be in denial. “Oh, I’m not one
for instant history,” he responded. By Friday,
however, with some members of Congress and with
editorials calling for his resignation, Rumsfeld
testified at length before House and Senate committees
and apologized for what he said was “fundamentally
un-American” wrongdoing at Abu Ghraib. He also warned
that more, and even uglier, disclosures were to come.
Rumsfeld said that he had not actually looked at any
of the Abu Ghraib photographs until some of them
appeared in press accounts, and hadn’t reviewed the
Army’s copies until the day before. When he did, they
were “hard to believe,” he said. “There are other
photos that depict . . . acts that can only be
described as blatantly sadistic, cruel, and inhuman.”
Later, he said, “It’s going to get still more
terrible, I’m afraid.” Rumsfeld added, “I failed to
recognize how important it was.”

NBC News later quoted U.S. military officials as
saying that the unreleased photographs showed American
soldiers “severely beating an Iraqi prisoner nearly to
death, having sex with a female Iraqi prisoner, and
‘acting inappropriately with a dead body.’ The
officials said there also was a videotape, apparently
shot by U.S. personnel, showing Iraqi guards raping
young boys.”

No amount of apologetic testimony or political spin
last week could mask the fact that, since the attacks
of September 11th, President Bush and his top aides
have seen themselves as engaged in a war against
terrorism in which the old rules did not apply. In the
privacy of his office, Rumsfeld chafed over what he
saw as the reluctance of senior Pentagon generals and
admirals to act aggressively. By mid-2002, he and his
senior aides were exchanging secret memorandums on
modifying the culture of the military leaders and
finding ways to encourage them “to take greater
risks.” One memo spoke derisively of the generals in
the Pentagon, and said, “Our prerequisite of
perfection for ‘actionable intelligence’ has paralyzed
us. We must accept that we may have to take action
before every question can be answered.” The Defense
Secretary was told that he should “break the
‘belt-and-suspenders’ mindset within today’s military
. . . we ‘over-plan’ for every contingency. . . . We
must be willing to accept the risks.” With operations
involving the death of foreign enemies, the memo went
on, the planning should not be carried out in the
Pentagon: “The result will be decision by committee.”

The Pentagon’s impatience with military protocol
extended to questions about the treatment of prisoners
caught in the course of its military operations. Soon
after 9/11, as the war on terror got under way, Donald
Rumsfeld repeatedly made public his disdain for the
Geneva conventions. Complaints about America’s
treatment of prisoners, Rumsfeld said in early 2002,
amounted to “isolated pockets of international

The effort to determine what happened at Abu Ghraib
has evolved into a sprawling set of related
investigations, some of them hastily put together,
including inquiries into twenty-five suspicious
deaths. Investigators have become increasingly
concerned with the role played not only by military
and intelligence officials but also by C.I.A. agents
and private-contract employees. In a statement, the
C.I.A. acknowledged that its Inspector General had an
investigation under way into abuses at Abu Ghraib,
which extended to the death of a prisoner. A source
familiar with one of the investigations told me that
the victim was the man whose photograph, which shows
his battered body packed in ice, has circulated around
the world. A Justice Department prosecutor has been
assigned to the case. The source also told me that an
Army intelligence operative and a judge advocate
general were seeking, through their lawyers, to
negotiate immunity from prosecution in return for

The relationship between military policing and
intelligence forces inside the Army prison system
reached a turning point last fall in response to the
insurgency against the Coalition Provisional
Authority. “This is a fight for intelligence,”
Brigadier General Martin Dempsey, commander of the 1st
Armored Division, told a reporter at a Baghdad press
briefing in November. “Do I have enough soldiers? The
answer is absolutely yes. The larger issue is, how do
I use them and on what basis? And the answer to that
is intelligence . . . to try to figure out how to take
all this human intelligence as it comes in to us [and]
turn it into something that’s actionable.” The Army
prison system would now be asked to play its part.

Two months earlier, Major General Geoffrey Miller, the
commander of the task force in charge of the prison at
Guantánamo, had brought a team of experts to Iraq to
review the Army program. His recommendation was
radical: that Army prisons be geared, first and
foremost, to interrogations and the gathering of
information needed for the war effort. “Detention
operations must act as an enabler for interrogation .
. . to provide a safe, secure and humane environment
that supports the expeditious collection of
intelligence,” Miller wrote. The military police on
guard duty at the prisons should make support of
military intelligence a priority.

General Sanchez agreed, and on November 19th his
headquarters issued an order formally giving the 205th
Military Intelligence Brigade tactical control over
the prison. General Taguba fearlessly took issue with
the Sanchez orders, which, he wrote in his report,
“effectively made an MI Officer, rather than an MP
officer, responsible for the MP units conducting
detainee operations at that facility. This is not
doctrinally sound due to the different missions and
agenda assigned to each of these respective

Taguba also criticized Miller’s report, noting that
“the intelligence value of detainees held at . . .
Guantánamo is different than that of the
detainees/internees held at Abu Ghraib and other
detention facilities in Iraq. . . . There are a large
number of Iraqi criminals held at Abu Ghraib. These
are not believed to be international terrorists or
members of Al Qaeda.” Taguba noted that Miller’s
recommendations “appear to be in conflict” with other
studies and with Army regulations that call for
military-police units to have control of the prison
system. By placing military-intelligence operatives in
control instead, Miller’s recommendations and
Sanchez’s change in policy undoubtedly played a role
in the abuses at Abu Ghraib. General Taguba concluded
that certain military-intelligence officers and
civilian contractors at Abu Ghraib were “either
directly or indirectly responsible” for the abuses,
and urged that they be subjected to disciplinary

In late March, before the Abu Ghraib scandal became
publicly known, Geoffrey Miller was transferred from
Guantánamo and named head of prison operations in
Iraq. “We have changed this—trust us,” Miller told
reporters in early May. “There were errors made. We
have corrected those. We will make sure that they do
not happen again.”

Military-intelligence personnel assigned to Abu Ghraib
repeatedly wore “sterile,” or unmarked, uniforms or
civilian clothes while on duty. “You couldn’t tell
them apart,” the source familiar with the
investigation said. The blurring of identities and
organizations meant that it was impossible for the
prisoners, or, significantly, the military policemen
on duty, to know who was doing what to whom, and who
had the authority to give orders. Civilian employees
at the prison were not bound by the Uniform Code of
Military Justice, but they were bound by civilian
law—though it is unclear whether American or Iraqi law
would apply.

One of the employees involved in the interrogations at
Abu Ghraib, according to the Taguba report, was Steven
Stefanowicz, a civilian working for CACI
International, a Virginia-based company. Private
companies like CACI and Titan Corp. could pay salaries
of well over a hundred thousand dollars for the
dangerous work in Iraq, far more than the Army pays,
and were permitted, as never before in U.S. military
history, to handle sensitive jobs. (In a briefing last
week, General Miller confirmed that Stefanowicz had
been reassigned to administrative duties. A CACI
spokeswoman declined to comment on any employee in
Iraq, citing safety concerns, but said that the
company still had not heard anything directly from the
government about Stefanowicz.)

Stefanowicz and his colleagues conducted most, if not
all, of their interrogations in the Abu Ghraib
facilities known to the soldiers as the Wood Building
and the Steel Building. The interrogation centers were
rarely visited by the M.P.s, a source familiar with
the investigation said. The most important
prisoners—the suspected insurgency members deemed to
be High Value Detainees—were housed at Camp Cropper,
near the Baghdad airport, but the pressure on soldiers
to accede to requests from military intelligence was
felt throughout the system.

Not everybody went along. A company captain in a
military-police unit in Baghdad told me last week that
he was approached by a junior intelligence officer who
requested that his M.P.s keep a group of detainees
awake around the clock until they began talking. “I
said, ‘No, we will not do that,’” the captain said.
“The M.I. commander comes to me and says, ‘What is the
problem? We’re stressed, and all we are asking you to
do is to keep them awake.’ I ask, ‘How? You’ve
received training on that, but my soldiers don’t know
how to do it. And when you ask an eighteen-year-old
kid to keep someone awake, and he doesn’t know how to
do it, he’s going to get creative.’” The M.I. officer
took the request to the captain’s commander, but, the
captain said, “he backed me up.

“It’s all about people. The M.P.s at Abu Ghraib were
failed by their commanders—both low-ranking and high,”
the captain said. “The system is broken—no doubt about
it. But the Army is made up of people, and we’ve got
to depend on them to do the right thing.”

In his report, Taguba strongly suggested that there
was a link between the interrogation process in
Afghanistan and the abuses at Abu Ghraib. A few months
after General Miller’s report, Taguba wrote, General
Sanchez, apparently troubled by reports of wrongdoing
in Army jails in Iraq, asked Army Provost Marshal
Donald Ryder, a major general, to carry out a study of
military prisons. In the resulting study, which is
still classified, Ryder identified a conflict between
military policing and military intelligence dating
back to the Afghan war. He wrote, “Recent intelligence
collection in support of Operation Enduring Freedom
posited a template whereby military police actively
set favorable conditions for subsequent interviews.”

One of the most prominent prisoners of the Afghan war
was John Walker Lindh, the twenty-one-year-old
Californian who was captured in December, 2001. Lindh
was accused of training with Al Qaeda terrorists and
conspiring to kill Americans. A few days after his
arrest, according to a federal-court affidavit filed
by his attorney, James Brosnahan, a group of armed
American soldiers “blindfolded Mr. Lindh, and took
several pictures of Mr. Lindh and themselves with Mr.
Lindh. In one, the soldiers scrawled ‘shithead’ across
Mr. Lindh’s blindfold and posed with him. . . .
Another told Mr. Lindh that he was ‘going to hang’ for
his actions and that after he was dead, the soldiers
would sell the photographs and give the money to a
Christian organization.” Some of the photographs later
made their way to the American media. Lindh was later
stripped naked, bound to a stretcher with duct tape,
and placed in a windowless shipping container. Once
again, the affidavit said, “military personnel
photographed Mr. Lindh as he lay on the stretcher.” On
July 15, 2002, Lindh agreed to plead guilty to
carrying a gun while serving in the Taliban and
received a twenty-year jail term. During that process,
Brosnahan told me, “the Department of Defense insisted
that we state that there was ‘no deliberate’
mistreatment of John.” His client agreed to do so,
but, the attorney noted, “Against that, you have that
photograph of a naked John on that stretcher.”

The photographing of prisoners, both in Afghanistan
and in Iraq, seems to have been not random but,
rather, part of the dehumanizing interrogation
process. The Times published an interview last week
with Hayder Sabbar Abd, who claimed, convincingly, to
be one of the mistreated Iraqi prisoners in the Abu
Ghraib photographs. Abd told Ian Fisher, the Times
reporter, that his ordeal had been recorded, almost
constantly, by cameras, which added to his
humiliation. He remembered how the camera flashed
repeatedly as soldiers told to him to masturbate and
beat him when he refused.

One lingering mystery is how Ryder could have
conducted his review last fall, in the midst of the
prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, without managing to
catch it. (Ryder told a Pentagon press briefing last
week that his trip to Iraq “was not an inspection or
an investigation. . . . It was an assessment.”) In his
report to Sanchez, Ryder flatly declared that “there
were no military police units purposely applying
inappropriate confinement practices.” Willie J.
Rowell, who served for thirty-six years as an agent of
the C.I.D., told me that Ryder was in a bureaucratic
bind. The Army had revised its command structure last
fall, and Ryder, as provost marshal, was now the
commanding general of all military-police units as
well as of the C.I.D. He was, in essence, being asked
to investigate himself. “What Ryder should have done
was set up a C.I.D. task force headed by an 0-6”—full
colonel—“with fifteen agents, and begin interviewing
everybody and taking sworn statements,” Rowell said.
“He had to answer questions about the prisons in
September, when Sanchez asked for an assessment.” At
the time, Rowell added, the Army prison system was
unprepared for the demands the insurgency placed on
it. “Ryder was a man in a no-win situation,” Rowell
said. “As provost marshal, if he’d turned a C.I.D.
task force loose, he could be in harm’s way—because
he’s also boss of the military police. He was being
eaten alive.”

Ryder may have protected himself, but Taguba did not.
“He’s not regarded as a hero in some circles in the
Pentagon,” a retired Army major general said of
Taguba. “He’s the guy who blew the whistle, and the
Army will pay the price for his integrity. The
leadership does not like to have people make bad news

Posted by richard at May 10, 2004 10:42 AM