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Interview with Abu Ghraib general
November 8, 2005 10:02 AM   Subscribe

"Demand the truth."
A stunningly detailed interview with (Abu-Ghraib-involved) former general Janis Karpinski.
(Interviewer: Diane Rehm.)
posted by Tlogmer (33 comments total)

 
I wish that I was in a situation where I could actually have my sound on. . . .
posted by Danf at 10:19 AM on November 8, 2005


I can't stand listening to Diane Rehm. Her speaking cadence is like a lurching jalopy...

Is there a transcript of the interview anywhere, I wonder?
posted by anthill at 10:19 AM on November 8, 2005


2005 Frontline interview with Karpinski

I assume the basis is somewhat similar. Quite damning of torture policies coming from the top ...
posted by mrgrimm at 10:30 AM on November 8, 2005


I see what you mean by Rehm. No disrespect intended to her, but her diction is terribly distracting.

Note that the WAMU page has a link to Karpinski's book as well.
posted by alumshubby at 10:30 AM on November 8, 2005


Holy sweet tapdancing Christ in a Chrysler... this is unlistenable. Anybody have a transcript/summary?
posted by basicchannel at 10:35 AM on November 8, 2005


I see what you mean by Rehm. No disrespect intended to her, but her diction is terribly distracting.

She had a stroke.
posted by SweetJesus at 10:36 AM on November 8, 2005


Looks like the Ms. Rehm has a medical problem of some kind:

"In 1998, her career nearly came to a halt because of a mysterious speech problem. She took a leave of absence from the show and saw specialist after specialist until, finally, she was diagnosed and treated for spasmodic dysphonia, a neurological disorder. Not one to be defeated, she returned to the show and made a point of bringing attention to the condition."
posted by Malor at 10:38 AM on November 8, 2005 [1 favorite]


And, you know, that's a damned shame. I don't blame her for having a seriously grating and distracting voice, but, you know, it's radio, for god's sake.

But then, I hated Bob Edwards, too.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:41 AM on November 8, 2005


She had a stroke.

That explains it. Like I said..no disrespect intended. It's not the sort of voice you expect to hear in radio, though.

Looking over the book reviews, I'm not sure I want to bother with the book -- it's over her entire career, and Abu Ghraib is merely the end of the story. Oh, well, there's always the library.
posted by alumshubby at 10:45 AM on November 8, 2005


Thanks, mrgrimm, that Frontline interview is incredible.
posted by anthill at 10:47 AM on November 8, 2005


MrMoonPie, hating Bob Edwards skirts perilously near heresy in my book. Infidel swine! :)
posted by Malor at 10:48 AM on November 8, 2005


She (Karpinski) was on The Daily Show last week. Blamed spooks and the military intelligence side of the army for all the abuses. She was so busy commanding an entire string of US military prisons in Iraq (not just Abu Ghraib) , she had no idea of the abuses that were happening in any one of them on any given day. "Big picture" person.

Probably unable to eat with a fork since her fingers are permanently locked in "point at someone else" mode.

Definitely makes you wonder whatever happened to the doctrine of command responsibility.
posted by Mike D at 10:54 AM on November 8, 2005


The last lines of the Frontline interview linked by mgrimm:

What happened to you? What did they do to you [after claiming she was the commander of the troops in Abu Ghraib]?

Oh, they just blamed me for everything -- silenced me, or attempted to silence me. Accused me of shoplifting in October of 2002 and used that as the reason to vacate my promotion to brigadier general, and have made me out to be a worthless, incapable leader. At the very beginning they were trying to make it appear like I had somehow crawled out from the back of a cave and said, "Make me a general, and I'll go to Iraq and fight this war." Baloney. I earned my promotions. I earned my promotions because I took the toughest jobs and was completely dedicated to the purpose of the Army Reserves and to the Army. And my soldiers throughout my career know that. I never had a bad day, ever, that involved a soldier.

And they can do whatever they want. They could make it appear any way they want. I will not be silenced, and I will continue to tell the truth. And I will continue to ask how they can continue to blame seven rogue soldiers on the night shift, when there is the preponderance of hard information from a variety of sources [that] says otherwise.


Thumbs up.
posted by anthill at 10:54 AM on November 8, 2005


Mike D, she's a big picture person because she's a general! The army has a chain of command for a reason. Blaming a bunch of privates for this, and then skipping every supervisor and commanding officer to next blame a general is pretty disingenous.

I'm inclined to believe her side of the story... simply because she's telling it.
posted by anthill at 10:59 AM on November 8, 2005


But President Bush said "We Do Not Torture."

Which sort of reminds me of "I am not a crook."

The way this has been played out, I might be a tad bitter, if I was this woman. Maybe she could have jumped in front of the train and made the situation turn out differently, but it would have taken heroism, while up to one's rear end in alligators, that few posess.
posted by Danf at 11:24 AM on November 8, 2005


Perhaps this will come true.
posted by caddis at 11:28 AM on November 8, 2005


I would definitely be interested in a transcript of the main interview, too. I can't listen to Rehm -- yeah, okay, she had a stroke, and it's very valiant of her to attempt to continue, I guess, but it makes really horrible radio.
The Frontline interview is interesting. There's always going to be that suspicion, Mike D, but I'm still pretty curious as to what she has to say now.
posted by blacklite at 11:39 AM on November 8, 2005


still interesting, one year and a half later:
In one sworn statement, Kasim Mehaddi Hilas, detainee number 151108, said he witnessed a translator referred to only as Abu Hamid raping a teenage boy. "I saw Abu Hamid, who was wearing the military uniform, putting his dick in the little kid's ass," Hilas testified. "The kid was hurting very bad." A female soldier took pictures of the rape, Hilas said.
(...)
Finally, after several beatings so severe that he lost consciousness, Waleed was forced to lay on the ground. "One of the police was pissing on me and laughing at me," the prisoner said. He was placed in a dark room and beaten with a broom. "And one of the police, he put a part of his stick that he always carries inside my ass, and I felt it going inside me about two centimeters, approximately. And I started screaming, "
(...)
In a series of increasingly desperate e-mails sent to his higher-ups, Maj. David DiNenna of the 320th MP Battalion reported that food delivered by private contractors was often inedible. "At least three to four times a week, the food cannot be served because it has bugs," DiNenna reported. "Today an entire compound of 500 prisoners could not be fed due to bugs and dirt in the food." Four days later, DiNenna sent another e-mail marked "URGENT URGENT URGENT!!!!!!!!" He reported that "for the past two days prisoners have been vomiting after they eat."
Osha Gray Davidson, "The Secret File of Abu Ghraib," Rolling Stone, 31 July 2004.
posted by matteo at 11:48 AM on November 8, 2005


"Mike D, she's a big picture person because she's a general! The army has a chain of command for a reason. Blaming a bunch of privates for this, and then skipping every supervisor and commanding officer to next blame a general is pretty disingenous."

Oh come on. I'm not saying she should sign off on every requisition for paper clips, but to claim -- as she did on TDS -- complete ignorance of an interrogation program under which a wholly separate authority worked in her prisons, and to the abusive extent as was revealed at Abu Ghraib, is a pretty hefty stretch of the credibility meter.

Are you asking me to believe that not one responsible subordinate (as in "possessed of a sense of responsibility") in the entire operational chain between her and the Lyndie Englands would have thought to suggest to the officer commanding that she might want to look into why the lights at Abu Ghraib went dim every quarter hour or so, night after night?
posted by Mike D at 11:55 AM on November 8, 2005


Mike D writes "Definitely makes you wonder whatever happened to the doctrine of command responsibility."

Honest question here:

Is it typical to hold a general responsible for the behavior of a small group of privates under her command? Wouldn't the buck typically stop at a much lower rank? The privates who have been court-martialed were certainly not under Karpinski's direct command, and there's no evidence that she had any knowledge of their bad behavior.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:03 PM on November 8, 2005


caddis, 'tis a consummation devoutly to be wish'd.
posted by alumshubby at 12:03 PM on November 8, 2005


Are you asking me to believe that not one responsible subordinate ... in the entire operational chain ... would have thought to suggest to the officer commanding that she might want to look into why the lights at Abu Ghraib went dim every quarter hour or so, night after night?

It seems to me every military scandal I've heard of involves surprisingly large numbers of soldiers who each individually decide to follow bad orders and enforce bad policies rather than to make waves. I was under the impression that wave-making wasn't exactly one of the core values instilled by military training. Why should I find this particular detail so hard to believe?

Perhaps more importantly, what end might we achieve by tearing down her character? What about this is really a character issue? Shouldn't we be more interested in confirmation or refutation of the factual claims she's making?
posted by Western Infidels at 1:06 PM on November 8, 2005


Two years ago, at Abu Ghraib prison, outside Baghdad, an Iraqi prisoner in Swanner’s custody, Manadel al-Jamadi, died during an interrogation. His head had been covered with a plastic bag, and he was shackled in a crucifixion-like pose that inhibited his ability to breathe; according to forensic pathologists who have examined the case, he asphyxiated. In a subsequent internal investigation, United States government authorities classified Jamadi’s death as a “homicide,” meaning that it resulted from unnatural causes. Swanner has not been charged with a crime and continues to work for the agency.

...

The Bush Administration has resisted disclosing the contents of two Justice Department memos that established a detailed interrogation policy for the Pentagon and the C.I.A. A March, 2003, classified memo was “breathtaking,” the same source said. The document dismissed virtually all national and international laws regulating the treatment of prisoners, including war-crimes and assault statutes, and it was radical in its view that in wartime the President can fight enemies by whatever means he sees fit. According to the memo, Congress has no constitutional right to interfere with the President in his role as Commander-in-Chief, including making laws that limit the ways in which prisoners may be interrogated. Another classified Justice Department memo, issued in August, 2002, is said to authorize numerous “enhanced” interrogation techniques for the C.I.A. These two memos sanction such extreme measures that, even if the agency wanted to discipline or prosecute agents who stray beyond its own comfort level, the legal tools to do so may no longer exist.


From the New Yorker

A CIA officer killed his prisoner, yet no charges have been filed, most likely so as not to raise the torture issue in the news. Meanwhile the administration pits itself against the Senate, including most Senate Republicans, on the issue of torture (of course they don't call it torture). Even if this passes and survives a veto, it appears that the administration is prepared to challenge it legally. When will the nightmare end?
posted by caddis at 1:09 PM on November 8, 2005


Definitely makes you wonder whatever happened to the doctrine of command responsibility.

Except that when you have a special access program running around in the prison system, it's kind of hard to accept responsibility. Can she be held responsible if she was deliberately misled by a covert op? Can she be held responsible for something that wasn't only her fault, but that she was actively deceived? Can she be held responsible for a program that she wasn't cleared for?
posted by solistrato at 1:28 PM on November 8, 2005


When will the nightmare end?

Caddis: Unfortunately, it just seems to keep getting worse.

Launch a serious investigatigation into the existence of the secret prisons? Nah. Let's just go after the rats who finked.

Welcome to the New World Order.
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 1:29 PM on November 8, 2005


"investigatigation" --> "investigation," naturally.
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 1:47 PM on November 8, 2005


"Definitely makes you wonder whatever happened to the doctrine of command responsibility.
posted by Mike D at 10:54 AM PST on November 8 [!]"


I see your point Mike D. But I'd ask that question from the reverse angle. What indeed did happen to that?
- pretty much what solistrato said.

I'd add - does the phrase "Don’t confuse my rank with my authority" strike a chord?


Give someone positional authority and you can end run the chain of command. That said, perhaps she should have covered her ass more. But she's literal minded. You can tell that from how she speaks. She's a general, not a bureaucrat.
We can lament there wasn't someone there who was on it, but I don't think we can fault her for catching one in the back.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:06 PM on November 8, 2005


Are you asking me to believe that not one responsible subordinate (as in "possessed of a sense of responsibility") in the entire operational chain between her and the Lyndie Englands would have thought to suggest to the officer commanding that she might want to look into why the lights at Abu Ghraib went dim every quarter hour or so, night after night?
posted by Mike D at 11:55 AM PST on November 8 [!]


Well, yes, MikeD, she explained that. Her troops were spread so thinly that there was no possible way of accounting for individual actions. And I've been there. People can really get their heads up their asses in those situations.

I was the guy scrawling "FTA" in the latrines, but I'm with Her Generalness with this one.
posted by snsranch at 4:59 PM on November 8, 2005


FTA?
posted by caddis at 5:01 PM on November 8, 2005


Ha! Fuck The Army!
posted by snsranch at 5:03 PM on November 8, 2005


The chain of command doesn't stop at brigadier general. It keeps going up.

Even if you're skeptical that she's completely innocent, many of her points make a great deal of sense.
But I can tell you that these soldiers, these MPs -- Lynndie England was not even an MP, nor was one of the other soldiers. He was a mechanic. OK, they were brought over there specifically to work with these, setting up these photographs and everything. Lynndie England might have been over there for a variety of reasons, but they were brought over there specifically that night. And I know, with no doubt, that these soldiers didn't wake up that morning and say: "Hey, let's go screw with some prisoners tonight. Let's take some pictures. Let's violate everything we know to be decent and correct and fair." Lynndie England surely did not show up in Iraq with a dog collar and a dog leash.

So those items either came from previous experience at other locations with interrogations, or other people with bizarre ideas brought those pieces of equipment independent of any instructions. But somebody who understood what humiliation is to an Arab person designed these techniques. And military police personnel [who Karpinski was in charge of] do not study the Arab mind. But my guess is that interrogators [administered seperately, but operating within Abu Ghraib] should or do; at least they know more, maybe from previous experience or otherwise. But somebody instructed this group of people on the night shift to do these things, and if they made them believe that it would take them out of Abu Ghraib or out of Iraq a day, even one day sooner than what the plan was, that would be incentive enough to get them to do it. I can't tell you specifically, because even though I've been held accountable for all of those soldiers' behavior, I never had the chance to speak to any one of them from when those pictures first surfaced.
posted by Tlogmer at 7:21 PM on November 8, 2005


I was the guy scrawling "FTA" in the latrines, but I'm with Her Generalness with this one.
posted by snsranch at 4:59 PM PST on November 8 [!]


That was you?
posted by Smedleyman at 9:21 PM on November 8, 2005


There is another interview with Ian Masters but I am getting
an error perhaps later we can here what she has to say.
posted by hortense at 10:35 PM on November 8, 2005


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