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Loyalty to the truth will be punished comrade
June 16, 2007 3:01 PM   Subscribe

How General Antonio Taguba, who investigated the Abu Ghraib scandal, became one of its casualties. Whether the President was told about Abu Ghraib in January (when e-mails informed the Pentagon of the seriousness of the abuses and of the existence of photographs) or in March (when Taguba filed his report), Bush made no known effort to forcefully address the treatment of prisoners before the scandal became public, or to reëvaluate the training of military police and interrogators, or the practices of the task forces that he had authorized. Instead, Bush acquiesced in the prosecution of a few lower-level soldiers. The President’s failure to act decisively resonated through the military chain of command: aggressive prosecution of crimes against detainees was not conducive to a successful career. In January of 2006, Taguba received a telephone call from General Richard Cody, the Army’s Vice-Chief of Staff. “This is your Vice,” he told Taguba. “I need you to retire by January of 2007.” No pleasantries were exchanged, although the two generals had known each other for years, and, Taguba said, “He offered no reason.” (A spokesperson for Cody said, “Conversations regarding general officer management are considered private personnel discussions. General Cody has great respect for Major General Taguba as an officer, leader, and American patriot.”) “They always shoot the messenger,” Taguba told me. “To be accused of being overzealous and disloyal—that cuts deep into me. I was being ostracized for doing what I was asked to do.”
posted by caddis (44 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is a very good, and very sad, article.
posted by Malor at 4:38 PM on June 16, 2007


Whoever becomes President in '08 is going to have a major job on their hands cleaning all of Bush's corrupted and (demonstrably!) incompetent yes-men out of the military.

Carter did something like that with the CIA when he took office, and according to Kevin Phillips, those fired ops are the people who helped orchestrate the arms deal with the Iranians to hold on to the hostages which got Reagan elected, and led to the Iran-Contra scandal. I believe he also gives them a role in subsequent Republican subversions of presidential elections.

And firing the military might also have been the worst US blunder of the Iraq occupation.

If the new President gets rid of a bunch of officers from the military, where will they end up? working for Blackwater or some other merc outfit? How much damage do you think those guys could do around the world?

Or here.
posted by jamjam at 4:50 PM on June 16, 2007


I agree, Malor. The thing that struck me first was that Taguba was well aware in the early stages of his work that if he passed this information down the line to those that worked for him, their positions would be in jeopardy. I think what he meant was their positions would ALSO be in jeopardy. He knew EXACTLY what cards he was dealt from the git-go, and chose to limit the blood loss down his own personal chain of command. In other words, at least for his own unit, he accepted that the buck was going to stop with him.
posted by Penny Wise at 5:03 PM on June 16, 2007


It's funny...if an officer actually lives up to 'duty, honor, country," he or she finds themselves driven out of the service.

Makes you wonder , if the explicitly stated values aren't just lies.

That must be a terrible feeling, to realize that you have made significant sacrifices, and put your life on the line, for an institution that does not live up to its own standards.

Taguba got a raw deal.
posted by wuwei at 5:17 PM on June 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Whoever becomes President in '08 is going to have a major job on their hands cleaning all of Bush's corrupted and (demonstrably!) incompetent yes-men out of the military."

"Yes-men" in the military? I don't care how many centuries of military men you are talking about, jamjam, but there is a reason we all relate to "Aye Aye, Captain" and "YES, sir!!"
posted by Penny Wise at 5:19 PM on June 16, 2007


Yeah, the guy's an example of all the best military virtues. And while the military has its own bad guys and its vices, I think it really takes malevolent and insidious civilian control to systemically undermine those virtues. Between Rumsfeld and the neocon cabal at the Pentagon and the damage that this Iraq occupation is doing, I worry that the US military is weakened and corrupted far worse than any time in modern history, probably much worse than during Vietnam.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 5:22 PM on June 16, 2007


Ugh...
posted by ddf at 5:28 PM on June 16, 2007


The "explicitely stated values" are those values that you WANT to stand for and WANT to live by, wuwei. In personal terms, we might call them beliefs we hold most dear to ourselves....Things that we WANT to define us, yet not necessarily things that do define us in every action we take. More's the pity for that.
posted by Penny Wise at 5:42 PM on June 16, 2007


Or not?
posted by Penny Wise at 5:52 PM on June 16, 2007


Fucking war criminal motherfucking pieces of shit.

This article has me shaking with fury, and makes me wish that Rumsfeld would be brought to the gallows, in chains, to pay for his fucking crimes.

I am deeply ashamed to be an American right at this moment.
posted by dbiedny at 5:57 PM on June 16, 2007


One of the saddest legacies of the Bush years is going to be the way his reign of error has systematically bankrupted the very idea of patriotism. It's become synonymous with unblinking loyalty to a cabal of thugs. It used to mean pride in one's national institutions, respect for one's fellow citizens and a deep sense of obligation to devote oneself to the protection of both. After seven years of "L’État, c’est moi", we are left with a meat-grinder, plutocrat's war and a sorely impoverished national conversation.

All those kids who threw themselves into harm's way after September 11th have been betrayed so that Bush and his buddies could make some serious money. And those of their commanders who held onto a sense of personal honor and respect for the constitution have been mocked and tossed aside. Half of this administration's strategy seems to have been to empower savage bastards and the other half seems to have been to exploit decency wherever it could.

Is the far-right the only sector in American society that didn't respond to 9/11 with some sort of patriotic selflessness? How else to explain this unremitting stream of filth, this corruption of the very ties that bind American society together?
posted by felix betachat at 6:09 PM on June 16, 2007 [9 favorites]


Abu Graib was a deeply sad moment for me, dbiedny, but not a moment that made me ashamed to be American. It made me sad for humans.
posted by Penny Wise at 6:24 PM on June 16, 2007


I would love to see us talk about patriotism and loyalty in light of THIS particular article and THIS particular post.

Come on, folks. We all know each other's politics about now. Let's get past that as best we can to at least have a stimulating, focused discussion on the content of said article and post.
posted by Penny Wise at 7:23 PM on June 16, 2007


Whenever I read these things, I am torn between two opposing feelings: One, I am saddened that justice has not been served, that someone who is relatively innocent has been punished for doing their best, that a guy who excelled in doing something for what he perceived to be the benefit of others has had a career cut short, and so forth.

On the other hand, there's part of me that says, "HA! You thought you were so patriotic and superior, looking down at us mere civilians who didn't serve, you sat around at the mess hall and held forth that people who didn't serve in the military shouldn't even have citizenship, well, this kind of crap is exactly why so many of us commiehippiepinkofags despise the military and the way you say things like, 'If it wasn't for soldiers, you wouldn't even be alive!' You served the Big Machine, and now it has chewed you up and chucked you out. I hope your disillusionment eats you to the very bone."

It's hard to know which one I should let win.
posted by adipocere at 7:43 PM on June 16, 2007 [3 favorites]


adipocere: How about a little from column A and a little from column B?
posted by puke & cry at 8:05 PM on June 16, 2007


What makes this even more ironic is that Taguba's a Filipino-American.

You know, the Philippines, the place we occupied in part by means of various war crimes against brown people, in a previous fit of imperialism?
posted by orthogonality at 8:25 PM on June 16, 2007


orthogonality, you should know better than to bring up the past in regards to a subject of historic proportions. Tisk tisk.
posted by nola at 9:19 PM on June 16, 2007


“Abu Graib was a deeply sad moment for me, dbiedny, but not a moment that made me ashamed to be American. It made me sad for humans.”

It made me slightly ashamed to be an American. And then the official reaction and the conservative reaction to it made me very ashamed to be an American and led me to consider, for the first time in my life, leaving the country out of disgust. Many liberal democracies might find themselves in conditions where a few people do with official sanction what those MPs did. Far fewer will brush aside the photos we've seen as "only abuse" that's "necessary" committed against people who "probably deserved it anyway".
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:21 PM on June 16, 2007


The biggest idiocy is that all of the major Democratic candidates are listening to centrist advisors who are telling them not to use this kind of stuff in their campaigns.

Astonishingly stupid.
posted by mediareport at 9:24 PM on June 16, 2007


“You know, the Philippines, the place we occupied in part by means of various war crimes against brown people, in a previous fit of imperialism?”

As you know, it's not a single fit of imperialism, but over a hundred years worth, with many of the non-modern actions as brutal as they come. Perhaps the historical standard allows for such brutality, but not, I think, such a long and consistent history of it and imperial domination.

And yet, it seems to me that the Philippines, though having a strong undercurrent of anti-US resentment and hatred, don't hate the US as much as they ought simply because in modern times, the Japanese were much worse and made the US look like the good guys in comparison.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:29 PM on June 16, 2007


I wonder if a similar comparison will be made in Iraq? After America, Iran, if they are careful, might not look so bad to Iraqis.
posted by srboisvert at 1:52 AM on June 17, 2007


the most important paragraph is the last one:

“From the moment a soldier enlists, we inculcate loyalty, duty, honor, integrity, and selfless service,” Taguba said. “And yet when we get to the senior-officer level we forget those values. I know that my peers in the Army will be mad at me for speaking out, but the fact is that we violated the laws of land warfare in Abu Ghraib. We violated the tenets of the Geneva Convention. We violated our own principles and we violated the core of our military values. The stress of combat is not an excuse, and I believe, even today, that those civilian and military leaders responsible should be held accountable.”

That's a retired Army general calling former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld a war criminal, an Army general, not some hippie on the internets.
posted by geos at 4:15 AM on June 17, 2007


The United States: We're The Good Guys (when you compare us to other 19th to early 20th century colonial powers).
posted by psmealey at 4:18 AM on June 17, 2007


adipocere: If there's anything the past few years have made me wonder it's if we'd be in this mess today if America had some sort of mandatory enlistment/civil service like some European countries do.

As an aside, is that a position that Taguba has taken?
posted by kableh at 7:53 AM on June 17, 2007


I've been staring, numb, at this article since yesterday. I'm not really sure how to respond to it. Am I cynical because I believe that nothing, literally nothing will cause the still-faithful to reconsider their support of this administration and the machine that birthed it? Am I cynical because I believe that the people who read it have either already decided to oppose these trends or already bought into the narrative that 'Anything is justified to save our skins?'

Am I cynical because I believe this man will be eaten alive in the public sphere by a well-oiled noise machine, primed to label anyone who dissents from the Eternal War By Any Means party line, and label them an embittered ex-employee trying to score points and land a book deal?

"Surely, this will..."
posted by verb at 8:29 AM on June 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


wonder [...] if we'd be in this mess today if America had some sort of mandatory enlistment/civil service like some European countries do.

I've been advocating this for the US and Canada for some time. Not necessarily a military requirement, but a year of either military service, or paid work to make the country a better place, or expenses-covered volunteerism that benefits their community.
posted by Kickstart70 at 8:34 AM on June 17, 2007


Am I cynical because I believe this man will be eaten alive in the public sphere by a well-oiled noise machine, primed to label anyone who dissents from the Eternal War By Any Means party line, and label them an embittered ex-employee trying to score points and land a book deal?


personally, i think it will just be ignored. abu ghraib is old news. our enlightened rulers already failed both the moral and pragmatic tests when abu ghraib faded away years ago: profound lawlessness and moral depravity is now firmly entrenched in our state.

i don't say that lightly, that is the implication of that last paragraph from taguba. you don't get two stars without being able to hold your nose and keep your mouth shut; the stink must be that bad...
posted by geos at 9:03 AM on June 17, 2007


It is nice to blame our leaders for Abu Ghraib and the lack of responsibility there, but let us not forget who re-elected those leaders and who allowed the story to slip off the front pages unfinished. The American people have failed the American people even more than their leaders have. It's nice to blame Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld, but if there were a significant display of mobilized outrage the system would have no choice but to throw them to the wolves. There isn't such outrage, so they remain in power and as someone pointed out, the "opposition party" is too afraid of offending Americans to even bring the subject up.

This is not simply a failure of leadership. It is a failure of citizenship.
posted by Legomancer at 9:58 AM on June 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


If there's anything the past few years have made me wonder it's if we'd be in this mess today if America had some sort of mandatory enlistment/civil service like some European countries do.

The draft did such a great job of preventing atrocities in Vietnam after all.
posted by srboisvert at 10:48 AM on June 17, 2007


The draft did such a great job of preventing atrocities in Vietnam after all.

If people like George W. Bush (and his party hearty friends) were in Vietnam it might have ended alot sooner. But that's the problem with these 'national service' things, Barbara Bush is never going to let the scion of the family clean up trash in South Central LA much less die in some swamp in Asia. There are always ways out for those with the pull... so whatever national service program you propose by the time anyone actually signs up there will be safe/easy berths for the well-connected, and what's left: conscripted labor from youth. Hooray!
posted by geos at 11:25 AM on June 17, 2007


Executive summary and key excerpts from the Taguba report [PDF].
posted by kirkaracha at 11:53 AM on June 17, 2007


Sey Hersh interview on CNN.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:32 PM on June 17, 2007


i sing of Olaf glad and big
A Poem by e. e. cummings

i sing of Olaf glad and big
whose warmest heart recoiled at war:
a conscientious object-or

his wellbelovéd colonel (trig
westpointer most succinctly bred)
took erring Olaf soon in hand;
but—though an host of overjoyed
noncoms (first knocking on the head
him) do through icy waters roll
that helplessness which others stroke
with brushes recently employed
anent this muddy toiletbowl,
while kindred intellects evoke
allegiance per blunt instruments—
Olaf (being to all intents
a corpse and wanting any rag
upon what God unto him gave)
responds, without getting annoyed
"I will not kiss your fucking flag"

straightaway the silver bird looked grave
(departing hurriedly to shave)

but-though all kinds of officers
(a yearning nation's blueeyed pride)
their passive prey did kick and curse
until for wear their clarion
voices and boots were much the worse,
and egged the firstclassprivates on
his rectum wickedly to tease
by means of skillfully applied
bayonets roasted hot with heat—
Olaf (upon what were once knees)
does almost ceaselessly repeat
"there is some shit I will not eat"

our president,being of which
assertions duly notified
threw the yellowsonofabitch
into a dungeon,where he died

Christ (of His mercy infinite)
i pray to see;and Olaf,too

preponderatingly because
unless statistics lie he was
more brave than me:more blond than you
posted by taosbat at 10:58 PM on June 17, 2007


There are always ways out for those with the pull...

Is that really true ever elsewhere that has mandatory service? I doubt it's true in Israel, but perhaps that's a bad example.

Excepting perhaps Israel, I don't doubt, however, that everywhere else where there is mandatory service, the rich and powerful often end up with cushy, low-risk placements.

But that's still better than the here and now.

I personally think that, somehow, the political leaders who make the decisions to fight wars should personally bear some of the risk of war. For some, it might mean military service during the war. For others, a financial risk. Hell, I don't know. But it's perverse that the people who decide to go to war are the people who usually have the least personally to lose (and that includes financial stuff because the politicians are always going to be able to find ways to profit from war via their control of spending, ethics laws notwithstanding).

Let's have senior members in Congress and in the Executive branch have to serve a rotating two-weeks with a patrol in Baghdad or similar. Then let's see how eager they are to go to war. (I know this is unrealistic as stated for any number of reasons.)
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:10 PM on June 17, 2007


I personally think that, somehow, the political leaders who make the decisions to fight wars should personally bear some of the risk of war. For some, it might mean military service during the war. For others, a financial risk. Hell, I don't know. But it's perverse that the people who decide to go to war are the people who usually have the least personally to lose...

Ethereal Bligh, our leaders of today were born to rule, not serve, the people.
posted by taosbat at 11:20 PM on June 17, 2007


I think a universal draft into national service, whether the military or something like AmeriCorps or whatever, would be a saving grace for citizens of the USA. It'll never happen, the rich have 'other priorities.'
posted by taosbat at 11:44 PM on June 17, 2007


I think a universal draft into national service...oops!

With a universal "GI Bill" to be sure.
posted by taosbat at 11:52 PM on June 17, 2007


Some more tidbits from the article that I should have put into the first comment:

Taguba got a different message, however, from other officers, among them General John Abizaid, then the head of Central Command. A few weeks after his report became public, Taguba, who was still in Kuwait, was in the back seat of a Mercedes sedan with Abizaid. Abizaid’s driver and his interpreter, who also served as a bodyguard, were in front. Abizaid turned to Taguba and issued a quiet warning: “You and your report will be investigated.”

...

Taguba’s assignment was limited to investigating the 800th M.P.s, but he quickly found signs of the involvement of military intelligence—both the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, commanded by Colonel Thomas Pappas, which worked closely with the M.P.s, and what were called “other government agencies,” or O.G.A.s, a euphemism for the C.I.A. and special-operations units operating undercover in Iraq

....

Nevertheless: Taguba came to believe that Lieutenant General Sanchez, the Army commander in Iraq, and some of the generals assigned to the military headquarters in Baghdad had extensive knowledge of the abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib even before Joseph Darby came forward with the CD. Taguba was aware that in the fall of 2003—when much of the abuse took place—Sanchez routinely visited the prison, and witnessed at least one interrogation. According to Taguba, “Sanchez knew exactly what was going on.”... Despite the subsequent public furor over Abu Ghraib, neither the House nor the Senate Armed Services Committee hearings led to a serious effort to determine whether the scandal was a result of a high-level interrogation policy that encouraged abuse.

Plus, he essentially accused the participants of committing war crimes and Rumsfeld of lying to congress. I would like to see Rummy in an orange jump suit. I wonder what the statute of limitations is on lying to congress?

The whole Bush administration stinks like the Communist USSR. Loyalty to truth, justice and one's country are punished. What is rewarded is loyalty not to the USA but to the Bush administration. Ugh.
posted by caddis at 8:03 AM on June 18, 2007


“I believe, even today, that those civilian and military leaders responsible should be held accountable.”

Be nice if that happened. That’d require action from the civilian leadership. I don’t see that happening any time soon. And there are a whole lot of new obsticles impeding a redress of grievances from the people, not just the ‘free speech zones’ and such.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:51 AM on June 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


"I sent that link to my mom," the baby jeebus cried!
posted by taosbat at 8:35 PM on June 18, 2007


Hersh is on Democracy Now today (as is Malalai Joya).
posted by homunculus at 1:30 PM on June 19, 2007


My mom printed it out and gave it to her friends.
posted by taosbat at 6:34 PM on June 19, 2007


&, she sent me this link.
posted by taosbat at 11:27 PM on June 19, 2007


Robert Gates and the Tortured World of American Intelligence (Part 1)

The CIA and the Politics of Counterrevolution (Part 2)
posted by homunculus at 2:54 PM on June 21, 2007


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