Editorial: Abu Ghraib swept under the carpet
We would have been hard pressed to think of a more sadly suitable coda to the Bush administration’s mishandling of the Abu Ghraib nightmare than Tuesday’s verdict in the court-martial of the only officer to be tried for the abuse, sexual assault and torture of prisoners that occurred there in 2003.
The verdict was a remix of the denial of reality and avoidance of accountability that the government has used all along to avoid the bitter truth behind Abu Ghraib: The abuses grew out of President Bush’s decision to ignore the Geneva Conventions and American law in handling prisoners after Sept. 11, 2001.
The man on trial, Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, was not a career officer. He was one of a multitude of reservists pressed into Iraq duty, many of them for jobs beyond their experience or abilities. A military jury of nine colonels and a brigadier general decided that he was not to blame for the failure to train or supervise the Abu Ghraib jailers and acquitted him on all charges related to the abuse. He was convicted only of disobeying an order to keep silent about Abu Ghraib. Even that drew only a reprimand, from an organization that Colonel Jordan presumably has no further interest in serving.
Our purpose is not to second-guess the verdict. Rather, we fear that this and the other Abu Ghraib trials have served no larger purpose than punishing 11 low-ranking soldiers who committed despicable acts. Not one officer has been punished beyond a reprimand, and there has been even less accountability at higher levels.
President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other top officials have long claimed that the abuses at Abu Ghraib were the disconnected acts of a small number of sociopaths. It’s clear that is not true.
Read the rest at the NY Times