The media seems to have come to terms with the fact that the identities of the “terrorists” in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and Afghanistan detention centers will not be revealed by the U.S. government. But will we accept the same attitude when it comes to the identities of the American soldiers responsible for detainee abuses? We saw the pictures of Abu Ghraib and someone had to be held accountable. We needed a scapegoat, and the media delivered. It seemed obvious to go with someone from the pictures. For well over a year, new cases of detainee abuse have continued to emerge. But any talk of recourse seems to lead back to Pfc. Lynndie England, her boyfriend, and a few of their friends. It’s a disturbingly simplistic and, in the end, incorrect equation. Yes, we’ve found a handful of low-ranking culprits, but it hardly accounts for the numerous and systematic abuses.
Reports of detainee abuse and torture in Guantanamo and other detention facilities in Afghanistan have been made widely available by Human Rights Watch, the Red Cross, Amnesty International, and numerous other human rights agencies. Investigations into the abuses by the U.S. government points to systematic abuses that have occurred in Guantanamo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. This isn’t just Abu Ghraib. Two of the most prominent reports that have emerged from internal investigations—the Fay Jones report and the Taguba report—point to higher-ups who had been investigated for questionable conduct, only to be relocated to different detainment facilities rather than being disciplined.
Any detainment center has a military police group (MP) unit and intelligence (MI) unit. In the case of Abu Ghraib, there were members of many other such units present. England’s unit, for instance, is an MP unit. As such, they were the guards of the jail cells. They were the ones told to “soften up” the prisoners for the interrogators, who were part of the intelligence units. Major General Geoffrey D. Miller, the general in charge of detention operations in Iraq at the time of the scandal, has denied encouraging military police to “prepare” detainees for interrogation. Yet he also states in a written report that it was “essential that the guard force be actively engaged in setting the conditions for successful operations.”
Some of the famous Abu Ghraib photos contain “unidentified” members of intelligence units along with the more famous members of England’s MP unit. England and the seven others now standing trial for abuses were not the high-ranking officers in charge of setting conduct guidelines and oversight. People like LTC Stephen Jordan were. Jordan was directing the interrogation debriefing center and, according to the Fay-Jones report, worked to mislead both the Taguba and Fay-Jones investigation. The Army reports also fingered Maj. David Price, Maj. Michael Thompson, and Capt. Carolyn Wood for negligence. But do a news search on these folks and you won’t come up with much. The only action taken on these three, along with many others implicated in the reports have received, is a recommendation that the information uncovered in the investigations be forwarded to the appropriate chain of command.
The Fay-Jones report makes clear that many units were at Abu Ghraib at the time of the Abu Ghraib photos-units that functioned as higher-ups. Units that laid the groundwork for the treatment of the prisoners. Seems rather suspect that only England’s unit (372nd MP CO.) has taken the fallout for the abuses.
It boggles the mind that the media hasn’t paid more attention the people implicated in the reports published by the Pentagon and the Army. They’re available online. Sure, they’re full of jargon and pretty boring, but I’m pretty bored of blaming England for the abuses that have occurred in Guantanamo, Afghanistan, and Abu Ghraib. Seven guards from Abu Ghraib just don’t explain abuses in Afghanistan, Guantanamo, and Iraq. It’s time for the media to hunker down and find the real story.