Thursday, August 26, 2004

Pentagon faulted in abuse

The buck continues to stay on the low-level soldiers caught up in this mess. No doubt, their actions deserve punishment, but at some point accountability must move up the chain of command. Whatever happened to the captain going down with the ship?

Editorial, Sun Journal, Aug. 26:

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld did not directly order the abuse of prisoners that occurred at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. But his policies led to confusion and indirectly contributed to the beatings, humiliation and torture of prisoners in U.S. military custody.A damaging report released Tuesday by a group of independent civilian defense experts tasked by the Pentagon to investigate Abu Ghraib found that the soldiers running the prison and their commanding officers were mostly to blame for the abuse.The report, however, goes further. It traces the root of the problem up the chain of command and back to Washington."The abuses were not just the failure of some individuals to follow known standards, and they are more than the failure of a few leaders to enforce proper discipline. There is both institutional and personal responsibility at higher levels," the report says.Meanwhile, the soldiers involved in this disgusting affair face criminal proceedings. Already, seven have been charged, and reports suggest more than 20 others - including doctors and medics, who may have violated their professional oath and helped cover up abuse and falsify death certificates, and civilian contractors - will be prosecuted. Yet no senior military officer has been held accountable.What happened at Abu Ghraib goes beyond the soldiers who are facing court-martial. According to James Schlesinger, the former secretary of defense who heads the four-person panel, there are more than 300 cases of abuse being investigated, including events that happened in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.Schlesinger said that senior officials, including Rumsfeld, Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers and Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who commanded operations in Iraq, shouldn't be punished or forced to resign.We disagree. If fault can be traced up the chain of command, and Schlesinger says it can, punishment should follow.


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