Karpinski Busted Back for Abu Ghraib, Right? Wrong

By Leon Worden
Signal Multimedia Editor

Saturday, May 7, 2005

*MEDIA—MANDATORY CREDIT: The Signal newspaper of Santa Clarita, Calif.

ews organizations around the world, citing anonymous Army officials who refused to give their names, reported Thursday that President Bush approved the demotion of Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski to colonel because she failed to properly supervise guards who abused detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in the fall of 2003.
    Two weeks earlier, quoting similarly anonymous Army sources, those same world-wide news organizations reported that the Army inspector general was holding only one top officer — Karpinski — accountable for the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib.
    Around the world, particularly in the Arab world, the stories sent the message that finally, the United States was holding a commander responsible. Finally, someone in a position of authority would be punished. Finally, there would be justice.
    The trouble is, it wasn't true.
    Oh, the Army inspector general singled out Karpinski for disciplinary action, all right.
    And yes, Bush demoted Karpinski on the basis of the Army IG's recommendation.
    But it wasn't for Abu Ghraib. It was unrelated.
    In fact, the Army inspector general — a summary of whose report was released Thursday — exonerated her of any wrongdoing at Abu Ghraib, right along with the rest of the generals in the chain of command.
    "Though Brig. Gen. Karpinski's performance of duty was found to be seriously lacking," the summary said, "the investigation team determined that no action or lack of action on her part contributed specifically to the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib."
    Now, wait a minute. Isn't this the same Karpinski who was criticized a year ago, when Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba investigated her 800th Military Police Brigade, for failing to properly train her soldiers or "remind (them) of the requirements of the Geneva Conventions?"
    Yes, it is the same Karpinski.
    But a year and nine more investigations later, the two charges that were related to her performance in Iraq — "making a material misrepresentation to an investigating team" (Taguba believed she misstated the frequency of her visits to the various prisons) and "failure to obey a lawful order" (Taguba believed she disobeyed orders for disciplining officers and senior NCOs) — were found to be unsubstantiated.
    Why, then, was she busted back to colonel?
    For other reasons.
    The Army inspector general found two different charges to be substantiated. One involved an incident in 2002 when then-Col. Karpinski was supposedly arrested for shoplifting a $22 bottle of perfume from a civilian-run department store on an Air Force base in Florida. Karpinski has said it never happened.
    Even if it did, the Army didn't have a problem with it at the time. In June 2003, a year later, President Bush approved her promotion to general.
    Now, it's cited as the reason he is busting her back.
    That and a broad, unspecified claim of dereliction of duty.
    While this claim remains to be explained — it may have to wait for the release of the complete Army IG report — all that's officially known is what it's not.
    "No action or lack of action on her part contributed specifically to the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib."
    So here we are, a year after the world press learned of the abuse of Iraqi detainees in U.S. custody. Despite what the world press might tell you today, the United States government has demoted no general officer and has accepted no consequences at the level of general officer or above, for the abuses at Abu Ghraib.