Thursday, May 05, 2005

US Military DOES NOT Tolerate Prisoner Abuse

Those who use "Abu Ghraib" and "military cover-up" in the same sentence have not been paying much attention to reality. President Bush today approved the demotion of Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski to the rank of Colonel for her lack of supervision in maintaining order and discipline among the troops under her command at Abu Ghraib.

According the the FoxNews story, the military has been busy taking care of prisoner abuse cases in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Although the media has concentrated on the enlisted reserve troops who were stupid enough to photograph their own dereliction of duty as they committed criminal offenses against Iraqi prisoners, many officers have been disciplined as well.

Consider the following:

Without providing their names, the Army also said Thursday that one colonel and two lieutenant colonels linked to detainee abuses in Iraq and Afghanistan were given unspecified administrative punishment. Also, two other lieutenant colonels were given letters of reprimand.

More than a dozen other lower-ranking officers, whose names were not released, also received various punishments.

- Three majors were given letters of reprimand and one of the three also was given an unspecified administrative punishment.

- Three captains have been court-martialed, one captain was given an other-than-honorable discharge from the Army, five captains received letters of reprimand and one was given an unspecified administrative punishment.

- Two first lieutenants have been court-martialed, another got a letter of reprimand and one was given administrative punishment.

- One second lieutenant was given an other-than-honorable discharge and another was given a letter of reprimand.

- Two chief warrant officers have been court-martialed.

The Army said other cases involving officers linked to detainee abuse are still open, but it did not say how many. Among the open cases are those of Col. Thomas Pappas, commander of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade at Abu Ghraib, and Lt. Col. Stephen Jordan, who directed the prison's interrogation center. Both face possible criminal charges, Army officials have said.

Most of these good officers did nothing wrong personally. But they have been held accountable for the behavior of others under their command. In the civilian world, punishing those who could in no way have known of or prevented the misconduct of others, would be seen as tacitly unfair, unjust and probably illegal.

In the military, however, it doesn't matter. If you were the immediate officer in charge, you are guilty. And often, the officer in charge of that officer is guilty also. In this manner, the unintentional mistakes or immature behavior of one or two young enlisted soldiers has frequently brought to an end the military careers of exceptional and promising career officers who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

An officer's value to the military increases exponentially as they reach the upper tiers of command. If a Colonel personally errs in some way it is not likely that, unless there was clear evidence of a failure of command, his/her commanding General will probably not be charged or disciplined.

This is not to be viewed as "protecting the big brass" from responsibility. On the contrary, it is just plain common sense.

The investment of time, money and experience in such an officer as well as the extremely high quality of leadership shown repeatedly over many years of dedicated and committed military service are not to be discarded simply to satisfy the demands of a blood-hungry, liberal press.

Unlike the "real" world, the US military does not tolerate incompetence. Its standards of conduct are almost unreachably high. The lives of thousands of good men and women hang in the balance every day, depending on the judgment of good, honest officers who they must be willing to follow without question, even into harm's way.

Bad stuff happens. Even in the military. But the military is very good at policing its own. Just ask former Brig. Gen. Janice Karpinski.