Wednesday, May 05, 2004

The Taguba Report, Part 2

So, about the substance of the Taguba Report:

I like this Major General Antonio M. Taguba. He pulls no punches. Once you get past the forest of military acronyms in his report, it's fairly easy to figure out what happened and what he thinks of it. The overall picture is of a criminally dysfunctional and incompetent chain of command in which soldiers at the lowest levels were essentially on their own. Here are some points that seem especially relevant, drawn out with substantial assistance from the Respectful of Otters Military Advisory Board:

1. In August and September, a Major General Miller conducted a study to "review current Iraqi Theater ability to rapidly exploit internees for actionable intelligence." Miller said that "“it is essential that the [Military Police] guard force be actively engaged in setting the conditions for successful exploitation of the internees.”

2. In October and November - just when the worst abuses were happening at Abu Ghraib - a Major General Ryder conducted a major analysis of detention and corrections in Iraq. He failed to uncover the abuse, but all the same he explicitly said that MPs should not participate in interrogations and not be asked to "set conditions" for interrogation, because those actions "run counter to the smooth operation of a detention facility."

3. No one seems to have noticed that Miller's and Ryder's recommendations were contradictory. Military Intelligence personnel at Abu Ghraib appear to have been following Miller's recommendations when they urged MPs to "set the conditions" for interrogation. No one in the chain of command for the MP Bridgade seems to have told the MPs whether or not they should assist MI.

4. An order was given in November 2003 that appears to have actually placed the MP units at Abu Ghraib under the tactical command and authority of MI officers. Taguba says: "This is not doctrinally sound due to the different missions and agendas assigned to each of these respective specialties."

5. The commanders of the MP and MI units at Abu Ghraib didn't work together at all. Taguba: "There was no clear delineation of responsibility between commands, little coordination at the command level, and no integration of the two functions. Coordination occurred at the lowest possible levels with little oversight by commanders." So, essentially, the critical judgments about how MPs should assist MI and which tactics were acceptable for "setting conditions" were being made by the lowest-level personnel, because no one higher up in the chain of command cared to involve themselves.

6. The command structure of the 800th MP Brigade was totally and horrifically buggered. Just one example: one of the Battalion Commanders was so incredibly incompetent that General Karpinski sent him to Kuwait for two weeks to give him (and presumably everyone else) a break from the strain of command. She put another Battalion Commander in his place temporarily. Except: she didn't write any orders relieving the first guy of command or putting the second guy in place. She didn't notify any of her superiors about the change. She didn't notify any of the soldiers in the battalion that they had a new commander. Taguba, who must have been bleeding from the eardrums at that point: "Temporarily removing one commander and replacing him with another serving Battalion Commander without an order and without notifying superior or subordinate commands is without precedent in my military career."

7. General Karpinski rarely, if ever, visited the prisons she commanded. She made no effort to secure appropriate training for her troops and failed to provide them with anything like clear instructions on how to perform their duties. When interviewed by Taguba, she blamed everyone else in the world except herself. Taguba: "What I found particularly disturbing in her testimony was her complete unwillingness to either understand or accept that many of the problems inherent in the 800th MP Brigade were caused or exacerbated by poor leadership and the refusal of her command to both establish and enforce basic standards and principles among its soldiers."

8. There were multiple indications that the MP Brigade wasn't operating as it should - lots of people being reprimanded or punished for various infractions, prisoner escapes and riots, complaints about the incompetence of officers, morale problems. There is no indication whatsoever that any of the officers responsible for the brigade responded to any of these problems.

9. Everybody realized that the MPs weren't trained to do what they were being asked to do. There were various training resources available from different Army schools and organizations, but none of the officers made use of them. Instead, they simply encouraged the low-level MPs who had been civilian prison guards to teach the others - and let the MI guys come up with their own rules for how MPs should handle "special cases" being held for interrogation.

10. Taguba: "I find that there is sufficient credible information to warrant an Inquiry UP Procedure 15, AR 381-10, US Army Intelligence Activities, be conducted to determine the extent of culpability of MI personnel, assigned to the 205th MI Brigade and the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center (JIDC) at Abu Ghraib (BCCF). Specifically, I suspect that COL Thomas M. Pappas, LTC Steve L. Jordan, Mr. Steven Stephanowicz, and Mr. John Israel were either directly or indirectly responsible for the abuses at Abu Ghraib (BCCF) and strongly recommend immediate disciplinary action as described in the preceding paragraphs as well as the initiation of a Procedure 15 Inquiry to determine the full extent of their culpability."

My Military Advisory Board tells me that courts-martial of intelligence personnel are kept secret, so the fact that we've only heard about MPs being court-martialed doesn't mean that the MI guys are escaping prosecution. On the other hand, they might be. There's no way for us to know.