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Friday, 04 December, 2020

Troops Punished — Brass Slides

Date: 01 May, 2005

By: Chief

Imaget never fails. When a troop or troops screw up ... the troop or troops is or are punished. That is all well and good and as it should be, until Vietnam raised its ugly head and then everything went to hell in a hand-basket. However, what about those further up the chain of command? Shouldn't they be punished as well? You bloody well right they should be. In fact the senior people should be punished harder than the troop. Why? Because they — the seniors — in the chain of command are responsible for their personnel under them. That is also well and good and as it should be, until Vietnam raised its ugly head and then everything went to hell in a hand-basket. Hey, truth hurts.

There is absolutely no way on Earth that the NCOs, Staff NCOs, officers (a.k.a. zeros) and the civilian leadership of the Department of Defense (DOD) did not know what was going on. The highest ranking person to be convicted by court martial is one Staff Sergeant Ivan Frederick. He was sentenced to eight years confinement, reduction in rank, forfeiture of pay and a dishonorable discharge. Now that is tough.

I agree with the sentence completely.

What I do not agree with is all the personnel senior to Frederick have received either nothing or a slap on the wrist.

Of late is the final report from the Army's Office of the Inspector General, Lt. General Stanley E. Green, which — and isn't this lovely — clears all senior officers up to and including Lt. General Sanchez, Commander U.S. Forces Iraq, of any wrong-doing. Green concluded that the allegations against the officers were unsubstantiated. The Army, seeking to preserve the safety net accorded to all senior officers, whole heartedly embraced the report and further stated that no, and I say again for possible penetration, no officer who was investigated by General Green would be punished.

Now I admit that there are times when a troop screws up and is punished and the chain of command is not. An example would be if I clearly tell a troop to do 'X' and said troop decides on his own hook to do 'Y' for no valid reason said troop is going to fry. I would personally see to that. Another example would be if the unit is to be in formation at 'X' time and a troop decides he isn't going to show up because he needs another beer. Well, let me tell you that would be the last time the young trooper misses formation and quite possibly ever drinks. I do not have the time to deal with stupid antics. Neither does any other chief or senior NCO. Too many lives are at stake.

What happened at Abu Ghraib prison could not have happened without the explicit consent of the senior chain of command. And if by some strange chance it did happen, then the entire U.S. military chain of command does not work — at all. I quite seriously doubt the latter. Too many people were 'in' on the fun, if you will. Too many people from different units as well. No way could any chain of command not know what was going on. Secrets like that do not last long. Besides, they are 'filthy rag-heads' anyway. That is the main culprit. Bigotry.

What we do not understand ... we loathe.

Indeed, during Fredrick's trial a Warrant Officer from an intelligence unit was called to testify and an e-mail was read into evidence. Part of that email stated "The gloves are coming off, gentlemen, regarding these detainees." It added that the command "wants the detainees broken."

There is a plethora of law, rules and regulations about how prisoners are to be treated. It was annual mandatory training when I was in the service. Things like the Geneva Convention. DOD regulations. Service regulations. There are rules and regulations covering just about everything.

Yet no one in the senior chain of command knew anything about Abu Ghraib? Hogwash.

Another Army investigation which was finally made public last year was called the Kern-Fay-Jones report. It concluded that although Sanchez and his most senior deputies were not directly involved in the bases at Abu Ghraib their "action and inaction did indirectly contribute" to some abuses (quote from AP).

Furthermore Sanchez and his chief deputy, Maj. General Wojdakowski, were cited in the very same report for failure to:

"[E]nsure proper staff oversight of detention and interrogation operations" (in Iraq, specifically at the Abu Ghraib prison (quote from AP)).

Are you still going to say, with a straight face, that the senior chain of command knew nothing of goings on at Abu Ghraib? I didn't think so.

Brig. General Janis Karpinski, the Army Reserve commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade at Abu Ghraib did receive a slap on the wrist. She was relieved of her command and given a written reprimand. Whoopee. She will never get another promotion. BFD. She should have received, at the very least, the same sentence as Fredrick except for one thing: her prison sentence should be longer. She is very senior to Fredrick. And — she — was in command. In addition she stated that Maj. General Wojdakowski once told her "I don't care if we're holding 15,000 innocent civilians! We're winning the war!" according to a sworn statement by Karpinski obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union through the Freedom of Information Act (quote from the European and Pacific Stars and Stripes).

If Wojdakowski actually said that he needs to be court martialed, fairly convicted and then shot. He was Sanchez's deputy after all. Which means he, as a good deputy, carried out Sanchez's orders and provided Sanchez with all the information Sanchez would need in order to carry out orders. That, folks, is how it works. And thus Sanchez has earned the same as Wojdakowski. That is also how it is supposed to work.

Responsibility and accountability. It must be fair and thorough from the bottom to the top and vice versa. If not, then there is chaos. Just as it was at a place called Abu Ghraib prison, Iraq.

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