Graner’s conviction: A milestone in the Abu Ghraib coverup
Of all the mad dogs at Abu Ghraib, Chuck Graner was best in show—he photographs so well. A mixed breed of scapegoat and mongrel son of a bitch, the alpha male got his blue ribbon yesterday when he was convicted at court-martial.
Graner deserves everything he gets. His fellow soldier Joseph Darby gave a chilling sworn statement to Army investigators on January 14, 2004, exactly one year before Graner’s conviction:
I arrived at Abu Ghraib sometime around 25 or 26 Oct 03. Shortly after I arrived, I was talking with Cpl. Graner and he showed me pictures on his digital camera of a prisoner chained to his cell. The prisoner’s arms were chained above his head and he was naked. At the time I didn’t think too much of it as I thought perhaps it was procedure . . . .
Cpl. Graner told me: “The Christian in me says it’s wrong, but the corrections officer in me says, ‘I love to make a grown man piss himself.’ “
Now Graner’s keepers will return this cur to the kennels. But the bigger question remains: Who let the dogs out?
Don Rumsfeld and the rest of the Bush regime would have you believe that Graner and the rest of his muttly crew were “rogues,” that the psychosexual abuses of Iraqis were aberrations. Yeah, right.
Veteran reporter T.R. Reid of the Washington Post pinned the tail on these donkeys in his story this morning by bringing up the name of Lieutenant Colonel Steven Jordan, the head of the Joint Interrogation and Detention Center, in a very specific way:
Two Defense Department inquiries revealed dramatic leadership failures at Abu Ghraib. An Army investigation found that senior officers failed to supervise subordinates and ignored signs of abuse. That report found the officers “responsible” for the mistreatment but not “culpable” because they were not directly involved in the abuse.
Testimony at Graner’s trial—the first full court-martial to probe the prison scandal—suggested that numerous officers were aware of the goings-on in cellblock One-Alpha. On November 16, 2003, after most of the specific incidents for which Graner was tried, a superior officer informed Graner in writing that “You are doing a fine job. . . . You have received many accolades from the chain of command and particularly from Lt. Col. Jordan.” Lt. Col. Steven Jordan was the chief intelligence officer at the prison, and during this week’s court-martial the Army said he is under investigation in connection with the scandal.
In a court-martial, “obedience to orders” is a defense to a charge of misconduct, as long as the soldier reasonably believed the order to be lawful. But Graner’s attempt to exploit that defense at trial was largely stifled by the judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl. Pohl refused to allow witnesses to discuss which officers were aware of events in cellblock One-Alpha, or what orders they had given. He said any testimony about what the officers knew or said would be inadmissible hearsay evidence.
Last Monday (January 10), in “Abu Ghraib: The Naked Truth,” I got into Jordan’s own interrogation by Major General Antonio Taguba. Jordan threw around the names of Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice, plus their military nabobs Ricardo Sanchez and Geoffrey Miller (see below).
In the coming week, I’ll be diving deeper into that muck. The Bush regime likes to shove history down the memory hole, but I’m the son of a veterinarian, so I don’t mind reaching in to pull out the nasty stuff. Thanks to the miracle of the Internet—the U.S. military’s own invention—and the hard work of people like Seymour Hersh and organizations like the Post and the Center for Public Integrity, that task really isn’t very difficult.
In the meantime, keep in mind that this saga goes way beyond the astounding photos taken by U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib that brought this mess to the world’s attention.
Each picture was worth a thousand words. But the words of the Abu Ghraib top dogs—and of the Bush regime’s leaders—are worth thousands of those pictures. Those words demand we keep paying attention.
As Hersh predicted to Jon Stewart back in September, before George W. Bush was inexplicably re-elected, there are more torture tales to unfold and they will be a blot on all of us.