Abu Ghraib Update – An Odd Reason To Take The Fifth

One of the things that drove John crazy about the detainee torture scandals was the way the Army pretended that it could foist off the blame on the grunts and junior officers. For example:

Graner and England are no heroes, do not get me wrong, and they probably do deserve some form of punishment. But the notion that this was just ‘the night shift acting up,’ acting, as Schlesinger stated, ‘like Animal House,’ offends not only common sense, but the pretty clearly established historical record.

The notion that torture and detainee abuse would appear spontaneously at various locations around Iraq and Afghanistan, with common methods used throughout, always defied common sense. And yet it worked. If you wanted to list the people with real responsibility for what happened, for example Donald Rumsfeld, who by definition holds ultimate responsibility for the conduct of US armed forces, you’ll find a complete vacuum of accountability. Like a mafia family, it seemed like once you’re ‘made’ nothing but death or betrayal can bring you down. On top of the list of folks whose resignations seem long overdue is Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who oversaw prison operations in Iraq during the worst of the abuse. Especially danming is the possibility that Miller was brought to Iraq specifically to promote this kind of behavior at US detention facilities:

Boykin [remember General Boykin?] was not removed or transferred. At that moment, in fact, he was at the center of the secret operation to “Gitmo-ize” Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison. He had flown to Guantánamo (known as “Gitmo”) in Cuba, where he met with the commandant of Camp X-Ray, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, ordering him to extend his methods to the Iraq prison system, orders that had come from Rumsfeld. While Boykin weathered his public storm, he remained the operational officer overseeing Miller’s new assignment.

If orders existed which directed the Abu Ghraib abuse then they would have to either originate or pass through Maj. Gen. Miller’s desk. What does Miller know about the abuse and torture that happened on his watch? Miller has denied any responsibility to the press and in statements to Congress, so it seems like a no-brainer that he’d give the same testimony when a court-martial involving military dogs calls him as a witness. Actually, he won’t.

Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, a central figure in the U.S. detainee-abuse scandal, this week invoked his right not to incriminate himself in court-martial proceedings against two soldiers accused of using dogs to intimidate captives at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, according to lawyers involved in the case.

The move by Miller — who once supervised the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and helped set up operations at Abu Ghraib — is the first time the general has given an indication that he might have information that could implicate him in wrongdoing, according to military lawyers.

Harvey Volzer, an attorney for one of the dog handlers, has been seeking to question Miller to determine whether Miller ordered the use of military working dogs to frighten detainees during interrogations at Abu Ghraib. Volzer has argued that the dog handlers were following orders when the animals were used against detainees.

According to his lawyer, Maj. Michelle E. Crawford, Miller’s “choice to no longer answer the same questions . . . was based on the advice of counsel and includes the fact that he has already, and repeatedly, answered all inquiries fully.” Lawyers can correct me if I’m wrong, but that seems like a pretty weak rationale for taking the Fifth.

I wonder if his decision had anything to do with this:

Miller’s decision came shortly after Col. Thomas M. Pappas, the commanding officer at Abu Ghraib, accepted immunity from prosecution this week and was ordered to testify at upcoming courts-martial. Pappas, a military intelligence officer, could be asked to detail high-level policies relating to the treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib.

Some hope for real accountability at last.






21 replies
  1. 1
    Bill Arnold says:

    Time to redeploy that old fractured metaphor –
    “Bad apples don’t fall far from the tree.”

  2. 2

    Maybe Miller needs to be waterboarded. We’ll get to the bottom of this. You know, just as soon as we get to the bottom of the Plame thing. We got the NSA workin’ on that one.

  3. 3
  4. 4
    Lines says:

    I think that after so many passionate denials of culpability this whole thing will have to be hushed up in one way or another. Its fanciful and fine to believe you’ve caught them on something, Tim, but the time for real accountability passed about 6 months ago.

  5. 5
    The Other Steve says:

    The United States doesn’t torture.

    The United States has never been involved in torture.

    That being said, if we did want to torture, there’s nothing you can do about it.

    And we will continue to rely upon tortured arguments to make this point!

  6. 6
    demimondian says:

    the time for real accountability passed about 6 months ago

    That’s not true. The time for accountability is always now — if only to make an example of the criminals.

  7. 7
    Lines says:

    Not to compare the American public with canines, but:

    When a dog makes a mess on the carpet, you can’t rub his nose in it tomorrow. If you can’t do it immediately, he’ll just do it again. I want a military complex that believes in ethics, not a fear of getting reprimanded.

    It may sound like I am giving a free pass to those that have committed such egregious crimes against humanity. Thats not true. I’m saying the “accountability” portion relates more to stopping these practices in the future. Punish those that can still be caught after such a long interim, but the real time to have done completely and totally has passed.

  8. 8
    demimondian says:

    When a dog makes a mess on the carpet, you can’t rub his nose in it tomorrow. If you can’t do it immediately, he’ll just do it again. I want a military complex that believes in ethics, not a fear of getting reprimanded

    You’re exactly right.

    The difference is that the military has a long memory, particularly for civilian reprimand. It’s not the military which needs to be reminded of My Lai, nor of the evacuation of Somalia. If this turns out to be systemic, then it’ll be taught at the Army War College for a hundred years to come as an object lesson.

  9. 9
    srv says:

    If this turns out to be systemic, then it’ll be taught at the Army War College for a hundred years to come as an object lesson.

    Well, maybe torture, but when I look at Iraq, I wonder what the AWC taught about Vietnam. Or Lebanon. Or Algeria.

    And the lesson of My Lai (and Iran Contra), is that you can be very close to it and still get 4 stars (Colin Powell).

  10. 10
    chefrad says:

    “The notion that torture and detainee abuse would appear spontaneously at various locations around Iraq and Afghanistan, with common methods used throughout, always defied common sense.”

    Go a step further and ask where the method itself came from: privations and humiliations specific to breaking down arab muslims. The modus operandi didn’t originate at Guantanamo.

  11. 11
    Cyrus says:

    Well, maybe torture, but when I look at Iraq, I wonder what the AWC taught about Vietnam. Or Lebanon. Or Algeria.

    Well, let’s be fair here, I think consensus is that the problem was the civilian leadership. Refresh my memory, how many generals are now saying that they asked for more than twice as many troops, but their advice was ignored? I guess you could say that they should have resigned in protest rather than try to do the job with resources they thought were inadequate, or done more to get those troops or tried to change the mission to something doable, but the problems were/are probably not caused by a failure to make that realization.

  12. 12
    srv says:

    Refresh my memory, how many generals are now saying that they asked for more than twice as many troops, but their advice was ignored?

    Huh? Where are all these generals?

    The JCS and general staff went along for the ride. If any of them are whining now, they’re playing revisionist just like Heckuva-job Bremer. These are all guys who had the Powell Doctrine beat into their head?

    I guess you could say that they should have resigned in protest

    That’s how we it’s one of two things:
    1) They really did drink the Kool-Aid
    2) They cared more for their stars than their troops. They’re politicians first, just like Powell.

  13. 13
    Sojourner says:

    Come on, folks. Listen to ole Stormy. She’ll tell you that nothing bad happened at Abu Ghraib. But Mrs. Alito cried! She cried!!!!

  14. 14
    tubino says:

    “Go a step further and ask where the method itself came from: privations and humiliations specific to breaking down arab muslims. The modus operandi didn’t originate at Guantanamo.”

    I thought there was evidence that the humiliations etc. grew out of the CIA methods used in Central America, which were taught at the School of the Americas. But the specifics were adapted for Arab Muslims.

    But I don’t have much confidence in any account I’ve read to date. Someone (Sy Hersh?) is going to need to address this seriously for us to have a chance to understand it, IMO.

  15. 15
    TBone says:

    In order to believe Miller did anything wrong, you first must believe the methods reportedly used (i.e. use of military working dogs to frighten detainees) are in fact “torture”. If I’m not mistaken, no one/no one has established that those methods are indeed “torture”. Abusive? Perhaps, but not torture.

    Notwithstanding, the military has sentenced its soldiers to extremely long sentences in prison for abuses; ones that if had been tried in similar circumstances in civilian courts, would have never received as harsh a punishment. Hell, I could do more damage to someone in a bar fight and only receive a misdemeanor battery charge. Some “abusers” got eight years!!

    Furthermore, the investigations in the aftermath of Abu G’ have been appropriately referred to by some as “witch hunts” because of the extremes the DoD has gone to in order to show it doesn’t tolerate abuse. They are prosecuting anyone who has the slightest culpability…on the weakest of evidence. No wonder Miller plead the 5th. Anything he says, no matter how innocuous, could be used by the Left to implicate him in “war crimes” that have yet to be defined. Only an idiot would lay his neck on the chopping block of political correctness by testifying. Involking his rights is prudent, and after all, his Constitutional RIGHT.

  16. 16
    Barry says:

    Lines Says:

    “Not to compare the American public with canines, but:

    When a dog makes a mess on the carpet, you can’t rub his nose in it tomorrow. If you can’t do it immediately, he’ll just do it again. I want a military complex that believes in ethics, not a fear of getting reprimanded.”

    For dogs, ‘immediately’ means ‘immediately’. For humans, ‘immediately’ is a bit longer.

    And the first step is to punish those who dropped their ethics. Otherwise, those people will achieve higher rank and be running things.

    Tbone, the ‘no torture’ argument, by this time, is unacceptable. As for harsh punishments, it’s crystal-clear by now that the grunts got the harsh punishment. Until the responsible generals go to prison, the ones who need to be punished haven’t been.

  17. 17
    srv says:

    Furthermore, the investigations in the aftermath of Abu G’ have been appropriately referred to by some as “witch hunts” because of the extremes the DoD has gone to in order to show it doesn’t tolerate abuse.

    Well, if there’d been no witch hunt on enlisted-folk, everyone would have been looking up the chain of command… Can’t have that happen. The officers and civies closed ranks and hoped for the best. I’m wondering if officers get court martialed and a presidential pardon, do they get their pension back?

    Since Col. Pappas career is obviously over, he was either worried about his retirement or we have a JAG who isn’t playing well with Rummy.

  18. 18
    chef says:

    Bulletin: We just (may have) got Bin Ladin’s 56th 2nd in command, for the 44th time. That makes for a cool 100!

  19. 19
    searp says:

    It is a matter of time before it comes out that W authorized all this stuff, and I think that is the objective of the faux-inquiries. As time passes, current outrages turn into historical outrages. Everyone can tut-tut and go back to the business of making money. The US is headed towards the Chinese model. Shut your yap and make money.

  20. 20
    skip says:

    The NSA “Firstfruits” program to spy on journalists and domestic unfriendlies has already changed its name and gone to ground.

    If the Seante has the guts to go after Gen. Hayden it will all come out.

  21. 21

    They say the truth will out, but does it? How long did it take to find out about the testing at Tuskegee? How about our role in the assassination in Chile? Are you confident of the single shooter theory? how much that goes on really finds the light of day, and how would we know? Did anyone pay in Iran-Contra? Our memories are short and the press’ attention span equally. I don’t expect this will amount to anything that besmirches this administration.

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