Thursday, November 10, 2005

Not always accountable

From Salon's interview with Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, scapegoat of Abu Ghraib:

Do you feel like Rumsfeld is at the heart of all of this and should be held completely accountable for what happened?
Yes, absolutely. And so should his sidekick, [Undersecretary of Defense Stephen]Cambone. Really, I don't have anything against Alberto Gonzales, but he was involved in the discussions about the departure from Geneva Conventions and dealing with terrorists. So why isn't he somewhat accountable? Pappas is still on active duty. Sanchez, still on active duty. Fast, promoted and still on active duty, sergeant major of the Army. How are they silencing these guys or maintaining their silence? They're under the control of Rumsfeld, under the control of the active component.

Do you think that your case is hurt by the fact that you don't really, in your book or otherwise, take on much responsibility for any role you might have had?
Well, I can tell you that I think -- I know -- that it's unfair to suggest, which they did from the beginning, that I allowed this to happen, that somehow I had knowledge and I allowed this to happen. That is untrue.

But this happened under your watch, and you haven't really come forward saying, 'I made a lot of mistakes.' I felt that the book suggests that being a scapegoat, which you unquestionably are, somehow exempts you from any responsibility at all.

From failures. No. That's a good point. Maybe I didn't do it with enough effort, but I've said in interviews and otherwise, Hold me responsible for the things I could control. And there were a lot of mistakes made in Iraq. But when you then say well, yes, we didn't do this as well as we could have, or this was a failure, I can tell you that we were so close to being in violation of the Geneva Conventions, just on the conditions for the prisoners. But then it goes to we couldn't get funding. Why? Because the funds were being looted by American contractors. People can't believe all of this. They can't get their arms around all of it. So what they were comfortable with, from the beginning, was to associate my name with those photographs forever. Because without understanding all of the details or asking about the details, people would say, "Oh, Karpinski? Yes, those photographs, Lynndie England, Karpinski, Graner, Karpinski."

Now, I'm finding that, particularly with the book tour, people are saying, "What did the soldiers say?" And when I say, "I don't know because I've never had an opportunity to speak to any one of them," it's like a light bulb goes off over their head. Oh, so they really did deny you access? Absolutely, and continued to.

And yes, we made mistakes. We didn't do everything perfectly. It was never pretty. But I'll be damned if 3,400 soldiers are going to be charged as being guilty by association with the 800th M.P. Brigade. That is unfair. And Bremer comes back, $8 billion is missing, and he just simply says it was a war, we're not always accountable.

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