When Lt. Col. Steven Jordan was exonerated last week by a court martial of any responsibility for the abuses at Abu Ghraib, the Washington Post’s news story seemed to express disappointment that no officer would serve jail time in connection with this scandal. As I noted, however, the Post failed to provide a reason why any officer should.
Today, the Washington Post’s editorial board weighs in and, characteristically, provides the reasoning and modicum of balance the paper’s reporters fail to supply. The editors say the trial demonstrated that Jordan had little or nothing to do with the abuses at Abu Ghraib, and they conclude that he probably shouldn’t have been charged. The same is true, they say, about the most senior officer to have been tried, an Army reserve general.
However, the Post is unhappy that other high-ranking military officers have avoided criminal charges. It cites Col. Thomas Pappas who oversaw interrogations at Abu Ghraib and who confessed to approving the use of dogs. It also cites Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, said by others to have recommended the use of dogs, who had Abu Ghraib personnel trained by Guantamamo interrogators.
The Post seems to be conflating Abu Ghraib with the overall issue of aggressive interrogation of detainees. It hopes, I suppose, to invoke what no one disputes was scandalous in order to impugn approaches to interrogation that are not self-evidently so.
Now, some of what occurred at Abu Ghraib almost surely did flow directly from the government’s overall policy on questioning terror suspects, and it’s possible that some of these events justify the bringing of charges . But the heart of the Abu Ghraib scandal — what made it shocking not just to terrorist rights advocates and what kept it on the front page for so long — was the sexual abuse component.
Yet this abuse goes unmentioned in the Post’s editorial, presumably because the Post has no credible argument to make that would implicate anyone of high rank in the signature abuse that occurred at Abu Ghraib or that would tie that abuse to our overall policy.
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