Abu Ghraib Trial Fails to Close the Accountability Gap

In today’s Washington Post, Dana Milbank illustrates how the trial of Army Lt. Col. Steven Jordan currently taking place at Fort Meade isn’t shedding any more light on the policies, circumstances, or events that led to the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

Unable or unwilling to find a higher-ranking officer to prosecute, the generals who ordered the charges against Jordan would have had a big PR problem if they hadn’t brought any officer before a court-martial for the Abu Ghraib abuse. A higher-ranking officer from the prison in Iraq, Col. Thomas Pappas, ended up with a reprimand and a fine, though he admitted approving the use of dogs in interrogations.

But the 51-year-old Jordan, portly and bespectacled, wasn’t an ideal choice: He isn’t in the infamous photographs from Abu Ghraib, and he had nothing to do with interrogations there; the most serious surviving charge against himis that he spoke about the investigation after being ordered not to — and even that unraveled in court yesterday.

The accountability gap described here is nothing new. In February 2006, Human Rights First released a report, Command’s Responsibility, which describes more than 20 cases where prisoners died in U.S. custody to illustrate both the failures in investigation and in accountability that have followed these incidents. Among the cases examined in the report is that of Manadel al-Jamadi, whose death became public during the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal when photographs depicting prison guards giving the thumbs-up over his body were released; to date, no U.S. military or intelligence official has been punished criminally in connection with Jamadi’s death.


Published on August 23, 2007


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