Strange as it seems, one yet must read Seymour Hersh’s recent piece detailing the heroism and hazing of Major General Antonio Taguba — author of the Army report on the crimes of American soldiers at Abu Grahib prison in Iraq.
“Here . . . comes . . . that famous General Taguba of the Taguba report!” Rumsfeld declared, in a mocking voice.
The meeting was attended by Paul Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld’s deputy; Stephen Cambone, the Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence; General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (J.C.S.); and General Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, along with Craddock and other officials.
Taguba, describing the moment nearly three years later, said, sadly, “I thought they wanted to know. I assumed they wanted to know. I was ignorant of the setting.”
In the meeting, the officials professed ignorance about Abu Ghraib. “Could you tell us what happened?” Wolfowitz asked. Someone else asked, “Is it abuse or torture?”
At that point, Taguba recalled, “I described a naked detainee lying on the wet floor, handcuffed, with an interrogator shoving things up his rectum, and said, ‘That’s not abuse. That’s torture.’ There was quiet.”
“The whole idea that Rumsfeld projects ‘We’e here to protect the nation from terrorism’ is an oxymoron,’ Taguba said. “He and his aides have abused their offices and have no idea of the values and high standards that are expected of them. And they’ve dragged a lot of officers with them.”
Taguba said that he saw “a video of a male American soldier in uniform sodomizing a female detainee.” The video was not made public in any of the subsequent court proceedings, nor has there been any public government mention of it.
The team spent much of February, 2004 in Iraq. Taguba was overwhelmed by the scale of the wrongdoing. “These were people who were taken off the streets and put in jail — teen-agers and old men and women,” he said.
“I kept on asking these questions of the officers I interviewed: ‘You knew what was going on. Why didn’t you do something to stop it?’”
A few weeks after his report became public, Taguba, who was still in Kuwait, was in the back seat of a Mercedes sedan with [General John Abizaid, then the head of Central Command]. Abizaid’s driver and his interpreter, who also served as a bodyguard, were in front. Abizaid turned to Taguba and issued a quiet warning: “You and your report will be investigated.”
“I wasn’t angry about what he said but disappointed that he would say that to me,” Taguba said. “I’d been in the Army thirty-two years by then, and it was the first time that I thought I was in the Mafia.”
That the military tends to be a mafia has been reported — by insiders — across almost a century now, going back to experience in our first imperialist war, in the Phillipines, in 1898. The most highly decorated U.S. Marine in history, General Smedley Butler, wrote a famous book on the subject: War is a Racket.
Yet the Americans doing the deeds at Abu Grahib seem to have been rather normal janes and joes. Some of them even reservists. And their forever-adolescent racism and sadism are plain.
One thinks back to the citizen-army of the second world war, which, despite its breakdowns and atrocities, left all of western and mediterranean Europe with the sense of having been rescued by a civilized people.
Television, in the time since, in lieu of reading and liberal education, has transformed us into fascists. Fodder with which the likes of Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith, Rumsfeld, Cheney, have set the world aflame.
Paintings by Allessandro di Meo