Power and Politics - I am Not the Yellow Peril

The life and times of an Asian American activist who tells all the truth (and dishes news and analysis) but with a leftwards slant.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Taguba speaks out

I have been waiting for the clarion words of Major General Antonio Taguba, Filipino American veteran and author of the legendary Taguba Report faulting the military leadership for the excesses of Abu Ghraib. It was a thankless job that he was given -- either write a meaningless, apologist report downplaying the abuse of prisoners or write a honest and thorough assessment. Like all good heroes, he chose the harder route, and maintained his good name.

The Taguba Report was one of the milestones that helped the majority of Americans see the war for the lies that they are. After pictures from Abu Ghraib pictures surfaced, the last thing the military needed was internal confirmation that leadership knew and condoned behavior, which is exactly what Taguba delivered.
Taguba was assigned to the Office of Reserve Affairs at the Pentagon after completing the Abu Ghraib investigation. His March 2004 report on the scandal found that "numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses were inflicted on several detainees" at Abu Ghraib by soldiers from the 372nd Military Police Company from October to December 2003.

Taguba criticized Rumsfeld for claiming not to know about the extent of the abuse and that he had not seen photographs documenting it until months after the army began an investigation into the allegations in January 2004. Taguba said senior Pentagon officials had been briefed on the case and given accounts of the pictures early in the investigation.

When the report came out, it was all over the press, and gave the confirmation that the military dreaded. Some parts of the American left were happy that the photos and report came out, as a strategic manuever to win the hearts and minds of the American people. But it was a sobering, sombre affirmation that we had lost the hearts and minds of the Iraqis, and how. It showed the breakdown of military ethos and discipline, and foretold a larger, greater failure.

And then the man who had helped ignite a furor was quieted, sent to a back room office, and forced to resign shortly afterwards, unsurprisingly. But he seemed like a man with quite a few good stories to tell, and I knew that they would come out eventually. Why? I knew that he had been involved with the fight for Filipino American veterans' equity, and that someone who was deeply committed to a cause like that would eventually tell his part of the story.

In an interview with The New Yorker, Major General Antonio Taguba said that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other senior civilian and military officials had treated him brusquely after the investigation into the formerly American-run prison near Baghdad was completed in 2004. He also said that in early 2006 he was ordered, without explanation, to retire within a year.

"They always shoot the messenger," Taguba said. "To be accused of being overzealous and disloyal - that cuts deep into me. I was ostracized for doing what I was asked to do."

If only being overzealous was considered a beneficial trait in the Bush era, and if daring to disagree were approved of, even welcomed, we might not be in this mess. Sadly, Bush and his minions brook no dissent, no contradiction, even when it might be the wiser course.

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