Sunday, June 24, 2007

General Antonio Taguba on Abu Ghraib

The New Yorker magazine's June 27, 2007 edition carries this story by Seymour Hersh:

The General's Report (How Antonio Taguba, who investigated Abu Ghraib, became one of its victims.)

This is a sequel to the Abu Ghraib story, which has served for mighty heavy food-for-thought about the war in Iraq and its conduct while Donald Rumsfeld was in the Pentagon. But it was riveting as much for that aspect of it as the personal story of one Filipino-American's journey to the top ranks of the US Military.

It's a heart-breaking story in some respects, as well as an inspiring one. I will take only a very short excerpt from the end of Seymour Hersh's story:
“They always shoot the messenger,” Taguba told me. “To be accused of being overzealous and disloyal—that cuts deep into me. I was being ostracized for doing what I was asked to do.”

Taguba went on, “There was no doubt in my mind that this stuff”—the explicit images—“was gravitating upward. It was standard operating procedure to assume that this had to go higher. The President had to be aware of this.” He said that Rumsfeld, his senior aides, and the high-ranking generals and admirals who stood with him as he misrepresented what he knew about Abu Ghraib had failed the nation.

“From the moment a soldier enlists, we inculcate loyalty, duty, honor, integrity, and selfless service,” Taguba said. “And yet when we get to the senior-officer level we forget those values. I know that my peers in the Army will be mad at me for speaking out, but the fact is that we violated the laws of land warfare in Abu Ghraib. We violated the tenets of the Geneva Convention. We violated our own principles and we violated the core of our military values. The stress of combat is not an excuse, and I believe, even today, that those civilian and military leaders responsible should be held accountable.”
Amen to that and I can only agree with the official statement of the US Army Vice Chief of Staff Richard Cody upon being asked about General Taguba's retirement last January, 2007, calling Taguba, "an officer, a leader and an American patriot."

One thing for sure. This Filipino-American has done his duty and served his country well. Filipinos and Americans can and will be proud of him even if he now seems to have gotten the cold shoulder from the other Top Brass of the armed forces he has faithfully served throughout his life. America can only get stronger with men like him in the armed services. He is part of America's cardinal virtue of corrigibility. Saludo, Heneral!

Read it all!


john marzan said...

taguba, gudani, balutan... they all get screwed in the end by their superiors.

only guys like esperon and ebdane rise to the ranks and gets the promotions.

DJB Rizalist said...

Is that really the lesson we should learn from this john? Or should we not celebrate the example of Tony Taguba?

baycas2 said...

Exemplary performance of assigned duty…

“HERSH: He’s out there — he’s in Kuwait. He’s a two-star general involved in the war, highly, as you say — I found nobody that said anything adverse. He’s a highly respected officer.

It’s just randomness. They needed a senior officer to investigate; you’re it, buddy. He goes and does it. And right away, he feels the heat because — I don’t know what made him so special.

Maybe there was the fact that he was born in the Philippines and he had to work his way up to two-star, which is a tough thing. He’s not a big guy. He had to show many different ways how competent he was.

But he just resolved to tell it straight. And it was a tough story. And he wrote about systematic abuse and torture. And he was discouraged, from the very beginning, to go all the way with the report. But he kept on doing it.”


It’s wishful thinking to find similarity (damning to the military) with the reports of Taguba and Mayuga other than their 3-syllabic and common-vowelled surnames…

Jaxius said...

The experience of Taguba just shows how military officers are in a pickle when it comes to balancing the various demands of a democratic system.

On the one hand, the commander-in-chief power of the President requires their utmost loyalty and subordination. As the Duke of Wellington succintly put it, "I am nimmukwallah, as we say in the East; that is, I have eaten of the King’s salt, and therefore I conceive it to be my duty to serve with unhesitating zeal and cheerfulness, when and wherever the King or his Government may think proper to employ me.” There have been precedents where an officer asked to be relieved of his assigned duty because his convictions clash with the obligations that the assignment requires.

On the other hand, there is that legislative power to require military officers to appear before Congress to testify on matters of their professional expertise.

This situation places the military officer between a rock and a hard place. Placed before Congress, he may be asked a question that inquires into his personal conviction, disguised as a probe into his professional expertise, that may ultimately lead to clash with the President's or the administration's position.

Between a principle that says political decisions are to made by their political superiors and personal honor espoused in the military (as espoused by Montesqueiu, "Be true in everything, even on the subject of one’s country. Every citizen is obliged to die for his country; no one is obliged to lie for it"), where can he turn to?

john marzan said...

Is that really the lesson we should learn from this john? Or should we not celebrate the example of Tony Taguba?

I think it's hypocritical of some people to celebrate taguba's work, especially if they pooh-poohed the abu ghraib torture story and attacked those in the "Leftist MSM" who exposed the scandal.

At least one of the guys who did the pooh-poohing and defended the bush admin on abu ghraib didn't even bother to post the taguba story on his blog.

Because if he did, it would look kinda silly, no?

DJB Rizalist said...

i am fairly sure that there were FAR FAR worse things that happened at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq BEFORE the war started. Did you ever post anything on those atrocities yourself? Did you even know about them? Or was Saddam the victim here? Let's not get confused about Abu Ghraib shall we?

I am merely giving credit where credit is due: to a great Filipino American patriot who perhaps understands there is a lot more to this than Abu Ghraib.

I wonder how many posts you've done on the other atrocities that are STILL going on in the world, like the beheading of those 6 Filipinos by the Abu Sayyaf, or the stuff that goes on in china with slavery, or Darfur, or...

You talk as if Abu Ghraib is the only place where things happen that shouldn't happen. But it is an off-hand compliment to the US from you, since it seems you don't expect such things to happen on their watch.

THAT is a good sign. Liberals are not a nihilists, just moral cop-outs when it involves enemies of the U.S?

DJB Rizalist said...

A thoughtful comment Jaxius. Welcome to Philippine Commentary.

"Be true in everything, even on the subject of one’s country. Every citizen is obliged to die for his country; no one is obliged to lie for it"

Marcus Aurelius said...

Doing what is right is often times hard and causes problems for a person. That is why there are things like whistleblower laws. The Ten Commandments does not come with a loophole letting people off when it is hard to do what is right, the Ten Commandments orders us to do right.

Do you go along with a wink wink and your ship keeps sailing on smooth waters or do you do what is right and find yourself in a storm? An eternal question.

What I objected to was not the exposure of Abu Ghraib it was a lack of perspective in the reporting. Have you all been reading Michael Yon's blog?

I too defend the Bush Administration with respect to this. I put the blame for the abuse on the soldiers responsible for it. I recall reading one of the guys in on that was a prison guard back in the states. His record from his civilian prison guarding was not too different from his military record.