right to be horrified by the reports of abuses of Iraqi detainees
at Abu Ghraib prison. There is simply no excuse. The guilty should
be exposed and punished. The Administration and the Congress must
also root out the leadership and systemic failures that allowed
this horror to happen.
Pentagon spokesmen, U.S. military policy was to treat the detainees
at the Abu Ghraib facility outside Baghdad in the same manner as
enemy prisoners of war. That means they should have been accorded
the rights and protections granted under the Third Geneva
Convention of 1949, which precludes physical and mental torture,
any form of coercion, threats, insults, or disadvantageous
treatment. For an American soldier, there are few crimes more
shameful than breeching the standards of conduct established by the
laws of war.
The President was
right to denounce the abhorrent acts at Abu Ghraib and apologize
"for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners and the
humiliation suffered by their families." Likewise he was right to
remind the world that neither the American people nor its armed
forces would knowingly sanction such behavior.
orders," if indeed the investigation uncovers that illegal orders
were given, is no excuse. Those who follow illegal orders are as
guilty as those that gave them. Also culpable are leaders
responsible for supervising these soldiers who through their
inaction or inattention allowed abuses to occur.
It appears that
when Army officials were alerted to alleged abuses in January 2004
they did everything right. They immediately began an investigation
and moved to correct conditions in the facility.
Justice will be
served. We have the finest military justice system in the world and
we can be confident that it will punish the guilty and exonerate
the innocent. We must also respect that while criminal
investigations are ongoing, military officials will be constrained
in the details they can share and the public comments they can
Where the Pentagon
appears to have fallen short was in adequately informing the
President and the Congress, and appropriately, Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld was right to apologize during his May 7 testimony
before Congress for not fully briefing Congressional leader on the
investigation. That was just wrong.
The next steps are
should pursue criminal investigations against wrongdoers, and, as
Secretary Rumsfeld has ordered, launch an independent inquiry into
institutional and systematic failures that may have contributed to
officials should frequently update Congress on the progress of
these efforts. Likewise, Congress should undertake its own
investigation, evaluating the effectiveness of the military
military must allow appropriate outside observers to inspect
military detention centers in the theater.
At the same time,
the U.S. armed forces and the American people must not lose sight
of the mission yet to be completed. We have a legal and moral
responsibility to return sovereignty to a legitimate government.
Nothing will regain the respect of the Iraqis and the world more
than doing the right thing in Iraq. That is the most determined
response that America can make to the betrayal at Abu Ghraib.
Jay Carafano, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow in the Kathryn and
Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The