Accuracy in Media

Analyst Jack Wheeler says, “We know conclusively that the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal is as phony as a Bill Clinton sex denial because there are no calls for the resignation or indictment of the one individual most responsible for the abuses.  That would be the officer in charge of Abu Ghraib and all U.S. military prisons in Iraq, the commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade, Army Brigadier General Janis Karpinski.  And why have there been no calls for her resignation?  Let’s be honest.  It is because she is a woman.”  Karpinski, the first female general officer to lead U.S. soldiers in combat, has now been “suspended from command” but not court-martialed.

Those are harsh words, but it’s important to remember that 60 Minutes last December aired a story about Abu Ghraib and Karpinski that made no mention of any serious problems there.  CBS News reported, “Gen. Karpinski assured 60 Minutes that Abu Ghraib is a much different place now than it was when Saddam was running it.  Prisoners were well fed and taken care of.  Most of them, she said, were common criminals, and that everyone here was allowed visits with their families and lawyers.  A few, she said, were being held for ‘crimes against the coalition,’ but no one was being held without charges.”

Correspondent Steve Kroft was trying to find the location of a person named Najeeb al Shami, the city councilor in charge of security in Karbala, Iraq, who was kicked out of his job, arrested and then sent to the prison.  Kroft followed Karpinski to the computer room and waited to see if he was listed in the records.  Kroft said, “She had told us that all prisoners were charged after an initial 72-hour processing period.  But Najeeb al Shami had been in Abu Ghraib for more than a month.”  Finally, she disclosed that his processing had “not been completed yet.”  Kroft said that, “It’s taken a lot longer than 72 hours to process al Shami’s case.”  And no charges had been filed against him.

60 Minutes was on top of a bigger story and didn’t recognize it.  We don’t know why Kroft chose to air those statements.  Perhaps he believed them.  Of course, Karpinski is still insisting that she had no knowledge and responsibility for the abuse of prisoners.  She is blaming others, and so far getting away with it.

Jon Christian Ryter, the pseudonym of a former newspaper reporter who now writes a regular column, says, “In a Clinton-world, Gen. Janis Karpinski?a feminist military officer?would be exonerated and male subordinates would become the sole sacrificial lambs.  In the Clinton military the buck never stops at the top unless the person at the top is a middle class white heterosexual career male officer with an impeccable military record.”

The situation was so bad that AP reported that Karpinski’s subordinates at Abu Ghraib “at times disregarded her commands, and didn’t enforce codes on wearing uniforms and saluting superiors?”  One soldier said commanders in the field routinely said “they didn’t have to listen to her because she was a woman.”  Whatever the ultimate truth, the highest-ranking woman in Iraq has become an embarrassment.  But will she be held accountable?

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