Abu Ghraib: The Aftermath with Major General General Antonio Taguba.
Have we learned anything from the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison? Taguba discusses the effects on our nation's ability to execute elements of national power - diplomacy, information gathering, military operations and economic bargaining - and what changes, if any, have taken place since 2004. He also addresses critical questions about the accountability of senior government officials.
Major General Antonio Taguba
Major General Antonio M. Taguba became known worldwide when a classified report he wrote about cases of torture at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq was published in 2004. Taguba is the second and latest Filipino American to attain General Officer rank in the U.S. Army.
It's now my pleasure to introduce our distinguished speaker for this evening, Major General TonyTaguba. Recently retired from the United States army General Taguba served as the Principal USMilitary Investigator into the events at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2004. I am honored to be able tointroduce General Taguba because I know him very well. Some 15 years ago I was looking for a personto serve as my executive assistant in a very sensitive position in the Republic of Korea. I neededsomeone who had impeccable operational credentials, who is known to be completely candid whenasked to state his opinion, and whose integrity was of the highest order. I found the right man in TonyTaguba. He was then a Lieutenant Colonel who had just given up command after two very successfulyears as the Commanding Officer of an Armor Battalion in the 2nd Infantry Division. Tony and Iserved together for two years and we became very good friends. I followed Tony's career after that towatch him go to top level school, to command a brigade an armored brigade and then his selection for General Officer.He comes from an army family. His father served as a Filipino scout in World War II where he wascaptured by the Japanese on the Bataan peninsula and put on the Bataan Death March which he laterescaped. General Taguba is married to a wonderful woman, Debbie Taguba and they have twomarvelous children, both of whom are college graduates embarked on promising careers. His son Seanwas recently commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army in Armor following inhis father's foot steps. Please join me in welcoming Major General Tony Taguba.Let me get situated here for a second can everybody see me. All right I used to be 6.2' and 220pounds but this past three years have been rather rough on me, so well kind of shave you and bypeople that are even though they were shaving me many time. Thank you very much General Myattfor that generous introduction. I want to add that I have great admiration for General Myatt, my formerboss and a great friend. He is also a very wonderful mentor who made me read books and then wewould give read about it and that's the telling sign of a great leader and trying to teach hissubordinates about this thing called the military profession. Of course he once tried to make a marineout of me. And on one occasion, we have been working really hard; he told me that I needed some timeoff. Instead he sent me off to Okinawa to spend a week training with a marine outfit. That was hisblend of humor, you might say. I did have a terrific time then but I preferred to stay in the army. But inany case, it's nice to have someone pronounce my last name correctly. While I was testifying forCongress in May of 2004, my sister in law counted the 17 different ways that my last name wasmispronounced by some members of Congress and I watched one Congressman cover his mouthbecause he could not somehow pronounce my the six the six letters that made up my last name. Itried to maintain my composure because I would have really laughed my head off.But good evening everyone good to see you. I want to thank Dr. Gloria Duffy, madam where areyou? You might be here out somewhere, to Mr. George Dobbins, to Mr. Gordon Feller for inviting meto the Commonwealth Club and speak on a topic that has generated a great amount of interest. It istruly an honor for me to be with you this evening. George Dobbins told me that this is another sold outevent so I hope I am contributing to his financial stability of some sort. But next time when you makemore money George you know, you may want to pass out the pop corn and some other drinks, maybe a glass of wine for all of our guests. I brought along a few reinforcements with me, my cousins whoare long time residents of the San Francisco area, Ms. Conchita Sibbaluca, who is sitting here in thefront and her daughter Virginia and her husband Larry Scanlon and their daughter Michelle.Incidentally Conchita's husband, an army sergeant first class retired Victor Sibbaluca was captured inBataan also on 9th April 1942 along with my father, but he didn't have the luxury of escaping and hespent over a year as a prisoner of war. He passed away in 1998. I also brought along a friend and I hopeyou are out there Mr. Eric Nijizawa would you raise your hand? I guess he hasn't made it out yet,where are you, hey Eric, esquire from Los Angeles just in case on a legal council during mypresentation, especially after last week's article on The New Yorker magazine and speaking of theHersh article I thought of calling Mr. Dobbins and canceling out the San Francisco I figured I justsend him a copy of the magazine and passed it out to you. But then I would not have an excuse to getaway from the Washington DC area for a couple of days, just to spend some time with my dearrelatives here. Of course for those of you who have been inside the beltway life, inside that pit youmight say, can be depressing and frustrating given the political debates on such such trivial topicslike Iraq, immigration, stem cell research, the crisis in the justice department, the continuing saga thereand the pronouncements from the candidates who aspire to be the next President of this country. Ofcourse the fresh air and the wine here in San Francisco, in California is much more refreshing. And Iknow my dear wife Debbie is probably saying all kinds of not so good words about me being out here.But to be serious though I want a preface that my remarks and my perceptions and my thoughts that Iwant to share with you are my own personal views and not endorsed by anyone or by any organization.So before I cover how deeply Abu Ghraib has affected our nation, please permit me to set the stage justa bit for my presentation. The unconscionable acts committed by several of our soldiers were indeedpreventable, given the discipline and training of our military, especially during in time of war. If onlythe soldiers were properly led and supervised. The ambiguous chain of command and questionable setof policies that we uncovered were of course were the contributing factors along with tremendousdemands placed upon the limited number of military police and military intelligence forces to gatherintelligence from the growing number of detainees. This of course these factors would eventuallyresult in the environment revealed, Abu Ghraib. It took a junior enlisted soldier, Specialist JosephDarby who possessed the moral courage to report the criminal acts at Abu Ghraib. He toiled with hismoral conscious for two days before he decided to turn in the evidence that now that we know. Yet hetoo was ostracized and placed on witness protection that he is today I believe you saw some of youhave seen on 60 minutes yesterday, last night. Of course Darby was just doing his duty.I am sure that most of you have watched with great interest the Congressional hearings in May andSeptember of 2004, the CD containing the images of abuse, torture and psycho acts were shown to themembers of Congress. A few members remarked that Abu Ghraib was just a consequence of war, orwas it just that? You have to ask yourselves that question. I don't think these distinguished members ofCongress fully understood what their dismissive comments really meant. I don't even think that theywould remember the gruesome beheading of Nick Berg, video by Al-Zarqawi's group that followed therevelations of Abu Ghraib or the burning and decapitation of four American civilian contract securitypersonnel or how the images of inhumane treatment of detainees by US Troops shown at Arab newsnetworks fueled the regions animosity against us. And that their views today of America haveincreasingly been negative since then. We say that the wonders of information technology called theinternet demonstrated how effective those networks in the region have utilized it to incite Arabsentiments against our country today. But the images of Abu Ghraib placed our troops in greater riskthan we can ever have imagined. And that was our first and foremost concern when we conducted theinvestigation at least my team did. And that we were worried about how it was going to be receivedonce it was exposed. We did not plan for the report to be leaked. Of course, I did not leak it and I stilldon't know who did. The results of the unintended consequences of what we call a war, we have gonefrom a war that toppled Saddam Hussein to an insurgency and now a civil war. Our troops have yet tocome home for a ticker-tape parade today.Now the program said, I was going to cover some bits and pieces about the national the elements ofour national power of diplomacy, information, military and economics; which we in the military aretaught incessantly over the course of our years as a senior leader. These four elements of our nationalpower have greatly affected our country after the aftermath of Abu Ghraib. Now the effects in itself aredifficult to measure. The euphoria our military victory ended in May of 2004. The public support hasdeclined or it continues to decline and yet we don't have a coherent exit strategy as of today. The USForeign Policy in the region is dubious at best, the diplomatic efforts of our government have shownsigns of desperation, the policy of advancing democracy in the region had resulted in a dividedPalestinian Government. Currently, the situation in Palestine has shifted US support to Abbas and theFatah group against Hamas, today. When I was when I had conducted completed my investigation,I was still assigned in the region with the headquarters in Kuwait. And one of my duties was to travelto different countries because we had troops in those countries. And every occasion before I couldconduct any type of military visits or that sort of nature of my duties, I had to report to the Ambassadorthe U.S Ambassador, and needless to say, there were such a big clamor about the results of AbuGhraib that he wanted to know how I could helped him, at least ameliorate their concerns and -needless to say, I must tell you that that was very tough. It was yet to be replicated and that I am sorry yet to be corrected today.Saudi Arabia has grown wary of its support of the U.S policy in the region. In fact when I landed at oneof the military airports there, because we had 200 troops guarding an organization that U.S. theorganization the American organization, they wanted to know the nature of my business. They werefearful that I was there to investigate their detention operations or their prisons. And it took time forthem to clear my visa. Of course now the Iraq Study Group's recommendations are now being vestedoff, finally, especially the ISG's recommendations to open diplomatic dialogues with Iran and Syria.Now history all of you are students of history has reminded us that France, Great Britain, and evenGermany and Russia have attempted to advance their own policies in their region but to no avail. Nowwe should try to learn for their own experiences and try not to repeat them. The State Department'sefforts in Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs are getting some traction in promoting the positivevision of democracy, to enable U.S. Policy Foreign Policy. They had been successful though in onthe education portion of their programs especially when we have Student Exchange Programs.However organizations such as the Human Rights Watch and the growing disenchantment of theAmericans against the war seem to counter their efforts. On the economic side of the house, thatportion of our national power appear to be in flux. And inside the Military Defense Spending is onlyabout four percent four percent of the gross domestic product. We are now going to be reachingalmost $400 billion in funding the war and army and marines are requesting approval from thePresident and Congress to add thousands more to grow its strengths for the war in Iraq andAfghanistan. There will be more funds requested to build to rebuild and modernize the militaryservices if and when the war ends. With the current uproar regarding the military's healthcare program,the Veterans Benefits, with a growing number of wounded that are coming back from the war. Ourcountry must provide the resources to support our troops. Now these will cost billions of dollars moreand I believe I sincerely believe that our troops and their families deserve it.As the military, I cannot underscore the monumental demands placed on them and their loved ones.The ground troops are going through their third or fourth tours in combat today. The army of course gothere for twelve months; it used to be; now it's up to 15 months. Our marines are seven months,however would be going with predictive rotations, to encompass roughly about four months or longer14 months or longer. Over 30 great Americans have been killed in action just this past two weeks. Theloss of limbs, traumatic vein injuries and posttraumatic stress syndromes reside in those who arewounded, numbering over 30,000 today. The families of our troops are experiencing the highest stressof having their loved ones continually deployed in harms way and they are heroes in my book and I callthem the 51 percent of the vote. And sometimes the 51 percent of the vote puts in that ticker and itsays, we have to do something different. America's military represent less than 1 percent, roughly 2.3million of America's population. But the President declared that our nation was at war againstterrorism and you get the wonder where is the rest of them.I may now shape on the lessons learnt of Abu Ghraib in couple of three points. America prides itselfin having the most powerful military force today, best led, best trained, best equipped but not perfect.Most of the abuses of Abu Ghraib were reported, the army wasted no time the army wasted no time.And were doing things in parallel while I was conducting investigation then and taking the immediateand deliberate corrective actions, new procedures on detainee operations that include the medical andpsychological side, to include interrogation procedures were quickly implemented and closelysupervise. Field training and detention handling were revised or improved that home station trainingand soldiers were certified in these training techniques prior to their deployment. Just recently a newhuman intelligence collection operations field manual was published to ensure military interrogators uphere to legally authorize tactics and techniques governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. TheLaw of Land Warfare and Geneva Convention were strictly emphasized. There were several high levelmilitary investigations that ensued to determine exactly what the levels of command responsibilityrested. Thus far only a few soldiers that include a Brigadier General and a Colonel had been punishedare in prison. However the army was not about to hide the fact that something terrible somethingdespicable had happened at the major prison site in Iraq. It was their core duty to correct it. And weevolved on those corrections to ensure that we are improving the training that we are providing our troops today.The second point is that Abu Ghraib further exacerbated the heated debates in the administrationspolicy of cruel treatment of unlawful enemy combatants which originally began in 2002, regardingdetention operations at Guantanamo. Mr. Alberto Mora, the former General Council of the Navy ledthe charge along with the Military Services Judge Advocate General at the height of Abu Ghraib, indisputing the opinions of the Justice Department in adopting a policy of cruel treatment which is incontravention of established laws and especially the Geneva Convention. The government made apolicy made policy decisions that detainees as unlawful enemy combatants could be subjected tointerrogation techniques constituting inhumane treatment. The premise of Mr. Mora's legal abuse andsupported by the Military's Judge Advocates General on this policy was the clear violation of theGeneva Convention which could place our military troops in jeopardy under the uniform code ofmilitary justice while protecting other government agencies, mainly the CIA from prosecution. In theend the Detainee Act of 2005 and the Military Commission Act of 2006 resulted from theses debates.Now recently, the military court proceedings against the two detainees have demonstrated theinadequacies of the Military Commission Act and the presiding Military Justice challenge thegovernment's case against these two detainees. The key point of contention here was whether thegovernment had proven the two detainees in question as unlawful enemy combatants. The government is appealing that case.This recent turn of events demonstrated what appears to be flaws in the Military Tribunal System, toprosecute detainees under the Military Commission Act. In its haste to enact new laws against enemycombatants, the Justice Department through Congress failed to notice this key discrepancy. I am surethat there will be more legal contentions to follow. Although the President has publicly stated that wedo not torture prisoners, there are still remaining questions about policy of cruel treatment thatcontinued to linger. There seem to be a tacit acceptance in our country, most notably in the executivebranch of our government, that cruel treatment of enemy prisoners is allowable. I comment that wecannot abdicate our responsibility to comply with the Geneva Convention only because those who aredoing the fighting to preserve our freedom, Americas men and women in uniform, are expected toconform with the rule of law. There is little understanding from the highest level of civilian authoritiesof the disastrous consequences if we continue on this path. You must think of the four soldiers todaythat are being held this prisoners of war, or as missing in action. Think of the over 3500 men andwomen who have given their lives upholding the rule of law and to the thousands of casualties who arethe faces of the loyal and dedicated service to this nation.Lastly, after three years of numerous Congressional hearings, about over a dozen high levelinvestigations, countless books and articles written, two documentaries produced, several laws that hadbeen passed and several soldiers punished or imprisoned, there is still the unanswered question ofwhether high level military and civilian authorities would be held accountable. In the Navy when theCaptain of a ship that runs aground or collides with another ship, well a subordinate is in charge in thebridge, he is held accountable and can be relived of command or the Court Marshaled. Now thisscenario, while true, may be an exaggeration when applied through our high level government officials.But Abu Ghraib was not an exaggeration. Nor was it just a bunch of rogue soldiers who actedindependently in committing tedious criminal acts in time of war. I suspected that they were influencedor were instructed by senior officials, who are acting from higher authority, on written or verbalguidance, most likely classified. In my report, my team and I could not find evidence of any suchpolicy. And subsequent investigations ruled out the culpability of senior officials in the Pentagon and also the White House.If you believe that no one else at those levels were responsible then you must discount that the CIA isnot operating secret interrogations sites at overseas locations. What is about integrity and honesty thateven senior leaders in the highest level of our government fear most when confronted with thedevastating kind of circumstance like Abu Ghraib. But those, like Darby and most recently theinterrogators, who came forward to talk about torture and abuse it is almost a contradiction to thinkthat integrity and truth can become a crime. Darby and few others found there are more accomplice, Iwonder if those in positions of power, past and present will find theirs and account for their actions orinactions. I believe the damage done to America by the revelations of Abu Ghraib is indeed repairablebut not in the near distant future. In the mean time this does not prevent us us as citizens from makingamends to the rest of the world. That is what morally and ethically decent people would expect from acountry who tries to advance democracy in a troubled world amid the threat of global terrorism andtheir brutal followers. You cannot allow something like Abu Ghraib to be just a topic of politeconversation or file it away so it can be forgotten. A lot of people a lot of people paid for their livesas a consequence of this horrible event. As a consolation, the prison of Abu Ghraib was turned over tothe Iraqi control to Iraqi control in September of 2006. We still maintain detention operations atCamp Cropper and Camp Bucca in Iraq. And not to mention the one in the place called Guantanamo.Our troops in combat, the faces in the war against a brutal enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan, whateverthey do, whether conducting close combat operations or nation building or humanitarian assistance, allhave strategic significance. Their conduct can be either can either be praised or condemned by theworld as they have experienced and what we have seen.Today the level of training our troops are receiving extend from the tactical to the strategic levels.Sergeants, Lieutenants up to Generals are interacting with the local populous and civic leaders inprovinces and towns as a medium to gain the people's trust and confidence in fighting the insurgency.They are not trained to be diplomats, nor schooled in politics but they are but they are certainly arethe only ones available to be at the point of despair. It's also refreshing to know that Abu Ghraib hasbecome a subject of intellectual discussions and education as a case as case studies at several of ourmilitary and civilians institutions of higher learning today and at leadership seminars. If nothing elseAmerica's future leaders can learn from the lessons learnt of this horrible event.I want to close by sharing with you a personal value of mine. I reminded myself that should I still be ina position of influence even while facing adversity, I would do my utmost to preserve the faith of ourcitizens and our military institutions, especially those in harms way. I will have to seek some form ofredemption in restoring the trust and confidence of our citizens. I say that because I owe a great deala lot of great deal to the wonderful soldiers and families whom I will never forget and who workedexcuse me lost my sight here and who worked hard to place me in this position of trust. I rehearsedthis by the way, its not coming out very well. I did I came without knowing that I shared someresponsibility on Abu Ghraib only because the soldiers involved directly or indirectly belong to themagnificent army I served under. It is about living up the war core values. So I know you aregetting anxious in asking questions to me, most likely about the article in The New Yorker magazine. Ididn't bring any extra copies with me by the way. Mr. Hersh was rather chintzy about it. I hope hedoesn't hear this. So I appreciate your very much for the invitation to join me this evening and excuseme for my if I could ask you for your indulgence for my pause a minute, God bless our troops inharms way. Please pray for them and their loved ones that they have left behind.God bless America, thank you.