Gen. Taguba knew scandal went to the top

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Jul 20, 2006
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By Joseph L. Galloway

McClatchy Newspapers

Tony Taguba knew something about prisoners in wartime long before the
Pentagon ordered him to investigate the torture and shameful
mistreatment of Iraqi detainees revealed by those soldier photographs
taken inside Abu Ghraib prison.

You see, his father, Sgt. Tomas Taguba, was a soldier in the famed
Philippine Scouts and was, briefly, a prisoner of the Japanese after
Bataan fell in the opening days of our war in the Pacific. Sgt. Taguba
escaped during the Death March and spent the next three years spying on
the Japanese and relaying the information to U.S. forces.

After the war, the senior Taguba was allowed to enlist in the U.S. Army
and served honorably and unsung until his retirement. His son was born
in Manila in 1950 but grew up as American as apple pie, earned an ROTC
commission at Idaho State University and was only the second
Filipino-American to attain the rank of general in our Army.

Maj. Gen. Anthony Taguba would undergo his own trial by fire when, in
2004, he was named by the Pentagon to conduct a carefully walled-in
investigation of the abuses of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

regulation — and no doubt by the design of those who appointed him —
Taguba could not investigate any uniformed or civilian official whose
rank was higher than his own two stars.
Taguba and his
investigators sifted and probed and assessed the blame as high as they
were permitted to go. Taguba believed — no, he KNEW — that the
responsibility for this outrage went much higher. He knew it reached to
the office of then Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and likely
beyond to the lawyers who served President George W. Bush and perhaps
even to the president himself.

But the brass, military and
civilian, wanted Taguba and those who ran 16 other Army investigations
of the Abu Ghraib scandal only to get to the bottom of the situation,
not to the top.

A female Army Reserve military police brigadier
general was reprimanded but criminal charges and courts martial were
limited to five enlisted men and women, none ranking any higher than
staff sergeant.

For his honesty in both the investigation and in
sworn testimony before congressional committees Tony Taguba became
persona non grata in the halls of the Pentagon. The career of one of
the Army's more talented and honorable officers ended with an untimely

But Taguba wasn't done. The full truth had not been told.

In a week when McClatchy published a five-part series by my colleague Tom Lasseter on the extra-legal American military detention center at Guantanamo
and who's responsible for giving Americans a green light to mistreat,
torture and detain both the guilty and the innocent prisoners in our
custody, Maj. Gen. Taguba spoke out as well.

In the preface to a
damning report on the treatment of Guantanamo detainees by a group
called Physicians for Human Rights — which had examined and interviewed
11 former Guantanamo detainees freed without charges — Taguba declared
that there was no longer any doubt whatsoever that President George W. Bush and others in the White House had committed war crimes.

"The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who
ordered the use of torture will be held to account," Taguba wrote. "The
commander in chief and those under him authorized a systematic regime
of torture."

Following the boss' orders, lawyers in the White
House Counsel's office and in the badly named Department of Justice
twisted and turned the words and the very meaning of those words in
international treaties, in the Constitution, in the federal statutes
and the military regulations so that interrogators in brightly lit
prison rooms in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo as well as those
secret CIA prisons hidden all around would be free to use the
waterboard, electrical shocks, sexual humiliation, and all the other
dirty little ways you can make a man scream and talk.

To date,
seven long years after we scooped up our first detainees in
Afghanistan, not a single one of them has faced evidence, his accusers,
or anything remotely resembling a legal court hearing on his guilt or

Even a conservatively-tilted U.S. Supreme Court
recently gagged on what the Bush Administration and its lawyers did
their best to get them to swallow — the idea that some people in
American custody are not entitled to the most basic of all protections,
the writ of habeas corpus. The basic right to stand before a properly
constituted court of law and make the government prove by the evidence
that they have got the right man.

I know. I know. A snowball has
a better chance in Hell than we do at ever seeing the President and his
cronies actually brought to justice for their high crimes and
misdemeanors. We are going to see these walking examples of the lowest
common denominator become the happy recipients of a blizzard of
presidential pardons on Jan. 19, 2009, before the few who haven't
already fled slip out of town ahead of the subpoenas.

thoughts keep returning to a little speech Gen. Taguba made to his team
of investigators as they first began their work in 2004:
"Bottom line: We will follow our conscience and do what is morally

Would that our President and his unindicted co-conspirators had done the same.

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