April 30, 2009

Should Abu Ghraib Soldiers Receive Pardon?

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The startling pictures of naked prisoners piled on top of one another at Abu Ghraib prison was a frequently seen image on the news. After investigation, seven soldiers and two officers were convicted on charges of cruel and abusive interrogation techniques. While pictures provide visible evidence of these allegations, it remains unclear as to who, if anyone, ordered this type of unlawful behavior. However, the recent release of memos ordering harsh interrogation techniques by former President Bush shed light onto the reality of the situation.

When pictures surfaced demonstrating the interrogation tactics used at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, many became enraged over the unnecessarily abusive methods. “The photos showed naked prisoners being threatened by dogs or hooded and wired up as if for electrocution”. Even in the face of such incriminating evidence, former Army Col. Janis Karpinski defended all actions on the grounds that methods were mandated by top officials.

“The outrage was over the photographs, because the photographs were living color of what those top-secret memorandums authorized,” Karpinski said in an interview Wednesday. “So, it is unfair … the soldiers may have moved through [the military justice] system, but they never had a fair court-martial. Not any one of them, because they were condemned as one of the bad apples.” Karpinski was demoted to colonel from the position of general and commander. Similarly, another lead commander was released from duty.

“The memo, by then-Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee and then-Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Steven G. Bradbury, allowed the use of such tactics as keeping a detainee naked and in some cases in a diaper, and putting detainees on a liquid diet. One memo said aggressive techniques such as waterboarding, sleep deprivation and slapping did not violate laws against torture absent the intent to cause severe pain” (From CNN. After years of humiliation and disbelief, the accused soldiers feel relief in knowing that truth now prevails. According to one report, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ordered the use of such techniques at Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Consequently, the techniques were then adopted in prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan.

With the truth unveiled, Karpinsky is calling for a presidential pardon of each of the seven accused soldiers. In knowing that such actions were ordered by top military officials and not the chosen actions of soldiers, the public’s opinion may swing in their favor, allowing a presidential pardon without controversy. In times of war and fear of attack, should harsh and even torturous tactics be used for interrogation purposes?

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