In early 2004, Army Major General Antonio Taguba found himself in an extremely unenviable position. Gen. Taguba was assigned to investigate the prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib prison, a job that put Taguba on the hot seat.
"If I lie, I lose," the general told Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker. "And, if I tell the truth, I lose."
The chilling truth about the mistreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib was bound to be sensational, especially when photographs were discovered. Yet Hersh's June 25 New Yorker piece makes clear that the abuse was even worse than previously reported. Citing Gen. Taguba, Hersh reveals that investigators also discovered videos of sexual humiliation and other inflammatory acts that have not been made public.
It's an ugly story.
Yet Taguba tells Hersh that his military and civilian superiors did not want to hear the truth about these incidents. Nor did they want to hear about specific incidents that went beyond abuse, acts that Tabuga calls "torture."
As Taguba tells it, there was considerable stonewalling and evasion at the top of the Pentagon food chain. From Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his aides to the top generals and the CIA, there were pleas of ignorance and denial of responsibility.
In the end, the scandal was blamed on a few enlisted soldiers, the out-of-control "bad apples" in the prison. But Gen. Tabuga's paints a considerably more damning picture of official misconduct and willful ignorance, a picture that does no honor to our military or civilian leadership.
Or more bluntly: Our leaders dishonored themselves and their nation.
You can read Hersh's article in the "Recent" file at www.newyorker.com.