President Bush approved yesterday an order demoting Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Janis L. Karpinski, the only general to be punished in connection with investigations into detainee abuse at U.S. military prisons.
Karpinski’s rank was reduced to colonel, and she was issued a reprimand and relieved of her command. But the Army’s inspector general recommended the sanctions based on a broad charge of dereliction of duty, as well as on a charge of shoplifting, essentially clearing her of responsibility for the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison. As commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade, Karpinski oversaw more than a dozen prison facilities in Iraq in 2003.
“Though Brig. Gen. Karpinski’s performance of duty was found to be seriously lacking, the investigation determined that no action or lack of action on her part contributed specifically to the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib,” according to an Army news release. Instead, Army sources said, Karpinski was punished for leadership lapses and for failing to properly train and prepare her brigade in Iraq.
Pentagon officials have cited Karpinski’s punishment as evidence that the military has taken the Abu Ghraib abuse seriously. But the inspector general’s report does not link Karpinski’s deficiencies to the abuse and, as reported last week, clears four other top officers who were in charge of the war in Iraq. Those officers were Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, then the top U.S. commander in Iraq; his deputy, Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski; Maj. Gen. Barbara G. Fast, Sanchez’s top intelligence officer; and Col. Marc Warren, Sanchez’s top military lawyer.
Sanchez, who now commands the Army’s V Corps in Germany, was specifically cleared of allegations that he was derelict in his duties pertaining to detention and interrogation operations and that he improperly communicated interrogation policies. According to Pentagon investigations into the abuse, top generals believed that Sanchez bore some responsibility for failing to prevent or notice the abuse and for approving a set of interrogation tactics that allowed techniques such as using military dogs and placing detainees in stressful positions.
Human rights groups criticized the findings last week. They called for an independent investigation into the role of senior officials in abuse cases that were found to be widespread in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Neal A. Puckett, Karpinski’s attorney, said yesterday that she has not been informed of her demotion. Puckett said the Army is seeking to punish a general officer to show that action has been taken, but has distanced her from the actual abuse to absolve other senior leaders.
“They’re saying she’s the only senior leader that had any part in this, but they’re saying she didn’t have a direct part in it,” Puckett said. “I think they’re trying to have it both ways. They are severing the chain of command right at her eyeball level, and not letting it go higher.”
The shoplifting charge stemmed from a misdemeanor incident in which Karpinski allegedly stole cosmetics in Florida before she was promoted to one-star general. Her failure to disclose the arrest was against Army regulations.
Army officials said yesterday that about 25 percent of the 130 military members who have faced punishment for abuse were officers, including an unnamed colonel who received an administrative punishment, four colonels who were either reprimanded or administratively punished, three majors, 10 captains, six lieutenants and two chief warrant officers.
“Investigations into detainee abuse allegations are rank immaterial and will continue until all cases are completed,” an Army news release said.