Presenter: General Janis Karpinski
Moderator: Neil Funnell
Gerry Schroeter introduced Hilton Head Island resident Janis Karpinski. Ms Karpinski is a retired Army Officer with a distinguished career serving in many challenging assignments. She was selected as the first female oﬃcer to serve as the Chief of Staﬀ for the largest Support Command in the US Army Reserves and was selected for promotion to Brigadier General to serve as the first female Commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade, deploying to the combat zone in Iraq, as the Commander during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Janis Karpinski's name became synonymous with Abu Gharib and the revelation of abuse and torture at the notorious prison facility located in Baghdad.
General Karpinski told a depressing story of waste, fraud and abuse, in the management of the invasion of Iraq, after the US had declared “Mission Accomplished”. As an Army General with Arabic language skills and experience in the Middle East, she felt she was one of the most qualified officers who could have been sent to work in the rebuilding of this war-torn country. Soon after she arrived in Iraq, she was given a task that she had not anticipated: the responsibility for running all jails and prisons in Iraq. These facilities were nothing like those in the United States, she said, but instead were filled largely with nonviolent Iraqis, including many professional people, who were picked up randomly, kept for long periods with bags over their heads, and locked up.
They could be held indefinitely. The policy in effect then, called those inmates something other than prisoners of war, and seemingly discarded the tenets of the Geneva Convention. The US was determining on its own, that they did not have to treat prisoners with normal standards of decency.
Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, sent Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who had been running the Guantánamo Bay prison, to Iraq for the purpose of getting information out of security detainees. Gen. Karpinski said that she was given lists of detainees who were turned over to private contract interrogators, in order to extract whatever information that they could. Abu Ghraib, which had a history in Iraq as a place of Sadam’s torture, was then designated as the interrogation center of Iraq.
The famous Abu Ghraib photos depict hazing, embarrassment, and otherwise despicable behavior but do not show actual torture, Gen. Karpinski said.
Vast amounts of money went down the drain with no beneficial purpose to U.S. taxpayers, through the hands of the thousands of contract employees, according to Gen. Karpinski. These employees were paid in cash and there was no accountability, she said. Out of that catastrophic period, groups like ISIS evolved. She said that bombings and massacres all over the world are now being executed by terrorists who are citing the abuse of Iraqis in prisons at Abu Ghraib, as grounds for their actions.
“How can you promote democracy if your actions are totally against democratic principles?”, she asks. In response to other questions from the audience, Gen. Karpinski said: