Truth to power: Army Major General Antonio Taguba prepares to give his testimony about Abu Ghraib before the Senate Armed Services Committee on May 11, 2004.
Truthdig tips its hat this week to Army Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, whose 2004 report about prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib was damningly thorough and truthful—and who thus found himself contradicted and chastised by Pentagon and Bush administration officials for doing his job right.
Gen. Taguba opened up about his run-in with Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, among others, to The New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh, describing the disconnect between what he believed his mission was and how they received his report in May 2004, four months after Taguba had begun his investigation into the goings-on at the prison in Iraq. As the general told Hersh, it was soon very clear that the two parties had different expectations about the goal of the report and how its findings should be handled:
“Here . . . comes . . . that famous General Taguba—of the Taguba report!” Rumsfeld declared, in a mocking voice. The meeting was attended by Paul Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld’s deputy; Stephen Cambone, the Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence; General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (J.C.S.); and General Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, along with Craddock and other officials. Taguba, describing the moment nearly three years later, said, sadly, “I thought they wanted to know. I assumed they wanted to know. I was ignorant of the setting.”
In the meeting, the officials professed ignorance about Abu Ghraib. “Could you tell us what happened?” Wolfowitz asked. Someone else asked, “Is it abuse or torture?” At that point, Taguba recalled, “I described a naked detainee lying on the wet floor, handcuffed, with an interrogator shoving things up his rectum, and said, ‘That’s not abuse. That’s torture.’ There was quiet.”
Not only was Taguba not rewarded for his efforts, but he found himself being “watched” at the Pentagon (where he was subsequently stationed, his career effectively at a dead end), disowned by former friends and colleagues, and contradicted by higher-ups in the military and the Bush administration who feigned ignorance of the Abu Ghraib atrocities during a period when, Taguba insists, they must have known about the scandal. Too bad Taguba stands out from that bunch as a true servant of his country, willing to confront and stick to hard truths about corruption and war and to stand his ground once the lid was blown off the shameful Abu Ghraib case.