Saturday, May 14, 2005

More Abu Ghraib fallout

A few days ago, it was announced that Janis Karpinski, the commander of the miscreants who had perpetrated the Abu Ghraib fiasco, was being demoted from brigadier general to colonel for "seriously lacking" performance, and for lying about a shoplifting arrest.

A good start, but not far enough. Colonel is still a very senior rank in the military. Also, Major General Geoffrey Miller, who was in charge of the Abu Ghraib facility, has not been punished at all for his role in this fiasco.

It is interesting in the Abu Ghraib fiasco that most of the punishments have been doled out to individual participants, and not to the commanders who created the environment in which these abuses took place. One basic rule of delegation - it is possible to delegate the execution of a task, but it is not possible to delegate responsibility for it. If your subordinate screws up, that subordinate is responsible for it, but so is the superior, and along with responsibility goes accountability. As an IT director, I am held accountable by the company I work for, not only for my own performance, but also for the performance of all of my subordinates. If my subordinates make a mistake, I am held accountable because I failed to adequately supervise them, failed to properly set bounds in which they were to operate, or failed to ensure my people were adequately trained for the tasks they were executing. And, if I allowed a fiasco of the magnitude of Abu Ghraib to occur under my watch, whether I was aware of it while it was happening or not, I would be summarily fired. I do not understand why the US military does not hold its commanders up to the same standard as the private sector holds managers.

Abu Ghraib did significant damage to the credibility of the US military in Iraq, alienated many of the people in Iraq who had previously supported their efforts, bolstered the support of the insurgents, and provided new motivation for terrorists. How many American soldiers and Iraqi civilians have been killed over the past several months because of this? It is for this exact reason that the people responsible for Abu Ghraib, and especially the commanders who set the stage for this abuse, deserve to be punished.

Personally, I think a suitable punishment for both Miller and Karpinski would be to demote both of them to private, send the newly minted Private Miller and Private Karpinski back to Abu Ghraib, and allow them to spend the next few months scrubbing toilets in the prisoners' cells. Of course, the US military is not as much of a believer in poetic justice as I am, and I doubt if we will ever see anything close to this.