The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

Army General: Americans tortured prisoners at Abu Ghraib

The Pentagon’s lead investigator in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal spoke Thursday at UCSB’s Campbell Hall about his findings that implicated many officials of serious negligence, including former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Approximately 350 students and faculty listened to retired Major General Antonio Taguba’s account of the horrid torture he witnessed at the facility that he described as a “modern-day dungeon.”

“I witnessed sodomy, sexually deviant acts, and incredible acts of horror,” Taguba said.

These acts were caught on numerous photographs, which were later displayed on many media outlets following Taguba’s report in 2004.

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His report would implicate many leaders in his own chain-of-command, sending many of them to congress to brief the political leaders about the abuses.

It would also lead to Taguba’s reassignment to a less prominent role within the Army, and eventually to his early retirement after 34 years of service.

“I was told by some of my colleagues that a high-ranking leader made sure that my time was up,” Taguba said.

The United States failure to abide by the guidelines set forth in the Geneva Convention pertaining to prisoners of war damaged foreign relations with many other countries, Taguba said.

“I saw naked prisoners lying face down on the cement ground with chemical-lights inserted in their rectums,” Taguba said. A chemical light is an eight inch florescent light used by the military as a flash light. “A broom-handle followed.”

These practices led to the General placing much of the blame on high-ranking Army officials as well as leaders from other agencies that he said were involved, such as government contractors and the Central Intelligence Agency.

“However, the United States Government has not found a single shred of evidence linking any other agency to this scandal,” Taguba said. “The Army has been the only ones who have taken responsibility.”

The General also argued that the Military Police were not trained well enough on how to treat prisoners of war given that there were two different guidelines on how this was to be done, the Uniform Code of Military Justice and that of the Geneva Convention.

“This officer is easily confused when receiving conflicting orders,” the General joked.

Overcrowding also became an issue of importance as less than 1,000 soldiers were ordered to guard over 9,000 prisoners in a poorly built prison north of Baghdad.

These factors led to the break-down that became known as the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal.

“Walking through the tears (cells) it was very difficult not to notice these vicious acts of horror,” Taguba said. “This was clearly torture. The Iraqi prisoners were clearly in pain.”

A full account of Taguba’s story has been so sought-after that a seven-figure payment was offered to him to write a book. A documentary was to follow, however the General rejected both offers, citing that he “wasn’t in it for the money.”

The retired General now enjoys spending time with his children, family and his parents, both whom are still alive today. His Santa Barbara visit was sponsored by UCSB Arts and Lectures.

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