Brigadier General Janis Karpinski and other officers in her brigade were faulted by Army investigators for paying too little attention to the prison’s day-to-day operations and not acting strongly enough to discipline soldiers under her command for violating standard procedures, officials said on Monday.
Karpinski’s suspension, which has not been announced by the Army, was the latest in a series of actions against officers and enlisted soldiers implicated in the abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.
Last week, Specialist Jeremy Sivits received the maximum penalty of a year in prison and a bad-conduct discharge in the first court-martial stemming from the abuse of Iraqis at the prison. He was among seven members of the 372nd Military Police Company who have been charged.
Karpinski, who has returned to the United States, has not been charged with an offence.
Being suspended from her command does not mean she has been relieved of command, so technically she could be reinstated, although the intensity of the international furore over the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse makes that highly unlikely, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Abuse at the prison has caused
In an interview on MSNBC on Monday night, Karpinski said she has been told of her suspension by “several sources, but I have nothing in writing.” The paperwork will cite the reason for her suspension, she said.
Karpinski has said she was being treated unfairly for the acts of others over which she had no control.
“And actions like this renew my thought process of being a scapegoat and using the 800th MP Brigade as the organisation responsible for this,” she said.
In his widely cited investigation report on the Abu Ghraib abuse allegations, Major General Antonio Taguba found heavy fault with Karpinski’s performance and recommended that she be relieved of command and given a formal reprimand.
Instead she was given a less-severe “memorandum of admonishment” on 17 January by Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, the top US commander in Iraq.
“What I found particularly disturbing in her testimony was her complete unwillingness to either understand or accept that many of the problems inherent in the 800th MP Brigade were caused or exacerbated by poor leadership…”
Major General Antonio Taguba
Taguba reported that despite the documented abuse of prisoners, he saw no evidence that Karpinski ever attempted to remind the military police in her command of the requirements of the Geneva Conventions, which protect prisoners of war and civilian detainees in times of armed conflict.
“What I found particularly disturbing in her testimony was her complete unwillingness to either understand or accept that many of the problems inherent in the 800th MP Brigade were caused or exacerbated by poor leadership and the refusal of her command to both establish and enforce standards and principles among its soldiers,” Taguba wrote.
In her defence, Karpinski has said in numerous interviews with news organisations that her military superiors and civilian leaders ignored her requests for more troops to watch prisoners.
She also has said that control of the prison was taken away from her in November 2003 when a military intelligence unit was put in charge.