In her newly released autobiography, One Woman’s Army: The Commanding General of Abu Ghraib Tells Her Story, Janis Karpinski recounts her side of a scandal that led to her demotion and prompted international outrage over the mistreatment of Iraqi detainees at the US military-run prison.
While accepting her “share of the responsibility” for some of what occurred when she presided over military police across Iraq, Karpinski says the abuses at Abu Ghraib “were not the work of a few wayward soldiers and their female leader”.
“They were the result of conflicting orders and confused standards extending from the military commanders in Iraq all the way to the summit of civilian leadership in Washington,” she writes.
While other senior army officers have yet to be prosecuted or demoted, Karpinski said the male-dominated military quickly pinned blame on her after the scandal erupted in 2004.
On the order of President George Bush, Karpinski was later demoted from the rank of brigadier-general to colonel.
Lower ranking officers and soldiers have been punished as well.
First female general
Born to an affluent family in New Jersey, the 54-year-old Karpinski recounts how she rose up the army ranks and was sent to Iraq “as the first female general ever to command soldiers in a combat zone”.
Notorious photographs of US soldiers sexually humiliating Iraqi prisoners shocked the world and damaged the US image, particularly in the Islamic world.
Human rights groups have accused Washington of turning a blind eye to similar abuses of detainees in Afghanistan and at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
Karpinski writes that she had no idea of the brewing scandal until she learned in a brief email that proof of abuse from an internal investigation would be presented to the commander of US troops in Iraq.
According to her book, it was the first time she had heard about possible abuses at Abu Ghraib and the first time she had heard about the internal investigation.