A decision to reach plea agreements with soldiers involved with detainee abuses at Camp Bucca in May 2003 -- the worst punishment was a less-than-honorable discharge -- may have sent the wrong message. The hapless Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who was in charge of Iraqi detention centers, told Maj. Gen Antonio Taguba -- as he was preparing a report requested early in the year, before the story broke -- "the system communicated to soldiers (who mistreat detainees), the worst that's gonna happen is, you're gonna go home."
Yesterday, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who is now in charge of detainee camps, invited the Red Cross to keep a close eye on Abu Ghraib to ensure that conditions improve.
Here's a better suggestion: Tear it down.
The Taguba report also notes that the detention camps are overcrowded -- and that many prisoners should not have been detained or now merit release. The jails are understaffed, and it doesn't help that they don't separate insurgents from career criminals.
It's a recipe for disaster.
Besides, it's bad juju to set up house in a one-time torture/assassination factory. Put impressionable minds in that madhouse, and they might get bad ideas. Continuing to use Abu Ghraib to incarcerate Iraqis sent the wrong message. What, if anything, were they thinking?
Washington has to act. There will be a probe, and there will be trials, as there should be. But there also should be some permanent deconstruction in Iraq.
The French tore down the Bastille. Let Iraqi civilians, led by Hayder Sabbar Abd and the children of Hussein's slain opponents, join with U.S. troops who worked in Abu Ghraib and tear down that the house of woe.
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