Can we focus for a moment on the unsung Americans in the military who make this nation proud? They and their peers are the ones most endangered by the reckless soldiers and contractors, negligent commanders, exploitative media, and grandstanding politicians who are responsible for creating and deepening the Abu Ghraib morass.
At the end of Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba's report on alleged abuse of prisoners by members of the 800th Military Police Brigade in Baghdad, we learn of Master-at-Arms First Class William J. Kimbro. He was a U.S. Navy dog handler who "knew his duties and refused to participate in improper interrogations despite significant pressure from the MI (military intelligence) personnel at Abu Ghraib."
There's 1st Lieutenant David O. Sutton of the 229th MP Company, who "took immediate action and stopped an abuse, then reported the incident to the chain of command."
And Specialist Joseph M. Darby of the 372nd MP Company, who "discovered evidence of abuse and turned it over to military law enforcement."
Don't believe the elitist spin that young American reservists are uneducated nitwits who can't be trusted to act properly in wartime. Darby, 24, came from a poor family in southwestern Pennsylvania. He worked at Wendy's as a teenager, as a mechanic after graduating high school, and then joined the 372nd three years ago. According to Darby's mom, who spoke with ABC News: "He said he could not stand the atrocities he had stumbled upon. He said he kept thinking, 'What if that was my mom, my grandmother, my brother or wife?'"
These three soldiers weren't alone in acting honorably toward enemy prisoners of war. Maj. Gen. Taguba reports: "Throughout the investigation, we observed many individual Soldiers and some subordinate units under the 800th MP Brigade that overcame significant obstacles, persevered in extremely poor conditions, and upheld the Army Values."
They include the men and women of the 744th MP Battalion, an Army Reserve unit from Lehigh Valley, Pa., commanded by LTC Dennis McGlone. Taguba says the 744th, which ran a high-security detention facility, "was disciplined, proficient, and appeared to understand their basic tasks." The 744th also supplied food, medicine and water to Iraqi schools and orphanages.
Also praised was the 530th MP Battalion based in Omaha, Neb., commanded by LTC Stephen J. Novotny. This fine group of American men and women also ran a high-security detention facility. According to Taguba, Novotny's soldiers "were proficient in their individual tasks and adapted well to this highly unique and non-doctrinal operation."
Finally, Taguba commended the 165th MI Battalion based in Darmstadt, Germany, which "excelled in providing perimeter security and force protection at Abu Ghraib." The battalion's leader, LTC Robert P. Walters Jr., "demanded standards be enforced and worked endlessly to improve discipline throughout the FOB (forward operating base)."
Many other units such as the Nevada Army National Guard's 72nd Military Police Company, not mentioned in the report, renovated and guarded Abu Ghraib and other prisons with strict adherence to the Geneva Convention and laws of war.
While dodging constant bullets, company commander Capt. Troy Armstrong told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the 72nd MPs reconstructed Abu Ghraib; protected the perimeter; escorted criminals to trial; and operated a separate jail in east-central Baghdad. Capt. Armstrong directed his soldiers to "be firm, fair and respectful at all times." He added, "All our soldiers know you couldn't take pictures of detainees period. And that was crystal clear."
One of Armstrong's men, Spc. Douglas Fry, rightly expressed unconditional disgust at the digital camera-wielding dolts at Abu Ghraib: "The acts of a few knuckleheads make the United States look bad."
So do the sorry excuses of their weasel lawyers, who blame a "lack of training" and invoke the "just following orders" card to explain away derelict behavior and inhumane treatment of prisoners. And so do the near-gleeful indulgences of opportunists on the left and right who have used Abu Ghraib to advance every agenda under the sun from dredging up Vietnam to excluding women and gays from the military, to emptying Guantanamo Bay, repealing the Patriot Act and burning Playboy.
For the sake of all good Americans, President Bush, punish the wrongdoers, reward the right-doers, and get the knuckleheads at home and abroad to knock it off.