The US army has offered its last word on holding its generals accountable in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, but Congress is going to have the final say.
The army announced that it demoted Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, whose army reserve unit was in charge of the prison compound during the period of abuse. Dropping her in rank to colonel required approval from US President George W. Bush, and officials said that he granted it on Thursday.
The army also said it cleared three other, more senior generals of wrongdoing in the prisoner-abuse cases, actions that had been previously reported but not publicly confirmed by the army.
That means Karpinski is the only general to be disciplined thus far. The demotion means her career in the military, where officers must rise in rank or leave, is effectively over. Messages left at her home in Hilton Head, South Carolina, and with her attorney were not immediately returned.
Some in Congress have sharply criticized the Pentagon for failing to hold the more senior officers in Iraq accountable and instead pinning most of the blame on low-ranking soldiers like Private First Class Lynndie England.
The Senate Armed Services Committee has said it intends to hold hearings soon to assess whether senior Defense Department civilian and military leaders were held adequately accountable for Abu Ghraib.
The army described its investigations as exhaustive, requiring six months of work including sworn-statement interviews with 82 people, including Paul Bremer, who was the top civilian authority in Iraq at the time, and General John Abizaid, the commander of US forces in the Middle East.
Among those cleared by the army was Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, who was the top army general in Iraq at the time of the prisoner abuses. He has been faulted by some for leadership failures but has never been accused of ordering or sanctioning any abuse of prisoners.
The army said that it was not able to substantiate two allegations against Sanchez: dereliction in the performance of duties pertaining to detention and interrogation operations and improperly communicating interrogation policies.
Sanchez is currently the commander of 5th Corps, headquartered at Heidelberg, Germany.
In addition to being demoted, Karpinski received a written reprimand and was formally relieved of command of the 800th Military Police Brigade on April 8, the army said in a statement.
The army's inspector general investigated four allegations against Karpinski: dereliction of duty, making a "material misrepresentation" to investigators, failure to obey a lawful order and shoplifting.
Only the shoplifting and dereliction of duty allegations were substantiated.