Mon, Jun 18, 2007 - Page 7 News List

General claims retirement forced after Abu Ghraib

NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE , WASHINGTON

The US Army general who investigated the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal has said he was forced into retirement by civilian Pentagon offiscials because he had been "overzealous."

In an interview with The New Yorker, his first since retiring in January, Major General Antonio Taguba said that former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld and other senior civilian and military officials had treated him brusquely after the investigation into the formerly US-run prison outside of Baghdad was completed in 2004.

He also said that early last year he was ordered, without explanation, to retire within a year.

"They always shoot the messenger," Taguba said.

"To be accused of being overzealous and disloyal -- that cuts deep into me. I was ostracized for doing what I was asked to do," Taguba said.

forced out

In a brief interview on Saturday in which he confirmed his comments to The New Yorker, Taguba said that Thomas Hall, the assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, told him in January last year, that he was being forced out.

"He called me in and said I was no longer part of the team," Taguba said. "When someone calls you in and says `I have to let you go,' and offers no explanation, you connect the dots."

That same month, he added, General Richard Cody, the Army's Vice Chief of Staff, told him that he would have to retire within a year.

Hall could not be reached for comment on Saturday. Taguba was assigned to the Office of Reserve Affairs at the Pentagon after completing the Abu Ghraib investigation.

His March 2004 report on the Abu Ghraib scandal found that "numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses were inflicted on several detainees" at Abu Ghraib by soldiers from the 372nd Military Police Company from October to December 2003.

criticism

Taguba criticized Rumsfeld for claiming that he was unaware of the extent of the abuse and that he had not seen any of the photographs from the report until months after the Army began an investigation into the allegations in January 2004.

Taguba said senior Pentagon officials had been briefed on the investigation and given accounts of the phtographs early on in the process.

When he briefed Rumsfeld the day before a May 7, 2004 congressional hearing, he said that Rumsfeld had complained then about not having a copy of his report. But Taguba said he had submitted copies to superiors two months earlier.

Lawrence Di Rita, a former top aide to Rumsfeld, said Rumsfeld had not viewed the photographs because he had been advised by his lawyers that doing so "could possibly materially affect the ongoing criminal investigation."

testimony

He said Rumsfeld finally looked at the pictures the day before his congressional testimony, the same day he was briefed by Taguba.

Di Rita said Taguba's assertion that he was ostracized as a result of his investigation "is simply false."

"Secretary Rumsfeld believed General Taguba managed a difficult assignment to the best of his abilities," Di Rita said.

Taguba said some of the most graphic evidence of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib had not been made public, including a videotape he said he had seen of a male soldier in uniform sodomizing a female detainee.

While his inquiry was limited to the conduct of the military police that were guarding the prison, he said he had strongly suspected that many of the guards had been influenced by military intelligence units, who were in charge of interrogating prisoners.

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