Monday, January 10, 2005

Specialist Graner's Court Martial

The trial of Specialist Charles Graner began today at Fort Hood, Texas with prosecutors showing previously unseen photographs from Abu Ghraib. While the prosecution portrayed Graner as a sadist who went far beyond what was authorized in the way he treated prisoners, the defense maintained that Graner merely followed orders and that his superiors often complimented his work.

The defense case was bolstered by the testimony of one of the prosecution witnesses, according to the Washington Post:

Army officers and CIA operatives at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison condoned the beatings and humiliation of Iraqi prisoners there and repeatedly praised the enlisted soldiers who abused the inmates, a former guard testified as the first military trial stemming from the prison scandal got underway Monday.

Pvt. Ivan L. Frederick was called as a prosecution witness in the Army's criminal case against Spec. Charles A. Graner Jr., the alleged ringleader of the abusive guards at Abu Ghraib. But his testimony tended to support a key element of Graner's defense--that he was following orders from higher-ranking officers when he punched and beat the prisoners and forced them to wallow naked in freezing mud outside the prison.

(The Post also provides Abu Ghraib prison photos and a brief video clip.)

Although many of the Americans at Abu Ghraib committed crimes and deserve to be punished (even if they were following orders), it is worth remembering that there were also those who acted courageously.

Witnesses said that most of the soldiers at the prison responded to abuse of inmates by laughing and joining in the mistreatment. But two soldiers--Spec. Matthew Wisdom and Spec. Joseph Darby--testified that they were so disgusted by the conduct of their fellow soldiers that they reported it to superiors. Wisdom's warning, in November 2003, was ignored. But two months later, Darby gave Army investigators photographic evidence of the abuse. That led to the public scandal, the congressional hearings and Graner's court-martial.