Wednesday, May 19, 2004
As the poor enlisted soldiers embroiled within the multi-layered Torture Scandal are rushed to a swift, if not sure, justice by a cross service cabal of the Pentagon’s Future Plutocrat Club, we gain valuable insight from old-fashioned journalistic scrutiny of the command pressures on a lowly Army Colonel of a type that has never been directed upon the vanished Marine Colonel Joe Dowdy.
Army Col. Thomas M. Pappas
According to this morning’s New York Times and, we hope someone with paperwork, Army Col. Thomas M. Pappas, commander of the 205th Intelligence Brigade and seeming commander of Abu Ghraib prison from September of 2003 until February of 2004, was given command of the soon-to-be court-martialed Cumberland MP’s with the November 19, 2003 arrival of orders from Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez placing the 800th Military Police Brigade under the 205th IB.
Sanchez, only moments ago before the Senate Armed Services Committee, denied the existence of any such orders.
Pappas, according to the Times, relocated his brigade from Camp Victory near the Baghdad Airport to Abu Ghraib when high-ranking Army officer, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, the alleged coiner of the term Gitmo-izing:
Encouraged the Army colonel to have his unit work more closely with military police to set the conditions for interrogations. By the end of September, Colonel Pappas had asserted control of Tier 1 of the prison's "hard site", used for interrogation of Iraqi prisoners.
It would appear likely that the alleged November 19th Sanchez order had its origins in this undocumented form of command “encouragement”.
The Times and their unidentified military sources describe the intense pressure on Pappas from his command:
“He likened it to a root canal without Novocain," a senior officer who knows Colonel Pappas said of his meetings with his superiors in Baghdad. Often, the officer said, Colonel Pappas would emerge from discussions with two of them, Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast and Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, without a word, but "clutching his face as if in pain."
Through identified friends and relatives, the Times article paints a portrait of an unlikely Gestapo-type mastermind.
According to the Colonel’s brother, John Pappas of Middletown, N.J.:
"It doesn't seem to me that he would throw away his career to do something like that," he said. "I don't see him as giving an order to sodomize a prisoner. If he had gotten directives or orders that they could strip someone down or something, maybe."
From fellow officers:
A former senior Army intelligence officer described Colonel Pappas as highly regarded, "with a reputation for professional competence and for being a straight shooter." There is no indication that Colonel Pappas, whose expertise was in strategic and tactical intelligence, ever worked or was trained as a military interrogator, Army officials said. An Army officer who served with him at Abu Ghraib said that as far as interrogations at the Iraq prison were concerned, "he seemed to be learning on the fly."
From Prof. Jeffrey H. Norwitz, Pappas’ instructor in a three-month seminar on making national security decisions at the Navel War College:
He was a leader as well as a student in the class of about 18, the professor said. "Flat out, Tom was probably my best student in the seminar," Professor Norwitz said. "Here at the War College people say it's very hard to fail and very hard to get an A. That's true. In my seminar, Tom was an A-plus student."
So now a Colonel has been added to the funeral pyre of burnable enlisted provided by the civilian leadership’s salad and ribbon bedecked minions and I’m reminded of something I wrote back at the onset of ground war on March 27, 2003:
The children of the Love Generation, I fear, will return with souls too broken by the complex and brutal task with which they have been charged. Older generations, whose sins must now be cleansed with the blood of our youth, stand now linked to witness sacrifice.
It must be comforting, in times of crisis, to stand safe atop these pyramids of human flesh and power where information, authority and glory can, usually, be direct and instaneous while responsibility blurrs into a time-consuming wiggle through layers of blameless bureaucracy as evidenced in today’s waffling testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
In the unlikely event that some poor soul directly follows the string of higher responsibility out of the labyrinth, a brief sting of public embarassment for a principal can be quickly assuaged with a Paxon-like bow to family responsibilities and a profitable hop through the ever available revolving door of the military industrial complex.
Without an established chain of responsibility, the shotgun courts-martial now underway in Iraq are, thusfar, a travesty of American civilian and military justice.
Regarding the above mentioned Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast, this bit from the May 12, 2004 edition of Melbourne, Australia's The Age:
Colonel Hackworth said he believed that more junior soldiers would soon "blow the whistle" on the abuse scandal. He said the general in charge of military intelligence in Iraq, General Barbara Fast, who has so far escaped media scrutiny, would soon receive more attention.
She was under the command of General Ricardo Sanchez, the senior US commander for the Iraq occupation forces.
"They're keeping her away from the media, but she was the general in charge of military intelligence and this happened on her watch.
Hummmm...A May 19, 2004 DOD Joint Civilian Orientation Conference describes a seemingly recently promoted General Fast as a lower-ranked Brigadier and as:
Director of Intelligence J2
Headquarters, United States European Command
Photos: United States Army, Reuters