SAN DIEGO (July 27) — Five years and a new administration later, the specter of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq still haunts the national consciousness, refusing to die even as the man who had investigated it now shies away from aggressively pursuing the course of justice.
Manila-born Antonio M. Taguba, a major-general in the United States Army forced into retirement in 2007, is hopeful the “war crimes” being blamed on top officials of the (George W.) Bush administration would be prosecuted and the responsible officials held to account.
While he advocates a follow-through, the 58-year-old gentleman who minced no words in articulating what he found that incriminated high-level officials, said he was not pushing hard on a “war crimes” trial, preferring to leave the decision to the government of President Barack Obama.
“To do so,” he explained in an interview on Saturday (July 25) evening aboard the USS Midway (now converted into a museum) anchored off San Diego Bay, “would be political”. Taguba stressed he’s a professional soldier and even in retirement, he would not wade in politics.
Early this year, he proposed creating an independent commission to investigate “war crimes” committed in Iraq by senior officials of the Bush White House.
Asked to identify the people in the Bush administration whom he knew had been involved in committing atrocities against inmates in Abu Ghraib prison, Taguba responded: “They know who they are”. He declined to name them.
Taguba had reported the results of his investigation in what has popularly become the “Taguba Report” detailing the harsh and cruel punishment inflicted by American servicemen on captured Iraqi soldiers.
In a preface to a report by the Physicians for Human Rights in June last year — four years after his explosive account had leaked in 2004 — Taguba wrote: “There is no longer any doubt that the current (Bush) administration committed war crimes. The only question is whether those who ordered torture will be held to account”.
Taguba disclosed that some people in the Obama government are “already looking into it” — a move that may or may not lead to criminal prosecution of the guilty parties.
When he mentioned that latest development, the general had a smile on his face that seemed to say he was pleased.
Taguba was in San Diego — his fourth visit here — as an honoree of this year’s Asian Heritage Awards sponsored by the regional newspaper Asia, the Journal of Culture and Commerce.
Asia editor Leonard Novarro said Taguba exemplified the “profiles of courage” that the late President John F. Kennedy had institutionalized as a way of recognizing individuals for their moral uprightness.
“I’m trying to be low-key,” he said, dodging suggestions that he has become an iconic role model , particularly in Filipino communities across the United States where he is looked up to. (Philippine Village Voice)