Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Karpinski's sharp elbows and garden variety bungling

An interesting sidenote from the tailend of Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski's interview (PDF) is when she lays out the notion that she had not been given the resources (manpower, physical facilities etc) she needed to do her job. In a sense it's likely that some of the specifics of Abu Ghraib could have been avoided if there were not the overcrowding of the prisons. She mentions a small exchange with General Sanchez that exposes the kind of plain corruption and incompetence in the Coalition Protection Agency (which never provided funds to build, expand and refurbish the overstretched prison system). I rather believe that the torture policy was systemic and that having resources in place would only have delayed things: the intial flaw of the Americans reaction to the insurgency was that they gathered up lots of people who didn't have any intelligence value - this was compunded by their practice of rounding up people as hostages (say someone's wife and kid) - something the human rights groups point out is contrary to the Geneva conventions; i.e illegal and counterproductive with the results we know.

Her take is somewhat self-serving but is also the mark of a bureaucratic insider who won't be made a scapegoat for her considerable leadership failings. What it reveals is emblematic of the kind of disaster that constitutes the entire Iraq enterprise (garden variety bungling, corruption with the contracters etc). If it's not that funds are largely unspent, there is the kind of contractor backscratching and overcharging ; it's plain incompetence. And that's what interests me here:

When I briefed General Sanchez on the condition of the civilian jails and why the progress was so slow. He turns on me, and he says, "What's wrong with you Karpinkski, you were briefing me just a month ago... that, you know, they were going to be on track and we were going to have capacity for 3,100 by now" And I said, "Sir, because the constructin is not taking place. And I've been to every one of the facilities and I see no evidence of appropriate expenditure of funds; millions of dollars.' I said, "I'm not a contractor, but I know what $25,000 worth of work should look like, and I know what $2 million worth of work should look like. And there's no evidence of it anywhere." "And what have you done?" "I went to the finance office at CPA. I looked for the IG's office at CPA. I looked for the GAO office at CPA. I talked to finance officer at Arifjan at the 377th. I talked to Colonel Warren. I talked to General Wodjakowski." "Well what happened to the money?" I said, "I don't know, sir. It was a cash operation and I suspect that the two subject matter experts borrowed some of it permanently." "Are you suggesting that they misappropriated funds?"

"Yes sir, I am. If the evidence of the construction of the facilities is-- is what I have to go by, because there is no GAO and there's no IG at CPA. And they wouldn't show me the contracts that they let for all these places. But I do know that the only place were construction is taking place is at Abu Ghraib, because my MPs are there. They're not the contracting officer representatives." And her turned to his SJA and said, "Since this has been dumped in my lap, tell me the next step I take." He never came back and asked for information. He never came back and asked for the information I had, or the evidence I had accumulated. Nobody ever came back to me and said this is what took place. As a matter of fact, Colonel Warren said to me, "You want to steer clear of the issue." I'm not blaming General Sanchez or General Wodjakowski. I just want them to take responsibility for what they didn't do. And I don't ever expect a person like General Sanchez to change his personality or his way of thinking or his way of succeedeing or anything else. I have only ever asked for a fair chance. And no sir did not give it me or anybody in the 800th MP brigade.
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