Army Clears Top Abu Ghraib Case Officers

The Army has formally exhonerated LTG Ricardo Sanchez and other senior officers on his staff of criminal wrongdoing in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

Army Clears Top Abu Ghraib Case Officers (AP)

The Army has cleared four top officers — including the three-star general who commanded all U.S. forces in Iraq — of all allegations of wrongdoing in connection with prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib and will not be punished, officials said Friday.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who became the senior commander in Iraq in June 2003, two months after the fall of Baghdad, had been faulted in earlier investigations for leadership lapses that may have contributed to prisoner abuse. He is the highest ranking officer to face official allegations of leadership failures in Iraq, but he has not been accused of criminal violations.

After assessing the allegations against Sanchez and taking sworn statements from 37 people involved in Iraq, the Army’s inspector general, Lt. Gen. Stanley E. Green, concluded that the allegations were unsubstantiated, said the officials who were familiar with the details of Green’s probe. Green reached the same conclusion in the cases of two generals and a colonel who worked for Sanchez.

The officials who disclosed the findings spoke only on condition of anonymity because Congress has not yet been fully briefed on Green’s findings and the information has not yet been publicly released. Green had scrutinized the actions of Sanchez and 11 other officers.

This is hardly surprising and, indeed, is almost certainly the right outcome. Sanchez and his staff were focused on running the overall operations in Iraq. It’s simply unreasonable to hold them criminally responsible for the actions of subordinates several echelons beyond their span of control. Now, BG Karpinski, who actually commanded the prisons in Iraq, would be a reasonable target of such probes.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. mike says:

    It’s sad that BG Skeletore has managed to evade any type of responsibility despite being in command – amazing what a one person PR campaign can do in our society. I mean she was the commander and all…

  2. herb says:

    This whole Abu Ghraib thing makes me sick. I just can’t understand why we have those amoung us here in the USA that have any sorrow or pity for those who have no morals or sense of deciency in their bodies, They certainly have no souls. For us to even consider that humilliating a few of those who should have been shot as torture is just plain assinine. Those terrorist wouldn’t think a second thought of decapitating a prisioner they had. This whole fiasco is and has been a bunch of dogooders, liberals and assholes trying to make political hay. When are we in America going to get smart and learn that a street fight cannot be won using goody tooshoes rules. The only answer for the terrorist problem is to kill them “on the spot”, then go on and kill more of them. That is the only thing terrorists understand and respect.

  3. GSR says:

    I remember from my Navy days that the Captain, on or off duty, asleep or awake, on the bridge or off, is ultimately responsible for everything that occurs on board. It’s a tough standard but one which has served the Navy well for 200+ years. Although removed from the day to day activities in the prison, Sanchez and his leadership team must bear some responsibility – that’s part of being a General and having Command. Your troops perform well and you’re a hero. Your troops “F” up and your a goat and held responsible. It comes with the job and rank.
    By no means is this the end. Certainly Congress will jump on this, which is too bad – the Army should have taken care of this on their own.

  4. Frank says:

    I agree with you, GSR…but you did not go far enough! We should get Sanchez’ boss. Bury that SOB. Then get the guy who sent him there ( and we know who that is ) and finally let’s get his boss. Yes, that’s right ! the American people…let’s get those bastards! …really, why stop w/Sanchez?.

  5. Anderson says:

    This link provides evidence that General Sanchez may have lied to Congress about whether he authorized terrorizing prisoners (most of whom, recall, were ultimately released without being charged) with guard dogs.