Officer at center of Abu Ghraib scandal vows to clear name

Beaufort (S.C.) GazetteDecember 18, 2010 

BEAUFORT, S.C. -- Janis Karpinski believes one day, a call will come from Washington, D.C., and a voice will tell her she has been cleared of the wrongdoing that thrust her into the national spotlight.

"So then they'll be, of course, an outpouring of media requests," Karpinski said. "Maybe I'll be selective. Maybe Olbermann, maybe O'Reilly."

The Hilton Head Island resident has even imagined the title of her next book: "Cleared," or perhaps "Vindicated."

But so far, the exoneration she so deeply craves -- and freedom from the Abu Ghraib prison scandal -- eludes her.

Karpinski, now 57, was put in charge of the Army Reserve's 800th Military Police Brigade in 2003. She was the only female commander in Iraq. As the one-star general responsible for detention facilities in the war-torn nation, she told reporters how the prison system had been used by Saddam Hussein for intimidation and torture.

She returned to the U.S. as part of scheduled troop rotations, and it wasn't until the middle of 2004 that photographs surfaced that depicted abuse in Abu Ghraib. The pictures show detainees wired as if for electrocution or stripped naked and stacked in a pyramid, with American service personnel posing and smiling alongside.

In the ensuing scandal, Karpinski was demoted to colonel. Reporters camped in front of her house. She began to worry that total strangers might recognize and harass her.

Throughout the ordeal, she maintained her innocence. She said the wing of the prison where the abuse took place was under the command of military intelligence, and she argued that responsibility lay with top officials -- perhaps even with then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld -- who authorized coercive methods of interrogation.

She is, she says, simply a scapegoat forced to take the fall.

But she hasn't taken that fall quietly.

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