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Charles Graner May Testify At His Abu Ghraib Trial

Opening arguments begin tomorrow in the military trial of Charles Graner, the alleged ringleader of the guards in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal. His lawyer, Guy Womack, says Graner may testify in his own defense. Womack says it is very unusual for him to allow a client to testify in his own defense, but that Graner can tell his story better than anyone else. I'll bet he can.

Womack plans to argue that Graner was told by higher-ranking soldiers and intelligence agents to rough up the detainees prior to interrogation, and that he had no choice but to obey despite personal misgivings.

You see any misgivings here?

Womack further explains that Graner's defense is either that the orders to Graner were lawful or that he thought they were lawful. If the jury buys either, Womack says, it must acquit Graner.

Back to why Graner may testify. If the testimony at trial shows the orders were not lawful, then Graner is left with establishing his belief in their lawfulness. His testimony seems pretty critical. It is not that unusual for a defendant to testify when relying upon an affirmative defense (other examples are self-defense and entrapment) as opposed to when the defendant is simply holding the Government to its burden of proof in establishing it was him or her that committed the crime as opposed to someone else.

Query: What will Graner's defense be if the evidence is that there were no such orders to hurt the prisoners?

On a related topic, Graner could use a public relations lesson. Or else he should stop talking to the media. These kind of comments are not going to endear him to anyone:

He seemed in a good mood after an all-male jury of four Army officers and six senior enlisted men was selected Friday to decide his fate in what is expected to be a weeklong trial. If convicted on all counts, he faces up to 17 1/2 years in a military prison.

"The sun is shining, the sky is blue and this is America," Graner said outside a Fort Hood courthouse. "Whatever happens is going to happen, but I still feel it's going to be on the positive side, and I'm going to have a smile on my face."

Human beings were tortured at Abu Ghraib, Mr. Graner. Whether you are found criminally responsible or not, you participated in their torture. You need to wipe that smile off your face.

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    I got the impression from some regarding My Lai that since the orders must have come from above that Lt. Calley should not take the fall. Regardless of whether they were following orders or not, Calley then and Graner now did commit war crimes. Because their superiors do not get prosecuted does not mean that the lower level soldiers should be exempt.

    The "I did what i was told" arguement will not fly. One of the first classes new recruits are given during basic training is on the UCMJ. I remember when I was going through basic. This officer going over and over how we wear the white hats. We don't shoot paratroopers or at vehicles with the medic symbol. I am quite sure an s4 officer has repeatedly gone over and over what can be done and what cant. These criminals took it upon themselves to brutally mistreat those that they were entrusted with their care.

    A big part of why we're slowly losing the war on terror is because we're allowing ourselves to become 'converted'. This battle we're in now is truly a clash of cultures, but if we think that we can win by becoming more comfortable with using their tactics, we've been converted to their way of life.

    I'm forced to disagree. I think that our military should rightly expect complete and total obedience from soldiers. If he can prove this was a direct, or even implied order, he should indeed be exempt, and we should go right up the ladder. I have much less sympathy for the soldier who was videotaped shooting an unarmed and injured insurgent, because he was taking initiative. Of course if Graner can't prove he was ordered, then off with his head.(peferably not literally.)

    RMLJ wrote... am quite sure an s4 officer has repeatedly gone over and over what can be done and what cant. These criminals took it upon themselves to brutally mistreat those that they were entrusted with their care. Read the Taguba Report . It was a brigade-wide problem, and there were civilian contractors involved as well: As I have documented in other parts of this investigation, I find that there was no clear emphasis by BG Karpinski to ensure that the 800th MP Brigade Staff, Commanders, and Soldiers were trained to standard in detainee operations and proficiency or that serious accountability lapses that occurred over a significant period of time, particularly at Abu Ghraib (BCCF), were corrected. Brigade and unit SOPs for dealing with detainees if they existed at all, were not read or understood by MP Soldiers assigned the difficult mission of detainee operations. Following the abuse of several detainees at Camp Bucca in May 2003, I could find no evidence that BG Karpinski ever directed corrective training for her soldiers or ensured that MP Soldiers throughout Iraq clearly understood the requirements of the Geneva Conventions relating to the treatment of detainees. Maybe because the Geneva Convention requirements were thought to be "quaint"?? I find that there is sufficient credible information to warrant an Inquiry UP Procedure 15, AR 381-10, US Army Intelligence Activities, be conducted to determine the extent of culpability of MI personnel, assigned to the 205th MI Brigade and the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center (JIDC) at Abu Ghraib (BCCF). Specifically, I suspect that COL Thomas M. Pappas, LTC Steve L. Jordan, Mr. Steven Stephanowicz, and Mr. John Israel were either directly or indirectly responsible for the abuses at Abu Ghraib (BCCF) and strongly recommend immediate disciplinary action as described in the preceding paragraphs as well as the initiation of a Procedure 15 Inquiry to determine the full extent of their culpability. When are the trials for Mr. Stephanowicz and Mr. Israel?

    Re: Charles Graner May Testify At His Abu Ghraib T (none / 0) (#6)
    by cp on Sun Jan 09, 2005 at 06:39:46 PM EST
    last time i checked, clearly illegal orders are not required to be obeyed. he should have reported this to jag, not gleefully participated. interestingly, his girlfriend made the exact same claim, but refused to identify the "superior officers" who ordered these activities. if it were me, i'd have been singing like a bird. the civilian contractors or agencies that participated in this idiocy should be hung from the yardarm as well.

    When the general is arrested i will be happy, so i will never be happy, but remember god help anyone going to our prison system, you understand what will happen to Graner right? Bush needs prison.

    The doctors in Falloujah are SO relieved to know that we don't shoot at vehicles with the medic symbol (and wouldn't even consider invading a hospital).

    Those two posing by the "pyramid" look like they are posing for a wedding photo at Niagra Falls. What is wrong with these people? These weirdos notwithstanding, the military says they don't have to follow illegal orders but is that true in practice or just a way to blame the grunts? On one hand they could be threatened with courtmartial if they DIDN'T follow orders, yet when they chips fall they are the patsies. The military brainwashes these people to obey orders without question..that is what they do...some call it "training" some call it "brainwashing."

    but remember god help anyone going to our prison system, you understand what will happen to Graner right? One might argue that he would more likely be the one doing not to whom it happens.

    Brian Boru wrote: The doctors in Falloujah are SO relieved to know that we don't shoot at vehicles with the medic symbol (and wouldn't even consider invading a hospital). I assume what you are trying to sarcastically say is that the opposing forces do not follow the Geneva Conventions and that, therefore, neither should the US Army? Sorry, that just doesn't wash. Our supposed moral superiority over those we are fighting only exists when, regardless of the tactics used against us, we never allow ourselves to be drawn down to the level of our adversaries. As was said by thehim: if we think that we can win by becoming more comfortable with using their tactics, we've been converted to their way of life. I don't know about you, Brian, but that is surely not how I want MY country to be. -Cameron

    Re: Charles Graner May Testify At His Abu Ghraib T (none / 0) (#13)
    by pigwiggle on Mon Jan 10, 2005 at 07:49:58 AM EST
    A colleague of mine brought an interesting study to my attention. Back in the day when social scientists were not averse to experimenting on people one investigated the prisoner prison guard relationship. After putting one group of students in charge of another it eventually deteriorated into imposed humiliating acts. One act was the stacking of the Ďprisonersí, if I recall they had also been stripped. I am trying to find it now; Iíll post it if I can find it. If I canít Iíll assume he was full of sh*t.

    the whole reason we are there, according to our leaders, is because we are liberating and stabilizing iraq. why did we take on the job (again, accoridng to this administration)? because of our moral superiority. so when you try to justify our use of tactics that violate the geneva convention (and the standards of human decency) by pointing out that the enemy uses those same tactics... well, you are just proving the point that our government and military is no better than that of the taliban or of the iraqi insurgency. so is that what you are trying to say? that we are bound only to be as just and as decent as our enemy? or do we have an obligation to be more just and more decent?

    Re: Charles Graner May Testify At His Abu Ghraib T (none / 0) (#15)
    by cp on Mon Jan 10, 2005 at 08:33:41 AM EST
    pig, i have read of similar experiments, and not all that long ago. some had to do with hitting another person with a (low volt/amp) shot of electricity, etc. however, and this is a really huge however, in all of those experiments, none of the participants was a trained professional, as these guards supposedly were. the same with police who, after a wild car chase, capture the suspect, put him/her in cuffs, than proceed to beat the living daylights out of them, because of their adrenalin, etc. they are supposed to be the professionals, and not allow their emotions to rule. what they are is an affront to the real pro's, who are made to look bad because of the actions of these bozos.

    Graner will do a minimum of 10 years!

    Re: Charles Graner May Testify At His Abu Ghraib T (none / 0) (#17)
    by Che's Lounge on Mon Jan 10, 2005 at 10:55:37 AM EST
    pigwiggle, There was a study out of Stanford from 1973 or 1983 that was referenced here last spring during the Abu Ghraib revelations. Check the archives. The study showed how human nature responds to situations such as these. The "guards" quickly became abusive. This is not to excuse Graner's behavior. He could have refused the order and forced the issue into the press. But obviously the pentagon set up the conditions and showed no interest in respecting the Geneva Convention. After what DOJ was saying and Sanchez was ordering, why should they care?

    Why would he question the order, these were the terrorist who flew the planes into the WTC weren't they? (isn't that what his commander in chief AWOL was saying?) My take was that the politicians became desperate to capture Sadaam H. and resorted to torture to get quick info because Howard Dean was making headway with his antiwar campaign. Just look at Dean's fortune change after Sadaam was caught.

    My feeling is: If he was given a direct order to torture the prisoners, he still deserves to be convicted and sentenced, because illegal orders must not be obeyed, and an order to commit an act of torture is an illegal order. That has to be established, as publicly as possible. (In principle, I feel kind of sorry for the low-level grunts who get convicted on this basis, but I have to admit that with happy-smiley-I-feel-good Graner, it's a matter of principle only.) But, if he was given a direct order to torture the prisoners, or even if he were given indirect orders that plainly led to acts of torture being carried out, whoever gave the order also needs to be put on trial. And so on, up the chain of command, until the top. It disturbs me very much that at least one of those on trial for torture in Abu Ghraib refused to say who gave her the orders. Why? What reason does she have for refusing to testify?

    et al... you are all living in a dream world.... Would any of you say that humiliating someone (more of a religious act than anything else in this case) would not be worth getting info that could potentually save American lives??? Real Men love J...."The "I did what i was told" arguement will not fly." Of course it will.... that's what soldiers are suppose to do!!! "One of the first classes new recruits are given during basic training is on the UCMJ." And the UCMJ talks about following orders... The ONLY order you are allowed to disobey is one that would be to intentionally kill one of your own. thehim.... "A big part of why we're slowly losing the war on terror is because we're allowing ourselves to become 'converted'" You have to fight fire with fire dude. Ever learn about how the British troops marched in rows against the minutmen? Imagine if they would have hid behind trees like we did??? Ernesto.... Maybe because the Geneva Convention requirements were thought to be "quaint"?? I'm not sure how many times I have to repeat this before some of you get it...but the Geneva conventions don't apply if you don't sign them... Guess what.... the other side hasn't!!!! This isn't a 'conventional' war...if we treat it like one...we will lose. cp...."last time i checked, clearly illegal orders are not required to be obeyed" And you (being there) know what was 'clearly illegal' about any of this?? free radical...I have much less sympathy for the soldier who was videotaped shooting an unarmed and injured insurgent, because he was taking initiative. He was protecting himself as this (pretending to be unarmed) is one of the many tactics used to blow soldiers up when they get close enough. Besides...he wanted to die for Allah anyway!!! Oneworld..."The military brainwashes these people to obey orders without question" I'm LOL here... you obviously have never been in the military!! Yes... a better way would be to have discussions about which orders you would like to follow & when...huh? Jesurislac...."If he was given a direct order to torture the prisoners, he still deserves to be convicted and sentenced, because illegal orders must not be obeyed" It is not for us here to judge what is illegal or not. Taking nacked pictures is sooo terrible. As far as I'm concerned... I would have been pulling fingernails out to get info that would save American lives. I'm glad none of you served with me... I wouldn't rely on you to have my back

    I'm not sure how many times I have to repeat this before some of you get it...but the Geneva conventions don't apply if you don't sign them... Guess what.... the other side hasn't!!!! This isn't a 'conventional' war...if we treat it like one...we will lose. Don't tell me that, tell that to General Taguba. BTW..."you" will lose anyway. I'm glad none of you served with me... I wouldn't rely on you to have my back You would be a prime target for a fragging, for sure.

    B.B.: It is not for us here to judge what is illegal or not. Think about how you'd feel, B.B., if those pictures of naked bodies stacked in pyramids (and remember, those are the mildest of the Abu Ghraib photographs) were US soldiers: if the grinning torturers standing over them were Iraqi soldiers. Would you still feel "it's not torture" - or "It ought to be allowed"? If Americans are allowed to pull out toenails to "save American lives" then Iranians are allowed to pull out toenails to "save Iranian lives" - that's the way it goes. Are you happy with that?

    The entertaining thing about BB's argument is that he actually assumes these guys were actually after information, rather than just for kicks. Besides, law enforcement agencies and successive governments have come to the conclusion that torture doesn't get worthwhile information - the vics tend to point at anyone just to make it stop.

    And BB...the Geneva Conventions apply to EVERYBODY, regardless. How many times does it have to be argued & reposted back on this board before you get it? Are you saying that all Iraqi civilians can be denied basic rights & be tortured if you think they're a terrorist? Think carefully before you answer, now...'cause if you say yes, then why shouldn't this apply to US citizens in Iraq like 'security contractors'? After all, they're not in uniform, are they? They're not forces of a nation-state...and other arguments besides.

    My dear B.B.
    Would any of you say that humiliating someone (more of a religious act than anything else in this case) would not be worth getting info that could potentually save American lives???
    Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. If you don't even know what's wrong with your OPENING statement get the hell off this INTELLIGENT site until you can justify the above statement. At Harvard, we have a statue of John Harvard that is called "the statue of the three lies" because it's not John Harvard, he didn't found Harvard and the founding date is wrong. Your statement, perpetuated resoundingly by armchair generals and wannabe torturers is, similarly, the "Statement of the Three Lies": 1. Being humiliated while naked is and has been since torture existed the first step in breaking down a person. To even imply that only Moslems would be offended by this says you have no problem with your mother, your sister and your daughter being piled in a "cheerleading" pyramid while Iraqi guards prod them, laugh and take pictures. You pig. I bet you'd love to be hooded and led around naked on a dog leash. Especially while knowing you could be killed at any time or never see your family again. 2. Only people with no interrogation experience believe that valuable or useful information can be obtained through torture. Similarly, only countries who are not interested in democratic justice use it (to incite fear and repress dissention). Just call up the F***ing CIA and FBI. Ask them if you don't believe me. Or read a good history book. 3. Torture is not saving American lives. The fact that foreigners are being tortured may make SOME Americans feel safer, but in fact, I can't think of anyone who is. American troops are not safer. In fact, they face a grim sentence of like-minded treatment if captured.

    This sucks! Who ever on this planet said that Bush and USA were the 'world police' who could administer actions and penalities as and when they please? Who ever elected them to be overiding law enforcers of the world? Who ever votes them to be above international law and UN conventions of which they are a member of? I don't remember voting for them. My message is to USA "get of of UN if you have a big problem". The rest of the world of the world are now seeing your true colours.