To illustrate both the failures in investigation and in accountability, “Command’s Responsibility” describes more than 20 cases in detail. Among the cases is that of Manadel al-Jamadi, whose death became public during the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal when photographs depicting prison guards giving the thumbs-up over his body were released; to date, no U.S. military or intelligence official has been punished criminally in connection with Jamadi’s death.
The cases also include that of Abed Hamed Mowhoush, a former Iraqi general beaten by U.S. Army, CIA and other non-military forces, stuffed into a sleeping bag, wrapped with electrical cord, and suffocated to death. In the recently concluded trial of a low-level military officer charged in Mowhoush’s death, the officer received a written reprimand, a fine, and 60 days with his movements limited to his work, home, and church.
And they include cases like that of Nagem Sadoon Hatab, in which investigative failures have made accountability impossible. Hatab was killed while in U.S. custody at a camp close to Nasiriyah. Although a U.S. Army medical examiner found that Hatab had died of strangulation, the evidence that would have been required to secure accountability for his death – Hatab’s body – was rendered unusable in court. Hatab’s internal organs were left exposed on an airport tarmac for hours and the organs were destroyed; the throat bone that would have supported the Army medical examiner’s findings of strangulation was never found.
“Death is a given in wartime,” Pearlstein said. “But this isn’t about death in the heat of battle; this is about how we treat those already at the mercy of U.S. forces. It’s about who is responsible for the policy and practice of the United States.”
The report concludes: “As long as the accountability gap exists, there will be little incentive for military command to correct bad behavior, or for civilian leadership to adopt policies that follow the law. As long as that gap exists, the problem of torture and abuse will remain.”