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Major General breaks silence on Abu Ghraib

Major General Antontio Taguba breaks his silence after enduring three years
of isolation for his efforts to tell the truth about what happened
at the Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq.
Photo courtesy Wikipedia.org

By Myrna Lim, Special to Fog City Journal

August 19, 2007

"Contribute to the American society and let us show this country our pride. Excel in your life's aspirations, never forget those who gave you life's opportunity to succeed, and contribute to your community."

Major General Antonio Taguba, the Grand Marshall of the 14th annual Pistahan Parade in San Francisco, spoke these words last week before thousands of Filipinos from all over the Bay Area to celebrate Filipino pride.

Grand Marshall Taguba led a proud contingent of World War II veterans, U.S. Naval Forces led by Chief George Gange, U.S. Army led by Sergeant Pelagio Valdez, U.S. National Guard, Veteran Rondala and Vietnam War veterans led by Rudy Asercion.

Major General Antontio Taguba speaks on the occasion of the 14th annual Pistahan Parade
at Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco.

The war in Iraq may someday be judged in the annals of world history as a war set in motion by Bush adminstration lies and soaked in the blood of egregious atrocities against humanity. But, one unassuming, mild mannered first generation Filipino-American hero, Taguba, will be remembered as a man who fulfilled his noblest of obligations - an American soldier who rose through the ranks with the honorable intention of advancing democracy throughout the world by treating fellow humans with dignity and respect during times of war.

Taguba authored the investigative report which awakened the world's consciousness on the abuses and torture perpetuated by American soldiers against prisoners of war and civilian detainees in the Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq. The report made public in May, 2004 contained detailed descriptions of sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses that proved too embarrassing for the Pentagon and the White House. President Bush called the abuses "abhorrent" and vowed to punish those responsible.

During the hearing before members of the Senate and House Armed Services Committee in May 2004, Taguba explained to shocked lawmakers why the grim images of torture, sexual humiliation and human degradation of prisoners of war in Iraq by American soldiers violated the core of our very own American principles and military values.

"From the moment a soldier enlists, we inculcate loyalty, duty, honor, integrity, and selfless service. And yet when we get to the senior-officer level, we forget these values," Taguba had said. "I know that my peers in the army will be mad at me for speaking out, but the fact is that we violated the law of land warfare in Abu Ghraib. We violated the tenets of the Geneva Convention."

Taguba (right) talking to fellow military veterans.

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld feigned ignorance of the systemic sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses inflicted on the detainees and denied knowing about the Taguba Report. Yet Rumsfeld and the military command ostracized Taguba, admonishing him with: "You don't know how to be a team player."

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (center)

Taguba was subsequently punished through demotion and in January 2007, was unceremoniously forced to retire after 32 years of service.

To this day, no high ranking military personnel has been punished. Rumsfeld placed all the blame on low-level soldiers even though evidence indicated the orders came from the top levels in the Pentagon from military intelligence. Taguba remains the only high-level commanding officer to be punished for telling the truth and for remaining true to his principles.

Now, after three years, Taguba has broken his silence.

"The stress of combat is not an excuse, and I believe, even today that those civilians and military leaders responsible should be held accountable," he said.

"At the end of the day, a few soldiers and civilians conspired to abuse and conduct egregious acts of violence against detainees and other civilians outside the bounds of international law, and their incomprehensible acts caught in their own personal record of photographs and video clips have seriously maligned and impugned the courageous acts of thousands of U.S. and coalition forces," Taguba continued.

"It put into question the reputation of our nation and the reputation of those who continue to serve in uniform and who would willingly sacrifice their lives to safeguard our freedom," Taguba said.

When asked if he has any ill feeling for the way he was treated, Taguba said: "I am an American citizen and I love this country dearly. I felt that our government and the American people continue to advance democracy to other people of the world.

"We in America and as nation have the responsibility to portray our images as the leader in respecting the values and rights of humanity."

Despite enduring isolation from the military's top brass, Taguba remains one of the most respected leaders of the U.S. military. Major General Mike Myatt, a former superior known to live his life with high moral values and integrity, said of Taguba: "I'd trust him with my life."

To the Filipino community throughout the world, this two-star general came from a poor family in Manila and earned three master degrees. After gaining the world's respect for speaking out against a tide of Bush administration corruption and lies, Major General Antonio Taguba will always be a source of Filipino and American pride.





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