Lone officer goes on trial for Abu Ghraib

Lieutenant Colonel Steven Jordan, the only military officer charged in the prisoner abuse scandal at Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib jail, goes before a court martial Monday in Fort Meade, Maryland.

More than three years after snapshots of Iraqi prisoners humiliated by their prison guards shocked the world, only a handful of US soldiers have been convicted, but none of their military or civilian superiors.

The pictures showed naked prisoners piled in pyramids, tied to each other with electric wire, threatened by dogs, wearing women’s undergarments on their heads and forced to parade naked before female guards.

The graphic abuse cut short the widespread feeling of sympathy the September 11, 2001 attacks had generated for the United States, In 2006, US President George W. Bush admitted the Abu Ghraib scandal was the biggest mistake his government made in Iraq.

Donald Rumsfeld, the controversial defense secretary at the time, said he had twice tended his resignation over the scandal, which he blamed on just “a few bad apples” out of hundreds of thousands of US servicemen.

Only 11 soldiers have been convicted so far in the scandal. They have received sentences from a few hours of community work to 10 years behind bars. Most said they were simply following orders.

Among the higher ranks, former general Janis Karpinski, prison commander in Iraq at the time of the scandal, was sanctioned with a demotion, but was never put on trial.

After shedding her uniform, Karpinsky said in a book published in late 2005 that the Abu Ghraib abuses “were the result of conflicting orders and confused standards extending from the military commanders in Iraq all the way to the summit of civilian leadership in Washington.”

According to different Pentagon reports, Jordan, 51, was part of the confusion.

At Abu Ghraib he was officially responsible for the interrogation center, but due to his lack of experience he devoted his time to trying to improve conditions for the soldiers posted in the prison who felt they had been abandoned as cannon fodder.

The army reservist who specialised in analysing intelligence, not gathering it, did not supervise interrogations, allowing the abuse to flourish among his badly-stretched staff who were under constant pressure to produce results.

He is accused of forcing prisoners one night to strip naked, before threatening them with attack dogs and of lying to investigators that he had not witnessed any abuse or naked inmates at the prison.

He is charged with obstructing justice, failing in his duties, lying to investigators and of conduct unbecoming an officer. He faces a maximum of 16 and a half years in prison. The court martial is expected to last two weeks.

Jordan’s case has drawn little attention by US media, which in just a few articles describe him as a scapegoat in the scandal. Only 20 reporters have signed on to cover his court martial.

Even civil rights groups are keeping a low profile.


  1. Arlo J. Thudpucker

    Jordan deserves no sympathy. He knew damned well that what the troops under his command were doing. Worse yet, he participated directly.

    The investigators need to proceed up the food chain, since I doubt Jordan coordinated the activities of the non military interrogators who were active at Abu Ghraib.


    Arlo J. Thudpucker

  2. SEAL

    Abdul: what branch of the service were you in and when?

    Out of respect for CHB I’m going to refrain from giving your post the comment it deserves.

  3. Helen Rainier


    I appreciate your respect for CHB and wanting to refrain from addressing Abdul’s comments in a manner they deserve. I however, will.

    Abdul: Do you know anything about the military and the chain-of-command? Do you know how orders work their way “down the chain”? I suspect not.

    The fact of the matter is this: Soldiers at the individual troop level (translated the lower ranks) are taught to “do what they are told.”

    The orders ALWAYS come from higher-up. Ergos, what this means is that the orders for the abuse of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib had to come from the top. It is the people at the TOP who should be facing the charges.

    As a LTC, Jordan certainly bears some responsibility, however, in respect to the larger picture he is, indeed, being scapegoated. The larger question remains unanswered: Who issued his orders to him and his command? These people also need to be identified and brought up on charges.

    I’ve seen some of your comments on other threads regarding military issues. Your lack of knowledge or understanding indicates you have not the remotest idea of what you are talking about.

    It is often said that “you” (proverbially speaking, that is) should always engage brain before putting your mouth into motion. Try it.

  4. adamrussell

    So Abdul, are you ok with it if/when it happens to our own soldiers? I remember a big stink when our pow’s were put on tv one time. How it was a violation of geneva and all that. This is much worse.

  5. Helen Rainier


    You bring up an excellent point that I forgot to mention.

    The bottom line in determining whether a behavior is justifiable or not is: “How would I feel about it if it happened to me?” or “How would this country feel about it if it was done to one of our countrymen?”

    Thus, if “I” wouldn’t like it, or “We” would complain about it or find fault with it, then we sure as hell shouldn’t be doing it ourselves.

    Thanks so much for bringing up this VERY important point.

  6. VietnamVet

    RE: new Submitted by SEAL on August 20, 2007 – 3:18am.

    Seal, no point in asking Abdul ANYTHING and expecting a factual, source supported, devoid of diatribes, response.

    He/She, whatever it is, has posted comments about Vietnam, with words of authority, now it posts on Iraq in a similar manner.

    Folks, don’t respond to this troll, as it just keeps coming back with more trash. Let it wallow in its own ignorance!

  7. Abdul of the Kyber Pass

    He can’t be a scapegoat if he was the officer in command. Additionally, a number of lower ranks have been prosecuted and jailed. We are not privy to what has happened to other members of the military. No doubt a number of military careers were ended.

    As for calling what happened at AG abuse, that is certainly a stretch. Worse, much worse, happens in frat houses all over this country.

    In earlier wars we often did not take prisoners. I knew a Canadian vet of WWII who told me that he personally dealt with a problematic German prisoner by walking him down the road and shooting him the head. As draconian as that may seem, it least the German wasn’t humiliated. And we all know that is what really counts in today’s world.