Friday, January 13, 2006

General Miller takes the fifth

The court martials of low-level mooks for the abuses at Abu Ghraib continue to roll on, with two men expected to face trial in February and March for the use of military working dogs to intimidate and attack prisoners. In pre-trial hearings, both have attempted to invoke the Nuremberg defence, claiming they were "only following orders". This should not legally get them off the hook, but it has pointed the finger further up the chain of command - and specifically at Major General Geoffrey D. Miller, who is alleged to have introduced the tactic from Guantanamo. And something very interesting has happened: Miller has taken the fifth, invoking his right to avoid self-incrimination rather than testify under oath as to whether he had ordered the use of dogs.

As we should all know, refusing to testify in this way does not legally imply guilt. And as we all know, it cannot help but do so. Miller's not the one on trial here, but his sudden silence suggests that perhaps he ought to be, particularly in light of the fact that he had previously denied even discussing the matter (if Miller was on trial, he would of course be entitled to exercise his right to silence; the prosecution must prove its case, and they can't do it by forcing you to do it for them, and particularly not by compelling you to testify in another case and then using the evidence given against you - not unless you're particularly stupid, anyway).

Fortunately, there may be a way of getting to Miller - or the other high-ranking officer who ordered these atrocities, Lt General Ricardo Sanchez: the commanding officer of the military intelligence unit at Abu Ghraib, Colonel Thomas Pappas, has been granted immunity and ordered to testify. As the story notes, he may be asked to detail high-level policies on detainee treatment, which could incriminate his superiors. And that could finally result in there being some high-level accountability for Abu Ghraib, rather than the present situation where the generals who established the policies are allowed to get away with it while a few low-level "bad apples" end up carrying the can.