HANNAH STORM: As part of a growing probe of abuse by U.S. military prison guards, the Army is investigating the deaths of 10 prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan and has already concluded that two others were homicides.
General Peter Pace, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is at the Pentagon.
Good morning, General.
PACE: Good morning, Hannah.
STORM: General, this report which detailed these abuses was completed at the beginning of March. Why didn’t the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Richard Myers, see this report? And why wasn’t the president made aware of what was going on?
PACE: Well, two different parts need to be understood. One is the reporting up the chain of command, which was done immediately. On the 13th of January, the allegations by the soldier inside the unit were reported to his Army chain of command. On the 14th of January, the Criminal Investigative Division team was sent to do the investigation. The phone calls were made up the chain of command. I know I knew about it within hours of the 14th of January. And everyone was kept apprised orally of the ongoing investigation.
The major general completed the investigation. And what happens with the paperwork itself is that each commander in the chain looks at the work, reads it in detail, does his analysis of what he or she should be doing with it, makes their decisions, and then sends it up the chain. So the fact that the paperwork did not get to Washington DC did not mean that the information did not. In fact, it did.
STORM: So you’re saying that General Richard Myers was well aware of the situation and that the president was well aware of the situation as well?
STORM: There are those who claim that the soldiers who were involved in these incidents were merely following orders. So what did you find in your investigation? Did you find that to be true?
PACE: Those soldiers were not following orders. That is not what we expect of ourselves. It is not what the American people expect of us. We are expected to perform our duties honorably. And the vast majority of the hundreds of thousands of young men and women, active, Reserve and Guard who have served in Iraq have done so honorably.
These incidents are not acceptable. They are being thoroughly investigated. They were reported from within the chain of command. And there are five or six separate investigations ongoing as I speak that are, in fact, looking into every detail of every facet of this that we can find.
STORM: If General Myers was aware of what was going on and the president was aware of what was going on, there’s outrage right now on Capitol Hill that none of the members of Congress knew what was happening. Why wasn’t it made aware to Congress? Why did the American public have to see it in news reports and members of Congress have to see this in news reports before understanding what was happening?
PACE: Well, as I recall, it was around the 16th of January that General Kimmitt made his first public announcement at a press conference. And then when charges were preferred on the 20th of March, General Kimmitt made another general announcement of what was going on.
We did have phone calls inside the chain of command, as I said, about the status of the investigations and some of the details of what was being found out. But we also need to make sure that we do the justice part of this in a very precise, measured way so that, in the process of trying to get to facts quickly, that we don’t at the same time turn our justice system on its head.
The best I know, Congress was -– the leadership of the oversight committees, the House Armed Services Committee, Senate Armed Services Committee, House Appropriations Committee and Senate Appropriations Committee, were notified sometime last week that these investigations had found what they found.
STORM: Now the president is being forced to go on Arab television to defend the actions of the U.S. military. And our relationship in the Arab world is tenuous at best. How does the military feel about putting the president in this position?
PACE: This brings discredit and dishonor on all of us who serve in the military and brings discredit on our country. And we don’t like doing that to ourselves, to our country, certainly not to our president. We are going to go about finding out how this happened, why it happened, take action against those who are responsible, and correct our training systems and our procedures as best we can to prevent this in the future.
STORM: And who is to blame? Is it the officers? Is it their superiors? Where’s the breakdown in the chain of command?
PACE: Well, that’s all part of the review process right now. And it would be inappropriate for me to specifically point out an individual or individuals. That will come out in due course as we let the legal system do what it’s supposed to do in the proper time line.
STORM: As a proud member of the military, how does this make you feel to see these pictures and hear these horrific reports?
PACE: It makes me sad. It’s just not right. It is not who we are. It is not what we represent. There are thousands and thousands of wonderful Americans right now serving our country overseas. They’re the ones who deserve the credit. And things like this are not what we’re about and are not acceptable.
STORM: Do you expect more cases to come to light?
PACE: I expect that as these investigations track down all the possible leads, that there will be more things that will need to be looked at very, very carefully. Usually when an investigation like this takes place, as they chase the various elements, more people come forward with bits and pieces of information that they think they might have, and that leads you to look at other things. So there will be more investigation. Where that will lead, I don’t know.
STORM: General Peter Pace, thank you so much for your time this morning.
PACE: Hannah, thank you.
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