The Army suspended Brig. Gen. Janis L. Karpinski from her command of the 800th Military Police Brigade yesterday, more than four months after abuses of detainees were discovered at the Abu Ghraib prison under her command.
Karpinski was indefinitely relieved of her command pending the outcome of investigations into treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, but Army officials said the move should not be taken as punishment.
Karpinski was in charge of all 16 U.S. detention facilities in Iraq when the abuses occurred last fall. She has stated repeatedly that she did not know about the problems because a military intelligence brigade ran the section of the prison where detainees were humiliated and physically maltreated. An Army investigation of the performance of military intelligence officers at the prison is still underway.
Lt. Col. Pamela Hart, an Army spokeswoman, confirmed that Karpinski had been suspended and will be transferred to another Army reserve unit. Another officer will be named to take her command position temporarily.
Before yesterday, Karpinski’s duties had not been affected by the prison scandal. She had returned home to South Carolina on leave after more than a year in Iraq.
Reached yesterday by telephone in New Jersey, Karpinski said she had not received official written notice of her suspension but had confirmed it with Army officials. She said she is angry because she believes she has done nothing wrong.
“I suspect that they want to make the statement that all the officers who have been involved in Abu Ghraib have been suspended,” Karpinski said. “I’m angry because it just seems consistent with the rest of this unfairness. This is such a gross miscarriage of justice.”
Karpinski has said in interviews that Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez issued a letter of admonishment in January after scores of photographs surfaced showing abuse of prisoners. An Army investigation into Abu Ghraib criticized Karpinski’s leadership and recommended a series of reprimands.
But Karpinski’s lawyers drafted a rebuttal to the investigation that sharply denied wrongdoing on her part and characterized Karpinski as a “hero” to her brigade. That resulted in all charges being dismissed, according to Karpinski and her lawyer, Neal A. Puckett. Puckett said via e-mail yesterday that he had not heard of the official suspension.
“I intend to fight it,” Karpinski said of the suspension. “I’m not backing down from this.”
Since her return to the United States, Karpinski has been trying to counter the notion that she was a bad leader, saying that she was operating a wide-ranging prison system in a war zone without adequate resources and personnel.
Seven MPs under her command have been charged in connection with the prison abuses, one of whom has pleaded guilty. Lawyers for several of the MPs argue that their clients were acting on directions from military intelligence officers that the detainees be conditioned for questioning.