I Refuse To Answer Because I've Already Answered That Question Email Print

Major General Geoffrey Miller, the officer sent from Guantanamo Bay to Iraq to teach the MP's and intel teams at Abu Ghraib how to interrogate prisoners Gitmo-Style, has invoked his Article 31 right not to testify in the courts-martial of several dog handlers who are now being prosecuted. Shame shame General!

When you join the service, you do give up quite a few civil rights, but you still have the right to remain silent, not to incriminate yourself. That right is contained in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Article 31 (very similar to the 5th amendment of the Constitution).

While it is somewhat shocking, to me, to read about a general officer invoking his Article 31 right, what is even more disturbing is his lawyer's rationale for the general's stance. He's doing so because "he had already answered questions about Abu Ghraib."  According to the Washington Post, Miller's lawyer said, his "choice to no longer answer the same questions . . . was based on the advice of counsel and includes the fact that he has already, and repeatedly, answered all inquiries fully."

Well, in my reading of Article 31, that is not an acceptable excuse for refusing to testify at a subordinate's court martial. You should only refuse to testify if what you have to say might tend to incriminate you. If that isn't the case, I believe that General Miller should face court martial for contempt towards officials (Article 88), refusing to obey a lawful order (Article 92), false official statements (Article 107), conduct unbecoming an officer, perjury (Article 131), and my favorite catch-all "General Article" (Article 134) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.  

Young men and women are facing years in jail because of their behavior at Abu Ghraib. While I personally find much of what I've read disgusting, and have little sympathy for those who abused prisoners, I do not think it is fair for the officers who were supposed to train and supervise these folks to refuse to testify at their trials. What were the orders these people were given? Where are the written guidelines? Where were you when these things were happening? What supervision did you provide? Did anyone ask for guidance or express concern about what was happening?

Something stinks to high heaven when officers refuse to testify, and I think it stinks all the way up the chain of  command to the White House. But, how will we ever find out if the military brass protect their own and Congress refuses to intervene.

Some good news on that front, according to Friday's Stars and Stripes, Senators John Warner and Carl Levin have written to the Pentagon and asked them to delay the good general's retirement (refusing to testify and getting his ass out of Dodge - ah, what a great officer and gentleman). "Major General Miller's decision to exercise his right to remain silent raises potential issues regarding his candor and the completeness of his testimony before the Committee," the letter states. The committee may just have to call the General into a hearing. And this time, I hope they ask him specific questions about these dog handlers. And.... Maybe they should call the dog handlers too! Wouldn't it be fun to watch a few grunts answer questions honestly and completely in front of Congress and have a Major General refuse to testify?

If I were a member of Congress and could ask the questions, I think I would start by looking at some rather routine and typical military activities. Making your bed, cleaning your rifle, stowing your gear, ironing your uniform, polishing your shoes, preparing a vehicle before driving, just about any activity that every grunt does every day. I would then ask them how they know what to do for each of those tasks.

I would expect the answer to be that each activity was either clearly regulated or at least documented, and those that weren't were drilled into the troop through some form of training.

Then, I might take some less routine things like rules of engagement on the battlefield, the steps involved in dealing with a potential explosive device found in the barracks, what to do if a female soldier reports that she has been sexually harassed.

In all of these, again, we would learn that everything was either regulated, clearly documented, or drilled in through training.

Finally, I would ask what the rules were for handling prisoners/detainees. And I believe it is there that we would see how miserably the command structure has failed our troops. Either they were, in fact, instructed to do some of the horrible things we've witnessed, or they were given little or no guidance. In either of those cases, the guilty parties are not the poor enlisted sots who are losing stripes and freedom now, they are the brass. From the lowly 2nd Lieutenant all the way up to the top of the chain of command who are guilty.

One Colonel named Pappas has been granted immunity in exchange for his testimony in the dog handlers case. Senators Levin and Warner, I hope, will watch the Colonel's testimony carefully. Pappas worked for Miller. Miller says "he has already, and repeatedly, answered all inquiries fully." If, based on what Pappas has to say, General Miller seems to have lied when he answered all those inquiries fully, I hope they change his retirement plans from a nice sunny spot in Arizona to a small dark cell in Virginia.

But, if the General is willing to testify about where he got his marching orders..... Donald, as a civilian you can't invoke Article 31, but you've still got the 5th!

Late-breaking news on March 16:Col. Pappas has testified that he did in fact authorize the use of dogs. At the court martial of one of the dog handlers, Pappas is quoted by the Miami Herald as admitting to authorizing the use of dogs to scare detainees, but that the rules for such use were confusing or vague. He said "In hindsight, clearly we probably needed to establish some definitive rules and put out some clear guidance to everybody concerned."

Pappas admitted that he was supposed to get permission from a general officer before authorizing the use of dogs. He did not get that permission, he claims.

Question: For those of us who watch Law And Order (and as a former Barracks Lawyer myself), doesn't granting immunity from prosecution usually indicate that the prosecution has a bigger fish to go after, and that the testimony of the witness would probably help the case? Why would the military have granted Pappas immunity if all he could do was implicate lower-ranking enlisted folks?

The smell I mentioned before is only getting stronger. I certainly hope Congress calls Col. Pappas to testify soon. Perhaps they can ask better questions than those asked by the defense in the dog handler case.

KEYWORDS: , , , , ,

Sign up for a Complimentary Member Account... Join the community! It's fast. And it'll allow you to take advantage of all this site's great features!

< Terrorism: A New Definition for an Evolving Weapon | Doom and Gloom Tuesday, Global Warming Style >
Even if they are prisoners they also have the right to be treated as human beings. It's enough punishment that they are already in prison. Let's not make it worst and carry justice with our own hands. Hope those with authority within prisons don't abuse their power. -Harv Eker

by wardisbander on 02/15/2011 11:21:37 AM EST