Head of Abu Ghraib Prison Speaks Out

ByABC News
May 12, 2005, 2:27 PM

May 12, 2005 — -- Janis Karpinski, the former Army Reserve brigadier general who was in charge of Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, maintains she and other reservists have been unfairly scapegoated for the prisoner abuse scandal that shocked the world last year, and the the mistreatment of detainees may still be occurring.

"All the way up to the top of the Pentagon, they have a long-standing mindset about Reservists and National Guard soldiers, and we are considered disposable," Karpinski said in an exclusive interview with ABC News' "Nightline." "We go back to our lives as civilians once we're released from active duty."

It has been a year since photos became public depicting U.S. soldiers posing with Iraqi detainees in humiliating and abusive situations. The images shocked the world and shed light on the military investigation into conditions at the facility. The soldiers involved say they were following orders, while the Pentagon maintains they were a rogue group acting for their own amusement.

Only two members of the military brass have been disciplined so far, most prominently Karpinski, who was commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade and was in charge of military prisons in Iraq -- despite never having run a prison system. She was reprimanded, demoted to colonel and relieved of her duties, but the U.S. military did not bring criminal charges against her.

In the "Nightline" interview, Karpinski said the events at Abu Ghraib took place when she no longer was in direct control of the prison. She also said blaming her is "convenient" for the military, especially given what she sees as the Army's disdain for the Reservists.

"And I think it goes a long way toward explaining why we were not well received by Gen. [Ricardo] Sanchez or his entire staff," she said of the former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq. "They didn't want to acknowledge that they needed a Reserve brigade, especially when commanded by a female general officer, to do this critical mission."