Thursday, May 06, 2004

Graner -- the solder from hell

The New York Times > National > The Prison Guards: Abuse Charges Bring Anguish in Unit's Home
May 5 — Specialist Charles A. Graner Jr. is a guard at one of Pennsylvania's most heavily secured death row prisons, accused by his former wife of violent behavior....

... Six soldiers from the 372nd, a reserve unit out of Cumberland, are expected to face courts-martial, including Specialist Graner and Sergeant Frederick.

... An internal Army report made public this week described Specialist Graner, 35, as supervising some of the abusive behavior. He also appears in several photographs, including one in which he stands with arms folded over a pile of naked Iraqi men.

Specialist Graner, who wears a Marine Corps eagle tattoo on his right arm, served in the corps from April 1988 until May 1996, when he left with the rank of corporal, according to military records. He went to work immediately at the State Correctional Institution Greene, in southwestern Pennsylvania, where he has held an entry-level corrections officer position ever since.

Two years after he arrived at Greene, the prison was at the center of an abuse scandal. Prison officials declined to say whether Specialist Graner had been disciplined in that case, citing privacy laws.

Inmates and advocates for prisoner rights asserted in 1998 that guards at the prison routinely beat and humiliated prisoners, including through a sadistic game of Simon Says in which guards struck prisoners who failed to comply with barked instructions.

After an investigation, the warden was transferred, two lieutenants were fired and about two dozen guards were reprimanded, demoted or suspended.

Specialist Graner was involved in a bitter divorce. In court papers, his wife, Staci, accused him of beating her, threatening her with guns, stalking her after they separated in 1997 and breaking into her home. Since 1997, local judges have issued at least three orders of protection against him, records show.

At least one of the Iraqi victims knew him as "Joiner".

It is early in the investigation and the trials, but it is very likely that Graner was the wrong man to guard prisoners anywhere. A full investigation will focus on how he was accepted into the National Guard and why he wasn't stopped sooner.

As I'd noted earlier, any idiot could write a play about this -- but that won't be the end of it. This thing has legs. Americans are perfectly capable of forgetting tragedies of all sorts (anyone recall that Afghan wedding bombing?), and of overlooking crimes and atrocities, but this business has sex, degradation, violence, passion and pornography. Americans can't possibly give that up. The affair will be mined by Hollywood, playrights, magazines and the entertainment industry for years to come. Everyone involved will become a celebrity of one sort or another, including any Iraqi victims willing to appear on Oprah.

I guess that's better than ignoring the affair. No wonder Bush is furious with Rumsfeld. Bush probably won't fire Rumsfeld (Bush is too ornery to do that now), but he'll retire him come November.

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