The Woman Who Once Commanded the Abu Ghraib Prison Shares Her Story

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," October 25, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O’REILLY, HOST: Just Tuesday, the ACLU (search) again accused the American government of 21 detainee homicides in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now "The Factor" is way ahead on that story. We reported the allegations back in May.

There’s no question anti-American organizations have capitalized on the terrible abuses at Abu Ghraib (search) and other places, paint a very dark picture of the USA.

With us now is Colonel Janice Karpinski, who was in command at Abu Ghraib when the abuses took place there. The Army demoted her from Brigadier General to Colonel in May. And she’s written a new book called, "One Woman’s Army: The Commanding General of Abu Ghraib Tells Her Story."

Now you feel that the Army treated you very unfairly.



KARPINSKI: Well, for many reasons. They singled me out, they singled the soldiers out to be fully responsible and accountable for what happened at Abu Ghraib. And I was convinced from the first time I saw the photographs that there were other people involved.

Clearly, 32 boots in one photograph, 16 soldiers. Even if all seven soldiers from the military police brigade were on shift that night, there are nine others that have managed to walk away from any blame.

O’REILLY: All right. So let’s walk through it. You don’t condone Lynndie England (search) and this other guy, her boyfriend, you don’t condone what they did, right?

KARPINSKI: No, absolutely not.

O’REILLY: They are going to jail and they should be going to jail, correct?

KARPINSKI: They should be punished, that is correct.

O’REILLY: You didn’t know those people, did you?

KARPINSKI: No, I did not. Personally. But they were soldiers assigned to one of my subordinate companies, under one of my battalions.

O’REILLY: But I don’t think people understand how much contact day to day you had with the abusers. Did you walk the cell every day, did you say hello to these people or did you let your subordinates do that?

KARPINSKI: Well, Abu Ghraib, of course, is one of 17 facilities we were responsible for running, so I was not there every day. I did not live at Abu Ghraib. And in fact, by November of 203, the prison was transferred to the command of the military intelligence brigade commander. When those photographs were reportedly taken.

So they were my soldiers. They were assigned to one of the subordinate units. So yes, I have a portion of the responsibility in this, but nobody else is sharing that responsibility with me.

O’REILLY: In a month’s time over there, how many times would you visit those cell blocks in Abu Ghraib?

KARPINSKI: From July until the end of September, probably three or four times a week.

O’REILLY: So you would be down there three or four times a week?


O’REILLY: Did you ever see anything that troubled you when you were down there?

KARPINSKI: Only the austere conditions, and that was present in all of our prisons.

O’REILLY: So you think they sanitized it and everybody was on their best behavior when the general walked through?


O’REILLY: That would make sense. Now there is a school of thought and our military experts say that look, if something goes wrong under your command, hey, the buck stops here, you have to take the rap.

KARPINSKI: Correct, but it also went wrong under General Sanchez's (search) command.

O’REILLY: He was above you?

KARPINSKI: He was. It also went wrong under Colonel Pappas' (search) command. He was punished but he remains on active duty. I think that in large measure, they have silenced the people who have further information by keeping them on active duty.

O’REILLY: I see. So they did a trade. You keep your mouth shut; we won’t come down on you as hard. Do you think you got punished because you spoke out earlier? You were on “The Factor” with your attorney what was it, four, five months ago, correct?

KARPINSKI: Much longer than that. At the very beginning when all this broke.

O’REILLY: Do you think you got hurt because you spoke out and said, look, I didn’t have anything to do with this, it wasn’t my fault, I didn’t know? Do you think they punished you for that?

KARPINSKI: Yes, I think this is about my First Amendment (search) rights, too. I think they want me to be quiet and they want me to stop speaking out, and I won’t.

O’REILLY: How about the woman factor? Do you think they singled you out because you’re a woman?

KARPINSKI: Look, General Sanchez was a career army officer, he was a combat arms officer. He did not want a female general officer commanding troops in his back yard, and I have said and I will continue to say that he didn’t care if we failed, and he kept throwing unusual missions at us despite our declining numbers of personnel.

O’REILLY: You didn’t have a good relationship with Sanchez?

KARPINSKI: No, I did not.

O’REILLY: OK. Now, last question. They want to release more Abu Ghraib pictures, the ACLU, as usual. I think this would put our soldiers over there in jeopardy. Myers says it’s nothing knew there, just the same old stuff, just more of it. How do you feel?

KARPINKSI: I feel if they had released all of the information from the beginning, we would be through the discussions and we would be through the shock. They didn’t.

O’REILLY: Would you want them released now or no?

KARPINSKI: Only because not releasing them, it allows fodder for speculation. People can say how bad are they if they are refusing to release them? Release them, get it over with, and let’s move on. Let’s make sure it never happens again.

O’REILLY: All right, colonel, the book is "One Woman’s Army." We appreciate you coming in and talking with us today.

KARPINSKI: Thank you very much.

O’REILLY: Good luck.

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