Neighbors defend general
Carolina Morning News
May 5, 2004
HILTON HEAD ISLAND - While the U.S. military ponders the future of Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the suspended former commander of U.S. and British prisons in Iraq, neighbors on Hilton Head Island were quick Tuesday to come to her defense. "I think she got a raw deal," said Henry Massey, a neighbor who lives across the street.
"She obviously didn't know what was going on. I think she is a great lady."
Calls to Karpinski's home Tuesday were answered electronically with a referral to her military defense lawyer as the controversy continued over alleged abuse of some Iraqi POWs.
A sedan bearing Florida license plates was in the driveway and what one neighbor described as "a ton of mail" had arrived at the Karpinski home off Point Comfort Road on the south end of the island. But Karpinski was not at home. Nor was her husband, George, a lieutenant colonel at the U.S. Embassy in Oman.
Karpinski and 16 other soldiers were suspended in January as several investigations got under way, which have now been nationally publicized with the release of graphic photographs reportedly taken by Americans on duty inside the Abu Ghraib prison.
Karpinski could be blocked from promotion or receive a letter of reprimand after a non-criminal administrative investigation relating to events at Abu Ghraib prison, according to a television interview with Col. Jill Morgenthaler, a military spokeswoman in Baghdad.
Karpinski, who left Iraq earlier this year as part of a scheduled rotation of American forces, "might (also) be determined to be blameless," Morgenthaler said.
Karpinski and her husband were described as a "nice couple" by one neighbor, Lee Mackercher, who added that Janis Karpinski has expressed an interest in her Yorkie dogs. "I've met them as I walk my dogs," she said.
Karpinski's defense attorney, Neil Puckett, could not be reached for comment Tuesday at his Omaha telephone number.
The general was quoted in The New York Times as saying she knew nothing about the abuse until weeks after it occurred and that she was "sickened" by the photographs. She placed the blame on Army military intelligence officers who she said may have encouraged the abuse.
According to an article in The New Yorker magazine, Karpinski was formally admonished in January and "quietly suspended" from her command of the 800th Military Police Brigade.
Karpinski, 50, holds a Bronze Star from her military service in Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War. She transferred from the regular Army to the Reserves in 1987, serving as an intelligence officer in both the Middle East and the United States.
In June 2003, after the military defeat of Iraq, she became commander of 15 prisons and detention centers in Iraq. She was also commander of all National Guard and Reserve units in the Iraq city of Mosul. Reporters pointed out that she was the lone female U.S. commander in Iraq, but had no experience running correctional facilities.
In September 2003 she led Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on a tour of the Abu Ghraib prison to show him the way it was used to torture enemies of Saddam Hussein. At the end of the tour, Rumsfeld contrasted the former management of the prison with that of U.S. forces. Karpinski also showed the prison to other VIPs including U.S. Rep. Max Burns of Georgia.
In a December 2003 interview with the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, Karpinski said conditions in the prison were better than many Iraqi homes and joked that some of the POWs might not want to leave.
She is described as an avid golfer and, in civilian life, a consultant for executive training programs. She had also requested and was sent cookies for her unit in Iraq by Hilton Head's "cookie lady," Virginia Cram.