By JoAnn Wypijewski
March/April 2008 Issue
Exclusive: A front-row seat at the military scandal’s farcical last trial
This was the last court-martial that the Army would convene in the most notorious scandal of the Iraq War, the end of the road from Abu Ghraib that began in the spring of 2004 when photographs of naked, humiliated prisoners and smiling GIs first flashed around the world. Jordan had been the highest-ranking officer living at the prison when those photos were taken, and he was the only officer the Army chose to prosecute. Earlier that day he was acquitted of all charges connected with prisoner abuse, but he faced sentencing for disobeying a general order from a superior officer during the Abu Ghraib investigation. Of the charges he had confronted, this one carried the stiffest penalty—up to five years in prison, as opposed to one year for maltreatment of a fellow human. Like other character witnesses for Jordan, Colonel Norton had made a career depending on orders given and carried out: Special Forces, Vietnam, Haiti, General Dynamics. Like them, he was unfazed by Jordan’s offense. “He’s a man I’d go to war with, in a heartbeat,” Norton told the jurors, nine colonels and one brigadier general, on the panel. “He was a team player.” By then even the prosecutors seemed to agree. The government had begun its pursuit of Jordan more than three years earlier, at one point piling on charges that could have put him away for almost 48 years. Now its lawyers concluded, sighing, “What is a fair and just punishment?…A fine is certainly appropriate”—$7,373.10, one month’s pay—”a reprimand is certainly warranted.” A reprimand is all that Lt. Colonel Jordan got. It’s what he could have got without the expense of a trial and the jury’s affirmation that the authority invested in rank doesn’t carry much responsibility after all, that an officer might just be an empty suit.
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