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Gen. Antonio Taguba Fil-Am ROTC star

Fifteen years ago, the Abu Ghraib prison scandal broke, with the release of a CD full of images of prisoner abuse being committed in this US detention facility in Iraq. The CD included shots of nude male detainees, female detainees exposing themselves to guards, and detainees performing sexual acts on each other.

An investigation was ordered, and since the commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade, the unit in charge of Abu Ghraib, was a one-star general, they needed a two-star officer to head the inquiry. Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who was the deputy commander for support stationed in Kuwait, was directed to handle the probe.

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A few notes on Taguba.

Antonio Taguba was born in Sampaloc, Manila, the son of humble parents from Cagayan. His father, Tomas Taguba, served with the Philippine Scouts during World War II, survived the Bataan Death March, and retired as a sergeant in the US Army. At age 11, Tony Taguba moved to Hawaii where he finished high school. Later he graduated from Idaho State University with an AB degree majoring in history. He also joined the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program and later was a commissioned second lieutenant in the Army. Rising through the ranks, he served at the platoon, company, battalion, and brigade levels in Germany, South Korea, and the continental United States. In between duty assignments he earned three master’s degrees in public administration, international relations, and national security and strategic studies.

Taguba was made brigadier general in August 1997, only the second Filipino-American to reach star rank in the US Army. A few years later, he earned his second star.

Taguba’s report on Abu Ghraib, officially titled “US Army 15-6 Report of Abuse of Prisoners in Iraq,” laid the blame on a “failure of leadership.” Its leak to the media greatly embarrassed Pentagon and White House officials with its startling revelations of torture and abuse of prison inmates. Defense officials suspected Taguba to be the source of the leak. This he denied.

In May 2004, Taguba was summoned to the office of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. In an article in The New Yorker, Seymour Hersh described how Taguba was received by Rumsfeld with the defense chief mocking him, “here comes that famous General Taguba—of the Taguba report.” When called to appear before a congressional committee, I recall watching him on CNN giving his testimony. He spoke clearly without any sign of emotion, and with no hint of exaggeration. Senators from both sides of the aisle were generous in praising Taguba and his report. Sen. John Warner, the senior Republican on the committee said, “General, I wish to personally commend you for your public service.” Democrat Sen. Edward Kennedy praised Taguba, saying “I want to join others in commending and thanking you for your service to this country.” Pulitzer Prize-winning author Thomas Ricks suggested that Taguba be given the Presidential Medal of Freedom, saying “he did the hard, right thing instead of the easy, wrong thing.”

Unfortunately, the Army high command was not too happy with his report and in January 2006, Taguba was bluntly told by Gen. Richard Cody, the US Army vice chief of staff, that “I need you to retire by January 2007.” No reasons given, no pleasantries
exchanged. General Taguba retired from the US Army as ordered after 34 years of military service.

A few months later, in one of the great ironies of his life, General Taguba was honored by the Citizenship and Immigration Services Agency with the “Americans by Choice” award given to outstanding immigrants who chose American citizenship and demonstrated commitment to the United States and its values.

In retirement, Tony Taguba is a community ambassador for the American Association of Retired Personnel, a nonprofit organization advocating the causes of the country’s retirees and senior citizens. He is chair of the Pan Pacific American Leaders and Mentors, a group that helps young Asian-American civilian and military leaders in achieving their career goals. He was involved in the World War II soldier recognition project that got the US Congress to honor Filipino World War II veterans with the Congressional Gold Medal. Last September, the first batch of Filipino veterans were awarded their gold medals in a ceremony at the US Embassy.

Former US defense secretary James Mattis and General Taguba are products of a continuing US Armed Forces ROTC program. Last week our House of Representatives passed on third reading a bill bringing back mandatory ROTC for 11th and 12th graders in high school. The Senate is expected to pass a counterpart bill soon.

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We can never match our neighbors in terms of weaponry and armaments. We cannot rely on defense commitments of other
nations. We must develop self-reliance, harnessing our human
resources through activities such as the ROTC program, a vital component of national security arrangements.

[email protected]

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