From Time Magazine:
As if the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal weren't bad enough for America's image in the Middle East, now it may appear to much of the world that one of the men implicated in the scandal is returning to the scene of the crime.The outrages here are many. First, one of the people for the travesties at Abu Ghraib is already released. Second, his crimes didn't result in his being kicked out of our military. Third, somebody convicted of dereliction of duty and assault is going to be training the Police. And finally, I'm a little bit outraged that the U.S. military would send a soldier into a situation where his safety is endangered beyond what is to be expected as a soldier in a war zone.
The U.S. military tells TIME that one of the soldiers convicted for his role in Abu Ghraib, having served his sentence, has just been sent back to serve in Iraq.
Sgt. Santos Cardona, 32, a military policeman from Fullerton, Calif., served in 2003 and 2004 at Abu Ghraib as a military dog handler. After pictures of Cardona using the animal to threaten Iraqis were made public, he was convicted in May of dereliction of duty and aggravated assault, the equivalent of a felony in the U.S. civilian justice system. The prosecution demanded prison time, but a military judge instead imposed a fine and reduction in rank. Though Cardona was not put behind bars, he was also required to serve 90 days of hard labor at Ft. Bragg, N.C.
Before Cardona boarded a plane at Pope Air Force Base this week for the long flight to his unit's Kuwait staging area, he told close friends and family that he dreaded returning to Iraq. One family member described him as "depressed," though stoic about his fate. According to a close friend with whom Cardona spoke just before his departure, the soldier is fearful that he remains a marked man, forever linked to the horrors of Abu Ghraib — he appears in at least one al-Qaeda propaganda video depicting the abuse — and that he and comrades serving with him in Iraq could become targets for terrorists. To make matters worse, his 23rd MP Company has been selected to train Iraqi police, which have been the target of frequent assassination attempts and, according to US intelligence are heavily infiltrated by insurgents. Attempts to reach Cardona directly were unsuccessful.
Redeploying a soldier that was convicted in connection to Abu Ghraib is bound to bring those attrocities back to the front of people's minds. There's an election right around the corner! Surely somebody had to say, do we want this soldier sent back to Iraq? If I were in charge of that particular unit, I'd kick that decision up the chain of command.
The most alarming thing about the P.R. disaster is that it was completely avoidable. I'm sure that the Army isn't so desperate that it couldn't find one soldier to replace Sgt. Cordona.
This will not be missed by anti-American elements in Iraq and across the Muslim world. Sending Sgt. Cordona back to Iraq will only make a bad situation worse.
UPDATE: 12:28 pm - Time now reports that now that 'After TIME reports that a military dog handler, convicted for his role in the prisoner abuse scandal, has been ordered back to Iraq, the Pentagon says the transfer is being "evaluated"'
Santos Cardona War in Iraq Abu Ghraib