Lindsey Graham Spars With “Abu Ghraib” Subject at HBO Screening

252x190_ghostsofabughraib02It’s so rare when official Washington goes off script, and always so interesting when it does.

The latest example was tonight at the Ronald Reagan Bldg. International Trade Center, where HBO held its D.C. premiere of the new doc,”Ghosts of Abu Ghraib,” right, directed by Rory Kennedy.

A discussion-debate was planned for after the screening featuring Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.). What ensued was a surprise slap-down — and not between the two politicos.

When the lights came up, moderator and CNN legal expert Jeff Toobin asked Graham whether he agreed with the doc’s thesis — that the prisoner abuses at the notorious facility was the result of de facto policy, and not, as the administration portrayed it, the work of a few bad soldiers.

Sidestepping the question, Graham faulted the administration for poor planning and oversight, and then said that Gen. Janis Karpinski — the lone senior officer disciplined for the abuses — “should have been court-martialed” instead of merely demoted.

Following some brief, predicatable back-and-forth between senators Graham and Kennedy, Toobin noted that Karpinski just happened to be in the audience and asked if she’d like to respond to Graham’s comment.

Audibly shaken, struggling with what sounded like mammoth indignation, Karpinski blasted Graham, accusing him of a dereliction of his own duty, noting that while he approved of disciplining her, he “pinned medals” on the several male officers implicated in the abuses as well as former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

As for a court martial, Karpinski said the army “never wanted me in court because they know I would have told the truth,” which, she alleged, has yet to fully come out, thanks in part to Graham.

“You were on the ground, Rumsfeld was in Washington!” the senator shot back.

Karpinski, however, was just warming up, charging Graham with bearing responsibility for “reservists and national guardsmen who you sent to war without the right equipment!”

“I’m from South Carolina, too,” she continued. “And I intend to make your views known, senator. Even though your views don’t matter.”

Toobin finally interjected, saying both senators had to leave.

—By William Triplett in Washington.

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