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Taguba is called a straight arrow

WASHINGTON - Until last week, Antonio M. Taguba was known mainly for being the second Filipino-American to become a general in the U.S. Army. Now, he is known as the man whose scathing report on detainee abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison ignited a firestorm.

Taguba's 53-page document details widespread abuse of Iraqi prisoners at the hands of American soldiers, including descriptions of sodomy, simulated sex and other humiliations.

The report by the 53-year-old major general has been thrust into blanket coverage by newspaper and television news outlets worldwide.

Taguba, who is based in Kuwait, could not be reached for an interview. A relative said the Army had asked Taguba's family not to speak with reporters.

But to others who know him, Taguba's blunt and forthright criticism of a department to which he has devoted his life comes as little surprise. Associates say he is deeply committed to the Army and to the idea of taking personal responsibility in matters of right and wrong.

Joyce Raezer, director of government relations for the National Military Family Association, recalled meeting Taguba in 2000, after he took over as commanding general of the Army's Community and Family Support Center, which serves families on military bases.

"He cares deeply about doing the right thing, and it always showed," Raezer said. "If you wanted a job done, he was the one to do it."

On one issue in particular, the family association was struggling to settle a long-standing problem that involved the logistics of improving education for military children.

"He didn't let the previous history of people saying, 'Oh, that problem's been around forever; you can't fix that' stop him," Raezer said. "He went right up the chain of command and made the situation better."

That straight-ahead style appears still to be guiding Taguba. In his report, he went so far as to criticize the recommendation of another major general, Geoffrey D. Miller, that military police guards serve as "enablers" for prison interrogations.

Military law, Taguba noted, holds that military police not be involved in such activities.

Nor did he mince words in pointing out what he viewed as "egregious acts and grave breaches of international law," knowing full well that he was accusing his own country of violating the Geneva Conventions.

A native of the Philippines who moved to Hawaii at age 11, Taguba is no stranger to painful and personal stories of military abuse. According to an account in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, his father, Tomas, served during World War II, driving food and ammunition to troops in the Philippines. In 1942, when the islands were attacked by the Japanese, Tomas Taguba was captured and taken prisoner.

Forced to endure the infamous Bataan death march, Tomas Taguba managed to escape. He joined an underground movement, secretly reporting on Japanese troop locations.

Taguba's own 32-year military career hints at a man honored by the opportunities opened to him as he climbed the ranks. When he was promoted to general in 1997, he told AsianWeek that he was "humbled," saying, "Diversity gave me a wide range to seek opportunities and to relate to other people."

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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