Daily Archives: August 25, 2004

Abu Ghraib: Another Timid Step

Yet another committee investigating Abu Ghraib has taken yet another timid step in assigning responsibility for the torture to the top of the Administration. Months after the initial revelations about the Admin’s cold and calculating search for legal loopholes in the Geneva Convention that would allow the US to torture prisoners for information (White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales called the Convention ‘quaint’ and ‘irrelevant’) and its in-house support for torture as a tactic, the Schlesinger panel concludes that responsibility lies with Rumsfeld and the DoD.

WASHINGTON, Aug. 24 – For Donald H. Rumsfeld to resign over the prison abuses at Abu Ghraib would be a mistake, the four-member panel headed by James M. Schlesinger asserted Tuesday. But in tracing responsibility for what went wrong at Abu Ghraib, it drew a line that extended to the defense secretary’s office.The panel cited what it called major failures on the part of Mr. Rumsfeld and his aides in not anticipating and responding swiftly to the post-invasion insurgency in Iraq. On the eve of the Republican convention, that verdict could not have been welcome at the White House, where postwar problems in Iraq represent perhaps President Bush’s greatest political liability.

The report rarely mentions Mr. Rumsfeld by name, referring most often instead to the “office of the secretary of defense.” But as a sharp criticism of postwar planning for Iraq, it represents the most explicit official indictment to date of an operation that was very much the province of Mr. Rumsfeld and his top deputies.

A ‘failure’ is not the same thing as a ‘decision’. The panel is saying what the evidence compels it to say but putting it in a context that ignores some key decisions that suggest very strongly that Abu Ghaib was planned all along. A few of those questions:

***Why was Boykin not fired after his anti-Muslim/pro-fundamentalist Xtian comments?
***Why was Boykin put in charge of the Army’s prison system?
***Why did Rumsfeld allow Boykin to appoint MajGen Geoffrey Miller as head of the prison system in Iraq even though Miller’s use of torture techniques while he was in charge of Gitmo was an open secret and potential scandal?
***Why was Army Intelligence put in charge of the ‘interrogations’?
***Why was Gen Karpinski–and others in the theater–told not to interfere with them even though she was supposed to be in command at AG?
***Where–and who–did that order come from?

The Schlesinger panel’s criticism of Rumsfeld’s ‘failure to respond’ doesn’t connect any of these dots or answer any of those questions; it ducks altogether the thorny possibility that Rumsfeld didn’t ‘respond’ because it was a policy he knew all about and had in fact deliberately implemented. Instead it pretends that leaving Boykin and Miller in charge was somehow an accidental oversight. That’s quite an assumption given the intensity with which the DoD, DoJ, and BA hunted for legal rationalizations for the US to justify precisely what US interrogators later did at AG. It’s an incredible assumption given that Rumsfeld not only knew what had been going on at Gitmo under Miller but had publicly defended it.

The only way to avoid pointing the finger directly at the Bush Admin is by compartmentalizing all these separate findings and then making believe they’re totally unconnected to each other. Put them together and the inevitable conclusion is that Rumsfeld and the BA planned, developed, and implemented a specific policy; the pieces can’t be explained rationally any other way.

It is becoming, bit by bit, clearer and more inescapable that responsibility for the torture at Abu Ghraib belongs on the desk where Harry Truman said the buck stopped.

Let George Do It

Veep Cheney, after months of waffling, has returned to his original position on gay marriage: that it’s an issue that should be decided by the states.

DAVENPORT, Iowa — Vice President Dick Cheney, whose oldest daughter is a lesbian, said Tuesday he believed that decisions about same-sex marriages should be left to the states, contending that “freedom means freedom for everyone.”Despite his personal view, he added, President Bush is his boss, and Bush favors an amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning such marriages. “The president makes policy for the administration,” Cheney said.

His comments came in response to a question during an invitation-only town hall meeting in Davenport, a city both presidential campaigns have focused on in their competition to win Iowa. Cheney’s remarks were his first this year on the gay marriage issue while campaigning.

So what’s the actual news here? The LAT seems torn between three possibilities:

1) It’s news because Cheney is openly breaking with Bush;
2) It’s news because he did so at an ‘invitation-only’ appearance where both the questioners and the questions are known in advance;
3) It’s news because the Veep decided to let the Pres call the shots just this once.

Asked later about the difference between Bush’s and Cheney’s positions on the constitutional amendment, Anne Womack, a spokeswoman for the vice president, responded: “The vice president respects the president’s right to make that decision.”

Out of the mouths of babes. Quite subconsciously, it seems, Little Dick’s spokeswoman let the cat out of the bag. If the Veep respects Junior’s ‘right’ to make ‘that’ decision, the unspoken assumption is that ‘that decision’ is an exception to the general rule. She might as well have said, ‘Dick decided to let George have his way on this one, but it probably won’t happen again.’

In true Publican backstabbing style, naturally she said this after the Vice President had torpedoed one of his boss’ favorite far-right panders in a semi-public forum. Look for the Mighty Wurlitzer to chop him up in little pieces for subverting their dearly beloved campaign distraction and ‘major social issue’ about which they have been fulminating for months, the FMA. They’ll call Dick a ‘traitor’, they’ll say he wants to destroy the institution of marriage, that he hates America, that he’s a tool of the ‘special interests’.

Sure they will.