Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 9, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

MORE ABU GHRAIB....Sometimes events just become too much and words fail me. I'm afraid all I can do today is recommend that you go somewhere else for the news. Here are some recommendations.

Go read the Los Angeles Times on Major General Geoffrey Miller, former head of the Guantanamo prison, who is inexplicably being assigned to take over Abu Ghraib. It doesn't really matter whether Miller is or isn't responsible for the recommendations that led to some of the abuses. Even if he isn't, this is yet another tone deaf PR disaster. Think about it: we're sending the head of Gitmo to clean up a prison accused of abusing and torturing prisoners. Does the Pentagon think this is a Monty Python sketch, or what?

Go read Lindsey Graham, who says this story is about a lot more than abuse and torture. "We're talking about rape and murder here. We're not just talking about giving people a humiliating experience."

Go read Dick Cheney, who decided that this was the right time to say, "I think Don Rumsfeld is the best secretary of Defense the United States has ever had."

Go read Mark Kleiman, who wonders why, if the abuses at Abu Ghraib were supposedly taken seriously, the Procedure 15 inquiries recommended by the Taguba report didn't start up until after the Pentagon knew that incriminating photos were about to become public. And then wonders further why the "immediate" disciplinary action recommended in the same report still hasn't taken place.

Go read Republican representative and reserve colonel Steve Buyer of Indiana, who wants to know why the Pentagon rejected the Army's plan to send him to Iraq to provide legal oversight for prisoner interrogations. Buyer was the Judge Advocate General officer monitoring compliance with international law at one of the two main prisoner-of-war camps during the first Gulf War. "If there ever is an area that is susceptible to abuse and maltreatment of prisoners, it would be during the interrogation process," he said. And this:

Bloomington attorney and Army Reserve Col. Michael Carmin was Buyer's counterpart at the other main prisoner-of-war camp in Desert Storm.

Carmin said that when he learned Buyer's call-up had been aborted, he simply assumed the Army had found someone else with similar credentials.

"Somebody made the assessment," he said, "that there wasn't the need to fill the slot."

That's right: the Pentagon actively decided it didn't want legal oversight at Abu Ghraib. Why would they do that unless they knew perfectly well what was going on there and approved of it? Now can we stop this charade of pretending that this was all just the unfortunate actions of a few rogue noncoms?

Go read Fareed Zakaria: "On almost every issue involving postwar Iraqtroop strength, international support, the credibility of exiles, de-Baathification, handling Ayatollah Ali SistaniWashington's assumptions and policies have been wrong. By now most have been reversed, often too late to have much effect. This strange combination of arrogance and incompetence has not only destroyed the hopes for a new Iraq. It has had the much broader effect of turning the United States into an international outlaw in the eyes of much of the world."

Kevin Drum 2:36 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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