Thursday, May 6, 2004
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It's hard not to be discouraged about the information coming out from the Taguba Report, as well as the additional pictures and private correspondence suggesting that the pattern of prisoner abuse was wider than originally thought. Josh Marshall links to this Sy Hersh quote last night on O'Reilly:
On top of all this, the White House's official "I want it publicly known that I'm displeased with Rumsfeld but I'm not actually going to say it or do anything about it but leak it to the press" policy is, as Jacob Levy observes, truly bizarre.
You can say, as Victor Davis Hanson did, that at least the U.S. is now coming to grips with the problem -- and that the system worked in exposing these abuses. Glenn Reynolds and Tacitus offer their useful perspectives of what to do now.
posted by Dan on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM
Should have stayed with anger, Dan, because that's what's needed here. Because the way to get the right things done in this election year is to scare the bejesus out of Rove and Bush's pollsters.
I like Tacitus' solution (humiliation for the unit responsible, and its very public disbandment.) The problem I have is that it probably does not find all of the guilty. And, while I actually like Rumsfeld, he needs to fall on his sword for both this and his insistance that a small force could keep Iraq pacified. This is a Democracy, and folks are responsinble for their failed oversight. Particularly when the spirit of Saddam is allowed to invade our MPs.
I guess now is the time for the pro-Bushies to blame the liberal media for this. It's a plot designed to discredit the most wonderful president in the history of the Republic.
I agree Rumsfeld must go. If he doesn't resign--which I don't expect--he has no honor. Also, while I think Bush did the right thing in going on TV, he should have apologized. I know why he didn't--because that's something Clinton would have done and God knows,he can't do anything like Clinton.
There is a point at which those in authority have to take responsibility. It's ludicrous to talk about the responsibility of soldiers not to obey illegal orders. Does anyone realistically expect a 19 year old PFC to tell his superiors, "no, I'm not going to do that?" Not that I expect this group to take any responsibility--they are too busy telling the world that Americans (other than liberals)never do anything wrong.
I don't think this condemns the entire military and certainly not most of the soldiers. But the administration has placed them in an impossible situation. I actually expected atrocities to occur in the field when soldiers began reacting indiscriminately to the constant attacks. I wouldn't blame them. But this is worse and it clearly comes from higher up the chain, although I'm sure the Administration will try to portray this as a "When Good Soldiers Go Bad" scenario.
These pictures make me sick and I don't sicken easily.
“Me? I've moved beyond denial and anger and into depression.”
We can easily turn the lemons into lemonade. Donald Rumsfeld must offer his resignation---and the President should accept. Thomas Aquinas was right to remind us that there is always some good resulting in bad actions. There’s no doubt in my mind, but that many Iraqis are learning to respect and trust us. When did Saddam Hussein ever publicly regret torturing prisoners? Things are actually getting better in Iraq. We have every reason to be very optimistic. Our moods swings are often unfortunately dictated by the media headlines. Sometimes we need to take a chill pill and look at the bigger picture.posted by: David Thomson on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
Am I a panglossian fool who only sees the bright side of everything? I am a voracious reader who spends enormous time keeping up on the Iraqi situation. Things look pretty good to me. The worst seems to be over. I do indeed sense a growing trust of the Iraqis toward President Bush and the United States. Even the Sunni Triangle appears to be getting quieter. What am I not getting?posted by: David Thomson on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
What am I not getting?
The goalpost shift.posted by: asdf on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
Get a grip, Dan.
There is always a next big thing. This is the current one. It will vanish when the next one comes along.
I am familiar with patterns of prison abuse just from professional reading of California legal journals, newspapers and cases. We have a true gangster union here - the state prison guards, and I expect the Department of Corrections will be controlled in a year or two by a receiver appointed by a federal judge.
The abuse at Abu Ghraib is small beer, especially by Middle Eastern standards. It was wrong and should not have happened, but it is not important and won't have lasting negative effects.
Iraqi Shiites and Kurds are somewhat thrilled. I say "somewhat" because they know they can do a lot better than that. Iraq's Sunni Arabs are dead men walking. Less than half of the ones in Iraq now will be there five years from now. Their ethnic cleansing at the hands of Iraq's Shiites will make our wrongs at Abu Ghraib not even a footnote.
Sunni Arabs elsewhere fall into two principal camps - the ones who hate us already, and the ones who don't. The ones who don't and pay any attention to this matter are increasingly interested in the disciplinary action we are taking. Which is the last thing our enemies want - it sets an unwelcome precdent.
As for its effect on our own willingness to continue the war on terror, you haven't seen anything yet. Our enemies will solve any will to win issues for us. Ask Mead what will happen when we're nuked or slimed. I'm far more concerned about our over-reaction at that point.
And we're ramping up to invade Iran right now. You don't know how to pay attention to that sort of thing. I do. This one is coming. I used to think it was eighteen months off. It will be sooner than that.posted by: Tom Holsinger on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
Well put, asdf, though I'm afraid it's most likely wasted.
On the evidence of the past year, there is *no* policy this administration could adopt that would lead David Thomson to doubt the President's wise and benificent leadership.posted by: TedL on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
Does it bother you that,in this Democracy of ours, nobody has talked about the necessity of invading Iran, and that nobody will be talking about it before election day?
When you consider that the perception of Iraq right now -- fairly or unfairly -- is big mess, what constiuency is there for an Iraqi invasion? And what international legitimacy is there for it?
I guess you are assumiung a nuke or a slime before 18 months are out. Or are you?posted by: Appalled Moderate on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
Correction: Hersh was on the Factor Monday, not yesterday.posted by: HH on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
“When you consider that the perception of Iraq right now -- fairly or unfairly -- is big mess, what constiuency is there for an Iraqi invasion? And what international legitimacy is there for it?”
Why should we allow the liberal media to distort the truth? Iraq is not a big mess. Furthermore, I don’t think you believe it is. Am I jumping to an invalid conclusion? It is indeed unfortunate that the liberal media slants reality----but are we suppose to cease doing anything because of these rascals? Also, why are you so worried about the attitudes of the American haters? When was the last time these people were ever on our side? You need to look at the big picture, and not get so upset by news of a particular day.posted by: David Thomson on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
“Does it bother you that,in this Democracy of ours, nobody has talked about the necessity of invading Iran...”
Speaking of Iran, Nicholas Kristof wrote a column concerning “Those Friendly Iranians.”
“Finally, I've found a pro-American country.
Everywhere I've gone in Iran, with one exception, people have been exceptionally friendly and fulsome in their praise for the United States, and often for President Bush as well. Even when I was detained a couple of days ago in the city of Isfahan for asking a group of young people whether they thought the Islamic revolution had been a mistake (they did), the police were courteous and let me go after an apology.
They apologized; I didn't.”
What were you saying about all that anti-American hostility?posted by: David Thomson on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
I don't mean to denigrate the value of outrage in this situation, but consider this revolting episode in the context of the Iraq war in general.
Very clearly the White House and Pentagon leadership did not anticipate most of the difficulties we have encountered. They thought the transition to Iraqi liberal democracy was not only possible (in itself a sign of optimism of a dangerously high order) but would be easy. One obvious assumption flowing from this -- no one either at the White House or in the Pentagon expected to deal with the number and variety of Iraqi prisoners the military has had to.
The result was hasty improvisation gone awry. Some of the outrage in press commentary (for example in the Washington Post) has dwelt on the evil lawless precedent of policy for detainees at Guantanamo. In fact, though, it looks like daily supervision of military police and intelligence personnel assigned to Iraqi prisoners by personnel with experience in Cuba is exactly what did not happen -- because the need was not anticipated. It looks like a bunch of second-team MI personnel and undertrained, badly led reserve MP units read a few summaries of interrogation techniques used on hard cases at Guantanamo and then just went with their instincts.
In a different administration such an appalling failure might lead to a high-level resignation. In this one I have my doubts, partly because Rumsfeld has been such a dominant figure it's not immediately clear who Bush would replace him with. But, also, because the fundamental mistake here is part of a pattern of mistakes that affects many other areas of our policy in Iraq.posted by: Zathras on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
Pull yourself together and help us with this one: the most basic principle of the rule of law is accountability of the men who wield force to neutral magistrates who embody the law.
And as for Professor Reynold's advice:
I wouldn't feel the need to remove Rumsfeld, if there was any indication that he's learning from his mistakes - or even acknowledging any mistakes. I don't care WHO'S running the show; mistakes are going to be made.
But that seems to be one of the problems, with Rummy and the whole Bush Admin. No real acknowledgment of mistakes or miscalculations. Just "stay the course" policy. It's hard to have the necessary faith (to which an appology really wouldn't help).
DT: I give you that there is plenty going right in Iraq, with precious little focus on it. But the "not good" news is so powerfully overwhelming - whether delivered by the "liberal media" or anyone else (FOX couldn't brighten up this story).posted by: wishIwuz2 on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
Nothing like a typo to get you misunderstood.
Tom Holsinger has been warning us about the coming invasion of Iran in these comments for a while now. I do not know where he gets that form -- but I don't need to know.What OI am curious about is how you do that when (i) we're having a fair amount of trouble with the last invasion and (ii) there has ben zero run up to war,and no discussion of the chance. (The Iraq run up lasted about 7 mounths (8/02 -- 3/03) and had been speculated about since 9/11.
I fully agree. The problems at the prison seem a direct result of the way the Administration has chosen to conduct this war. See:posted by: Appalled Moderate on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
“Tom Holsinger has been warning us about the coming invasion of Iran in these comments for a while now. I do not know where he gets that form”
I also don’t see us invading Iran---and we probably don’t have to. Iraq is the first domino, and many moderate Iranians are encouraged by our successes. They are putting enormous pressure on the Mullahs to behave themselves. You should never forget that I am an admirer of Bernard Lewis, and therefore I consider the invasion of Iraq as indispensable to pushing the Muslim world into the 21st Century.
Has the Bush administration done everything perfectly? Of course not, but neither did Abraham Lincoln nor FDR. But are we winning in Iraq? Hell yes!posted by: David Thomson on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
Depressed about Iran?
This story ought to cheep you up.posted by: asdf on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
“Very clearly the White House and Pentagon leadership did not anticipate most of the difficulties we have encountered. They thought the transition to Iraqi liberal democracy was not only possible (in itself a sign of optimism of a dangerously high order) but would be easy. One obvious assumption flowing from this -- no one either at the White House or in the Pentagon expected to deal with the number and variety of Iraqi prisoners the military has had to.”
And what is your point? Let’s compare the Iraqi war with starting a new business. Every management guru will warn you that screw ups are inevitable. Problems never considered will become everyday realities. A perfect executed plan rarely works as originally conceived. Does that mean one should never start a new company? No, you should merely get ready for the unexpected and go with the flow.
You are inadvertently arguing why we should hold President Bush in high esteem. He bit the bullet and isn’t shying away from the hard choices. What did he do when the Turkish government would not allow us to invade from the north? He made the decision to continue anyway. That took guts---something a Democrat mainstreamer doesn't have.posted by: David Thomson on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
"There’s no doubt in my mind, but that many Iraqis are learning to respect and trust us."
Are you serious? Where do you get this from?posted by: MWS on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
Why Iraq's Sunni Arabs are doomed:
"The administration may deny that this decision — which will save lives in the short term but is likely to cost more in the long run — is a defeat. The combatants know better."
The Bush administration just wrote off Iraq's Sunni Arabs, and it is quite immaterial whether or not this was intentional.
Saving Iraq's Sunni Arab minority from ethnic cleansing by its Shiite majority/Kurdish minority required that we convince the Sunnis that they had lost any chance to regain power, and induce a major change in their behavior.
We did not do this when that could have been done without really drastic measures on our part (such as levelling Fallujah and turning it into Fallujah International Airport with the world's largest single-story parking lot) which there was little chance of politically before, and none now after Abu Ghraib.
But now nothing short of such drastic measures can so change Sunni attitudes and behavior that the Shiites and Kurds will feel safe absent ethnic cleansing of the Sunni. The latter now believe they can get back into power by being nasty enough.
We won't let the Sunni have control of Iraq in the short run (under 18 months) and in the long run (more than 36 months) the Shiites and Kurds will build armed forces capable of driving out/killing more than half of the Sunnis. Croatian President Tudjman's solution to his country's Serb minority problem is coming to Iraq.posted by: Tom Holsinger on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
"There’s no doubt in my mind, but that many Iraqis are learning to respect and trust us."
Are you serious? Where do you get this from?”
I believe this to be a fair conclusion considering the muted response in Iraq towards the prison outrage. Has any of the leading religious leaders called for a Jihad against America? Are there any major street demonstrations? No, everything is starting to seem rather tranquil. The worst does appear to be over. Does anyone think that President Bush’s comments yesterday on Arab TV have not influenced the Iraqis for the better? Let’s get real.posted by: David Thomson on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
No damage, David?
From generally pro-American blogger Zeyad:
Now, regarding the disgusting images from Abu Ghraib that the whole world had witnessed in the last few days. They didn't come as a surprise at all, we have been hearing stories about the abuse of prisoners for a long time from released detainees and from humanitarian organisations. It doesn't shock me at all that some American soldiers are so sick and devoid from any humanity. You need to have a cousin pushed off from a dam by some in order to learn that. What surprises me
The fact that the soldiers were merely relieved from duty and reprimanded wasn't surprising either. In fact it is to be expected. The outcome of the investigation indicated that systematic psychological and physical torture, mistreatment, or abuse (whatever) was indeed routine in US detention centers throughout Iraq. Military Intelligence officers had encouraged it, referring to it as 'setting the conditions for subsequent interrogation', and of course soldiers follow orders without questioning. Keep in mind, though, that former Iraqi Security and Mukhabarat officers also employed appropriate measures to 'set the conditions', and we thought we were over that now.
While Saddam Hussein sits safely in his comfortable cell in Qatar or wherever else he is being held, Iraqi detainees are being put into the most humiliating and degrading conditions that can be imagined. While the guilty are free to wreak havoc, and take refuge in holy cities, the innocent are detained and mistreated for months without charges. But it seems like that is life.
They may be just a few soldiers, it may be an isolated case, but what's the difference? The effect has been done, and the Hearts and Minds campaign is a joke that isn't funny any more.posted by: Appalled Moderate on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
“No damage, David?”
That is correct. There is very little long term damage. It’s often very hard to keep one’s cool when everybody else is going off the deep end. Once again, have you heard any Iraqi religious leaders calling for jihad against America? Do you remember the Tylenol tragedy? The CEO turned that crisis into a positive for the company. I’m convinced that this incident may very well be a blessing in disguise. We can turn lemons into lemonade.
You can say, as Victor Davis Hanson did, that at least the U.S. is now coming to grips with the problem -- and that the system worked in exposing these abuses.
Screw the system. What about a military culture that encourages soldiers to look down upon their foreign wards?
The military's mission is clearly not to give a fuck about Iraqis, or their country, or their culture. It's to fight resistance to the occupation that will later be labeled as terrorist. Otherwise, we'd do things like prevent post-invasion looting, prevent arms from entering the country, and prevent prisoners from being bum-rushed with broomsticks by our own soldiers.
It's good to know you're a libertarian Dan, but you keep supporting the same xenophobes and supremacists that breed this sort of irresponsibility and lack of respect for human life or dignity. (After all, if Republicans cared about human dignity, they'd pursue an economic system that provided people with dignified jobs.)
Me? I've moved beyond denial and anger and into depression
A lot like the long-term offshoring victims in your other story, I imagine.posted by: Keith Tyler on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
I guess David Thompson is right. After all, our ability so far to run a just prison and criminal justice system in Iraq has shown that we are already as good at it as Saddam was, who was in power in Iraq for almost 20 times as long as we've been.
Just think of the progress we can make in that direction if we've already gotten this far.
I know I'm proud of us.posted by: Keith Tyler on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
“Screw the system. What about a military culture that encourages soldiers to look down upon their foreign wards?”
The American military culture also removed Saddam Hussein from power. It has improved the lives of most Iraqis. Doesn't that count for something? Why do you wish to focus merely on the bad?
Well, how about that. The President did apologize.posted by: Silicon Valley Jim on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
“After all, our ability so far to run a just prison and criminal justice system in Iraq has shown that we are already as good at it as Saddam was, who was in power in Iraq for almost 20 times as long as we've been.”
What planet do you live on? Our minor league scandal involves perpetrators who defied official policy. Saddam Hussein had far more people tortured and murdered. He would literally have hundreds of prisoners killed merely to make room for the new inmates. There is simply no comparison. You need to learn how to make distinctions and present a logical argument.posted by: David Thomson on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
I want to know Thomson's pharmacist.posted by: goethean on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
David's question, goethian, is a just one. Allow me to re-cast it a bit:
Which would you consider to be a larger issue; A small group, a subset of people, who in the process of defying established policy, commit criminal acts against jailed charges, or a government system where such abuse is not criminal, but in fact is committed by order of the government?
Consider an additional possibility --
A small group, under incredible stress at a frequently attacked facility, with no recreational facilities, surrounded by a hostile population, and never given proper relief, due to "lean and mean" staffing at the Iraq mission, and never trained properly in how to run a prison, run amok? (See the e-mail Andrew Sullivan quotes on his blog)
posted by: Appalled Moderate on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
There have also been comments the last 2 days that the specific methods of humiliation used suggest higher-level direction - possibly from intelligence and/or interrogation teams.
If so, it may not be just a "small subset" of people, nor "defying established policy".posted by: wishIwuz2 on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
I'm not sure how effective a tactic claiming that the United States is "not Saddam Hussein" is likely to be.
Let's face it, if views expressed here really mattered they wouldn't be expressed here. To the extent they do matter it is because they reflect to some extent opinion among the general public and especially among policymakers who have read the same reports, news articles and commentary we have. It is in that context that I find responses to this scandal that dwell on America not being as bad as one of recent history's worst tyrants, or that talk about a war and occupation being like starting a new business, disconcerting.
The rights and wrongs of the Iraq war, and how the war has been and is being fought, are not the same issue. It isn't enough to be on the side of right as a matter of policy; we have to win. This appalling scandal doesn't help us win. The wishful thinking, inadequate planning, and careless improvisation that went into the system for looking after Iraqi prisoners led to this scandal, and didn't help us win. The reaction of the most senior administration officials -- delayed as a matter of course until the inevitable publication of photographs in the press forced their hand -- doesn't help us win.
In particular, the response of the White House in leaking an anonymous report of the President's irritation at Rumsfeld is characteristic of the weakness of his leadership. Typically it focused on how Rumsfeld had allegedly failed Bush rather than how this scandal happened in the first place. One might be able to find better illustrations of where this Me Generation President's priorities are, but this will do for a start.posted by: Zathras on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
AM, Bithead, DT & wishIwuz2,
IMO there were several factors all happening at once (listed in no particular order):
1) Awful conditions for the prison staff/perpetrators.
2) Use of reservists who had been civilian prison guards was an error because they brought their bad habits with them.
3) Weak supervision aka command problems had everything else been done right, and it wasn't.
4) Divided authority:
(a) Persons not in the prison commander's chain of command were allowed to give orders to the prison commander as well as prison staff.
(b) Those orders forbade her to interfere with certain activities, or even enter areas of her own prison. The latter obstructed her ability to command her own subordinates.
(c) No one replaced the prison supervisors forbidden to enter portions of the prison, so the staff effectively operated unsupervised. wishIwuz2: what those unsupervised staff did was IMO imitate the softening up and interrogation techniques they observed the interrogators using.
(d) Letting persons outside the prison commander's authority operate inside the prison. This especially applies to civilian contractors. She couldn't exclude people who violated prison rules or encouraged her subordinates to violate the rules.posted by: Tom Holsinger on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
Your list is all right as far as it goes, TH, but it neglects to mention the fact that we had nearly 18 months worth of experience with a very bad lot of Islamist prisoners when the Iraq war started.
That experience now figures in press commentary as an evil precedent -- Abu Ghraib could happen because Rumsfeld dismissed the Geneva Convention and civilian judicial process at Guantanamo. As I suggested earlier, though, concerns about the political impact of abuse of Muslim detainees led the military to go to considerable lengths to avoid this problem in Cuba.
Now, in fairness, we can't say the record at Guantanamo is clean because we don't know it all. There is also the matter that men held at Guantanamo were asked questions about specific things, involving terrorism, that we had an interest in; it's not clear this was true of the much larger number of prisoners held in Iraq. My point is that the experience -- and especially the experienced personnel -- from Guantanamo seems not to have transferred to Abu Ghraib at all. It just wasn't in the plan for occupation that we'd have to deal with large numbers of prisoners. This even though Saddam's clearing the jails had been a major news story months before the war started.
The problem wasn't so much that Guantanamo set the stage for the abuses in Iraq as that the policy we rightly followed there wasn't followed in Iraq -- the result of the same wishful thinking and consequent deficient planning that burdens the war effort in so many other areas.
And, incidentally, on your point about divided command: the published comments of this General Karpinski are as pathetic an admission of personal inadequacy as I have ever heard from a military officer at that level. How did she ever make general in the first place?posted by: Zathras on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
“And, incidentally, on your point about divided command: the published comments of this General Karpinski are as pathetic an admission of personal inadequacy as I have ever heard from a military officer at that level. How did she ever make general in the first place?”
Have you forgotten about affirmative action? I have lost count of the incompetent women and minorities that I’ve encountered who have their job only because of these absurd policies. And guess what---I defend affirmative action. There are indeed times when a minority candidate should be chosen when everything else is equal. Regretfully, that is not the case in many situations.
"I’m convinced that this incident may very well be a blessing in disguise. We can turn lemons into lemonade."
Unfortunately, I'm not so sure that this can be turned into lemonade so easily:
a) This administration refuses to admit that the system needs fixing. They seem to be trying to shift blame to low-level soldiers rather than confronting the fact that the system failed. Our military had a responsibility to achieve victory AND to do so in a manner keeping with our values. Ensuring that an appropriate framework existed to prevent the military for failing in either regard must be a responsibility taken seriously by the leadership of the Army. Bush and Rumsfeld have so far refused to even acknowledge this, so how can we trust them to take the steps necessary to fix a broken system? The buck stops nowhere in the Bush White House...
b) Whether Saddam did worse is not a justifiable excuse for what happened. We claimed the moral high ground and used it as a reason to go into Iraq and the administration has an obligation to our citizens and the world to ensure that we maintain that. Instead, even after the photos became public, Bush was on the campaign trail bragging about how we "shut down Saddam's torture chambers." I can live with a lot of things, but blatant hypocrisy is not one of them.
c) Claiming that this has not hurt our standing in the Islamic world, even if only by hardening the resolve of those who already hated us is plainly ridiculous. Even your hero 'W' admitted as much on Arab TV.
d) Bearing in mind that I think Rumsfeld should be fired TODAY because the fish stinks from the head, I refuse to discount the responsibility of the soldiers themselves. Take a look at the photos, they seem to be enjoying their work a bit much to be "just following orders." Besides, you have to be a special kind of stupid to believe that "just following orders" is an acceptable reason to do the unspeakable. I thought this sort of garbage was settled at Nuremberg. Finally, there were some who found it reprehensible enough to leak photos and report the abuses to higher-ups - if any soldier charged can't prove that they were those people, then I say they should be court-martialed, dishonorably discharged, and subject to civil prosecution by the appropriate Iraqi criminal courts.
I had Karpinski in mind as an example of "weak supervision aka command problems". She is a perfect example of command failure.
Everyone knew they could walk all over her. Her subordinates, spooks, contractors, etc.
OTOH, I believe her statement that she was ordered to look the other way.
And it is possible that she was carefully selected for this position.posted by: Tom Holsinger on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
“...the result of the same wishful thinking and consequent deficient planning that burdens the war effort in so many other areas.”
Pleaaase, there’s only so much planning you can do before deciding to bite the bullet. That is why I respect President Bush. The Democrats like Al Gore and John Kerry would “plan” until the cows came home in the evening. I can hear it now: “We can’t do anything. We are still in the planning stage. Maybe the next year, or the one after that.”
Isn’t it awful that President Lincoln didn't plan better? And FDR sure is a loser. Wow, didn’t he make a lot of mistakes? You show me someone who never makes a mistake---and most likely I’ll show an individual who never attempts a serious project.posted by: David Thomson on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
Zathras & DT,
Consider "Little Mac" aka General George McClellan, who never had enough time for planning, or enough troops (as opposed to "Big Mac" aka General Douglas MacArthur).
The Democrats and Kerry come to mind.posted by: Tom Holsinger on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
I think the manner in which Trent Lott was forced out may be a useful guide to the path to the exit for Rumsfeld. I also think that John McCain (who sits on the Armed Services Committee and will be questioning him tomoorrow) will effectively decide Rumsfeld's fate.
To the extent those two thoughts conflict, go with McCain.posted by: Tom Maguire on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
What's interesting is the mantra of those that either things are getting better or that we can wash our hands of Iraq and then go on to do more of the same, but no recognition that the system that produced the present errors has not in any way been remedied. Zathras is correct in saying that these events are ultimately symptomatic, underneath we have a very sick policy planning and execution process and until that is fixed any dreaming about Iraq improving or Iran being invaded will remain true believer fantasies.
AM is right, this is still at least nominally a democracy and the consent of the people's representatives are still required for war - a point TH seems to evade thoroughly.posted by: Oldman on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
Oldman says that there would not be war unless we wage it. The enemy can't make war on us unless we consent to the war.
I'm glad this issue is settled.posted by: Tom Holsinger on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
On top of all this, the White House's official "I want it publicly known that I'm displeased with Rumsfeld but I'm not actually going to say it or do anything about it but leak it to the press" policy is, as Jacob Levy observes, truly bizarre.
Could it be that this is part of the setup to make Rumsfeld the fall guy? After all, you ideally want to make the other side call for his head, instead of looking like you're throwing the guy to the wolves to get them off your scent.
But I could be paranoid after the buck-passing for the forged Niger documents.posted by: fling93 on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
Yawn - are we still talking about this?
Oops. waitaminute: Incoming message.
10...posted by: Tommy G on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
Aw, Dammit, I never got to finish my thought.posted by: Tommy G on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
Even after Pearl Harbor, there was a declaration of war.
If the President even sensed a potential terrorist threat, he'd have the right to reduce it into ashes. If he even thought a major attack was going to be launched at us, he'd have the right to launch an intercepting counter-attack.
However he doesn't have the right to order purely on his say so large scale extended hostilities and foreign deployment.
And given how well the last time the justifications turned when the President said "trust me," well there are a lot of people who are going to have doubts.
So take your "war is inevitable" routine back to the Nuclear bunker where you shook out the dust from it. All through the Cold War we got through it without nuclear war, despite the rantings of B-team and B-grade warmongers like yourself.
Alarmists were wrong about the threat the Soviet Union posed. Alarmists were wrong about the threat Iraq posed, and they'll be wrong tomorrow about the threats tomorrow just like you.
Your constantly carping about war is the real 'sky is falling' bs.
War is not inevitable, not because I trust the mullahs of Tehran, but because if we can keep a cold war style clamp on Iranian nuclear development long enough they'll fall from within without our having to invade them. Just like the cold war it was the erosion of support from within that eventually toppled the communist regimes, the Iranian regime is looking ever increasingly shakey. They're much more likely to fall than the long-overdue claims that NK will conveniently drop over dead. Unlike NK, the Iranians simply don't have anyone to prop them up.posted by: Oldman on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
I will give the defenders of the "act now, plan later" school of policymaking this much: we saw the results of year after year working out ways to avoid taking drastic and upsetting action against al Qaeda absent "actionable intelligence." It is interesting to note that part of the Bush adminsitration defense of its having essentially continued Clinton administration policy on terrorism before 9/11 was that it was working on a plan to do more.
But this is not an academic discussion about process or modes of action. Bush administration planning for the Iraq war did not fall short because the need for action demanded shortcuts be taken. In fact, planning was done for everything from the need to maintain public order after the Baathists fell to the need to secure weapons depots and arrange local elections. As James Fallows has shown (in his Atlantic article last fall) the Bush administration ignored nearly all of it, because it was determined to believe that something it badly wanted to do could be done cheaply, and easily, and by the Pentagon alone.
The problem with rationalizing unanticipated difficulties as inevitable is that it leaves a great deal of room for wishful thinking and general incompetence. If administration defenders were not so tolerant of these things maybe the administration wouldn't be either.posted by: Zathras on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
"Iraqi Shiites and Kurds are somewhat thrilled."
Most of the detainees tortured in those photos were Shiites: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/05/06/1083635279507.html
"Iraq's Sunni Arabs are dead men walking. Less than half of the ones in Iraq now will be there five years from now. Their ethnic cleansing at the hands of Iraq's Shiites will make our wrongs at Abu Ghraib not even a footnote."
If the Shiites tried to pull a Milosevic on the Sunnis, they'd have the myriad millions of Sunni Arabs in adjoining lands (and many non-Arab Sunnis for that matter) swarming in on them in response. Shiites may be a majority in Iraq, but they're a small minority in the Arab region as a whole. Furthermore, the Sunnis still control most of the wealth (what's left of it) in the country and disproportionately boast well-armed and trained ex-soldiers.
Most likely, if the excrement truly hits the fan and civil war breaks out, the Sunnis and Shiites divvy up the country with the unsolicited and thoroughly unwelcome help of every nation bordering modern Iraq, and the place fragments into smaller states partially absorbed into neighboring ones, like the 30 Years' War in Europe. The British created following Iraq World War I in 1920 in part because they wanted to pit the ethnic groups against each other (though the Brits were kicked out unceremoniously in this case ten years later-- divide-and-conquer doesn't always work). Now, the country's tenuous threads are unraveling again. It would mean a massive, ugly mess in an oil-rich region, which is why no matter how crummy things look now, they'd get a lot worse if the US withdrew. No easy solution here.posted by: Wes Ulm on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
It should also be noted that in fairness (as mentioned in the SMH article), even the detainees who endured the humiliation were quite laudatory toward the American guards during the day. The Hayder Sabbar Abd guy that they interview praised the day guards for respecting the prisoners and providing them with necessities. Something must have been slipped into the canteens of the night shift...
But it still does appear that the majority of the Abu Ghraib prison staff acquitted themselves diligently and professionally, which should be noted in any equitable treatment of this.posted by: Wes on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
...9...posted by: Tommy G on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
"Alarmists were wrong about the threat the Soviet Union posed."???
You never cease to astonish.posted by: Art Wellesley on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
Tom Maguire wrote:
I think the manner in which Trent Lott was forced out may be a useful guide to the path to the exit for Rumsfeld.
Lott was forced out for his own actions and words at a birthday party (which truth be told were overblown). Unless you are going to claim that Rumsfeld participated in or ordered the abuse of the detainees at Abu Ghraib, the analogy falls flat.posted by: Thorley Winston on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
Frankly, I'm deeply depressed. I think we only kid ourselves if we think this is just going to pass. Nothing we do can damage the repair these actions have done. We can apologize until we are blue in the face, but it will be to no avail. It breaks my heart that just a few months ago U.S. soldiers were on the cover of Time as persons of the year and now are being replaced by these photos and images; and there are more photos and videotapes to come which are even more worse than those out alreadyposted by: lll on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
...7...posted by: TommyG on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
...5...posted by: Tommy G on 05.06.04 at 11:29 AM [permalink]
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