Tidbits for Political Junkies with Short Attention Spans & Hearty Appetites


Tuesday, May 18, 2004


After Abu Ghraib

Via Ezra over at Pandagon, we pick up on this excellent Fred Kaplan piece, which names names -- and examines what comes next for the Bush adminstration. The prognosis? "The story is not going away:"
Bush knew about it. Rumsfeld ordered it. His undersecretary of defense for intelligence, Steven Cambone, administered it. Cambone's deputy, Lt. Gen. William Boykin, instructed Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who had been executing the program involving al-Qaida suspects at Guantanamo, to go do the same at Abu Ghraib. Miller told Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who was in charge of the 800th Military Brigade, that the prison would now be dedicated to gathering intelligence. Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy, also seems to have had a hand in this sequence, as did William Haynes, the Pentagon's general counsel. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, learned about the improper interrogations—from the International Committee of the Red Cross, if not from anyone else—but said or did nothing about it for two months, until it was clear that photographs were coming out. Meanwhile, those involved in the interrogations included officers from military intelligence, the CIA, and private contractors, as well as the mysterious figures from the Pentagon's secret operation.

That's a lot more people than the seven low-grade soldiers and reservists currently facing courts-martial.

The challenge for Bush, Kaplan notes, is that there isn't much that he can do, and what little he can do may not help. Even firing Rumsfeld "won't stop the investigations:"
In fact, the confirmation hearings for Rummy's replacement would serve as yet another forum for all the questions—about Abu Ghraib, the war in Iraq, and military policy generally—that the administration is trying to stave off. More than that, Bush has said repeatedly that he won't get rid of Rumsfeld. If he did, especially if he did so under political pressure, he would undermine his most appealing campaign slogan—that he stays the course, doesn't buckle, says what he means and does what he says.

What Kaplan is also pointing out, albeit indirectly, is that even the most plausible scenario for Rumsfeld's departure -- in which Bush 'reluctantly accepts' his putatively voluntary resignation -- is not, when carefully examined, all that plausible. It still wouldn't fix the problem of a confirmation hearing -- which wouldn't be pretty.

My bet? Well let me put it this way: at this point, the story has more staying power than Bush does.

[UPDATE: Mark Bowden (author of Black Hawk Down), joins the fray with this piece for the new Atlantic Monthly. While it appears to have been written just before the latest Seymour Hersh and Newsweek pieces, it deserves a read for its excellent take on the moral dimensions of the scandal, and for correctly focusing on a problem which the administration has never bothered to deny: an atmosphere of tacit approval, which created a "license to abuse" and "unleashed the sadists."]


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