By Your Man
By Scott C. Smith
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When Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld appeared before
the Senate Armed Services Committee last week, he warned lawmakers
that more photos would be released of abuse at Abu Ghraib
prison in Iraq: "There are other photos that depict incidents
of physical violence towards prisoners, acts that can only
be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhumane...
It's going to get a good deal more terrible, I'm afraid."
And just what do these photographs depict? According to
MSNBC, the photos include images of an Iraqi soldier being
beaten nearly to death; a photo of U.S. forces having sex
with a female Iraqi prisoner; and photos of American soldiers
acting inappropriately with a dead body. Does it get any worse?
Yes, it does, as there is allegedly a videotape of young boys
being raped by Iraqi guards. The video was shot by U.S. soldiers,
who apparently must have found the raping of young boys to
be very exciting to watch.
George W. Bush is standing by his man, dismissing calls
for Rumsfeld's resignation. The Contra Costa Times
reported that Vice President Dick Cheney on May 8 told critics
of Rumsfeld to "get off his case and let him do his job."
Get off his case? What, is Rumsfeld an inexperienced teenager
fumbling through his first week of work at a "real" job?
At least some Republicans are taking the prison abuse allegations
seriously. On the May 9th CBS program Face the Nation, Republican
Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska said, "I think it's still
in question whether Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld…can command
the respect and the trust and the confidence of the military
and the American people to lead this country."
Outwardly, Bush was full of praise for Rumsfeld. At a May
10 press conference, Bush said, of Rumsfeld, "You are doing
a superb job." Bush clearly has a different definition of
the word superb than I have. Bush went on to say, "…our nation
owes you a debt of gratitude."
Once again, the buck is not stopping anywhere near Bush
or his cabinet.
Does this administration ever take responsibility for anything
that happens on their watch? Right-wing pundits like Rush
Limbaugh have downplayed the Abu Ghraib abuse, saying it was
nothing more than people (the U.S. soldiers in the photographs)
"having a good time" with a need to blow off "steam."
I wonder how Rush will explain the photographs that haven't
been released yet, the ones that reportedly show, according
to MSNBC, U.S. forces acting "inappropriately" with a corpse?
Or video tape which allegedly contains footage of Iraqi guards
raping young boys, with U.S. forces filming - and condoning
- the rape? Is that a healthy way to let off steam, Rush?
At this point, I suspect Bush would do nothing to Rumsfeld,
even if photographs emerged showing Rumsfeld laughing
and pointing at naked Iraqi prisoners. I guess Bush is very
If past actions are any indicator, the investigation into
the Abu Ghraib abuse will drag on for months, perhaps being
completed in time for the presidential election. Sure, some
low-ranking troopers will get booted out of the Army, and
I'm sure we'll see a one or two-star general stepping down.
If Rumsfeld were a man of honor, he'd step down. Unfortunately,
many in Bush's cabinet are far too arrogant to do anything
like take responsibility for abhorrent behavior committed
by people under them.
With each photo that comes to light, our credibility in
Iraq is eroded. With tensions already high in parts of Iraq,
the abuse of Iraqi prisoners may fuel additional hatred towards
America and our soldiers. The repercussions are huge in this
In the United States Navy, the captain of a ship is held
responsible for the actions of their crewmembers. I think
this same standard of accountability needs to be applied to
Scott C. Smith is a freelance writer from Beaverton, Oregon.
Scott writes a column from a liberal point of view, which
appears at progressive web sites such as the Democratic Underground
and CounterBias.com.. Scott also writes for his web log, What's
In Scott's Head.