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Stand By Your Man
May 14, 2004
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 loyal.

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 matter.

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 Donald Rumsfeld.

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 Scott also writes for his web log, What's In Scott's Head.

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