Self-Flagellation . . . in Blame Shuffle

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 16, 2004 | Go to article overview
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Self-Flagellation . . . in Blame Shuffle


Byline: Arnaud de Borchgrave, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

It was the mother of all crises of confidence. America's name was suddenly mud all over the world. Political cartoons from Bangladesh to Brazil took their lead from the Financial Times: the Statue of Liberty was now the hooded Abu Ghraib prisoner, electrodes tied to his wrists, swaying precariously on a pedestal.

Doubtless Osama bin Laden was also grateful for the U.S.-supplied recruiting poster. Would-be jihadis (holy warriors) from Morocco to Mindanao now have living proof their clerics' lies about America are the truth.

For a jihadi, or Islamist extremist of any stripe, the horrific beheading of an innocent American civilian by black-clad al Qaeda terrorists was just retribution for the humiliating picture of a naked Iraqi held on a leash, like a dog, by a female soldier.

For any American, the moral equivalence was repugnant. But not for many Iraqis. And with 1,800 more pictures to come of depraved U.S. soldiers and hapless Iraqi victims, the demoniacal severing of a screaming American's head, will be seen, alas, as condign punishment.

Huda Shaker, a professor at Baghdad University, told reporters she knew of females who had been raped by guards at Abu Ghraib prison - a fate akin to death for strictly observant Muslim families.

The damage to the United States is incalculable, but the administration's new method of operation is that the defense buck no longer stops at either the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff's or the defense secretary's desk.

There are sacrificial wolves between the Abu Ghraib prison and theater commander Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez; a whitewash between Gen. Sanchez and CentCom commander Gen. John Abizaid; a herd of scapegoats between Gen.Abizaid and JCS Chairman Gen. Richard Myers; and then no daylight between Gen. Myers and his boss, Donald Rumsfeld. After granting themselves immunity, with Mr. Bush's blessings, the brass directed investigators to low-level riffraff.

Lost in the blame shuffle is that the Pentagon's topsiders were alerted, first last spring and then again in the fall of 2003, about ill-treatment of Iraqi prisoners.

There is also the offhand remark of Defense Undersecretary for Policy Douglas Feith who is quoted by subordinates saying "the Geneva Conventions" on the treatment of prisoners are laws "in the service of terrorists."

Stymied by their superiors, American officers in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) department contacted the New York City Bar Association. The Financial Times' John Dizard dug up the Bar Association's 110-page report that leaves no doubt the practices revealed at Abu Ghraib violated both U.S. and international law.

JAG officers are quoted as telling Scott Horton, chairman of the Committee on International Law of this particular Bar Association, that Mr.

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Self-Flagellation . . . in Blame Shuffle
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