The Enemy in Our Hands: America's Treatment of Enemy Prisoners of War, from the Revolution to the War on Terror

By Robert C. Doyle | Go to book overview

FIFTEEN
Iraqi Freedom, Abu Ghraib,
and Guantánamo
The Problem of the Moral High Ground

The events occurred on my watch. As Secretary of Defense, I am
accountable for them. I take full responsibility.

—Donald H. Rumsfeld

The war against Saddam Hussein began in 2003. It had little to do with the 9/11 attacks or even al-Qaeda’s intention to damage the United States, but more to do with the overthrow of Hussein’s Hitlerian Baath Party dictatorship and a show of force against al-Qaeda. By 2003 fissures began to appear at the highest level in the Pentagon between Donald H. Rumsfeld, the new secretary of defense, and his senior management. In 1999 then-candidate George W. Bush delivered a speech at the Citadel in South Carolina that addressed the heart of the American army’s capability to wage war. Bush reminded his audience that Desert Storm had been an impressive victory, but it had taken six months to plan and amass all the Coalition assets for the attack. That was just too much time, so the United States needed to develop a lighter, more mobile, and more lethal force.1 His appointment of Rumsfeld—one of the most senior of the Vulcans, the neoconservative group that dominated the Department of Defense in 2001—made certain that a reformation of the American military services would take place whether the generals and the Joint Chiefs of Staff approved or not. Any senior officer not in full agreement with the Rumsfeld team either conformed or was forced to retire.2

The Pentagon strategy developed in 2001 was based on the probability of a two-front war for the U.S. Army: one front aimed to be a decisive win, and the other a solid hold until assets could be diverted from the first to the second. Rumsfeld and the Vulcans also advocated a smaller, more mobile, and more lethal ground force than the army had used in Desert Storm. In 2000 the age of the massive assault force came to an end; Rumsfeld’s Pentagon planners began the process of change they called “Transformation.”3 Meanwhile, the Rumsfeld team had

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