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Between the Lines

May 18, 2004

The tsunami headed for the White House

"The White House is about to get hit by the biggest tsunami since the Iran-Contra affair, maybe since Watergate. President George W. Bush is trapped inside the compound, immobilized by his own stay-the-course campaign strategy. Can he escape the massive tidal waves? Maybe. But at this point, it's not clear how."
-- Fred Kaplan at Slate

It may not be "The Day After Tomorrow" exactly, but it doesn't look good for President Bush. Why?

Here's Kaplan's summary of the Abu Ghraib mess to date

"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."

Yep. Way more than seven "bad apples."

And the effort to contain the scandal has failed

" … three major institutions in the Washington power structure have decided that after almost a full presidential term of being treated with contempt and abuse by them, it's payback time.

"Those three institutions are: The United States Army, the Central Intelligence Agency and the old, relatively moderate but highly experienced Republican leadership in the United States Senate. … Taken together they comprise a devastating Grand Slam."
-- Martin Sieff, UPI analyst

Posted by tbrown at 11:29 AM

Despite Abu Ghraib, though, we are different from our enemies

And we must preserve that distinction. Gregory Djerejian, an American who lives in London, provides this "key difference between Nick Berg's slaughter and Abu Ghraib. We should only be surprised about the occurrence of the latter, not the former.

"Why? The nature of our enemy has been crystal-clear since 9/11. Their objective is simply to slaughter as many innocents in the West as possible. And the more terrifyingly excecuted the slaughters--the better.

"Meanwhile, the U.S. has, despite all the derision that such statements evoke among the predictable quarters of the absurdist, hyper-relativistic Left, been an avatar of human rights for many long decades.

"Put differently, we are more the country of the Statue of Liberty, Miranda, and the Declaration of Independence than the country of My Lai, Plessy, Abu Ghraib.

"We intend, and strive, for greater justice."

When we do screw up, as in our handling of Iraqi prisoners, "I simply demand higher standards of conduct from my country and its leaders than those we expect from our enemies," Djerejian says. "You should too--in spades."

Posted by tbrown at 11:26 AM

And here's a small example of how we're different

In 1995, Saddam Hussein's secret police pulled seven Iraqi merchants out of bed in the middle of the night, subjected them to five-minute trials and sentenced them to amputation of their right hands for the crime of dealing in foreign currencies.

Yesterday, the seven walked out of a Houston prosthetics clinic with fully functioning artificial hands, returning them to something resembling normal life after nearly a decade.

Gestures like this are not lost on the Iraqi people, who have experienced little kindness in recent decades.

"Why they should help us, strangers, I do not know," one of the merchants said, "but their goodness I will never forget."

If we're ever able to get our pathetically incompetent act together in Iraq – unlikely, but you have to keep hoping – we might actually make some headway because of the willingness of Americans to pitch in and help when they're presented with the opportunity.

Posted by tbrown at 11:23 AM

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The tsunami headed for the White House
Despite Abu Ghraib, though, we are different from our enemies
And here's a small example of how we're different


Blogs to watch

Abu Ardvark
Andrew Sullivan
Atrios Eschaton
Best of the Web
Drudge Report
Joe Conason (subscription required)
Josh Marshall
Kaus files
No More Mr. Nice Blog
Real Clear Politics
The Corner
The Volokh Conspiracy
The Whiskey Bar

Mideast blogs

Salam Pax (Iraq)
G. in Baghdad
L.T. Smash (U.S. military in Iraq)
Lady Sun (Iran)

City blogs

L.A. Examiner

Africa blogs

Cathy Buckle

Media blogs

Dan Gillmor's eJournal
Media Whores Online


Newspapers online (guide to papers on the web)
International Herald Tribune
The Guardian U.K.
New York Times (free registration required)

Economy blogs

Brad DeLong

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