May 12, 2004

Abu Ghraib Watch

The unfolding scandal is starting to feel a bit like Chinese water torture.

Drip (Karpinski is blaming higher ups; but note I find Karpinski's behavior in much of this detestable).

Drip (Afghanistan too?).

Drip (Shouldn't court martials of low-ranking officials be suspended and judicial proceedings proceed from the top down?) [ed. note: See Michael Suessmann's letter third down].

Memo to the Bush White House.

Abu Ghraib has real legs.

And you're not yet in front of the story.

To repeat: 1) Release all pics/videos; 2) destroy Abu Ghraib, 3) POTUS to issue an unequivocal, unfettered apology; 4) Rummy to give serious thought to stepping down.

Note: Spare me the E-mails about my relative lack of outrage about the beheading.

I'm disgusted by it. The beheading of the U.S. national is, of course, outrageous.

But it is in keeping with the values of radical, theocratic barbarians we are fighting in multiple theaters at home and abroad.

They will continue to kill until not a single infidel inhabits a large land mass from Alhambra to Jakarta--the better to create a pure Islamic caliphate where adulterers are stoned to death and thieves have their hands and feet amputated.

Their brutal beheading had nothing, of course, to do with Abu Ghraib.

The claim of a prisoner exchange refused by the Americans is manifestly laughable.

Put differently, their linkage of Abu Ghraib to the brutal execution of an American national insults our intelligence and is a complete fiction and propaganda tactic.

But let's not link Abu Ghraib to the execution in another way either.

Let's not say, look how bestial they are, our treatment of detainees pales in comparison with their brutish butchery (not strictly true, regardless, as some detainees died in our captivity--and not because of natural causes).

We are not theocratic fanatics hell-bent on a brutish, medieval interpretation of one of the world's great religions.

We are upholding Enlightenment values of reason, liberty, the pursuit of happiness.

Thus much higher standards of behavior are demanded of us.

McCain gets this. George Will gets this. Sully gets it.

More Republican leaders need to get it too. Soon.

Yes, spare me the indignation of the John Kerrys and Co. who have so little to offer in terms of viable policy alternatives on Iraq and whine from the sidelines (give me some meat on your Iraq policy prescriptions Mr. Kerry!)

But give me comfort that this White House is not in pure batten down the hatches, court martial a sergeant here, a Karpinski there, and, voila, case closed.

It's bigger than this. Much bigger.

John Vinocur, the IHT's veteran observer of U.S.-Euro relations (and no Gerard and/or Jacques fan) reports worrisomely from Brussels:

"A NATO official, asked to speak his mind about the effects of the U.S. military's prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq, leapt - despairingly - to the task. "It's the worst blow to American credibility in 25 years," he said. "People in Europe," he added, are telling the Americans "they've lost their moral authority. It is impossible to underestimate the problem."

In another capital, a cabinet minister of a leading allied government described the situation as a "Guernica moment," a reference to the indelible impact on international opinion of that town's destruction by fascist forces during the Spanish Civil War."

A "Guernica moment", you say? Perhaps a tad strong?

Was Vinocur quoting, say, a disgruntled, Blair-fatigued, lefty Labour Minister?

Or a German Minister barely concealing a healthy dose of schadenfreude?

I'm not so sure. Read all of Vinocur's piece. This is a serious crisis.

America's moral standing, while not destroyed by a long shot, has nevertheless been significantly imperiled.

We need, put simply, to regain the moral high ground.

And this White House hasn't yet shown that it: (a) adequately gets this and (b) has a strategy to regain said moral authority.

Posted by Gregory at May 12, 2004 06:52 AM
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