June 10, 2004

Hersh Watch

Brad DeLong has been getting E-mail.

Some of Hersh's alleged statements, it needs to be said, are risible: "NATO's falling apart in Afghanistan now." Or: "We're basically in the disappearing business."

But this is worrisome:

"He said that after he broke Abu Ghraib people are coming out of the woodwork to tell him this stuff. He said he had seen all the Abu Ghraib pictures. He said, "You haven't begun to see evil..." then trailed off. He said, "horrible things done to children of women prisoners, as the cameras run."

DeLong's correspondent relayed that Hersh, uttering this last, appeared "frightened."

There is probably a good deal of Hershian hyperbole in quotes like these, of course.

Still, I'm sure the videotapes display some odious scenes well beyond what we've seen to date.

It's all likely to get worse before it gets better (on top of all the crack-lawyering time spent casting about for various penumbras in torture-land).

Sadly, none of my Abu Ghraib recommendations (from back on May 12th) have yet been followed.

I still think each one would prove a net positive for Bush.

For instance, take one of my recommendations: that POTUS utter an unfettered, unambiguous, full-blown apology.

Think of it in conjuction with this WaPo masthead. Money graf:

"There is no justification, legal or moral, for the judgments made by Mr. Bush's political appointees at the Justice and Defense departments. Theirs is the logic of criminal regimes, of dictatorships around the world that sanction torture on grounds of "national security." For decades the U.S. government has waged diplomatic campaigns against such outlaw governments -- from the military juntas in Argentina and Chile to the current autocracies in Islamic countries such as Algeria and Uzbekistan -- that claim torture is justified when used to combat terrorism. The news that serving U.S. officials have officially endorsed principles once advanced by Augusto Pinochet brings shame on American democracy -- even if it is true, as the administration maintains, that its theories have not been put into practice. Even on paper, the administration's reasoning will provide a ready excuse for dictators, especially those allied with the Bush administration, to go on torturing and killing detainees."

Bush will gain status and more traction in the polls if he apologizes in the context of the above stakes--loudly and proudly reminding the world of our primary role as a beacon of liberty through the post-war years.

Strong leaders have to admit mistakes and move on. Bush hasn't, really, done so vis-a-vis Abu Ghraib. He needs to (think Ronald Reagan's Iran-Contra mea culpa).

You know, I used to gain comfort that Kerry wasn't talking about Abu Ghraib much. Meek, I thought. He has an opening and won't use it. He's worried about appearing a Kucinich like wimp on matters national security.

But I'm starting to think Kerry is betting Bush is simply self-destructing on Abu Ghraib. And when that happens to a candidate on some issue--you usually just shut up, step aside, and let the melt down continue.

I could be wrong, of course. Polls have indicated that the scandal left many relatively undisturbed thinking it the actions of simply a few young "bad apple" grunts (devilishly smart ones; when it comes to 'humiliating' Muslim male detainees!)

Still, why do 58% of the American people think the U.S. is on the wrong track?

Because employment numbers are up? Because the economy is picking up steam?

Or, rather, because of a reticence to say, loudly and clearly, that we occasionally screwed up big time at Abu Ghraib (and likely Bagram, Gitmo, other Iraqi jails) and need to take dramatic steps (raze jail, have senior people held accountable, release all pics/videotape--rather than let Hersh types go on about how heinous the videos are--thus fueling the scandal and lending all this an air of the cover up).

There is, instead, a perception of a rather chaotic series of investigations and panels operating hither dither. And a good deal of ass-covering. And no one taking responsibility up the chain.

In short, it's the big issue that's not going away (well, there's, er, the economy and Iraq too).

Unless Bush steps up to the plate and makes it go away.

Even if he has to risk people very near him getting caught up in the tail-winds. It's that important.

Posted by Gregory at June 10, 2004 08:58 PM
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