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No Flinching From the Facts( George Will)


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No Flinching From the Facts

By George F. Will

Tuesday, May 11, 2004; Page A19

Listen to the language. It is always a leading indicator of moral confusion.

The lawyer for a soldier charged in the Iraq prison abuse investigation was explaining a photograph. It showed some Americans standing over a pile of naked Iraqis: "Intelligence officers came into the facility, pulled two men out of their cells, took them away, brought them back with a third prisoner, ordered the MPs to undress all of them, and then started interrogating them, and had them . . . in this position where they're all embracing each other."


The lawyer's client probably will offer -- this should deepen Americans' queasiness -- the Nuremberg defense: I was only obeying orders. If the abuse was the result of orders -- or of the absence of them -- fault must extend up the chain of command.

So, forgive the lawyer's language. But note what it betokens: a flinching from facts. Americans must not flinch from absorbing the photographs of what some Americans did in that prison. And they should not flinch from this fact: That pornography is, almost inevitably, part of what empire looks like. It does not always look like that, and does not only look like that. But empire is always about domination. Domination for self-defense, perhaps. Domination for the good of the dominated, arguably. But domination.

And some people will be corrupted by dominating. That is why the leaders of empires must be watchful. Very watchful. Donald Rumsfeld is clearly shattered by the corruption he tardily comprehended. Testifying to Congress last week, he seemed saturated with a sadness that bespeaks his deep decency and his horror at the vast injury done to the nation by elements of the department he administers. He knows that he failed the president. And he knows that his extraordinary record of government service -- few public careers, including presidential ones, can match Rumsfeld's -- has been tarnished.

How should he, and we, think about what comes next? Consider an axiom, a principle, two questions and then a second axiom.

The first axiom is: When there is no penalty for failure, failures proliferate. Leave aside the question of who or what failed before Sept. 11, 2001. But who lost his or her job because the president's 2003 State of the Union address gave currency to a fraud -- the story of Iraq's attempting to buy uranium in Niger? Or because the primary and only sufficient reason for waging preemptive war -- weapons of mass destruction -- was largely spurious? Or because postwar planning, from failure to anticipate the initial looting to today's insufficient force levels, has been botched? Failures are multiplying because of choices for which no one seems accountable.

The principle is: The response by the nation's government must express horror, shame and contrition proportional to the evil done to others, and the harm done to the nation, by agents of the government.

Americans are almost certainly going to die in violence made worse in Iraq, and not only there, by the substantial aid some Americans, in their torture of Iraqi prisoners, have given to our enemies in this war. And by the appallingly dilatory response to the certain torture and probable murder committed in that prison.

The nation's response must, of course, include swift and public prosecutions. And the destruction of that prison. And punctilious conformity to legal obligations -- and, now, to some optional procedures -- concerning persons in American custody. But this is not enough.

One question is: Are the nation's efforts in the deepening global war -- the world is more menacing than it was a year ago -- helped or hindered by Rumsfeld's continuation as the appointed American most conspicuously identified with the conduct of the war? This is not a simple call. But being experienced, he will know how to make the call. Being honorable, he will so do.

He knows his Macbeth and will recognize the framing of the second question: Were he to resign, would discerning people say that nothing in his public life became him like the leaving of it?

This nation has always needed an ethic about the resignation of public officials. Such an ethic cannot be codified. It must grow in controlling power from precedent to precedent, as an unwritten common law, distilled from the behavior of uncommonly honorable men and women who understand the stakes. A nation, especially one doing the business of empire, needs high officials to be highly attentive to what is done in their departments -- attentive far down the chain of command, as though their very jobs depended on it.

Finally, the second axiom. It is from Charles de Gaulle: The graveyards are full of indispensable men.


That pornography is, almost inevitably, part of what empire looks like. It does not always look like that, and does not only look like that. But empire is always about domination. Domination for self-defense, perhaps. Domination for the good of the dominated, arguably. But domination.


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Translation A growing number of Republicans think Rumsfeld's policies contributed to the entire Iraq problems not just the attrocities and believe the President's loyalty is misplaced. They believe we need some new thinking and new planning with regard to Iraq which requires fresh blood.....

Other Reasons Rumsfeld should go...

1) He should go because his policies lead directly to an unreasonable small number of truck mechanics being utilized as prison guards without any training or understanding of the task they were charged to execute.

2) He should go because his lack of planning, ingnorance and ego created the current troubles in the aftermath of war which has left America on the precipice of failure in Iraq.

3) He should go because it was his words to the president which countermanded the Army experts who called for a larger force to be used so we could have sufficient control of the country.

4) He should go because his arrogant handling of our international allies has contributed greatly to our current isolation and poor standing in the internation community and as we try to mend the fenses in the coming months better to do it without Rumsfeld in office.

5) He should go because only his leaving will show the world how seriously America takes the latest round of attrocities done in her name. He's the highest head which is expendable other than George who will be going in November.

George Will and Robert Novak.. Two left wing journalists who are questioning the president's war policies...

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Originally posted by Thew

George Will and Robert Novak.. Two left wing journalists who are questioning the president's war policies...

Try conservative journalists.

I agree that Rumsfeld should resign at the least and be replaced come January 05 at the latest. His time has come and he needs to be removed from public service before he makes more mistakes.

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Thew was being sarcastic with the "left wing," I believe.

The notion that power corrupts is not a new one. And it's one that was brought up immediately after the first photos came to light. The response on this board dealt with "isolated incidents" and "a few nutjobs" without recognizing this obvious state of things.

I guess it wasn't so obvious if Will feels the need to point it out.

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Will's a pretty good columnist, but I find myself reading his stuff far more infrequently than, say, Andrew Sullivan's work. I still recall Will penning a column a few weeks back in which he likened the Fallujah insurgents to the Bolshevik Revolutionaries, postulating that they may eventually take over the whole of Iraq. I'm no military expert (then again, neither is Will), but even I know that the chances of that occurring are somewhere between slim and none.

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Before we just "Make the Armed Forces Bigger".

You need to evaluate the size of the bases that we currently have. I lived in the Army during all of the downsizing. I worked in the Hoffman Building Dept. of the Army.

You can not have a draft or just increase the size without bringing some of the bases back out of mothballs...

I went to Basic at Ft. Dix NJ... sure do miss it.....

So to say we needed a Larger Force in an of itself doesnt mean much.

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Originally posted by thew

1) He should go because his policies lead directly to an unreasonable small number of truck mechanics being utilized as prison guards without any training or understanding of the task they were charged to execute.

I seem to recall somebody pointing out that "insuffecient training" is going to have difficulty flying, because something like half of the guards in "the pictures" are prison guards in their "real jobs".

(Which also means that some of these events may cost some of them more than just a part-time job.)

And I'll sak again: How many times does our government have to make official policy statements that things like the Constitution and the Geneva Convention don't apply here because this war is "different", so there aren't any rules, before our government is responsable?

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Machiavelli, Mogadishu, & Abu Ghraib

Bad reasons for Rumsfeld to resign.

By Clinton W. Taylor

May 10, 2004

In The Prince, Machiavelli tells the story of Remirro D'Orco, a viceroy whom Cesare Borgia put in charge of the conquered state of Romagna. Remirro was a brutal and effective governor. But when Cesare wished to distance himself from Remirro's cruelty, he took decisive action: the townsfolk awoke one morning to find Remirro chopped in half in the city square. "The barbarity of this spectacle," Machiavelli surmises, "caused the people to be at once satisfied and dismayed."

About five hundred years later, the New York Times has argued in an editorial that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld should resign, as atonement for the atrocious treatment of prisoners in American custody at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison. The Times joined several Democratic lawmakers in calling for Rumsfeld's job — and Rep. Charles Rangel went them one better, calling for his impeachment. None have yet called for Rumsfeld's bisection, but the parallel to Remirro's fate is clear.

Three arguments are being made for Rumsfeld's ouster. The first is that he bungled the Iraq invasion by failing to plan adequately for the postwar period and not committing enough troops to the occupation. The jury is still out on this question; I tend to believe that no amount of troops is adequate to control the resupply and reinforcement of terrorists from Iran and Syria and that any force would be stretched thin. But it really has nothing to do with the situation at Abu Ghraib; the Times just wanted an excuse to mention it.

The second argument is that Rumsfeld bears "personal responsibility" for what happened at Abu Ghraib. Now, presumably those sober guardians of the public trust at the Times believe responsibility develops according to some sort of rule or precedent. So let us consider some other cases of government malfeasance to see if a pattern emerges about political responsibility and resignations.

No one has yet resigned because of the failure to find Iraq's WMDs. No one has lost his job over the intelligence failures that led to 9/11. How about the Khobar Towers bombing, or the attack on the USS Cole? No American politician took responsibility for these failures.

Or, how about the incineration of eighty Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, as a direct consequence of Janet Reno's order to storm their compound? No, she weathered that — along with the Ruby Ridge scandal — and stayed with the Clinton administration into the second term. The first World Trade Center bombing yielded no resignations. Maybe someone high up should have been fired in some or all of these incidents, but that doesn't seem to be the way American politics tends to assign responsibility.

What about cases in which someone did bite the bullet? Allen Dulles, the director of Central Intelligence who planned the Bay of Pigs invasion, was allowed to step down quietly after some period of time and avoided resigning publicly. In the Iran-Contra scandal, National Security Adviser John Poindexter took a dive for covering up illegal conduct, and was later indicted for conspiracy to defraud the United States government.

More recently, Les Aspin resigned honorably as President Clinton's Secretary of Defense after Aspin refused to authorize the use of tanks to support a mission in Somalia. Tanks would be too obtrusive, Aspin concluded, and would alienate our allies in the United Nations. The results of his decision were 18 dead American soldiers, two of whom were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu in what has become known as the Black Hawk down incident. Aspin's excessive deference to international opinion got soldiers killed, and cost him his job.

Abu Ghraib is an outrage and a tragedy, but it looks nothing like these precedents for resignation. Most importantly, there was no cover-up. Quite the opposite; the army had been investigating the matter for weeks before the press ran the story. Furthermore, Abu Ghraib was not a policy failure but a very local, site-specific failure of discipline. It did not flow directly from a decision Rumsfeld made, as with Dulles and Aspin.

In fact, the connection between the abuse of prisoners and Rumsfeld's leadership is so attenuated as to be farcical. It's like calling for Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta's resignation because the baggage handlers at Denver stole your golf clubs. One hopes Rumsfeld had nothing at all to do with the day-to-day running of Abu Ghraib: The chief of the world's finest fighting force ought to have bigger things on his mind than prison administration. Some Iraqis died in U.S. custody, and their deaths are being investigated. Unless it emerges that Rumsfeld killed them, the claims for his responsibility for the faults of Abu Ghraib lack substance.

The third argument for Rumsfeld's resignation is prudential: that regardless of Rumsfeld's culpability, he should be jettisoned like Remirro was, as a sop to world opinion. American success in Iraq, the Times asserts with a straight face, is far more important than one man's career. "The world is waiting now for a sign that President Bush understands the seriousness of what has happened...Mr. Bush should start showing the state of his own heart by demanding the resignation of his secretary of defense."

Let the world wait. The notion that we should fire a competent and popular official on trumped-up charges to placate Brussels's or Khartoum's moral outrage is not only craven, it's useless. This is not the ruthless prudence of Machiavelli, but rather the dubious prudence of Aspin, who gave up the sure protection of armor in deference to native and U.N. goodwill. His prudential weakness only emboldened retaliation against American troops.

President Bush rightly called the abuse at Abu Ghraib a "stain on our country's honor." Redoubling our commitment to establishing a free and peaceful Iraq can wash that stain away. Jailing the sadists who abused the prisoners, and the commanders who failed to supervise them will help. The elimination of murderers such as Abu al-Zarqawi and Moqtada Al-Sadr will probably help more, by reminding the world that unlike in the aftermath Mogadishu, our resolve remains unshaken. But retaliating against Donald Rumsfeld will serve little purpose except to distract us from the relentless pursuit of the war on terror.

— Clinton W. Taylor is a lawyer and a Ph.D. student in political science at Stanford.

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Every Time a kid gets and F: Fire the Education Czar

Every Time a kid dies of an overdose: Fire the Drug Czar

Every Time a Fire get out of Control: So long Interior Chief?

Every Time a Resolution is not followed: Sec of State Fired?

Did anyone really think creating peace in this region was going to be easier than Germany, Japan?

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OTOH, while no one got fired over 9/11, the frst WTC bombing, or the Cole, I have to point out that the folks who did those things weren't wearing US flags on their shoulders, either.

(I agree about Waco, though: There was no reason whatsoever why that building needed to be assaulted, other than the fact that those folks were making the FBI look bad on TV.)

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