Thursday, May 06, 2004

Perspective on the Abu Ghraib "atrocities"

This Wall Street Journal editorial attempts to provide some much needed context, and a timeline, for the events at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Much has been said elswhere about the coverage, but this is pertinent for all to remember (or learn):

For a sense of proportion, let's rehearse the timeline here. While some accusations of abuse go back to 2002 in Afghanistan, the incidents at Abu Ghraib that triggered this week's news occurred last autumn. They came to light through the chain of command in Iraq on January 13. An Army criminal probe began a day later. Two days after that, the U.S. Central Command disclosed in a press release that "an investigation has been initiated into reported incidents of detainee abuse at a Coalition Forces detention facility." By March 20, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt was able to announce in Baghdad that criminal charges had been brought against six soldiers in the probe.
By the end of January, meanwhile, Major General Antonio Taguba was appointed to conduct his separate "administrative" probe of procedures at Abu Ghraib. It is his report, complete with its incriminating photos, that is the basis for the past week's news reports. The press didn't break this story based on months of sleuthing but was served up the results of the Army's own investigation.

By February, the Secretary of the Army had ordered the service's inspector general to assess the doctrine and training for detention operations within all of CentCom. A month after that, another probe began into Army Reserve training, especially military police and intelligence. Those reports will presumably also be leaked and reported on, or at least they will be if they reach negative conclusions.

This is a cover-up? Unlike the Catholic bishops, some corporate boards and the editors of the New York Times or USA Today, the military brass did not dismiss early allegations of bad behavior. Instead, it established reviews and procedures that have uncovered the very details that are now used by critics to indict the Pentagon "system." It has done so, moreover, amid a war against a deadly insurgency in which interrogation to gain good intelligence is critical to victory--and to saving American lives.


Look, the bottom line is that a few in the U.S. military took things way too far. They are being dealt with. The same could not be said under Saddam. And it is certainly not the situation in the majority of other Arab/Muslim countries. Their indignation is hollow. Our self-flagellation has now become obscene. But it really isn't about the prison now, is it? The Democrats and their friends in the press have an election to win, after all.

No comments: