The Abu Ghraib pictures came out about a week ago, and the “retaliatory” beheading was just reported. As much as I have been against the entire project, I would have thought there was some lower limit on our stupidity. The last three weeks have made me re-evaluate where that limit might be. Down and down it goes, and I no longer see any likely way we obtain our originally stated goals there. Quite a few people, from around the political spectrum, are now calling for some sort of scale-back, or even outright withdrawal.
Most people seem genuinely distressed by the events, while a few are trying to justify them. I’m no legal scholar, but my reading of the Geneva Conventions tells me that these acts are illegal. Simple (dare I say Christian) decency tells me we ought not be engaged in torture. This may have turned into a nasty dirty little war, since when does that excuse our acts? Especially since we started it. And I have to ask, “What part of the Geneva Conventions are optional?” People seem to forget that the GC’s are a treaty that we have signed. Treaties, for those not familiar with the term and what it implies, become the Law of the Land, the enforcement of which is not at the discretion of the government. At least not in a country where the “rule of law” applies.
Should Rumsfeld resign? It a tough call; he does have some admirable qualities, and a long history of success. I have little doubt that he didn’t personally order the torture. BUT, the bounds within which any organization operates are pretty much set by the men at the top. And what message are they sending to their organizations when they consistently downplay the importance of international norms and global cooperation? How many times have Bush and Rumsfeld tried (and in many cases, were successful) to circumvent these norms? Do you want me to start the list? Whether they intended it or not, their disrespect for non-Americans has seeped into their organizations. Abu Ghraid is just the latest, and most disgusting, example of what arrogant attitudes lead to. Bush and Rumsfeld are both adults, they are both pretending to be leaders, and they had better understand this. To the extent that they don’t understand, or don’t care, they are culpable. Rumsfeld should go. Bush’s exit will be a decision of the voters.
Should we cut and run from Iraq? I still think that would create a mess that we would then have to live with for a very long time. As just one potential: how does $100 per barrel sound, after a radical government in Iraq starts exporting revolution to Saudi Arabia? Or, more likely, all of Iraq’s neighbors get dragged into a civil war there? To save Iraq now, we’d have to really get serious. Raise taxes, maybe institute the draft, gear up for a very long and dangerous trip. Throw money at the reconstruction of Iraq. Of course we won’t do any of this. Whatever sins Iraq has committed towards us (come to think of it, I can’t find any, even in retrospect) aren’t enough to make us take that type of commitment. Which is why I’ve been against this adventure from the start.
May 12, 2004