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Kate’s Take: Congressional Abuse


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Kate O'Beirne

The most recent images of abuse concerning Iraqi detainees will inevitably fuel the anti-Americanism that endangers American lives–not at the hands of sadistic young misfits but at the hands of our elected representatives. Members of Congress elbowing their way into camera range to question, in the absence of any evidence whatsoever, whether abuses were widespread and senior commanders were implicated and accusing the military of engaging in some cover-up are abusing the Abu Ghraib scandal and recklessly putting our troops at risk. Liberal Democrats are predictably far happier wallowing in the depravity of a handful of American troops in the service of a misbegotten mission than they are celebrating the self-sacrifice, courage, and restraint of the tens of thousands. Republicans are redundantly declaring their disgust, their disappointment, and their dismay because there is a big story going on and they can’t stand not being part of it. Just this once, could this destructive development not have been about them? The public’s revulsion is clear and their president has clearly expressed it.

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For many politicians, the danger posed to our troops by the photos that fuel a murderous hatred pales in comparison to the offense to their self-importance by the Pentagon’s alleged failure to inform them of the allegations and investigation. The January 16 CENTCOM press release announcing the alleged offenses and investigation was apparently insufficient. And Brig. Gen Mark Kimmitt’s March 20 announcement that criminal charges were being brought against six soldiers arising from an investigation that found evidence of “dereliction of duty, cruelty and maltreatment, assault and indecent acts with another” kept members of Congress in the dark. In the future, military press releases and announcements should probably be accompanied by personal phone calls to Senators John Warner and Joe Biden and to Congressmen Martin Frost and Christopher Shays. Other congressmen likewise concerned about missing a media opportunity could sign up for a special call list. They need not be bothered unless pictures are involved.

On Thursday, the Republican leadership in the House, who never got around to condemning the savage videotaped execution of Daniel Pearl, hosted an orgy of repentance culminating in the overwhelming approval of a redundant resolution condemning “the abuse of persons in U.S. custody.” It presented a wonderful opportunity for Democrats to rail against the war while darkly suggesting that the abuse might not be so isolated. The repeated Democratic calls for Don Rumsfeld to resign helps make the American haters’ case for them by attributing the abuse to the malevolence of the most senior leadership of our armed forces. There were calls from both sides for investigations, although there are about a dozen underway. Over 700 hundred Americans have died in the cause of liberating Iraq, but there were redundant expressions of support for the Iraqi people.

Who was the intended audience for this orgy of recriminations and remorse? Left-wing critics of the Iraq war are no doubt delighted to finally see evidence of the atrocities they falsely accused a previous generation of soldiers of committing. The American public has already witnessed the president making an unprecedented appearance before foreign media to express our disgust and resolve to see justice done. Do you suppose there is a single prisoner being held by any of the countries in the president’s listening audience in the Middle East who wouldn’t eagerly switch places with a detainee in the custody of the American military?

In their much-vaunted oversight role, Congress failed to detect almost every recent development, from al Qaeda’s domestic threat to the crippling structural problems in our intelligence agencies, corrupt corporate accounting, and the vulnerabilities in our electricity grids. Little wonder that these all escaped Congress’s notice when press releases are ignored by the public’s watchdogs.



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