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Rumsfeld's Reckoning

The fallout over the mishandling of the Army report detailing abuse in an Iraqi prison is hard and fast and it's falling directly on Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
 
 
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The fallout over the mishandling of the Army report detailing abuse in an Iraqi prison and calling for immediate action is hard and fast and it's falling directly on Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. According to the Washington Post, "Maybe first to get the accountability ax will be Secretary Rumsfeld. He certainly should have known that a scandal was brewing in Iraqi prisons, and he should have bothered to read the Pentagon report detailing what went wrong. Instead, the Pentagon tried to delay CBS's "60 Minutes II" from showing pictures of prisoner abuse." The egregious mishandling is causing a rift in the administration's upper echelon. According to the LA Times, President Bush told Rumsfeld "he felt personally blindsided by the scandal and should have been more fully informed about its severity." Officials say that "Bush told Rumsfeld that the White House should have been informed about the photographs documenting some of the abuses, which began appearing in the news media late last week." Secretary Rumsfeld will testify in front of the Senate Armed Forces Committee tomorrow.

The Washington Post editorial page wrote, "[Rumsfeld's] Pentagon ruled that the United States would no longer be bound by the Geneva Conventions; that Army regulations on the interrogation of prisoners would not be observed; and that many detainees would be held incommunicado and without any independent mechanism of review." These decisions by Rumsfeld "helped create a lawless regime in which prisoners in both Iraq and Afghanistan have been humiliated, beaten, tortured and murdered -- and in which, until recently, no one has been held accountable."

Some lawmakers, outraged at the way Rumsfeld is trying to pass the buck over the mishandling of the abuse charges, have called for change at the top. "If it goes all the way to Rumsfeld, then he should resign," said Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE). Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) concurred: "I believe it's time to fire the Secretary of Defense. It's time for Rumsfeld to go. He's the Captain. He's the man in charge. He can't escape responsibility. I'm not going to sit here as a Senator and watch the blame placed on low-ranking soldiers. The higher-ups have more responsibility." The Financial Times also calls for Rumsfeld to step down, saying Rumsfeld "failed to plan for the post-war period, to provide sufficient troops for peacekeeping or to ensure they were properly trained. Only his departure will convince public opinion round the world that Mr. Bush is serious when he says Abu Ghraib is not the true face of America." Of course, Rumsfeld's misdeeds do not relieve President Bush, the Commander-In-Chief, of ultimate responsibility.

On NBC's Today show Wednesday morning, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called for an open congressional investigation into what the Pentagon did with the internal report about abuse of prisoners in Iraq. McCain said he found it "interesting" that on the day the story broke on CBS, "Secretary Rumsfeld was over here briefing the Senate and made no mention of this situation whatsoever. I think that's an indication of the complete lack of communications between the Pentagon and the Congress. And we have been deprived of our oversight responsibilities, and they are responsibilities."

It's finally a step in the right direction. President Bush broke his stubborn resistance to asking for more money for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan before the November presidential election yesterday and asked Congress for an additional $25 billion "reserve fund" to tide the Pentagon over until far more money is needed next year. Bush's fiscal 2005 budget request did not include any money for ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, even though the money was set to run out in September. A new report by American Progress, "Iraq: A Strategy for Progress" called for the White House to send the supplemental request to Congress immediately to "ensure that there is no gap in funding," with special attention paid to "procuring the necessary protective equipment for troops, fixing their compensation problems and providing them with meaningful benefits."

MediaMatters.org reports conservative Rush Limbaugh equated the abuses chronicled in the army's report on abuse in Iraq to a lighthearted prank. "This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation and we're going to ruin people's lives over it and we're going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You [ever] heard of [the] need to blow some steam off?"