Abu Ghraib: What did Bush know, and when did he know it?
As usual, Froomkin (and, sigh, only Froomkin) totally gets it. In stark contrast to the collective yawn with which our wienie-perfumed yet famously free press greeted Seymour Hersh's latest blockbuster, Froomkin draws out the implications:
The shocking news and appalling photographs chronicling the sadistic torture of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. personnel first emerged in April 2004, deeply damaging America's reputation, particularly in the Arab world. Bush responded by expressing disgust at the behavior of a small number of people who, he said, were acting on their own. He said those responsible would be held accountable. And he said he had not seen the photographs before they were made public.
But according to Seymour M. Hersh' s blockbuster story in the New Yorker, Bush was told about the abuse Abu Ghraib long before the photographs went public, failed to respond appropriately -- and may indeed have recognized what happened at Abu Ghraib as the predictable result of administration policy rather than the random act of a few bad apples.
No more predictable than, say, the results of the Wansee conference.
As Hersh said on CNN:
Here's Hersh talking to Wolf Blitzer on CNN yesterday: "The question you have to ask about the president is this: No matter when he learned -- and certainly he learned before it became public -- and no matter how detailed it was, is there any evidence that the president of the United States said to Rumsfeld, 'What's going on there, Don? Let's get an investigation going.'
"Did he do anything? Did he ask for a -- did he want to have the generals come in and talk to him about it? Did he want to change the rules? Did he want to improve the conditions?
"BLITZER: And what's the answer?
"HERSH: Nada. He did nothing. .
That is, Bush did all that is necessary for evil to triumph. And his silence sent a message through the chain of command, loud and clear:
The President's failure to act decisively resonated through the military chain of command: aggressive prosecution of crimes against detainees was not conducive to a successful career."
In fact, Bush's behavior throughout is a classic case of a man trying to preserve plausible deniability:
Indeed, as I wrote in my May 7 column, the White House consistently refused to offer specifics about what Bush was told and when.
I wonder why? I mean, this should be an easy question to answer, right?
And although happiness would be a smoking gun, here's a warm one:
Consider this tidbit from a May 7 article by Mike Allen in The Post: "Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Wednesday on CBS's 'Early Show' that beginning in mid-January, everyone 'up the chain of command . . . was kept apprised orally of the ongoing investigation.'
(Ah. Nothing in writing. Just like the career criminals that they are.)
"Asked if Bush 'was well aware of the situation,' Pace replied: 'Yes.'"
Yes, Bush used nods and winks and a corrupted chain of command to turn us into a nation of torturers. Nice work, there, Babs. Thanks, Christianists! And a hat tip to the Republican Party!