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Saturday, August 28, 2004

Waddaya Gonna Do?

ONLY A FEW years ago, it seemed the slightest suggestion of malfea- sance by a presidential administration -- allegations of tampering with a minor administrative office, say, or indications that a cabinet secretary might have understated the amount of money given to a former girlfriend -- could trigger a formidable response from the other two branches of government: grand juries, special prosecutors, endless congressional hearings, even impeachment proceedings. Some of that auditing, especially during the Clinton administration, went too far. Yet now the country faces a frightening inversion of the problem. Though there is strong evidence of faulty and even criminal behavior by senior military commanders and members of President Bush's cabinet in the handling of foreign detainees, neither Congress nor the justice system is taking adequate steps to hold those officials accountable.


When the prisoner abuse allegations first became public in May, many members of Congress, including several senior Republicans, vowed to pursue the evidence up the chain of command and not to allow low-ranking reservists to be prosecuted while more senior officials escaped sanction. Yet, as matters now stand, Mr. Rumsfeld, Gen. Sanchez and other senior officials are poised to execute just such an escape. When the scandal began, these leaders told Congress they were prepared to accept responsibility for the wrongdoing. As it turns out, they didn't mean that in any substantive respect. Their dodge shames not only them but the legal and legislative bodies charged with enforcing accountability.

Whoda thunk? And after they've been so zealous in investigating all the other crimes and scandals of the George W. Bush administration. Why, I'd almost think that Republicans (and their accomplices in the press) used their power to harrass and intimidate Clinton with phony, partisan scandalmongering and are now using it to cover for their Republican president's criminal malfeasance and massive policy failures. No, that can't be. That travel office scandal was a threat to the republic. This torturing of muslim prisoners in an age of islamic radicalism and terrorism is nothing by comparison --- not to mention all the espionage, intelligence failures and negligent military planning. My mistake.

While it's gratifying that the Washington Post may coming down from it's self administered three year acid trip, it continues to amaze me that the paper of Ben Bradlee has concluded that it is a powerless little institution that has no influence on the way that politics are conducted in this country. It certainly appears that they have come to believe that investigative reporting means regurgitating partisan smears and reporting the results of official government investigations. Jesus, if these guys were in charge during Watergate we'd be dedicating the Nixon Memorial on the mall right now.

Is it reasonable to believe that nobody in the entire military establishment understands that this whitewash is seriously counterproductive to the security interests of the United States considering the pesky little issue we have with Muslim hearts and minds and people blowing up buildings and all? I just bet some enterprising reporter could find a few people who might think these bogus "investigations" are a mistake. After all, the guys most likely to suffer from this total disregard for international law regarding the treatment of prisoners are those in the military.