Taking Responsibility – So what?

“If I could not be effective, I’d resign in a minute. I would not resign simply because people try to make a political issue of it.”…Donald Rumsfeld

In a war that could go on for decades, you cannot simply detain people indefinitely on the sole authority of the secretary of Defense

Fareed Zakaria, The Price of Arrogance, Newsweek

America is ushering in a new responsibility era,” says President Bush as part of his standard stump speech, “where each of us understands we’re responsible for the decisions we make in life.” When speaking about bad CEOs he’s even clearer as to what it entails: “You’re beginning to see the consequences of people making irresponsible decisions. They need to pay a price for their irresponsibility.”

“I take full responsibility,” said Donald Rumsfeld in his congressional testimony last week. But what does this mean? Secretary Rumsfeld hastened to add that he did not plan to resign and was not going to ask anyone else who might have been “responsible” to resign. As far as I can tell, taking responsibility these days means nothing more than saying the magic words “I take responsibility.”
After the greatest terrorist attack against America, no one was asked to resign, and the White House didn’t even want to launch a serious investigation into it. The 9/11 Commission was created after months of refusals because some of the victims’ families pursued it aggressively and simply didn’t give up. After the fiasco over Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, not one person was even reassigned. The only people who have been fired or cashiered in this administration are men like Gen. Eric Shinseki, Paul O’Neill and Larry Lindsey, who spoke inconvenient truths.


Leave process aside: the results are plain. On almost every issue involving postwar Iraq—troop strength, international support, the credibility of exiles, de-Baathification, handling Ayatollah Ali Sistani—Washington’s assumptions and policies have been wrong. By now most have been reversed, often too late to have much effect. This strange combination of arrogance and incompetence has not only destroyed the hopes for a new Iraq. It has had the much broader effect of turning the United States into an international outlaw in the eyes of much of the world.

Whether he wins or loses in November, George W. Bush’s legacy is now clear: the creation of a poisonous atmosphere of anti-Americanism around the globe. I’m sure he takes full responsibility.

“Responsibility” poster by Gen. J.C. Christian, Patriot

UPDATE: Eloquent post of the day by an American soldier, ArkhAngel:

I harbor no illusions that Secretary Rumsfeld will resign, or be impeached. The President is far too mired in the muck, the web of deceit, corruption, and irresponsibility for him to fire one of his closest advisors–because ultimately, the final responsibility lies with him, in the Oval Office.

Harry Truman, an honorable man, once said of the Presidency, “The buck stops here”. Not with these men and women, for whom honor, dignity, and responsibility are merely partisan watchwords, to be mouthed but not lived. Rumsfeld and Bush may be dubbed “The Honorable” for the rest of their lives, but they are not honorable.

In the end, the only thing we have in this life, as people and as a nation, is our honor. This Administration has grieviously tarnished our national honor, by their deeds and their attitudes. What the sergeants and privates did at Abu Ghraib–and, it must be mentioned, other places and other times, from the beginning of this war till now–wasn’t done in a vacuum. It was done because people from the bottom all the way to the top didn’t think it was a matter worthy of condemnation until the whole world knew about it.

That’s why there is no honor. And that’s why tonight, I weep silent tears of shame and rage at what was done in my name.

An excerpt. Read the rest.

A Cronkite Moment?

In this commentary, Jonathan Tasini notes strong antiwar sentiment appearing in an unlikely place:

I experienced a Walter Cronkite moment last week that signaled to me that something is in the air about what people feel about the Iraq war. No, it didn’t come from Ted Kopple’s reciting of the Iraq war dead, nor the polls showing declining support for the war, nor from any of the other pundits, prognosticators, analysts and experts who fill the airwaves and pages of what we see and read. My moment came after reading Rick Reilly’s column in Sports Illustrated. Yes, SI, magazine to the sports-obsessed (to which I proudly belong)…

In the May 3 issue of SI, Reilly, in his regular back-page column “The Life of Reilly,” wrote a piece under the headline “The Hero and the Unknown Soldier.” The hero in Reilly’s column was Pat Tillman, the former star football player who was killed in Afghanistan. After 9/11, Tillman had given up a multimillion-dollar contract to volunteer for the Army Rangers. He was lionized throughout the country for his sacrifice.

The Unknown Soldier was Todd Bates. Bates drowned in Iraq. His death went virtually unnoticed except to his family and friends. The man who raised Bates, Charles Jones, refused to go to the funeral, refused to eat or relate to others; he died just four weeks after the funeral. “He died of a broken heart,” Bates’ grandmother, Shirley, who also raised him, told Reilly. “There was no reason for my boy to die. There is no reason for this war. All we have now is a Vietnam. My Toddie’s life was wasted over there. All this war is a waste. Look at all these boys going home in coffins. What’s the good in it?” Reilly, in barely controlled rage, concludes his piece about Tillman and Bates:

    “Both did their duty for their country, but I wonder if their country did its duty for them. Tillman died in Afghanistan, a war with no end in sight and not enough troops to finish the job. Bates died in Iraq, a war that began with no just cause and continues with no just reason.

    “Be proud that sports produce men like this. But I, for one, am furious that these wars keep taking them.” … read more

Mystery Man…revealed

Hidden under an obscure photo on Yahoo! News, one finds this interesting fact:

    An anonymous note slipped under a superior’s door by a part-time soldier from Pennsylvania triggered the Iraq prison abuse scandal now engulfing the US military and administration.

Any reader with more information, please email us.

UPDATE: 5/7/04, 9:00pm EST

Ask and you shall receive

The AFP reports:

    The act eventually catapulted the name of Joseph Darby, a 24-year-old reservist in the 372nd Military Police Company, from comfortable obscurity to the floor of Congress where he was praised Friday by Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for his “honorable” conduct.

    Darby’s act ironically led to the deluge of Democratic calls for Rumsfeld to resign.

    An article in New Yorker magazine this week identified Darby as the soldier who sounded the alarm over the treatment of Iraqi detainees in Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison.

Thanks to readers M. Evans, J. Avery and George.

‘Shooting Iraqis Like Turkeys’

The folks down in Lynndie England’s hometown are doing their best to defend her actions at the Abu Ghraib Prison. England is the woman shown in the CBS and Washington Post photos with the cigarette, giving the “thumbs-up” as she points to the genitals of a hooded prisoner. Another photo shows her dragging a naked prisoner on a leash.

Fort Ashby, West Virginia’s Colleen Kesner, said that “A lot of people here think they ought to just blow up the whole of Iraq.”

“To the country boys here, if you’re a different nationality, a different race, you’re sub-human. That’s the way girls like Lynndie are raised.

“Tormenting Iraqis, in her mind, would be no different from shooting a turkey. Every season here you’re hunting something. Over there, they’re hunting Iraqis.”

Like many, England signed up to make money and see the world. After her tour of duty, she planned to settle down and marry her first love, Charles Graner.

Graner is also seen in the photos. He is the one behind the pyramid of bodies.

He has a history.

… this is not the first time Mr Graner was involved in abuse. His former wife, Staci, obtained three separate “temporary protection of abuse” orders against him. In a document passed to the court, she told of one occasion when he went to her house after their divorce.

“[He] yanked me out of … bed by my hair, dragging me and all of the covers into the hall and tried to throw me down the steps,” she wrote. “Both of the children witnessed this and were screaming at this point. He let go of me, turned around to the children and said, ‘See what your Mommy is doing to us’.”

Graner, a former US Marine, was working at Greene Correctional Facility when the prison was at the centre of an abuse scandal. Officials there have declined to say whether Mr Graner was involved or disciplined.

On Being Right

A very good essay if you can stand to read it. Plan on being angry if you do. Excerpt:

“Stop with the hindsight”, says one writer. “Be patient,” says another.

Oh, no, let’s not stop with the hindsight. Not when so many remain so profoundly, dangerously, incomprehensibly unable to acknowledge that the hindsight shows many people of good faith and reasonable mien predicting what has come to pass in Iraq. Let’s not be patient: after all, the people counseling patience now showed a remarkable lack of it before the war.

One of my great pleasures in life, I am ashamed to say, is saying “I told you so” when I give prudential advice and it is ignored. In the greatest “I told you so” of my life, I gain no pleasure at all in saying it. It makes me dizzy with sickness to say it, incandescent with rage to say it. It sticks in my throat like vomit. It makes me want to punch some abstract somebody in the mouth. It makes me want to scrawl profane insults in this space and abandon all hope of reasonable conversation.

That’s because the people who did what they did, said what they said, on Iraq, the people who ignored or belitted counsel to the contrary, didn’t just screw themselves. They screwed me and my family and my people and my nation and the world. They screwed a very big pooch and they mostly don’t even have the courage to admit it. They pissed away assets and destroyed tools of diplomacy and persuasion that will take a generation to reacquire at precisely the moment that we need them most.

Via Meteor Blades at Daily Kos

Riverbend: “Just Go…”

Riverbend, the Iraqi girl blogger, pretty much seems to sum up the feelings of most Iraqis at the moment about the occupation in this last paragraph of her blog entry posted for May 7th.

    …I sometimes get emails asking me to propose solutions or make suggestions. Fine. Today’s lesson: don’t rape, don’t torture, don’t kill and get out while you can- while it still looks like you have a choice. Chaos? Civil war? Bloodshed? We’ll take our chances- just take your Puppets, your tanks, your smart weapons, your dumb politicians, your lies, your empty promises, your rapists, your sadistic torturers and go …read entire post