Rotten apple orchard

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2004-05-17

Dear Editor [Chicago Tribune],

The series of outright lies and/or obfuscations coming from this administration and the sheer arrogance of it takes one's breath away. In any other democracy any top member of an administration, having been embarrassed by a wrong or bankrupt policy in his department or ministry would have resigned, or been forced to resign in the face of public criticism.

In this administration it's hard to avoid the sinking feeling that whenever anything reveals itself as an egregiously mistaken or openly fabricated policy, our president and the rest of his administration proceed with an established method of operation of ignoring all bad news or criticism and proceeding as if nothing unusual had happened. Some examples come to mind.

After Colin Powell's dissembling lecture to the UN, seen by the whole world, detailing all the "proof" of the presence of weapons, massive amounts of poisons, etc., to be found in possession of Hussein, and after Powell's "facts" were shown to have been totally devoid of any truth -- Powell just shrugged. Any other country's minister of state viewed by the world as having egg on his face would have resigned, but not our Colin. He marched blandly ahead without shame or a sideward glance, as the grim-faced facilitator of a delusional foreign policy, and does so to this day.

The new public revelations about the abhorrent behavior by American and British captors in our war prisons is only the latest and probably the most egregious -- to this point -- of graphically revealed immoral policies pursued by this administration. World-wide condemnation and statements by jurists and specialists in law sums it up quite simply: "We're talking about war crimes. The occupation forces have violated the third and fourth Geneva Conventions."

The defense secretary, using the self-righteous phrase "un-American" attempts to disassociate himself and the administration from the scandal of the torture. And some of their statements sound as if asking questions about ultimate responsibility is being disloyal to the troops, their usual refrain against critics of the war.

Indeed, it was the production of the photos to the public and the world -- which Rumsfeld said, "are not helpful in a very profound way" which caused the sudden Pentagon public examination of the system, not the internal reports which had been going on for the better part of a year. Given the Red Cross internal report and criticism to the Pentagon in January and the follow-up Taguba investigation report, also the Amnesty International report, it is clear that, as one jurist said, "these tortures do not reflect isolated cases, but a generalized system."

And it is also clear that the abuse comes from the policy, constructed by Mr. Rumsfeld, of placing the United States outside of international law. The Geneva Conventions arising out of the inhuman treatment of civilians and prisoners during World War II were written and accepted world wide as a fundamental moral standard for all governments to adhere to during war. The United States was a solemn signatory to that document, after congressional ratification, making it a part of the US Code. How dare we breach it?

To punish only a few young inexperienced soldiers as "bad apples" when it seems clear that the whole apple orchard is rotten to the core cries out against justice and moral law. Because it is very clear that the stage was set for this abuse to happen when Secretary Rumsfeld in early 2002 said that complaints about America's treatment of prisoners amounted to "isolated pockets of international hyperventilation." He has repeatedly shown disdain for the Geneva Conventions. And now, in the third of the investigative articles by Seymour Hersh very credible evidence has been unearthed that Rumsfeld himself gave the order to encourage physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners. I cannot remember a worse government scandal. It is indeed worse than Watergate.

Why is this man and his cohorts still being paid by us?