May 08, 2004


I eat out often enough that every once in a while something bad happens, such as an entrée being prepared badly or something showing up on my plate that really doesn't belong there. Even if I'm not familiar with the restaurant I don't immediately leap to my feet, draw attention to myself and then demand that everyone involved be fired and storm out vowing never to return again. Generally, I bring the matter to the attention of the server and see how they choose to deal with it. If they accept responsibility, apologize, and set out to make restitution, then I hold no grudges and if the food is good, look forward to dining there again so long as there doesn't seem to be a pattern or unnatural frequency to the problems. If on the other hand the server insists that there is nothing actually wrong with what has been served or merely attempts to remove the still crawling insect from the plate and walk away (this actually happened at a restaurant with a sterling reputation in Washington, D.C.), well, leaping to my feet, drawing attention to myself, demanding everyone involved be fired, and storming out while vowing never to return seemed like the right thing to do at the time.

I listened to about thirty minutes of the testimony before Congress yesterday by Secretary of State Rumsfeld, Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Myers, and a few others. What I took away from it was that the leadership at the Defense Department were, and are, doing exactly what they should have been, and are, doing in response to the atrocities committed at Abu Ghraib prison. Let's not forget that there are still some due process concerns for those who face courts martial for these crimes, and CBS and the New Yorker have no helpful role to play in that process.

I'm not convinced that Rumsfeld is going to survive this, and there is a good argument for senior heads rolling if for no other reason than to demonstrate accountability at all levels. Nonetheless, I firmly believe it would be a tragedy for Rumsfeld to resign or to be forced out because of the baying from people who were calling for his resignation before any of this ever happened. If Rumsfeld is guilty of anything it is not buying into the idea that "perception is reality" that his political opponents are trying to sell. Personally, I'm quite happy having someone in charge who focuses more on reality than how people will choose to perceive reality through the polarized lenses of partisanship and postmodernism.

The images coming out are extremely bad and depressing and, according to Rumsfeld's statement yesterday, there are worse images yet to come. I feel most for our uniformed soldiers still in Iraq and the further grief that will now come to them over the acts of a very bad, really stupid, few. Remorse and penance are warranted. But as I have been saying for about a week and as Victor Davis Hanson repeated yesterday, the perfect remains the enemy of the good, and utopianism requires perfection, not goodness. What we have done and continue to do to liberate Iraq and fight the War on Terrorism is a good thing. Let's not let the fact that not everything done in our name is perfect distract or destroy our attempts to make the world a better -- though not perfect -- place.

DOWNDATE: Last night, I began thinking about this in a conspiratorial manner and wondered if it hasn't been a setup all along to bring down Rumsfeld and Bush. It reads exactly like the kind of obtuse, twisted chain of events one might find in a Robert Ludlum novel, wrought by a shadowy, devious agent of misfortune pulling the strings several levels removed from the acts themselves. Even now, this whole thing just seems too awful and too weird to be on the level. Frankly, I didn't put this theory down in writing since I have no desire to be lumped in with the ubiquitous crackpots and loonies all around us. And then, this morning, Glenn Reynolds links to Nelson Ascher and Roger Simon who also links to Nelson Ascher who posits the possibility of a just such a conspiracy. Things that make you go hmmm...

Posted by Charles Austin at May 8, 2004 09:18 AM

Very well reasoned. And the super-conspiracy is an interesting idea, but I don't think so (naive, I guess).

Rick Ballard at Roger's site was the first I've seen to draw a picture (based on some dot-connecting by blogger Greyhawk) that SSgt Frederick's defense lawyer Gary Myers (former lawyer of Lt. Calley in a certain case uncovered by Seymour Hersh -- hmm) could have passed information to Hersh -- which Hersh might have been delighted to run with.

The motive of Myers would be to compromise Frederick's superiors, who (as indeed it has turned out) have been forced by events to condemn publicly the actions of the accused. Those who know the military better than I say that 'command influence' over a court martial can be a case-breaker.

I can't say, but it seems to pass the plausibility test, anyway.


By the way, it looked to me like Rumsfeld had *seriously* considered offering his resignation (for the good of the country), and had decided at least for now not to (also for the good of the country). Bush won't toss him out, not for this, in which Rumsfeld really has acquitted himself pretty well.

Posted by: old maltese at 06:54 PM

Oh, guess what. Just saw today's New York Times piece by James Dao and Eric Lichtblau.

It seems that Frederick's uncle says that in *March* he contacted David Hackworth's office, which put him in touch with 60 Minutes II.

There's one big piece of the puzzle accounted for, and it seems to fit.

Posted by: old maltese at 07:27 PM

You're "thinking in a conspiratoral manner"?

Can't imagine why you'd think that only 'crackpots and loonies' figure that something strange is going on.

You and I do not agree philosophically, but you're getting warmer when you say "this whole thing just seems too awful and too weird to be on the level".

My first reaction to the CBS story was, why now? why are we being bombarded with these images? why are they everywhere in the mainstream media?

Lots of people suspect a media-leak that was done on purpose. I'm pretty slow to catch on, but I think probably ... that's right on the mark.

All conspiracy. No theory.

Posted by: MJ at 11:33 PM

Gee, I dunno why CBS decided to release the pics now. I heard that it was because of (cough the upcoming election cough) them already being in the hands of Al-Jazeera and folks like that.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at 07:34 PM

I looked at the pictures and something didn't quite fit.

There was no furtiveness, not sense that the soldiers were aware of the danger that they were in for doing these things, much less photgraphing them.

In fact, they looked like they were posing for pictures that everyone would see, fresh American faces plain for the cameras--while, oddly, most Iraqi faces were hidden.

Odd pictures of an odd situation.

Conspiracy? It looks like I'm not the only one who's feeling uneasy about the....conveinience of these photos.

Posted by: jack at 01:46 PM