Chain of command failed miserably in informing president What others say

Posted: Friday, May 07, 2004

Unforgettable. Inexcusable. Unforgivable.

That describes not only the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. troops, but also the military's failure to inform the commander in chief about it.

President Bush is clearly appalled at the photos of Iraqi prisoners being humiliated by U.S. captors. It showed in his face during an interview on Arab television Wednesday in which the president was appropriately contrite.

But as appalled and contrite as he is, he ought to be twice as angry. Angry at a chain of command that absolutely, positively failed him.

How furious would you be if people under your authority had done what U.S. troops have done and you had to learn about it largely from TV reports?

How long would the people under you have their jobs? How long should they?

The scandal is bad enough. And it seems to get worse every day, with new revelations and photos and embarrassments.

Not only has this disgrace forevermore tainted

freedom's adventure in Iraq, it quite likely has put

Americans at risk of vengeful Iraqis and their sympathetic Arab and Muslim friends. Lives could be lost as a result of this.

Moreover, U.S. troops are now in full public relations retreat: They have been forced to cede the moral high ground to an enemy with much worse tendencies than has the worst U.S. soldier. What a terrible shame.

How high up the command the blame for that should go is a matter for debate. But when it comes to keeping the commander in chief in the dark about investigations of prisoner abuse and photos documenting it, how can the blame not go all the way to the top of the Defense Department?

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld will answer Congress' questions today. Ultimately, however, he must answer not just to his boss, but to the ultimate employer: the American people.

How could word of such a scandal not have reached the highest levels of command?

Augusta Chronicle - May 7

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