Debra J. Saunders

 What the Rumsfeld-must-go crowd doesn't seem to understand is that it is not the Pentagon's job to make it more difficult for the American-led coalition to win the war in Iraq. That's why the majority of the American people don't share the left's outrage that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the Pentagon brass didn't broadcast photographs of American prison guards abusing Iraqi prisoners.

 Some people in this country understand that America is at war and that the secretary of defense is not likely to release information bound to incite violence against American troops. That's probably why a new ABC News/Washington Post poll showed that a large majority of Americans think Rumsfeld should not resign over abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison.

 Let me be clear. America cannot win in Iraq by mimicking the cruelty of Saddam Hussein's regime. The mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners only serves to further turn people against the U.S. effort. Worse, if allowed to continue, it threatens to transform young U.S. enlistees into brutes who enjoy inflicting pain.

 Thus, it is important for America to find out: How far up did the rot go?

 According to The Wall Street Journal, the Red Cross complained to U.S. officials about abuses of Iraqi prisoners as early as February. They reported that detainees in custody of military intelligence were subjected to "ill treatments ranging from insults and humiliation to both physical and psychological coercion that in some cases might amount to torture." While some complaints resulted in rapid improvements, the Journal reported, "the U.S. military was sometimes slow to respond to Red Cross complaints and ignored them in a few cases."

 For the military's part, one of the U.S. military chiefs in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, ordered an investigation into abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison on the day after Army Spc. Joseph M. Darby informed his superiors of abuses. That's no cover-up.

 While some Democrats happily pin the blame for the abuses on Rumsfeld, there's reason to believe these abuses had nothing to do with Pentagon policies. Lt. Col. Jerry Phillabaum, who led the military police battalion assigned to Abu Ghraib, told The New York Times that all the photos were taken between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., according to camera time codes. "If they thought these acts were condoned, then why were they only done a few nights between 0200 and 0400 instead of during any time between 0600 and 2400 when there were many others around?"

 "We can't tell the world that we're going to be responsible 16 hours of the day," said Rep. Ellen Tauscher, a Democrat from California. "There's somebody in charge 24 hours a day."


Debra J. Saunders


 
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