Sometimes a rainbow is reflected in a drop of rain -- and sometimes it's just a muddy mess. The episode at Abu Ghraib certainly revealed the depravity of a few American military personnel. But the reaction to it has revealed character, as well.
On the muddy mess front, there is, of course, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who seems to have finally toppled over the deep end. He took to the Senate floor to pronounce that, "Shamefully, we now learn that Saddam's torture chambers reopened under new management -- U.S. management."
That is a breathtakingly vicious thing to say. It's the sort of thing you'd expect from Fidel Castro, not the senator from Massachusetts. When questioned about it, Sen. John Kerry at first distanced himself from Kennedy's comment, saying he wouldn't have framed it that way -- but then, perhaps spurred by friendship and loyalty, he told radio host Don Imus, "But I know what he meant and so do you."
Do we? I think I do, but it's not a comforting knowledge. It sounds to me as if Kennedy is an America-hater -- ready to tar an entire nation with the sins of a few.
Kerry's response has been less than awe-inspiring, as well. He has denounced the abuses at Abu Ghraib as evidence of a "major failure of command" and has called upon Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to resign.
Democrats may be slightly embarrassed by the fact that, when challenged, Kerry could name only two Democrats he'd appoint as secretary of defense (Sen. Carl Levin and former Clinton Defense Secretary William Perry), whereas two Republicans also made his list: Sens. John McCain and John Warner.
But where is the evidence for a "major failure of command"? As far as we know, the incidents at Abu Ghraib were isolated. Kerry further raised the matter of the Bush administration's -- specifically Donald Rumsfeld's -- unwillingness to grant prisoner of war status to detainees at Guantanamo. But if Kerry would do things differently, he should say so.
There are solid reasons for declining to give POW status. In the first place, these are not regulation soldiers fighting for a government. They do not observe the laws of war (no uniforms, no chain of command). Further, if we agree to treat them as POWs, we forfeit our right to question them, because POWs are required under the Geneva Convention to state only name, rank and serial number. In Kerry's rendering, our unwillingness to grant POW status to Guantanamo's inmates arises from "arrogance" and contempt for international law -- an arrogance that led directly to Abu Ghraib.
That is a repellent suggestion.