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Buzz from online journals, including www.worldmagblog.com

Issue: "Iraq: The image war," May 22, 2004

Up the chain of command

As the scandal over the torture of Iraqi prisoners dominated the news cycle, Kevin Drum (washingtonmonthly.com) was wondering how high up the chain of command responsibility for the rottenness extended: "The stuff we saw in the pictures was obviously carefully designed to inflict the greatest possible humiliation on the prisoners. It wasn't the kind of thing a bunch of noncoms dreamed up on their own, it was part of a carefully designed effort to soften up the prisoners and get information from them.... How high does it go? And how explicit was the policy? ... The only question is whether the investigation itself will go that high, or content itself with a few low ranking scapegoats."

Roger L. Simon (rogerlsimon.com), normally a defender of the administration, addressed Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: "Since we are in a supposedly idealistic war bringing democracy to a benighted part of the world, why didn't you realize this kind of behavior was the worst kind of threat to that goal, even more dangerous than the Baathist holdouts and religious psycho killers running around Falluja and Najaf? ... My guess is it was all just a combination of stupidity and cowardice (friends for life, if there ever were).... I am still hoping this is just a bump in the road, but it is a bad one and we can't pretend that it isn't. I think Bush made the right step in going on Arab television, but much more must be done-and proactively."

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But Joshua Micah Marshall predicted that the political storm surrounding Rumsfeld would blow itself out: "Let's say Rumsfeld resigns ... a new Defense Secretary would be needed more or less immediately. That would open up a very uncomfortable prospect for the administration. Confirmation hearings for a new Sec Def would, I think, inevitably turn into a national forum for discussing the management of the Pentagon, the planning for the war, and the lack of planning for the occupation. The new nominee would be drawn into all sorts of uncomfortable public second-guessing of what's happened up until this point. Sure, that's stuff under Rumsfeld. But, really, it's stuff under Bush-the civilian head of the United States military."

License or law?

Iraqi blogs reacting to the prisoner-abuse scandal offered important and varied insights into the minds of those America hopes to help. Normally pro-U.S. Zayed (healingiraq.blogspot.com) was crushed by the scandal: "The outcome of the investigation indicated that systematic psychological and physical torture, mistreatment, or abuse (whatever) was indeed routine in U.S. detention centers throughout Iraq ... and we thought we were over that now. While Saddam Hussein sits safely in his comfortable cell in Qatar or wherever else he is being held, Iraqi detainees are being put into the most humiliating and degrading conditions that can be imagined. While the guilty are free to wreak havoc, and take refuge in holy cities, the innocent are detained and mistreated for months without charges.... They may be just a few soldiers, it may be an isolated case, but what's the difference? The effect has been done, and the Hearts and Minds campaign is a joke that isn't funny anymore."

On the other hand, Omar (iraqthemodel.

blogspot.com) was optimistic: "What happened was awful, that's true but I feel comfortable with the good intentions of the coalition leaders and people who rejected the crimes against the detainees. Let me tell you this, under the past regime Iraqis were the victims of worse atrocities (by the hands of Iraqis) every day but no one could say a word about that.... For the first time, law is starting to govern our country and this will force anyone to think twice before he plans to harm someone or break the law in any way."

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