I know the difference between sitting down and writing off the top of my head (as I am doing now) and taking time to carefully outline, research and document my thoughts. Tom Rutten
's LA Times
piece today entitled, "Newsweek erred. So has U.S
.," strikes me as a prime example of the former.
The first several paragraphs set up the idea of the "fog of war" and how human beings are differentiated from other animals in being able to make "rational distinctions" between....well, he never really says what we are able to make rational distinctions between!
In any case, "sane societies are prudent about the demands they place on their young men and women under arms and set them bright lines of conduct to follow when such demands are made
He proceeds to opine that the critical reaction to Newsweek
's mis-reporting of the Koran-in-the-toilet urban legend as fact, was "mostly nonsensical
." As evidence he states:
According to a U.S. military inquiry undertaken in response to the Newsweek item, five of 13 alleged incidents in which the Koran was somehow abused by guards or interrogators at Guantanamo turned out to be true. "No credible evidence" was found that an Islamic holy book was flushed down a toilet, which one supposes should be some sort of comfort. The military's investigation, however, is incomplete, and who knows what yet may emerge from this Cuban cesspool.
What a mess of obfuscation. First, he credits Newsweek for forcing the military to initiate an investigation. Nonesense. The docmentation was presexisting and massive; over 10,000 pages of it. Nothing in all of that data had ever raised a red flag for anyone responsible for oversight at Guantanamo. Why? Because there wasn't any! What the military did in response to the Newsweek article was to "re-re-review" what had already been reviewed many times up the chain of command.
Second, by implying that finding "five" incidents of Koran abuse somehow exhonerates Newsweek, Rutten fails to mention that the five incidents include such horrific acts as twice placing (a) Koran(s) on top of a TV set (what are the Guantanamo prisoners doing with TV sets, anyway?), and the accidental, incidental touching of a Koran by a female guard. Wow! (Rutten's biography mentions that he is the father of two children. I wonder if the equivilent of such flagrant, insensitive and intolerant behavior by his children would be subject to public outrage and international review?)
Third, his objective credibility is flushed down the toilet when he refers to Guantanamo as a "Cuban cesspool." I'm sure that he could explain what this means, but why bother when everyone already knows, right? (wink wink).
His next paragraph rightly places the blame for the international Muslim response to the Newsweek story on the Imams and radical Islamists who "do not require provocation to violence or hatred of the United States
Unfortunately he then blames the resulting deaths on American-supported "government troops" although not one such death has ever been documented, not one name of those supposedly killed has been uncovered and not one description of how, when, where or by whom those deaths occured has been published. Until such specific evidence arises, Rutten has once again fearlessly dipped into the pool of urban legend (which, by the way, I did also at first
.....but at least I keep up with the news and have learned better by now. Why hasn't Rutten?).
Now comes the zinger: "The problem here is not desecration of the Koran, but of our own fundamental values
." According to Ruttn, the desecration of our American values are exemplified by the following:
Ever since the invasion of Afghanistan, the Bush administration has been running a secret prison system in which people are tortured — some to death — and fundamental legal and human rights are ignored with impunity. That is true in Guantanamo, as it was true in Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Bagram in Afghanistan. It may be true in other places, as well, but we don't know that. We may never know that.
As with most propaganda-style journalism he begins with a true statement but then follows it up with a lie. The truth is that we do
have a semi-secret prison system (although international observers have been permitted to visit, observe conditions and comment, and that the existance, location, purpose and command structure of these facilities are public record, as well as tens of thousands of records released as a result of legal action by the media and human rights groups).
It is also true that there have been beatings and one or more deaths (as a result of either beatings or of natural causes) at both Bagram and Abu Ghraib. Rutten's implication that there have been beating deaths at Guantanamo is a blatent misrepresentation of reality, of course....otherwise known as a lie.
The BIG lie is, of course, where he states so blithely that detainees' "fundamental legal and human rights are ignored with impunity
." There is not one shred of evidence to support this accusation.In every case
, it has been members of the military that reported the abuses, it has been the military that has brought charges against those who acted improperly and it has been the military that has discharged, demoted, court-martialed and imprisoned those who have been found guilty. In not one single case has anyone associated with the media uncovered any incident of abuse that had not already been identified and was under investigation by the military. Even the Abu Ghraib abuse photos were released to the press by the military, which had possessed them for months (with public acknowledgement, by the way....secrecy? The press didn't care until they had photos!) while agressively investigating and prosecuting the case.
After rightfully chastising Amnesty International for inappropriately referring to these prisons as a "gulag," he shows, at least, that Americans are looking into these charges. But, with another lie, he blasts the investigations as being "tentative" and "hesitant" and the prosecutions as being "circumscribed."
Every piece of evidence suggests exactly the opposite of this. The military has pursued these investigations "aggressively" and "assertively." As for prosecutions, they have indeed been "circumspect
" (as well they should be, since one definition of the word is to be "Heedful of circumstances and potential consequences; prudent
."). But they have also been blunt and honest, even to the point of disciplining high ranking officers who were, by any stretch of the imagination, neither aware of the abuse nor consenting to it (see what happened to Brig. General Janis Karpinski
for an example of this).
He then proceeds to present "two appalling failures," the first of which is....
....this administration's decision to subject our troops to a temptation no military force ever should be asked to withstand. Holding prisoners in secret — beyond law, without representation, without oversight — then demanding that they extract information from them, no matter the method, is something no American in arms should be asked to do. Making that demand is a betrayal of the young men and women who have embraced the duty of national service.
First of all, as suspected terrorists, fighting out of uniform and representing no legitimate government, those detainees who are not in possession of US citizenship are not subject to the rule of American or international law nor do they fall under the intentionally limited perameters of the Geneva Conventions for prisoners of war. Aside from their "right to life" they have no other rights. US courts have upheld this interpretation of the law for over a hundred years and US troops have been responsible for overseeing such detainees since the Revolutionary War.
Then comes the next lie: Accusing the Bush Administration of ordering that the US military "extract information from them, no matter the method
..." While it is true that the life-or-death need for intel has resulted in extremely agressive interrogation techniques there is no evidence whatsoever that anyone at any level of military or civilian authority (including the CIA) has ever commanded US troops to "extract information from (detainees
), no matter the method."
Virtually all incidences of prisoner abuse have been shown to be the result of individual misconduct in defiance of explicit orders and training to the contrary; over-zealousness as a result of intense emotion and anger generated by the stress of combat; or simply the lack of proper supervision and oversight by those in command.
To then aver that the Bush Administration has "(betrayed
) the young men and women who have embraced the duty of national service"
is to render judgement based on the premise of what is either a deliberately conceived lie or a lie that has proceeded out of ignorance or a predisposed bias.
According to Rutten, the second of the "appalling failures" "...is that of the mainstream press, which has failed to keep this moral abyss directly and constantly under the public eye
From where I stand, this is a curious "failure" indeed, seeing how the press has published, republished, editorialized and sensationalized every hint of detainee abuse whether real or imagined since the US invaded Afghanistan back in 2001. Recently, information made public over two years ago, was printed on the front page of the New York Times as though it was "new" news!
The failure of the press has not been their lack of coverage of the detention of suspected terrorists by the United States, but the lack of balance in their coverage.
We do not need to look any further than Tom Rutten and the LA Times for evidence in support of that conclusion.