Another Example Of The Hands-Off Presidency
According to todayís White House press gaggle, Scott McClellan said that Bush was told generally about the Iraqi prisoner abuses Ė in January. Bushís response to that news? Investigate it. Thatís the sum total of Bushís attention on the matter in the intervening three months. In other words, have someone investigate it and letís hope no one picks up on this.
White House officials said Bush was generally informed about the allegations by Rumsfeld at around the time the U.S. military put out a news release on it Jan. 16.
The officials said Bush told Rumsfeld at the time that he wanted the matter investigated fully. But it was unclear if Bush asked any follow-up questions in the months afterward, until the case blew up into the public eye last week.
"The precise nature of what occurred had only come to our attention more recently," said McClellan.
So, just like 9/11, instead of acting upon something that sounds troubling, Bush waits for an issue to come up the chain with presumably a set of recommendations, and a memo with an ďapproved/disapprovedĒ decision line in it before he does something? Itís bad enough that he didnít read the Army investigation report, or seemed to not even know its existence as late as yesterday. Itís even worse that Paul Bremer was first told about these abuses way back in December, but the Army didnít begin an investigation until a month later. So the Pentagon has known about this for almost five months before Seymour Hershís New Yorker story blew up over the weekend.
Speaking on the pan-Arab satellite television channel Al Jazeera, former Human Rights Minister Abdul-Basat Turki said he resigned "not only because I believe that the use of violence is a violation of human rights but also because these methods in the prisons means that the violations are a common act."
Turki said he complained in December about human-rights violations by Americans to the top U.S. administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer. The military launched its investigation of abuse by prison guards in January, after a tip from a soldier.
If you had this information back in December from the Iraqi Human Rights Minister and didnít act, did Bremer really expect this to blow over until the soldier tipped off the Army? Did the Administration expect to ride this out and hope it never comes to light? Didnít they think that such revelations would seriously damage American credibility and destroy whatever respect we had in the Arab world? Or did they feel that since they get away with this all the time in our country that they would skate again?
For a man who lets his aides do his apologies for him, and whose remarks today to the Arab media didnít help any, perhaps Mr. Bush needs to come off the pedestal a little and find a way to dig out of this, if he can.