As The Lies Pile Up Over Iraqi Prisoner Abuses, Rummy And Cambone Become Short-Timers
I am going out on a limb here and predict that Rumsfeld will be gone before the GOP convention. There are several late-breaking stories coming out in the last 36 hours that strongly indicate that Rummy and Stephen Cambone are covering up to Congress about their role in approving the methods of abuse employed at Abu Ghraib, and I think a developing meme will take root over the coming weeks that such a cavalier culture towards international law and treatment of prisoners comes straight from the top of the Bush Administration. When presented with the growing difficulties of holding the fictions together and keeping the heat from them directly, the White House at some point in the coming weeks will ask Rummy to take one for the team and resign.
First, the lies. David Johnston in today’s New York Times reports that Seymour Hersh’s latest piece in the New Yorker confirms that it was in fact Rummy and Cambone who authorized the tactics used at Abu Ghraib, contrary to some assertions previously by both. In fact, the latest spin from the Pentagon only makes things worse for the Administration. In denying the allegations contained in Hersh’s piece, Rummy’s mouthpiece Larry Di Rita says incredibly that Cambone, who is directly responsible for military intelligence, had nothing to do with detainee management at Abu Ghraib, something that flies in the face of evidence last week that it was military intelligence that was calling the shots at Abu Ghraib, and not those running the facility. Furthermore, in defending itself from Hersh’s charges, the Pentagon is now putting out the spin that it wasn’t Rummy or Cambone who were responsible for sanctioning the abuses at Abu Ghraib, rather it was the lower grade officers themselves acting without authorization at the facility. Plus, and even worse, the Pentagon now says there was some covert military and intelligence outfit acting outside of the Pentagon’s control that was actually inflicting these methods on prisoners at a separate facility before they got to Abu Ghraib. Just who in the hell is this covert military and intelligence outfit, who do they report to, why is Rummy not responsible for what they do, and why exactly did the source in Johnston’s piece implicate General Ricardo Sanchez in the covert outfit by stating that access to this secret facility by regular military was controlled by him? For God’s sake, they just offered up Sanchez to save themselves.
I suppose it was this covert military and intelligence outfit that no one wants to take responsibility for that detained and probably killed Nick Berg.
In fact, according to Hersh’s piece, Rummy and Cambone are directly responsible for the covert outfit, and the CIA walked away from the debacle when the abuses went out of control. Hersh says that Rummy assembled this team after getting authorization from Condi Rice to expand interrogation methods. That places the issue inside the White House.
According to interviews with several past and present American intelligence officials, the Pentagon’s operation, known inside the intelligence community by several code words, including Copper Green, encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq. A senior C.I.A. official, in confirming the details of this account last week, said that the operation stemmed from Rumsfeld’s long-standing desire to wrest control of America’s clandestine and paramilitary operations from the C.I.A.
Rumsfeld, during appearances last week before Congress to testify about Abu Ghraib, was precluded by law from explicitly mentioning highly secret matters in an unclassified session. But he conveyed the message that he was telling the public all that he knew about the story. He said, “Any suggestion that there is not a full, deep awareness of what has happened, and the damage it has done, I think, would be a misunderstanding.” The senior C.I.A. official, asked about Rumsfeld’s testimony and that of Stephen Cambone, his Under-Secretary for Intelligence, said, “Some people think you can bullshit anyone.”
So the simmering war between the Agency and Rummy is now out in the open. Who do you think will win that battle? I’ll bet on the spooks.
Second, Jason Vest of the Nation points to possible lies by Cambone to Congress in his recent efforts to downplay his direct role in what transpired at Abu Ghraib and with this covert military intelligence effort. Added to this cast of characters aside from PNAC alum Cambone are the nutcase General William Boykin, and possibly Doug Feith, as well as of course Rummy himself.
Third, in an excellent piece by McClatchy Newspapers reporter James Rosen, it is clearly pointed out that despite erroneous claims by Rummy and Cheney that the treatment of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib was consistent with the Geneva Convention protocols, in fact there is a legal difference between how we treated the Afghans and the Taliban during that campaign and how we as occupiers were required to treat the Iraqis after Saddam fell. In other words, we violated the Geneva Convention in Iraq, and that makes Rummy, Cambone, and others up and down the chain subject to international law and sanctions. Rosen’s piece is noteworthy because it establishes a meme that the tone set by Bush and Cheney from the outset after 9/11 led to this lawlessness in the name of “good versus evil” decision-making.
The resulting political dynamic from the release of the Hersh piece is already starting, as the Pentagon and White House try to kill it. On the Sunday talk shows, Colin Powell didn’t give a ringing endorsement to Rummy when he had a chance and put it off to the Pentagon to deal with the mess, and John McCain signaled a willingness to follow this into the White House if necessary.
Secretary of State Colin Powell was asked on Sunday if Abu Ghraib prison, a torture chamber under ousted President Saddam Hussein, should be razed or if he believed Rumsfeld should resign, as has been demanded by many Democrats.
"We'll have to decide what's the best action," he said in an interview from Jordan on the ABC program This Week. "But there's no question that this incident has given us a black eye throughout the world."
Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on CBS's "Face The Nation" the latest New Yorker report added a "very significant subject" to be investigated by the panel.
Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican also on the Armed Services Committee, said he did not think the reservists accused of the abuse acted without being instructed. "We need to take this as far up as it goes and we need to do it quickly," he said on the NBC program "Meet the Press."
And that is why I feel that Rummy and Cambone will be tossed overboard sometime in the coming months.