A matter of responsibility

The findings of the Schlesinger—Fay panel report on Abu Ghraib prison abuses have been made public. Responses, immediate and predictable, sounded forth from the Chorus of Usual Suspects. 

Out on the hustings, candidate John Kerry saw fit to join that off—key band of blowhards with a solo rift, calling for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, because, as the famous naval hero put it; 'It's about leadership.  It's about responsibility...Americans want the truth and they want accountability.'

Well now, setting aside the obvious response to that statement, steaming with the fetid stench of hypocrisy, let's look at what the report does say.  Oh, and by the way, did anyone on Kerry's staff bother to whisper in his wounded ear that it was Secretary Rumsfeld who initiated the investigating panel?

Going to the crux of the matter here, the report stipulates that there was never any Pentagon—approved torture or abusive treatment policy; no secret memo authorizing any of that.  Rather, what occurred was the result of  'freelance activities by the night shift.'  It states that dozens of soldiers have been found guilty; that other cases are pending.  To re—phrase a clich the Uniform Code of Military Justice system works.  

And now, back to Donald Rumsfeld.  On May 7, 2004 he apologized to the world for the Abu Ghraib incidents, saying, 'it occurred on my watch as Secretary of Defense and I take full responsibility.'  He then took immediate steps to find out exactly what happened and to punish those responsible.  He praised the soldiers who had come forward to report abuses, such as Spec. Joseph Darby.  And he cited the chain of command in Iraq which, though a tad busy with minor problems named Fallujah and Najaf, did take quick and positive actions, once aware of the allegations.

The Defense Secretary then flew to Iraq and visited Abu Ghraib, now run by the 16th MP Brigade, and told the assembled soldiers that what happened 'doesn't represent America...its values...or the values of each of you.'  He told them that 'the world will see how a free system, a democratic system, functions and operates transparently.'

And that's exactly what has happened.  Having taken full responsibility, Rumsfeld, the true, the archetypal leader, authorized the investigation which uncovered the truth of what occurred.  It does not call for the Defense Secretary's resignation.  Just the opposite, as a matter of fact.  If Kerry's demand for that act were to occur, then, in the words of James Schlesinger, '(it would) be a boon to all of America's enemies.'  Or is that what Kerry really wants with this country in the middle of a global war against Islamo—fascism?

John B. Dwyer is a military historian