October 26, 2004

You Mean, That Movie Where Bing Crosby Sodomized Bob Hope With a Glowstick?

Phil Carter of the invaluable Intel Dump has an excellent Washington Monthly article, "The Road to Abu Ghraib," on the chain-of-command decisions that resulted in the abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo (and, as Carter does not point out, god knows where else).

Carter has been hounding this story from its inception, and does a great job of filling in between the lines.

What he does not do, unfortunately (to distend the diagrammatic metaphor), is connect the dots.

Beyond written and verbal orders, beyond rules of engagement and legal opinions, what personally drove many (dare we say, most; virtually all?) soldiers on the ground in Iraq was the belief that Saddam Hussein was somehow "behind" or connected with the attacks of 9/11, and that Hussein harbored vaguely-defined "terrorists" who sought to further attack America. This entirely erroneous belief -- shared by an unconscionable number of Americans and a simply unconscious number of FOX News viewers -- surely worked in conjunction with the nominal and sub rosa orders in the field.

Which is to say, the chain of command -- from Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld on down -- knew that not only would a loosing of the Geneva Conventions result in lack of oversight and escalation of abuses, but that the soldiers' personal and patriotic emotions would be highly engaged in the matter as well.

And, of course, who is responsible for the erroneous belief that would drive the soldiers to seek personal and patriotic revanchism on Iraqis? Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld.

This interconnection of motivation and context is necessary for a complete understanding of the situation.

(The Confidence Man might also note that Carter does not address the fact that neither Bush nor Cheney nor Rumsfeld ever actually served in the military, which would certainly explain their inability to foresee the consequences of their actions.)

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