T Nation

Army Times slams administration

Editorial: A failure of leadership at the highest levels

Around the halls of the Pentagon, a term of caustic derision has emerged for the enlisted soldiers at the heart of the furor over the Abu Ghraib prison scandal: the six morons who lost the war.

Indeed, the damage done to the U.S. military and the nation as a whole by the horrifying photographs of U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi detainees at the notorious prison is incalculable.

But the folks in the Pentagon are talking about the wrong morons.

There is no excuse for the behavior displayed by soldiers in the now-infamous pictures and an even more damning report by Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba. Every soldier involved should be ashamed.

But while responsibility begins with the six soldiers facing criminal charges, it extends all the way up the chain of command to the highest reaches of the military hierarchy and its civilian leadership.

The entire affair is a failure of leadership from start to finish. From the moment they are captured, prisoners are hooded, shackled and isolated. The message to the troops: Anything goes.

In addition to the scores of prisoners who were humiliated and demeaned, at least 14 have died in custody in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army has ruled at least two of those homicides. This is not the way a free people keeps its captives or wins the hearts and minds of a suspicious world.

How tragically ironic that the American military, which was welcomed to Baghdad by the euphoric Iraqi people a year ago as a liberating force that ended 30 years of tyranny, would today stand guilty of dehumanizing torture in the same Abu Ghraib prison used by Saddam Hussein’s henchmen.

One can only wonder why the prison wasn’t razed in the wake of the invasion as a symbolic stake through the heart of the Baathist regime.

Army commanders in Iraq bear responsibility for running a prison where there was no legal adviser to the commander, and no ultimate responsibility taken for the care and treatment of the prisoners.

Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, also shares in the shame. Myers asked 60 Minutes II to hold off reporting news of the scandal because it could put U.S. troops at risk. But when the report was aired, a week later, Myers still hadn’t read Taguba’s report, which had been completed in March. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld also failed to read the report until after the scandal broke in the media.

By then, of course, it was too late.

Myers, Rumsfeld and their staffs failed to recognize the impact the scandal would have not only in the United States, but around the world.

If their staffs failed to alert Myers and Rumsfeld, shame on them. But shame, too, on the chairman and secretary, who failed to inform even President Bush.

He was left to learn of the explosive scandal from media reports instead of from his own military leaders.

On the battlefield, Myers and Rumsfeld’s errors would be called a lack of situational awareness ? a failure that amounts to professional negligence.

To date, the Army has moved to court-martial the six soldiers suspected of abusing Iraqi detainees and has reprimanded six others.

Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who commanded the MP brigade that ran Abu Ghraib, has received a letter of admonishment and also faces possible disciplinary action.

That?s good, but not good enough.

This was not just a failure of leadership at the local command level. This was a failure that ran straight to the top. Accountability here is essential - even if that means relieving top leaders from duty in a time of war.

Military Times editorial, May 17 issue


If Rumsfeld was a man he’d resign in disgrace…

“The entire affair is a failure of leadership from start to finish. From the moment they are captured, prisoners are hooded, shackled and isolated. The message to the troops: Anything goes.”

I am sorry but that is bullshit. Because I shackle someone means that you can go pull an Abner Liouma on them. Thats horrible logic. I shackle my girlfriend all the time and still ask her permission :-). But seriously, the only thing Rummy did wrong was not make the president and Congress aware of this in a private setting when it was discovered, and there are compelling legal reasons why he did not.

He, and those under him, failed to ensure that this did not happen. It’s what being in charge is about. When you are in charge, you are responsible… well, you are supposed to be anyway.

I guess it doesn’t happen much this day and age. I suppose it would look like Bush made a mistake, so he probably isn’t even allowed to resign. What a pussy.

There is no reason for Rumsfeld to resign. He did everything he was supposed to do, and you can not blame him for the actions of some psychotic fucks. If he does not try and rectify it in the future than its a problem and proper actions should be taken. Every American Soldier is taught that you only obey lawful orders, and they know the Geneva Convention. They cant claim they were just following orders as a defense. Even if they were following orders there is ZERO evidence that that order came from anyone close to Rumseld within the chain of command.

As for Rumsfeld resigning, that just not practical. He is, by all accounts, one of the best secretaries of Defense EVER. What he has done to the military in terms of tactics and capabilities is amazing. I would liken him to Admiral Fisher of the British Royal Navy in terms of forsight and far reaching ambitions to change what is, under any circumstance, a very dogmatic institution.

Perhaps, you also missed the NY Times, Washington Post editorials, and Morton Kondracke article which all give very valid reasons why Rumsfeld resigning is a BAD idea.

If Rumsfeld was a man he would resign…

How exactly is it Rumsfeld’s fault for people across an ocean doing criminal acts in a prison?
This is like Bush being asked to resign because someone that volunteered to help with his campaign committed a crime. No doubt the SOB’s who did this ridiculous stuff should be dealt with, as should their immediate supervisors, but beyond that, at most, maybe the general in charge of the actual prison. And that is a maybe. But Rumsfeld, where is the logic in this argument? Rumsfeld doesnt directly supervise millions of soldiers with the DoD. Come on people, this is a silly demand. There are so many levels of admin between the pentagon and even the general that ran the prison. I think people are on a witch hunt.

You presume that the top leadership of the country had no hand in shaping the character of the military occupation in Iraq.

You also presume that the abuses that have been taking place were one off incidents that happened by “accident”.

You also presume that the top brass did not have an obligation to look into allegations of serious abuse when raised by the Red Cross months earlier.

You also presume that top level officials had no possible way to know that abuses might happen, when these things routinely happen in military campaigns.

Whether or not we like the concept, the US government is responsible for the actions of the US military. If the US military is conducting transgressions, some of them against innocent people, then the US government is the only body that can be held accountable.

The military is an instrument of the government, not a random collection of individuals. Professional military personnel will probably recognize the concepts of negligence raised in the article.

It is not easy for a lowly soldier to resist an order and make a decision on their own…

You will never convince me that the people in the pentagon had the political implications of their treatment of Iraqi citizens on their mind when they passed down their orders.

If they had, they would have made damned sure they had done all they could to avoid this type of thing. We’d be reading about steps that had been taken just to ensure it could not happen.

Somebody screwed the pooch…

“He is, by all accounts, one of the best secretaries of Defense EVER.”

For the past year, Iraq under Rumsfeld has been a disaster, and we are seeing the results of that now.

When we as taxpayers are paying over one billion dollars per week to occupy Iraq, I would expect there to be a coherent plan, and there hasn’t been one. The administration has muddled their way through this, costing hundreds of American lives and billions of taxpayer dollars.

Dancing Alone
Published: May 13, 2004

It is time to ask this question: Do we have any chance of succeeding at regime change in Iraq without regime change here at home?

“Hey, Friedman, why are you bringing politics into this all of a sudden? You’re the guy who always said that producing a decent outcome in Iraq was of such overriding importance to the country that it had to be kept above politics.”

Yes, that’s true. I still believe that. My mistake was thinking that the Bush team believed it, too. I thought the administration would have to do the right things in Iraq - from prewar planning and putting in enough troops to dismissing the secretary of defense for incompetence - because surely this was the most important thing for the president and the country. But I was wrong. There is something even more important to the Bush crowd than getting Iraq right, and that’s getting re-elected and staying loyal to the conservative base to do so. It has always been more important for the Bush folks to defeat liberals at home than Baathists abroad. That’s why they spent more time studying U.S. polls than Iraqi history. That is why, I’ll bet, Karl Rove has had more sway over this war than Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Bill Burns. Mr. Burns knew only what would play in the Middle East. Mr. Rove knew what would play in the Middle West.

I admit, I’m a little slow. Because I tried to think about something as deadly serious as Iraq, and the post- 9/11 world, in a nonpartisan fashion - as Joe Biden, John McCain and Dick Lugar did - I assumed the Bush officials were doing the same. I was wrong. They were always so slow to change course because confronting their mistakes didn’t just involve confronting reality, but their own politics.

Why, in the face of rampant looting in the war’s aftermath, which dug us into such a deep and costly hole, wouldn’t Mr. Rumsfeld put more troops into Iraq? Politics. First of all, Rummy wanted to crush once and for all the Powell doctrine, which says you fight a war like this only with overwhelming force. I know this is hard to believe, but the Pentagon crew hated Colin Powell, and wanted to see him humiliated 10 times more than Saddam. Second, Rummy wanted to prove to all those U.S. generals whose Army he was intent on downsizing that a small, mobile, high-tech force was all you needed today to take over a country. Third, the White House always knew this was a war of choice - its choice - so it made sure that average Americans never had to pay any price or bear any burden. Thus, it couldn’t call up too many reservists, let alone have a draft. Yes, there was a contradiction between the Bush war on taxes and the Bush war on terrorism. But it was resolved: the Bush team decided to lower taxes rather than raise troop levels.

Why, in the face of the Abu Ghraib travesty, wouldn’t the administration make some uniquely American gesture? Because these folks have no clue how to export hope. They would never think of saying, “Let’s close this prison immediately and reopen it in a month as the Abu Ghraib Technical College for Computer Training - with all the equipment donated by Dell, H.P. and Microsoft.” Why didn’t the administration ever use 9/11 as a spur to launch a Manhattan project for energy independence and conservation, so we could break out of our addiction to crude oil, slowly disengage from this region and speak truth to fundamentalist regimes, such as Saudi Arabia? (Addicts never tell the truth to their pushers.) Because that might have required a gas tax or a confrontation with the administration’s oil moneymen. Why did the administration always - rightly - bash Yasir Arafat, but never lift a finger or utter a word to stop Ariel Sharon’s massive building of illegal settlements in the West Bank? Because while that might have earned America credibility in the Middle East, it might have cost the Bush campaign Jewish votes in Florida.

And, of course, why did the president praise Mr. Rumsfeld rather than fire him? Because Karl Rove says to hold the conservative base, you must always appear to be strong, decisive and loyal. It is more important that the president appear to be true to his team than that America appear to be true to its principles. (Here’s the new Rummy Defense: “I am accountable. But the little guys were responsible. I was just giving orders.”)

Add it all up, and you see how we got so off track in Iraq, why we are dancing alone in the world - and why our president, who has a strong moral vision, has no moral influence.


So vroom every time an employee of any company makes a mistake or does something stupid the ceo or boss should quit?

Our military is run like a big business, rumsfield has to delegate allmost all of his authority to others, who then have to delegate almost all of their authority to still others all the way down the line. Somewhere some bad decisions were made and some stupid people were left alone and did a stupid thing. WTF would you have had rumsfield do to have prevented this? If you say to gut and restructure the defense dept, sorry he is already in the process.

The military is different then civilian business in one respect. The CO of a command is always responsible for any disaster that may befall them.

For example if a naval ship runs aground and a lowly e-3 seaman recruit was steering the ship while the captain was snoozing in his stateroom the captains going down.

LEGITIMATE reasons for Rumsfeld’s resignation over Abu Gharib:

(1) He did not order a private investigation of Military Intelligence and CIA involvement in suggesting the interrogation tactics to the troops who were court-marshalled in January.

(2) He did not reassess whether Army reservists working in prisons had been properly taught a code of conduct.

(3) He did not allert the Congress or the President about the existence of lurid photos of this dehumanization of prisoners–a major rout in the war of ideas.

(4) He did not respond to Paul Bremer’s complaints about Abu Gharib (they did in fact respond to the Red Cross, but felt their criticisms were inflated, which is probably true).

(5) He read the Taguba report very late in the game, even though it may have provided a pattern that could have alerted the Pentagon to a systemic problem existing currently or in the future.

Its unlikely he cares. He probably thinks they deserve it. As far as treatment is concerned, just make it humane, that’s all. They are going to be jailed which sucks, eat crappy food which sucks, have no freedom which sucks, and they will be interrogated. That doesn’t mean you do the completely outrageous things these army folks were doing. As far as responsibility is concerned, the idea behind leadership is to make decisions that keep the rest of the people in line. At the end of the day, its the manager who is responsible and it rolls downhill from there.

Oh, and

(6) He did not do a separate investigation into the issue of interrogation by private contractors, and then lay down some definite rules.


It depends on the policies. When a major corporation is involved in a scandal dealing with top management, top management is axed. The minions do not set the bad policies.

In this case, the US government (the management) set policies in effect that contravene the Geneva Conventions. This is a screw up. That is poor management. The minions did not set these policies.

The minions should be punished for not knowing the difference between legal and illegal actions. We’ve argued in the past against the ability to claim “just following orders” so it must apply now as well.

However, the leadership that purposely set up policies that created illegal orders down the line is responsible for creating that situation. Its not like some clerk in a 7-11 stole a candy bar and hence the owner should be put on trial.

Here we are talking about a situation in which management deliberately set about making bad policies and passed them down the line to the troops. The clerk at 7-11 was issued a handgun and told to shoot anyone suspicious. Some innocent folks were shot and the guy was just following his orders. Ooops. However, the manager is also going to get the boot – for being such an idiot.

See the difference?

If you like, you can try to convince me that the top brass really did have appropriate policies, plans and procedures to handle the situation in Iraq. If so, and the minions on the front line acted on their own, then I would be inclined to agree with you.

However, given that the US changed the rules after 9-11, so that they could detain people without respect to any concern about their rights and in contravention of Geneva Conventions (in the Iraqi theatre), I think it goes much higher than the poor minions about to sacrificied.

I may be right or wrong, but that is where I am coming from, just so you know why I feel he should resign.

To digress, it’s rather obvious to me that if Bush were to replace Cheney and Rummy, he’d lock up the 2004 election. No doubt about it, if he made those changes, it would show a lot of character and he’d earn respect from the swing vote and current Republicans.


Is this what you kids refer to as a “hijack”? I apologize if it is, just thought it was within the bounds of this conversation.

~ jack

The really cool thing about that is we wouldn’t have a Secretary of Defense dictating to military personnel the best way of doing their job and Cheney can go on as many canned hunts as he could handle. Maybe next time he’ll get 500 birds instead of 400+.

How the hell is Rumsfeld doing a great job? Puhleeze.

Rumsfeld’s military doctrine was not very good. Yes, we defeated the Iraqi main forces quickly, but look what has happened since then… exactly what a lot of military people feared… urban battles. We did not have adequate forces over there from the beginning due to Rumsfeld.

Rumsfeld knew about the prison abuses and sat on it? If that’s not reason enough for him to go I don’t know what is.

so everytime there is a problem the official should resign? so why werent you all calling for clinton to resign for multiple reasons?

Clinton should have resigned for what? All that peace and prosperity? For having consensual sex with an intern?

What does this have to do with the topic?

It is so pathetic, that four years after leaving office, Bill Clinton is still the most important person in the Bush administration. You’ve been sooo traumatized by Bill Clinton, you poor dear! When will the Bush crowd start taking responsibility for the here and now? When will George Bush start leading, and not doing what he’s told by Cheney, Rove and Rumsfeld? Why can’t George Bush stand behind his own record as president?

I hope Rumsfeld will stick around long enough to drag down the rest of his dysfunctional family.