Why didn’t they ask?

What we heard today in the Senate and House hearings was a Secretary of Defense who blamed the media for releasing pictures of events that he should never have allowed to take place. When he said “there is much more coming,” including video, he is describing revelations about what has taken place. Senator Hillary Clinton was right when she said pointing to the photos that have leaked out is missing the point, but she failed to ask the question that needed to be laid on the table: Is there any more abuse of prisoners going on in the War on Terror?

Why didn’t any senator or representative ask today for a guarantee that such abuse is not happening now or will not happen again? Why didn’t anyone ask for Rumsfeld’s and General Myers’ assurance that they will resign if torture and abuse happen again, or if it turns out they are withholding the evidence of other abuse that has already occurred at prisons in other regions or Iraq or the world?

Rumsfeld dodged this question when asked if the United States would waive confidentiality of the International Red Cross report on abuse of prisoners in Iraq, claiming to do so would undermine other countries’ confidence that the information the Red Cross collects would stay secret. In fact, if the U.S. waived its confidentiality, it would only improve the Red Cross’ work, since it would confirm that information stayed secret unless a government explicitly allowed its release and simultaneously increase the demand for governments to release the information themselves. It was a chance for the United States to walk the talk Rumsfeld and President Bush have been tossing to off in the last week, but Rumsfeld refused to admit the possibility.

I also heard President Bush say today on the stump that the soldiers who committed these atrocities did not represent the soldier on the ground. He is right, the vast majority of soldiers would never do what the guards at Abu Ghraib did, but the fact that it occurred does reflect on the nation’s leadership and the rationale for the war, and the President shouldn’t be allowed to divorce himself from these events. Rumsfeld did go a long way toward accepting responsibility today, but he continually suggested that the press broke rules of secrecy that caused the real embarrassment he faces. The leaders of the country are at the bar with the soldiers who committed those crimes, because they set the tone and put the soldiers in harm’s way for political gain.

The war was predicated on lies and a need to produce a drama about “good vs. evil” that justified the abuses at the prison in the minds of the perpetrators and allowed commanders—all the way up to the White House and the Oval Office—to turn their heads until the press revealed the pictures. That doesn’t make the press the hero here, because they held off on the story when it was revealed in bland administrative language in January.

The whole mess rises out of the fact we should not have put our soldiers into a war based on fabrication. It ignited madness that has turned the United States’ international reputation to a shambles, barely distinguishable from the regime it displaced in Iraq for the audience that mattered most, the Iraqi people and the Middle East.

On The Connection today

I’ve been talking with Dick Gordon on WBUR’s The Connection about the Google IPO. You can listen to the archive here.

The two postings at Red Herring that prompted my guest appearance on The Connection are:

Why I Won’t Be A Google Investor

Google Doubletalk

I was the “skeptic” on the show today, though I think I deflected the question of whether Google is evil. Great company, just not one that should be public.