June 1, 2004
In his Memorial Day speech, President Bush did not even mention the scandal that is swamping his Administration: the scandal of U.S. soldiers torturing and murdering detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Bush acted like the scandal didn't even exist.
And he went out of his way to praise "the character of the men and women who wear our country's uniform."
Not a word about those who have disgraced it.
He said, "In places like Kabul and Kandahar, in Mosul and Baghdad, we have seen their decency and their brave spirit."
But there was no decency in stacking Iraqi detainees into human pyramids at Abu Ghraib.
There was no decency in forcing Iraqi prisoners to masturbate or simulate oral sex.
There was no decency in the raping of Iraqi prisoners with light bulbs.
There was no decency in mock executions.
There was no decency in the abuse of prisoners at other sites in Iraq and Afghanistan, including beating detainees up and pissing on them.
There was no decency in the reports of thirty-seven suspicious deaths of detainees in Iraq and in Afghanistan.
Now I understand that the vast majority of U.S. soldiers are acting with decency and good character, under great duress.
But for Bush to go on about the decency and character of all of our soldiers at a time when the behavior of some of them has besmirched the nation's reputation is to whisk under the rug a profoundly serious matter and to display an arrogance that is particularly unattractive and inappropriate.
And these were not just a few bad apples but soldiers, in many instances, apparently acting under the direction of military intelligence or the CIA, with lax rules of interrogation coming from high up the chain of command, up to Donald Rumsfeld (whose "great leadership" Bush hailed), and Bush himself.
Bush owned no responsibility as commander in chief. And his failure even to acknowledge the horrifying misconduct of some of the troops was a signal of indifference and an assertion of superiority not lost on the rest of the world.
His message was this: Forget about abuse, torture, and, murder; we're Americans, we're noble, that's all there is to it.
This supreme arrogance is what got Bush--and the United States--into the Iraq mess in the first place.