I was thinking last night about the poor bastards who are going to take the fall for the prison abuse scandal. Listen, I can't completely exonerate those who took part, but if you're from a small town and you're 20 years old, it's easy to get caught up in that. Again, it's no excuse.
But to know these kids will go to prison for carrying out a philosophy that sprung from this administration is sad.
This is from this morning's St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
"THE PRETRIAL HEARING for Pfc. Lynndie R. England has the makings of a show trial. The military parades this pregnant, unmarried 21-year-old clerk in front of the world as one of a handful of rogue MPs responsible for the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison. Meanwhile, back at the Pentagon, officials huddle in their bunkers seeking to avoid responsibility.
Pentagon prosecutors have managed to unearth the details of Ms. England's sexual escapades with Spc. Charles A. Granger Jr., the alleged ringleader of the rogue police. But the Pentagon has been unable to muster the effort to probe the details of 94 documented cases of prison abuse, including 40 deaths.
Last month, the Pentagon's Inspector General listed these cases of abuse, but concluded that they were "aberrations." Compliant members of Congress expressed relief. "This senator never doubted for a minute," said Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo., ". . . that no senior leader in the United States Army or in the government . . . would tolerate inhumanity or cruelty to prisoners."
Unfortunately, the facts suggest otherwise. The green light for ignoring the Geneva Conventions for the humane treatment of prisoners came straight from President George W. Bush, who decided that Taliban and al-Qaida prisoners didn't qualify for protection as prisoners of war.
That decision was based on administration memos in which one top lawyer in the Justice Department argued that the president's war power gave him the constitutional authority to order torture. Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, now a judge, also argued that only the most "extreme acts" that could lead to "death or organ failure" would amount to torture.
Last week, 12 former judges and seven past presidents of the America Bar Association called for an inquiry into these administration memos.
Two people who have defended Mr. Bush in the past - Ruth Wedgewood, a top international law expert, and James Woolsey, a former CIA director - also criticized the memos. "One cannot dismiss them (the memos) as mere academic musings," they wrote recently in the Wall Street Journal, "for they served as the starting point for other deliberations on appropriate standards for detention and interrogation."
Even at the England hearing, evidence of complicity by higher-ups is emerging. Capt. Carolina A. Wood, a top military intelligence commander at Abu Ghraib, testified that Col. Thomas M. Pappas, another intelligence commander, brought dogs to the prison. Capt. Wood said the use of dogs in interrogations would be abuse, but only if the dogs were "very close and unmuzzled."
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld also may be in for a surprise. Newsweek reports that a panel he appointed, headed by former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger, is concluding that a climate of abuse stemmed from failures of command and control.
In this light, there is something absurd about pinning a scarlet letter on a pathetic - though perverse - 21-year-old private from West Virginia, while the president and the secretary of defense skate. "