Hindsight may be 20/20 but I think I can honestly say that Seymour Hersch’s account of how the atrocities at Abu Ghraib were allowed to go down pretty much matches exactly what I had assumed.
First Shrub OK’d Rummy’s “take the gloves off” policy regarding the Al Queda-ish prisoners in Cuba. (Which most Americans would probably say was justified at the time. These people didn’t conduct themselves by basic humanitarian rules of warfare like the Geneva Conventions, so your average non-bleeding heart citizen would say we don’t owe it to them; and we desperately needed the intelligence – they were preparing to strike again on US soil at any moment).
Then Shrub somehow equated Iraq with Al Queda – in error, as it turned out, and what started out as a non-conventional war against terrorists (where there are no rules) morphed into a conventional war against a sovereign nation and their innocent civilian population (where there are definite internationally accepted rules of engagement). But Shrub et.al. didn't stop and think "hey - we've opened a new front. Let's stop and evaluate the new operating environment and think about how this might change our existing strategy".
As a result, Shrub & Co. grossly miscalculated our welcome in Iraq and bit off more than they could chew, and in a pathetic attempt to fix the situation just made it 100 times worse by trying to extend the rules they were applying(successfully) against the Al Queda prisoners to a totally different environment – a group of mostly innocent and wrongfully detained Iraqi civilians. This is where ignorance can be fatal. It’s like thinking “hmmm. Here’s a tough stain. I know bleach works well on stains, and so does ammonia. So using them *both* will be doubly effective!” then dumping it all in a bucket together without bothering to read the warning labels, which clearly say “DO NOT MIX BLEACH & AMMONIA. DOING SO WILL CREATE POSSIBLY FATAL CHLORINE GAS” (which happens to be one of the original chemical warfare weapons introduced by the Germans in WWI. But I digress)
The minute they invaded Iraq they should have put the kid gloves back *on* to protect what tiny vestige of moral authority we still had. They should have thought back to their Basic Western Civ 101 course taken their Freshman year in college and at least tried to recall the basic recipe for terrorism. They should have stopped and reassessed; solicited advice from the expers, and re-thought, period. But no. Rummy instead doggedly ignored every warning his intelligence community and military command gave him and put this inept Cambone character in charge of interrogations. The same guy whose own right hand man happens to be Army Lieutenant General William G. (Jerry) Boykin, the same guy who called all Muslims the spawn of Satan. Not a team very well suited to instilling trust and warm fuzzy feelings in the bosom of the Iraqi people, is it?
Apparently the administration, caught up in the excitement of going to war in order to “Make America safe from terrorists” totally forgot that besides identifying and neutralizing current terrorists (i.e. Al Queda operatives); the only way to stop the spread of terrorism is to win the hearts and minds of moderate people (read “Arabs”) who might otherwise become the next generation of suicide bombers. It’s much easier to do than you’d think. Mickey Mouse has already done most of the work for you. People around the world want to like Americans – but more importantly, they want just a little of what Americans have. A high standard of living. Opportunities to work and get an education. A good economy. Physical safety while going about their mundane lives. Real power and a voice in their government. Freedom to practice their religion. Until now, Americans have had a knack for turning occupied populations into allies. Shit, we dropped two nuclear bombs on the Japanese after THEY attacked US and they still managed to worship us.
And the sad thing is, Bush had the power to give them some of that. But he didn’t. Because at heart he doesn’t believe in spreading the wealth. If he can’t even be convinced to spread some of it to middle and lower class Americans do you honestly think he’d think to give it to the “infidels”? If he cared at all about helping the Iraqi people, he’d have offered the carrot instead of the stick. Instead of blackmailing the nice, innocent people of Iraq into helping us why not bribe them with, oh I don’t know – a generator to make their A/C run? An armed escort for their daughters to go to school? Reliable internet access? New diagnostic equipment and supplies for the local hospital? Plum construction sub-contract?? Hell, howsabout a scholarship to Yale?
But neither he, nor Rummy thought of that. Because at heart, they're not givers. They're takers - simple schoolyard bullies. "Give me what I want and fuck the rest of you non-corporation and/or non-Christian peons" is the only diplomatic language they understand.