August 31, 2004
ABU GHRAIB REPORTS: 'HIGHEST ECHELONS' RESPONSIBLE FOR 'SADISM'
** Global dailies hold
President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld "politically responsible."
** The "moral
defeat" at Abu Ghraib has "severely undermined" American
** Papers split on whether
the abuses were a "terrible aberration" or a failure of the
'People responsible must be accountable'-- Papers held "Bush and Rumsfeld...guilty of
setting the moral climate which allowed such behavior" as the
"bestial crimes" at Abu Ghraib.
They agreed "the highest levels of the Pentagon contributed"
to the abuses through their "deliberate" efforts to avoid noticing the
"systematic brutality." Saudi
Arabia's pro-government Arab News said that "real culpability"
rests with those who decided that the "rules of war should be
abandoned" in the global war on terror.
Numerous dailies termed the investigations to date a "whitewash"
that according to Germany's leftist die tageszeitung "merely
scratch the surface of the scandal."
Other observers such as Britain's left-of-center Guardian
connected the "torture scandal" to the "enormous pressure"
on U.S. forces, calling Abu Ghraib "one of the unseen circumstances of
An 'intolerable stain'-- Euro observers also
stressed the "damage that the sordidness" of Abu Ghraib has
caused to the "U.S. image worldwide."
Spain's left-of-center El Pais opined that the "tortures and
abuses" have "damaged the image of the U.S. more than the invasion of
Iraq itself," while Germany's center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine
added that the "Bush administration's moral credibility has melted
away." Other dailies speculated on
how the Abu Ghraib "embarrassment" will affect the global war on
terror. Uganda's state-owned New
Vision warned that "losing the moral high ground by resorting to
terrorist tactics undermines coalition building." Other dailies noted that this new
"chapter in the series of shocks to U.S. credibility" may lead
Washington to "adopt a less holier-than-thou attitude" in its future
The U.S. military's 'discipline and supervision collapsed'-- Conservative dailies called for an "urgent
overhaul" of the U.S. military so as to express "zero tolerance for
the inexcusable sadism practiced" at Abu Ghraib. Several writers defended "how
meticulously" the U.S. military has investigated this "terrible
aberration"; Canada's leading Globe and Mail hailed its "frank
admissions of egregious error." But
other outlets termed prisoner mistreatment "more extensive than previously
acknowledged" and part of a system-wide problem. Mexico's nationalist Universal found
Abu Ghraib a "product of the ways and means that the U.S. has orchestrated
the war" in Iraq. Slovenia's
left-of-center Dnevnik agreed that the "belief that noble goals may
be reached with immoral means is the basic mistake" made in Iraq, and that
"Abu Ghraib is just one of the proofs."
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888,
EDITOR: Ben Goldberg
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media
Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a
representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the
Internet. This report summarizes and
interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views
of the U.S. Government. This analysis
was based on 35 reports from 21 countries over 23 - 31 August 2004. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most
An editorial in the left-of-center Guardian read
(8/27): "The reports, one for the
Pentagon chaired by the former defence secretary James Schlesinger, and the
other for the US army by Generals George Fay and Anthony Jones, describe a
situation in which the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners was more extensive than
previously acknowledged and in which military leadership was found seriously
wanting.... The reports stop short of
placing direct responsibility at the feet of the highest officials involved in
Iraq strategy. But the cumulative effect
of the two reports points clearly in that direction. It was not just individuals who failed. It was a system. Those who are in charge of that system cannot
escape responsibility for abuses that debase not just the US but its allies,
including Britain. But it is not just
Donald Rumsfeld or George Bush who need to look into their souls. The same goes for a lot of Americans, and a
lot of American men in particular....
The things that happened in Abu Ghraib happened because individual
Americans broke the law. But they also
happened because too many Americans are prepared to look in the other direction
or even actively support such abuses.
America is a society with a problem.
That problem erupted in Abu Ghraib.
America has begun to address it.
But it must not slacken off now."
"At Abu Ghraib: Why The U.S. Must Never Allow Such Horrors To
The conservative Times declared (8/26): "The few arrests so far are not
sufficient to restore confidence.
Justice must be exemplary. There
must be an urgent overhaul of US military rules on the treatment of
prisoners. The tough realities of
counter-terrorist operations, as the report says, make it all the more vital
for those involved to be equipped with a 'sharp moral compass.' What happened at Abu Ghraib was a terrible
aberration; but the US will recover respect only when it is clear that there is
zero tolerance for the inexcusable sadism practised there."
"The Responsibility For Abu Ghraib Goes To The Top"
An editorial in the center-left Independent read (8/25): "The same reports of systematic
brutality, gunpoint interrogation, sleep deprivation and sexual humiliation
which came from Abu Ghraib were also voiced by those released from Guantanamo
Bay and Bagram airbase in Afghanistan.
Some of the measures were even enshrined in the official advice of
Pentagon lawyers, who drew up a 72-point matrix of approved 'stress and duress'
techniques for use in interrogation....
Now an official US commission has given its verdict, too. Whatever the show trials in Mannheim find,
few will doubt that George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld are guilty of setting the
moral climate which allowed such behavior to take place."
“Abu Ghraib Excuses: Lack Of Oversight Is A Poor Excuse In
The independent Financial Times declared (8/25): "The Pentagon’s defence seems to rest
largely on ignorance of what was going on in its cell blocks. No evidence has yet been uncovered of Mr.
Rumsfeld or his aides ordering any misconduct.
But they would appear guilty of condoning and encouraging disregard for
established guidelines and laws--U.S. as well as international--on prisoner
treatment.... The Abu Ghraib scandals
are the sorry result. The U.S. cannot
stoop in this way, if it is ever to conquer."
"Pentagon Blamed Over Jail 'Sadism'"
Julian Borger wrote in the left-of-center Guardian
(8/25): "For the first time since
the scandal broke, the Schlesinger report officially made a connection between
the actions...of the Bush administration and the brutal treatment of prisoners.... It depicts the torture scandal as one of the
unseen circumstances of poor planning by the Pentagon leadership."
Pascal Riche wrote in left-of-center Liberation
(8/27): “After the scandal of prisoner
abuse, President Bush suggested that it was the doings of ‘a handful of
individuals'.... The point at the time
was to protect Donald Rumsfeld.... Today
that official version of the facts has been shattered to smithereens.... For the first time the word ‘torture’ is
being used in an official report.”
Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger opined in center-right Frankfurter
Allgemeine (8/27): "A prison in
Baghdad has become the synonym for a misguided, inhuman policy. This is right
in one respect: 'Abu Ghraib' will remain a stigma for the U.S. armed forces for
a long time; but were the cases of abuse and torture really…ordered or at least
tolerated by high officials in the Defense Department? Would that be plausible? In a second report...a 'small group of
morally spoilt soldiers and civilians' were made responsible for the
abuse. This would mean that 20 to 30
people were mainly driven by sadism. But
this would not be a few. And this why
each and every one of the most recent investigative reports come to the same
less flattering result: There is a lack of leadership and supervision of the
military leadership in Iraq. But
irrespective of this fact, it is remarkable how meticulously the military is
investigating this matter, which can hardly be more disastrous for its
reputation and America's moral credibility."
"Torture And Responsibility"
Stefan Kornelius judged in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung
of Munich (8/26): "The part of the
report must be very painful for Rumsfeld that says the abuse in the prisons is
based on the cardinal mistake during the invasion of Iraq: bad planning and too
few forces. This analysis hits the core
of President Bush's election campaign:
the Iraq war was no success, because peace was badly planned. This means
that Bush cannot be a good war president because he is unable to create peace.
Abu Ghraib has destroyed America's image like no other event in recent
history. A responsible official must be
found for this disaster. But as it looks
right now, the voters will make the final decision on November 2."
"Investigation With Smokescreens"
Dietmar Ostermann concluded in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau
(8/26): "The only consequence from
the report is to do it better next time.
Wear sackcloth and ashes. Go off. Whatever the investigative commission will
bring to the surface, it is unlikely that the Defense Department will properly
come to terms with the torture scandal.
This debate cannot occur on this level either, since the downhill slide
on an inclined plane that resulted in Abu Ghraib did not begin in the Pentagon
but the White House. Since President
Bush high-handedly invalidated the protective mechanism of the Geneva
Conventions in Afghanistan and Guantánamo, he created a gray zone that resulted
in all inhibitions being lifted in Iraq.
The president and his defense secretary are politically responsible for
Abu Ghraib. There is no doubt about it,
no vagueness, and no chance to blame others."
"Failure In Abu Ghraib"
Torsten Krauel said in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin
(8/26): "The most important message
of the Schlesinger report is not the fact that military police officers were
able to live out their sadism...but the U.S. professional army bases its war
against a globally operating undercover army of terrorists on dangerous weak
spots. It is too small to counter
quickly unforeseeable complications and too sluggish to confront terrorists at
all fronts.... The Schlesinger
Commission will have had an effect if the U.S. army comes to appreciate the
activities of elite interrogators and psychologically well-trained guards as
well as fully trained combat units. The
war against terrorists is a war that is fought with many weapons. The well trained treatment of fanatics is a
"Looking Away Methodically"
Bernd Pickert argued in leftist die tageszeitung of Berlin
(8/25): "Now it is almost official,
the proceedings against the U.S. soldiers and military police officers who were
involved in the torture scandal in Abu Ghraib merely scratch the surface of the
scandal. The superiors of the chain of
orders reaching up to the heart of the pentagon are at least co-responsible. The reports commissioned by the Defense
Department do not go as far as to accuse the officers of having ordered
torture, they speak of bad leadership and a lack of controls instead. But we could also say: it was a deliberate looking away. The new reports just do enough to support the
U.S. administration's outrage at the crimes of its inferiors. But this is not honest. Coming to terms with the scandal would mean
to discuss the human rights aspect of the U.S. war policy. But this is obviously something others have
Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger said in center-right Frankfurter
Allgemeine (8/25): "Only one
thing is clear right now: Military
discipline and supervision collapsed in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison--and
presumably not only there. A further
commission is now making not a simple private or some NCOs responsible for this
but the civilian and military leadership of the Pentagon.... Even though the report does not draw a direct
line from the Pentagon leadership to the torturers, the verdict is serious,
since the U.S. armed forces like no other army emphasizes implicit discipline
and obedience and thus its duty to supervise.
If the echo of outrage that set in after the publication of the first
torture pictures is a yardstick, then those military officers and civilians who
neglected their supervisory duty caused--or are at least politically
responsible for--serious political damage.
The Bush administration's moral credibility has melted away because of
this and it cut the ground from under the feet of Bush's moral justification of
his Iraq policy. Until election day,
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld...and his closest aides will be able to enjoy a
protective bonus, but it is likely that they will not be members of a second Bush
Business-oriented Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf noted
(8/25): "A clear picture is only
slowly developing from the puzzle over the background of the crimes. Thus far, clear evidence has not been
presented that Defense Secretary Rumsfeld ordered the abuse in Abu Ghraib to
squeeze out more information from the prisoners. But his contradictory remarks concerning the
validity of the Geneva Convention and the enormous pressure to finally end the
permanent attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq obviously resulted in the fact that
the Pentagon did not see what it did not want to see. It is unlikely that Rumsfeld assumes
political responsibility and steps down shortly before the elections. Thus it
is up to the American voters to take the necessary steps."
Dietrich Alexander opined in right-of-center Die Welt of
Berlin (8/24): "For a long time,
Abu Ghraib will remain a synonym for one of the worst crisis of the U.S.
army. What happened there must be fully
investigated and must have consequences....
But the army report did not find any shortcomings based on the system
itself; this means that some psychologically disturbed inferiors were
responsible for the torture and humiliations.... The U.S. military court that has now begun
hearings in Mannheim...will hardly come to a different conclusion. This would be tantamount to an absolution of
the entire U.S. military leadership above Sergeant Federick...but officers and
generals violated their responsibility in Abu Ghraib, too. They should also sit in the dock.... Abu Ghraib is the consequence of mistakes
that are based on the system and should result in reforms, since the system is
ailing because of the lack of quality of its personnel, which does not consider
discipline, its duty to take care of the detainees, and the Geneva Convention a
cornerstone of a democratic army but a negligible luxury during times of
war. The credibility of the U.S. and its
jurisdiction are at stake in Mannheim.
Like in Guantánamo where the first four suspects must answer for their
activities--two and half years after their imprisonment."
ITALY: “Abu Ghraib, A
Boomerang For Rumsfeld”
Bruno Marolo held in pro-democratic left party (DS) L’Unità
(8/25): “Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld was hit by a boomerang. The commission he personally commissioned to
investigate the Abu Ghraib prison abuses yesterday presented a very critical
report. While it doesn’t explicitly blame Secretary Rumsfeld, it does underscore
that the highest levels of the Pentagon contributed to creating an environment
that led to the abuses in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo.... The report emphasized that the Pentagon
failed to carry out its duties. Although it did not order the abuses, it did
not do enough to prevent it. Although Donald Rumsfeld’s name is never
mentioned, it is clear that he is to blame....
It will not be easy for George W. Bush’s government to shelve this
scandal.... It’s becoming increasingly
difficult for the government to put the blame on a small group of soldiers.”
House On Night Shift' In Abu Ghraib"
Conor O'Cleary wrote in the center-left Irish Times
(8/25): "While not explicitly
faulting top Pentagon chiefs, Mr Schlesinger said: ‘Corrective action could and
should have been taken right up the chain of command as far as Washington is
concerned.’ This aspect of the report is an embarrassment for Defence Secretary
Mr Donald Rumsfeld and Gen Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
who is also faulted for not exercising sufficient oversight of confusing
policies and interrogation techniques....
Criticism of Mr Rumsfeld and other senior officials was limited,
however, to not exercising sufficient oversight. None will be singled out as
legally culpable or for reprimand, Pentagon officials said.... The report by Mr Schlesinger and the army
findings are likely to be greeted with scepticism by critics, who believe that
the abuse of prisoners was sanctioned higher up.”
For The Abuse"
Newspaper-of-record Aftenposten observed (8/27): "There is enough evidence that Donald
Rumsfeld both accepted and initiated the prisoner abuse at variance with the
Geneva Conventions. The type of attitude this reveals explains why Rumsfeld did
not tidy up before a public announcement forced him to. It is almost incredible
that the President protects an ideologically blinded Secretary of Defense who
is misleading his own Chief of Staff to lead his country into a war that was
contrary to international law, where the results have proven catastrophic to
both the Iraqis and to the U.S.
Unfortunately this says a lot about the current administration of the
POLAND: "Bad Times For
Dawid Warszawski wrote in liberal Gazeta Wyborcza
(8/28-29): "The September 11
attacks and the ‘war on terror’ that started as a consequence, changed the
human rights situation worldwide as profoundly as the collapse of communism.
The change is for the worse. The current behavior of the U.S...constitutes a
threat to all the achievements accomplished so far in the area of human
SLOVENIA: "When Big
Fish Slip Away"
Dean Zagorac held in left-of-center independent Dnevnik
(8/26): "It is clear that the Bush
Administration did nothing to stop abuse. One does not even dare think that top
military leaders did not know what their soldiers were doing in the
field.... From this point of view, it is
quickly obvious why the Bush Administration is so afraid of the ICC and any
other similar institution. Fear that such a tribunal would...investigate
responsibility of [top officials] rather than fear that American soldiers would
be exposed to politically motivated processes is the reason.... Most cases with which ICTY has been dealing,
are based on the so called commander's responsibility.... Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic
is in prison because of commander’s responsibility. If the U.S. recognized an international
institution similar to ICTY, which would be responsible for acts performed by
American citizens, Milosevic would certainly be joined by someone from the top
of the Bush Administration because of the Abu Ghraib abuse."
"Abu Ghraib As A Turning Point"
Igor Mekina stated in left-of-center independent Dnevnik
(8/26): "Rare are the moments in
which the injustice of a war reveals itself so clearly in its immorality. The
disclosure of the Pentagon's responsibility for abuse in Abu Ghraib is one of
the turning points in the war in Iraq....
Each war can be considered just or unjust on the basis of the reasons
that led to it. One can also determine
whether the war is in accordance with the rules of war judging by the means
used by soldiers.... Assessments of a
war's nature and how it is conducted are absolutely separate. It is possible to
lead a 'just war’ with 'improper means', or vice versa, to lead a very 'unjust
war' following all international conventions and rules of combat. Only from
this point of view, the entire depth of the American military's moral defeat
can be understood.... Before Abu Ghraib,
most of the world considered the war in Iraq unjust...but the U.S. and the
coalition of the willing carried it out in accordance with international
regulations.... The war for
democracy...eventually transferred itself into an occupation after the Abu
Ghraib abuses and the constant bombing of Iraqi cities. The belief that noble goals may be reached
with immoral means is the basic mistake of this occupation.... Abu Ghraib is just one among the proofs for
the U.S. of this. The very unusual and
revolutionary logic of the conservatives in power is leading them to a hell of
new immoral wars along a path paved with best intentions."
SPAIN: "Environment Of
Left-of-center El País editorialized (8/25): "The tortures and abuses of prisoners in
the sinister prison of Abu Ghraib have damaged the image of the U.S. more than
the invasion of Iraq itself, especially in the Arab world. The doubts over who is responsible will not
be cleared up with the independent political report.... It's not believable that the use of
torture...is presented as simple defects of organization, command, training,
lack of means and insufficient supervision, a result of the chaos that reigned
in Abu Ghraib.... There were errors and
crimes in the chain of command, be they of act or omission. The people responsible must be
accountable. The U.S. can not allow
itself this impunity, under penalty of completely losing the moral authority
that it needs as much as its enormous military superiority. This is not the way to put into effect the
plan of 'exporting democracy' that the Bush Administration has talked
"The Pandora's Box Of Abu Ghraib"
Independent El Mundo stated (8/25): "Abu Ghraib is a catalogue of
humiliations that should shame those responsible in the U.S. forces.... In spite of the hardness of the report, there
is no sign of resignations at the apex (of the Pentagon).... But something must have failed in the U.S.
for that prison to turn into a kind of torture chamber under allied
command. It's easy to imagine the damage
that the sordidness of these histories causes the U.S. image worldwide. The difference with regimes like Saddam's is
that, in democracies, the truth is always known, thanks to the good job of the
media. And, above all, that the citizens can throw out of power those political
leaders responsible for the existence of Abu Ghraib's Pandora's box."
Aggressive, pro-government Al-Akhbar
surmised (8/26): "At long last,
[the reports] have officially confirmed that the bestial crimes the Americans
perpetrated were not individual cases...[but rather] were committed with the
blessing of the highest echelons.... If
[such] a report was issued on any [other] country, the U.S. would fill the
world with an uproar about human rights."
SAUDI ARABIA: "Abu
The pro-government English-language Arab News editorialized
(8/26): "Until now, the only
mitigating circumstance for the Americans in the Abu Ghraib prison outrage has
been the apparent readiness of the authorities to investigate and charge those
responsible. However, there were always those who predicted a cover-up.... This week it looks like those predictions are
coming true.... No credence was given to
claims that the policy of abusing detainees was approved by Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld. The commission found only that there had been muddle and
confusion over the supervision of prisoner treatment.... There are clear international rules set out
for the treatment of enemy prisoners. All the lack of clarity and confusion in
the world should not stop any military force, especially the army of a country
that prides itself so much on the rule of law, from conforming to those rules.
If the American Army really is the disciplined fighting machine that the
Pentagon presents it as, then its soldiers are unlikely to break clear
international rules which must have been part of their training, unless they
were acting under orders.... The guards
who have been charged all claim they were acting under orders. That lessens but
does not remove their guilt because they had the power, indeed the duty, to
refuse an illegal order. The real culpability would, however, lie with the
persons who decided that the rules of war should be abandoned. If it was the
colonels, they cannot be let off. If it goes still higher, then the
investigation must follow the chain of command to where the original order was
given.... Unless everyone who was
actively or passively involved in the depravities is brought to account, the
protests by the Bush administration that it was sickened by the revelations of
mistreatment will never have any meaning."
SYRIA: "Who Is
Violating Human Rights?"
Hisham Bashir opined in government-owned Tishreen
(8/28): "What was leaked from the
Abu-Ghurayb scandal might only be a small part of what actually happened in
that prison. The UN and international human right organizations, therefore, need
to intervene to establish a fair, objective, and independent investigation
commission to reveal these flagrant and serious human right violations. The
matter should not be left to the concerned party to set up a commission under
the supervision of the Pentagon to come up with a report absolving the real
culprit. What was leaked from Abu
Ghurayb might be a replica of what happened and is still happening in
Guantanamo prison, which is out of sight of watchdogs, human right
establishments, and international organizations. We find the same thing in Israeli jails,
where thousands of Palestinian prisoners and detainees are subjected to the
most horrible forms of physical and psychological torture. Some of them are
martyred under torture. And here is Israel turning its back on the open-ended
hunger strike in prisons and on all angry international reactions."
"Whitewash At The White House?"
The expatriate-oriented English-language Gulf
News declared (8/26): "It
should surprise no one that a report called for by the U.S. Defence Secretary
to review military detention procedures exonerates the very person who
appointed the investigation committee: Donald Rumsfeld. The report concedes
there were administrative mistakes, but they were made in the military command,
not the policy-making side. So Rumsfeld gets off, with even a passing (verbal)
reference to his competence.... When
asked if Rumsfeld should resign, he said the only people who would want that
would be the enemies of America. Not
true.... It should be remembered that
Rumsfeld is the darling of the American press; eminently quotable, frequently
contentious. However, last May he claimed that as the events happened on 'his
watch' then he had a responsibility for what had happened at Abu Ghraib (and
elsewhere). If that is so, then it includes the failure in command structure,
which is one of the main criticisms that comes from the report.... The 'man on watch' was Rumsfeld: he has to
CHINA: "U.S. Army
Abuses War-Prisoners And High-Level Officials Gloss Over Mistakes"
The English-language official People's Daily commented
(8/23): "For a period of time, the
scandals about the US army's organized abuses of war prisoners in Iraq have
been growing daily.... Meanwhile, the
investigation with regard to the problem of prisoner abuse likewise reveals to
be a shocking ignominy.... Joseph M.
Darby...handed over photos showing the troops' abuses of the war prisoners
there. Some of the soldiers were ruled guilty because of it.... Now, the Darby family in Maryland is
suffering from death threats.... From
the sufferings of Darby's family we can come to know that the investigation
into the US army's war-prisoner abuse scandal has not only met with the
hindrance from U.S. military high officials but also the pressures from the
public. Once the narrow-minded patriotism and nationalism come to a vicious
swelling the significance of what is true and wrong becomes perverted, and justice
and truth are no longer anything holy.
Actually, the US army's abuses of war prisoners are by no means limited
to Iraq alone. The same things can be found in Afghanistan, in the prison of
Guantanamo naval base and other places. In almost all processes of arrest,
conveyance and lock-up and sentence they are suffering from maltreatment and
persecution in different ways and degrees and those being maltreated are by no
means limited to the Muslims but also include prisoners from western countries.
As many critiques and analyses hold, what happened in the Abu Ghraib Prison in
Iraq was only a tip of an iceberg with only a few unfortunate scapegoats caught
so as to gloss over the decision-makers and other executors behind the
scene.... The predicament of Darby's
family can serve as a mirror, reflecting a horrible social existence of an
extreme feeling whereas at the same time it also admonishes the American people
to take a reasonable view of what their own country has done, been doing and is
going to do."
"The Truth Is Acknowledged"
Trung Hieu wrote in official Hanoi city government-run Ha Noi
Moi (8/31): "A committee for
investigation of activities at U.S. military prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan and a
part of Cuba's territory on August 24 said flaws in the leadership of Pentagon
officials are the main reason for mistreatments of prisoners at Abu Ghraib
prison in Iraq.... The continuation of
illegal detentions at prisons run by the U.S. military is eroding the image of
the U.S.... But what the committee has
been doing is necessary, at least in the first place for the prisoners who were
and are being abused by the U.S. military."
"The Real Damage"
The pro-BJP right-of-center Pioneer held
(8/27): "The report of the
commission headed by a former U.S. Secretary of Defense, James Schlesinger,
which has held failure of the leadership at the Pentagon responsible for the
abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, will hurt President Bush's campaign for
re-election. It has blamed America's top
generals for failing to make sufficient manpower and resources available at Abu
Ghraib and the rest of the gargantuan network of military prisons that has been
established around the world.... The
damage to Bush will be all the greater because the report comes at a time when
there is a growing realization in the U.S. and the rest of world that the
coalition forces' invasion of Iraq was at best based on wrong information about
Saddam Hussein's possession of WMD, and that the fighting is likely to stretch
indefinitely, taking a steady toll of American lives.... If the exposure of the abuse of prisoners at
Abu Ghraib has damaged Bush's re-election prospects, it has also severely
undermined America's claim of being the world's leading defender of human
rights. One hopes that Washington realizes this and adopts a less
holier-than-thou attitude when talking to India about the highly exaggerated
reports of human rights abuse in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere.... As the Vietnam and Iraq wars and other
low-intensity conflicts have shown, it is next to impossible to entirely avoid
human rights violations during counter-insurgency operations. India tries its best to avoid these and has
punished those guilty. One now waits to
see how the U.S. deals with those behind the atrocities at Abu Ghraib."
UGANDA: "America Must
The state-owned New Vision editorialized (8/29): "When the story of the abuse of Iraqi
prisoners in Abu Ghraib Prison broke, the U.S. army said it was an ‘aberration’
not official policy. Two official reports for the Pentagon and the US army
published this week, however, indicate that the ‘aberrations’ were indeed a
failure of systems and the military leadership.... The Abu Ghraib abuse was similar to the abuse
in Guantanamo Bay and Afghanistan. Nudity was a tactic of choice. Former defense secretary James Schlesinger
who wrote the report for the Pentagon detailed acts of 'brutality and
purposeless sadism.' He agreed with the
generals that abuses were triggered by a lack of discipline at several levels
and 'a failure or lack of leadership by multiple echelons.' The war on international terrorism is not
about to end. America, the self appointed leader of this fight needs allies.
Losing the moral high ground by resorting to terrorist tactics undermines
coalition building and casts the allies in a negative light."
The leading Globe and Mail editorialized (8/26): "The most striking aspect of the
Schlesinger commission's scathing report into the U.S. military's abuse of
Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison is that it came to light at all. For a document
such as this--bursting with frank admissions of egregious error at every level
of the military chain of command--to emerge from the governing establishment of
a nation at war is remarkable. For it to emerge in an election year from an
inquiry led by a former Republican defence secretary, James Schlesinger, is
even more so. The Schlesinger report, together with an equally withering
postmortem released yesterday by the U.S. Army, give the lie to claims that the
U.S. government is out of control. On the contrary, these and earlier reports
critical of U.S. intelligence show that the Bush administration--whatever its
failings--continues to operate within a vigorous set of checks and balances
that make those in many democracies (including Canada) look tepid by
comparison. Having said that, it's also
clear now that Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld contributed to the chaotic
climate in which the Abu Ghraib abuses took place.... Rumsfeld...earlier vowed to quit the moment
he could no longer be effective in his job. That moment is now past.... Given election-year politics, it is unlikely
that Mr. Rumsfeld will step down. But he should."
"Abu Ghraib's Abuse"
The liberal Toronto Star opined (8/26): "Most U.S. troops acted honourably.
Of 50,000 prisoners in Cuba, Afghanistan
and Iraq, fewer than 300 have been abused. But some were. And five were killed.
In his zeal to squeeze terrorists, Rumsfeld approved 'augmented' interrogation
techniques: shouting at prisoners,
terrifying them with dogs, stripping them naked, forcing them to stand for long
periods, depriving them of light and sleep.
Later he would rescind that guidance, sowing confusion. But some U.S.
interrogators felt they got the gist of Rumsfeld's mixed signals. They
unleashed the dogs."
ARGENTINA: "Abu Ghraib
Abuses: Report Points To Pentagon Chief"
Ana Baron noted in leading Clarin
(8/25): "Every time the Pentagon
has tried to establish if Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is responsible for the
abuse suffered by Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib, the result has always been the
same: 'Yes, but no.' The conclusions of a panel chaired by one of his
predecessors, James Schlesinger, which were disclosed yesterday, weren't an
exception: they were completely the opposite.
According to Schlesinger, Rumsfeld and the military top brass created
the conditions, but weren't the ones to issue the orders that enabled the
abuses.... Schlesinger declared that the
panel determined that more than 300 episodes of abuse were not isolated issues,
as President Bush declared, but involved many people. Schlesinger said there
was a great deal of sadism.... In any
event, everything indicates that Rumsfeld will come out of the process
undamaged. One of the judges in charge of the military trials rejected a
petition of one of the accused soldiers, who requested that Rumsfeld be forced
to testify in his trial."
BRAZIL: "The Report Is
Another Shock To U.S. Credibility"
Independent Jornal do Brasil maintained (8/26): "The report on the Abu Ghraib
prison...is another chapter in the series of shocks to U.S. credibility after
its erratic action in Iraq. The report blames Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the
American military commanders whose failures have allowed ‘'moments of chaos,
with acts of sadism'.... The report
stresses that the abuses were not the action of a single group, as the Bush
administration states. Over 300 cases are being investigated. Such evidence becomes an intolerable stain on
a country which has been [a solid] supporter of human and individual rights.
Such values today are smeared not only by Abu Ghraib, but also by the
successive testimonies of mistreatment at the Guantanamo base.”
MEXICO: "An American
Animal Farm "
Ricardo Raphael asserted in nationalist Universal
(8/27): "Nevertheless, those
photos...demonstrated that Westerners--despite the Geneva Convention and their
speeches full of human rights--are also capable of turning into animals if
there's an authority that allows it. To
excuse the army's highest officials, the report tries to explain that this hell
was produced because the circumstances overwhelmed the capacity of the chain of
command. In Schlesinger's words, what happened in Abu Gharib was 'a mental
state, a sort of animal farm arising from a military failure.' In effect, the mental state that dominated in
Abu Gharib is a product of the ways and means that the U.S. has orchestrated
the war in the Middle East."