Opinion

Bush misplays Iraqi scandal with mea culpa

Monday, May 17, 2004

The actions of a few have disgraced the noble service of many.

By now, I'm sure you've all heard of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal. The situation involved the systematic abuse of Iraqi POWs by a handful of American soldiers, both male and female, numbering around a dozen. These sad excuses for Americans displayed their idiocy by documenting their exploits with photos.

The story has been largely overblown by the media, but has caused a downward spiral of poor decisions by the Bush administration.

Following the media explosion of coverage last week, President Bush went before the Arab Street and groveled for its forgiveness. That's right, the president of the United States went before a group of people who understand only strength and displayed weakness.

Now, I agree that the situation had to be addressed, but the way the president went about it was all wrong. He could have taken the opportunity to reassure Iraqis (and Arabs in general) that these actions are not condoned by the United States. He could have pointed out the freedom that the 140,000+ American troops have provided to them. He could have explained that under a Constitutional Republic, people who perpetuate evil are punished accordingly, but no, the president groveled for forgiveness from a position of weakness.

Millions of innocent Iraqis who knew much worse under Saddam Hussein saw this, but so did our enemies -- the thousands of terrorists currently murdering American servicemen on a daily basis.

Why was this apology even necessary? After all, we have received no such apology and seen no such outrage for the four American civilian contractors who were burned to death, mutilated and strung from a bridge last month. We have received no such apology and seen no such outrage for the near 800 American military personnel who have died to ensure freedom and liberty for the Iraqi populace and very little Arab/Muslim outrage for the recent beheading of American civilian contractor Nick Berg.

Put it in perspective. By supporting the president's decision to apologize for what amounts to a few twisted individuals, we have condoned the inexcusable lack of remorse and outrage from Iraqis for American death in their defense.

Now, am I attempting to downplay the occurrences at Abu Ghraib? Not at all, these remote incidents are shameful and have no place in American society. But these were isolated incidents carried out by a few bad apples. These soldiers in no way represent the American military as a whole, and if the Iraqi people don't understand this by now, they, quite frankly, aren't worth defending. This was not cause enough for President Bush to issue a formal apology.

The president continued the spiral after Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's acceptance of responsibility for the abuse scandal. Now, I admit that Rumsfeld should have accepted responsibility, but, other than President Bush's endorsement, Rumsfeld has been left to hang in the wind, taking abuse from both the media and partisan politicians. Why is no one else in the administration (such as Vice President Cheney and Condi Rice) offering support for the embattled defense secretary? Rumsfeld, a man who helped to successfully organize and execute the war on terror, deserves defense from the administration he has so loyally served.

Yet, the saga continues. Apparently, there are nearly 250 photos depicting Iraqi POWs in various states of undress. Shocking? Yes, but not comparable to the daily kidnapping, rape, torture and murder of Iraqi children by Uday Hussein under his father's regime.

In consultation with the Pentagon, Bush has decided to suppress the release of these photos in full, choosing instead to allow partisan politicians (whom were allowed to view the photos) fuel for attacks from now until Election Day. If the administration truly wanted this behind it, it would release all of the photos at once to avoid prolonging this fiasco any longer than necessary.

No, instead of getting it all out in the open, the administration has decided to drag this out for a while, hoping, I suppose, it will go away. Note to President Bush: This isn't going away, especially with liberals like Ted Kennedy looking for anything to exploit to get Bush out of office. The best thing the president can do is release all the photos, not appearing to hide anything.

Despite the president's decisions, it is truly a shame that a dozen or so soldiers can take all the attention from the noble efforts of 140,000+ others -- fighting and dying for freedom and liberty in a country that has only known terror and oppression. Only in America.