Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America does not think Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld should be held accountable for the actions of a handful of prison guards in Iraq. But he also believes the White House has mishandled the controversy. He would like to see the White House respond by declaring that, before a request for Rumsfeld to resign is even considered, John Kerry should apologize and resign from the United States Senate for having admitted that he committed war crimes in Vietnam. Pratt’s views were reported by Agape Press, a Christian news service that notes that more and more people are beginning to understand that the Iraqi prisoner story is being driven by an aggressive anti-Bush media.
Another good example of the administration’s mishandling of the controversy came in response to another Seymour Hersh story in the New Yorker. Hersh broke the story of a general’s secret report finding that Army personnel had abused Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Now he is out with another story trying to link Secretary Rumsfeld directly to the abuse. A five-paragraph Pentagon release calls assertions in the Hersh article “outlandish, conspiratorial, and filled with error and anonymous conjecture.” It says the abuse was not sanctioned or approved, and that the Hersh story “seems to reflect the fevered insights of those with little, if any, connection to the activities in the Department of Defense.”
That’s backed up by Specialist Jeremy Sivits, a guard at the prison who told military investigators that the abuse was done without the knowledge of their superiors. “Our command would have slammed us,” he said. “They believe in doing the right thing. If they saw what was going on, there would be hell to pay.”
Those statements are fine, but in Seymour Hersh they are dealing with a reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize for breaking the story about the American massacre of Vietnamese civilians in My Lai during the Vietnam War. Hersh is currently treated like a font of holy knowledge by much of the media. However, the truth is that many in the media didn’t have much regard for his unflattering book about President John Kennedy. His New Yorker story about faulty intelligence used by the Clinton administration in the military strike on a factory in Sudan was generally ignored. They prefer it when he targets Republicans.
There is a lesson here for President Bush. Many remember the villain in the My Lai story, Lt. William Calley, who was court-martialed, but many forget the name of Hugh Thompson, the U.S. Army helicopter pilot who saved some of the civilians and reported what happened. Similarly, Taguba’s report cites three men who tried to stop the abuse of the prisoners. One of them, Lt. David Sutton, alerted his commanders.
Columnist Michelle Malkin says, “For the sake of all good Americans, President Bush, punish the wrongdoers [and] reward the right-doers?” That’s the key: bring forward those soldiers who did the right thing and honor them. That will do far more to quell the latest Seymour Hersh story than a five-paragraph press release.