Phil Carter, over at Intel Dump, has penned a remarkably even-tempered (if ultimately condemning) response to the whitewash over command responsibility at Abu Gh'raib. In his first update, he concludes:
Despite these generals' findings, none of the officers responsible for facilitating these abuses will face criminal charges. Or, put another way, the Army IG has wholly disregarded the record evidence before him to arrive at an arbitrary and capricious decision that the senior Army leaders involved should face no legal consequences for their actions. What kind of message does that send to our junior military leaders? What kind of message does that send to the world?
This is a lot more generous than I would have been. It's taken me three days to keep the venom in this message to a publicly displayable level.
The IG's report presents a truly disturbing contrast with other recent international-law and law-of-war activities, particularly including the ongoing trial of Slobodan Milosevic. Milosevic can at least rationalize (although not justify) that he was participating in a centuries-long struggle between ethnic groups. In turn, this leads to an even more cynical view of the US refusal to participate in the ICJ. What this really says, more than anything else, is that our whitewashes are morally and ethically acceptable, but nobody else's are, and most particularly that anyone else who ever questions the results of our disciplinary process (or the lack thereof) has no right to do soprimarily because they're not 'murikans. There are more horrible historical examples of the consequences of this attitude than I can begin to name. For our purposes today, perhaps the most aptand, given the new Pope, most subversiveexample is the Spanish Inquisition, which was funded by confiscation of the property of those who "assisted it with certain inquiries."
When I resigned my commission, I stated that "I have lost confidence in the senior military and civilian leadership of the Air Force; I believe that my oath of commissioning requires me to tender my resignation in these circumstances." This is precisely the kind of nonsense that had led me to lose confidence in the leadership. And, sad to say, the other services are worse… as the Army has just demonstrated. The message sent by the IG's whitewash is precisely that sent by the Calley/Medina fiascos. After a pretty thorough examination of the relevant files, I do not believe that either Calley or Medina should have been acquitted by court-martial; they were both guilty of war crimes. The Army, however, essentially cut off the inquiry for command responsibility at the company commander, despite clear evidence that the operations order came from battalion (and possibly brigade) authority. Of course, both of those commanders were by then dead, and perhaps a court-martial of their staffs would have had serious evidentiary problems. There is no such reason to allow dereliction of this nature to escape even a probable-cause hearing under Article 31 for Abu Gh'raib.
Of course, part of the problem comes from the White House, in its cramped and inexcusable effort to classify what previous reports have amply demonstrated occurred over there as not unlawful. Just because the civilian leadership has been derelict in the performance of its duty, though, does not excuse military dereliction. The officer corps is supposed to take care of its own problems… regardless of rank.