THE BLOG

Rumsfeld: What, Me Worry?

The Times reports that the Army whistleblower pursuing the exposure of detainee abuse believes that the Army is more interested in harassing him and his fellow truth-tellers than in rooting out torture.

"I'm convinced this is going in a direction that's not consistent with why we came forward," Captain Fishback told the Times. "We came forward because of the larger issue that prisoner abuse is systemic in the Army. I'm concerned this will take a new twist, and they'll try to scapegoat some of the younger soldiers. This is a leadership problem."

(Credit to reporter Eric Schmitt for getting Fishback on the record for the first time.)

As if to confirm Fishback's supicions, this is what Donald Rumsfeld said when asked about the torture: "All I know is that the Army is taking it seriously. To the extent somebody's done something that they shouldn't have done, they'll be punished for it."

Mr. Rumself is the secretary of defense. If all he knows is that the Army "is taking it seriously," then he is profoundly ignorant of extremely grave allegations regarding the men under his charge. It is hard to know what's worse: whether Rumsfeld is telling the truth about his ignorance, or whether he's lying in an attempt to disassociate himself from the horror of Americans torturing their prisoners.

Let's move on to the "Army is taking it seriously" part. Never mind that the Army tried to cover up these allegations for seventeen months, until Fishback finally resorted to speaking to Senate investigators. It amuses me, in a dark sort of way, that Rumsfeld makes this statement as if it is meaningful. To take allegations of torture seriously is not an accomplishment; it is not something to be proud of. It is a responsibility; it is a bare minimum. In any event, the Army's response—trying to root out the whistleblowers—suggests that it is taking the matter seriously not because torture is wrong, but because it is bad public relations.

Finally, Rumsfeld again: "To the extent that somebody's done something wrong, they will be punished for it."

Implicit in Rumsfeld's statement is the suggestion that any misdeeds are merely the work of wrongheaded individuals (giving credence to Fishback's concern that younger soldiers will be scapegoated). There's no acknowledgment of Fishback's charge that this torture was systemic. Until he at least addresses that issue, Rumsfeld isn't dealing with the problem of torture.

But one can see why he's dodging: Because if the torture is systemic, then it stems from the culture of the military, which he leads, and the character of this war, which he promoted.

Perhaps Capt. Fishback and Donald Rumsfeld could trade places? Fishback could run the Pentagon, and Rumsfeld could go fight in Iraq....