Sunday, May 16, 2004


What can you say when the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs of the Department of Defense writes a letter like this to the Washington Post.

Saturday, May 15, 2004; Page A22

The Post's focus on the possible uncertainty of the international legal status of the detainees held by the United States as the reason for the shocking abuse shown in the photos from Abu Ghraib detention facility is misplaced and wrongheaded ["Protecting the System," editorial, May 12].

The issue is moot with respect to Iraq because all individuals detained there are explicitly covered by some aspect of the Geneva Conventions.

Nevertheless, The Post's continued editorializing on narrow definitions of international laws and whether our soldiers understand them puts The Post in the same company as those involved in this despicable behavior in terms of apparent disregard for basic human dignity.

To focus -- as the editorial does -- on the soldiers' level of training or their understanding of international treaties is to suggest that those coda dictate: "Don't force another individual to stand naked with electrodes attached to him."

The behavior shown in the photos is depraved and sadistic. It violates the most basic teachings of human behavior that people learn before kindergarten, not just Army regulations and international conventions.


Here is the editorial to which di Rita refers.

...for those a bit confused -- di Rita is trying to imply that the Post was trying to finely parse our international agreements in order to wonder if the actions in the prison could be legal - or at least reasonably be thought to be legal - by those bad seven soldiers. What the Post was, of course discussing, was whether Rumsfeld, Cambone, and the gang were trying to use legalese to muddy up the waters to promote a system in which these abuses could take place.

So, di Rita misrepresents the Post, accuses it of being morally equivalent to torturers based on that misrepresentation, and tries to throw the entire blame onto the 7 soldiers involved by saying any decent person would know this stuff is wrong.

di Rita is correct - any decent person would. But, sadly, the people running this country and the people running military intelligence and the people running that prison were not decent people.