Rumsfeld’s shameful legacy, democracy at risk in Asia, and other observations…

By Jefferson Flanders

With a tip of the cap to legendary New York newspaperman Jimmy Cannon, nobody asked me, but…

DONALD RUMSFELD’S SHAMEFUL LEGACY at the Defense Department is spotlighted in Seymour Hersh’s New Yorker article “The General’s Report.” Hersh’s piece is based on interviews with retired Army Major General Antonio M. Taguba; Taguba makes it clear that Rumsfeld and much of the military brass knew about the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib when they were publicly claiming ignorance in sworn testimony before Congress.

Taguba had been tasked with investigating reports of abuse, although he told Hersh that he was prevented from investigating the involvement of higher military and civilian authorities outside of those MPs responsible for security at Abu Ghraib. Taguba’s argument is that Rumsfeld and his staff failed the nation; he is quoted at length in the article on the conflict between the military values of “loyalty, duty, honor, integrity and selfless service” and what he saw first in investigating Abu Ghraib. Taguba also said:

“…I know that my peers in the Army will be mad at me for speaking out, but the fact is that we violated the laws of land warfare in Abu Ghraib. We violated the tenets of the Geneva Convention. We violated our own principles, and we violated the core of our military values. The stress of combat is not an excuse, and I believe, even today, that those civilian and military leaders responsible should be held accountable.”

As the then Secretary of Defense, Rumsfeld had final responsibility for the conduct of the U.S. military; in this latest New Yorker piece, and in others, Hersh has shown that Rumsfeld personally approved interrogation tactics used at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. He should be held accountable, legally and morally, for what occurred on his watch.

AUTHOR SAM TANENHAUS LOOKS at American politics—Left and Right—over the past last six decades in his New Republic piece “From Whittaker Chambers to George W. Bush; The End of the Journey” and draws some interesting and critical comparisons between the Cold War battle against international Communism and today’s struggle with international jihadism.

Tanenhaus concludes: “Yes, we are now in conflict with a grim adversary, but not with an opponent superpower, nor with anything resembling an empire, and it does no good to pretend otherwise. Not every good fight is a millennial fight.”

SADLY, BARRY BONDS WILL BREAK Hank Aaron’s home-run record (of 755) in the next few weeks. But, as the Associated Press reminds us, Bonds has been “dogged by questions of possible steroid use” and a dramatic change in his body “over the course of his career.”

That the Giants slugger has been voted an All-Star game starter by the fans serves to highlight the denial of Bonds’s sordid past. By refusing to confront, and stop, steroid use, Major League Baseball will now see one of sport’s most treasured records tarnished. Say it ain’t so…

MITT ROMNEY IS GETTING BAD PRESS OVER HIS TREATMENT OF THE FAMILY IRISH SETTER. USA Today‘s On Politics blog notes that a Boston Globe profile of GOP presidential hopeful Romney has stirred a mini-controversy because of this anecdote: “In 1983, Romney’s dog made a 12-hour trip from Boston to Ontario in a kennel lashed to the top of the family station wagon.” Picked up by Time magazine (headlined “Romney’s Cruel Canine Vacation”), the story provoked the outrage of some animal rights activists. Romney says his dog liked to ride on top of the car. File under: Only in America.

WILLIAM PESEK’S DISTURBING BLOOMBERG NEWS COLUMN, “Democracy Can Wait While Asia’s Economies Boom,” suggests that “China’s un-American views on democracy are gaining favor in Asia.” Pesek notes that weak government institutions and corruption can be found in some Asian democracies (the Phillipines, for example) and adds:

The other reason democracy isn’t thriving in many parts of Asia is disillusionment with the process, coupled with the example offered by China. Instead of U.S.-style government, Asia may be moving toward “illiberal democracy.”

The phrase was made popular by Fareed Zakaria in a Foreign Affairs article in 1997, the same year the Asian crisis began. It refers to a model in which leaders are elected to some extent, but civil liberties and press freedom are kept under tight watch in the name of stability. Some call such leaders “elected autocrats.”

Pesek warns that the priorities are economic growth, then “full-blown democracy.” American diplomatic efforts to link democracy to prosperity are partly to blame: utilitarian arguments for the rule of law and democratic institutions as essential primarily for economic reasons are less effective when China is an example of growth without democracy. We should be talking about freedom (and individual rights) more, and the conditions under which it flourishes, rather than advancing the cause of global capitalism.

IS COUNTRY MUSIC LURING ROCK FANS? David Browne in a recent New York Times piece suggested that country has become “the rock of this decade (the place many fans had to go to hear anthemic choruses and power chords).” Some evidence: Bon Jovi’s new country-tinged album “Lost Highway” and Canadian country rock group Doc Walker‘s hit cover of Del Amitri’s “Driving with the Brakes On.”

GORDON BROWN, BRITAIN’S NEW PRIME MINISTER, CANNOT DRIVE. According to Quentin Letts of the Daily Mail of London, that makes him the first British PM since Clement Attlee of the late 1940s who doesn’t operate a motor car: ” In part this is because he [Brown] lost the sight of his left eye in a sporting injury at school.”

20TH CENTURY ENGLISH MYSTERY WRITER DOROTHY L. SAYERS provides this month’s words of wisdom: “While time lasts there will always be a future, and that future will hold both good and evil, since the world is made to that mingled pattern.”

Reprinted from Neither Red nor Blue

Copyright © 2007 Jefferson Flanders

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