Efforts at the top level of the Bush administration and the civilian echelon of the Department of Defense to contain the Iraq prison torture scandal and limit the blame to a handful of enlisted soldiers and immediate senior officers have already failed: The scandal continues to metastasize by the day.
Over the past weekend and into this week, devastating new allegations have emerged putting Stephen Cambone, the first Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, firmly in the crosshairs and bringing a new wave of allegations cascading down on the head of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, when he scarcely had time to catch his breath from the previous ones.
Even worse for Rumsfeld and his coterie of neo-conservative true believers who have run the Pentagon for the past 3½ years, three major institutions in the Washington power structure have decided that after almost a full presidential term of being treated with contempt and abuse by them, it’s payback time.
Those three institutions are: The United States Army, the Central Intelligence Agency and the old, relatively moderate but highly experienced Republican leadership in the United States Senate.
None of those groups is chopped liver: Taken together they comprise a devastating Grand Slam.
The spearhead for the new wave of revelations and allegations - but by no means the only source of them - is veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh. In a major article published in the New Yorker this week and posted on to its Web-site Saturday, Hersh revealed that a high-level Pentagon operation code-named Copper Green “encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation” of Iraqi prisoners. He also cited Pentagon sources and consultants as saying that photographing the victims of such abuse was an explicit part of the program meant to force the victims into becoming blackmailed reliable informants.
Hersh further claimed in his article that Rumsfeld himself approved the program and that one of his four or five top aides, Cambone, set it up in Baghdad and ran it.
Based on the material Hersh quoted, his legendary intelligence community contacts were probably sources for some of his information. However, Hersh has also enjoyed close personal relations with many now high-ranking officers in the United States Army, going all the way back to his prize-winning coverage and scoops in Vietnam more than 30 years ago.
Indeed, intelligence and regular Army sources have told UPI that senior officers and officials in both communities are sickened and outraged by the revelations of mass torture and abuse, and also by the incompetence involved, in the Abu Ghraib prison revelations. These sources also said that officials all the way up to the highest level in both the Army and the Agency are determined not to be scapegoated, or allow very junior soldiers or officials to take the full blame for the excesses.
Time for a military coup? In the USA? Well, you can only shit on people so many times before they start to notice it.
Republican members in the House of Representatives have kept discipline and silence on the revelations. But with the exception of the increasingly isolated and embarrassed Senate Republican Leader, Bill Frist of Tennessee, other senior mainstream figures in the GOP Senate majority have refused to go along with any cover-up.
Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Richard Lugar of Indiana, Pat Roberts of Kansas and John Warner of Virginia have all been outspoken in their condemnation of the torture excesses. And they did so even before the latest, most far-reaching and worst of the allegations and reports surfaced. Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, lost no time in hauling Rumsfeld before it to testify.
The pattern of the latest wave of revelations is clear: They are coming from significant numbers of senior figures in both the U.S. military and intelligence services. They reflect the disgust and contempt widely felt in both communities at the excesses; and at long last, they are being listened to seriously by senior Republican, as well as Democratic, senators on Capitol Hill.
Rumsfeld and his team of top lieutenants have therefore now lost the confidence, trust and respect of both the Army and intelligence establishments. Key elements of the political establishment even of the ruling GOP now recognize this.
Yet Rumsfeld and his lieutenants remain determined to hang on to power, and so far President Bush has shown every sign of wanting to keep them there. The scandal, therefore, is far from over. The revelations will continue. The cost of the abuses to the American people and the U.S. national interest is already incalculable: And there is no end in sight.
It’s a good read.