Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Send This Administration to Bum-Fuk Egypt

Finding a Way in Iraq (

Sunday, May 9, 2004; Page B06

IT IS IMPOSSIBLE yet to calculate the damage to U.S. prospects in Iraq and the Middle East caused by the mistreatment of Iraqi detainees. One week ago we wrote that the United States had lost much of the political authority and public tolerance it enjoyed in Iraq a year ago. Then came the photographs, and, as Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld informed Congress on Friday, there are worse to come and videotapes too. Yet the goal of a free and peaceful Iraq remains as vital as ever. And it remains true, as we also said last week, that failure in Iraq would be "a catastrophe for this nation and its interests, and a historic victory for Islamic extremists and terrorists."

So is there any way to reconcile the rightness of the goal and the urgency of the stakes with the obstacles now before the nation? It will take, first of all, President Bush's recognition of this strait and his willingness to adjust course. Apologies are well and good, but he cannot expect assertions of America's good faith and Americans' pure hearts to carry the United States anymore. Mr. Rumsfeld's resignation, if tendered quickly and before it became a matter of partisan pressure, might have been taken in the region as a sign of contrition; we have said that he bears partial responsibility, given his cavalier approach to the Geneva Conventions, for creating circumstances in which the prison abuses could occur. But his departure would not get at the heart of the matter. The policies and responsibility ultimately are Mr. Bush's.

America's greatest strength in Iraq remains that its goals are not only right but shared by most Iraqis, by most people of goodwill in other democracies and by the leadership of the United Nations. With its political and moral authority compromised, the United States now must do everything possible to turn that confluence to its advantage -- to embrace international law and allies not grudgingly, not as a matter of convenience but in full measure. This would mean, first, announcing that the Geneva Conventions will apply to all detainees, as the administration has refused to do; opening all prisons to Iraqi and international monitors; granting hearings to all detainees at Guantanamo Bay; and disseminating instructions to implement Mr. Bush's promise of last year that torture will not be tolerated. It would mean continued strong backing for U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and for Iraqi political forces that have the popular support to help smooth a transition to Iraqi sovereignty. And it would mean reaching out to politicians at home from both parties who recognize the gravity of the situation and are seeking responsible ways to help.

Such politicians are distressingly few, it is true. Initiating impeachment proceedings does not bespeak a desire to find a way forward. Nor do dishonest and shrill accusations from Mr. Bush's own party, such as Majority Leader Tom DeLay's description of Democrats as "a collection of appeasing partisans who see our every casualty in Iraq as a potential campaign gimmick." But leaders such as Sens. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) and Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) have consistently offered constructive advice -- to raze Abu Ghraib prison, for example, and to be more forthright about the costs of occupation -- that has almost as consistently been ignored.

Weighted down now by the abuses committed in the prison system, the vast majority of America's fighters in the field continue to operate with integrity and courage. But it's not fair to ask them to carry the burden alone. The administration must set aside its prejudices and reach out convincingly to potential allies at home, in Iraq and throughout the world.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company


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