Notes on the Atrocities Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...
Thursday, May 06, 2004
Which is Worse?
Yesterday I mentioned that the President, as the first CEO-in-chief, is happy to let his minions do most of the legwork, leaving him free of the details of governance. If anything important happens, he figures it will work its way up. This explains why he hadn't heard until this week about American soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners--it was a failure in the chain of command. There is, however, another possibility--that the chain of command doesn't actually include Bush. As window dressing for the administration, someome just forgot to give him the memo.
So which is worse--a President so disconnected from the details of his administration that he must learn about torture from CBS, or a President who wouldn't be consulted about torture in any case?
While we're at it, the torture itself presents two causal possibilities, both equally unpleasant. The frist is that torture is standard operating procedure for the Pentagon; if there was a failure, it was in documenting said torture photographically. The second is that torture happens outside the command of the armed forces. So which is worse--torture as regular practice, or chaos so profound torture can go unnoticed for five months?
Or how about Rummy. Which is worse--that he sat on news of torture for months because he wanted to keep it suppressed or because he didn't think it was a big enough deal to mention to anyone?
To the rest of the world, the US occupation looks like a case of the inmates running the asylum. Which is worse--that we didn't know how bad things were, or that we knew it but were powerless to stop it. (Let's not contemplate the third alternative: that this kind of chaos, in which torture is routine and the leaders never hear about it, is the way leaders have intended to run the reconstruction in the first place.)