- The Washington Times - Friday, June 4, 2004

The dire consequences of the U.S. invasion of Iraq go beyond a failed occupation and attendant war crimes. By making excuses for torture in public hearings, the U.S. Senate has besmirched itself.

In May 19 hearings, Republican senators enabled three commanding generals of our Iraqi occupation force to explain away war crimes as procedures employed to save lives. The excuse: Our heroes are getting killed, and we owe it to our troops to find out who is behind the resistance.

One of the generals said the U.S. military knows right from wrong. The problem is bureaucracy, he said. The military has so many procedures no one knew which were in effect. Things got out of hand because the military lost control of its procedures. We must get them under control, the general said. The hearing gave war crimes a makeover and turned them into “procedures to save lives.” Even Democrats went along with that spin.

With the flood of photos, videos and official reports, the senators are drowning in evidence of widespread abuse of detainees, including torture, rape and murder. Yet shame was not detectable in the hearing.

Sen. James Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, set the tone during a May 11 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing when he declared his outrage over the outrage over torture: “I am outraged that we have so many humanitarian do-gooders right now crawling all over these prisons, looking for human rights violations while our troops, our heroes, are fighting and dying.”

Even as President Bush’s poll numbers plummet, hard-core supporters of the Iraq war remember U.S. humiliation in Vietnam, for which they blame the media. Their patriotism has been made virulent by neoconservative propaganda in an attempt to protect the neocons’ immoral and disastrous policy from accountability. Mr. Inhofe’s “outrage over outrage” attempts to turn legitimate demands for accountability into a new third rail of American politics.

It is not difficult to understand a country at war doesn’t want to wallow in self-recriminations. It is easy to comprehend Republicans don’t want to lose power by being held politically accountable for the costly strategic blunder the Iraq invasion has become. Nevertheless, the evasiveness of official Washington concerning the calamity is scandalous.

In his May 24speech, President Bush blamed the prisoner abuse on “disgraceful conduct by a few American troops who dishonored our country and disregarded our values.”

What were Mr. Bush’s speechwriters thinking? Everyone following the news knows the abuse was too widespread to be the work of a few rogues. “Abuse of captives more widespread, says Army survey” said a New York Times May 26 headline.

Mr. Bush misfired again when he blamed “our commanders” for underestimating the troops needed to successfully invade and occupy Iraq. Both former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki and Gen. Anthony Zinni, commander in chief of the U.S. Central Command during 1997-2000, warned loudly that the Iraq invasion was ill-conceived and undermanned.

In his new book, “Battle Ready,” written with Tom Clancy, Gen. Zinni blames senior civilian Pentagon officials for the fiasco: “In the lead up to the Iraq war and its later conduct, I saw at a minimum, true dereliction, negligence and irresponsibility; at worst, lying, incompetence and corruption.”

Why does President Bush blame American soldiers for the dereliction, negligence, irresponsibility and incompetence of his civilian team — Vice President Richard Cheney and Cheney chief of staff “Scooter” Libby, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Pentagon officials Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, and neoconservative opportunists such as Richard Perle?

Mr. Bush has seriously damaged himself and his party by allowing the neoconservatives to use his presidency to pursue their personal agenda.

Republicans abandoned President Richard Nixon because he lied about the date on which he learned of a burglary at the Watergate. House Republicans impeached President William Clinton because he lied about an affair with an intern.

President Bush lied America into war and continues to lie to keep us there. Isn’t Mr. Bush’s transgression too serious to be wrapped in the flag?

Neoconservatives are a danger to Americans on the home front as well as on the war front. Neocon ideologues have hijacked U.S. immigration policy by denouncing patriots who desire to control U.S. borders as “nativists” and “racists.”

While U.S. armed forces illegally overrun the Middle East, Mexican immigrants illegally overrun America’s borders. Why are we squandering $200 billion defending Middle Eastern borders when our own borders are undefended?

Paul Craig Roberts is a columnist for The Washington Times and is nationally syndicated.

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