On June 1 Reuters reported: "The death toll for American troops in Iraq rose in May to the highest level since January, with the U.S. military saying on Tuesday insurgents have doubled their number of daily attacks since April."
Dahr Jamail, an unembedded reporter in Iraq, said on May 30: "Things are getting worse by the day: The mayhem continues in Iraq, with today at least 40 people dead, including five US soldiers in Diyala province as the meltdown of the failed US-led occupation continues."
Sandwiched between the two, on May 31 Vice President Cheney said on Larry King Live that the insurgency in Iraq is "in the last throes," and predicted that the fighting will end before the Bush administration leaves office.
Cheney’s assertion should have been expected as damage control was needed. At the end of May, ABC News reported that an unnamed Defense Department official said the U.S. was no longer assured of victory. And Newsday’s Washington Bureau Chief reported that no major road was safe and Iraq was on the verge of civil war.
Hopefully, for the sake of U.S. soldiers and the people of Iraq Vice President Cheney is right. However, we should not forget that before the invasion it was Cheney who predicted the U.S. would be welcomed as liberators and who told the world on August 26, 2002: "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction." More likely than not, Vice President Cheney’s comments will go down in the annals of U.S. war leadership with the statements made by the U.S. Commander in Chief that "Peace is at hand" during the Vietnam War.
On another front, President Bush called a report by Amnesty International "absurd" for its charge that the United States is mistreating terrorist suspects in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, saying accusations were being made by "people who hate America." At a Rose Garden press conference on May 31 the president exclaims: "It’s absurd. It’s an absurd allegation. We’ve investigated every single complaint against the detainees. It seemed like to me they based some of their decisions on the word of and the allegations by people who were held in detention, people who hate America …"
President Bush’s comments were echoed by senior members of the administration who all lined up to blast the report in a thou-protest-too-much coordinated attack on Amnesty.
What was the administration so defensive about? A thorough and damning report demonstrating the ongoing abuses by the Bush Administration in its treatment of prisoners. Dr. William F. Schulz, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, stated in response to President Bush:
"What is ‘absurd’ is President Bush’s attempt to deny the deliberate policies of his Administration, which has detained individuals without charge or trial in prisons at Guantanamo Bay, Bagram Air Base and other locations. What is ‘absurd’ and indeed outrageous is the Bush Administration’s failure to undertake a full independent investigation, and that completed reports into human rights violations in these prisons remain classified and unseen. The network of secret detention centers operated by the US around the world must be opened to scrutiny by independent human rights groups and those responsible for torture, no matter how senior, must be held accountable. It is also worth noting that this administration never finds it ‘absurd’ when we criticize Cuba, China, or when we condemned the violations in Iraq under Saddam Hussein."
No doubt the idea of holding U.S. officials accountable "no matter how senior" and urging "scrutiny" of U.S. detention centers did not please leaders of the Administration. President Bush has been very successful at avoiding scrutiny by appointing so-called ‘independent’ commissions with limited mandates, relying on the Republican controlled Congress as well as internal DoD investigations and not providing prisoners with due process so they can air their grievances in court.
The Amnesty International Report said of the United States:
"The blatant disregard for international human rights and humanitarian law in the ‘war on terror’ continued to make a mockery of President George Bush's claims that the USA was the global champion of human rights. Images of detainees in US custody tortured in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq shocked the world. War crimes in Iraq, and mounting evidence of the torture and ill-treatment of detainees in US custody in other countries, sent an unequivocal message to the world that human rights may be sacrificed ostensibly in the name of security."
The truth in this matter could be resolved merely by having a truly independent commission investigate the allegations. Or, even more appropriately having a special prosecutor investigate abuses as senior Republicans in the Senate promised John Warner, Lindsay Graham and John McCain stated that everyone culpable would be held accountable, no matter how senior when the torture photos were released but have taken no action to live up to their promise.
Throughout history "truth has been the first casualty of war" and this continues to be the case in Iraq. The disconnect between realty and the statements of the administration so far seems to be failing to convince the U.S. public as support for getting out of Iraq is increasing and the popularity of President Bush’s handling of the war is decreasing. Indeed, as the credibility of the Administration fades their disconnect from reality will undercut them further.
June 3, 2005