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May 10, 2004

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Abiola Lapite

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Good to see that Hitchens gets it. One cannot plausibly claim to be leading a struggle against terror and brutality while having one's very own troops engaging in brutal actions themselves. It isn't enough to say that "things were worse under Saddam", which is a resort to moral relativism that conservatives would be (rightly) quick to condemn if it were coming from the left. As Hitchens says "there's no hypocrisy in holding self-proclaimed liberators to a higher standard." Whether these misdeeds stemmed from orders emanating from above, or were simply the product of inadequate planning and oversight, heads must roll, and they can't be just those of a few low-level grunts.

Looking at this issue from a PR angle, I would very much like to believe that the incidents at Abu Ghraib are not symptomatic of a wider problem, but what I am even more worried about is that American and British officials going on the air and talking about "a few rogues", only for it to emerge later on that it wasn't just "a few" bad apples after all. Someone really ought to tell conservative apologists like Rush Limbaugh and most of the National Review lot that there are times when a humble silence really is preferable to partisan ass-covering, and that this is probably such a time.

As for Ahmed Chalabi, I must say that I don't share Hitchens' rosy view of that particular gentleman's role in events to date. Colin Powell may not be entirely on the ball when he focuses on Chalabi to the exclusion of the other, more pressing issues that need to be dealt with, but I'd say that this is actually quite understandable, however mistaken; it's clear as daylight that Chalabi and the INC fed the CIA a great deal of worthless information, though in all fairness it's also probably a case of the American intelligence agencies soliciting the very sorts of reports they preferred to recieve. To the degree that the dubious information fed a sense of complacency that led to so little thought about how to deal with the aftermath of the war, I can see how Powell would hold something against Chalabi and his circle.

At any rate, whatever Chalabi's role in the run-up to the war, and however wonderful his intentions may be, I think it a mistake for the US to allow itself to become too closely identified with any single faction jostling for power; not only would such close identification likely prove poisonous in the eyes of xenophobic Iraqis, and therefore self-defeating, but it would also prevent the playing off of all the factions against each other.
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Frank McGahon

Whether these misdeeds stemmed from orders emanating from above, or were simply the product of inadequate planning and oversight, heads must roll, and they can't be just those of a few low-level grunts

That's true because it's either the case that

a) This was authorised

or

b) It wasn't authorised in which case those up the chain of command are incompetent.

Neither reflects well.

I would very much like to believe that the incidents at Abu Ghraib are not symptomatic of a wider problem, but what I am even more worried about is that American and British officials going on the air and talking about "a few rogues", only for it to emerge later on that it wasn't just "a few" bad apples after all

That would certainly be my worry too.

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