Phil Carter, in an outstanding new Washington Monthly article, argues that "A generation from now, historians may look back to April 28, 2004, as the day the United States lost the war in Iraq. On that date, ìCBS Newsî broadcast the first ugly photographs of abuses by American soldiers at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison.
He continues: "America suffered a huge defeat the moment those photographs became public. Copies of them are now sold in souks from Marrakesh to Jakarta, vivid illustrations of the worst suspicions of the Arab world: that Americans are corrupt and power-mad, eager to humiliate Muslims and mock their values. The acts they document have helped to energize the insurgency in Iraq, undermining our rule there and magnifying the risks faced by our soldiers each day. If Osama bin Laden had hired a Madison Avenue public relations firm to rally Arabs hearts and minds to his cause, it's hard to imagine that it could have devised a better propaganda campaign.
He goes one: "The damage done by Abu Ghraib might at least have been minimized had the administration pursued a strategy of publicly and sincerely holding accountable those responsible for it. Instead, it has done something close to the opposite. The Bush administration has condemned the abuses as the work of a ìfew bad apples,î while working diligently to get the story off the front pages and out of the presidential campaign."
And more: "Go past the executive summaries and press releases, however, and a careful reading of the reports reveals a different story. The devastating scandal of Abu Ghraib wasn't a failure of implementation, as Rice and other administration defenders have admitted. It was a directóand predictableóconsequence of a policy, hatched at the highest levels of the administration, by senior White House officials and lawyers, in the weeks and months after 9/11. Yet the administration has largely managed to escape responsibility for those decisions; a month from election day, almost no one in the press or the political class is talking about what is, without question, the worst scandal to emerge from President Bush's nearly four years in office."
This is exactly, exactly, exactly what drove me to post "The Election Made Simple." Abu Ghraib is central to evaluating the Bush presidency on all fronts. I strongly recommend reading the rest of Carter's excellent account of why.