Rejecting Pugnacious Nationalists and Holding Prisoner Torturers and Their Pentagon Overseers Accountable Could Restore “American Brand”


Simply showing the rest of the world — particularly the Muslim world — that America holds accountable in this country those who commit heinous international crimes would do more to restore faith in this country than just about anything.
The absence of accountability in the scandal of tortured and murdered prisoners is really beyond belief.
Instead of shaking up his team in such a way as to send a clear apology both to American citizens, those outside America who used to depend on America’s commitment to the highest standards of human rights and justice, and to the families and countrymen of those our forces murdered, abused and tortured — George Bush appoints his mistress-of-spin Karen Hughes to solve America’s branding problems.
After appointing Torture-Memo Al Gonzales as his Attorney General, keeping Donald Rumsfeld (who is most accountable for Abu Ghraib) at the Pentagon, giving Paul Wolfowitz (who thought Iraq would be a cake-walk) the World Bank, and nominating to the U.N. John Bolton — who has stated that he doesn’t even believe in the concept of a United Nations — George Bush is practically assuring that all presidents who follow him will pay for the diminishment of American power and prestige that this president has created.
The U.S. government is dealing with these prisoner abuse cases shamefully and casually — and it is darkly absurd that the military offers lines like: “U.S. Army Special Forces Command takes all allegations of detainee abuse and homicide very seriously,” while at the same time, not prosecuting soldiers investigators know are responsible for documented murders.
From the New York Times this morning:

Despite recommendations by Army investigators, commanders have decided not to prosecute 17 American soldiers implicated in the deaths of three prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004, according to a new accounting released Friday by the Army.
Investigators had recommended that all 17 soldiers be charged in the cases, according to the accounting by the Army Criminal Investigation Command. The charges included murder, conspiracy and negligent homicide. While none of the 17 will face any prosecution, one received a letter of reprimand and another was discharged after the investigations.

There are times when it is clear that just a few adjustments, some appointment changes, an attitude shift, perhaps language in a single presidential speech, enlightened action by the Justice Department (or in this case, military prosecutors) — just a few things done in concert — would go a long way in restoring the American “brand” in the eyes of the world.
Move Rumsfeld to his next career. Withdraw the Bolton nomination and appoint an outstanding leader to the United Nations; why not Rob Portman for the UN instead of USTR? Ask James Baker to run the World Bank instead of Paul Wolfowitz.
Hold criminals in the U.S. armed services accountable and fire those responsible in the senior Pentagon hierarchy. Apologize to Americans and those around the globe for those prisoners tortured and abused while in our custody.
Remind Americans that while we need to be strong and continue to be vigilant against terrorism, we must get back to a world of high trust and low fear. Too many vest interests in America are benefiting from a high fear/low trust world.
President Bush could do a lot to restore genuine enthusiasm for the American brand if he changed course — and in particular, held his people accountable for human rights abuses that occurred under our watch.
The United Nations and the World Bank are two vital global institutions where our appointments send important signals to those in the rest of the world. The Europeans seem to have mostly acquiesced to Wolfowitz — which is too bad — and Americans don’t get to have a say about him via Congress.
But Wolfowitz and Bolton together is just too much, an overdose of pugnacious nationalism, and on Bolton then — Americans do have a say.
Bolton’s nomination to the United Nations should be rethought and stopped.
— Steve Clemons