The Moral High Ground

Welcome to Bushland, but first put on your wading boots

Reporters quizzing Condoleezza Rice or Donald Rumsfeld are in the wrong setting and asking the wrong people. Neither of those officials has seen battle; both learned it all from reports on paper or on a computer screen or from a general who has to be respectful to his civilian bosses. Still, General Pace didn't flinch when it came to re- educating Rumsfeld, in public, about a soldier's duty in the presence of torture. Many of the current war's architects clearly need re-education.

Even as the secretary of state is trying to sell the world the slogan that "the United States doesn't permit, tolerate, or condone torture" (notice that she doesn't say that soldiers or CIA operatives don't commit acts of torture), the vice president, Dick Cheney, is lobbying Congress to pass legislation to make torture by the CIA legal or at least immune from prosecution.

The imperial presidency has been amassing power to itself for decades. George W. Bush's regime has markedly stepped up the pace and scope of the power grab. Through it all, the many White Houses have blinded much of the public into believing that we are more moral and worthy than other countries. So our leaders lecture those countries about human rights and poverty—while it was our leaders who started a war of choice, not necessity, and it is our country of 300 million souls that has nearly 40 million of them living under the poverty line that Washington itself sets.

Perplexing: Pace, with Rumsfeld
photo: Sean P. Houlihan/U.S. Air Force
Perplexing: Pace, with Rumsfeld

Those are some pretty good reasons why the press should be telling the whole truth—in clear, unsanitized language—about torture and the war and, for instance, the government's broken promises to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. That would be a real "Plan for Victory."

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