As the Abu Ghraib stink wears off, Sanchez is back in line for promotion
As long as this current eructation of American imperialism lasts, there’ll always be a Lynndie England. The Abu Ghraib scandal, in other words, may be forgotten, but it’s not gone.
Despite that, this morning comes a New York Times report that the Pentagon is considering promoting Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez. The inveterate butt-kisser who authorized illegal, immoral, and unmilitary interrogation procedures at Abu Ghraib—on behalf of the Pentagon’s crazed civilians—escaped direct blame in the Abu G investigations.
Or so the Times says. The story by Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker is laid to unnamed “Pentagon and military officials.” It’s clearly a trial balloon by the Pentagon to see how strong the public’s gag reflex is. Judging by the way the Times presented this story, it’s pretty clear that the reporters think we’ll swallow anything.
Certainly it makes sense, from the Bush regime’s perspective, to put Sanchez in charge of our Southern Command. Just think: U.S. Latino kids shooting at Latin Americans—people of color killing people of color is considered in some quarters a win-win situation.
The Times, of course, made some of those points, but in not exactly the same manner:
“General Sanchez, as a role model, is extremely important,” said a senior Army officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of General Sanchez’s uncertain future. “The Army sells growth, opportunity and development. We cannot ignore what our population makeup is.”
Beyond that factor, though, the officer emphasized that General Sanchez, with his knowledge of Latin America and fluency in Spanish, would bring valuable advantages in commanding a region that is becoming more volatile.
Hey, if it isn’t volatile enough right now, wait until we send troops.
Anyway, Schmitt and Shanker also said this about Sanchez’s prospective promotion:
Sorry, not until a full investigation.
Nevertheless, Schmitt and Shanker, buying into the phony and facile public-relations concept that the military can actually put a scandal “behind it” without the fully felt grief of a probe, add:
Look closer, fellas. Many of us are giving you the finger.
But this is a smart move by SecDef Don Rumsfeld. Once again, from Schmitt and Shanker:
Yes, once again the Senate is about to be has been outmaneuvered by Bush’s handlers. The senators will be too embroiled in judicial matters—such as perhaps a new Chief Justice of the U.S. to replace William Rehnquist—to give a shit about Sanchez. Abu G was two or three catastrophes ago, for crises’ sake.
But before Abu G “recedes” any farther in our rear-view mirror, keep in mind that objects in such mirrors are closer than they appear.
So we still have time to clear up some misconceptions in the Times‘ lame piece. To say that Sanchez was “cleared,” for example, is plain wrong.
As Elise Ackerman of Knight-Ridder (which routinely kicks the Times‘ ass in most matters Iraqi) wrote last August 26:
General Paul Kern, who oversaw the so-called Fay-Jones investigation of Abu G abuses and misdeeds, was quoted by Ackerman as saying, “We discovered serious misconduct and a loss of moral values.” And he wasn’t just talking about Lynndie England and Chuck Graner.
Ackerman’s story gave Sanchez and other top dogs their due, noting:
The problem, however, is that the military went out of its way to split hairs when it came to responsibility. Ackerman quoted Kern as saying:
That may be double-dealing bullshit, but it still doesn’t sound like “cleared” to me.
Typically, this morning’s New York Times story practically ignores the fact that the issue of Sanchez’s promotion not only came up long ago—before the November election—but was written about way back then by other reporters at other newspapers. John Hendren of the Los Angeles Times wrote a smart piece about it last October 15, saying that, according to two senior Defense officials, Rumsfeld and General Richard “Quag” Myers “have privately told colleagues they are determined to pin a fourth star on Sanchez.” Hendren added:
Hendren already had the whole story back in October:
“If they really felt comfortable about this and felt it was justifiable, they would do it before the election,” said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), who was skeptical of the timing.
A senior Senate Republican aide was more blunt.
“I would say that he would have a snowball’s chance,” the aide said, on condition of anonymity. “Somebody needs to be held accountable…. He failed in his leadership role.”
Earlier this year, Sanchez was Rumsfeld’s choice to take over the U.S. Southern Command, a post that would have elevated the three-star general to four stars. But his name was never formally offered after Senate Armed Services Committee members challenged Sanchez’s role in overseeing the war and the Abu Ghraib prison affair.
And even if Sanchez is shunted off to Latin America to direct future misadventures there, his promotion wouldn’t likely help our current situation in that other hemisphere. As Hendren wrote last October:
“It’ll just be one more thumb in the eye of the Iraqis and the Arab world,” said Charles V. Pena, director of defense policy studies at the Cato Institute, a conservative Washington think tank. “If Sanchez gets another star, it’s just more evidence that we’re not trying to deal with the hearts and mind issues inside Iraq or the larger Islamic world.”
Yet another point that the New York Times, apparently, believes has receded from view.
But, see, there’s still the issue of whether Sanchez was “cleared.” No matter how the New York Times tries to spin it, the guy was not cleared. How the hell do you think we wound up terrorizing Iraqis with dogs? Once again, Hendren pointed out last October:
I suppose that also “clears” Sanchez.
Let’s let a former Defense secretary describe the situation, as Hendren did, and the New York Times didn’t:
Schlesinger defended Sanchez against formal censure, suggesting that his career was effectively over.
“Gen. Sanchez likely would have gotten his fourth star, and now is unlikely to get his fourth star,” Schlesinger said. “That is a kind of comment on failed responsibility.”
Or, in the words of this morning’s New York Times, Sanchez was “cleared.”
Except that the reporters who wrote that apparently forgot that even their own newspaper has carried information—facts, not opinions—saying something quite different.
This past January 5, during the first day of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on Alberto Gonzales’s nomination as attorney general, Senator Pat Leahy brought up the following quote from the Schlesinger report, according to the hearing transcript in the New York Times:
Oh, I see. It was “cleared” by Gonzales and Bush.