Old Spin

It wasn’t the main point of his piece, but WaPo columnist Michael Gerson yesterday casually referred to the notorious Abu Ghraib scandal as making George W. Bush and his team “an administration facing events that aren’t its fault but that are its problem.”

As it happens, Gerson’s act of retroactive absolution conflicted directly with the most recent bipartisan report from the Senate Armed Services Committee:

The report…issued jointly by Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the Democratic chairman of the panel, and Senator John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican…represents the most thorough review by Congress to date of the origins of the abuse of prisoners in American military custody, and it explicitly rejects the Bush administration’s contention that tough interrogation methods have helped keep the country and its troops safe.

The report also rejected previous claims by Mr. Rumsfeld and others that Defense Department policies played no role in the harsh treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 and in other episodes of abuse.

The abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, the report says, “was not simply the result of a few soldiers acting on their own” but grew out of interrogation policies approved by Mr. Rumsfeld and other top officials, who “conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees.”

Rumsfeld, naturally, sent word via a spokesman (since when do former Cabinet members have “spokesmen?”) that the report was “irresponsible,” but I think we know who has more credibility on this particular subject. It would be nice if writers like Gerson didn’t buy the old spin when referring to this particularly dark moment in recent U.S. history.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.