WASHINGTON — In a manipulation of symbols, President Bush calls for razing the infamous Abu Ghraib prison. Welcome to Monday Night Live, a series of television speeches intended to raise our spirits and his poll ratings on the road to the transfer of Iraqi sovereignty on June 30.
But there have been depressing developments.
The investigations of prisoner abuse are going further, and they are going higher. Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, commander of the military police brigade that ran the prison, has been suspended. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top US military commander in Iraq, is to be replaced, although the Pentagon insists it's a routine rotation. General Sanchez denies assertions from within the ranks that he attended one or more prisoner interrogations.
Just as pictures and videotape sparked the prison scandal, so too have pictures sprouted in northern Iraq to embarrass the US military command. The Army asserts that an air attack that killed more than 40 Iraqis was aimed at a safe house used by foreign fighters. But the videotape of the ruin shows musical instruments and pots and pans, supporting the local assertion that the attack was on a wedding party.
A mystifying breach has developed between US administrator Paul Bremer and Ahmed Chalabi, the Pentagon's longtime favorite son and beneficiary of millions in American taxpayer dollars. Mr. Chalabi's home and office were raided by American-backed Iraqi police, files and computers taken away. Word was leaked that he had shared American military secrets with Iran, No. 2 on the "axis of evil" list. Chalabi saturated the Sunday talk shows with the claim that the CIA was trying to smear him.
All of this contributes to a sense of confusion and uncertainty as June 30 approaches. The latest insider book to dump on the administration's planning for the war and its aftermath is by retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni. On CBS's "60 Minutes" he asserted, "The course is headed over Niagara Falls.... It should be evident to everybody that they've screwed up."
Testifying before a Senate committee, Gen. Joseph Hoar, former chief of US Central Command, said, "I believe we are absolutely on the brink of failure.... We are looking into the abyss."
But, never mind. The president will have more cheerful words for us next Monday.
• Daniel Schorr is the senior news analyst at National Public Radio.