Reports in, US must act on Abu Ghraib

Vacationing Under the azure sky of Aspen in the Rockies, I was able to put aside the cares of a tormented world ... the dealings with the Shiite militants in Iraq, the struggle over parcels of land on Israel's West Bank, the growing number of the poor and medically uninsured in our own country, and even the battle of "527," that gaping loophole in the campaign-finance law that underwrote the nominally independent attack on the war record of Sen. John Kerry.

Independent, that is, until it was revealed that the committee was being advised by a Bush campaign lawyer.

Not to worry. President Bush has agreed to go to court with Sen. John McCain, the prophet of campaign reform, to regulate that kind of 527 committee. And we should have a decision in a year or so.

What lingered with me through my vacation was the shame of Abu Ghraib, a savagery against defenseless prisoners that I didn't think American soldiers were capable of. And beyond that, the involvement of high-ranking officers in permitting the abuse if they didn't, in fact, encourage it.

The independent commission headed by James Schlesinger, former secretary of almost everything, spoke of a stain that reached the office of Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld, but it didn't name him specifically. Mr. Schlesinger said that Secretary Rumsfeld's resignation would be "a boon to all of America's enemies." On the contrary: those grisly pictures of abused prisoners repeatedly broadcast on Arab television networks, making America seem like an icon of inhumanity, were a boon to all of America's enemies.

The Army's report criticized military personnel up to the three-star general who was in command in Iraq at the time. If America is to have any credibility abroad as a civilized country, there will have to be something more. Sen. John Warner, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, promises to hold hearings; whether before the election is not clear. But he says Rumsfeld ultimately has to take responsibility.

America's battered reputation around the world may depend on it.

Daniel Schorr is the senior news analyst at National Public Radio.

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