Thursday, November 02, 2006

Tragedies and Failures of Leadership We Have Seen Too Often under Bush

We all have to be careful not to make broad generalizations based on a story or two. But sometimes we know enough about previous incidents to see a pattern. Two stories caught my eye today and they seem to illustrate much that is wrong with the Bush Administration.

I caught the first story in Truthout; it's by Greg Mitchell of Editor & Publisher:
The true stories of how American troops, killed in Iraq, actually died keep spilling out this week. On Tuesday, we explored the case of Kenny Stanton, Jr., murdered last month by our allies, the Iraqi police, though the military didn’t make that known at the time. Now we learn that one of the first female soldiers killed in Iraq died by her own hand after objecting to interrogation techniques used on prisoners.

She was Army specialist Alyssa Peterson, 27, a Flagstaff, Az., native serving with C Company, 311th Military Intelligence BN, 101st Airborne. Peterson was an Arabic-speaking interrogator assigned to the prison at our air base in troubled Tal-Afar in northwestern Iraq. According to official records, she died on Sept. 15, 2003, from a "non-hostile weapons discharge."

(snip)

...a longtime radio and newspaper reporter named Kevin Elston, unsatisfied with the public story, decided to probe deeper in 2005, "just on a hunch," he told E&P today. He made "hundreds of phone calls" to the military and couldn't get anywhere, so he filed a Freedom of Information Act request. When the documents of the official investigation of her death arrived, they contained bombshell revelations. Here’s what the Flagstaff public radio station, KNAU, where Elston now works, reported yesterday:

"Peterson objected to the interrogation techniques used on prisoners. She refused to participate after only two nights working in the unit known as the cage. Army spokespersons for her unit have refused to describe the interrogation techniques Alyssa objected to. They say all records of those techniques have now been destroyed...."

She was was then assigned to the base gate, where she monitored Iraqi guards, and sent to suicide prevention training. "But on the night of September 15th, 2003, Army investigators concluded she shot and killed herself with her service rifle," the documents disclose. ...

In many respects, these are sketchy details. We don't know if Peterson pursued her objections to the interrogations by talking through channels and whether she might have been warned not to rock the boat. We don't know if Peterson was demoted. We don't know if she was isolated from her peers after objecting to the interrogation techniques. In fact, none of these things may have happened. But we have seen others demoted or even fired for objecting to any of the many methods and legal mumbo jumbo of the Bush Administration. We have seen Rumsfeld micromanage the military from above. And we have seen the Republican Congress turn its back on the military when they have complained about heavy-handed abuses from civilians in the Pentagon. And this is yet another occassion when the American people were not told the truth about the death of one of our soldiers.

And then there's the other side of the curious equation that has been operating during the Bush era. We have seen people promoted because of their loyalty, despite their incompetence. Or rewarded because they have rubber-stamped what Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld want without much question.

Here's an article on the other side of the Bush equation from Wonkette:
Al Kamen reported yesterday that Homeland Security head Michael Chertoff is the proud recipient of this year’s “prestigious Henry Petersen award.”

The award is traditionally given to Department of Justice criminal division careerists who did their jobs well for a long time. Chertoff’s honor hasn’t garnered a lot of attention, but one guy who did notice was Miles W. Swanson, grandson of Henry Petersen himself. Swanson writes:
Today with horror I read in the Washington Post that Michael Chertoff is receiving the Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Henry Petersen Award, the most prestigious award for the DoJ’s Criminal Division. Besides being my grandfather, Henry Petersen was the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Criminal Division, chief prosecutor for Watergate, and career employee at the DOJ. What makes this situation so horrible, besides the fact that Mr. Chertoff is a political appointee, an ass, not a career employee at the DOJ, and probably the exact opposite of my grandfather: I moved to New Orleans from D.C. a couple months after Katrina to do volunteer legal work. I staff a free legal clinic in the 9th Ward with the Common Ground Legal Collective as well as several bankruptcy/debtor relief clinics in and around New Orleans as part of The Pro Bono Project. As you can imagine, I deal with Mr. Chertoff’s mess on a daily basis.

Mr. Chertoff is in charge of Homeland Security. During Hurricane Katrina, the first major test after 9/11 of his department's ability to respond to a major crisis, Chertoff utterly failed. But he's being given an award like others in the Bush Administration who are hardly deserving.

Something is wrong in America and it begins in the White House.

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