Jewish World Review May 21, 2004 / 1 Sivan 5764

Dan Abrams

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Consumer Reports

Who is to blame? | Who would have thought when the first prison abuse photos were released that the whole scandal might come to be defined by shades of gray rather than black and white, particularly since you have those color photos?

Sure, it's black and white when it come to right and wrong. But it may get grayer when the question is, who is to blame? Everyone is pointing fingers. Those who knew something was happening, but were not involved and yet did nothing to stop it generally seem to be saying they did not know exactly how bad it had become and they blame the soldiers who committed the act.

OK, the soldiers seen in the pictures are pointing fingers at their superiors saying they were ordered to do it and were told there was even some logic behind it like trying to create pictures to scare future prisoners into talking. Their superiors generally saying we certainly did not tell them to do that while some also claiming they'd been encouraged to soften up prisoners. The highest-level officials saying we had no idea this was happening, never would have condoned it. There is some evidence the Pentagon seemed willing to accept tougher treatment of prisoners.

So the bottom line question may become, how did get tougher in your questioning tactics turn into this? It could end up that the Pentagon and the highest-level officials made it clear they needed more answers from the prison. They're willing to tolerate some tougher treatment. That some of the commanding officers conveyed the urgent need to use tough tactics to get intelligence without discussing the protections the prisoners must be afforded. And that somehow the guards took — on the scene took that to mean they could use whatever means necessary to get information, including prisoners, you know humiliating them, et cetera and that it ultimately became a free for all.

There will be plenty of blame to go around, but I fear the answers may not be entirely satisfying. Not because we won't know why and how it happened but because the answers may involve blaming different people to different degrees on different issues and that may mean that even though the photos are clear, the answers may not be.

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JWR contributor Dan Abrams anchors “The Abrams Report,” Monday through Friday from 9-10 p.m. ET on MSNBC TV. He also covers legal stories for “NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw,” “Today” and “Dateline NBC.” To visit his website, click here. Comment by clicking here.



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