There's a new report out on detainee treatment, this one by Vice Admiral Albert T. Church, the naval inspector general. This report, referred to as the Church report, is a result of a broad investigation into interrogation practices applied in prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo. In reading the NYT article on the still classified report (the NYT says they got to read the summary), this paragraph jumped out at me.
Admiral Church's report faults senior American officials for failing to establish clear interrogation policies for Iraq and Afghanistan, leaving commanders there to develop some practices that were unauthorized, according to the report summary. But the inquiry found that Pentagon officials and senior commanders were not directly responsible for the detainee abuses, and that there was no policy that approved mistreatment of detainees at prisons in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
So once again, "senior officials" are faulted for not doing their jobs but declared "not directly responsible". Here's the problem. When you don't do your job and as a result people under your supervision two, five, or ten levels down screw up, YOU ARE DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE. It doesn't require a memo directing people to abuse detainees to find senior officials directly responsible. The very culture of the military is one in which the command officer is held accountable for the actions of the men and women under his or her command. So when senior officials didn't establish clear interrogation policies, i.e. when they didn't do their job, people under their command filled in the gaps and people under their command abused detainees. The line is clear, the responsibility is ultimately owned by the commander. In the military, shit rolls uphill and downhill. But not in Bush's military. And that's a shame. The integrity of an officer taking responsibility for the men and women in his or her command, falling on the sword so to speak, speaks of honor, duty, respect. Core values that our military embraces as it represents America in the world. We can't afford to sacrifice those values to save a few political lives. The price is too high and it's one we'll continue to pay until someone steps up and takes responsibility.