In comments on the previous post, Stevie T points out the story about the Pentagon planting news stories in Iraqi newspapers. I can understand why people would be up in arms about this, but I'm really not sure why anyone's surprised. We've had columnist Armstrong Williams taking money to support Bush Administration educational initiatives without revealing that conflict of interest. The Department of Health and Human Services produced fake news reports for domestic consumption and refused the opinion of the Government Accountability Office earlier this year that such activity amounted to illegal propaganda. Earlier in Bush's first term, the Pentagon set up the Office of Strategic Influence to develop propaganda for foreign media. Even though the office was soon dismantled as a result of all the bad PR it received, there's no indication that its duties were not continued elsewhere. So when stories secretly written by the military start showing up in Iraqi papers, we can declaim against it and declare it wrong and immoral, but only Louis Renault could be truly surprised.
I've also seen this little exchange in a number of places today. It's between Rumsfeld and Marine General Peter Pace, the head of the Joint Chiefs, at a press conference yesterday:
SEC. RUMSFELD: Any instance of inhumane behavior is obviously worrisome and harmful to them when that occurs. Iraq knows of certain knowledge that they need the support of the international community, and a good way to lose it is to make a practice of something that's inconsistent with the values of the international community. And I think they know that.
Now, you know, I can't go any farther in talking about it. Obviously, the United States does not have a responsibility when a sovereign country engages in something that they disapprove of; however, we do have a responsibility to say so and to make sure that the training is proper and to work with the sovereign officials so that they understand the damage that can be done to them in the event some of these allegations prove to be true.
Q: And General Pace, what guidance do you have for your military commanders over there as to what to do if -- like when General Horst found this Interior Ministry jail?
GEN. PACE: It is absolutely the responsibility of every U.S. service member, if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene to stop it. As an example of how to do it if you don't see it happening but you're told about it is exactly what happened a couple weeks ago. There's a report from an Iraqi to a U.S. commander that there was possibility of inhumane treatment in a particular facility. That U.S. commander got together with his Iraqi counterparts. They went together to the facility, found what they found, reported it to the Iraqi government, and the Iraqi government has taken ownership of that problem and is investigating it. So they did exactly what they should have done.
SEC. RUMSFELD: But I don't think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it; it's to report it.
GEN. PACE: If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it.
Not that it's any sort of surprise at this point, but it's clear that, according to Mike Chary's definition of a superhero, Rumsfeld would never qualify. No wonder he seemed so taken with Cap and Spidey a few months back.