There was a time, not so long ago, when commanders were expected to be accountable for the behavior of their subordinates.
That's changed. Under Commander in Chief George W. Bush, the notion of command accountability has been discarded. In Mr. Bush's world of war, it's the grunts who take the heat. Punishment is reserved for the people at the bottom. The people who foul up at the top are promoted...
...The abuses at Abu Ghraib, which seemed mind-boggling at the time, turned out to be symptomatic of the torture, abuse and institutionalized injustice that have permeated the Bush administration's operations in its so-called war against terror. Euphemisms like rendition, coercive interrogation, sleep adjustment and waterboarding are now widely understood. Yes, Virginia, it is the policy of the United States to kidnap individuals and send them off to regimes skilled in the art of torture.
Two things are needed. First, a truly independent commission, along the lines of the bipartisan 9/11 panel, should be set up to thoroughly investigate U.S. interrogation and detention operations, and make recommendations to correct abuses.
Second, the U.S. government should make it clear, beyond any doubt, that torture and any other inhumane treatment of prisoners is wrong, just flat wrong, and will not be tolerated under any circumstances....If the president made it clear that men and women up and down the chain of command would be held responsible for the abuses that occur on their watch, the abuses would plummet. Instead, the message the administration has sent is that its demands for accountability will be limited to a few hapless, ill-trained grunts.
The big shots who presided over behavior that has shamed America in the eyes of the world can count on this president's embrace.