The price of abuse
U.S. President Bush laid it on the line yesterday: "There will be a full accounting for the cruel and disgraceful abuse of Iraqi detainees," he said. "Those involved will answer for their conduct in an orderly and transparent process."
Starting May 19, with the court-martial in Baghdad of Spc. Jeremy Sivits, allegedly one of the Abu Ghraib photographers, on charges of conspiracy to mistreat detainees, dereliction of duty and maltreatment of detainees.
And the sooner Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski - who was in charge of the 16 U.S.-run prisons in Iraq - is in the dock, the better.
The better for the Army.
The better for the U.S. mission to Iraq.
And the better FOR the United States of America itself.
Karpinski, of course, says she's just a scapegoat.
So does Sivits.
So will everybody who stands to be charged in the entire disgusting mess:
Sorry, nobody here but us victims!
Certainly there are no soldiers, standing tall and facing the consequences of their deeds.
Karpinski & Co. ought simply to be grateful that the Army did away with summary firing squads several wars ago - because the damage they have done to America's ability to prosecute this war is beyond calculation.
At the very least, they need to quit whining as the process plays itself out.
As it will.
"One basic difference between democracies and dictatorships," said the president yesterday, "is that free countries confront such abuses openly and directly."
But not openly enough, in our view.
The proceedings will be open to the press - but TV cameras won't be allowed, officials said yesterday.
That's a mistake.
Yes, televising such a trial invites grandstanding - especially by those whose intent is not to obtain justice, but to discredit the War on Terror, and ultimately bring down the Bush administration this fall.
But that's a risk worth taking.
The Abu Ghraib affair is a stain on America's honor.
America is best able to redeem itself by dispensing justice quickly, unambiguously - and publicly.
Not a kangaroo court.
But not an O.J. trial either - all about process and posturing and who has the most clever lawyer.
Maybe the guilt goes higher than Karpinski; that's yet to be determined.
But it certainly goes at least that high.
There will come a day when Abu Ghraib will be seen for what it essentially was: an aberration, rooted in appalling lapses in discipline and training - and moral and political tone-deafness in the chain of command.
Now, again, it's time to assign individual responsibility and punishment.