Ignorance is bliss

By Geraldine Sealey

Published May 5, 2004 5:01PM (EDT)

It's a little tough to swallow the Bush administration's seeming surprise at the activities at the Abu Ghraib prison when it turns out the president knew about the investigation since December or January. Publicly, the official line has been that Bush is shocked, appalled and learning about the prisoner abuse with the rest of us. White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan told reporters that the president only "became aware of the photographs and the Pentagon's main internal report about the incidents from news reports last week."

Claiming ignorance is a standard defense for the administration in justifying why it did not act sooner and more aggressively to address the abuse at Abu Ghraib. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers asked CBS to hold the 60 Minutes II story that first widely exposed the alleged torture at Abu Ghraib and launched the haunting images worldwide -- three weeks before the story ran. Yet Myers claimed as recently as Sunday that he didn't yet read the Army's report on Abu Ghraib, which was completed in February. "It's working its way to me. I haven't seen it," he told Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation. Someone else who hasn't yet read the full report: Donald Rumsfeld.

That puts many online news readers in an elite category -- better informed on one of the biggest stories affecting the military and its global reputation right now than the defense secretary -- for they can read the 53-page report with the click of a mouse. It's available to everyone -- why hasn't Rumsfeld bothered to read it?

Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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