In a conversation with my mom this weekend (Hi mom), we were discussing the concept of holding Bush or Rumsfeld directly responsible for the actions of every single person who worked for them. Obviously, there is a level of abstraction in any sufficiently large organization, and it is unreasonable to assume that Bush or Rummy knew anything at all about the crimes at Abu Ghraib. That does *not* mean, however, that they are not responsible for those actions.
Truman made famous the phrase, “The Buck Stops Here” as a symbol of the enormous responsibility placed on his shoulders. The President is responsible for everything that is done in his name. And every official action of a military servicemember is done in the name of the President.
The enlistment oath I took four times:
I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Notice, soldiers defend the Constitution first and foremost. Second, notice that they obey the orders of the President. Now, the actions of these people in Iraq are violating all kinds of laws and treaties, but some of them (weakminded as they were) had been led to believe that they were acting legally, as required by the interrogation teams that had been placed over them. This does not excuse their actions in the slightest, but they thought it was acceptable.
And, the President finding out about the Abu Ghraib from the news is absurd. If he didn’t know about these actions before then, he should have. If he is being shielded by Rumsfeld, Rumsfeld should be fired for exposing the President to such an extreme breach of ethics and honesty.
More than anything, though, the President needs to stop trying to pass that buck to everyone but himself. He is the President. His people did something awful. It’s his responsibility, whether it’s his fault or not.