Sunday, May 09, 2004

In case you haven't had the privilege of making the acquaintance of my favorite novel,Catch-22, let me introduce you. It's about bombardier crews stationed in Italy during World War II and their frustration with the heartless, stupid bureaucrats who control their lives. I'll be quoting this bible of bureaucracy to you frequently in the next few weeks, now that Iraq is a bloody mess, both literally and as far as our worldwide image is concerned. Here's a start. After ordering a senseless attack on an Italian village in the mountains, Colonel Korn says to the fliers who protest: "You've got my sacred word for it. Nobody is more distressed about those lousy wops up in the hills than Colonel Cathcart and myself. Mais c'est la guerre." Remind you of anyone named Rummy? Our secretary of defense did take "full responsibility" for the Abu Ghraid mess--sort of. He ought to, since he was told about the pictures and the allegations in January. He also got warnings about it from Colin Powell, who passed along Red Cross complaints. He told President Bush what he'd heard, whereupon they . . . did nothing. He might as well have said to Senator McCain during Friday's questioning: "Senator, you've got my sacred word for it. Nobody is more distressed about those lousy towelheads in Abu Ghraib than President Bush and myself."

In the Sunday Times, Maureen Dowd says "[Y]ou knew Rummy wasn't going to pretend to stay contrite for very long." Instead of concentrating on how sorry he was, he "was having a dickens of a time figuring out how a control-freak administration could operate in this newfangled age when G.I.'s have dadburn digital cameras."

In the information age, he complained to senators, "people are running around with digital cameras and taking these unbelievable photographs and then passing them off, against the law, to the media, to our surprise, when they had not even arrived in the Pentagon."

Not only is he passing the buck, he's missing the point: prisoner abuse is the issue here, not unauthorized photos.

By the end, Rummy was channeling Jack Nicholson's Col. Jessup, who lashed out at the snotty weenies questioning him while they sleep "under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then question the manner in which I provide it."

I lost my respect for Dowd when she trashed Dean three columns in a row last January. Still, I have to admit to enjoying her portrait of the man who doesn't "do quagmires."


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