"Operational flexibility -- This is a very highly classified area, but I have to say that all you need to know: There was a before 9/11, and there was an after 9/11. After 9/11 the gloves come off."
~~ Cofer Black, Head of the CIA Counterterrorist Center, at a Sept. 26, 2003 joint hearing of the House and Senate intelligence committees.
Looks like Seymour Hersh has done it again. Team Bush was still reeling from Hersh's May 1 New Yorker expose of torture at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison  when he bitch-slapped them again on May 9 with a second, more powerful investigation into the painfully inept handling of the disaster by everyone in the chain from Baghdad's Central Command Headquarters to Washington D.C.'s 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. 
Hersh was back on Saturday, May 15, with an even more incriminating piece  on Donald Rumsfeld's secret torture program for Abu Ghraib, apparently approved across the board by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and perhaps even her boss, President George W. Bush. According to Hersh, the gruesome and merciless treatment inflicted on Abu Ghraib "detainees" neither starts nor ends there, but is carried out "at secret CIA detention centers scattered around the world."
If Hersh has done nothing else, he's forced them to huddle and look at their game plan. This didn't take long, since there are only three rules in the Team Bush "Cover-Your-Ass" game...
CYA Rule One -- There are no rules.
CYA Rule Two -- Aggressively apply Rule One.
CYA Rule Three -- If Rules One and Two fail, lie your ass off to achieve a Rumsfeldian "absence of evidence."
Pentagon spokesman Lawrence DiRita hit the ground running on Sunday, angrily waving CYA Rule Three at Hersh -- "These assertions are outlandish, conspiratorial and filled with error and anonymous conjecture!" he blustered. Although that appeared to put it all into perspective for CNN's Wolf Blitzer -- before we move on to issues more important than torturing, humiliating and sexually abusing Iraqi citizens, many of whom were wrongly detained -- we need to remember a couple of things.
It was DiRita who brushed aside the suggestion that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld or his circle of Pentagon stars would have reason to be aware of what Team Bush desperately wants us to believe was little more than a series of isolated Abu Ghraib shenanigans. In the wake of CBS 60 Minutes II airing photos of hooded, naked prisoners being abused by both male and female enlisted personnel, DiRita scoffed, "An accusation against a few troops isn't necessarily something" Rumsfeld and other top Pentagon brass "would get involved with..."
Hersh didn't suddenly appear full blown on the war-on-terror horizon. Even though Team Bush's Richard Perle labeled him as "the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist," Hersh is quite simply the most respected investigative journalist in America, if not the world, today.
It was Hersh who brought the barbaric Vietnam My Lai massacre into public awareness; Hersh who unveiled the CIA's out-of-control Phoenix Program, which he says was "...a counter-insurgency program that the U.S. adopted during the Vietnam War, in which Special Forces teams were sent out to capture or assassinate Vietnamese believed to be working with or sympathetic to the Vietcong." It was Hersh who won a Pulitzer Prize for getting his facts straight and for getting the truth out to the American people.
Hersh also gave a meticulous rendering of Team Bush antics as they rigged the intelligence system and "stovepiped"  only negative WMD information directly to the top to argue the case for attacking Iraq. And, exactly one year ago, it was Hersh who warned us  about Rumsfeld's secret, off-budget Office of Special Plans, of the behind-the-scenes machinations of Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and of the wily, destructive Ahmed Chalabi, Team Bush's main source of damning intelligence against Saddam Hussein.
So there you have it. Donald Rumsfeld and Lawrence DiRita or Seymour Hersh. When you want the truth -- who're you gonna call?
Some say it's looking bad for the home team, and that truth will finally prevail. I say that's wishful thinking. This game is not for lightweights. Before we high-five our way to the locker room, we need to remember that there is nothing more dangerous than Team Bush when cornered. Many people get hurt. Many more people die. In the game of CYA, whatever it takes to win can get pretty bloody.
How do they keep getting away with secrecy, lies, abuse, torture -- even cold-blooded murder? The answer is painfully obvious. It's because we let them. We the Media, We the Congress and We the People. We are to blame for what is happening in Iraq. We can't say we didn't know, or there's nothing we can do about it now. We knew. And, if we continue to stand mute and to play by their rules, it is because -- like Melville's Bartleby -- we prefer not to take a stand. We cannot allow ourselves to be so shocked and horrified at the voracious creature we have become that we prefer to cringe before a blank wall rather than admit our complicity in the barbaric crusade we have unleashed upon the world.
What We Know
We need to stop -- just stop -- sit down in the middle of the field, refuse to play, and consider what we know up to this point. We need to shed the misperception that George Bush is a little man in a bubble; cushioned from the devastating effects of his own inhumanity -- divorced from reality. It doesn't matter whether Bush is in charge or if he's taking orders from Dick Cheney or others within the reptilian Iran-Contra Cabal who were slithering noiselessly into place in 2000 even as the Supreme Court gavel shattered America's peace, freedom and democracy into a million ragged shards. Bush IS the reality.
We know that the bloody chaos and terror spreading throughout the Middle East was planned by Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and other neoconservatives years before Bush's selection. We know this plan required "another Pearl Harbor event" to set into motion a cruel foreign policy which would subordinate nations in the region to our will and force them to cede their resources to US corporate control. Small wonder we're a nation of Bartlebys, preferring not to question how the towering World Trade Center buildings could manage to implode on 9-11 rather than explode, thereby causing minimum surrounding corporate damage while achieving the deaths it would take to cause massive national hysteria and groveling subservience.
We know there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, no gathering threat, no mushroom clouds, no nuclear weapons -- no justification for preemptively attacking a powerless, ravaged, starving country. We long to know why Senators and Congressmen continue to play to the cameras in their faux investigations -- steeped in sanctimonious hypocrisy and feigned outrage -- and allow these fools; these evil greedy liars, to barter for oil and power with our children's lives.
We know the media's thirst for blood would be quenched if its self-righteous lackeys and leggy blonde Team Bush hos were forced to cover the "action" in Iraq while kicking up dust radiating from the 17 million tons of depleted uranium (DU) that Bush rained down upon that hapless land. Let FOX and CNN and their legions of braying right-wing pundits put their boots on the ground -- join the legions of walking dead -- and then return to tell us how they "feel" about it. Invite Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity to the Abu Ghraib university during frat-hazing week. Let the games begin...
Playing The Game
The seven lower-enlisted soldiers are a disgrace, but are not responsible for the illegal abuse and torture of men and women swept up indiscriminately in Bush's inhumane war on terror and crammed into camps and prisons in Afghanistan, Cuba and Iraq, although they are being set up to take the fall and to cover the asses of their commander-in-chief and Secretary of Defense. Courts martial are on the fast track. Soon these rogue soldiers, whose actions Bush and Rumsfeld agree put a "stain" on this great nation, will be brought to justice. Soon the world can breathe a sigh of relief.
Unfortunately, not only for these errant soldiers but for all those serving under him, George Bush is an egomaniacal serial liar who is "Texas" proud that he's unread and inexperienced, that he makes "gut" decisions to go to war, and -- since his instructions to kill anyone standing in the way of his "vision" come directly from God, he doesn't need a permission slip from earthly beings for what he does. Like his father before him, Bush believes the presidency is his "birthright; therefore, he will never accept responsibility for his actions nor will he apologize.
Bush never takes the field for the CYA game. He rises above the action or drops out of sight while those around him have a great deal of fun imposing Rule Three on the rest of us. But this time it's different. Rumsfeld's totally incompetent management of a conflict that has morphed into a senseless killing field, his cavalier response to the gruesome torture of other human beings, his bumbling attempts to blame lower-enlisted personnel for his sins -- is shameful. It's disgusting. It's impeachable.
Someone should tell Rumsfeld there are a lot of really neat games you can play with your dress pulled up over your head -- but covering your ass isn't one of them.
Sheila Samples is an Oklahoma freelance writer and a
former US Army Public Information Officer. She will accept praise and
Complaints and death threats should be directed to her cousin, Junior
Samples, at BR-549.
Other Articles by Sheila Samples