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Saturday, May 08, 2004

Turning point?

The media is trying to discern how the images from Iraq are going to effect the prosecution of the war, the President's re-election campaign, and the larger war on terror.

Apparently, the images are going to get worse -- presuming that additional photos and videos documenting torture and rape are revealed.
They show "acts that can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhuman," embattled Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Congress.
He used the word "radioactive" to describe these images.

The British press (and some bloggers) are reporting that the fault lies not with a few soldiers, but with a problematic interrogation policy.

The media stories are starting to point to analogies from Vietnam -- as I did yesterday.
"There's such a big question mark there, it's unlike anything we've seen before," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center.

"The public is very critical of (Bush's) management of Iraq. They don't think he has a clear plan for bringing it to a successful conclusion, but a thin majority of the public has been hanging in with that it was the right decision to go to war," Kohut said. "This could be the event which makes people say 'Oh, we did make a mistake.'"

Political scientist James Thurber of American University likened the Iraq images to the infamous Vietnam pictures of a naked young girl fleeing a napalm attack and a Viet Cong prisoner being executed on a Saigon street.

Referring to the new pictures, Thurber said, "That's what we're going to remember about Iraq. It's just not going to go away. That may have a lasting and negative effect on his campaign. It certainly does right now and I think you'll see it in the polls immediately."
I vividly remember these images from Vietnam:

I suspect everyone who lived through that era recollects the horror.

The people representing my country have let me down -- and I'm not just talking about the soldiers in the Iraq prison photos.

Update: Jacob at Volokh has a post from May 10 called "The Tipping Point" that includes quotes from a lot of material I've been referencing this past week. Numerous political analysts ordinarily sympathetic to the "war on terror" are quite pessimistic about the latest developments in Iraq.