Lieberman Backs Rumsfeld

Sen. Joseph Lieberman has an op-ed in today’s WSJ on the Iraq prison scandal which says the right things–it was sad and horrible, we must investigate, justice must be done, it isn’t a reflection of the American character, and so forth–but also reaches a somewhat surprising conclusion, especially this close to a presidential election:

Now is the time for all who share that goal to make our agreement publicly clear, to stress what unites us. Many argue that we can only rectify the wrongs done in the Iraqi prisons if Secretary Rumsfeld resigns. I disagree. Unless there is clear evidence connecting him to the wrongdoing, it is neither sensible nor fair to force the resignation of the secretary of defense, who clearly retains the confidence of the Commander in Chief, in the midst of a war. I have yet to see such evidence. Donald Rumsfeld’s removal would delight foreign and domestic opponents of America’s presence in Iraq.

But, as we are showing in our response to Abu Ghraib, we are a nation of laws, and therefore must punish only those who are proven guilty. The Iraqi prison scandal has been a nightmare at an already difficult moment in the war in Iraq. But our cause remains as critical as ever to our security and our values. We must therefore persist in it. With determination and confidence, we should recall President Lincoln’s words at another difficult moment in American history in pursuit of another just cause: “Let us have faith that right makes might; and in that faith let us do our duty as we understand it.”

Not surprisingly, I agree. I would imagine, however, that the Kerry camp is less than thrilled with this. My guess is that most Democratic partisans view Lieberman in much the way Republican partisans view McCain. Indeed, it’s somewhat ironic that both are likely more respected by the other side than by their own, even though they both have much more in common ideologically with their party than the other.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Moe Lane says:

    I must not be a Republican partisan, then, because from where I’m sitting it looks like McCain uses those little bipartisan exercises as opportunities to Put The Knife In. In Democratic backs.

  2. Marty Heyman says:

    Maybe we should ask who’s guilty of negligence for the failure to take swift and decisive actions when this mess surfaced in January. While the command structure MAY not be guilty of directly condoning the practises, they appear to be negligent in stopping them promptly. That’s not penalty free.

  3. Boyd says:

    I’m curious why you think they appear negligent in stopping the abuse promptly, Marty. Everything I’ve heard or read about this indicates that as soon as the chain-of-command found out about it, they started investigating it, gathering information for Article 32 hearings and ultimately, most likely, courts martial for one and all.

    What have you heard about a failure to stop the abuse? I’m curious to learn what I’ve missed.

  4. Mercutio says:

    Might be time for a centist grass roots movement – McCain-Leiberman in 2004. Or Lieberman-McCain, whatever.

  5. Billy says: