Vol. 2, Issue 25, June 22, 2004
Rumsfeld Admits He Told Military to Hide Iraq Invasion from Red Cross
Pentagon officials acknowledged Thursday that the American invasion of Iraq and subsequent occupation of the country should have been mentioned to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
But the officials said the fact that the secret occupation of the country stretched for well over a year was probably attributable to a bureaucratic breakdown.
"The initial decision to occupy the country without filing registration forms was permissible, at least temporarily, for security reasons," said Daniel J. Dell'Orto, the Pentagon's principal deputy general counsel, at a Pentagon news briefing last Thursday. "We were hardly going to file a blueprint outlining the details of our military presence in a hostile country. But I suppose we should have mentioned something about the detainees and so forth to someone at the Red Cross."
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said in the same news conference that it was often difficult to remember all of the provisions of the Geneva Conventions.
"They are long and complicated," said Rumsfeld, "and our armed forces were more interested in avoiding Iraq's terrible stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction than in thumbing through a bunch of Swiss protocols." Rumsfeld added that George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, had submitted a written request to keep the occupation secret for "as long as possible."
Tenet's desire to keep the occupation out of the spotlight has met with a mixture of confusion and disbelief among political analysts.
"Well, it's not exactly like the operation was conducted in the dark," said Molly Bryce, political analyst for MSNBC. "The military's been broadcasting footage on national television since day one. They embedded reporters with military units. They've held high-profile press conferences on aircraft carriers and such. However, they appear to have been correct in their guess that organizations such as the Red Cross are generally too busy to watch television."
The U.S. military has been holding hundreds, possibly thousands, of detainees throughout Iraq since the invasion last year. At least some of the detainees have been apparently subjected to ridicule and abuse by their captors.
"But this is absolutely ghastly!" said Jakob Kellenberger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross. "How long have the Americans been there? They have how many prisoners? Is this a joke? We thought all that combat footage we've been seeing was further shenanigans in Afghanistan. Where else have they invaded?"
Rumsfeld acknowledged that thousands of captives are being held outside anybody's scrutiny. However, he disputed the notion that the military's failure to mention this to the Red Cross violated international law.
"Look, I think we did them a favor," he said. "We've saved them over a year of agitation and bother, haven't we?"
"Perhaps," acknowledged Kellenberger. "But America sure is making up for lost time."