The Fall-guy Two-step

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The Fall-guy Two-step

Yesterday Capitol Hill was the scene of a peculiar spectacle: General George Casey, the outgoing U.S. commander in Iraq and the Bush administration's nominee for Army chief of staff, came under withering fire during confirmation hearings-from the Bush administration's few remaining allies on Iraq policy. Senator John McCain told Casey, "I question seriously the judgment that was employed in your execution of your responsibilities in Iraq." Senator Lindsay Graham was similarly unimpressed.

So if the staunchest Senate supporters of White House Iraq policy think Casey was a miserable failure, why, exactly, is he getting promoted? You might imagine it was part of an overall administration policy of rewarding incompetence, but actually it's worse. Casey is the designated fall guy for the failed occupation; the Army chief of staff job is what he gets for keeping his mouth shut and not pointing out that, in fact, the disastrous situation we now face is not primarily his fault but rather the fault of the civilian superiors who gave him his marching orders-Don Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush. And, indeed, Casey did keep his mouth shut during the hearing, lamely defending his indefensible record and at no time letting blame go any higher up the food chain.

We've seen this before, of course. Remember George Tenet? After there turned out to be no WMD in Iraq after all, the administration subtly (and not so subtly) blamed Tenet's CIA for getting the intelligence wrong-despite the fact that the administration, and Cheney in particular, had made abundantly clear that this was exactly the intelligence it wanted. But even as with one hand the White House blamed Tenet for arguably the greatest intelligence failure of modern times, with the other it gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom to keep him quiet.

Call it the Fall-Guy Two-Step: You're responsible for a world-historic failure that has cost thousands of lives and billions of dollars while making America less safe and less respected around the world. Here, have a cookie.

--Christopher Orr

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