Lesson for Sen. Lindsey Graham: next time you bash a ghost, make sure she’s not in the audience.
Monday night, the South Carolina Republican joined Sen. Edward Kennedy (D., Mass.) for a panel discussion following a Washington screening of “Ghosts of Abu Ghraib,” an HBO documentary made by Kennedy’s niece, Rory Kennedy, about the 2004 abuse scandal in the Iraqi prison run by U.S. forces. As a veteran Air Force lawyer, Graham has spoken with authority on military law issues, and seemingly sought to navigate a course between President Bush’s claims of absolute power over enemy prisoners and humanitarian law concerns over compliance with the Geneva Conventions, the Convention Against Torture and other treaties.
Kennedy complained that low-ranking soldiers took the fall for Abu Ghraib, while high-level officials got a pass. Graham wouldn’t go that far, but he did take credit for blocking Bush’s nomination of an architect of the prisoner policy, Pentagon General Counsel William J. Haynes II, to a federal appeals court. And he added that the military police commander in Baghdad, Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, got off easy with a demotion to colonel. She should have faced a court-martial, he declared.
Apparently unbeknownst to Graham — he arrived a few minutes after formal introductions pointed her out — Karpinski, who is interviewed in the documentary, was a guest at the screening. And moderator Jeffrey Toobin, the New Yorker magazine’s legal correspondent, invited her to reply.
“Sen. Graham…I consider you as cowardly as Rumsfeld, as Sanchez, and Miller and all of them,” said Karpinski, who has long claimed to be a scapegoat for superiors including former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez and Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller.
Graham replied that those higher-ups deserved a share of the blame, but “this was going on unchecked for weeks and months, and Rumsfeld was in Washington and you were on the ground, so I stand by my statement.” Noting that Karpinski happens to reside in South Carolina, he acknowledged, “I’ve probably lost your vote.”
So Homer Simpson turns out to be a senator from South Carolina: "D'oh!"