Is it really a good idea for Democrats to recruit as a key Senate candidate a retired general who was strongly criticized by none other than Senate Democrats themselves for his role in the Abu Ghraib torture scandal?
We’re about to find out. At a minimum, it could force a public airing of the Bush torture record.
It’s being reported this morning that Retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez may run for the open Senate seat in Texas, with the blessing of DSCC chair Patty Murray. A DSCC spokesman says Sanchez would make a ”strong candidate,” in part because of his “proven commitment to our nation’s security.”
But that commitment to our security also included his stint overseeing military operations in Iraq from 2003-2004 — and the left and Senate Dems excoriated Sanchez because the Abu Ghraib scandal happened on his watch.
Back when the news of the scandal first broke in 2004, Senator Murray, who now oversees the recruiting of Dem Senate candidates, said everyone responsible, no matter where in the chain of command, should be held accountable. “These actions are a disservice to the thousands of American soldiers in the region who serve us honorably each and every day, and, sadly, are likely to make their efforts to calm a troubled region even harder,” Murray said at the time.
When the Bush administration subsequently moved to promote Sanchez, Senator Patrick Leahy accused him of authorizing “techniques that were contrary to both U.S. military manuals and international law. Leahy added: “Given this incredible overstepping of bounds, I find it incredible that the reports generated thus far have not recommended punishment of any kind for high-level officials.”
Republicans are likely to seize on this history to argue that Dems are so eager to recruit a candidate that can win in a conservative state that they are willing to pick someone who they once criticized for playing a role in a Bush torture scandal. While that could prove a potent line of attack, the history is more complicated than that.
An independent inquiry in 2004 did fault Sanchez for his actions in Iraq, but a subsequent review by the Army’s inspector general cleared him. Even more interestingly, Sanchez ultimately called for a truth commission to get to the bottom of the abuses and torture, arguing that the use of the techniques had failed. “During my time in Iraq there was not one instance of actionable intelligence that came out of these interrogation techniques,” he said.
It’s hard to know how Sanchez’s call for a truth commission will play in conservative Texas, Either way, however, if Sanchez does enter the race, we could very well see a full and public airing of the Abu Ghraib scandal. Could get very interesting.