Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Update On The Salvador Option

Belgravia Dispatch weighs in on the "Salvador Option" story which I discussed here. Djerejian believes the Newsweek article covering the story is largely "hyperbolic," and he may be right. I can't say that the story is authentic, but when the underlying coverage is about employing death squads, I believe in preemptive condemnations. Better to keep that unsavory option off the table, or even out of the realm of possibility, rather than hand wringing after the fact. If my outrage was much ado about nothing, all the better.

Djerejian also expresses his displeasure with Rumsfeld's evasive and vague answers to questions regarding the story. He's got a point. Rumsfeld denied the veracity of Newsweek's account, but repeatedly asserted that he hadn't read the story when probed on specifics. Considering the brevity of the actual article, the decision to hold a press briefing and field questions on the matter while claiming he hasn't read the story is either duplicity or negligence on Rumsfeld's part. Part of a pattern for him I suppose, like when he famously claimed not to have read Taguba's report when queried by the Senate looking into the Abu Ghraib incidents.

Because of Rumsfeld's repeated claim of a lack of first hand knowledge regardnig the details in the story, the forcefulness of his denial of the allegations was greatly undermined. Other portions of his responses seemed deliberately ambiguous as well, leaving open many avenues for speculation. Quoting BD:
3) by stating that the "Pentagon doesn't do things like are described in the reporting on the story [emphasis added]" he likely keeps the story alive by causing people to wonder if the CIA is spearheading the effort instead (from the Newsweek article: "Also being debated is which agency within the U.S. government - the Defense department or CIA - would take responsibility for such an operation.").
Matthew Yglesias disagrees and thinks the Rumsfeld press briefing "contains some pretty heavy denying of the Newsweek death squad story without much in the way of weasel words."

I tend to agree with Greg though. Regardless of the ultimate accuracy of the story, and especially if there is no truth to it, Rumsfeld could have simply handled this better by coming to the press conference having read the brief article, and, if false, being more categorical in his denials. Why leave the door ajar at all, and why go out of your way to proclaim ignorance of a topic you are going to discuss?

For the record, that's the
second time I've sided with Djerejian over Yglesias. Honing my bi-partisan bona fides perhaps?

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