Thomas Friedman has taken a lot of heat for supporting the U.S. invasion of Iraq. I don’t criticize him for that. I initially took a similar stance to Friedman. After the axis-of-evil speech I was 100% convinced that our country would invade Iraq in the spring of 2003. If I had had any hope that war could be averted, I might have spent time trying to convince the government that this was a bad idea. By my read of the landscape told me that we would invade, and that nothing could prevent it.

My first concern was practical. If we are going to invade, what do we need to do to make it work? How can we justify it? How can we get the U.N. to approve it? How can we get Turkey and France to assist us? What kind of government should we create? What kind of civil service and policing forces do we need?

At every step of the way, the Bush administration pushed their potential allies away. They ignored the advice of moderates, they avoided the advice of Friedman.

By the fall of 2003, it had become clear that the Bush administation had no plan for Iraq, and it became clear that they were not going to adjust course, or make any conciliatory gesture to those of us here, or abroad, that might want to lend a hand in rebuilding Iraq.

I had to admit to myself, and all my friends and acquaintances that I had been wrong. I had to admit that the only wise and moral choice, from the beginning, was to oppose this war.

Friedman never did this. He continued to make apologies and to try to offer constructive advice, long after it became clear that none of his advice would be heeded.

But today, he seems to have finally realized the error of his ways. If his advice in today’s column is not heeded, I call on Mr. Friedman to join me in renouncing this war and calling for a war crimes tribunal for the architects of our torture and rendition policies.

Of all the stories about the abuse of prisoners of war by American soldiers and C.I.A. agents, surely none was more troubling and important than the March 16 report by my Times colleagues Douglas Jehl and Eric Schmitt that at least 26 prisoners have died in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002 – in what Army and Navy investigators have concluded or suspect were acts of criminal homicide.NY Times: Free Registration

This is the crux of it: we have over two dozen dead POW’s on our conscience, and countless others who have survived their brutal treatment.

You have to stop and think about this: We killed 26 of our prisoners of war. In 18 cases, people have been recommended for prosecution or action by their supervising agencies, and eight other cases are still under investigation. That is simply appalling. Only one of the deaths occurred at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, reported Jehl and Schmitt – “showing how broadly the most violent abuses extended beyond those prison walls and contradicting early impressions that the wrongdoing was confined to a handful of members of the military police on the prison’s night shift.”

‘Impressions’ is not the word I would use. ‘Spin’ and ‘prevarication’ are the words I would use. We tortured people, sometimes to death, as a result of guidance set forth by Donald Rumsfeld. That’s criminal by any standard.

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But… killing prisoners of war, presumably in the act of torture, is an inexcusable outrage. The fact that Congress has just shrugged this off, and no senior official or officer has been fired, is a travesty. This administration is for “ownership” of everything except responsibility.

When it takes ownership of its flagrant violations of the Geneva Conventions and U.N. Convention Against Torture give me a call, Tom.

President Bush just appointed Karen Hughes, his former media adviser, to head up yet another U.S. campaign to improve America’s image in the Arab world. I have a suggestion: Just find out who were the cabinet, C.I.A. and military officers on whose watch these 26 homicides occurred and fire them. That will do more to improve America’s image in the Arab-Muslim world than any ad campaign, which will be useless if this sort of prisoner abuse is shrugged off.

And if they fail to fire them, Tom? What will you do then?

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