When now-infamous photographs of Iraqi prisoners being sexually humiliated at hands of U.S. military police were made public, reaction was nearly unanimous: disgust and outrage that U.S. military were abusing prisoners at same prison Saddam Hussein used to torture Iraqis. President George W. Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and others in Bush administration quickly condemned photographs, with Bush promising an investigation. In his May 15 radio address, Bush said, “My administration and our military are determined that such abuses never happen again.”
Curiously, right-wing pundits took a different view of photographs. Rush Limbaugh proclaimed abuse was nothing more than troops “blowing some steam off.” Limbaugh also compared abuse to fraternity hazing rituals, and finally, in what must be most tenuous leap of logic in radio history, blamed whole abuse scandal on Bill Clinton. On May 14, Limbaugh said, “So while all this is going on, Democrats are claiming this is a chain-of-command thing, and they're trying to get this linked all way to Bush, this is happening because of Bush's example, this is happening because Bush doesn't care, this is happening because Bush doesn't use any discipline, this is because it comes from top. I would believe that if Bill Clinton were still in office. If Bill Clinton were still in office, I could accept notion this might come from top and, in fact, depending on age of these soldiers over there they may in fact be. How many stories have we had lately, oral sex is a great way to stop teen pregnancy? That oral sex is a great way to have safe sex, just had one this week. Who popularized oral sex for nation? And who was defended day in and day out royally for doing so? Bill Clinton. And who defended him? The Democrats who now find all kinds of atrocities in these photos coming out of Abu Ghraib prison.”
Brilliant! The real reason prisoner abuse occurred had nothing to do with a breakdown in chain of command. It was because of Bill Clinton’s sexual activities!
Other conservatives pointed out that Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib were not “boy scouts” and, apparently, deserved to be sexually humiliated.
As conservative position on Abu Ghraib abuse scandal shifted away from reality, I’m sure some began to see that their audience was not agreeing with their positions, which were pretty much out of step from reaction of most Americans. Conservative pundits, I believe, have a need to protect George W. Bush. They know deep down that Dubya isn’t greatest president in world, but since he’s Republican, they will do whatever they can to deflect attention away from Bush and his administration.