Military newspaper blames Rumsfeld, Myers for "professional negligence"

Mon May 10,11:00 AM ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A leading military newspaper said that US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld set the tone for the prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq (news - web sites) by refusing to give captives rights due prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions.

"This was a failure that ran straight to the top," said the editorial appearing in the May 17 edition of the Military Times weeklies.

"Accountability here is essential -- even if that means relieving top leaders from duty in a time of war," it said.

Owned by Gannett, the Military Times publishes the Army, Navy and Air Force times, weeklies that are widely read by servicemembers and distributed on US military bases around the world.

The editorial said the soldiers caught in photographs and videos abusing prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison are referred to around the Pentagon (news - web sites) as "the six morons who lost the war."

"But the folks in the Pentagon are talking about the wrong morons," it said.

Responsibility, it said, "extends all the way up the chain of command to the highest reaches of the military hierarchy and its civilian leadership."

"The entire affair is a failure of leadership from start to finish," it said.

"Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld set the tone early in this war by steadfastly refusing to give captives the rights accorded to prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention," it said.

"From the moment they are captured, prisoners are hooded, shackled and accorded no rights whatsoever. The message to the troops: Anything goes."

The editorial also faults General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for trying to persuade CBS television to refrain from airing the images while failing to read the army's own damning internal report detailing the abuses.

"On the battlefield, Myers' and Rumsfelds' errors would be called a lack of situational awareness -- a failure that amounts to professional negligence," it said.