I've come across several reports on the trials of the US soldiers who abused Iraqi prisoners. Many of the reports begin by stating that the trials are a major embarrassment to the Bush Administration and might undermine the peace process.
It is strange how little people understand the dynamics of an open society. The very fact that trials are happening is one of the very few bright lights in the occupation of Iraq. The trials themselves are adding more legitimacy to the efforts to rebuild the nation than almost any other activity at the moment.
Democracy does not magically make abuses go away. It is as imperfect as all other forms of government. The truly important thing is that there are mechanisms to bring out the abuses.
Personally, I think Rumsfeld did a great deal of damage by sending prisoners to Guantanimo Bay where they are in legal limbo, and by ignoring the Geneva convention and out right rejection of all efforts to have an international legal body that could try war crimes. Rumsfeld is playing Saddam's game, a game one could argue that Saddam learned from George Bush the first.
The prisoner abuse really is not that great of an obstacle to the aims of democracy in Iraq. The real threat to peace came early when Rumsfeld tried to grant blanket immunity to American soldiers from war crimes. Dammit, when a true crime occurs, the US military wants the guilty parties tried as much as anyone else. Rumsfeld hubris in assuming that American soldiers were incapable of what they did is more of a problem than the trials.
Fortunately, Al Quaida is even more inept than the US. The abuse of Iraqi prisoners was turning international sentiment against the US. Beheading a US contract worker was one of the few acts that could turn international sentiment.
The warlords from the US are no better than the warlords ruling the middle east. Our best hope as a civilization is that open courts and a free press can eventually expose the ongoing abuses that take place in the US and abroad.
Speaking of misguided conservative meanderings. I tossed up a Socrates Meets Machiavelli. The work does not provide a substantive refutation of Machiavelli as I had hoped. It might convince people who are already convinced that Machavelli is a nefarious character that Machiavelli is a nefarious character...but does not go any further than preaching to a choir. It is an easy read, but that in itself is not a justification for reading the work; so I gave it a big thumbs down.