Lt. Col. Steven Jordan was cleared today of three charges of mistreating detainees. He was the only officer to face criminal charges (although others such as Brig. General Janis Karpinski faced administrative punishment).

Rather than abandon the carefully built narrative that the US government ordered the prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib, however, Time is trying to salvage it by digging elsewhere and looking into some private contractors. Chin up, liberals–maybe they’ll find a way to tie them back to Cheney and Rummy, though I doubt it.

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One of the most difficult things for me to accept about the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 was that two people, three if you include Michael Fortier, could carry out such a heinous crime on their own, without direction from higher up. I had held out hope that the confessions of Khaled Sheikh Mohammed might reveal an Al Qaeda angle behind such an abomination. But despite confessing to many other plots and crimes, he never mentioned Oklahoma City. I won’t say I believed that with any degree of certainty, but I would certainly have been eager to believe new evidence that suggested it was true.

I think it’s a telling distinction between the right and the left: I was eager to believe the worst about Al Qaeda. The Left is eager to believe the worst about the United States and the way it wages war.

It’s funny, because I actually believe a lot of bad stuff about our government, too: for example: war profiteering occurs, they pander to interest groups on the border issue, and a lot of them are just arrogant creeps like Larry Craig. Part of being a conservative, after all, is a fairly pessimistic view of human nature and of government–we’re flawed and imperfect and must build our institutions to allow for the imperfectibility of man and man’s achievements. But while I am saddened, though not surprised, to find out bad things about our government and the people that run it, I find myself very hard to convince of the worst.

Vile things happened at Abu Ghraib. But why do they need a Vast Right Wing Conspiracy behind it? Some weird, kinked-out people were left unsupervised in charge of some prisoners they were told to hate. That’s more than enough, as a psych professor discovered back in 1971. What they did is their fault–theirs and their immediate commander for failing to restrain them. They can’t undo the damage they did to America’s reputation, but the guilty have been identified and they’re being punished.

The Abu Ghraib blame game ought to have been laid to rest by now. The reasonable leads are drying up. But there remains a bitter core of leftists who want to see this connected to America’s military culture and the Bush administration, and there are plenty of bitter-ender journalists who are eager to help them–instead of doing their best to exonerate the country from this tired, ugly slander.