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Monday, May 10, 2004

I'm Melllllting....

If it is possible for Fred Barnes to be a bigger whore, I don't know know how.

On the "Roundtable" today he actually attempted to pass off the argument that we shouldn't be showing these pictures because it violates the Geneva Convention to show pictures of POWs. And further it is wrong to embarrass these prisoners by putting their pictures on the front page of the NY Times.

I'm not kidding.

Perhaps we should agree to only show the pictures of tortured Iraqis who have hoods on their heads or are dead. That would solve the problems.

Now, I'm listening to Jonah Goldberg say that the media is overreacting and besides they've never shown a partial birth abortion live on television so why are they showing this stuff?

I'm not kidding.

Maybe if they keep throwing ridiculous rationalizations for their Dear Leader's utterly bankrupt Iraq adventure at the wall, there's a possibility that the splatter will start to look like a reasonable excuse. Kind of like that Idaho potato that everybody said looked like the Virgin Mary.

Contracting Viruses

I've been waiting for someone to report this. (I had an inkling, but it's bigger than I thought.) The private contractor-GOP gravy train (Salon)

Blackwater, the firm that guards Coalition Provisional Authority chief Paul Bremer, and whose men were killed at Fallujah, has hired the well-connected Alexander Strategy Group to guide it through the current publicity storm and help influence Congress on whatever rules are generated to govern private militias in war zones, according to the Hill newspaper.

Alexander may turn out to be a clever choice: Ed Buckham, former chief of staff to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, is Alexander's chairman. Tony Rudy, another former top DeLay operative, and Karl Gallant, who once ran DeLay's leadership PAC, are also onboard.

Blackwater also works other angles. One of the firm's founders is Michigan native Erik Prince, a former Navy SEAL. His father, Edgar Prince, helped religious right leader Gary Bauer found the Family Research Council in 1988. Erik Prince's sister, Betsy DeVos, is the chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party. But Blackwater is a relative newcomer to the Washington influence game, especially compared with CACI and Titan, which have been trailblazers.

DeVos, by the way, is Amway --- and one of the wierdest people on the planet.

This Prince/Bauer/DeVos angle nicely represents the GOP axis of evil. Defense contractors, religious zealots and big wierd money.

Simply The Best

It's hard to believe, but Julia doesn't agree with Junior and Big Time that Rummy is the bestest darned SecDef the country has ever had:

See, I would have probably gone with George Marshall, who was - when he wasn't busy planning the Meuse-Argonne offensive which caused Germany to give up in World War One, becoming a Brigadier General, being named the Army Chief of Staff and serving in that capacity for the duration of World War Two (he was credited by Winston Churchill with planning the Allied victory) and serving as Secretary of State and subsequently the president of the International Red Cross - the architect of the Marshall Plan, which is considered by many (clearly delusional) people to be the single US initiative most responsible for keeping Europe out of the hands of the Russians after World War Two and preventing the mistakes that were made after World War One from being repeated and possibly setting off World War Three. "

But, did Campbell Brown call him a Rock Star? Did Midge Dector write a gushy semi-erotic paeon to his manliness? Was he hot, hot, hot?

I didn't think so.

Hoping For Armageddon

Ok. I think it may be time to start thinking outside the box. This can't be just incompetence. Nobody could be this stupid, not even Crusader Codpiece. There must be some underlying reason why they are compelled to do the absolute wrong thing every single time.

Today's little tribute to Rumsfeld was completely inexplicable by ordinary standards. It's bad enough that Bush refused to fire the asshole. But, to go out and make a point of saying that the country "owes him a debt of gratitude" is the equivalent of pouring boric acid into an open wound.

Is Cheney reading the Left Behind series aloud at cabinet meetings or something?

Arab commentators reacted with shock and disbelief on Monday over President Bush's robust backing of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld against calls for his resignation.

Critics had called for him to quit after the furor over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners but analysts, editors and ordinary Arabs were united in their condemnation of Bush who said the United States owed Rumsfeld a "debt of gratitude."

"After the torture and vile acts by the American army, President Bush goes out and congratulates Rumsfeld. It's just incredible. I am in total shock," said Omar Belhouchet, editor of the influential Algerian national daily El Watan.

"Bush's praise for Rumsfeld will discredit the United States...and further damage its reputation, which is already at a historic low in the Arab world," he added.


"After Mr. Bush's decision to keep Rumsfeld, all their apologies seem like lip service," Dubai-based political analyst Jawad al-Anani told Reuters. "Mr. Rumsfeld would have certainly lost his job if the prisoners were American."

"The United States is spending so much money by setting up Alhurra television and Radio Sawa to improve its image in the Arab world...How can it reconcile that with keeping a man who has insulted every Arab through the abuses of Iraqi prisoners," added Anani, a former Jordanian foreign minister.

University of Algiers professor Mahmoud Belhimeur agreed.

"I cannot believe the United States reacts the way an authoritarian regimes would. Bush should have done the honorable thing and fired Rumsfeld," he said.


A Saudi businessman, who asked not to be named, said keeping Rumsfeld would be seen as Washington's quiet approval of the abuse.

"This just confirms that what is happening in Iraq in general, and especially what is happening in Abu Ghraib is sanctioned by the American administration and that is a hell of a position to be in.

"I see no advantage in keeping Rumsfeld. Bush should be building bridges with the outside world."

Little Birdies

Howard Kurtz, helpfully giving the wing-nuts a little bucking up during these dark days of dog and reality bites, says that the Democrats are panicking about John Kerrys' campaign. It's not surprising since Democrats in general seem to have a penchant for jumping the gun this year. Jayzuz. Haven't we been down this road already?

To all those nervous nellies, I just have four little words: Shut The Fuck Up.

Intellectual Tough Guy

Before it disappears into the ether, I'd like to point out that Wesley Clark's appearance on Meat The Press yesterday should put to rest any lingering questions about his political loyalties.

Not only was his analysis right on point, as usual, but he was very tough, saying that it would be patriotic for Rumsfeld to resign and that we should unload (war criminal Ambassador) Negroponte, something that I haven't heard anyone but Harkin even remotely address. He said in no uncertain terms that the responsibility for this debacle goes all the way to the Oval Office.

You can tell he was effective by the blustering he elicited from that mannequin in a suit they call a Senator, John Warner.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, I'm very encouraged that the Congress is taking a very strong look at this. I think there are systemic failures here. But I think it does come, as Senator Levin says, from a broader perception, an announcement within the administration, really, that international law is not that important. It's legalisms. What counts is American force.

And, you know, those Geneva Conventions were put in place to protect Americans. They were put in place to protect our men and women in case they be taken. And the people who were detained in Iraq, the prisoners there, the detainees, they were all covered under the Geneva Convention--they should have been.

And so there's more than a systemic failure. There's a failure of leadership that goes right to the top. This is a presidential leadership problem. He is the commander in chief. He announces it virtually every day on the campaign trail and he, himself, must take responsibility for this because it reflects his command influence.

SEN. WARNER: Tim, could I just interrupt? We've got to be cautious because I'm convinced that the Department of Defense is doing everything they can to get the facts out in the public. I was assured yesterday that all the new photos are being reviewed by the lawyers and so forth and will be forthcoming to the Congress...[blah, blah, blah]


MR. RUSSERT: Secretary Rumsfeld has written throughout his career "Rumsfeld's Rules" and this is one of them: "Be able to resign. It will improve your value to the President and do wonders for your performance."

General Clark, do you think Secretary Rumsfeld should resign?

GEN. CLARK: Well, I think there's really two issues on this. One is his effectiveness and he said he would resign if he felt he couldn't be effective. But I think it's really a question of the credibility of the U.S. mission and how the United States is perceived in the world. I don't think his effectiveness has been compromised. I think he can still give orders; I think people will still take them. There's no issue with that. The real question is: "How is the United States perceived and how seriously are we perceived to be taking this issue?"

I think it would be very patriotic if Secretary Rumsfeld resigned. But I do think that the issue goes beyond the secretary of defense. I don't think we should indict the men and women in the armed forces. I think 99.9 percent of them are doing a great job over there and I hope the American people will support them. I certainly do. But I do think that when something like this happens that the prima facia notion of this is this goes right to the top. What did the president know? What was the atmosphere that the president created? How hard was he pushing?

We know there was a lot of pressure to get intelligence information from these interrogations. And the Pentagon was the action agency on this working with the Central Intelligence Agency in crafting the rules. But the atmosphere in which the Geneva Conventions were more or less set to one side, apparently, would have come from the top.


MR. RUSSERT: Let me just turn to the real issue here and that is who is responsible, who's being blamed, who's being court-martialed

GEN. CLARK: Well, there is a systemic problem here, and we do need to get to the bottom of it. We do need intelligence information. Our soldiers have to maintain standards of conduct. And General Taguba's report, I think, got to many of the key issues that are involved; more needs to be done.

But beyond the specific issue that's here involved and who was responsible and how do we prevent this in the future is the larger issue of the success or failure of the mission in Iraq. And that's what this prisoner abuse calls into question.

We know there was no linkage between Saddam Hussein and the events of 9/11. We know now there was no imminent threat of weapons of mass destruction, the last claim of the administration is to do good in Iraq by providing democracy, an opportunity for democracy and higher standards. And here we are with this compromising the higher standards that we believe in. So it's a very, very significant issue as we try to win the hearts and the minds of the people in Iraq and promote our views of the right way to govern around the world.


MR. RUSSERT: ... Murtha...expressed serious doubts that those remedies are even faint possibilities, given current military deployments, a lack of support from NATO allies and widespread outrage over the mistreatment of Iraqis prisoners of war."

"Coming from a senior appropriator with close ties to the Pentagon, Murtha's bleak analysis led many colleagues to surmise that he believes a democratic Iraqi is a lost cause."

General Clark, do you share that pessimism?

GEN. CLARK: I think there's a greater than 50/50 chance, let's say a 2:1 chance, of a catastrophic early end to this mission.

MR. RUSSERT: What does that mean?

GEN. CLARK: That means the Iraqi people will simply say, "We want the Americans out of here." You'll see a large outpouring of public animosity in Baghdad and elsewhere, a million Iraqis demonstrating in the streets of Baghdad against us. And, Tim, we're only going to be there and be effective if the majority of the Iraqi people want us there. That's what this mission's success hinges on.

All of the issues, international involvement, more troops and all that--all of it is measured by: Do the Iraqi people believe that we're actually helping and contributing to their betterment or are we causing problems?

And the Iraqi people are, step by step, turning against this mission. What we need to do right now is a major change in policy. We need to unload John Negroponte after the 30th of June. He cannot run that country as the American ambassador.

We've got to have an international assistance organization like we did in the Balkans, where other nations can participate, and the Iraqis will understand that it's the world trying to help them; it's not America telling them what to do.

Update: For anyone who's interested in going deeper into Wes Clark's ideas about how to fix this cock-up in Iraq, read "Broken Engagement" in the May issue of The Washington Monthly.

Seeds Of The Insurgency

Baghdad's art scene show US abuse :

The alabaster sculpture of a crouching naked man, with his hands tied and his head covered by a hood is on display at a Baghdad gallery.

It bears a striking resemblance to some of the shocking photographs that emerged last week of Iraqi prisoners abused by their American guards at the Abu Ghraib prison.

The 38cm sculpture with the words "We are living American democracy" inscribed on its base was fashioned two months ago.

'We knew what went on at Abu Ghraib,' the artist Abdul-Kareem Khalil said on Saturday. "The pictures did not surprise me."

Bleeding Money

The invasion of Iraq is not only the greatest strategic blunder in modern memory, it is also the most expensive strategic blunder in modern times.

With troop commitments growing, the cost of the war in Iraq could top $150 billion through the next fiscal year — as much as three times what the White House had originally estimated. And, according to congressional researchers and outside budget experts, the war and continuing occupation could total $300 billion over the next decade, making this one of the costliest military campaigns in modern times.

As a measure of the Bush administration’s priorities in the war on terrorism, it has spent about $3 in Iraq for every $1 committed to homeland security, experts say.

That divide may be growing.

The Pentagon says its monthly costs for Operation Iraqi Freedom shot up from $2.7 billion in November to nearly $7 billion in January, the last month for which ithas provided figures. Since then, the number of troops has jumped by 20,000 to 135,000, and the bloody insurgency has grown.

Defense officials initially said the troop increases were temporary, but last week they changed course and said they planned to maintain the higher levels through 2005, along with increased numbers of tanks and other heavy military equipment. The tempo of military operations has increased sharply in response to a wave of lethal attacks, suggesting the costs still may be climbing.

Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have started to express deep concern over the costs and the way in which the Bush administration is choosing to cover them.

They contend that the White House has been relying on budgeting stratagems to conceal the overall expense, at least until after the election in November. And lawmakers worry that Congress is going to be forced to do something the White House has said until now was not necessary: Chop away at other government programs to cover the costs of an occupation that has no end in sight.

“DOD (Department of Defense) is being more than customarily opaque with us, ” Rep. John Spratt of South Carolina, the senior Democrat on the House Budget Committee, said in an interview. “We’re trying to pool our efforts and share information and piece something together, which is the only way to figure out what it is really going to cost us. But this is basic information. This is not unorthodox to get these numbers. It’s not asking for somebody to rework the whole books. I think they are embarrassed by the level of the costs.”

By contrast, Operation Desert Storm, begun in 1991 after Saddam Hussein’s armies invaded Kuwait, cost about $84 billion, adjusted for inflation, according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a nonpartisan Washington think tank. But because the United States was part of a broad coalition of wealthy countries, including Britain, France, Germany, Japan and Saudi Arabia, about 90 percent of those costs were paid for by America’s allies.

But you know, Junior, in his ongoing quest to prove to his father that he is a man, decided that it was a good idea to tell the rest of the world to go fuck itself and pay for the entire mistake ourselves. Besides, Chalabi and Wolfowitz promised that the war would pay for itself and that made so much sense.

Via catch.com

Talent On Loan from Stalin

I should have known.

The freeper screed I posted below came directly from GOP cult leader, Rush Limbaugh, on his show last Thursday:
All right, so we're at war with these people. And they're in a prison where they're being softened up for interrogation. And we hear that the most humiliating thing you can do is make one Arab male disrobe in front of another. Sounds to me like it's pretty thoughtful. Sounds to me in the context of war this is pretty good intimidation -- and especially if you put a woman in front of them and then spread those pictures around the Arab world. And we're sitting here, 'Oh my God, they're gonna hate us! Oh no! What are they gonna think of us?' I think maybe the other perspective needs to be at least considered. Maybe they're gonna think we are serious. Maybe they're gonna think we mean it this time. Maybe they're gonna think we're not gonna kowtow to them. Maybe the people who ordered this are pretty smart. Maybe the people who executed this pulled off a brilliant maneuver.


Nobody got hurt. Nobody got physically injured. But boy there was a lot of humiliation of people who are trying to kill us -- in ways they hold dear. Sounds pretty effective to me if you look at us in the right context.

We are at war with Iraq. And the Iraqis are trying to kill us. We are simply teaching them who's in charge ...

...when we aren't liberating them and creating a liberal democracy that will be a model for all the tyrannical regimes in the region, that is.

Rush is not off the reservation. He knows what he's supposed to say to keep his dittoheads in line. I have little doubt that Ed Gillespie and Karl Rove, (despite their horror toward Democratic "hate speech") are on the same page. They always are.

Update: Media Matters is keeping the heat on Rush and he doesn't like it.

You want to kill the snake, go for the head.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Desert Cakewalk

Sadoun Dulame read the results of his latest poll again and again. He added up percentages, highlighted sections and scribbled notes in the margins.

No matter how he crunched the numbers, however, he found himself in the uncomfortable position this week of having to tell occupation authorities that the report they commissioned paints the bleakest picture yet of the U.S.-led coalition's reputation in Iraq. For the first time, according to Dulame's poll, a majority of Iraqis said they'd feel safer if the U.S. military withdrew immediately.

A year ago, just 17 percent of Iraqis wanted the troops gone, according to Dulame's respected research center in Baghdad. Now, the disturbing new results mirror what most Iraqis and many international observers have said for months: Give it up. Go home. This just isn't working.

The prisoner-abuse scandal is only the latest in a string of serious setbacks to the U.S. administration's ambitions for democracy in Iraq. Before that, one essential political ally was lost - the country's Shiite Muslim majority - and another discredited - Ahmed Chalabi and other members of the U.S.-appointed governing council.

A persistent guerrilla campaign is sending dozens of U.S. troops home in flag-draped coffins, and more than half the country is unemployed. Rebuilding projects the coalition started and then abandoned because the worsening security drove away contractors only add to the country's dismal landscape and dim hopes for the future.


Outside of officialdom, there is little appetite for allowing Americans to stay. Anyone still talking about liberation is shushed as disingenuous, especially now that the image of a Saddam Hussein statue crashing to the ground is no longer symbolic of the coalition's intentions. Instead, many Iraqis said, today's American presence is best summed up in photos of a laughing female American soldier leading a nude Iraqi prisoner by a dog leash.

Dulame's grim poll doesn't even take in the prisoner scandal's effects. It was conducted in mid-April in seven Iraqi cities. A total of 1,600 people were interviewed, and the margin of error is 3 percentage points. The findings, which must go first to coalition authorities, have not yet been made public.

According to Dulame, director of the independent Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies, prisoner abuse and other coalition missteps now are fueling a dangerous blend of Islamism and tribalism. For example, while American officials insist that only fringe elements support the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, a majority of Iraqis crossed ethnic and sectarian lines to name him the second most-respected man in Iraq, according to the coalition-funded poll.

Other than that, things are going really well.

Via The Poorman

Bush's Base

Via reader jh Woodyat I'm informed of some fascinating analysis of the prisoner abuse scandal over in freeperville: Did the Arab "Street" Get a Message We Didn't Mean to Send?

The POW photos are having an unintended effect on the Arab "Street" and the "resistance."

Amidst all the apologies, I want to suggest we all (Hillary Clinton here) take a deep breath and consider something that no one in the administration or Congress has (publicly) considered:

By now, everyone pretty well knows that Arab societies base everything on power and perceptions of power. In part, that is why so many Freepers and conservatives got their panties in a bunch because it appeared in public like "apologizing" was a sign of weakness.

Ah, my friends. You aren't thinking like an Arab. The "street" and, indeed, the leadership doesn't trust much of what we say---they only look at what we do. It would have made no difference if Bush formally apologized and sent each detainee a bouquet of flowers---the "street" would see that as a sham, a pretense, a distraction from the "real" policy.

No, I suggest something else. That the Arab "street" and especially the "resistance" has taken from those photos a message we didn't intend to send, but one that strikes fear into the very heart of them---a message of pure power and dominance. The submissive positions of these "tough" Iraqi men under the heels and attached to the leashes of WOMEN (and relatively small women, at that) sends a very powerful message to the "street."

Don't screw with the Americans. Oh, they'll "apologize," be we know that when the hearings are over, and the attention is off, they can do what they want.

I want to reiterate: this is foreign to our way of thinking. Unless you're a hard-core Democrat, you don't pathologically lie to achieve your objectives. But we must start thinking like the enemy.

Has anyone noticed that we virtually walked into Najaf this week, unopposed? Al-Sadr did nothing. Has anyone noticed that Fallujah is quiet? Very few roadside bombs/suicide bombs in the last couple of days. This could all change, but it is eerie that when a message of power is sent out all over the Middle East---unintentionally on our part---it resonates. Big time.

Yes, yes. Americans have the most humongous, elephantine dicks on the planet. Everybody knows that. Especially freepers. They also have the smallest brains.

In one sense, this person is right. The "Arab street" doesn't believe these half-hearted apologies for one minute. Rummy's still running things, Bush can't spit out the word "sorry" without choking and the plan continues unabated. Whether they are all shaking and weeping like little girls under the shadow of our mighty manhood is another story. I guess this "analyst" forgot that these guys lived under Saddam, who up until about five minutes ago was universally condemned for doing exactly what this fellow now praises the US for doing.

After having to endure the hate-filled rhetoric of Democrats, David "National Greatness" Brooks must be so proud to be politically aligned with fine examples of civil discourse like Rush Limbaugh and these real Americans:

It's like judo. You turn your weaknesses into strength. The scandal is a weakness, and we turn it into a strength. Right now, every would-be terrorist is going to have horrible nightmares of sexual torture before they light off their next bomb.

Sadly, American troops are now having the same nightmares. Which is why they aren't too happy right now. Their jobs just got exponentially more dangerous.

Excellent point. Also note this: the prisoners chose to submit to this humiliation. They could have defied us and chosen their 72 virgins. How strong is their faith? I believe that the Japanese were much more devoted to their faith than the Islamics. God willing, I do not expect to see as many suicide bombers as there were kamakazis back during WWII. Right or wrong, some of the guards called their bluff, and we can learn from that.

It was the prisoners choice to live or die and they chose to live. So it's their fault they were sexually tortured and humiliated. Buncha babies.

You know? You may be on to something. We know we're dealing with cowards. Perhaps alSadr crapped his kaftan when he saw those photos and pictured himself naked... barking like a dog with a chain on his neck... at the end of a leash held by a 90 pound woman sucking on a Pall Mall.


Can you imagine us apologizing and offering cash reparations to jailed lower-level Nazi crimminals during WW2 for "humiliating" them? The American people would've been horrified by such a suggestion. .....but back then we were made of much sterner stuff.

That's so true. As our National Security Advisor said, "we liberated the German people from Hitler" just as we are liberating the Iraqi people from Saddam. It's just a matter of sorting out who's naughty and nice. Luckily, American troops can automatically tell the good Iraqis we are liberating from the bad Iraqis we are fighting. The prisoners who were being beaten raped and tortured must be guilty of something or they wouldn't be there, right?

The only [thing] that would have made those pictures even worse,to the "Arab Street",would have been if these pictures also showed women rubbing bacon all over those "brave" soldiers for Allah.

Good idea. But, really, why are we playing these silly games. Concentration camps are one proven method to deal with these sub-humans.

On the other hand:

I don't know if this sexual harassment will do the job. Personally I would like us to locate this piss-ant called Al-Sadr and the mosque he is located in. Once located we drop a MOAB (Muslims & Other Arab Bastards) bomb. I figure a few of these, probably less than 10-20 would shut the Arab-Muslim's up.

They don't say Americans are the pargmatists of the world for nothing.

Yeah, you nailed it. This stuff is so lame compared to other wars. I actually thought the pictures were a bit comical. As the poster states, the pictures may have made a very large point to a culture which treats it's women like crap. And guess what? NO ONE GOT HURT! Seeing a human being jump from a burning sky scraper; now that's NOT funny. And guess what? That person died and not one Arab or Muslim leader was asked to apologize, nor did any apologize. In fact, those societies cheered at what happened on 911. I say screw 'em, and I say screw the libs who are demanding this non-stop apology.

Until we get an apology from all the Arabs who had nothing to do with 9/11, we can do whatever we want (and to all those woman hating liberals who support them, too.)

Here's another feminist for Bush:

If I were a Muslim woman and saw that tiny woman pretending she had an AK-14 pointed at their hubby's cajoles, I be saying let me get you a real handheld rocket propeller with an extra round and send him to his 72 Virgins. I'll help pull the trigger!

Muslim women (if they have seen any of these pics) must be grateful that finally the "men" are being abused and not the females in Iraqi.

I don't condone what was done and evidently there is more to come (no pun intended). Geez, these guys were in "prison" and another thought is that maybe a lot of Iraqi's recognized some of their former torturers and were pleased that Allah had sent such "tormentors" to revenge these evil doers.

One last thing! A pair of Hane's women's panties???? Get real, most of the guys in SanFran would have gone for the Victoria Secret thong with matching lace bra.

I hope we get this crap behind us and win the war on terror and have a turnover on June 30th that makes every sacrifice our Country and our Military worthwhile.

The DEMS are fiddling while Rome is burning. Clinton's "I didn't have sex with the woman is more abusive to me as an American than any of the pics I've seen so far!

Well, there you have it.

I think the way to fight off evil is to do some acts of goodness. See, the great strength of the country is the hearts and souls of our fellow Americans. And the best way to declare our position, the best way to make our position known to the world, is through what I like to call the gathering momentum of millions of acts of kindness and compassion and decency; acts of compassion and decency which take place on a daily basis, in all kinds of ways. George W. Bush

Or we could pour buckets of pig blood all over the naked prisoners.

It's all good.

New Insurgency

Iraqi scholars plan US opposition

The "tough" thing is, their opposition sounds suspiciously like it might end up as some form of pluralistic democracy:

What is becoming increasingly accepted as the inherent inability of the US-led coalition to come to grips with the situation - further exacerbated by the range of opposition forces ranged against it - has left a political vacuum, a vacuum that this initiative hopes to help fill.

The senior Shia cleric behind the initiative, Sheikh Jawad al-Khalisi, brought together some 500 prominent Iraqis - Shia, Sunni, Arab nationalist and Kurdish.

They hope to carve out a path, free from American and other foreign influences, along which the majority of Iraqis could be persuaded to move.

The conference set up a 16-member panel, pledged to boycott any US-sponsored political group, including the Iraqi Governing Council, to re-establish the national army and to restore sovereignty under the auspices of the United Nations.

Sheikh Khalisi's opposition to the US programme seems bound to cause hostility in some quarters.

But the idea of a broad and wholly Iraqi initiative may also win hearts and minds among the local population.

Heavens to Betsy, Donald. Do you think they'll agree to let the US keep its four planned permanent military bases and run their economy like a Cato Institute wet dream? I sure hope so because if not they might find themselves on the receiving end of a little R21.

Link via Common Prejudice

Time To Move On

Larry Eagleberger is now appearing on national television programs drunk, apparently. He says that this hand-wringing has got to stop. We have 50 years of history showing that we are the good guys and if others in the world don't understand that then there is something wrong with them.

Friday, May 07, 2004

The Daily Brew:

We Are All Wearing The Blue Dress Now

Whether Republicans like it or not, if George Bush is elected in the fall, the entire world will view the election as American approval of the torture and sexual humiliation of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison. It might not be fair, it might not be reasonable, but it is nevertheless reality. Apologies, prosecutions, firings and courts martial will not be enough to expunge the stain this scandal has placed on the honor of the United States. The pictures are simply too graphic. The abuses are simply too horrible. If George Bush is elected President, the entire world will view the election, at a minimum, as tacit approval of these events.

Read the rest.

Brew is correct. If we do not turn Bush out of office, the American people will no longer have the benefit of the doubt. Up until now, most of the world has realized that Junior got in on a hummer. But, if we legitimately elect this idiot, we will be seen to have validated all the actions of this administration.

The Method To Their Madness

Keep in mind that General Taguba estimated that more than 60% of those detained at Abu Ghraib are innocent of any crimes:

The sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison was not an invention of maverick guards, but part of a system of ill-treatment and degradation used by special forces soldiers that is now being disseminated among ordinary troops and contractors who do not know what they are doing, according to British military sources.

The techniques devised in the system, called R2I - resistance to interrogation -match the crude exploitation and abuse of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib jail in Baghdad.

One former British special forces officer who returned last week from Iraq, said: "It was clear from discussions with US private contractors in Iraq that the prison guards were using R2I techniques, but they didn't know what they were doing."

He said British and US military intelligence soldiers were trained in these techniques, which were taught at the joint services interrogation centre in Ashford, Kent, now transferred to the former US base at Chicksands.

"There is a reservoir of knowledge about these interrogation techniques which is retained by former special forces soldiers who are being rehired as private contractors in Iraq. Contractors are bringing in their old friends".

Using sexual jibes and degradation, along with stripping naked, is one of the methods taught on both sides of the Atlantic under the slogan "prolong the shock of capture", he said.

Female guards were used to taunt male prisoners sexually and at British training sessions when female candidates were undergoing resistance training they would be subject to lesbian jibes.

"Most people just laugh that off during mock training exercises, but the whole experience is horrible. Two of my colleagues couldn't cope with the training at the time. One walked out saying 'I've had enough', and the other had a breakdown. It's exceedingly disturbing," said the former Special Boat Squadron officer, who asked that his identity be withheld for security reasons.

Many British and US special forces soldiers learn about the degradation techniques because they are subjected to them to help them resist if captured. They include soldiers from the SAS, SBS, most air pilots, paratroopers and members of pathfinder platoons.

A number of commercial firms which have been supplying interrogators to the US army in Iraq boast of hiring former US special forces soldiers, such as Navy Seals.

"The crucial difference from Iraq is that frontline soldiers who are made to experience R2I techniques themselves develop empathy. They realise the suffering they are causing. But people who haven't undergone this don't realise what they are doing to people. It's a shambles in Iraq".

The British former officer said the dissemination of R2I techniques inside Iraq was all the more dangerous because of the general mood among American troops.

"The feeling among US soldiers I've spoken to in the last week is also that 'the gloves are off'. Many of them still think they are dealing with people responsible for 9/11".

When the interrogation techniques are used on British soldiers for training purposes, they are subject to a strict 48-hour time limit, and a supervisor and a psychologist are always present. It is recognised that in inexperienced hands, prisoners can be plunged into psychosis.

The spectrum of R2I techniques also includes keeping prisoners naked most of the time. This is what the Abu Ghraib photographs show, along with inmates being forced to crawl on a leash; forced to masturbate in front of a female soldier; mimic oral sex with other male prisoners; and form piles of naked, hooded men.

The full battery of methods includes hooding, sleep deprivation, time disorientation and depriving prisoners not only of dignity, but of fundamental human needs, such as warmth, water and food.

Unless there is a ticking goddamned nuclear bomb in the basement of the White House, there is not even a tiny shred of an excuse for this shit.

The happiest man on the planet today is Osama bin Laden. He kisses a picture of Teresa Lapore every night before he goes to sleep, thanking Allah for sending her to put the dumbest assholes in the world into the White House.

The Smirking Jezebels From The Appalachians

Tory wierdo Boris Johnson coined the above phrase in his now infamous apologia for supporting the war. It's facile and silly, but it made me realize that the two most vivid symbols of the war are two 21 year-old female soldiers from West Virginia --- Jessica Lynch and Lynndie England --- one blond, one brunette, one the embodiment of American goodness, the other the hated representive of America's dark side.

It appears that the line between good and evil can run right down the center of one little state --- a little state that was created during the civil war when those appalachians refused to join the confederacy. Perhaps it is, and always been, the beating heart of America, warts and all.

Thorough Investigations:

Three U.S. military policemen who served at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison said on Thursday they had witnessed unreported cases of prisoner abuse and that the practice against Iraqis was commonplace.

``It is a common thing to abuse prisoners,'' said Sgt. Mike Sindar, 25, of the Army National Guard's 870th Military Police Company based in the San Francisco Bay area. ``I saw beatings all the time.

``A lot of people had so much pent-up anger, so much aggression,'' he said. Sindar and the other military policemen, who have returned to California from Iraq, spoke in interviews with Reuters.


Although public attention has focused on the dehumanizing photos, some members of the 870th MP unit say the faces in those images were not the only ones engaged in cruel behavior.

``It was not just these six people,'' said Sindar, the group's nuclear, biological and chemical weapons specialist. ``Yes, the beatings happen, yes, all the time.''


Until earlier this year prisoners would arrive at Abu Ghraib with broken bones, suggesting they had been roughed up, he said. But the practice ended in January or February, as practices at the prison were coming under increased internal scrutiny.

Photos obtained by Reuters show U.S. soldiers looking into body bags of three Iraqi prisoners killed by 870th MP guards during a prison riot in the fall of 2003. One photograph shows a bearded man with much of his bloodied forehead removed by the force of a bullet.

``We were constantly being attacked, we had terrible support ... also being extended all the time, a lot of us had problems with our loved ones suffering from depression,'' said another of the military policemen, Spc. Dave Bischel. ``It all contributes to the psychological component of soldiers when they get stressed.''

The Californians' remarks were unusual, as U.S. soldiers have been reluctant to speak out in public on the issue.

Some say investigators went out of their way to keep the allegations under wraps. When military investigators were looking into abuses several months ago, they gave U.S. guards a week's notice before inspecting their possessions, several soldiers said.

"That shows you how lax they are about discipline. 'We are going to look for contraband in here, so hint, hint, get rid of the stuff,' that's the way things work in the Guard,'' Leal said.

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Jacob Weisberg has a fascinating piece up at Slate called, The Misunderestimated Man - How Bush chose stupidity:

Bush's assorted malapropisms, solecisms, gaffes, spoonerisms, and truisms tend to imply that his lack of fluency in English is tantamount to an absence of intelligence. But as we all know, the inarticulate can be shrewd, the fluent fatuous. In Bush's case, the symptoms point to a specific malady—some kind of linguistic deficit akin to dyslexia—that does not indicate a lack of mental capacity per se.

Bush also compensates with his non-verbal acumen. As he notes, "Smart comes in all kinds of different ways." The president's way is an aptitude for connecting to people through banter and physicality. He has a powerful memory for names, details, and figures that truly matter to him, such as batting averages from the 1950s. Bush also has a keen political sense, sharpened under the tutelage of Karl Rove.

What's more, calling the president a cretin absolves him of responsibility. Like Reagan, Bush avoids blame for all manner of contradictions, implausible assertions, and outright lies by appearing an amiable dunce. If he knows not what he does, blame goes to the three puppeteers, Cheney, Rove, and Rumsfeld. It also breeds sympathy. We wouldn't laugh at FDR because he couldn't walk. Is it less cruel to laugh at GWB because he can't talk? The soft bigotry of low expectations means Bush is seen to outperform by merely getting by. Finally, elitist condescension, however merited, helps cement Bush's bond to the masses.

But if "numskull" is an imprecise description of the president, it is not altogether inaccurate. Bush may not have been born stupid, but he has achieved stupidity, and now he wears it as a badge of honor. What makes mocking this president fair as well as funny is that Bush is, or at least once was, capable of learning, reading, and thinking. We know he has discipline and can work hard (at least when the goal is reducing his time for a three-mile run). Instead he chose to coast, for most of his life, on name, charm, good looks, and the easy access to capital afforded by family connections.

The most obvious expression of Bush's choice of ignorance is that, at the age of 57, he knows nothing about policy or history. After years of working as his dad's spear-chucker in Washington, he didn't understand the difference between Medicare and Medicaid, the second- and third-largest federal programs. Well into his plans for invading Iraq, Bush still couldn't get down the distinction between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, the key religious divide in a country he was about to occupy. Though he sometimes carries books for show, he either does not read them or doesn't absorb anything from them. Bush's ignorance is so transparent that many of his intimates do not bother to dispute it even in public.

There's more good stuff about his little Oedipal issue and the fact that he really is the laziest bastard to ever become president.

I maintain that the biggest insult the Republicans have ever pulled --- and I'm including that bodice ripping romance novel they called The Starr Report --- was to put this unqualified manchild in charge of the world.

They Should Be Grateful

From the previously mentioned Inhofe appearance on Chris Matthews yesterday:

JAMES INHOFE: ... Let‘s look at this prison.

No. 1, this is one prison out of 26. No. 2, this is the same prison where Saddam Hussein was torturing people in an indescribable way, far worse than any abuses that took place in these pictures.

We‘re talking about drilling holes in their hands. We‘re talking about electrocuting people. We‘re talking about just dropping their bodies, half their bodies into acid. You know, things that are really serious.

Now if were an Iraqi and I went through what they said they went through, I would say to myself, That‘s not nearly as bad as if we had been here when Saddam was in charge.

They were letting off steam, Chris! Just a little 'o that Deliverance style "sooooooey" action. They were damned lucky they didn't get their hands drilled, for cying out loud.

Gotta run Chris. I'm late for the National Day of Prayer invitational Broomstick Slam. Thanks for having me.

Vote the liberals out of office. You will be doing the Lord's work, and he will richly bless you. James Inhofe

Good Riddance

I think that the single most egregious mistake that Bush has made in his presidency (among many egregious mistakes) is continuously asserting that we are "better" as a people than "the enemy," whom they have never adequately defined. His vaunted "moral clarity" continues to be nothing more that a puerile appeal to emotion that has done much more harm than good. Historically, nations have always done this, but in this age of global media, it is a very bad idea. It's much too easy for pictures and words to make their way around the world in seconds to contradict such assertions and destroy our credibility. As Bush himself says repeatedly, "it's a different kinda war" and indeed it is. It is much more a war of ideas than a war of military conquest. If there was ever a time when we needed someone with highly developed communication skills, it was now. Unfortunately, we were saddled with someone who speaks in the most simplistic terms possible and it is blowing back on us now.

Immediately after 9/11, Bush's braintrust framed this War On Terrorism as between "good 'n evil," "us 'n them" --- exactly as bin Laden did. Instead of using reason, strength and good will to continue the solidarity the world felt toward America after 9/11, we reacted like a hurt child, lashing out with inchoate rage at virtually everyone, all the while screaming about our superior characters. (We even went after the Europeans for Christ's sake.)

Had we emphasized our institutions and traditions rather than our alleged goodness, we might be able to get past this awful moment of Abu Ghreib by showcasing a system that resists brute power and religious judgments of character in favor of blind justice. Their scramble now to investigate and fact-find again completely rings hollow because we rested our entire argument on the character of Americans in contrast to everyone else. Our credibility is in shreds.

There were essentially three stated reasons for invading Iraq. The first was because Saddam had WMD. The second was because Saddam had ties to terrorists. The third was because Saddam tortured and terrorized his own people.

There are no WMD. There never were any terrorist ties. And by consciously undermanning the "liberation" we created the circumstances that have led to sweeps of innocent Iraqi people who are then dragged into a prison system with no due process and are systematically tortured --- by us, not Saddam. No decent person can believe that it is moral to "pre-emptively" invade a country and do such things in the name of liberation and our superior "goodness" as a people.

Now, I'm not saying that Americans are a bad people. We're just people, comprising the full range of human character from saint to psychopath. So are the Iraqis and so is every other tribe. That is why we have government in the first place. It's hard to tell who's bad or good and it's not enough to simply assert that one group is and one isn't. We need systems and institutions to sort these things out in the most perfect way we can find and those systems and institutions are imperfect indeed. If we ever had a strength in America, a source of pride and superiority, it was that we put our trust in the rule of law not men.

And that is precisely the opposite of what our president has been saying. He's said "trust us" because we are good. We don't need to provide any explanations or adhere to any laws, treaties or agreements because the character of our people doesn't require it. And that is why these pictures are being greeted around the world with both horror and glee. The president of the United States has been holding out the moral superiority of the American people as justification for flouting all laws and conventions and we've just been slapped in the face with the truth. Americans are capable of being just as depraved as anyone else. (I would have thought that anyone over the age of 10 would already know this, but apparently not.)

Once Bush is removed from office maybe we can drop this simpleminded drivel and start speaking to the world like adults again. Fewer self-righteous sermons about being "called to bring freedom to the world" and more talk about the rule of law would be a breath of fresh air. I have a feeling we might find that people around the world are more willing to cooperate if our president doesn't constantly lecture them about our superior moral character and instead leads on the basis of reason, law and justice. In the war of ideas, the latter is where the real firepower exists.

Silver Lining

For the first time I'm glad that Al Gore did not take office in 2000. At least Joe Lieberman is not the Vice President of the United States today.

Because, unlike Joe and his fellow Republican members of congress, I don't believe just because Dick Cheney is the second coming of Cardinal Richelieu that having a sanctimonious, sycophantic hypocrite for Vice President would be excusable simply by comparison.

Joe, like his fellow traveller the insane Jim Inhofe, just passionately asserted that Arabs who are completely unrelated to the torture and abuse at Abu Ghrieb had done bad things to Americans at different times and places that we didn't owe an apology to those who we tortured and abused at Abu Ghrieb. I guess I need to put out a call to Torah scholors for some guidance on that one too.

Here is the chief lecturer on morals and ethics in the Democratic Party back in 1998:

Mr. President, I have come to this floor many times in the past to speak with my colleagues about the concerns which are so widely shared in this chamber and throughout the nation that our society's standards are sinking; that our common moral code is deteriorating and that our public life is coarsening. In doing so, I have specifically criticized leaders of the entertainment industry for the way they have used the enormous influence the wield to weaken our common values.

...it is hard to ignore the impact of the misconduct the president has admitted to on our culture, on our character and on our children.

To begin with, I must respectfully disagree with the president's contention that his relationship with Monica Lewinsky and the way in which he misled us about it is nobody's business but his family's and that even presidents have private lives, as he said.


The president is not just the elected leader of our country...when his personal conduct is embarrassing, it is sadly so not just for him and his family, it is embarrassing for all of us as Americans.


In this case, the president apparently had extramarital relations with an employee half his age and did so in the workplace in the vicinity of the Oval Office. Such behavior is not just inappropriate. It is immoral. And it is harmful, for it sends a message of what is acceptable behavior to the larger American family -- particularly to our children -- which is as influential as the negative messages communicated by the entertainment culture.


This, unfortunately, is all-too-familiar territory for America's families in today's anything-goes culture, where sexual promiscuity is too often treated as just another lifestyle choice with little risk of adverse consequences.


The president's relationship with Ms. Lewinsky not only contradicted the values he has publicly embraced over the last six years, it has, I fear, compromised his moral authority at a time when Americans of every political persuasion agree that the decline of the family is one of the most pressing problems we are facing.

Nevertheless, I believe the president could have lessened the harm his relationship with Ms. Lewinksy has caused if he had acknowledged his mistake and spoken with candor about it to the American people shortly after it became public in January.


But I believe that the harm the president's actions have caused extend beyond the political arena. I am afraid that the misconduct the president has admitted may be reinforcing one of the worst messages being delivered by our popular culture, which is that values are fungible. And I am concerned that his misconduct may help to blur some of the most important bright lines of right and wrong in our society.

The last three weeks have been dominated by a cacophony of media and political voices calling for impeachment or resignation or censure, while a lesser chorus implores us to move on and get this matter behind us.

Appealing as that latter option may be to many people who are understandably weary of this crisis, the transgressions the president has admitted to are too consequential for us to walk away and leave the impression for our children today and for our posterity tomorrow that what he acknowledges he did within the White House is acceptable behavior for our nation's leader. On the contrary, as I have said, it is wrong and unacceptable and should be followed by some measure of public rebuke and accountability.


With the nation at war with itself, President Lincoln warned, and I quote, "If there ever could be a time for mere catch arguments, that time is surely not now. In times like the present, men should utter nothing for which they would not willingly be responsible through time and eternity."

I believe that we are at such a time again today.

We are not at such a time in 2004, however. Soldiers leading naked prisoners around on a leash, riding around on old ladies backs calling them donkeys, forcing bound prisoners to simulate anal and oral sex --- things like this are not worth a righteous condemnation from the Senate Floor by our self-appointed moral conscience, Joe Lieberman. Instead, we are treated to a litany of crimes committed by Saudi Arabians on September 11th, 2001 and by a mob in Fallujah months after the torture took place as crimes for which WE deserve an apology --- and therefore, by implication, it's even steven.

By this logic, until we see some apologies from the Japanese, the Germans, the Brits and especially the French, it's perfectly ok for us to kill as many Canadians as we want.

Just as long as nobody gets any consensual, unphotographed blow jobs. That would be immoral.

Update: Yglesias notices Joe's new flexible morality too.

Correction: Smokin' Joe actually said that we did owe an apology to the prisoners. However, his impassioned conflation of the torture with the unrelated events of 9/11 and Fallujah in the next breath certainly implied that there is a moral equivalence. There is, of course, if the US has lowered itself to the level of terrorists and a street mob.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Because He Isn't

A wide variety of officials in the administration had advised Bush to apologize on Wednesday when he gave interviews to two Arab television channels and were puzzled when he did not, senior U.S. officials said. An apology had been recommended in the talking points Bush received from the State Department and elsewhere, the officials said. Senior administration aides then made a push overnight for him to say he was sorry during his news conference with Abdullah, the officials said.

Relative Indignance

I just watched the Beltway Boyz have a complete meltdown over the idea that someone would ask Rumsfeld to resign over such minor infractions as torture, abuse and the suspension of 200 years of legal precedent and international treaties. After all, as Mort indignantly cried, "This is not My Lai!" (Fred added that Stalin was much, much worse because he killed millions.) When you look at the great historical sweep of political malfeasance, depravity and corruption it is really the lowest of the low to ask for the resignation of a cabinet secretary over such a silly little thing.

Funny, I seem to remember that the Beltway Boyz and their pals were apoplectic at the alleged criminal behavior of Mike Espy who was forced to resign because he was accused (and acquitted) of taking some free football tickets. Or Henry Cisneros who was chased out of Washington for lying about how much he paid his lying mistress. But then, unlike the stoking of a firestorm of rage from the Arab world, those things were threats to the nation so they deserved to lose their political careers and face jail time and millions of dollars worth of legal fees.

Now, I'm hearing James Inhofe, a very religious man, making the moral argument on Hardball that nobody dropped anyone into acid like Saddam did in that very same prison, so let's not get carried away with our condemnation of Americans. "Compared to what they do to us, it's a picnic." (Any ideas about what they're doing to us?) He did go out of his way to say that he "didn't approve" of the behavior of those bad apples before he waved around an Ahmad Chalabi special report from 1992 that says bin Laden was good friends with Saddam.

I'm once again struck by the moral surety of these religious Republicans who don't seem to be upset by the deviant behavior graphically shown in these pictures and who don't seem worried in the least about how they are going to explain it to their children. It seems like only yesterday that every other word from their mouths was "deplorable," "reprehensible," "despicable," "disgusting," and " "revolting," as they relayed their shock and horror at the stunning news of a 50 year old man having an affair with a young woman in his office. If I recall correctly, this was considered to be an act of such depravity that they didn't know how the nation could survive if the perpetrator wasn't removed from office.

But, somehow, pictures of a young soldier pointing gleefully to a naked, hooded prisoner forced to masturbate on camera only elicits a mild "disapproval." Anyone have some clues where I might find an explnation of this in Senator Inhofe's Baptist Bible or Freddie Barnes's Episcopal prayerbook, because I'm finding it awfully difficult to understand?

Voyeur Nation

Billmon says:

And so we come to the central question: Can the cover up artists keep the focus exclusively on Abu Ghraib? Ironically, the flood of S&M porn shots now making their way onto the market tend to reinforce the media's fascination with the perverted antics at the prison, which ultimately works in favor of the coverup, if not Rumsfeld personally. The new gulag archipelago, like the old one, requires anonymity. Right now, the other islands in the chain still have it, and may get to keep it - unless, of course, there are some candid snapshots from Gitmo or Bagram or the CIA's mysterious 'ghost' prisons floating around in unauthorized hands.

Even if such photos were to come to light, I'm not sure the mainstream media, much less the American public, can absorb much more than they already have. It's not easy to admit you live in a country that now owns and operates its own system of gulag camps - instead of contracting the entire job out to friendly despots, sight unseen, as in the good old days.

In other words, the administration has the public's desire not to know on its side. And that, plus Bush's gestures of contrition, may be enough to hold the line at Abu Ghraib - although Donald Rumsfeld's scalp may have to sacrified to seal the bargain.

It's funny he brings this up, because I was just thinking the exact opposite.

I think it is precisely the nature of the evidence that makes the media and the American public interested in the story. They are inured to charges of lies or corruption --- violence and prurience are what moves them. I concluded long ago that the only scandal that really interests the American public is a sex scandal.

It is the S&M image of this one that is moving it, the pictures, the graphic kinkiness of it. That's what shocks and thrills the public, if only in a sickening, voyeuristic, train wreck sort of way.

Bush and his band of faux moralists were in part chosen by the Republican establishment precisely because of their reputations for sexual rectitude. They knew they could get away with almost anything as long as they didn't expose themselves to accusations of sex -- of any kind. (The closest they came to slipping was Bush's Top Gun flight of fancy, but that faded soon enough.) The press and the public are attuned to the tiniest hint of sexual impropriety, both loving it and pretending to be shocked by it, and the GOP knows this because they virtually created the environment of sexual hypocricy our culture slavishly embraces.

The pictures at Abu Ghraib have brought sex back into the White House and they don't have a good way of dealing with it. Look at Rush --- he totally misread the party line (but he knows his public...) The politicians are soiled by their association with this violent kinkiness, but their followers, like Americans everywhere, are drawn to those images like moths to the flame. They can't escape it and they can't change the subject. No matter how pious and faithful, Bush is tainted. It's his war. It's his sex scandal. It's Clinton rules.

I don't pretend to know how this will play out long term. But, sex has been introduced into the equation now and that changes everything. The scandal receptors are turned on and the American people will start to watch. As with most sexually hypocritical cultures, voyeurism is one of America's biggest thrills. If news of further sexual humiliation and worse is confirmed about other prisons and prison camps around the world, the country will be watching with bated breath.

He Din' Know Nothin'

Via Center for American Progress

Rumsfeld not only preferred clarity and order, he insisted on them. That meant personally managing process, knowing all the details, asking the questions, shaping the presidential briefing and the ultimate results...In other words, Rumsfeld wanted near-total control.” – Bob Woodward, Plan of Attack, pg. 16.

Keep this in mind on Friday as Rummy tries to pretend he was out of the loop.

Democratic Capitalism

I like to see patriotic Democrats make a buck. This guy sent me an e-mail saying he'd been inspired to create something to relieve his frustration. Makes an awfully nice stocking stuffer.

Indifferent Depravity

Once again we have the bizarre sideshow of pundits selectively calling for disavowels while devils are whispering sweet nothings in their own ears. TNR picks up on the strange silence on the right side of the spectrum towards Limbaugh's vomitous response to the torture and abuse in Iraq. Strange, of course, because they erupted like Vesuvius over a tasteless cartoon by obscure alternate weekly cartoonist, Ted Rall, while ignoring the S&M rantings of their talk radio hero -- who, not incidentally, boasts 20 million listeners a week.

"Why has, say, Salon not weighed in?" Sullivan wrote. "Why has Slate not barred [Rall's] work permanently from their site?" These were examples of a distinct genre of conservative political writing that seeks to pressure liberals into distancing themselves from their extreme elements, ostensibly in the name of fostering a more civil, reasonable political culture. Conservatives who deploy this argument profess merely to be concerned about the tone of American politics. David Brooks summarized this view in a New York Times column last fall, writing that "the core threat to democracy is not in the White House, it's the haters themselves."

Now we have a well-timed opportunity to see how sincerely the right believes its own platitudes about civil discourse. On his syndicated radio show yesterday, conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh hit a new low. Discussing the allegations of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, he suggested that the humiliation of detainees was merely a bit of misguided recreation.

See here and here.

By the standards of civility Sullivan and Brooks apply to the left, Limbaugh's outburst is surely beyond the pale. His cavalier endorsement of sadism and sexual abuse for "emotional release" counts as hate under any reasonable definition of the word. Limbaugh trivializes the suffering of Iraqi civilians as badly as Rall trivialized Pat Tillman's heroism. His comments are also, incidentally, a slur against the accused soldiers, none of whom have been so depraved as to defend their actions as "a good time." They, at least, have insisted that the actions had a purpose--to soften up the detainees for interrogation--however warped it might have been. (Limbaugh was also inaccurate; the Skull and Bones initiation, while bizarre, is apparently light on physical cruelty.)

Thus far, however, his remarks have been met with silence on the right, which has indulged Limbaugh for years. If lack of condemnation is really the equivalent of approval, then the complicity of the right in Limbaugh's bile is overwhelming. There have been no calls for radio stations to cancel Limbaugh, as Sullivan called for newspapers to drop Rall's comic. Sullivan lightly mocked Limbaugh's comments, but did not call for him to be taken off the radio. Ramesh Ponnuru came closest to mustering some genuine criticism on National Review's website, where he managed to summon up a sort of decaffeinated outrage: "It was a tough line [Limbaugh] was trying to walk," Ponnuru wrote. "But when he ended up comparing the abuse to a fraternity initiations ritual, I'm afraid he fell on the wrong side of it." You don't say!

Part of the reluctance to criticize Limbaugh may stem from his prominence in conservative politics; in terms of influence, Limbaugh, with his 20 million listeners, is an immeasurably more significant figure than Rall, whose cartoon reaches a paltry 140 newspapers, only some of which print any given strip (compared to 1,400 newspapers daily for Doonesbury). His prominence--and, indeed, the power he wields with the right-wing base--may help explain why conservatives repeatedly let Limbaugh off the hook. But it's also why his comments are even more deserving of outrage than Rall's. After all, Ted Rall is a pretty minor figure; Rush Limbaugh isn't. Both men said repulsive things this week. If one is beyond the limits of acceptable political discourse, then surely the other is, too. It would be nice to see a conservative, any conservative, acknowledge that.

It's certainly true that Limbaugh is prominent. The vice president just went on his show a couple of weeks ago. He was married by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Why, he was chosen to receive the prestigious "Statesmanship Award" from the Claremont Institute last year.

On November 21 the Claremont Institute will honor Rush Limbaugh with our Statesmanship Award. One of our heroes, Abraham Lincoln, frequently reminded his countrymen that "our government rests in public opinion." Few Americans in recent memory have done more on a daily basis to sustain and invigorate a healthy public opinion in this country than Mr. Limbaugh, known fondly to us all as "Rush."

In an overwhelmingly liberal media, Rush has brought to unprecedented millions of listeners a conservative point of view, year in and year out, on virtually every significant issue, trenchantly, intelligently, wittily, and inimitably. The buoyancy and optimism that infuse all of Rush's commentary, the unfailing good cheer in a good cause that uplifts the spirits of conservative millions every day, are reminiscent of the irrepressible spirit of the man whose life we gather here annually to celebrate, Sir Winston Churchill.

There could be few more eloquent testimonies to the success of Mr. Limbaugh in broadening and strengthening conservative public opinion in America than the deep fear and loathing he inspires among big-government, politically correct, blame-America-first liberals. Few if any since Ronald Reagan have had the honor of being more doggedly hated and feared by America's liberal elite than Rush Limbaugh. And the reasons are the same?Rush's staunch opposition to liberal cultural tyranny and tax and spend government, and his unblushing conviction that America is a good and great country that does not need the permission of the United Nations to defend itself against its enemies.

In recent months, wealthy liberals have launched a multimillion dollar campaign in the desperate --- and need one say, fruitless --- effort to create a "Limbaugh of the Left." More recently the same liberals have, of course, been publicly licking their unseemly chops at Rush's widely publicized personal setbacks.

All the more reason, we say, for friends and fans of Rush to come together to welcome him back to the good fight, honor him for his remarkable contributions, and wish him many more years of broadcasting the conservative truth "across the fruited plains."

Please join the Claremont Institute as we honor Rush with our Statesmanship Award for the service he has done our country as a leading voice of American conservatism.

Unfortunately, Rush was able to attend after all because the news broke that he was under investigation for money laundering and his lawyer advised him to go to rehab for his drug adiction immediately. Luckily, they were able to find a worthy replacement:

The Claremont Institute announced Wednesday that Rush Limbaugh will not be in attendance at the Institute's annual Churchill Dinner on Friday, Nov. 21, 2003.

The Institute announced that Dr. William J. Bennett, recently appointed Washington Fellow of the Claremont Institute, will deliver the keynote address at the event.

(Here's a chance to take a Claremont institute Cruise with Bennett and half the masthead of National Review. Bring seasickness remedies.)

In case anyone thinks that Rush is on the outs with mainstream conservatives because he is a drug addict, he was welcomed back into the fold just last month to screams of adulation that Justin Timberlake would envy (if he were a balding, cretinous right wing blowhard):

Friday, March 19, 2004 10:40 a.m. EST

NewsMax.com's Wes Vernon reports that top radio talker Rush Limbaugh wowed the Media Research Center with a surprise appearance at yesterday's awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.

He was not on the program, but the audience in a huge hotel ballroom knew Rush Limbaugh was about to appear on stage when they heard his familiar radio theme song.

The occasion was the Media Research Center?s annual Dishonor Awards, held each year to spotlight grossly biased, inaccurate and downright wacky statements by the so-called "mainstream media," or "partisan media," as the famous talker prefers to call them.

Limbaugh castigated the elite media regarding a huge example of bias just within the last few days.

Taking note of the arrest of accused Saddam spy Susan Lindauer, Rush recalled that her resume includes four Democrat officeholders and several jobs with "the partisan media."

"And all they could emphasize was that she was something like the 13th cousin of [White House aide Andy Card]," he lamented, "even though Card and Lindauer hadn?t seen each other in years."

What set him off on the "partisan media" recently, Rush said, was the way South Florida news outlets had treated his well-publicized case where a Democrat prosecutor is singling him out on charges of "doctor shopping" in his pursuit of painkillers - the result of a years-long back pain problem.

Referring to the Palm Beach Post as the "newsletter" for Palm Beach prosecutors, the man regarded as a broadcast icon by 20 million-plus listeners revealed an "editorial" meeting he had with the newspaper editors.

He complained that other prominent figures in the area had been given a pass when they became reliant on painkillers, while the prosecutor went after him, largely as a result of e-mails received from Rush-haters. He cited reports from conservative news sources and interviews his lawyer had had with Sean Hannity and Joe Scarborough.

"We don?t recognize the partisan media," the editors responded.

By stubbornly refusing to recognize any news source other than those blessed by the liberal establishment, Limbaugh said, the editors were in essence regurgitating what has been heard in elitist newsrooms for years: "Facts don't matter."

Henceforth, said the top talker, he will not acknowledge that these establishment outlets are "mainstream," a concession conservatives have been willing to make until now.

They are, he told his wildly cheering audience, "the partisan media."

"Up until the last 15 or 20 years, they had 'a virtual monopoly' on deciding what is and what is not 'news,'" he explained.

President Bush, according to Limbaugh, has found out that there is little point in trying to "get along with them. They hate his guts," even more than they hated Reagan, "and that is saying something."

The Democrats, the surprise guest proclaimed, "care more about whether Europeans like them than they care about terrorists who want to kill us."

And don't let them tell you they're compassionate, he warned. "Just try disagreeing with them and see how far you get."

In the world of the left, Rush believes, politics is about seeking power "to rule other people," whereas conservatives seek to "give power back to the people."

Dizzying, isn't it?

And just so nobody gets the idea that the MRC "Dishonor Awards" are some fringe event rather than a mainstream conservative funfest, here's Brent Bozell's re-cap (pdf) from last years awards:

Nominees for each category were selected by the senior staff at the MRC, who combed through our massive archives to find 2002’s most biased quotes. The quotes were placed into five categories and provided to a distinguished group of 14 judges that included Rush Limbaugh,William F. Buckley, Jr., Robert Novak, Michael Reagan and William Rusher,among others. The judges voted for a winner and two runners-up in each cate-gory and, the “winners”were announced at the DisHonors. As a fun touch, we invite a top conservative leader to “accept” theaward on behalf of thewinner. More than 900 conservatives from around thecountry attended this year’s Dishonors and participants were a literal who's who of the conservative movement. Sean Hannity, the co-host of FoxNews' Hannity & Colmes; Laura Ingraham, the host of the country's third-highest rated conservative radio talkshow; and Anne Coulter, the best-selling author of Slander: Liberal Lies About the America Right,were our Presenters. Rich Lowry of National Review, Steve Moore of The Club for Growth, Judge Robert Bork, author Mona Charen and the Washington Times' Tony Blankley were our Accepters.

I don't know if the SCLM routinely hangs out at snotty insider awards dinners with Ted Rall, but maybe they ought to start. This kind of sophomoric Mean Girls bitchiness shouldn't just be confined to fun loving kooks like Buckley Novak and Bork.

Until our side gets it together and learns to embrace every left wing wacko like he or she is the reincarnatiuon of Bob Hope, in the spirit of public disavowelment for everyone, I suggest we write some letters to Judge Robert Bork, the man who appeared on Larry King and denounced President Clinton as morally unfit for office because he participated in a "depraved sexual act" and ask him whether he agrees with his good friend, the mainstream Rush Limbaugh, that those MP's at Abu Ghraib were just blowing off steam and getting a needed "emotional release."

Then we'll call Gary Bauer, James Dobson and Jerry Fallwell.

Take Action

Via Ezra Klein, I read that John Kerry has formed a rapid response operation. This is one way for blog readers to get involved in the campaign. If you have time to read my scratchings at work, you have time to write a letter. (And it's a good way to look busy when somebody walks by....)

John Kerry for President - Media Corps

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

General Disorder

Kevin Drum discusses the sickening new pictures in The Washington Post as well as an interview with Sy Hersh in which he mentions the strange choice of General Miller to "clean up" the abuses as Abu Ghraib:

"HERSH: No, look, I don't want to ruin your evening, but the fact of the matter is it was the third investigation. There had been two other investigations.

One of them was done by a major general who was involved in Guantanamo, General Miller. And it's very classified, but I can tell you that he was recommending exactly doing the kind of things that happened in that prison, basically. He wanted to cut the lines. He wanted to put the military intelligence in control of the prison."

Just as reminder, I posted about this a few days ago:

"One of the five Britons recently returned to the UK from Guantanamo Bay has claimed that he was subjected to cruel and sadistic treatment by US authorities.

Jamal al Harith, from Manchester, told the Daily Mirror today that detainees of Camp X-Ray and Camp Delta had to face frequent beatings, prolonged periods of isolation and traumatic psychological torture.

The 37-year-old was held at Guantanamo Bay for just over two years after coalition forces brought about the fall of the Taleban regime in Afghanistan. The divorced father-of-three said that the behaviour of prison guards was a deliberate affront to Islam and exacted to offend and terrorise the detainees.

Jamal told the Daily Mirror: 'The whole point of Guantanamo was to get to you psychologically. The beatings were not as nearly as bad as the psychological torture - bruises heal after a week - but the other stuff stays with you.'

Mr al Harith said that religious practises were often disrupted or even banned in order to punish and antagonise prisoners.

The most extreme of these claims centres around how guards would bring prostitutes into the camp to pose naked in front of prisoners, who were used to veiled women, and counter to Islamic practice.
He said: 'It was a profoundly disturbing experience for these men. They would refuse to speak about what had happened. It would take perhaps four weeks for them to tell a friend - and we would shout it out around the whole block"

If there is even a modicum of truth to this, the choice of Miller to head up the prisons in Iraq after the torture debacle is so completely insane that it may be the straw that breaks Rummy's back.

Josh Marshall has more --- according to the Taguba report there is good reason to believe this is true.

And, Newsday reported just today that:

Promising a broader investigation, the U.S. military acknowledged Wednesday that two guards at the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had been disciplined over allegations of prisoner abuse.


Military officials were still investigating the three cases, which had not been submitted to a court, and whether any other complaints of prisoner abuse had been made.

The revelations came as Guantanamo's former commander, Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, apologized Wednesday for the "illegal or unauthorized acts" committed by U.S. soldiers at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. Photographs showed Iraqi prisoners being abused by smiling American guards at the notorious Saddam Hussein-era prison.

Miller has taken charge of U.S. prisons in Iraq. He was the commander of Guantanamo from October 2002 to March 2004 and has said he was able to increase the amount of valuable intelligence tips gleaned from detainees during interrogations.

The hard-nosed general attributed the success to a system of rewards given to detainees and said officials were working to make the detainees' incarceration more comfortable.


Criticism from human rights groups lessened when the detainees were moved into their permanent cells but spiked again after a rash of suicide attempts. There have been at least 34 suicide attempts since the mission began in January 2001.

Marshall points out the differences between Gitmo and its allegedly hardened terrorists and the average Joes who are being "liberated" indefinitely in Iraqi prisons, but the wanton disregard for any kind of rule of law in the WOT is the root cause of all these problems. General Hard Nose is the last guy who should be anywhere near a prison right now.

And, just to end the day on an up note, Hersh also had this to say on O'Reilly:

I can tell you just from the phone calls I've had in the last 24 hours, even more, there are other photos out there. There are many more photos even inside that unit. There are videotapes of stuff that you wouldn't want to mention on national television that was done. There was a lot of problems.

There was a special women's section. There were young boys in there. There were things done to young boys that were videotaped. It's much worse. And the Maj. Gen. Taguba was very tough about it. He said this place was riddled with violent, awful actions against prisoners.


Big Man

Tom Friedman: "We were hit on 9/11 by people who believed hateful ideas ideas too often endorsed by some of their own spiritual leaders and educators back home. We cannot win a war of ideas against such people by ourselves. Only Arabs and Muslims can. What we could do --and this was the only legitimate rationale for this war -- was try to help Iraqis create a progressive context in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world where that war of ideas could be fought out.

But it is hard to partner with someone when you become so radioactive no one wants to stand next to you. We have to restore some sense of partnership with the world if we are going to successfully partner with Iraqis."


This administration needs to undertake a total overhaul of its Iraq policy; otherwise, it is courting a total disaster for us all.

That overhaul needs to begin with President Bush firing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld — today, not tomorrow or next month, today. What happened in Abu Ghraib prison was, at best, a fundamental breakdown in the chain of command under Mr. Rumsfeld's authority, or, at worst, part of a deliberate policy somewhere in the military-intelligence command of sexually humiliating prisoners to soften them up for interrogation, a policy that ran amok.

Either way, the secretary of defense is ultimately responsible, and if we are going to rebuild our credibility as instruments of humanitarian values, the rule of law and democratization, in Iraq or elsewhere, Mr. Bush must hold his own defense secretary accountable. Words matter, but deeds matter more. If the Pentagon leadership ran any U.S. company with the kind of abysmal planning in this war, it would have been fired by shareholders months ago

Golly Tom. What happened to this?

No, the axis-of-evil idea isn't thought through - but that's what I like about it. It says to these countries and their terrorist pals: "We know what you're cooking in your bathtubs. We don't know exactly what we're going to do about it, but if you think we are going to just sit back and take another dose from you, you're wrong. Meet Don Rumsfeld - he's even crazier than you are."

There is a lot about the Bush team's foreign policy I don't like, but their willingness to restore our deterrence, and to be as crazy as some of our enemies, is one thing they have right. It is the only way we're going to get our turkey back.

Well, that worked out really well. Looks like old Rummy took Tom literally.

And this guy is considered to be one of our leading analysts of the middle east. I think it's safe to say that after this his column is officially irrelevant and should be used exclusively as cat box filler.

Submissive Bigmouth

Via Road to Surfdom

Rush: In these American prisoners of war, have you people noticed who the torturers are? Women! The babes. The babes are meting out the torture. Well, I've just been asked if I'm surprised.

Pause for a few minutes of lubricous sound effects followed by a sigh...

You know, I could get into a lot of trouble here with this. No, part of me is not -- yes, I'm surprised. I am surprised. I do not believe -- I will go to my grave placing women on the pedestal of gentleness. On the surface it's a smart move, but in real life it could be incredibly stupid, but regardless - women are tougher than -- you know, we all must be honest about this. I mean, this business of weaker sex is all a bunch of trumped up stuff they teach when you you're five years old and you end up living your whole life that way, and it's just one big mystery that never gets solved.

A mystery you'll never solve, that's for sure Gordo.

One thing's becoming crystal clear lately. Rush, with his constant references to testicle lockboxes and Feminazis and "babes" with German Shepards is a certified sexual masochist. Really. Just the day before he described this behavior as "emotional release." Is it reasonable that anyone but a submissive slaveboy looked at those pictures and got HOT over them?

Folks, these torture pictures with the women torturers, I mean Marv Albert looking at those pictures would say, "Hey, that doesn't look so bad." You know, if you really look at these pictures, I mean I don't know if it's just me but it looks like anything you'd see Madonna or Britney Spears do on stage. Maybe you can get an NEA grant for something like this. I mean this is something you can see at Lincoln Center from an NEA grant, maybe on Sex in the City: the Movie. I mean, it's just me.

No, Rush. It isn't just you. There are whole communities of people who can fulfill your fantasies and lots of big, mean "babes" to punish you like you need to be punished. Nothing to be ashamed of. A lot of bigmouthed, phony macho men like you need a little spanking.

But, it's just a game, Rush.

War, on the other hand, isn't a game. It's a real life struggle for survival for all concerned and chickenhawk fuckheads like you need to confine your S&M fantasies to your little dittohead fan clubs.

But do say hello to Little Dick and Mistress Lynn next time you have "dinner" in the dungeon.

He No Media Ho

Via Suburban Guerrilla I find that Keith Olberman is the media hero of the week. He had Joe Wilson on and had the cojones to publicly reveal what Tweety and all the others fail to mention:

OLBERMANN: You do know that they are still going after you, right? We promoted the fact that you would be on this show tonight. Today we received three separate copies of the same e-mail with talking points from the White House, one asking a contact here “Can you please get this to the Olbermann people. Wilson is on the Olbermann show.” Misspelled my name, by the way, but that‘s neither here nor there. Another one asks one of our producers “I understand you have Mr. Wilson on. Can you please call me on this?”

Susan has more