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Monday, May 17, 2004

House of Bush, House of Borgia

Fred Kaplan in Slate says:

The White House is about to get hit by the biggest tsunami since the Iran-Contra affair, maybe since Watergate. President George W. Bush is trapped inside the compound, immobilized by his own stay-the-course campaign strategy. Can he escape the massive tidal waves? Maybe. But at this point, it's not clear how.


Seymour Hersh seems to be on his hottest roll as an investigative reporter in 30 years, and the editors of every major U.S. daily newspaper aren't going to stand for it. "We're having our lunch handed to us by a weekly magazine!" one can imagine them shouting in their morning meetings. Scoops and counterscoops will be the order of the day. [this is key. ed]

All of these hound-hunts will be fueled by the extraordinary levels of internecine feuding that have marked this administration for years. Until recently, Rumsfeld, with White House assistance, has quelled dissenters, but the already-rattling lid is almost certain to blow off soon. As has been noted, Secretary of State Colin Powell, tiring of his good-soldier routine, is attacking his adversaries in the White House and Pentagon with eyebrow-raising openness. Hersh's story states that Rumsfeld's secret operation stemmed from his "longstanding desire to wrest control of America's clandestine and paramilitary operations from the CIA." Hersh's sources—many of them identified as intelligence officials—seem to be spilling, in part, to wrest back control. Uniformed military officers, who have long disliked Rumsfeld and his E-Ring crew for a lot of reasons, are also speaking out. Hersh and Newsweek both report that senior officers from the Judge Advocate General's Corps went berserk when they found out about Rumsfeld's secret operation, to the point of taking their concerns to the New York Bar Association's committee on international human rights.

The knives are out all over Washington—lots of knives, unsheathed and sharpened in many different backroom parlors, for many motives and many throats. In short, this story is not going away.

Read the whole thing. It features a particularly nice, concise chain of events.

E-mail it to your friends. It makes a lovely graduation gift.

The War Of The Worlds

The Political Animal brings up a point that I agree should get a full airing before we go any further in our discussion of America's behavior in the GWOT:

Gonzales concluded in stark terms: "In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions."

This strikes me as an issue that everyone — pro-war and anti-war alike — ought to take a firm stand on: should the Geneva Conventions apply to prisoners captured in the war on terror or not?

Gonzales' reasoning is appealing but misguided, I think. After all, every generation believes at one time or another that the enemies they face are so savage, so fundamentally different from any that have come before that old rules of conduct no longer apply. Every generation also turns out to be wrong. The reality is that the Taliban is not more dangerous than the Cold War Soviets, who in turn were not more dangerous than the Nazis. If we were willing to treat prisoners decently in those conflicts, why not now?

The ability to "quickly obtain information" from captured prisoners has been a critical part of every war, but we nonetheless agreed half a century ago to place this under strict limits. This was not because we felt the wars of that era were unimportant, or because we deluded ourselves into believing that our enemies would always follow suit, but because we wanted to set a standard of simple human decency for ourselves and others.

It was also viewed as counter-productive to our own troops when they, inevitably, get captured. It helps to be able to say 'we don't do this and you'd better not do this either." Just ask members of the military these days how happy they are with the prospect of throwing out the Geneva Conventions.

The larger issue is what's important, though. The 9/11 attacks were extremely dramatic and horrifying spectacles. That was, of course, the point. But, Islamic terrorism, per se, is not a threat to the nation on the scale of WWII or the Cold War. Indeed, its greatest threat to our survival is the extent to which we allow our fear to blind us to the possibility of creeping totalitarianism from within. It does not threaten our sovereignty or our way of life as those earlier wars did, despite our very understandable fear of further attacks.

I have thought since the beginning that stoking our bloodlust, while emotionally satisfying, was exactly the wrong thing to do. I thought that the correct response to 9/11 was to observe the appropriate period of mourning for the victims and then quietly, calmly and systematically set about working the problem from a number of different angles --- particularly using the unprecedented outpouring of international support --- to mitigate the threat and secure our own country. It seemed to me that the most powerful statement would be to quickly and cleanly unseat the Taliban and then be menacingly mysterious about what else we were doing behind the scenes. We should have openly and obviously embraced international institutions and foreign countries and touted their cooperation as a way of marginalizing Islamic fundamentalism as much as possible to keep terrorists wondering who was friend or foe.

We instead reared up on our hind legs like a wounded animal and began thrashing about, enraged and unhinged, stoking bloodlust and fear. Rather then dealing with the problem with seriousness of purpose we responded with vomitous bromides about our superior morality and behaved as if 9/11 was s unique threat to our survival instead of an asymmetrical challenge --- the asymmetry of which accrued to our benefit, not theirs. If we had resisted the impulse to demonstrate our power like a Moscow May Day Parade circa 1965 and engaged the world against what should have been conceived as a common enemy, we might have been able to deal with this threat over time without catastrophic results.

But we did exactly the wrong thing. We inflamed the situation with the "bring it on" and "you're with us or agin' us" macho rhetoric and, stunningly, even went so far as to invade an uninvolved Arab country. The president told our troops they were fighting for the survival of the nation in Iraq and encouraged them to believe they were exacting revenge for the acts of 9/11 even though it wasn't true.

We continue to lose hearts and minds everywhere. As Josh Marshall's Iraq correspondent reports today:

Also it is no secret that ON THE STREET the US Army was and remains openly kicking Iraqi asses whenever and wherever they want to.

About the Army - Man, it hurts my heart to write this about an institution I dearly love but this army is completely dysfunctional, angry and is near losing its honor. We are back to the Army of 1968. I knew we were finished when I had a soldier point his Squad Automatic Weapons at me and my bodyguard detail for driving down the street when he decided he would cross the street in the middle of rush hour traffic (which was moving at about 70 MPH) ... He made it clear to any and all that he was preparing to shoot drivers who did not stop for his jaunt because speeding cars are "threats."

I also once had a soldier from a squad of Florida National Guard reservists raise weapons and kick the door panel of a clearly marked CPA security vehicle (big American flag in the windshield of a $150,000 armored Land Cruiser) because they wanted us to back away from them so they could change a tire ... as far as they were concerned WE (non-soldiers) were equally the enemy as any Iraqi.

Unlike the wars of the past 20 years where the Army encouraged (needed) soldiers, NGOs, allies and civil organizations to work together to resolve matters and return to normal society, the US Forces only trust themselves here and that means they set their own limits and tolerances. Abu Ghuraib are good examples of that limit. I told a Journalist the other day that these kids here are being told that they are chasing Al Qaeda in the War on Terrorism so they think everyone at Abu Ghuraib had something to do with 9/11. So they were encouraged to make them pay. These kids thought they were going to be honored for hunting terrorists.

From the beginning we have behaved as if this was a threat so unprecedented that we didn't have to observe any previous notions of civilized behavior --- as if it were War of The Worlds and aliens were trying to colonize the planet rather than a bunch of clever criminals armed with box-cutters and a suicidal excuse to kill in the name of God. We invaded Iraq with too few trained troops, no help or input from the experts in nation building and peacekeeping and now we find ourselves in the worst possible situation. We are seen as unsympathetic, arrogant, violent and inept. This should be expected when the government and the likes of Rush Limbaugh (who is piped in every day on Armed Forces Radio) encourage our military to act like barbarians by lying to them and the public about the nature of the threat and the identity of the enemy.

We may not be facing aliens from a foreign planet, but we have now sown the seeds of an anti-American backlash that encompasses this planet and may well last for generations. And America is demonstrably weaker in the world than we were before this cock-up. For no good reason, we have boldly demonstrated for all to see that our intelligence operations are virtually useless and that we don't even have enough troops to invade and occupy a third rate dictatorship. I know I feel safer knowing that. And I have no doubt that the rest of the world has made a note of it too.

I have long said that these neocon Bushies have always been wrong about everything. But, they have never been as wrong as this.

Nobody should be surprised. They advertised their intentions quite openly. In their Pax Americana Manifesto, Rebuilding America's Defenses they clearly state that it would probably take a catastrophe on the scale of Pearl Harbor to rally thecountry to their classic comic Imperial wet dream. Despite the fact that they do not understand the concept of terrorism in the least, they nonetheless realized that 9/11 would work very well to advance their plans. All of the breast beating and sabre rattling was ultimately in service of their starry-eyed ivory tower vision of The New American Cakewalk and the triumphant erasure of the asterisk that sits next to George W. Bush's name in the history books.

Since making that first fundamental error, they made every single mistake it is possible to make, starting with pissing off the entire world and ending with Abu Ghraib. Their dream is dead, but we will be paying the price for their arrogance and vanity for decades to come.

If anyone but the airheaded George W. Bush and his terminally incompetent neocon/Team B cabal had been in office, the idea that the threat of Islamic fundamentalism was so unprecedented that it meant America must discard all of its values and morals would have been laughed out of the oval office for the absurdity it is. Sadly for America and the world, bin Laden got lucky.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Ya Think?

And in other news, the sun came up this morning:

Republicans have adopted a scorched-earth strategy toward Democrats who challenge the wisdom of the way the war in Iraq is being conducted. Such critics, GOP officials say, are not merely misguided but are craven cut-and-runners who help the enemy and put politics ahead of U.S. troops' safety.

Democrats say the Republicans are twisting facts and trying to stifle debate through intimidation. Not so, say the Republicans, who insist they are not questioning Democrats' patriotism, only their judgment and resolve. If accuracy and nuance sometimes fall victim to all this rhetoric, well, there's a war on, folks.

The ruckus began May 6, when Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) -- a hawkish, longtime defender of the Pentagon -- told reporters he believed the war in Iraq could not be won without sending in significantly more troops and equipment, which he advocated. "Our failure to surge in terms of troop level and resources needed to prevail in this war" has resulted in "what appear to be unattainable goals in our current path," Murtha said at the news conference, hosted by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

House Republicans responded within minutes. "This morning, in a calculated and craven political stunt, the national Democrat Party declared its surrender in the war on terror," said Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.). "Out of sheer, brazen partisanship," House Democrats have "undermined our troops." Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Tex.) said Democrats "are basically giving aid and comfort to our enemies."

Reporters pointed out that Murtha has consistently said the war was unsustainable only under the current policies, and that he urged massive troop buildups as a remedy. DeLay was unmoved. "If you don't give solutions," he said, "that is saying, 'Cut and run.' "

The focus turned to presidential politics Monday, when Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie accused Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) of using the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq -- and a mass e-mail calling for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's resignation -- as a fundraising vehicle.

Kerry campaign spokesmen said the online invitation to donate was a link in virtually all campaign e-mails and similar to one on the "national security" page on President Bush's campaign Web site.

On Wednesday, Bush-Cheney campaign chairman Marc Racicot said Kerry had suggested all U.S. troops in Iraq are "somehow universally responsible" for the Abu Ghraib prisoner mistreatment. Kerry had said essentially the opposite. The reported abuse, Kerry had said, "is not the behavior of 99.9 percent of our troops."

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), noting that DeLay sharply criticized the Clinton administration's military intervention in Kosovo, said Friday: "The hypocritical attacks on legitimate calls for an inquiry [into the prison abuses] and thoughtful critiques of the administration's Iraq policy . . . represent a purely political calculation designed to silence debate and undercut Democrats." Pelosi, picking up the theme, said Republicans "will not silence us with these personal attacks."

Joe Biden said this morning on Meat The Press that we have to "heal Red 'n Blue, man" and everybody's begging Kerry to put McCain on the ticket and golly gosh, can't we all get along?

All I can say is good luck.

There is only one way to heal red 'n blue and that is to so thoroughly repudiate the Republican party at the polls that they will be forced to purge assholes like DeLay from their leadership and start putting their country before their party. Then we can talk. Unless that happens, it's brass knuckles political warfare because when you give these guys an inch they always take a thousand miles and move the destination even farther to the right.

We have to hold the line.

And while I don't think it would be a bad idea to put a Republican or two in the cabinet and to try to reach out to the congress (no matter which party holds the leadership) we'd also better have eyes in the back of our heads because they will slip in the shiv the first chance they get.

We've been down this road before. In the 90's the "third way" experiment was designed to mitigate the polarization of the left and right, both in politics and policy. On a policy level there was some limited success. But it was a political disaster because of the very same scorched earth tactics employed by the noxious Tom DeLay and his Godfather Newt Gingrich. You cannot compromise with people like that. I sincerely hope that we do not have to relearn that lesson.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Black Ops

Seymour Hersh's latest reveals the existence of a black operation put into high gear after 9/11 that was stupidly pushed into Iraq due to frustration and impatience at the Pentagon.

First, let me say that I am not all that surprised that such a program existed nor that it was given greater ability to operate independently after 9/11. As Hersh points out, these clandestine operations had been used during the cold war and I certainly assumed that dealing with the assymetrical threat of terrorism would probably require at least some element of high risk spook style activity. It would be naive to think it wouldn't. In the hands of these unbelievable incompetents in the Bush administration it naturally turned into a complete disasater.

Moral questions aside (and there are many), as the article details, the problem is that if you use these techniques in anything but the most secret and rarest of ways and it comes into the hands of regular people instead of highly trained specialists using real intelligence, then it is not only ineffective in obtaining useful information, it is dramatically counterproductive in terms of compromising long term policy goals.

The CIA sources, perhaps covering their asses, tell Hersh that even they backed off of this stuff when it came to using it against regular people in Iraq. Some in the Pentagon apparently maintain that they had been getting good intelligence on the insurgency using these harsh measures until the "hillbillys" got involved and took pictures, which I find hard to believe. If anything the insurgency got stronger over the period they were sweeping innocent people off the streets and then torturing them in prisons so it doesn't track that they were really getting anywhere. In fact, it looks as if it may have contributed to the US military's problems. If they mean that they managed to get Saddam, I hardly think that was such a big coup. After all, he had terrorized the population for over 30 years so it's not unlikely that someone would have dropped a dime on him eventually.

The fact is that these torture techniques in anybody's hands are a terrible way to get information. People will say anything under torture. I suspect that the "historical information" that General Ripper is so proud of obtaining in Gitmo is probably bullshit. Certainly, after being down there for more than 2 years those prisoners don't know shit today. Believing their own hype about Gitmo, these people inexorably came to believe that if they just inflicted a little more pain and humiliation in Iraq they'd get the answers they wanted. Meanwhile, bin Laden is still at large and Iraq has blown up into a nightmare.

So, it is a case of macho overstepping and making things worse than they already were, much as the march to Iraq itself was a case of macho overstepping and making things worse rather than better. Evidently, the events of 9/11 released some testosterone rush in the pinched, unfulfilled systems of the ivory tower neocons and they lost the ability to reason and plan.

Hersh's article pretty much confirms that the person who gave the orders to take off the gloves in Abu Ghraib is Don Rumsfeld gofer, Steven Cambone, the man most uniquely unqualified to hold his office since well...President Bush. Of course, Cambone being the ultimate micromanager's clerk means that Rummy himself was well aware of everything that went on and approved it.

It's becoming more and more obvious that the White House was intimately involved in these issues, regardless of their plausible deniability. As I point out in my post below, one of the main reasons they wanted to create the "unlawful combatant" designation was to allow unfettered interrogations. The White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales, led that argument. The Newsweek article shows that Cheney and Rumsfeld were deeply involved in the Padilla and Hamdi cases and argued forcefully that they (and any other American they deemed a threat) should be considered unlawful combatants, without the protections of even the constitution, much less the Geneva Conventions. They believe in harsh measures without regard to human rights. They have both shown a remarkable propensity to overlook the long term strategic damage of any given decision in favor of some short term emotional satisfaction or political gain.

They knew.

He Never Learns

In a bid to get American bloodlust refocused, Crusader Codpiece lied yesterday again about terrorist ties to Iraq prior to the war. Apparently unhappy that the torture at Abu Ghraib has been temporarily halted, the president wants to re-inflame and confuse members of the military and the American public so that they will continue to support the idea that Iraq had something to do with the events of 9/11 and therefore believe killing and torturing Iraqis is an act of revenge (while he spouts sophomoric bromides about peace and freedom.)

President Bush on Friday blamed al Qaeda supporter Abu Musab al-Zarqawi for beheading American Nicholas Berg and cited him as an example of Saddam Hussein "terrorist ties" before the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Bush's revival of accusations linking Saddam to terrorism comes as the president faces growing doubts among Americans over his Iraq policy.

At a fund-raising lunch in Bridgeton, Missouri, Bush said Zarqawi was an example of the threat posed by the ousted Iraqi leader. "We knew he (Saddam) had terrorist ties. The person responsible for the Berg death, Zarqawi, was in and out of Baghdad prior to our arrival, for example," Bush said.

It's obvious that Bush doesn't give a shit about this country. At every step of the way he has made this country less safe by his words and actions and he continues to do it without even a second thought. Every time he utters one of these proven lies he prolongs this madness and puts our lives in greater danger.

He is showing unprecedented gall in this case,however, because it has been shown that the only reason he didn't kill Zarqawi when he was holed up in Kurd territory before the war was because it was his only evidence of terrorism in Iraq (even though outside Saddam's control) and his death would have impeded his blind determination to invade at all costs.

To use Berg's murder as an excuse to lie about this once again is obscene.

Friday, May 14, 2004

And He Wept With Happiness

Kate "yes, I'm really this desperate" O'Beirne defends her Big Boy:

Rush is one of those rare acquaintances who can be defended against an assault challenging his character without ever knowing the "facts."

Yes. That's what it says. Even the quotes.

We trust his good judgment, his unerring decency, and his fierce loyalty to the country he loves and to the courageous young Americans who defend her.

That's very special. But, you might want to keep an eye on him when he's around old ladies or a medicine cabinet. Word to the wise.

100=2.5 to 3 days of the little blues[oxycontin] You know how this stuff works...the more you get used to the more it takes. But, I will try and cut down to help out. But remember, this is only for a little over two more weeks. Just two weeks....I understand your challenge and will do all I can to help. But I kind of want to go out with a bang if you get my drift. Hee hee hee.

Yes. He certainly has excellent judgment.

As for his decency, I guess old Kate shares his excitement about "babes and torture" which isn't altogether surprising.

Link via Media Matters

Taking Off The Gloves

Matt Yglesias points us to law professor Eric Muller's post about the possibility that the Solicitor general lied to the Supreme Court. Matt says:

The subject is Clement's contention in oral arguments on the Padilla and Hamdi cases that the US government doesn't engage in even "mild torture" to try and secure information from detainees. This is going to wind up hinging on whether or not various "stress and duress" interrogation techniques count as torture -- certainly this stuff sounds a lot like torture to me.

I agree that this particular argument is going to rest on whether these techniques are considered "mild torture" but it should be noted that both General Pace and Wolfowitz of Arabia agreed yesterday that these acts are inhumane and they would consider them violations of the Geneva Convention if used against US troops. (Civilians are accorded even greater protections.)

As to whether the solicitor general's office knew about it (however it is defined) it would certainly appear that Ted Olson was brainstorming in the White House about the case, right along with Cheney and Rummy:

The president's men were divided. For Dick Cheney and his ally, Donald Rumsfeld, the answer was simple: the accused men [the Lakawanna Six] should be locked up indefinitely as "enemy combatants," and thrown into a military brig with no right to trial or even to see a lawyer... "They are the enemy, and they're right here in the country," Cheney argued, according to a participant. But others were hesitant to take the extraordinary step of stripping the men of their rights, especially because there was no evidence that they had actually carried out any terrorist acts...Cheney and Rumsfeld argued that in time of war there are few limits on what a president can do to protect the country. "There have been some very intense disagreements," says a senior law-enforcement official. "It has been a hard-fought war."


But as the months wore on, Justice lawyers became increasingly uneasy about holding him [Padilla] indefinitely without counsel. Solicitor General Ted Olson warned that the tough stand would probably be rejected by the courts. Administration lawyers went so far as to predict which Supreme Court justices would ultimately side for and against them.

But the White House, backed strongly by Cheney, refused to budge. Instead, NEWSWEEK has learned, officials privately debated whether to name more Americans as enemy combatants including a truck driver from Ohio and a group of men from Portland, Ore.

Did the administration lie to the Court? Ted Olson almost certainly understood the mindset of the administration as it dealt with these "unlawful combatants" which is characterized by a total willingness to throw aside the rule of law. (Cheney is quite obviously out of his mind on these issues. Remember the smallpox freak-out?) Whether the lawyer Paul Clement was aware that the White House had taken a no hold barred approach to the treatment of prisoners is unknown. In any case, as Matt says, if that argument is ever broached it will hinge on the question of whether these admitted techniques, like holding someone under water until they think they're drowning, can be called torture. In the Bizarro World in which we now live, it's entirely possible that Scalia and gang will find it perfectly acceptable.

But, there is another little problem with the legal situation pertaining to prisoner treatment. Rumsfeld effectively locked out the JAG office in making all these decisions and the military lawyers have been complaining about it for months:

A group of senior military lawyers were so concerned about changes in the rules designed to safeguard prisoners during interrogation that they sought help outside the Defense Department, according to a New York lawyer who headed a recent study of how prisoners have been treated in the war on terrorism.

The military lawyers were part of the Army Judge Advocate General's office, which in the past has played a role in ensuring that interrogators did not violate prisoners' rights.

"They were extremely upset. They said they were being shut out of the process, and that the civilian political lawyers, not the military lawyers, were writing these new rules of engagement," said Scott Horton, who was chairman of the New York City Bar Assn. committee that filed a report this month on the interrogation of detainees by the U.S.


Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the rules had been examined and approved by lawyers for the administration.

On Tuesday, Stephen A. Cambone, undersecretary of Defense for intelligence, said Douglas J. Feith, undersecretary of Defense for policy, "issued any number of statements and directives to the effect that detainees in Iraq, civilian or military, were to be treated under the provisions of the Geneva Convention."


Horton said the military lawyers told him that Feith pressed for looser interrogation rules and won approval for them from the administration's civilian lawyers earlier in the U.S. war on terrorism.

Which lawyers? They don't refer to these decisions as coming from the Justice Department but rather more broadly from "the administration's civilian political lawyers."

White House counsel Alberto Gonzales openly defends the White House's decision to call the Guantanamo prisoners "enemy combatants" largely because the Geneva Convention would limit their ability to interrogate the prisoners.(It's comforting to know that they promise to operate in guantanamo in the "spirit" of the Geneva Conventions, though. Trust Us)

In a famous early skirmish in the Bush administration's ongoing civil war, Gonzales sent around a memo trying to persuade the national security council to reject Colin Powell's request to give the Guantanamo prisoners POW status. (Condi later said it was just a draft...)

It's possible these military lawyers are referring to Justice, but it's just as likely that the rules were debated and decided right in the White House. History suggests that Cheney and Rumsfeld are always in favor of the harshest possible treatment. They gave in only when Ashcroft argued to protect his own turf (and profile) in the US. (That's what passes for compromise in the Bush administration.)

In other words, it is likely that the rules for the treatment of prisoners in Iraq, just as they were in Guantanamo, were not created in some obscure Justice Department or CIA office as is stated in this NY Times article today. The history of this issue leads to the White House Counsel's office and the Office of the Vice President.

As I wrote earlier, they were frantic to get intelligence on the whereabouts of the apparently vaporized WMD. They believed from the beginning that this was such a "different kind of war" that they needn't adhere to the rule of law or war.

Somebody needs to ask which civilian "political" lawyers were making the interrogation rules in the War On Terrorism.

There Isn't A Big Enough Tent In The World

Ok. Somebody needs to find out what Rove has on Zell. He has now become a serious danger to the Democratic Party because he is either crumbling under the stress of the blackmail or he has gone completely insane

"...I worry that the HWA - the Hand-Wringers of America - will add to their membership and continue to bash our country ad nauseam. And in doing so, hand over more innocent Americans to the enemy on a silver platter.

“So I stand with Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma, who stated that he’s “more outraged by the outrage” than by the treatment of those prisoners. More outraged by the outrage. It’s a good way of putting it. That’s exactly how this Senator from Georgia feels.”

Surely, he is not privy to any private Democratic meetings, is he? They don't speak in front of him in the elevator or anything, do they? Might as well hand over their computer passwords to the Republicans.

Oh wait...

The Big Swinging Dems

Yo Wolfie, you wanna piece 'o me?

Senate Democrats lit into the Bush administration's Iraq policies yesterday, using an uncharacteristically contentious hearing on additional war spending to attack the Pentagon's number two official in personal and bitter terms.


Warner seemed briefly to lose control of the committee yesterday, faced down by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) over whether Wolfowitz could be questioned on broad matters of Iraq policy or only the narrower issue of additional spending for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, which together are costing about $4.5 billion a month.

When Warner admonished him to keep his questions to the budget issue, Kennedy erupted. "I've been on this committee for 24 years, I've been in the Senate 42 years, and I have never been denied the opportunity to question any person that's come before a committee, on what I wanted to ask," he said. "And I resent it and reject it on a matter of national importance."

Warner persisted, provoking a formal challenge from Kennedy. "Well, Mr. Chairman, then you're going to have to rule me out of order, and I'm going to ask for a roll call of whether the committee is going to rule me out of order," he snapped.

At that point, Warner backed down and said Wolfowitz's preliminary remarks had invited such broad questioning. "You have opened it up in your opening statement," Warner told Wolfowitz.


Then they let the dogs out...

After listening to Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz testify before the normally stately Armed Services Committee for several hours, Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said, "What I've heard from you is dissembling and avoidance of answers, lack of knowledge, pleading process -- legal process."

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) then hit Wolfowitz, who is seen as a major architect of the Bush administration's approach to Iraq, with a virtual indictment. "You come before this committee . . . having seriously undermined your credibility over a number of years now," she said. "When it comes to making estimates or predictions about what will occur in Iraq, and what will be the costs in lives and money, . . . you have made numerous predictions, time and time again, that have turned out to be untrue and were based on faulty assumptions."

Wolfowitz ... told her that in disagreeing with Shinseki's estimates on the troop requirements for postwar Iraq, he was siding with another senior Army general closer to the action -- Gen. Tommy R. Franks, then chief of the Central Command, the U.S. military headquarters for Iraq and the Middle East.

(This is known in Washington as the "Tommy made me do it defense.")

Wolfowitz did respond directly to Reed's attack, which followed a heated and confusing exchange on whether U.S. commanders permitted military interrogators to violate the Geneva Conventions governing the treatment of military prisoners of war and civilian detainees.

"I'm not dissembling," he said. He tried to weave his way though the hypothetical questions Reed had posed about the rules of engagement for interrogations in Iraq, saying he had not been told that senior commanders in Iraq had approved questioning techniques that violate the Geneva accords.

Cutting him off, Reed said, "Well, I would suggest, Mr. Secretary, that you're not doing your job."

Damn sissies.

Curiouser and Curiouser

When Nicholas Berg took an Oklahoma bus to a remote college campus a few years ago, the American recently beheaded by terrorists allowed a man with terrorist connections to use his laptop computer, according to his father.

Michael Berg said the FBI investigated the matter more than a year ago. He stressed that his son was in no way connected to the terrorists who captured and killed him.

Government sources told CNN that the encounter involved an acquaintance of Zacarias Moussaoui -- the only person publicly charged in the United States in connection with the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.

According to Berg, his son was taking a course a few years ago at a remote campus of the University of Oklahoma near an airport. He described how on one particular day, his son met "some terrorist people -- who no one knew were terrorists at the time."

At one point during the bus ride, Berg said, the man sitting next to his son asked if he could use Nick's laptop computer.

'It turned out this guy was a terrorist and that he, you know, used my son's e-mail, amongst many other people's e-mail who he did the same thing to,' Berg said.

Government sources said Berg gave the man his password, which was later used by Moussaoui, the sources said.

"Christians, like slaves and soldiers, ask no questions." --Jerry Falwell, 1981

Memo To Rumsfeld

TBogg has some excellent advice for how to deal with this little sticky wicket you've gotten yourself into:

Henceforth, being strapped to a board and submerged until you think you are drowning will be referred to as Hydro-Therapy. Being forced to simulate sex with fellow prisoners is now called Role Playing. Being made to form a naked pyramid is Job Training for the Upcoming Baghdad Cirque du Soleil. If you are stripped naked and led around on a leash you Living A Day In the Life Of Former Louisiana Congressman Bob Livingston. And if you are actually forced to have sex with a slack-jawed, clueless goober, well, now you know how Karen Santorum feels....

Are there any problems that cannot be solved with a little creative message massage? Heavens, no.

Daddy Dearest

Not that I personally give a damn, nor would I blame the daughters for begging their embarrassing parents to stay away, but I do think this catch by Avedon Carol is too good not to snipe about.

After saying he wouldn't attend his daughters' college graduations because he didn't want people to have to go through security, Junior will be doing at least 3 commencement speeches.

This is a Mean Girl Special if I've ever seen one. Junior goes around every day lecturing people lecturing people about how they should love their children. MoDo, Tina Brown, Lisa DePaulo, Wolf, Shep, Kit --- your table is ready.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

That's The Way Your Hard Core Terrorist Works

I can no longer sit back and allow terrorist infiltration, terrorist indoctrination, terrorist subversion, and the international terrorist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.

General Geoffrey D. Ripper took Guantnamo Rules to Iraq for Handling of Prisoners:

According to information from a classified interview with the senior military intelligence officer at Abu Ghraib prison, General Miller's recommendations prompted a shift in the interrogation and detention procedures there. Military intelligence officers were given greater authority in the prison, and military police guards were asked to help gather information about the detainees.

Whether those changes contributed to the abuse of prisoners that grew horrifically more serious last fall is now at the center of the widening prison scandal.


By the time he took over in Cuba, most of the detainees there had been in custody for nearly a year. Still, General Miller was credited by Pentagon officials with using interrogations there to produce a valuable historical account of the workings and financing of terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, among other subjects, officials said.

His hard-charging attitude has also raised questions that go beyond interrogation methods. He was the official most responsible for pressing a case last year against a Muslim chaplain at the base, Capt. James J. Yee, that was initially billed as a major episode of espionage. In March, the military announced that it would drop all charges.

Last, and possibly most important, I want all privately owned computers to be immediately impounded. They might be used to issue instructions to saboteurs. As I have previously arranged, Air Police will have lists of all owners and I want every single one of them collected without exception.

Women... women sense my power, and they seek the life essence. I do not avoid women, but I do deny them my essence

An Army general on Wednesday dismissed the convictions in the case of a Muslim chaplain who was initially suspected of espionage at the Guantánamo Bay prison for terror suspects but was found guilty only on lesser charges of adultery and downloading pornography.

The appellate decision by Gen. James Hill, the Army Southern Command chief who oversees military operations at Guantánamo, wiped the slate clean for Capt. James J. Yee, who ministered for 10 months to foreign terrorism detainees at the United States naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

"This means there will be no official mention of it in his military record," General Hill said.

The decision ended what one of Captain Yee's lawyers, Eugene Fidell, called a "hoax" case. Mr. Fidell said that Captain Yee was "obviously very pleased" at the decision but that the military owed him an apology.

Captain Yee, 36, was found guilty in March of noncriminal charges of committing adultery and storing pornography on a government computer. He was arrested on suspicion of espionage in September and faced six criminal charges that included mishandling classified information at Guantánamo. Court documents accused him of spying, mutiny, sedition and aiding the enemy, and he was held in solitary confinement in a military brig for 76 days.

The military dropped all the criminal charges in March, citing national security concerns that would arise from the release of evidence against him.

Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller of the Army, who at the time commanded the task force running the Guantánamo prison, then found Captain Yee, who is married, guilty of administrative charges of committing adultery and storing pornography on a government computer, and issued a written reprimand.

Captain Yee appealed the decision.

God willing, we will prevail in peace and freedom from fear and in true health through the purity and essence of our natural fluids. God bless you all.

Another Normal American

*NOTE: This editorial was delivered by [news anchor] David Wittman after 19 Action News aired a very much edited version of the video showing American Nick Berg being held by his Iraqi captors before he was beheaded.

Well, if there is anything that's going to make us forget those photos from the prison, you just saw it. But it wasn't just what we saw, it's what we heard.

These cowards have the gall to read a political statement before killing one of our kids. The only word I understood: Islam.

As they brought out the knife, they screamed 'Allahu Akbar' -- God is great.

That's not our God.

There has been a lot written and said about our failure to understand the culture of the Middle East. We understand barbarism. We understand evil. We understand a perverted belief system that celebrates death. We can understand an enemy that quite frankly wants to kill us all.

Our God may forgive them. Just now, tonight, I can't. Can you?"

Notice it's no longer "terrorists," or even "Iraqis." It's the "Middle east" and "Islam." A pretty big chunk of the planet is now our enemy.

Then again, it is May Sweeps.

Thanks to Tim Carroll for the link.

Good News

Election Panel Won't Impose New Spending Limits on Groups

We need al the help we can get. Bush is spending like a sailor and there's always more where that came from. He's a very sound investment for people with money.

Sowing The Seeds Of Our own Demise

I honestly don't know what to say about this asshole. Media Matters is now transcribing the vitamin hustler Michael Savage's show. Read the whole thing an e-mail it to your relatives who think that the liberal media is biased and that you are exaggerating the level of hate and violence that comes from right wing radio.

Savage is heard by six million people every day:

Savage on what should be done to the Iraqi prisoners:

And I think there should be no mercy shown to these sub-humans. I believe that a thousand of them should be killed tomorrow. I think a thousand of them held in the Iraqi prison should be given 24 hour -- a trial and executed. I think they need to be shown that we are not going to roll over to them. It won't happen. It won't happen because of the CBS Communists. It won't happen because of the CNN traitors. I won't happen because of the MSNBC empty heads. And we the people are the ones who are going to suffer today. ...

Instead of putting joysticks, I would have liked to have seen dynamite put in their orifices and they should be dropped from airplanes. How's that? You like that one? Go call somebody that you want to report me to, see if I care. They should put dynamite in their behinds and drop them from 35,000 feet, the whole pack of scum out of that jail. Thank you CBS. Thank you New Yorker. Thank you Carl Levin. Thank you Ted Kennedy. Thank you Hillary Clinton. I'm sure that Mr. Berg's parents appreciate what you've done for them. I'll be right back.

Six. Million. Listeners. A. Day.


Via Atrios, I see that Yglesias has posted about one of those six million, apparently, a writer for tech central station:

Many Americans simply wish the Arabs would go away; others wish to blow them away -- and wish to blow them away not because they see this step as inevitable and tragic, but because they rejoice at the prospect of getting them back for what they have done to us. Most normal Americans today just don't care any more about the Arabs and their welfare, or about their humiliation, or about their historical grievances, simply because all the images that come to us from their world horrify and appall us, including the disturbing images of Americans doing things that no normal American would ever dream of doing to other people back at home, if only because they would never be given the opportunity.

This is how most normal Americans now feel, but they dare not express it in public. But make no mistake, this feeling will be expressed -- somehow, somewhere: a fact of which our leaders and the world must be made aware before it occurs.

"The arabs." "Normal people." "Most."

This tracks with one of Limbaugh's recent whines where he claims that everybody in America feels the same way he does but political correctness prevents them from expressing it. There is nobody more ugly than a violent wing nut embracing his victimhood.

Atrios explains the psychology of the "101st Fighting keyboarders:

I'm not sure who "most normal Americans" are supposed to be, presumably that means "most other members of the 101st Fighting Keyboarders." But, yes, the transformation from "Saddam is an evil omnipotent overlord who will kill us all" to "we are there to save the poor Iraqi people" to simply "they're the enemy" is all going according to schedule.

The sad thing, of course, is this basic bloodlust is mostly because they invested themselves emotionally in this, somehow feel responsible for it, and all along the MO has been to turn the big guns on anyone who disagreed. Well, now the people they went to liberate disagree, so the guns will be turned on them.

And it certainly helped their delusion to have a cartoon character president who strutted around with a 560 lb codpiece pretending that he could shoot lightning bolts from his fingertips in the name of loving yer neighbor like you'd love to be loved yerself.

Matt concludes:

I'm foreseeing an ugly future. Kerry wins the election and begins the slow, painful process of rebuilding the American military, American alliances, and American global credibility. Meanwhile, on the right a new "stab in the back" theory has already emerged and the forces of resentment are growing. "We came to help them and they turned on us -- now they must pay!"

That will be just one element of the wild-eyed fury on the Right when they lose the election. Their sanity is obviously hanging by a thread as it is. See, that's what Democrats were talking about when they said they were glad Al gore wasn't president on 9/11. Trumped up GOP impeachment hearings would have definitely interfered with the immediate needs of the victims and the response to terrorism. Don't think they won't do it in 2005.

Wing-Nut Confusion

Oh fer gawd's sake. Roger Ailes reports that the Fighting 101st Keyboarders (thanks TBOGG) have their sans-a-belt-Dockers in a wad because the media refuses to show the entire Berg video on television on a loop.

I'm telling you, this is the sickest damned thing I've ever heard. Maybe people who have sat through The Passion more than 50 times are inured to this kind of thing, but most of us aren't. This is a video of an actual brutal murder in living color. Still pictures don't have 1/100th of the power of these scenes. It is a horrible, horrible sight to see.

The mainstream media aren't showing the pictures of the bloody leg of the prisoner who was tortured with police dogs, nor will they likely show the video of the prisoners being raped when it eventually comes out (and it will.) They should not. Berg's killing is horrible documentary footage that should not be seen by children or anyone else who doesn't make a special effort to see it and who knows what they are going to see. It gave me nightmares and I'm a middle aged cynic. I can't imagine what it would do to a kid who happened to be watching TV unsupervised.

This is not political in any way. I don't think the video should be suppressed. People can access it on the internet and if my "search" traffic stats are any measure, a hell of a lot of people are. It's not being censored.

Jayzuz. These people are very confused. On the radio Rush can talk his eliminationist trash from dawn to dusk, but if Stern talks about sex he's dirty and must be suppressed. The still pictures of sadistic sexual humiliation should have been withheld from the media but an actual filmed death should be widely seen. Pictures of American soldiers torturing prisoners are wrong only to the extent they are shown on television. In reality they show a needed "emotional release" like hazing initiations at a frat party. Janet Jackson's nipple is cause for outrage.

The vaunted moral clarity of the right wing is looking more and more like presidential pretzel logic every day.

There has always been a unique conflation of sexual and violent imagery among fascists. It would appear that those who lean Right just have some problems in this area.

The Little Handful

Via wood s lot, from America's greatest writer of all time, Mark Twain:

"I did not like to hear our race called sheep, and said I did not think they were.

'Still, it is true, lamb,' said Satan. 'Look at you in war, what mutton you are, and how ridiculous!'

'In war? How?'

'There has never been a just one, never an honorable one on the part of the instigator of the war.

I can see a million years ahead, and this rule will never change in so many as half a dozen instances. The loud little handful as usual will shout for the war. The pulpit will warily and cautiously object at first; the great, big, dull bulk of the nation will rub its sleepy eyes and try to make out why there should be a war, and will say, earnestly and indignantly, 'It is unjust and dishonorable, and there is no necessity for it.' Then the handful will shout louder. A few fair men on the other side will argue and reason against the war with speech and pen, and at first will have a hearing and be applauded; but it will not last long; those others will outshout them, and presently the anti-war audiences will thin out and lose popularity. Before long you will see this curious thing: the speakers stoned from the platform, and free speech strangled by hordes of furious men who in their secret hearts are still at one with those stoned speakers as earlier but do not dare to say so. And now the whole nation pulpit and all will take up the war-cry, and shout itself hoarse, and mob any honest man who ventures to open his mouth; and presently such mouths will cease to open. Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception."

Thanks to Stephen Duncan for the link.

The Cat Was Already Out Of The Bag

Skeptical Notion makes the important point that despite what the right wing hacks say, the release of the pictures didn't change perceptions among ordiary Iraqis because they already knew:

I often wonder how stupid Kaus really is. Then I read his blog, and I remember: Very.

Today he's joined the Goldberg "Sixty Minutes II should never have printed those pictures, and we should never show any more" bandwagon, using the logic that "Because they showed the pictures, now the Iraqis know -- on a visceral level -- what we were doing, and now they're really pissed." and suggests that they should have done a verbal story (yes, that Red Cross report got so much attention) instead.

I'm still shocked by the unspoken assumption that the Iraqis -- and the rest of the Arab World -- are fundamentally stupid. I'm not sure why, but it appears to be an article of faith that "If you don't speak English, it's because you're retarded" among a great many of the movers and shakers.

News flash for you, Kaus: The Iraqis already knew.

Yes they did.

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

Berg Central

Susan at Suburban Guerilla has an impressive collection of posts that shed some light on the Nick Berg story. Something is definitely rotten in Baghdad.

First of all, the claim that the US military didn't have him in custody is bullshit:


Why Are The Lying?


Maybe I'm Crazy

Who Was The Real Nick Berg

A Little Extra Something

And while you're over there taking advantage of her editor's eye that cuts through the crap, send a little cash Susan's way so that she can attend the conventions. It will be worth our while, I have no doubt.


BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- An American who was beheaded by militants had told friends he was arrested by Iraqi police in Mosul because he had an Israeli stamp in his passport. The Mosul police chief Thursday denied having arrested him.

The body of Nicholas Berg, 26, was found last weekend in western Baghdad. Three days later, a videotape posted on an al-Qaida-related Web site showed Berg decapitated by hooded, armed men.

Questions about Berg's stay in Iraq remain, including the time and place of his abduction. U.S. and Iraqi officials have offered varying accounts of their contacts with the self-employed telecommunications businessman from West Chester, Pa., a Philadelphia suburb.

U.S. officials said Wednesday that Iraqi police arrested Berg in Mosul on March 24 because they believed he may have been involved in "suspicious activities."

U.S. spokesman Dan Senor would not explain those suspicions but insisted that Berg was held by Iraqi -- and not American -- authorities. He said, however, that the FBI visited Berg three times before he was released April 6.

In e-mails released by his family, Berg wrote about his experiences in trying to track down and later meeting an in-law in the Mosul area. Berg also described his work in seeking to repair communications towers in Iraq.

In Mosul, police chief Maj. Gen. Mohammed Khair al-Barhawi insisted his department had never arrested Berg and maintained he had no knowledge of the case.

"The Iraqi police never arrested the slain American," al-Barhawi told reporters. "Take it from me ... that such reports are baseless."


A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Berg was detained by Iraqi authorities "for his own protection" because his behavior in Mosul seemed unusual for a Westerner.

He had been seen traveling in taxis and moving about the dangerous city without any escort, the official said. He added that Berg, who was Jewish, had in his possession texts that were "anti-Semitic" in tone, the official said without elaborating.

In his e-mail quoted by the Times, Berg guessed the FBI agents in Mosul had questioned him about Iran because he was carrying some literature in Farsi and a book about Iran.

He also wrote that U.S. military police who were supervising the Iraqi police had heard some of his fellow prisoners referring to him as an Israeli and suggested he be moved to a separate cell.

Make Your Mark

Please sign this Petition if you are inclined to do such things. It's to tell that drooling vulture they call the Senator from Oklahoma that he doesn't speak for you.

Of course, if you agree that the Iraqi prisoners should be grateful all they got was a little forced sodomy with a chemical light then don't sign. It's not like we are quite as bad as Saddam or anything.

Via the mighty Atrios

Big Baby

Another round of applause for David Brock's Media Matters. They are now running a TV spot in DC highlighting Limbaugh's putrid statements about the torture scandal.

You really need to check out Limbaugh's latest on MM every day and circulate it widely. I've always known that the best way to expose the right was simply by letting normal people see what they actually say.

He's never had to answer for the nonstop lies and character smears of the last 12 years. He isn't handling the pressure very well. All these tough guys on the right who enjoy seeing a grown man cry must be loving Rush these days:

They can't destroy me, folks. The media didn't make me. The media can't destroy me. The media didn't make me who I am. I did that along with you. So if the media didn't make me, if the media didn't -- if they're not responsible for building me, they can't tear me down. They can try.

And I don't know that that's what they're doing, but nevertheless, don't sweat it. That's -- I just -- I felt compelled to answer this, because there must have been over the last three or four days a whole bunch of e-mails from people who think I ought to be angry about it and want me to fight back and this sort of thing. And I've also learned that over the years, that fighting back is not the right way to handle this. You just keep doing what you're doing. Just be who you are and let that be the fight.

Don't -- if you start responding to these people, that's all you're going to end up doing, which is why I was reluctant to even do this. But I wanted to do it one more time, get it out of the way, get it on the record. And let's just see how much of this, this total explanation, including the context of the Skull and Bones comment, let's see how much of this ever shows up in any of these places which have used that quote as a means to be critical, disparaging, discrediting, whatever.

The context is that a pill popping fascist gasbag who popularized Republican hatespin and character assassination is getting a taste of his own medicine. He's been spewing this stuff for years. Finally somebody is calling him it. Bravo.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Children's Crusade

Maureen Dowd has an unusually good column up in which she reports something I hadn't heard before:

In a public relations move that cheapens the heroism of soldiers, the Pentagon merged the medals for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, giving the G.W.O.T. medal, for Global War on Terrorism, in both wars to reinforce the idea that we had to invade Iraq to quell terrorism.

Can you believe that crap? I realize that we are always calling things "Orwellian" but actually dubbing Afghanistan and Iraq as the Global War On Terrorism makes the slightly Nazi-esque term Homeland Security sound a little bit delicate.

More importantly, this is another one of those never-never land dipshit political moves that piles one disasaterous decision on top of another. In honor of Karen Hughes, we'll call them Catastrophies With Consequences.

Dowd continues:

The truth is that our invasion of Iraq spurred terrorism there and around the world.

That initial deception — and headlong rush to throw off international conventions and old alliances, and namby-pamby institutions like the U.N. and the Red Cross — led straight to the abuse of Abu Ghraib. Now the question is whether the C.I.A. tortured Al Qaeda operatives.

Officials blurred the lines to justify ideological decisions, calling every Iraqi who opposed us a "terrorist"; conducting rough interrogations, perhaps to find the nonexistent W.M.D. so they would not look foolish; rolling all opposition into one scary terrorist ball that did not require sensitivity to the Geneva Conventions or "humanitarian do-gooders," to use the phrase of Senator James Inhofe, a Republican.

One of my arguments against the invasion was the entirely predicatable blowback. It seemed to me that after 9/11 and the whole worldwide Jihad thing that we should be a little bit more cunning and wily and a little less full of shit.

I could never see the logic in unnecessarily opening this Iraq front, particularly when it was obvious that it was going to make matters worse without any discernible benefit. We had enemies enough already and smarter and simpler ways to combat terrorism than crashing around the mid-east like an uncontrolled, enraged beast.

And it doesn't take a Phd from the University of Chicago to realize that when you go around making things up--- like we invaded Afghanistan and Iraq "because of terrorism" --- there might be some glitches in the president's crusade for peace, love and understanding. Politicians should remember that children are listening. And I'm talking about fully grown Americans who may be confused by the president's clear message that we invaded Iraq to liberate a bunch of terrorists.

Let's Get One Thing Straight

The wing nut talking points, after an obligatory "yeah, yeah, it's icky yada, yada, yada" is that the victims of the bad apples at Abu Ghraib were the worst of the worst, the terrorists, the murders, the ones who are trying to KILL YOUR BABIES in their sleep, so let's not get our panties in a bunch because this is war, mister!

Inhofe: "The idea that these prisoners -- you know, they're not there for traffic violations. If they're in cell block 1A or 1B, these prisoners -- they're murderers, they're terrorists, they're insurgents. Many of them probably have American blood on their hands. And here we're so concerned about the treatment of those individuals."

It has been noted elsewhere that the Red Cross report and The Taguba report estimated that somewhere between sixty and ninety percent of the prisoners held at Abu Ghraib were innocent.

Inhofe said several times over the last few days that the innocent were processed and let loose immediately but numerous news reports say they were generally held for about three months before they were freed with some cigarettes and $10.00.

Unsurprisingly, Inhofe is full of it. But, like our president, I doubt that he reads anything but his picture Bible and The Moonie Times so he is unaware that there have been a number of news accounts over the past week or so from those who are in the pictures and they are not terrorists, insurgents or murderers. They are poor innocent schmucks who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. The fact that they are free today should suggest that they were not the "worst of the worst," who, if you believe the president in his State of the Union address are either in custody or "have met a different fate. Let's put it this way -- they are no longer a problem to the United States and our friends and allies."

The NY Times had this on May 5:

The shame is so deep that Hayder Sabbar Abd says he feels that he cannot move back to his old neighborhood. He would prefer not even to stay in Iraq. But now the entire world has seen the pictures, which Mr. Abd looked at yet again on Tuesday, pointing out the key figures, starting with three American soldiers wearing big smiles for the camera.

"That is Joiner," he said, pointing to one male soldier in glasses, a black hat and blue rubber gloves. His arms were crossed over a stack of naked and hooded Iraqi prisoners.

"That is Miss Maya," he said, pointing to a young woman's fresh face poking up over the same pile.

He gazed down at another picture. In it, a second female soldier flashed a "thumbs up" and pointed with her other hand at the genitals of a man wearing nothing but a black hood, his fingers laced on top of his head. He did not know her name. But the small scars on the torso left little doubt about the identity of the naked prisoner.

"That is me," he said, and he tapped his own hooded, slightly hunched image.


He was arrested in June at a military checkpoint, when he tried to leave the taxi he was riding in. He was taken to a detention center at the Baghdad airport, he said, and then transferred to a big military prison in Um Qasr, near the Kuwaiti border. He said he had stayed for three months and four days.

The treatment in Um Qasr, he said, "was very good," adding: "There was no problem. The American guards were nice and good people."

After the three months, he said, he was transferred to Abu Ghraib, a sprawling prison complex 20 miles west of Baghdad, where Mr. Hussein incarcerated and executed thousands of his opponents.


Finally, after an ordeal of what Mr. Abd believed to be about four hours, it was over.

The soldiers removed the beds from their cells, he said, and threw cold water on the floor. The prisoners were forced to sleep on the ground with their hoods still on, he said.

"I was so exhausted, I fell asleep," Mr. Abd said. "These were the same walls where Saddam Hussein used to interrogate people. We thought we would be executed."

But the next morning, he said, doctors and dentists arrived to care for their injuries. Beds and pillows were brought back in. They were fed. Everyone was nice, Mr. Abd said. Then at night, the same crew with "Joiner" would return and strip them and handcuff them to the walls.

About 10 days after it started, the nightly abuse ended, for no explained reason. "Joiner" just stopped coming to the cell block, and about a month later, Mr. Abd and two others among the seven were transferred to a civilian Iraqi prison in Baghdad.

It is a horrible story that is well documented in the Taguba report and verified by people who saw it. This innocent man was caught up in a Kafkaesque nightmare(or perhaps Saddamesque nightmare is the correct term)

It's interesting that Inhofe and Limbaugh and the rest who are trying to concoct some sort of narrative that their non-sadist base can live with, are unaware that this fellow claims that he was never interrogated, thus supporting the yesterday's fading talking points about "bad apples." Of course, the soldiers involved are now saying that the pictures of the torture were ordered up by their superiors as part of some sort of psy-op interrogation plan, so who knows?

Now, Inhofe and his cronies can say that there is no proof (except for the matching scars and paperwork proving his incarceration at the same time.) But, there is more:

From the Washington Post May 6, 2004:

Hasham Mohsen Lazim traded used tires for a living in the Shiite slum of Sadr City. He had been in trouble only once in his life, he said, a desperate time six years ago when he deserted Saddam Hussein's army to support his wife and four small children.

Then on one warm night in August, a taxi ride home ended in a U.S. Army holding cell, the first stop in what he described as a hellish four-month journey through the U.S. military prison system in Iraq. His experience veered between anguish and confusion, abuse and fury, before culminating in a series of pictures, broadcast worldwide in recent days, that memorialized his 24-day stay in the grimmest precincts of Abu Ghraib prison.

"Something awful happened to me," Lazim said during a two-hour interview broken by long pauses of silent despair. "I will never forget it until the day I die."

The story is very much like the NY Times account. It is hard to see how they could have come up with so much detail that matches the reports, the pictures and the testimony of Americans who were questioned for the investigation.

He too is now free, which puts the lie to this latest attempt to defend the indefensible. If he was a terrorist with American blood on his hands, I don't think it's likely that he'd have been set free to kill some more.

Inhofe and his crew of sadistic freepers had better have a back-up plan.

x-posted on American Street

Boo Fucking Hoo

Media Matters reports that the poor lil' thin skinned bullyboy doesn't like being monitored.

From Monday's show:

[Feminazi] Limbaugh on prisoners getting "a taste of [their] own medicine"

CALLER: When I saw those pictures -- the Iraqi supposedly torture pictures -- I felt no shame. The only thing I could think is, they're getting a little taste of their own medicine, and those Iraqi women must be cheering.

LIMBAUGH: Made that point last week, but it didn't go over well with Rush Monitors. I did -- that's -- made that point. That point has not been quoted. I said, you know, this might not be bad -- oh, it's gonna happen again -- I said, if you look at the role Iraq -- Arab men make their women play -- the roles they play, the roles they have to live -- to, to, to make American prison guards females and to give those women utter power over Arab men -- some might call that torture, some might call that decent punishment, some might say here's a taste of your own medicine. This is what you've been doing to your women for time immemorial, only now the tables are turned. But all that's been lost because [with a slight lisp] "This is horrible. This is, this is disgusting. This is outrageous. This is mean."

Limbaugh on Democrats and the media

I'm gonna submit here -- and I don't care who quotes me on this, and I don't care where they repeat it -- there's a lot of acting going on here, and there's a lot of false phony concern for these Iraqi detainees. This is not about people genuinely outraged about this. ...

The Democrats and the media don't give a rat's rear end about what happened to those prisoners. All this is, is the latest weapon they can use politically to harm Bush, which is why they're trying to harm me, in fact. It's all political. They don't give a hoot about those prisoners. ...

Limbaugh on Media Matters for America's monitoring

You know, isn't it interesting folks, I've been around here for fifteen and a half years. I've never been so often quoted on a single story. I think what happens is that the media has come across a new website that's supposedly chronicling what I say, and they all go there and they read it and they see and then they take the propaganda of that website and repackage it and call it news. And they leave the context of my remarks out. For example, nowhere where I've been quoted have I been quoted as saying that I think what happened there is not good. I don't support it, and I don't encourage more of it. I have not said that -- or I have said that, they've not quoted me on that. There's a number of things that they've left out, uh, most of it context. Uh, but it's just, it's amazing, all these years they could just tune in to my show and listen, but no, that's too tough. But now there's just a central clearinghouse for out-of-context quotes from this program. They can go there and present as news, even though it's just repackaged propaganda.

Imagine that. Rush says he's being quoted out of context with repackaged propaganda when his words are repeated verbatim. He says that nobody is quoting all the stuff where he condemns the torture. All they do is report stuff like this, taken from the same show yesterday:

Limbaugh on sincerity of public outrage

How many of you went out to social occasions over the weekend and this subject, this story came up? And how many of you wanted to really say, "I don't see the big deal here. This is war. These are people who tried to kill Americans." But you didn't say it or some variation of that because you were afraid because you were with a bunch of people who were start yelling at you that you for being insensitive or coarse or crude or whatever, so you said what you thought you had to say in order to get along during a controversial situation if this conversation came up wherever you were.

How many of you did that? How many of you did that? Admit it to yourself you don't have to raise your hands out there. I'm not, we're not counting hands out there. I want you to think about it because the fact of the matter is I think that's what most people are doing. I think most peo --that's where my optimism and faith in the people of this country remains steadfast. I don't think most people are that outraged by this. I don't thi -- let's put it this way, I don't think the public outrage nowhere near matches what we watched on television on Friday and yesterday exhibited by these holier than thou sanctimonious elected officials who are themselves acting and saying what they think you their voters want them to say and what you their voters expect to hear. ...

Folks, somebody asks what you think of this prisoner thing, just tell them the truth, and I guarantee you more people you tell the truth will say, "Yeah, I agree with you" than you know...

He'll be back on the little blue babies soon if people don't show some compassion and let him off the hook. Rush is not supposed to be called on his outrageous talk. He is supposed to be allowed to brainwash his 20 million dittoheads daily without interference. This is upsetting him.

More To The Story

I watched the video of Berg's beheading and it literally made me sick to my stomach. Do not watch it. It's a barbaric, horrible display of inhumanity. I wish I hadn't seen it. I'll never forget it.

The story surrounding Berg is getting very strange indeed. I don't know what is wrong, exactly, but something is. The government is not being straighforward about the circumstances and it's very wierd:

An American civilian who was beheaded in a grisly video posted on an al-Qaeda-linked Web site was never in U.S. custody despite claims from his family, a coalition spokesman said Wednesday.


The video posted Tuesday showed a bound Berg in an orange jumpsuit — similar to those issued to prisoners held by the American military at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He was sitting in front of five men, their faces masked, as one read an anti-American text.


But unanswered questions remained about Berg in the days before he vanished, as well as where and when he was abducted.

Berg, who was Jewish, spoke to his parents March 24 and told them he would return home on March 30, according to his family in suburban Philadelphia.

But Berg was detained by Iraqi police at a checkpoint in Mosul on March 24, was turned over to U.S. officials and detained for 13 days, the family said. His father, Michael, said his son was not allowed to make phone calls or contact a lawyer.

Coalition spokesman Dan Senor told reporters that Berg was detained by Iraqi police in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. The Iraqis informed the Americans, and the FBI questioned him three times about what he was doing in Iraq.

Senor said that to his knowledge Berg "was at no time under the jurisdiction or detention of coalition forces."

Michael Berg told The Associated Press, however, that U.S. officials were "playing word games."

"The Iraqi police do not tell the FBI what to do. The FBI tells the Iraqi police what to do. Who do they think they're kidding?" the elder Berg said.

Calls by the AP to police in Mosul failed to find anyone who could confirm Berg was held there. The U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority runs Iraq, controlling not only the police, but the military and all government ministries.

FBI agents visited Berg's parents March 31 and told the family they were trying to confirm their son's identity.

On April 5, the Bergs filed suit in federal court in Philadelphia, contending their son was being held illegally by the U.S. military. The next day, Berg was released. He told his parents he had not been mistreated.

Berg's father blamed the U.S. government for creating circumstances that led to his son's death, saying if his son had not been detained for so long, he might have been able to leave Iraq before the violence worsened.


Asked for details about Berg's last weeks in Iraq, Senor replied: "We are obviously trying to piece all this together, and there's a thorough investigation." He said he was reluctant to release details but did not say why.

"The U.S. government is committed to a very thorough and robust investigation to get to the bottom of this," Senor said, adding that "multiple" U.S. agencies would be involved and that the FBI would probably have overall direction.

Senor said that in Iraq, Berg had no affiliation with the U.S. government, the coalition or "to my knowledge" any coalition-affiliated contractor. But Senor would not specify why Iraqi police, who generally take direction from coalition authorities, had arrested him and held him.

Police in Mosul "suspected that he was engaged in suspicious activities," Senor said, refusing to elaborate. Berg was released April 6 and advised to leave the country, Senor added.

Michael Berg said that in early April, his son refused a U.S. offer to board an outbound charter flight because he thought the travel to the airport — through an area where attacks had occurred — was too risky.

State Department spokeswoman Kelly Shannon said that on April 10, Berg told a U.S. consular officer in Baghdad that he wanted instead to travel to Kuwait on his own.

Berg apparently had an Iraqi in-law in the Mosul area, according to emails to his family.

Brig. Gen Mark Kimmitt said the only role the U.S. military played in Berg's confinement was to liaise with the Iraqi police to make sure he was being fed and properly treated because "he was still an American citizen."

This man was apparently just wandering around Iraq trying to find work on his own, unaffiliated with the US government. I had no idea that Americans could even go to Iraq on their own. If I recall correctly, Democratic lawmakers had a difficult time getting permission to go to Iraq over the last year, but perhaps that was because of security concerns.

I don't know what all this means. It's possible that it's just a strange and bizarre series of events that ended in horror. But you have to wonder why the FBI was supposedly answering to the Iraqi police in Mosul while the US military who supposedly control the country are denying that they had Berg in custody when it is pretty clear that they did. Something isn't right and from the way this AP report reads, this reporter agrees.

Outrage At The Outrage

Although Inhofe did not directly challenge American policy dictating adherence to the Geneva Convention in Iraq, he did stress the pre-eminence of aggressive intelligence-gathering when confronting terrorism.

"We're in a different kind of world than we've ever been in before,'" he said during the interview. "And I believe that we need to be tougher than we have ever have been before ... and it's imperative that we get intelligence."

At a time when the Bush administration has issued a series of apologies for the mistreatment of Iraqi captives, it might be easy to assume that Inhofe is consciously challenging the White House from its right flank. But the Oklahoma senator insists that he is stoutly supporting the administration and beleaguered Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Asked about his inflammatory opening statement to the committee, Inhofe said confidently, "I'm sure that the president was glad that I did it."

I'm sure he was. The man who mocked a condemned prisoner begging for her life by pursing his lips and saying "Oh, please don't kill me," is definitely a kindred spirit.

Where Are They, Damn It!

Following up my post below, in reading today's NY Times description of the disagreement between general Taguba and Stephen Cambone yesterday at the hearings, I was reminded of something. First, here's the relevant excerpt from the Times:

[Taguba] told the Senate Armed Services Committee that it had been against the Army's doctrine for another Army general to recommend last summer that military guards 'set the conditions' to help Army intelligence officers extract information from prisoners. He also said an order last November from the top American officer in Iraq effectively put the prison guards under the command of the intelligence unit there. But the civilian official, Stephen A. Cambone, the under secretary of defense for intelligence, contradicted the general. He said that the military police and the military intelligence unit at the prison needed to work closely to gain as much intelligence as possible from Iraqi prisoners to prevent attacks against American soldiers. Mr. Cambone also said that General Taguba misinterpreted the November order, which he said only put the intelligence unit in charge of the prison facility, not of the military police guards.

Many of you will recall the following passage from Time Magazine last July:

Meeting last month at a sweltering U.S. base outside Doha, Qatar, with his top Iraq commanders, President Bush skipped quickly past the niceties and went straight to his chief political obsession: Where are the weapons of mass destruction? Turning to his Baghdad proconsul, Paul Bremer, Bush asked, 'Are you in charge of finding WMD?' Bremer said no, he was not. Bush then put the same question to his military commander, General Tommy Franks. But Franks said it wasn't his job either. A little exasperated, Bush asked, So who is in charge of finding WMD? After aides conferred for a moment, someone volunteered the name of Stephen Cambone, a littleknown deputy to Donald Rumsfeld, back in Washington. Pause. 'Who?' Bush asked.

This is pure speculation, but it is worth looking into what those interrogators were after in Abu Ghraib. Cambone framed it yesterday as "trying to prevent attacks against American soldiers.," which, I supose, you could interpret in a number of ways. But, if the focus was finding the non-existent WMD, then you'd have to ask whether the man whose "chief political obsession" was finding them gave the order to take off the gloves.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

All The Way To The Top

The lawyer for one of the acused soldiers just said on MSNBC that the military was using the pictures to "break" prisoners who they suspected of knowing where the weapons of mass destruction were.

If that is the case, then I think Rumsfeld and the White House knew about the torture and may have ok'd it directly.

I had thought that the abuse was centered on intelligence about the insurgency, in which case it was feasible that it was something that got out of hand on the ground. But, the lack of WMD is the worst and most embarrassing of the myriad Bush failures, and a particular hobby horse of micro-managers Cheney and Rummy. If that was the focus of the interrogations then I think it goes all the way to the top.

A Respectful Dissent

I'm going to go out on a limb and disagree a bit with two of my favorite bloggers who also happen to be the most popular bloggers in the blogosphere. Let it never be said that I am a scared bunny Democrat.

First, let me just agree that deep sixing the idea of ideological purity in favor of partisanship is a really good one. We must accept that in order to win the presidency and achieve a majority in the congress the Democratic Party is going to have to welcome all stripes of Democrats, even the hated DLC. It's a fact of life kids.

On the other hand, Kos says:

We have become a party of appeasers, afraid to respond lest the Rove boogeyman jump out of the bushes and bite them in the rump. Dean helped kickstart a change in our party's culture, but it has temporarily receeded as the Kerry people consolidate their victory and take over the party apparatus. Kerry has rightly kept quiet as Bush digs his own grave, but where are our attack dog surrogates? Where are our Democrats being Democrats?

This, I think is unfair. They are out there every day doing exactly what we are exhorting them to do:

Sen. Edward Kennedy launched a blistering election-year attack on the Bush administration's candor and honesty Monday, saying President Bush has created "the largest credibility gap since Richard Nixon."

The Massachusetts Democrat said that Iraq was never a threat to the United States and that Bush took the country to war under false pretenses, giving al Qaeda two years to regroup and plant terrorist cells throughout the world.

"Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam," Kennedy said at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

Responding to the criticism, Bush campaign spokesman Terry Holt called the veteran lawmaker the "lead political hatchet man" for Sen. John Kerry's campaign, adding that if it had been up to Kennedy, "Saddam Hussein would not be in prison but would still be in power."


Cong. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), a member of Congress since 1971 and a Korean war combat veteran, today called for the impeachment of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld unless he resigns or President Bush removes him from office...

I think America and the world want us to show the outrage not with rhetoric but with action! And, if the President does not fire Secretary Rumsfeld, or if he does not resign, I think it is the responsibility of this Congress to file articles of impeachment and force him to out of office. Then, the whole world will know - not just the military - not just Americans, but the whole world will know what we stand for!"


House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will unleash a broad indictment of the Bush administration’s Iraq policies at a speech before the American Society of Newspaper Editors today.

Her speech will be a stinging rebuke of the process that led to war, the White House’s immediate reconstruction plans and its schedule and strategy for transferring sovereignty in just 74 days.


While campaigning for John Kerry in Georgia today, Senator Max Cleland made the following statement in response to the right wing attacks:
For Saxby Chambliss, who got out of going to Vietnam because of a trick knee, to attack John Kerry as weak on the defense of our nation is like a mackerel in the moonlight that both shines and stinks.


MARGARET WARNER: Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin went to the Senate floor this morning to slam what he called "the Republican attack machine on John Kerry."


The fact that the media doesn't cover these thing widely (or that the blogosphere doesn't give a shit either) doesn't mean they aren't doing it.


And it's not just them. The whole party apparatus, from top to bottom, is afraid. No Democrats talk about taking back the House. "Not until 2012" I'm told. And it's just recently that Democrats have started talking optimistic about the Senate, even though it's been ours to lose for a while.

Republicans are always confident of victory, even when they have little chance in hell. It's a problem when those idiots take us to war based on lies and best-case scenarios and all, but politically, it works. Our side needs a little backbone. It needs a little optimism. It needs to remember that the (D) next to their name means something larger than "little (R)".

This has nothing to do with ideology, whether you are a moderate or progressive or conservative or whatever. It has everything to do with establishing a clear and confident party identity. We still don't have one, and we won't have one so long as the party continues to run scared anytime a Republican says "boo!".

Our entire Party "apparatus," from top to bottom, is afraid. We have no backbone. We have no identity. Other than that, though, we are clearly the best qualified to run the country while the world is blowing up around us.

Why would Americans who are not already partisan Democrats vote for a Party whose rank and file members believe they have no identity and who run scared of Republicans, much less Osama bin laden? I'm not even sure why I would vote for such a party and I'm as partisan as it gets.

But then, I don't actually see the Democratic Party this way. Basically, it is assumed that the Party is a big loser because we are a bunch of sissies when in fact, the Democratic party won the last 3 presidential elections and is out of power in the congress by a mere handful of seats. And the fact that we aren't in the oval office today and aren't in control of the Senate is not because we are cowards.

But, there are reasons, and it behooves us to figure out what they really are.

Here's David Brock from his interview yesterday in Salon:

One of the most frightening experiences I have had in recent years in talking with rank-and-file Democrats is the extent to which they unconsciously internalize right-wing propaganda. To add insult to injury, too many Democrats have a tendency to blame the victims of these smears -- their own leaders -- rather than addressing the root of the problem. For instance, when Senator Daschle made the factual statement that "failed" diplomacy had led to war with Iraq, right-wing media accused him of siding with Saddam Hussein. The ensuing controversy caused many Democrats to think Daschle had put his foot in his mouth.

Check out Buzzflash on any given day over the last two years and you will find some kind of nasty, demeaning over-the-top headline about Daschle. When he came out swinging, it was "Finally, Daschle shows some cojones," even though he often came out swinging. And there was almost no understanding of the fact that a legislative Party leader has to be more than just a liberal partisan. His job also requires him to help red state Senators get re-elected. I know that isn't something we liberals are happy about, but it is a reality and Daschle deserved a lot better from the left wing of his own party.

My fellow Democrats, this endless criticism of the Party for being too timid is naively playing into their hands. The problem is not the Democratic Party. It is the Republican Party and the media that serves them. This "Democrats are a buncha pussies" meme comes right out of the Mighty Wurlitzer.

The Party's identity is as clear as its ever been. It's the party of fairness, freedom, opportunity and equality for all Americans, not just the few. That this has been distorted by 30 years of highly focused GOP propaganda is not surprising. But, this is what we've stood for since FDR and the only thing that's happened is that the Republicans have managed to convince a whole lot of people that Democrats are too cowardly to keep their towns and country safe, it is in their best interest for rich people not to pay taxes and that they won't be able to practice their religion if civil society doesn't become more religious.

This whole "we have met the enemy and he is us" business is looking inward when the most important thing we can do is start to look outward and deal practically and pragmatically with the real problem we are confronting --- an American public that is incresingly subject to right wing propaganda and a media that is more than happy to give it to them.

I don't have a problem criticizing outrageous examples of appeasement in the Party, like those of Lieberman and Miller. They are what they are and we have nothing to lose by exposing them. Neither do I have a problem criticizing Kerry or his advisors on strategy or policy. That's politics.

But, what I object to is criticizing the character of the Democratic Party in general and insulting the characters of Democrats specifically, who don't need to be called cowards all the time when they are in there fighting the good fight while we sit safely behind our keyboards and monitors dispensing advice.

There are real problems to be solved if we do win this election. And it is going to be very tough to do what needs to be done in the current environment.

As Brock warns in his excerpt:

With the right-wing media now a seemingly permanent and defining feature of the media landscape, if Democrats cut through the propaganda and win back the White House in 2004, they still face the prospect of being brutally slammed and systematically slandered in such a way that will make governing exceedingly difficult. There should be no doubt that the right-wing media's wildings of 1993 -- which led to Clinton's impeachment four years later -- will be replayed over and over again until its capacities to spread filth are somehow eradicated.

This is the central political problem of our times, not the alleged cowardice of the Democratic Party.

It's not smart to help them spread their memes. Nor is it a good use of our energy and passion to put a reformation of the Democratic Party at the top of the agenda as if we were a hundred votes shy of a majority in the House and under the thumb of a filibuster proof Senate.

We've been out of the White House for only four years and even that was the result of masterful GOP manipulation of the media and their unprecedented willingness to use the levers of power (and the threat of civil insurrection) in Florida and the Supreme Court.

We are not in the wilderness, we are in a death match for the soul of the United States of America at a time of enormous instability in the world (made far, far worse by Republicans) and a usurpation of democracy at home (at the hands of Republicans.) Our character isn't the question in this political battle. Theirs is.

And I would suggest that one of the first things we need to do a lot more of is what Atrios advises instead of calling Democratic politicians cowards all the time:

... the best way to encourage them is to support them when they go out on a limb.