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Saturday, May 15, 2004

The paper in front on the hotel room door says Bush should go 

Well, OK. Not the paper. It's an OpEd by the owner of the paper. Still:

Only a carefully planned withdrawal can clean up the biggest military mess miscreated in the Oval Office and miscarried by the Pentagon in my 80-year lifetime. In Journalese, the traditional five Ws of Who, What, When, Where, Why:

Who? George W. Bush.

What? His cowboy culture.

When? After 9/11. Bush bravely took on a necessary fight against terrorists who attacked us. But then he diverted his attention to an unrelated and unnecessary "pre-emptive" war.

Where? Iraq. He led us astray by falsely claiming Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that threatened us. After the "Mission Accomplished" boast in May 2003, he put our troops in new jeopardy by taunting terrorists from other countries with his "Bring 'em on!" challenge last July 2. His anything-goes-against-the-bad-guys attitude and his total lack of postwar planning helped prompt the ongoing prison-abuse embarrassments and brutal retaliations.

Why? Because he believes he can be re-elected as a tough-talking, self-proclaimed "War President."
(via Atrios in USA Today)

Mainstream in the blogosphere for over two years finally makes it, well, the mainstream.

Of course, Inerrant Boy will never resign. And after raising $200 million dollars? Forget about it.

In any case, it's essential not merely to get rid of Bush—by allowing him to step aside in a statesman-like way—but to thoroughly repudiate him. That's the only way we can restore our standing in the world, and, more importantly, our own national self-respect (for those not in the deep, deep denial promoted by winger groupthink).

Worse, if Bush did resign, his successor might win. That would mean that Bush's more disgraceful and destructive policies could take root.

So, I'm glad Al Neuharth put the boot in, but I think Bush is better for us. Readers?

Following the Money: Bush "Spheres of Influence" 

WaPo has a really excellent graphic called "Spheres of Influence" that diagrams, basically, the web of connections between the consortium of fixers and wealthy wingers that own Bush. Who paid what, who got what in return.

Go play!

Commander LeGree's Magical Productivity Tour 

Watching Lou Dobbs tonight (Friday night that is), Dobbs reminds us:

DOBBS: Massive job cuts today in the battleground state of Ohio. These job cuts come from a company whose performance was lauded and praised one year ago by President Bush standing right at their plant. The president visited the Timken company in Canton, Ohio last April as part of his "Big Jobs and Growth" tour. [President Bush pointed to Timken's remarkable productivity. Productivity at Timken had risen 10 percent from the previous year. Today, Timken announced plans to close three plants in Canton, Ohio, cutting 1,300 jobs despite the productivity, of their labor force. As many as 20 percent of those jobs could go overseas.

Clarification note: The "presidents" tour wasn't really called the "Big Jobs and Growth" tour. Its was called the "Jobs and Growth" tour. The word "big" belonged to Dobbs. He was being sarcastic. Whoever the dolt is at CNN who transcribed this stuff, or where-ever they transcribe this stuff, they apparently don't have a very keen ear for the language. But of course i shouldn't be surprised should I? Considering the nature of the mainstream television media today. Anyway, rolling along....

Since the president's visit last April, Timken has laid off more than a quarter of its [O]hio workforce. President Bush, by the way, said high productivity, quote, raises the standard of living for the American people. 1,300 people at those plants in Ohio tonight probably disagree with the president's assessment now.

See: LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: Interview With Governor Ed Rendell; President Bush's Poll Numbers Plunge, Aired May 14, 2004.

The Canton visit, and speech at Timken, took place on April 24th, 2003. See: President Discusses Plan for Economic Growth in Ohio Remarks by the President to Timken Company Employees Canton, Ohio.

9:56 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all, very much. (Applause.) Thanks a lot. (Applause.) Thanks for the warm welcome. I appreciate you letting me come by to say hello. (Laughter.) I'm honored to be in Canton, and I'm honored to be here at the Timken Company.

Tim was telling me that you all have been in business since 1899 -- turns out that's when William McKinley, of Canton, slept in the same room I'm sleeping in. (Laughter.) Tim told me that this is a company -- we are a "roll up your sleeves" company, a can -- it is a can-do environment. Which is one of the reasons I've got so much optimism about the future of our economy -- because of the "roll up your sleeves" attitude by thousands of our fellow Americans, because of the business sense of "we can do whatever it takes to overcome the obstacles in our way". I know you're optimistic about the future of this company. I'm optimistic about the future of our country. It's important that Washington, however, respond to some of the problems we face.

One of the problems we face is not enough of our fellow Americans can find work. There's too much economic uncertainty today. And so three months ago, I sent Congress a package that would promote job growth and economic vitality. For the sake of our country, for the sake of the workers of America, Congress needs to pass this jobs growth package soon. (Applause.)

And that's why I thank you for letting me come and talk to you about some of the problems that we face here in America. I appreciate the Timken family for their leadership, their concern about their fellow associates. They're working hard to make sure the future of this company is bright, and therefore, the future of employment is bright for the families that work here, that work to put food on the table for their children.

I appreciate so very much Jim Griffith, the CEO of the company, for setting up this wonderful setting for a speech. I want thank you all for taking time out of your work to come and let me share some thoughts with you. I want to thank you for loving your country.

Yeah, sure, and i'll bet good buddy Timmy "can do" Timken is a wonderful "roll up your sleeve" fund raiser too. And maybe those 1,300 former "fellow associates" will find work at the new Hoover blanket factory just south of Uniontown.

Ay yi yi.

UPDATE: Sid the Fish (see comments) writes:
I did a little digging through the archives. The Timkens and their cronies have coughed up more than a million bucks for the Republicans. As far as I'm concerned, that money came straight out of the pockets of the 1300 people who are now unemployed.

Sure nuff, Sid goes trolling for Timkens and you can see everything that he reeled in over at Sid's Fishbowl. Thanks Sid.

If Chairs Could Talk 

Jimmy Mac over at Angry Finger stood the hairs on the back of my neck on end. Really. I'm not kidding. Check it out

While you're at it you can scroll down one post and sign a petition..."to Withdraw US Troops from Iraq."

Ok, thats it - you know what to do.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Goodnight, moon 

It's early, but it's been a hard week and I'm stunned with exhaustion.

Talk amongst yourselves. What will the weekend bring?

Bush has personally created six jobs! 

OK, they're His counter-terrorism chiefs.

But still, what's wrong with you liberals? Can't you give Him credit?

Please, don't tell Santorum about this site! 

Total war rhetoric 

From alert reader raison de fem:

There's a fine example of the total war rhetoric right up the road from where I work. Big sign in front of what claims to be a Baptist Church with yellow ribbons all over it. Text says, "Support our Troops and Christ or Support Islam. You cannot Support Both."

Although George Boole would take pride in the slogan—

Not in my name and not with my tax dollars!


Iraq insurency: Shrine damaged in Najaf 

Hope Sistani blessed this effort, eh?

Backed by helicopters, American tanks charged into the centre of this holy city today and shelled positions held by fighters loyal to a radical cleric, who condemned the United States and Britain in a sermon. The Shrine of Imam Ali, one of the most sacred sites for Shiite Muslims, was slightly damaged in the fighting.

Four Iraqis died and 22 were wounded, said Hussein Hadi Karim, administrator at Najaf General Hospital, adding most were civilians. Fearing arrest by American troops, members of the militia loyal to cleric Muqtada al-Sadr often avoid taking their casualties to hospitals.

Meanwhile, explosions and heavy machine-gun fire rocked Najaf neighbourhoods for hours today, and bands of militiamen with assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and mortar tubes roamed the city of dun-coloured buildings. Smoke billowed from blasted buildings.

Four holes, each about 30 centimetres long and 20 centimetres wide were visible on the golden dome of the Imam Ali mosque. They appeared to have been caused by machine-gun fire, but it was unclear which side did it.

During their crackdown on al-Sadr’s militia, U.S. forces have been careful to avoid damaging shrines in Najaf and elsewhere for fear of enraging Iraq’s Shiite majority.

But Al-Sadr’s spokesperson, Qays al-Khazali, told The Associated Press that the Americans were responsible.

Reports of damage to the shrine were widely reported on Arab TV.
(via Toronto Star)

Nice one, guys. Really, Bush seems kinda schizzy. At home, they do everything they can to manipulate the media ("work the refs," as Alterman says). Abroad, they don't seem to care. And it isn't that they don't work the refs abroad, it's they go out of their way to foul, and then thumb their noses. Seems very short-sighted. Do they care about the base, and only the base? Does Bush truly believe the Rapture is coming, so long-term considerations are not relevant? WTF?

Nick Berg Mystery: Why the the FBI questioned him in Iraq 

Looks like the Iraqis police held him because the FBI asked him to:

Nicholas Berg, the West Chester businessman decapitated in Iraq last weekend, was questioned repeatedly in Iraq by FBI agents who thought he might have ties to Zacarias Moussaoui, the confessed al-Qaeda member and accused Sept. 11 conspirator, government officials said yesterday.

Not, apparently, in Iraq.

When FBI agents questioned Berg on March 26, while he was detained at an Iraqi police station in Mosul, he was not suspected of being linked with Moussaoui, a senior Justice Department official said.

But during the questioning, Berg volunteered that he had been questioned by the FBI once before in connection with the Moussaoui investigation, after his computer password turned up in Moussaoui's belongings, the official said.

That piqued the FBI agents' interest, and they asked that he be held while they investigated further.

Never volunteer information, eh?

The original Moussaoui link was determined in 2002 to be "a total coincidence," the official said, and FBI agents in Iraq determined that Berg should be released, indicating they also found nothing suspicious.

But the investigation delayed Berg's release long enough that he missed a flight back to the United States on March 30. By the time he returned to Baghdad on April 6, Iraq was in the grip of a bloody insurgency, with U.S. troops fighting throughout the country and foreigners being taken hostage.

Berg's father said in an interview with reporters yesterday that his son had once been questioned by the FBI because of the computer password.

Michael Berg said that when his son was a student at the University of Oklahoma, he took a course on a remote campus and had to take a bus with fellow students to get there.

"Someone asked, basically, to use his computer. And it turned out that this guy was a terrorist, and that he used my son's e-mail, amongst many other people's e-mails."

Berg said the other student "was not a friend of my son's. He was not even an acquaintance, but just a guy sitting next to him on the bus."

The FBI investigated a little over a year ago, Berg said. "Of course, my son cooperated... . This was never an issue. No one knew they were terrorists at the time. They were just students that were also taking the bus."
(via our own Inky)

So. Lack of planning led to the Iraqi looting, including the looted towers. That brought Nick Berg to Iraq. Then, the FBI holds him because he volunteered information. So Nick Berg missed his flight. And so he died.

So I'd like to know more:

1. What's the FBI doing in Iraq, anyhow?

2. How did the FBI get the email and link it to Nick Berg?

3. Can an expert in investigative procedure tell me if it's usual to hold people who volunteer information like Nick Berg did?

4. And I still wonder whether the FBI/CPA/Military intelligence or whatever had Berg followed after they released him. If they were still suspicious, that would the thing to do, eh?

5. Kudos to Dan Senor for parsing! "US forces" didn't have him! The Iraqi Police and the FBI did. Honestly, these guys need a corkscrew when they put on their pants in the morning!

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Good night, moon (and another Nick Berg mystery) 

When I read Nick Berg's diary this morning (back), I found it really touching. I didn't know there was such a thing as a tower nerd, but Nick Berg was one. Express condolences here.

So I thought I'd quote some passages from his diary—when I came to a sentence I'd missed this morning that brought me up short. Read on:

Saturday I got onto a really over-engineered 328 meter tower just on the edge of Mosul, currently supporting Channel 7, a 20 kW VHF television station around here. The tower was fabricated in Iraq and has more steel per vertical foot than any tower I've ever been on, the 2000' kings down in Texas included. ...

Sunday we went out to a site called Al Khayzer, which used to house an AM broadcast site on 607 kHz or so. What's left is the 150 meter tower, guyed, with 1" guy wires, sitting on the biggest base insulator I've ever seen - probably 4 feet high and three feet in diameter.
(via our own Inky)

See what I mean?

The whole tower was looted, including some of the diagonals on the first 50' and the lighting system.

Looted, thanks to the lack of planning by the cakewalkers and POTL in the Bush administration.

These have been replaced, but it was kind of un-nerving to inspect this thing with so many incongruities. Monster guy wires, with monster Johnny-ball insulators, but little 1/2" stainless hardware at the guy takeoff points. And there were fox-holes dug all around the tower, which was right on the edge of Kurdish-controlled territory. Still, it was beautiful, a really superb piece of engineering nestled on a beautiful riverside. It was much more peaceful there and I would have taken a good long hike in the hills ....

Here it comes...

... if I had not hopped a ride with the ultra gung ho contract security guys.


I wonder who these surprisingly generous contract security guys were, and what, exactly, was so "ultra" about them?

On that thought—pleasant dreams.

P.S. The Hindu Nationalists lost in India. Sometimes, the bad guys lose! FTF!

Nick Berg Mystery: State says Army had him, Senor said they didn't 

Can't these guys ever get their stories straight? Newsday has emails from the State Department's Beth A. Payne to the Bergs:

I have been able to confirm that your son is being detained by the U.S. military. I am attempting to identify a person with the U.S. military or FBI here in Iraq who you can contact directly with your questions.
(via Newsday)

So RNC/CPA flak Dan Senor was lying (surprise!) when he said that US forces didn't have Nick Berg in custody.

And can someone tell me what the FBI is doing over in Iraq? Don't we have enough spooks over there with the CIA, military intelligence, the contractors, and whatever the CPA has going, not to mention the Iraqis? Sheesh...

And as alert reader Bryan notes, isn't it funny that, if whoever had Berg thought he was a spy, that they would just release him? Wouldn't it make more sense to release Berg, then follow him to see who he contacted? If so, where did Nick Berg go, and who did he contact?

Nick Berg Mystery: Is the copy of the lawsuit that got Nick Berg out of the Iraqi jail missing because of a secret docket? 

For those who came in late, earlier today, we wrote (details back):

Nick Berg's parents filed suit in the Eastern District court in Philadelphia to get him out of an Iraqi jail (Berg et al v. Rumsfeld, back). And after they filed the suit, the very next day Nick Berg was released from jail. Coincidence?

I got the docket number and other search information for the case, and alert readers Xan, Enrico, and upyernoze couldn't find the case on the electronic court filing system for United States District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania—although the filing declaring the case moot (presumably because Berg had already been released) was there. Question:

Can an alert reader with authority on the Federal District Court system clarify whether the missing copy of the lawsuit is a cause for concern?

Quite possibly. And there may be cause for concern.

Alert reader Jennifer has a friend who is a lawyer, and she sent me the following article, which I excerpt here. (The article is behind the green door, so thank heavens the fair use doctrine still holds). The article describes the use of an illegal secret docket system used by the federal courts in Miami, mostly for drug cases, but now also for the "war on terror." If such a system is also at work in Philadelphia, it would explain why we have a docket number for Berg et al v. Rumsfeld, but no court filing to go with the number.

Miami Daily Business Review, Vol. 77, No. 232 May 9, 2003


[Being kept secret] by Court Clerk Clarence Maddox's office is a civil case brought against a prison warden by a young Algerian man living in Deerfield Beach, Mohamed Kamel Bellahouel, who was once mistakenly suspected of involvement with terrorists. Neither the courts nor the U.S. attorney's office, however, acknowledges that dockets are being secretly maintained.

A 10-year-old decision by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta -- U.S. v. Valenti -- forbids the use of so-called dual dockets in which some matters are held back from the public. "The government has convinced judges in this court to use the same type of dual docketing system' prohibited by Valenti," said [Miami super-lawyer and Rush Limbaugh defender Roy] Black in a recent court filing.

The law
Under federal law, even matters that are properly sealed by a district court judge aren't supposed to be hidden completely from view. Says Local Rule 5.4: "Unless otherwise provided by law, court rule or court order, proceedings in the U.S. District Court are public and court filings are matters of public record." There's even a form for judges to close individual filings from public view, "Order Re: Sealed Filing." But there are no provisions for sealing the entire docket of a case, or sealing individual docket entries themselves.

Several defense attorneys interviewed for this article said there is no law or rule issued before or after the attacks of Sept. 11 that could justify the sealing of dockets in cases involving terrorism, immigration or anything else in the district court or in higher courts. That includes the Classified Information Procedures Act,

There are at least two completely invisible cases on the secret docket of the Southern District of Florida. One is the criminal case in federal district court in Miami against Colombian businessman and imprisoned drug dealer Nicholas Bergonzoli. A federal grand jury in Bridgeport, Conn., indicted Bergonzoli on a conspiracy to import cocaine charge in October 1995. That court's docket shows the case was transferred in March 1999 to Miami, where it was given a case number, 99cr196, and assigned to then-Chief Judge Edward B. Davis, who has since retired. Once the case landed in Miami, though, it seemed to vanish. Court dockets accessible to the public don't include Bergonzoli's name.

And a computerized search for Docket No. 99cr196 on the PACER electronic docket system yields the reply "no matches found." But the Review has learned that Bergonzoli, now 39, was convicted

This is just like to our experience with Berg et al v. Rumsfeld. The docket number exists ("2:04cv1497"); but there's no court filing to go with it.

Traces of case removed
A second case kept completely out of the South Florida sunshine is an apparent habeas corpus petition stemming from an immigration detention case brought by the Algerian, Mohamed Bellahouel.

Again, like Berg et al v. Rumsfeld.

[Bellahouel] was detained for five months on skimpy evidence of ties to the Sept. 11 terrorists. As first reported in the Daily Business Review in March, Bellahouel was a waiter at a Middle Eastern restaurant in Delray Beach, where he apparently served food to some of the Sept. 11 hijackers who dined at the restaurant. A Delray Beach movie theater employee told the FBI she thought she saw Bellahouel go into the theater with one of the hijackers. As a result, in October 2001, he was detained at the Krome Processing Facility in southwest Miami-Dade Bellahouel, who lives in Deerfield Beach, later was hauled before a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Va. -- apparently the same grand jury that investigated the so-called 20th hijacker, Zacharias Massaoui. Bellahouel has since been released on a $10,000 bond. But his case has rolled along in secret. Sealed proceedings of an unknown nature took place March 5 before a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sitting in Miami. Bellahouel's case surfaced briefly because of a court clerk's mistake. Later, the Review found, a court calendar and the 11th Circuit's computerized docketing system in Atlanta were altered to remove any trace of Bellahouel's case from the public record. Information on why the appellate court heard the case and whether it has ruled is not publicly available. Federal Public Defender Williams and her chief of appeals, Paul Rashkind, were present at the sealed appellate hearing in March and represented Bellahouel. They don't acknowledge representing Bellahouel and won't discuss the case at all. The Review has asked each of the 11th Circuit judges in the case -- Stanley F. Birch Jr., Ed Carnes and visiting Judge Procter Hug Jr. of the 9th Circuit -- to unseal Bellahouel's case and any opinion. There has been no response.

How secret system works
Further evidence of a secret docket and the human dynamics behind it comes from a once-sealed transcript, recently uncovered by Black, [in which] then-prosecutor Theresa M.B. Van Vliet asked Chief U.S. Magistrate Ann Vitunac in West Palm Beach to seal proceedings as well as any evidence the hearing ever happened. ... "We will hold those tapes, not docket this proceeding," Vitunac said. "And my order at this moment is oral and to be put in writing at a later date." [Like the 32nd of Never?] Seven months passed before the court disclosed in the public docket that a hearing regarding Sanchez-Cristancho was held that day.

Did the Honorable Mary A McLaughlin (the judge in Berg v. Rumsfeld, back succumb to the same human dynamics?

We don't know. But we certainly need more information.

Readers! Can anyone give us assurance that the disappearance of Berg et al. v. Rumsfeld from the records of the Eastern District Court of Pennsylvania has a legitimate explanation? That the original filing for a moot case might be removed from the system, for example? That it's not the result of a secret docket?

Philadelphians! Can anyone forward Corrente a copy of the filing?

NOTE The Naples News, via AP has more on secret dockets, and the Mohamed Bellahouel case.

Science for Republicans! 

Anyone know if Rummy flew to Baghdad by way of Mexico?

A series of brightly lit, rapidly moving objects filmed in the skies over Mexico could have been caused by a scientific phenomenon involving gases in the atmosphere, a scientist said Thursday.
(via AP)

Then again, maybe the aliens have landed. And just when you thought it couldn't get any weirder...

Operation Enduring Cruelty 

Human Rights Watch issues new statement on detainee abuse in Afghanistan, similar to reports coming from Iraq.

U.S.: Systemic Abuse of Afghan Prisoners | Open Files on Detainee Deaths May 13, 2004.
Afghans have been telling us for well over a year about mistreatment in U.S. custody. We warned U.S. officials repeatedly about these problems in 2003 and 2004. It's time now for the United States to publicize the results of its investigations of abuse, fully prosecute those responsible, and provide access to independent monitors. - John Sifton, Afghanistan researcher for Human Rights Watch. [...]

On May 10, the AIHRC formally requested access to U.S. detention sites in Afghanistan. Human Rights Watch has also made several formal requests to visit U.S. detention sites in Afghanistan through 2003 and 2004, none of which received any response.

The following is excerpted from HRW's comprehensive report titled "Enduring Freedom:" Abuses by U.S. Forces in Afghanistan. (published in March, 2004.)

I. Summary
From 2002 to the present, Human Rights Watch estimates that at least one thousand Afghans and other nationals have been arrested and detained by U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan. Some of those apprehended have been picked up during military operations while taking direct part in hostilities, but others taken into custody have been civilians with no apparent connection to ongoing hostilities. (This latter category may include persons wanted for criminal offenses, but such arrests are not carried out in compliance with Afghan or international legal standards.) - (continued....

V. Conclusions:
This report raises serious concerns regarding the actions of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, specifically with regard to the use of excessive force during arrests; arbitrary or mistaken arrests and indefinite detention; and mistreatment in detention:

- U.S. forces regularly use military means and methods during arrest operations in residential areas where law enforcement techniques would be more appropriate. This has resulted in unnecessary civilian casualties and may in some cases have involved indiscriminate or disproportionate force in violation of international humanitarian law.

- Members of the U.S. armed forces have arrested numerous civilians not directly participating in the hostilities and numerous persons whom U.S. authorities have no legal basis for taking into custody. These cases raise serious questions about the intelligence gathering and processing that leads to arrests and call into question the practice of arresting any and sometimes all Afghan men found in the vicinity of U.S. military operations.

- Persons detained by U.S. forces in Afghanistan are held without regard to the requirements of international humanitarian law or human rights law. They are not provided reasons for their arrest or detention. They are held virtually incommunicado without any legal basis for challenging their detention or seeking their release. They are held at the apparent whim of U.S. authorities, in some cases for more than a year. (continued.... LINK)

Arbitrary or Mistaken Arrests and Indefinite Detention:
Mohammad Naim’s brother told a similar story.54 Ahmaddullah and Amanullah, who are brothers, were arrested in a house nearby. Another villager, Khoja Mohammad, was arrested when he came out of his house to investigate what was happening in the other houses.55 Amanullah described the arrests as follows:

I awoke, there were helicopters all around the house. And I looked out and there were people in my house [in the compound]. There was a man I could see, I thought he was a thief. He had a gun. But he spoke English, and I realized he was an American. I don’t speak much English, but I said, “How are you?” But then he said, “shut up” in Pashto – “Chopsha.”

My brother was there too, and he was arrested. They tied his hands, and they were pointing their guns at me all the time. Then they arrested me too, and tied my hands.56

The five men were taken to Bagram. Mohammad Naim described what happened after they landed: They threw us in a room, face down. We were there for a while. Then they stood me up and led me somewhere, and then they took off my blindfold. I saw that I was alone. I saw that there were some other people in the room, but I was the only prisoner.

I was on the ground, and a man stood over me, and he had a foot on my back. An interpreter was there at this point. He asked me, “What is your name?” and I told them.

They made me take off my clothes, so that I was naked. They took pictures of us, naked. And then they gave us new clothes, which were dark blue.

A man came, and he had some plastic bag, and he ran his hands through my hair, shaking my hair. And then he pulled out some of my hair, some hair from my beard, and he put it in a bag. . . . The most awful thing about the whole experience was how they were taking our pictures, and we were completely naked. Completely naked. It was completely humiliating.


Human Rights Watch has learned that U.S. forces routinely hold Afghans at the local airport in the eastern city of Jalalabad. However, former detainees there refused to speak in detail with Human Rights Watch about their experiences in U.S. detention. One told Human Rights Watch:

We were treated absolutely terribly there. They did terrible things to us, things we'll never forget. It was absolutely awful what they did. . . . We absolutely cannot talk about it. We don’t want to talk about it with you. We have made our agreements not to talk, and we won’t talk about it. (continued....LINK)

Full HRW report, March 2004: "Enduring Freedom:" Abuses by U.S. Forces in Afghanistan Index Page

Nick Berg Mystery: Friend says Berg was held by US troops 

RNC/CPA spokesman Dan Senor says (back) that "to his knowledge Berg ''was at no time under the jurisdiction or detention of coalition forces." But, through the voices of his friends, Berg himself disagrees:

Chilean freelance journalist Hugo Infante told CNN that weeks before the videotape of Berg's grisly death emerged on the Internet, "Nick told me, 'Iraqi police caught me one night, they saw my passport and my Jewish last name and my Israeli stamp. This guy thought I was a spy so they put me with American soldiers and American soldiers put me in a jail for two weeks.'"

Infante stays at the $30-a-night Al Fanar Hotel, where Berg was staying, and regularly chatted and shared drinks with him.

And Berg already knew he'd been in the wrong place at the wrong time once...

Infante said Berg told him that Iraqi police were suspicious of the electronics equipment he was carrying for his work on radio communications towers when he was arrested in Mosul.
(via CNN)

Wrong place, wrong time... But what time and place, exactly?

So, the possibilities are:

1. RNC/CPA's Dan Senor is lying.

2. RNC/CPA's Dan Senor is mistaken.

3. Hugo Infante, Nick Berg's friend, is lying—hard to believe

4. Hugo Infante is mistaken—also hard to believe

5. Nick Berg was lying—what's the incentive?

6. Nick Berg was mistaken—but the only way I can see how this could be is if the people he thought were US troops weren't really. But that's really only possible unless there are people in Iraq wearing Army uniforms who aren't really in the Army... Hmmm....

Nick Berg Mystery: His mail from Iraq 

The Philadelphia Inquirer is on this one, since Nick Berg was from Philly, and they've published some of his mail from Iraq here.

It's a poignant and ironic series, and will repay full reading for the picture it gives of Iraq and the Iraqi people during the occupation. Berg saw the world through fresh eyes, and the mail fills me with sadness.

As far as the Nick Berg story, as opposed to Nick Berg the person goes, irony abounds here as well. Berg's business was maintaining antennas: big radio-type antennas, which he called "towers." And why did the towers need to be repaired? Because they were looted during the war. So, another of the countless little human tragedies that can be laid squarely on the backs of the wingers and factually challenged ideologues who dragged us into this misbegotten venture.

There's no smoking gun in the email, so I'm not in full tinfoil hat mode, but there are some points that are, well, suggestive:

The other big news was the announcement Friday morning (9 Jan 2004) that the Harris/Al-Fawares/Lebanon Broadcast Company consortium had finally been awarded the new IMN contract. With out getting too technical, this is a one year (at least) contract to operate and rehabilitate the former Ministry of Information, Minister Naji's turf.

The reason this is good news is that we were announced as Harris's approved tower sub-contractor about two days before the award. we should be involved with quite a bit of tower work as part of the reconstruction, repair and new construction of the statewide Iraqi Media Network (something like PBS/NPR in the US). There are other private broadcasters being licensed, and there are folks like the VOice of America and the CPA operating small stations, but when it comes to existing broadcast, IMN is it. So we're fairly happy about this development.

I wonder who has this contract how?

So between the 11th January and the time of writing, I have been on six major sites, inspecting towers and cataloging the extent of looting/sabotage damage. Most of the destruction was intentional looting or even sabotage on the numerous (at one time twenty-six) tall towers in Iraq. There are twenty-two left, and at least ten have some major problems. The worst site I have been on was the Abu Gharib I tower, a 320 meter (1040') guyed tower in the main broadcast complex for Baghdad, near the Abu Gharib political prisons.

So here's a guy in Iraq, climbing up tall towers, and seeing... What? Well, just about anything, eh? And if it looked like he had binoculars, or any kind of recording equipment....

The other site I visited in the South was Diwaniya, a larger town with some big grain silos and two universities. It's also home to Camp Santo Domingo, one of the many non-US military bases. I actually had to meet An American CPA guy who worked there and so I got into the base - it was full of Dominican soldiers.

I wonder who the CPA guy was? And what he did for Nick Berg?

So this last Thursday afternoon I had the bright idea of running down to Diwaniya to inspect this temporary tower which was built by the former FPS (something like the Secret Service). This is one of many portable sites which were set up in strategic areas to beam the message out.

Hmmm.... And I'm not the only one who thought this way:

so I started to negotiate with a throng of taxi drivers (none of whom had a car - that's kind of an afterthought to actually winning the negotiations). I've got one down to 30,000 ID (about $20 at the time) when the IP (Iraqi National Police) swings by on patrol. It seems they had reports about unknown Iranian people infiltrating their town, and at night they can't see much of my face. Anyhow, the story ends in a rather anti-climatic fashion - the police collect me and take me off to the Lieutenant who is more worried for my safety than about me being an Iranian spy.

Later, they do release him. But the lieutenant was playing Good Cop. Eh?

I've found a very competent and fairly reliable commercial Manager here. He's actually been living in Philadelphia the last twenty years and just came back - so he's similarly a bit out of his element. Imagine coming home to a country so different form where you grew up. We're right now at an office near the sporting club where he played European Football as a kid.

Since then it's been destroyed, rebuilt, run by Oday, son of Hussein, and finally privatized. The fact alone that he and I are just now sitting in a free and open internet shop is unbeliveable to most Iraqis. Even a year ago he would have been arrested upon his return. Neither of us would be seeing the un-restricted internet. At any rate, Aziz will do us well I think, and I'm happy I finally found someone I can strategize with.

And who is this Aziz, I wonder? Does anyone know him from Philadelphia?

In the last two days I have inspected two surviving towers for the IMN (state run broadcast media). IMN is now being "managed" or overseen by the CPA, through a contract with an American consulting company who does not specialize in broadcast, telecommunications or anything nearly so specific.

What, then, does this "unspecific" company do?

I came to Mosul to meet Moffak Mustaffa Yasin, Mudafer's (my paternal uncle) brother. It was very easy to find his office (it took about one hour of broken Arabic and a few family-tree sketches).

Nick Berg had relatives in Iraq?! Now this:

Moyser (Moffak's brother) doesn't live at the same house. I still don't know where he is. Back to the Ninaveh Palace (where I'm staying tonight) I went, and I see a man gesturing at the desk with one of my cards. Ever the opportunist, I put on my best Arabic and introduced myself as "Bodgne Berg" (tower guy). Of course that was Moffak and got along splendidly. We spent a few hours and I helped him establish an e-mail account. The bank account is still waiting as he claims none of the Mosul banks will do international wires - I'll probably have to open in Baghdad. It was a very interesting time and I noticed again that there is a huge disconnect with relationships here.

Translated: Nick Berg helps an unknown Iraqi set up an email account. Oh no...

Well, that's all I can post for now. It's heartbreaking. Reminds me of The Zone in Gravity's Rainbow.

So... Here's a lone American travelling around Iraq helping unknown people set up email accounts (this is not the only example). In his work, he has to climb tall towers near sensitive installations. Some of the installations are owned by powerful Iraqi ministers, others by shadowy CPA forces, and, when you think about it, the entire tower system is the infrastructure for intelligence communication, and the media. Not to mention cell phones, which still don't work, and for which there is a lot of competition for contracts worth billions. He's picked up at least once for being an Iranian spy.

I think, at least, we can say that the case that Berg's death was entirely due to Islamic fundamentalists or AQ is, as the Scotch would say, "not proven."

I can well imagine a scenario where "Ali" (let's call him), the first cousin of the Iraqi Minister of Information, wanted the tower contract, took Nick Berg out for a beer, and after giving him knockout drops, handed him over to the CPA, who also had their own ideas about the contract. Then it turns out the "Ali's" CPA contact is a real wrong 'un, so Berg got handed over to ...

Yeah, pure fantasy, I agree, but a little more nuanced than the noxious pablum we're being fed now (see farmer, below).

Readers? Anyone with more detail? There's more in the Inky— but I have to run.

Nick Berg Mystery: Where is a copy of the lawsuit that got Nick Berg out of the Iraqi jail? 

For those who came in late, Nick Berg's parents filed suit in the Eastern District court in Philadelphia to get him out of an Iraqi jail (Berg et al v. Rumsfeld, back). And after the filed the suit, the very next day Nick Berg was released from jail. Coincidence?

So I got the docket number and other information that would enable a copy of the suit to be found, and asked if any alert readers could find it, since the Federal courts have a pretty good electronic filing system. Alert readers Xan, enrico, and upyernoze both tried, and came up empty. Here's what upyernoze (who has the required password access to the Eastern District's database) said:

i checked and i found exactly the same thing as enrico. the only pdf is the notice that the suit is moot. a habius petiton is also listed on the docket, but there is no pdf file of the document. under the eastern district's rules, all filings are supposed to be accompanied with a pdf, but apparently this one did not make it into the public database

Which is interesting.

The "moot" stuff is there presumably, because Nick Berg was released, and the parents dropped the suit.

But why is the original suit not there? My first thought was that it was just a production problem, and that the original suit would come along in the next batch of PDFs, whenever that is. But the moot document got in right away.

Maybe it's just tinfoil hat time for me, but I'd really like to trace that suit and get a copy of it. It's a big loose end, and with the Bush administration, a "hermeneutic of suspicion" is warranted at all times.

Can an alert reader with authority on the Federal District Court system clarify whether the missing copy of the lawsuit is a cause for concern?

An unwanted repeat 

Boy, these guys sure are in a rut! More Nixonian secrecy and, in an attempt to save themselves, they're reduced to recycling the same tired script:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Bush administration lawyers are advising the Pentagon not to publicly release any more photographs of Iraqi prisoners being abused by U.S. soldiers, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said at the outset of a hastily arranged visit to Iraq aimed at containing the abuse scandal.

"As far as I'm concerned, I'd be happy to release them all to the public and to get it behind us," Rumsfeld told reporters traveling with him from Washington. "But at the present time I don't know anyone in the legal shop in any element of the government that is recommending that."

The government lawyers argue that releasing such materials would violate a Geneva Convention stricture against presenting images of prisoners that could be construed as degrading, Rumsfeld said en route to the Iraqi capital on a trip that was not announced in advance due to security concerns.
(via MSNBC)
Oh, so now we've discovered the Geneva Convention, huh?

Any port in a storm, right? Advocate violating the Geneva Convention whenever you want but then, almost in the same breath, use it as an excuse to CYA and keep evidence from the public. Once again, I'm not even sure calling this "rank hypocrisy" quite covers it, eh?

Oh yeah, and Don, if you're following the script closely, don't forget to take the plastic turkey with you!

Wait. That's right. He's staying behind in the White House.

Never mind.

More Official Elevator Music From MSNBC 

So who really killed Nick Berg?

MSNBC, who never met an official government press release they wouldn't swallow hook line and sinker, was alive and hoppin' with analysis of the Berg murder. Dan Abrams (The Abrams Report), never short of wind or at a loss for some grand expoundment on this that and the other thing, was motoring away about the entire matter as it applied to fingering al Qaeda and the Jordanian Zarqawi for the beheading of Berg. Deborah Norville was whooping up the tale as well, making no secret that, by God and country and king, the message delivered upon that tape from the group that killed Berg was a message from al Qaeda. (unfortuantly MSNBC is slow on transcript production values so I have no links to those transcripts as of this writing.)

Moving along...

Well, I dunno if al Qaeda was involved or not. And i don't know if Zarqawi was the man who performed the execution in that video, although Debbie Norville repeats the allegation, ie: conventional wisdom, that he has taken credit for the act. Which I guess is good nuff for MSNBC. Ah yes, MSNBC, you can always count on them folks to straighten out any confusing news-like stuff, thanks berry much. Sure. (Isn't that how they sold us the glorious CakeWalk War and all those excitable yarns about WMD and forty five minutes to mushroom cloud meltdown?) Nice to see MSNBC is back in fine form.

In any case, apparently no one at MSNBC's television day camp actually listens to news, aside from whatever it is that's piped in from the Pentagon, because CNN (no prize themselves) was actually reporting a different take on the al Qaeda/Zarqawi Berg murder video link. Hours before Debbie and Dan began their nightly pantings CNN aired the following interview with their own senior editor for Arab affairs Octavia Nasr. Here is what Nasr had to say with respect to suggested al Qaeda and Zarqawi participation in the Berg murder. Including the US governments official translation of that video:

O'BRIEN: Interesting. All right, now one final thought here. You did a very careful translation of your own, of the statement. And in it, you see no reference to al Qaeda. And yet the official U.S. government translation does. Explain how that happened.

NASR: Oh, I find it very interesting, because out of the blue, there is a mention of al Qaeda on the U.S. government translation. It says: "Does al Qaeda need any further excuses?" Any speaker of the Arabic language is going to notice a difference between the word al Qaeda, which means "the base," and al qaed, which means "the one sitting, doing nothing."

My translation says: "Is there any excuse for the one who sits down and does nothing?" Basically they're telling people, you have no excuse for not doing anything, for not acting and defending Islam and so forth. Whereas the U.S. government translation has this factual error, I'm sure it's an honest mistake, but basically it sort of adds al Qaeda to the statement, which is not on the statement.

O'BRIEN: All right, Octavia Nasr, we don't know exactly how that got in there. We'll try to get more on that. We appreciate you bringing that all to light and appreciate your insights, of course.

NASR: You bet.

Shucks no, how could something like that possibly git in there. Jeepers! So in other words the official US gov. translation is either mistaken or intentionally bogus? Or, Nasr is wrong when she says that the tape makes no mention of al Qaeda whatsoever. Nasr then indicates that the man alleged to be Zarqawi (speaking on the tape) does not have a Jordanian accent, which leads her to believe it is not Zarqawi:

O'BRIEN: Well, let me ask you this. You've had a chance to really listen to this tape and get a sense who might be responsible, just by deciphering, say, accents. And certainly, there in the Arab world, they're very attuned to that. And given the fact of who this may or may not be, does that have some effect on how it is being played?

NASR: Yes, and if you listen to these voices that we're hearing on Arab networks, Iraqis are condemning this execution. And they're saying these are foreigners. These are not Iraqis. They do not represent us and so forth.

Now, of course, the original claim was that Zarqawi is the actual man who performed this execution. Our experts listened to the accent, as you said, and they determined the accent is not Jordanian...

O'BRIEN: He is a Jordanian who is working supposedly, allegedly, at the behest of al Qaeda in Iraq. So go ahead.

NASR: Right, he is very close to bin Laden, and works, you're right, as an agent of al Qaeda in Iraq. Now, the accent is not Jordanian so that takes the Jordanian element out of the story immediately.

The interview with Nasr took place on Wed. afternoon, May 12. You can read it all here: CNN - LIVE FROM... Berg Family Has Questions;...Intelligence Gathering | May 12, 2004 - 12:59 ET.

Similarly, an Associated Press report from early March, 2004 suggests that Zarqawi himself may have been killed some time ago. It also reports that Zarqawi has an artificial leg, which did not appear to be the case with the man in the Berg murder video, who is allegeded to be Zarqawi. See: Alleged Statement Says Extremist Killed - 3/4/04. (Associated Press)

Update: al-Zarqawi had a leg amputated, al-Zarqawi did not have a leg amputated? From April 2004:
A U.S. official said Tuesday that al-Zarqawi traveled to Baghdad in May 2002 for treatment of a leg injury but, contrary to previous reports, appears not to have had a leg amputated. The official would not discuss the reason for the change in assessment. via CNN

Thanks to "anna" (see comments) for digging up the link to the blockquote cited above. You can also visit with anna at her blog annatopia.

And then there was this: From MSNBC's parent company NBC. Which apparently didn't merit any windy vetting from Debbie or Dan or anyone else at MSNBC-TV as far as i can recall.

Avoiding attacking suspected terrorist mastermind Abu Musab Zarqawi blamed for more than 700 killings in Iraq | By Jim Miklaszewski -Correspondent, NBC News | Updated: 7:14 p.m. ET March 02, 2004

With Tuesday’s attacks, Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant with ties to al-Qaida, is now blamed for more than 700 terrorist killings in Iraq.

But NBC News has learned that long before the war the Bush administration had several chances to wipe out his terrorist operation and perhaps kill Zarqawi himself — but never pulled the trigger.


The Pentagon drew up a second strike plan, and the White House again killed it. By then the administration had set its course for war with Iraq.

As I said, I don't recall hearing anything about that from any of the nightly cable news-noise television theater departments. Not even Joe "Hollywood did it!" Scarborough, who, no doubt, was busy investigating Hollywood's appetite for farm animal sexual molestation, or girls gone bad videos, or something really real and really important like that. Uh huh.

In any event, all of this is yet again another fine example of why the television news-o-tainment opinion-yawp industry (how'd you like to depend on Maureen Dowd or Maggie Gallagher to cack up the "news" each evening. Yeeks!) is designed for no other reason than to offer up one more boing-eyed allegation after boing-eyed allegation, to trowel on one layer of bullshit after another. One on top of the next until the allegation becomes the "real" story and any competing information is shoveled off to a compost heap.

None of these awful shows are designed to peel back the onion and poke around at what is under the surface skin. To find any answers or disseminate any greater detailed understanding of a particular issue, event, or political debate. It's all about scripted story telling. And like any cheap thrill, once the script is booted into the vein there is no end to the junkies that will show up to help enhance the high.

Note: As far as I know none of the usual evening news crickets at CNN made any mention of Nasr's earlier observations either. Certainly not CNN's official White House Press release reader and translator John King. At least I didn't catch it. So, either I missed something, or Nasr's analysis was rejected by the script writers and producers and conventional wisdom apologia wonder clucks at the home office. Whatever. What the hell do i know? Not a goddamned thing.

On and on it goes.... reductio ad absurdum.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Goodnight, moon 

More classics:

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
  Rode the six hundred.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!" he said:
Into the valley of Death
  Rode the six hundred.

"Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismayed?
Not tho' the soldiers knew
  Someone had blundered:
Theirs was not to make reply,
Theirs was not to reason why,
Theirs was but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
  Rode the six hundred.

Who said that Tennyson wasn't capable of irony?

Nick Berg worked near Abu Ghraib 

Weird. Make of this what you will.

Mystery surrounded not only Nicholas Berg's disappearance but also why he had been held by Iraqi police for about two weeks and questioned by FBI agents three times. Berg's family disputed U.S. officials' claims that Berg was never in U.S. custody.Berg was last in contact with U.S. officials in Baghdad on April 10, and his [beheaded] body was found Saturday in Baghdad.

"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?" Berg's father, Michael, told The Associated Press from his home in West Chester, Pa., a Philadelphia suburb.

Berg first worked in Iraq in December and January and returned in March. He was inspecting communications facilities, some of which were destroyed in the war or by looters.

During his time in Iraq, he struggled with the Arabic language and worked at night on a tower in Abu Ghraib, a site of repeated attacks on U.S. convoys and the location of the notorious prison where U.S. soldiers abused Iraqi inmates.

Since Iraq remains under U.S. military occupation, it seems unlikely that the Iraqi police would have held Berg, or any other American, for such a length of time without at least the tacit approval of U.S. authorities.
(AP via LA Times)

Tinfoil hat time? Or what Berg just in the wrong place at the wrong time—like so much about this wretched war?

UPDATE Alert reader rickfman comments:

While this is interesting and I await further substantive developments, let's be sure we don't morph into the Vince Foster realm of tortured conspiracy theorizing. "They became what they beheld" and all that...

I agree. And probably the post above poses the same danger, no matter how much I qualify it.

On the other hand, I'm continually amazed by the fact that no matter how cynical I become about this administration—and I do try very very hard—I have never been cynical enough. If I've finally gone over the edge... Well, alert readers will drag me back.


Abu Ghraib torture: Army investigators push "bad apples", "having fun" theory 

Military intelligence tries to get the story straight:

[Special Agent Tyler Pieron of the Army's Criminal Investigation Division, a] key Army investigator in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal has testified that he found "absolutely no evidence" that the military chain of command authorized any of the mistreatment of detainees, but rather that it was the work of a small band of guards "just having fun at the expense of the prisoners," according to court-martial documents obtained today by the Los Angeles Times.
(via AP)

Unfortunately, that's not what one of the accused soldiers says (""Chain of command" said "Smile for the camera!", back)

Not all intelligence officers agree with Special Agent Pieron, either:

Also testifying at the hearing was Sgt. Samuel Jefferson Provance III, a staff member of a military intelligence battalion. He said that interrogators would sometimes seem to go too far in trying to extract information from detainees.

While Pieron said his unit interviewed all of the military interrogators and found no examples of them encouraging the abuse, Provance said that intelligence officers never reported the abuse.

He said one day in the interrogators' office he heard his "peers" talking about "what MPs did to the detainees." He described it as "things like beating them up and using them as practice dummies and knocking them out."

He added that a colleague from a Nevada National Guard unit, whom he described as an older female soldier, told him of "some stuff that she saw going on." He said she documented the abuse but that her chain of command admonished her for reporting it.

I wonder why? Seems like the National Guard soldiers don't know enough to keep their mouths shut, doesn't it?

"She was afraid of her chain of command," Provance said. So, "she sent the documentation to her relatives."

Maybe Seymour Hersh should give her a call....

FBI follies: Katrina Leung back in the news 

Hey, and whaddaya know? AP manages to write the entire story about an accused spy for the Chinese without once mentioning that she was a Republican fundraiser!

[Former FBI agent] James. J. Smith pleaded guilty to a single count of making a false statement and agreed to cooperate with the government.

Smith admitted only that he had a sexual relationship with the woman, Katrina Leung, and that he lied to the FBI about it. He did not plead guilty to any counts involving misuse of classified information.

Smith, 60, was the longtime handler of Leung, a naturalized citizen and San Marino socialite who was recruited 20 years ago to work for the FBI, gathering intelligence during frequent business trips to China. Prosecutors claim she began working for China around 1990.
(via AP)

"Socialite"?! Wowsers.

Boy, if Katrina Leung had been an intern...

Kerry wants McCain for DOD chief 

This will certainly get Inerrant Boy's knickers in a twist!

Democratic challenger John Kerry said on Wednesday his first choice as defense secretary would be Republican Sen. John McCain as he criticized the Bush administration for failed policies in Iraq.
(via Reuters)

Wonder if Kerry checked with McCain first? Heh.

UPDATE: Several alert readers (thanks cs, PFC, and The Trooper) have left comments explaining the context of Kerry's remarks, which was a discussion on Imus In The Morning of why it wouldn't be a problem to have Rumsfeld resign, (assuming you weren't a puppet/Emperor like "W"); Imus wondered if that would leave Wolfowitz in charge, and Kerry, challenged to name a successor, remarked that there were any number of fine replacements at hand, McCain being first among others, including John Warner and Carl Levin. Kerry didn't actually make an annoucement that once elected, McCain would be Kerry's first choice. The cross discussion on that program is always intense; if Kerry finds it necessary to clarify, watch for immediate charges of another flip-flop; see how difficult it is to be a presidential challanger when you're up against an incumbent whose record is so free of evidence of having made serious errors. And yes, it does depend on your definition of "serious" and "errors."

UPDATE My fingers outran my brain in the comments section—I don't actually want quotes taken out of context even if it does get Inerrant Boy's knickers in a twist. Not liberal behavior, that. Fortunately, good citation enables readers to check. My bad. —lambert.

Berg atrocity: Readers: can someone find the suit that Berg's parents filed against DOD to get their son out of jail? 

Recall that:

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

Looks like the court is the United States District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the case name is Berg et al v. Rumsfeld, the plaintiffs are Berg, Suzanne Carol, as Next Friends of Nicholas Evan Berg; Berg, Nicholas Evan, by and Through; Berg, Michael S, and the defendant is the Honorable [ha] Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense. The case was brought before the Honorable Mary A McLaughlin. The attorney is Alfred A. Gollatz of
Gollatz, Griffin & Ewing, Philadelphia, PA.

The docket number is 2:04cv1497, and the filing date is 4/5/2004.

This is as far as I can go right now. Can any alert readers come up with the court filing for the case, so we can see why the Bergs were suing the DOD to get their son released from jail?

UPDATE The administration is denying that they ever held Berg. Seems kind of weird that he would be released the day after the suit was filed if they weren't holding him, but maybe I'm just being too cynical.

Berg was detained by Iraqi police at a checkpoint in Mosul on March 24. He 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.'' (via AP

"He denies it," the Red King said. "Leave out that part." Well....

Notice Republican operative Senor's very, very artful wording. He says: "at no time under the jurisdiction or detention of coalition forces." What about civilian "contractors"? The whole thing stinks of the Fog Machine (back). Who made the phone call to get Berg released one day after the parents filed suit? Who did they call? Above all, into whose custody was he released?

And keep reading, since it gets weirder. Here's what Briefing General Kimmit has to say:

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.''

"Still"?? So Kimmit thinks Berg was "still" an American citizen, despite... Well, despite what, actually?

aWol hides behind Waura 

If Hillary had done this—can you imagine the fury?

President Bush's campaign is rolling out a television and Internet ad campaign today that includes the first lady stressing the importance of education.
(via WaPo)

Hey, and they're even hijacking our "W" meme:

Bush campaign spokesman Terry Holt said education spending overall has risen 49 percent since Bush took office. Holt said that the ad was aimed at women and that the campaign plans to unveil a "W Is for Women" coalition, headed by former White House counselor Karen Hughes.

Wrong conjunction.

The slogan should read "W is behind women"—as in hiding behind their skirts.

Think about it: There really could be a club called "Enablers for Bush": KaWen, Waura, Condi ("husband")...

Moral clarity 

Maybe someone can explain to me how the Berg atrocity makes our torturing prisoners OK? I don't get it, myself.

"A city on a hill," and all that.

Abu Ghraib torture: "chain of command" said "Smile for the camera!" 

Sure, "I was only following orders" is no excuse, but it would still be nice to know who gave the orders:

The Army private facing a court-martial for being photographed with naked Iraqi prisoners says she was following orders to create psychological pressure on them.

Pfc. Lynndie England told KCNC-TV in Denver on Tuesday that her superiors gave her specific instructions on how to pose for the photos. Asked who gave the orders, she would say only, "Persons in my chain of command."
(via AP)

Hmmm.... Wonder if that question will be answered in a Pentagon show trial? Not... Especially if England's lawyer can plea bargain....

A real newspaper 

The Village Voice has so much good stuff I can't even begin to excerpt it. Go read—and report back ;-)

Thanks to alert reader Riggsveda.

Light blogging for me today, probably.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Not Even Net 

The Daily Show, 5/11/04:

Jon Stewart: Stephen, what do you think about this idea that we are hearing from Rumsfeld, and now Sen. Inhofe, that the press was somehow irresponsible for releasing these photos of abuse?

Stephen Colbert: Jon, I agree entirely with Secy Rumsfeld that the release of these photos was deplorable, but these actions of a few rogue journalists do not represent the vast majority of the American media.

Stewart: The journalists did something wrong?

Colbert: I'm just saying those journalists don't represent the journalists I know. The journalists I know love America, but now all anybody wants to talk about is the bad journalists--the journalists that hurt America.

But what they don't talk about is all the amazingly damaging things we haven't reported on. Who didn't uncover the flaws in our pre-war intelligence? Who gave a free pass on the Saddam-al Queda connection? Who dropped Aghanistan from the headlines at the first whiff of this Iraqi snipehunt? The United States press corps, that's who. Heck, we didn't even put this story on the front page. We tried to bury it on "60 Minutes II." Who's on that--Charlie Rose and Anglela Lansbury?

Stewart: Stephen, what do you think is at play here?

Colbert: Politics, Jon, that's what. Pure and simple. I think it's pretty suspicious that these tortures took place during a Presidential campaign. This is a clear cut case of partisan sadism. You know, come to think of it, I'm pretty sure those Iraqi prisoners want Bush out of office too. You know I wouldn't be a bit surprised if a pile of hooded, naked Iraqis has a job waiting for them in the Kerry Administration.

Then they took the joke meta by bringing on Tim Russert to tap dance around Stewart's repeated questions about the press' somnolence and suffocate the airwaves with brain-crippling bromides about the Greatest Generation and the presidential campaign. Did you know that if things continue to deteriorate, it will help Kerry's campaign, but if we have security and prosperity come November, Bush will probably be re-elected? Does Russert think he could pass the Turing test?

Stewart's offer to trade England "one Aaron Brown, two Britt Humes and a Van Susteren" for one of their journos was also spot on.

Goodnight, moon 

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

WB Yeats, The Second Coming (text and links to explication)

Beheading atrocity: Victim's father on the chain of command 

Recall that Nick Berg was (for some as yet unknown reason) held by the US Army before being released into whatever circumstances eventually caused his death:

Michael Berg said he blamed the U.S. government for creating circumstances that led to his son's death. He said if his son hadn't been detained for so long, he might have been able to leave the country before the violence worsened.

"I think a lot of people are fed up with the lack of civil rights this thing has caused," he said. "I don't think this administration is committed to democracy."
(via PennLive)

Irony of ironies, the son disagreed with his father, and was a Bush supporter.

Iraq war: Berg atrocity 

Splendid. A fundamentalist snuff film. Flame, meet gasoline!

Berg was from the Philadelphia area, by the way.

Some interesting detail on Berg's last days:

Berg, who was in Baghdad from late December to Feb. 1, returned to Iraq in March. He didn't find any work and planned again to return home on March 30, but his daily communications home stopped on March 24, when he was jailed by Iraqi officials at a checkpoint in Mosul.

The FBI on March 31 interviewed Berg's parents in West Chester. Jerri Williams, a spokeswoman for the Philadelphia FBI office, said the [FBI] had been "asked to interview the parents regarding Mr. Berg's purpose in Iraq."

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

The Bergs last heard from their son April 9, when he said he would come home by way of Jordan, Turkey or Kuwait. But by then, hostilities in Iraq had escalated.
(via our own Philadelphia Inquirer)


NOTE More from Tresy and Leah.

Abu Ghraib torture: Taguba mentions the word "civilians." Good, but we need more 

You know, the civilians who were giving soldiers orders?

The Army general who first investigated abuse in an Iraqi prison told Congress on Tuesday the mistreatment resulted from faulty leadership, a "lack of discipline, no training whatsoever and no supervision" of the troops.

Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba also left open the possibility that members of the Central Intelligence Agency as well as armed forces personnel and civilian contractors were culpable in the abusive treatment of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison.

"A few soldiers and civilians conspired to abuse and conduct egregious acts of violence against detainees and other civilians outside the bounds of international laws and the Geneva Convention," Taguba told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
(via AP)

Taguba's looking more and more like the administration's second line of defense, to me.

Taguba keeps saying "few."

Taguba doesn't dissect the chain of command that enabled civilians to give orders to soldiers ("the fog machine").

And Taguba resolutely refuses to ask on what system the photo and video data was stored, who built the system, who had access to the system, what the distribution list for the photos was, whether there were backups, and where these backups were now.

Keep that word, "systemic," in the front of your mind.

And let's hope Seymour Hersh doesn't go up in any small planes, meet anyone in a deserted parking garage, or take candy from strangers....

"A Brilliant Maneuver" 

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

Islamic extremist site shows American's beheading

"My name is Nick Berg, my father's name is Michael, my mother's name is Susan," the man said on the video. "I have a brother and sister, David and Sarah. I live in ... Philadelphia."

After reading a statement, the men were seen pulling the man to his side and putting a large knife to his neck. A scream sounded as the men cut his head off, shouting "Allahu Akbar! (God is great)" They then held the head out before the camera....

On the Web site, one of the killers read a statement:

"For the mothers and wives of American soldiers, we tell you that we offered the U.S. administration to exchange this hostage with some of the detainees in Abu Ghraib and they refused."

"So we tell you that the dignity of the Muslim men and women in Abu Ghraib and others is not redeemed except by blood and souls. You will not receive anything from us but coffins after coffins ... slaughtered in this way."

"We" Said Bring 'Em On And They Did 

Tresy tells you (up) about this terrible tape. The commentary on the tape indicates the group aligns itself with Al Queda, and apparently there is some question about whether the group is made up of Iraqis, the spokesman's accent is being tentatively identified as Egyptian; he says exactly what you'd expect, that this outrage is revenge in blood for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners.

The young man has been identified as Nick Berg; he may actually have been what one thinks of when the word contractor is used, someone who was looking for business in wireless technology, although the reporting is incomplete here.

Fox is showing the part of the tape where Nick Berg identifies himself, and names members of his family; I couldn't make out what he was saying, but it does bring home the reality of the horror this young man must be experiencing. The anchor at Fox then goes on to describe in exact detail a particularly horrifying form of decapitation.

I'm glad Fox decided to be clear and open about what goes on on that tape. And I felt that Shepard Smith's outrage on behalf of Berg was genuine, and as yet, unpoliticized, as it ought to be.

Berg's family has been notified.

This is a horror and an outrage. There is no other way to describe it, and no need to find any other way. Nick Berg did not deserve to be abducted, held, or, most importantly, to be tortured to death, because that is surely the only way to describe what the tape reveals. Nor did his family and friends deserve to have to live through this horror.

I feel loathing for the men who carried this out, loathing and disgust for Al Queda, and all its off-shoots.

Those feelings only serve to focus my own determination to defeat an administration that has proved itself, again and again, utterly and completely inadequate to the task of protecting this country at home, and advancing the true interests of America abroad.

I don't have to tell you what the right in this country will make of this tape. It will become another way to divide Americans, another way to dump on huge swathes of this society, i.e., everyone who doeesn't agree with them. Jonah Goldberg will find evidence that he was correct that publication of the prisoner pictures weren't necessary, since investigations were already underway, and now those pictures have probably contributed to the gruesome death, so much worse than anything done to Iraqis, of an innocent American. Which will be nonsense, of course. As if a jihadist group like this one required actual pictures to justify bloody revenge, as if the mere descriptions of what was being done in Abu Ghraib wouldn't have done the trick.

Denis Prager will contrast the inadequacy of outrage about Nick Berg with the surfeit of outrage on the part of the those Americans who love to hate America.

Well, that didn't take long. I went back to check on what was happening at Fox and just heard the most demented discussion between Shepard Smith and one of Fox's resident Middle East experts Mansoor whathis name, Ijaz, I think, you've seen him if you've ever watched Fox. Shepard's outrage needs an outlet, and politicizing it comes naturally. Will this tape have the effect of bolstering America's resolve, he asks. Yes, it must, replies, Mansoor. Resolve to do what? To re-engage in Iraq on a heightened military basis. To go after the terrorists in Iraq, even more than we have. And if Iraqi civilians get in the way? The questions remain unasked. So much for hearts and minds.

In other words, with this tape, Iraq is once again the front line on the war against Al Queda.

If any one person shares some responsibility for Nick Berg's death, besides the people who carried out their ghastly task, and let's be clear, they bear all of that responsibility, but surely the man who said "bring 'em on" has something to explain to the rest of us. I jest, of course. He has no inner life save Jesus. No, I'm not making fun of his religion, I am expressing contempt for it.

Think about this for a moment. How is it possible that we have not been able to do better against these fundamentalist jihadists, who are so utterly inept, except in the brutality they are willing to bring to any situation. I can assure you that this tape will not be cheered by Iraqis. It will infuriate most of them; clearly these are outsiders trying to take advantage of Iraqi suffering. Iraqis will be fully aware of the way that these jihadists have potentially damaged the case Iraqis wish to make against the way the US is handling this occupation. And this administration will jump to the bait and drive a further wedge between this country and the Iraqi people.

One last prediction; watch Andrew Sullivan spin around in place and pretty much wind up where he always does. Yes, it seems Andrew has had one or two dark nights of the soul, because of those pictures. This will no doubt stiffen his spine, and enhance his amnesia. Andrew, this is your Iraq-as-flypaper in action. Goody, goody, we get to fight them over there, so we don't have to fight them here. Remember? Did anyone else notice that Arab anchor on one of the two networks who interviewed Bush last week, ask the President specificaly about the morality of inviting Al Queda to join him in Iraq for a dance to the death, or words to that effect? They noticed, Andrew, they noticed that the occupiers thought it just nifty as hell to turn their country into a battlefield. And their lack of delight at that prospect? Iraqis just aren't equal to our task. God help us all.

Revolution in media affairs 

Orcinus updates news on his "Manifesto" here.

I need to rechunk that original post... Time pressure, but it's coming. Thanks to all the thoughtful posters!

Iraq war: "Mercenary" equals "Republican" 

Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas....

Blackwater also works other angles. One of the firm's founders is Michigan native Erik Prince, a former Navy SEAL. His father, Edgar Prince, helped religious right leader Gary Bauer found the Family Research Council in 1988. Erik Prince's sister, Betsy DeVos, is the chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party.
(via Salon via Kos)

Whaddaya know! Republicans get a pop from privatizing the military! Who knew?

Abu Ghraib torture: Pentagon makes sure Taguba has a minder 

Even, though, really, what Taguba has to say is not all that controversial:

Asked directly in "your own soldier's language" what had caused the abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison, once the feared symbol of Saddam Hussein's dictatorial rule, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba recited a litany of ills.

"Failure in leadership, sir, from the brigade commander on down, lack of discipline, no training whatsoever and no supervision. Supervisory omission was rampant," Taguba, the author of a Pentagon report on the abuse, told the latest Senate hearing on the scandal.

At the Pentagon's insistence, Under Secretary of Defense Stephen Cambone, who is in charge of intelligence, and other Pentagon officials also appeared with Taguba to testify on the scandal that has sparked international outrage and calls for Rumsfeld's resignation.
(via Reuters)

And whaddaya know? The political appointees disagree with Taguba:

At the same time, questions about ultimate responsibility for control of the Abu Ghraib prison produced a disagreement between Taguba and Stephen Cambone, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence.

Taguba said that control had been turned over to military intelligence officials.

Cambone said that was incorrect, and it resided with the military police.

In a further disagreement, Taguba said it was against Army rules for intelligence troops to involve MPs in setting conditions for interrogations. Cambone said he believed it was appropriate for the two groups to collaborate.

Taguba also told the committee his investigation had not found "any order whatsoever, written or otherwise," that directed the military police to cooperate with intelligence forces at the prison.

Regardless of any disagreements, Cambone and others told the panel that troops in Iraq were under orders to abide by the Geneva Conventions, which dictate terms for humane treatment of prisoners.
(via AP)

No order?! That's the fog machine in action. "Lack of supervision" was the result of policy, designed to do exactly what it did. Who were the civilians giving orders to the soldiers? And who were the "foreign nationals" involved? On what computer system were the photos stored? Who had access? Who was on the distribution list? Were there backup copies? Who has the backups now? And so on. Oh, if only we had a free press...

Iraq war: Apologize, George Will, apologize! 

Looks like Bush is losing the thinking man's wingers:

When there is no penalty for failure, failures proliferate. Leave aside the question of who or what failed before Sept. 11, 2001. But who lost his or her job because the president's 2003 State of the Union address gave currency to a fraud -- the story of Iraq's attempting to buy uranium in Niger? Or because the primary and only sufficient reason for waging preemptive war -- weapons of mass destruction -- was largely spurious? Or because postwar planning, from failure to anticipate the initial looting to today's insufficient force levels, has been botched? Failures are multiplying because of choices for which no one seems accountable.
(via WaPo)

This seems to come as a surprise to Will. In fact, there was a very well-developed critique by liberals, especially in the blogosphere, on all these points well before Bush started the war. WE WERE RIGHT. We were right on the yellowcake uranium stories—and all the other fraudulent justifications that we painstakingly demolihsed. We were right on the planning. We were right on the facts of the looting, and the implications of the looting. We were right on the force levels. THE LIBERALS WERE RIGHT ON THE WAR.

Apologize, George Will, apologize! Not the the liberals "your side" (as David Brooks so elegantly puts it) slandered as traitors; we're used to it. Apologize to the dead in the war you, your columns, and your fellow operatives enabled so assiduously.

Iraq war: Apologize, David Brooks, apologize! 

This morning, David "I'm Writing as Bad as I Can" Brooks has this to say on the Op-Ed page of the Pulitzer-light, increasingly hapless World's Greatest Newspaper (not!)

The predictions people on my side made about the postwar world have not yet come true. The warnings others made about the fractious state of post-Saddam society have.
(via Times)

Gee, and who were those "others"? Why—liberals! Even some Democrats! And, of course, millions of marchers.

Apologize, David Brooks, apologize! Not to us, even though your winger allies called us traitors. To the soldiers and civilians that got killed through the war you, in your role as scripted Republican operative, enabled.

Abu Ghraib torture: Soldier "ordered," says defense lawyer 


An Army reservist [Lynndie R. England, 21,] who was photographed smiling and pointing at naked, bound Iraqi prisoners had been ordered to pose because her presence would be especially humiliating to the men, her attorneys said.

The photos were staged by intelligence agents to intimidate other prisoners, and appearing naked in front of a young woman would be especially humiliating to Iraqi men, attorney Rose Mary Zapor said Monday.

"The (soldiers) pictured were congratulated. They were told the photographs were successful in gathering information," Zapor said.

Another of England's Denver-based attorneys, Giorgio Ra'shadd, was at Fort Bragg, N.C., where England is now stationed, on Tuesday. He said in a telephone interview that he planned to spend the day meeting with Army lawyers and his client.

He said his client was being offered up as a scapegoat for the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners.

"What is offensive to me is that we have generals and the secretary of defense hiding behind a 20-year-old farm girl from West Virginia who lives in a trailer park," Ra'Shadd said.
(via AP)

Nice shot! It's offensive to a lot of people.

Say, the "commander" in "chief" of those generals, and the "boss" of that secretary, our "CEO President," is doing a pretty good job of hiding too, isn't He?

Monday, May 10, 2004

Goodnight, moon 

Operation Iraqi Freedom—straight to video...

Say, where are those videos, anyhow? And the coverage really doesn't seem to be focusing on those civilian contractors giving the soldiers orders.... Or the foreign nationals... I wonder why? And do any of the six soldiers who are going to be in the show trials have book deals yet... And have any of them stashed copies of the photos and videos away to help them in their plea bargaining...

Well, too much for my feeble brain at this late hour. And I broke down and bought a Times this morning. I feel so... so used.

A heads up from Josh Marshall 

Quoted in its entirety:

Just to pass on some added information, about which we'll be saying more. There is chatter in Pakistani intelligence circles that the US has let the Pakistanis know that the optimal time for bagging 'high value' al Qaida suspects in the untamed Afghan-Pakistani border lands is the last ten days of July, 2004.
(via Talking Points)

Duly noted.

No no no no no no, even I can't believe this one 

How can I read this and remain sane?

The Google Terrrorist
It was the lead item on the government's daily threat matrix one day last April. Don Emilio Fulci described by an FBI tipster as a reclusive but evil millionaire, had formed a terrorist group that was planning chemical attacks against London and Washington, D.C. That day even FBI director Robert Mueller was briefed on the Fulci matter. But as the day went on without incident, a White House staffer had a brainstorm: He Googled Fulci. His findings: Fulci is the crime boss in the popular video game Headhunter. "Stand down," came the order from embarrassed national security types.
(via US News via the essential Atrios)

Those playful FBI agents!

OK, "one day last April." But there's funny "ha ha", and then there's just funny...

Trapped like the rats they are! 

Here is a historical first:

No Pentagon or administration officials appeared on television talk shows yesterday,
(via WaPo)

Can it be they can't even figure out how to lie?

Abu Ghraib torture: The real six morons 

Those cheese eating surrendur monkeys and flaming liberals over at Army Times have written a fine editorial:

Around the halls of the Pentagon, a term of caustic derision has emerged for the enlisted soldiers at the heart of the furor over the Abu Ghraib prison scandal: the six morons who lost the war.

Indeed, the damage done to the U.S. military and the nation as a whole by the horrifying photographs of U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi detainees at the notorious prison is incalculable.

But the folks in the Pentagon are talking about the wrong morons.

There is no excuse for the behavior displayed by soldiers in the now-infamous pictures and an even more damning report by Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba. Every soldier involved should be ashamed.

But while responsibility begins with the six soldiers facing criminal charges, it extends all the way up the chain of command to the highest reaches of the military hierarchy and its civilian leadership.

The entire affair is a [total] failure of leadership from start to finish. From the moment they are captured, prisoners are hooded, shackled and isolated. The message to the troops: Anything goes.

This was not just a failure of leadership at the local command level. This was a failure that ran straight to the top. Accountability here is essential — even if that means relieving top leaders from duty in a time of war.
(via Army Times)

Leave aside the fact that the editorialists believe Bush didn't know anything until he was told—the entire fog machine was obviously set up to give the West Wing plausible deniability. It's still a pretty good editorial.

I'd say the real six morons are (in no particular order):

1. Bush
2. Cheney
3. Rumsfeld
4. Wolfowitz
5. Sanchez
6. Bremer

Not that there aren't other morons. There's plenty of moronicity to go around. Readers? Do we have the right six here?

Abu Ghraib tortures: Again we ask: Where were the photos stored, what was the chain of custody, and who has them now? 

The Taguba Report is available at
Army Times (PDF) Here are the excerpts that contain the word "video":

We reviewed numerous photos and videos of actual detainee abuse taken by detention facility personnel, which are now in the custody and control of the US Army Criminal Investigation Command and the CJTF-7 prosecution team. The photos and videos are not contained in this investigation. ...

(U) The US Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) .. also uncovered numerous photos and videos portraying in graphic detail detainee abuse by Military Police personnel on numerous occasions from October to December 2003.

The allegations of abuse were substantiated by ... the discovery of extremely graphic photographic evidence. Due to the extremely sensitive nature of these photographs and videos, the ongoing CID investigation, and the potential for the criminal prosecution of several suspects, the photographic evidence is not included in the body of my investigation. The pictures and videos are available from the Criminal Investigative Command and the CTJF-7 prosecution team.

And that's it. Very very interesting.

We know who has the photos now: The CIC and CJTF-7 prosecution team. But we still don't know:

1. Who gave the orders to take the photos and videos? Soldiers, or civilians?

2. The system on which they were stored, and who had access to it. Where were the photos "discovered" or "uncovered"? An Army system, or a civilian one?

We also don't know:

3. If there are backups anywhere.

One thing is certain: The Privates and Specialists now on trial are nothing but fall guys. I certainly hope to see another story from Hersh in next week's

Lyrical Corner: Tom Lehrer is alive and living in Australia California 

UPDATE: I remarked earlier in comments that Lehrer was living in Australia. My mistake for missing the line in the Sunday Herald article that notes that Lehrer lives in Santa Cruz, California. Thanks MJS, for pointing that out. (see comment thread back HERE. Ok, back to our regularly scheduled programming. - the farmer.

From a comment by farmer, who dug up an interview with sensitive singer-songwriter Tom Lehrer:

'I'm not tempted to write a song about George W.Bush. I couldn't figure out what sort of song I would write. That's the problem: I don't want to satirise George Bush and his puppeteers, I want to vaporise them."
(via Sidney Morning Herald)

And since it's spring time still, I think I'll quote from one of my favorite Tom Lehrer songs:

Spring is here, a-suh-puh-ring is here.
Life is skittles and life is beer.
I think the loveliest time of the year is the spring.
I do, don't you? 'Course you do.
But there's one thing that makes spring complete for me,
And makes every Sunday a treat for me.

All the world seems in tune
On a spring afternoon,
When we're poisoning pigeons in the park.
Every Sunday you'll see
My sweetheart and me,
As we poison the pigeons in the park.

When they see us coming, the birdies all try an' hide,
But they still go for peanuts when coated with cyanide.
The sun's shining bright,
Everything seems all right,
When we're poisoning pigeons in the park.
(Tom Lehrer, "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park")

Ah, the 1960s... So innocent!

Good Reads 

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow has a terrific take on the depth of the cluelessness suffered by the establishment press; even when David Broder seems to getting it, i.e., that someting is stinking up the country, his getting it is riddled with denial.

Also notable there, long quotes from Tim Burke's Primal Scream about Iraq, a much linked to and completely worthy must read. Not only is Avedon continually generous in the way she links us to what she finds interesting, as worthy as are the links, so are her intros, often only one liners, like this one: "It is my opinion that stories about IQ tests are themselves IQ tests." So go and have fun while you're enligthened.

Bush Lies has a nice discussion and link to Michael Massing's explication of the meaning of "bad apples."

Kos is back from a visit to Central America and tells us, with feeling, all about it.I hope to have a post up about Latin America, then, when it was seen exclusively as part of the cold war, and now, when something hopeful is happening there that the current American government will be incapable of understanding and therefore encouraging, to the peril of all Americans. (I hope my link is the correct one; I find Kos's new site endlessly confusing)

Quiddity at Uggabugga has got so much great stuff up, all I can do is recommend, if you haven't been there in awhile, that you go there and take a look for yourself. Among the "Don't Misses," Safire Maxtrix , and one of Quiddity's masterful diagrams, this one of "the situation."

It's Mustang Bobby's Bark, Bark, Woof, Woof half year blog anniversary, he's got new stuff up so go visit if you haven't recently.

I don't quite know how to describe, except to say that it is consistently witty, deeply smart and always unexpected; it's also worth visiting for the exquisite picture of two dogs, one a puppy, I believe, being canines, that is regularly displayed there. Currently, you will find a very interesting negative take on the offer by the DNC of convention credientials to bloggers. "Gotta Type Something" is also typical of the kind of weirdly random brilliance this particular blog achieves fairly regularly, but keep on scrolling, there's lots there.

Abu Ghraib: Torture "systemic" 


GENEVA – Abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers was broad and "not individual acts" as President Bush has argued, according to a Red Cross report disclosed today.

Bush has said the abuses were the result of the "wrongdoing of a few."

A senior Red Cross official added: "We were dealing here with a broad pattern, not individual acts. There was a pattern and a system."

Among the evidence were burns, bruises and other injuries consistent with the abuse that prisoners alleged, it said.

The agency said arrests allegedly tended to follow a pattern.

"Arresting authorities entered houses usually after dark, breaking down doors, waking up residents roughly, yelling orders, forcing family members into one room under military guard while searching the rest of the house and further breaking doors, cabinets and other property," the report said.

"Sometimes they arrested all adult males present in a house, including elderly, handicapped or sick people," it said. "Treatment often included pushing people around, insulting, taking aim with rifles, punching and kicking and striking with rifles."

[Pierre Kraehenbuehl, ICRC director of operations] said the abuse of prisoners represents more than isolated acts, and that the problems were not limited to Abu Ghraib.

"We were dealing here with a broad pattern, not individual acts. There was a pattern and a system," he said, declining to give further details.

(via WaPo)

NOTE The subcription WSJ publishes the full report in PDF. Do any readers have links to the full report?

Abu Ghraib torture: What Inerrant Boy means when he says "superb job" 

[BUSH] "You're doing a superb job. You're a strong secretary of defense and our nation owes you a debt of gratitude," Bush said.
(via Reuters)

Well, now we know.

Abu Ghraib torture: Portrait of a news-gathering institution not getting it 

Yes, The World's Greatest Newspaper (not!) does manage to print the horrific picture of US personnel setting dogs on on Iraqi prisoner (back). Below the fold

But it looks like the rest of the Pulitizer-light Newspaper of Record just hasn't gotten the memo.

We've already looked at "Fluffer" Bumiller's disgraceful exhibition (back).

But in the entertainment section, hapless Sharon Waxman is still euphemizing torture as "abuse"—in a piece titled "At the Movies, at Least, Good Vanquishes Evil," for heaven's sake.

The caption editors (see here) are using the "abuse" euphemism too.

And the "serious" reporters aren't doing much better. Thom Sanker seems to think that the story is the pictures, not the acts. Should we release the pictures? Or not? Only at the end of the article does Sanker allow the crucial word, "systemic," to be used, and to open the possibility that there might be responsibility up the chain of command:

Senator Levin also warned that the degrading treatment of detainees might be "much more systemic than just a few guards abusing prisoners," and that it might have been part of a wider effort "to extract information from these prisoners."

"And this was part of a new intelligence policy which goes right on up to the Pentagon and perhaps even beyond," Senator Levin said.

He said that "some of the environment here was actually set at the White House when they said it was a bunch of legalisms to discuss whether or not the Geneva Conventions would apply to prisoners directly or whether they would be treated consistent with the Geneva Conventions or in the same way but not precisely."

The headline writers do just the same thing. It isn't the torture that is the problem, it's the images. (The WhiteWash House thinks the same way (back)):

"U.S. Must Find a Way to Move Past Images of Prison Abuse"
(via The Times)

The headline is over an article by David Sanger who, in the very last paragraph, gets round to the idea that it's the facts that are the important thing:

If Mr. Bush has a strategy for undoing that damage beyond the television appearances he made on two Arab networks last week, White House officials freely admit they cannot describe it.

"I'm not sure such a strategy is possible," one senior official said late last week. "The facts are simply not with us."

Of course, Facts rule. I love it that Hersh's work is being published in The New Yorker in the "Facts" department. Why can't The Newspaper of Record deal with this?

Facts, facts, facts....

From drip, drip, drip to splash, splash, splash....

Open thread 

Light posting from me this morning. Talk amongst yourselves.

Heaven knows there's plenty to talk about!

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Goodnight, moon 

If the moon isn't hiding its face from us, that is.

Merciful heavens. Setting dogs on prisoners? What have we come to?

Abu Ghraib torture: Howler-ready thumbsucker from "Fluffer" Bumiller 

What an outrage. I've had enough. The Pulitzer-light Times really does suck. From now on, I'm going to think of my dollar in the morning as the Times tax and resist paying it. Can you believe Fluffer gets paid for this?

...Mr. Bush's relationship with Mr. Rumsfeld seems complicated right now, but it is nothing compared to the relationship that Mr. Rumsfeld had with Mr. Bush's father...
(via The World's Greatest Newspaper (not!))

Fluffer, repeat after me: I don't give a flying fuck about Rummy's relationship to aWol's Father. Again. I don't give a flying fuck about Rummy's relationship to aWol's Father. Thank you.

What I'd like is some actual NEWS REPORTING. You know, like those SCOOPS the weekly New Yorker keeps getting? And they don't even have a whole news department over there, just this one guy, Sy something? Who'd he used to work for, anyhow? Can we hire him?

What I'd like is some answers to the kind of questions a JAPANESE paper is asking. Is it too much to ask that an AMERICAN paper ask the same questions?

Yet, we feel that the secretary evaded mention of the true crux of the problem. For example, what prompted young American troops to engage in such heinous behavior in the first place? Was this abuse the result of organized instructions or policies handed down by the military or intelligence services? When did President George W. Bush first learn of the mistreatment, incidents which came to light in January through a whistle-blower in the U.S. military?

Well, Fluffer? If the NOTORIOUSLY POLITE JAPANESE can ask these questions, can't a REPORTER FROM THE NEWSPAPER OF RECORD?

Readers! Feel free to share your views on this point with the sadly overworked and increasingly co-opted Times Public editor, Daniel "Bud Man" Okrent, here

NOTE: Memo to Mr. Okrent. I know you don't like "Newspaper of Record," but the customers are right. Deal.

Abu Ghraib torture: Apologize, Rush! Apologize! 

[LIMBAUGH]: This is no different than what happens at the skull and bones initiation and we're going to ruin people's lives over it and we're going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time.
(via Rush Limbaugh

Of course, maybe to Rush, setting the dogs on a helpless prisoner would be a good time. Who knows, anymore?

Abu Ghraib torture: Hersh: More units involved, photos part of process 

From Seymour Hersh's interview with CNN:

HERSH: The important thing about the group in this photograph is that it's not -- there's seven people being prosecuted from the -- by the Army from a unit known as the 372nd MP Company.

BLITZER: And today the first court martial was announced where the specialist Jeremy Sivits...

HERSH: Sivits. Right, and this photo came from somebody in a different unit, the 372nd MP Battalion, also at the prison. But it's a whole separate group of people. So now all of a sudden we're not looking at six or seven possible suspects.

No, we're looking at an entire system. And taking these photographs was part of that system:

HERSH: [The New Yorker] photo department analyzed the camera. There were two cameras operating at the time. This was a 12-minute sequence inside a prison. There were two cameras shooting these photos over 12 minutes, so we know two cameras were working.

And we know from the other -- in the other photographs we've seen, and from stories from one of the prisoners who was interviewed last week by The New York Times, one of the guys that showed up in the horrible pictures the week before, one of those naked people being forced to do awful acts to themselves. And he said all during that process there were cameras going.

So I'm here to say that the evidence suggests that cameras and the use of cameras was part of the interrogation process. And I'll tell you what somebody has told me, which is that one of the ways you could possibly get more leverage on a potential witness or if it's somebody you want to interrogate, is to threaten ... a prisoner with taking these photographs and showing them to neighbors or showing them to others. It would be a greater source of humiliation to have others actually see the problems he had in prison.

And where does the fish rot from? The head:

BLITZER: So what are you suggesting? That there was a systematic policy to humiliate, to abuse these prisoners, and it came from where? The order came from where?

HERSH: The article is called "Chain of Command." And what I'm saying is you have to turn the whole way we're approaching the story over. We have to sort of turn the hourglass over from looking at the kids, who were directly involved, and looking at the high-level policy level.

We have to go up the chain of command to see where did this order come to change the rules?

And one of the things I discovered as I wrote about it, is that last November the general of Iraq, General Sanchez, Ricardo Sanchez, the lieutenant general, three-star general, promulgated an order last November to all the prisons, saying from now on Military Intelligence are in control, they run the prisons.

And under Army regulations, the MPs, the military police, they're prison guards. You don't want prison guards involved in interrogations because that leads to an enormous amount of hostility. And you want prisons to be tranquil. Otherwise you're going to have people always at you.

And so the guards are forbidden by Army regulations from getting involved in the interrogation process.

Sanchez, the three-star general in charge of everything, changed it, and [Sanchez] based that change on a recommendation from guess who? Major General Geoffrey Miller, the man that was formerly at Guantanamo, who did a study last summer for Sanchez and who's now back running the prison system.

So, let's go up one more step. Who gave Sanchez the order? Hersh doesn't say. But he does say what they were thinking:

BLITZER: Well, what was the theory behind stripping these prisoners, having dogs there, forcing them to simulate sexual acts, what was the possible logic behind any of that?

HERSH: Well, last fall, if you remember, was a time when the insurgency started blooming again. It was very rough for us, and it was at that time people like General Abizaid, the CENTCOM commander, and others, the commander of all of the region, and General Sanchez were talking publicly, we think there's 5,000 people in the insurgency.... They saw it as a finite force. They sort of misread the sort of mass anti- Americanism that obviously exists. Fhe idea was, I guess, to escalate the pressure on them, do everything you can, humiliate them, have the sexual stuff, have photographs there that can be used as leverage. And the idea was to get the names, the magic names of the 5,000 people, so we can go arrest them.

Battle of Algiers, anyone? And the implications are very, very bad:

HERSH: I've talked to Middle Eastern people in the last week, and they say the damage is much more acute. The average person who follows the Islamic word, and believes in it, is really horrified in a profound way about who we are, that we would use women and sex in the way we use it, is to them, it's so degrading and, as I say, perverse.

This is a strategic issue. We're picking a fight with 1.3 billion people. And I'm not sure that the guys -- you know, if you look at the way Rumsfeld and the president handled this, this sort of, "Oh, my God, let's rearrange the deck chairs of the Titanic for the last four months," God knows what they were thinking about. This has been a train coming down the tracks.

You begin to get a sense, [the people in charge] can't cope with information they don't want to hear. They haven't been able to listen to the generals in the Pentagon, who have been saying for six or eight months that we were really in trouble.

They won't listen to them. And it's not because it is a cover- up, it's because they don't listen to what they don't want to hear.

And now we're getting into a strategic struggle with the whole Middle East. This is expanding. And I'm not sure that the guys running the government really know that the high stakes involved.

This is truly a clusterfuck. The only way we're going to get out of this alive—and hopefully with all our cities intact—is to repudiate Bush in the most decisive way possible, come November. Though impeachment would not go amiss.

NOTE For more detail on Military Working Dogs, and why there may be a smoking gun here, see below at Who let the dogs out?", especially the comments by alert readers.

Abu Ghraib tortures: Where were the photos stored, what was the chain of custody, and who has them now? 

Ethical journalist Seymour Hersh writes:

The photographing of prisoners, both in Afghanistan and in Iraq, seems to have been not random but, rather, part of the dehumanizing interrogation process. The Times published an interview last week with Hayder Sabbar Abd, who claimed, convincingly, to be one of the mistreated Iraqi prisoners in the Abu Ghraib photographs. Abd told Ian Fisher, the Times reporter, that his ordeal had been recorded, almost constantly, by cameras, which added to his humiliation. He remembered how the camera flashed repeatedly as soldiers told to him to masturbate and beat him when he refused.
(via New Yorker)


The photos were part of an intelligence gathering system. They were digital photos, and that means they were digitally stored on a system somewhere—a CD was burned from them. Where was the system? Who owned it? The military, the contractors, the CIA, the CPA? Who was the system administrator? Who had permission to access the photos?

Note that poor old Donald "Wolf Meat" Rumsfeld might even be telling the truth on this one. If, as we surmise, the distribution of these photos was part of a Fog Machine intelligence gathering system, outside the chain of command, indeed the Pentagon would not have the photos.

In any case, Donald Rumsfeld and the Pentagon have the photos now, and are "reviewing" them. What was the chain of custody from the soldiers and/or contractors taking the photos to Rumsfeld?

Above all, are there other sets of the photos, videos, etc., stored on by the military, the Pentagon, or the mercenaries? What about the White House?

Abu Ghraib tortures: Who let the dogs out? 

Maybe there is a smoking gun.


Well. It will be rather difficult for the MWs, the Sabbath Day Gas Bags, and the WhiteWash House, Inerrant Boy and poor old Donald "Wolf Meat" Rumsfeld to portray the torture at Abu Ghraib as individual failures after these photos.

MWDs (Military Working Dogs) are worked as part of a team.

Here are some regulations, from Department of the Army Pamphlet 190­12 (PDF). To quote:

1­7. Quality assurance
Every level of command within the Army has specific responsibilities for making sure that the MWD program is properly established and efficiently managed. This includes ensuring that operational units are provided with trained dogs and handlers to form teams, and the necessary equipment and facilities to maintain effective local MWD programs. The Air Force is the executive manager of the MWD program for the Department of Defense (DOD), and is responsible for the procurement, initial training, and initial distribution of MWDs used by the military services and several Federal agencies. Specific responsibilities are per AR 190­12.

Right up the chain of command, eh? "Every level." Somebody's got to authorize the dogs, the kennels, the handlers, and the purpose. To quote the regulations again:

Requests for authorization of MWDs and their shipping crates are submitted through command channels according to AR 310­34 and AR 310­49 on DA Form 461 0­R (Equipment Changes in MTOE/TDA). Part I is self­explanatory. The request for authorization must identify the nomenclature and line item number (LIN) for the type dogs being requested, as well as specify the number of dogs of each type being requested in Part II. Part III, Personnel, also should be completed so the approving authority has verification that the correct handlers (by number, ASI, and rank/grade) are being requested. Part IV, Justification, contains a complete justification for the dogs being requested as required by AR 190­12. If additional space is needed, continue on plain white, letter­size paper. DA Form 4610­R is forwarded through command channels as a letter request for authorization of equipment. Approval authority for all requests for authorization of MWDs is at Headquarters, Department of the Army (DALO­EARA­A).

So. "Forward through command channels." Who let the dogs out?

NOTE These regulations are from the Army site. If we have an alert reader who is military, perhaps they can give us more detail on current MWD regulations.

Abu Ghraib torture: The fog machine 

Hersh drops the other shoe. Read "Chain of Command".

Eesh. Setting dogs loose on the prisoners. And taking photographs was a standard part of the process of dehumanization.

Reading Hersh, it looks to me like there's no smoking gun issue, but I think it's a "fog machine" issue, not a smoking gun issue.

It's no coincidence that the chain of command that led to the torture was chaotic; the chaos would be a matter of policy, intended to produce exactly the behavior it did produce, with plausible deniability built in. Standard operating procedure for Bush. The fog machine was deliberately built to replace the chain of command.

The intelligence produced by the fog machine would from from civilian contractors/military intelligence people out of uniform to.... Where? Nobody will say. My guess, FWIW, is that information flows through operatives at the RNC/CPA right to the West Wing (that is, it's Iran-Contra all over again, just a thousand times worse).

I'm guessing that the workings of the fog machine that has replaced the chain of command, in both Afghanistan, Iraq, and probably Gitmo, have a distinctive feature: What historian Ian Kershaw's calls "working toward the fuhrer". For example, wasn't necessary for Hitler to issue specific orders for the final solution, since all his supporters knew what He wanted anyhow. It was Hitler's executive style to leave the details to others, and as a result there are very few of his fingerprints on policy.

In consequence, it's highly unlikely that there are orders for torture flowing down from the West Wing; with the chain of command replaced by the fog machine, specific orders would not be needed. It's highly probable, however, that information—in the form of digital photos, interrogation reports, perhaps voice—flowed up to the West Wing and is stored there, even today. Over the top? Think: It seems that the abuses, though present since Afghanistan, became much worse during the hunt for Saddam. Can anyone seriously believe that interrogation results, and methods, for the Saddam hunt didn't flow up to the West Wing?[1]

Nacht und nebel ... In my own country.

Oh, and not to make anyone seriously paranoid, but the fog machine principle of "working toward the fuhrer" would be quite easy to implement in the multi-level marketing scheme that Rove has set up for the 2004 campaign. Eh? If that structure becomes any sort of "permanent campaign."

[1]It would be interesting to see if an enterprising defense lawyer—perhaps even a brave Army lawyer at the show trials about to take place in Baghdad—could work out a way to subpoena such information, perhaps before an international court.

Iraq prison torure: "A fair and transparent process" 

You know, when I heard RNC/CPA flak Dan Senor call for "a fair and transparent process" for dealing with the Iraq prison tortures, I had a momentary feeling of hope: that these guys would change, that just this one time, they'd stop trying to play us for suckers, and have exhibit a little common decency.

Not a chance.

You know what "fair and transparent" turns out to mean? Show trials for the the Privates and Specialists!

A 24-year-old military policeman will face a public court martial in Baghdad next week, the first of seven American soldiers to be tried on charges of abusing Iraqi prisoners, a U.S. military spokesman said Sunday.
(via Reuters)

How can they expect anyone to be fooled by this?

Meanwhile, Rummy takes responsibility by uttering the words "I take responsibility" (thereby proving, if anyone didn't already know, that in the malAdministration it's truly impossible to get fired—except for telling the truth). Too bad the troops can't do the same thing. Well, shit rolls downhill, right?

Now, a show trial for Rummy in Baghdad—that might get people's attention. He's so very, very duck pit ready.

I'd call it a total failure of leadership

Blogger scheduled maintenance upgrade 3PM EST 

"Additional features and a whole new look."

Readers, I assume you'll be able to read, but we'll be unable to post. I guess we'll find out!

The Price of Arrogance 

You should read this piece from Newsweek about Rumsfeld's creation of a "report no evil" culture at the Pentagon. Here's the "money quote":

And yet there was Rumsfeld and his faithful (perhaps too faithful) JCS chairman, General Myers, telling Congress last week that they had read the report of their own investigator, Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, only after it was widely quoted by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker. Rumsfeld, who commands the most powerful military in the history of the world, verged on the pathetic in the hearings, complaining that he had been unable to get hold of a plastic disk with the offending pictures until only the night before. At one point he lamented that nobody had come forward to rescue him from his own poor PR instincts. "It breaks our hearts," he said, "that in fact someone did not say, 'Wait. Look, this is terrible. We need to do something ...' " If Rumsfeld had been a better leader, maybe someone would have.
You should also read this piece by Fareed Zakaria that really hits the nail on the head:

"I take full responsibility," said Donald Rumsfeld in his congressional testimony last week. But what does this mean? Secretary Rumsfeld hastened to add that he did not plan to resign and was not going to ask anyone else who might have been "responsible" to resign. As far as I can tell, taking responsibility these days means nothing more than saying the magic words "I take responsibility."


Leave process aside: the results are plain. On almost every issue involving postwar Iraq—troop strength, international support, the credibility of exiles, de-Baathification, handling Ayatollah Ali Sistani—Washington's assumptions and policies have been wrong. By now most have been reversed, often too late to have much effect. This strange combination of arrogance and incompetence has not only destroyed the hopes for a new Iraq. It has had the much broader effect of turning the United States into an international outlaw in the eyes of much of the world.

Whether he wins or loses in November, George W. Bush's legacy is now clear: the creation of a poisonous atmosphere of anti-Americanism around the globe. I'm sure he takes full responsibility.

Surely this is finally it for Rumsfeld, right? There's no way he can stick around now after screwing up damned near everything he's been involved with for three and a half years, right?

It's a frightening thing that this is such a pathetically immoral White House that is so concerned with its political future that it would keep Rumsfeld the ghoul on only to avoid admitting what everyone knows by now: they've screwed the pooch a hundred different ways in Iraq.

W's Iraq policy has been an abysmal failure. Everyone knows that. It's time for W to quit playing politics with American lives and actually effing do something about it.

"We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when! But I know we'll meet again, some sunny day...." 

To Los Angeles readers: When you bring the breakfast tray to Mom, make sure you fold the paper so this story is on top:

Concerns are growing that Al Qaeda or a related group could detonate a "dirty bomb" that would spew radioactive fallout across an American or European city, according to intelligence analysts, diplomats and independent nuclear experts.
(via the Pulitzer-heavy LA Times)

Well, Cassandra's looking better and better:

Intelligence agencies have reported no reliable, specific threats involving dirty bombs or nuclear weapons...

Well, that tears it. Bush doesn't have the date, the time, and the target, so the intelligence isn't "actionable." We're doomed.

... but senior U.S. and European officials and outside experts said several factors had heightened fears in recent weeks.

The threat of attack is great enough that a senior European intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it is
"not a matter of if there is a nuclear-related attack by Al Qaeda, but when it occurs."

Experts inside and outside government said sophisticated extremists have the ability to plan and execute the detonation of a dirty bomb. They had no answer for why a dirty bomb has not been unleashed.

"I'm very surprised that a radiological device hasn't gone off," said Matthew Bunn, a nuclear expert at Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. "There is a bigger puzzle — why no Al Qaeda attacks since Sept. 11 in the U.S.?"

It's quiet.... Too quiet...

The European intelligence official said planning for a large-scale attack has suffered setbacks with the arrests of numerous Al Qaeda operatives. But, he added, "the division is still focused on spectaculars, and they take three or four years to plan and execute."

Nearly 10 million containers of radioactive material — including the detritus from medical facilities — exist in the United States and 49 other countries, according to a 2003 survey by the congressional General Accounting Office.

The agency said that each year, hundreds of containers are lost or stolen in the U.S. and other countries, particularly in the former Soviet Union. The report warned that the radioactive material posed a "national security threat" and urged that controls be strengthened worldwide.

Tell me again why Bush is so good on keeping us safe? Oh, wait, I forgot! Cities vote Blue! They're not "us"! (And they probably deserve to be cleansed from the Fire on High anyhow.) Fuck 'em. And if you don't think His thinking is exactly that cynical and callous, recall that the Republicans treated first responder money as campaign spoils, and passed the money out to their base.

See "Bush's Reckless Indifference to the Nightmare Scenario" (back) for the ugly, ugly details.

An American Mothers Day 

Dateline 2004: Second Sunday in May.

To the Editor of the Evening Sun:
Sir - I consider it nothing short of blasphemous to allow symphony concerts on the Sabbath by the City Band.

On my way to church Sunday evening with my school-teacher daughter and several others of my little brood we had to pass the Lyric Music Hall, and there we saw a mass of people going in to spend their evening listening to worldly music instead of going to their respective churches. It makes it so hard on a mother trying to raise her loved ones properly to have them see that the city itself is a party to this desecration of the Sabbath....

My school-teacher daughter, who is well up on music and sings in the choir, later saw the program, and she tells me that there was not one piece of the music played that was written by an American. I confess that it gave me some relief to see that our good Americans will not allow their names on a program of that sort, yet it is not right that foreigners should be allowed to make money by desecrating the Sabbath and thereby keep their families in affluence. If any of those foreigners who wrote those pieces live in Baltimore they ought to be arrested under our Sunday laws. - An American Mother

That letter, and many more just like it, all signed "An American Mother", were published by the Baltimore Evening Sun during the early and mid 1920's.

I love this kind of stuff because I like to read old newspapers and magazines from those years and sure enough the pages of those old publications are filled with correspondence exactly like the example above; all holding forth on a wide variety of topics and questions and opinions of the day; all generating further reactions from engaged readers.

I found five letters (including the one above) penned by "An American Mother", and reproduced in an article titled "Letters from 'An American Mother'", by Eric Lund, (then assistant city editor for the Chicago Daily News.) Lund's article appears in the December 1969 edition of the American Heritage Magazine and begins as follows:

Except in their lovelorn columns, newspapers today discourage the use of pen names by their letter writers. Gone are "Civitas," "Veritas," and "Pro Bono Publico" of an earlier time. Less and less frequent opinions signed "Angry," "Disappointed," or "Irate Taxpayer."

Sure enough i can't think of any newspapers today who will print a letter to the editor that doesn't require some variety of full disclosure and a traceable verifiable background check. Phone number, address, drivers liscense, pets name, and so on. There's probably some kind of clause contained in the Patriot Act which would make the publication of an anonymous letter to the editor a federal offense punishable by fifteen years in some underground SuperMax facility on Guam. God only knows.

But (and who would have thunk it in 1969) now we have blogging. We have Atrios and Digby and Hesiod and Lambert Strether and all you lovable characters out there to many to list. You know who you are. Returned are the "Civitas," "Veritas," and "Pro Bono Publico" of a bygone era. Welcome back-forward Roger Ailes (not the ugly baldhead one).

Lund continues:
"Mother" was an unyielding moralist, a militant Prohibitionist, a staunch defender of the Sunday blue laws, and a devoted churchgoer opposed to the theory of evolution, to Italian opera, and to nude statues. She had a knack for taking something that nearly everyone regarded as fairly innocent (an opera, for instance) and discovering that it was immoral (she objected to Tristan and Isolde because it "condoned freelove"). Frequently she offended someone or some group, always perfectly naturally but in a way that demanded response. Almost invariably committed some blunder in stating her argument, an error of fact or logic that called for correction. In 1925, during the Scopes trial over the legality of teaching evolution, one of her letters began: Sir: I think that trial of religious liberty down in Dayton is the most wonderful thing since Martin Luther stood up before the Cardinals and said, 'Give me liberty of give me death!'..." [...] ...she proposed a Get-Baptized Week, prayer meetings on streetcars for young people on their way to work, and enforcement of the Ten Commandments by the police.

Sounds eerily familiar even today doesn't it? Think Judge Roy Moore (a judge only "An American Mother" could love.) Or Nude statues, hehe. Yes siree it sure does ring some bells these days and there ain't no doubt "Mother" was a fairly accurate reflection of the views and sentiments of thousands of Americans in the early decades of the 20th century. Listen to "Mother" hold forth on the rule of law and the war on intoxicating substances, retro-stylie.

To the Editor of the Evening Sun:
Sir - ...I have never had military ideas, but for the life of me I cannot see why right-thinking people should object to our army and navy enforcing the laws of our country. Surely a man who drinks liquor when it is forbidden cannot complain if right-thinking people put him to death... - An American Mother.

That outta take care of the Coors family once and for all. "Mother", if she were with us today, would love Little Green Footballs and The Presidential Prayer Team. The only catch is, "Mother", was a parody. A put-on. A clever subtle caricature, a mirror held up (reductio ad absurdum), to the opinions, religious sentiments, fears, and politics of pre World War 2 America. Mother was a merry prankster.

While reading Lund's article and the letters from AMM to the Evening Sun i couldn't help think about our own prolific letter writing version of "An American Mother": Jesus' General himself, aka: General J.C. Christian, patriotboy. Granted the General would be easy to track down as a satirical/parody effort but i have to wonder how many of the people who receive his letters would actually catch the spoof if those letters simply appeared on their own merits, free of the General's weblog source. I'd be willing to bet that if the General were to sign his letters "An American Patriot," and have them accepted by any number of small town newspapers across today's latter atomic age America, he'd be greeted without a second thought by an alarming number of mis-wired specimens who would immediately recognize him as a sage and prophet and keeper of the moral compass. An heroic "right-thinking" 100% Murican defender of women, children, human property, and the Christian conservative realm. For all the wrong thinkin' reasons of course. If i thought the General could pull a fast one on the local editors of any number of reactionary sheets, without ending up in a hidey-hole on Guam, I'd try to talk him into introducing the Chamber of Love and Correction to the inhabitants of Abbeville, South Carolina. Or some crazy assed place like that.

Many readers of the Baltimore Evening Sun recognized "Mother" as a leg pull and would respond in turn. Many also believed that H.L Mencken was responsible for "An American Mother". He wasn't.

Alas, "An American Mother" died in 1944, and in the news stories that followed Mother's departure the Baltimore Evening Sun revealed that "An American Mother" was in actuality a mother by invention only, and in fact not even of the female persuasion, but rather the dean of Baltimore's consular corps, representative of Denmark, one Holger A. Koppel. (born male, in Copenhagen, in 1871)

Koppel was however, as it turned out to be, an old friend of Henry Mencken. (Google "Holger Koppel") In 1909 Koppel and Mencken worked together to translate five Henrik Ibsen plays into English, including A Dolls House, which were then later published, no doubt, to the angst of those who opposed the women's rights movement at the turn of the century.

What kind of people do really believe in this evolution nonsense? Am I to believe that I have come down from monkeys? As far as I and my family are concerned, we are satisfied to trace down to Adam and Eve, even though, of course, Eve was wicked enough to eat the apple the serpent offered her, but she, poor woman, was new to the ways of the wicked world. I say, put the people who believe in such silly nonsense out in cages with the other monkeys in Druid Park and they would soon learn sense and believe in what the Bible tells us.... - An American Mother.

So there ya have it. Viva An American Mother! Toss one back for mom! while listening to an Italian opera - or wading in a pool at the base of a fountain of buck naked nymphs.

Happy American Mothers Day.


Goodnight, moon 

This was really the Day of the Long Posts, wasn't it? First farmer's napalm in the morning, then a B52-scale carpet bombing from me...

Sorry for the military metaphors, but war seems to be on my mind these days. And, or so, tonight I went out and combined two great pleasures: To eat at Pasion and, to read while I ate, a new book: David Fromkin's Europe's Last Summer—August 1914.

Surely an expensive dinner, and an expensive book, is reckless extravagance in one so old; I should be saving my pennies, instead of getting, tonight, replete and drunk, as farmer was this morning.

On the other hand, if Cassandra turns out to be right (the Howler), why save my pennies at all?

[Richard Gephardt, on Hardball last November:]

GEPHARDT: What are we worried about? We’re worried about an A-bomb in a Ryder truck in Washington, in St. Louis, in L.A. It can’t happen. We have to prevent it from happening. It cannot happen.

“We have to prevent it from happening,” Gephardt said. But readers, it won’t be prevented from happening if we clown about peanut butter! We can’t put idiots in charge of vital functions—and idiots currently run our press corps.

Not to mention our government. The Bush administration, in its combination of fickle certainty, militarism, diplomatic ineptitude, and reckless indifference to consequences, reminds me of nothing so much as the Imperial Court of Kaiser Wilhelm.

So, eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow (back)....

Rationalization? Let's devoutly hope so. Night all.

NOTE For any cursor readers directed to this link, here is Two words.

"Why should we hear about body bags, and deaths, and how many, what day it’s gonna happen, and how many this or what do you suppose? Oh, I mean, it’s not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?" - former first lady Barbara Bush - "Good Morning America" March 18, 2003


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