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Saturday, May 08, 2004

DOD, via Halliburton, cutting off "inessential" access to email by the troops 

Gee, there's a morale booster. I wonder why they're doing it?

Kathryn Kramer and Electrolite via Scaramouche.

UPDATE Perhaps, just perhaps, this is why. Via Modo:

In the information age, [Rumsfeld] complained to senators, "people are running around with digital cameras and taking these unbelievable photographs and then passing them off, against the law, to the media, to our surprise, when they had not even arrived in the Pentagon."

That's interesting. "Against the law." Is Rummy suggesting that anyone should be prosecuted for distributing and printing the photos?

Iraq prison torture: Bush pushes discredited "bad apples" theory 


Readers, if you've been following the story, you know that the the Taguba report says the torture was a systemic problem.


UPDATE It's really pitiful, isn't it? At this point, all Inerrant Boy is doing is giving ways for desperate believers to avoid cognitive dissonance. The truth isn't in him. Whoops! I meant, "the truth isn't in Him." Sorry.

A Revolution in Media Affairs? [draft] 

The ever essential Orcinus has had enough and issues a manifesto here. I hope this post from him is one day known as Orcinus's "Long Post", following George Kennan's "Long Telegram," since both will have inspired a strategy for a winning another long, cold war.

Memo to the SCLM: We're coming.

UPDATE: I'd like to respond to Orcinus's manifesto with a lengthy posting of my own.

Alert readers as good citizens
I'll begin with the notion of "alert reader." I started using this phrase for contributors in the comments who shared information I thought was especially useful or interesting, when filling in for the mighty Atrios. I stole the phrase from Dave Barry, partly to honor him, and partly to honor the readers and their efforts.

But after reading Orcinus, I'm thinking that being an "alert reader" is one qualification for being a good citizen. It takes a lot of alertness and desire to be informed: To get the real story, if that's even possible, from reading our "free press." Why is that? What can we do about it? And can the blogosphere help? I think so, through a "Revolution in Media Affairs", whose ethical, business, and technical foundation I will sketch below. Readers, your feedback will be greatly appreciated. I hope the spark that Orcinus struck with his manifesto roars into life quite quickly.

"Beautiful plumage!"
We the People can't "form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity" if we aren't informed, because if we don't know what's going on, we can't exercise our responsibilities as citizens. The First Amendment establishes a free press for this very reason: To keep power in the hands of the people by keeping them informed. A long train of abuses shows that press has shamefully abandoned its responsibilities to inform. I don't care whether this is due to corporatization, media concentration, or millionaire pundit values: Despite the best efforts of dedicated individuals like Seymour Hersh, the free press, institutionally, is pushing up the daisies.

There's an old Navy saying: "You can't buff a turd." And, really, that's what I was going to do today, and maybe what I've been doing for the last year: To follow along after the Unfree Press, trying to clean up the distortions, make the unmade connections, read between the lines for the real story, hiss the villains, and cheer the heroes and heroines. Trying to clean up our discourse by buffing one turd at a time. It can't be done. Too many turds, and not enough hours in the day.

A Revolution in Media Affairs (RMA)
What is to be done? The question brings us at once to the blogosphere. Orcinus, if I summarize correctly, hopes to intensify the role of the blogosphere as a "central clearinghouse for information in the media revolt," a "media watchdog", an uber-ombudsman, campaigning to bring pressure to bear on the legitimate media and thereby freeing real journalists—they do exist—to do the jobs they need to do, campaigning for the reinstatement of the Fairness doctrine, and so forth.

I disagree. With Carlyle, recall the words of the courtier Liancourt to Louis XVI: "Sire," answered Liancourt, "It is not a revolt, it is a revolution." Revolt would mean that the blogosphere would help the Unfree Press to be a little more free, so they can do their jobs better. Revolution would mean mean the blogosphere would become the Free Press that the SCLM can no longer be.

What needs to be done: Gut the Unfree Press by taking our discourse back from them, and create a Free Press to bring our stories forward.

Creating a Free Press
The requirements for creating a free press fall into three categories: Ethics, Business Model, and Infrastructure.

Ethics. Since the beginning of the slow-moving, Unfree Press-fuelled winger coup that began with Whitewater and ended with Florida 2000, we've seen—with the exception of a few shining individuals like Seymour Hersh (back)—a complete collapse of journalistic ethics. See The Daily Howler, day after day after day. Orcinus summarizes the relentless and corrosive trivialization of our discourse relentlessly in his "Long Post". The Unfree Press simply doesn't cover the story! Rather, as the Howler shows, the Unfree Press recycles the same old scripts (example) [1].

The remedy is an ethic with two parts: (1) Facts rule, and (2) Theories are disclosed.[2] This should be the contract of Free Press bloggers with their readers.

Facts rule. A simple example: I just read a story in the print Atlantic about oppo research, and there, right in the lead paragraph, was the false meme that Gore claimed he invented the Internet. Obviously, a publication with an immune system too weak to defend itself against that meme is doomed to die—eviscerated by faster, smaller, smarter creatures—like thecreatures living in the blogosphere. To defend my interests as a citizen, I should have put $4.95 in a blogger's tip jar, not given it to an enterprise that's corrupting my discourse.

Facts rule! Not stories about hair cuts, peanut butter, interns, cute children, "court news, ... who loses and who wins; who's in, who's out", and all the other phases of Operation Steaming Load. The Media Revolution has to follow the facts wherever they lead, as a Free Press should do. Maybe that's going to contradict some cherished beliefs. Fine. If it turns out that the earth really is 6000 years old, as the fundamentalists claim, then we had better be prepared to accept and deal.

Note, with Orcinus, that the blogosphere has "just in time fact checking" built in. Get a fact wrong, and alert readers write in at once with links to the correct information.

Disclose theories. By "theory" I don't mean bias; I mean a picture of how the world works that is testable. Where necessary, the theory (if any) under which a news story is being told should be disclosed. Example: In my role as Sultan of Snark, I slammed Bush as a narcissist and a sociopath (blog). [Readers: comments on this are OT.] Alert reader Rebecca Allen commented that the two were quite distinct, and as a professional, ethics restrained her from making a diagnosis without having met the man. She fully disclosed the theory under which she was operating, and that raised the level of discourse and moved the story forward.

Here again, the blogosphere, in the person of Rebecca Allen, had "just in time theory checking" built in.

Checks and balances I think I'm getting this twin ethic—that facts rule and theories are disclosed—from the academic/professional notion of the footnote: Footnotes provide alert readers with a check on the authors. (One of Anne Coulter's worst perversions is her abuse of the footnote mechanism.)

Here again, as we have seen, the blogosphere excels. With links and URIs, facts are checkable, and theories can be named and disclosed. For example, when we cite the PNAC plans for a series of wars beginning with Iraq, the militarization of space, and so forth (PDF), we can link to their report, and use "PNAC" as a shorthand for what that picture of the world is.

Note, however, that this ethic requires some revision to existing editorial practice in the blogosphere. Now, a blog is all about authorial voice in the present. Granted, there may be several authors. And granted, the present may mean anything from "the top post" to "this week's posts." But the ethics outlined above mean that there must be more voices than the author's: the alert readers will have voices, too. And fact and theory checking are based on linking, perhaps into the deep past. This means that rich links within, between, and outside of the blogosphere will take on great importance.

Readers, thoughts?

Business Model
The difficulty with the blogosphere—and possibly why Orcinus confines its effect to that of revolt, rather than revolution—is that at present it is still dependent on the Unfree Press. For the most part we are, like it or not, parasites on a news stories generated by others. There are matchbook covers for truck driving, art school, and so forth, but none with "Get paid to blog!" on them.

Reportage means funding. A business model is needed to sustain a Free Press, RMA-enabled blogosphere. A Free Press can't create all its own content for free. Commentary is reasonably easy. All the blogger needs for commentary is a laptop and a connection. Reportage, however, is key. If we have an ethic that facts rule, facts are something we need to go get, not allow to be brought to us. And reportage takes sustained effort, involves travel, may involve liability, and can involve a lot of risk—from nobody taking the story up all the way to getting killed. If there is no reportage in the blogosphere, there is no RMA, and we're still buffing the turds. Finally, in the case of a massive, RIAA-style assault on the blogosphere over "fair use" issues, generating our own, unencumbered content will become critical.

Existing practices. To take the story away from the Unfree Press, and replace it with a story based on the ethics of a Free Press, at least some story writing in the blogosphere has to be funded; no other solution will scale. How can work in the blogosphere be made to pay? Existing practice (besides foundation money and patronage) for funding falls into the following categories:

  1. Make the leap to mainstream journalism.

  2. Sell site advertising and promotional items. The money right now can be "beer money," but could become substantial with time.
  3. .
  4. Solicit donations to cover costs: the server, and so forth.

  5. Solicit donations to cover a story: the Iowa primaries, for example.
  6. Open a tip jar; use PayPal, or some similar service.

Model 1 ("mainstreaming") is all to the good, but not revolutionary. It does not take the stories away from the Unfree press.

Models 2 ("advertising") and 3 ("cover costs") enable revolution—"Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one"—but are not in themselves revolutionary, since they are neutral in regard to the relation of writer to reader (see "Ethics", above).

Model 4 ("cover a story") is genuinely revolutionary: Imagine! Readers funding the writing they want, with no intermediary.

Model 5 ("tip jar") is also revolutionary, since again the contract between reader and writer is altered by disintermediating the Unfree Press.

Proposal. I would like to propose the following extension of the "tip jar" model:

A tip jar for every contributor

This model is also revolutionary, since it insists that any alert reader can become an informative writer. Hopefully, this will create a virtuous cycle, as writing communities develop in which more and more readers support more and more informative writers.

Readers, thoughts?

Finally, let's turn to the technical infrastructure that would underpin an RMA. Without speaking of particular technologies (this or others) I would like to throw out some thoughts, which experts (I am not one!) may wish to clarify:

Storage. Storage needs to decentralized and permit replication. We have to assume that people are going to want to take the system down. If storage is decentralized (yet retrieval from store is transparent) that will be much harder. Similarly, information needs to be stored redundantly (with retrieval again transparent). If the Free Press goes down in country A due to attack, it should be able to switch seamlessly to country B. It may be that P2P techniques have their place here.

Licensing. Creative Commons. Part of me wants to be able to have writers own their material, a la Xanadu. But I'm not sure that's possible with the storage model above. It may be that the answer is in the ethical realm: Material put into the blogosphere belongs to the blogosphere (modulo "fair use" material). The tip jar takes care of compensation.

Protected identity. It will be best for the Free Press if contributors are identifiable. Readers will find it easy to return to contributors they trust, and writers will find it easier to build their tip jars and increase their congtributions to the story the Free Press is telling. (It may be that the tip jar is sufficient reputation system, but of that I am not sure. Readers?) This does not at all imply that contributor's "real world" identities should be revealed; quite the reverse. [3]

Open source blog tool. The Free Press will be much less vulnerable to attack if it runs on open source software. For example, if the Free Press ran using proprietary software on servers owned by a large corporation, no matter how benevolent, one may easily imagine a text-based algorithm built into the software for detection of certain word clusters in certain blogs, with the identities of the contributors data-mined and forwarded to the relevant authorities. If the software on which the Free Press runs is open source and widely distributed, and the storage and identity features listed above are in place, this nightmare scenario is much less likely to happen.

Plug-in architecture. The "facts rule" and "disclose theories" ethics of the Free Press demand a lot of linking, as we have seen: The self-correcting nature of the blogosphere depends on this. Smarter links may be needed for sites that handle particular kinds of stories, facts, and theories. It's highly likely that existing linking techniques are not robust enough to meet these requirements on a global scale. Is it sufficient to arrive at a page without knowing why? Probably not; certainly not in the case of a speaker whose native language is not English. The "class" attribute in the (X)HTML <a> attribute seems to be ripe for exploitation here. (Readers?) In addition, different media must be accommodated. I would like to be able to blog from my mobile phone, send pictures from my phone, send voice, etc. A plug-in architecture would accomodate these different media types.

To summarize: For the safety of the Republic, a Revolution in Media Affairs is required to re-establish a Free Press, and as a consequence disintermediate and gut the SCLM and its MWs. The RMA will not be televised, but will take place in the blogosphere, where a lot of people have "had enough." The RMA needs a foundation in ethics, business, and technology. The ethical foundation: Facts rule; Disclose theories. The business foundation: All contributors can get a tip jar. The technical foundation: Decentralized and replicating storage, creative commons licensing, protected identity, and open source software with plug-ins that support robust linking and content submission in multiple media types.

That's my thought today. I put "[draft]" at the top in case there's sufficient interest in developing these ideas further.

Readers? Thoughts? Post them to the comments or mail me here.

[1] As farmer (back) shows, we're seeing one such story now on CNN with Rumsfeld: A story named by the authors of Military Misfortunes "The Man in the Dock."
[2] The distinction comes from a wonderful story by Adam Gopnick, who explains how his Parisian friends were astounded by the idea that The New Yorker would have a "fact checker." On the other hand, New Yorkers would be astounded to hear of a "theory checker," which wouldn't give the Cartesian French a moment's pause.
[3] We might, following current practice in the executive branch, call this "Blogosphere Privilege": In the current climate, citizens will not feel free to give "unfettered advice and counsel" to their government unless their identities are protected.

Progress of the google bomb 

Which is:

A "total failure of leadership".

(on Iraq prison torture, the Iraq war, the WMDs, and so much else).

The string is up to number six now (Atrios, of course). But the "feeling lucky" link is not.

Let's all try to do our part. Granted, it's a simple, mindless pleasure. So?

CNN and Me ~ slinking into the weekend 

What's with all this: Listening to CNN last night (Friday, May 07), the shut-ins at CNN were breathlessly yammering on about Donald Rumsfeld's revelatory bombshell announcement, made during congressional hearings, that there are more ugly photos, even videotapes, depicting torture and possibly the rape and murder of prisoners at Abu Ghraib (and god only knows where else).

Here's CNN's dozy porch dog Aaron Brown yapping about the matter to Jamie McIntyre: (bold emphasis in transcripts is mine)

[excerpts] CNN Newsnight, May 07, 2004
BROWN: The secretary before the Congress today. As you heard, even as he apologized the secretary dropped a bombshell, within the Pentagon there is more, more photographs, videotapes, perhaps more to tarnish the country in the eyes of the world, at the very least more to investigate and explain.

With that side of the story here's CNN's Jamie McIntyre. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE (voice-over): The revelation that there are many more photographs, even videotapes said to show prisoner abuse described as blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhuman, resulted in an ominous warning.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Apparently, the worst is yet to come potentially in terms of disturbing events.

MCINTYRE: But there are no plans to release them.

RUMSFELD: If these are released to the public, obviously it's going to make matters worse. That's just a fact. I mean I looked at them last night and they're hard to believe.

"Bombshell"—"revelation"—???—Since when? Why didn't this bombshell revelation warrant a revelation, or at the least a bombshell mention from CNN on May 02, 2004 (back here) when Seymour Hersh revealed the exact same information to that CNN "news" delivery automaton Wolf Blitzer?

BLITZER: And I just want to point out, General Myers said he has not read that report yet, it hasn't reached up to him yet in the chain of command.

HERSH: I certainly believe him, which as far as I'm concerned, more evidence of the kind of systematic breakdown we're talking about. But let me read you the kind of stuff he said that predated the photographing.

"Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoritic acid liquid on detainees, pouring cold water on naked detainees, beating detainees with broomhandle and a chair, threatening them with rape, sodomizing a detainee with chemical lights and perhaps a broomstick, sicking military dogs on detainees." I mean...


BLITZER: So, what you're suggesting is that the six soldiers who have now been indicted, if you will -- and they're facing potentially a court martial -- they were told to go ahead and humiliate these prisoners? And several of these soldiers were women, not just men.

HERSH: In one photograph, you see 18 other pairs of legs, just cropped off. There were a lot of other people involved, watching this and filming this. There were other cameras going. There were videotapes too.

And this -- I'm sure that, you know, in this generation these kids have CD-ROMs all over the place. We'll see more eventually.


BLITZER: Well, beyond the politics of this, but you're assuming that this is much more widespread than this one incident, and then that these pictures that we have -- we don't have pictures of other incidents. That's what you're...

HERSH: It's not just a question of what I'm assuming. General Taguba says it's systematic, it's out of control, it's a problem, we've got to deal with it. This is what the report says. It's a devastating report, and I just hope they make it public.


BLITZER: We heard from Dan Senor earlier in this program, suggesting he said he didn't know of anyone who died at Abu Ghraib prison.

HERSH: I have some photographs I'll be glad to share with him anytime he wants to know.

Hersh said all that on May 02. Hersh also revealed this information during a radio interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!.

I myself listened to Hersh's interview with Goodman while driving around in the countryside hither and fro in search of a nice old isolated farmhouse where I can raise me up an airforce of agile attack starlings that will be trained to pounce from the sky upon my command. For instance, to plummet from the azure firmament upon Sean Hannity and sodomize him in front of a bus load of horrified pilgrims bound for a Legion of Christ picnic. I have photos too. Of the starlings that is. I'm still working out the logistics of plummeting and pouncing and swooping and bird sodomy and so forth, but you get the idea. Plus, I have some other shit to do so it's not like I can just be driving around all day thinking up good ideas. But you get the idea.

Where was I? Oh yeah.... CNN's attempt to portray Rumsfeld and the Pentagon as forthcoming and on top of the whole Abu Ghraib "scandal" in order to mask the impression that Rumsfeld would not clearly answer the important questions he was asked. Like when, where, and how did he really learn about the bullshit taking place in Abu Ghraib.

Leave it up to CNN to conveniently forget what Seymour Hersh had told them on May 2nd, five days before Rumsfeld's later "revelations". Why? To shine all later hosannas for any forthcoming-like glorious strikes and bombshells of enlightenment upon the heroic leadership at the Pentagon. Not to mention the gallant exploits of His Holy Archangel of the first circle of the de hierarchia celesti, the Seraphim Rumsfeld.

No, I don't recall any excitable declarations of bombshells and great revelations from the celebrated porch chimes at CNN following Seymour Hersh's earlier visit with Parade Marshall Blitzer. Not until May 7th, following Herr Rumsfeld's self serving regurgitation of the already obvious revelations, do we get any big CNN noise making and falling bombshells or any other manner of how should we say, erect manipulated grand attentions.

Just listen to that awful crypt keeper Judy Woodruff filling in for CNN wax museum doorstop Paula Zahn: May 07. 2004

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington. Paula Zahn is off tonight. It has been a day of drama and political tension, as the Iraqi prison scandal led to an extraordinary round of hearings on Capitol Hill. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF (voice over): Donald Rumsfeld says he's sorry. He says there are more and even worse pictures of prisoner abuse that we haven't seen. And while he didn't resign, he says it's possible.


WOODRUFF: Here's what you need to know right now. Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld says he is sorry for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners. In testimony today on Capitol Hill, Rumsfeld warned that even more graphic videos and pictures of abuse will likely surface. Rumsfeld later announced three of the four people who will sit on an independent panel to investigate the scandal.

Judy also informed us that the donut-crap manufacturer Krispy Kreme Worldwide issued its first diabetes—I mean profit!—warning.

Krispy Kreme issued its first profit warning. The doughnut maker blames the low-carb diet craze. It says earnings for fiscal year 2005 will be 10 percent lower than expected.

Thanks Judy—Who the FUCK cares! (fairness correction) No, really, we can't learn about this kind of important corporate news-o-mercial gah-gah grabass just anywhere. If it were not for CNN how would we learn about important shifting investment opportunities in the sexy fast paced global junk-pastry manufacturing sector. You're on top of your game Judy, and don't let any unwashed low bred rust-belt flyover leech like me tell ya different. Smooches!

Hey. Screw youz guys. I love Judy Woodruff. Without Judy i wouldn't be able to inform you that whenever i watch Judy on my cheap third world 20th century low definition TV display device I am reminded of tragic domestic pet tragedies. Judy always has that bereft faraway look on her face which always reminds me of the grim stranger who shows up at your front door to tell you that they have just run over a cat on the road in front of your house. And it's almost always, almost certainly, your cat. Know that "look" I'm talkin' about? Eh? Have you noticed that about Judy too, or is it just me?

Judy also reminds me of a chattering stringy haired shrunken head being jostled around on the end of a fireplace poker—but that's obviously partisan and not really the point is it?

What was the point anyway? I can't remember. LOL! Uh-oh, wait... I recall Larry King and some old guy with dignified hair named John Warner (R-Virginia) babbling about revelations and "worst yet to come" scenarios but I can't remember why those worst case yet to come scenarios were supposed to be worse or why or who John Warner (R-Virginia) even is. Even though his hair was very attractive to people who buy magazines in drug stores. Is John Warner (R-Virginia) one of those nuts Larry King always interviews who can communicate with dead people on cell phones? Could be. Tune in to CNN Saturday night as Nancy Grace asks the question, "Should dead people who communicate from beyond the grave over cell phones be allowed testify against defendants in death penalty cases?" Very compelling. Get all you need from Gateway for under 500 bucks! Welcome back. I got a letter from an escort service lady in LA who would like a reciprocal link to her web-log! She seems pretty cool and sits on a balcony in a pink bikini and rubs ice cubes all over her thighs. (Who can argue with that.) I like her. Next: Have you heard about Lynndie England's upcoming Playboy shoot?! Oh my gawd! I'm so sure—Hey, shout out, like yo, I should be working for CNN totally! Awe my Gawd!—Wows of the week!—I am!

Update: Never never never try to operate self publishing machinery when you are drunk!


Friday, May 07, 2004

Goodnight, moon 

Rummy. So very, very duckpit ready.

First day with a hint of Philly's steam heat summer. Spring was nice while it lasted....

The Unbearable Light Shed By A Mind Beseiged 

Riverbend has given me an opportunity to link back to one of Tresy's more essential posts: Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind; click here to re-read it.

Tim Dunlop rightly calls it challenging, and warns that if you think it unAmerican, you are part of the problem.

There is no better evidence that both Tresy and Tim are right than the agonized cry from the heart this young Iraqi woman shows us in her latest post, dated today.

I can't bear to quote from it; just read it. And then think about it. Don't take easy vindication from it, either, just because you were against this war.

I'll have more to say about it on the weekend, I suppose; it deserves something more than easy reponses.

Iraq prison torture: Entirely predictable, indeed the desired result of Bush policies 

The Sidster:

bu Ghraib was a predictable consequence of the Bush administration imperatives and policies.

Bush has created what is in effect a gulag. It stretches from prisons in Afghanistan to Iraq, from Guantánamo to secret CIA prisons around the world. There are perhaps 10,000 people being held in Iraq, 1,000 in Afghanistan and almost 700 in Guantánamo, but no one knows the exact numbers. The law as it applies to them is whatever the executive deems necessary. There has been nothing like this system since the fall of the Soviet Union. The US military embraced the Geneva conventions after the second world war, because applying them to prisoners of war protects American soldiers. But the Bush administration, in an internal fight, trumped its argument by designating those at Guantánamo "enemy combatants". Rumsfeld extended this system - "a legal black hole", according to Human Rights Watch - to Afghanistan and then Iraq, openly rejecting the conventions.

Private contractors, according to the Toguba report, gave orders to US soldiers to torture prisoners. Their presence in Iraq is a result of the Bush military strategy of invading with a relatively light force.

"This is the only one where they took pictures," Tom Malinowski, Washington advocate of Human Rights Watch, and a former staff member of the National Security Council, told me. "This was not considered a debatable topic until people had to stare at the pictures.
(via Guardian)

On the contractors and the staffing, what we said. See The perfect shitstorm (back).

On the gulag: Yes, and it would be nice to see this on the nightly news.

It's the combination of thuggishness and ineptness that's driving me nuts. When you're being totally fucked by these guys, you never know if it's because they're true thugs and they've targetted you, or whether you're caught up in a clusterfuck they created when they didn't get the memo on something.


Who Needs Bob Woodward? 

In The Sopranos this week, we find Little Carmine Lupertazzi dealing with the fallout from his ill-thought out decision to whack Joe Peeps over a dispute about protection money. Nicknamed "Brainless the Second" by Tony, Little Carmine has seized the reins of power after his father's death; his idea of being a Leader is handing out washing machines to his friends while boasting of his tacky "trompay la oil" paintings. In this scene, he tries to dismiss the growing worries of his older, loyal lieutenant, Angelo, and is supported by his second in command, the conniving toady Rusty Millio:

Little Carmine: The point I'm trying to illustrate is that of course no one wants conflict, but historically, historical changes have come out of war.

Rusty: As far as I'm concerned, it's a new day. All treaties and old ways of doing things are null and void.

Little Carmine : Exactly.

Angelo: And the Joe Peeps thing? Where does that leave us?

Rusty: When you've had a quadruple bypass like I did, it gives you a lot of time to think. The only thing Johnny understands is force.

Angelo: But the fact is, though, we pissed on a bees' nest.

Fourth Thug: So what's the other option--roll over?

Angelo: [pause] We could have had a sit down. Captains maybe...

Little Carmine: This isn't the UN, Angelo. I won't let what happened to my father, happen to me.

Rusty [unctuously]: God forgive me, but you may be a stronger man than your dad was.

[Carmine places his arm on Rusty's shoulder, affectionately.]

Little Carmine: The fundamental question is, will I be as effective as a boss as my Dad was? And I will be, even more so, but until I am, it is going to be hard to verify that I think I will be more effective.

Is it just me, or do you not have to be Jean Baudrillard to deconstruct this scene? Map Little Carmine, Rusty, and Angelo to Smirk, Dick and Colin, and you have a near-perfect fit, right down to Cheney's cardiac history, Shirk's Oedipal obsessions, and his sophomoric, macho gibberish.

Consider, too, that this episode was probably in the can at least six months ago. Who needs Bob Woodward?

I think "Little Carmine" is going to be my new nickname for Smirk.

Leadership and its discontents: Narcissistic Personality Disorder 

I think Tresy hit the nail on the head a long time ago with this post on Bush's narcisstic personality disorder. In light of His absolute inability to offer a genuine, meaningful apology to the Iraqi people for the torture the soldiers under his command inflicted on them, I thought I'd pull out Tresy's checklist and look at it:

  1. Since I am so superior, I am entitled to special treatment and privileges.

  2. I don't have to be bound by the rules that apply to other people.

  3. Other people should satisfy my needs.

  4. Other people should recognize how special I am.

  5. Since I am so talented, people should go out of their way to promote my career.

  6. No one's needs should interfere with my own.

  7. If others don't respect my status, they should be punished.

And then of course we have this piece of shameless manipulation, that I imagine we'll be seeing much more of. What a user.

Question for study and discussion: Can a sociopath cry?

Iraq prison torture: [snappy headline here. Yech] 

Missed this one.

U.S. soldiers who detained an elderly Iraqi woman last year placed a harness on her, made her crawl on all fours and rode her like a donkey, Prime Minister Tony Blair's personal human rights envoy to Iraq said Wednesday.
(via AP via cursor)

Eesh. Somebody's grandmother. Guess somebody was just having a good time.

Iraq prison torture: CNN whores already covering for Bush 

Unbelievable. Or not.

At a news conference following a meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah II, Bush said he was "sorry for the humiliation suffered" by Iraqi prisoners at the hands of U.S. troops.
(via CNN)

CNN takes the quote out of context to help save aWol's narrow ass. Here's what Bush actually said:

I told [visiting King Abdullah of Jordan] I was sorry for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners and the humiliation suffered by their families," Bush said.

Not the same. Bush gave no apology. Last night, we don't think so; today, WaPo doesn't.

I'd call it a total failure of leadership.

Iraq prison torture: Now, a non-apology from Rumsfeld! 

Incredible but true! We've parsed Bush, now let's parse Rummy:

"To those Iraqis who were mistreated by members of the armed forces, I offer my deepest apology. It was inconsistent with the values of our nation," Rumsfeld said in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
(via CNN)

I like "mistreated" for tortured. That's rich.

But Rummy isn't apologizing, on behalf of our country, for the civilian contractors or the (Israeli?) foreign nationals—just the guys who worked for him. And he isn't apologizing, to the country, for letting the torture happen, or for covering it up. He's apologizing with one hand and covering his ass with the other. How he can do that and raise a hand to take the oath I don't know....

Style note 


Even if Bush lies, he's doing the Lord's work.


Even if Bush lies, He's doing the Lord's work.

Since we know that Bush was sent by God to lead the country, it would be inappropriate not to capitalize references to Him. Corrente deeply regrets any offense that lowercasing His name may have given.

Iraq prison torture: Did Bush apologize? 

Last night, we parsed Bush's prose and said No. Today, WaPo agrees.

Typically, when you apologize, you apologize to the people who have been harmed. But instead, Bush here is not apologizing directly to the Iraqis, he is reporting that he apologized to a third party.

Does that meet the schoolyard test? If your little boy came home and said that after he kicked Tommy he apologized to Jimmy, would you be satisfied?

SCLM gives Bush a pass yet again.... The headlines say He apologized. He didn't.

I'd call it a total failure of leadership.

What Even The Washington Chestnut Won't Print 

John Gorenfeld will.

And for my money, there is no more valiant journalistic enterprise that that of this self-described "extremofile" whose self-assigned task is to keep track of the Moon empire, which in a sane world would be nothing more or less than a bizarre joke, but which ceases being funny the minute one realizes the extent of its influence on American political and cultural life.

Not that John's weblog won't keep you laughing. Here's a catch he makes from Rev Moon's sexual insights:

We learned that sex makes you feel good, but it can kill you or make you sterile. We hear that to be happy you need to be sexy. Only losers and nerds are missing out on the fun, but then why do so many sexually active girls try to take their own lives?

If that isn't downright hilariouis, I don't know what is. Not so amusing, on the other hand, is that such insights come from a website, with, as John explicates here, the typically loonily moony off-kilter name, "Free Teens, USA" which, as John explains here, has actually received government funding for its work.

This is a particularly good time to visit John's weblog because of the astonishing series of photographs that accompany his exclusive post about a "Moon," (in every sense of that word) event held at the Senate Office Building, and pretty much tell the tale of the extraordinary influence on our government this strange creature has managed to accrue.

Whatever Gods may or may not exist, one thing you can bet on, John is doing his/her/their/secular humanist/work. Make sure he's able to continue to do it by using the PayPal option he has up. Although this is a completely unsolicited (by John) suggestion, I have it on good authority that small donations are welcome. Is there any more important cause for all of us than to support genuinely independent journalism?

Above the Fold ~ Your Paper of Record 

The Washington Chestnut

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Goodnight, moon 

It's a full moon, right? That would explain a lot.... No, two days ago. Oh well.

Hunter Thompson said, "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." I guess I can't be weird then, since I'm still an amateur. Shoot. Or.... Maybe it isn't weird yet, by the standards of weirdness yet to come.

Yawn. Snarfle.

Garbo speaks!  

Well, not exactly. Bush apologizes. Sorta. Again, even though it makes my head hurt, I parse Bush's words, as a public service:

"I told [visiting King Abdullah of Jordan] I was sorry for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners and the humiliation suffered by their families," Bush said. "I told him I was equally sorry that people who've been seeing those pictures didn't understand the true nature and heart of America. I assured him that Americans like me didn't appreciate what we saw and that it made us sick to our stomachs."
(via WaPo)


It just gets more sociopathic, doesn't it? I've been sick to my stomach for some time now.

First, Bush still can't say "I'm sorry." (Even the SCLM are beginning to notice.) Instead, we get this weird indirection: "I told him I was sorry." (Which we don't really know, not having seen their private meeting.)

Sheesh, why not just say it? Not that it would mean anything now, anyhow, since now it just looks like He was forced into it, which He was. The time for the apology was during the TV speeches He made in public to the Iraqis, not in private to a King.

And then it gets even more sociopathic. Bush is equally "sorry that people who've been seeing those pictures didn't understand the true nature and heart of America."

Bush just doesn't understand the meaning of the word "sorry"!

Bush might be "sorry" for the prisoner's suffering—and if he is, that should involve penitence. The torture was perpetrated by soldiers under His command, as commander-in-chief. They did evil, and they, and their acts, were His responsibility, and so He ought to feel penitent.

But then Bush goes on to say, He's "sorry that the people ... didn't understand...." This "sorry" cannot involve penitence—the understanding of the people who saw the pictures are not His responsibility.

Bush seems to think that "sorry" means "feeling bad." He "feels bad" about the torture, and he "feels bad" that people think ill of America, and somehow that all evens things out. It doesn't. I don't care if Bush feels bad; I want him to accept responsibility and show penitence. That might mean something.

And what puts the sociopathy over the top is the loopy emphasis on seeing the photos. Bush is "sorry for the people seeing these pictures..." and "Americans like me didn't appreciate what we saw..." So, if the photos had not been taken, and the torture had not been seen, there would be nothing to be sorry about. And indeed this is entirely consistent with the Bush penchant for secrecy. In Gitmo, for example, nothing is seen, so all is well. Stalin said: "No man, no problem." In today's media saturated world, Bush says "no image, no problem" (see back). Oh, and I love the little twist of "Americans like me"—as if there were some unnamed, doubtless evil, Americans, not like Bush, who were not sickened. What a piece of work!

Last month, we had a huge controversy over another series of brutal images: Hours of beating, whipping, scourging, torture, culminating in murder.

And what did The Mighty tell us? The wingers, the theocrats, the Jeebofascists, the MWs, and, through winks and nods, Bush Himself, all of them told us that these images of human suffering were of immense, indeed redemptive significance.

I'm referring, of course, to The Passion of the Christ. And that was just a movie!

Now, not in a movie, but in real life, we get beating, whipping, sexual abuse, rape, and murder—our own soldiers, acting just like the Roman soldiers of 2000 years ago. And what do the The Mighty have to say of this human suffering? Most are silent. Some make jokes. All of them minimize it. Hypocrites. Pharisees.

And Bush is using a lot of words where two would do:

"I'm sorry."

Haven't heard those two words yet.

I'd call it a total failure of leadership.

Rapture index steady as Beast Government up, Wild Weather down 

Here (as of May 4—somehow missed it in all the excitement.)

Poor old Colin Powell 

They really took away his dignity, didn't they?

Shortly before Bush administration officials presented Republican congressional leaders with a request for $25 billion in Iraq funding this week, Secretary of State Colin Powell was telling members of the Congressional Black Caucus that no such request would be forthcoming.
(via WaPo)

Why doesn't he just resign? He might take one or two of his masters with him....

9/11 tape destruction: Was anyone controlling the controllers? 

I give up. I don't need a tinfoil hat anymore.

If this were a slow news day. From the Times via Atrios:

At least six air traffic controllers who dealt with two of the hijacked airliners on Sept. 11, 2001, made a tape recording that same day describing the events, but the tape was destroyed by a supervisor without anyone making a transcript or even listening to it, the Transportation Department said in a report today.

Officials at the center never told higher-ups of the tape's existence, and it was later destroyed by an F.A.A. official described in the report as a quality-assurance manager there. That [quality assurance] manager crushed the cassette in his hand, shredded the tape and dropped the pieces into different trash cans around the building, according to a report made public today by the inspector general of the Transportation Department.

The tape had been made under an agreement with the union that it would be destroyed after it was superseded by written statements from the controllers, according to the inspector general's report. But the quality-assurance manager asserted that making the tape had itself been a violation of accident procedures at the Federal Aviation Administration, the report said.

The tape was made because the manager of the center believed that the standard post-crash procedure would be too slow for an event of the magnitude of 9/11. After an accident or other significant incident, according to officials of the union and the F.A.A., the controllers involved are relieved of duty and often go home; eventually they review the radar tapes and voice transmissions and give a written statement of what they had seen, heard and done.

People in the Ronkonkoma center at midday on Sept. 11 concluded that that procedure would take many hours, and that the controllers' shift was ending and after a traumatic morning, they wanted to go home.

The center manager's idea was to have the tape available overnight, in case the F.B.I. wanted something before the controllers returned to work the next day, according to people involved.
(via NY Times)

Just when I think the world can't get any weirder. So, who was the "quality assurance manager" who crushed the casette, and how is he or she doing today?

Or was it actually destroyed? Perhaps a copy was made? Certainly there was plenty of time:

Sometime between December 2001 and February 2002, an unidentified Federal Aviation Administration quality assurance manager crushed the cassette case in his hand, cut the tape into small pieces and threw them away in multiple trash cans, the report said.
(via Post Interlligencer)

Curiouser and curiouser. Why cut the tape into small pieces? Why multiple trash cans? Kinda makes you think, doesn't it? Like maybe at least the "quality assurance manager" listened to it?

The report concluded that there was "some measure of consistency" between witness statements later taken from the controllers and what was recorded on the tape. That conclusion was based on interviews with the six controllers and all 10 witnesses to the taping, and on sketchy notes taken during the tape recording. Also retained were radar data and recordings of radio transmissions from the cockpit.

"Some measure"? WTF?

And then there's the detail that the FAA was told not to destroy anything:

The New York managers acknowledged that they received an e-mail from FAA officials instructing them to retain all materials related to the Sept. 11 attacks. "If a question arises whether or not you should retain the data, RETAIN IT," the report quoted the e-mail as saying.
(via WaPo)

Kinda makes you wonder who was controlling the controllers, doesn't it?

Somehow I feel the report of the 9/11 commission is going to have about the same credibility as the Warren Commission. And that's a shame, because the unanswered questions from the JFK assassination have a lot to do, I think, with the increasing loss of legitimacy of the Republic. And, of course, RFK, MLK Jr., and George Wallace getting assassinated all in the same election year (though Wallace survived) didn't help any.

And the unanswered questions raised by this tape are potentially just as corrosive.

"Events, dear boy. Events" 

British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, when asked what would determine his government's policy. Seems like Unka Karl agrees

Karl Rove, the president's chief political adviser, has told one Bush adviser that he believes that it will take a generation for the United States to live this scandal down in the Arab world, and that one of the dangers of basing a campaign on national security and foreign policy is that events can be beyond the president's control.
(via NY Times)

And it's funny that MacMillan said what he did during the Suez Crisis of 1956, when the British Empire jumped the shark. Parallels, anyone?

Frosting Lickers and Freebooters 

Someone needs to chuck a cold bucket of ice water at Aaron Brown. Wake the listless bastard up! You know the one, Aaron Brown, anchors that Newsnight program on CNN, the Cakewalk News Network. Unfortunately listening to Brown is often like listening to pondwater evaporate. And Brown isn't even the worst offender. Compared to that robotic ciper, and Likud Party embed Wolf Blitzer, Brown at least, when hes conscious, exhibits actual signs of sentient life.

Unfortunately, that too often is not the case. Just listen to this horseshit: Brown gets a visit from American Enterprise Institute hustler Michael Rubin, "an adviser to the Pentagon on Iraq and Iran." - who - "...recently returned from a long stretch in Iraq working for the CPA." So the story goes.


[...]...It's nice to see you, Michael. Thank you.


BROWN: Let me start with the hanging curve and then we'll go to a few fast balls here and there. But take 30 seconds and tell me what we're missing, what we don't see.

RUBIN: One of the things which I always looked at when I was in Baghdad is what people were investing in. If people are willing to put down tens of thousands of dollars into a new house, for example, that shows they have some confidence in the future.

Oh sure, its a regular Chamber of Commerce weekend over there. What fun, lets go real estate hunting honey! One might suppose, considering the vast numbers of homes that have been turned into smoking holes and heaps of grilled rubble, some people who can still actually afford to invest in a roof over their head might feel compelled to do so regardless of forward looking statements. They might also be willing to purchase food and water. Assuming the have "confidence" in the good times just around the bend.

In one area, Jolan - the scene of the fiercest fighting - I saw houses that had been completely flattened by American bombs. There was a lot of anger there. I spoke to one man who said he was just locking up his door, and had just got his family out of the house, when a bomb hit. It destroyed his house - and he was injured in the leg. He told me the bombing was everywhere - it was random. He said he had nothing to do with the resistance, he had no weapons. [...] Another witness told me he had seen an American sniper shoot a taxi driver in the head as he was trying to take a wounded man to hospital. At another house I was taken to, I was told that 36 people - members of one extended family - had been killed when two rockets went through their roof. ~ Eyewitness: Falluja's grief and defiance, By Caroline Hawley - BBC Baghdad correspondent in Falluja

Rubin cheerily jabbers on:

RUBIN: When I got to Baghdad back in July there were very few women on the streets and those that were, were fully veiled. People said it wasn't out of religious conviction. It was more because they were worried about security.

But by the time I left in March you had teenage girls walking without escort down the streets in Baghdad and Nasiriyah in Iraqi Kurdistan basically enjoying the nightlife, window shopping into the new boutiques and everything like that. It did show some improvement.

There ya go. Happy days are here again. At least the last time Michael Rubin checked up on the matter. Shopping, "nightlife", "new boutiques", why its like a carefree evening stroll through Georgetown. God bless the American Enterprise Institute and "everything like that."

Saturday, March 06, 2004.
Today was a mess. It feels like half of Baghdad was off-limits. We were trying to get from one end to the other to visit a relative and my cousin kept having to take an alternate route. There's a huge section cut off to accomodate the "Green Zone" which seems to be expanding. We joke sometimes saying that they're just going to put a huge wall around Baghdad, kick out the inhabitants and call it the "Green City". It is incredibly annoying to know that parts of your city are inaccessible in order to accomodate an occupation army.
Riverbend / Sistani and the Green Zone...

BROWN: Would you say it's fair to say that what you have is a very complicated picture in Iraq that on the one hand clearly things are better, whether it be newspapers and satellite dishes and Internet cafes and all the rest that's going on and, ......


RUBIN: ... When you actually go down the streets, you see electrical appliances stacked on the sidewalks. The age of looting and the age of just random violence is over but Iraqis are still worried about terrorism and we need to be worried about force protection.

The "age" of looting...? Who does Rubin think he is, Will Durant?

Friday, April 9, 2004 | One Year Later.
The south isn't much better… the casualties are rising and there's looting and chaos. There's an almost palpable anger in Baghdad. The faces are grim and sad all at once and there's a feeling of helplessness that can't be described in words. It's like being held under water and struggling for the unattainable surface- seeing all this destruction and devastation. [Baghdad Burning / Riverbend]


BROWN: Michael, it's very good to have you on the program. I hope you'll come back from time to time. It helps, I think, paint the broadest picture which is good for all of us. Thank you.

RUBIN: Thank you for having me.

Well, there ya have it. Count the fast balls in that fat mans softball game. This is the kind of opiated bullshit that drives me absolutely nuts. And what does this mean: "It helps, I think, [to] paint the broadest picture which is good for all of us". Someone slap this guy.

Why does it help? Help who? Help what? The problem, Aaron Brown, is that CNN paints a broad picture of everything. CNN doesn't dabble in details. CNN is by calculated design a big broad blur. Any attempt to closely emphasize details, examine demonstratable evidence, draw actual conclusions and actually answer questions honestly is swept away with a big wash brush of muddied think tank policy crank, official White House publicity stunts, corporate press releases disguised as news items, unsourced rumor, consumer product news-o-mercials, and any number of simple minded in-house produced sentimentalist claptrap come-ons delivered with a sniff and a giggle. All spoon fed into the gullible gaping maw of Americanus moronicus. And while we're on the subject isn't that big broad happy-brush paint-job precisely the technique employed by the frosting lickers at CNN to color the entire Cakewalk War from the git go?

Hey Aaron Brown, here's some more of "what we're missing," some more of "what we don't see." Aaron -- Aaron! Wake up and pay attention!

One Year Later | April 9, 2004
Over 300 are dead in Falloojeh and they have taken to burying the dead in the town football field because they aren't allowed near the cemetery. The bodies are decomposing in the heat and the people are struggling to bury them as quickly as they arrive. The football field that once supported running, youthful feet and cheering fans has turned into a mass grave holding men, women and children. [Baghdad Burning/Riverbend]


The American and European news stations don't show the dying Iraqis… they don't show the women and children bandaged and bleeding- the mother looking for some sign of her son in the middle of a puddle of blood and dismembered arms and legs… they don't show you the hospitals overflowing with the dead and dying because they don't want to hurt American feelings… but people *should* see it. You should see the price of your war and occupation- it's unfair that the Americans are fighting a war thousands of kilometers from home. They get their dead in neat, tidy caskets draped with a flag and we have to gather and scrape our dead off of the floors and hope the American shrapnel and bullets left enough to make a definite identification… [Baghdad Burning/Riverbend]

Maybe Michael Rubin will take all the widows and orphans window shopping at the new boutique. As for CNN -- Eat your fucking cake. You helped decorate it.

Source reference: "One Year Later", blockquotes cited above / LINK:Baghdad Burning | Riverbend

Google bomb, anyone? 

Try total failure of leadership.

NOTE Thanks to alert reader Stentor.

Iraq prison torture: Chain of custody on the images 

From the beginning, it was the images that counted, not the words.

Spc. Joseph M. Darby, a 24-year-old Army Reserve soldier with the 372nd Military Police Company of Cresaptown, Md., heard about the computerized photos and video of the detainees, naked and in humiliating poses, with his fellow soldiers smiling nearby.

He got a set of the photos on a computer disk, said an Army official familiar with the investigation. Troubled by the images that flashed on the screen Jan. 13, Darby turned them over to a sergeant in his unit, who immediately notified Army criminal investigators.

Within hours, the investigators seized computers and disks from members of the unit.

The next day, Gen. John Abizaid, commander of all U.S. forces in the region, was on the phone to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

The photos and video were locked in the safe of the Army Criminal Investigation Division in Baghdad.
(via ChicagoTribune)

So they put the photos on ice. But that didn't help them. Why? Power of the Internet...

Officials now think that before the scandal erupted, the Maryland soldiers might have e-mailed those pictures back to the United States, where they fell into the hands of CBS's 60 Minutes II, which first ran them last Wednesday.

Other news organizations were also on to the story, including The New Yorker magazine. But the most concern centered on CBS. "The New Yorker was not going to run any pictures," said a senior Pentagon official.

"The concern was the images would get out before we could absorb the legal significance of what we had to do," a senior official said. "We couldn't believe the media hadn't gotten them earlier."

Apparently the generals think the SCLM is something to fear.

By the second week in April, it happened. CBS called the Pentagon about the story, saying they had interviewed one of the soldiers charged and had the horrifying images of the Iraqi detainees.

And now a word from the "Commander" in "Chief":

"The first time I saw or heard about pictures was on TV," [Bush] told the U.S. government sponsored Arabic language network Al-Hurra. His spokesman, Scott McClellan told reporters yesterday that Rumsfeld had told the president about the allegations of detainee abuse but McClellan said he did not know precisely when.

Notice the very artful wording Bush uses. He doesn't say he hadn't been briefed on the facts. He just says he hadn't seen the pictures (plausible deniability, don't you know). And given McClellan's vague statement, I'd say Bush set the policy, and knew about the torture right after Rummy knew. Either that or when Rove told him, when someone from the CPA told Rove.

Eesh. A total failure of leadership.

Iraq prison torture: Thank you, Gen. Antonio Taguba 

Iraq prison torture: "Bad for the country" 

Bad for the tortured, certainly. And bad for the torturers, even.

But the meme is spreading that this episode is "bad for the country."

But why, exactly? Because it makes it harder for us to keep occupying Iraq?

If it fundamentally discredits PNAC project for an American world empire based on military force—and these are the guys who hijacked 9/11 to get us into the Iraq mess—then that's a good thing for the country, right?

Prevents the Army from being entirely privatized, saves a lot of lives, maybe innoculates us just a little against militarism, saves the Constitution, saves the Republic, right?

What's not to like, here?

Iraq prison torture: Hersh says, "More to come" 

From Hersh on The O'Reilly factor (of all places) via Washington Monthly

HERSH: First of all, it's going to get much worse. This kind of stuff was much more widespread. I can tell you just from the phone calls I've had in the last 24 hours, even more, there are other photos out there. There are many more photos even inside that unit. There are videotapes of stuff that you wouldn't want to mention on national television that was done. There was a lot of problems.

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

And what does Bush want? More of the same! That's why General Miller is in charge, now:

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

O'Reilly tries for the alibi:

O'REILLY: So I'm going to dispute your contention that we had a lot of people in there with just no rap sheets at all, who were just picked up for no reason at all. The people who were in the prison were suspected of being either Al Qaeda or terrorists who were killing Americans and knew something about it.

HERSH: The problem is that it isn't my contention. It's the contention of Maj. Gen. Taguba, who was appointed by General Sanchez to do the investigation.

It's [Taguba's] contention, in his report, that more than 60 percent of the people in that prison, detainees, civilians, had nothing to do with the war effort.

HERSH: And I could tell you something else. Let me just say this. I believe the services have a -- look, the kids did bad things. But the notion that it's all just these kids [doing these things]... The officers are "in loco parentis" with these children. We send our children to war. And we have officers like that general, whose job is to be mother and father to these kids, to keep them out of trouble. The idea of watching these pictures, it's not only a failure of the kids, it's a failure of everybody in the command structure.

O'REILLY: Well, yes, it's the failure of the supervisors of those soldiers to create an environment of fear so they wouldn't do that. See, it's just appalling to me that they would take this so casually.

And who would be the chief of the command structure? Wait, let me guess...

NOTE I'd say it's a total failure of leadership.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind 

One annoying aspect of reaction to the Abu Ghraib scandal is the bipartisan fretting that the scandal has "damaged" our moral prestige in the world, as if the rest of the world had previously shared our preening self-regard. This abuse story is really only news to people who have not been paying attention, or who have conveniently forgotten. John Kerry's efforts to erase his perfectly truthful 1971 statements about atrocities in Vietnam, aided by a jingo media, are only the most conspicuous example. The CIA contra assassination manual has also apparently been consigned to the memory hole, as have the small library of books by disaffected CIA (not to mention the Church Committee report on the CIA) that document our long history of official support for atrocities abroad. The amnesia continues right up to the present: the New Yorker, one week before breaking Sy Hersh's story, ran an article on Iraq that matter of factly recounted the CV of James Steele, whose peregrinations through Central America in the 80s constitute a virtual Fodor's Guide to Third World abbatoirs. Only in a world expunged of this history could the Abu Ghraib photos come as much of a surprise.

What makes Abu Ghraib a scandal is the incontrovertible, photographic evidence; for that we have the Bush Administration's signature incompetence to thank. Surely the millions of people around the world, who have been on the receiving end of our tender mercies over the decades, do not have the luxury of our comfortable amnesia. In this regard it's like the Rodney King video, which, we should recall, only surprised white people.

As far as I'm concerned, losing our illusions can only be a good thing. The question remains how long until we once again "forget". Meanwhile, outside the United States, the Abu Ghraib story doesn't so much "damage" our reputation, as it merely cements it.

Iraq prison torture: Operation Steaming Load continues 

Rummy to take the fall? It couldn't happen to a nicer guy. Bush is "not satisfied" and "not happy" (via WaPo) with Rummy. (See Tom below).

Of course, this is all part of the damage control operation. I love the part in WaPo where the official refuses to be named "so he could speak more candidly." As if any of these guys knew what speaking the truth was like.

Why should we believe that Bush only knew about this from news reports? Every player knows that this White House is politicized to the very marrow. Can anyone seriously believe that when the investigations began to happen, nobody gave the operatives a heads-up?

And we also know that the major drivers for the whole episode were civilian contractors outside the chain of command. And can anyone seriously believe that the chain of command for the contractors doesn't run through the RNC/CPA in Baghdad, and end up in the West Wing, just like Iran-Contra?

Is Bush the commander-in-chief for photo-op opportunities only? If not, it would be nice to see him take some responsibility for this criminal blundering.

NOTE I'd say it's a total failure of leadership.

Thank-God Bush Brought Libya Into The Western Fold 

What hath Bush boldness wrought? Behold.

And note the date of the arrest of these Bulgarian medics. This case has been watched for years now. The charges are trumped up, an excuse for Libyans, starting at the top with a certain Colonel, not to take responsibility for AIDS happening there.

I wonder if our government will have anything to say about this outrage? Remember, we're talking about dealth penalties here.

This is not to say that Libya's renouncing of both terrorism and nuclear weapons is not a good thing, it is.

It just won't do, though, for the Bush administration to take all the credit for that, and make the entirely implausible claim that Gadhafi was reacting solely to Bush's invasion of Iraq, when we know that much of the credit belongs to the private citizens who survived those lost in the seas off Lockerbie, Scotland, bolstered by its citizens, who formed a special bond with those victims of whom they took such magnificent and generous care, when we know that it was the "families" of the lost, (and if that reminds you of any other families, rightly so, it was from certain of the Lockerbie families that the 9/11 families received advice and guidance), who brought the Colonel to his fiscal knees by suing his ass off, though so predictable and typical of the Bush administration is this ungenerous, ahistorical and utterly arrogant politicla gambit, that it seems pointless to make an issue of it, but even were it true that all such credit accrues to Bush's bold Middle East initiative, that would not be sufficient to justify this administration actively intervening on behalf of these newest victims of Gadhafi.

Am I being too pickey? Well, then note also what had drawn the attention of the international human rights community.

The suspects have said they were jolted with electricity, beaten with sticks and repeatedly jumped on while strapped to their beds. Two of the women said they were raped

Remember how everything was different after 9/11? Actually, it doesn't require much memory; just this week I've read several references to John Kerry as a 9/10 candidate. I don't disagree that 9/11 was an historical marker. But what if it was, and this administration picked out the wrong lesson and based its policies on the wrong difference? Because after the last week or so, (no convenient single date presents itself, but I'm sure you get history's drift) let me assure you, everything that is done in the name of this government will be viewed in a different light.

Taking sole credit for Libya may work as a piece of intramura political propoganda, but the rest of the world will judge in the harshest possible terms, the failure of this country to ameliorate Libyan behavior towards these seven international medical workers. Will this administration even notice? Support for human rights on an international basis is hard; it is an unyielding and often paradoxical credo, unless, of course, one embraces it on a purely verbal level.

Bush "Not Happy" 

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush has told Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld he was "not happy" that he learned about photos of Iraqi prison abuse by watching television, a senior administration official told CNN.

Bush held a private meeting in the Oval Office with Rumsfeld about the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the official said Wednesday.

"He was not happy, and he let Secretary Rumsfeld know about it," the official said.
(via CNN)
"Not happy," huh?

Boy now that's letting him have it!

How's that for decisive "the buck stops here" leadership?

But come one folks, does anyone really believe W really said anything like that?

Hell, does anyone believe Bush even "chastised" Rumsfeld at all?

Like Nixon and his aides (which, suspiciously enough, are largely the same people around W today), they're just angry that they got caught.

W's mock outrage is downright hilarious, isn't it?

Iraq prison torture: Great moments in public relations 

So, the word was that Bush would talk on two Arab stations... But on the one the US funds, he wasn't translated! So does that really count as two stations?

U.S. government-financed channel Alhurra, which appears to be little watched in the Arab world, ran its interview with Bush without a translation into Arabic, much reducing the impact.
(via Reuters)

"Greatly reducing its impact"—I love it.

Hey, they're for campaign commercials anyhow! Why translate them into Arabic?

Iraq prison photos 

More here (WaPo).

UPDATE From alert reader Tim

Geez, the whole setup reeks of being intentional. The same stuff happening at Gitmo, Afghanistan, and Iraq; the increasing use of contractors; and the investigations that go nowhere all scream out "plausible deniability". From Rumsfeld on down, and probably Bush, almost certainly knew and approved. Their mistake was their usual; they thought that they'd only have to do it for a couple of months and that for such a short period of time they could bury it. When Iraq steadily went downhill, they kept thinking that only another month or two and they'd get the intelligence that would save the situation, and besides, they gotten away with it so far so a few more weeks wouldn't matter. They successfully sat on Gitmo for years, they forgot that Iraq is a lot bigger and has a lot more foreign media. Note that CBS only released the photos when they got concerned they would be scooped bu foreign newspapers.

NOTE I'd say it's a total failure of leadership.

Iraq prison torture: Torture at Gitmo too 

Who knew?

Promising a broader investigation, the U.S. military acknowledged yesterday that two guards at the U.S. prison camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, had been disciplined over allegations of prisoner abuse.
(via Seattle Times)

And hey! Didn't we just put the guy who ran Gitmo in charge of Iraq's prisons?

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Goodnight, moon 

Yawn. Snarfle. Lotta hours. Snore.

Canadian Cheese-eating Surrender Chimp 

(via Reuters)

We already know Bush's (luxury) bus is Canadian (back). But what's with the hand on the French flag?

RNC to shut down midtown Manhattan for political convention 

Here's the plan:

Midtown Manhattan around the site of the Republican National Convention could be locked down for blocks, with major avenues closed and nearby residents and workers required to show identification, officials said Tuesday as they outlined tentative security plans for the four-day event.

Miller said Seventh and Eighth avenues were likely to be closed at times and that the boundary "won't be measured in terms of feet or yards, probably in blocks."
(via Salon—go on, get the day pass)

Gee, that's going to make protesting difficult, won't it? (Not that the protesters shouldn't have prepared for this; surely they have some alternative to marches? Which didn't work at all in Philly?)

Worse, it's going make life really hard for ordinary people in Manhattan who, you know, work for a living. Probably most of them will be taking "vacation days." But I'm sure the Republicans will be compensating them! Right?

Transplanting a heart back into Dick "Dick" Cheney? 

Whereever he goes, they have a hospital suite ready for him.

When Sen. Victor Crist was briefly hospitalized for a hypoglycemic reaction on the final night of the legislative session, he could not believe the accommodations at a local hospital.

"They put me in this room where there were flowers, a big TV set and Secret Service agents outside the door," said Crist, who was taken by ambulance to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital after feeling faint Friday night on the Senate floor.

The 46-year-old Republican lawmaker from Tampa was quite impressed.

Then he learned that the room, the only empty one the hospital had, was prepared just in case anything might happen to Vice President Dick Cheney, who was in town to deliver the graduation speech Saturday at Florida State University.
(AP via Salon via Tagen Goddard)

I guess there is such a thing as an innocent Republican. You'd think Crist would have learned to keep his mouth shut....

NOTE Seems like this is standard practice.

Iraq prison story: Briefing General Kimmit screws the pooch 

Here is a profile in courage from Briefing General Kimmit:

Gen Peter Pace, the vice chairman of the joint chiefs, denied all talk of a cover-up. He protested that Brig Gen Mark Kimmitt, the US military spokesman in Baghdad, had alerted the media to allegations of abuse as early as mid-January and in March said six military personnel had been charged.

However, when pressed, senior Pentagon officials conceded that those two announcements were buried, or sneaked out, over a weekend. Gen Pace was technically correct to say that, on March 20, Brig Kimmitt told reporters in Baghdad that six soldiers had been charged with assault, indecency and cruelty against prisoners.

But the briefing took place at the weekend, was not relayed to the press in Washington, as normally happens, and is not included in the Pentagon's official media archives.

A senior defence official said there was no apparent record of Brig Kimmitt's January announcement that abuse allegations were being investigated. "I believe he did speak with reporters about the investigation being under way. I think it might have been a background briefing."
(via Telegraph)

Funny, though, that none of the reporters who were there in Baghdad, even on the weekend, followed up on the story. Eh? Your SCLM at work again. Thank heavens for Seymour Hersh!

Iraw prison torture: The man just can't apologize! 

And everybody is noticing.

Including the Iraqis.

Iraqis were having none of it.

Virtually every Iraqi man and woman interviewed said that American soldiers who took part in the sexual humiliation of Muslim prisoners should be put to death.

"They promised to liberate us, give us freedom - that's their slogan. But there is no safety here," said Manal Abed, 24, who stayed home all year rather than work as a biologist because she's afraid of crime and American troops in Baghdad.

Soldiers who took part in the prisoner abuse, she said, "should get the same punishment as the people who committed the genocide, the mass graves. That way, there would be balance."

Abed's husband, Muattez, 27, an electrician, said soldiers who abuse prisoners should get "an Islamic punishment - stone them, like the time of the prophet."

A merchant, who gave his name as Abu Hatem, 44, said American apologies and courts-martial aren't enough.

"They should put them on trial - on TV - to show us this disgrace," he said.
(via Knight Ridder)

Sheesh. The guy is commander-in-chief, and using every ounce of that power running for President. So American men and women under his command torture Iraqi prisoners, and he can't take responsibility for it—even though it wouldn't cost him anything and would make the country look good.

What's wrong with him? Moral cowardice?

"Liberal" Times and its subsidiary, the Boston Glob, Goring Kerry. 

It's 2000 all over again. Read the ever essential Howler.

Campaign trail: Inerrant Boy surrounds himself with sycophants 

Disgusting. And it could explain a lot, don't you think?

At least one person who said he waited patiently in line came away empty handed.

"Bill Ward, of Dubuque, said he arrived at about 7:30 a.m., and waited an hour. When it came time to show his identification, Ward said he was asked if he supported Bush in 2000.

"'I said I didn't vote for him then and I won't vote for him now,' Ward said.

"Saying he is a World War II veteran who served in Germany and France, Ward is strongly critical of the war in Iraq.

"'The only thing I wanted to do was get down to the riverfront and ask Bush some questions,' he said.

"Ward's lack of support for the president apparently was his undoing.

"'They asked some girl to escort me out and I told them I don't need to be escorted out,' Wards said. 'I'm a veteran of World War II.'
(via AP)

What's Bush so afraid of? Someone will say he has no clothes?

You know, the weird thing is that the veteran who didn't vote for Bush told the truth. Anyone who was a real danger to Bush would just lie, right? Or perhaps having truthful people around is what Bush is afraid of?

Oh Canada! 

Guess where Bush's luxury campaign bus was built!

That's right!.

That's going to go over real well in the Rust Belt, eh?

Being Bush means never having to say you're sorry 

Go on, George! Say it! You know you want to!

Bush's interviewers did not ask him whether he thought an apology was appropriate, and Bush did not offer one.

But his spokesman used the word "sorry" a half-dozen times.

"We've already said that we're sorry for what occurred, and we're deeply sorry to the families and what they must be feeling and going through as well," McClellan said. "The president is sorry for what occured and the pain it has caused."

Asked why Bush himself had not apologized, McClellan said: "I'm saying it now for him."
(via AP)


Bush gave a Beltway non-apology: "Mistakes were made." Could it be that he knows that, once he starts apologizing he won't be able to stop for a long time?

UPDATE No, the man just can't say it. From the campaign trail, a classic Bush non-answer answer (quoted, alas, in full):

"Q. You made very strong statements condemning the abuse of Iraqi prisoners. but do you think it would be appropriate for you to apologize to the Iraqi people on behalf of the American people for that?

"A. Well, I think the best thing I can do is explain as clearly as I can to the American people that it's abhorrent practices, abhorrent; that we will fully investigate, we will find out the facts. There could be criminal charges filed, so, therefore, I don't want to go beyond what I've said up until now.

"But I'm appalled like you're appalled. I mean, every American is appalled who saw that on TV. It doesn't represent what we believe. It does not represent our country. And we've got a lot of work to do in the Arab world to explain that to people, because the people are seeing a different picture."
(via WaPo)

Sheesh. At least he gives the Arabs "mistakes were made" (back) ! He doesn't give us anything!

Kerry 47, Bush 43 


This is the first time Kerry has held a three point edge for three straight days since March. Neither candidate has held a three-point advantage for four consecutive days since Kerry emerged as the Democratic frontrunner.

Given the bad month that Kerry has had, with questions being raised about his antiwar activities, his service record, his cars, and his butler, not to mention the $60 million spent by the Bush campaign on political attack ads, the fact Bush can't seem to gain any traction suggests that the campaign is over and Bush is toast. Concerned Republicans will be well-advised to look for a dark horse insurgent to head off what is looking likely to be a disastrous GOP convention in September. Expect to see a steady stream of articles wondering aloud if it's not too late to find someone else to lead the GOP in November.

Nonsense of course, unless the numbers were reversed. Then it's the kool kidz CW about Kerry.

Iraq prison torture 

What did Bush know, and when did he know it? Bush is sure some CEO president, if, as his handlers claim, the first he knew of this is when he saw the pictures on TV:

The military had prepared a detailed 11-page plan nearly three weeks ago to address the fallout that officials expected once the photographs of Iraqi prisoners began circulating. Nevertheless the Pentagon, the State Department and the White House had difficulty explaining why they had not acted earlier and more aggressively to deal with the abuse.

Even as the White House emphasized the president's revulsion and his anger about what had happened, it appeared intent on insulating him from political fallout. Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, told reporters with Mr. Bush on a campaign trip in Ohio that the president had only become aware of the photographs and the Pentagon's main internal report about the incidents from news reports last week.

White House officials said the Pentagon had not informed them about its efforts to persuade CBS to delay broadcasting its report last week about the abuse, or kept them up to date about the explosive nature of the abuse. In an interview, Mr. Bartlett said he had only learned about the pictures when they were broadcast by CBS on "60 Minutes II."

Military officials said Tuesday that when they learned three weeks ago that CBS News had obtained the photographs of Iraqi inmates, they began planning an extensive campaign to blunt the impact. The plan included three dozen questions and answers anticipated from reporters.

At the request of Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top American commander in the Middle East, General Myers asked CBS to postpone the broadcast. CBS delayed the broadcast for two weeks.

Once the photographs were shown, the strategy was to have senior officials in Baghdad emphasize that an American soldier had brought the abuses to the attention of his superiors, that military commanders had quickly begun criminal and administrative inquiries, that criminal charges had been brought against six soldiers and that a new commander had been assigned to revamp detention facilities and practices in Iraq.

But the revelation of details of the abuses and the photographs shocked Pentagon officials.

"The actual firestorm was more overwhelming than anyone could have imagined," said one military official. "How do you get in front of something like that?"
(via NY Times)

Come on. The Pentagon didn't check with Unka Karl or KaWen? They may be fools about some things, but certainly not about that.

And here I thought Bush was taking the Greyhound, like the rest of us do 


He rode his bullet-proofed, high-tech bus for only a bit more than an hour, but used it for maximum political effect.
(via NY Times)

What's with the "but"? Shouldn't that be "and"? Sloppy writing.....

Iraq occupation: We just attacked Karbala 

While Bush was talking on TV? Well, probably the timing wasn't that good.

The American military launched its first major assault against insurgents led by Moktada al-Sadr, a rebel Shiite cleric, striking early this morning at militia enclaves in this holy Shiite city and in another city in southern Iraq in an effort to retake control of those areas.

The coordinated attacks here and in Diwaniya began hours after powerful Shiite politicians and religious leaders met in Baghdad to urge Mr. Sadr to withdraw his militia from the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala. Now that the occupation forces have restored a veneer of calm to the volatile city of Falluja, they are upping the military and political pressure on the 31-year-old cleric. In early April, Mr. Sadr ignited a Shiite uprising throughout central and southern Iraq as marines were invading Falluja to root out a mostly Sunni Muslim insurgency there.

The American assault today took place in a neighborhood southwest of the holy shrines. Town leaders did not raise a furor, and dozens of families stood outside their homes watching the convoy as it rolled toward the battle site. American commanders said they were trying to make precise attacks so as not to incur the wrath of the Shiites, who make up at least 60 percent of the population of Iraq.
(via NY Times)

Well, I just hope they got Sistani's OK ....

Iraq prison torture: Bush goes on "Arab TV" and says "mistakes were made" 

But, oh yeah, Al Hurra (video)—the network that we fund and control. According to Juan Cole, Al Hurra is "widely ridiculed in Iraq as the gardening channel because of the pablum in which it specializes." Sigh.

Bush is going on another station today, too. Al Jazeera?

From what I read, in WaPo, no apology, though I don't know what needs to be done in an Arab culture to do what we would call, I suppose, "making amends."

It's just sad, really. No transcript yet, but here are the quotes from WaPo:

[BUSH]: " [Abuse of Iraqi prisoners is] abhorrent... [and] does not represent the America I know. [In Saddam Hussein's Iraq, "trained torturers were never brought to justice. ... [I]t is important for the Iraqi people to know that in a democracy, everything is not perfect, that mistakes are made. We have nothing to hide. We believe in transparency because we're a free society. That's what free societies do."


I hate to parse Bush's words, because it makes my head hurt, but as a public service:

1. Of course torture doesn't represent the America that Bush knows. The America that Bush knows doesn't torture members of the Bush Dynasty. But Bush doesn't know a lot about America, and the America that Bush knows isn't the America that a lot of people know. Most Americans aren't given money to start a new business whenever their old business fails, for example.

2. I don't see an apology in there to the tortured prisoners, or to the Iraqi people. Do you see one? (I assume he didn't make one, since if he had, it would definitely be newsworthy.)

3. Worse, Bush gives the classic Beltway non-apology apology: "Mistakes were made." Farcical.

4. Why that weird qualification, "trained" torturers?

5. Will all the tortuters be brought to justice? Not just the military ones. What about the contractors? If there are Israelis involved ("foreign nationals"), will they be brought to justice?

6. What about the higherups? Will only the torturers be brought to justice? How about sins of commission or omission farther up the chain of command?

7. Does "everything is not perfect" strike anyone besides me as being totally patronizing?

8. "We believe in transparency" is a flat lie. We know it here at home, and the Iraqis surely know it, because they are well aware of how the RNC/CPA awards contracts.

I'd be surprised if Bush's speech did much—but maybe the Arab world is not as experienced in parsing Bush's words, or dealing with his lies, as we are.

Mauswitz claims another victim 

OK, OK, over the top. I just couldn't resist it. What kind of person could ever say that an innocent, lovable cartoon figure had anything to do with the F-word? That's so crass. Readers, can you forgive me?

The Walt Disney Company is blocking its Miramax division from distributing a new documentary by Michael Moore that harshly criticizes President Bush, executives at both Disney and Miramax said Tuesday.

The film, "Fahrenheit 911," links Mr. Bush and prominent Saudis — including the family of Osama bin Laden — and criticizes Mr. Bush's actions before and after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Mr. Moore's agent, Ari Emanuel, said Michael D. Eisner, Disney's chief executive, asked him last spring to pull out of the deal with Miramax. Mr. Emanuel said Mr. Eisner expressed particular concern that it would endanger tax breaks Disney receives for its theme park, hotels and other ventures in Florida, where Mr. Bush's brother, Jeb, is governor.
(via NY Times)

Eew. Mauswitz and the Bush Dynasty working together to keep the truth from the people. Who knew?

Nice title, too.

NOTE Thanks to alert reader Xan.

Iraq prison torture: The perfect shitstorm intensifies 

Now it's no longer torture, but killing, that's being looked into. (Remember the photos of the guys packed in ice?)

Two Iraqi prisoners were killed by U.S. soldiers last year, and 20 other detainee deaths and assaults remain under criminal investigation in Iraq and Afghanistan, part of a total of 35 cases probed since December 2002 for possible misconduct by U.S. troops in those two countries, Army officials reported yesterday.
(via WaPo)

And it's getting really bad for these guys. Not only did Condi apologize (!), but Bush is going on "Arab TV" (probably not Al Jazeera, eh?) to try and counter the damage. Oh, and the investigations have grown from 5 to 35.

And of course, if the Israeli's were involved, either as contractors or trainers, that will confirm everyone's worst suspicions.

If this all weren't so ugly and grotesque and degrading, I'd say "pass the popcorn."

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Goodnight, moon 

Fucking deliverables. Hey, maybe I'll be out from under tomorrow.

Every time I write that headline, I hope—or is it fear—that I'm going to see some response from the farmer, like last evening's special gift to the blogosphere, or Goodnight, Rove (yech).

It doesn't happen very often, but that just makes it more fun.

I don't know how many of you remember Captain Kangaroo, but I do. The show had a running gag—actually, it was so slow it was more like a crawling gag—where, every few months, ping pong balls would rain down from the sky, sending Mr. Moose, and Bunny Rabbit, and me, watching, into ecstasy. Farmertoons are like that: If they happened every day, they wouldn't provoke the ecstasy that they do.

Iraqi prison torture: Full text of the Taguba report 

How Freepers Honor the Dead 

Via Atrios, I learned of this moving account of Pat Tillman's funeral, which everyone should go read. Now.

As it happens, I had also recently finished listening to Al Franken play Bill O'Reilly's latest broadcast slanders, which included the typical lie that Air America had "trashed" Pat Tillman on air. So I naturally wanted to see how the Freepers were handling this story. Short version: the same way they handled Wellstone's, by smearing his family and friends.

Standard disclaimer: Plan to take a shower after visiting.

Let's put American back to work! 

However, I can't resist posting this one. It really speaks for itself, doesn't it?

The American League of Lobbyists is urging members to donate the shirts, suits, belts and ties off their backs - literally - to poor people who need presentable clothing for job interviews and to try to improve its own public image.

"You can help get Americans back to work!" the league says in a flier promoting the program.
(via AP)

Words fail me...

Morning all! 

Light blogging from me today, too. (Paid) employment has its down side...

Good Night, Mayberry 

Someday, in the not too distant future, in an undisclosed location.....

A 'Morning in America' Production

Monday, May 03, 2004

Good night, moon 

Deliverables. Eesh. Sometime I've got to post on my unemployment spell. "Never forgive, never forget" is my view on Bush after that happy time.

Anyhow, a rainy night in Philly. And tonight I plan to sleep well; I clip David "I'm writing as bad as I can" Brook's columns so I can get to sleep easily. Being wholly without content, they're side effect free!

A new W word? 

That would be Withdrawal.

And no jokes about 41, please!

Price of oil hits thirteen-year high 

Yet again, Dear Leader manages to achieve the impossible! This time, a war for oil that makes oil more expensive:

The price of oil rose to its highest level in more than 13 years on Monday as traders responded to the weekend killing of five Westerners working for an oil contractor in Saudi Arabia.
(via AP)

It's really all part of a secret plan by Inerrant Boy to get us all to conserve....

Iraqi prisoner torture: Pentagon has five investigations going 

One for each side?

In an effort to contain the mounting controversy, Larry Di Rita, Rumsfeld's chief spokesman, provided a timeline of U.S. military responses to the reported instances of abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad. He said the abuse, alleged to have happened last fall, was reported to U.S. military commanders on Jan. 13 by a soldier in the 800th Military Police Brigade, commanded by Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski of the Army Reserve.

[1]A criminal investigation was launched the next day by the U.S. military command in Baghdad, headed by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez. On Jan. 19 Sanchez requested [2]a high-level review of practices and procedures at detention and interrogation centers; on Jan. 31 the review was begun, under direction of Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba. He finished it March 3.

In early February the Army inspector general began [3]a review of U.S. detention facilities throughout Iraq and Afghanistan, at about the time the chief of the Army Reserve, Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly, began [4]an assessment of training for his MPs and military intelligence personnel.

[5]A fifth line of inquiry was started April 23. It is headed by Maj. Gen. George Fay, an assistant to the Army's deputy chief of staff for intelligence in the Pentagon, and it is focusing on military intelligence practices and procedures in Iraq, Di Rita said.

Di Rita said repeatedly that he could provide no information about the role of private contractors, who are alleged to have played a role in the abusive situation at the Abu Ghraib prison.

"I'll tell you right now, I have nothing to say about that. I just don't know anything about it," he said.
(via AP)

And would we be hearing anything about this if Seymour Hersh and the New Yorker hadn't published the photos? The question answers itself.

And notice how—Fancy!—the Pentagon has nothing to say about the mercenaries.... That's where the real story is. Say, I wonder if the New Yorker has more for next week? Incidentally, support them by going to buy the magazine. It's got a great cover, as usual, suitable for framing. And what's that other news publication in Manhattan? The New... The New York.... I know it'll come to be, they've got this really great Ombudsman....

You too can be a contractor in Iraq! 

Via Intelligence

"Exciting Careers in the Middle East with CACI"

  • Senior Counterintelligence Agent

  • Junior Counterintelligence Agents

  • Junior Interrogators

  • Individuals must be trained interrogators with at least 5 years of experience in interrogation. Individuals must be knowledgeable of Army/Joint interrogation procedures, data processing systems such as CHIMs and SIPRNET search engines. Knowledge of the Arabic language and culture a plus. Position requires former MOS 97E, 351E, ASI 9N and N7 desired.

  • Senior Intelligence Analysts

  • Intelligence Analysts

  • Information Management Specialist

  • Intelligence Architecture and Communications Engineer

  • All Source Intelligence Analysts

  • Special Security Officer

  • Assistant SSO/Security Specialist

Guess Joe Ryan (back) got hired by CACI as a "Junior Interrogator." Wonder if he got a secret decoder ring?

And some screening process CACI has, too—they hire a winger radio personality who actually posts an online diary of his intelligence work and names his co-workers. I still don't know whether to puke or go blind...

Tunesmith's corner 

Heartbreaking: Ian Malone Has Died At The Age Of Four And Half 

The last time most of us set eyes on Ian, he was a baby nestled in the arms of his father and mother, who were standing in the audience at the 2000 Democratic Convention in Los Angeles, acknowledging Al Gore's citation of their brave struggle to secure from their HMO the treatment Ian required, as the result of brain damage experienced during the birth process, in order to stay alive. The connection between these young, valiant, parents, and this old hand of a politician was palpable, or so it seemed to me.

We were to learn that the Malones had approached Gore for help in early 1999 and that he'd intervened forefully and successfully on their behalf. The Malones were now making public that help, in a highly political way, in the best sense of the word "political," to join their fight on behalf of their son to a larger struggle for decent health insurance, including a Patient's Bill Of Rights for all American families.

They have continued that committment through-out their son's all too short life. And they have continued their connection to Al Gore by running the website, even after Gore's decision not to run again for the presidency, using it to keep track of Gore's activities. It seems that the Malones have felt that Gore has kept faith with them by way of the extraordinary series of speeches he's made expressing his opposition to the Bush administrations policies on Iraq, the environment, the war on terror and civil liberties.

The Malone's released this statement, and indicated their preference for anyone who would like to commemorate Ian's life.

“Ian’s short life was a constant battle to improve the system for those who will come after him. We will sorely miss his beautiful smile and ready laugh, and are sorry his journey had to end so soon.”

A memorial service will be held at Purdy Walters and Cassidy on Pacific Avenue in Everett, WA- Saturday, May 8th at 1pm. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations in Ian's name to Hospice of Snohomish County."

You can see a charming picture of Ian and read more about his story and the Malones here. It's worth a visit.

Some weeks ago, in an interview with the Rev. William Sloane Coffin on "Now" Bill Moyers asked Rev. Coffin, physically diminished from an illness from which, it appears, he is not expected to recover, but still the moral mentor I remember from his days as a Yale Chaplin and as the Pastor of the great Riverside Cathedral, about his eulogy for his own beloved son, Alex, who had died in a car crash at the age of twenty-four. How do we make sense of the death of children? Coffin had no easy answers. Nor was the eulogy filled with easy piety. Instead, it was filled with pith and vinegar, humor and anger, more questions than answers.

I'm not exactly sure why, but my first thought, upon hearing this morning of Ian Malone's death, was of Rev. Coffin's eulogy for his son, and for this section of it in particular:

The one thing that should never be said when someone dies is "It is the will of God." Never do we know enough to say that. My own consolation lies in knowing that it was not the will of God that Alex die; that when the waves closed over the sinking car, God's heart was the first of all our hearts to break.

Rev. Coffin also invoked Hemingway's great line from "A Farewell To Arms:" "The world breaks everyone, then some become strong at the broken places."

The Malones became strong at the broken places. And so, I think it is fair to say, did Al Gore. Let that strengthening and Ian's smile inspire all of us in the coming months.

UPDATE The Hospice of Snohomish County is here.

Who Are Those Iraqis Prisoners Incarcerated In Abu Ghraib And How Did They Get There? 

We've become so used to the outrages of this administration that it's more difficult than it ought to be to grasp just how insane was the decision for an American occupation force to use the infamous Abu Ghraib prison for any purpose whatsoever. The prison should have been secured, its inmates screened to separate the political prisoners from the criminal ones, and the latter should have been transferred to some other facility, even if a makeshift one. Once emptied, the prison should have been turned over to some international human rights group to work hand and hand with Iraqis, like those who immediately started the organization, Occupationi Watch, to begin the work of forensic investigation, which means experts examining records and the space itself, to piece together the history of what had happened there during previous decades.

Instead, in the chaos of those first weeks of our occupation pretending not to be an occupation, all prisoners simply left, and the prison and its records were looted, and/or handed over to Mr. Chalabi.

So who is it, among Iraqis, who have ended up there? Young men? Rabble rousers? Jihadists? Not bloody likely.

Of course I don't know, for sure, and neither do you. Which is an outrage in and of itself. But from this story Riverbend told us back in March, we can get a disturbing clue as to how the Bush administration's impossibly contradictory twin goals of making Iraq a stable democracy and the front line of the war on terror were bound to lead to detention of far too many ordinary Iraqis who loathed Saddam and were glad to be rid of him. It was called "Tales From Abu Ghraib," and I referenced in a previous post. It has newly tragic relevance today.

On a visit with her mother to the home of a friend recovering from an operation, Riverbend meets "M"a young, frail woman of nineteen, who is embarrassed to explain that she has postponned her studies because she was recently detained by the Americans.

On a cold night in November, M., her mother, and four brothers had been sleeping when their door suddenly came crashing down during the early hours of the morning. The scene that followed was one of chaos and confusion… screaming, shouting, cursing, pushing and pulling followed. The family were all gathered into the living room and the four sons- one of them only 15- were dragged away with bags over their heads. The mother and daughter were questioned- who was the man in the picture hanging on the wall? He was M.'s father who had died 6 years ago of a stroke. You're lying, they were told- wasn't he a part of some secret underground resistance cell? M.'s mother was hysterical by then- he was her dead husband and why were they taking away her sons? What had they done? They were supporting the resistance, came the answer through the interpreter.

How were they supporting the resistance, their mother wanted to know? "You are contributing large sums of money to terrorists." The interpreter explained. The troops had received an anonymous tip that M.'s family were giving funds to support attacks on the troops.

It was useless trying to explain that the family didn't have any 'funds'- ever since two of her sons lost their jobs at a factory that had closed down after the war, the family had been living off of the little money they got from a 'kushuk' or little shop that sold cigarettes, biscuits and candy to people in the neighborhood. They barely made enough to cover the cost of food! Nothing mattered. The mother and daughter were also taken away, with bags over their heads.

Umm Hassen had been telling the story up until that moment, M. was only nodding her head in agreement and listening raptly, like it was someone else's story. She continued it from there… M. and her mother were taken to the airport for interrogation. M. remembers being in a room, with a bag over her head and bright lights above. She claimed she could see the shapes of figures through the little holes in the bag. She was made to sit on her knees, in the interrogation room while her mother was kicked and beaten to the ground.

M.'s hands trembled as she held the cup of tea Umm Hassen had given her. Her face was very pale as she said, "I heard my mother begging them to please let me go and not hurt me… she told them she'd do anything- say anything- if they just let me go." After a couple hours of general abuse, the mother and daughter were divided, each one thrown into a seperate room for questioning. M. was questioned about everything concerning their family life- who came to visit them, who they were related to and when and under what circumstances her father had died. Hours later, the mother and daughter were taken to the infamous Abu Ghraib prison- home to thousands of criminals and innocents alike.

In Abu Ghraib, they were seperated and M. suspected that her mother was taken to another prison outside of Baghdad. A couple of terrible months later- after witnessing several beatings and the rape of a male prisoner by one of the jailors- in mid-January, M. was suddenly set free and taken to her uncle's home where she found her youngest brother waiting for her. Her uncle, through some lawyers and contacts, had managed to extract M. and her 15-year-old brother from two different prisons. M. also learned that her mother was still in Abu Ghraib but they weren't sure about her three brothers.

M. and her uncle later learned that a certain neighbor had made the false accusation against her family. The neighbor's 20-year-old son was still bitter over a fight he had several years ago with one of M.'s brothers. All he had to do was contact a certain translator who worked for the troops and give M.'s address. It was that easy.

Abu Hassen was contacted by M. and her uncle because he was an old family friend and was willing to do the work free of charge. They have been trying to get her brothers and mother out ever since. I was enraged- why don't they contact the press? Why don't they contact the Red Cross?! What were they waiting for?! She shook her head sadly and said that they *had* contacted the Red Cross but they were just one case in thousands upon thousands- it would take forever to get to them. As for the press- was I crazy? How could she contact the press and risk the wrath of the American authorities while her mother and brothers were still imprisoned?! There were prisoners who had already gotten up to 15 years of prison for 'acting against the coallition'... she couldn't risk that. They would just have to be patient and do a lot of praying.

By the end of her tale, M. was crying silently and my mother and Umm Hassen were hastily wiping away tears. All I could do was repeat, "I'm so sorry... I'm really sorry..." and a lot of other useless words. She shook her head and waved away my words of sympathy, "It's ok- really- I'm one of the lucky ones... all they did was beat me."

You can find what Riverbend has to say about "those pictures" of what some of "us" we doing at AbuGhraib here.

There is so much rage and frustration. I know the dozens of emails I’m going to get claiming that this is an ‘isolated incident’ and that they are ‘ashamed of the people who did this’ but does it matter? What about those people in Abu Ghraib? What about their families and the lives that have been forever damaged by the experience in Abu Ghraib? I know the messages that I’m going to get- the ones that say, “But this happened under Saddam...” Like somehow, that makes what happens now OK... like whatever was suffered in the past should make any mass graves, detentions and torture only minor inconveniences now. I keep thinking of M. and how she was 'lucky' indeed. And you know what? You won't hear half of the atrocities and stories because Iraqis are proud, indignant people and sexual abuse is not a subject anyone is willing to come forward with. The atrocities in Abu Ghraib and other places will be hidden away and buried under all the other dirt the occupation brought with it...

Well, there goes one heart and mind.

It is so typical of this administration and its ideological supporters that winning hearts and minds in Iraq is conceived of as somehow separate from everything else we are doing in Iraq. As Patrick Cockburn notes here, Saddam should not have been a tough act to follow; against all odds, this Bush has managed to bungle what should have been the easiest part of the mission, earning a minimal amount of respect from ordinary Iraqis. Nor is it only "those photographs" that can be blamed. Their disclosure crystallized what Iraqi's have known for some time, and have been trying to tell us, by recounting to reporters incidents like this:

Watching the dancing, jeering crowd in Waziriya was Nada Abdullah Aboud, a middle-aged woman, dressed in black. She had a reason for hating Americans, though she claimed she did not do so. "I do feel sorry for the young soldiers, though they killed my son," she said quietly. "They came such a long distance to die here." It turned out that her son, Saad Mohammed, had been the translator for a senior Italian diplomat working for the ruling Coalition Provisional Authority. She said: "My son was driving with the Italian ambassador last September near Tikrit when an American soldier fired at the car and shot him through the heart."

Saad Mohammed was one of a large but unknown number of Iraqis shot down by US troops over the past year. There seems to have been no rational reason why he had been killed. But the high toll of Iraqi civilians shot down after ambushes or at checkpoints has given Iraqis the sense that, at bottom, American soldiers regard them as an inferior people whose lives are not worth very much.

Iraqis have large extended families. Every incident like this one reverberates within the family, from neighborhood to neighborhood, and even city to city.

Just take a look at this summary of previous stories about how ordinary Iraqis were experiencing our occupation that Occupation Watch has helpfully pulled together from its own files for us. It should have been impossible not to know why Iraqis saw us as conquerors.

One of the first of such reports was dated July, 2003, within only several months of the President's visual proclamation that our "Mission" had been "Accomplished. You can read it here.

To be fair, many similar incidents are described in numerous stories published in the mainstream press; my impression is that reporters on the ground in Iraq have done a fair to good job of keeping track of how America's mission in Iraq has been at war with itself; for me, the casual use of a word like "pacification" said it all. The mistakes of that first month of our occupation, allowing wide-spread looting across the country, allowing the structure of civil society to be dismantled, because according to the logic of the Bush administration's post-invasion policy it would be superimposing on the chaos a top-down imperial occupation a la MacArthur in post-war Japan, so why not allow it have proved to be not rectifiable

Since the President's landing on the top deck of that aircraft carrier, every succeeding day has produced yet more evidence of the folly of that policy, and not merely the the falsity of the message "mission accomplished" itself, but also the falsity of the mission itself, so why oh why have the pundit portion of the SCLM fallen down so miserably on the job, when all they would have had to do to understand any of this is to have read the actual reporting of their own colleagues.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Goodnight, moon 

And I didn't even get to the fact that the guy Bush rushed over to fix the Iraqi prison clusterfuck was—wait for it—the commandant of Gitmo. Words fail me.

Hey, the weather was nice this weekend, Philly's horse won, and maybe it really is true that Bush jumped the shark with that stupid "Mission Accomplished" stunt. It sure didn't play out for him too well, did it?

And thank God for Seymour Hersh. Say, I wonder why neither the New York Times nor the Washington Post got the story of murder (scroll down) at Abu Gharaib prison? Mortages and kids in private school?

Night all. Probably light blogging for me tomorrow. Deliverables.

P.S. Oh, and FTF. "Devout Christian" mercenary interrogators, too.

Iraqi prison torture: Seymour Hersh transcript. Failure systemic, included murder, and there's more to come 

Here. Here's most of it, highlighted Corrente-style:

Complete collapse of "few bad apples" theory: failure was systemic

The high command in Iraq knew as of late last summer there were problems there. There's been -- [Antonio Taguba]'s [, revealed by Hersh in the New Yorker] was the third investigation, and [Taguba's] only began after the photographs surfaced.

So, once those photographs got into play, I think the high command here in Iraq and also in Washington realized they had a problem that was out of control.


GENERAL RICHARD MYERS, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: There was no, no, no evidence of systematic abuse in the system at all. We've paid a lot of attention, of course, in Guantanamo, as well. We review all the interrogation methods. Torture is not one of the methods that we're allowed to use and that we use. I mean, it's just not permitted by international law, and we don't use it.

BLITZER: And I just want to point out, General Myers said he has not read that report yet, it hasn't reached up to him yet in the chain of command.

HERSH: I certainly believe him, which as far as I'm concerned, more evidence of the kind of systematic breakdown we're talking about.
But let me read you the kind of stuff he said that predated the photographing.

"Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoritic acid liquid on detainees, pouring cold water on naked detainees, beating detainees with broomhandle and a chair, threatening them with rape, sodomizing a detainee with chemical lights and perhaps a broomstick, sicking military dogs on detainees." I mean...

BLITZER: Very graphic, and it gets even worse because I read the excerpts that you included in your article.

But the bottom line, he says, General Myers, this was not -- there's no evidence of systematic abuse. This may have been a few soldiers simply going bad.

HERSH: Taguba says otherwise. He says this is across the board.
And what he says that's very important, is that these are jails, by the way, when we talk about prisoners, these are full of civilians. These are people picked up at random checkpoints and random going into houses. And even in the Taguba report, he mentions that upwards of 60 percent or more have nothing to do with anything.

So they're people just there. There's no processing. It's sort of a complete failure of anything the Geneva Convention calls for. And what can I tell you?

The fish rots from the head: Sanchez

BLITZER: Who was really in charge? Who's responsible here?

HERSH: Well, obviously, the highest command in Iraq.
Because, as of last summer, they knew there was a problem in the prison.

BLITZER: When you say highest command you mean General Abizaid, General Sanchez?

HERSH: General Sanchez, Ricardo Sanchez. I think he's -- that's where you have to immediately go. This is going to end up there.

BLITZER: But you don't have any evidence he specifically knew what was happening in Abu Ghraib, do you?

HERSH: What I do have evidence of is that there were three investigations, each by a major general of the Army, ordered beginning in the fall of -- last fall. Clearly somebody at a higher level understood there were generic problems.

The six fall guys didn't think it up: intelligence did. And there are more revelations to come

HERSH: [General Taguba said] he believes that the private contractors and the civilians, the CIA, paramilitary people, and the military drove the actions of that prison.

In other words, what we saw -- look, a bunch of kids from -- they're reservists from West Virginia, Virginia, rural kids -- the one thing you can do to an Arab man to shame him -- you know, we thrive on guilt in this society, but in that world, the Islamic world, it's shame -- have a naked Arab walking in front of men, walking in front of other men is shameful, having simulated homosexual sex acts is shameful. It's all done to break down somebody before interrogation.

Do you think those kids thought this up? It's inconceivable. The intelligence people had this done.

BLITZER: So, what you're suggesting is that the six soldiers who have now been indicted, if you will -- and they're facing potentially a court martial -- they were told to go ahead and humiliate these prisoners? And several of these soldiers were women, not just men.

HERSH: In one photograph, you see 18 other pairs of legs, just cropped off. There were a lot of other people involved, watching this and filming this. There were other cameras going. There were videotapes too.

And this -- I'm sure that, you know, in this generation these kids have CD-ROMs all over the place. We'll see more eventually.

I'm not only suggesting, I'm telling you as a fact that these kids -- I'm not excusing them, it was horrible what they did, and took photographs, and the leering and the thumbs-up stuff, but the idea did not come from them.

Blitzer keeps being a tiresome shill

BLITZER: Well, beyond the politics of this, but you're assuming that this is much more widespread than this one incident, and then that these pictures that we have -- we don't have pictures of other incidents. That's what you're...

HERSH: It's not just a question of what I'm assuming. General Taguba says it's systematic, it's out of control, it's a problem, we've got to deal with it. This is what the report says. It's a devastating report, and I just hope they make it public.

Was the torture "useful"? Of course not. It never is

BLITZER: Was it useful, though, this kind of -- if there was torture or abuse, these atrocities, did it get information vital to the overall military objective in Iraq, based on what you found out?

HERSH: Nobody said that, and of course I assume you will hear that. But let me tell you, I talked to some people. I've been around this business in the criminal investigations, My Lai and all that, for years. I talked to some senior people, one guy who spent 36 years as an Army investigator, and he said, what happens when you coerce -- it's against the law, the Geneva Convention, to coerce information -- what happens is, people tell you what they think you want to hear.

So you've got a bunch of people, you don't know whether they know the insurgency or know al Qaeda, but they give you names, their brothers-in-laws, their neighbors. You then send out your people to arrest those people, bring them in, more people that may have nothing to do with anything. You break them down, then -- whatever means, interrogate them and get more names. It's a never-ending circle that's useless.

I would guess that the amount of information we have was minimal, out of this group, because they were largely people, as I say, picked up at random.

A case of murder

BLITZER: As far as you know, no one was killed at Abu Ghraib, is that what you're saying?

HERSH: No, that's not true. There were people killed, yes, but not by the soldiers, not by the reservists. There were people killed -- I can tell you specifically about one case. One of the horrible photos is a man packed in ice. You want to hear it? I'll tell it to you.

They killed him -- either civilians, the private guards, or the CIA or the military killed him during an interrogation. They were worried about it. They packed him in ice. They killed him in evening. They packed him in ice for 24 hours, put him in a body bag, and eventually at a certain time -- don't forget, now, the prison has a lot of other Army units about it, and they didn't want to be seen with a dead body.

So they packed him in ice until it was the appropriate time. They put him on a trolley, like a hospital gurney, and they put a fake IV into him, and they walked out as if he was getting an IV. Walked him out, got him in an ambulance, drove him off, dumped the body somewhere.

That literally happened. That's one of the things I know about I haven't written about, but I'm telling you, that's where you're at. There was bloodshed on the other side of the...

BLITZER: We heard from Dan Senor earlier in this program, suggesting he said he didn't know of anyone who died at Abu Ghraib prison.

HERSH: I have some photographs I'll be glad to share with him anytime he wants to know.

And as they used to say on Johnny Carson, "More to come."

NOTE More on the story: "Resourceful networking" by mercenaries threatens the lives ot the troops , Blogosphere coup! Billmon reveals diary of mercenary torturer at Abu Gharaib prison, The perfect shitstorm, and I don't know whether to puke or go blind..

Iraqi prison torture: "Resourceful networking" by mercenaries threatens the lives ot the troops 

As the blogosphere knows, the essential Billmon has published the online diary of a mercenary interrogator, one Joe Ryan, cached here (Hmmm.... Wonder for how long?)

Leaving out the golf, here's one vignette from a typical day in the life of a mercenary:

Today we had to make a run to BIAP/Camp Victory. Since we have gotten in good with the LRS guys, they loaned us an up-armored Hummer to make the run. The Marines who serve and the convoy escorts/big guns, were teasing us because Scott and I have been very resourceful in our networking and are better armed than the average traveling vehicle. The trip down and back was thankfully uneventful.

Thing is, that "LRS guys" seem to be military vehicle maintainers. So these are military HumVees, and, as we know, there aren't enough of those to go around. In fact, twenty percent of US combat deaths are due to lack of armored vehicles.

So, in Iraq today, armored HumVees are a zero sum game. If the mercenaries get one, soldiers don't. I wonder if any of the troops, who weren't so "resourceful in their networking" as Scott and Joe, got killed in an unarmored vehicle so Scott and Joe could have their "uneventful" trip?

If you had a son or daughter or husband or wife serving in the military, how would you feel about Scott and Joe?

NOTE Readers, I hope I've gotten the "LRS" acronym right. The diary doesn't expand the acronym. Reading it top to bottom, it still looks like the HumVee is a military vehicle. And even if it isn't, it should be. Who comes first? The troops or the mercenaries?

UPDATE The essential Billmon also has the interesting speculation that Israeli intelligence is deeply involved in what is starting to look like dirty war in Iraq (citing Hersh, the LA Times, Time, and the Guardian). Now that is a PR catastrophe in the making, eh?

Iraqi prisoner torture: Blogosphere coup! Billmon reveals diary of mercenary torturer at Abu Gharaib prison 

Thanks to an alert reader and the Blessed Cache of Google, here. Turns out a winger radio personality was also a military interrogator at Abu Gharaib. And guess what: He kept a diary and posted it on the Internet!

The diary is a fascinating read - not least because it documents the fact that as of last Sunday, one of the private contractors identified in the Army's own internal investigation of the torture scandal was still at Abu Ghraib, and may still have been supervising or conducting interrogations.

The contactor's name is Steven Stephanowicz, and he works for CACI International - one of two firms that have been publically linked to the abuses in Abu Ghraib's high-security cell block.

As we've been saying: The real story is not the privates, sergeants, and specialists now taking the fall, but the mercenaries—the civilian contractors in the extra-Constitutional chain of command to CPA/RNC ....

It's also weird they'd post this stuff. Most wingers aren't that stupid. I guess it's that sense of impunity....

Joseph Wilson transcript 

Here. Disgusting stuff about WhiteWash House operations. But the saddest paragraph of all, I think, is this:

[WILSON] I think you can understand after you interviewed Mr. Woodward last week that when 75 people speak to Mr. Woodward with the authorization of the president and only two of them want to be identified, you can imagine that those who have other information but are fearful of what the White House might do, they also do not want to be identified. And I say that because, of course, I mention in the book that there are also reports from journalists back to me that they're fearful of writing these stories. One journalist said because he was afraid he would end up in Guantanamo, which is basically I think a metaphor for their being cut off. Another one said that, of course, they had two children in private schools and a mortgage. Now, I've since heard from other journalists that even the most mildly critical articles about this administration yield top-level phone calls back to their editors including phone calls from Mr. Libby himself to their editors.

This can, I think, explain if not excuse the sheep-like behavior of the SCLM. I wonder what values the children are growing up with, in their private schools, but that's between them and their parents.

It's also fascinating to watch the exercise of raw power—"children in private schools and a mortgage." On the mortgage, Allen "Bubbles" Greenspan has them by the short and curlies. And it's too bad the Republicans have spent a generation trying to destroy the public schools in favor of vouchers and ideological nostrums. Interesting connection—if our public schools were more functional, we would might have a freer press. Only connect...

Paul Rieckhoff's address 

Here (on FOX, unbelievably).

Read the whole thing. What he said.

Iraqi prisoner torture: The perfect shitstorm 

It gets worse.

Add murder to the list
It looks like we can add murder to the list of crimes committed by demoralized US troops, and mercenaries, in Abu Gharaib prison, near Fallujah. The list, already long, includes beating, sexual assault, sodomy, and rape. From the Pulitzer-heavy LA Times:

At least one Iraqi prisoner died after interrogation, some were threatened with attack dogs and others were kept naked in tiny cells without running water or ventilation, according to an account written by a military police sergeant who is one of six U.S. soldiers charged in a growing scandal over prisoner abuse in Iraq.

Relatives of [Staff Sgt. Ivan "Chip"] Frederick, who faces court-martial in connection with the alleged sexual and physical degradation of prisoners in Iraq, gave The Times a copy of the account that they said was handwritten by Frederick shortly after his arrest in January.

[Bill Lawson, Fredericks uncle] said that Frederick had served for 20 years in the National Guard and had worked for six years as a correctional officer before going to Iraq, once receiving a commendation for preventing a prisoner from committing suicide.
(via LA Times)

It's interesting that Abu Gharaib prison, where the torture was photographed, is near Fallujah. Perhaps blowback from torture might explain some ot the difficulties we've been having "pacifying" the city?

"Bad apples" story starts to collapse as role of mercenaries begins to emerge
The "few bad applies" story is starting to fall apart, as we knew it would (see "I don't know whether to puke or go blind", below). The torturers weren't doing it for fun, although clearly some enjoyed their work (pictures). No, they were encouraged by others who were, well, above their pay grade:

Frederick, 37, wrote that U.S. intelligence officers and civilian contractors who were conducting interrogations urged military police at the Abu Ghraib prison west of Baghdad to take steps to make prisoners more responsive to questioning.

Here are the ranks of the military personnel being courtmartialed: Private, Specialist, Sergeant. What does that tell you? At this point, we don't really know how far up the chain of command the rot goes. However, when you hear a military person, or Bush, talk about the investigation, realize that only torture within the Constitutional chain of command is being investigated. (The next fall guy is an Army Reserves general, but she doesn't like being set up.)

Crucially, the extra-Constitutional chain of command—the one that runs from the mercenaries, to the RNC/CPA, to .... is not being investigated at all. But guess what? The mercenaries were giving the orders!

"Nobody in the chain of command told him what to do or how to do it," said Lawson, an Air Force retiree. "He was just instructed to go down there and do what the civilian contractors told him to do."

No training, understaffing in the overcrowded prison
Of course, since the Iraqis would be throwing roses, there was no need to plan for prisons.

Another soldier in the unit — who is not among those accused — also said there had been a lack of training. He said Iraqi insurgents frequently fired at the prison, which is near the tense city of [Fallujah]. Prisoners were constantly attempting to escape. The prison was dangerously overcrowded.

"There were no [standard operating procedures] at the prison and no training," said the soldier, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "The conditions were very bad, and we were grossly undermanned."

The perfect shitstorm
Obviously, having photographs of US personnel torturing Iraqi prisoners is a strategic disaster for the United States. As we surmised (back) Republican loyalist Margaret Tutwiler did indeed resign because the pictures had made her job, public diplomacy to the Arab world, mission impossible.

And the whole fiasco should be laid squarely on Bush's desk because three of his policies came together to create the disaster.

1. Why no planning for prisons? Because Bush bought into neo-con ideology that invading Iraq would be a cakewalk, and decided to rubbish the State Department's long term plans for occupation. People who disagreed (Powell) were, naturally, ignored or forced out.

2. Why was prison staffing too low? Because Bush bought into Rummy's technocratic approach to the war. Iraq would serve as a proof of concept for the "revolution in military affairs," where high-tech weaponry and airpower would substitute for boots on the ground. People who disagreed (Shinseki) were, naturally, ignored or forced out.

3. Why are mercenaries giving US troops orders? Because that's how Bush wants proconsul Bremer at the CPA/RNC to run the war. Ideologically, it fits in perfectly with the administration's push to privatize everything. Pragmatically, mercenaries are outside the Constitutional chain of command, so Bush can do whatever he wants without explaining anything, turning Iraq into a mega-Gitmo. Politically, mercenaries are large contributors to the Republican party.

So three policies vigorously pursued by Bush—no post-war planning, low troop strength, and using mercenaries wherever possible—combined to create the perfect shitstorm at Abu Gharaib. Who will hold him accountable?

NOTE The LA Times story—too bad the Pulitzer-light World's Greatest Newspaper (not!), is working the Inside the Beltway angle instead of, you know, COVERING THE STORY—also supplies a possible reason for the photographs.

The understaffed, untrained, and endangered US troops guarding the prison were put in a truly impossible situation. People who have been tortured stay tortured. And the Iraqis had been tortured under Saddam. So how on earth were the prisoners to be interrogated? Frederick and the rest—isolated, under fire, and under pressure from civilians outside the chain of command—seem to have settled on the photos as the most humane option: torture a few, photograph them, and show the photos to other prisoners, instead of torturing them, too. Who knows? What I am sure of is that Fredericks and the other troops should never have been put in such a position. War is hell, but can be made more or less hellish. The perfect shitstorm created by Bush, Rummy, and the neocons seems to have made hell more hellish. POTL will do that.

NOTE See earlier. "I don't know whether to puke or go blind", as well.

UPDATE Excellent material from the essential Juan Cole at TomDispatch.

Iraq occupation: "Remember Fallujah" 

An editorial in Israel's newspaper of record, which got big play in the Arab world but not (I wonder why?) here:

During the first two weeks of this month, the American army committed war crimes in Falluja on a scale unprecedented for this war. According to the relatively few media reports of what took place there, some 600 Iraqis were killed during these two weeks, among them some 450 elderly people, women and children.
The sight of decapitated children, the rows of dead women and the shocking pictures of the soccer stadium that was turned into a temporary grave for hundreds of the slain - all were broadcast to the world only by the Al Jazeera network. During the operation in Falluja, according to the organization Doctors Without Borders, U.S. Marines even occupied the hospitals and prevented hundreds of the wounded from receiving medical treatment. Snipers fired from the rooftops at anyone who tried to approach.

This was a retaliatory operation, carried out by the Marines, accompanied by F-16 fighter planes and assault helicopters, under the code name "Vigilant Resolve." It was revenge for the killing of four American security guards on March 31.

Is the occupation of Iraq hindering terrorism, or inflaming it? Will the number of dead soldiers - in contrast to the number of Iraqi victims - prompt a reassessment? It is clear that the American war crimes will not reach the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Today, America sets the world's moral standards. It alone decides who will be judged, who is a terrorist, what is legitimate resistance to occupation, who is a religious fanatic, and who is a legitimate target for assassination. That is how four Iraqi children, who laughed at the sight of a dead American soldier, merited being killed on the spot.
(via Haaretz)

Wrong war, wrong place, wrong time, wrong strategy, wrong tactics. It's demoralizing the army. If AQ pulls a pre-election surprise, that's the opportunity cost of this adventure.

I just hope Bush hasn't pulled us all over the edge with him. It may be that a victory by Kerry in November will give the world confidence we've cut the cord on his crusade. If it doesn't, even if Kerry wins, we're going to be living in Bush's world for a long time to come.

Readers: Who has a way to get us out without making a bad situation even worse?

"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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