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Consider:

"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"







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Friday, 18 June 2004

Topic: Couldn't be so...

Sunny optimism or early onset Alzheimer's - We report and you decide...

The big story of the week turns out to be more of the same.

Panel Finds No Qaeda-Iraq Tie; Describes a Wider Plot for 9/11
Philip Shenon and Christopher Marquis, The New York Times

WASHINGTON, June 16 - The staff of the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks sharply contradicted one of President Bush's central justifications for the Iraq war, reporting on Wednesday that there did not appear to have been a "collaborative relationship" between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. ...

So?

The president says there is a link, sort of, really. The vice president says there is, and attacks the Times as irresponsible. The Times editorializes that Bush and Cheney should apologize. Bush and Cheney say the Times should apologize.

To be clear, the commission's report does not, really, have anything to do with whether or not we should have gone to war in Iraq. That wasn't what they were up to. And is there a contradiction? It is not true that these findings really do contradict what Bush and Cheney said, literally, about Al Qaeda and Iraq. And Bush is carefully saying that he does NOT dispute the findings of the commission.

The problem is with what is said literally, and what is implied.

On his Thursday broadcast Jon Stewart on his satiric "newscast" The Daily Show did run the clip of Bush saying, "You can't distinguish between Iraq and Al Qaeda when you're talking about the War on Terror." And Stewart made great fun of that.

But Bush was speaking of the big picture, the moral "good and evil" overview, not the details. The idea is Saddam Hussein did not, of course, have anything to do with the four hijacked airplanes and that whole really bad day almost three years ago. But he was still bad. He was, sort of, one of THEM. Sort of. "We never said that Saddam specifically...."

You get the idea.

You might glance at this comment -
Live by Syntax, Die by Syntax.

I wish there were a pithy, catchy way to say it, because it's important: George W. Bush and his administration used certain rhetorical and syntactical techniques to convince Americans that a war against Saddam was connected to 9-11, and they do not have the right to complain now when those same techniques imply that they are lying, manipulative bastards.

... The folks in this administration were careful in the way they constructed their talking points prior to the war. I've always thought that each mention of Iraq in relation to the WoT was vetted in anticipation of a situation like this week's.

... The evidence of their intent is in the result of their efforts: a majority of Americans have believed that Saddam had something to do with 9-11.

Well, not only did he not have anything to do with 9-11, he really had very little to do with Al Qaeda beyond a meeting here, or an overture there. But now, suddenly, Bushco wants to go back and parse their sentences and say, "see? see? We didn't really say that."

Well, shut up. You made the rules, and if you're getting your asses kicked now, it's your own damn fault.
Well, the situation is a little awkward. Perhaps we should have listened more carefully.

There were connections, a few meetings and such, and Iraq never really did anything for Al Qaeda in the end, but, but, they MIGHT have.

Matthew Yglesias offers some thoughts, and an interesting theory to the mix:
On the one hand, the administration, in the past, suggested that Iraq was behind 9-11. Currently, they aren't doing that, but they are "overstat[ing]" the extent of Saddam/Qaeda links and keeping stories alive "long after others in the government thought [them] discredited." The result of all this is "to keep alive in the minds of many Americans a link between Iraq and the attacks" which... was put there by the administration in the first place.

The administration, in other words, is trying to mislead people into ignoring the difference between being responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans and not being responsible for those deaths. The administration's accusers, by contrast, are trying to mislead people into ignoring the distinction between misleading the public about this (after lying to them), and lying to the public. On what planet is the latter "almost" as irresponsible as the former? One is a question of life and death -- war and peace -- and the other is semantic hair-splitting.
Oh man, that just makes my head hurt.

And Yglesias knows he's being unclear - and links to David Adesnik saying something much simpler:
David Adesnik remarks that my throry that the administration's weirdly nonsensical discourse on the Iraq/Qaeda connection is designed to mislead people while protecting them from elite media criticism that it has not, in fact, protected them from such criticism. Rather, his "best guess is that Bush himself (along with Cheney) is deeply in denial. It's the same phenomenon we saw with Reagan. When you believe in something with all your heart and then stake your reputation on it, letting go is the hardest thing to do."
Yep, that's right.

And if Bush wants to be associated with the dead Reagan, he should remind people he's as good at denying reality as the Gipper ever was. Folks find that comforting. You stay the course, in spite of everything. Sunny optimism or early onset Alzheimer's. Whatever.

It was Ronald Reagan who famously said, "Facts are stupid things." He said that in 1988, and probably was confusing it with - "Facts are stubborn things." But who needs details? You get the gereral idea. Sort of.

So, it comes down to who are you going to trust? As the old Groucho Marx line goes, "Who are you going to trust - me or your own eyes?"

Posted by Alan at 12:12 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
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Topic: Dissent

When Good Conservatives Get Grumpy

Well, Andrew Sullivan has tried to be a good conservative - but part of his current grumpiness perhaps can be attributed to the fact, luckily, of his being born in "Margaret Thatcher Land" (the theme park some know as the UK), but then being openly gay, and then living in Provincetown - and then driving a bicycle not a car. With the current Republican, conservative, evangelical "moral clarity" Christian ruling majority in our country he only gets one point in all that.

At least he could support Bush on the war, even if Bush's support for the Federal Marriage Amendment to the constitution sticks in his craw. That might help atone for his sins.

But no.

Sullivan has been reading Paul Berman's book, Terror and Liberalism (foolish fellow) and says this about the war:
I tried for a long time to overlook the obvious failures, mistakes, stupidities and rigidities which have characterized the mission. But in the end, it became impossible. Abu Ghraib - in its cruelty and incompetence - was devastating. And the news since has convinced me that this was not a one-off exception to the rule, but the result of policy-making at the top that deliberately blurred the lines between tough interrogation and abuse and torture. No, Rumsfeld didn't sign off explicitly on those abuses (apart from hooding and the menacing use of dogs). But he did sign off on hiding some prisoners from the Red Cross for reasons that are still unclear. I refuse to believe that in fighting demons, you have to become one.
His Republican friends, who barely tolerated him before, given his "life-style choices," will not take kindly being called demons. They, are, as they see it, strong-willed, unflinching Christian patriots.

Then Sullivan links to Paul Berman saying this regarding the war, over at The New Republic:
We could have applied the lessons of Kosovo, which would have meant dispatching a suitable number of soldiers. We could have protected the government buildings and the National Museum, and we could have co-opted Saddam's army--further lessons from Kosovo. We could have believed Saddam when he threatened to wage a guerrilla war in Baghdad. We could have prepared in advance to broadcast TV shows that Iraqis wanted to watch. We could have observed the Geneva Conventions. (What humiliation in having to write such a sentence!) We could have--but I will stop, in order to ask: What if, in mulling these thoughts, you find that angry emotions toward George W. Bush are seeping upward from your own patriotic gut? Here is the challenge: to rage at Saddam and other enemies, and, at the same time, to rage in a somewhat different register at Bush, and to keep those two responses in proper proportion to one another. That can be a difficult thing to do, requiring emotional balance, maturity, and analytic clarity--a huge effort.
Cognitive Dissonance, anyone?

Here's how Sullivan handles that:
It must be possible to believe in this war but to be dismayed by the conduct of it. I still cannot believe that the U.S. now has a reputation for "disappearing" enemy combatants, for seeing inmates battered to death by flashlights in dark cells, for using "water-boarding" to coerce confessions, and any number of things that we do not know, and if the administration has its way, will never know. I cannot believe that the Justice Department prepared a memo in order to justify the use of any number of inhumane methods in contravention of U.S. law - and then denies any malfeasance at all. This isn't the administration I once trusted and it isn't the America I love.
Well, Andrew, it is the America you got. You did want George Bush to be president, and you liked the team he gathered around him. You did. Remember?

Deal with it.

I found a cute comment over at Sisyphus Shrugged - but you have to remember the reason Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains) in "Casablanca" shuts down Rick's American Caf? after everyone sings a rousing version of the Marseillaise, led by Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) -
Once again, the Claude Rains Gambling Awareness Award goes to Andrew Sullivan, who is shocked to discover that sometimes the constituency for war, self-aggrandizement, unthinking jingoism and faith-based social engineering are not very nice people

On the specific case of the prisoner who was hidden from the Red Cross [Sullivan says]: Here's a military desperately trying to get information on the insurgency; they go to extraordinary lengths to sequester a key informant; they do something that is "deceptive, contrary to Army doctrine, and in violation of international law," according to the Taguba report; both Tenet and Rumsfeld sign off on this shady business; and then ... nothing! It boggles the mind. Here we have two features of the Iraq occupation that we have slowly come to see close-up: the violation of settled military ethics and international law, authorized by the highest authorities, and complete incompetence. At least that's the only rational explanation I can find for this story as it currently reads. Does Rumsfeld have a better explanation?

Because they figured they were going to get away with it, you inutterable jackass.

... For all you do, Andrew Sullivan, this Claude's for you.
This must be the week to pick on troubled conservatives.

Posted by Alan at 11:13 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
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Thursday, 17 June 2004

Topic: For policy wonks...

The Return of Holmes

These days one finds comments like this: "... a vote for Bush is to validate his failed policies and convince the rest of the world that we truly are nation of dangerous fools. This will not increase our safety, I'm afraid. In fact, nothing could help the terrorists more than to put this rogue administration back in office."

Yeah, yeah. Heard it before. Surely there is more to say than this.

Careful readers of Just Above Sunset - if there actually are any of those - have noticed references to one Stephen Holmes. You see, small and smug Denison University, smack in the middle of Ohio, produced more than one considerable person - more than Michael Eisner, Richard Lugar and Hal Holbrook. It gave us Stephen Holmes too. He was one of a group of us that hung out together at Denison in the late sixties. Holmes was one of this crowd, the "Pit Crew" - a group that gathered daily in the basement coffee shop of Slater Hall - and bitched about the world and laughed a lot. I guess we were the token sixties counter-culture folks in sea of frat boys and future Stepford wives.

And Holmes was the one who actually became a big-time intellectual, after all. Holmes is now research director and professor at the Center for Law and Security at New York University School of Law. I guess the rest of us turned out to be poseurs, or had other things to do.

The very first issue of Just Above Sunset (Volume 1 Number 1) covered Holmes' incisive review (his penetrating disassembly, actually) of Robert Kagan's Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order (Knopf, 112 pages, $18.00). See 26 May 2003 Reviews for that. In late July of 2003 Just Above Sunset covered his comments on why it was (is?) going to be so hard to defeat George Bush in this next election, as the liberals are all so morally confused about everything. See Can anyone challenge Bush in the next election? for that.

And now Holmes is all over the place again. He has a new item in SALON.COM that's all the rage. In it, among other things, Holmes dissects Machiavelli wonderfully.

The main issue addressed, however, is why everyone hates us when we only want eveyone to fear us, and they're not even fearing us any longer.

I was led to Holmes this time by a pointer at Hullabaloo - Angst and Anti-Americanism -
Even if you have to sit through ad, I urge you to read this fascinating article in Salon called "America's blankness," which was originally a prepared speech by professor Stephen Holmes.

He explores the roots and reasons for the growth in anti-Americanism and asks if it matters. (It does.) He examines how it happened and what actions the US took that precipitated this surge of ill feeling toward us. And he suggests various ways in which we might turn some of this around in a new administration.

The way he sees it, the Europeans are freaked out by Bush, but will put it behind them if we kick him out and behave in a more civilized fashion. If Kerry wins, Holmes suggests that he may robustly renew the Atlantic alliance on the basis of the shared threats faced by both Americans and Europeans: nuclear proliferation and terrorist attacks on major cities. After Madrid, we should be able to enlist the Europeans, whose security agencies have much more experience with infiltration and intelligence gathering of terrorists than we do. It would be very helpful if we could all sincerely work together on this. It's a terrible failure of foreign policy and national security that Bush has poisoned this necessary relationship.

Anti-Americanism in the mid-east, on the other hand, has morphed into hatred. And the probable consequences of that are even worse than I thought. The most obvious result is that we are creating terrorists in exponentially greater numbers than we are killing them. That is not a winning strategy.

But, we have also succeeded in doing the precise opposite of what we intended with Bush's long term democratization strategy by strengthening autocratic regimes as they borrow our rhetoric on the WOT and crack down on their own people. The region is becoming less democratic rather than more and even those that are democratic hate our guts too. This Iraq project is a huge failure on all levels. Holmes's scenario of what is likely to happen in Iraq is both depressing and scary. It was a mistake from the beginning, but the cock-up of the occupation and the lack of planning is simply unforgivable.
Now there's a recommendation.

You'll find the Holmes article here:

America's blankness
A professor explains why so many people around the world hate us and what a post-Bush foreign policy might look like.
Editor's note: This article is adapted from a speech given in Tysons Corner, Va., on May 27 to several hundred U.S. intelligence analysts from various agencies at their request.
Stephen Holmes, June 17, 2004

So what does he say?

Purpose:
Anti-Americanism has a long and complex history. But most observers agree that the Bush administration's bellicose and unilateralist foreign policy has greatly enflamed smoldering animosities and even managed to turn the United States into a universal hate object.

My aim here is to think coolly about this development, and to ask, above all, if it matters. I want to examine, in particular, what growing hostility to the U.S. will mean for democracy promotion in the Middle East, an important plank, until recently, of Bush's foreign policy, and one that resonates strongly with a tradition of U.S. messianism abroad.
Fair enough.

He spends some time saying anti-Americanism will NOT necessarily affect our national interests - only if it "galvanizes individuals and groups with the capacity to harm us, either positively, by inflicting grave injuries, or negatively, by withholding the cooperation on which we depend to solve our most urgent problems."

Well, sure. But we're there. And this "withholding the cooperation on which we depend" bothers him, this negligence, as he calls it. Other nations just shrug and let us blither along, bumbling and doing real damage, but not enough damage to hurt their national interests.

Holmes also goes into how this negligence is not just the product of choosing this war now and then doing it so very badly. Holmes cites "the many petty humiliations associated with our newly tightened and irrationally vexing visa regime" and much else. Yep, we have been a tad high-handed. We just don't much like treaties and the concept of cooperation, do we?

But the problem is, mainly, after all, the war. And the final thing that blew everything apart was those pictures from the Abu Ghraib prison. Folks may like American in general, but those pictures tore it -
... What we face here is not merely skepticism but also burning rage, a passionate antipathy that, although far from uniform, does seem ubiquitous. Even now, however, America's critics continue to distinguish between the U.S. administration, which they fear and despise, and the American people, with whom they feel sympathy.

But the pictures from Abu Ghraib prison may have finally changed that. If the American electorate, knowing what it knows and, above all, having seen what it has seen, proceeds to reelect George W. Bush in November, the moderating distinction between the American administration and the American people will be eroded or perhaps erased -- with what violent consequences no one can predict.
Yes. Now that Steve says that, it seems obvious.

So what do we do?

We turn to Machiavelli. Of course. How obvious!
... I want to pause briefly to say a word about a famous phrase of Machiavelli's, frequently cited by neoconservatives in the run-up to the Iraq war, that "it is better to be feared than loved." This quotation is interesting mostly for what it omits. For Machiavelli quickly went on to add: "It is worst of all to be hated." People who fear us, for the most part, will dare not harm us. But fear, according to Machiavelli, works too slowly on the human spirit to obstruct the effects of the searing hatred that drives men immediately and impulsively to furious action. The administration is wrong, therefore, to believe that it can easily scare people into abandoning their plots to injure Americans. U.S. shows of force invariably provoke rage; and this rage, in turn, often overrides the trepidation that our military superiority instills.

Machiavelli might well have added that "worst of all is to be hated without being feared" -- the unenviable position into which the U.S. has recklessly cast itself, with what consequences, I believe, no one can tell. Reduced fear of the U.S., in fact, may be one of the most paradoxical outcomes of the war in Iraq. By exposing, in such an eye-catching fashion, the limits of U.S. military power, the administration has unintentionally reduced anxiety in Syria and Iran. What countries will now fear an American invasion? Who will henceforth believe our bluffs?
It seems the Mayberry Machiavellians weren't Machiavellian enough. They should have read their Machiavelli more carefully.

And the consequences of this are bad? Yep.
In Europe, needless to say, America's military adventurism will not discredit the idea of democracy itself, though it has already damaged the reputation of America's democratic institutions, especially our system of checks and balances. The institutions designed to facilitate political self-correction seem to have completely broken down. This includes, first of all, our ordinary constitutional procedures for legislative and judicial oversight of executive action. But it also includes the poor performance of the celebrated American media. Even the New York Times has now confessed to having uncritically passed on disinformation provided by Iraqi exiles with strong reasons for exaggerating the real threat.

Those worried by the unraveling of the Atlantic alliance have been especially shocked by the clashing coverage of the Iraq war in the U.S. and European media. American and European television viewers have seen two different wars, making rational transatlantic discussion of the subject almost impossible. Unlike Americans, moreover, Europeans are acutely aware of the discrepancy in news coverage. They attribute it to what they see as America's post-9/11 autism, a screening out of information that clashes with a set of fixed ideas.
Did he say autism there. Yeah. And that's a good one-word explanation of the behavior of the American press.

Holmes contends, that given the 9/11 attacks, Americans really should have learned the importance, for our own security, of accurate, deep and up-to-date knowledge of political instability around the world. But we didn't like to hear that. He points out that political violence, in any possible country, is never farther than a plane ride away from any of our urban centers. Yep. What bothers Holmes is this:
... instead of creating a national appetite for knowledge about the world, 9/11 had the opposite effect. It seems to have traumatized Americans, making them even less interested than before in non-American goings-on and points of view. Our capacity to see ourselves through the eyes of others was never great. But after 9/11, Americans seem to have withdrawn even further into themselves.
But we're told all we need to know about these bad guys is that the hate us. It's quite simple. This is what Bush and his supporters call moral clarity.

Is that so bad?

Well it is a strange distortion of language.
One symptom of America's growing disconnect from the world, and especially from its former Cold War allies, is the administration's reliance on language that is unintelligible to Europeans. An example is the claim, often advanced by President Bush, that we are currently engaged in a world war between "democracy and terrorism." This is a confusing way to speak because the same terrorist network that attacked the U.S. has also attacked Saudi Arabia, a tribal monarchy that bears no resemblance to a democracy.

But the unintelligibility of Bush's formulation runs much deeper. Roughly speaking, "democracy" is a system that allows those who are directly affected by decisions to exert some influence on the decision makers, ideally by periodically reelecting them or ousting them from office. This simple definition makes clear why Europeans and others greet Bush's endless claims to be "spreading democracy" with such disbelief. Throughout the world, people who were never consulted, even casually, are profoundly affected every day by decisions made in Washington. America's blankness about the downstream effects on other countries of its actions is without question one of the principal sources of anti-Americanism in Europe and elsewhere.
Now THAT is cool. When we say democracy this democracy things can be something we shove down your throats whether you agree to it or not. And in the name of democracy we support and defend the Saudi tribal monarchy. No wonder folks find us a bit confusing, and some of them get a little angry. They have no idea what we're talking about.

I wonder if we understand what democracy is? How do I mean we? That's "we" insofar as the Bush administration is America, both de jure and de facto.

But wait! There's more!
Arguably, terrorism itself is, in part, a sick, perverted and distorted echo of the desire of powerless groups to get the attention of the sole remaining superpower. That is yet another reason why Bush's stylized "war between democracy and terrorism" seems so misleading to most non-Americans. Bush likes the democracy vs. terrorism contrast, of course, because it brings "moral clarity," that is to say, it paints one side as purely good and the other side as purely evil. The rest of the world cannot decide if this way of speaking is crude propaganda or crude propaganda mixed with self-delusion.
Looking at it dispassionately? It's one hundred percent self-delusion.

The Europeans just hope it will go away when Bush is voted out in November. And that may be a different kind of self-delusion from the other side, perhaps.

After many paragraphs on that - the Europeans and their view of Kerry - Holmes, saying things will get better one way or the other, turns to the real problem:
Anti-Americanism in the Middle East, of course, goes deeper and is less likely to die down than anti-Americanism in Europe. The minority of Arabs and Muslims who implacably loathe the U.S. is growing more influential by the day. Those who have traditionally felt friendly or neutral to the U.S. are siding more and more against us. Their hostility, moreover, is becoming less a matter of policy and more a matter of identity. Increasingly, it is impossible to make any claim to an Arab consciousness without railing against the U.S. This is a very dangerous development, since it means that anti-American attitudes are putting more Middle Easterners beyond the reach of diplomacy. Unknown numbers of young men, in particular, are becoming irreconcilable even by dramatic reversals of policy.

It is a mistake to belittle such fury by reciting the tag line, "Yankee go home and take me with you," a reflection of the ambiguity of Middle Eastern attitudes toward the U.S. Economic opportunity will always draw people away from their homes, but it will not necessarily render harmless the seething political anger of their children. ...
And that's a bad as it gets.

And we'll make it worse by doing the following:
First, in the wake of the Iraq debacle, Washington is likely to succumb, at least temporarily, to democracy-promotion fatigue. The sting of failure will presumably dampen for a time serious interest in supporting democratic reforms in the region. Grandiose talk will continue, of course. But less money will be spent, and less experienced personnel will be assigned to a project that now appears much less realistic than before.

Second, America's aggressive counterterrorism efforts have already interfered significantly with its attempts at democracy promotion. To battle terrorism, the U.S. has been lending support to the secretive and coercive apparatuses of states that are, at best, incompletely democratic. This trend will continue and, under these conditions, democratization efforts will no doubt be funded quite feebly and will be cosmetic at best.

Third, it seems to be dawning on the administration that democratization elsewhere in the world might not have the same happily pro-American consequences as democratization had in Eastern Europe. Polish democracy is pro-American because the majority of Poles have strong historical reasons for identifying with America. The same cannot be said for a majority of Iraqis. As a result, Iraqi democracy, even if we had been able to create it, probably would have been virulently anti-American and most certainly anti-Israeli.
I wish Holmes were wrong here.

He isn't.

Here is the best we can hope for -
... With extraordinary luck, Iraq could become, in a few years, something like Bosnia without the high representative of the European Union. It would have a weak central government because, given the fragmentation of the society, no all-Iraqi government can be simultaneously representative and coherent. Periodic elections would serve only to reinforce the independence of the Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite regions, and the government would constantly be in delicate negotiations with local and tribal leaders. Such a pseudo-state would be considered successful if it could protect its cabinet members from assassination, if most foreign fighters were evicted (breaking the lethal marriage of convenience between transnational terrorists and nationalist insurgents) and if neighboring powers were not driven to dispatch military forces into the country. But it would be at best a corrupt, criminalized and disorganized polity, festering, unsafe and characterized by violent weakness.
And that's what victory is Iraq looks like - best case.

Anyway, this only skims all Holmes has to say here. Click on the link. Read it.

Posted by Alan at 22:01 PDT | Post Comment | View Comments (2) | Permalink
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Topic: The Law

Pesky Lawyers

Seems someone thinks that if you don't play be the rules, you ought be asked to leave the game.

See Legal scholars say condoning abuse could be impeachable offense
Lolita C. Baldor, Associated Press, Wednesday, June 16, 2004

What's up, Lolita?
WASHINGTON- More than 400 legal scholars from across the country urged Congress Wednesday to consider impeaching President Bush and any high-level administration officials who approved the Iraqi prisoner abuses.

In a letter released by two Harvard Law School professors, scholars asked Congress to identify everyone who should be held accountable for the torture at Abu Ghraib prison, and determine what sanctions are appropriate. The sanctions, they said, could include "impeachment and removal from office of any civil officer of the United States responsible."

... In the letter, scholars said the prosecution of low-level military personnel for the abuses is not enough. Harvard law professor Christine Desan said Congress would have to determine if the abuses rose to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors which would be punishable by impeachment.

... The prisoner abuse, made public in photos and video, is being investigated by military and Justice Department officials. And Congress is looking into administration memos that could have laid the legal groundwork justifying the abuse.

... The letter was signed by a host of legal notables, including former O.J. Simpson defender Alan Dershowitz and the Rev. Robert F. Drinan, a former Massachusetts Congressmanmember who teaches at Georgetown University Law Center.
Congress is urged to "consider" this?

And just which party controls both house of congress?

And presidents are impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors. Not for being a tad overly zealous in their patriotic fervor to protect Americans. Mistakes were made? Perhaps, although no one in administration will allow for that possibility.

But even if mistakes were made, our intentions cannot be questioned.

And we do not break laws.

Of course Pentagon officials told NBC News that late last year, at the same time U.S. military police were allegedly abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ordered that one Iraqi prisoner be held "off the books" -- hidden entirely from the International Red Cross (ICRC) and anyone else -- in possible violation of international law.

But don't blame Donald Rumsfeld - George Tenet made him do it.
"I was requested by the director of central intelligence to take custody of an Iraqi national who was believed to be a high-ranking member of Ansar al-Islam, and we did so," Rumsfeld told a Pentagon press conference.

"We were asked to not immediately register the individual and we did that," he said.

The prisoner, who was not identified, was secretly held for more than seven months at a detention facility for high value prisoners near the Baghdad International Airport until last month when a senior Pentagon official decided he should be returned to the general prisoner population, officials said.

Before that, he had been held by the Central Intelligence Agency for about four months at an undisclosed location outside of the country, an intelligence official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The prisoner was turned over to the military in Iraq following legal guidance that as an Iraqi he should be held in Iraq, the official said.
Oops.

The Geneva Conventions sort of kind of does require prompt registration of prisoners of war, as quaint as that seems.

Dan Dellorto, the Pentagon's deputy counsel is quoted as saying, well, "We should have registered him much sooner than we did."

And Rumsfeld just isn't saying why Tenet asked that the prisoner be held secretly. When asked why Tenet wanted that? "Ask him. It's a classified letter."

But Tenet has resigned and he's busy packing up his office.

As you might recall, Major General Antonio Taguba (yes, he's a Philippine-American West Point guy whose father survived the Bataan Death March) - the guy who wrote the unfortunate report on "abuses" at Abu Ghraib - reported in March that some detainees were kept off the rolls there and denounced the practice as "deceptive, contrary to army doctrine and in violation of international law." (Background at May 16, 2004 - Responsibility - Military Style... and legal issues.)

A violation of international law? That depends on how you interpret the law.

Dellorto and the dudes at the Pentagon are now arguing that a prisoner could be held for a period without being registered "for purposes of imperative military necessity." Well, there's no such exception in any law to which we've agreed and thus to which we are bound, but that is a pretty cool idea.

Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say.

So by the direct order of the President's Secretary of Defense... this guy didn't exist. No one could see him if her didn't exist, and certainly not the ICRC which sort of takes as its job making sure people aren't tortured and abused and such.

Gee, I wonder why he was not reported, why he wasn't in the system. Duh.

But this one prisoner probably wasn't tortured. They, well, lost him.

Intelligence officials asked about the prisoner in January but were told by the military that he could not be located. AFP quotes a fellow who doesn't want his name used - "Frankly, it's a case where people lost track of him. The normal review procedures that would kick into play didn't in this instance. And it fell between the cracks."

And now they cannot find him anywhere in the system.

One suspect he's no longer alive, and Donald and George are smiling.

Nothing to see here folks. Move on.

All this legal stuff. Does it all rise to the level of impeachable offense? Don't know. It's not about sex.

--

So how about a little perspective from William Pfaff last week (11 June) over at The International Herald Tribune - and yes, that paper is owned by the New York Times (east-coast liberal monsters of course) and published in Paris (which is still in France last time anyone noticed) -
All of this is a ghastly scandal, one of the worst in American history. It is evident cause for impeachment of this president, if Congress has the courage to do it, and for prosecution of cabinet figures and certain commanders. However in view of the partisan alignment in Congress, quite possibly nothing will happen before the November election.

What then? It also is quite possible that George W. Bush will be elected to a second term. In that case, the American electorate will have made these practices its own. Now that is something for our children to think about.
If Bush wins, by a clear popular count this time, yes, we all own this.

--

Note:

Some folks are taking a stand. The Senate voted without dissent on June 17 to require the Bush administration to "issue guidelines aimed at ensuring humane treatment of prisoners at U.S. military facilities and to report any violations promptly to Congress."

Really.

But note this too. Passage of the proposal came by voice vote. Why? Because a good number of Republicans, seeing they were going to lose this one, didn't want any record with a roll call - as they didn't want their constituents, voting in November, to be able to see they were going all soft on the evil doers. They know their voters in their conservative districts rather like what has been going on - bad guys and folks who might be bad guys (one never knows) are getting it good, and some are dying from it. And these voters feel good when they know that (and of course they don't have to do any of the beating and torture themselves). Thus a voice vote in the senate - these senators who answer to these voters would like to stay in office.

It gets tricky.

Posted by Alan at 16:34 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
home

Wednesday, 16 June 2004

Topic: The Media

What to cover, what to discuss...

Bob Patterson, ace columnist for Just Above Sunset, sent me an email late last night. Questions I should consider as topics for this web log or the weekly issue of Just Above Sunset. These are issues that should be addressed, and events that should be covered?

Maybe.

I tackled them here.
Question - The Olympic torch goes through Los Angeles today. Is it really news? Important?

Answer - NO. IT'S PR BULLSHIT. UNLESS, WHEN TOM CRUISE IS RUNNING WITH IT, A GERBIL RUNS UP HIS ASS.

Question - What will happen to Saddam when the interim government takes over on June 30?

Answer - I HAVE NO IDEA AND CANNOT PREDICT. PERHAPS ALIENS FROM THE PLANET CLOROX-2 WILL ABDUCT HIM AND TAKE HIM AWAY IN THE STARSHIP QUAALUDE - AS A CURIOUS SPECIMEN. NO SADDAM? NO PROBLEM! FOLKS WILL BUY ALMOST ANYTHING.

Question - Will that become the "Achilles heel"? If we can't turn him over to the Iraqis does that mean the interim government can't be trusted. If we do turn him over...?

Answer - OH HELL. THAT'S EASY TO SOLVE. WE TURN HIM OVER BUT THEY ASK US TO PROVIDED CUSTODIAL CARE IN OUR IMPRESSIVE LOCAL DETENTION FACILITIES - THEY SIMPLY SUBCONTRACT HIS CARE TO US. WE GET TO KEEP HIM, AND GET TO BILL THE NEW IRAQI GOVERNMENT MONTHLY FOR HIS CARE. THE MAJOR CHANGE? ONE INVOICE.

Question - Special treatment for frequent flyers at airports?

Answer - IN THE WORKS. AND IT IS SO WILDLY EASY TO FOOL ANY REGISTRATION SYSTEM - FAKE DOCUMENTS AND SUCH - THAT THE LIST WILL PROVIDE NO BENEFITS, OTHER THAN PR FOR ASHCROFT.

Question - The June 30 turn over can't really be delayed now. Lose face. But will it work? Are we "in charge" or is it "hunker in the bunker" time for Americans in Iraq?

Answer - WE SAY IT WORKED FINE. JUST KEEP MAKING THE ASSERTION. THEN ALL OUR CIVILIANS LEAVE, QUICKLY. THE 135,000 MILITARY AND 20,000 CONTRACT FOLKS (OUR TITAN DYNCORP BLACKWATER MERCENARIES) CONTINUE AS BEFORE. CHANGE WORDS AT ALL PRESS CONFERENCES - "WE DID TODAY" BECOMES "WE WERE ASKED TODAY AND DID" - NO PROBLEM. AND GUARD ALL TECHNICIANS WORKING ON INFRASTRUCTURE - OIL PRODUCTION, ELECTRICAL POWER, WATER TREATMENT - WITH BRIGADE STRENGTH FORCES. ZONE DEFENSE, AS THEY SAY IN FOOTBALL.

Question - Are we in the "test crash" mode? I.e. strapped into a vehicle (policy) that is screaming toward a steel wall?

Answer - WE'VE BEEN IN TEST CRASH MODE SINCE DECEMBER 2000 - MAKING IT UP AS WE GO ALONG. THE REST OF THE WORLD WAS, AND IS, NOT AMUSED. BUT, HEY, THAT'S WHAT WE DO. WE ARE A PEOPLE WHO DO THINGS - WE DON'T SIT AROUND AND THINK AND TALK, LIKE THEM FRENCH WIMPS. WE DO. APPLICABLE SLOGAN: JUST DO IT. GOOD THINGS SOMETIMES HAPPEN. AND SOMETIMES THEY DON'T. BUT SOMETHING HAPPENS.

Question - Will an Iraqi disaster cost Bush the election?

Answer - NO. SEE ABOVE. "DOING" TRUMPS ALL ELSE.
Sometimes short comments are best.

Posted by Alan at 13:20 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 16 June 2004 13:23 PDT home

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