It is so refreshing to read a more truthful and accurate account of what is going on in Iraq. It is such a shame that these kinds of reports are so few and far in between. Don’t ever read Michael Gordon’s pieces in the New York Times if you want to know what is REALLY going on in Iraq. Today, however, we have a retired Foreign Service Officer who worked in the middle of it all saying it like it really is:
Baqubah is a battlefield, the site of a major push against al-Qaeda and other insurgents. The houses that haven’t been destroyed are riddled with bullet holes. Many of the Iraqis I worked with are dead, and many others have fled.
The reason for some of this destruction lies, as our newspapers tell us, in the outpouring of al-Qaeda operatives from Baghdad, a result of the latest U.S. troop “surge” into the capital. Much of the responsibility, however, is ours.
The actions of American troops have prompted much of the resistance in Diyala province. More important, these actions are symptomatic of other factors, including the short attention span of the American people, the regular rotation of our troops, the understandable desire of each commander to distinguish himself, and our very American belief that we can solve problems quickly when others can’t. We have allowed all of these factors to run away with the war in Iraq.
Kiki then goes on to describe several incidents that highlight our failures. I recommend reading the entire piece if you want an accurate portrayal of the problems in Iraq. Kiki’s conclusion:
And we Americans? We are trumpeting our “new” initiative of enlisting Sunni tribal chiefs to our side. We are busy “building confidence” among the Iraqi security forces who, we now admit, have had sectarian tendencies. We’re also mounting a massive campaign against . . . our “enemies.”
We have forgotten or not bothered to remember what we have done over the past months.
But the Iraqis have not forgotten. They have lived this chapter before. Only it was better then, last year.
So well said.
It seems London was saved from a horrible terrorist attack by sheer luck. An ambulance driver sent to the square to help someone out noticed the Mercedes and smoke coming out if the passenger window. The driver called the police who came and found a massive bomb in the vehicle, certainly meant to kill in the hundreds in a very busy part of London.
Police were alerted to the Mercedes sedan by a London ambulance crew, which had been summoned to the nearby “Tiger, Tiger” nightclub about 1 a.m. for a report of a person who was ill. They noticed the car, saw smoke inside its passenger compartment and called police, who summoned the bomb squad, Clarke said.
About 200 liters, or 50 U.S. gallons, of fuel were discovered in canisters inside the sedan, along with large numbers of nails, which increasingly have been used in bombs to heighten their lethality.
News reports indicated that up to a thousand patrons were packed into the nightclub, and the streets nearby were busy as well. In addition to drawing crowds almost around the clock, Haymarket is extremely close to many of London’s most famous attractions, including Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament.
“It is obvious that if the device had detonated, there could have been significant injury or loss of life,” Clarke said. ” . . . it certainly could have been into the hundreds.”
I wouldn’t be surprised if we see many more such incidents, but where the bomb doesn’t fail, and rather goes off. Londoners were lucky today, and should thank God in their prayers tonight.
The United States Military Purposefully Killed Seven Children in Afghanistan, Meanwhile, Bad Guy Got AwayJune 19, 2007 at 10:13 pm | Posted in Afghanistan, American politics, corruption, Military, secret combinations, violence, War, War on Terror | 3 Comments
And you wonder why Afghanistan is such a mess, why after SIX LONG YEARS we still have not defeated the rabble Taliban (some of them are the same rabble group, I might add, that defeated the Soviet Union in the 80s). Well, earlier this week the United States military killed seven children in an air strike. The target was some bad dude named Abu Laith al Libi. Supposedly he’s a leader among the Taliban. That’s fine and dandy, but apparently he got away in time, so he was not killed. The latest word, according to NBC is that the military knew there would be children at this facility and decided to take the risk anyways:
U.S. special operations forces were targeting the leader of al-Qaida in Afghanistan — one of the organization’s top commanders — when they launched an attack against a compound that killed seven children Sunday in Paktika province of eastern Afghanistan, U.S. officials tell NBC News.
According to several officials, and contrary to previous statements, the U.S. military knew there were children at the compound but considered the target of such high value it was worth the risk of potential collateral damage.
Those same officials tell NBC News the target of Sunday’s attack was Abu Laith al Libi, the al-Qaida commander in Afghanistan and a top lieutenant of Osama bin Laden. The sources report that although six sets of remains besides those of the seven children were recovered, it’s not clear whether Abu Laith is among those killed.
It’s funny how the United States military chooses to sacrifice the lives of innocents without giving them any kind of choice in the matter. Just what are we fighting in Afghanistan for anyways?
By their fruits, ye shall know them.
Republicans and the Christian Right should be well familiar with this particular verse from the Bible, Matthew 7:15-20:
15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
By their fruits, ye shall know them. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit. A corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit. Any Christian knows this parable. What does this mean for our world today? Let’s look at the fruits of the Bush administration and the Republican party.
A failed state. The Fund for Peace and Foreign Policy magazine have released their annual report of the world’s failed states. Iraq is the second worst failed state in the world, only two points better in the rankings than the world’s worst failed state, The Sudan. We’re now well over four years into our war in Iraq. Let’s put that in perspective. World War II, if started on March 20, 2003, would have ended last December or so. What is worse about this is that unlike The Sudan, America has pumped billions of dollars into Iraq with so little to show for it.
That is not to say that all failing states suffer from international neglect. Iraq and Afghanistan, the two main fronts in the global war on terror, both suffered over the past year. Their experiences show that billions of dollars in development and security aid may be futile unless accompanied by a functioning government, trustworthy leaders, and realistic plans to keep the peace and develop the economy. Just as there are many paths to success, there are many paths to failure for states on the edge.
So I ask you, Americans, and especially Christian conservatives, what do these fruits tell you about the tree from which they come? Now some of you may say, the tree really is terrorism. The answer to that is, no. The tree is America. We entered Iraq with the supposed intent to recreate the Middle East, and Iraq itself. After four years, what are the fruits of our labors? An utterly failed state. Jesus said, evil fruit cannot come from good trees.
By their fruits, ye shall know them.
Recently a US airstrike killed seven children along with many others. More than one hundred die in three days of heavy fighting. The Taliban (living over in neighboring Pakistan) continue to plague the Americans now SIX YEARS after we attacked them. Six years. And they are still around? Afghanistan is ranked as the 8th worst failed state in the world, behind only The Sudan, Iraq, and a bunch of African states.
By their fruits, ye shall know them.
The Bush administration continues to support the highly corrupt and repressive military dictator, Musharraf, regardless of how much he punishes reformers in Pakistan. Pakistan is ranked as the 12th worst failed state in the world. Only Haiti, Central African Republic and Guinea separate Pakistan from her neighbor Afghanistan.
By their fruits, ye shall know them.
Poor, poor Lebanon, the world’s pawn, played by all parties against her own will. Israelis bomb her to the stone age. Hezbollah is a parasitic virus, destroying the country from within. Syria assassinates her leaders. The United States sacrifices her democracy on the altar of supposed Israeli preference (though if the United States were smart, they would have reined in Israel last summer, because it is in Israel’s best interest to have a stable country to her north. Now because of their idiotic bombing campaign, Lebanon is failing). Lebanon is ranked as the 28th worst failed state in the world.
Not a state (and apparently not ever going to be a state), this is probably the worst of Bush’s failures. Is it really in the best interest of our ally, Israel, to have a failed non-state as her neighbor? Is it really in Israel’s best interest to have 1.4 million starving raving lunatics in a 25 mile strip of land right on her border? Is this Condoleezza Rice’s idea of “birth pangs?”
Why are these failed states so important to the world? The Foreign Policy magazine states it well in their introduction:
It is an accepted axiom of the modern age that distance no longer matters. Sectarian carnage can sway stock markets on the other side of the planet. Anarchic cities that host open-air arms bazaars imperil the security of the world’s superpower. A hermit leader’s erratic behavior not only makes life miserable for the impoverished millions he rules but also upends the world’s nuclear nonproliferation regime. The threats of weak states, in other words, ripple far beyond their borders and endanger the development and security of nations that are their political and economic opposites.
These are the fruits of the Republican philosophy to the world. These are the fruits of neo-conservatives. These are not the fruits of good trees. These must be cast into the fire, metaphorically speaking. We must do what needs to be done with these kinds of philosophies, let them pass the way of the dodo bird, to be a relic of history, never to be seen again. At least, if Americans want a better world.
…from Pakistan of course. Uh, so er, just what are we doing in Iraq?
(Via Dick Polman)
General Petraeus in September 2004 on Iraq:
I see tangible progress. Iraqi security elements are being rebuilt from the ground up. The institutions that oversee them are being reestablished from the top down. And Iraqi leaders are stepping forward, leading their country and their security forces courageously…There are reasons for optimism…Training is on track and increasing in capacity. Infrastructure is being repaired…Progress has also been made in police training…Considerable progress is also being made in the reconstruction and refurbishing of infrastructure for Iraq’s security forces…Iraq’s security forces are developing steadily and they are in the fight. Momentum has gathered in recent months. With strong Iraqi leaders out front and with continued coalition – and now NATO – support, this trend will continue.
Why should we take anything that General Petraeus says seriously? Note that this was two months before November 2004, the worst month for US casualties in Iraq, with 135 some odd dead. And of course, two months before the general presidential election. General Petraeus surely wasn’t trying to influence voters to “stay the course” for Bush. Nah. So why should he be trusted to say anything but what Bush WANTS HIM TO SAY?
The tragedy continues, and gets worse and worse. The government has not been giving the soldiers in Iraq the best protection, has done a piss-poor job at treating wounded soldiers at Walter Reed (and numerous other facilities around the nation), and now we read in yesterday’s Washington Post that again at Walter Reed, soldiers who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder are getting short-changed and mistreated. Here’s a small snippet, though the whole article is a MUST read.
On the military plane that crossed the ocean at night, the wounded lay in stretchers stacked three high. The drone of engines was broken by the occasional sound of moaning. Sedated and sleeping, Pfc. Joshua Calloway was at the top of one stack last September. Unlike the others around him, Calloway was handcuffed to his stretcher.
When the 20-year-old infantry soldier woke up, he was on the locked-down psychiatric ward at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. A nurse handed him pajamas and a robe, but they reminded him of the flowing clothes worn by Iraqi men. He told the nurse, “I don’t want to look like a freakin’ Haj.” He wanted his uniform. Request denied. Shoelaces and belts were prohibited.
Calloway felt naked without his M-4, his constant companion during his tour south of Baghdad with the 101st Airborne Division. The year-long deployment claimed the lives of 50 soldiers in his brigade. Two committed suicide. Calloway, blue-eyed and lantern-jawed, lasted nine months — until the afternoon he watched his sergeant step on a pressure-plate bomb in the road. The young soldier’s knees buckled and he vomited in the reeds before he was ordered to help collect body parts. A few days later he was sent to the combat-stress trailers, where he was given antidepressants and rest, but after a week he was still twitching and sleepless. The Army decided that his war was over.
Every month, 20 to 40 soldiers are evacuated from Iraq because of mental problems, according to the Army. Most are sent to Walter Reed along with other war-wounded. For amputees, the nation’s top Army hospital offers state-of-the-art prosthetics and physical rehab programs, and soon, a new $10 million amputee center with a rappelling wall and virtual reality center.
Nothing so gleaming exists for soldiers with diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder, who in the Army alone outnumber all of the war’s amputees by 43 to 1. The Army has no PTSD center at Walter Reed, and its psychiatric treatment is weak compared with the best PTSD programs the government offers. Instead of receiving focused attention, soldiers with combat-stress disorders are mixed in with psych patients who have issues ranging from schizophrenia to marital strife.
Even though Walter Reed maintains the largest psychiatric department in the Army, it lacks enough psychiatrists and clinicians to properly treat the growing number of soldiers returning with combat stress. Earlier this year, the head of psychiatry sent out an “SOS” memo desperately seeking more clinical help.
Individual therapy with a trained clinician, a key element in recovery from PTSD, is infrequent, and targeted group therapy is offered only twice a week.
Young Pfc. Calloway was put in robes that first night. His dreams were infected by corpses. He tasted blood in his mouth. He was paranoid and jumpy. He couldn’t stop the movie inside his head of Sgt. Matthew Vosbein stepping on the bomb. His memory was shot. His insides burned.
Calloway’s mother came to Walter Reed from Ohio and told the psychiatrist everything she knew about her son. Sitting in the office for the interview, Calloway jiggled his leg and put his head in his hands as he described his tour in Iraq. His mental history was probed and more notes were taken. The trivia of his life — a beagle named Zoe, a job during high school at a Meijer superstore, a love of World War II history — competed with what he had become.
“I can’t remember who I was before I went into the Army,” he said later. “Put me in a war for a year, my brain becomes a certain way. My brain is a big, black ball of crap with this brick wall in front of it.”
After a week in the lockdown unit, Calloway was stabilized. They gave him back his shoelaces and belt. On the 10th day, he was released and turned over to outpatient psychiatry for treatment. And Calloway, a casualty without a scratch, began the longest season of his young life.
It is absolutely reprehensible that our nation and our government does not take care of those who supposedly fight for our very existence, but let them languish in their mental horrors. Then again this should tell you how much the Pentagon truly understands the human mind.
Yet more evidence, this time straight from the Pentagon’s own quarterly reports that shows violence on the rise right during the period of the Surge.
Violence in Iraq, as measured by casualties among troops and civilians, has edged higher despite the U.S.-led security push in Baghdad, the Pentagon told Congress on Wednesday.
The required quarterly report, which surveyed violence from Feb. 10 to May 7, found that the average number of Iraqi civilians killed or wounded each day was more than 100, nearly double the daily toll from the same period one year ago. The number of daily U.S. casualties was about 25, slightly higher than a year ago.
The average weekly number of attacks across Iraq for the reporting period surpassed 1,000, compared to about 600 weekly attacks for the same period one year ago. More than 75 percent of the attacks were aimed at U.S. forces, according to the report, which also examined political and economic developments in Iraq.
How many more Friedman Units must we go before we’ve had enough? For those who do not know what a Friedman Unit is, please read here.
I was wondering when they were going to “finish the job.” Insurgents struck the Askariya Mosque in Samarra, destroying more of the mosque:
Insurgents blew up the remaining two minarets of the Askariya Mosque, a holy Shiite Muslim shrine in Samarra that was badly damaged in a similar attack in early 2006, a Samarra Police official told CNN. There was no immediate word on casualties.
Within hours of the attacks, Iraqi state television announced that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had imposed a curfew for Baghdad until further notice.
The blast followed early Wednesday morning clashes between gunmen and Iraqi National Police, who were guarding the site. During the firefight, the insurgents entered the mosque, also known as the Golden Dome, planted explosives around the minarets and detonated them.
According to the police official, residents of Samarra are furious over the latest attack on the mosque.
Note Muqtada al-Sadr’s response:
In response, radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called for three days of mourning to mark the destruction of the minarets, according to a statement. The anti-American cleric also said no rival Sunni Arab could have been responsible for the bombing, adding he was holding U.S.-led coalition forces responsible.
I highly doubt the US did it, however, they do bear some responsibility. The United States, by invading Iraq and removing the previous government from office, took upon itself the security of the country, including all the holy mosques. It is yet another example of how having too few troops is utterly detrimental to the plan. So sad.
Henry King Jr, one of the prosecutors at Nuremberg calls the Gitmo trials and incarceration unfair and against the principles upon which the Nuremberg Trials were founded.
The U.S. war crimes tribunals at Guantanamo have betrayed the principles of fairness that made the Nazi war crimes trials at Nuremberg a judicial landmark, one of the U.S. Nuremberg prosecutors said on Monday.
“I think Robert Jackson, who’s the architect of Nuremberg, would turn over in his grave if he knew what was going on at Guantanamo,” Nuremberg prosecutor Henry King Jr. told Reuters in a telephone interview.
“It violates the Nuremberg principles, what they’re doing, as well as the spirit of the Geneva Conventions of 1949.”
King, 88, served under Jackson, the U.S. Supreme Court justice who was the chief prosecutor at the trials created by the Allied powers to try Nazi military and political leaders after World War Two in Nuremberg, Germany.
“The concept of a fair trial is part of our tradition, our heritage,” King said from Ohio, where he lives. “That’s what made Nuremberg so immortal — fairness, a presumption of innocence, adequate defense counsel, opportunities to see the documents that they’re being tried with.”
King, who interrogated Nuremberg defendant Albert Speer, was incredulous that the Guantanamo rules left open the possibility of using evidence obtained through coercion.
“To torture people and then you can bring evidence you obtained into court? Hearsay evidence is allowed? Some evidence is available to the prosecution and not to the defendants? This is a type of ‘justice’ that Jackson didn’t dream of,” King said.
With each passing day that Gitmo is opened, our principles erode and wither away. What are we fighting for if not for the principles upon which our fine nation was founded? Who really cares how bad the enemy is? How does that in any way change who WE are? And what WE stand for?
In the latest efforts to derail Iraq’s progress, insurgents are attacking Iraq’s infrastructure, blowing up bridges and such.
In at least the seventh attack on Iraqi bridges in the past two months, a bomb damaged a bridge over a tributary to the Tigris River on Monday, cutting off the most popular route from the northeastern part of Diyala province to Baghdad.
With the al-Sabtiya Bridge no longer usable, people heading to Baghdad from Diyala will have to travel through the violent city of Baqouba, residents said. Baqouba is the scene of daily clashes between al-Qaida in Iraq insurgents, Shiite Muslim militias and Iraqi security forces.
Eyewitnesses said a truck loaded with explosives moved onto the span and its driver detonated his cargo, sending pieces of the bridge into the water below.
The U.S. military had no immediate information on the bombing, spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Garver said. Garver said bridge bombings didn’t greatly “impede the mobility of the military.” But bridges are high-profile targets whose destruction affects the lives of civilians, he said.
“If there is a definite campaign against bridges this is an insurgency trying to destabilize the government,” he said.
In the past two months, car bombs have targeted at least seven bridges. The attacks began in April with the destruction of the Sarafiya bridge in Baghdad, which connected the east and west banks of the capital.
This is yet another example of America having too few troops on the ground, and insurgents taking advantage of it to destroy any progress in Iraq. Wasn’t the “surge” supposed to stop this kind of regression?
This is the newest low of the Bush administration, and obviously one big reason why they’ve wanted to keep the black sites in Europe as secret as they could. Because one of the things that the Bush administration authorized was the capture and interrogation of children of terrorists (such as Khalik Sheikh Mohammed), to be used as a leverage against the terrorists, because hey, who likes to see their children suffer? This is the level to which our country has fallen, where we now torture children.
Andrew Sullivan quotes the CIA about KSM’s sons:
“His sons are important to him. The promise of their release and their return to Pakistan may be the psychological lever we need to break him.”
Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings has the details.
Today, six human rights groups released a report (pdf) on 39 people who they think the US government might be holding in undisclosed locations, and whose location is presently unknown. (Thus, they are not counting anyone known to be at Guantanamo or Bagram; just people who are missing.) That we have disappeared anyone is shocking, and a violation of treaties we have signed and ratified.
This report has gotten a fair amount of play, but in all the coverage I’ve read, only the Philadelphia Inquirer has mentioned what is, to me, the most awful allegation: that we disappeared young children. The report (pp. 24-26) lists five groups of family members; those who are discussed at greatest length are the sons of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
She then quotes the article from the Philadelphia Inquirer:
“In September 2002, Yusuf al-Khalid (then nine years old) and Abed al-Khalid (then seven years old) were reportedly apprehended by Pakistani security forces during an attempted capture of their father, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was successfully apprehended several months later, and the U.S. government has acknowledged that he was in the U.S. Secret Detention Program. He is presently held at Guantánamo Bay.
In an April 16, 2007 statement, Ali Khan (father of Majid Khan, a detainee who the U.S. government has acknowledged was in the U.S. Secret Detention Program and is presently held at Guantánamo Bay) indicated that Yusef and Abed al-Khalid had been held in the same location in which Majid Khan and Majid’s brother Mohammed were detained in March/April 2003. Mohammed was detained by Pakistani officials for approximately one month after his apprehension on March 5, 2003 (see below). Ali Khan’s statement indicates that:
Also according to Mohammed, he and Majid were detained in the same place where two of Khalid Sheik Mohammed’s young children, ages about 6 and 8, were held. The Pakistani guards told my son that the boys were kept in a separate area upstairs, and were denied food and water by other guards. They were also mentally tortured by having ants or other creatures put on their legs to scare them and get them to say where their father was hiding.
After Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s arrest in March 2003, Yusuf and Abed Al Khalid were reportedly transferred out of Pakistan in U.S. custody. The children were allegedly being sent for questioning about their father’s activities and to be used by the United States as leverage to force their father to co-operate with the United States. A press report on March 10, 2003 confirmed that CIA interrogators had detained the children and that one official explained that:
“We are handling them with kid gloves. After all, they are only little children…but we need to know as much about their father’s recent activities as possible. We have child psychologists on hand at all times and they are given the best of care.”
In the transcript of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s Combatant Status Review Tribunal, he indicates knowledge that his children were apprehended and abused:
“They arrested my kids intentionally. They are kids. They been arrested for four months they had been abused.””
Hilzoy states this correctly. This is something two-bit dictators would do. Is this something a supposed “Christian” democratic country does? Apparently. She asks at the end:
And note this: the only people who were included in the report are people whose whereabouts are presently unknown. These kids were captured over four years ago. They would be thirteen and eleven now. Does anyone know where they are? Does anyone care?
Not Americans. We’re too concerned about Paris Hilton’s latest sob story about prison. Andrew Sullivan adds:
One of the eeriest aspects of the Bush administration’s conduct of the war on terror has been the inversion of previously held assumptions about the meaning of the West. We fought a war to end torture; we then occupied Saddam’s own torture prison and tortured people there. We fought a war to bring democracy to the Middle East and to show Arabs and Muslims how superior it is as a system; we then spawned chaos, civil war and genocide to brand democracy as a nightmare for an entire generation of Muslims and Arabs. But I recall one moment when I felt most secure about our rationale for the war: we liberated a prison full of children who had been targeted by the monster, Saddam. If ending a regime that jailed children was not right, what was?
Except now we know that the U.S. has itself detained, imprisoned and interrogated children.
He then quotes John Yoo, the mastermind behind the torture regime:
“Cassel: If the president deems that he’s got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person’s child, there is no law that can stop him?
Yoo: No treaty
Cassel: Also no law by Congress — that is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo…
Yoo: I think it depends on why the President thinks he needs to do that…”
Weren’t we supposed to be fighting AGAINST people like Mr. Yoo? Additionally Michael P.F. Van Der Galien is trying to find out what has happened to those children. To this point, he has not found any information.
What kind of nation makes children disappear?
McClatchy Newspapers, formerly known as Knight Ridder, has been nearly the only source in the past six years to objectively look at the war in Iraq, see past the inflammatory nationalistic hyperbole of the Bush administration and its adherents at FoxNews and the Weekly Standard. They continue their fine press with this report showing that the surge is not doing a thing about the violence in Iraq:
Three months after additional U.S. troops began pouring into Baghdad in the most recent effort to stanch violence in Iraq’s capital, military observers are fretting that the same problems that torpedoed last summer’s Baghdad security plan are cropping up again.
Violence is on the rise, Iraqi troops aren’t showing up to secure neighborhoods, U.S. troops are having to revisit neighborhoods they’d already cleared, and Iraq’s politicians haven’t met any of their benchmarks.
With expectations high in Washington for a September assessment from new Iraq commander Army Gen. David Petraeus, military officials in Iraq already are saying they’ll need more time.
One thing is already clear, however: The additional U.S. troops haven’t yet had a major impact on reducing violence.
Read the whole article. I’d rather not paste the whole thing here. It is free, and accurate. Unfortunately most Americans won’t see this kind of report. Why?
That’s just one article, from ABCNews. Note that it is a whole THREE PAGES long!
Right now the cable news networks are wall-to-wall in front of Paris Hilton’s house in L.A. waiting for the sheriff to show up in his white Bronco and lead them on a freeway chase. It’s truly riveting TV, watching a bunch of people milling around and listening to the talking heads speculating on when she might come through the door and riffing on the greater meaning of all this — race, privilege and the merits of cupcakes from Sprinkles. (The consensus is that they are very good. I agree.)
He then quotes Al Gore, who wrote:
It is simply no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public discourse. I know I’m not alone in feeling that something has gone fundamentally wrong. In 2001, I had hopes it was an aberration when polls showed that three-quarters of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible for attacking us on September 11. More than five years later, however, nearly half the American people still believes that Saddam was connected to the attack.
At first I thought the exhaustive, nonstop coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial was just unfortunate excess — an unwelcome departure from the normal good sense and judgment of our news media. Now we know that it was merely an early example of a new pattern of serial obsession that periodically take over the airwaves for weeks at a time.
Late in the summer of 2006, American news coverage was saturated with the bizarre false confession of a man who claimed to have been present at the death of JonBenet Ramsey — the six-year-old beauty queen whose unsolved murder eleven years before was responsible for another long-running obsession. A few months prior to John Mark Karr’s arrest in Bangkok, the disappearance of a high school senior in Aruba and the intensive search for her body and her presumed murderer consumed thousands of hours of television coverage. Both cases remain unsolved as of this writing, and neither had any appreciable impact on the fate of the Republic.
Like JonBenet Ramsey, O.J. has recently been back at the center of another fit of obsessive-compulsive news, when his hypothetical confession wasn’t published and his interviews on television wasn’t aired. This particular explosion of “news” was truncated only when a former television sitcom star used racist insults in a night club. And before that we focus on the “Runaway Bride” in Georgia. And before that there was the Michael Jackson trial and the Robert Blake trial, the Laci Peterson tragedy and the Chandra Levy tragedy. And of course we can’t forget Britney and KFed, and Lindsay and Paris and Nicole, Tom Cruise jumped on Oprah’s couch and married Katie Holmes, who gave birth to Suri. And Russell Crowe apparently threw a phone at a hotel concierge.
In early 2007, the wall-to-wall coverage of Anna Nicole Smith’s death, embalming, and funeral plans and the legal wrangling over the paternity and custody of her child and disposition of her estate, served as yet another particularly bizarre example of the new priorities in America’s news coverage.
And while American television watchers were collectively devoting a hundred million hours of their lives each week to these and other similar stories, our nation was in the process of more quietly making what future historians will certainly describe as a series of catastrophically mistaken decisions on issues of war and peace, the global climate and human survival, freedom and barbarity, justice and fairness.
Indeed, Mr. Gore. Indeed.
I’ve written before about Vershärfte Vernehmung, German for “enhanced techniques” used by the Gestapo on prisoners. Note in that evidence the language, how similar it is to the Bush White House on these enhanced interrogation techniques. Well, now more information comes out showing that the CIA has “borrowed” these same techniques from the Soviets. As we >read here, the Soviets also tried to justify their perverse actions through legalistic mumbo jumbo. Read:
The article describes basic Soviet N.K.V.D. (later K.G.B.) methods: isolation in a small cell; constant light; sleep deprivation; cold or heat; reduced food rations. Soviets denied such treatment was torture, just as American officials have in recent years:
The effects of isolation, anxiety, fatigue, lack of sleep, uncomfortable temperatures, and chronic hunger produce disturbances of mood, attitudes and behavior in nearly all prisoners. The living organism cannot entirely withstand such assaults. The Communists do not look upon these assaults as “torture.” But all of them produce great discomfort, and lead to serious disturbances of many bodily processes; there is no reason to differentiate them from any other form of torture.
Interrogators looked for ways to increase the pressure, including “stress positions”:
Another [technique] widely used is that of requiring the prisoner to stand throughout the interrogation session or to maintain some other physical position which becomes painful. This, like other features of the KGB procedure, is a form of physical torture, in spite of the fact that the prisoners and KGB officers alike do not ordinarily perceive it as such. Any fixed position which is maintained over a long period of time ultimately produces excruciating pain.
Overt brutality was discouraged, as it was at American facilities:
The KGB hardly ever uses manacles or chains, and rarely resorts to physical beatings. The actual physical beating is, of course, repugnant to overt Communist principles and is contrary to K.G.B. regulations.
Closed trials and military tribunals were standard, as at Guantánamo:
Prisoners are tried before “military tribunals,” which are not public courts. Those present are only the interrogator, the state prosecutor, the prisoner, the judges, a few stenographers, and perhaps a few officers of the court.
The Bush administration concluded that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to Qaeda detainees. Similarly, the Soviets argued that international rules did not apply to foreign detainees:
In typical Communist legalistic fashion, the N.K.V.D. rationalized its use of torture and pressure in the interrogation of prisoners of war. When it desired to use such methods against a prisoner or to obtain from him a propaganda statement or “confession,” it simply declared the prisoner a “war-crimes suspect” and informed him that, therefore, he was not subject to international rules governing the treatment of prisoners of war.
Communist-style interrogation routinely produced false confessions:
The cumulative effects of the entire experience may be almost intolerable. [The prisoner] becomes mentally dull and loses his capacity for discrimination. He becomes malleable and suggestible, and in some instances he may confabulate. By suggesting that the prisoner accept half-truths and plausible distortions of the truth, [the interrogator] makes it possible for the prisoner to rationalize and thus accept the interrogator’s viewpoint as the only way out of an intolerable situation.
Andrew Sullivan writes about it changing a few words here and there to put it in perspective:
“The effects of isolation, anxiety, fatigue, lack of sleep, uncomfortable temperatures, and chronic hunger produce disturbances of mood, attitudes and behavior in nearly all prisoners. The living organism cannot entirely withstand such assaults. The
RepublicansCommunists do not look upon these assaults as ‘torture.’ But all of them produce great discomfort, and lead to serious disturbances of many bodily processes; there is no reason to differentiate them from any other form of torture…
CIAKGB hardly ever uses manacles or chains, and rarely resorts to physical beatings. The actual physical beating is, of course, repugnant to overt Republican Communist principles and is contrary to C.I.A. K.G.B. regulations…
Prisoners are tried before “military tribunals,” which are not public courts. Those present are only the interrogator, the state prosecutor, the prisoner, the judges, a few stenographers, and perhaps a few officers of the court…
RepublicanCommunist legalistic fashion, the O.L.C.N.K.V.D. rationalized its use of torture and pressure in the interrogation of prisoners of war. When it desired to use such methods against a prisoner or to obtain from him a propaganda statement or ‘confession,’ it simply declared the prisoner an enemy combatanta “war-crimes suspect” and informed him that, therefore, he was not subject to international rules governing the treatment of prisoners of war,” – “Communist Interrogation,” The Annals of Neurology and Psychology, 1956.
This is what the Republicans stand for today, America. This is what Mitt Romney believes we should double. This is what Rudy Giuliani thinks is okay. The only Republican candidate intelligent enough to know better is John McCain. Unfortunately, he caved into political pressure last fall and allowed this kind of Soviet action to be legalized here in America. Welcome to the Republicans, America. Do you really want these kinds of people continuing to
ruin run America? Is this what America stands for? Exactly what are we fighting for?
American commanders in Iraq are disheartened by the quite clear lack of progress so far in their “surge” in Baghdad (cue here the “I told you so” comment). What seems to be the problem for the disheartened Americans?
The sectarian violence was especially disheartening to some American officers because it occurred in May, the same month that they were undertaking the centerpiece of the Baghdad security plan — a neighborhood clearing operation.
The battalion’s troops, augmented by more than 2,000 soldiers in armored Stryker vehicles, went block by block through the neighborhood, arresting suspected insurgents and destroying arms caches.
But since the Stryker unit has moved on to a different area of Baghdad, “there’s been a reinfiltration” by Shiite fighters and intimidation squads, who had left the area when the operation began, said Capt. Tim Wright, the company commander responsible for the neighborhood.
Basically put, because the Americans are NOT following their own top general’s advice to have one combat soldier for every fifty native civilians (or 120,000 combat troops for the city of Baghdad), the Americans just cannot stop the stumbling block to progress, the undermining and detrimental violence that kills not only thousands of innocents, but any chance of a political resolution. Let the Americans not pretend they weren’t warned that this was coming. General Petraeus’ own counterinsurgency field manual states this.
But you want to know what else adds to the problem?
“We were way too optimistic,” said the officer, adding that September is now the goal for establishing basic security in most neighborhoods, the same month that Bush administration officials have said they plan to review the progress of the plan.
Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the senior American ground commander in Iraq, said in a brief interview that he never believed that a midsummer timetable for establishing security in Baghdad was realistic. “This was always going to be conditions-driven,” he said, noting that he always had expected it would take until fall to establish security across much of the city.
But in order to meet that timetable, he added, the Iraqi Security Forces would have to make strides in coming months at maintaining security. “Ultimately the I.S.F., and specifically the police, are the key to holding an area,” he said. “We have to within the next four months move them more toward holding the areas we have cleared.”
Where are the realists within the American military? Where have they gone to? Why are they silent? Does the military not realize that by being “way too optimistic” it only leads to their own loss? You cannot be optimistic in the military. You MUST be a realist. It is vital to your safety and your survival. Where are the realists within the American military? Where have they gone to?
How do you solve the problem of violence in Iraq? First and foremost, you MUST follow your own counterinsurgency field manual and flood the country with at LEAST FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND combat troops, and at LEAST ONE HUNDRED TWENTY THOUSAND for Baghdad alone, (though you would probably want to concentrate far more in the capital). You cannot trust the Iraqis as yet to rule their own country dispassionately.
In addition to carrying out sectarian killings, the Mahdi Army controls two of the area’s three gas stations, which refuse to sell to most Sunnis. Gunmen regularly attacked trash trucks when they entered Sunni areas until the American military began providing security. Sunni homes are also the targets of arson attacks if their occupants fail to heed warnings to leave, he said.
Sunni insurgents have fought back as well, with two large car bomb attacks in largely Shiite sections of Baya and Ameel that killed more than 60 people, officers said.
But American officers worry that many members of the largely Shiite police force sympathize or collaborate with the Mahdi Army.
The local commander of the Iraqi national police, a force run by the Shiite-run Interior Ministry, has been replaced three times since March.
One of those commanders, Col. Nadir al-Jabouri, a Shiite described by Colonel Frank as the most aggressive and even-handed Iraqi officer he had seen. But he was detained in late March by the Interior Ministry and accused of having ties to insurgents.
“He was not a protector of the people; he was a terrorist,” said Col. Vhafir Kader Jowda, his Shiite replacement.
American patrols have been attacked in a wave of deadly bombings recently, sometimes within sight of police checkpoints, officers said.
Ten soldiers under Colonel Frank’s command have been killed since March. At least eight of the recent attacks in the area have used explosively formed penetrators, or E.F.P.’s, powerful bombs able to pierce armored Humvees.
When Colonel Frank went to the Ameel police station recently accompanied by a reporter and asked for help in capturing a local Shiite sheik believed to be behind the bombings, the police official he was meeting with spoke in a whisper. “They listen to us,” he said, pointing to a ventilation grill on his wall. “I am in danger just by meeting with you.”
A few weeks earlier, angered by the attacks on his soldiers, Colonel Frank ordered a video camera hidden near an abandoned swimming pool along a main road in Ameel, near a police checkpoint, where patrols had been hit repeatedly.
When the video was examined after another attack, it showed two Iraqi policemen talking with companions, who were heard off-camera, apparently laying an explosive device. Minutes after the policemen were seen driving away, the camera showed a powerful bomb detonating as an American Humvee came into view.
The video of the attack, which just missed the vehicle and caused no casualties, was shown to a reporter from The New York Times.
After police commanders were confronted with the video in mid-May, six Iraqi officers were arrested, Colonel Frank said.
I’m afraid, however, that too many war supporters do not understand the need to set aside their vain, prideful desire to score political points, bash Democrats for being “defeatocrats” by totally ignoring the warning signs that their own policies and actions have undermined the very institution they claim to fully support: the troops. War supporters were wrong from the start, and when evidence is clear as the bright blue sky above us that the plan is not working, they worry more about saving face than protecting the troops. You want to protect the troops? You want to show that you really care for those troops and are not using them as a political pawn, then let go your pride! Face the fact that your policy is a failure and you must change NOW or more of those precious troops you claim to support die for a failing cause. That is NOT supporting the troops. That is supporting a failed policy.
You want to win in Iraq? Then flood the country with troops or get out. Nothing in between will work, as the evidence proves again and again and again and again. How often do you want the evidence (dead soldiers and continual violence) to be presented to you before you understand this?
There are two new points to make about torture, enhanced interrogation techniques, or whatever the hell people want to call them.
I. Vershärfte Vernehmung
The first comes from Andrew Sullivan who came accross a document from the Gestapo (yes, the Nazi’s Gestapo) detailing what they called “Verschärfte Vernehmung,” or when translated effectively comes out to be “sharpened interrogation.” Take a look at the image:
Click on it to see it in full detail. The image is on Andrew Sullivan’s blog. Read how the Gestapo detailed who was to get these techniques, for what purpose and what the techniques were. Note what they are:
1. Simplest rations.
2. Hard bed.
3. Dark Cell.
4. Deprivation of sleep.
5. Exhaustion exercises.
6. Blows with a stick (heh, if more than 20 blows, then a doctor must be present)
The Hippocratic Oath went out the window long ago for many doctors. Take a look for example at the detailed logs kept at Guantanamo Bay Camp X-ray as detailed in the American Journal of Bioethics. Doctors, complicit in the torture of human beings. Note the techniques used, at least the ones logged—there are techniques that are not logged, because, hey if they were logged, someone might actually be charged with violating the law.
Two government documents detail medical and psychological participation with the interrogation of Prisoner 063, Mohammed al-Qahtani, at Guantanamo Bay between November 23, 2002 and January 11, 2003 (Zagorin and Duffy 2005). The first is an 83-page interrogation log (ORCON 2003). The second is an Army investigation of complaints of mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, including Prisoner 063 (United States Army 2005, 13–21). The third and fourth are notes taken in relation to that Army investigation (CTD Fly Team 2006; GITMO Investigation 2004). The second set of these notes extensively describes medical collaboration with one or more interrogations but the record is so heavily redacted that it is not possible to determine which, if any, of this material described the interrogation of Prisoner 063 (GITMO Investigation 2004).
According to the Army investigation, the log covers a period in the middle of al-Qahtani’s interrogation that began in the summer of 2002 and continued into 2003. For eleven days, beginning November 23, al-Qahtani was interrogated for twenty hours each day by interrogators working in shifts. He was kept awake with music, yelling, loud white noise or brief opportunities to stand. He then was subjected to eighty hours of nearly continuous interrogation until what was intended to be a 24-hour “recuperation.” This recuperation was entirely occupied by a hospitalization for hypothermia that had resulted from deliberately abusive use of an air conditioner. Army investigators reported that al-Qahtani’s body temperature had been cooled to 95 to 97 degrees Fahrenheit (35 to 36.1 degrees Celsius) and that his heart rate had slowed to thirty-five beats per minute. While hospitalized, his electrolytes were corrected and an ultrasound did not find venous thrombosis as a cause for the swelling of his leg. The prisoner slept through most of the 42-hour hospitalization after which he was hooded, shackled, put on a litter and taken by ambulance to an interrogation room for twelve more days of interrogation, punctuated by a few brief naps. He was then allowed to sleep for four hours before being interrogated for ten more days, except for naps of up to an hour. He was allowed 12 hours of sleep on January 1, but for the next eleven days, the exhausted and increasingly non-communicative prisoner was only allowed naps of one to four hours as he was interrogated. The log ends with a discharge for another “sleep period.”
If that is not torture, then we’ve gone past the point of no return on dehumanizing, we are past feeling. This is evil stuff.
The report continues:
The next day, interrogators told the prisoner that he would not be allowed to pray if he would not drink water. Neither a medic nor a physician could insert a standard intravenous catheter, so a physician inserted a “temporary shunt” to allow an intravenous infusion. The restrained prisoner asked to go the bathroom and was given a urinal instead. Thirty minutes later, he was given “three and one-half bags of IV [sic]” and he urinated twice in his pants. The next day, the physician came to the interrogation room and checked the restrained prisoner’s swollen extremities and the shunt. The shunt was removed and a soldier told al-Qahtani that he could pray on the floor where he had urinated.
Is this really a professional interrogation? What’s the point of this kind of crap? The next section highlights the psychological treatment this prisoner received:
In October 2002, before the time covered by the log, Army investigators found that dogs were brought to the interrogation room to growl, bark and bare their teeth at al-Qahtani. The investigators noted that a BSCT psychologist witnessed the use of the dog, Zeus, during at least one such instance, an incident deemed properly authorized to “exploit individual phobias.” FBI agents, however, objected to the use of dogs and withdrew from at least one session in which dogs were used.
Major L., a psychologist who chaired the BSCT at Guantanamo, was noted to be present at the start of the interrogation log. On November 27, he suggested putting the prisoner in a swivel chair to prevent him from fixing his eyes on one spot and thereby avoiding the guards. On December 11, al-Qahtani asked to be allowed to sleep in a room other than the one in which he was being fed and interrogated. The log notes that “BSCT” advised the interrogators that the prisoner was simply trying to gain control and sympathy. (my note: because of course, your intent in this interrogation is to dehumanize the man)
Many psychological “approaches” or “themes” were repetitively used. These included: “Failure/Worthless,” “Al Qaeda Falling Apart,” “Pride Down,” “Ego Down,” “Futility,” “Guilt/Sin Theme (with Evidence/Circumstantial Evidence,” etc. Al-Qahtani was shown videotapes entitled “Taliban Bodies” and “Die Terrorist Die.” Some scripts aimed at his Islamic identity bore names such as “Good Muslim,” “Bad Muslim,” “Judgment Day,” “God’s Mission” and “Muslim in America.” Al-Qahtani was called “unclean” and “Mo” [for Mohammed]. He was lectured on the true meaning of the Koran, instruction that especially enraged him when done by female soldiers. He was not told, despite asking, that some of the interrogation took place during Ramadan, a time when Moslems have special obligations. He was not allowed to honor prayer times. The Koran was intentionally and disrespectfully placed on a television (an authorized control measure) and a guard “unintentionally” squatted over it while harshly addressing the prisoner.
Transgressions against Islamic and Arab mores for sexual modesty were employed. The prisoner was forced to wear photographs of “sexy females” and to study sets of such photographs to identify whether various pictures of bikini-clad women were of the same or a different person. He was told that his mother and sister were whores. He was forced to wear a bra, and a woman’s thong was put on his head. He was dressed as a woman and compelled to dance with a male interrogator. He was told that he had homosexual tendencies and that other prisoners knew this. Although continuously monitored, interrogators repeatedly strip-searched him as a “control measure.”(my note: again, the dehumanization aspect) On at least one occasion, he was forced to stand naked with women soldiers present. Female interrogators seductively touched the prisoner under the authorized use of approaches called “Invasion of Personal Space” and “Futility.” On one occasion, a female interrogator straddled the prisoner as he was held down on the floor.
Other degrading techniques were logged. His head and beard were shaved to show the dominance of the interrogators. He was made to stand for the United States national anthem. His situation was compared unfavorably to that of banana rats in the camp. He was leashed (a detail omitted in the log but recorded by investigators) (my note: I wonder why this detail was omitted from the log…hmmmm) and made to “stay, come, and bark to elevate his social status up to a dog.” He was told to bark like a happy dog at photographs of 9/11 victims and growl at pictures of terrorists. Some psychological routines referred to the 9/11 attacks. He was shown pictures of the attacks, and photographs of victims were affixed to his body. The interrogators held one exorcism (and threatened another) to purge evil Jinns that the disoriented, sleep deprived prisoner claimed were controlling his emotions. The interrogators quizzed him on passages from a book entitled, “What makes a Terrorist and Why?,” that asserted that people joined terrorist groups for a sense of belonging and that terrorists must dehumanize their victims as a way to avoid feelings of guilt at their crimes.
I’ve quoted extensively from that article before, and basically did just the same once again. It is highly important that this gets as much play as possible. This is evil. This is wrong. This is un-American. This is unethical. This is immoral. This is un-Christian. This is ungodly. As Andrew Sullivan noted, Nazis who employed these techniques received the punishment of death for them. Americans who use these techniques are revered by the Christian right. Mitt Romney states that we should double Guantanamo. The only Republican smart enough to see past the bullshit is the only one who himself was tortured, Mr. John McCain, but yet even he fell to the wiles of the Republicans in power, as he caved in to the Military Commissions Act last fall that effectively legalized these techniques once punishable by death. How far the mighty have fallen.
II. Advisers Fault Harsh Methods in Interrogation
The second comes from a New York Times article wherein advisers and experts weigh in on the absurdity and foolishness of employing these techniques.
As the Bush administration completes secret new rules governing interrogations, a group of experts advising the intelligence agencies are arguing that the harsh techniques used since the 2001 terrorist attacks are outmoded, amateurish and unreliable.
Amateurish and unreliable. Indeed. Not to mention unethical, and, as Philip Zelikow stated, “immoral.” The article continues with the following:
The psychologists and other specialists, commissioned by the Intelligence Science Board, make the case that more than five years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has yet to create an elite corps of interrogators trained to glean secrets from terrorism suspects.
While billions are spent each year to upgrade satellites and other high-tech spy machinery, the experts say, interrogation methods — possibly the most important source of information on groups like Al Qaeda — are a hodgepodge that date from the 1950s, or are modeled on old Soviet practices.
Indeed. These techniques come from the masters who honed them, the Soviets and the Nazis.
In a blistering lecture delivered last month, a former adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called “immoral” some interrogation tactics used by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon.
But in meetings with intelligence officials and in a 325-page initial report completed in December, the researchers have pressed a more practical critique: there is little evidence, they say, that harsh methods produce the best intelligence.
“There’s an assumption that often passes for common sense that the more pain imposed on someone, the more likely they are to comply,” said Randy Borum, a psychologist at the University of South Florida who, like several of the study’s contributors, is a consultant for the Defense Department.
There is indeed little evidence that it works. Anybody who has been pressed for evidence cites the “secrecy” concern, that somehow by revealing how they got that information, it would give terrorists the game. How silly.
The article then discusses the techniques used by the Americans during World War II. Note the important points:
But some of the experts involved in the interrogation review, called “Educing Information,” say that during World War II, German and Japanese prisoners were effectively questioned without coercion.
“It far outclassed what we’ve done,” said Steven M. Kleinman, a former Air Force interrogator and trainer, who has studied the World War II program of interrogating Germans. The questioners at Fort Hunt, Va., “had graduate degrees in law and philosophy, spoke the language flawlessly,” and prepared for four to six hours for each hour of questioning, said Mr. Kleinman, who wrote two chapters for the December report.
Mr. Kleinman, who worked as an interrogator in Iraq in 2003, called the post-Sept. 11 efforts “amateurish” by comparison to the World War II program, with inexperienced interrogators who worked through interpreters and had little familiarity with the prisoners’ culture.
The inexperience has led to many deaths of prisoners at the hands of Americans, who would have lived under pre-9/11 rules. Major Milavic writes shares the following sad story from Afghanistan:
The following is a partial extract from the 11 July 2004, New York Times Magazine article entitled, “Memoir: Interrogation Unbound,” By Hyder Akbar, as told to Susan Burton. This narrative demonstrates what can happen when someone untrained in interrogation—especially this interrogation precept–attempts to interrogate a detainee:
It was a Wednesday afternoon in June 2003, and Abdul Wali was being interrogated by three Americans at their base near Asadabad, Afghanistan. I was interpreting. At the time, Wali’s family guessed his age to be 28; he was 10 years older than I was. I’m 19 now. I grew up mostly in the Bay Area suburbs, but since the fall of the Taliban, I’ve been spending summers in Afghanistan, working alongside my father, Said Fazel Akbar, the governor of Kunar, a rural province in the eastern part of the country. It’s a strange double life. I sometimes stumble into situations in which I’m called upon to act as a kind of cultural translator. It’s a role that can leave me tense and frustrated, or far worse: I came away from Wali’s interrogation feeling something close to despair.
On June 18, 2003, Abdul Wali visited my father’s office. He knew that the Americans wanted to question him about some recent rocket attacks. He told us he was innocent, and he said he was terrified of going to the U.S. base, because there were pervasive rumors that prisoners were tortured there. My father told him that he needed to go, and he sent me along to reassure him.
A half-hour later, Wali and I were sitting across from three men I then knew only by their first names: Steve, Brian and Dave, who proved to be David A. Passaro. It was more than 100 degrees in the small room, and above us, a fan whirred wildly.
The interrogation started casually enough. In his friendly Southern accent, Brian dispensed with the nuts and bolts: have you been in contact with Taliban? Were you Taliban? Then the subject turned to Wali’s recent visit to Pakistan.
“How long ago were you in Pakistan?” Brian asked.
Wali looked confused, and I doubted he’d be able to answer. People in Kunar don’t have calendars; most of them don’t even know how old they are.
“You don’t have to give a specific date,” Brian said. “Was it two, three days ago? Two, three weeks ago? Two, three months ago?”
“I don’t know,” Wali responded. “It’s really hard for me to say.”
The Americans exchanged glances. I prodded him: “Can you at least say a week or two weeks or a month or two months, or something?” But he couldn’t. For him, as for many of his countrymen, time unfolded forward—there was no way to go back later and try to fix it in a structure.
“I just, I go to sleep, I wake up and there’s a next day,” he explained.
“I feed myself, I go to sleep and there’s a next day.”
The Americans weren’t buying it. Dave took over the questioning.
He asked Wali where he had been 14 days earlier, on a night when three rockets were fired at the American base. “How could you not know where you were on the night three rockets were fired?” he said. Wali explained that his nights were often punctuated by explosions.
Even seated, Dave seemed enlarged by anger. His demeanor felt put on, as if he were acting the role of a fearsome interrogator (especially in comparison to Brian, whose Southern hospitality softened even his grilling of this suspected terrorist). Dave fixed Wali with an unrelenting stare. Wali returned a nervous smile.
“Translate this to him!” Dave exploded: “This is not a joking matter! Don’t smile!”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend him,” Wali replied anxiously. “It’s very hard for me. I can’t understand anything he’s saying. He was staring at me, and I didn’t know what to do. What should I do?” he asked me.
I wasn’t sure how to react. Dave’s behavior was unpredictable. Only days earlier, he and I had a friendly conversation about his little son, who could say his ABC’s and count from 1 to 20 and back down again. But now he was acting as if he was full of rage. “If you’re lying, your whole family, your kids, they’ll all get hurt from this,” he threatened.
As I translated, I started to feel as if Dave’s words to Wali were my own, and all I wanted to do was stop saying these things to him.
“Your situation’s getting worse,” Dave warned. How was I supposed to tell that to Wali, when my father had assured him that coming to the base would make everything better?
Nobody was behaving the way they would with a regular translator; both sides added comments meant only for me. In one ear, I had Wali pleading: “I’m innocent, I’m innocent.” In the other, I had Brian dismissing his account: “That is impossible.” What was I supposed to do, argue or agree?
At some point, I announced that Wali was making personal, emotional appeals to me, and that the other translator in the room—a local Afghan employed at the base—should take over. Then I quietly tried to share my largest concern with Brian. “I’m not going to translate for this guy,” I whispered. “Look how he’s acting.”
“What do you mean?” Brian replied, perhaps misunderstanding. “I’m totally calm.”
“You’re calm, but look at Dave,” I said.
Brian shrugged his shoulders.
As the interrogation continued, I was relieved to be on the sidelines, but still, it wasn’t easy to watch Dave browbeat Wali. Finally the questions stopped, and Wali stood facing the wall as the Americans patted him down in preparation for detention. “Is there anything you want to give to your family?” Dave asked him.
The question terrified Wali. “No, no,” he stuttered.
I approached Wali and, to calm him, put my hand on his shoulder.
“Just say the truth,” I told him, trying to sound normal. “Nothing is going to happen if you just say the truth.” Then I walked out of the room, promising myself that I’d come back and check up on him.
He died before I got the chance.
On June 17 of , a federal grand jury indicted C.I.A. contractor, David A. Passaro, in connection with his assault. Passaro, the first civilian to be charged in the investigation of prisoner abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan, is accused of beating Wali using his hands, his feet and a large flashlight. [Also, according to the 29 July 2004 Fayetteville (NC) Observer, Passaro is a former Special Forces medic and “was working at the U.S. Army Special Operations Command as a ‘medical intelligence research analyst’ when he was arrested.”]
How many more examples, how much more evidence do you need, America, that what Bush has ordered and employed is wrong, un-American, unethical, immoral, and against the very principles we usually fight for? How much more before we do something about this? This is evil stuff. We’re supposed to FIGHT evil stuff, not embrace it!
But as we see from the Republican debate a couple of weeks ago, the Republican candidates all jumped to see who can say “yes” the loudest when asked if they would approve of these techniques:
Given the discussion of torture policy, the question seemed relevant, though a little fantastical. So, would the candidates permit torture? As Slate’s John Dickerson put it, “There seemed to be a competition to see who could say yes the fastest. Some candidates appeared ready to do the torturing themselves.”
It was a dejecting display.
During tonight’s presidential debates, candidates were asked whether they would support the use of waterboarding — a technique, defined as torture by the Justice Department, that simulates drowning and makes the subject “believe his death is imminent while ideally not causing permanent physical damage.”
Both former mayor Rudy Giuliani and Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) suggested they would support using the technique. Specifically asked about waterboarding, Giuliani said he would allow “every method [interrogators] could think of and I would support them in doing it.” Tancredo later added, “I’m looking for Jack Bauer,” referencing the television character who has used torture techniques such as suffocation and electrocution on prisoners.
The audience applauded loudly after both statements.
That last point shouldn’t go by unnoticed. These candidates not only endorsed torture in a high-profile, nationally-televised forum, but the crowd loved it. Romney not only endorsed the human-rights abuses at Guantanamo Bay, he said “[W]e ought to double Guantanamo,” in part so that detainees “don’t get access to lawyers they get when they’re on our soil.” This, too, garnered considerable applause.
As Digby explained, it was a reminder that as far as the Republican Party is concerned, this is still “all about the codpiece.”
These guys have just spent the last fifteen minutes of the debate trying to top each other on just how much torture they are willing to inflict. They sound like a bunch of psychotic 12 year olds, although considering the puerile nature of the “24″ question it’s not entirely their fault.
This debate is a window into what really drives the GOP id. The biggest applause lines were for faux tough guy Giuliani demanding Ron Paul take back his assertion that the terrorists don’t hate us for our freedom, macho man Huckabee talking about Edwards in a beauty parlor and the manly hunk Romney saying that he wants to double the number of prisoners in Guantanamo “where they can’t get lawyers.” There’s very little energy for that girly talk about Jesus or “the culture of life” or any of that BS that the pansy Bush ran on.
As for the one question on everyone’s mind — there were eight references to Reagan last night, down from 20 in the first debate. There was just one reference to George W. Bush (from Ron Paul, who mocked him for running on a “humble” foreign policy platform in 2000).
The most disturbing aspect is that the audience cheered when they said yes. Weep for the future.
Well, we knew this day was coming. Cheney is apparently disappointed with Bush for going the diplomatic route with Iran and is going around the president to force the president’s hand. This is from Steve Clemons who is deeply connected in the world of Washington. He states:
There is a race currently underway between different flanks of the administration to determine the future course of US-Iran policy.
On one flank are the diplomats, and on the other is Vice President Cheney’s team and acolytes — who populate quite a wide swath throughout the American national security bureaucracy.
The Pentagon and the intelligence establishment are providing support to add muscle and nuance to the diplomatic effort led by Condi Rice, her deputy John Negroponte, Under Secretary of State R. Nicholas Burns, and Legal Adviser John Bellinger. The support that Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and CIA Director Michael Hayden are providing Rice’s efforts are a complete, 180 degree contrast to the dysfunction that characterized relations between these institutions before the recent reshuffle of top personnel.
However, the Department of Defense and national intelligence sector are also preparing for hot conflict. They believe that they need to in order to convince Iran’s various power centers that the military option does exist.
But this is worrisome. The person in the Bush administration who most wants a hot conflict with Iran is Vice President Cheney. The person in Iran who most wants a conflict is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Quds Force would be big winners in a conflict as well — as the political support that both have inside Iran has been flagging.
Multiple sources have reported that a senior aide on Vice President Cheney’s national security team has been meeting with policy hands of the American Enterprise Institute, one other think tank, and more than one national security consulting house and explicitly stating that Vice President Cheney does not support President Bush’s tack towards Condoleezza Rice’s diplomatic efforts and fears that the President is taking diplomacy with Iran too seriously.
This White House official has stated to several Washington insiders that Cheney is planning to deploy an “end run strategy” around the President if he and his team lose the policy argument.
The thinking on Cheney’s team is to collude with Israel, nudging Israel at some key moment in the ongoing standoff between Iran’s nuclear activities and international frustration over this to mount a small-scale conventional strike against Natanz using cruise missiles (i.e., not ballistic missiles).
There are many other components of the complex game plan that this Cheney official has been kicking around Washington. The official has offered this commentary to senior staff at AEI and in lunch and dinner gatherings which were to be considered strictly off-the-record, but there can be little doubt that the official actually hopes that hawkish conservatives and neoconservatives share this information and then rally to this point of view. This official is beating the brush and doing what Joshua Muravchik has previously suggested — which is to help establish the policy and political pathway to bombing Iran.
The zinger of this information is the admission by this Cheney aide that Cheney himself is frustrated with President Bush and believes, much like Richard Perle, that Bush is making a disastrous mistake by aligning himself with the policy course that Condoleezza Rice, Bob Gates, Michael Hayden and McConnell have sculpted.
According to this official, Cheney believes that Bush can not be counted on to make the “right decision” when it comes to dealing with Iran and thus Cheney believes that he must tie the President’s hands.
On Tuesday evening, i spoke with a former top national intelligence official in this Bush administration who told me that what I was investigating and planned to report on regarding Cheney and the commentary of his aide was “potentially criminal insubordination” against the President. I don’t believe that the White House would take official action against Cheney for this agenda-mongering around Washington — but I do believe that the White House must either shut Cheney and his team down and give them all garden view offices so that they can spend their days staring out their windows with not much to do or expect some to begin to think that Bush has no control over his Vice President.
It is not that Cheney wants to bomb Iran and Bush doesn’t, it is that Cheney is saying that Bush is making a mistake and thus needs to have the choices before him narrowed.
As some of Mr. Clemons’ readers note, that is usually called a coup, and would be in violation of American law. But Cheney has never been one to really care what the law states. He wants his war with Iran, and he will damned well get it.
Note the timing of the following two news tidbits, (one following the other, purposefully, on CNN.com)
Note that the intelligence Bush offers about Bin Laden comes from 2005.
President Bush on Tuesday declassified intelligence showing in 2005 Osama bin Laden planned to use Iraq as a base from which to launch attacks in the United States, according to White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe.
Johndroe said the intelligence was declassified so the president could discuss the previously secret material on Wednesday during a commencement address at the Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut.
Here is what is happening today:
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ former White House liaison is scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, speaking out for the first time on her role in the controversial U.S. attorney firings.
Monica Goodling, who served as Gonzales’ senior counsel, is the only key official who has not yet testified about the firings of eight U.S. attorneys.
Her lawyers initially kept her from testifying, saying she would cite her Fifth Amendment right to protection from self-incrimination, but she will now be granted immunity.
Unfortunately, which one will garner more evening news across the nation? Why our bogeyman, of course, Bush…er…Bin Laden. Sorry, a little slip up. I mean it is Bush who keeps trying to scare us into following his way. That’s what a bogeyman does, scare people.
Seriously, if this information came out in 2005, why did Bush feel like needing to hold on to this until now? Why not release it in 2005 to prove that his war in Iraq was a just cause? And why to the Coast Guard Academy of Connecticut? Why not to the whole nation? Why hold on to it, unless you are holding on to them to use them at politically sensitive times, like say, today, when one of your former goons testifies with immunity from prosecution?
Well, we’ve had over 3400 of our soldiers killed, tens of thousands wounded, over one hundred thousand Iraqis killed, nearly half a trillion dollars poured into Iraq, and well, guess who’s making a cash windfall in Iraq? Why none other than Al-Qaida:
A major CIA effort launched last year to hunt down Osama bin Laden has produced no significant leads, but has helped track an alarming increase in the movement of al-Qaida operatives and money into Pakistan’s tribal territories, according to senior U.S. intelligence officials.
In one of the most troubling trends, U.S. officials said al-Qaida’s command base in Pakistan increasingly is being funded by cash from Iraq, where the terrorist network’s operatives are raising substantial sums from donations to the insurgency as well as kidnappings of wealthy Iraqis and other criminal activity.
The influx of money has bolstered al-Qaida’s leadership ranks at a time when the core command is regrouping. The trend also signals a reversal in the traditional flow of al-Qaida funds, with the leadership surviving to a large extent on money from its most profitable franchise, rather than distributing funds from headquarters to distant cells.
Al-Qaida’s efforts were aided, intelligence officials said, by Pakistan’s withdrawal in September of tens of thousands of troops from tribal areas along the Afghanistan border where bin Laden and his top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, are believed to be hiding.
Little more than a year ago, al-Qaida’s core command was thought to be in a financial crunch. But U.S. officials said cash shipped from Iraq has eased those troubles.
“Iraq is a big moneymaker for them,” a senior U.S. counterterrorism official said.
A new Chatham House report states that Iraq is becoming a failed state even with the surge of American troops.
There is not ‘one’ civil war, nor ‘one’ insurgency, but several civil wars and insurgencies between different communities in today’s Iraq. Within this warring society, the Iraqi government is only one among many ‘state-like’ actors, and is largely irrelevant in terms of ordering social, economic, and political life. It is now possible to argue that Iraq is on the verge of being a failed state which faces the distinct possibility of collapse and fragmentation. These are some of the key findings of Accepting Realities in Iraq a new Briefing Paper written by Dr Gareth Stansfield and published today by Chatham House.
The paper also assesses Al-Qaeda activity within Iraq, especially in the major cities in the centre and north of the country. Dr Stansfield argues that, although Al-Qaeda is challenged by local groups, there is momentum behind its activity. Iraq’s neighbors too have a greater capacity to affect the situation on the ground than either the UK or the US. Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey all have different reasons for seeing the instability in Iraq continue, and each uses different methods to influence developments.
Dr Stansfield argues that with the myriad conflicts in Iraq following societal, religious and political divides and often involving state actors, the multinational forces are finding it exceptionally difficult to promote security normalization. The recent US ‘surge’ in Baghdad looks likely to have simply pushed insurgent activity to neighboring cities and cannot deliver the required political accommodation. A political solution will require Sunni Arab representatives’ participation in government, the recognition of Moqtada al-Sadr as a legitimate political partner, and a positive response to Kurdish concerns. Further, it would be a mistake to believe that the political forces in Iraq are weak and can be reorganized by the US or the international community, there must be ‘buy-in’ from the key Iraqi political actors.
The report paints a very harsh picture of the country. I believe the following to be their most important point if we are to resolve this ugly American-made situation:
These current harsh realities need to be accepted if new strategies are to have any chance of preventing the failure and collapse of Iraq. A political solution will require engagement with organizations possessing popular legitimacy and needs to be an Iraqi accommodation, rather than a regional or US-imposed approach.
It is high time that Americans accept the harsh realities. We must if we are to actually apply the proper tools to fixing the problem.