Saturday, June 12, 2004

Why Torture's A Stupid Idea  

You invite horrors like this in retaliation:
Al Qaeda militants said on Sunday they had kidnapped a U.S. engineer in Saudi Arabia to "avenge U.S. mistreatment of prisoners" in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, according to an Islamist Web site.

In a statement posted on Sawt al Jihad Islamist Web site, they identified the American as Paul Marshal Johnson from New Jersey, born on May 8, 1955, and a specialist in Apache helicopters. They said he was kidnapped on Saturday.
Paul Johnson, the American prisoner, is 19 years old. Where were you when you were 19? I sure as hell wasn't kidnapped by al Qaeda, waiting to be treated like an Abu Ghraib prisoner.

George W. Bush - the man who made torture an official, legal American institution.

Torture and Rumors of Torture: Archive Entry From Brad DeLong's Webjournal  

Rick Pearlstein,sent Brad deLong some notes he took during a recent Sy Hersh lecture:
Bush, he said, was closing ranks, purging anyone who wasn't 100% with him. Said Tenet has a child in bad health, has heart problems, and seemed to find him generally a decent guy under unimaginable pressure, and that people told him that Tenet feared a heart attack if he had to take one more grilling from Cheney. "When these guys memoirs come out, it will shock all of us."...

He said that after he broke Abu Ghraib people are coming out of the woodwork to tell him this stuff. He said he had seen all the Abu Ghraib pictures. He said, "You haven't begun to see evil..." then trailed off. He said, "horrible things done to children of women prisoners, as the cameras run."

He looked frightened.
There's more.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Son Of Medicare  

Remember when, oops! the Bush administration "unintentionally underestimated" the cost of the medicare program? Guess what? Buried in the bowels of the NY Times, on page A9, we read that they pulled the same stunt again, this time the topic is terrorism:
The State Department acknowledged Thursday that it was wrong in reporting that terrorism declined worldwide last year, a finding the Bush administration had pointed to as evidence of its success in countering terror.

Instead, the number of incidents and the toll in victims increased sharply, the department said. Statements by senior administration officials claiming success were based "on the facts as we had them at the time; the facts that we had were wrong," Richard A. Boucher, the State Department spokesman, said.

When the report was issued April 29, senior administration officials used it as evidence that the war was being won. J. Cofer Black, coordinator of the State Department's Counterterrorism Office, cited the 190 acts of terrorism in 2003, down from 198 in 2002, as "good news" and predicted the trend would continue. Richard L. Armitage, the deputy secretary of state, said at the time, "You will find in these pages clear evidence that we are prevailing in the fight." His office did not respond Thursday to a request for a statement on disclosures that some of the findings were inaccurate. The erroneous report, titled "Patterns of Global Terrorism," said that attacks declined last year to the lowest level in 34 years and dropped 45 percent since 2001, Mr. Bush's first year as president, when 346 attacks occurred.
Of course, this was merely an honest error, like the famous 16 words, or Powell's "unintentional misinformation" at the UN. Y'see? Even Powell says so:
"I can assure you it had nothing to do with putting out anything but the most honest, accurate information we can," Mr. Powell said said.

"Errors crept in that, frankly, we did not catch here," he said of the report, which showed a decline in the number of attacks worldwide in 2003.
Folks, these foul, filthy liars simply have to go.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

A Modest Proposal  

Okay, if Bush won't heed calls to approve unrestricted stem cell research, then I think it's only fitting that Ronald Reagan really should be honored on our currency. I would suggest a new denomination, say, the three dollar bill.

Bush's Moral Clarity  

Bush Claims No Recall of Iraq Torture Memo
The president said he doesn't recall seeing Justice Department advice about the conditions for such torture.

Asked repeatedly about it, Bush sidestepped a question about whether he thought torture was immoral, saying that his instructions were ``to adhere to law. ... We're a nation of law'' and ``you might look at those laws.'' [Emphasis added.]
Makes you kind of sick, doesn't it, when a US president won't unequivocally state that torture is immoral?

And his prevarication invites the interpretation that he believes the torture memos (which he can't recall seeing) correctly interpret the law.

I simply can't believe the media is letting him get away with this. But they are.

[UPDATE] Here's the transcript of Bush's remarks about the torture memo:
Q: Mr. President, the Justice Department issued and [sic] advisory opinion last year declaring that, as commander in chief, you have the authority to order any kind of interrogation techniques that are necessary to pursue the war on terror. Were you aware of this advisory opinion? Do you agree with it? And did you issue any such authorization at any time?

BUSH: The authorization I issued was that anything we did would conform to U.S. law and would be consistent with international treaty obligations. That's the message I gave our people.

Q: Have you seen the memos?

BUSH: I can't remember if I've seen the memo or not, but I gave those instructions.
The transcript of the news conference is well worth a squint. Read how Bush slips out of talking about whether he and Cheney discussed Plame.

The Goods On D'Souza  

Recently, Dinesh D'Souza, who has rightly been called a racist, was indentified as a CNN analyst.

Michael Bérubé describes the lengths D'Souza will go to lie, smear and obfuscate. It is quite a read so go thou and do so. Here's a small excerpt:
So first, let it be noted that D'Souza, however unwittingly, drove a fellow student to contemplate suicide because of his article on the Gay Student Alliance. (To put this in terms that craven cable news organizations will understand, Michael Savage merely told a gay caller to die; D'Souza in his youth was somewhat more, shall we say, proactive.) Second, let us acknowledge that in the ten years between that event and his exchanges with the Voice and the Nation, D'Souza learned that his behavior in 1981 was a political liability, and would have to be met with nothing less than complete denial. Third, let us marvel at the cockiness with which D'Souza demanded a retraction from the Nation, proclaiming his knowledge that he would meet with "lies from the loony left." Fourth, let us wonder what the Sam Hill is going on with a character who sends his critics the evidence that convicts him, presumably in the belief that it exonerates him.

Voters Shift in Favor of Kerry  

But not enough by half:
idespread unease over the country's direction and doubts about President Bush's policies on Iraq and the economy helped propel Sen. John F. Kerry to a solid lead among voters nationwide, according to a new Times poll.

Yet in a measure of the race's tenuous balance, Times polling in three of the most fiercely contested states found that Bush had a clear advantage over Kerry in Missouri and is even with the presumed Democratic rival in Ohio and Wisconsin.

Ashcroft Meets Jon Stewart  

Must be seen. (You'll need a divx movie player, which you may have to download from, but don't worry, it's free, and believe me, it's worth it.)

Hat tip to Atrios.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Saudis Flew Before Americans Post 9/11  

Well, now we know who really counts:
Two days after the Sept. 11 attacks, with most of the nation's air traffic still grounded, a small jet landed at Tampa International Airport, picked up three young Saudi men and left.

The men, one of them thought to be a member of the Saudi royal family, were accompanied by a former FBI agent and a former Tampa police officer on the flight to Lexington, Ky.

The Saudis then took another flight out of the country. The two ex-officers returned to TIA a few hours later on the same plane.

For nearly three years, White House, aviation and law enforcement officials have insisted the flight never took place and have denied published reports and widespread Internet speculation about its purpose.

But now, at the request of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, TIA officials have confirmed that the flight did take place and have supplied details.
Y'know, y'can't be too paranoid with this bunch.

Tom Tomorrow Mutilates Fruits  

See for yourself.

Great Minds Think Alike  

I'm delighted to see that Tapped, Daily Kos, and Atrios, inter alia, apparently agree with my post from last Saturday that as long as Bush continues to restrict stem cell research, his remarks euologizing Reagan reek of hypocrisy.

Hiding In Plain Sight  

For reasons that are unclear, the story that John Walker Lindh and others in Afghanistan were mistreated is now news 2 1/2 years later:
After American Taliban recruit John Walker Lindh was captured in Afghanistan, the office of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld instructed military intelligence officers to "take the gloves off" in interrogating him.

The instructions from Rumsfeld's legal counsel in late 2001, contained in previously undisclosed government documents, are the earliest known evidence that the Bush administration was willing to test the limits of how far it could go legally to extract information from suspected terrorists.
What a shocker. It's as if there was collective amnesia about this photo of Mr. Lindh in transit back to the United States:

(I always wondered why there wasn't universal outrage when this picture first popped up.)

Dueling Headlines  

Here's the New York Times:

Buoyed by U.N. Victory, Bush Tries to Shore Up NATO Support

And now, BBC:

Chirac snubs Bush's Nato request

Oh, and just in case you think that the Times story was filed before the Chirac "snub," think again. The Times reports Chirac's remarks. But starting only in paragraph 6.

Sabotage Plus In Iraq  

Oil pipeline destroyed:
Saboteurs blew up a key northern oil pipeline Wednesday, forcing a 10 percent cut on the national power grid as demand for electricity rises with the advent of Iraq's broiling summer heat.

Meanwhile, clashes persisted Wednesday around Fallujah, a rebellious Sunni Muslim city west of Baghdad. Four members of an Iraqi force in charge of the city since April were wounded when a mortar round exploded. 1st Lt. Amer Jassim speculated the attackers were firing at Americans but missed.

Dutch Treat? It's Now Called Bush Treat.  

How To Win Friends And Influence People:
In an effort to demonstrate engagement with Arabs on the issues, Mr Bush invited the leaders of a number of Islamic countries to attend a lunch on Wednesday with G8 leaders, at their own expense. But leaders of some key nations, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Morocco, turned down the invitation, and Qatar was purposely snubbed because of administration anger at al-Jazeera's coverage of the Iraq war. Ms Rice cited scheduling issues as the reason Morocco and Egypt - one of the effort's harshest critics - will not appear. [Emphasis added.]

Hat tip to Juan Cole

Complete Torture Memo  

Josh has a link to the complete torture memo, c/o the WSJ.

[UPDATE] In case you want an analysis of the gory details, Michael Froomkin has what looks like a pretty thorough analysis of the first 56 pages. I skimmed it and it's pretty sickening.

As I watch the administration deny the torture memo is what is, or that Bush ever authorized anything resembling torture, I can't help but recall this scene from one cinema's great masterpieces:
[returning Austin's personal property after reanimating him]

Quartermaster Clerk: One Swedish-made penis enlarger.

Austin Powers: [to Vanessa] That's not mine.

Quartermaster Clerk: One credit card receipt for Swedish-made penis enlarger signed by Austin Powers.

Austin Powers: I'm telling ya baby, that's not mine.

Quartermaster Clerk: One warranty card for Swedish-made penis enlarger pump, filled out by Austin Powers.

Austin Powers: I don't even know what this is! This sort of thing ain't my bag, baby.

Quartermaster Clerk: One book, 'Swedish-made Penis Enlargers And Me: This Sort of Thing Is My Bag Baby', by Austin Powers.
Torture is the Bush administration's sort of thing. Baby. Remember Bush imitating a woman he was about to execute, "Please don't kill me"?

New US Puppet In Iraq Was Old CIA Puppet  

Wow, what a surprise:
Iyad Allawi, now the designated prime minister of Iraq, ran an exile organization intent on deposing Saddam Hussein that sent agents into Baghdad in the early 1990's to plant bombs and sabotage government facilities under the direction of the C.I.A., several former intelligence officials say.
Well, at least Allawi was a good guy, blowing up targets that weakened Saddam Hussein's brutal regime, right?
One former Central Intelligence Agency officer who was based in the region, Robert Baer, recalled that a bombing during that period "blew up a school bus; schoolchildren were killed." Mr. Baer, a critic of the Iraq war, said he did not recall which resistance group might have set off that bomb.

Other former intelligence officials said Dr. Allawi's organization was the only resistance group involved in bombings and sabotage at that time.
Okay, so he made a mistake. Well, at least he was effective, yes?
But one former senior intelligence official recalled that "bombs were going off to no great effect."
Alright, he was incompetent as well as a child murderer. But objectively, he's the best choice for Iraq now. It's not as if his choice is merely the result a power struggle within the US government or anything.
Dr. Allawi was a favorite of the C.I.A. and other government agencies 10 years ago, largely because he served as a counterpoint to Ahmad Chalabi, a more prominent exile leader.
Okay, so he killed kids, was incompetent, and chosen merely so the CIA could say "screw you" to the neocons. But at least he had connections to Iraqis known for their commitment to human rights, Iraqis of great moral integrity, true?
In 1991, Dr. Allawi was associated with a former Iraqi official, Salih Omar Ali al-Tikriti, whom the United States viewed as unsavory. He and Dr. Allawi founded the Iraqi National Accord in 1990. Both were former supporters of the Iraqi government.

Some intelligence officials have also suggested that Dr. Allawi, while he was still a member of the ruling Baath Party in the early 1970's, may have spied on Iraqi students studying in London. Mr. Tikriti was said to have supervised public hangings in Baghdad.
Oh. Oh dear.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Voting Trouble In Florida. Again.  

State elections chief resigns
[Ed] Kast's decision to step down comes in the midst of increasing scrutiny of the upcoming presidential election in Florida, which decided the presidency by 537 votes four years ago.

In early May, Kast alerted the state's 67 election supervisors that there were nearly 48,000 voters that the state had identified as possible felons ineligible to vote. Kast asked the supervisors to start notifying those on the list, in advance of purging the names, but many election supervisors have delayed so far, saying they remain concerned about the accuracy of the new felon list.

Lists of ineligible voters developed in 1999 and 2000 were riddled with errors and some supervisors ignored the list. Elections supervisors are meeting this week in Key West to discuss how much independent verification they should do before notifying voters that they may be ineligible.

One liberal group, People for the American Way Foundation, tried to use the news of Kast's resignation as a reason for putting the new purge list on hold. The group called on Hood to work more on restoring to the rolls those voters who may have improperly lost their eligibility in 1999 and 2000 -- and that she tell supervisors to delay processing the new felon list.

''When the key election official for the state resigns with just five months to go, it's a sign of serious disarray and instability,'' said Sharon Lettman, the group's Florida state director for its voter education and advocacy program. ``Just when county supervisors are looking for clear leadership, here comes another curve ball.''

Dirty Tricks?  

Possibly. Apparently, there was a pre-existing dispute, but it's in the GOP's interest to delay the settlement:
Hundreds of union members picketed outside the site of the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday in a show of solidarity with city police that could delay preparations for the political gathering.

Union firefighters, electricians and other trade workers joined police officers picketing over a long-simmering dispute with Mayor Thomas Menino. The 1,400-member police union has been without a contract for two years. Talks broke down on Monday, with each side blaming the other for the impasse.

The beginning of round-the-clock picketing coincided with the start of a $14 million construction project to prepare the FleetCenter, a sports arena, for the Democratic National Convention on July 26-29. Telecommunications workers have already said they won't cross police pickets to install thousands of miles of telephone and data lines.

Colorado Republicans Lose Redistricting Effort  

The battle over a new Congressional map for Colorado, one of the country's most closely watched redistricting cases, ended Monday in a Democratic victory at the Supreme Court. Falling one vote short, the justices refused to hear the Colorado Republicans' appeal of a state high court ruling that invalidated an unusual second redistricting plan the Republicans had pushed through the legislature in the closing days of its 2003 session.

Mid-decade redistricting is part of a national Republican strategy to leverage newly achieved control in a state legislature by redrawing the Congressional map in a way that favors Republicans. A case from Texas is on appeal to the Supreme Court but will probably not be acted on before the current term ends this month.

In invalidating Colorado's new redistricting plan last December, the Colorado Supreme Court said it was relying completely on the state Constitution to conclude that Congressional redistricting could be conducted only once a decade. That decision meant that the district lines reverted to those drawn by a state court in early 2002, after the legislature failed to agree on how to draw new lines following the 2000 census, which gave Colorado a new Seventh District. Under that plan, Colorado Democrats say they have a good chance to pick up two seats.

In November 2002, Republicans gained control of the Colorado legislature. Over Democratic objections, they pushed through a new plan in the final days of the 2003 legislative session.

Cartoon Of The Year  

Gen JC Christian, I want you to bear my child. Go thou now and see it for yourself.

More On Bush And Torture  

You can't say the Times doesn't have a puckish sense of humor. Scooped by the Journal, it still has the funnier headline: Lawyers Decided Bans on Torture Didn't Bind Bush. Hah hah! Get it? "Torture?" "Bind?" Oh, those Times editors, what cards!

But what they're talking about is no joke:
A team of administration lawyers concluded in a March 2003 legal memorandum that President Bush was not bound by either an international treaty prohibiting torture or by a federal antitorture law because he had the authority as commander in chief to approve any technique needed to protect the nation's security.
Love the use of that phrase "any technique." Disguises the truth: the lawyers concluded Bush has the right to do anything. But check it out:
One reason, the lawyers said, would be if military personnel believed that they were acting on orders from superiors "except where the conduct goes so far as to be patently unlawful."
Now, IANAL, but that sounds like they're saying any torturer can use the "I was just following orders" defense, except when it's advantageous for those who gave the orders to blame them.

And they'd been working on providing Bush the "right" to torture for months:
A Jan. 22, 2002, memorandum from the Justice Department that provided arguments to keep American officials from being charged with war crimes for the way prisoners were detained and interrogated was used extensively as a basis for the March memorandum on avoiding proscriptions against torture.

The previously disclosed Justice Department memorandum concluded that administration officials were justified in asserting that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to detainees from the Afghanistan war.
And then another memo reveals that the CIA knew enough to get it in writing:
... that memorandum, dated Feb. 2, 2002, noted that lawyers for the Central Intelligence Agency had asked for an explicit understanding that the administration's public pledge to abide by the spirit of the conventions did not apply to its operatives.
In case you were wondering if this was just a bunch of Pentagon lawyers, and that Rumsfeld alone is responsible:
The memo showed that not only lawyers from the Defense and Justice departments and the White House approved of the policy but also that David S. Addington, the counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney, also was involved in the deliberations.
And now we encounter the chewy moral center of the Bush administration: We can inflict the severest torture provided our hearts are pure:
The March 6 document about torture provides tightly constructed definitions of torture. For example, if an interrogator "knows that severe pain will result from his actions, if causing such harm is not his objective, he lacks the requisite specific intent even though the defendant did not act in good faith," the report said. "Instead, a defendant is guilty of torture only if he acts with the express purpose of inflicting severe pain or suffering on a person within his control."

The adjective "severe," the report said, "makes plain that the infliction of pain or suffering per se, whether it is physical or mental, is insufficient to amount to torture. Instead, the text provides that pain or suffering must be `severe.' " The report also advised that if an interrogator "has a good faith belief his actions will not result in prolonged mental harm, he lacks the mental state necessary for his actions to constitute torture."

The report also said that interrogators could justify breaching laws or treaties by invoking the doctrine of necessity. An interrogator using techniques that cause harm might be immune from liability if he "believed at the moment that his act is necessary and designed to avoid greater harm."
Makes you sick, doesn't it?

But apparently, some of the lawyers had a conscience (and now we know who probably passed the memos to the press):
Scott Horton, the former head of the human rights committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, said Monday that he believed that the March memorandum on avoiding responsibility for torture was what caused a delegation of military lawyers to visit him and complain privately about the administration's confidential legal arguments. That visit, he said, resulted in the association undertaking a study and issuing of a report criticizing the administration. He added that the lawyers who drafted the torture memo in March could face professional sanctions.
"Professional sanctions" aren't enough, if you ask me.

And just in case you thought the Bush administration was being consistent:
The March memorandum also contains a curious section in which the lawyers argued that any torture committed at Guantánamo would not be a violation of the anti-torture statute because the base was under American legal jurisdiction and the statute concerns only torture committed overseas. That view is in direct conflict with the position the administration has taken in the Supreme Court, where it has argued that prisoners at Guantánamo Bay are not entitled to constitutional protections because the base is outside American jurisdiction.
Had enough? Wait there's more!

The walking human scum that headed the group that wrote these disgusting texts -documents that will go down in American history as one of the worst betrayals of our core principles as a nation ever- was one Mary Walker. Billmon can tell you all about her. Go read it. And then ask yourself why we should treat anyone in this administration who talks about their strong relationship to Christ with respect.

Ladies and gentleman, and children of all ages: This is why groups like ADL shudder in alarm at the slightest hint of anti-semitism. Because there's always some deluded, zealous nutball like Mary Walker who is more than willing to justify torture if the torturers put their faith in the Lord.

Whether this country can summon the moral outrage to denounce this and demand the immediate resignation of Walker and Rumsfeld is an open question (I know better than to expect the real culprits -Bush and Cheney- will resign). I certainly hope so.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Ghost Wars Is A Must Read  

If you want to understand how bin Laden happened, then Ghost Wars by Steve Coll is a wonderful place to start. It goes into considerable detail about the complexities that Afghanistan and bin Laden presented, with mistakes all around.

Now, in the beginning of the book, there are some genuine errors in describing Islam, but don't let that deter you. It's an extremely important book and becomes a riveting one, as you see the tragedy develop.

The Torture Memo: Josh Marshall  

This is exactly right:
So the right to set aside law is 'inherent in the president'. That claim alone should stop everyone in their tracks and prompt a serious consideration of the safety of the American republic under this president. It is the very definition of a constitutional monarchy, let alone a constitutional republic, that the law is superior to the executive, not the other way around. This is the essence of what the rule of law means -- a government of laws, not men, and all that.

Pentagon Report Set Framework For Use of Torture  

For shame, George Bush. For shame:
Bush administration lawyers contended last year that the president wasn't bound by laws prohibiting torture and that government agents who might torture prisoners at his direction couldn't be prosecuted by the Justice Department.

The advice was part of a classified report on interrogation methods prepared for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld after commanders at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, complained in late 2002 that with conventional methods they weren't getting enough information from prisoners.

The report outlined U.S. laws and international treaties forbidding torture, and why those restrictions might be overcome by national-security considerations or legal technicalities. In a March 6, 2003, draft of the report reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, passages were deleted as was an attachment listing specific interrogation techniques and whether Mr. Rumsfeld himself or other officials must grant permission before they could be used. The complete draft document was classified "secret" by Mr. Rumsfeld and scheduled for declassification in 2013.

The draft report, which exceeds 100 pages, deals with a range of legal issues related to interrogations, offering definitions of the degree of pain or psychological manipulation that could be considered lawful. But at its core is an exceptional argument that because nothing is more important than "obtaining intelligence vital to the protection of untold thousands of American citizens," normal strictures on torture might not apply.

The president, despite domestic and international laws constraining the use of torture, has the authority as commander in chief to approve almost any physical or psychological actions during interrogation, up to and including torture, the report argued. Civilian or military personnel accused of torture or other war crimes have several potential defenses, including the "necessity" of using such methods to extract information to head off an attack, or "superior orders," sometimes known as the Nuremberg defense: namely that the accused was acting pursuant to an order and, as the Nuremberg tribunal put it, no "moral choice was in fact possible."

According to Bush administration officials, the report was compiled by a working group appointed by the Defense Department's general counsel, William J. Haynes II. Air Force General Counsel Mary Walker headed the group, which comprised top civilian and uniformed lawyers from each military branch and consulted with the Justice Department, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Defense Intelligence Agency and other intelligence agencies. It isn't known if President Bush has ever seen the report. [But Rumsfeld did, as mentioned above.]

A Pentagon official said some military lawyers involved objected to some of the proposed interrogation methods as "different than what our people had been trained to do under the Geneva Conventions," but those lawyers ultimately signed on to the final report in April 2003, shortly after the war in Iraq began. The Journal hasn't seen the full final report, but people familiar with it say there were few substantial changes in legal analysis between the draft and final versions.

A military lawyer who helped prepare the report said that political appointees heading the working group sought to assign to the president virtually unlimited authority on matters of torture -- to assert "presidential power at its absolute apex," the lawyer said. Although career military lawyers were uncomfortable with that conclusion, the military lawyer said they focused their efforts on reining in the more extreme interrogation methods, rather than challenging the constitutional powers that administration lawyers were saying President Bush could claim. [Emphasis added.]
In a just world, this would lead to universal outrage and calls for the immediate resignation of the Bush administration.

{UPDATE} If you don't subscribe to the Wall Street Journal, Reuters has a report. Hat tip to TalkLeft.

[UPDATE] The full text of the Journal article has been "liberated" and is available here. Thanks, Billmon.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?