Monday, May 31, 2004

I'm glad Anna Quindlen is pointing out to Newsweek readers that attacks on politicians by bishops of the Catholic Church seem to be selective -- no denial of communion for death penalty support or hard-heartedness toward the poor -- but why is she so cautious in this statement?

And sanctions for Democratic candidates have far outnumbered those for Republicans, even Republicans who favor legal abortion.

"Far outnumbered"? That's an understatement. Can Quindlen name a single Republican pol who's felt the heat?

(Link via Angry Liberal.)

The Baltimore Sun reported this over the weekend.

When Iraqi police raided the Baghdad home and offices of politician Ahmad Chalabi on May 20, U.S. officials hurried to distance themselves, saying that the operation was an Iraqi affair and that no U.S. government employees were involved.

But eight armed American contractors paid by a U.S. State Department program went on the raid, directing and encouraging the Iraqi police officers who eyewitnesses say ripped out computers, turned over furniture and smashed photographs.

And they weren't just mercenaries, but mercenaries with no manners:

Some of the Americans helped themselves to baklava, apples and diet soda from Chalabi's refrigerator, and enjoyed their looted snacks in a garden outside, according to members of Chalabi's staff who were there.


Some of you may already be able to guess what company they work for:

The contractors work for DynCorp, a subsidiary of California-based Computer Sciences Corp. and the company in charge of training and advising Iraqi police through a State Department contract....

You remember DynCorp:

DynCorp personnel contracted to the United Nations police service in Bosnia were implicated in buying and selling prostitutes, including a girl as young as 12. Several DynCorp employees were also accused of videotaping the rape of one of the women.

When Dyncorp employee Kathy Bolkovac blew the whistle on the sex ring she was dismissed by the company for drawing attention to their misbehaviour, according to the ruling of a British employment tribunal in November.

...A group of Ecuadorean peasants have filed a class action against the company alleging that herbicides spread by DynCorp in Colombia were drifting across the border, killing legitimate crops, causing illness, and killing children. The company denies the charges.

And, according to the Sun, the Iraqis and DynCorp workers reportedly misidentified themselves at Chalabi's office:

When one of Chalabi's guards asked who the Americans were, an Iraqi police officer answered, "FBI and CIA," said a second INC official, who asked not to be named.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

That's all for now. See you sometime late Monday.
Intelligence agents encouraging abuse at four Iraqi prisons that aren't Abu Ghraib? Interrogators sent from Guantanamo to Iraq? Just another Friday afternoon embarrassing news dump....
Swopa at Needlenose looks back on The New York Times's bimonthly Democratic hand-wringing report -- actually Adam Nagourney's monthly Democratic hand-wringing report. I'm glad someone else has noticed.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Both Charles Colson (God's Own Felon) and Megan Basham of National Review Online are delighted by the new movie Raising Helen. In the movie, Kate Hudson plays a carefree young trendoid who learns and grows as she takes custody of three children and falls in love with a Lutheran minister. Colson and Basham are particularly pleased at the portrayal of the minister -- he's "a real man who cares about others and is strong enough to lead those he loves to do the right thing," "the antithesis of the metrosexual party boys Helen's used to dating."

Well, that's nice.

Just don't tell Colson and Basham that this is the guy Kate Hudson married in real life, or that his rock band once put out an album with this cover.

Paul Krugman wonders why the press portrayed Bush (until recently) as a straight shooter; his theories reference 9/11. I think Bob Somerby of the Daily Howler knows 9/11 isn't the reason, although 9/11 made the press that much more skittish about criticizing Bush. Somerby's been saying for years that the press portrayed Gore as a liar in the 2000 campaign (which was payback to the Democrats for Clinton's decision to tell fibs about his sex life). If Gore was a liar, Bush, for dramatic effect, had to be his opposite. And that's how the press portrayed Bush, until just a few months ago.
Dogma, meet karma:

Judge Questions Whether Unborn Child Is U.S. Citizen

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A federal judge issued a stay on Thursday to a pregnant woman scheduled for deportation while attorneys look into whether her unborn fetus might be a U.S. citizen, affiliate station KMBC's Donna Pitman reported.

Myrna Dick went to renew her papers with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service last month, and she wound up in custody. Officials accused her of lying to border patrol officers in 1998 and said it was grounds for deportation to Mexico.

But Dick, who is married to an American citizen, is pregnant with her husband's child. Judge Scott Wright wants to know if the fetus is a U.S. citizen, and if so, whether it can be deported. The judge asked attorneys for both sides to search for relevant precedents before he would rule....

--NBC4, Washington, D.C.

In a situation like this, what's a politically correct right-winger supposed to think?

(UPDATE: Court TV notes that, in deciding to issue the stay, the judge cited the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, otherwise known as "Laci and Conner's Law" -- the law the right-to-life movement succeeding in passing after Laci Peterson was murdered.)
I believe this invalidates every "pop sociology" essay and book David Brooks has ever written:

New York City, NASCAR Discuss Speedway

NASCAR is thinking about building a speedway in a city better known for traffic jams and taxicabs than for motorsports.

Racing promoters have held preliminary discussions with city economic officials about constructing a NASCAR track on Staten Island, the mayor's office said Friday....


Some might say this doesn't invalidate Brooks -- they'll note that Staten Island's always been far more Republican than the rest of New York City. Well, that's true. And guess what? We liberal thugs don't hijack a ferry at night and kill all those GOP-voting, traditional-values-valuing Staten Islanders in their beds. We live in the same city with them, and they live in the same city with us.

Hell, we all root for the Knicks and the Nets, the Rangers and the Islanders, the Jets and the Giants, the Mets and the Yankees. (Well, a few of us malcontents who grew up not far from Fenway Park have a little trouble rooting for the Yankees.) If we were all effete, latte-swilling aesthetes here in New York, why would sports thrive here at all -- or in Boston, home of Ted Kennedy, fer Pete's sake, and John Kerry, who has an even more liberal voting record? Sports! In Taxachusetts! Shouldn't pro sports have long since been banned by conflict-averse limousine-liberal gay-marriage supporters who live in Cambridge town houses with Corian countertops?

Thursday, May 27, 2004


Well, there's no need to play "Gotcha!" to make the first point: Hitchens's latest Slate column is called

"Ahmad and Me: Defending Chalabi"

("I first met Dr. Ahmad Chalabi in the spring of 1998....Chalabi impressed me...")

On the second point -- after a laughable attempt to refute the charge that Chalabi fed secrets to Iran's mullahs (Hitchens says "a very 'senior government official,'" unnamed of course, told him it just wasn't so) -- there's this:

As for Iran, it is the most significant of Iraq's neighbors, and no aspiring politician can avoid the responsibility of conducting relations with it. Chalabi has never made any secret of his closeness to Tehran, and he operated a headquarters there, with the full encouragement of the U.S. government, during the run-up to the intervention. This necessarily involves a managed compromise between competing Shiite forces in both countries, at a time when both populations are anxiously awaiting developments in each other's societies. If any Iraqi is "brokering" relations with Iran, I hope it's Chalabi.

But wait -- Iran's evil! The president whose war Hitchens deeply admires said so. And isn't a willingness to allow evildoers to stay in power precisely what Hitchens most chastised liberals for in the period before the Gulf War?

Well, Hitch doesn't think the mullahs are really evil. They're just "bankrupt," able to be rebuffed by a "riposte." That's what he wrote in The Boston Globe back in September of '02: seemed insane to include Iran in the "most-wanted" category.

The Iranian people, with no interference from outside, have in the past few years developed their own civil-society riposte to the archaic and bankrupt rule of the mullahs. With its dress and its music and its thirst for contact with the outside world, a generation has begun to repudiate theocracy and to insist that election results be respected. A free press is exploding from under the carapace, and electronic communications are eroding superstition....

So it's almost as if the mullahs really don't run Iran -- even though they do. It's almost as if they're not really repressive -- even though they are. It's almost as if they don't really have a bad human rights record -- even though they still do. It's almost as if they respect free speech and a free press -- even though they don't. It's almost as if they're not theocrats -- even though they are.

Here's Hitchens in The Nation, in November '01, not at all worried about Iran's "anti-American mullahs" because "the Shiite street" doesn't like the Taliban. And here's Hitchens in Slate, a year later, happily noting that the mullahs "hate Saddam" (they "hate America more," but it's OK because "Iranian public opinion" is "much more pro-American"). So, really, Iran's practically ready for NATO membership.

Oh, sure, last October Hitch did entertain the notion of a U.S. invasion of Iran -- but only when it was proposed to him by Ayatollah Khomeini's grandson (who is now, apparently, a favorite of the American Enterprise Institute). Hitch seems to have a bit of a manly crush on Hossein Khomeini. He asks about the fatwa against Salman Rushdie and the Iranian nuclear program, and as he listens to the replies of Khomeini, who "operates within an entirely Quranic frame of reference," Hitchens, the atheist and cleric-hater, is bedazzled:

I could not resist asking his opinion of the famous fatwa against Salman Rushdie. I cannot say that I understood all of his reply, which was very long and detailed and contained some Quranic references and citations that were (to me at any rate) rather abstruse. But the meaning was very plain. A sentence of death for apostasy cannot really be pronounced, or acted upon, unless there is "an infallible imam," and there is no such thing. The Shiite faithful believe in a "hidden imam" who may one day be restored to them, but they have learned to be wary of impostors or false prophets. In any event, added Khomeini, there was an important distinction between what the Quran said and what an ayatollah as head of state might say. "We cannot nowadays have executions in this form." ...

That reminded me to ask him what he thought of the mullahs' nuclear program. He calmly said that there was no physical force that was stronger than his faith, and thus there was no need for any country to arm itself in this way....

This is pure doubletalk, and Hitch swallows it whole.

Look, I don't want to go to war against Iran -- but I'm a quisling liberal, and Hitchens is a fearless Speaker of Truth to Power. I think it's crazy to think that the proper response to every unsavory government on the planet is a U.S. overthrow -- and that's precisely the attitude Christopher Hitchens claimed to despise in opponents of Bush policy as the war in Iraq approached. But here he is, taking the same attitude himself toward Iran -- and, at the same time, defending a crook, liar, and double-crosser from Iraq, as well as a bunkum-spewing mullah-wannabe from Iran.
The New York Times has two stories about abused Iraqi prisoners who didn't have a damn thing to tell us in the first place.

You may have already read one of the stories -- "Prison Interrogations in Iraq Seen as Yielding Little Data on Rebels":

The questioning of hundreds of Iraqi prisoners last fall in the newly established interrogation center at Abu Ghraib prison yielded very little valuable intelligence, according to civilian and military officials.

...civilian and military intelligence officials, as well as top commanders with access to intelligence reports, now say they learned little about the insurgency from questioning inmates at the prison. Most of the prisoners held in the special cellblock that became the setting for the worst abuses at Abu Ghraib apparently were not linked to the insurgency, they said.....

But there's also this, about Colonel Allen West. Colonel West was told a man named Yehiya Kadoori Hamoodi was part of a plot to kill him and endanger his men; the colonel had Hamoodi arrested.

During the interrogation, [Hamoodi] said, the translator kicked him in the shin and told him he needed to confess before Colonel West showed up to kill him.

Mr. Hamoodi said he felt relieved to hear the colonel was expected. He considered Colonel West to be "calm, quiet, clever and sociable." When the colonel first entered the interrogation room, Mr. Hamoodi said, he thought, "Here is the man who will treat me fairly."

Then, he said, Colonel West cocked his gun.

Colonel West said that he did not then put a round in the gun's chamber but that he did place the pistol in his lap. He asked Mr. Hamoodi why he wanted to kill him. Mr. Hamoodi said that he protested, "I've worked with you, I like you," but that Colonel West silenced his protest. Colonel West pressed for the names and locations of those involved in the supposed plot, and he got no answers.

Soon, the soldiers began striking and shoving Mr. Hamoodi. They were not instructed to do so by Colonel West but they were not stopped, either, they said. "I didn't know it was wrong to hit a detainee," a 20-year-old soldier from Daytona Beach said at the hearing. Colonel West testified that he would have stopped the beating "had it become too excessive."

Eventually, the colonel and his soldiers moved Mr. Hamoodi outside, and threatened him with death. Colonel West said he fired a warning shot in the air and began counting down from five. He asked his soldiers to put Mr. Hamoodi's head in a sand-filled barrel usually used for clearing weapons. At the end of his count, Colonel West fired a shot into the barrel, angling his gun away from the Iraqi's head, he testified.

According to the interpreter, Mr. Hamoodi finally "admitted there would be attacks, and called out names." Mr. Hamoodi said that he was not sure what he told the Americans, but that it was meaningless information induced by fear and pain.

At least one man named by Mr. Hamoodi was taken into custody, according to testimony, and his home was searched. No plans for attacks on Americans or weapons were found. Colonel West testified that he did not know whether "any corroboration" of a plot was ever found, adding: "At the time I had to base my decision on the intelligence I received. It's possible that I was wrong about Mr. Hamoodi."

We all go to movies and watch TV. We all "know" that you can "get someone to talk." But sometimes what we know just ain't so.

...The Vatican press office released a statement Thursday morning announcing that Cardinal Bernard F. Law was chosen for a new job in the Holy City.

The Vatican statement said Pope John Paul II named Law archpriest of St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome, one of four churches under direct Vatican jurisdiction. Law will now be responsible for the financial management of that church....

Sources say St. Mary's is one of the biggest churches in Rome.

Law, 72, resigned as archbishop of Boston on Dec. 13, 2002, over the clergy sex abuse crisis and his failure to protect children from sexually abusive priests....

--WCVB, Boston

But he's undoubtedly anti-abortion, so it's OK.

The person who tipped me to this is a former monk who forwards an e-mail from a friend:

I don't know if you saw the news item, but we now have confirmation both that "zero tolerance" does not apply to negligent bishops and that Rome is really out of contact with sentiment on the street...Today, John Paul II (or at least the people around him) appointed Bernard Law as Archpriest of the Patriarchal Liberian Basilica of St. Mary Major. As archpriest not only will he get a handsome income of over 10,000 euros a month, a baroque apartment that runs the length of the basilica on its gospel side (I was once the guest of the previous archpriest, Cardinal Furno), and the right to pontificate at a gem of a church, he'll also be able to attend all the curial meetings, including those of the Congregation of Bishops, on which he sits, and influence policy with regard to America. Ah...

(The reader comments at WCVB are quite negative also.)
Not only does Kerry beat Bush 49%-41% in the latest New York Times/CBS poll, but Kerry-Edwards beats Bush-Cheney 50%-40% and Kerry-McCain beats Bush-Cheney 53%-39%.

So where does this leave Adam Nagourney? Even he can read his own newspaper's polls. He can't credibly say that Kerry is in trouble now, but if Adam Nagourney can't detect trouble for Democrats, he simply has no reason to live. So today, on the front page of the Times, he suggests that there might be trouble for Kerry in the future:

...Some [Democratic] party officials say that with three new polls showing President Bush more embattled than he has ever been, Mr. Kerry's wisest course would be to take few chances and turn the election into a referendum on a struggling president....

But other Democrats warn that such a strategy entails risks of its own, banking on the proposition that Americans would be willing to fire an incumbent during war time and replace him with someone they know little about. "I don't think anybody in their right mind is going to run for president on a strategy of 'people hate the other guy and that's enough for our guy to win,' " said Douglas Sosnik, the White House political director for President Bill Clinton....

Yikes! He might not win if he never tells us why he'd be a better president!

Does any rational person (i.e., any person outside the political-insider demimonde) think that's what Kerry's going to do for the duration of the campaign? That's ridiculous. In due course, he'll speak up. Right now, though, the election isn't for five and a half months. And Bush is floundering. As many of the people Nagourney quotes quite correctly point out, it's good for Kerry if the focus is on Bush's floundering.

I don't think Kerry is merely letting Bush hang himself without his own ineptitude -- I think he's triangulating. Here's Al Gore giving a fiery speech that has right-wingers foaming at the mouth. (David Horowitz's Front Page Magazine: "Al Gore or Al Jazeera?") Here's Nader, calling for Bush's impeachment. Here's Bill Clinton, about to go all flamboyant and mediagenic on us -- his huge book is coming out a week early (in less than a month).

On the other side, there are the Bushies, flapping their arms, insisting everything's under control (except that they have no plan for Iraq and those pesky al-Qaeda people whose asses we supposedly kicked seem to be planning massive stateside terrorist strikes that are, apparently, nearly inevitable).

And in the middle, there's Kerry.

If he stays low-key for a while, he might really start to seem like the one grown-up on the political scene, the guy in the "sensible center." Then, maybe, we'll really hear his side.
Who's Chalabi's biggest American pal? Perle? Wolfowitz? Libby? Think bigger. Cheney. Back on March 17, 2003 Skimble quoted a Wall Street Journal article on the buildup to the Iraq War:

...with little public notice, Mr. Cheney began working on the Iraq issue with a new dedication. He quietly sought out experts on the politics and culture of the country. He reached out to Iraqi exiles such as Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi, an Iraqi exile whose family led the country decades ago and who seeks to lead a post-Hussein Iraq...

State Department and CIA officials mistrust the wealthy, American-educated Mr. Chalabi, who was convicted in a Jordanian banking scandal more than a decade ago. But Mr. Cheney and his senior staff have remained stubborn advocates of Mr. Chalabi, a man they first got to know in the mid-1990s at the barbecues and golf games held at private seminars hosted by groups such as the Aspen Institute....

Thanks, Dick.

A couple of days ago I was writing about Susan Sontag's comments on the Abu Ghraib photos and I said the movie Dazed and Confused, which she cited, was set in 1978. I've heard from SullyWatch and I stand corrected -- it was set in 1976.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Actually, neither President Bush nor his aides ever said anything about "stockpiles" in describing the Iraqi weapons threat. The Times just made that part up.

--John Hinderaker of the Claremont Institute, at Power Line Blog ("The blog is excellent--I'll make it regular reading!" --Rich Lowry, editor of National Review)

United Nations' inspections also revealed that Iraq likely maintains stockpiles of VX, mustard and other chemical agents, and that the regime is rebuilding and expanding facilities capable of producing chemical weapons.

--President's Remarks at the United Nations General Assembly, September 12, 2002

For the sake of your children's future, we must make sure this madman never has the capacity to hurt us with a nuclear weapon, or to use the stockpiles of anthrax that we know he has, or V-X, the biological weapons which he possesses.

--President Presses Congress for Action on Defense Appropriations Bill, Remarks by the President at Bob Beauprez for Congress Luncheon, The Adams Mark Hotel, Denver, Colorado, September 27, 2002

In defiance of pledges to the United Nations, Iraq has stockpiled biological and chemical weapons, and is rebuilding the facilities used to make more of those weapons.

--President's Radio Address to the Nation, October 5, 2002

The inspectors concluded that Iraq likely produced two to four times that amount. That's a massive stockpile, and it's never been accounted for and it's capable of killing millions.

--Excerpts from the Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer, January 15, 2003

Iraq has also failed to provide United Nations inspectors with documentation of its claim to have destroyed its VX stockpiles.

--"Why We Know Iraq is Lying," A Column by Dr. Condoleezza Rice, New York Times, January 23, 2003

Second, as with biological weapons, Saddam Hussein has never accounted for vast amounts of chemical weaponry: 550 artillery shells with mustard, 30,000 empty munitions and enough precursors to increase his stockpile to as much as 500 tons of chemical agents....

Our conservative estimate is that Iraq today has a stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons of chemical weapons agent. That is enough agent to fill 16,000 battlefield rockets.

--U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell Addresses the U.N. Security Council, February 5, 2003

United Nations' inspections revealed that Iraq likely maintains stockpiles of VX, mustard and other chemical agents, and that the regime is rebuilding and expanding facilities capable of producing chemical weapons.

--pre-war "fact sheet"

The outlaw Iraqi regime's chemical and biological weapons stockpiles, its continued pursuit of nuclear weapons and its ties to global terrorists are a threat to the US, our allies and friends and to the Iraqi people.

--"Global Message," February 18, 2003

(All quotes from Thanks to Pandagon for the Power Line link.)
Nick Berg deserved to die. He was war-loving scum. I'm glad they chopped his head off.

No, I don't believe any of that. And it would be an outrage if I, a lefty and critic of the war, said something like that in all seriousness.

But apparently it's OK for Lucianne Goldberg, or whoever ghost-writes for her Web site, to say this about the dead man:

Sorry, but Nick Berg sounds like a nutball to us

This is a reference to the long story about Berg in today's New York Times. I'm trying to figure out what's making Ms. Goldberg's nose wrinkle. Maybe it's this:

...his defining semester came in a small Ugandan village, where he spent the spring of 1998 in an exchange program. There he was exposed to poverty he had never imagined, friends said. He turned his inventiveness to good use, fashioning a brick-making machine to help villagers stabilize mud huts.

Or this:

He seemed particularly attracted to the Hebrew concept of tikkun olam -- healing the world through social action.

"He went to Iraq to see if he could combine his professional skill with his desire to heal the world," said Ruth W. Messinger, the former Manhattan borough president who leads the American Jewish World Service.

Or this:

... he visited Kenya for two weeks in March 2003, working on water projects ...

Seriously, I don't get it. He supported the war (as the humanitarian removal of a dictator). Friends who cleaned out his apartment found, among other things, "an American flag made of red and white duct tape on blue cloth." But Lucianne doesn't like him. Why? Too idealistic? Too scrupulous?

Yeah, the article doesn't make him seem ordinary. He liked climbing (rocks, radio towers) -- I know people like that, people who crave that level of danger. I don't share the aficion, but I'd never criticize it.

He liked inventing things, and he had a Calvin & Hobbes cartoon in his apartment -- so he was a geek. Fine by me -- and a hell of a lot better than being a hack literary agent turned political hatchetwoman, Lucianne.

(By the way, to those who think Berg may have had a secret life -- yeah, I've wondered too, and, well, maybe there was more below the surface. But after seeing the text and photos at this radio Web site run by a man named Scott Fybush, I'm convinced that, whatever else Nick Berg may have been, he was the tower-climbing gearhead his friends remember so fondly.)
A couple of days ago, Paul Weyrich, co-founder of the Heritage Foundation and one of the right wing's gray eminences, wrote about teachers who showed images of the Nick Berg beheading in class. If I read Weyrich correctly, he thinks we're kind of lucky that the beheading was recorded for posterity -- after all, the images might be just the thing to keep all of America's youth from turning into Cuban socialist gun-grabbers.

Or something like that:

...One of the students who heard the audio and saw still pictures, which didn't show the worst of it, said he had no idea such things like this went on in the real world. It is time he learned.

For decades now in many of our school systems, students have been shielded from reality, while a false utopian society was pushed in social studies classes, which feature all of the liberal constructs. Ah yes, the wonderful UN guiding us to enlightened world government where, to paraphrase a just-arrested drunk, "We can all just get along." ...

Guns are to be hated because guns, not people, kill. War is caused by the United States because we steal the world's resources. War can be avoided because the UN is ready, willing and able to bring peace forever more.

There is no need to worry. There is no effort to kill Americans for who we are. Right. Still, just in case we might be tempted to demonstrate our "learned male aggressiveness" and want to defend ourselves, guns should be confiscated -- especially in this country, of course. No need to confiscate them elsewhere.

After all, if we would just ratify the Kyoto treaty and scrap our capitalist free enterprise system, we would no longer be stealing the world's resources so no one would want to kill us any more.

Besides, it doesn't matter. We are all going to die from global warming anyway. Heard of Omaha Beach? Not that place of fame during World War II. No, this is in Omaha, Nebraska where the oceans will at last surround a narrow strip of land. Maybe, just maybe, we could save ourselves if we just adopted Socialism and turned over all governance to those beloved peace-oriented diplomats at the UN.

Peace is so comforting. Just ask those in a nearby cemetery. Freedom is so unpredictable. You can't always plan the outcome. Besides there are risks involved with freedom and risks are unacceptable in a utopian society. The one value we maintain is equality. Not equality of opportunity, but equality of result. In a Socialist world, risks are unnecessary because without freedom there is no need for such outmoded thinking.

If you doubt that such a utopian society can exist, then you need only look to Cuba, a mere 90 miles from our shores where in our textbooks the Cuban healthcare system is touted as a model for the world. This is the nonsense our youth are being fed....

There's no mention of gay marriage or gangsta rap, but I imagine they fit in here somewhere. Maybe they'll be the topic of a subsequent column.
I learn from this Newsday article that the U.S. is still holding people in Iraq who were arrested in Iraq only because they're related to other people the U.S. wants to arrest. Yes, it's a blatant violation of the Geneva Conventions, and no, the U.S. doesn't seem to care.

The story focuses on Jeanan Moayad, whose husband was arrested (and has been held for four months) because Americans want to arrest her father, a scientist and former Baath party member. But this practice was noticed -- and denounced -- back in November, when American troops arrested the wife and daughter of a Saddam insider, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri. The Newsday article notes that

Al-Douri's wife and daughter are still in U.S. custody, although rights monitors say they have not been charged with any crime.

Something tells me this isn't the fault of "a few bad apples."

(Newsday link via Kevin Drum at The Washington Monthly.)
So The New York Times is apologizing for running "scoops" and other stories based on lies from the likes of Ahmad Chalabi. Well, that's nice. Now, can we un-fight the war, un-occupy the country, un-brutalize the prisoners, un-screw up the reconstruction? It's my understanding that these aren't viable options. So the only possible good this apology can do is to correct the record for posterity -- but I think it was already clear to posterity that everything linked to Chalabi bears the stink of corruption. So, nice apology, but I don't see what difference it makes now.
"A few bad apples":

Abuse of Captives More Widespread, Says Army Survey

An Army summary of deaths and mistreatment involving prisoners in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan shows a widespread pattern of abuse involving more military units than previously known.

The cases from Iraq date back to April 15, 2003, a few days after Saddam Hussein's statue was toppled in a Baghdad square, and they extend up to last month, when a prisoner detained by Navy commandos died in a suspected case of homicide blamed on "blunt force trauma to the torso and positional asphyxia."

Among previously unknown incidents are the abuse of detainees by Army interrogators from a National Guard unit attached to the Third Infantry Division, who are described in a document obtained by The New York Times as having "forced into asphyxiation numerous detainees in an attempt to obtain information" during a 10-week period last spring....

--New York Times

General Is Said To Have Urged Use of Dogs

A U.S. Army general dispatched by senior Pentagon officials to bolster the collection of intelligence from prisoners in Iraq last fall inspired and promoted the use of guard dogs there to frighten the Iraqis, according to sworn testimony by the top U.S. intelligence officer at the Abu Ghraib prison.

According to the officer, Col. Thomas Pappas, the idea came from Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, who at the time commanded the U.S. military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and was implemented under a policy approved by Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the top U.S. military official in Iraq....

Pappas said, among other things, that interrogation plans involving the use of dogs, shackling, "making detainees strip down," or similar aggressive measures followed Sanchez's policy, but were often approved by Sanchez's deputy, Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski, or by Pappas himself...

...Pappas ... said "policies and procedures established by the [Abu Ghraib] Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center relative to detainee operations were enacted as a specific result of a visit" by Miller, who in turn has acknowledged being dispatched to Baghdad by Undersecretary of Defense Stephen A. Cambone, after a conversation with Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld....

--Washington Post

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

The future of Iraq?

Fallujah Emerging As Islamic Mini-State

With U.S. Marines gone and central government authority virtually nonexistent, Fallujah resembles an Islamic mini-state -- anyone caught selling alcohol is flogged and paraded in the city. Men are encouraged to grow beards and barbers are warned against giving "Western" hair cuts.

"After all the blood that was shed, and the lives that were lost, we shall only accept God's law in Fallujah," said cleric Abdul-Qader al-Aloussi, offering a glimpse of what a future Iraq may look like as the U.S.-led occupation draws to a close. "We must capitalize on our victory over the Americans and implement Islamic sharia laws."

The departure of the Marines under an agreement that ended the three-week siege last month has enabled hard-line Islamic leaders to assert their power in this once-restive city 30 miles west of Baghdad.

Some were active in defending the city against the Marines and have profited by a perception — both here and elsewhere in Iraq — that the mujahedeen, or Islamic holy warriors, defeated a superpower....


In spite of the Bush fairytale (Rid the world of the evildoer and everything will turn out swell!), Iraq was always a massive risk, if not a hopeless cause, a place that was going to be extremely hard to put back together again after Saddam -- too many factions, too few people who understand governing. And then, of course, we've screwed up so much of the putting back together. Maybe this is what we'll get.
In the speech last night, President Bush said, as he so often does, that "Iraq is now the central front in the war on terror." But did you notice the context in which he said it?

We've also seen images of a young American facing decapitation. This vile display shows a contempt for all the rules of warfare, and all the bounds of civilized behavior. It reveals a fanaticism that was not caused by any action of ours, and would not be appeased by any concession. We suspect that the man with the knife was an al Qaeda associate named Zarqawi. He and other terrorists know that Iraq is now the central front in the war on terror. And we must understand that, as well.

Curiously, the president made no mention of the fact that the four people arrested in the beheading apparently aren't affiliated with Zarqawi or al-Qaeda -- Iraqi police say they're former members of Saddam's Fedayeen.

Saddam = al-Qaeda. Mustn't let ourselves get confused with the facts.
So there's a report that some of the civilian contractors in Abu Ghraib and other Iraq prisons weren't civilian contractors at all -- they were Israeli intelligence agents.

Now, here's the thing: This report didn't come from Al-Jazeera or Al-Arabiya; it didn't come from that gathering horde of lefty anti-Semites you've heard so much about recently; nor did it come from Pat Buchanan. It came from the passionately pro-Bush NewsMax site.

NewsMax, of course, is notoriously lacking in credibility -- it's home to fable-spinners and truth-fudgers such as Gary Aldrich, Christopher Ruddy, Dick Morris, and Notra Trulock. I don't believe much of what I read there. But what the hell -- here's an excerpt:

"Israelis have been to Abu Ghraib and other prisons [in Iraq]," says one source familiar with the U.S. operations.

It was explained that the Israelis involved have been assigned as "civilian contractors" to work with Coalition forces in interrogating Iraqi POWs.

The "contractors" are said to be veterans of Israel's domestic intelligence unit, Shin Bet, as well as the more famous international intelligence agency, the Mossad....

It was explained that several of the "interrogation" techniques used by U.S. forces in Iraq have in fact been used by Israel "for years."

The technique of stripping Arab prisoners naked, to embarrass and humiliate them, has been used by Israelis, according to Arab diplomats at the U.N.

You want a conspiracy theory? You got one now.
According to David Brooks, if we continue screwing up everything we're supposedly trying to do in Iraq, Iraqis (and others in the non-Western world) won't be angry at the screw-up -- they'll be angry at freedom itself.

Apparently -- if I read Brooks correctly -- Iraqis and other non-Westerners have some sort of Oliver Sacks-style brain defect that makes them incapable of grasping such notions as "freedom," "self-government," "civility," and "the rule of law." They've never heard of these things, they can't imagine them, and they think what Iraq has experienced in the past year is the embodiment of them. So if we give up now, Iraqis will think, Hey -- that was freedom? That sucked! Freedom really sucks! No one on earth should ever have to live in freedom! Death to all believers in freedom! And this aphasia is apparently shared by everyone on the planet, or at least by all non-Westerners.

You think I'm exaggerating? If so, it's not by much. Here's Brooks:

...let's face it, we don't know whether all people really do want to live in freedom. We don't know whether Iraqis have any notion of what democratic citizenship really means. We don't know whether they hear words like freedom, liberty and pluralism as deadly insults to the way of life they hold dear. We don't know who our enemies are. Are they the small minority of Baathists and jihadists, or is there a little bit of Moktada al-Sadr in every Iraqi's breast?

...if this gamble fails, it won't be only the competence of our officials that will be called into question -- it will be the American creed itself. Since before the nation's founding, Americans have thought of themselves as the great democratic champions of the globe.

If this gamble fails to come off, then that mission will seem, to many, false. Perhaps democracy and freedom are not really universal values, some will say. Perhaps they are just the outgrowths of a specific culture. People on the left and right will race to withdraw from the world. It will become difficult to take on the tyrants who will menace the world.

What do you think? You think it's really true that Iraqis and other non-Westerners can't separate freedom from the Bush administration's actions in the name of freedom? Or do you think it's David Brooks who can't make the distinction?
Thanks for making the world so safe by prioritizing Iraq, George:

Qaeda Has 18,000 Militants for Raids - Think Tank

Al Qaeda has more than 18,000 militants ready to strike and the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq has accelerated recruitment to the ranks of Osama bin Laden's network, a leading London think-tank said on Tuesday.

Al Qaeda's finances were in good order, its "middle managers" provided expertise to Islamic militants around the globe and bin Laden's drawing power was as strong as ever, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) said....

"Galvanized by Iraq if compromised by Afghanistan, al Qaeda remains a viable and effective network of networks," it said.

The IISS said al Qaeda lost its base after the toppling of the Taliban in Afghanistan in late 2001 but had since adapted to become more decentralized, "virtual" and invisible in more than 60 countries....

"A rump leadership is still intact and over 18,000 potential terrorists are at large with recruitment accelerating on account of Iraq," the IISS said. It gave no source for the figure....

"Bin Laden's charisma, presumed survival and elusiveness enhance (al Qaeda's) iconic drawing power," the IISS said....


Monday, May 24, 2004

A minister who serves California legislators says Jesus wants some of the dames back in the kitchen:

Several state senators donned kitchen aprons and scarlet "M"s Monday to protest remarks by a pastor who said female lawmakers with small children at home were "sinful."

Sen. Debra Bowen ... and other lawmakers said they were furious to learn that the Rev. Ralph Drollinger, who leads a Bible study class for lawmakers, wrote in a Bible lesson that women lawmakers with young children at home are sinners.

"It is one thing for a mother to work out of her home while her children are in school," wrote Drollinger. "It is quite another matter to have children in the home and live away in Sacramento for four days a week. Whereas the former could be in keeping with the spirit of Proverbs 31, the latter is sinful."...

The Bible says God has given men and women different roles, Drollinger said. "Man's is, primarily, to be a breadwinner, and women's is to be at home nurturing their children."...

Capitol Ministries is a nonprofit organization that offers Bible study classes for lawmakers. In Sacramento, about a dozen lawmakers attend the Wednesday morning classes _ most of the regular attendees are Republican....

About a dozen senators -- both male and female -- joined the protest, including the usually bombastic Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, who presided over the Senate while adorned in a pink flowered apron....

--AP/Sacramento Bee

He can't even pronounce "Abu Ghraib." He stumbled over it twice in the speech tonight. Badly.
A National Guardsman portraying a Guantanamo prisoner says he was badly hurt by fellow soldiers, according to this story from the NBC affiliate in Lexington, Kentucky:

...In January 2003, [Sean] Baker was a member of the 438th Military Police company in Operation Enduring Freedom at Guantanamo Bay, where he says he was "given a direct order by an officer in the U.S. Army" to play the role of a detainee for a training exercise....

Baker says what took place next happened at the hands of four U.S. soldiers - soldiers he believes didn't know he was one of them - has changed his life forever.

"They grabbed my arms, my legs, twisted me up and unfortunately one of the individuals got up on my back from behind and put pressure down on me while I was face down," said Baker. "Then he - the same individual - reached around and began to choke me and press my head down against the steel floor. After several seconds, 20 to 30 seconds, it seemed like an eternity because I couldn't breath. When I couldn't breath, I began to panic and I gave the code word I was supposed to give to stop the exercise, which was 'red.'"

But, Baker says, the beating didn't stop. "That individual slammed my head against the floor and continued to choke me," he said. "Somehow I got enough air, I muttered out, 'I'm a U.S. soldier, I'm a U.S. soldier.'"...

"I sustained an injury to my brain a traumatic brain injury which has caused me to have a seizure disorder I deal with daily," said Baker.

Baker's traumatic brain injury is outlined in a military document in his possession, which says the injury "was due to soldier playing role as a detainee who was uncooperative."...

Baker, by the way, looks as if he'd be pretty tough to hurt.

What were we training these guys to do? And don't tell me they gave this guy a permanent brain injury because they watch too much Internet porn.
Last night I deleted part of what I posted about Susan Sontag's New York Times Magazine cover story on Abu Ghraib. I don't know why I backed off. Even though Sontag means to indict American society, some of what she says is all but indistinguishable from blame-shifting nonsense uttered by Rush Limbaugh, Charles Colson, and others on the right -- people who want you to believe that Abu Ghraib happened because of bad individual morals rather than bad government policy:


Why did it even occur to our soldiers today to molest and embarrass these prisoners sexually? I think it is in part because we live in a pornography-soaked culture. You can’t turn on the television without seeing it. The number of movies that you can watch is minimal because so many are filled with moral rot, four-letter words, and brazen sex acts. The Internet is full of pornography, and when we make efforts to curb it, the courts strike them down. And so our kids are raised in this kind of garbage.

Limbaugh: we have these pictures of homoeroticism that look like standard good old American pornography, the Britney Spears or Madonna concerts or whatever...


...most of the pictures seem part of a larger confluence of torture and pornography: a young woman leading a naked man around on a leash is classic dominatrix imagery. And you wonder how much of the sexual tortures inflicted on the inmates of Abu Ghraib was inspired by the vast repertory of pornographic imagery available on the Internet -- and which ordinary people, by sending out Webcasts of themselves, try to emulate.

Rich Lowry in National Review: was shocking to see a large gloved man smiling in a picture with his arms crossed as he stood over a pile of naked Iraqi detainees, but there was something familiar about it too. The apotheosis of the strong. There was something familiar in the picture of Lynndie England, with a cigarette dangling from her lips, pointing her finger at the genitals of a naked detainee. We know what she's doing in that picture — she's trying to seem cool. She thinks that cruelty is a game, that the strong engage in it casually.


Even more appalling, since the pictures were meant to be circulated and seen by many people: it was all fun. And this idea of fun is, alas, more and more -- contrary to what President Bush is telling the world -- part of ''the true nature and heart of America.'' It is hard to measure the increasing acceptance of brutality in American life...

Oliver North:

...for 13 or 14 days now, all we have seen on the front pages of America's newspapers is a group of obviously twisted young people with leashes and weird sex acts, the kind of thing that you might find on any college campus nowadays, being perpetrated by people in uniform.

Roger Hedgecock, substitute host for Rush Limbaugh:

...I mean the more -- you know, I know this was the first day or two, I guess, that Rush was getting into this -- the more I think about it, the more he was right the first time. He said, "This is like -- this is like a, a, uh, a prank; this is like college; this is like fraternities; this is -- this is just these people. This is how they were raised."


From the harsh torments inflicted on incoming students in many American suburban high schools -- depicted in Richard Linklater's 1993 film, ''Dazed and Confused'' -- to the hazing rituals of physical brutality and sexual humiliation in college fraternities and on sports teams, America has become a country in which the fantasies and the practice of violence are seen as good entertainment, fun....

To ''stack naked men'' is like a college fraternity prank, said a caller to Rush Limbaugh and the many millions of Americans who listen to his radio show. Had the caller, one wonders, seen the photographs? No matter. The observation -- or is it the fantasy? -- was on the mark.

Is the culture at fault? Find me the violent video game (or action film or XXX Web site) with naked male monkey piles offered as entertainment or porn.

Is modern life at fault? Shipboard flogging and precinct-house brutality predate Tarantino movies and Internet porn by a hell of a lot of years; even a couple of Sontag's examples date from before most of the Abu Ghraib MPs were born -- frat hazing goes way back, and Richard Linklater's semi-autobiographical Dazed and Confused is set in 1978.*

These abuses happened because people who have far more power than the MPs wanted them to happen.


*Correction: It was set in 1976. (Thanks to SullyWatch for pointing that out.)
The Guardian reports on an Iraqi who was beaten to death in prison, probably because he wouldn't get interrogators off his back by making up stories about massive buried stockpiles of WMDs:

...The US military claimed ... that Dr [Mohammed Munim al-] Izmerly, a distinguished chemistry professor arrested after US tanks encircled his villa, had died of "brainstem compression".

Dr Izmerly's sudden death after 10 months in American custody left his family stunned, not least because three weeks earlier they had visited him in the US prison at Baghdad airport. His 23-year-old daughter, Rana, recalled that he had seemed in "good health".

The family commissioned an independent Iraqi autopsy. Its conclusion was unambiguous: Dr Izmerly had died because of a "sudden hit to the back of his head", Faik Amin Baker, the director of Baghdad hospital's forensic department, certified.

The cause of death was blunt trauma. It was uncertain exactly how he died, but someone had hit him from behind, possibly with a bar or a pistol, Dr Baker confirmed yesterday....

He died sometime between January 11 and February 19, 2004.

Think the autopsy will help the family get justice in "self-governing" Iraq?

...The family presented its autopsy findings to an Iraqi judge. "He told us, 'You can't do anything to the coalition. What happened is history,'" Ashraf said.

We can argue till we're hoarse about the likelihood that torture will generate useful, accurate intelligence, and about the morality of torturing people to get such intelligence. But there's no disputing the fact that you can't learn very much from someone you've beaten to death.

(Oh, and the family insists he was not a Saddam crony -- just a scientist who had to play ball with the Mukhabarat if he wanted permission to attend international conferences.)

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Yes, it was a damn wedding:

AP: Video Shows Iraq Wedding Celebration

A videotape obtained Sunday by Associated Press Television News captures a wedding party that survivors say was later attacked by U.S. planes early Wednesday, killing up to 45 people....

"There was no evidence of a wedding: no decorations, no musical instruments found, no large quantities of food or leftover servings one would expect from a wedding celebration," Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said Saturday. "There may have been some kind of celebration. Bad people have celebrations, too."

But video that APTN shot a day after the attack shows fragments of musical instruments, pots and pans and brightly colored beddings used for celebrations, scattered around the bombed out tent.

The wedding videotape shows a dozen white pickup trucks speeding through the desert escorting the bridal car — decorated with colorful ribbons. The bride wears a Western-style white bridal dress and veil....

The singing and dancing seems to go on forever at the all-male tent set up in the garden of the host, Rikad Nayef, for the wedding of his son, Azhad, and the bride Rutbah Sabah....

As expected, women are out of sight - but according to survivors, they danced to the music of Hussein al-Ali, a popular Baghdad wedding singer hired for the festivities. Al-Ali was buried in Baghdad on Thursday....

Atrios linked this, so you may have already read it, but it's just astonishing: Did the Iranians feed the U.S. false information so we'd invade their enemy, Iraq? (And did Iran get secret information in the process?) Newsday says so:

"Iranian intelligence has been manipulating the United States through Chalabi by furnishing through his Information Collection Program information to provoke the United States into getting rid of Saddam Hussein," said an intelligence source Friday who was briefed on the Defense Intelligence Agency's conclusions, which were based on a review of thousands of internal documents.

The Information Collection Program also "kept the Iranians informed about what we were doing" by passing classified U.S. documents and other sensitive information, he said. The program has received millions of dollars from the U.S. government over several years.

How fast would the articles of impeachment be drawn up if it appeared that President Clinton or President Gore had sent young Americans to die on behalf of the Iranian mullahs?
I wasn't particularly impressed with Susan Sontag's New York Times Magazine cover story on Abu Ghraib, but I did appreciate this:

Here is one of the definitions of torture contained in a convention to which the United States is a signatory: "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession." (The definition comes from the 1984 Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Similar definitions have existed for some time in customary law and in treaties, starting with Article 3 -- common to the four Geneva conventions of 1949 -- and many recent human rights conventions.) The 1984 convention declares, "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture."

Has any journalist bothered to tell us this -- namely, that the U.S. has signed a convention specifically declaring that there can be no such thing as "a new kind of war" in which the rules against torture and degradation don't apply?


(I've cut the rest of this post because I think I was misreading a portion of the article.)
Now that polls show that even Catholics are disgusted by this sort of thing, a bishop pretends he didn't really say what he said:

Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark said on Friday that he was "deeply disappointed" that his recent criticism of Roman Catholic elected officials who supported abortion rights had been interpreted by some New Jerseyans as a political slap at Gov. James E. McGreevey.

In an interview, Archbishop Myers said Mr. McGreevey was not the target of statements he had made in a pastoral letter saying that Catholic officeholders who did not share the Vatican's opposition to abortion should not seek communion. He said he had apologized to the governor for any misperception by the public.

"I didn't name him specifically in the letter," Archbishop Myers said....

Here's the archbishop's problem: He and other like-minded bishops want to attack Kerry specifically, because Roe will be overturned if Bush wins. But they can't pinpoint Kerry because that gets into dodgy church-state issues. So the archbishop does what all the others have done: He conceals his attack on Kerry as an attack on a category of people. Then, when people come to the obvious conclusion that he's attacking the most prominent person in his state who falls into that category, he's simply horrified. Sorry, Padre -- I'm not sure I see a way around this one.
A New York Times story today reported this:

Adel L. Nakhla, an Egyptian-American computer technician, found himself at Abu Ghraib prison last fall, working as a translator for the first time in his life. All around him, he witnessed fellow Arabs suffering humiliating abuses....

One of the Abu Ghraib photos that has been made public shows Mr. Nakhla, a big, beefy man who is 49 years old, standing over several naked prisoners stacked in a pile. He is reaching down, and his hand is shown on or near a prisoner's neck....

The Army report on the prison ... lists Mr. Nakhla as a suspect...

But what I'm interested in is something Nakhla said that was quoted in Saturday's Times:

"Why did you not report what you felt was abuse toward the prisoners?" an investigator asked Mr. Nakhla in January, after Specialist Darby had handed over the discs with photographs.

"I have seen soldiers get in trouble for reporting abuse," Mr. Nakhla replied, "and I was scared. I didn't want to lose my job."

Who? Who were the soldiers Nakhla saw get in trouble? Who punished them for reporting abuse? Shouldn't we be asking him that now? Shouldn't we be getting the names of everyone who saw abuse and was afraid to report it? Shouldn't the book be thrown at anyone who responded to reports of abuse with punishment for the whistleblower?

That's what would be done if we really wanted to get to the bottom of this.

Friday, May 21, 2004

This week's late-afternoon-on-Friday announcement:

The Pentagon has begun criminal investigations of at least 37 deaths involving detainees held by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, officials said Friday. There are 33 cases involved, the officials said, eight more than the military reported two weeks ago.

The officials said they could not immediately say for sure the exact number of deaths involved.

Eight pending cases have been classified as homicides involving suspected assaults of detainees before or during interrogation sessions, a senior military official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Of the total number of cases, 30 were inside U.S.-run detention facilities and three were outside. Fifteen of the 30 cases were declared by U.S. authorities to be deaths by natural cause or of undetermined cause, the senior official said.

Of the 15 other cases that happened inside detention facilities, four were categorized as justifiable homicides, two as homicides, and nine were still under active investigation, the official said. Eight of those nine have been classified as homicides involving suspected assaults on detainees before or during questioning.

Six of the nine unresolved cases happened in Iraq including two at Abu Ghraib prison and three were in Afghanistan.

The 33 total cases date from December 2002 to the present....


Keep saying it to yourself: Just a few bad apples ... just the MPs in the pictures ... just for that short period of time ... just in that one prison ...
A Hooters restaurant in Florida is apparently holding a Little Miss Hooters contest. (Go to the link to see the billboard.)

More information is here:

We called this evening, asked for details. The contest is for girls 5 and under, and will require they be dressed in little orange spandex shorts, and a tied up Hooters t-shirt.

Write to if you find this as disgusting as I do.

(And I'll give a rare thumbs-up to the folks at Free Republic who were appalled by this.)
Four people have been arrested for the Nick Berg beheading, AP reports. Not Zarqawi or other al-Qaeda allies -- these guys are Fedayeen Saddam:

Four people have been detained in the killing of American Nicholas Berg, whose decapitation was captured on videotape, an Iraqi security official and a U.S. military official said Friday. The Iraqi official said the group that killed Berg was led by a relative of Saddam Hussein.

The suspects were former members of Saddam Hussein's Fedayeen paramilitary organization, the Iraqi security official said on condition of anonymity....

Well, that suggests a simple explanation for why the blade-wielder in the video said he was Zarqawi but wore a mask: Maybe he was a Saddam loyalist trying to pin the blame on another group.

(Another possibility, I guess, is that the Iraqi police are rounding up the usual suspects.)

(Of course, folks like William Safire are going to reach yet another conclusion: See? Zarqawi claimed responsibility -- and Saddam loyalists were arrested! They're working together! Told ya! Baathists = jihadists! Saddam = 9/11! Q.E.D.! Sigh.)

The alleged ringleader is named in the AP story:

The group that was involved in the killing of Berg was led by Yasser al-Sabawi, a nephew of Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi security official said....

Al-Sabawi was not among those arrested, the Iraqi official said.

I Googled Al-Sabawi and all I found was this, from April 29, 2004:

CPA Releases Former Regime ‘Criminals’

(Al-Adala) -- The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) has freed some criminal of the former regime. They include former Minister of Interior Sameer al-Sheikhli, former head of intelligence Sadoon Shakir, and former private security officer and
[sic] Yasir al-Sabawi. Also released were other symbols of the old regime like the former head of security office and some high ranking police and army officers. Some of the freed men immediately fled to Syria, close sources said.

So did we let this guy go mere days before he and/or his associates killed Berg?
So, about the wedding party: Do you remember an earlier attack at Iraq's border with Syria? Do you remember how that turned out? Here's the Washington Post story from last June:

...U.S. officials backed away from their initial assessments of whether the attack early Thursday near the village of Dhib killed top officials in the former Iraqi government, saying they had picked up no indications since the attack that Saddam Hussein or his sons, Uday and Qusay, had been in the convoy....

Dhib, about 70 miles southwest of Qaim, is one of a handful of villages that dot Iraq's western desert...

It sits just five miles from Syria, a border sufficiently porous for lucrative livestock smuggling that has permitted Dhib's residents to buy satellite dishes, generators, Toyota and Nissan pickups and about five satellite phones to facilitate their trade.

Residents said that the village was abuzz with that trade last Wednesday....

Hamad said he recalled "continuous firing," targeting what the villagers said were four trucks used to transport livestock about five miles from the village, along the Syrian border....

...At about 1:30 a.m., as the four trucks burned, the first of about five missiles struck Hamad's brick house, he said. Although everyone was sleeping outside, debris killed his sister-in-law, 20-year-old Hakima Khalil, and her daughter, Maha. ...

Yup -- the military was trying to kill Saddam and his sons and instead was attacking sheep smugglers.

Notice where the village is -- 70 miles southwest of Qaim. The wounded in that incident were taken to a hospital in Qaim.

According to this story from today's L.A. Times about the attack on the wedding party, the wounded were taken to a hospital in Qaim.

So it's the same region. Now, maybe the intel has improved in the past year, but the U.S. track record there doesn't seem very good.
And beyond Abu Ghraib, there's NBC's report (which Atrios linked last night) about another prison in Iraq:

...a top-secret site near Baghdad’s airport. The battlefield interrogation facility known as the “BIF” is pictured in satellite photos.

According to two top U.S. government sources, it is the scene of the most egregious violations of the Geneva Conventions in all of Iraq’s prisons. A place where the normal rules of interrogation don’t apply, Delta Force’s BIF only holds Iraqi insurgents and suspected terrorists — but not the most wanted among Saddam’s lieutenants pictured on the deck of cards.

These sources say the prisoners there are hooded from the moment they are captured. They are kept in tiny dark cells. And in the BIF’s six interrogation rooms, Delta Force soldiers routinely drug prisoners, hold a prisoner under water until he thinks he’s drowning, or smother them almost to suffocation....


And, for balance, The Washington Post reports on this new release of what are apparently horrifying videos of Saddam-era brutality:

Prisoners were shown being flogged and having fingers chopped off. One is shown being thrown from a roof, another about to be beheaded by a man wielding a sword.

The full video shows the beheading and a man placing the severed head on the victim's prone body. Another scene shows a man's tongue being cut out.

The next sound you hear, of course, will be conservatives attacking the "liberal media" for not showing every last frame of these videos.

I think it would be reasonable to show some of this now. But remember: The right-wing argument sounds an awful lot like "Everybody does it" -- precisely the argument they denounced as immoral during Monicagate.
I gave you the Washington Post link below in haste last night. There's more -- a gallery with six newly obtained photos, some video of abuse, and a description of the video:

The video begins with three soldiers huddled around a naked detainee, his thin frame backed against a wall. With a snap of his wrist, one of the soldiers slaps the man across his left cheek so hard that the prisoner's knees buckle. Another detainee, handcuffed and on his back, is dragged across the prison floor.

Then, the human pyramid begins to take shape...

The article describes more violence than is shown in the online video:

In one video clip, five hooded and naked detainees stand against the wall in the darkness, each masturbating, with two other hooded detainees crouched at their feet. Another shows a prisoner handcuffed to the outside of a cell door. He repeatedly slams his head into the green metal, leaving streaks of blood before he ultimately collapses at the feet of a cameraman.

Unfortunately, we're no closer than we've been to getting to the bottom of this -- we can't seem to establish who's really responsible, and I worry that cover-up will continue to succeed.

This release of images may well reinforce the "few bad apples" message from the right. And these pictures aren't going to stop people on the right from talking about "frat hazing" -- the images are brutal, but once again the mainstream press declines to show us real blood. The words are worse, but it's the images that will have impact.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Friday's Washington Post has horrific descriptions of Abu Ghraib brutality from prisoner statements taken in January. Not just Naked Monkey Pile. Rape of a teenage boy. Instrumental rape. Real violence and cruelty. It's what you knew went on in the prison, in detail.
Early on, we hired some really nice guys for the Iraqi prison system:

A number of former state prison commissioners chosen by the Bush administration to establish a prison system in Iraq left their old posts after allegations of neglect, brutality and inmate deaths, an investigation by ABCNEWS has found.

For example:

Last year, the former head of Utah's prison system, Lane McCotter, was hired by the U.S. government to help set up Iraq's new prison system and train guards.

He even led a tour of Abu Ghraib for U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who attended the reopening of the Baghdad prison.

But in 1997, guards at a Utah prison, then under McCotter's charge, made a videotape showing the abuse of Michael Valent, a mentally ill inmate who allegedly would not follow orders.

Valent was stripped naked, marched down the halls and, under an approved procedure at the time, placed in a special restraint chair, where he was left for 16 hours.

"By the time he was finally released from that restraint chair, he developed blood clotting and, through a pulmonary embolism, died," said Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson....

John Armstrong, another member of the team sent to Iraq, served as head of the Connecticut prison system from 1995 to 2003. The tactics used by prison guards during his tenure were blamed in three inmate deaths.

Videotapes made by guards showed prisoners who did not follow orders being restrained, smothered and beaten by guards during the time Armstrong ran the corrections department....

Read the story to find out more. (McCotter does note that he "was back in the United States before any inmates ever arrived" at Abu Ghraib.)
Syndicated right-wing columnist and talking head Cal Thomas lies about the media, apparently, in this column about our supposed anything-goes culture:

The former governor of Oregon, Neil Goldschmidt, admits to having had sex with a 14-year-old girl when he was mayor of Portland. In most places that’s called statutory rape, but the Oregonian newspaper at first chose to categorize it as adultery.

I went here for the collected Oregonian articles about the Goldschmidt scandal. Goldschmidt's own statement ran in the paper on May 6; it acknowledges that the girl was "a high-school student" and never uses the word "adultery" or any form of it. Apart from that, this is the earliest Oregonian story, from May 7:

Goldschmidt confesses '70s affair with girl, 14

Former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt admitted Thursday that he had a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl when he was 35 and mayor of Portland ...

The Oregonian, as a general policy, doesn't identify victims of sex crimes. According to Oregon laws in effect in 1975, sexual intercourse with a girl under age 16 constituted third-degree rape, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. The statute of limitations at that time was three years from the commission of the crime....

No form of the word "adultery" appears anywhere in this article.

A Google News search for "goldschmidt adultery" finds only the Cal Thomas column and this, from the May 9 Oregonian:

When Gary Hart left the Democratic presidential race in 1987 after he was accused of adultery, Goldschmidt stayed out of public sight while reporters trolled the Capitol looking for local comment.

"I remember a lot of speculation," said Chuck Bennett, an education lobbyist who was around during the Goldschmidt administration. "It was just a lot of people talking."

Bennett said the talk was about rumored adult affairs. He said he heard nothing about Goldschmidt's involvement with an underage girl.

Unless there's an earlier Oregonian piece on Goldschmidt that's not online, Cal Thomas is a liar.

The Bush administration wants the U.N. Security Council to renew a controversial resolution exempting American peacekeepers from prosecution by the new International Criminal Court.

Two years ago the same resolution was adopted unanimously after the United States threatened to veto U.N. peacekeeping missions, one by one....

... the measure will probably reach the minimum nine votes needed for adoption in the 15-nation council, diplomats said.

The draft resolution, introduced by the United States on Wednesday, would place U.S. troops and officials serving in U.N.-approved missions beyond the reach of the court.

Specifically, it would exempt "current or former officials" from prosecution or investigation if the individual comes from a country that did not ratify a 1998 Rome treaty that established the tribunal....


(Thanks to INTL-News for the link.)
I've been reading about the raid on Ahmad Chalabi's offices -- the New York Times story, the AP story, blog posts by Juan Cole and Kevin Drum.

The U.S. is souring on Chalabi -- his intel was lousy; he's doing outreach to Iran. American money isn't going to him anymore. The stories suggest that there's a dispute about an investigation he's doing on his own into the UN's Oil for Food program.

But I'm thinking of something else. This is wild speculation, but remember that, as was reported a year ago, Chalabi has

25 tonnes of intelligence documents detailing Saddam Hussein's relationship with foreign governments and Arab leaders.

The files [were] seized by his Iraqi National Congress supporters from Ba'ath party offices and secret police stations...

And recall that Chalabi's nephew, Salem Chalabi, is heading the Iraqi tribunal that will try Saddam Hussein and other aides.

Is it possible that computers and documents were seized at Chalabi's offices out of fear that those files might contain something that's very embarrassing to the Bush administration, or members of it, or former GOP administrations? Something that would make the famous 1983 Rummy-Saddam handshake seem like the tip of the iceberg? Something we could count on Chalabi to keep under his hat back when he was our friend? Something especially embarrassing now, with Abu Ghraib fresh in our minds?

Just a thought.

This is beyond belief:

It's McCain vs. Hastert on meaning of sacrifice

A 2-month-old House-Senate standoff over the 2005 budget burst into public acrimony Wednesday, when House Speaker Dennis Hastert questioned Sen. John McCain's credentials as a Republican and suggested that the decorated Vietnam War veteran didn't understand the meaning of sacrifice. ...

On Tuesday, McCain gave a speech excoriating both political parties for refusing to sacrifice their tax cutting and spending agendas in a time of war. At the Capitol on Wednesday, Hastert shot back: "If you want to see sacrifice, John McCain ought to visit our young men and women at Walter Reed (Army Medical Center) and Bethesda (Naval Hospital). There's the sacrifice in this country." ...

--Washington Post via Omaha World-Herald

McCain, of course, spent five and a half years being brutalized in a Vietnamese prison camp. Hastert?

" Cheney, no Lott, no Hastert, no DeLay, none of them ever served." --Mark Shields on PBS, 2/11/04

Hastert, who has a book coming out in a couple of months and is already publicizing it, also snarked off about McCain to reporters:

...a reporter asked: "Can I combine a two issues, Iraq and taxes? I heard a speech from John McCain the other day..."

Hastert: "Who?"

Reporter: "John McCain."

Hastert: "Where's he from?"

Reporter: "He's a Republican from Arizona."

Hastert: "A Republican?"

And by astonishing coincidence, a new column entitled "Kerry, McCain Alleged to be 'Fast Friends' of Vietnamese Communists" just appeared at and, which are widely read on the right. The article accuses McCain and Kerry of being complicit in Vietnamese human rights abuses -- though the ultimate accusers apparently don't have the guts to speak on the record:

..."Senators have complained to us that these guys are the fast friends of the Vietnamese and they've blocked any real attempt at reform or punishment for these types of abuses, and so Vietnam continues to get away with murder," [International Christian Concern President Jeff] King told

When asked to name the senators who had complained, King quickly replied, "No way." But he added that, "It's not a political thing."...

Oh, of course not.

UPDATE: Oops -- almost left this out, from Maureen Dowd:

Then Senator John Cornyn of Texas weighed in, suggesting that [Senator John] Warner, a Navy officer in World War II, a Marine lieutenant in the Korean War and a Navy secretary under Nixon, and Mr. McCain, who lived in a dirt suite at the Hanoi Hilton for five years, were not patriotic. Their "collective hand-wringing," Mr. Cornyn sniffed, could be "a distraction from fighting and winning the war."

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

William Bennett essentially lies about the media:

Why is it that when shocking images might stir Americans to favor war -- like the beheading of an American citizen -- the journalists show great restraint? When those images have the opposite effect, why do journalists let them fly?

Let me put this in context: The very day that the Muntada al-Ansar website distributed the images of the slaughter of Nick Berg, almost every media outlet went on record to say they would not show that slaughter. CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, and NBC all said this, according to AP Television writer David Bauder....

...Why do we not see the plastic shredders that humans were placed in under Saddam Hussein, sometimes head first, sometimes feet first? Why do we not see Hussein's torture chambers, which were operated as a matter of policy, and see instead only our abuse, which was an aberration? Why do we not see the mass graves of al-Hilla? Why do we only see our abuse and not their terror?

Well, to answer the questions in the last paragraph first: We don't see the shredders because they may not have existed and they've only been described by one eyewitness. Whether or not you believe that witness, it's incontrovertible that neither he nor anyone else has an image of the shredder to offer. As for why we didn't see the torture chambers on the nightly news, I guess reports like this aren't enough for Bennett:

On The Scene: An Iraqi House Of Horrors

BAGHDAD, April 14, 2003

CBS' Dan Rather is in Baghdad, where he filed this report.

U.S. soldiers are searching what remains of one of the biggest and most elaborate prisons in the world, one of Saddam Hussein's most notorious prisons, 18 miles west of Baghdad.

Saddam Hussein never cut corners when it came to punishment....

"Prisoners were taken to watch executions. Anyone who cried was executed too," said a former political prisoner who spent nine years at Abu Ghraib.

He recounts how he was tortured. "First the left hand and then the foot. Then a black hood on my head. Then they applied electricity."

The apparatus is still in the prison....

And I guess stories like "Buried Horror in Babylon: Mass Grave Found South of Baghdad, Relatives Identify Loved Ones," which ran on ABC's World News Tonight a year ago, don't satisfy Bennett's thirst to see mass graves.

But they wouldn't, would they? Bennett doesn't care that these stories ran just after Baghdad fell; he wants them to run all the time.

As for the Nick Berg video, Bennett implies that the networks refused to show it. He cites David Bauder's article to prove this. Here's what Bauder actually said:

The ABC, CBS and NBC broadcast networks said they did not plan to show anything beyond the opening shot of Berg alive on their evening news programs.

"It's a pretty clear call for us," said Jon Banner, executive producer of ABC's "World News Tonight." "I think the viewer will understand what happened to Mr. Berg. They won't have to sit through the graphic images."

Bennett wants you to believe that we're seeing everything there is to see of abuse by Americans, while we see bowdlerized images when Americans are the victims. That's nonsense. The standard is the same: When blood is shed, the mainstream media make us all avert our eyes, whether it's a blade going into Nick Berg's neck or a dog's teeth going into an Iraqi prisoner's leg.
American culture is visual -- we respond far more readily to images than to words. As a result, an awful lot of Americans still think the prison torture scandal is just about a few bad apples who forced prisoners to play Nude Monkey Pile. And after the Nick Berg beheading, it's taboo to publish more prison images.

So it almost doesn't matter that the words continue to be appalling, like these from the Denver Post:

Brutal interrogation techniques by U.S. military personnel are being investigated in connection with the deaths of at least five Iraqi prisoners in war-zone detention camps, Pentagon documents obtained by The Denver Post show.

The deaths include the killing in November of a high-level Iraqi general who was shoved into a sleeping bag and suffocated, according to the Pentagon report. The documents contradict an earlier Defense Department statement that said the general died "of natural causes" during an interrogation. Pentagon officials declined to comment on the new disclosure.

Another Iraqi military officer, records show, was asphyxiated after being gagged, his hands tied to the top of his cell door. Another detainee died "while undergoing stress technique interrogation," involving smothering and "chest compressions," according to the documents.

Details of the death investigations, involving at least four different detention facilities including the Abu Ghraib prison, provide the clearest view yet into war-zone interrogation rooms, where intelligence soldiers and other personnel have sometimes used lethal tactics to try to coax secrets from prisoners, including choking off detainees' airways. Other abusive strategies involve sitting on prisoners or bending them into uncomfortable positions, records show.

"Torture is the only thing you can call this," said a Pentagon source with knowledge of internal investigations into prisoner abuses. "There is a lot about our country's interrogation techniques that is very troubling. These are violations of military law."...

This is an important story. It's being discuused in blogs, but I'm afraid it's doomed to obscurity, for two reasons: no pictures accompany it and it wasn't published in New York or Washington. So read it and talk about it.

From a Reuters story titled "U.S. Military Vows to Keep Afghan Jails Secret":

Accused of failing to tackle prison abuses in Afghanistan while rushing to contain the scandal in Iraq, the U.S. military in Kabul said it would review its secretive jails but vowed to keep them shut to the outside world.

The families of two Afghans who died from wounds sustained in a U.S. detention center at Bagram, just north of Kabul, 18 months ago, are still waiting for the outcome of a U.S. investigation....

U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Tucker Mansager ... said the U.S. military had yet to respond to a May 10 request from the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, which has collected more than 40 recent complaints of mistreatment, for access to the main jail at Bagram.

He also said journalists would not be allowed to see it, despite reporters being given access this month to Abu Ghraib, depicted in images of abuse of prisoners by American soldiers that sparked a backlash across the Arab world.

"It's the coalition's continued policy to treat persons under confinement in the spirit of the Geneva Conventions.

"Part of that spirit is to ensure that the persons under confinement are not subject to any kind of exploitation. It is the coalition's position that allowing media into the facilities would compromise that protection."

The unmitigated gall.
The solution, endorsed by Rumsfeld and carried out by Stephen Cambone, was to get tough with those Iraqis in the Army prison system who were suspected of being insurgents.

--Seymour Hersh

Cambone graduated from Our Lady of Lourdes High School, in Poughkeepsie, in 1970 and later [attended] Catholic University...

--Poughkeepsie Journal, 5/15/04

Think any bishop will ever suggest that Stephen Cambone should be refused communion?