Saturday, October 28, 2006
by One Pissed Off Liberal
What pathetic creatures these Bushites be. Loathsome beyond the power of language or imagination, they are pitiable, and absolutely beneath the contempt of normal human beings. Not only are they drunk with power and eaten up with greed, they are utterly without moral constraint or the merest glimmer of human decency. These cold and soulless men are entirely lacking in that most sublime and redeeming human trait, compassion - and what are men without compassion, but monsters?
Since the 60s I have watched the selfishness and greediness of the Republicans and suspected that it had no bounds. I've observed their penchant for dirty tricks and cheating, listened to their lies, and born witness to their traitorous instincts. I've long seen them for the immoral scum that they are, still I was woefully underestimating the depths of their depravity. Though I have fought them and railed against them for most of my life, and though I suffered through Nixon, Reagan, and Bush number 1, it took George W. and his band of lying-assed knuckle-dragging neocon demon spawn to make the true evil of the far rightwing fully manifest. This administration is the full-blown absolute worst nightmare of my generation. We knew these bastards were fascists back in Nixon's day, we just didn't realize how truly fucking evil they really were. Our present crop of rightwing fascists make Nixon look like a cub scout - and. brothers and sisters, that's saying plenty.
And of course, as you know, these assholes descend directly from the Nixon and Reagan administrations. There are books out now accusing Bush of betraying the `Reagan Revolution,' as if Reagan was a revolutionary - or even sane. Fuckin' cracks me up. The only thing that happy asshole left us with is a dysfunctional government, Dick Cheney, and trickle-down economics. Thanks bunches. Named a fuckin' airport after the sorry rat bastard. They credit him with `defeating communism' for crying out loud, when all he did is cheerlead its demise from the sidelines. They don't want to talk about the thousands of innocent poor people he had murdered throughout Central and South America, including nuns and priests. They never mention the death squads he ran, the illegal arms deals he was up to his neck in, his diabolical deal with the Ayatollah, or his devastating blows to the poor. No, fuck, he was a hero. And now Bush has betrayed his illustrious legacy. If only `real' conservatives had been running this country for the last six years, we'd be in fine shape and Ronnie Reagan would be smiling down on us all. Yeah right.
These guys are bad news and always have been. As if to dispel any lingering doubts, VP Cheney recently opened his big mouth - which by now he should really know better. Nevertheless...
Cheney confirms waterboarding
By Jonathan S. Landay
WASHINGTON -- Vice President Dick Cheney has confirmed U.S. interrogators subjected captured senior al-Qaida suspects to a controversial interrogation technique called waterboarding, which creates a sensation of drowning.
Cheney indicated the Bush administration doesn't regard waterboarding as torture and allows the CIA to use it. "It's a no-brainer for me," Cheney said.
And now Tony Snow and his ilk are spinning like little tops trying to persuade us all that what Cheney said is not what he meant. What torture? We're just talkin' a little dunk in the water. When pressed for details of course, it's `we won't give away methods.' How very fucking convenient.
"We don't torture," they'll come out and say every so often. Shut your fucking pie holes is all I can say to that. "We don't torture. We've never been about `stay the course." When did it become perfectly okay to just brazenly lie your ass off in front of God and everybody? That's another thing these guys don't have a smidgeon of - shame.
Check out this video, Getting Waterboarded
We do torture. Our government is full of torturers, and torturers are nefarious, which is defined as unspeakably evil. These are our `leaders', our `public servants'. Not only do they practice torture, they teach it, spreading it around the world. Torture is what they've spread around the world in the name of the American people - not democracy. Here's where they have done all of this and more, the School of the Americas
Now the lying bastards are trying to claim we don't waterboard people.
History of an Interrogation Technique: Water Boarding
Nov. 29, 2005 -- CIA Director Porter Goss maintained this week that the CIA does not employ methods of torture. In doing so, he opened a new debate over exactly what constitutes torture -- especially when it comes to the harshest of the CIA's six secret interrogation techniques, known as "water boarding."
The water board technique dates back to the 1500s during the Italian Inquisition. A prisoner, who is bound and gagged, has water poured over him to make him think he is about to drown.
Current and former CIA officers tell ABC News that they were trained to handcuff the prisoner and cover his face with cellophane to enhance the distress. According to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., himself a torture victim during the Vietnam War, the water board technique is a "very exquisite torture" that should be outlawed.
"Torture is defined under the federal criminal code as the intentional infliction of severe mental pain or suffering," said John Sifton, an attorney and researcher with the organization Human Rights Watch. "That would include water boarding."
Or if we do, it's not really torture.
Memo on Torture Draws Focus to Bush
Aide Says President Set Guidelines for Interrogations, Not Specific Techniques
An Aug. 1, 2002, memo from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, addressed to Gonzales, said that torturing suspected al Qaeda members abroad "may be justified" and that international laws against torture "may be unconstitutional if applied to interrogation" conducted against suspected terrorists.
The document provided legal guidance for the CIA, which crafted new, more aggressive techniques for its operatives in the field. McClellan called the memo a historic or scholarly review of laws and conventions concerning torture. "The memo was not prepared to provide advice on specific methods or techniques," he said. "It was analytical."
Attorney General John D. Ashcroft yesterday refused senators' requests to make public the memo, which is not classified, and would not discuss any possible involvement of the president.
In the view expressed by the Justice Department memo, which differs from the view of the Army, physical torture "must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death." For a cruel or inhuman psychological technique to rise to the level of mental torture, the Justice Department argued, the psychological harm must last "months or even years."
So as long as they don't cause organ failure, and as long as their cruel or inhuman techniques don't last `months or even years'...it's not torture. Any reasonable human being can buy that, right?
And now they've put out the big spin that the reason they wanted the Military Commissions Act passed was to protect the CIA agents from prosecution for the war crimes they ordered them to commit. I've heard this echoed throughout the MSM, when any person of any discernment knows full well that they were trying to cover THEIR asses for ordering it in the first place. That's not going to work though. The constitution bans the passage of ex post facto laws. You can't pardon yourself with legislation after the fact. They can't just sign their go-free papers into law - and get away with it. Some activist judge is going to have to smack these bastards down. I'd love to have that privilege myself. I imagine some lawyer type has informed them of this, thus prompting Bush's massive land purchase in Paraguay
Bush Fears War Crimes Prosecution and Impeachment
As the election season rolls around, Bush is doing everything he can to avoid a Dem sweep in the House of Congress - or else he might be impeached.
The Court also determined that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions applies to al Qaeda detainees. That provision of Geneva prohibits "outrages upon personal dignity" and "humiliating and degrading treatment."
Bush called on Congress to define these "vague and undefined" terms in Common Article 3 because "our military and intelligence personnel" involved in capture and interrogation "could now be at risk of prosecution under the War Crimes Act."
Congress enacted the War Crimes Act in 1996. That act defines violations of Geneva's Common Article 3 as war crimes. Those convicted face life imprisonment or even the death penalty if the victim dies.
The President is undoubtedly familiar with the doctrine of command responsibility, where commanders, all the way up the chain of command to the commander in chief, can be held liable for war crimes their inferiors commit if the commander knew or should have known they might be committed and did nothing to stop or prevent them.
Bush defensively denied that the United States engages in torture and foreswore authorizing it. But it has been well-documented that policies set at the highest levels of our government have resulted in the torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of U.S. prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo.
Bush loves to deny that we torture or that he ordered it. But good old DICK Cheney admitted that waterboarding was to him a `no-brainer', though lying little weasels like Tony Snow are busily trying to deny it. But it's been documented time and time again that waterboarding was used on Khalid Sheik Mohammed and many others.
According to the sources, CIA officers who subjected themselves to the water boarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. They said al Qaeda's toughest prisoner, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two-and-a-half minutes before begging to confess.
"The person believes they are being killed, and as such, it really amounts to a mock execution, which is illegal under international law," said John Sifton of Human Rights Watch.
But is waterboarding torture? Does it constitute a crime?
Waterboarding Historically Controversial
In 1947, the U.S. Called It a War Crime; in 1968, It Reportedly Caused an Investigation
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 5, 2006; Page A17
Key senators say Congress has outlawed one of the most notorious detainee interrogation techniques -- "waterboarding," in which a prisoner feels near drowning. But the White House will not go that far, saying it would be wrong to tell terrorists which practices they might face.
...in 1947, the United States charged a Japanese officer, Yukio Asano, with war crimes for carrying out another form of waterboarding on a U.S. civilian. The subject was strapped on a stretcher that was tilted so that his feet were in the air and head near the floor, and small amounts of water were poured over his face, leaving him gasping for air until he agreed to talk.
"Asano was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor," Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) told his colleagues last Thursday during the debate on military commissions legislation. "We punished people with 15 years of hard labor when waterboarding was used against Americans in World War II," he said.
15 years of hard labor for waterboarding. I suppose that sounds reasonable. So Bush, Cheney, Gonzales, et al have at least that coming. But waterboarding may well be among the least of their crimes against humanity.
How I wish that waterboarding was the worst of what they've done in our names, but it's not - not even close. Recently a judge ordered the release of more of the infamous Abu Ghraib photos - and it ain't pretty.
Judge Orders Release of Abu Ghraib Child Rape Photos
NEW YORK A federal judge ruled today that graphic pictures of detainee abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison must be released over government claims that they could damage America's image. Last year a Republican senator conceded that they contained scenes of "rape and murder" and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said they included acts that were "blatantly sadistic."
"Basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys/children in cases that have been recorded. The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. The worst about all of them is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has. They are in total terror it's going to come out."
So they can sodomize children, rape and murder prisoners - but as long as it doesn't last for weeks or months, it's not torture. Right? Right.
These despicable people are beyond the pale of civilized behavior. What's worse, they have committed these unspeakable and inhuman acts in the name of the people of the United States of America. We were once the country where people sought asylum from such terror and brutality. Now we are famous all over the world for the worst forms of human conduct. We are now regarded as a nation of torturers, rapists, and murderers. Once the champion of human rights, we are now the horror of horrors, the abomination of desolation, a veritable black hole of human evil.
This is not the America we were taught to love and revere. This is not an America in which anyone can take pride.
We owe it to ourselves and to the entire world to bring these despicable and loathsome creatures to justice. They must be tried for their horrendous crimes against humanity and they must be punished. And this, brothers and sisters, is truly a no-brainer. Amen.
(cross-posted at MyLeftWing
By Kristin Jensen
Oct. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Former White House official David Safavian was sentenced to 18 months in prison for lying and obstructing justice in the investigation of disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Safavian, 39, was convicted June 20 of hiding his efforts to help Abramoff get government business and obstructing an inquiry into a golfing trip they took to Scotland. Each of the four counts on which he was convicted carried a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
``This was an abuse of the public's trust,'' U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman said in imposing sentence today in Washington.
To contact the reporter on this story: Kristin Jensen in Washington kjensen@Bloomberg.net .
President Bush once remarked that he lept into the fray of politics in an attempt to undo the moral relativism of the sixties. In that regard, he has frequently exercised his presidential sneer for what he takes to be sixty-ish situation type ethics. Yet, for all of his absolutist posturing and his penchant for making brash moral judgments, Mr. Bush is fast becoming one of the relativists that he has so roundly and routinely criticized.
Over the last five years, the President has often emphasized, "The world has changed since 9/11." By that he seems to mean that a new set of moral/ political rules has come into effect since the Twin Towers came down. Because we are facing the threat of terrorism, the President has authorized holding people indefinitely without trials, wiretapping without a warrant, and setting up interrogation shops in foreign countries. Last month, he pounded his fist and jabbed the air proclaiming that the US should not be bound by the 57-year old Geneva Convention banning the use of torture.
Remarkably enough, after all the ballyhooing of former torture victim Senator McCain and others, the President won a compromise signED a bill lastTuesday that putatively clarifies the terms of the Geneva ban on torture. Sad to say, many believe that this retroactive legislation is intended to protect the President, US agents, and our armed forces from charges of war crimes.
The implicit suggestion in Bush's argument is that if matters were otherwise, if we were in a regular war against the dependable Nazis or North Koreans, then there would be no need to tweak this sacrosanct international code. But to listen to the President, our present foes are just too dangerous for us to swear off the use of pain as an elixir. In other terms, President Bush seems to believe that, relatively speaking, torture is wrong, but that using electrodes to spark truth-telling is justifiable in certain situations, as long as it doesn't cause "a burn or physical disfigurement of a serious nature (other than cuts, abrasions, or bruises)" -- as though the use of "serious" in this context was any more transparent than the terms of Common Article 3
Many people had a good laugh listening to then President Clinton parse words during the Monica Lewinsky debacle. But it seems that Mr. Bush also has a penchant for term splitting. In presenting his case, the President took issue with the use of the term "outrageous" in the Geneva agreement. "Outrageous?" snickered Bush, "Who's to say what is outrageous?" After signing the Military Commissions Act on Tuesday, the Great Decider will be the one empowered with the wisdom to say what is outrageous.
Someone with a firmer set of convictions, however, would insist that inflicting serious pain on a suspect is torture and that torture is plain wrong, no matter what the circumstances and no matter what good consequences might issue from it.
With a set jaw, the President has certainly shown this firmness on other issues, such as embryonic stem cell research. Even though Mr. Bush acknowledges that this science might help us discover the cure for terrible diseases, he refuses to sanction the creation of new stem cell lines on the grounds that the lives that might be saved would not change the fact that creating life for research purposes remains wrong. With regard to prisoners of our war on terrorism, matters moral are a little more fluid. President Bush might carry himself like the sheriff of moral clarity, but when it comes to moral principles he is a cut and run relativist.
Friday, October 27, 2006
Today, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called for sending 20,000 more troops to Iraq. The AP reports
Republican Sen. John McCain, a possible 2008 presidential candidate, said Friday the United States should send another 20,000 troops to Iraq.
A member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, McCain said increasing U.S. forces would require expanding the standing Army and Marine Corps - a step the Bush administration has resisted. […]
‘’Another 20,000 troops in Iraq, but that means expanding the Army and the Marine Corps,'’ he said.
McCain’s call for escalation would exacerbate the deteriorating situation in Iraq and would only further damage U.S. national security. Here’s at least two reasons why:
1) No troops to send. “Sending more troops to Iraq would, at the moment, threaten to break our nation’s all-volunteer Army and undermine our national security.” McCain suggests enlarging the force to send them to Iraq, an idea that is implausible to carry out over the short-term and would damage the military’s ability to recruit over the long-term.
2) The insurgency would grow more inflamed. “A more visible presence of U.S. troops risks further stoking the flames of the insurgency by feeding perceptions of long-term U.S. occupation among many Iraqis.” The recent effort to increase troop numbers in Baghdad has only increased violence. A recent poll of Iraqis indicated that support for attacks on US-led forces has grown to a majority position — now six in ten — a number sure to increase if more U.S. troops are put on the ground.
Phased withdrawal is gaining consensus as the last best option for Iraq. A growing group of experts — including the Iraq Study Group and host of conservative senators — are consolidating behind a redeployment. 63 percent of Americans believe Congress should set a timetable.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Bowing to anti-immigration hardliners in the House, President Bush today held a White House ceremony celebrating the signing of the “Secure Fence Act.” Bush told reporters, “The bill authorizes the construction of hundreds of miles of additional fencing along our southern border.”
Bush is right, the bill does “authorize” the constrution of a new fence. But that doesn’t mean the bill pays for it. As the Washington Post reported earlier this month:
No sooner did Congress authorize construction of a 700-mile fence on the U.S.-Mexico border last week than lawmakers rushed to approve separate legislation that ensures it will never be built, at least not as advertised, according to Republican lawmakers and immigration experts.
… [S]hortly before recessing late Friday, the House and Senate gave the Bush administration leeway to distribute the money to a combination of projects — not just the physical barrier along the southern border. The funds may also be spent on roads, technology and “tactical infrastructure” to support the Department of Homeland Security’s preferred option of a “virtual fence.”
The “Secure Fence Act” has everything to do with motivating the right-wing base, and nothing to do with securing America’s borders or passing comprehensive immigration reform.
A nonprofit group has filed a complaint asking the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the role that two churches may have played in the re-election campaign of Kansas’ attorney general.
The complaint by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonpartisan legal watchdog organization, cited a memorandum from the attorney general, Phill Kline, a Republican, directing members of his campaign staff to recruit churches to distribute campaign literature and serve as the sites for events.
“This is the top law enforcement official in the state who is encouraging everyone to break the law,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of the watchdog group. “He’s either abysmally unfamiliar with the law, or he’s deliberately violating it.”
A spokeswoman for Mr. Kline, Sherriene Jones, did not return calls to her office.
In his memorandum, Mr. Kline identified two Topeka churches, the Light of the World Christian Center and the Wanamaker Woods Church of the Nazarene, which he said had participated in “lit drops” by handing out campaign literature. A woman who answered the telephone at Wanamaker Woods Church said the church had no comment.
The Rev. Greg Varney, pastor of Light of the World Christian Center, issued a statement saying that Mr. Kline had preached at the church on July 9, but insisting that no illegal activity had occurred. “At no time here at our church did Phill bring up politics, re-election or campaign contributions,” the statement said.
Mark W. Everson, the commissioner of the I.R.S., has repeatedly warned that the agency will crack down on religious organizations that violate laws barring charities of any type from involvement in partisan political activities.
This election cycle, additional accusations of such violations have been made against religious organizations in California, Minnesota, Missouri and Ohio.
Whether the I.R.S. has responded to those complaints is unknown; the agency is barred by law from disclosing its investigations.
All Saints Church, an Episcopal congregation in Pasadena, Calif., has said it was under investigation, but no other church named in complaints that have become public has acknowledged an I.R.S. inquiry.
Despite a report last year by the Treasury Department’s inspector general that concluded political considerations had played no role in the I.R.S.’s selection of nonprofit groups for review, the agency’s silence regarding its investigations has led to accusations of political bias.
“From what we know, the I.R.S. has gone after liberal organizations primarily, the N.A.A.C.P. and the liberal church in California,” Ms. Sloan said, referring to the inquiry into All Saints Church. An I.R.S. investigation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was closed with no finding of wrongdoing.
“Clearly, there are violations on the conservative side, and no action appears to be taken.” Ms. Sloan said. “If they’re being even-handed,” she added, “I certainly can’t tell.”
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington also filed a complaint with the I.R.S. last week against the Living Word Christian Center in Brooklyn Park, Minn., accusing its senior pastor of violating the law by openly stating his support for a Congressional candidate.
“We can’t publicly endorse as a church, and would not for any candidate,” the senior pastor, the Rev. Mac Hammond, told his congregation during a service on Oct. 14 as he introduced Michele Bachmann, a Republican state senator who is running for a seat in the United States House of Representatives. “But I can tell you personally that I’m going to vote for Michele Bachmann,” he said.
During her remarks that followed, Ms. Bachmann said that she had been called by God to run for the House seat after three days of fasting and praying with her husband.
The Star Tribune in Minneapolis later reported that Mr. Hammond could not vote for Ms. Bachmann because he does not live in her district.
Mr. Hammond did not respond to messages seeking comment.
The Star Tribune quoted Mr. Hammond as saying he had “learned my lesson.”
A recent ad by the Republican National Committee targeting Rep. Harold Ford (D-TN) was criticized by various parties, including former Republican senator William Cohen, as a “very serious appeal to a racist sentiment.”
As Nitpicker noted, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow was asked on Tuesday if he thought the ad was racist. Snow said no, then claimed:
I mean, maybe I’m just quaint in this day and age. But no, I think there is always an attempt when you have got an African-American candidate to try to attribute something to the race card.
The ad is still being shown. The Tennessean reported yesterday that the ad “will continue airing in the Chattanooga area
, despite the head of the Republican National Committee’s statement today that the ad was off the air.”
WASHINGTON - Vice President Dick Cheney has confirmed that U.S. interrogators subjected captured senior al-Qaida suspects to a controversial interrogation technique called "water-boarding," which creates a sensation of drowning.
Cheney indicated that the Bush administration doesn't regard water-boarding as torture and allows the CIA to use it. "It's a no-brainer for me," Cheney said at one point in an interview.
Cheney's comments, in a White House interview on Tuesday with a conservative radio talk show host, appeared to reflect the Bush administration's view that the president has the constitutional power to do whatever he deems necessary to fight terrorism.
The U.S. Army, senior Republican lawmakers, human rights experts and many experts on the laws of war, however, consider water-boarding cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment that's banned by U.S. law and by international treaties that prohibit torture. Some intelligence professionals argue that it often provides false or misleading information because many subjects will tell their interrogators what they think they want to hear to make the water-boarding stop.
Republican Sens. John Warner of Virginia, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have said that a law Bush signed last month prohibits water-boarding. The three are the sponsors of the Military Commissions Act, which authorized the administration to continue its interrogations of enemy combatants.
The radio interview Tuesday was the first time that a senior Bush administration official has confirmed that U.S. interrogators used water-boarding against important al-Qaida suspects, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged chief architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Mohammad was captured in Pakistan on March 1, 2003, and turned over to the CIA.
Water-boarding means holding a person's head under water or pouring water on cloth or cellophane placed over the nose and mouth to simulate drowning until the subject agrees to talk or confess.
Lee Ann McBride, a spokeswoman for Cheney, denied that Cheney confirmed that U.S. interrogators used water-boarding or endorsed the technique.
"What the vice president was referring to was an interrogation program without torture," she said. "The vice president never goes into what may or may not be techniques or methods of questioning."
In the interview on Tuesday, Scott Hennen of WDAY Radio in Fargo, N.D., told Cheney that listeners had asked him to "let the vice president know that if it takes dunking a terrorist in water, we're all for it, if it saves American lives."
"Again, this debate seems a little silly given the threat we face, would you agree?" Hennen said.
"I do agree," Cheney replied, according to a transcript of the interview released Wednesday. "And I think the terrorist threat, for example, with respect to our ability to interrogate high-value detainees like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, that's been a very important tool that we've had to be able to secure the nation."
Cheney added that Mohammed had provided "enormously valuable information about how many (al-Qaida members) there are, about how they plan, what their training processes are and so forth. We've learned a lot. We need to be able to continue that."
"Would you agree that a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?" asked Hennen.
"It's a no-brainer for me, but for a while there, I was criticized as being the vice president `for torture.' We don't torture. That's not what we're involved in," Cheney replied. "We live up to our obligations in international treaties that we're party to and so forth. But the fact is, you can have a fairly robust interrogation program without torture, and we need to be able to do that."
The interview transcript was posted on the White House Web site. Interview of the Vice President by Scott Hennen, WDAY.
CIA spokeswoman Michelle Neff said, "While we do not discuss specific interrogation methods, the techniques we use have been reviewed by the Department of Justice and are in keeping with our laws and treaty obligations. We neither conduct nor condone torture."
McClatchy correspondents James Rosen and Marisa Taylor contributed to this report.
A racist pattern is emerging from the Republican consultants driving the anti-Ford campaign in Tennessee. To date, Bob Corker has been able to say he's not been apart of the quasi-racist "Hey Harold, Call Me" ad run by the RNC. The ad, created by Scott Howell, is not blatently racist, but the symbolism of a blond woman (whom should be publically shamed and discredited) saying "I met Harold at the Playboy Party" and then "Hey Harold, call me" is historically substantive of the racist attitude that the black man desires the white woman and stirs up inter-racial marriage resentment.
The next pro-Corker move though, is without doubt racist in tone. Jim Davis, an LA-based consultant working for Bob Corker, is the maker of Corker's radio ad with the tom-toms in the background that play while speaking about Harold Ford.
, the program director for WGOW [Chatanooga], confirmed the authenticity of the ad and that it's running on the station. "They're freaking jungle-drums," Lockhart tells us. "It's racist -- it tries to conjure up deep, dark African moods. Yeah, it's overtly racial."
Nothing covert about it. Here's the radio clip
, now getting coverage by local press
When the ad mentions Corker, the music soars and no tom-toms are audible. Throughout the entire minute-long ad, you hear the rumble of tom-toms every time Ford is mentioned. This ad, keep in mind, quotes Bob Corker himself as having "approved" the message -- meaning it wasn't the work of the Republican National Committee, as in the case of the recent "bimbo"
TV ad which drew charges of racism.
In a report on the ad wars of the 2006 midterm elections, co-anchor Terry Moran reported on the October 25 broadcast of ABC's Nightline that "both sides are playing a serious game of hardball" with "mudslinging" attack ads hitting "below the belt." Moran wondered, "How low can they go?" Despite Moran's insistence that the "low punches" were being thrown by both Democrats and Republicans, the entire Nightline report focused on a handful of controversial Republican commercials -- including ads being aired in Tennessee, Massachusetts, and New York -- that have garnered wide media attention and been broadly condemned, both for their inaccuracies and their ugly personal attacks. Moran's report provided no examples of Democratic-sponsored attack ads being aired that match the level of distortion and personal attack found in the Republican commercials.
The Nightline broadcast followed an earlier ABC News report posted online that also addressed negative campaign ads. As Media Matters for America noted, despite focusing exclusively on the string of "ugly" and "nasty" Republican smear commercials, the ABC piece, like the Nightline report, insisted that "Democrats aren't necessarily running clean campaigns." Unable to cite any current examples however, ABC simply stated, "As the races tighten in the next couple of weeks, the left will likely unleash its garbage as well."
Corporate Welfare: Bush Cheney and Republican Controlled Congress failing to oversee spending in Iraq.
Idle Contractors Add Millions to Iraq Rebuilding
By James Glanz
The New York Times
Wednesday 25 October 2006
Overhead costs have consumed more than half the budget of some reconstruction projects in Iraq, according to a government estimate released yesterday, leaving far less money than expected to provide the oil, water and electricity needed to improve the lives of Iraqis.
The report provided the first official estimate that, in some cases, more money was being spent on housing and feeding employees, completing paperwork and providing security than on actual construction.
Those overhead costs have ranged from under 20 percent to as much as 55 percent of the budgets, according to the report, by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. On similar projects in the United States, those costs generally run to a few percent.
The highest proportion of overhead was incurred in oil-facility contracts won by KBR Inc., the Halliburton subsidiary formerly known as Kellogg Brown & Root, which has frequently been challenged by critics in Congress and elsewhere.
The actual costs for many projects could be even higher than the estimates, the report said, because the United States has not properly tracked how much such expenses have taken from the $18.4 billion of taxpayer-financed reconstruction approved by Congress two years ago.
The report said the prime reason was not the need to provide security, though those costs have clearly risen in the perilous environment, and are a burden that both contractors and American officials routinely blame for such increases.
Instead, the inspector general pointed to a simple bureaucratic flaw: the United States ordered the contractors and their equipment to Iraq and then let them sit idle for months at a time.
The delay between "mobilization," or assembling the teams in Iraq, and the start of actual construction was as long as nine months.
"The government blew the whistle for these guys to go to Iraq and the meter ran," said Jim Mitchell, a spokesman for the inspector general's office. "The government was billed for sometimes nine months before work began."
The findings are similar to those of a growing list of inspections, audits and investigations that have concluded that the program to rebuild Iraq has often fallen short for the most mundane of reasons: poorly written contracts, ineffective or nonexistent oversight, needless project delays and egregiously poor construction practices.
"This report is the latest chapter in a long, sad and expensive tale about how contracting in Iraq was more about shoveling money out the door than actually getting real results on the ground," said Stephen Ellis, a vice president at Taxpayers for Common Sense in Washington.
"These contracts were to design and build important items for oil infrastructure, hospitals and education, but in some cases more than half of the money padded corporate coffers instead," he said.
Although the federal report places much of the burden for the charges squarely on the shoulders of United States officials in Baghdad, the findings varied widely over a sampling of contracts examined by auditors, from a low of under 20 percent for some companies to a high of over 55 percent.
One oil contract awarded to a joint venture between Parsons, an American company, and Worley, from Australia, had overhead costs of at least 43 percent, the report found. One contract held by Parsons alone to build hospitals and prisons had overhead of at least 35 percent; in another, it was 17 percent.
The lowest figure was found for certain contracts won by Lucent, at 11 percent, but the report indicates that substantial portions of the overhead in those cases could not be determined.
The report did not explain why KBR's overhead costs on those contracts - the contracts totaled about $296 million - were more than 10 percent higher than those at the other companies audited. Despite past criticism of KBR, the Army, which administers those contracts, has generally agreed to pay most of the costs claimed by the company.
Melissa Norcross, a spokeswoman for KBR, said in a written reply to questions, "It is important to note that the special inspector general is not challenging any of KBR's costs referenced in this report."
"All of these costs were incurred at the client's direction and for the client's benefit," she said, referring to the Army Corps of Engineers, which is in charge of the oil contract.
But a frequent Halliburton critic, Representative Henry A. Waxman, a California Democrat who is the ranking minority member of the House Committee on Government Reform, disputed those assurances. "It's incomprehensible that over $160 million - more than half the value of the contract - was squandered on overhead," Mr. Waxman said in a written statement.
The majority leader of the same committee, Thomas M. Davis III, a Virginia Republican, declined to comment.
A spokeswoman for Parsons, Erin Kuhlman, said the United States categorized overhead and construction costs differently from contract to contract in Iraq, making it difficult to make direct comparisons. "Parsons incurred, billed and reported actual costs as directed by the government," she said.
In Iraq, where construction materials are scarce and contractors must provide security for work sites and housing for Western employees, officials have said they expect the overhead to be at least 10 percent, but the contractors and American officials have grudgingly conceded that the true costs have turned out to be higher.
But even the high of 55 percent could be an underestimate, Mr. Mitchell said, because the government often did not begin tracking overhead costs for months after the companies mobilized. He added that because of the haphazard way in which the government tracked the costs, it was not possible to say how well the figures reflected overhead charges in the entire program.
The report's conclusions were drawn from $1.3 billion in contracts for which United States government overseers actually made an effort to track overhead costs, of the total of $18.4 billion set aside for reconstruction in specific supplemental funding bills for the 2006 fiscal year.
When all American and Iraqi contributions are added up, various estimates for the cost of the rebuilding program range from $30 billion to $45 billion. Language included in the Defense Authorization Act, signed by President Bush last week, states that the inspector general's office will halt its examination of those expenditures by October of next year.
Maj. Gen. William H. McCoy, who until recently commanded the Persian Gulf region division of the Corps of Engineers, disputed some of the inspector general's findings in a letter appended to the report. Things like "waiting for concrete to cure" could still be taking place during what seem to be periods of inactivity, General McCoy wrote, so a quiet period "does not mean that the project is not moving forward."
But many of the delays came during 2004 and took place in response to political developments in Iraq, the inspector general's report says. The American occupation government, the Coalition Provisional Authority, mobilized many of the companies early that year.
After the authority went out of existence in June 2004, handing sovereignty to the Iraqi government, top American officials then kept the companies idle for months as the officials rewrote the rebuilding plan, and ran up costs as little work was done.
Bush, Cheney and Halliburton: War Profiteers and Carpetbaggers.
Iraq and Your Wallet
By Nicholas D. Kristof
The New York Times
Tuesday 24 October 2006
For every additional second we stay in Iraq, we taxpayers will end up paying an additional $6,300.
So aside from the rising body counts and all the other good reasons to adopt a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, here's another: We are spending vast sums there that would be better spent rescuing the American health care system, developing alternative forms of energy and making a serious effort to reduce global poverty.
In the run-up to the Iraq war, Donald Rumsfeld estimated that the overall cost would be under $50 billion. Paul Wolfowitz argued that Iraq could use its oil to "finance its own reconstruction."
But now several careful studies have attempted to tote up various costs, and they suggest that the tab will be more than $1 trillion - perhaps more than $2 trillion. The higher sum would amount to $6,600 per American man, woman and child.
"The total costs of the war, including the budgetary, social and macroeconomic costs, are likely to exceed $2 trillion," Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel-winning economist at Columbia, writes in an updated new study with Linda Bilmes, a public finance specialist at Harvard. Their report has just appeared in the Milken Institute Review, as an update on a paper presented earlier this year.
Just to put that $2 trillion in perspective, it is four times the additional cost needed to provide health insurance for all uninsured Americans for the next decade. It is 1,600 times Mr. Bush's financing for his vaunted hydrogen energy project.
Another study, by two economists at the American Enterprise Institute, used somewhat different assumptions and came up with a lower figure - about $1 trillion. Those economists set up a nifty Web site, www.aei-brookings.org/iraqcosts, where you can tinker with the underlying assumptions and come up with your own personal estimates.
Of course, many of the costs are hidden and haven't even been spent yet. For example, more than 3,000 American veterans have suffered severe head injuries in Iraq, and the U.S. government will have to pay for round-the-clock care for many of them for decades. The cost ranges from $600,000 to $5 million per person.
Then there are disability payments that will continue for a half-century. Among veterans of the first gulf war - in which ground combat lasted only 100 hours - 40 percent ended up receiving disability payments, still costing us $2 billion each year. We don't know how many of today's veterans will claim such benefits, but in the first quarter of this year more people sought care through the Department of Veterans Affairs than the Bush administration had budgeted for the entire year.
The war has also forced the military to offer re-enlistment bonuses that in exceptional circumstances reach $150,000. Likewise, tanks, helicopters and other battlefield equipment will have to be replaced early, since the Pentagon says they are being worn out at up to six times the peacetime rate.
The administration didn't raise taxes to pay for the war, so we're financing it by borrowing from China and other countries. Those borrowing costs are estimated to range from $264 billion to $308 billion in interest.
Then there are economic costs to the nation as a whole. For example, the price of oil was in the $20- to $30-a-barrel range early in this decade but has now shot up to more than $50, partly because of the drop in Iraq's oil exports and partly because of war-related instability in the Middle East. Professors Stiglitz and Bilmes note that if just $10 of the increase is attributable to the war, that amounts to a $450 billion drag on the economy over six years.
The bottom line is that not only have we squandered 2,800 American lives and considerable American prestige in Iraq, but we're also paying $18,000 per household to do so.
We still face the choice of whether to remain in Iraq indefinitely or to impose a timetable and withdraw U.S. troops. These studies suggest that every additional year we keep our troops in Iraq will add $200 billion to our tax bills.
My vote would be to spend a chunk of that sum instead fighting malaria, AIDS and maternal mortality, bolstering American schools, and assuring health care for all Americans. We're spending $380,000 for every extra minute we stay in Iraq, and we can find better ways to spend that money.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Can the ‘20th hijacker’ of Sept. 11 stand trial?
Aggressive interrogation at Guantanamo may prevent his prosecution
PART TWO OF TWO
By Bill Dedman
Updated: 7:20 p.m. CT Oct 24, 2006
Mohammed al-Qahtani, detainee No. 063, was forced to wear a bra. He had a thong placed on his head. He was massaged by a female interrogator who straddled him like a lap dancer. He was told that his mother and sisters were whores. He was told that other detainees knew he was gay. He was forced to dance with a male interrogator. He was strip-searched in front of women. He was led on a leash and forced to perform dog tricks. He was doused with water. He was prevented from praying. He was forced to watch as an interrogator squatted over his Koran.
That much is known. These details were among the findings of the U.S. Army’s investigation of al-Qahtani's aggressive interrogation at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
But only now is a picture emerging of how the interrogation policy developed, and the battle that law enforcement agents waged, inside Guantanamo and in the offices of the Pentagon, against harsh treatment of al-Qahtani and other detainees by military intelligence interrogators.
In interviews with MSNBC.com — the first time they have spoken publicly — former senior law enforcement agents described their attempts to stop the abusive interrogations. The agents of the Pentagon's Criminal Investigation Task Force, working to build legal cases against suspected terrorists, said they objected to coercive tactics used by a separate team of intelligence interrogators soon after Guantanamo's prison camp opened in early 2002. They ultimately carried their battle up to the office of Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, who approved the more aggressive techniques to be used on al-Qahtani and others.
Although they believed the abusive techniques were probably illegal, the Pentagon cops said their objection was practical. They argued that abusive interrogations were not likely to produce truthful information, either for preventing more al-Qaida attacks or prosecuting terrorists.
And they described their disappointment when military prosecutors told them not to worry about making a criminal case against al-Qahtani, the suspected "20th hijacker" of Sept. 11, because what had been done to him would prevent him from ever being put on trial.
When Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, the U.S. Army general in charge of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, flew to Iraq on Aug. 31, 2003, to advise on operation of a little-known prison called Abu Ghraib, his plane also carried something of a stowaway.
An agent of the Pentagon’s Criminal Investigation Task Force went along to warn U.S. prison officials in Iraq that Gen. Miller’s aggressive interrogation techniques were not the only way, that there were legal and effective ways of building rapport with detainees to get them to talk.
The task force’s top cop, Mark Fallon, had sent the agent. Fallon said he feared that the Guantanamo techniques would spread.
"I wanted to tackle the general, anything to stop him from getting on that plane," Fallon said. "The best I could do was to send along a chaperone."
Gen. Miller resisted the agent, Blaine Thomas, joining his team, according to Fallon and his commander, Col. Brittain P. Mallow. He eventually relented, they said, but in Iraq he told the agent three times that he wasn't needed in meetings. So the agent made the best of his time in Iraq, meeting with the FBI.
The general, now retired, says the cops have it backward. "I’m the one who asked their guy to come" on the Abu Ghraib trip, Gen. Miller said, "and when they sent him, he was the one who decided to work with the FBI and other agencies instead of coming to the briefings. He had free and open access like everyone else."
In early April 2004, Gen. Miller left Guantanamo for a new role, running all U.S. prisons in Iraq, a few weeks before the name Abu Ghraib became well known. An Army investigation found later that Miller on his first visit had urged that military police with dogs "set the conditions" for interrogations, and that interrogators adopt "emerging strategic interrogation strategies and techniques" being used at Guantanamo.
"When the Abu Ghraib photos were released," Fallon said, "I felt a great disappointment."
"I wasn’t there for the meetings with General Miller. I do not know what he told those folks over there, what techniques to employ. ... But I felt a great sense of disappointment that I was not able to effectively influence behaviors that could have contributed to Abu Ghraib."
At Orlando International Airport on Aug. 4, 2001, a Saudi traveler caught the eye of a Customs agent.
The young man had no return ticket, $2,800 in cash, and wouldn’t identify the friend he said would pick him up at the airport. The Customs agent decided this was a potential illegal immigrant. Before being sent on a flight back to the Middle East, Mohammed al-Qahtani turned to the agent and said, "I’ll be back."
The Pentagon has said that his friend at the airport was the Sept. 11 ringleader, Mohammed Atta, and that al-Qahtani was apparently intended to be the fifth hijacker on United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania when passengers were able to overpower the other four. Al-Qahtani, through his attorney, says he was not involved.
Al-Qahtani was captured in December 2001 on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and shipped to the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.
For awhile he cooperated with FBI interrogators, but by the fall of 2002, he had mostly stopped talking.
The pressure on interrogators to produce information was intense. Less than a year after the Sept. 11 attacks, al-Qaida attacks were continuing: the firebombing of a synagogue in Tunisia in April, a bomb outside the U.S. Consulate in Karachi in June.
In early September 2002, the FBI suggested another option for obtaining information from al-Qahtani, according to the leaders of the law enforcement task force, who shared an office at Guantanamo with the FBI. The plan, they said, was to send al-Qahtani temporarily or permanently to another country, such as Egypt or Jordan, where he could be interrogated with techniques that the FBI could not legally use.
The commander of the law enforcement task force, Col. Britt Mallow, and his chief investigator, Mark Fallon, say they learned of the plan from the Pentagon’s Office of General Counsel, which urged them to reach a consensus with the FBI and intelligence interrogators on how to handle al-Qahtani. The cops opposed the plan, which was scrapped. A later FBI legal analysis warned that even discussing such a plan, known as "rendition," could be a crime, conspiracy to commit torture.
The FBI and Justice Department will not comment on any plan for rendition of al-Qahtani. A Pentagon spokesman, Cmdr. Jeffrey D. Gordon, said only, "There is continuous dialogue among interagency staffs about a wide variety of topics of national importance, although we do not typically discuss those talks."
If al-Qahtani wasn’t going to talk with the law enforcement agents, then the military intelligence interrogators wanted their shot. By September 2002, they were developing their own interrogation plans for al-Qahtani.
By this time, law enforcement interrogators said, they had seen signs of coercive or abusive techniques being tried by the young, mostly inexperienced, military intelligence personnel: a cinder block left in the interrogation box, apparently used to hold a detainee in a stress position, called short shackling; a detainee wrapped from head to toe in duct tape. These techniques were not in the interrogation bible, the Army Field Manual.
The al-Qahtani plan went much further. The law enforcement agents began to hear a new term, SERE, an acronym for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape. SERE training is provided to U.S. Special Forces and other military personnel to prepare them to withstand torture if they become prisoners of war. It includes mocking of their religious beliefs, sexual taunting, and a technique called water-boarding, which induces water through the nose to make a prisoner feel like he's drowning.
Intelligence interrogators had the idea to "reverse-engineer" SERE, to use its techniques to pry information out of the suspected al-Qaida and Taliban terrorists. Pentagon e-mails seen by MSNBC.com show that at least a half dozen military intelligence personnel from Guantanamo, including at least one medical adviser, went to Fort Bragg, N.C., on Sept. 16-20, 2002, for SERE training. It was an experiment, apparently not unlike what the CIA had been trying on the few high-value detainees kept at secret locations.
The law enforcement agents, who were collecting intelligence information but primarily focused on developing cases for Pentagon prosecutors, say they questioned whether SERE tactics would produce useful information.
"It was the latest gimmick," said Michael Gelles, the chief psychologist for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and an adviser to the law enforcement agents at Guantanamo. "The problem was these techniques were taught to harden you against interrogation."
Gelles said he called Col. Morgan Banks, the director of the Psychological Applications Directorate at Fort Bragg. "I said it was nuts," Gelles recalls, "and told him we were concerned about this. He said it was used to train for resistance, and would not work as an interrogation approach. But they still teach it." That September of 2002, Col. Mallow and Fallon ordered their agents in writing not to engage in coercive interrogations, particularly using SERE techniques.
They also said they and their agents raised these concerns several times with the commander at Guantanamo, Gen. Michael E. Dunlavey, and his staff, but he "wouldn’t listen at all," Col. Mallow said.
Gen. Dunlavey, a lawyer and reserve officer, now a state judge in Erie, Pa., says the law enforcement agents "are absolutely wrong." They didn't speak up to him about any coercive interrogations, he said. Any use of the SERE techniques must have begun after he left. "Whatever happened after Gen. Miller took over, I can't tell you."
Dunlavey said he always believed that "torture is wrong," and that his views were right in line with the law enforcement views. He said couldn't comment further because he is a defendant in two lawsuits brought by detainees.
Back in the states, Col. Mallow and Fallon said, they raised the issue almost weekly in August and September 2002 with lawyers from the office of the Pentagon general counsel, William J. Haynes III, as well as senior Army officials. Mallow said he recalls clearly that one meeting was on Sept. 11, the anniversary of the attacks, because his father died that night.
The cops argued that the al-Qahtani plan not only was illegal and unreliable, but also unnecessary. Mohammed al-Qahtani was not alleged to be a leader of the Sept. 11 plot. He was not trained as a pilot. If he was involved, he was one of the "muscle" hijackers. Everything known about al-Qaida, they said, suggests that information is compartmentalized.
Mallow said the senior Pentagon lawyers were sympathetic, but had limited influence on policy areas handled by the office of the secretary of defense.
A VIP tour
Into the interrogation debate flew a group of legal VIPs from the White House, the Justice Department and the Pentagon.
Defense Department e-mails seen by MSNBC.com show that a delegation visiting Guantanamo on Sept. 25, 2002, included Alberto R. Gonzales, then the White House counsel and now attorney general; David S. Addington, legal counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney, now his chief of staff; Timothy E. Flanigan, the deputy White House counsel; William Haynes III, the Pentagon general counsel; Larry Thompson, then deputy attorney general; Christopher A. Wray, the principal associate deputy attorney general, now head of Criminal Division at the Justice Department; and John Yoo, a lawyer in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, who reportedly had just helped write an Aug. 1, 2002, "torture memo" to Gonzales, defining torture narrowly as causing pain equivalent to organ failure or death.
The visiting VIPs met with Gen. Dunlavey and his staff, but not with any of the law enforcement investigators who opposed the aggressive interrogations. The White House and the Pentagon will not comment on the visit, other than to say that delegations frequently visited Guantanamo to discuss detainee matters.
Yoo has expressed the administration’s position on the balance between anti-terrorist operations and law enforcement in the war on terror.
"You know, the point of the war is not to collect evidence and solve crimes; it’s to fight and defeat the enemy," Yoo, now a law professor at the University of California, said in an NPR interview this month. "So I think this sort of flexible process reflects the demands and the nature of warfare."
The Pentagon’s law enforcement investigators bristle at the idea that defeating al-Qaida was solely the mission of the intelligence interrogators.
"It was our job to prevent the next attack," Fallon said. "Anyone in the United States government’s job, particularly someone who is a federal agent, law enforcement officer, is to prevent the next attack against the United States. ... The question we raised, rather vigorously: Will you really accomplish that objective by using aggressive technique?"
A menu of tactics
On Oct. 11, 2002, Gen. Dunlavey sent a formal plan for al-Qahtani’s interrogation up the chain of command. He sought approval for a menu of 19 "counter-resistance techniques" not in the Army Field Manual:
Category 1: Yelling, deception, use of multiple interrogators, misrepresenting identity of the interrogator (as from a country with a reputation for harsh treatment of prisoners).Category 2: Stress positions (such as standing for up to four hours), use of falsified documents or reports, isolation for 30 days or longer, interrogation in places other than the interrogation booth, deprivation of light and sound, hooding, interrogation for up to 20 hours straight, removal of all comfort items (including religious items), switching from hot food to military meals ready to eat, removal of clothing, forced grooming and shaving of facial hair, use of phobias (such as fear of dogs) to induce stress.Category 3: Use of scenarios to persuade the detainee that death or pain is imminent for him or his family, exposure to cold or water, use of mild non-injurious physical contact, use of a wet towel or water-boarding to simulate drowning or suffocation.
When preliminary approval of these techniques came from the Army’s Southern Command in Miami in early November, the law enforcement agents at Guantanamo offered an alternative plan to the intelligence side. In writing, they described successes they had seen with rapport-building, and criticized the proposed aggressive techniques as "possibly illegal" and harmful to law enforcement efforts. They also said that agents of the Defense Humint Service, the Defense Department's human intelligence spy agency, "blatantly misled" Pentagon officials by claiming that the FBI endorsed these coercive methods.
The next day, Nov. 23, the military interrogators began using their techniques on al-Qahtani, according to the Army investigation, although written approval had not yet been received. While some aggressive treatment of al-Qahtani had begun months earlier — on Oct. 1, 2002, a military police dog was used to scare the Saudi, an Army investigation found — now it began in earnest.
He was interrogated for 18 to 20 hours per day, for 48 of the next 54 days, according to an Army investigative report. On Dec. 7, 2002, he had to be revived at the detainee hospital when his heart rate fell to 35 beats per minute, according to a log of the interrogation published by Time magazine. Then the interrogation continued.
FBI agents at Guantanamo joined the opposition. A Nov. 27 FBI "legal analysis," since reported by Newsweek, labeled several parts of the plan as "coercive interrogation techniques which are not permitted by the U.S. Constitution." It also warned that several of the proposed tactics could constitute torture, depending on how a judge viewed the intent of the interrogator.
Justice Department spokeswoman Kathleen Blomquist declined to say last week whether the department communicated the FBI objections to the Pentagon or the White House.
'Why is standing limited to 4 hours?'
On Dec. 2, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld signed off, approving most of the tactics for use on al-Qahtani and others, including all of categories 1 and 2, but only one item in category 3: mild, non-injurious physical contact. Mock assassinations and water-boarding were out.
Rumsfeld added an asterisk, a note scrawled on the bottom of the approval memo, asking why stress positions were limited. "I stand for 8-10 hours a day," the secretary of defense wrote. "Why is standing limited to 4 hours?"
The approval wasn’t announced, not even to the law enforcement investigators at Guantanamo. "We continued to push the issue," said Fallon, the chief investigator. "Basically the responses started to come back, ‘We’re authorized to do this.'"
The Qahtani interrogation was a success, the Pentagon has said. Al-Qahtani admitted he had been sent to the United States by Sept. 11 plotter Khalid Sheik Mohamed, that he had met Osama bin Laden several times, that he had been trained at two al-Qaida camps, that he knew the shoe bomber Richard Reid, and that 30 other detainees he identified had been bodyguards for bin Laden.
The law enforcement investigators, however, say the interrogation produced little new. "I will just say that most of what we knew, we knew before," Col. Mallow said. "A lot of the intelligence 'successes' that have been touted were a result of much earlier disclosures made by detainees to our agents."
Al-Qahtani’s lawyer says her client repudiates his statements. "He adamantly denies all of that," said Gitanjali S. Gutierrez, of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
She said al-Qahtani, now in his late 20s, is physically and psychologically broken. In addition to the degrading treatment, she said, al-Qahtani was subjected to a "fake rendition," in which he was tranquilized, flown off the island of Cuba, revived, flown back to Cuba, and told he was in a country that allows torture.
"The government," she said, "has never come forward with any evidence that wasn't obtained by torture."
Soon other detainees were in line for SERE techniques, under the new leader at Guantanamo. Maj. Gen. Miller, a former artillery officer, had replaced Dunlavey in November. On Dec. 14, according to the law enforcement agents and Pentagon e-mails, the general gave them a proposed "standard operating procedure" for use of SERE techniques.
Here the law enforcement agents had their only internal disagreement. Col. Mallow, the commander, initially took the position that they could watch the intelligence interrogations, to collect information, and perhaps to deter abuses. After all, the secretary of defense had authorized these tactics. Fallon, his deputy and chief investigator, said he would resign from the law enforcement task force — and the Navy if necessary.
"You’re talking illegal acts here," Fallon said. "The secretary of defense can’t change the law. One of the things that we told all our personnel was the fact that during Nuremberg, Nazi war criminals were actually tried for acts that were perpetrated by them under orders of their superiors."
Col. Mallow said Fallon quickly persuaded him and, on Dec. 16, the colonel ordered his agents to disengage from any inhumane interrogation, to document what they saw, and to report it.
Gen. Miller was displeased, Col. Mallow recalls, saying, "You either are with us or you and your guys are out."
The general does not deny saying this. He said he inherited a situation where the two teams of interrogators "weren’t even speaking to one another, and it was unproductive," with two teams duplicating each other.
Still the investigators were unwilling to observe the aggressive interrogations. David L. Brant, the boss of Fallon and Gelles as the director of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, said he told the Army, "if there's anything that's beyond the boards, we'll just pull our people out." Air Force cops on the task force, from the Office of Special Investigations, said they would go along with a Navy walkout. Finally everyone agreed that the law enforcement investigators would not be forced to watch the intelligence interrogations.
Although they had built a wall separating themselves from the intelligence side, the law enforcement agents knew they had failed to persuade the Pentagon that rapport-building would be more effective than abusive interrogations.
'Put on the same uniform'
They turned back to the Navy for help. On Dec. 17, director Brant from the Naval Criminal Investigative service took the concerns to Alberto J. Mora, the chief lawyer for the Navy.
Mora, whose family had escaped Cuba under Castro, says the interrogation tactics shocked him, reminding him of the internment of Japanese citizens during World War II. While he worked on Pentagon lawyers, he recommended that the investigators take one more shot at persuading the leadership at Guantanamo.
So Fallon, the cop, and Gelles, the psychologist, flew down to see Gen. Miller. They took along a Secret Service expert on threat assessment. In Miller's office, the three cops described the rapport-building approach, how it had worked in terrorism cases, the USS Cole bombing, the embassy bombings in East Africa, even in preventing assassination attempts. The general was unmoved.
"If you want to be on the team," Fallon and Gelles said Gen. Miller told them, "you’ve got to put on the same uniform." The general says that’s a fair description of his reply.
Back in Washington, Mora, the Navy lawyer, resorted to an ultimatum. On Jan. 15, 2003, he prepared a draft memorandum opposing the techniques as clearly illegal, addressed to his boss, general counsel Haynes, as well as to the legal adviser to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Mora said he would be signing the memo at the end of the day. Before he could sign, Haynes told him that Rumsfeld would stop the aggressive interrogations.
It was true, to a point. Rumsfeld rescinded his blanket approval of the harshest techniques. Rumsfeld then asked a group of lawyers at Justice and the Pentagon to come up with new limits. According to Mora, this group relied heavily on a Justice Department memo, later withdrawn, justifying cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. In March 2003, Rumsfeld secretly re-authorized 24 techniques, mostly confined to those in the Army Field Manual but also allowing isolation, "environmental manipulation," "sleep adjustment," and threats to send the detainee to a country allowing torture. The new policy required "humane treatment," but did not define it.
Mora, now the vice president and general counsel for international operations for Wal-Mart, found out about Rumsfeld’s reauthorization a year later, watching a congressional hearing on C-SPAN about Abu Ghraib.
"We may have stopped some abuse on the Department of Defense side," Mora said, "but it's clear we had no effect on the national policy, meaning the White House policy, to inflict cruelty on some individuals."
Although the Pentagon has looked at specific allegations made by FBI agents of abusive interrogations, no investigation has untangled how the policy of aggressive interrogation was set, or who influenced it.
"The unanswered questions," Mora said, "are, how much of this was actually applied, what the level of abuse was, who the victims were, and who is responsible for the application of abuse, the cruel treatment? I think the historical record will indicate shifting responsibility for these abuses. … You've got some abuse that was inflicted as a result of authorizations by the command authority, some from a lack of leadership, suggesting that unlawful combatants could be treated more harshly than POWs, and some from rogue soldiers who have sadistic streaks."
The Bush administration has said that there was no policy to abuse detainees, although some detainees were abused in individual cases, and that those responsible have been held accountable.
"What took place at Guantanamo," Rumsfeld said in January, "is a matter of public record today, and the investigations turned up nothing that suggested that there was any policy in the department other than humane treatment. And it is also clear, by the very fact that some 250 people have been punished in one way or another, that there was behavior that was inappropriate."
'An honest mistake'
The Army’s internal Furlow-Schmidt investigation of FBI allegations of detainee mistreatment found in April 2005 that Gen. Miller failed to monitor the interrogation of al-Qahtani, whose interrogation "resulted in degrading and abusive treatment but did not rise to the level of being inhumane treatment."
The general told Army investigators that he was unaware of the extent of the techniques used on al-Qahtani, but they found that statement "inconsistent" with a letter he sent to his superiors on Jan. 21, 2003, saying that he approved the interrogation plan and that it was followed "relentlessly." "It is clear," the Army found, that the al-Qahtani intelligence interrogation team "believed they were acting within existing guidance."
In that letter, later unclassified in part, Miller wrote that the new techniques approved by Rumsfeld "are within the spirit and intent of humane detention. ... These techniques are not intended to cause gratuitous, severe physical pain or suffering or prolonged mental harm, but are instead intended to induce cooperation over a period of time by weakening the detainee's mental and physical ability to resist."
Beyond al-Qahtani, the investigators found that intelligence interrogators at Guantanamo had impersonated FBI agents and State Department investigators; played loud music with strobe lights (Metallica, Britney Spears and rap were often used); moved the detainees every few hours to disrupt sleep (called the "frequent flyer program"); wrapped a detainee’s head in duct tape to stop him from chanting passages from the Koran; and a female interrogator rubbed red ink on a detainee, and said, "By the way, I am menstruating." ("The detainee threw himself on the floor and started banging his head.")
Gen. Miller was recommended for administrative "admonishment" for failing to supervise the al-Qahtani investigation, but the Pentagon declined to impose the penalty. He was allowed to retire. As a condition of that retirement, he agreed to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is investigating the interrogations, but he has not yet been called.
"There were mistakes made," Miller told MSNBC.com. "I’ll be honest with you."
He said that many of the odd tactics tried on al-Qahtani were "authorized within the guidance" from Rumsfeld of Dec. 2, "but not within the plan" of specifics laid out by his staff at Guantanamo. In other words, individual interrogators were using techniques that he had not anticipated.
"One young, very young interrogator who put ladies’ panties on al-Qahtani’s head, that wasn’t authorized," Gen. Miller said. "We relieved that kid the next morning. It was a youngster who made an honest mistake."
Will Mohammed al-Qahtani, the suspected 20th hijacker, ever face trial?
The cops who directed the investigation, Col. Mallow and Fallon, said they were told several times by prosecutors in the Pentagon’s Office of Military Commissions, as the military trials are known, not to keep bringing forward a case against al-Qahtani, that there would be no case.
"The techniques made some detainees unprosecutable," Fallon said. "It would provide the defense counsel a tremendous advantage at trial to sway the presiding officer and members, as well as it would have disclosed those techniques to the public."
A Pentagon spokesman last week dismissed this as "speculation," but wouldn't say whether al-Qahtani would face a military trial, known as a commission. "The detainee you reference," Cmdr. Gordon said, "is not among those 10 already referred to military commissions." (See sidebar, In limbo: Cases are few against Gitmo detainees.)
Under the Military Commissions Act signed last week by President Bush, statements made under torture would not be admissible in a military trial.
But the law says a military judge could accept statements made under coercion. A court may have to decide which category, torture or coercion, encompasses such techniques as a fake trip to Egypt, sleep deprivation, and being forced to do dog tricks. The new law also extends legal protection from prosecution for war crimes to any U.S. personnel who used coercive tactics, if they believed in good faith that what they were doing was lawful.
Al-Qahtani's lawyer says she believes he'll never face trial, that eventually the government will have to transfer him back to Saudi Arabia.
"They can't just leave him in Guantanamo to rot and die," Gutierrez said.
In February 2004, just before the Abu Ghraib photos were released, Mark Fallon saw Gen. Geoff Miller one last time, on the tarmac at the Guantanamo airfield. Miller would soon go to Iraq full time, and Fallon was returning to the Naval Criminal Investigative service, where he directs the training academy.
"I frankly was rather surprised because General Miller gave me a hug," Fallon said. "It was the first hug that I received from General Miller.
"And he actually had told me that we were right."
That’s true, Miller says.
"To be frank with you," the general says, "I got down there and saw that the rapport-building was more effective. We made significant progress as we moved along. I found the law enforcement techniques to be an effective way to go about doing business.
"But not the only way."
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
by Jane SmileyPart 1
In a week or so, the New York Review of Books is going to publish an article by James Lovelock, the originator of the Gaia hypothesis (in which the Earth is viewed as more than an ecosystem, closer to a living being, that can be healthy or diseased, and can change, through evolution, from one state to the other).
Lovelock will declare that the Earth's temperature is about to rise five to eight degrees centigrade (depending on where you are--more at the poles, less in the tropics), and that this temperature rise will have disasterous consequences for all life, eventually, for example, reducing the human population from six billion to two hundred million, mostly living in the far north, and, as another example, submerging the British Isles, creating out of the highest points of land an archipelago, where some, but not much, habitation will be possible. As for the western United States, done for, along with much of the rest of the world, and civilization as we know it, of course.
And then there's a report by the Global Policy Forum, which, I gather, is a UN watchdog organization, about what's going on with Iraqi oil. Yes, the war is a disaster, but, at least as of last year, the west was moving ahead nicely in its expropriation of Iraqi oil. The ownership of the oil reserves has been public, but now the oil industry plans to use "production sharing agreements" to gain for itself the profits that otherwise would go to Iraqis. To quote from the Global Policy paper (written by Greg Muttitt) "It is difficult to overstate how radical a departure PSAs would be from normal practice, both in Iraq and in other comparable countries of the region. Iraq's oil industry has been in public hands since 1972; prior to that the rights to develop oil in 99.5% of the country had also been publicly held since 1961. In Iraq's neighbours Kuwait, Iran and Saudi Arabia, foreign control over oil development is ruled out by constitution or by national law. These countries together with Iraq are the world's top four countries in terms of oil reserves, with 51% of the world total between them... Countries with reserves the size of Iraq's do not use PSAs because they do not need to and are able to run their oil industries on far more beneficial terms...Unfortunately the Iraqi people have not been informed of the pro-PSA oil development plans, let alone their implications, which have transformed so seamlessly from US State Department recommendations into Iraqi government policy." According to Muttitt, if oil were selling at $40 per barrel (ha ha), Iraq would hand profits of between $74 billion and $194 billion over to the oil companies.
Bear with me here. In this morning's New York Times' better-late- than-never editorial, about how possibly to get out of Iraq, it is suggested that Americans should renounce permanent bases there--"The people in Iraq and across the Middle East need a strong sign that the troops are not there to further any American imperial agenda." Oh, yes--war for oil. It all comes clear now.
Once upon a time, there was a man named Dick Cheney. He was a contemptuous, selfish, snarling, secretive, bullying sort of man who thought he was very smart, and he had a bunch of cronies whom we shall call "Pnackers". Dick and the Pnackers sometimes liked money more than power and sometimes liked power more than money, but most of the time they liked both equally, and, more than that, they thought they were entitled to both power and money because they were white male Americans and because they were corporate capitalists and other people had been sucking up to them for as long as they could remember. Unfortunately, Dick and the Pnackers were themselves so abysmally unattractive that in order to get elected, and thereby get their hands on the biggest military and the biggest cache of weapons in the world, Dick had to find himself a useful but controllable idiot, preferably one who was entirely corrupt, and came from an entirely corrupt family. He didn't have far to seek.
Pretty soon, Dick, the Pnackers, and, sometimes, little George himself, came up with a plan. The steps of the plan were as follows:
1. Assure their own "election" by any means possible, including denying the vote to registered voters, announcing results early in the count, blocking recounts, and buying off cronies on the Supreme Court.
2. Use flyovers to provoke the guy who no one liked and who owned the big oil reserves.
3. Panic the nation's energy users by engineering a fake "shortage" on the power grid in the largest state in the union. Deny absolutely that conservation works (even though it does).
4. Either provoke or take advantage of a planned attack on American soil that would provide defensive cover for the theft of the oil reserves.
5. Start a pretend war of retaliation against one country (Afghanistan) as a way of mobilizing the troops and the populace, while planning a much bigger war somewhere else (Iraq) for the real purpose of getting the oil.
6. Deny the reality of climate change at every opportunity in order to protect the value of the oil, and reduce, prevent, or slow down any shift from oil to other energy technologies.
7. Use public relations (aka "lying") to terrorize the voters about threats from organizations that are, at most, moderately dangerous to some targets and, at least, gangs of kids with big mouths, no money, and no equipment.
8. Gut the Constitution in order to protect themselves and threaten their enemies.
9. Seamlessly install the oil barons in Iraq.
10. Live forever (hazmat suit necessary, but a small price to pay.)
Once upon a time, Dick, little George, and the Pnackers were indifferent to many things--to the welfare of other humans (indifferent when they weren't actively hostile), to the health and well-being of the natural world, and especially to not only knowledge but truth. Was the source of their indifference mere ignorance? Active malevolence? A sense of entitlement as "Americans"? as white people? as men? Who knows? But whatever the source, they were proud and protective of it, and they actively cultivated it.
Their plan didn't work. It was a bad plan that underestimated the difficulty, and the cost, of every single step, and also underestimated the gullibility of the hapless world-citizens who were the intended suckers. It was a bad plan because it was not based on any knowledge of how the world of humans and the natural world actually work.
The lies, cheats, and crimes Dick, George, and the Pnackers have committed have done what all lies, cheats, and crimes do--they have led to more and more lies, cheats, and crimes, and now the misconceived nature of the whole enterprise is apparent to all. It doesn't matter at this point if they manage to steal the mid-term election this year or not. Iraq is such a mess that even Dick's friends and allies can't think of a way to save it or to clean it up. The Iraqis, I am sorry to say, have to pay the price, but at least they know who's to blame.
But to get back to Lovelock, horrible as it is, Iraq is not the point, Iraq is only the canary in the mine, giving voice to the coming cataclysm. Not even the US is the point, although since 1980, the Republicans have been pandering to the greedy appetites of Americans for driving big vehicles, arming themselves, and thinking themselves superior to everyone in the world. They have egged Americans on to destroying the world's environment for the sake of more and more goods, and now America is in big trouble. But empires come and go. Get over it.
What is the point is human survival. If Americans had started taking the meaning of oil dependence seriously in 1977, when Jimmy Carter asked us to, or had not ridiculed the idea of climate change in 1992, when Al Gore brought it up, we might have gotten a start by this time in reducing emissions, we might not be looking at one horrific disaster paving the way for another. But we are. There aren't many tyrants in history who can truthfully say they put the entire future of civilization at risk just to make a buck and feel the power, but Dick Cheney and the Pnackers can. So here's a word to the 200 million who will someday be left: Good luck, and it was these guys who pulled the trigger.