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May 08, 2004

Question for a very specific subset of you...

...former Brooklyn residents who have recently moved out of state. What mover did you use, and do you recommend them or suggest that I run screaming in the opposite direction if someone so much as mentions their name?

(U-Haul's not happening. I've got too much stuff, too little time, and a too-troublesome back.)


May 07, 2004

Late notice

Looks like I'll be on the "Whad'ya Know" radio show tomorrow morning. Just found out today myself.


May 06, 2004

Freudian slip?

CNN is carrying Wolfowitz's speech live. He just said, "Our prayers are with him, and with all of our people currently serving in Iran and Afghanistan and in other remote locations around the world."


(No, I didn't mishear. Things like this are why I broke down and joined the cult of Tivo.)

If you will forgive a personal note...

...I would like to congratulate my wife, who is now officially entitled to amend her name with the letters "PhD."

Worse and worse

From the Washington Post:

The collection of photographs begins like a travelogue from Iraq. Here are U.S. soldiers posing in front of a mosque. Here is a soldier riding a camel in the desert. And then: a soldier holding a leash tied around a man's neck in an Iraqi prison. He is naked, grimacing and lying on the floor. Mixed in with more than 1,000 digital pictures obtained by The Washington Post are photographs of naked men, apparently prisoners, sprawled on top of one another while soldiers stand around them. There is another photograph of a naked man with a dark hood over his head, handcuffed to a cell door. And another of a naked man handcuffed to a bunk bed, his arms splayed so wide that his back is arched. A pair of women's underwear covers his head and face.

And via Political Animal, this exchange between Sy Hersh and Bill O'Reilly:

HERSH: I can tell you just from the phone calls I've had in the last 24 hours, even more, there are other photos out there. There are many more photos even inside that unit. There are videotapes of stuff that you wouldn't want to mention on national television that was done. There was a lot of problems.

There was a special women's section. There were young boys in there. There were things done to young boys that were videotaped. It's much worse. And the Maj. Gen. Taguba was very tough about it. He said this place was riddled with violent, awful actions against prisoners.


O'REILLY: All right. Well, the damage to the country obviously is just immeasurable. But reading your article in "The New Yorker." I just get the feeling that the Army, when they heard about it, started action almost immediately. It wasn't a cover-up situation. Or did I read your article wrong?

HERSH: This guy Taguba is brilliant. He could have made a living doing -- it's a credit to the Army that somebody with that kind of integrity would write this kind of -- it's 53-page report.

O'REILLY: OK, but Sanchez the commander put him in charge fairly quickly. They mobilized fairly quickly.

HERSH: No, look, I don't want to ruin your evening, but the fact of the matter is it was the third investigation. There had been two other investigations.

One of them was done by a major general who was involved in Guantanamo, General Miller. And it's very classified, but I can tell you that he was recommending exactly doing the kind of things that happened in that prison, basically. He wanted to cut the lines. He wanted to put the military intelligence in control of the prison.

* * *

I'm on a serious deadline today, so I probably won't have much more for you here 'til I'm done. But thanks to everyone who sent belated Cartoonist Day greetings!


May 05, 2004

Who knew?

Today was apparently National Cartoonist's Day.

And I didn't even get flowers.

Abu Ghraib

Full text of General Taguba's report. And Billmon has thoughts on "ghost detainees."


May 04, 2004

More on the Smear Boat Team

Here. The ghost of Richard Nixon is apparently roaming the halls of the White House these days.


25 deaths?

What the hell is going on over there?

This isn't a few bad apples. This is systemic rot.

Stick a fork in us, we're done. We have officially lost the battle for hearts and minds. We have officially failed as representatives of enlightened democracy.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two Iraqi prisoners were murdered by Americans and 23 other deaths are being investigated in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States revealed on Tuesday as the Bush administration tried to contain growing outrage over the abuse of Iraqi detainees.


An official said a soldier was convicted in the U.S. military justice system of killing a prisoner by hitting him with a rock, and was reduced in rank to private and thrown out of the service but did not serve any jail time.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a private contractor who worked for the CIA was found to have committed the other homicide against a prisoner.

And as we have already mentioned, the "contractor" has apparently not even received a slap on the wrist.

You know what this says to the Iraqis? Your lives are worthless. Our people can murder you at will, and receive barely a reprimand.

Always more to the story
Just when we thought we had a pure and simple hero, a millionaire athlete who gave up wealth and fame to become the ideal patriot, to make the ultimate sacrifice, his friends and family complicated everything. They turned Pat Tillman into a human being Monday, showing us what was really lost during that ambush in Afghanistan, insisting that we question every assumption we've made since he died an icon on April 22.

Yes, there were uplifting tales, moments when tears and pride swelled in everyone watching Tillman's memorial service at the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden. There were jarring moments, too, and they carried the message of the afternoon -- "challenge yourself" -- more powerfully than those laden with conventional inspiration.

Tillman's youngest brother, Rich, wore a rumpled white T-shirt, no jacket, no tie, no collar, and immediately swore into the microphone. He hadn't written anything, he said, and with the starkest honesty, he asked mourners to hold their spiritual bromides.

"Pat isn't with God,'' he said. "He's f -- ing dead. He wasn't religious. So thank you for your thoughts, but he's f -- ing dead.''


Tillman talked about everything, with everyone. According to the speakers, he had read the Bible, the Koran, the Book of Mormon, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and he underlined passages constantly. Garwood recalled how he'd mail articles to friends, highlighting certain parts and writing in the margins: "Let's discuss.'' A quotation from Emerson, found underlined in Tillman's readings, adorned the program.

It concluded with this: "But the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.''

More, via Atrios.

...the problem with That Cartoon is that it reads as more of an attack on this guy than on the forces that treated his life as disposable. That's an important distinction.

A draft coming through
WASHINGTON—The chief of the U.S. Selective Service System has proposed registering women for the military draft and requiring that young Americans regularly inform the government about whether they have training in niche specialties needed in the armed services.

The proposal, which the agency's acting director Lewis Brodsky presented to senior Pentagon officials just before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, also seeks to extend the age of draft registration to 34, up from 25.

The issue of a renewed draft has gained attention because of concern that U.S. military forces are stretched thin because of worldwide commitments.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist strikes, U.S. forces have fought and won two wars, have established a major military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq and are now taking on peacekeeping duties in Haiti.

The plan, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, highlights the extent to which agency officials have planned for an expanded military draft in case the administration and Congress authorize one in the future.

"In line with today's needs, the Selective Service System's structure, programs and activities should be re-engineered toward maintaining a national inventory of American men and, for the first time, women, ages 18 through 34, with an added focus on identifying individuals with critical skills," the agency said in a Feb. 11, 2003, proposal presented to Pentagon officials.

I'm well aware of the argument that a reinstatement of the draft would force Americans to confront the real cost of war. But after how long? Another 50,000 names on another somber memorial on the National Mall?


Vaguely familiar
"I am sure the investigations will get to the bottom of this and I am sure that any problems that exist in the prison system will be fixed promptly."

--Colin Powell, discussing Abu Ghraib prison abuse, May 3, 2004

Powell reported back exactly what his superiors wanted to hear. "In direct refutation of this [Glen's] portrayal," Powell concluded, "is the fact that relations between American soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent."

Robert Parry & Norman Solomon, Behind Colin Powell's Legend, 1996 (via Billmon)

Swift boat smear job

Conason has the rundown.

Outrage overload

It just goes on and on.

A Middle Eastern immigrant alleges he was violated during a body-cavity search at a federal jail following the Sept. 11 attacks.

The lawsuit filed Monday by the man and another former detainee contends they were put in solitary confinement, beaten and verbally abused by jail guards. They were later cleared of allegations that they had terrorist ties but were deported.

Unlike a pending civil complaint by other Sept. 11 detainees, also in Brooklyn federal court, the new suit identifies guards at the Metropolitan Detention Center by their last names and accuses them of more extreme abuses.

Ehab Elmaghraby, a former restaurateur, and Javaid Iqdal, a former cable technician, ``were subjected to numerous unreasonable and unnecessary'' strip searches, the suit says.

One guard allegedly paraded Elmaghraby naked in front of a female co-worker. The same guard later inserted a flashlight into Elmaghraby's rectum as others watched, the suit said.

Both men say they were shackled, punched and called ``Muslim bastards'' and other epithets. They also allege they were kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day and denied adequate meals and medical care.



Or the lack thereof:

More than two months after a classified Army report found that two contract workers were implicated in the abuse of Iraqis at a prison outside Baghdad, the companies that employ them say that they have heard nothing from the Pentagon, and that they have not removed any employees from Iraq.

For one of the employees, the Army report recommended "termination of employment" and revocation of his security clearance. For the other, it urged an official reprimand and review of his security clearance.

But J. P. London, chief executive of CACI, one of the companies involved, said in an interview on Monday that "we have not received any information or direction from the client regarding our work in country — no charges, no communications, no citations, no calls to appear at the Pentagon."

Two minute hate

Sometimes even I am still shocked by the level of free-floating hatred over on the right. Witness the latest Rall kerfluffle. Details are the same as usual: Rall does something outrageous, the right wing bloggers go nuts, work themselves into a frothing frenzy of righteous indignation. And then the sociopaths chime in, filling up comments sections with fantasies of the violence they would like to inflict upon Rall's person, if ever given the chance--fantasies of such obscene specificity, the guards at Abu Ghraib would blush with shame. Maybe I'm naive, but I just don't see these violent wankfests played out on the liberal blogs I read. It is Orwell's Two Minute Hate, updated for the internet age.

In its second minute the Hate rose to a frenzy. People were leaping up and down in their places and shouting at the tops of their voices in an effort to drown the maddening bleating voice that came from the screen. The little sandy-haired woman had turned bright pink, and her mouth was opening and shutting like that of a landed fish. Even O'Brien's heavy face was flushed. He was sitting very straight in his chair, his powerful chest swelling and quivering as though he were standing up to the assault of a wave. The dark-haired girl behind Winston had begun crying out 'Swine! Swine! Swine!' and suddenly she picked up a heavy Newspeak dictionary and flung it at the screen. It struck Goldstein's nose and bounced off; the voice continued inexorably. In a lucid moment Winston found that he was shouting with the others and kicking his heel violently against the rung of his chair. The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but, on the contrary, that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretence was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge-hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one's will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic.

...judging from a few of my emails, this post is open to misinterpretation. I know that both sides have plenty of anger to go around. And I'm not trying to defend or excuse Rall's cartoon. I'm just dumbfounded by the comments sections on some right wing blogs, which are full of dozens and dozens of individual fantasies of specific violence the posters say they wish they could commit. That's what I'm talking about when I say I don't see that sort of thing on the liberal blogs--at least not the ones I read.


Good article on him in Salon, cogently summarized by TPM:

In the popular political imagination we're familiar with the neocons as conniving militarists, masters of intrigue and cabals, graspers for the oil supplies of the world, and all the rest. But here we have them in what I suspect is the truest light: as college kid rubes who head out for a weekend in Vegas, get scammed out of their money by a two-bit hustler on the first night and then get played for fools by a couple hookers who leave them naked and handcuffed to their hotel beds.

Over at the Whiskey Bar

As usual, the bartender is the wisest man in the room:

I've had that same feeling about Abu Ghraib since I first heard that the coalition had reopened it as a prison last summer. Anyone who knows anything about the history of Saddam's regime can't help but wonder what that particular decision was intended to symbolize. I mean, they didn't even change the name. Saddam International Airport became Baghdad International, Saddam City metamorphosed into Sadr City. But Abu Ghraib Prison remained Abu Ghraib Prison.

Did anyone stop to think what kind of message that sent to the Iraqis about the nature of their "liberation"?

It's as if the allies had captured Buchenwald or Dachau, slapped new coats of paint on them, then turned around and reopened them as occupation prison camps -- not just for Nazis, but for ordinary people grabbed off the street or pulled out of their beds in the middle of the night, often on no more evidence than what the Gestapo would have required.


May 03, 2004

A trip down memory lane

Remember how all the apologists yammered that it was "widely known" that Valerie Plame was a CIA operative? Well, there's a little more to the story:

MR. RUSSERT: And we are back talking to Ambassador Joe Wilson. His book, "Politics of Truth." Here's the book. "According to my sources, between March 2003 and the appearance of my article in July"--in The Times--"the workup on me that turned up the information on Valerie was shared with Karl Rove, who then circulated it in administration and neoconservative circles."

So you're saying as early as March the information about your wife being a CIA operative was being distributed by the White House?

AMB. JOSEPH WILSON: That's the information I have. That also would explain how Mr. Novak got information so quickly, how to--a decision was made for two people to call six journalists and leak the information within a couple of days. And it also explains how Cliff May, who wrote for the National Review online, suggested in a matter of days after my article appeared and a leak appeared, that it was widely known in Washington that my wife worked for the CIA. It was not widely known. None of my friends, for example, knew it. So it's hard to believe that it was widely known unless somebody else put that story out.

So it's a tautological excuse: it was "widely known" because Karl Rove was going around telling people.

New resource

David Brock has a new site dedicated to monitoring right wing spin and misinformation.


May 02, 2004

Nothing funny...

...about this:

BAGHDAD, May 1 -- A top Pentagon intelligence officer is leading an investigation into interrogation practices at an Army-run prison where Iraqi detainees were allegedly beaten and sexually abused, officials announced Saturday. The move came amid allegations that military guards abused prisoners at the behest of military intelligence operatives.

A soldier accused of abusing prisoners at the Abu Ghraib facility wrote to his family last December that military intelligence officers encouraged the mistreatment, according to correspondence provided by the soldier's family.

"We have had a very high rate with our style of getting them to break," the soldier, Staff Sgt. Ivan L. "Chip" Frederick II, wrote in a Dec. 18 e-mail released by Frederick's uncle. "They usually end up breaking within hours."

Frederick also wrote that he questioned some of the abuses. "I questioned this and the answer I got was: This is how military intelligence wants it done," he wrote.

The Army Reserve commander who oversaw the prison said that military intelligence, rather than the military police, dictated the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. "The prison, and that particular cellblock where the events took place, were under the control of the MI command," Brig. Gen. Janis L. Karpinski said in a telephone interview Saturday night from her home in Hilton Head, S.C.

Karpinski, who commanded the 800th Military Police Brigade, also described a high-pressure atmosphere that prized successful interrogations. A month before the alleged abuses occurred, she said, a team of military intelligence officers from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, came to Abu Ghraib last year. "Their main and specific mission was to get the interrogators -- give them new techniques to get more information from detainees," she said.

(Emphasis added.)

Seymour Hersh has more in the New Yorker:

A fifty-three-page report, obtained by The New Yorker, written by Major General Antonio M. Taguba and not meant for public release, was completed in late February. Its conclusions about the institutional failures of the Army prison system were devastating. Specifically, Taguba found that between October and December of 2003 there were numerous instances of “sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses” at Abu Ghraib. This systematic and illegal abuse of detainees, Taguba reported, was perpetrated by soldiers of the 372nd Military Police Company, and also by members of the American intelligence community. (The 372nd was attached to the 320th M.P. Battalion, which reported to Karpinski’s brigade headquarters.) Taguba’s report listed some of the wrongdoing:
Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees; pouring cold water on naked detainees; beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair; threatening male detainees with rape; allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell; sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick, and using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee.

There was stunning evidence to support the allegations, Taguba added—“detailed witness statements and the discovery of extremely graphic photographic evidence.” Photographs and videos taken by the soldiers as the abuses were happening were not included in his report, Taguba said, because of their “extremely sensitive nature.”


Remember those "Propaganda Remix" posters that were going around for awhile? Via various readers, I learn that the artist behind them was apparently remixing his own life's story while he was at it.

There's an old saying: "Trust the art, not the artist." Unfortunately in a case like this, both are tarred.


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