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May 15, 2004
May 14, 2004
The right wing blogs seem to be fixated on the Nick Berg story, and how little attention it's receiving compared to the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal. One giggle-inducing post I read goes so far as to claim that the blogs broke the story and are keeping it alive, in steadfast defiance of the mainstream media and their obvious detemination to sweep it all under the rug. Well, let's see. I first heard about the story when I checked in to Yahoo news and saw it posted there, shortly after it was filed. I learned more about it in above-the-fold, front page stories in the New York Times; on the evening news, where it led the newscast a couple of nights in a row; and on cable news, where it was discussed ad infinitum. If blogs had a role in breaking the news, I'm a little vague on what it might have been. (Note to interested parties: linking to a story someone else has reported and filed does not constitute "breaking" that story.)
As for keeping it alive while the mainstream media steadfastly ignore it--well, go back and re-read that first paragraph. Look, I'll try to go slow here for the benefit of the easily confused: the prison abuse story still has huge unanswered questions. Is this standard operating procedure throughout the "secret" prison system? What the hell are Americans doing running a secret prison system anyway? Who in the chain of command knew this was going on? Where does the CIA fit in? How about the "private contractors"? Asking these questions is the way an open society maintains its checks and balances. People who don't understand that would have happily overlooked Watergate, My Lai, you name it.
The Nick Berg story, on the other hand--a terrible thing happened, it led the news for several days--there's not much more to say (unless you want to delve into the contradictory accounts of Berg's detention by U.S. forces, but somehow I suspect that's not the angle that interests the warbloggers). This was a terrible, terrible event. Anyone in this country who pays the slightest attention to the news has heard about this story, and is appalled and disgusted by it. What more is there to say? I am hardly an apologist for the mainstream news media, as anyone with the most passing familiarity with my work is well aware, but it's just not their job to open every newscast chanting "four legs good, two legs bad" over and over again.
To summarize: the prisoner abuse story continues to dominate the news because it is an ongoing story with many unanswered questions about the actions of our military and our government--questions of direct relevance to our democratic system. And information keeps dribbling out. Congress is given access to unreleased photos, and various politicians hold press conferences--news is generated. Trials are about to commence, the defendants and their attorneys give contradictory statements to the media--more news. See how that works? The Nick Berg story, by contrast, has been covered thoroughly, and we're all horrified by it--but there's just not much more there for the media to report at this point.
(...Frankly, it occurs to me that I saw a lot of footage this week of reporters standing outside the shuttered home of Berg's parents, speculating as to whether or not funeral services had been held yet, discussing the parents' criticism of the US role in their son's death, and any other angle they could come up with, doing their absolute damndest to milk the story for all it's worth. I don't know in what parallel universe it was "ignored", but here on planet Earth it got plenty of attention. And if some new information or new angle on the story comes to light, you can rest assured that it will get plenty more.)
...in case the preceeding is still too complicated for the comprehension-impaired, Mark Kleiman explains it...very...slowly...
Okay, one quick link
TBogg is a national treasure.
May 13, 2004
May 12, 2004
Confidential to the Kerry campaign
Please, please, please do this.
I guess all cable companies probably suck in their own unique, individual ways--but one of the happiest thoughts of this upcoming move is that I'm getting the hell out of Time Warner's service area.
That is all.
Mightier than the sword
From Terry Welch:
As many of you know, I am currently in the apolitical position of Army public affairs specialist in Afghanistan...
Office Max link above. Or you can use Office Depot--John Reinan has the lowdown:
I wanted to respond to Terry's request for pens and discovered that from the Office Depot website, you cannot ship to an APO address.
Meant to post this yesterday, got sidetracked for obvious reasons. This is what's happening in our country's name:
In Afghanistan, the CIA's secret U.S. interrogation center in Kabul is known as "The Pit," named for its despairing conditions. In Iraq, the most important prisoners are kept in a huge hangar near the runway at Baghdad International Airport, say U.S. government officials, counterterrorism experts and others. In Qatar, U.S. forces have been ferrying some Iraqi prisoners to a remote jail on the gigantic U.S. air base in the desert.
There's much more. Go read it. And then tell yourself that the abuses of Abu Ghraib can be blamed on seven lowly guards.
Abu Ghraib is just a brief peek into the darkness. God knows what else is happening out there.
It's facile to pretend to know what the terrorists "really" want--but I can't shake the sneaking suspicion that Osama couldn't be happier right now. If it was our intention, after 9/11, to mess things up even worse, to pour gasoline on the flames, to take a bad situation and really, really fuck it up...well, then we should be very proud.
27 reasons why
From a University of Illinois press release:
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — If it seems that there have been quite a few rationales for going to war in Iraq, that’s because there have been quite a few – 27, in fact, all floated between Sept. 12, 2001, and Oct. 11, 2002, according to a new study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. All but four of the rationales originated with the administration of President George W. Bush.
Tell him Tom sent you
Jim Finkelstein is a regular reader of this site--I don't have time to dig through the archives right now, but some of you may remember an essay of his I posted awhile back, about his son, a sergeant in the USMC, serving in Iraq.
Anyway, Jim's running for Zell Miller's seat in Georgia. His website is here. Go say hello.
...looks like his site may be having a little trouble with the traffic. Just keep trying.
Something odd here
Posted by the Sandwichman over at MaxSpeak:
On March 7, 2004 an "enemies list" composed of signatories to an anti-war petition was posted on the Free Republic website. The introductory and subsequent comments on that list suggest that the purpose of the posting was to encourage people to harrass the individuals on the list and to circulate their names to agencies and individuals that might take action against them.
Which brings up something that's been bugging me--maybe it's nothing, but why is Berg wearing what appears to be an orange prison jumpsuit?
At a certain point in the war, when it first became apparent that things had not ended like a happy Hollywood movie on Pulling Down the Statue Day, supporters of the war came up with a rationalization they called the "flypaper theory." Since the war was becoming a focal point for regional terrorists, they decided that this was exactly what they had in mind all along--that as long as terrorists were busy in Iraq, they wouldn't bother us here. Leaving aside the question of whether terrorism is quite that much of a zero sum game--which I truly doubt--we are left with an inherently disturbing moral calculation: the notion that it is acceptable, and even desirable, to use soldiers as bait in order to keep the Homeland safe. Go over there and keep them busy blowing you up, so that we may sit safely in the nearest Starbucks with WiFi.
It was all nonsense of course, an after-the-fact rationalization inspired by Bush's thoughtless "bring 'em on" remark. And I understand this. Otherwise I might be tempted to cynically note that the proponents of the flypaper theory should be delighted today, because it seems to be working really, really well.
Berg's death is more horrible, but no more tragic, than any of the other 773 U.S. fatalities, as of this writing--kids, many of them, barely out of childhood, robbed of the rest of their lives by a war that makes less sense every day. And let's not forget the estimated 4000-7000 Iraqis killed so far--how many of them were guilty of nothing more than choosing the wrong birthplace?
Rose petals, my ass.
...Iraq body count says the Iraqi civilian death estimate is closer to 10,000.
May 11, 2004
CAIRO, Egypt - A video posted Tuesday on an Islamic militant Web site showed the beheading of an American civilian in Iraq (news - web sites), and said the execution was carried out by an al-Qaida affiliated group to avenge the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers.
Things just get worse and worse. What a goddamn mess we're in over there.
...the Fox news anchors waste no time in exploiting this: see, the terrorists do far worse things than happened at Abu Ghraib. No one contests this, of course, but what a pathetic standard it sets: the American military--not as bad as al Qaeda!
...more from Max.
...Markos reminds us that the administration could have taken out Zarqawi in 2002, but didn't--for political reasons.
From the Senate hearing on Iraqi prisoner abuse, a few moments ago:
JAMES INHOFE (R-OK): All kinds of accounts are coming out now, many are fictitious I would suggest, one was about a guy being dragged out of a barbershop, this was in the Washington Post this morning, they talked about the person doing this had AK47s...are our troops issued AK47s?
Hah! Gotcha, lying liberal media! Here's the article, which Inhofe has clearly proven to be factually flawed, right?
BAQOUBA, Iraq (AP) An American soldier stands at the side of an Iraqi highway, puts his AK-47 on fully automatic and pulls the trigger.
Donald Rumsfeld likes to be in total control. He wants to know all the details, including the precise interrogation techniques used on enemy prisoners. Since 9/11 he has insisted on personally signing off on the harsher methods used to squeeze suspected terrorists held at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The conservative hard-liners at the Department of Justice have given the secretary of Defense a lot of leeway. It does not violate the spirit of the Geneva Conventions, the lawyers have told Rumsfeld, to put prisoners in ever-more-painful "stress positions" or keep them standing for hours on end, to deprive them of sleep or strip them naked. According to one of Rumsfeld's aides, the secretary has drawn the line at interrogating prisoners for more than 24 hours at a time or depriving them of light.
And then there's this from a couple months ago:
A BRITISH captive freed from Guantanamo Bay today tells the world of its full horror - and reveals how prostitutes were taken into the camp to degrade Muslim inmates.
(Second one via TPM.)
We went into Iraq with what, in retrospect, seems like a childish fantasy. We were going to topple Saddam, establish democracy and hand the country back to grateful Iraqis. We expected to be universally admired when it was all over.
Well, you know, hindsight is wonderful, but some of us were trying to point out that this was a "childish fantasy" a couple of years ago. I mean, did these morons really believe that millions of people were demonstrating in the streets of major cities across the planet because we all hated democracy and secretly supported Saddam?
The pathetic thing is, some of them probably did.
May 10, 2004
I'm moving about the same time the Administration wants to hand over control of Iraq, and I'm not sure I have time to get everything done. Anyway I've got to focus on some other stuff this week, like getting some "evergreen" cartoons in the can, so I probably won't be blogging excessively.
May 09, 2004
Why do US military leaders hate America?
From the Washington Post:
Deep divisions are emerging at the top of the U.S. military over the course of the occupation of Iraq, with some senior officers beginning to say that the United States faces the prospect of casualties for years without achieving its goal of establishing a free and democratic Iraq.
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