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May 29, 2004

Abu Ghraib: the Army knew last November

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

You've already heard that Pat Tillman was probably killed by our own guys. That's all over the news.

But holiday Saturdays are particularly good for releasing intensely unadvantageous news, since nobody's bothering with newspapers. So let's look closely at two other stories that came out today:

The U.S. Army determined that "hundreds of Iraqi prisoners were held in Abu Ghraib prison for prolonged periods despite a lack of evidence" -- last November 5th.

Meanwhile, the Red Cross gave the Army a detailed catalog of sexual and physical abuse at Abu Gharib -- last November 6th.

As far as I can tell, you had to read both the NY Times and the LA Times to get both stories and see the dates line up. But now we know: six months before the world recoiled in horror, the Pentagon absolutely knew what was going on. All of it. And nothing changed.

So: six extra months of imprisonment for hundreds of innocents. Six extra months of continued sexual and physical abuse. Six extra months of teaching Iraqis to hate us.

Who's the Commander-In-Chief of the U.S. Army, incidentally? Just asking. Because, gee, I don't know who the hell you blame for something like this.

Meanwhile, this Iyad Allawi guy, the new bigshot in Iraq? A well-known Baathist and CIA tool, so the Shiite majority is obviously gonna just adore him. Because there's nothing Iraqis like better than having a Baathist in charge. Or a CIA puppet. So this is really the best of both worlds for them.

As Josh Marshall has ably chronicled, it's not even clear yet how the hell the guy was chosen, but it's clear that large chunks of our own government seem surprised.

Y'know, I've almost forgotten what it's like to have adults in charge of this country.

In fact... I'm only 40. I don't think I've ever seen it. But I still think we can.

This Memorial Day, as Bush parades himself obscenely before a flag for whose meaning he has neither comprehension nor respect, I'm gonna be really, really angry, at him and this whole unelected incompetent junta. You might be, too.

But I'm also gonna try to remember that I'm only upset because I still believe in what this country can be.

I hope we all do.

Even now.


May 28, 2004

Inside the teeny tiny echo chamber

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

For reasons I hope to make clear soon, I've been talking a lot lately with USAF Lt. Col. (Ret.) Karen Kwiatkowski, the whistleblowing intelligence analyst who wrote anonymous articles critical of the Iraq war planning from inside the Pentagon as the mistakes and lies were being put into place.

Man. Every time I talk to this woman, I learn stuff. So, to share with the rest of the class, a tidbit from this morning's chat:

It turns out that the notorious Office of Strategic Influence -- which became a scandal shortly before the war when the media briefly did its job and discovered that the OSI actively planned organized, tactical lying -- was indeed closed, but its functions absolutely continued, just as FAIR worried at the time. Sure enough, nobody got fired -- the description of what they did simply changed slightly, just as Rumsfeld himself all but admitted.

Also, the OSI black propaganda happy ice cream and smiley face offices were upstairs from Karen's own -- and thus adjacent to where Rumsfeld's Office of Special Plans managed the war build-up. The Defense Policy Board -- wartime home of Perle, Gingrich, Woolsey, and the other chicken hawks -- had offices one floor directly below.

So the echo chamber was as physically small as it was morally and intellectually. Fascinating...

More when I get a chance.

If you're wondering how "Soul Plane" and "White Chicks" got made...

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Last week, a big showbiz PR company decided to email-bomb their list to announce an upcoming show. However, they goofed -- including recipients in the CC line, revealing everyone's address to everyone else. I know this, because I was on this list.

So guess how many Hollywood executives asked to be removed from the list -- hitting "Reply All" (which you have to go out of your way to do) in the process, thereby exacerbating things for everyone else?

According to my inbox... fifty-four. Including at least one from virtually every major network and production company in Hollywood, dozens in highly senior positions.

This took parts of three separate days. Some of these were emails begging people to keep their finger off the "Reply All" button. Sent -- of course -- to everyone.

Now think about it: after the first person hit "Reply All," putting yet more email in everyone's inbox, wouldn't that make it clear this was a bad idea? What about after the first, oh, I dunno... fifty?

And after three solid days of this, somebody (a WB television executive, from the looks of it) was still hitting "Reply All."

It's a miracle these people can even operate a TV.

Not Tom. Not Tom. For a day or two. Not Tom.

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

I know this is a lot to ask, especially of freepers, but please note that while Tom's vanquishing evil offline, I am not him. And so comments, suggestions, cookie recipes, and metal probes should be directed at my inbox, above, not his. Dude needs a day or two off. So give dude a day or two off.

237 Iraq Lies And Counting

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

For those playing along at home, the office of Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Sanity) has compiled a searchable index of 237 misleading statements made by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, and Rice -- all exaggerating the threat posed by Iraq.

This doesn't include absolutely everything. We still have no idea what these people say to each other in private.

UPDATE -- another compendium of ongoing Bush campaign lies, updated almost daily, is at Bush Campaign Lies, courtesy reader David.

There's also the Daily Mislead Archive.

These should be mandatory reading for all news people everywhere...


May 27, 2004


Business meetings, deadlines, a thousand details of a move that doesn't even happen for another month. So it goes.


May 26, 2004

On the lighter side

The Mighty Mighty Reason Man is back. It's about damn time.

Too little, too late

The Times owns up to what most of you understood a year ago: their pre-war coverage was full of crap.

The problematic articles varied in authorship and subject matter, but many shared a common feature. They depended at least in part on information from a circle of Iraqi informants, defectors and exiles bent on "regime change" in Iraq, people whose credibility has come under increasing public debate in recent weeks. (The most prominent of the anti-Saddam campaigners, Ahmad Chalabi, has been named as an occasional source in Times articles since at least 1991, and has introduced reporters to other exiles. He became a favorite of hard-liners within the Bush administration and a paid broker of information from Iraqi exiles, until his payments were cut off last week.) Complicating matters for journalists, the accounts of these exiles were often eagerly confirmed by United States officials convinced of the need to intervene in Iraq. Administration officials now acknowledge that they sometimes fell for misinformation from these exile sources. So did many news organizations in particular, this one.


On Oct. 26 and Nov. 8, 2001, for example, Page 1 articles cited Iraqi defectors who described a secret Iraqi camp where Islamic terrorists were trained and biological weapons produced. These accounts have never been independently verified.

On Dec. 20, 2001, another front-page article began, "An Iraqi defector who described himself as a civil engineer said he personally worked on renovations of secret facilities for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons in underground wells, private villas and under the Saddam Hussein Hospital in Baghdad as recently as a year ago." Knight Ridder Newspapers reported last week that American officials took that defector his name is Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri to Iraq earlier this year to point out the sites where he claimed to have worked, and that the officials failed to find evidence of their use for weapons programs. It is still possible that chemical or biological weapons will be unearthed in Iraq, but in this case it looks as if we, along with the administration, were taken in. And until now we have not reported that to our readers.

It goes on. You should read it. I can't really express the disgust I'm feeling this morning. I can't tell you how many times those New York Times articles were thrown in my face by supporters of the war. Don't you UNDERSTAND? Saddam is training TERRORISTS! We KNOW he has secret WMD facilities! Blah blah fucking blah. It's the Wen Ho Lee fiasco on a larger scale. It's what a lot of us wacko lefties have been saying since way before anyone ever heard the word "blog": in order to preserve their precious access to power, the Times, and papers like it, too often serve as stenographers to said power. Doing so this time has left them with serious blood on their hands, and I hope they are deeply ashamed.


May 24, 2004

More wacky fraternity-style hijinx
Hilas also said he witnessed an Army translator having sex with a boy at the prison. He said the boy was between 15 and 18 years old. Someone hung sheets to block the view, but Hilas said he heard the boy's screams and climbed a door to get a better look. Hilas said he watched the assault and told investigators that it was documented by a female soldier taking pictures.

"The kid was hurting very bad," Hilas said.
. . .

Hilas also said he watched as Graner and others sodomized a detainee with a phosphoric light. "They tied him to the bed," Hilas said.
. . .

One day, the detainee said, American soldiers held him down and spread his legs as another soldier prepared to open his pants. "I started screaming," he said. A soldier stepped on his head, he said, and someone broke a phosphoric light and spilled the chemicals on him.

"I was glowing and they were laughing," he said.

The detainee said the soldiers eventually brought him to a room and sodomized him with a nightstick. "They were taking pictures of me during all these instances," he told the investigators.
. . .
He said a bag was put over his head and he was made to strip. He said American soldiers started to taunt him.

"Do you pray to Allah?" one asked. "I said yes. They said, '[Expletive] you. And [expletive] him.' One of them said, 'You are not getting out of here health[y], you are getting out of here handicapped. And he said to me, 'Are you married?' I said, 'Yes.' They said, 'If your wife saw you like this, she will be disappointed.' One of them said, 'But if I saw her now she would not be disappointed now because I would rape her.' "

He said the soldiers told him that if he cooperated with interrogators they would release him in time for Ramadan. He said he did, but still was not released. He said one soldier continued to abuse him by striking his broken leg and ordered him to curse Islam. "Because they started to hit my broken leg, I cursed my religion," he said. "They ordered me to thank Jesus that I'm alive."

The detainee said the soldiers handcuffed him to a bed.

"Do you believe in anything?" he said the soldier asked. "I said to him, 'I believe in Allah.' So he said, "But I believe in torture and I will torture you.' "

More, via Talent Show. And if that isn't depressing enough for you, this should certainly do the job:

Pentagon officials on Friday increased to 37 the number of detainee deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan that have prompted investigations, including at least eight unresolved homicides that may have involved assaults before or during interrogation.

The right wingers can spend all the time they want reassuring each other that this is all being blown out of proportion, etc., etc. But it's not going to change anything outside of their circle jerk.

Liars, continued
RAMADI, Iraq - A videotape shows a dozen white pickup trucks speeding through the desert, escorting a bridal car decorated with colorful ribbons. The bride wears a Western-style white bridal dress and veil. The camera captures her stepping out of the car but does not show a close-up.

The videotape obtained Sunday by Associated Press Television News captures a wedding party that survivors say was later attacked by U.S. planes early Wednesday, killing up to 45 people. The dead included the cameraman, Yasser Shawkat Abdullah, hired to record the festivities, which ended Tuesday night before the planes struck.

The U.S. military says it is investigating the attack, which took place in the village of Mogr el-Deeb about five miles from the Syrian border, but that all evidence so far indicates the target was a safehouse for foreign fighters.

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

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

An AP reporter and photographer, who interviewed more than a dozen survivors a day after the bombing, were able to identify many of them on the wedding party video which runs for several hours.

More. Read it.


May 23, 2004

"It's been raining a lot and the topsoil was loose."

Go read this. You really can't trust the goddamn Bushies to tell the truth about anything. If they say it's daytime, you'd better look out a window to be sure.


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