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Yadda a Little Yadda Wouldya?

Posted by Ogged
on 05.14.04

Is it just me? A couple of weekends ago, I had a couple of friends visit me. This weekend, one of those friends and his fiancee are visiting. His fiancee arrived this morning, he arrives tonight. In chatting with her, I discovered that she doesn't know anything about what the three of us did two weeks ago, and we're talking wholesome, interesting, imminently recountable things here. Meanwhile, both of my most recent exes (along with sundry other friends) know how we spent the weekend. Now really, people of earth, could you go away for a weekend and not tell your beloved any tellable stories?

Anyway, no posting from me for the next few days. Enjoy the weekend.


 

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Zarqawi, Yes, Still Alive

Posted by Ogged
on 05.14.04

Is the story of George Bush sparing Zarqawi to maintain his rationale for invasion finally getting some traction? Fred Kaplan addresses it in Slate.

The implications of this are more shocking, in their way, than the news from Abu Ghraib. Bush promoted the invasion of Iraq as a vital battle in the war on terrorism, a continuation of our response to 9/11. Here was a chance to wipe out a high-ranking terrorist. And Bush didn't take advantage of it because doing so might also wipe out a rationale for invasion.

Kevin Drum comments. And Mark Kleiman writes,

The charge that the President deliberately spared a major terrorist in order to maintain public support for war ought to be politically devastating, given that the one issue where Bush has a marked advantage over Kerry in the polls is as a leader in the war against terror. But this may well be a case where the truth is too appalling for most voters to believe.

That's one way not to lose votes...


 

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Pretty Sneaky

Posted by Ogged
on 05.14.04

Wait a second here.

For thousands of Orthodox women, one of the most fundamental practices of daily life — adhering to the code of modesty that prohibits a public display of their hair after marriage — was thrown into turmoil this week by a ruling from a distant authority. More than 5,700 miles away in Israel, several rabbis issued a ban on wigs made in India from human hair, which is used to make many of the wigs sold in Brooklyn.

They honor the ban on showing their hair by wearing wigs? Is that like modestly concealing your breasts by covering them with fake breasts? Talk about adhering to the letter, but not the spirit, of the law. Can we at least set up a council of rabbis to ensure that each woman's wig looks significantly worse than her own hair?


 

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Truth, Beauty, Etc.

Posted by Ogged
on 05.13.04

Slate tries to figure out just how in the world people through the centuries have tried to depict (or cast) Helen of Troy, she of the face that launched a thousand ships. It's a great slideshow.

But while Monica Bellucci is perfect for just about every female lead, and while I normally treasure reader comments, in this case, there's just one correct answer: Christy Turlington. Alternatively, Christy Turlington. With the proper persuasion, I could be talked into Christy Turlington.

Don't even leave a comment if you disagree, I'll just be offended and ban you for life.


 

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Zelig

Posted by Ogged
on 05.13.04

Hurry up and click to see it, before it's in so many places you can't avoid it...

Why you should never put your picture on the Internet ... is one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time.


 

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Distinctions

Posted by Ogged
on 05.13.04

Probably, I should get out more. I was surprised over at Political Wire this morning when the post title read: "Nader May Still Have Trouble In Florida." Wait a minute, I thought, didn't he...well, no, I had a nice dream that Ralph Nader had made a conciliatory speech and dropped out of the presidential race, but on this side of the reality divide, Ralph continues to bedevil the forces of good.


 

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Consider Well

Posted by Ogged
on 05.13.04

A lot (I mean a lot) of people are searching for the unedited Nick Berg beheading video. Folks, seriously, only watch it if you are willing to have it be the only thing you think about the rest of the day, and probably for days after that. It's very disturbing--not so much for what you see, though that's gruesome--but for Berg's screams as they kill him. You can find it here.

AND: Even more people are looking for Abu Ghraib pictures. You can see those here. (I haven't seen any unblurred/"uncensored" versions of the ones that are blurred).


 

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Here Too?

Posted by Ogged
on 05.13.04

Eric Muller has an explosive find. During oral arguments before the Supreme Court in the Hamdi/Padilla cases, Deputy Solicitor General Paul Clement had this exchange with Justice Ginsburg.

Ginsburg: Suppose the executive says, "Mild torture, we think, will help get this information?" It's not a soldier who does something against the code of military justice, but it's an executive command. Some systems do that to get information.
Clement: Well, our executive doesn't, and I think - I mean.

But, as Eric notes, the most recent story on American interrogation methods states that the Justice Department approved techniques such as "water boarding," during which "a prisoner is strapped down, forcibly pushed under water and made to believe he might drown."

Did the Justice Department mislead the Supreme Court by saying that the executive does not use torture, although the Justice Deparment itself had approved that torture?

There seem to be two defenses of the Justice Department. First, that Clement's office is separate from that part of the Department that would have reviewed interrogation methods. Responding to this defense in the comments, Muller writes,

Matt, I have no reason to think that Paul Clement himself *actually* knew that what he said was false. But I don't share your willingness to indulge the assumption that only a few OLC lawyers knew about torture. And even if it was only OLC that knew about the torture, I don't think that gets the Justice Department itself off the hook -- even if it personally absolves Clement.

Second, as Muller notes in an update, there's a legal question as to whether "water boarding" is "torture" (that strikes me as a strictly legal question). But there's no reason to limit the question in this way, because Clement himself did not. Here are bits from the oral arguments in Hamdi vs. Padilla (my emphasis--from pages 48-50).

Stevens: May I ask just one other question, I think it's just relevant. But do you think there is anything in the law that curtails the method of interrogation that may be employed?
Clement: Well, I think there is, Justice Stevens. I mean --
Stevens: And what is that?
Clement: Well, just to give one example, I think that the United States is signatory to conventions that prohibit torture and that sort of thing. And the United States is going to honor its treaty obligations. The other thing that's worth mentioning of course --

...

Just to finish up my answer to Justice Stevens' question, I wouldn't want there to be any misunderstanding about this. It's also the judgment of those involved in this process that the last thing you want to do is torture somebody or try to do something along those lines.

Twice, Clement leaves the distinct impression that what's under consideration is not a strict and narrow definition of torture, but something broader. Eric writes,

I think there's now more than enough in the public record to support -- indeed, necessitate -- an inquiry into whether the Justice Department made knowing or reckless misrepresentations to the U.S. Supreme Court in Hamdi and Padilla.

He's right.

UPDATE: The story moves along just a bit.


 

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Period

Posted by Ogged
on 05.13.04

Jack O'Toole has your clarity right here, bud.


 

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uncle sam is sonny corleone

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 05.12.04

This is just a pale imitation of ogged's post, really.

A few years ago, David Foster Wallace did a bit on NPR about the infamous 2000 South Carolina primary, in which Bush baited McCain by calling him 'soft on veteran's issues,' then acted shocked-- shocked!-- when McCain responded in anger. Why do you have to be so negative, John? The metaphor: McCain was Sonny Corleone, deliberately angered into strategic blunders, dead at the Long Island tollbooths.

Team Bush was smart enough to know the trick then; I hope like hell they remember it now, because it's being played on them. If Berg's murder provokes a response as the Fallujah desecrations did, we move another three steps backward-- as measured in aQ recruitment, anger, instability, whatever coin you want to measure in. No, no one's stupid enough to fall for it, right?

From the Post editorial Ogged links (with paragraphs condensed):

Some people - some Americans - have forgotten about 9/11. That attack should have been enough to justify all-out war. But the hand-wringing over the war in Iraq - and over even the modest steps America took to defend itself, like the Patriot Act - suggests that folks truly have lost sight of what the war is about. Yesterday they got a shocking reminder. And now they know: This war cannot be waged with half-measures. It can end only with the total annihilation of those who practice butchery and barbarism. Those who have set as their goal the destruction of America.
There is no negotiating with such people. There can be no compromise with those who mean to destroy us. Yesterday, the White House promised to "pursue those responsible and bring them to justice." That's the least of it. America has to come out swinging.
Let's face it: This is a job that's going to take overwhelming - yes, brutal - force. There is simply no "nice" or painless way to accomplish this.

Come out swinging. It worked great for Sonny.


 

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James Inhofe: I have no clue what I'm talking about

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 05.12.04

Just to add to the voices making fun of James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) for saying

"These prisoners, you know they're not there for traffic violations," Inhofe said. "If they're in cellblock 1-A or 1-B, these prisoners, they're murderers, they're terrorists, they're insurgents. Many of them probably have American blood on their hands and here we're so concerned about the treatment of those individuals."

Really? I thought international law protected only those guilty of traffic violations. Grant arguendo that everyone in the cellblock is guilty, even though this is known to be false. The key point is that part of the job of the Geneva Conventions is to govern the treatment of enemy soldiers-- that is, people with blood on their hands.

Respectful of Otters wishes for a powerful Senate moment:

Josh Marshall reports that John McCain walked out in the middle of Inhofe's rant. I wish he'd stayed and asked Inhofe whether the Vietnamese blood on his hands was supposed to have justified the torture and abuse McCain experienced as a P.O.W. But it's hard to imagine how that conversation could've ended without bloodshed on the Senate floor.

Inhofe is such a [redacted].


 

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Got My Back

Posted by Ogged
on 05.12.04

I gave the layman's case for a system of laws designed to aid the fight on terrorism while protecting our liberties, and whaddya know, on the very same day, Jeffrey Rosen has a superb article in the New Republic making an expert case. Key bit (but read the whole thing):

In other words, preventive detention may be necessary, but it can't take place without meaningful oversight from independent bodies outside the executive branch--as other Western democracies have recognized. In Britain, after preventive detention of Irish Republican Army suspects led to wrongful convictions and mistaken identifications, Parliament passed a terrorism act in 2000 that forbids indefinite detention. Police can arrest suspected terrorists without a warrant but must charge or release them after 48 hours unless a court approves a maximum five-day extension. Detainees can respond to the allegations against them and must have access to counsel "as soon as is reasonably practicable." (The British lawyers are senior members of the bar, with security clearances, who can discuss classified information with the judge without necessarily divulging it to their clients.)

This seems like a side issue at the moment, but I think it could go a long way to relieving the political polarization in the U.S.


 

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Endless Mounds of Dirt Boulevard

Posted by Ogged
on 05.12.04

You can participate if you like, though I think at this point there's going to be an embarrassment of pens. I'm posting because the addresses give me a chance to engage in a bit of cross-cultural education. Translations of place names in [brackets].

Herat

Bank-e-Khoon Road [Bank=bank; Khoon=blood]

Haji Ayoub Square [Haji=someone who's made the pilgrimage to Mecca]

Kajj Street [Kajj=crooked]

Herat

Afghanistan

Kandahar

Noor Jahan Hotel, 1st floor [Noor=light] [Jahan=world]

Shaheedan Square [Shahedeen=martyrs]

Shahr-e-Naw Street [Shahr=city/town] [Naw=new]

Kandahar

Afghanistan

I guess Elm and Chestnut were taken.


 

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Like Civilized People

Posted by Ogged
on 05.12.04

Very nice post by Billmon (650 comments? Yeesh.) We can't be sure what the butchers who killed Nick Berg intended by showing his murder. Some people think the killers were provoked by the Abu Ghraib pictures; others think Al Qaeda is just dumb. But the most convincing explanation is that Berg was murdered because we are in sight of a settlement with Sadr, and the extremists don't want peace, and resorted to provocation. The Financial Times writes,

It is unclear whether Mr Zarkawi, who was sentenced to death in absentia in Jordan last month for the killing of a US diplomat, was the man filmed killing Mr Berg. But his role, and that of several hundred foreign fighters battling coalition forces in Iraq, is seen by some analysts as aimed at provoking violent US reprisals in order to further stir up anger among Iraqis.
"The beheading comes after some signs that things may have been moving towards coming under control, so it may be intended to reignite the violence by provoking a US response," Jonathon Stevenson, terrorism expert at the International Institute of Strategic Studies, said on Wednesday.

If that was their intent, they've already begun to succeed. It speaks to the power of outrage and vengeance that we can be provoked into doing exactly what the terrorists want. Even after watching for decades as the Israelis and Palestinians ceded power to their extremists, some of us are prepared to play the game all over again, but for even higher stakes.


 

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Policies

Posted by Ogged
on 05.12.04

The Poor Man, who rocks, rocks a bit harder here:

IMPORTANT: For the record, if we don't explicitly praise something, please consider it roundly denounced. Thank you for your cooperation.

And especially here:

According to this study from U of I Urbana-Champaign, George Bush has offered 23 different justifications for war with Iraq over a 13 month period starting on September 12th, 2001, and other Administrators and Congressfolk added 4 more. A little math will show that, if you wanted a dual justification for the war, there are (N!/((N-2)!2!)) 276 possible justifications for the war using only cannonical Bushian reasoning, and 351 justifications if you include the 4 lesser reasons. In fact, if you take any n of these reasons as true, there are over 10 million possible hybrid arguments for war! Unless liberals can refute all of those arguments, they should just shut up and admit that it was a good idea, whatever that idea was.

Nice exchange in the comments to that second one.


 

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Could be Wrong, But...

Posted by Ogged
on 05.12.04

Another excellent column by Kristof from Iran. His experience accords with mine, though our conclusions are a bit different.

Turbans to the left, turbans to the right — Qom is the religious center of Iran, but even here, there is anger and disquiet. One of the central questions for the Middle East is whether Iran's hard-line Islamic regime will survive. I'm betting it won't.

Despair and anger are palpable everywhere in Iran. You can't talk to people without getting the sense that the regime is approaching imminent demise. But keep talking a bit more, and you find that they don't have the appetite for revolution, and that those who do still routinely disappear into prisons for torture and execution. I remain very skeptical that Iranians will rise up and get rid of the mullahs. In fact, my trip to Iran a few years ago was the primary reason that I supported the war in Iraq: Iranians really did see the U.S. as a liberator, and talked, not quite in jest, about wanting to be invaded. I don't know if they still want that, but the sense I get from the people I talk to isn't that they're gathering, but waiting.


 

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Bees Bee, Legislators, Well...

Posted by Ogged
on 05.12.04

While we all wait for the Padilla decision, it's time to make a non-partisan point. Standard criminal law is inadequate to the task of fighting international terrorism. There are cases where we're reasonably sure that someone can provide important information, but don't have enough evidence to hold him. And investigators do sometimes need to gather information quickly, before standard burdens of proof for warrants can be met.

But, almost three years after the 9-11 attacks, the debate still occurs in terms of a false dichotomy between the laws we already have (including, of course, the Patriot Act), and nearly unfettered executive power. Republicans propose codifying sweeping executive powers, because they're in power, and stand to benefit immediately, and because they get to look tough on terrorism. Democrats resist because they don't want to hand the Republicans any victories, but also, let's be honest, because they can whip us into a frenzy by pointing out that the other guys want to take away our rights.

The effect is that our exigent needs force a tranformation in the meaning of our existing laws, such that protections we thought we had are illusory. Note this disturbing passage from a recent WaPo story.

None of the arrangements that permit U.S. personnel to kidnap, transport, interrogate and hold foreigners are ad hoc or unauthorized, including the so-called renditions. "People tend to regard it as an extra-judicial kidnapping; it's not," former CIA officer Peter Probst said. "There is a long history of this. It has been done for decades. It's absolutely legal."
In fact, every aspect of this new universe -- including maintenance of covert airlines to fly prisoners from place to place, interrogation rules and the legal justification for holding foreigners without due process afforded most U.S. citizens -- has been developed by military or CIA lawyers, vetted by Justice Department's office of legal counsel and, depending on the particular issue, approved by White House general counsel's office or the president himself.

Do you see the legislative or judicial branch mentioned? And it's not just non-citizens who are affected.

In some cases, such as determining whether a U.S. citizen should be designated an enemy combatant who can be held without charges, the president makes the final decision, said Alberto R. Gonzales, counsel to the president....
Critics of this kind of detention and treatment, Gonzales said, "assumed that there was little or no analysis -- legal or otherwise -- behind the decision to detain a particular person as enemy combatant."
On the contrary, the administration has applied the law of war, he said. "Under these rules, captured enemy combatants, whether soldiers or saboteurs, may be detained for the duration of hostilities."

Is it any wonder that the executive branch's legal team interprets the "law of war" to give the executive nearly unlimited legal power? Almost three years after the 9-11 attacks, there's no excuse for the legislature not having drawn up a set of laws and procedures that give the government the power it needs, while specifically and narrowly constraining the applications of that power.

Now, I don't think this will happen; it's a political loser for everyone involved. But I do think it's worthwhile to start beating on our Democratic representatives to stop playing defense and at least propose some clear new laws that will force the Republicans to re-affirm their new love of sweeping government power.


 

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Margin of Error

Posted by Ogged
on 05.12.04

Gawl dern it! I was at the office after midnight last night, because some things needed tending, but I have a humane job, so I emailed everyone to say I'd be a bit late this morning to catch up on some sleep. So a big thank you to my goddam Oregon Scientific synchronize-with-the-atomic-clock clock that picked this night of all nights to jump an hour ahead while I slept.

Expect gloomy, doomy and most of all, cranky posts all damn day.


 

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Zarqawi, Still Alive

Posted by Ogged
on 05.11.04

Was Nick Berg in fact beheaded by Zarqawi or people affiliated with him? If so, will the press finally start asking seriously about the fact that the administration could have killed Zarqawi but didn't? Remember this?

In June 2002, U.S. officials say intelligence had revealed that Zarqawi and members of al-Qaida had set up a weapons lab at Kirma, in northern Iraq, producing deadly ricin and cyanide.
The Pentagon quickly drafted plans to attack the camp with cruise missiles and airstrikes and sent it to the White House, where, according to U.S. government sources, the plan was debated to death in the National Security Council.
‘People were more obsessed with developing the coalition to overthrow Saddam than to execute the president's policy of pre-emption against terrorists.'
Four months later, intelligence showed Zarqawi was planning to use ricin in terrorist attacks in Europe.
The Pentagon drew up a second strike plan, and the White House again killed it. By then the administration had set its course for war with Iraq.
"People were more obsessed with developing the coalition to overthrow Saddam than to execute the president's policy of preemption against terrorists," according to terrorism expert and former National Security Council member Roger Cressey.
In January 2003, the threat turned real. Police in London arrested six terror suspects and discovered a ricin lab connected to the camp in Iraq.
The Pentagon drew up still another attack plan, and for the third time, the National Security Council killed it.
Military officials insist their case for attacking Zarqawi's operation was airtight, but the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam.

Maybe there's a good answer to why we left Zarqawi alone. Still, I'd like to hear someone ask the question.


 

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bring it on, ltd.

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 05.11.04

Reading Atrios' comments can be a horrifying experience, but sometimes I'm rewarded with gems like this, from 'jac.' For a while I've toyed with the idea of writing up Osama bin Laden's to-do list, but this trumps, I think.

FROM: Al Qaeda Terror, Inc.
TO: George W. Bush, President
RE: Customer Satisfaction Survey
Dear President Bush:
In 2003, you subscribed to our "Bring It On" terrorism package. At Al Qaeda Terror, Inc., we strive to provide excellent customer service. Please help us to continue by participating in this survey:
a. Are we "bringing it on" to your overall satisfaction?
b. Are we providing sufficient variety in "bringing it on?" In addition to roadside bombs, beheadings, kidnappings, and rocket-propelled grenades, we offer a variety of other "its" to bring on.
c. Are you satisfied with the quality and quantity of the "It" that we are bringing on?
Finally, we are offering a special to valued customers like you, a two-for-one special. In addition to an attack on Iraqi civilians, we would like to offer a free attack on American servicemen in the Asian country of your choice, or a free attack on the American homeland, whichever you prefer.
To signal acceptance of this special offer, simply place a saddle on the back of an Iraqi grandmother and ride her around a prison for a few hours. We'll get right to bringing it on.
We at Al Qaeda Terror, Inc., appreciate your business and look forward to continuing our mutually beneficial relationship.
Sincerely,
U. bin Laden
CEO

 

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scorekeeping in a polling game

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 05.11.04

From Gallup:

Few Americans (23%) say they can imagine circumstances that justify this type of behavior by U.S. soldiers, while most, 73%, say there are no circumstances that justify this type of behavior.

I was struck by this since, as 'a philosopher in the analytic tradition,' I've been 'specially trained' to imagine all sorts of possible (and impossible) scenarios, and as a moral theorist with a soft spot for act-consequentialism, I find it fairly easy to imagine circumstances that justify this sort of behavior. (A kajillion people are tied to some trolley tracks....) So, being strict, I'd answer with the unsavory minority, even though that doesn't lump me in with the LGF people, as Billmon seems to suggest in his post on these numbers.

In "scorekeeping in a language game," David Lewis argued that knowledge claims are context-sensitive: by bringing up (and thus making salient) more and more farfetched scenarios, one can raise the standard of justification required for knowing. Probably something similar is happening in the poll: the infinite-number-of-people-on-the-tracks scenario just isn't sufficiently salient for almost all of those polled, and so it's not a relevant possibility.

And don't even get me started on Gallup's conflation of imaginable and possible.

UPDATE: Ogged points out that the poll question itself asks "are there circumstances..." while the Gallup gloss on the result says "23% can imagine." So Gallup is off the hook, mostly, when it comes to the can-you-imagine-that/is-it-possible-that conflation.


 

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Not Equivalence, Responsibility

Posted by Ogged
on 05.11.04

Generally, I think these would be filed under "Goes Without Saying," but I'm no longer sure.

A video posted Tuesday on an Islamic militant Web site appeared to show a group affiliated with al-Qaida beheading an American in Iraq, saying the death was revenge for the prisoner-abuse scandal.

1). This is far worse than what we know happened at Abu Ghraib.

2). What happened at Abu Ghraib cannot be said to have "caused" this: nothing provokes one honorable human being to cut off the head of another. I believe the people responsible are neither provokable nor deterrable.

3). If we can be sure of who did this, they ought to be killed.

4). This will and should receive less attention than what happened at Abu Ghraib because we are not responsible for it and our protests can't affect its future recurrence.

5). The people who did this would have a much harder time operating if more of their compatriots were less sympathetic to them.

6). What happened at Abu Ghraib makes those compatriots more, not less, sympathetic.

[numbering fixed]


 

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A Few Nits

Posted by Ogged
on 05.11.04

Sissy Willis seems like a reasonable sort. Yesterday, she wrote,

All the more important that we go however high up in the chain of command is required to understand where control broke down.

Amen.

But she also seems to buy Roger Simon's specious definition of "outrage" as requiring surprise, and that leads her to endorse one very bad way of making a point.

Listening in on the Senate hearings on Iraqi prisoner abuse, our ears perk up as Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma takes the microphone. He's on a roll, saying what so many of us are feeling -- the outrage that dare not speak its name -- that we are more outraged about the outrage than about the specific detainee abuses in Abu Graib.

Even if you believe 1) that outrage requires surprise and 2) that the abuses are being used for political purposes here in the U.S., do you really want to say that domestic political reaction is more disturbing than beating, raping, and killing prisoners, many of whom, according to our own officers, were innocent of any crime? Really?

I landed at Sissy's post via Instapundit, who highlighted something else she linked--a GOP talking point that it's inappropriate to use Abu Ghraib for political purposes, specifically, fundraising. Insty says, "And they were mad about 9/11 photos?" Insty seems to think that the 9/11 photos show a bad, emotional thing and the Abu Ghraib photos show a bad, emotional thing, so if using one for political purposes is unacceptable, so must be using the other. But this administration has already said that it's responsible for what happened at Abu Ghraib. No reasonable standard would bar a candidate from using his opponent's worst trangressions against him, just because those transgressions shock the conscience.


 

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Hagerty, Not Good

Posted by Ogged
on 05.11.04

Ach. I love Barbara Bradley Hagerty's voice, so it gives me no pleasure to pick on her, but this post detailing her religious affiliations is very well researched and pretty disturbing.

via Atrios

UPDATE: The NPR ombudsman and Hagerty respond. As does Atrios.


 

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Vignettes

Posted by Ogged
on 05.11.04

Three passages from Plan of Attack, with brief comments.

pg. 186) Before he joined the government, wasn't Cheney considering becoming an academic?

Meanwhile, the Homeland Security bill was being blocked in the Senate by a filibuster. Calio told the president that they were about to "vitiate" the filibuster.
"Nicky, what the fuck are you talking about, vitiate?" Bush asked. Cheney too wondered aloud what vitiate meant.

pg. 190) When you know it's not true, say the British believe it.

Ratcheting up another notch, [Bush] added, "And according to the British government, the Iraqi regime could launch a biological or chemical attack in as little as 45 minutes after the order was given."
Tenet and the CIA had warned the British not to make that allegation, which was based on a questionable source, and almost certainly referred to battlefield weapons--not ones that Iraq could launch at neighboring countries, let alone American cities. Tenet referred privately to this as the "they-can-attack-in-45-minutes shit."

pg. 190) Bush and Cheney meet with members of the House International Relations Committee.

Shelley Berkley, a Nevada Democrat, asked what they would do about Saddam aiming at Israel.
"Super Patriots are a possibility. We have very technologically advanced weapons," Bush said. He turned to Cheney, "What am I allowed to say?"
"Not too much," Cheney replied.

 

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What Do I Look Like?

Posted by Ogged
on 05.10.04

Not that this will push anything off the front page here (nor should it) but Juan Cole has word that the Bushies tried to get the Spaniards to deliver al Sadr "dead or alive." The Spaniards, not watching enough Fox News, probably, refused to play along.


 

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Moral Clarity

Posted by Ogged
on 05.10.04

Mr. William Ferry, of Lafayette Louisiana, writes to the New York Times.

Once again, David Brooks steadfastly approves of a demonstrably failed foreign policy ("Crisis of Confidence," column, May 8). "We've got to reboot," he writes.
Although an amusing metaphor, rebooting foreign policy implies that the policy is essentially sound, with only an operational glitch.
This administration's foreign policy is not computer software; it is dead and wounded American soldiers and civilians, uncounted Iraqi casualties, collapsed international credibility and now, with Abu Ghraib, destruction of American moral values that will not be recovered in the lifetimes of my great-grandchildren.
My father and oldest brother were graduates of West Point. Dad served in World War II. My oldest brother served three tours in Vietnam. Another brother served in the Navy for six years. I served in the Army Reserve. My sons served in Desert Storm. My youngest son is in Afghanistan as I write.
There is no excuse for what just happened.

 

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Old Women are Mean

Posted by Ogged
on 05.10.04

And now, for something completely different.

Jayson Littman is not especially lonely, or religious, or in need of cash - things that strangers might assume upon meeting him.
He is a financial analyst who happens to think that New Yorkers could use a hug. So it was, a month ago, that Mr. Littman began distributing hugs - free - from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sundays in Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village.

If the article is any guide, most of the people who hug him are doing it for his benefit. They feel sorry for him. But I don't know, it's a good thing to do. Hugs are nice. Yeah, I'd hug the guy.


 

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A Word With You

Posted by Ogged
on 05.10.04

The academics are angry. First, Michael Bérubé on Joe Lieberman.

The next time he gets up and drones on about the soul-corroding aspects of Grand Theft Auto III, you can say, yes, Joe, tell it to the prisoners of Abu Ghraib. Or if you want to get meta-ironic with him, you can say in a lugubrious baritone, with deeply furrowed brow, "Grand Theft Auto III contains deeply disturbing images of violence, yes, but I cannot help but say that those who were responsible for killing 3,000 Americans on September 11th, 2001, have never apologized for bringing their disturbing images of violence to our television screens."

Major props to Bérubé for even knowing about Grand Theft Auto III.

And Brad DeLong laments that no one seems to read Max Weber anymore.

Now generals and undersecretaries have better things to do with their time than to read Max Weber, or to remember that they once read Max Weber. And generals and undersecretaries probably can't find time to read Mark Bowden's Black Hawk Down. But Uday Hussein found time to watch "Black Hawk Down," and the main message comes through: an unclear chain of command and an unclear mission is a recipe for a ratf*ck.
Things that were known in the reign of Anne the Protestant should not be forgotten in the reign of George the Feckless.

Read all of both, for education and amusement.


 

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One Shoe Dropping

Posted by Ogged
on 05.10.04

With even the Military Times calling for Rumsfeld's resignation, you might be wondering how in the world Rummy is hanging on. Jack O'Toole, typically, has the most convincing explanation.

The first group of images from Abu Ghraib has produced a serious, though not quite life-threatening, fever for the administration. But the next group, which, according to GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, will include photos and video depicting the rape and murder of detainees, is almost guaranteed to push the mercury right through the top of the thermometer. And since Rumsfeld's resignation is the only dose of aspirin this administration currently has in its PR bag-o-tricks, they can't afford to waste it while the patient is still stable. So look for Rummy to go as soon as the other shoe drops -- and the administration's temperature starts to spike into critical territory.

 

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Lindsey Graham, Which Way?

Posted by Ogged
on 05.10.04

There's been a fair bit of congratulations for Republican Lindsey Graham lately, but The Poor Man is having none of it.


 

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Take That

Posted by Ogged
on 05.10.04

Things of which I was ignorant.

As veterans of the Ford White House remember, Mr. Rumsfeld was an intense rival of [the elder] George Bush's, and by all accounts the men had a terrible relationship in the 1970's and 1980's. Bush partisans still say that Mr. Rumsfeld masterminded what became known as the Halloween Massacre, the 1975 Ford cabinet shake-up in which Mr. Rumsfeld jumped from his position as White House chief of staff to become secretary of defense, thereby enhancing his prospects, never realized, of being President Gerald R. Ford's running mate in 1976.
In that same shuffle, Mr. Bush, who had been the chief United States envoy to China, was sidelined as director of central intelligence — a job that took Mr. Bush out of the running for vice president, since at the time C.I.A. directors were thought to have no future in politics.

You can read the rest for more on Rummy and the Bush family psychodrama of which we're now all a part.


 

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Now You See It...

Posted by Ogged
on 05.10.04

I don't know what to make of this. I, and many others, linked to an MSNBC story that contained the following passage.

U.S. military officials told NBC News that the unreleased images showed U.S. soldiers severely beating an Iraqi prisoner nearly to death, having sex with a female Iraqi female prisoner and "acting inappropriately with a dead body." The officials said there was also a videotape, apparently shot by U.S. personnel, showing Iraqi guards raping young boys.

But the URL for that story now points to a different story entirely, and I can't find the original story (google cache) anywhere on MSNBC's site. Retrogrouch (to whom, big thanks for catching this), speculates,

Did the network owned by the nation's 9th largest defense contractor scrub the story?

I don't know about that. I mean, it's been published, it's been linked, it's not going to just go away. But I haven't seen a site just switch URLs like that.


 

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I'm Rubber, You're Glue

Posted by Ogged
on 05.10.04

I'm positive this law (via Froz) isn't worth the sweat on a mullah's turban, but I can't help but feel a little tinge of pride at that great Iranian sense for hitting where it hurts.

Iran's hardline Guardian Council has approved a law banning police from using torture to extract confessions from criminal suspects.
The council, a 12-member cleric-dominated panel that approves or rejects Iranian legislation, had in the past quashed similar legislative attempts to protect prisoners from custodial abuse.

In even less funny news, Sudan, currently engaged in massacre/genocide, tells us to get our own house in order.

I'll say it again: In the eyes of the world, America was the exemplar of the possibility of a rights respecting people. That's over, and who's going to fill the space? France? Germany? England? China? Russia? There are now no major powers with credibility on human rights, and that, I think, will be the worst consequence of Abu Ghraib.


 

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Once More, With Feeling

Posted by Ogged
on 05.10.04

I can't imagine that the point is just too subtle for fellow bloggers: what happened at Abu Ghraib is, in terms of America's image in the rest of the world, worse than a massacre or systematic repression because it makes Americans seem gross. Of course wanton killing is shameful and disdainful, but it's not weak and depraved in the way the Abu Ghraib torture is weak and depraved. Abu Ghraib is a new image of America, and it evokes neither respect nor fear.


 

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Just Wrong

Posted by Ogged
on 05.09.04

Andrew Sullivan has a moment of clarity.

THE INEXCUSABLE: The one anti-war argument that, in retrospect, I did not take seriously enough was a simple one. It was that this war was noble and defensible but that this administration was simply too incompetent and arrogant to carry it out effectively. I dismissed this as facile Bush-bashing at the time. I was wrong. I sensed the hubris of this administration after the fall of Baghdad, but I didn't sense how they would grotesquely under-man the post-war occupation, bungle the maintenance of security, short-change an absolutely vital mission, dismiss constructive criticism, ignore even their allies (like the Brits), and fail to shift swiftly enough when events span out of control. This was never going to be an easy venture; and we shouldn't expect perfection. There were bound to be revolts and terrorist infractions. The job is immense; and many of us have rallied to the administration's defense in difficult times, aware of the immense difficulties involved. But to have allowed the situation to slide into where we now are, to have a military so poorly managed and under-staffed that what we have seen out of Abu Ghraib was either the result of a) chaos, b) policy or c) some awful combination of the two, is inexcusable. It is a betrayal of all those soldiers who have done amazing work, who are genuine heroes, of all those Iraqis who have risked their lives for our and their future, of ordinary Americans who trusted their president and defense secretary to get this right. To have humiliated the United States by presenting false and misleading intelligence and then to have allowed something like Abu Ghraib to happen - after a year of other, compounded errors - is unforgivable. By refusing to hold anyone accountable, the president has also shown he is not really in control. We are at war; and our war leaders have given the enemy their biggest propaganda coup imaginable, while refusing to acknowledge their own palpable errors and misjudgments. They have, alas, scant credibility left and must be called to account.

I kept telling the people who thought I was nuts to support the war that simple self-interest dictated that the administration, having wagered so much on Iraq, would do it right. Holy shit, was I wrong.

I do hope that someday an astute historian will be able to explain, with a bit more specificity than "they were deluded," or "they thought we'd be greeted as liberators," just how a group of smart (if callous and short-sighted) people could get something so very wrong, when there were people everywhere telling them exactly what the potential problems were.


 

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American Gulag

Posted by Ogged
on 05.09.04

While everyone waits for pictures, a devastating story develops. (my emphasis)

Rumsfeld insisted last week that the U.S. military has observed the Geneva Conventions regarding POWs and civilians in Iraq. But in his public statements (at least until last week), Rumsfeld has also declared that Geneva Conventions rules do not necessarily mean that all detainees—especially so-called unlawful combatants—will get all the rights and privileges normally accorded prisoners of war. And in recent months, NEWSWEEK has learned, some senior members of Congress have been given highly classified briefings, indicating, in the words of one official, that U.S. interrogators were not necessarily "going to stick with the Geneva Convention." More stressful techniques were going to be used, the briefers indicated, apparently including some measure of physical discomfort.

...

One American intelligence officer admitted as much, telling NEWSWEEK: "The U.S. government and military capitalizes on the dubious status [as sovereign states] of Afghanistan, Diego Garcia, Guantanamo Bay, Iraq and aircraft carriers, to avoid certain legal questions about rough interrogations. Whatever humanitarian pronouncements a state such as ours may make about torture, states don't perform interrogations, individual people do. What's going to stop an impatient soldier, in a supralegal location, from whacking one nameless, dehumanized shopkeeper among many?"
Sources say these mysterious prisons include some undeclared facilities set up by the CIA and other "black"-program operatives. The so-called ghost facilities, whose existence has never been publicly acknowledged by the Bush administration, are believed to be where top Qaeda leaders like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaida are held and questioned. One such detention center, where the Indonesian terrorist Hambali and the 9/11 co-conspirator Ramzi bin al-Shibh were believed to have been questioned, reportedly is located in Thailand. Another, according to a knowledgeable source, is located somewhere in the North-West Frontier province of Pakistan.

There's much more in the article, including evidence that similar abuses are occurring in Afghanistan and throughout the "supralegal" American detention system. There's also quite a bit about Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who was running things at Guantanamo before he descended upon Abu Ghraib and (apparently) forced Karpinski to let him toughen up the interrogations. This is the same Miller who is now in charge of cleaning up the Abu Ghraib mess.

The American gulag. How do you like it?


 

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By Any Standard

Posted by Ogged
on 05.09.04

I'm not saying I know the answer, but if they held elections in Iraq, and Saddam were allowed to run, don't you think he might win?


 

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At Least They're Consistent

Posted by Ogged
on 05.09.04

My mom finally got a hold of one of our relatives in Iran to ask him what he thought about the Abu Ghraib business. Turns out, he had only seen the picture of the guy hooked up to the electrodes because Iranian TV won't show nudity. She pointed him to the Internet; I'll report back when I hear from him.


 

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