Daily Archives: May 8, 2004

Possible Paper Trail & Other Revelations

Read Pentagon Okayed Tough Questioning Methods in the Washington Post. Then, at least for the sake of the argument, assume that none of the practices are, legally, “torture” and that none violate international or US law but instead represent the measured outer limit of what can be done to fight terrorism. (Without actually reading them, I'm not prepared to say whether this is a fair assessment, but I would very much like it to be.)

Two things still jump out.

1. The Post doesn't know if these rules applied at Abu Ghraib. We do know that the brass took extraordinary action to keep out a highly trained military lawyer. Were there other rules in effect (and, followed or broken? is there a paper trail?) or no rules?

2. These chilling words: “Separate CIA guidelines exist for agency-run detention centers.” Do they have written rules? Who monitors to see if they re followed? How many camps are there in the American secret prison archipelago? How many prisoners? How long do they stay in? Do they get out?

See BOP News for the relevant parts of the Rummy transcript. Seems the discussion cut off just before it got to the meat.

Posted in Iraq Atrocities | 1 Comment

Losing the Techie Vote

It's articles like this one which make me think Kerry is going to win, maybe, just maybe, win big.

O'Reilly Network: Wow. The world is getting strange [May. 08, 2004]

I'm working on my next java.net article and having problems focusing. Why? Well, Richard Monson-Haefel is publicly broadcasting that he's looking for a job (depressing news about the state of the computer industry), the EU is posed to do the software-patent shimmy (ditto), and (and this one boggles me) I just realized that I'm probably going to vote for John Kerry.

As to the latter— I think Don Park nailed it. I didn't think the war was a particularly good idea to start with, but I thought it could be justified. And I'm actually okay with the (so far) non-finding of weapons of mass destruction. And I think that, for better or worse, the US has to stay the course in Iraq. Leaving now, or in the near future, or before Iraq is a stable and functioning society again, would be a very bad decision.

But wow— invading Iraq wasn't a no-brainer when the decision was made, and in hindsight it looks like a very bad idea indeed. Moreover, the follow through in the post-Saddam era is a mess; ; a total failure of foresight and planning. The sort of thing that causes boards to fire CEOs, if you ask me.

And how very depressing to see the recent flood of pathetic commentaries along the lines of America: Not as bad as Saddam. It's hard for me to even respond to most of those articles because they're so deeply steeped in moral corruption (briefly: if you invade a country on humanitarian grounds, and a major part of the justification for this invasion was humanitarian, AND if you want to take the moral high ground when defending the invasion, and the defenders of the invasion did take the moral high ground, then saying “well, the other guys rape too” indicates an inner emptiness that boggles the mind).

All this is subject to revision, of course. I'm well aware that there is a lot of information that hasn't been shared with the public (and a lot of that was probably withheld for good reasons). And that the media has a tendency to over-report sensational news and thereby blow things out of proportion. And the last thing in the world I want to do is post yet another silly article linking rapes in Iraq to the patriot act.

But, from where I'm sitting (very faint voice) Kerry in 2004

The original is full of links, by the way. [corrected @ 5:43pm]

Continue reading

Posted in Politics: US: 2004 Election | 1 Comment

First Thing We Do–Keep Out the Lawyers. Then Isolate the Soldiers.

How to vastly increase the odds you have atrocities:

AP, Pentagon Rejected Lawyer As Prison Adviser

By MATT KELLEY, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON – Pentagon officials rejected an Army plan last year to send an experienced military lawyer — who is also a Republican member of Congress — to help oversee the unit blamed for prisoner abuse at the Abu Ghraib complex outside Baghdad.

That left the prison complex, which holds up to 7,000 Iraqis, without an onsite lawyer to guide interrogations and treatment of prisoners.

The top lawyer for the 800th Military Police Brigade, the Army unit in charge of detainees at Abu Ghraib, later came under fire in an Army report about the abuse for being ineffective and “unwilling to accept responsibility for any of his actions.”

The rejected lawyer, Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ind., and other experts say having had a lawyer at the prison might have prevented or at least mitigated the beatings, sexual humiliation and other abuse detailed in photographs and the Army probe.

“It's always good to have a lawyer around so you've got a conscience for the command and an opportunity to vet questions,” said retired Army Maj. Gen. William L. Nash, who commanded an armored brigade during the 1991 Gulf War (news – web sites).

Pentagon officials confirmed there was no onsite lawyer at Abu Ghraib, but spokesmen for Army Secretary Les Brownlee and Pentagon personnel officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment Friday. Bryan Whitman, a spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, referred questions to the Army.

Buyer, a strong supporter of the Iraq war and a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves, had volunteered to go to Iraq shortly after the invasion in March 2003.

In a telephone interview Friday with The Associated Press, Buyer said military officials all the way up to the Joint Chiefs of Staff had approved his assignment to the 800th Military Police Brigade, which has handled Iraqi prisoners of war since the beginning of the conflict.

Pentagon personnel officials and Brownlee rejected the assignment, saying the Army could fill the requirement another way. Brownlee also wrote to Buyer that his high-profile status could bring danger to the troops around him.

Buyer said he objected to David Chu, the Pentagon's personnel chief, and Charles Abell, Chu's deputy.

“I expressed the importance of having a (lawyer) at the camp,” Buyer said. “You have to ask, when you had a qualified officer, and the civilian leaders, Dr. Chu and the secretary of the Army, said no, who did you send in his place?” …

Buyer served as a lawyer at a prisoner of war camp run by the 800th Brigade during the first Gulf War. His duties, Buyer said, included helping the International Committee of the Red Cross monitor conditions and ensuring guards followed international law such as the Geneva Conventions. He said he also questioned some Iraqis suspected of war crimes.

“The 800th MP Brigade performed exemplary service in the Gulf War,” Buyer said. “There was no hint of any mistreatment or maltreatment of prisoners. It never happened. They had excellent leadership.”

How to keep the lid on:

Electrolite: If we only had a press. Email from a friend with contacts among American troops in Iraq prompts me to wish some journalist would investigate reports that the military has ordered KBR, which provides net connectivity for US camps and bases in Iraq, to cut off all soldiers’ “inessential” access to email and the net for the next 90 days.

I understand that KBR also handles paper mail services to and from serving soldiers in Iraq, and that pickup and delivery are often little better than once a month.

I’d also like someone to investigate what our soldiers actually know about Abu Ghaib, both the events themselves and their political impact in the rest of the world.

If it’s true that the average soldier’s email is being curtailed, and if (as I suspect) many of them have only a patchy knowledge of the scandal and its impact, it would seem that many of our soldiers are about to lose a major lifeline to home without being told why.

Extend it for three months after that, and you are past the election. Which means that MaxSpeak's prophecy

“The troops will be the peace movement.” As the Iraqi mission disintegrates, the troops will be the first to know, then their families, then everybody.

…just might have hit a speedbump.

Posted in Iraq Atrocities | 5 Comments

Very Painful

It's all too much. Something good (in the partially offsetting sense) could yet come of this, but I don't think the political will exists to make it happen. It is now evident that the administration was on notice about the Iraqi prison abuses for months, and did nothing. It is certain that it at least negligently allowed it to happen in the first place, and appears likely it at least tacitly encouraged it. The reaction in Washington? Wait for the next in order to decide whether to bay-for-the-head-of/fire Rumsfeld.

And, on a somewhat related note: David Neiwert issues a Media Revolt Manifesto.

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Why Don’t I See This In My Newspaper?

Billmon at the Whiskey Bar has been doing a superlative job of collating and explaining the Iraq Atrocities scandal. I urge anyone who breathes to have a look.

For example: in Donald Rumsfeld's Battle With The Truth, Billmon contrasts some of Donald Rumsfeld's statements under oath with the the actual facts.

Why don't I see anything like this in my newspaper?

Here's just one of the many items:

“And when General Taguba came in and made his report, he indicated that a number of the issues that had been raised last year by the ICRC had, in fact, been corrected by the command structure between the time that they were observed by the ICRC and the time that General Taguba's team arrived on the scene.”

Donald Rumsfeld
Testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee
May 7, 2004

On at least one occasion, the 320th MP Battalion at Abu Ghraib held a handful of “ghost detainees” … that they moved around within the facility to hide them from a visiting International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) survey team. This maneuver was deceptive, contrary to Army Doctrine, and in violation of international law.”

Gen. Antonio Taguba
Article 15-6 Investigation of the 800th Military Police Brigade
May 7, 2004

(note: this is the only mention of the ICRC in the Taguba report.)

Posted in Iraq Atrocities | 2 Comments


Jim Henley's Unqualified Offerings:

Daily Reminder to my Fellow CitizensWe torture people. As a matter of policy.

This isn't about news cycles. This is about our self-respect. Leonard Dickens, a year ago:

Torture is the canary in the coal mine. When your society starts seriously talking about torture, it means you've fucked up and become repressive.

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