May 15, 2004

New Yorker: Rumsfeld, Bush, Rice approved Abu Ghraib torture

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld authorized the expansion of a secret program that encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners to obtain intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq, The New Yorker reported Saturday.

Rumsfeld made the decision last year when he broadened a Pentagon operation from the hunt for al-Qaida in Afghanistan to interrogation of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, according to the report, which cited unnamed current and former intelligence officials and was published on the magazine's Web site.

Seven soldiers are facing military charges related to the abuse and humiliation of prisoners captured by the now-infamous photographs at the prison. Some of the soldiers and their lawyers have said military intelligence officials told military police assigned as guards to abuse the prisoners to make interrogations easier.

According to the story, which hits newsstands Monday, the initial operation Rumsfeld authorized gave blanket approval to kill or capture and interrogate "high value" targets in the war on terrorism. The program stemmed from frustrating efforts to capture high-level terrorists in the weeks after the start of U.S. bombings in Afghanistan.

The program got approval from President Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, and Bush was informed of its existence, the officials told New Yorker reporter Seymour Hersh.

Full article here. It'll be interesting to see how this plays on the Sunday talk shows. And, of course, if everything indicated in the article is true, there should be no logical argument as to why Rumsfeld should have a job by the end of the week.

Update: From the article in question:

The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation, which had been focussed on the hunt for Al Qaeda, to the interrogation of prisoners in Iraq. Rumsfeld�s decision embittered the American intelligence community, damaged the effectiveness of �lite combat units, and hurt America�s prospects in the war on terror.

According to interviews with several past and present American intelligence officials, the Pentagon�s operation, known inside the intelligence community by several code words, including Copper Green, encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq. A senior C.I.A. official, in confirming the details of this account last week, said that the operation stemmed from Rumsfeld�s long-standing desire to wrest control of America�s clandestine and paramilitary operations from the C.I.A.

Rumsfeld, during appearances last week before Congress to testify about Abu Ghraib, was precluded by law from explicitly mentioning highly secret matters in an unclassified session. But he conveyed the message that he was telling the public all that he knew about the story. He said, �Any suggestion that there is not a full, deep awareness of what has happened, and the damage it has done, I think, would be a misunderstanding.� The senior C.I.A. official, asked about Rumsfeld�s testimony and that of Stephen Cambone, his Under-Secretary for Intelligence, said, �Some people think you can bullshit anyone.�

We shall see.

Second Update: Reader Steve Presutti writes:

I would like to add a point which has yet to be addressed and I think deserves your attention.

The article quotes the Pentagon spokesman as defending Rumsfeld by saying, "No responsible official of the Department of Defense approved any program that could conceivably have been intended to result in such abuses as witnessed in the recent photos and videos" [emphasis mine]

I think this is really damning by its inadequacy. The level of knowledge here is should not be "intent" but rather whether a reasonable person should know that their actions would likely produce such a result. In Rumsfeld's case, any reasonable person knows that torture is discredited for, amongst other reasons, it's tendency to create an unchecked and abusive environment. As such, Rumsfeld might not have intended the result, but he was at least negligent of his duty to prevent it. I think the American people can and should demand accountability of reckless or negligent orders by their officials even assuming the results are unintended.

I think the frequency and emphasis of concepts like "how bad the photos are percieved to be" needs to be monitored, as Steve has correctly noted such lines are signs of ducking any admission of guilt. Rumsfeld and Co. are copping a bit of the "well I'm sorry you feel that way" strategy, in which you think just saying you're sorry means you've apologized, while you haven't actually admitted you've done anything wrong.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 10:32 PM

May 14, 2004

Do as we say, not as we do

"The arrogance, inconsistency, and unreliability of the administration�s diplomacy have undermined American alliances, alienated friends, and emboldened our adversaries."

"Gerrymandered congressional districts are an affront to democracy and an insult to the voters. We oppose that and any other attempt to rig the electoral process."

"The current administration has casually sent American armed forces on dozens of missions without clear goals, realizable objectives, favorable rules of engagement, or defined exit strategies. Over the past seven years, a shrunken American military has been run ragged by a deployment tempo that has eroded its military readiness. Many units have seen their operational requirements increased four-fold, wearing out both people and equipment."

"The rule of law, the very foundation for a free society, has been under assault, not only by criminals from the ground up, but also from the top down. An administration that lives by evasion, coverup, stonewalling, and duplicity has given us a totally discredited Department of Justice."

"Sending our military on vague, aimless, and endless missions rapidly saps morale. Even the highest morale is eventually undermined by back-to-back deployments, poor pay, shortages of spare parts and equipment, inadequate training, and rapidly declining readiness."

Anti-war left wing rants? Nope. How about the 2000 Republican Party Platform?

(via BOP)

Posted by August J. Pollak at 8:14 AM

May 13, 2004

Speaking of shooting fish in a barrel

Sadly, No! alerts us to the solutions the Freepers give us... logic be damned.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 10:09 PM

Your tax dollars at work, folks

U.S. to charge Greenpeace with violating 114-year-old maritime law. Really.

Greenpeace, charged with the obscure crime of "sailor mongering" that was last prosecuted 114 years ago, goes on trial on Monday in the first U.S. criminal prosecution of an advocacy group for civil disobedience.

The environmental group is accused of sailor mongering because it boarded a freighter in April 2002 that was carrying illegally felled Amazon mahogany to Miami. It says the prosecution is revenge for its criticism of the environmental policies of President Bush, whom it calls the "Toxic Texan."

Sailor mongering was rife in the 19th century when brothels sent prostitutes laden with booze onto ships as they made their way to harbor. The idea was to get the sailors so drunk they could be whisked to shore and held in bondage, and a law was passed against it in 1872. It has only been used in a court of law twice, the last time in 1890.

Greenpeace says the decision by the U.S. Attorney's Office to prosecute the organization rather than just the activists who boarded the APL Jade freighter is a sea change in policy, and a conviction would throttle free speech everywhere.

It would also be a sharp blow against Brazilian efforts to halt the trade in a hardwood so precious it is known as "green gold." It yields fatter profit margins than cocaine and is blamed for the destruction of vast swathes of the Amazon.

"Illegal logging goes on and they're bringing it to Miami and making loads of money, and we're going to trial," said Sara Holden of Greenpeace International.

The case is unprecedented, not just because of the bizarre nature of the crime.

Six Greenpeace activists were charged after the 2002 protest in choppy waters off Miami, pleaded guilty and sentenced to time served -- the weekend they spent in jail.

But U.S. prosecutors were not satisfied, and 15 months later came up with a grand jury indictment of the entire organization for sailor mongering.

I'd like to congratulate the president for ending all terrorism on this planet, as the devotion of Justice resources to something as pathetic and pointless as this must show, lest we are meant to believe the Bush administration is so cowardly and sniveling that they would risk the lives of American citizens by devoting precious law facilities into scouring the books for hundred-year-old naval law for the sole purpose of scoring one against a harmless environmental group whilst they high-five each other and grunt.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 10:03 PM

Reading with the enemy

This article about reading nothing but right-wing media a la Supersize Me is a bit shooting-fish-in-a-barrel, but it's still kind of funny.

My favorite, as with any argument about the "liberal bias" of the media, is when the lists are compiled of what's accused of being liberal, revealing that essentially every single media source on earth not affiliated with Rupert Murdoch or Lucianne Goldberg has a left-wing agenda.

Eh, I blame PBS. Big Bird clearly made me a Communist, and I learned all about gun-grabbing from a steady diet of 3-2-1-Contact.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 8:29 AM

May 12, 2004

"Here you are... here is the enemy."

The fringe lunatics at Free Republic created an "enemies list" a few months ago that included the family of the beheaded American Nick Berg, amidst a discussion about how people on the list "need serious trouble to come [their] way."

Considering the article references ANSWER,, and a host of other sources as credible as... well... Free Republic, it's understandable to take this with a grain of salt.

But there's a lot of questions about that video, and if even a fraction of the belief that Berg was held in Iraq because of being percieved as a "threat" by U.S. intelligence, and that it could be traced to a group of message board keyboard commandos... Jesus Christ.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 7:45 PM

Gosh, that didn't take long pt. 2

Just out of curiosity- is accusing your opponent of using the daily bad news from Iraq for a partisan agenda like, a race or something? Or did we all just forget that the definition of a debate is two opposing sides addressing an issue?

I mean, does Fuckwit McRightwing "win" because he feigned outrage at how the left is exploiting this tragic event before someone who leans left expresses outrage at how a right-winger would probably exploit this for his partisan agenda but they were just beaten to the punch? Does the overplayed "I expected Commie O'Liberal to say that" line score extra points? Is there a bonus round in this text-based equivalent of jerking off in front of a mirror? Or did I just miss how this offers solutions?

I'm against the war and the horrific events of the last few days haven't changed my mind about that central point. And I don't think it's changed anyone else's who would have to retract a year's worth of website posts to accept that.

What the torture photos and Nick Berg's murder have shown is that we've officially crossed the line between everything from this war having the poetntial to be political fodder to everything in this war automatically being political fodder- primarily because with an election season starting and this war evolved into a split down partisan lines, pretending it could be anything else is futile. A year into the fray we've reached the point where anything, from a thousand people murdered to a kid in Baghdad stubbing his toe, will meet the following standards:

A. exploited by the anti/pro war side as justification for countering whatever they're against, immediately followed by

B. the opposing side outraged at the "partisan tone" of the person who performed A.

News flash: outside of agreeing with you, there's no way your argument isn't partisan at this point. I don't know if I'm the first one to point the blatantly obvious out, but there's no way I'm the only one.

I think what happened is horrible. And I think Bush and his administration's mismanaged debacle in Iraq is why the situation came to be. If you disagree with me, fine, but please, with all due respect to your views on the war, shut the fuck up about how "disgraceful" my "excuse to attack the right" is. Excuse me, I didn't realize my attack on a bunch of right-wingers might have been as construed as an attack on right-wingers. Who else should someone of my position blame for this: zombies?

Thinking you can invalidate my beliefs merely by creaming a colorful description all over what I said five minutes earlier of how I disagree with you and that such a response, as opposed to actually addressing some facts, will actually change an opinion wastes everyone's time.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 8:11 AM

May 11, 2004

Hell if I know

The site has been going on and off for the last day or two; I have absolutely no idea what is causing that, and why. So apologies if you're... umm... not reading this, I guess.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 6:21 PM

May 10, 2004

Bringing Tinkerbell back to life after she was beaten to death in an Iraqi prison

Oliver enjoys a moment of the wingers collectively giggling at his notice that there are actually people who disagree with them.

As I already noted over a year ago, you don't even need to analyze the impact of several hundred thousand people collectively organizing for a viewpoint to see that it's a relevant issue to address, considering that a handful of people can't even agree on a video at Blockbuster in fifteen minutes.

Although a lot of it is crazy, a major fault of the left is to pass off much of what the right does, especially that which is connected to the vocal minority of the hard-right religious circles, as something irrelevant. Sometimes it come back to ruin our day; especially if it's Election Day.

The right seems to do this, however, with almost everything the left does that doesn't reach at least 51% in the polls. Few hundred protesting the war? Insignificant. Over a million for women's rights? Fringe feminazis. Growing demands for administrative accountability? Ah, screw 'em, it's not like they vo- oh. Oh shit.

It's like a reverse Tinkerbell effect- that pretending there's absolutely nothing wrong and ignoring all the hand-clapping will somehow bring Tink back to life. Instead, they end up with a dead fairy that gets smellier and smellier as they pretend it's not rotting. In an issue completely unrelated to that analogy, I wasn't a disturbed child at all.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 6:29 PM

Why does Jessica Lynch hate America so much?

Okay, yeah, I know. The line got old real quick. Anyway, interesting link from Atrios noting the somewhat counter-to-warhawk comments of the pro-war right's favorite exploit (is there a more appropriate word?) of last year:

Former POW Jessica Lynch said prayers should go out to the families of Iraqi prisoners who have been mistreated by American military prison guards.

Lynch's comments came after she addressed about 150 graduating students Saturday at the West Virginia University Institute of Technology.

When asked her opinion of news reports of the mistreatment of prisoners, Lynch told reporters, "Pray for their families and keep up hope."

Now, the article doesn't get much further into debating why Lynch has feelings like that- after all, she of all people should know what it's like to be held under the captive arms of those Iraqi savages.

Maybe it's because of this little point that (braces self) Ted Rall noted the other day:

Escaped hostage Thomas Hamill reports having been well treated, fed and "watered" throughout his captivity by Iraqi insurgents. At no time was he tortured; except for the captivity itself--admittedly terrifying--he was just fine.

Pfc. Jessica Lynch, despite spun Pentagon reports at the time, has also repeatedly said she was well treated, even given medical care in priority to Iraqis, by Iraqi doctors in a hospital during the war.

In other words, our treatment of POWs compares unfavorably with that given kidnapping victims and prisoners of both Saddam Hussein and the current Iraqi resistance movement.

Is that a fair comparison? Ultimately, of course not. The comparison of two highly-politicized and commercialzed American hostages not being tortured against the as-of-now-and-thank-god-for-it isolated actions of a small group, or, okay, entire unit of the Army torturing captives isn't exactly even- or completely fair. But the point to be made is that of each side's most memorable hostage situations, there's a discrepancy in conduct.

And that's not the anti-war side's doing. As far as emphasizing the... well... emphasis Lynch has on the debate, whose fault is that really? I don't really see how the anti-war side is suddenly capable of taking any blame for how important it is to see and hear everything Jessica Lynch says.

There's no doubt that the Iraqis are as capable of cruelty and inhumanity as those seen on the American Soldiers Gone Wild tape. Case in point, the four charred corpses of Fallujah. So if Lynch's comments, and remorse, proves anything, it's that the emphasis does need to be made on the fact that there are really upstanding, decent soldiers in our army, and really, really horible ones. The fact that the administration is neglegent in removing the latter insults the former. There must be soldiers in Iraq who feel the same way Jessica Lynch does, and their outrage that they have to serve with monsters like those in the torture chambers should anger them more than anyone accused of "not suppoting the troops."

[slight editing.]

Posted by August J. Pollak at 8:21 AM