Archive for November 14th, 2005

He’s Got The Whole Moon In His Hands…

You don’t even wanna know how much of a pain in the ass it was to get this shot…

Not quite exactly what I was hoping for, but it’s close enough to still be pretty cool… Posted by Picasa

15 comments November 14th, 2005 at 07:26pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Favorites,Photoblogging,Pittsburgh

“Why’d you say Myanmar?” “I panicked.”

This is kinda… weird:

At precisely 6:37 a.m. last Sunday, according to one account – with a shout of “Let’s go!” – a convoy of trucks began a huge, expensive and baffling transfer of the government of Myanmar from the capital to a secret mountain compound 200 miles to the north.

Diplomats and foreign analysts were left groping a week later for an explanation of the unannounced move. In a country as secretive and eccentric as Myanmar, it is a full-time job to try to tease the truth from the swirl of rumors and guesswork, relying on few facts and many theories. The leading theories now have to do with astrological predictions and fears of invasion by the United States. The relocation, which the government announced to reporters and foreign diplomats a day after it began, but not yet to the public through the state-controlled media, had been rumored for years.


The military junta that runs the former Burma offered little explanation for its mystery move. “Due to changed circumstances, where Myanmar is trying to develop a modern nation, a more centrally located government seat has become a necessity,” it said in a statement.

That left plenty of room for theories, and it was difficult to find one that seemed rational. Astrology seemed to make as much sense as anything.


Seen from [the junta’s] perspective, the notion of an American invasion might not seem far-fetched. They are a ruling clique of soldiers whose background is jungle warfare and who know little of the outside world.


In January, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice included Myanmar in a list of “outposts of tyranny,” along with North Korea, Cuba, Iran, Zimbabwe and Belarus.

Officials in Myanmar sometimes offer visitors a list of their own: Panama, Grenada, Somalia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq – places where the United States has sent armed forces.

Well, I guess I can see why they might fear an American attack, but they really are out of touch and paranoid if they think we can spare enough troops to invade a country that doesn’t have any oil.

16 comments November 14th, 2005 at 06:51pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Weirdness

Guilty Even After Proven Innocent

Very disturbing column in today’s Washington Post, written by P. Sabin Willett, a defense lawyer for some of the Gitmo detainees:

As the Senate prepared to vote Thursday to abolish the writ of habeas corpus, Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jon Kyl were railing about lawyers like me. Filing lawsuits on behalf of the terrorists at Guantanamo Bay. Terrorists! Kyl must have said the word 30 times.

As I listened, I wished the senators could meet my client Adel.

Adel is innocent. I don’t mean he claims to be. I mean the military says so. It held a secret tribunal and ruled that he is not al Qaeda, not Taliban, not a terrorist. The whole thing was a mistake: The Pentagon paid $5,000 to a bounty hunter, and it got taken.

The military people reached this conclusion, and they wrote it down on a memo, and then they classified the memo and Adel went from the hearing room back to his prison cell. He is a prisoner today, eight months later. And these facts would still be a secret but for one thing: habeas corpus.

Only habeas corpus got Adel a chance to tell a federal judge what had happened. Only habeas corpus revealed that it wasn’t just Adel who was innocent — it was Abu Bakker and Ahmet and Ayoub and Zakerjain and Sadiq — all Guantanamo “terrorists” whom the military has found innocent.


In a wiser past, we tried Nazi war criminals in the sunlight. Summing up for the prosecution at Nuremberg, Robert Jackson said that “the future will never have to ask, with misgiving: ‘What could the Nazis have said in their favor?’ History will know that whatever could be said, they were allowed to say…. The extraordinary fairness of these hearings is an attribute of our strength.”


The secretary of defense chained Adel, took him to Cuba, imprisoned him and sends teams of lawyers to fight any effort to get his case heard. Now the Senate has voted to lock down his only hope, the courts, and to throw away the key forever. Before they do this, I have a last request on his behalf. I make it to the 49 senators who voted for this amendment.

The technical detail here is that Adel is an Uighur, a member of China’s repressed Muslim minority, and therefore might not be safe in his home country. But the DoD has been saying this for over two years now, while claiming to be searching for a safe haven for him. This would be a lot more believable if they weren’t trying to cover up his status and suppress his attempts to gain release. It sounds like an excuse to keep an inconvenient and embarrassing person under wraps; not sincere concern for his well-being.

In other words, not only are we holding people prisoner indefinitely who have not been convicted of terrorism, we are also indefinitely holding people who have been acquitted of terrorism. The Republican gremlins (and some of their allegedly Democratic friends) are nibbling away at the Constitution while America sleeps. Will there be anything left when we wake up?

November 14th, 2005 at 03:43pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Constitution,Prisoners,Republicans,Terrorism

Tell Me Again What Durbin Apologized For?

Interesting Op-Ed piece in the NYT today:

Fearful of future terrorist attacks and frustrated by the slow progress of intelligence-gathering from prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Pentagon officials turned to the closest thing on their organizational charts to a school for torture. That was a classified program at Fort Bragg, N.C., known as SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape. Based on studies of North Korean and Vietnamese efforts to break American prisoners, SERE was intended to train American soldiers to resist the abuse they might face in enemy custody.

The Pentagon appears to have flipped SERE’s teachings on their head, mining the program not for resistance techniques but for interrogation methods. At a June 2004 briefing, the chief of the United States Southern Command, Gen. James T. Hill, said a team from Guantanamo went “up to our SERE school and developed a list of techniques” for “high-profile, high-value” detainees. General Hill had sent this list – which included prolonged isolation and sleep deprivation, stress positions, physical assault and the exploitation of detainees’ phobias – to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who approved most of the tactics in December 2002.

Some within the Pentagon warned that these tactics constituted torture, but a top adviser to Secretary Rumsfeld justified them by pointing to their use in SERE training, a senior Pentagon official told us last month.


SERE methods are classified, but the program’s principles are known. It sought to recreate the brutal conditions American prisoners of war experienced in Korea and Vietnam, where Communist interrogators forced false confessions from some detainees, and broke the spirits of many more, through Pavlovian and other conditioning. Prolonged isolation, sleep deprivation, painful body positions and punitive control over life’s most intimate functions produced overwhelming stress in these prisoners. Stress led in turn to despair, uncontrollable anxiety and a collapse of self-esteem. Sometimes hallucinations and delusions ensued. Prisoners who had been through this treatment became pliable and craved companionship, easing the way for captors to obtain the “confessions” they sought.

…At Guantanamo, SERE-trained mental health professionals [worked] with guards and medical personnel to uncover resistant prisoners’ vulnerabilities. “We know if you’ve been despondent; we know if you’ve been homesick,” General Hill said. “That is given to interrogators and that helps the interrogators’ make their plans.”


A full account of how our leaders reacted to terrorism by re-engineering Red Army methods must await an independent inquiry. But the SERE model’s embrace by the Pentagon’s civilian leaders is further evidence that abuse tantamount to torture was national policy, not merely the product of rogue freelancers. After the shock of 9/11 – when Americans desperately wanted mastery over a world that suddenly seemed terrifying – this policy had visceral appeal. But it’s the task of command authority to connect means and ends rationally. The Bush administration has too frequently failed to do this. And so it is urgent that Congress step in to tie our detainee policy to our national interest.

So when Dick Durbin compared our treatment of detainees to that of Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union and was subsequently vilified to the point of tearful apology for it, it was not hyperbole – it was quite literally true. We have become the enemy.

Also note that this utterly obliterates the “few bad apples” defense that the military and the administration shamefully and successfully deployed when the Abu Ghraib torture photos first surfaced. There are some other interesting nuggets as well, such as an observation that the primary goal of the Communist torturers SERE emulated was false confessions, not actionable intelligence.

1 comment November 14th, 2005 at 11:40am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Constitution,Prisoners,Republicans,Terrorism,Torture

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