Posts filed under 'Terrorism'

Nonexistent Right-Wing Extremists Strike Again

Right-wing extremists? What right-wing extremists? Oh, those right-wing extremists.

Even Fox News is admitting that yeah, maybe the liberal hippie DHS may have been onto something after all. Woohoo.

June 10th, 2009 at 06:29pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Racism,Republicans,Terrorism

Nope, No Right-Wing Violence Or Incitement At All…

Oh yeah, all those accusations about the right wing inciting violence are totally overblown…

Internet radio host Hal Turner — accused of inciting Catholics to “take up arms” and singling out two Connecticut lawmakers and a state ethics official on a website — was taken into custody in New Jersey late Wednesday after state Capitol police in Connecticut obtained a warrant for his arrest.

Turner, who has been identified as a white supremacist and anti-Semite by several anti-racism groups, hosts an Internet radio program with an associated blog. On Tuesday, the blog included a post that promised to release the home addresses of state Rep. Michael Lawlor, state Sen. Andrew McDonald and Thomas Jones of the State Ethics Office.

(…)

The blog of the “Turner Radio Network” recounted the matter, then included the following remarks in a section labeled “commentary:”

“It is our intent to foment direct action against these individuals personally. These beastly government officials should be made an example of as a warning to others in government: Obey the Constitution or die.”

And, the post continued, “If any state attorney, police department or court thinks they’re going to get uppity with us about this, I suspect we have enough bullets to put them down, too.”

But wait, there’s more!

Anti-choice groups across the nation are busy insisting that since they didn’t personally pull the trigger, their protests, harassment, and hate speech are not to blame for the murder of Kansas abortion provider Dr. George Tiller.  Yet some anti-choice activists — even now — seem only too happy to aid and abet the crazy ones who will resort to violence.   Or else why, three days after the assassination of a medical doctor who provides late-term abortions, did Jill Stanek post on her blog photographs of the clinic of Dr. LeRoy Carhart, another physician who provides late-term abortions and who has said he is willing to take over providing services at Dr. Tiller’s clinic?

By way of introduction, Stanek writes, “Let’s take a station break to view photos of Carhart’s “nondescript building,” taken in March 2009 on the day it reopened following refurbishment after a fire (NOT blamed on pro-lifers). It was almost immediately shut down because Carhart reopened without getting an occupancy permit, as I previously reported, and was running his electricity off a generator…”  She and her readers just want “to take a look.”  Why?  She wants to prove her point that it’s a dingy building?  Over Carhart’s safety, and the safety of his staff and patients?

Jill Not-Stanek at Feministe has a great comment on the right’s perverse sense of victimhood:

Hilariously, Stanek has the nerve to suggest that pro-choicers are “intimidating” anti-choicers when we say that calling abortion a “holocaust,” referring to abortion providers as “baby-killers,” and publicizing personal information about abortion providers just may encourage violence against them. Get that one straight, kids: Criticizing the terms that anti-choicers use is “intimidation” bordering on a violation of Constitutional rights. Shooting, bombing, assaulting, stalking, harassing and threatening abortion providers, or encouraging others to do so (and providing them with the necessary tools and information), is “a movement of nonviolence.”

Yes, that seems totally reasonable – the Republican perspective in a wingnutshell.

June 4th, 2009 at 07:19am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Choice,Republicans,Terrorism

No! Really?

This can only be good for Republicans!

The AP obtained partial results from a GOP poll that showed Republicans “are widely viewed by the public as less competent than Democrats to handle issue ranging from health care to education and energy.”

“Democrats were favored by a margin of 61% to 29% on education; 59% to 30% on health care and 59% to 31% on energy. Congress is expected to consider major legislation later this year in all three areas.”

“Democats were also viewed with more confidence in handling taxes, long a Republican strong suit. The only issue among nine in the survey where the two parties were rated as even was in the war on terror.”

Wow, no-one could have anticipated that FUCKING UP EVERY SINGLE THING YOU TOUCH might have an adverse effect on perceptions of your competence.

And while that last sentence may sound like a bit of a silver lining, remember that terrorism is supposed to be the one issue that the GOP totally owns, and they’re tied with the Democrats?  The Republicans are so screwed right now, and they have no-one but themselves to blame.  Not only was their flagship administration criminal and incompetent, but they chose to completely abdicate their responsibility to rein in that criminality and incompetence.

Chickens, meet roost.

(h/t Phoenix Woman)

April 30th, 2009 at 07:59pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Democrats,Politics,Polls,Republicans,Terrorism

More Torture Than Not

Well, that makes, like, one Republican in Congress who’s semi-rational on torture – or at least, that’s what I thought at first:

Rep. Don Manzullo apparently disagrees with his GOP colleague John Shimkus on the issue of “enhanced interrogations,” according to the comments he made an interview with WGN Radio’s John Williams this morning. Listen to this particular exchange, in which the Rockford Republican acknowledges — after Williams recounted the case of Abu Zubaydah — that “apparently waterboarding doesn’t work” (WGN has posted full audio of part one and part two of the interview).

Later in the interview, when asked by Williams whether waterboarding consitutes torture, Manzullo responded, “It’s more torture than not.”

It’s all downhill from there, though:

But Manzullo and Shimkus still agree on one crucial and disturbing point: Those in the Bush administration who authorized torture should not face any legal repercussions for their actions. Manzullo justifies his position using a variety of rationales, none of which hold up to much scrutiny.

For example, after admitting that waterboarding is torture, Manzullo tells Williams that he doesn’t think any laws were broken:

WILLIAMS: So you don’t think there were any U.S. laws or any international laws that we should look into. Nothing went wrong here? No laws were broken?

MANZULLO: Probably at this point, not.

WILLIAMS: You’re kidding?

MANZULLO: Probably.

WILLIAMS: You’ve read, I’m sure, the torture memos. You don’t think any laws were broken?

MANZULLO: It depends upon whether or not you think that the enemy combatants come under the Geneva Accords. …. That in itself there is a split of legal opinion.

Um.

This here is my favorite part:

Yet while Manzullo acknowledges that waterboarding “doesn’t work,” he doesn’t seem convinced that we should stop torturing. As you can hear in the first clip posted above, he erects an elaborate hypothetical in which a school locked and filled with 500 students is set to be bombed in 30 minutes and a person with knowledge of the school’s keys is in custody. “That,” he tells Williams, “would be a very unusual situation where anything goes in order to exact the codes and stop that slaughter.”

Damn.  Someone watches waaaay too much 24.  Since when do terrorists do anything remotely resembling that scenario?  “Exact the codes”?  WTF?

April 28th, 2009 at 10:19pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Republicans,Terrorism,Torture

It’s Not A Bug, It’s A Feature

As I’ve said before, the fact that torture does not provide actionable intelligence was never a deterrent for the Bush administration, since they were a lot more interested in propagandizable intelligence.  False confessions are what torture gets you, and that’s just exactly what BushCo. wanted:

“There were two reasons why these interrogations were so persistent, and why extreme methods were used,” the former senior intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity.

“The main one is that everyone was worried about some kind of follow-up attack (after 9/11). But for most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there.”

It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al Qaida detainees repeatedly — Abu Zubeida at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Mohammed 183 times in March 2003 — according to a newly released Justice Department document.

Jim White actually speculated about this on Sunday, and now it’s confirmed.

Amazingly enough, Zubeida and KSM were able to resist – possibly because they had no idea what their torturers were talking about.  And in the end, it didn’t really matter, since we ended up invading Iraq anyway.

April 22nd, 2009 at 06:12am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Iraq,Prisoners,Republicans,Terrorism,Torture,War

Co-Wanker Of The Day, Part III

I know, right? So many wankers, so little time.

Shorter Wingnut Law Center: ZOMG Obama wants to take away our veterans’ constitutional right to join hate groups and kill people!

April 20th, 2009 at 08:50pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Constitution,Elections,Media,Obama,Republicans,Terrorism,Wankers

Conservatives Switch Sides In War On Terror

Apparently it is now unacceptable for the DHS to focus on violent extremists if even a handful of them are troops and veterans.

Republicans are now arguing that, for politically correct and politically expedient reasons, we should ignore this possible domestic terror threat identified by George Bush’s FBI and George Bush’s Department of Defense.

I understand that it’s politically correct, and fun political fodder, for Republicans to express false outrage over a new Department of Homeland Security report that noted, among other things, that right-wing extremists were trying to recruit US military members. But are the Republicans really now saying that Homeland Security should not keep an eye on terrorists’ efforts to recruit former US military members?

Yes, they are.

(…)

The Bush administration’s FBI and DOD documents thousands of cases of US soldiers being members of far-right extremist groups. Yet the Republicans are now saying that our anti-terror organizations should not keep an eye on this potential domestic terror threat because it wouldn’t be politically correct.

….Republicans don’t think the Dept. of Homeland Security should be paying any attention at all to domestic terrorists’ efforts to recruit members of the US military, because they think “defending the military” will earn them political points, even if it means risking another Oklahoma City style terrorist attack, killing hundreds of thousands of Americans in the process. Saving the country from another Great Depression or another major terrorist attack has taken a back seat to earning political points.

In other news, prominent conservatives have objected to repeated descriptions of the sky as “blue,” arguing that it is the height of presumption to claim that the heavens themselves lean Democratic.  House Minority Leader John Boehner has demanded an immediate halt to this baseless attack on the Republican Party’s legitimacy.

April 16th, 2009 at 08:44pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Politics,Republicans,Terrorism,War

Why Does Dubya Hate Patriotic Conservative Americans?

Remember that DHS report on right-wing extremists that came out on Monday and which conservatives took remarkably personally? I know it’s hard to believe that it took more than a couple of months to slap together, but it’s true:

Fox News’s Catherine Herridge revealed that the report, along with an earlier report on radicalized left-wing groups, was actually “requested by the Bush administration” but not completed until recently:

HERRIDGE: Well this is an element of the story which has largely gone unreported. One looks at right-wing groups, as you mentioned. And a second is on left-wing groups. Significantly, both were requested by the Bush administration but not finished until President Bush left office.

Herridge’s reporting undermines her network’s own “reporting” over the past 24 hours. Since news of the DHS assessment broke yesterday, Fox anchors and guests have been seizing upon the report as evidence that the administration is trying to intimidate tea party goers or “stifle speech”:

– ANDREA TANTAROS: It’s free speech and the Obama administration is trying to shut it down.

– JAY ALAN SEKULOW: The Obama administration here under Department of Homeland Security has allowed a new regime to come into place that basically says this: Our focus is going to be on the right-wing groups.

– SEAN HANNITY: What do you think of that interpretation, especially coming from a guy that started his political career in the home of an unrepentant terrorist who bombed the Pentagon and capital and sat in Reverend Wright’s church for 20 years?

– DANA PERINO: If Bush had done that we would be having a very different conversation. It wouldn’t have taken a week to find it out. There would have been a special prosecutor. We would have had to come out and apologize.

Because it’s totally inconceivable that right-wing extremists could actually pose a threat (I mean, when have right-wing extremists ever harmed anyone?), so therefore this must be a liberal political hit job.

And if you need further proof that conservatives have absolutely no understanding of what these DHS reports are actually for, check out Tantaros complaining that the DHS report on left-wing extremists doesn’t include ACORN or Code Pink.

April 16th, 2009 at 07:16am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Media,Republicans,Terrorism

Rush Discovers Compassion For Evildoers

Hey, remember when Rush was mocking concerns about prisoner treatment at Gitmo and claiming that we were treating them too well?  Looks like he has a totally different outlook towards bad guys that Obama acts against:

You know what we have learned about the Somali pirates, the merchant marine organizers that were wiped out at the order of Barack Obama, you know what we learned about them?  They were teenagers.  The Somali pirates, the merchant marine organizers who took a US merchant captain hostage for five days were inexperienced youths, the defense secretary, Roberts Gates, said yesterday, adding that the hijackers were between 17 and 19 years old.  Now, just imagine the hue and cry had a Republican president ordered the shooting of black teenagers on the high seas.  Greetings and welcome back, Rush Limbaugh, the Excellence in Broadcasting Network and the Limbaugh Institute for Advanced Conservative Studies.

They were kids.  The story is out, I don’t know if it’s true or not, but apparently the hijackers, these kids, the merchant marine organizers, Muslim kids, were upset, they wanted to just give the captain back and head home because they were running out of food, they were running out of fuel, they were surrounded by all these US Navy ships, big ships, and they just wanted out of there.  That’s the story, but then when one of them put a gun to the back of the captain, Mr. Phillips, then bam, bam, bam.  There you have it, and three teenagers shot on the high seas at the order of President Obama.

So, to sum up: Guilty, possibly teenage Muslims killed at Obama’s order is heartless and bad.  Innocent, definitely teenage Muslims illegally imprisoned and tortured at Bush’s order is Teh Awesome.

Is it that the pirates so perfectly embody the modern conservative might-makes-right/take-what-you-want ethos, or is it that Rush so desperately wants Obama to fail that he’s rooting for pirates now?

I predict that if American troops find and kill bin Laden during Obama’s term, Rush will suddenly become the world’s biggest advocate for due process.

UPDATE: Ah. I am informed that Rush was apparently deploying “irony”. I was wondering about that.

He still can’t stand the fact that Obama was able to pull the trigger and do something tough, even if it was kind of a no-brainer.

April 15th, 2009 at 07:10am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Media,Obama,Prisoners,Republicans,Terrorism,Torture,Wankers

Bush OLCer Laments That Obama DOJ Not As Ethical As Dubya’s (No, Really)

Yes, overriding the OLC on voting rights for DC is far, far worse than providing legal justifications for warrantless wiretapping, torture, and unlimited detention without due process.  This right here is my favorite part:

Holder didn’t ask for Katyal’s best judgment as to whether the D.C. bill was constitutional. He instead asked merely whether his own position that the bill is constitutional was so beyond the pale, so beneath the low level of plausible lawyers’ arguments, so legally frivolous, that the Solicitor General’s office, under its traditional commitment to defend any federal law for which any reasonable defense can be offered, wouldn’t be able to defend it in court.

Oh yeah, that’s a much more inappropriate standard than “Would I fight tooth and nail to keep this legal judgment from ever seeing the light of day?”, which was still higher than the bar used by the Bush administration.

This was also priceless:

Edward Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, served as principal deputy in OLC from 2001 to 2004. His portfolio did not include national security matters.

You know, I can’t remember the last time I ever saw one of those blurbs describing what the writer is not.  I can only assume that it was an attempt to somehow preserve his credibility and make his argument look less laughable.  Didn’t work.

April 7th, 2009 at 11:18am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Constitution,Corruption/Cronyism,Obama,Politics,Terrorism,Torture,Wankers

Right-Wing Spin Of The Week

Gary Bauer (no relation to Jack, to his eternal regret) agrees that Gitmo is turning prisoners into terrorists… but not through mistreatment:

[W]hile many liberal commentators believe inhumane treatment and religious persecution transforms detainees into suicide bombers and high-level terrorists, I believe the opposite is true: that the unprecedented and extreme religious accommodation granted to Gitmo prisoners has created a culture of Islamic radicalization.

(…)

Media reports of life at Gitmo highlight the extreme accommodation of religious practice. Prison guards go through special sensitivity training. Each Muslim detainee is provided with a Koran, which, in accordance with Muslim teaching, is never touched by non-Muslims (i.e. the prison guards). Each prisoner receives prayer beads, culturally appropriate halal meals, prayer rugs, daily calls to prayer, and each cell contains a stenciled arrow pointing the way to Mecca.

(…)

Harsh treatment regularly comes from the prisoners themselves. Muslim detainees who decline to submit to radicalization are ostracized. As one Afghan detainee told the Miami Herald, “There were detainees who did not pray or who spoke with female soldiers. We stopped speaking with these men. Sometimes we beat them.” The culture of radicalization is so pervasive at Gitmo that some former U.S. officials have called it the “American madrassa.”

Yes, that’s right, Gitmo is breeding terrorists by being too nice. Amazingly, Bauer makes no mention of the two types of fruit.

March 23rd, 2009 at 09:44pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Prisoners,Republicans,Terrorism,Wankers

Musical Torture

NYT’s Robert Mackey focuses on the use of rap and heavy metal music to torture detainees.  It’s about as awful as you’d expect, but it gets downright weird at the end:

But since the idea that being forced to listen to a certain song or record can be described as “torture” often strikes people hearing about it as funny, reports of the tactic are often cast in a comic light.

Mr. Piore later told the British writer Jon Ronson that when he called his editor at Newsweek from Iraq to describe the use of loud music on detainees, “I was told to write it as a humorous thing.” After Mr. Piore filed his report, Newsweek stressed the fact that one of the songs blared at detainees in Iraq was the theme from the children’s television show “Barney” and added a comic kicker to his the story:

The sledgehammer riffs of Metallica, that’s understandable. But can children’s songs really break a strong mind? (Two current favorites are the “Sesame Street” theme song and the crooning purple dinosaur Barney — for 24 hours straight.) In search of comment from Barney’s people, Hit Entertainment, Newsweek endured five minutes of Barney while on hold. Yes, it broke us, too.

In Jon Ronson’s book on the American military’s development and use of psychological operations, “The Men Who Stare at Goats” (soon to be a major motion picture, starring George Clooney, Kevin Spacey and Ewan McGregor), he writes that while loud music was used on detainees in Guantánamo, other sorts or sounds were deployed as well, often in puzzling ways.

Jamal al-Harith, another British man who was released from Guantánamo, told Mr. Ronson that recordings of loud screeches and bangs, “jumbled noises,” were played by his interrogators — and also that at one stage during his interrogation, he was asked to listen to songs played at normal volume for no apparent reason. According to Mr. Harith, an interrogator baffled him by playing CDs including one by a Fleetwood Mac cover band, another with a selection of Kris Kristofferson’s greatest hits, and an album by Matchbox Twenty. As Mr. Ronson notes in his book, Matchbox Twenty was one of the bands Mr. Piore found listed on the PsyOps playlist in Iraq.

The editor’s urging to trivialize psychological torture is pretty despicable, but… Matchbox Twenty?  Of all the potential weapons in thePsyOps toolkit, they chose Matchbox Twenty???

4 comments March 9th, 2009 at 07:41pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Prisoners,Terrorism,Torture

Republicans Admit To Wanting To Destroy America

Pete Sessions (R-Qaeda) spills the beans:

“Insurgency, we understand perhaps a little bit more because of the Taliban,” Sessions said during a meeting yesterday with Hotline editors. “And that is that they went about systematically understanding how to disrupt and change a person’s entire processes. And these Taliban — I’m not trying to say the Republican Party is the Taliban. No, that’s not what we’re saying. I’m saying an example of how you go about [sic] is to change a person from their messaging to their operations to their frontline message. And we need to understand that insurgency may be required when the other side, the House leadership, does not follow the same commands, which we entered the game with.”

(…)

“If they do not give us those options or opportunities then we will then become insurgency of a nature to where we do those things that are necessary to making sure the American public knows what we think the correct answer is,” Sessions said during the 60-minute interview. “So we either work together, or we’re going to find a way to get our message out.”

When pressed to clarify, Sessions said he was not comparing the House Republican caucus to the Taliban, the Muslim fundamentalist group.

“I simply said one can see that there’s a model out there for insurgency,” Sessions said before being interrupted by an aide. The staffer said Sessions was trying to convey that the Republicans need to start thinking about how to act strategically from their perch in the minority.

I guess this explains why they’re so willing to risk political suicide by blowing up the stimulus bill – it’s what their role model would call a “martyrdom operation.”

(Sadly, I fear that if they blow up the stimulus, Obama will take the blame for not capitulating to the right enough, but I don’t think it’s a sure thing either way.)

February 6th, 2009 at 07:30am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Politics,Republicans,Terrorism

An Early Victory In BushCo’s War On Humanity

Shorter Rummy: What part of “don’t feel bound by the Geneva Conventions” didn’t you understand?

The story begins in the first week of January 2002, when Joint Task Force 160, led by Marine Brig. Gen. Michael Lehnert, dutifully landed at Guantanamo Bay….

…[I]t wasn’t the logistics that most worried Lehnert. It was the policy vacuum into which he and his troops had been thrown. “We are writing the book as we go,” one officer said at the time. Lehnert said he had been told by the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the Geneva Conventions would not technically apply to his mission: He was to act in a manner “consistent with” the conventions (as the mantra went) but not to feel bound by them….

In the absence of new policy guidance about how to treat the detainees, Lehnert told me that he felt he had no choice but to rely on the regulations already in place, ones in which the military was well schooled: the Uniform Code of Military Justice, other U.S. laws and, above all, the Geneva Conventions. The detainees, no matter what their official status, were essentially to be considered enemy prisoners of war, a status that mandated basic standards of humane treatment….

(…)

But there were early signs of trouble. Lehnert told me that his request to bring representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to Guantanamo — something international law requires for all prisoners being held in war-related situations — was, as he heard it, shunted aside somewhere up the chain of command. “The initial request,” he recalled, “was turned down.” He persisted….  [H]e wanted advice from ICRC professionals to help him ensure the prisoners’ safety and dignity.

Exasperated by repeated attempts to find out which guidelines to apply to the detainees, Col. Manuel Supervielle, the head JAG at Southern Command, picked up the phone and called the ICRC’s headquarters in Geneva. As one member of the Southern Command staff remembers the episode, the Joint Chiefs of Staff had warned the Gitmo task force that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s office opposed getting involved with the ICRC. But now, according to Supervielle, a U.S. officer was asking the ICRC to help out at Guantanamo. The ICRC answered with an immediate “Yes.”

(…)

Brig. Gen. Lehnert had built his own Guantanamo, one with ICRC oversight, a Muslim chaplain and an overriding ethos that stressed codified law and the unwritten rules of human decency. Lehnert’s team let the detainees talk among themselves; it provided halal food, an additional washing bucket inside cells that lacked toilet facilities, a Koran for each detainee, skullcaps and prayer beads for those who wanted them, and undergarments for the prisoners to wear at shower time, in accordance with Islamic laws that proscribe public nakedness.

Perhaps Lehnert’s Guantanamo could have been sustained. But Rumsfeld wanted something else: He expected to get valuable, actionable intelligence from the detainees. By late January 2002, according to Brig. Gen. Galen B. Jackman, Lehnert’s chief contact at Southern Command, the defense secretary told officers on a video conference call with Southern Command that he was frustrated by the absence of such information.

A displeased Rumsfeld seems to have decided to create a second command, one that would exist side by side with Lehnert’s. It would be devoted solely to gathering intelligence and would be headed by a reservist major general, a former U.S. Army interrogator during the Vietnam War named Michael Dunlavey. Jackman told me that he considered the idea of two parallel commands a “recipe for disaster.”….

As Dunlavey’s command took shape in late February and early March, the fabric of prisoner’s rights that Lehnert had woven was beginning to unravel. By the end of February, nearly 200 detainees had mounted a hunger strike to protest their treatment….

(…)

Thanks in large part to Lehnert’s efforts, the hunger strike dwindled to a couple of dozen fasters by the first week of March. But as much as he might have championed the need to respect the detainees as individuals — albeit allegedly dangerous terrorists — Guantanamo’s future had been decided. As the hunger strike wound down, Lehnert said, he and his unit were given notice that they would soon be leaving.

Once Lehnert’s troops departed, a new Guantanamo took shape — the Guantanamo that an appalled world has come to know over the past seven years. Inmates were kept in isolation, interrogation became the core mission, hunger strikers were regularly force-fed, and above all, the promise of a legal resolution to the detainees’ cases has eluded hundreds of prisoners.

It’s a little hard to believe that “actionable intelligence” was really a goal when Gitmo’s recordkeeping was such a mess – more likely that torture was an end in itself, or valued only as collective punishment, or a tool for extracting propaganda in the form of fake terror plots.

It’s not like we needed any further proof that concepts like human decency and the rule of law are completely anathema to Bush and his creatures, but it just keeps coming.  Even now, they’re still fighting a desperate rearguard action against them, trying to block Obama from closing Gitmo and giving the detainees proper trials.

2 comments January 25th, 2009 at 01:55pm Posted by Eli

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

Dumbass Of The Week

You have got to be kidding me…

The War on Terror has officially lapped stupid:

A US citizen was booted from a Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul to New York after he complained there were “Arab types” on board, Turkish news media reported.

Daniel Sussman Pincus, whose age and hometown were not given but who was described in one report as an American of German origin, shouted his complaints as the flight was preparing to depart Monday.

Imagine that, “Arab types” aboard a Turkish Airlines flight departing from Istanbul.  Why, I bet there were even some Muslim-esque individuals on board!   The nerve of some people!  You’d think they’d have been a bit more sensitive to Mr. Pincus’ bedwetting sensibilities.

I can’t really add anything to the The Poor Man’s analysis, other than to once again cringe in embarrassment at the idiocy and ignorance of my countrymen.  And to sadly observe that had it been an American airline, it probably would have been the “Arab types” getting booted off the plane.

(h/t Julia)

January 24th, 2009 at 03:50pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Racism,Republicans,Terrorism

Tell Me Again About How Torture Keeps Us Safe

I mean, it’s not like it’s particularly effective at providing useful intelligence:

Interrogators are lauding President Obama for signing an executive order that will shut down secret CIA prisons and place the use of coercive interrogation techniques completely off limits.

“[The order] closes an unconscionable period in our history, in which those who knew least, professed to know most about interrogations,” said Joe Navarro, a former special agent and supervisor with the FBI.

“Some die-hards on the right – who have never interrogated anyone — are already arguing that forcing interrogations to be conducted within army field manual guidelines is a step backward and will result in ‘coddling’ dangerous terrorists,” retired Colonel Stuart Herrington, who served for more than 30 years as a military intelligence officer, said soon after the order was signed. “This is a common, but uninformed view. Experienced, well-trained, professional interrogators know that interrogation is an art. It is a battle of wits, not muscle. It is a challenge that can be accomplished within the military guidelines without resorting to brutality.

(…)

Getting a suspected terrorist to talk is much more subtle than what one typically sees in the movies or on TV. A new book, “How to Break A Terrorist” by Matthew Alexander (a pseudonym), provides an inside look at how interrogation can yield more information if it is done humanely.

Alexander developed the intelligence that led U.S. forces to Al Zarqawi, the former chief of Al Qaeda in Iraq. While some were using abusive techniques to try to crack detainees, Alexander used a smarter, more sophisticated approach. He learned what the detainees cared about and then used that information to get what he wanted.

(…)

To illustrate how torture can lead to poor intelligence, Nelson cites the case of Al Libi, a detainee who was tortured and, under duress, gave misinformation about a connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda. (Secretary Colin Powell quoted intelligence gained from Al Libi as justification to go to war with Iraq.)….

The challenge we face does not have to do with so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques,’ ” said Nelson. “We don’t want those. What we do need is to build a world-class interrogation corps. To do that, we need to pay more attention to recruiting, training, and managing interrogators. President Obama’s executive order is an important first step but there is still more to do.”

Better interrogation, yes.  “Enhanced” interrogation, no.  They are not the same thing.  Torture is certainly easier – any sadist orsociopath off the street can do it.

But that’s not the only way that torture fails to make us safer:

One hesitates to say this will amount to anything, but Marc Lynch notes that Mohammed Essam Derbala, a leader of Ayman Zawahiri’s Egyptian terrorist group that merged with Al Qaeda in 1998, today urged his former confederates to declare a unilateral ceasefire to “test Barack Obama’s pledges to establish a new relationship with the Islamic world and to close Guantanamo.”…..

(…)

Let’s be clear about a few things. Derbala has no power to call for or enforce any Al Qaeda ceasefire. But consider how overwhelmingly significant it is that a former terrorist of such obvious credibility would say something like this. And why’d he say it? Because Barack Obama just renounced torture. He put the United States on a clear path to repudiating the detentions, interrogations and, as important, humiliations that Muslims consider the U.S. to have inflicted not just on terrorists, but the entire Muslim world. Part of Al Qaeda’s entire propagandistic message is that the U.S. is an unchanging brutish entity determined to subjugate the Muslim world. What Obama did today severely complicates that narrative. But it’s not enough for us to consider the narrative to be complicated — it takes Muslim figures of credibility to say so. That’s what Derbala just did.

This is what Carl Levin was getting at earlier today when he said that renouncing torture would have security benefits for the United States. It’s, of course, unclear what Al Qaeda would do. But in an important sense, Al Qaeda isn’t the target audience here. It’s the pool of potential Al Qaeda recruits. In March, an Air Force colonel in Iraq briefed reporters on what motivated foreign fighters to come to Iraq instead of remaining in their home countries living a normal life. The answer was often “an image from Abu Ghraib.” That’s what Obama’s actions today have taken off the table for the U.S.’s adversaries. Its importance shouldn’t be underestimated.

Torture is not just ineffective and morally wrong; it makes the Muslim world hate us, and makes al Qaeda’s recruiting easier.  It may have been very satisfying to Dubya and Cheney’s thuggish mentality to know that Bad Things were happening to people they don’t like, but it compromised both our intelligence-gathering capabilities and our moral standing.  And forwhat?

January 23rd, 2009 at 07:24am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Foreign Policy,Obama,Prisoners,Terrorism,Torture

It’s On.

Holy crap.

Looks like Israel has decided to invade Gaza to try to take out Hamas once and for all, and too bad for anyone else who happens to be living there.  I guess they were inspired by how well our invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq went, and how effective they were at neutralizing terrorism.  Because if there’s one thing we’ve proven, it’s that nothing succeeds like unchecked brutality, right?

Israel has fallen into a trap similar to the one the Bush administration fell into with al Qaeda: elevating their enemies into an existential threat.  Of course, in Israel’s case, Hamas is a democratically-elected government which actually showed some willingness to negotiate.  They are not al Qaeda, and they are not the second coming of Nazi Germany.

But if they weren’t implacable enemies of Israel before, I’m pretty sure they are now – and unlike al Qaeda and the U.S., they’re right next door. Violence will only beget more violence, and death will only beget more death.

Today is a sad and tragic day for Palestine, but the future will be sad and tragic for both Palestine and Israel.

3 comments January 3rd, 2009 at 02:15pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Afghanistan,Iraq,Terrorism,War

Carrots And Honey

Still more evidence that while torture may be satisfying to sadists and useful to propagandists, it’s as ineffective as it is immoral:

In response to Steve’s probing questions, Naji proudly explained that his father was grooming him to be a mujahedin and a future leader of Al Qaeda. He also said that his father took him to important meetings.

A veteran interrogator the night before had told us we “should show the little punk who’s in charge.” This was the attitude of many of the old guard, the interrogators who had been at Guantanamo Bay and in Afghanistan and Iraq early in the war, when the “gloves were off.” They mocked those of us who didn’t imitate their methods of interrogation, which were based on fear and control. There was tremendous peer pressure to follow in their footsteps and not appear soft on our enemies.

We ignored the pressure. We believed that, particularly with a child, interviewing rather than interrogation got better results. Steve had been trained in interviewing children, and he used those skills with Naji, gently stroking the child’s ego and noting that he must have been a very important boy to have attended meetings. Soon, Naji started rattling off places where meetings had taken place. He detailed who was at the gatherings, how many guns were stored at the houses, what was discussed and what plans were made. Naji talked because Steve was sympathetic and made him feel good.

From the information he provided, it was clear that Naji’s father had been a mid- to high-level Al Qaeda leader with connections throughout Yousifiya and Al Anbar province. By the time the interview ended after an hour, Steve had filled up pages in his notebook with detailed information about Naji’s father’s network.

Back in our office, Steve and I marveled at all the intelligence Naji had provided — the names, the locations. He’d pinpointed the better part of Al Qaeda’s operations around Yousifiya. In the two weeks that followed, our soldiers put this information to good use and took out a significant portion of Al Qaeda’s suicide-bombing network in the area. For two weeks, violence dropped and many lives were saved.

(…)

Good interrogation is not an exercise in domination or control. It’s an opportunity for negotiation and compromise. It’s a common ground where the two sides in this war meet, and it’s a grand stage where words become giants, tears flow like rivers and emotions rage like wildfires. It is a forum in which we should always display America’s strengths — cultural understanding, tolerance, compassion and intellect. But that’s not how all interrogators see their role.

According to a recent report from the bipartisan Senate Armed Services Committee, “The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot be attributed to the actions of a ‘few bad apples’ acting on their own.” The effects of the policy that allowed torture to happen at Guantanamo Bay, the report concluded, spread to Iraq through the interrogators who had first been at Guantanamo. The preference for harsh interrogation techniques was extremely counterproductive and harmed our ability to obtain cooperation from Al Qaeda detainees. Even after the old guard interrogators were forced to play by the rules of the Geneva Convention, there was still plenty of leeway for interrogation methods based on fear and control. I believe their continued reliance on such techniques has severely hampered our ability to stop terrorist attacks against U.S. forces and Iraqi civilians.

We will win this war by being smarter, not harsher. For those who would accuse me of being too nice to our enemies, I encourage you to examine our success in hunting down Zarqawi and his network. The drop in suicide bombings in Iraq at two points in the spring and summer of 2006 was a direct result of our smarter interrogation methods.

I used to tell my team in Iraq: “The things that make you a good American are the things that will make you a good interrogator.” We must outlaw torture across every agency of our government, restore our adherence to the American principles passed down to us and, in doing so, better protect Americans from future terrorist attacks.

As Alexander points out, it is not enough simply to outlaw torture.  Until all our interrogators understand that harshness is not the key to intelligence-gathering, they will continue walking up to the edge and being as brutal as they think they can get away with, and they will get nowhere.  Torture is about as effective for intelligence-gathering as invasion and bombing are for winning hearts and minds.  Who knew?

As with politics, the right thing to do is often the smartest thing to do… and also the hardest.

(h/t Brandon Friedman)

December 30th, 2008 at 07:21am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Iraq,Prisoners,Terrorism,Torture

The Lord Will Provide

Amazing:

Under state law, God is Kentucky’s first line of defense against terrorism.

The 2006 law organizing the state Office of Homeland Security lists its initial duty as “stressing the dependence on Almighty God as being vital to the security of the Commonwealth.”

Specifically, Homeland Security is ordered to publicize God’s benevolent protection in its reports, and it must post a plaque at the entrance to the state Emergency Operations Center with an 88-word statement that begins, “The safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God.”

State Rep. Tom Riner, a Southern Baptist minister, tucked the God provision into Homeland Security legislation as a floor amendment that lawmakers overwhelmingly approved two years ago.

As amended, Homeland Security’s religious duties now come before all else, including its distribution of millions of dollars in federal grants and its analysis of possible threats.

The time and energy spent crediting God are appropriate, said Riner, D-Louisville, in an interview this week.

“This is recognition that government alone cannot guarantee the perfect safety of the people of Kentucky,” Riner said. “Government itself, apart from God, cannot close the security gap. The job is too big for government.”

Nonetheless, it is government that operates the Office of Homeland Security in Frankfort, with a budget this year of about $28 million, mostly federal funds….

I don’t see why they need $28 million if they’ve got God watching out for them, but what do I know.  Maybe it’s a backup plan in case God falls asleep on the job.

And apparently God’s not just in charge of homeland security:

If you’re a school principal in Connecticut, it’s possible a group of moms is praying for you every week.

Not because you, specifically, need their prayers (although who among us couldn’t benefit from an extra prayer now and then) but because that’s what these moms do — they get together once a week and pray for their kids’ schools, including the principals, staff and all the students.

They pray for safe classrooms. They pray that bullies will be caught. They pray for an end to the illnesses that sweep through schools, and the homework tantrums their kids throw.

They even pray for Mastery Test scores.

(…)

Although there are Moms In Touch groups scattered around Connecticut, Lawrence said there aren’t any in Hartford, which struggles with some of the deepest problems of any school system in the state.

That’s a situation she’d like to correct.

“I totally believe with all my heart that if every school in Connecticut was prayed for every week it would be totally different,” Lawrence said.

See, we don’t even need money for schools!  Awesome!

Man, it’s a good thing God’s omnipotent, ‘cuz we sure are putting a lot of important stuff on His plate.

(h/t dakine)

8 comments November 29th, 2008 at 07:40pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Education,Religion,Terrorism

What I’ve Been Waiting For

Me in May 2006:

What I want to see the Democrats do this time is refuse to play the Republicans’ game, but call them on it instead. Rather than simply saying, “We do too hate terrorists and gay people just as much as the Republicans! More, even!”, call the Republicans on what they’re doing. Say, “The Republicans have failed and dishonored this country in every way imaginable, and all they can do is campaign on hate and fear. Do they think you’re that easy to distract? Is this all they think you care about?” Americans love to congratulate themselves on their bullshit-detecting abilities, and therefore hate being played. Unfortunately, they hate admitting that they’ve been played even more, which is why so many still cling to the idea that the Republicans actually want what’s best for America, and why the Democrats have to make it very explicit and impossible to dismiss or ignore.

The Multi Medium Manifesto, about a month later (referencing that same post):

The Democrats must start calling the Republicans on their strategy of using smears, fear, and hate every single election. They must make voters realize just how stupid, cowardly, bigoted, and easily distracted the Republicans think they are. When the American people finally reject these tactics, the Republicans will have nothing left – it’s not like they can run on their record or their policy positions.

Today’s Frank Rich column:

For eight years, we’ve been told by those in power that we are small, bigoted and stupid — easily divided and easily frightened. This was the toxic catechism of Bush-Rove politics. It was the soiled banner picked up by the sad McCain campaign, and it was often abetted by an amen corner in the dominant news media….

Almost every assumption about America that was taken as a given by our political culture on Tuesday morning was proved wrong by Tuesday night.

I would have liked to have seen the Democrats more explicitly call the Republicans out for that strategy, but based on the backlash against the ugliness of the McCain campaign (not to mention the even-uglier Liddy Dole campaign), it looks like the American people figured it out all by themselves.  Although, as Rich also notes, it would have been nice to see the GOP’s appeals to homophobia rejected as decisively (or at all).  Still, it’s tremendous progress, and something I never would have believed possible four years ago.

Rich also offers up this thing of beauty that I just have to share:

Even the North Carolina county where Palin expressed her delight at being in the “real America” went for Obama by more than 18 percentage points.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!  Why does “real America” hate America?

2 comments November 9th, 2008 at 03:05pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Elections,Media,Obama,Politics,Racism,Republicans,Terrorism

Republicans Run Torturer For Congress

Yes, that’s right – Republicans still don’t know the difference between 24 and the real world, so they think torturers are actually war heroes:

In August 2003, Colonel Allen West – commanding a US unit in Baghdad – heard a rumour that one of the Iraqi policeman he was working with was a secret insurgent. He ordered his officers to go and seize Yehiya Hamoodi, a thin, bespectacled 31-year-old, from his home. They dragged him into a Humvee, beat him, and then handcuffed, shackled and blindfolded him. In a dank interrogation room, they told him he had better start talking.

Perplexed and terrified, Yehiya explained he didn’t know what they were talking about: why was he here? So West was called in. He told Yehiya he was going to be killed. While his men beat him again, he explained he had one last chance to save his life – by talking.

Yehiya protested: I am innocent! What are you talking about? So West took him outside, had him pinned down, and began to shoot. First he fired into the air. Then he ordered his men to ram Yehiya’s head into a barrel used for cleaning weapons – and fired right next to his head. Then he began to count down from five. Finally Yehiya began to scream out names – any name he could think of, just to make it stop.

The men he named were seized and roughed up in turn. No evidence was found of any plot, and after another 45 days of terror, Yehiya was released. Today, he is severely traumatised, and collapses when he sees a Humvee approaching. The story only came to light after one of West’s soldiers began to protest against these practices, and the Pentagon launched an investigation. At a pre-trial hearing, West was fined $5,000, and now concedes grudgingly: “It’s possible I was wrong about Mr Hamoodi.” But he says he would do it again, and again, and again.

West has even taken to joking about it, gaining applause for telling Republican audiences: “It wasn’t torture. Seeing Rosie O’Donnell naked would be torture.” But the 1994 Convention Against Torture, to which the US is a signatory, is explicit: “Threat of imminent death” is the third form of torture it outlaws. There are reams of studies showing it can traumatise a person for life.

(…)

West’s “toughness” is fawned over; one leading conservative magazine has even named him its Man of the Year. And Sarah Palin, the Party’s darling, mocks Barack Obama’s opposition to torture. She complains: “Al-Qaida terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America [and] he’s worried that someone won’t read them their rights.”…

(…)

The gap between the Republican and Democratic Parties is too narrow, but on this issue it is hefty. The Republicans have curdled into the Party of Torture, bullying their torture-victim nominee into backing their barbarism, and proudly picking a torturer as their candidate for Congress. That sound of screaming from inside the Palin-drome isn’t just from fawning Republicans – it’s from men like Yehiya.

That last paragraph says it all.  It’s pretty hard to deny being the party of torturers when you actually run one for Congress.

For those who are wondering, West is running against first-term Democratic incumbent Ron Klein in FL-22.  It’s a district Kerry won in ’04, and Klein is favored, so hopefully we won’t actually end up with a torturer in Congress.  But again, it’s telling that the Republicans would not only field a torturer for major public office, but actually believe that his background is a selling point.

(h/t Eureka Springs, AR and Stephen Soldz)

1 comment October 30th, 2008 at 07:17am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Constitution,Elections,Politics,Prisoners,Republicans,Terrorism

Everyone Else Expected The Spanish Inquisition

Surprise… and fear!

Every. Single. Time.

Greenspan claimed he was “shocked” because his model “was working exceptionally well” for 40 years, adding that the crisis is “broader than anything I could have imagined”:

GREENSPAN: I also want to discuss how my thinking has evolved and what I have learned this past year. In 2005, I raised concerns that the protracted period of the underpricing of risk if history was any guide would have dire consequences. The crisis, however, has turned out to be much broader than anything I could have imagined.

(…)

Bush administration officials seem to have a systemic lack of imagination, often claiming major — and predictable — crises simply caught them off guard:

9/11: “And I said, ‘No one could have imagined them taking a plane, slamming it into the Pentagon’ — I’m paraphrasing now — ‘into the World Trade Center, using planes as a missile.’” – Condoleezza Rice, to 9/11 Commission

Hurricane Katrina: “The destruction left by Katrina reaches beyond anything we could have imagined.” — Bush, 5/11/06

And Think Progress doesn’t even mention, say, the fact that Iraq was not a cakewalk… or a flowers-and-candy-walk.  Or that deregulating the food supply would result in a frightening spate of toxic food scares.

Of course, they weren’t really failures of imagination.  They were failures of interest, failures of integrity, failures of compassion.  The Republicans simply didn’t care what the outcomes were, so long as they got money and power.  To paraphrase Upton Sinclair, it is difficult to get a man to imagine something when his salary depends upon his not imagining it.

October 23rd, 2008 at 10:33pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Corruption/Cronyism,Economy,Iraq,Katrina,Politics,Republicans,Terrorism,Wankers

Plausible Deniability – Ur Doin It Wrong

So much for the McCain campaign saying that it’s not their fault if some of their supporters get a little worked up and call Obama a terrorist…

According to Time, McCain campaign staffers in Virginia are teaching volunteers to see Barack Obama as having terrorist ‘friends,’ and then providing these volunteers with arguments for persuading voters that Sen. Obama, like Osama Bin Laden, shares responsibility for bombings of the Pentagon.

The report from inside the McCain campaign brings to light an alarming fact: while McCain tells his supporters publicly to refrain from violent rhetoric,  he continues to teach his volunteers rhetoric designed to elicit violent responses.

In the article, Time’s Karen Tumulty recounts her visit to a campaign training session in Gainesville, VA, a strategic center for the McCain ground game in Prince William County.   What Tumulty describes is a training session hosted by by Virginia’s state GOP Chairman Jeffrey M. Frederick in which volunteers were being trained to see Barack Obama as a terrorist.  Tumulty writes:

(…)

With so much at stake, and time running short, Frederick did not feel he had the luxury of subtlety. He climbed atop a folding chair to give 30 campaign volunteers who were about to go canvassing door to door their talking points — for instance, the connection between Barack Obama and Osama bin Laden: “Both have friends that bombed the Pentagon,” he said. “That is scary.”… “And he won’t salute the flag,” one woman added, repeating another myth about Obama. She was quickly topped by a man who called out, “We don’t even know where Senator Obama was really born.” Actually, we do; it’s Hawaii. (link)

The report from inside the McCain campaign is disturbing on several levels.   While McCain has begun chiding his supporters at public rallies for using violent rhetoric, his campaign has taken the opposite tack behind closed doors.   Despite the public image of a campaign not responsible for the violent outbursts of a few followers, the Time report reveals a ground operation actually training its volunteers to elicit violent responses in voters–specifically by making false claims about Barack Obama’s connection to terrorist attacks on U.S. military buildings.

The report confirms that the McCain campaign has staked its chances of winning the Presidency on convincing the public that Barack Obama is on the wrong side of the ‘War on Terror’ and, therefore, his victory in the Presidential election would put the power of the White House in the hands of terrorists.

Tumulty’s report raises serious questions about whether or not John McCain is using campaign rhetori that not only depart from recognized moral boundaries, but risk igniting actual violence.

In particular, by teaching his volunteers to see Barack Obama as similar to Osama Bin Laden–and by training his volunteers to convince voters of the same–McCain is using his presidential campaign to tie his Sen. Obama to the mass murders of September 11, 2001.  In this way, McCain is effectively teaching his suporters to believe that Sen. Obama is not only connected to terrorists, but that Sen. Obama deserves the same punishment as terrorists.

In addition to being despicable and dangerous, I just don’t see how this strategy translates into anything but resounding defeat for McCain and the Republican Party.  Yes, it will probably energize the Limbaugh/Coulter/Savage base, but it will repulse everyone else.  How can they maintain their pose as the salt-of-the-earth family values party after everyone gets a good long luck at the fear and hate gibbering behind the mask?

(Let us not forget that VA is also the state where Bobby May served as a county campaign chair up until recently – is there something in the water?)

3 comments October 12th, 2008 at 05:58pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Elections,McCain,Palin,Politics,Racism,Republicans,Terrorism,Wankers

Quote Of The Day

As much as I liked that Ayn Rand(!) quote, it wasn’t the best thing I read today.  From a dodgy AP scare story about terrorists allying with Latin American drug lords:

Added U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration operations chief Michael Braun: ”It is not in our interest to let that potpourri of scum to come together.”

I bow.  I’m sure I can find some uses for that one.

(h/t dakine)

October 8th, 2008 at 11:42pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Quotes,Terrorism

Domestic Terrorism

So much for “us” being better than “they” are:

On Friday, September 26, the end of a week in which thousands of copies of Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West — the fear-mongering, anti-Muslim documentary being distributed by the millions in swing states via DVDs inserted in major newspapers and through the U.S. mail — were distributed by mail in Ohio, a “chemical irritant” was sprayed through a window of the Islamic Society of Greater Dayton, where 300 people were gathered for a Ramadan prayer service. The room that the chemical was sprayed into was the room where babies and children were being kept while their mothers were engaged in prayers. This, apparently, is what the scare tactic political campaigning of John McCain’s supporters has led to — Americans perpetrating a terrorist attack against innocent children on American soil.

Read the whole diary, it’s horrible.  Because Muslims attacked us on 9/11 and are shooting at our troops, it’s okay to gas Muslim children?  The children of Muslims who had absolutely nothing to do with the terrorists other than being Muslim?  Islam is not a country; we’re not at war with it, or at least we shouldn’t be.  Disgusting.

September 28th, 2008 at 10:08pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Racism,Religion,Terrorism

The Intersection

The AP tells a depressing-yet-somehow-familiar story:

The Iraqi prisoner had valuable intelligence, U.S. special forces believed, and they desperately wanted it. They demanded that expert American military trainers teach them the same types of abusive interrogation techniques that North Korea and Vietnamese forces once used against U.S. prisoners of war.

The trainers resisted, according to testimony prepared for a Senate hearing Thursday; the methods were intended to elicit confessions for propaganda use, rather than gather intelligence. They were overruled and ordered to demonstrate on the prisoner in September 2003, early in the war.

The interrogation went ahead before a lead trainer stepped in and stopped it. He and his team were sent home shortly thereafter.

(…)

“In far too many cases, we simply erred in pressing interrogation and interrogators beyond the edge of the envelope; as a result, interrogation was no longer an intelligence collection method; rather, it had morphed into a form of punishment for those who wouldn’t cooperate,” Col. Steven Kleinman said in his prepared testimony.

He headed the small team of military trainers from the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency sent to Iraq in September 2003 to help special forces get more information from stubborn and resistant detainees.

“When presented with the choice of getting smarter or getting tougher, we chose the latter,” Kleinman stated.

This is the worst-case intersection of amorality and incompetence.  The Bush administration didn’t care about legality, decency, or even effectiveness – only cruelty and power.

Will we ever wash away the stain?

(h/t dakine)

September 25th, 2008 at 11:39pm Posted by Eli

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

Even Republicans Starting To Notice Bin Laden Still At Large Seven Years Later

Michael Smerconish is not exactly what you’d call a moderate Republican, but he’s apparently so obsessed with bin Laden and Zawahiri that he’s actually noticed that Dubya hasn’t done squat to catch either of them:

Where the hell are Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri? And why does virtually no one ask anymore? … And what happened to President Bush’s declaration to a joint session of Congress nine days after 9/11 that “any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.” Doesn’t that apply to Pakistan?

These are things that I wonder as I watch from my perch in Philadelphia, where I’m a talk show host, columnist and MSNBC talking head…. On the day after the Pennsylvania primary, I told Chris Matthews on “Hardball” that this was an issue that could help Barack Obama win support among white male voters; he recognized that it was “[my] issue,” before adding, “And I agree with you completely.”

I can’t help myself. So strong is my belief that we’ve failed in our responsibility to 3,000 dead Americans that I am contemplating voting for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in my life. It’s the chronology I find so compelling.

We’re at the seven-year anniversary of 9/11, lacking not only closure with regard to the two top al-Qaida leaders but also public discourse about any plan to bring them to justice. To me, that suggests a continuation of what I perceive to be the Bush administration’s outsourcing of this responsibility at great cost to a government with limited motivation to get the job done. Of course, I may be wrong; I have no inside information. And I’d love to be proven in error by breaking news of their capture or execution. But published accounts paint an intriguing and frustrating picture.

To begin, bin Laden is presumed to have been in Afghanistan on 9/11 and to have fled that nation during the battle at Tora Bora in December of 2001. Gary Berntsen, who was the CIA officer in charge on the ground, told me that his request for Army Rangers to prevent bin Laden’s escape into Pakistan was denied, and sure enough, that’s where bin Laden went. Then came a period when the Bush administration was supposed to be pressing the search through means it couldn’t share publicly. But as time went by with no capture, the signs became more troubling.

(…)

More than one [military] individual with whom I spoke… raised with me the question of what would happen to public support for the war against radical Islam if we were to find and kill bin Laden and al-Zawahiri. They wanted to know: Would the American people then expect the military to pack up and go home? No one ever told me that we’re not hunting bin Laden because killing him would cause Americans to want to close up shop in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it was absolutely on the minds of our warriors as support for the war in Iraq dissipated.

(…)

The Bush administration’s failure to orchestrate a successful counterterrorism plan — one topped off with justice for Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri — has left me embarrassed of my party and angry. The oft-repeated explanations of the search being nuanced or covering difficult terrain should have worn thin long ago.

(…)

Put quite simply, the support for this failed policy is driving me to the edge of my long Republican career. And despite never pulling a lever for a Democratic presidential candidate, I believe the election this November will present the chance to relieve this country of the conventional wisdom that President Bush has offered for seven years and Sen. McCain appears resigned to advance: that President Musharraf was a friend who did what he could to prevent Pakistan from defaulting toward further extremism; that the hunt for Osama bin Laden is nuanced and U.S. forces are doing everything they can to find him; and that the war in Iraq is a necessary one that hasn’t distracted from the fight against those who perpetrated and planned 9/11.

That wisdom has been proven unequivocally wrong.

The kicker? We, the taxpayers, are footing the bill for this negligence. According to a June 25, 2008, article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, a GAO report showed that nearly $2 billion given in aid to Pakistan was spent improperly. The article states:

“‘For a large number of claims, Defense did not obtain sufficient documentation from Pakistan to verify that claimed costs were incremental, actually incurred or correctly calculated,’ the report concluded. ‘It seems as though the Pakistani military went on a spending spree with American taxpayers’ wallets and no one bothered to investigate the charges,’ said Sen. Tom Harkin (D., Iowa), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. ‘How hard would it have been to confirm that a road we paid $15 million for was ever built?'”

(…)

While candidates talk, the dismaying story continues. A recent report from the New York Times in July 2008 suggested that the CIA might not even be receiving proper intelligence on the al-Qaida problem in Pakistan: “The C.I.A. has depended heavily on the ISI for information about militants in Pakistan, despite longstanding concerns about divided loyalties within the Pakistani spy service, which had close relations with the Taliban in Afghanistan before the Sept. 11 attacks. That ISI officers have maintained important ties to anti-American militants has been the subject of previous reports in The New York Times. But the C.I.A. and the Bush administration have generally sought to avoid criticism of Pakistan, which they regard as a crucial ally in the fight against terrorism.” It was reported two days later that officers from this same intelligence service played a role in the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, on July 7, 2008, which left 54 people dead.

(…)

Seven years after 9/11, the country is stoking what was supposed to be a complete and consuming “war on terror” with faint signs of a sustained operation in the country where the bad guys have been hiding for years.

How appalling. I doubt the families of the 3,000 innocents murdered on 9/11 — and of the 4,000 Americans killed in Iraq — are content with it. After all, it’s seven years, thousands of troops and billions of dollars later, and our country has failed to deliver on what we really owe them: justice.

Smerconish is primarily beating the drum for a more aggressive stance towards Pakistan, which he is correct in depicting as… less than helpful in the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban.  Unlike Bush and McCain, Obama has recognized that an “ally” who cuts deals with your enemies and provides them sanctuary is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Obama has actually advocated for a more aggressive and unilateral approach than Bush or McCain, who were both perfectly content to rely on the good faith of Musharraf and the ISI despite the abundant evidence of its nonexistence.  If anything, Obama’s approach is probably too aggressive, but I suspect that his worst instincts would be reined in by congressional Republicans with a newfound respect for sovereignty and multilateralism.  Maybe he could adopt my idea of threatening to take away all of Pakistan’s aid money… and redirect it to India.

Seven years and counting, and we’re no closer to catching bin Laden.  And it is for lack of trying.  My only question is whether it’s simple incompetence, or whether, as Smerconish suggests, that it’s because the Republicans don’t want to lose their boogeyman.

3 comments September 11th, 2008 at 11:52am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Elections,McCain,Media,Obama,Politics,Republicans,Terrorism,War

When Will Reality Be Post-Partisan?

Marty Kaplan points out the sad reality of our time:

Ron Suskind’s new book reports that in 2003, the White House ordered the CIA to forge a letter to “prove” that Iraq had a hand in 9/11 and that Saddam was buying yellowcake uranium from Niger for his WMD program with the help of Al Qaeda.

When this came up on MSNBC, moderator Chuck Todd asked Politico’s Mike Allen whether this would lead “the anti-war crowd” in Congress to call for impeachment. Allen replied that it would “give the lefty blogosphere something to grab onto.”

And so, in less time than it takes to say “Dick Cheney,” the subject is changed from what would be one of the most outrageous violations of the Constitution in the history of the Republic to a left/right issue. Instead of taking a breath to consider the merits and consequences of Suskind’s charges, MSNBC’s It’s-Always-Super-Tuesday-Over-Here reframing machine instantly transforms a shocking allegation about the abuse of power into a piece of political football, a tactic, an occasion for the players in the grand political theater that cable news says Washington really is to assume their designated roles, like a Punch and Judy show.

…If the White House asked the CIA to cook up this disinformation aimed at the American people, why shouldn’t the righty blogosphere, too, be up in arms? Why doesn’t every American, regardless of political party, have a stake in the truth and the rule of law?

…Unfortunately, the closest that the MSM usually comes to weighing the evidence is saying: Ron Suskind charges X, and the White House denies it. This is what is now called reporting.

Every time the Bush administration gets caught breaking the law, conservative pundits and bloggers are either excusing it or pretending that it never happened.  Never do they say, “Okay, yeah, they’re on my team, but this really is so far beyond the pale as to be despicable and criminal.”  It just doesn’t happen.  (They do slam BushCo. with that kind of hyperbole sometimes, but it’s usually for stuff like trying to compromise on immigration or negotiate with North Korea.)

When did reality become so irrelevant to our discourse?  Was it just during the Bush administration, or during the Clinton administration, or has it always been like that and I just never noticed it?

August 6th, 2008 at 10:40pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Cheney,Corruption/Cronyism,Iraq,Media,Republicans,Terrorism,Wankers,War

Happy Ignoriversary!

Yes, it’s that time again: The lucky seventh anniversary of Dubya dismissing the “Bin Laden Determined To Strike In US” PDB with a sneery, “Okay, you’ve covered your ass.”  So it’s either the Copper or Wool Anniversary. Wool somehow seems more appropriate, given the Bush administration’s approach to informing the public.

Would the tragedy of 9/11 have been averted if he had gone to the appropriate red-alert full court press?  Who knows – even if he had, what are the odds that someone competent would have been in charge of it?  But I can pretty much guarantee that completely ignoring the threat – and terrorism in general – just about guaranteed its success.  Which may have been the whole point.

Mercifully, this will be the last anniversary with Dubya as president, so hopefully the next dire PDB will get taken a little more seriously.  And by “seriously,” I do not mean scaremongering to score political points – I mean actual preventive measures.  The only way that scaremongering ever prevents terrorist attacks is by making them unnecessary.

(Graphic by Tengrain)

August 6th, 2008 at 08:19pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Terrorism

I Realize That… Now.

This just in: Military action not the best way to combat terrorism:

The United States can defeat al-Qaida if it relies less on force and more on policing and intelligence to root out the terror group’s leaders, a new study contends.

“Keep in mind that terrorist groups are not eradicated overnight,” said the study by the federally funded Rand research center, an organization that counsels the Pentagon.

Its report said that the use of military force by the United States or other countries should be reserved for quelling large, well-armed and well-organized insurgencies, and that American officials should stop using the term “war on terror” and replace it with “counterterrorism.”

Wow, no kidding.  I seem to recall John Kerry being ridiculed for saying this in 2004, and I seem to recall Bill Clinton being ridiculed for practicing it prior to 2001.

So how’s Dubya’s completely-ignore-terrorism-then-start-invading-people strategy working out for us, then?

(h//t Phoenix Woman)

1 comment July 29th, 2008 at 07:11am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Blogosphere,Bush,Iraq,Republicans,Terrorism,Wankers,War

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