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1.31.2005

It's not the new Germany

Atrios:
What I do think is important - and it's time for the press to start asking - is just how permanent our designs on Iraq are? Why are we building the Biggest Baddest Embassy Ever and a bunch of permanent military bases? The elephant in the living room is of course the high probability that even if things work out wonderfully, and the security situation improves, the Bushies still intend to maintain a significant permanent presence in Iraq. Is that true? I don't know. But it's time for somebody to start asking.


I think it's noteworthy that Bush is willing to set and keep utterly arbitrary, artificial deadlines (Saddam's surrender, '04 transfer of power, '05 elections), but refuses to ever talk in even vague terms about when US troops might be pulled out of Iraq. Hey, we're staying as long as 'they' want us there...you know, 'they': the exile the CIA funded and who we installed as president who'll probably 'win' the election? i.e. maybe we'll stay forever. Let's see when talk of our alleged 14 'permanent' bases finally hits the nightly news.


1.19.2005

Shorter Gonzales

We believe the Geneva Convention. But combatants in Iraq don't meet the definition of the GC, so we don't have to treat them accordingly. Not that we'd ever torture anyone! Besides, what we're doing isn't defined as torture. And those doing the tor....errr, humane interrogation arent' members of the military, and are so also not bound by the GC or rules against torture. Which, I repeat, we would never do.

The New York Times > Washington > Gonzales Says '02 Policy on Detainees Doesn't Bind C.I.A.: "Officers of the Central Intelligence Agency and other nonmilitary personnel fall outside the bounds of a 2002 directive issued by President Bush that pledged the humane treatment of prisoners in American custody, Alberto R. Gonzales, the White House counsel, said in documents released on Tuesday.
...
At the same time, however, the president has a clear policy opposing torture, and "the C.I.A. and other nonmilitary personnel are fully bound" by it, Mr. Gonzales said.
...
"But it's notable," Mr. Lederman added, "that Gonzales is not willing to tell the senators or anyone else just what techniques the C.I.A. has actually been authorized to use."

Indeed, Mr. Gonzales declined to say in his written responses to the committee what interrogation tactics would constitute torture in his view or which ones should be banned.

That question, he indicated, is again under review by the administration. But if the administration "were to begin ruling out speculated interrogation practices" in public, he wrote, "we would fairly rapidly provide Al Qaeda with a road map concerning the interrogation that captured terrorists can expect to face and would enable Al Qaeda to improve its counter-interrogation training to match it." "


More here, from Andrew Sullivan (yes, I know).



1.16.2005

Entitle-itis

I have to write something longer and better-thought-out on this, but why is it that Bush, whose family has been rich for at least two generations and who would be rich even if he'd never left the house or gone to school or gotten sweetheart treatment from schools like Yale and rich investors through the entirety of his largely-irresponsible adult life...why is it that he believes so much in his 'ownership' or 'shareholder' society? If he'd been some big rags-to-riches story I could understand it, but he's not. I think he's just using this rhetoric to make it sound like he's expanding opportunities for lower-income people while he's ensuring that the really-rich (his class of people) can coast without paying the 'death tax' or the dividend tax or higher tax rates or ever have to support the less-priveleged. And that's what's morally reprehensible about the 'take your chances' facet of the 'ownership' society.

The article/quotes below don't really address this in any detail, but they provide some useful context.

SFGate: Bush Legacy Likely to Last Generations
"Bush has an opportunity over the next four years to create a conservative New Deal, to be one of the most influential presidents in the last 50 years,'' said Stephen Moore, president of the Free Enterprise Fund, a conservative group that promotes free-market solutions.

"He has the opportunity to move the economy away from the idea of an entitlement society, which we had during (presidents) Roosevelt and Johnson ... toward a genuine shareholder society,'' Moore said, bringing "the Reagan revolution to its fruition.'


1.15.2005

Watch What You Do

ABC: 20/20: Bush will watch what he says in second term
"I watch what I say. … I said some things in the first term that were probably a little blunt. 'Bring it on' was a little blunt. I was really speaking to our troops, but it came out and had a different connotation, different meanings for others," he told Walters.

Bush used the phrase in July 2003 to say U.S. troops would not be scared off by Iraqi insurgents' attacks. During the presidential election campaign, his rival, Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, used the line to criticize administration policy. "If the White House wants to make this election about national security, I have three words they understand: 'Bring, it, on!' "

More recently, guerrillas in Iraq have used the president's words in a propaganda video narrated in English, according to the Reuters news agency. The narrator of the video says, "George W. Bush, you have asked us to 'bring it on.' And so help me, [we will ] like you never expected. Do you have another challenge?" The video then shows explosions around a U.S. military vehicle.

'We Will Stay on the Hunt'

Bush told Walters that the first lady criticized him for pledging after Sept. 11 to get al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden "dead or alive."

"I'll be more disciplined in how I say things," the president, adding, "I have to be cautious about conveying thoughts in a way that doesn't send wrong impressions about our country."

Bush repeated that his administration will continue to make the war on terror a priority and continue its pursuit of bin Laden, the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.


I'm as to what 'bring it on' was supposed to say to our troops. And really, what about 'dead or alive'? It's not what he said, it's that he hasn't found bin Laden in either condition over 3 years later.


1.11.2005

Dept. of Ridiculous Analogies, Redux

Prisoners are like cheerleaders! Or prisoners! Or toddlers.

Reuters: "A lawyer for Charles Graner, accused ringleader in the Iraq prisoner abuse scandal, on Monday compared piling naked prisoners into pyramids to cheerleader shows and said leashing inmates was also acceptable prisoner control.
'Don't cheerleaders all over America form pyramids six to eight times a year. Is that torture?' Guy Womack, Graner's attorney, said in opening arguments to the 10-member U.S. military jury at the reservist sergeant's court-martial.
Graner and Pvt. Lynndie England, with whom he fathered a child and who is also facing a court-martial, became the faces of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal after they appeared in photographs that showed degraded, naked prisoners.
The prosecution showed some of those pictures in their opening argument, including several of naked Iraqi men piled on each other and another of England holding a crawling naked Iraqi man on a leash.
Womack said using a tether was a valid method of controlling detainees, especially those who might be soiled with feces.
'You're keeping control of them. A tether is a valid control to be used in corrections,' he said. 'In Texas we'd lasso them and drag them out of there.' He compared the leash to parents who place tethers on their toddlers while walking in shopping malls."


1.06.2005

More Matt on 'Desperation'

Just updating the post below....Click the Prospect link for more deja vu all over again.

TAPPED: January 2005 Archives: "The recent acts of terrorism, such as the bombing of the U.N. headquarters and the mosque in Najaf, show a couple of things. First, that Iraq is still a dangerous place. They also show, I think, the desperation -- the desperation of the adversaries that we face. We're actively engaged in rooting out this threat with more and more Iraqis coming forward with information and a willingness to help us.
-- Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, September 9, 2003. "


Urgh.

And maybe they're confident because they already know the outcome? CIA-fave crony or on-the-take strongman 'democratically' wins the election, despite a huge list of problems and irregularities that make the first Ukrainian elections look honest in comparison.

You should really click on the link and read the whole post.

Baghdad Burning: "Can you just imagine what our history books are going to look like 20 years from now?

'The first democratic elections were held in Iraq on January 29, 2005 under the ever-watchful collective eye of the occupation forces, headed by the United States of America. Troops in tanks watched as swarms of warm, fuzzy Iraqis headed for the ballot boxes to select one of the American-approved candidates...'

It won't look good.

There are several problems. The first is the fact that, technically, we don't know the candidates. We know the principal heads of the lists but we don't know who exactly will be running. It really is confusing. They aren't making the lists public because they are afraid the candidates will be assassinated.

Another problem is the selling of ballots. We're getting our ballots through the people who give out the food rations in the varying areas. The whole family is registered with this person(s) and the ages of the varying family members are known. Many, many, many people are not going to vote. Some of those people are selling their voting cards for up to $400. The word on the street is that these ballots are being bought by people coming in from Iran. They will purchase the ballots, make false IDs (which is ridiculously easy these days) and vote for SCIRI or Daawa candidates. Sunnis are receiving their ballots although they don't intend to vote, just so that they won't be sold.

Yet another issue is the fact that on all the voting cards, the gender of the voter, regardless of sex, is labeled 'male'. Now, call me insane, but I found this slightly disturbing. Why was that done? Was it some sort of a mistake? Why is the sex on the card anyway? What difference does it make? There are some theories about this. Some are saying that many of the more religiously inclined families womenfolk voting so it might be permissible for the head of the family to take the women's ID and her ballot and do the voting for her. Another theory is that this 'mistake' will make things easier for people making fake IDs to vote in place of females.

All of this has given the coming elections a sort of sinister cloak. There is too much mystery involved and too little transparency. It is more than a little bit worrisome.

American politicians seem to be very confident that Iraq is going to come out of these elections with a secular government. How is that going to happen when many Shia Iraqis are being driven to vote with various fatwas from Sistani and gang? Sistani and some others of Iranian inclination came out with fatwas claiming that non-voters will burn in the hottest fires of the underworld for an eternity if they don't vote (I'm wondering- was this a fatwa borrowed from right-wing Bushies during the American elections?). So someone fuelled with a scorching fatwa like that one- how will they vote? Secular? Yeah, right."


More Gonzo

Geez, and I thought I was a cynical jerk.

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Contributor: We Are All Torturers Now: "On the other hand, perhaps it is fitting that Mr. Gonzales be confirmed. The system of torture has, after all, survived its disclosure. We have entered a new era; the traditional story line in which scandal leads to investigation and investigation leads to punishment has been supplanted by something else. Wrongdoing is still exposed; we gaze at the photographs and read the documents, and then we listen to the president's spokesman 'reiterate,' as he did last week, 'the president's determination that the United States never engage in torture.' And there the story ends. "


Why Don't I Believe Him?

Sure, he owes his whole political career to GW Bush, but...

The New York Times > AP > National > Justice Nominee Draws Scorching Criticism From Senate Democrats: "``I will no longer represent only the White House. I will represent the United States of America and its people. I understand the difference between the two roles,'' President Bush's counsel told the Senate Judiciary Committee."


1.04.2005

Before the Elections

SFGate:Gunmen slay governor of Baghdad region; 5 Americans killed in separate attacks

Insurgents assassinated the highest-ranking Iraqi official in eight months Tuesday, gunning down the governor of Baghdad province and six of his bodyguards, and a suicide truck bomber killed 10 people at an Interior Ministry commando headquarters, the latest in a string of violence ahead of Jan. 30 elections.
...
"It once again shows that there are these murderers and terrorists, former regime elements in Iraq, who don't want to see elections. They don't want the people of Iraq to chose new leaders. They want to go back to the past. They want to go back to the tyranny of Saddam Hussein's regime and that's not going to happen," Powell said.


Yes, the reprehensible killing is definitely (and by this I mean 'by definition') occuring ahead of the 1/30 elections. But does anyone think that this horrific rate of killing will abate after the elections? If so, I haven't heard it expressed anywhere. Framing it as specific to the elections is ridiculous - it's not as if postponing the elections or sticking to the January date would really change anything. And yet we keep buying this line in all sorts of stories.

Big Media Matt has more on this overused meme.

Reacting to today's assassination of the governor of Baghdad province, Secretary of State Colin Powell blamed those who "want to go back to the tyranny of Saddam Hussein's regime." That's part of a recent shift in rhetorical emphasis coming from the administration lately. In the early days of the insurgency, the Baath angle was played up a lot and one heard much talk of "dead-enders," "former regime elements," etc., and how capturing Saddam Hussein would do a great deal of good. Then Saddam was captured, it didn't do much good, and the rhetoric shifted to an emphasis on the idea that foreign jihadists were at the core of the insurgency and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was the key to beating the insurgents.

Over the past month, the administration seems to have largely shifted back in the other direction, as in Powell's statement today, or this assessment of the insurgency (via Spencer Ackerman) from Iraq's intelligence chief.


Omission is the better part of valor

Ever wonder how one could write a defense of Alberto Gonzales's legal positions on torture, the WoT, enemy combatants, and the Geneva Convention without once mentioning Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay? Well, look no further. And it's in the Moonie Times but it's not from someone on the fringes of opinion.

Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Property Rights. He served previously as Texas Attorney General and state supreme court justice.

Update: The National Review's getting in on the game, too! So is there some sort of talking point circulating encouraging journos to write positive things about Gonzales without mentioning the two biggest torture-ariums he's associated with?


1.03.2005

Not to Put Too Fine A Point on It

Holbrooke makes his point and then swiftly un-makes it. Is it the appearance of coercion or the actual evidence of it that's a problem?

BTW, thinking back to Colin Powell's slam-dunk WMD presentation to the UN, whose behavior seems more in need of correction? Powell's over the top argument for war, or the UN's generally chilly reception to same?

NYT: Secret meeting to 'rescue' U.N.
At the gathering, Secretary General Kofi Annan listened quietly to three and a half hours of bluntly worded counsel from a group united in its personal regard for him and support for the United Nations. The group's concern was that lapses in his leadership during the past two years had eclipsed the accomplishments of his first four-year term in office and were threatening to undermine the two years remaining in his final term.
...
"The intention was to keep it confidential," Mr. Holbrooke said. "No one wanted to give the impression of a group of outsiders, all of them Americans, dictating what to do to a secretary general."

He described the group as people "who care deeply about the U.N. and believe that the U.N. cannot succeed if it is in open dispute and constant friction with its founding nation, its host nation and its largest contributor nation."

"The U.N., without the U.S. behind it, is a failed institution," he said.


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