Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Bush's body count

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

Metrics of “success”

Too many are still alive–Chimperor presses his Iraq delusions with grim military brass

I watch him to study the symbol of the empire squirming as his Iraq project consumes lives and treasure in a curtain of flames. He insists we can’t quit. It seems he’ll hold onto this until all that’s left of Iraq, the Middle East, and maybe the world is nothing more than a hot cinder on top of an oil tank.

While Bushie Scrooge throws his weight around with the Iraqi people and the US troops he asks to keep churning the mess, he is desperate for images of “success”. Observers with memory of the Vietnam era will recognize this:

Our commanders report that the enemy has also suffered. Offensive operations by Iraqi and coalition forces against terrorists and insurgents and death squad leaders have yielded positive results. In the months of October, November, and the first week of December, we have killed or captured nearly 5,900 of the enemy.

My first thought was how the hell were there 5,900 to kill, and not even the slightest dent was made in the pitch of daily death & destruction that the US has unleashed? In fact, the pitch of violence only increases. Isn’t it obvious that the “offensive operations” in “the fight” Mr. Bush has ordered our troops to be taken “to the enemy” in “a lot of operations taking place, day and night” is really a fight against the entire population of Iraq?

What is going to be left of Iraq when some far future “success” occurs? Will it be a“free Iraq that is democratic, that can govern itself, defend itself and sustain itself, and be a strong ally in this war against radicals and extremists who would do us harm?” Sure, Bush. It just looks like only flies and grass will be left of the nation.

Democrats committed to violence

Tuesday, July 25th, 2006

Letter to Hastert condemns Iraqi PM for wanting Israeli killing in Lebanon to stop

As far as stopping war is concerned, perhaps the worst thing that could happen is a Democrat take-over of Congress. Get this:

Senate Democrats press Iraqi PM on Israel remarksIn a letter to [Iraqi Prime Minister] al-Maliki, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Democratic Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois and Sen. Charles Schumer of New York called the Iraqi leader’s comments troubling.

“Your failure to condemn Hezbollah’s aggression and recognize Israel’s right to defend itself raise serious questions about whether Iraq under your leadership can play a constructive role in resolving the current crisis and bringing stability to the Middle East,” the letter said.

The key phrase there is “recognize Israel’s right to defend itself.” The Iraqis–all of them, it’s one of the few things that unites them–don’t see pummeling of Lebonese civilians and infrastructure as part of “Israel’s right to defend itself.”

However, the Iraqis do seem to recognize Hezbollah’s “right to defend” Lebanon. I personally do not condone rocket attacks. But then, I am not in a position where I must survive against a vastly more powerful military force that wants to kill me. But I do believe that al-Maliki has it exactly right on Lebanon:

What is happening is an operation of mass destruction and mass punishment and an operation using great force that Israel has — and Lebanon does not.

Somebody to ask him why

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006

Helen Thomas presses for the real reasons behind the war

Facing The Beard about the Bush press conference

Will a tribunal in the distant future try him for Aggression? Will a day ever arrive when the world gathers enough power to bring the president to justice?

Helen Thomas has pushed the envelope for years. Now we should all thank her for her strength in trying to get answers from the president about why Iraq was attacked, given the stated arguments for doing so always were false. A pretty simple consequence if the basis for the war was false is the war is illegal. Helen’s the only one with enough courage and force to bring this out in the open in a press conference.

Here’s a short version in an exchange between Helen and Wolf Blitzer:

BLITZER: But you can’t forget 9/11, 3,000 people were killed.THOMAS: But the Iraqis didn’t do it. I mean — why don’t you go bomb some other country? If you have no reason. This is — I don’t believe in preemptive war and it certainly is against international law. It’s against the U.N. Charter. It’s against Geneva and it’s against Nuremberg.

I should note here, as Rodger Payne pointed out in comments a few posts back, that Helen is wrong on the semantics of international law with the often-misused term “preemptive war”, which might be legal when attack is imminent. But I don’t think Helen was referring to Article-51-based preemption under “…the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations”. She’s really talking about preventive war, or what is sometimes called “anticipatory self-defense”.

Bush doctrine says that international law is basically inoperative when the biggest bully on the block throws its weight around, crushing self-identified “threats” before they “materialize.” But if this doctrine were to be enshrined with legality, what would stop, say, Iran or N. Korea from attacking US missile silos or aircraft carriers arguably poised to “materialize” into a threat to these countries. Desire not to commit suicide, I suppose is the simple answer.

President Bush, for his part, as Josh Marshall points out, just can’t get his facts straight about events three years ago:

I also saw a threat in Iraq. I was hoping to solve this problem diplomatically. That’s why I went to the Security Council; that’s why it was important to pass 1441, which was unanimously passed. And the world said, disarm, disclose, or face serious consequences … and therefore, we worked with the world, we worked to make sure that Saddam Hussein heard the message of the world. And when he chose to deny inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him. And we did, and the world is safer for it.

I don’t think he’s lying. He’s just repeated the wrong information so many times–unlike what the president said, UN inspectors were allowed into Iraq prior to the war–he believes it. Furthermore, UNSCR 1441 did not confer the automatic right for the US to invade. See this post for more…

US-sponsored militias and death squads in Iraq

Sunday, April 24th, 2005

US program unleashes ex-Baathist enforcers

Why was Rumsfeld ordering the new Iraqi govenment to back off these militias during his whirlwind trip last week?

Everyone should read this story posted on NYC Indymedia:

Let a Thousand Militias Bloom
By A.K. GuptaIn trying to defeat the Iraqi insurgency, the Pentagon has turned to Saddam Hussein’s former henchmen. Under former Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, U.S. officials has installed many of the hated Baathists who tormented Iraq in high-level posts in the interior and defense ministries. But the new Iraqi government, overwhelmingly composed of Shiites and Kurds who suffered the most under Hussein, have announced that they are going to purge the ex-Baathists, putting them on a collision course with the United States.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made one of his surprise visits to Baghdad last week, warning the new government not to “come in and clean house” in the security forces. The official line is that the U.S. is worried about losing the “most competent” security forces. But there is a deeper concern that purging the security forces could feed into sectarian tensions and explode in civil war.

Gupta writes about a very disturbing aspect of this US-backed program:

…one militia in particular–the “special police commandos” — is being used extensively throughout Iraq and has been singled out by a U.S. general for conducting death squad strikes known as the “Salvador option.” The police commandos also appear to be a reconstituted Hussein security force operating under the same revived government body, the General Security Directorate, that suppressed internal dissent.

The Pentagon evidently is betting on Saddam’s old enforcers to contain the anti-American resistance. Therefore, the new government will not be allowed to purge the program as it was developed by the puppet regime of Ayad Allawi.

It should be made clear that the existence of US-sponsored death squads in Iraq is not a new story. For example, see Seymour Hersh’s piece on “preëmptive manhunting” from December 2003 where he compares the US Special Forces Task Force 121 to the Vietnam era Phoenix Program. In January 2004, Robert Dreyfuss wrote about a quiet $3 billion appropriation slipped during the fall of 2003 into the special war funding bill. The funds were to be used for “the creation of a paramilitary unit manned by militiamen” and the “bulk of the covert money will support U.S. efforts to create a lethal, and revenge-minded, Iraqi security force.”

So Rumsfeld was very keen to preserve these perceived covert “successes” from Shiite meddlers entering the new Iraqi goverment.

Also striking in the Gupta piece is discussion of a TV program called “Terrorism in the Hands of Justice” broadcast in Iraq by a US propaganda network. This show evidently has become somewhat popular with Iraqis, giving the Americans some actual traction with the population. It has been reported in US stories over the last couple of months pretty much as straight-up news about an Iraqi “reality show”, without much delving into what really is behind it. But Gupta cites the better reporting on the subject:

Gay Orgies
The police commandos have been supplying suspects who confess their crimes on the TV show, “Terrorism in the Hands of Justice.” Described as the Iraqi government’s “slick new propaganda tool,” the program runs six nights a week on the Iraqiya network, which was set up by the Pentagon and is now run by Australian-based Harris Corp. (a major U.S. government contractor that gave 96 percent of its political funding, more than $260,000, to Republicans in 2004). According to the Boston Globe, camera crews are sent “wherever police commandos make a lot of arrests.”The show features an unseen interrogator haranguing alleged insurgents for confessions. Virtually every press account notes that the suspects appear to have been beaten or tortured, their faces bruised and swollen. The London Guardian states “some have… robotic manners of those beaten and coached by police interrogators off-camera.” The Boston Globe observed, “The neat confessions of terrorist attacks at times fit together so seamlessly as to seem implausible.” And then there’s the nature of the confessions. Many suspects admit to “drunkeness, gay orgies and pornography,” according to the Guardian. The Financial Times reported that, “One long-bearded preacher known as Abu Tabarek recently confessed that guerrillas had usually held orgies in his mosques.” Another preacher giving a confession says he was fired for “having sex with men in the mosque,” the Globe account stated that suspects “frequently admit to rape and pedophilia.”

Lovely. The Americans, after many months of trying, have finally found a television propaganda hook into Iraqi sensibilities in order to draw viewers into a Fox-News-like swamp of lies.

For some more links posted previously in Deep Blade, please see this post.

Torture accountability ignored

Wednesday, March 30th, 2005

Boston public radio station WBUR’s OnPoint carried Tuesday an absolutely must-listen-to program

“Hear a discussion on who should be held accountable when prisoners in American custody are tortured and killed”

Deep Blade Journal has for all of the last eleven months since the Abu Ghraib atrocity photos emerged, demanded accountability for torture up the chain of command all the way to the President of the United States. Instead, underlings of the president who helped him conceive the legal environment under which the atrocities were at minimum tacitly approved and permitted to occur have been promoted — in the most important instance to the highest law enforcement office in the land.

Do listen to the OnPoint program suggested above for a deeply concerned, deeply probing discussion of the issues involved. The guests included John Hutson (see below); Mark Danner, author of “Torture or Truth: America, Abu Ghraib, and the War on Terror,” professor of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley; Gary Solis, Professor of Law at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point; and Craig Murray, the former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan.

John Hutson, President and Dean of Franklin Pierce Law School, former Judge Advocate General for the U.S. Navy is party to a lawsuit against Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights First about a month ago. Hutson explains on the OnPoint program why this lawsuit is a last resort for justice in an environment where the executive is culpable to the core and Congress is wholly complicit and useless.

JOHN HUTSON: [The lawsuit] is seeking a declaration by the court that there is accountability in these cases — that it’s not just a few bad apples, as Secretary Rumsfeld so cavalierly and dissmissively characterized … what happened. And we feel very strongly that the chain of command is the spine that makes for good order and discipline in the military, and it’s first cousin — accountability — is really the life blood of the military. And accountability means that you can delegate the authority to take certain actions, but you cannot delegate the responsibility for those actions. We have in these cases, in my judgment, completely ignored any concepts of accountability, and we’ve said rather, well, it’s a few bad apples, we’ll prosecute them, we’ll pat ourselves on the back, congratulate ourselves for the great job we’ve done And I think that that’s a big mistake.

Please also see this at Eschaton and Bob Herbert’s Tuesday column.

Oil price trajectory

Thursday, February 24th, 2005

Hyperbolic price swings with huge upward bias portend threats to our future security

Graphic credit: WTRG Economics

If you take a look at the oil price tracker I display at left and the image above, you’ll see that oil has broken through the $50 level again. When these price spikes happen (two days ago the move was +6%, with another strong upward move in process today), the business pages fill with momentary explanations.

Bloomberg coverage is always useful for reports not just on the momentary factors, but on some of the underlying factors as well. Today they report,

Crude oil rose to a four-month high, approaching $52 a barrel in New York, as a Siberian cold front gripped western Europe and forecasts called for freezing temperatures in the Northeastern U.S.

The surge in heating-fuel demand may drain inventories of heating oil and diesel. U.S. supplies probably dropped last week by 1.75 million barrels, according to a Bloomberg survey of forecasts before the government releases weekly estimates later today. Surging demand may strain supplies this year, with only OPEC able to pump more oil.

“It’s mainly the cold snap that’s added $4 or $5 to prices, particularly with Europe having a freeze from Siberia,” said Jason Kenney, an analyst at ING Financial Markets in Edinburgh. “The market is concerned that Russian supply growth won’t be outstanding and that China is drawing a lot of oil. For prices to come down, you need for supplies to go ahead of demand.” …

Slowing growth in oil output from countries outside the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries means OPEC will have to pump almost as much as it can to meet demand. That will use up spare capacity and make it harder for the group to compensate for any disruption to supply.

The strain in supplies and the cold spell are leading speculators to bet prices will keep rising. The strain in supplies and the cold spell are leading speculators to bet prices will keep rising….

There you have it, OPEC is reaching the limit of its swing production role while everyone else is “slowing.”

Okay, so let’s review. Almost one year ago the $27 to $37 trading range for oil was left behind. For good? I don’t know, but all market biases are pointing towards $60 oil, not $30 oil. It looks like the speculators are betting up anyhow. But eleven months ago today, we heard analysts saying, “…oil prices are likely to remain high, and could peak…”

Where? “…around $40 per barrel.”

Then what happened?

Let’s follow the pattern
May 2004. The all-time oil price record was set in the low $40s. In early June OPEC holds a meeting where Saudi Oil Minister Ali Naimi tells reporters there is no problem, OPEC will raise its production ceiling by 2 million barrels per day. Prices sag into July, but begin a sharp upward march in mid-July.

August 2004. Near panic sets in on August 3 and 4. The price of oil ended up close to $48 as Indonesia’s Purnomo Yusgiantoro, OPEC’s president, said, “The oil price is very high, it’s crazy. There is no additional supply.” and Algerian Oil Minister Chakib Khelil said, “OPEC can do nothing.” At this point the legendary former Saudi oil minister Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani steps up to try to end this speculation, saying, “There is additional supply available from OPEC — you will definitely see it.” Prices dropped sharply to about $42 by early September.

October 2004. After a month of another steady upward oil-price march punctuated by several Atlantic hurricanes, a several-week-long panic cycle takes hold in late September through late October. The price touches $50 by September 28. Bandar Bush and the Saudis respond with what is billed as new oil supply, but it is sour crude, high in sulfur. Meanwhile, the G8 finance ministers hold a weekend meeting in early October. Deeply rattled, they express concerned about the “transparency” of oil supply data, while issuing a statement that suggests the world needs to start controlling energy demand in the face of the questionable sustainability of supply. Oil broke $55 by October 18 and hit $55.67 before closing at $55.17 on October 22. But as the effects of the September hurricanes wore off a bit and supply firmed up a little, the oil price fell back to $46 into mid-November.

November 2004. With prices easing slightly, the market experienced a wave of doubt about the ability of the Saudis to maintain daily supply volume. A recently retired Aramco official, Sadad Al Husseini, was quoted by British television on October 26 that American government’s forecast for future oil supplies are a “dangerous over-estimate”. Following that, CNN International came out on November 24 with a widely quoted story asking, “How secure is Saudi oil?: New questions on the vulnerability of the country’s vast facilities and how markets would react”. The oil price spiked near $50 again. This was too much for the Saudis, who again stepped up with a PR campaign designed to calm markets. A Bloomberg story on November 29 reported remarks of Saudi oil minister Ali al-Naimi, who said that Saudi Arabia had plans to expand output capacity by 14 percent to ease concern of potential shortages. “We are producing 9.5 million barrels a day, and we would be ready to produce 11 million if a buyer showed up,” al-Naimi said. “Where is it? There is no shortage of supply in the market.” Within days the oil price slid sharply, as it appeared that some supply headroom had appeared, despite continued concern over heating oil inventories. But in December the lowest bottom could reach only about $41.

December 2004. A surprise occurred on December 10 when OPEC, meeting in Cairo, “agreed to collectively reduce the over-production by 1.0 mb/d from their current actual output, effective 1 January 2005”. Following this announcement, there was a brief spike to about $46. Very confusing — the Saudis said it would raise production, but OPEC then moves for cuts.

2005: So far, the pattern of 2004 is continuing into 2005. Signals in two directions emanate from OPEC and the Saudis — there is enough spare capacity, even to the point where cuts in the ceiling are contemplated, but then it’s reported that “OPEC will have to pump almost as much as it can to meet demand”. Meanwhile, the G-7 ministers have repeated their October statements at meetings in London three weeks ago. In a new statement released February 5, the ministers say,

…the risks of current oil prices. Market transparency and data integrity is key to the smooth operation of markets. We welcomed concrete actions in improving data provision to oil markets and encouraged further work, including on oil reserves data, by relevant international organisations. The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative can increase fiscal transparency and help improve the use to which oil revenues are put. We call on international institutions to work with oil producing countries to ensure a climate conducive to investment. We recognised the importance of raising medium-term energy supply, of energy efficiency, and of the importance of technology and innovation in ensuring energy security.

A short but perceptive piece by Jad Mouawad rounding up oil in 2004 and looking to the future in 2005 was published in the New York Times business section on January 3, 2005. In it, Mouawad writes,

It was a year that people in the oil markets are unlikely to forget – a year that prices set records, forecasts lost touch with reality, and almost everything that could go wrong, did. It was also a year that politics returned to the oil market.

And the trend is likely to continue this year. While oil prices have declined since October, many of the issues that have vexed the oil industry in 2004 are expected to recur. Cheap oil increasingly looks like a thing of the past.

Through the 1990’s, prices were stable, supplies were secure and there was plenty of extra capacity to keep energy costs low and world growth buzzing. At an average of $20 a barrel, oil was viewed as just another commodity.

But then came ethnic and labor troubles in Nigeria; chaos and protests in Venezuela before President Hugo Chávez won a referendum allowing him to stay in power; hardball energy politics in Russia; and the continuing insurgency in Iraq.

While supplies of oil to the world markets were rarely interrupted, the uncertainties created by these events raised crude oil prices in New York by two-thirds this year, to a high of more than $55 a barrel in October. And as energy costs surged, many analysts, traders and politicians woke up to the reality that oil was different from cocoa or coffee.

Yes, it is a different, frightening world we are entering. Confusion reigns as secrecy shrouds the truth about oil supplies and mixed signals swing markets to and fro. The signs of a looming, full-blown collision of petrochemical- and technology-based economic growth and the limits imposed by planetary resources should be obvious to anyone who has watched the trajectory of the oil market over the last year. Unfortunately, the risks are enormous. Conflict over strategic resource interests and rapidly accelerating environmental harms are the threats with which we all find ourselves enmeshed.

Reminder that we are not through with jingoistic hysteria

Wednesday, May 12th, 2004

Yesterday the US Senate Armed Services Committee held another hearing on the treatment of Iraqi prisoners. The imbecilic senator from Oklahoma, James Inhofe, served up red meat for wingnut radio with these remarks:

INHOFE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. First of all, I regret I wasn’t here on Friday. I was unable to be here but maybe it’s better that I wasn’t because as I watch this outrage — this outrage everyone seems to have about the treatment of these prisoners — I have to say, and I’m probably not the only one up at this table that is more outraged by the outrage than we are by the treatment.

The idea that these prisoners — you know, they’re not there for traffic violations. If they’re in cell block 1A or 1B, these prisoners — they’re murderers, they’re terrorists, they’re insurgents. Many of them probably have American blood on their hands. And here we’re so concerned about the treatment of those individuals.

And I hasten to say, yes, there are seven bad guys and gals that didn’t do what they should have done. They were misguided. I think maybe even perverted. And the things they did have to be punished, and they’re being punished. They’re being tried right now and that’s all taking place.

But I’m also outraged by the press and the politicians and the political agendas that are being served by this, and I say political agendas because that’s actually what is happening.

No Senator Inhofe, they’re not there for “traffic violations”. Not even traffic violations! Reports made public this week by the International Committee of the Red Cross state that 70% to 90% of detainees were rounded up randomly for no apparent reason during tactics where

–Arresting authorities entered houses usually after dark, breaking down doors, waking up residents roughly, yelling orders, forcing family members into one room under military guard while searching the rest of the house and further breaking doors, cabinets and other property.

–Sometimes they arrested all adult males present in a house, including elderly, handicapped or sick people.

–Treatment often included pushing people around, insulting, taking aim with rifles, punching and kicking and striking with rifles.

But Inhofe and his ilk, like ultra-reactionary radio host Lars Larson, see all of these means justified. The dirty secret is that the people who live in the lands occupied by America are viewed with widespread contempt by the occupiers and these supporters.

It matters not that, contrary to Inhofe’s ejaculations, almost 100% of those caught in America’s rage are innocent. Here is how Cliff Kindy, member of the Christian Peacemaker Team, describes a day’s work for the Americans:

We were involved in the incidents in Al-Jazeera village where four US Soldiers were killed by friendly fire. In their frustration, they executed three of their prisoners and then opened fire on people leaving a mosque after prayer and five neighbors were killed by tank fire. That report didn’t hit the press. We visited a village, a razor wire community about 50 kilometers north of Baghdad. A commander from a nearby base said they had instituted collective punishment. They razor wired the city and instituted a curfew from 7:00 p.m. until 8:00 in the morning. That was in place five months ago and may still be. Now, those are detainees in one sense. We were in another village, a village along the Tigris River. One person was wanted. He was on officer in the Ba’ath party. 83 men and boys were swept up in that village. There were two males left in that village after the sweep. It seems practices are much broader than just inside Abu Ghraib prison.

False 911 linkage underlies the contempt. Billmon has posted quotes reflecting typical attitudes displayed toward Iraqis by US personnel:

There’s a picture of the World Trade Center hanging up by my bed and I keep one in my Kevlar [flak jacket]. Every time I feel sorry for these people I look at that. I think, ‘They hit us at home and, now, it’s our turn.’ I don’t want to say payback but, you know, it’s pretty much payback.

Billmon’s analysis I think is right on:

Leaving aside the fact that no connection between Saddam Hussein, Al Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks has ever been found – and isn’t seriously claimed even by the neocons these days — blaming the population of an entire country for the actions of a small band of hardcore terrorists (who weren’t even from the same country) is an idiotic fallacy. It’s the same crude logic that led some American morons to mutter that the prisoners at Abu Ghraib had it coming because of what “they” did to those four contractors in Fallujah. And it probably contributed to the willingness of the MPs and interrogators at Abu Ghraib to commit war crimes — even if the system that permitted those crimes was designed at a higher level.

Now the beheading in Iraq of an American, Rick Berg, throws at least for a day, a volley of barbarism to America from its al Qaeda opponents. As Billmon puts it,

…Berg’s death is also a much-needed break for the apostles of total war here in America. The photos from Abu Ghraib temporarily put them on the defensive, but now they can return to their customary cries for blood: an eye for an eye, an atrocity for an atrocity. And so it goes….

Atrocities and atrocities followed by atrocities. The truth is that the American presence in Iraq is a magnet for atrocities. Our troops need to come home now and be with their families. It is time for the dehumanization to end.

Bush dissected

Tuesday, May 11th, 2004

Juan Cole today has a scathing point-by-point dissection of yesterday’s ludicrous dog-and-pony show in support of Donald Rumsfeld.

Cole writes, “So far American-ruled Iraq has been the biggest black eye for democracy since the Reichstag fire. And, the photographs now circulating of prisoner torture are the biggest recruiting tool for al-Qaeda and other anti-American terrorism that Bin Laden could ever have hoped for. The US occupation of Iraq has been so incompetently handled that it has made all Americans less secure by an order of magnitude”.

Also, don’t miss Cole’s translation of an important story on the background of the Spanish pullout from Iraq.

"An atmosphere of legal ambiguity" : Manhunting and torture underpin US policy

Monday, May 10th, 2004

US atrocities against prisoners are far more than “isolated aberrations”

The hearing before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee on the treatment of Iraqi Prisoners last Friday revealed some truth about why, what Donald Rumsfeld now calls “incidents of physical violence toward prisoners–acts that can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhuman”, are happening to detainees under US care in its Terror War.

Here is an excerpt of how Michigan Senator Carl Levin opened questioning of Secretary Rumsfeld last Friday:

General Taguba’s finding that, quote, ‘Personnel assigned to the 372nd M.P. Company were directed to change facility procedures to set the conditions for military intelligence interrogations’, is bolstered by pictures that suggest that the sadistic abuse was part of an organized and conscious process of intelligence gathering.

In other words, those abusive actions do not appear to be aberrant conduct by individuals, but part of a conscious method of extracting information.

If true, the planners of this process are at least as guilty as those who carried out the abuses.

The president’s legal counsel, Alberto Gonzales, reportedly wrote in a memorandum that the decision to avoid invoking the Geneva Conventions, quote, ‘preserves flexibility in the war on terrorism’.

Belittling or ignoring the Geneva Conventions invites our enemies to do the same and increases the danger to our military service men and women. It also sends a disturbing message to the world that America does not feel bound by internationally accepted standards of conduct.

The findings of General Taguba’s report, as reported on a public Web site, raise a number of disturbing issues. For example, how far up the chain was there implicit or explicit direction or approval or knowledge of these prisoner abuses? Why was a joint interrogation and detention facility at Abu Ghraib established in a way which led to the subordination of the military police brigade to the military intelligence unit conducting interrogation activities?

In response, Secretary Rumsfeld offered an apology for what he now deems, “terrible acts [that] were perpetrated by a small number of U.S. military”, but no real examination of the doctrine driving the “military intelligence unit conducting interrogation activities” was offered.

A sketch of answers to Levin’s questions are suggested by precious few press accounts. One of these appeared in a May 7 Joe Conason piece on described how Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith spearheaded a Pentagon move to create an atmosphere of legal ambiguity that would make torture of prisoners easier. Conason writes about the questions raised about the development of this policy:

Scott Horton, a partner at Patterson, Belknap, Webb and Tyler who now chairs the Committee on International Law of the Association of the Bar of New York City, says he was approached last spring by ‘senior officers’ in the Judge Advocate General Corps [JAG], the military’s legal division, who ‘expressed apprehension over how their political appointee bosses were handling the torture issue’. Horton, who once represented late Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, was serving as the chairman of the bar association’s Committee on Human Rights law when the JAG officers first contacted him…

Indeed, Horton says that the JAG officers specifically warned him that Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith, one of the most powerful political appointees in the Pentagon, had significantly weakened the military’s rules and regulations governing prisoners of war. The officers told Horton that Feith and the Defense Department’s general counsel, William J. Haynes II, were creating ‘an atmosphere of legal ambiguity’ that would allow mistreatment of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Haynes, who was recently nominated to a federal appeals court seat by President Bush, is responsible for legal issues concerning prisoners and detainees. But the general counsel takes his marching orders from Feith, an attorney whose scorn for international human rights law was summed up by his assessment of Protocol One, the 1977 Geneva accord protecting civilians, as law in the service of terrorism.

And today, in a new article in the New Yorker, Chain Of Command: How the Department of Defense mishandled the disaster at Abu Ghraib (May 17 issue), Seymour Hersh adds:

No amount of apologetic testimony or political spin last week could mask the fact that, since the attacks of September 11th, President Bush and his top aides have seen themselves as engaged in a war against terrorism in which the old rules did not apply. In the privacy of his office, Rumsfeld chafed over what he saw as the reluctance of senior Pentagon generals and admirals to act aggressively. By mid-2002, he and his senior aides were exchanging secret memorandums on modifying the culture of the military leaders and finding ways to encourage them ‘to take greater risks.’ One memo spoke derisively of the generals in the Pentagon, and said, ‘Our prerequisite of perfection for actionable intelligence has paralyzed us. We must accept that we may have to take action before every question can be answered’. The Defense Secretary was told that he should ‘break the belt-and-suspenders mindset within today’s military… we over-plan for every contingency…. We must be willing to accept the risks’….

The photographing of prisoners, both in Afghanistan and in Iraq, seems to have been not random but, rather, part of the dehumanizing interrogation process.

Hersh described how this policy of high-risk operation had been unfolding in another New Yorker article back on Dec. 15, 2003 (Moving Targets: Will the counter-insurgency plan in Iraq repeat the mistakes of Vietnam?).

Hersh wrote,

The Bush Administration has authorized a major escalation of the Special Forces covert war in Iraq… A new Special Forces group, designated Task Force 121, has been assembled from Army Delta Force members, Navy seals, and C.I.A. paramilitary operatives, with many additional personnel ordered to report by January. Its highest priority is the neutralization of the Baathist insurgents, by capture or assassination….

The revitalized Special Forces mission is a policy victory for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who has struggled for two years to get the military leadership to accept the strategy of what he calls Manhunts“.

Hersh goes on in this article to expose US planning that in Iraq surely is a red hot potato:

Israeli commandos are expected to serve as ad-hoc advisers–again, in secret–when full-field operations begin. (Neither the Pentagon nor Israeli diplomats would comment. ‘No one wants to talk about this’, an Israeli official told me. ‘It’s incendiary. Both governments have decided at the highest level that it is in their interests to keep a low profile on U.S.-Israeli cooperation’ on Iraq.) The critical issue, American and Israeli officials agree, is intelligence. There is much debate about whether targeting a large number of individuals is a practical–or politically effective–way to bring about stability in Iraq, especially given the frequent failure of American forces to obtain consistent and reliable information there….

An American who has advised the civilian authority in Baghdad said, ‘The only way we can win is to go unconventional. We’re going to have to play their game. Guerrilla versus guerrilla. Terrorism versus terrorism. We’ve got to scare the Iraqis into submission”…

The official went on, “It’s not the way we usually play ball, but if you see a couple of your guys get blown away it changes things. We did the American things–and we’ve been the nice guy. Now we’re going to be the bad guy, and being the bad guy works.”

In the same New Yorker article, Hersh introduces a colleague of Douglas Feith:

The rising star in Rumsfeld’s Pentagon is Stephen Cambone, the Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, who has been deeply involved in developing the new Special Forces approach….

…A month after the fall of Baghdad, Cambone was the first senior Pentagon official to publicly claim, wrongly, as it turned out, that a captured Iraqi military truck might be a mobile biological-weapons laboratory.

Cambone also shares Rumsfeld’s views on how to fight terrorism. They both believe that the United States needs to become far more proactive in combating terrorism, searching for terrorist leaders around the world and eliminating them. And Cambone, like Rumsfeld, has been frustrated by the reluctance of the military leadership to embrace the manhunting mission. Since his confirmation, he has been seeking operational authority over Special Forces. ‘Rumsfeld’s been looking for somebody to have all the answers, and Steve is the guy’, a former high-level Pentagon official told me. ‘He has more direct access to Rummy than anyone else’.

Hersh also reported in December that, “One of the key planners of the Special Forces offensive is Lieutenant General William (Jerry) Boykin, Cambone’s military assistant”.

Boykin was the subject of news stories last October because he declared holy war with the Muslim world on video tape during Sunday-morning talks in uniform to church groups.

“Satan wants to destroy this nation, he wants to destroy us as a nation, and he wants to destroy us as a Christian army”, Boykin said. He declared that Bush was “not elected” but “appointed by God”. The Muslim world hates America, he said, “because we are a nation of believers”.

It was Cambone who appeared with Rumsfeld during Friday’s hearing

When Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island questioned Rumsfeld, Cambone also responded:

REED: Mr. Secretary, the Taguba report indicated the principal focus of Major General Miller’s team was on the strategic interrogation of detainees, internees in Iraq. Among its conclusion and its executive summary where that CJTF-7 did not have authorities or procedures in place to affect the unified strategy to detain, interrogate and report information from the detainees-internees in Iraq.

The executive summary also stated that detention operations must act as an enabler for interrogation–an enabler for interrogation.

When General Miller was involved with Guantanamo DOD operations in another theater, he was sent to Iraq–I don’t think major generals in the United States Army make up policies about strategic interrogation of detainees unless they’ve coordinated and communicated to higher headquarters.

Did you ever see, approve or encourage this policy of enabling for interrogation? Did Secretary Cambone ever see, approve or encourage this policy at either facility?

RUMSFELD: I don’t recall that that policy came to me for approval. I think that what we knew from the beginning, since September 11th, is that we had three issues with respect to people that were detained.

One issue was to get them off the street, so they can’t kill again more innocent men, women and children, and keep them off. A second was the question of criminal prosecution for wrongdoing. And the third was to interrogate and see if additional information could be found that could prevent future terrorist acts against our country or our forces or our friends and allies.

So all of those things have been part since the beginning. They’re different functions, as you point out…

REED: Is that Secretary Cambone’s view too? Did he either see, approve or encourage? He’s behind you. Can he respond?

RUMSFELD: Sure he can respond.

CAMBONE: Sir, the…

WARNER: Would you identify yourself for the record. please?

CAMBONE: Yes, sir. My name is Steve Cambone. I’m the undersecretary for intelligence, Senator.

The original effort by the major general was done down with respect to Guantanamo and had to do with in fact whether or not we had the proper arrangement in the facilities in order to be able to gain the kind of intelligence we were looking from those prisoners in Guantanamo.

We had then in Iraq a large body of people who had been captured on the battlefield that we had to gain intelligence from for force protection purposes, and he was asked to go over, at my encouragement, to take a look at the situation as it existed there. And he made his recommendations. His recommendations were that.

REED: Were the recommendations made to you, Mr. Secretary? Did you approve them?

CAMBONE: To me directly, no. They were made to the command.

REED: But you were aware of the recommendations about…

CAMBONE: I was aware of those recommendations.

REED: … enabling interrogation?

CAMBONE: Excuse me, sir?

REED: You were you aware of those recommendations?

CAMBONE: I was aware that he went over, made the recommendation that we get a better coordination between those who are being held and those who are being interrogated.

REED: Mr. Secretary, were you aware that a specific recommendation was to use military police to enable in the interrogation process?

CAMBONE: In that precise language, no. But I knew that we were trying to get to the point where we were assuring that when they were in the general population, those that were under confinement were not undermining the interrogation process.

REED: So this was Major General Miller’s own policy?

CAMBONE: No, sir, it was not a policy. It was a recommendation that he made to the command.

REED: And so General Sanchez adopted this policy, making it a policy of the United States Army and the Department of Defense without consultation with you…

CAMBONE: Sir, I don’t think that’s a proper rendering of it.

REED: Well, I don’t know what the proper rendering is, but that seems to be at the core of this issue. Were you encouraging a policy that had military police officers enabling interrogations which created the situation where these…

CAMBONE: No, sir.

Has Mr. Cambone lied to Congress? Clearly, from Hersh’s reporting, he knows a heck of a lot more about the interrogation policy than he lets on. But his answer is couched in such convoluted language–a “recommendation” is not a “policy”–that his deniability seems to have been preserved. (I can’t tell whay “is” is in these remarks.)

This whole crew of depraved Pentagon should be sacked. It may be too late, as commentators are beginning to wonder aloud if “Like the Wehrmacht, we’ve descended into barbarity”.

Astonishing Additional coverage
Please see Billmon, beginning with the May 1 entry for a great deal of incredible coverage, including concerning use of “Israeli security services [that] are now the USA’s prime subcontractors in the Iraq dirty war”. Please use his right-hand arrow to scroll forward in his entries.

Fed Up

Friday, May 7th, 2004

The superb Iraqi blogger, Riverbend, has had it. And what feeling, caring person could blame her?

From Baghdad Burning May 7, 2004: “People are seething with anger- the pictures of Abu Ghraib and the Brits in Basrah are everywhere. Every newspaper you pick up in Baghdad has pictures of some American or British atrocity or another. It’s like a nightmare that has come to life….

“And through all this, Bush gives his repulsive speeches. He makes an appearance on Arabic tv channels looking sheepish and attempting to look sincere, babbling on about how this ‘incident’ wasn’t representative of the American people or even the army, regardless of the fact that it’s been going on for so long. He asks Iraqis to not let these pictures reflect on their attitude towards the American people… and yet when the bodies were dragged through the streets of Falloojeh, the American troops took it upon themselves to punish the whole city ….

“I sometimes get emails asking me to propose solutions or make suggestions. Fine. Today’s lesson: don’t rape, don’t torture, don’t kill and get out while you can- while it still looks like you have a choice… Chaos? Civil war? Bloodshed? We’ll take our chances- just take your Puppets, your tanks, your smart weapons, your dumb politicians, your lies, your empty promises, your rapists, your sadistic torturers and go“.