State of Denial
The Washington Post just published the first part of its Bob Woodward "State of Denial" piece which is a preview of Woodwards new book on the current administration..
I'll be busy the next hours, but if you want to comment on it, here is some space.
From what was pre-previewed so far, I regard the deep involvement of Henry Kissinger urging Bush and Cheney to never to retreat from Iraq as the most disturbing issue.
Once a war-criminal, ...
Secret CIA Prisons in Pakistan
A German daily reports the existance of at least three secret CIA prisons in Pakistan. A German doctor, says he has treated a child in one of those prisons for tuberculosis.
I have so far found no note on this report in the English speaking press, so here is my translation.
[This is a complete translation of the article titled Geheimgefängnisse der CIA in Pakistan by a reporter of the German daily Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung. It was published in German on September 29, 2006. The translation is as close to the German original as possible. b.]
The cooperation between the USA and Pakistan in the anti-terror-fight is far more comprehensive than has been known up to now. The US foreign secret services CIA operated at least three secret prisons with more than 1,000 detainees in Pakistan.
According to investigations done by this paper the installations are located near the towns of Kohat, Miran Shah and Wana in the west Pakistani region North-Waziristan and Banu. Many Taliban and Qaeda fighteres had retracted into the difficult accessible mountanious area at the boarder to Afghanistan after the US invasion in Kabul 2001. As Pakistani security sources reported, more than 1000 soldiers lost their life in the region North-Waziristan in fights during the Pakistani March 2004 offense there.
The prisons are to the outside under Pakistani control. They are heavily shielded from the public, but are co-led by the CIA. According to eye-witnesses there are up to 1,000 terror suspects in the camp near Miran Shah alone. A German doctor reported to our paper that he had treated an imprisoned twelfe year old child there for tuberculosis a few month ago. "The boy was already imprisoned for a year in this CIA's Pakistani Abu Ghraib - without indictment, legal counsel and without medical treatment," the doctor complained.
US president Bush did conceed the existance of secret CIA prisons for the first time early September. Pakistans president Pervez Musharraf reveals in his new biography "In the line of fire", that the CIA payed several million Dollars for the extradition of over 360 terror-suspects.
Amnesty International accuses Pakistan to "systematic" violations of human rights during the fight against terrorism. The Pakistan expert of the human-rights-organistaion, Sigrid Krieg, says the displacement of suspects to secret locations were prevalent in Pakistan. Security forces had abused and tortured prisoners.
During fights in the region of North-Waziristan inhabitants were displaced and may towns "were razed to the ground", said Krieg. The number of civil victims is assumed to be high.
(Note on the paper that published this story: The Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung (NOZ) is a north-western German regional paper covering several counties, national and international news with a circulation of 185,000 during weekdays and 450,000 on weekends. It is well known, often cited and held in high regard by other outlets for its non-regional coverage and interviews. The paper is hold privatly and political neutral. The best comparison to the US market is probably the former Knight Ridder, now McClatchy newspapers. In short - it is a serious paper that would not publish this without checking its sources.)
Your open thread for news & views ...
WB: Land of Opportunity
I think there's a long post, if not a book, to be written about this particular truth, which is the Jeckyll-and-Hyde split between appearances and reality in 21st century America -- the America where prostitutes pose as journalists (or vice versa), "Christian" activists lobby for legalized torture, generals swagger like Rambo in front of the cameras but cringe before their civilian masters in private, libertarian law professors write secret memos justifying the creation of a police state, sworn enemies of big government gorge themselves on pork, vomit, then gorge some more, and U.S. Senators with the racial values of a klavern leader masquerade as "compassionate conservatives."
Rumsfeld was in Montenegro a few days ago and asked for troops for the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan. When the boss of the mightiest military of the world from a country with 300 million inhabitants has to ask help from the 2,500 strong force of 650,000 inhabitant country, something must be in a dire state.
The U.S. is losing in Iraq and, together with NATO, has no chance to win in Afghanistan.
The only question left is to the degree of escalation (war on Iran, a draft, a fundamentalist coup in Pakistan, ...) that will (need to?) happen before, under some excuse, defeat is conceded. If lucky, we will get rid of NATO during the process and imperialism under the false flag of freedom and democracy will be dispised for some time.
Some quotes on the status of the Global War of Terror:
Five years after September the 11th, 2001, ... America is winning the war on terror.
President Bush Discusses Progress in the Global War on Terror, Sept. 2006
According to Woodward, insurgent attacks against coalition troops occur, on average, every 15 minutes, a shocking fact the administration has kept secret. “It’s getting to the point now where there are eight, 900 attacks a week. That’s more than a hundred a day. That is four an hour attacking our forces,” says Woodward.
Afghanistan Attacks on American troops along Afghanistan's eastern frontier have tripled since a truce between the Pakistani army and pro-Taliban tribesmen. That's according to a U-S officer in the Afghan capital who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
U.S official: Taliban attacks triple in east Afghanistan since Pakistan peace deal
"New explosive devices are now used in Afghanistan within a month of their first appearing in Iraq," said the report.
Al Qaeda gains recruits from Iraq war: UN study
We assess that the underlying factors fueling the spread of the movement outweigh its vulnerabilities and are likely to do so for the duration of the timeframe [5 years] of this Estimate.
Declassified NIE Key Judgements (PDF)
The Al Qaeda ideology has taken root within the Muslim world and Muslim populations within western countries. Iraq has served to radicalise an already disillusioned youth and Al Qaeda has given them the will, intent, purpose and ideology to act.
The West will not be able to find peaceful exit strategies from Iraq and Afghanistan - creating greater animosity...and a return to violence and radicalisation on their leaving. The enemy it has identified (terrorism) is the wrong target. As an idea it cannot be defeated.
Key quotes from a leaked Ministry of Defence think-tank paper
WB: Help is on the way
U.S. Ex-Lawmaker Alleges Torture
By Nori Boustani
RBN Foreign Service
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Spencer Koni, a former U.S. lawmaker who has been jailed without charges in Washington for more than 100 days, was briefly released from detention last Thursday to attend a memorial service, where he shouted out allegations of torture and other harsh treatment, according to his lawyers and other witnesses quoted by a human rights organization.
"For the past 20 days, prison officials have chained my hands and feet. I am being tortured," Koni loudly announced to bystanders at the memorial service for Koni's father before being rushed away by his guards. Several people at the event relayed the incident to Human Rights Watch.
A spokesperson for President Bush said Koni was rightfully jailed as he had engaged in supporting hostilities against the Unites States. "He is handled according to the Military Commissions Act issued by the U.S. Congress. The President will faithfully execute that law in the manner Congress intended."
"I am held in solitary confinement and interrogated four times a day," Koni reportedly shouted. "They wake me up in the middle of the night to interrogate me. They are trying to turn me to a mental patient." Referring to U.S. President George W. Bush he added, "They are forcing me to denounce my beliefs, to repent for my activities, and to ask forgiveness from Bush and Cheney."
Koni had long challenged the U.S. judiciary and intelligence services for human rights abuses during his tenure as a legislator from 2000 to 2006. He made frequent visits to prisons and publicly called for the closure of secret CIA detention centers in his efforts to expose what he called inhumane practices.
He was arrested at a rally June 12 and has been held at a military brig in Washington DC with no access to lawyers, according to Human Rights Watch officials and attorneys working for his release
One of Koni's lawyers, Ben Davids, told the Reuters news agency in Tehran that "Koni's wife had noticed signs of physical impact, especially on his head."
Reuters also quoted Davids as saying Koni was under pressure to write a letter requesting a pardon.
The Attorney General referred to the issue as a military question outside the scope of the Department of Justice. According to U.S. law, the status of special prisoners like Mr. Koni can not be challenged in court.
The Department of Defense had earlier issued a statement in reference to Koni's situation. "The support of hostilities against the people of the U.S. is a serious danger to our fight in the Long War of Terror. Mr. Koni has put himself into this situation by his unacceptable behaviour. In due time, he will learn how to pull himself out of it too."
You have to concede that to him - he IS a smartass.
There is the planed drop in oil-/gas-prices which of course will fit Rove and his party. There is the superb voter turnout strategy and there is the self-absolution of this administration on torture. But even Balkin misses that last, most important, point.
The bill's "terror" relation and its late introduction has the superficial function, so far successfully, to frighten the Democrats in Congress to not oppose it. They could be called weak on the t-word. In Republican voter strategy minds, this meens week on terror, but in any clear liberal mind is simply weak on opposing torture and basic values.
But terror/torture is not the essence of this. Rove does not care if his boss will be superficially (unitary executive?) restricted to order eternal internment and torture of anybody materially supporting hostilities against official U.S. policy, i.e. us.
Cheney will do whatever he gets away with anyway. Rove does not care about reason or habeas corpus. He cares about winning elections - and that is what he will do.
To him, this bill is an insurance policy. If the Democrats, through some curious circumstances, would win a majority in a part of Congress, their first thought would be to find a line for legal steps probably leading to an impeachment investigation of Bush. That would be a catastrophy to the Republican case worse than seen during and after the Nixon impeachment.
So, to Rove, this is about the survival of his party.
Currently, there are probably no people in secret CIA prisons. There is no immediate need to torture anybody (there could, to me, never be a need at all). But the real intent of the rush to this bill is to put into law an indemnification of prior deeds.
This may be the very last chance for the Rove administration to do such dike building against the probably coming flood of hearings.
This bill would effectively pardon any CIA agent, any of his/hers superiors and, most importantly Cheney, for ordering their deeds.
That, and only that, is what this really is about.
The Democrats seem to fail to see how their hands may be bound in future by supporting this legislation.
They also fail to see how their potential voters see this as cowardice against a basic assassination of their values, as a clear sign not to vote for them, i.e. not to vote at all.
So Rove, smartass he is, wins.
An additional late thought on this: If this legislation fails, there is a real, REAL "1%" danger for Cheney to see the ICC from the dock side. To avert that, an attack on Iran may be worthwhile - even before this election. That could be a reason to support its passing, but that is not what the Dems are about.
We Are All Targets Now
The White House is further rewriting the torture and self-absolution legislation that is currently sailing through congress.
Now the real targets turn out to be you and me. The new version of the law would allow the CIA and the U.S. military:
indefinite detention of anyone who, as the bill states, "has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States" or its military allies.
With a bit of phantasy, and this administration will come up with a lot of such, one can read quite some doings falling under this wording.
- A gift to Hizbullah to rebuild a hospital in south Lebanon? - Material support to hostilities ...
- Donation of drugs to Iraqi hospitals under al-Sadr control? - Material support to hostilities ...
- Writing a book arguing against the Worldbank? - Material support to hostilities ...
- Commenting in a blog against the Saudi regime? - Material support to hostilities ...
Also notice how the tense of the laws wording reaches into the past.
How about people who have acted in support of North Vietnam? Jane Fonda, welcome to Gitmo!
We further learn:
The definition applies to foreigners living inside or outside the United States and does not rule out the possibility of designating a U.S. citizen as an unlawful combatant.
So this will apply to every human being. And, of course, no complaining will be allowed:
Under a separate provision, those held by the CIA or the U.S. military as an unlawful enemy combatant would be barred from challenging their detention or the conditions of their treatment in U.S. courts unless they were first tried, convicted and appealed their conviction.
The White House frames this into the "terrorism" junk:
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said: "We are satisfied with the definition because it will allow us to prosecute the terrorists, and it also has important limitations that say a terrorist must have purposefully and materially supported terrorism."
But that is not what the law says. The law is about "hostilities against the United States and it military allies", not about "terrorism".
With this, the legal fishing net just got a lot larger and the meshes became smaller. Even us small fish may be caught in it.
(Bonus bullshit quote:
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) defended the provision, saying alien enemy combatants are not "entitled to rights under the United States Constitution similar to those accorded to a defendant in a criminal lawsuit."
News & views ...
So Billmon is back into blogging hibernation. No wonder I woke up at two in the morning, about when he posted. Something felt just wrong.
While Billmon was on a roll, I had scaled back from posting here (the last days I didn´t even read all comments - which was a first in more than two years).
The sum of the parts here is much too valuable to lose it. So while Billmon is mute, I'll be back to a post per day, starting with this caffeine induced rambling.
While pausing here, I was happy to give in to the urging of a dear friend. Lukas had asked to build a crane - a BIG crane.
Here he is testing one of the first working iterations.
To assemble a big crane, a fleet of transporters is needed plus a smaller crane to move the various parts for the boom and the counterweights. This weekend we completed those designs.
Building such stuff, big or small, is a form of meditation to me. Intuition and a peaceful mind are needed to succeed and are gained in the process. So while figuring out some gearing or design detail, I catch myself reciting mantras. Like sand mandalas these models get finished only to be destroyed - no addictions :-).
The building process is quite comparable to my original trade of building IT-organisations. It starts off modulizing the thing planed. Prototyping the functional elements is followed by fitting a decent design around them - which of course never works on the first try. So it is a back and forth between those two phases. Then, when both seem balanced and finished, the inevitable real test is done. The inherent overlooked flaws begin to show, the thing cracks and one inevitably returns to "Go" and constructs a hopefully better solution.
It is all about balance. The big crane negotiates the forces between the load on the hook and the suspended ballast at the rear in a big half-circle. The cables, the luffing fly jib, the boom, derrick and the various bracings look important, but they are only the support between the two sides of the scale and the ground.
If in balance, there is a pure vertical force on the central slewing and only if in balance, the crane, and life, will turn properly. In other restrains, there are only so many different parts both can be build from and each of the many modules is restricted to certain manageable dimensions.
Sometimes posting at the blog feels like a heavy load on the hook. The frame starts cracking and the bearing comes apart. Then again, writing is a welcome counterweight.
But to change the basic construction, to reconfigure the boom, to repair the crawlers or to add new features, the load and the counterweight need to be lowered to the ground.
Building those cranes was a much needed phase of reconfiguration to me. Now it's back to enjoying your comments. To read, write and think through and beyond the foggy spin of wars, politics and greedy machinations.
Stay tuned ...
WB: Between Sets
So, if you're one of those people who've e-mailed to tell me that you check every day to see if I've posted something new, you should stop now. You'll only be disappointed.
WB: Talking I.F. Stone Blues
I never knew Izzy Stone, but I have to believe he would have found it very tiresome.
WB: Just Like a Comma
WB: Jesus Camp
I have to admit: the old boy's subtle, ironic sense of humor never fails to impress. But then, he is a man of wealth and taste . . .
News & views ...
WB: The Hard Core
You gotta hand it to those terrorists: That's one fiendishly clever disguise.
WB: How I'm Feeling At the Moment
WB: See No Evil
Well, at least we now have moral clarity.
WB: Only the Beginning
It’s getting very dark in here -- the little bit of light left is primarily the result of me trying to convince myself the signs we saw in the run up to the Iraq invasion don’t have the same significance this time around. Who knows? Maybe doing the same things and expecting different results isn’t crazy after all.
Or, at the least, maybe the use of tactical nukes is off the table.
WB: The Road to Hell
Even if Shrub's motives were as virtuous as his hagiographers insist, at what point do recklessness and fecklessness, and a petulant refusal to admit -- much less learn from -- even the most disastrous mistakes, become forms of evil in themselves?
News & views - just another open thread
WB: The Filter
WB: Up is Downism
[I]t appears that democracy has degenerated into a synonym for "a government we support."
Unlimited Victory + WB: Garbage In, Garbage Out
Asked point-blank whether the United States is winning in Iraq, Abizaid replied: "Given unlimited time and unlimited support, we're winning the war."
'06 Cuts In Iraq Troops Unlikely
Under the circumstances, nation building in the Middle East might best be compared to sand castle building -- on the beach in the face of a rising tide. We'd probably all be better off if our imperial strategists could come up with a strategy for managing the transition to a more decentralized, fragmented and at times chaotic world, instead of trying to turn back the clock to a earlier day. But, of course, if they were comfortable doing that they probably wouldn't be imperial strategists.
WB: Sailing to the North Pole
Gaia: I got the fever. Yeah, I got the fever.
WB: Thai Game
I'm guessing the "principles of democracy" will be plenty flexible enough to allow Shrub to give the new military government his tacit blessing.
That is, assuming the generals don't support Roe v. Wade or stem cell research or anything Satanic like that. I mean, Thailand may be important, but you gotta draw the line somewhere.
WB: Orwell Has a Field Day
WB: The Great White Hope
Just read the piece before I saw Billmon's post on Cheney Says Hopes of World Rest on U.S.. The juicy bits:
Cheney asserted that the hopes of the civilized world depend on a U.S. victory.
Speaking to the National Automobile Dealers Association, Cheney suggested that the U.S. economy was firing on all cylinders and seldom has been stronger. He credited Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, and urged Congress to finish work on making them permanent.
Cheney told the dealers that modern automobiles are "marvels of design, performance and reliability.
You're part of the reason America remains among the strongest economies in the world."
In other news today:
Study Finds Threat to the Future of Ford
Chrysler cuts output in bid to reduce inventory
Ford, GM talk alliance in struggle to survive
Fitch Cuts GM Recovery Rate
Ford to Lay off 14,000 Salaried Workers
J.D. Power shows tough US market depressing new car prices
Even boneheaded, Republican voting automobile dealers will have some trouble not to feel fucked, when comparing Cheney's talk with their daily sales numbers ...
WB: Idiocracy Now
News & views ...
WB: And People Call Me a Pessimist
[I]f Lovelock's "Gaia Hypothesis" is correct, and the planet really does act like one big self-regulating organism, then what's coming won't be the end of life on earth, but rather the fever that kills the germs (think of the human race as a particularly nasty yeast infection) and restores the patient to her former health.
WB: Enemies List
Maybe there's nothing to this. Maybe partial data has only created the appearance that the IRS is zeroing in on liberal and/or Democratic groups. Maybe I really am having an acid flashback. But further investigation -- by people with their hands clamped around the IRS's balls (by which I mean its budget) -- definitely wouldn't hurt.
WB: The American Disease
The question on the table .. is whether anyone will do anything about it -- or can do anything about it.
WB: Today's Gardening Tip
I'll never believe Pangloss again.
WB: Looking for a Dictator
There's only one man in Iraq I can think who would possibly pull something like that off -- and his name isn't Ahmed Chalabi. However, considering how badly the country has fragmented over the past three years, even Saddam might not want his old job back. I don't think he could stomach the blood.
That the strongman scenario is even showing up in the media chatter is, I suppose, a sign of how desperate the realists are to find a way out of the swamp -- one that doesn't involve a choice between turning Iraq over to the Iranians or going to war with them.
WB: The RNC Branch Office on the Tigris + Miracle Worker
II. Miracle Worker
Now we can see why the occupation of Iraq -- the toughest foreign policy job taken on by the U.S. government since the Vietnam War -- came to be run by the kind of conservative dimwits who post at The Corner. How much more do you need to know to understand that failure in Iraq wasn't just an option -- it was inevitable.
WB: The Late Show
But War President doesn't really have the option of switching to cable, where the old formula might still prove commercially viable. Maybe the producers can keep the sponsors on board until Shrub's contract is up. But I guess that depends on how many affiliates are willing to renew in November for next year's season.
WB: Signature Wound
However, doctors say they are puzzled by the fact that some of the worst casualties appear to be among top officials in the Pentagon and the Bush administration -- even though these patients typically show no physical signs of injury.
WB: Objectively Pro-Bin Laden
Ratzinger's little dissertation was all pain, no gain. It was totally gratuitous. It served no useful purpose, either for peace or war. As such, it amounted to a nice little windfall gift to Al Qaeda -- and was thus objectively pro-bin Laden.
I hope the pope has learned at least a small lesson from this debacle, which is that he simply doesn't have the intellect, the stature or -- most important -- the moral authority of his precedessor to pontificate on such matters.
Weekend Open Thread
News & views ...
WB: Shorter Krauthammer + Festung Baghdad
II. Festung Baghdad
WB: A Tortured Definition
What this amounts to (and what Powell was really complaining about) is the final decommissioning of the myth of American exceptionalism -- once one of the most powerful weapons in the U.S. arsenal. Without it, we're just another paranoid empire obsessed with our own security and willing to tell any lie or repudiate any self-proclaimed principle if we think it will make us even slightly safer.
Then again, maybe it's best if the myth gets permanently busted. Maybe America should take public responsibility for torturing prisoners -- instead of just pawning the job off to the Jordanian or Egyptian or Saudi intelligence services, who could and would hook car batteries to testicles with gusto while we piously pronounced our hands (and hearts) clean. A U.S. torture statute would at least bring a certain degree of clarity to the "vague" and "open to interpretation" policies that have long allowed the United States to enjoy the fruits of torture (and other crimes) without actually committing them ourselves. I know that's not exactly the kind of clarity Shrub was asking for today, but it would still be a refreshing oubreak of honesty.
WB: Pavlovian Politics
My guess is the effect will wear off relatively quickly as we put the 9/11 anniversary behind us. Lower gas prices will probably do more to improve the GOP's chances in November than Shrub's second-hand terror attacks. Iraq will probably do more to hurt them. But for now at least, I guess we should score at least a few points for the Rovian brand of propaganda-based reality. Fear still works.
WB: Be All You Can Be + Gibbon Take
II. Gibbon Take
Fruit Cake Conclusions
rememberinggiap, a commentator on this blog since its first day, has just received a new computer. His old machine died some month ago. He has/had no money and his fascinating job (read down) did/does not nearly pay enough to get a replacement.
So after Conchita generously raised the awareness, some donors put up the needed money to get r'giap going again and regulars here donated, underlining their solidarity and spreading the burden. A big genuine "Thanks" to all of them!
Nearly a year later, I today re-ask the question r'giap raised and was rebuked for.
Is the resistance to this stupid War of Terror a genuine native social one, or is this some wacko religious conflict?
My take is the first, Billmon seems to tend to the second view.
The countries and state-philosophies involved are on one side based on pure neo-lib greed (A) and on the other on a secular kind of socialism (Baathism) or a religion sourced duty to share wealth (B), i.e. socialism based on agnostic believe or some holy book.
In which conversion of your personal life, A to B or B to A, would you really be committed to resist?
That is still the much undervalued central question of the fight. But back to r'giap:
He just wrote:
the wonderful tool has arrived & with its maiden ecran - there will be much work done on them
i really, really want to thank all the comrades for their fraternity & generosity - i hope i am worthy of your efforts
here & elsewhere
as conchita knows i have a fascination with the tools of my labour (perhaps even a little too much) but to be working on something that only my own failure is exigante is important for me
the conflation of my situation, the sickness being very heavy & the pure absurdity of events - foreseeable events like the 'resurgance' of the 'insurgents' in afghanistan - where we have since the whisky bar been most insistant
the plane affair become a sorry soap instead of the affair of state it is
from bint jbeil to wajiristan - the empire has understood nothing, absolutely nothing
& the mess they are making of it is enough it send us all to hospital & sometimes it is hard to see through the mess & sometimes i am unconvinced of friend slothrops sense that finally the empire knows what it is doing even in chaos
having been more or less a silent witness & overcrowded with commentary &images during this été - i am convinced of only their brutality & their stupidity
& it is not flattery to say i come here for sense, common sense
& i find it
Welcome back r'giap. May steel win over gold.
WB: The Far Enemy
[T]o the extent that America does have a choice between fighting terrorists "here" (in the Islamic ghettos of London or New York or Hamburg) or "there" (the deserts of Anbar, the Hindu Kush) maybe it should choose here -- our turf instead of theirs, the near enemy rather than the far. Because at this point, it's not clear our far enemy can be defeated on its own home ground.
WB: Rules for Radicals
Maybe the best way to put it is that the Rovians are radical reactionaries -- so reactionary their aspirations to turn the clock back to circa 1896 actually sound like something fundamentally new, in the same way that "globalization" sounds so much more hip and modern than good old Manchester Liberalism. The conservative "Great Leap Backwards" probably isn't attainable (and, considering the death toll from Mao's attempt to jump in the opposite direction, thank God for that) but I'd be willing to bet there are Cheney Administration staffers who will be scheming, or at least dreaming, of "the day" until the day they die.
WB: The Marching Morons
Clearly, the studio understands how offensive a movie about a world filled with slack-jawed morons could be to a contemporary American audience -- not to mention the top executives at Newscorp. Also not to mention the White House, the RNC, the Pentagon, the American Enterprise Institute, the major Wall Street investment banks, Ivy League universities and all the other places where the morons of today like to congregate and pretend they're the genetically superior elite.