Friday, July 14, 2006

Israel mad dog.

Ok, correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought Israel's insursion into Lebanon was intended to rescue two soldiers who were kidnapped by Hezbollah three days ago. Now all of a sudden, however, I read in the NYT that Brig. Gen. Ido Nehushtan, a member of the general staff, says:

“We want to put Hezbollah out of business. We want to force the Lebanese government to take responsibility and deploy along the border and dismantle Hezbollah, which if it is allowed, will prevent any stabilization and peace process in the Middle East.” (One wonders how the Lebanese army would do go about this deployment while Israel is bombing all the roads and bridges.)

The top military leader in Israel, Lieutenant General Dan Halutzm, has threatened to: "turn back the clock in Lebanon by 20 years," according to Beirut's Daily Star. (Why stop there, why not bomb then back to the stone age?)

Boy, talk about mission creep! What initially appeared to be a legitimate military response to attacks on Israeli military targets in Gaza and along Israel's nothern border has now turned into a full scale assualt; "imposing a blockade on Lebanon by land, sea and air, forcing its airport to close, cutting off ports and wrecking bridges and roads," according to the WaPo.

So much for Condi urging Israel to "exercise restraint, be concerned about civilian casualties, [and] be concerned of course about civilian infrastructure." [WaPo] Looks like Israel isn't much interested in listening to its largest foreign donar on this topic. Typically, W. came right out to say that "Israel has a right to defend herself," but then it must have dawned on him that what Israel was doing to Lebanon might lead to the collapse of the government he's been taking credit for since the Syrians left last year: Hense the panicked late-night appeal by Condi for "restraint."
Of course, what W. and Condi don't undertsand is that Israel does what Israel wants. Probably what they should consider is setting up an American lobby in Israel, then maybe we could turn the tables on them.

They'd better do something fast, because if this keeps up for much longer something really bad might happen, like, Israel might decide to take their fight ot Syria or even Iran. The FT reports in just three days the price of a barrel of oil has gone to $78 and that "traders said if the conflict between Israel and Hizbollah’s guerrillas in Lebanon became more intense, prices were likely to reach $80 a barrel soon.

Comon' W., midterms are coming up, think fast.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

W. goes compassionate for terrorists?

Yesterday, the Pentagon announced that all detainees in US military custody are now entitled to all the protections of the Geneva Conventions. To hear Tony Snow tell it, this is really nothing new, this is what the administration has been doing all along. Of course, in the real world this is a big step down from what had been the Bush administration's claim that they could do whatever the hell they felt like doing without the authorization of the Congress or the courts. (Of course, it all could just be a sham and it's business as usual)

The Supremes in a 5 to 3 ruling last week put paid to that wrongheaded notion and now we're seeing the administration scrambling to retain every scrap of the so-called "unitary presidency" it can get its hands on. No doubt, David Addington is feverishly working on legislation, giving W. cart blanc to do exactly what he was doing before, for Congress to rubber stamp, but I don't think its going to work this time. As I understand it, if Congress were to just codify Addington's dictats, it would all go back to the courts again anyway. Hopefully, there are enough moderate Republicans and Democrats -- not sporting their typical yellow streak down their backs at the mere mention of "weak on terrorism" -- who will do what's right and vote for the rule of law and human rights.

Though the ruling was specifically on the issue of Gitmo detainees and whether W. could try them in one of his kangaroo tribunals, many are now saying this crack in Addington's twisted legal theories could trickle down to W.'s other self-anointed executive prerogatives. At this very minute there are smart lawyers all over the country and members of the Congress working out ways to clip W.'s wings from the secret foreign detention centers to the NSA domestic spying program.

Newsweek reports this week that lawyers in the administration who opposed Addington's efforts to "find the legal equivalant of outer space" -- his perfect "lawless" universe --- where only the president makes the rules, have been vindicated in their warnings that this type of power grab could seriously backfire; and not just at home but internationally as well. Michael Isikoff and Stuart Taylor Jr. write in Newsweek that:

"...Other countries, emboldened by the [supreme court] ruling, could use the case to justify efforts to bring war crimes charges against CIA officers, U.S. service members and traveling government officials who had a hand in authorizing or carrying out harsh treatment of prisoners. Conceivably, those who violate provisions of [Geneva Conventions Common] Article 3 -- which mandate humane treatment for all captured prisoners -- could also be criminally prosecuted by future administrations under a U.S. law known as the War Crimes Act."

Even Ted Olson, W.'s former election fixer in the Supreme Court in the 2000 election, says, "The implications of this -- for potentially being arrested and tried in other countries -- is certainly a little scary." (All those CIA officers who kidnapped Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, or Abu Omar, in Milan in 2003 might want to avoid going to Italy -- like, forever.) Two people I can think of -- right off the top of my head -- who should be very worried about taking trips to 'Old Europe' or a Democratic administration taking power in 2008 are David Addington and John Yoo (aka. "Mr. Torture Memo"). Yoo, is quoted in the Newsweek article fuming that: "It shows that the imperial judiciary thinks that, in addition to abortion, affirmative action and religion, war should be within its grasp."

[Actually John, I think what they said was that our Constitution doesn't allow for an imperial presidency, and just to get the record straight; this is a court packed with a majority of Republican appointees, including two W. hand picked. My God, what else do you want; would replacing the Court with an American version of Hitler’s' Volks Gericht make you happy?]

One would hope that after receiving such a severe spanking for the Court W. would be worried enough about his precarious legal position, vis the two other branches, to cashier Addington for all the damage he's done. Naturally, that would also necessarily mean cleaning out Darth Cheney's office and sending him on trips to attend funerals of foreign dignitaries for the rest of the administration's term. In order for that to happen, however, he would have to close down Cheney's shadow government and assume all the powers of the presidency. Right now, he's nothing more than the head of state, kind of like Queen Elizabeth.

Monday, July 10, 2006

More on Steven D. Green:

The WaPo reports:

"Military investigators brought charges against four more American soldiers accused of taking part in the rape and murder of an Iraqi girl and the killing of three members of her family, the U.S. military said Sunday. The four active-duty soldiers from the Army's 502nd Infantry Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division are accused of conspiring with Steven D. Green, a former private, who was charged with rape and murder in federal court earlier this month."

The more I hear about this Steven Green story, the angrier I become. I don't want to prejudge the young man before he has had his day in court, but if the allegations against him and the three other soldiers arrested on Saturday are proven to be true (two sergeants among them), this will most certainly go down as one of the most shameful episodes of the entire war (and that's saying something!). The Iraqi public reaction seems to be muted thus far, as they're probably more focused on not getting hauled off and shot by roving bands of gunmen, but that doesn't mean our military hasn't been disgraced by this despicable incident all the same.

There are several questions yet to be answered, for me first and foremost being: Where were these soldier's supervisors? Who signed off on them going out all by themselves into the "triangle of death" in one Humvee? As I understand it, it is SOP to travel in convoys of three Humvees minimum. (This procedure was clearly being ignored, based on what happened to Pfc.'s Tucker and Menacha) And how did no one notice these guys loading up their vehicle with beer? Where did they get the beer? Did any one see them when they returned from their "mission," drunk and with blood all over their clothes?

This is just mind boggling to me!

I know the 101st Airborne has been notorious for morale and discipline problems for decades, so maybe this is just the way they do business, but what about the Army's performance in this case? News reports say that Green was honorably discharged two months ago, after serving for 11 months, for an "antisocial personality disorder." Is this condition something that suddenly appeared after he was deployed, or was he recruited with this problem from the beginning? I know the Army is having trouble getting warm bodies into the ranks, so did they detect this disorder and just pass him through? Is this a result of lowered recruiting standards? If it is, it shouldn't come as a great surprise to anyone if things like this keep happening.

Whether we'll ever know what the Army knew or not is anyone's guess. There is probably no record of Green's mental or physical condition before he was deployed, because Rummy decided to ignore the law Congress passed after the Gulf War requiring the Pentagon to examine all troops before being sent into combat. Richard Weidman from Vietnam Veterans of America testified to the House Committee on Veteran's Affiars in 2003 that:

"Although required by law to take pre-deployment physicals for all troops prior to deployment, including blood samples to be preserved, and a complete psycho-social examination the Department of Defense (DoD) has deliberately failed to obey the law. . .It would seem to a layman that these individuals, by ignoring the law, have violated their oath of public office. . .Instead of fulfilling the intent of the law and ensuring that a "baseline" for every deployed service member is taken, great effort seems to be expended on trying to convince the media and the Congress that laughable questionnaires utterly useless from a scientific epidemiological viewpoint is somehow meeting the clear mandates of the law."

They sure were eager to get rid of him, though, setting him loose on the American population at large without any warning. I'd be interested to know what prompted the Army to discharge him and what they thought he might be capable of. If he was too dangerous to be in Iraq, what made the Army feel it was ok to let him walk free on the streets of America?

Something about this whole thing stinks to high heaven. You can't tell me these four were just operating free-lance, that's not the way the military works. Someone with a higher pay grade had to know something wasn't kosher. What's really frightening about this is that if it hadn't been for that one soldier who was so distraught about the deaths of his comrades, Tucker and Menacha, we might have never found out about this and Green and co. would have gotten away with this scot-free.
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