Friday, October 05, 2007

The new torture paradigm

NYT reported yesterday that after the administration denounced torture as "abhorrent" in Dec. 2004 -- after the secret torture memo Alberto "waterboard" Gonzales cooked up for W. as White House counsel was leaked to the NYT -- one of the first things Gonzales did on taking the office of Attorney General was issue a new secret opinion saying torture was actually A-OK.

The NYT:

"The new opinion . . . for the first time provided explicit authorization to barrage terror suspects with a combination of painful physical and psychological tactics, including head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures.

Mr. Gonzales approved the legal memorandum on 'combined effects' over the objections of James B. Comey the deputy attorney general, who was leaving his job after bruising clashes with the White House. Disagreeing with what he viewed as the opinion’s overreaching legal reasoning, Mr. Comey told colleagues at the department that they would all be 'ashamed' when the world eventually learned of it."

Well, we've now learned of it but I'm not sure many of his colleagues still working at the DoJ are ashamed at all. Especially not the new head of the Office of Legal Counsel, Steven G. Bradbury, who has apparently distinguished himself as a loyal toady for Cheney and his shadowy Rasputin, David Addington. He's been there since 2005, which is lot longer than Jack Goldsmith who was not a loyal bushie at all and therefore had to go.

John McCain might have been one of the "appropriate members" of Congress who was briefed on this new torture ruling but he was just lied to. McCain says, he was "personally assured by administration officials that at least one of the techniques allegedly used in the past, waterboarding, was prohibited under the new law." [The face slapping and cold temps thing, I guess, is not such a big deal to him]

So basically, the administration did yet another end round all the checks and balances and now that they've been caught, they're justifying the whole thing but saying, as W. did (they all use the same talking points), "We have gotten information from these high-value detainees that have helped protect you."

I feel a lot better knowing the president and his men routinely flaunt the law, secretly make up laws to allow them to torture people and justs for fun lock up Americans in military brigs without charges or evidence for years on end. All in the name of protecting us.

Question is: Who is going to protect us from our own government?

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The world turned upside down: Reality nonoperable.

I was just scanning through this weeks edition of Newsweek and I came across Christopher Dickey's article on the recent avalanche of books being published outlining the sad state of affairs in our country in terms of civil liberties. It's pretty bleak oh my droogies.

We've all heard the administration's narrative that after 9/11 everything had changed and the gloves were coming off. I'm sure most people thought we were going to go after whoever was behind the 9/11 attacks much the same way the Clinton administration did with the "Blind Sheik" after the 1993 WTC attacks or Timothy McVeigh after Oklahoma City. What I don't think most folks bargained for was the vice-president and his legal eagle, David Addington (aka Cheney's Rasputin), getting out a big bottle of white-out and blanking out the fourth, sixth, and eighth amendments of the constitution, all in the name of waging a perpetual war against . . . well someone, we're not sure who. After all, the two people most responsible for 9/11 are still hanging out in Pakistan spending their free time playing around with digital video cameras.

Meanwhile, W. & Co. have managed to get us into two wars that just seem to go on and on. And in the name of those wars, they've gone around the world kidnapping people off the streets of our closest allies and outsourced the torture of them to regimes like Syria; locked up mere suspects up in "black prisons," and at home have run roughshod over our entire system of checks and balances that were supposed to prevent the creation of an imperial regime from ever taking over. The country most of you reading this right now were born into and thought was the way it had always been and would always be -- is gone.

As Chris Dickey sums up in his piece: "The Bush administration's very special vision of a powerful president waging endless war, which once would have seemed fantastical, has become the painful reality that Americans may be living for generations to come."

Perhaps many people who haven't been paying much attention to the fact that our country is no longer our country are scratching their heads at the funny situation where private armies are now essentially waging parallel wars for their corporate clients in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan and getting paid vast sums of tax-payer money to do it.

What kind of brave new world are we living in where the our top commanding general in Iraq, David Petraues, the author of the Surge, makes $100,000 a year while the owner of Blackwater USA, Erik Prince, makes a million a year? And, worst of all, while our grunts are sweating it out on the streets of Baghdad -- many of them concerned about whether their families back at home have enough food stamps to get through the month -- they're most likely dodging and sometimes catching "honor bullets" for the murderous excesses of Blackwater mercenaries making 10 times what they do.

In what kind of whacky world does an American civilian contractor kill the body guard of another country's vice-president in a drunken rage and get flown out of that country and flown back home to walk the streets a free man? In the olden days an American soldier who did such a thing would be court marshaled and imprisoned. But since this contractor was working for Blackwater, the State Department's muscle, he gets a pass. We've got 2 million American in prison, 40% of whom are non-violent drug offenders, yet murderers working for our government are allowed to walk the streets free men.

David Satterfield, a senior advisor to Condi Rice, defended Blackwater by telling Congress: "Without private security details, we would not be able to interface with Iraqi government officials, institutions and other Iraqi civilians critical to our missions here."

The fact that after four years, almost 30,000 US casualties and half a trillion dollars down the drain our diplomats still can't walk out their heavily fortified door without the protection of dozens of heavily armed mercenaries (with their own air support wing no less) to "interface" with Iraqi civilians, kind of tends to highlight the reality that this war is a total and complete failure.

But reality is no longer operable in these United States. Ron Suskind quoted one Bush official explaining the newthink that prevails at the White House:

Suskind and his fellow travelers are "'in what we call the reality-based community," what is made up of people, he says, who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality."

Empiricism and intellictual regour all that clap-trap is simply a thing of the past:

"That's not the way the world really works anymore. We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

As arch-neocon Norman Podhoretz writes in his book "World War IV:" in its fight against terrorism W. & Co. face their own "domestic insurgency" here at home: There are "journalistic devotees of the Vietnam syndrome" those damned "liberal internationalists" and worst of all the "realists." If you think the neocons are a spent force, just look at who's still sitting on his perch in the veep's office.

How long before this administration turns its hired guns against this domestic insurgency? Halliburton is already building new detention facilities for the illegal aliens DHS is getting ever better at rounding up in their hundreds at a time. If we don't have enough ICE agents to round up illegals and domestic insurgents at the same time, there's always Blackwater ready and willing for a price to interface with American civilians right here at home.

Think this is all conspiracy theories and paranoia? Just look at what's been done in just 6 1/2 years by this administration and, if you still have any doubts, check out Operation Endgame and what DHS has in store.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Dipnote: Is it a joke?

This is just too perfect. Al Kamen passed the word along in the WaPo today that the Department of State has set up its own blog to, as they put it, "provide you with a window into the work of the people responsible for our foreign policy, and will give you a chance to be active participants in a community focused on some of the great issues of our world today."

So far, it doesn't seem to be going too terribly well. In the first place, you can't read the white text on the black background, and even worse, the name of the blog itself -- Dipnote -- is in desperate need of some reworking.

As "Alan" in New York posted today, "Dipnote is a fine term within the context of diplomatic jargon - as a blog title, it sounds way too close to 'dipshit.' Brainstorm for a new title."

My God, what were they thinking, that they would actually get positive feedback from the blogsphere, which is pretty much dominated by people who hate them? The liberal bloggers despise Condi Rice and all her evil works and the right wing bloggers hate the State Department because they don't blow enough things up.

Here are a few examples of the rave reviews Dipnote has gotten so far today:

Jason writes:

"This blog is great. It will allow the world to keep track of your pretending to engage in diplomacy with Iran while your 'administration' plans to bomb them without Congressional authorization, practical justification, the support of the American people, international legal support, or even the most basic sense of right and wrong.Thanks for keeping us safe by radicalizing half-a-million Muslim citizens. Great work."

Jennifer writes:

"You have GOT to be kidding!! I'd tell you what I really think of your circa '99 great blog experiment, but I'm afraid of being wiretapped and put under surveillance. Or worse. I'm sure this will be a smashing success, just like every other single thing this administration has gotten its hands on."

James writes:

"Is it not suspicious to have you speak about problems with countries throughout the world, yet I see no topics on Iraq, Pakistan, Darfur, Israel, Syria, Russia, and your next target Iran? This site is a farce until you start supplying Americans with INFORMATION. You should be ashamed."

And so it goes.

And here's a little tip, Dip, defending Blackwater's activities in Iraq is not going to help matters much. You might want to reconsider the entire idea of having a blog at all.

Jeez, no wonder we're in such a mess around the world. With public servants like these, who needs al-Qaeda?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Violence down in Iraq? Not really

AP reports today:

"The number of American troops and Iraqi civilians killed in the war fell in September to levels not seen in more than a year. The U.S. military said the lower count was at least partly a result of new strategies and 30,000 additional U.S. forces deployed this year. Although it is difficult to draw conclusions from a single month's tally, the figures could suggest U.S.-led forces are making headway against extremists and disrupting their ability to strike back."

See, we who nay-sayed the Surge were wrong and W. and David Petraeus were right all along. How could we be so stupid to question W.?

There is one little fly in the ointment, though. Part or most of the decline in civilian deaths in Iraq may have more to do with the fact that there's fewer and fewer people to kill after almost two years of full-out ethnic cleansing by both sides, Sunnis and Shiites.

Newsweek reported at the beginning of last month that:

"According to the Iraqi Red Crescent, the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) has more than doubled to 1.1 million since the beginning of the year, nearly 200,000 of those in Baghdad governorate alone. . . part of the reason behind the decline is how far the Shiite militias' cleansing of Baghdad has progressed: they've essentially won.

'If you look at pre-February 2006, there were only a couple of areas in the city that were unambiguously Shia,' says a U.S. official in Baghdad who is familiar with the issue but is not authorized to speak on the record. 'That's definitely not the case anymore.' The official says that 'the majority, more than half' of Baghdad's neighborhoods are now Shiite-dominated, a judgment echoed in the most recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq: 'And very few are mixed.' "

UNHCR reports that:

"Displacement is rising as Iraqis are finding it harder to get access to social services inside Iraq and many Iraqis are choosing to leave ethnically mixed areas before they are forced to do so. "

The ethnic cleansers are running out of targets. The ones that can get out of the country are leaving in records numbers; strangley coinciding with the beginning of the Surge:


"The number of Iraqis applying for asylum in industrialized countries went up by 45 percent in the first half of 2007 compared to the previous six months, according to our latest quarterly statistical report on asylum trends in industrialized countries. . . Iraqis made some 19,800 asylum claims during the first six months of 2007 in the 36 industrialized countries included, an increase of 45 percent compared to the last six months of 2006, when 13,600 applications were received. The Iraqi number for the first six months is already approaching the total figure for all of 2006 – 22,200. Iraqis were the No. 1 nationality applying for asylum in industrialized countries in the first half of the year."

But why? General Petraeus and US Ambassador Ryan Crockers have told us and Congress that the Surge is making progress. Yesterday, they both issued a joint statement which read:

"We must maintain the momentum that together we have achieved. We are confident that you and your fellow citizens will continue to display determination, that Iraqi security forces will remain vigilant and that additional Iraqis will join our combined effort."

Yes, that momentum must be maintained, but in the meantime every Iraqi that's got a car and a little $ is heading for the door. If the Surge is a such a raging success, why are there 4.2 million Iraqis on the move?

And if the Surge is disrupting extremists ability to strike back how did they manage to bomb a US sponsored reconcilliation meeting in Baquba last week? How long now have we been mopping up Baquba?

Perhaps, the some of the reason behind the rosy news out of Iraq this week has more to do with the fact that the Mahdi Army, the part of it still under the control al-Sadr anyway, are taking a break. At the end of August al-Sadr called for a cease fire.
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