Category Archives: Abu Ghraib

Abu Ghraib: Another Timid Step

Yet another committee investigating Abu Ghraib has taken yet another timid step in assigning responsibility for the torture to the top of the Administration. Months after the initial revelations about the Admin’s cold and calculating search for legal loopholes in the Geneva Convention that would allow the US to torture prisoners for information (White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales called the Convention ‘quaint’ and ‘irrelevant’) and its in-house support for torture as a tactic, the Schlesinger panel concludes that responsibility lies with Rumsfeld and the DoD.

WASHINGTON, Aug. 24 – For Donald H. Rumsfeld to resign over the prison abuses at Abu Ghraib would be a mistake, the four-member panel headed by James M. Schlesinger asserted Tuesday. But in tracing responsibility for what went wrong at Abu Ghraib, it drew a line that extended to the defense secretary’s office.The panel cited what it called major failures on the part of Mr. Rumsfeld and his aides in not anticipating and responding swiftly to the post-invasion insurgency in Iraq. On the eve of the Republican convention, that verdict could not have been welcome at the White House, where postwar problems in Iraq represent perhaps President Bush’s greatest political liability.

The report rarely mentions Mr. Rumsfeld by name, referring most often instead to the “office of the secretary of defense.” But as a sharp criticism of postwar planning for Iraq, it represents the most explicit official indictment to date of an operation that was very much the province of Mr. Rumsfeld and his top deputies.

A ‘failure’ is not the same thing as a ‘decision’. The panel is saying what the evidence compels it to say but putting it in a context that ignores some key decisions that suggest very strongly that Abu Ghaib was planned all along. A few of those questions:

***Why was Boykin not fired after his anti-Muslim/pro-fundamentalist Xtian comments?
***Why was Boykin put in charge of the Army’s prison system?
***Why did Rumsfeld allow Boykin to appoint MajGen Geoffrey Miller as head of the prison system in Iraq even though Miller’s use of torture techniques while he was in charge of Gitmo was an open secret and potential scandal?
***Why was Army Intelligence put in charge of the ‘interrogations’?
***Why was Gen Karpinski–and others in the theater–told not to interfere with them even though she was supposed to be in command at AG?
***Where–and who–did that order come from?

The Schlesinger panel’s criticism of Rumsfeld’s ‘failure to respond’ doesn’t connect any of these dots or answer any of those questions; it ducks altogether the thorny possibility that Rumsfeld didn’t ‘respond’ because it was a policy he knew all about and had in fact deliberately implemented. Instead it pretends that leaving Boykin and Miller in charge was somehow an accidental oversight. That’s quite an assumption given the intensity with which the DoD, DoJ, and BA hunted for legal rationalizations for the US to justify precisely what US interrogators later did at AG. It’s an incredible assumption given that Rumsfeld not only knew what had been going on at Gitmo under Miller but had publicly defended it.

The only way to avoid pointing the finger directly at the Bush Admin is by compartmentalizing all these separate findings and then making believe they’re totally unconnected to each other. Put them together and the inevitable conclusion is that Rumsfeld and the BA planned, developed, and implemented a specific policy; the pieces can’t be explained rationally any other way.

It is becoming, bit by bit, clearer and more inescapable that responsibility for the torture at Abu Ghraib belongs on the desk where Harry Truman said the buck stopped.

Abu Ghraib: The Big Lie Is Working–Part 1

The Rolling Stone article detailing the abuses at Abu Ghraib ended the drought of news stories about the torture inflicted by American soldiers, intelligence agents, and civilian contractors since CBS’ 60 Minutes‘ pictures and Seymour Hersh’s original charges ignited the firestorm in May, and the obvious questions are being raised: Where have all the reporters gone? Why did it take a rock magazine to break this story–again? The trials of the AG6 are under way, revelations are coming out daily that clearly describe a pattern of abuse and suggest that the pattern had been ordered from above, and yet our media has gone off the story. Why?

A long essay in The American Journalism Review by senior writer Sherri Ricchiardi attempts to get to the bottom of this puzzling (to her) widespread abrogation of journalistic duty. ‘Missed Signals’ catalogs a series of reasons, excuses, and rationalizations given by media reps that makes for depressing reading, particularly when they’re trying to explain away the lack of coverage after the initial blizzard of articles came under attack from the Mighty Wurlitzer of the right wing. To some extent, one can credit their slowness in picking up on the story in the first place.

After chronicling the sequence of ‘red flags’ that barely raised an eyebrow (‘ In November, the Associated Press was among the first to raise alarms about abuse at Abu Ghraib – but few of the AP’s clients showcased the story, if they ran it at all.’), Ricchiardi asks, ‘Why did it take so long for the news media to uncover the scandal? What went wrong?’ The answers are instructive.

#WaPo Exec Editor Leonard Downie: On Jan 16, Baghdad command issued a one paragraph press release that said, ‘An investigation has been initiated into reported incidents of detainee abuse’–no details. Downie gives Excuse #1: ‘They Didn’t Dump It In Our Laps.’

“Have you ever read that paragraph? They made it as innocent-sounding as possible, and it just wasn’t noticed the way it should have been.”

Excuse me but didn’t it used to be a reporter’s job to read between the lines? What was Downie expecting, a press release that said, ‘American soldiers are systematically torturing, raping, and occasionally killing Iraqi prisoners in an effort to obtain information from them’? There is a rather bizarre tendency abroad in the land these days that extends to police depts as much as to would-be journalists: if it doesn’t walk through the door and fall in your lap it a) doesn’t exist, or b) isn’t important. This is called ‘laziness’ but they see it as ‘efficiency’: it takes a lot less time to print what’s handed to you than it does to chase something down.

# NPR foreign editor Loren Jenkins, talking about the administration’s approach to news-handling, gives us Excuse #2: ‘They Manipulated Us.’

‘”I have never seen greater news management in 30-plus years in this business. They are very skilled at it.”

Again, isn’t it a journalist’s job to see through that? Or at least question it? Hasn’t Jenkins had enough experience to know when news is being manipulated? You’d think 30+ years would be sufficient training. Jenkins admits as much:

“But that’s what the Fourth Estate is all about – poking holes in news management,” says Jenkins, who covered the Vietnam War. “Our job is to find out whether we’re being told the truth or not.”Yet, when it comes to Abu Ghraib, “basically we couldn’t get at the story,” he admits. “We all had people telling us about mistreatment, but it was hard to verify on our own. It took the pictures to say, ‘This is undeniable.’

Jenkins is actually onto something there: One of the biggest reasons reporters and editors ignored this story was that they just flat couldn’t believe it–couldn’t believe that American soldiers would be ordered to torture prisoners to obtain information, couldn’t believe that they would so easily and comfortably obey those orders. The American press ignored the signals in large part because their view of what America was and how it treated those in its charge was a fantasy that didn’t allow for such things as turture and cruelty. ‘That’s not who we are,’ as Kerry said recently. This is called ‘naivete’ and is a dangerous indulgence for a reporter, but they think of it as ‘patriotism’: waving the flag gets you a lot more positive feedback than pointing out that it has a hole in it.

# LAT Washington bureau chief Doyle McManus, and Excuse #3: ‘We Were Busy Covering Other Stories.’

“We can’t fault our reporters in Iraq for not dropping everything else they were doing to get this story. If one of those reporters had said, ‘This is the tip of the iceberg,’ which we now know it was, it’s possible we would have put some more resources into it and done more digging. But I don’t think they realized there was an iceberg underneath.”

How could they? They didn’t look. And even when somebody did look, everyone ignored what they saw.

Asked [by Ricchiardi–MA] if the L.A. Times had run a story after the January 16 press release about the abuse probe, McManus turned to his computer. He quickly found a 15-inch piece by a Times reporter that had run on page A6 titled “Coalition investigating prison abuse.” “It was another red flag we didn’t pick up on” in Washington, McManus said of the story. “I’m not happy about that.”

McManus hadn’t thought to do that before he was asked to? Isn’t that the Editor’s job? As most of you know, the Left Blogosphere was all over this almost from the beginning, using European papers and magazines as source-material. They knew enough to be suspicious, to wonder immediately if the soldiers were following orders from higher up, but the Wash b-c of one of the biggest papers in the country ‘didn’t pick up on’ it? This is called ‘willful blindness’, wherein stories that would lead to the reporting of uncomfortable realities that readers don’t want to hear about are conveniently shoved ‘under the radar’ where they can’t damage a paper’s ad revenues. But they call it ‘prioritizing’: reporters can’t cover everything (the news outlets don’t have the budgets for that) and choices have to be made.

# AP reporter Charles J Hanley, offers Excuse #4: ‘I Didn’t Have Time.’

“We were all in a very pressure-filled, difficult situation, trying to cover a very sprawling story. Something like this was not readily available,” says Hanley, who wrote an early but largely ignored story on prisoner mistreatment. “It took me weeks, on and off, to find the released detainees.”

In other words, the huge wire service was understaffed and couldn’t assign him or another reporter full-time to the story. This is called ‘the tyranny of the bottom line’ and news divisions have been suffering from it for years. Even though news shows have far lower production costs than your average sit-com and have been, historically, network cash cows, modern corporate media moguls always want MORE, and cutting salaries and positions is their preferred way of getting it–yet another service provided by Jack ‘The Axe’ Welch and Rupert ‘Why Do We Need Three Reporters Covering the Environment? Fire One and Put the Other One on the Vince Foster Story’ Murdoch to American corporate journalism. They, however, consider it ‘being lean and mean’: corporate investors don’t like to see profits wasted on investigative reporters uncovering stories they’d rather not read–or hear, or see, or know anything about–and they are, after all, The Boss.

# Finally, Marvin Kalb, old-school journalist and presently a senior fellow at Harvard University’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, cuts through the crap and lays out a reason that is close to the truth: ‘It Wasn’t Patriotic.’

[T]he government has played on the patriotism of journalists, raising the terrorism banner to deflect press criticism. That could make a difference in how reporters pursue a story that might embarrass the U.S., particularly when soldiers are dying in a foreign land.”There is an awareness on the part of the White House that this tendency exists, so they go for it, exploit it,” says Kalb. “It isn’t that [the government] beats somebody over the head. They don’t have to. That’s what makes it so much more painful.

“Maybe the rush of patriotism we saw in spades after 9/11 has continued,” he adds. “Maybe editors fell asleep and didn’t ask reporters to pursue obvious lines of inquiry [about Abu Ghraib]. The news industry itself has not been glowingly successful in coverage of the war on terror.”

Possibly the Understatement of the Week. The press has been criminally negligent in WOT coverage if we’re going by Kalb’s ancient ethics, and yet every one of their Excuses are also legitimate realities that today’s reporters and editors will face as long as they’re working in the corporate media. The days when Edward R Murrow’s legacy of courage and integrity dominated the news business are gone, possibly forever. In the corporate media, ‘business’ is the dominant force now; ‘news’ is just another product for sale. The whole concept of ‘news’ as first a public service and a protector of democracy, and second a profit-making enterprise, has been stood on its head. Now the second is considered the sole reason for its existence, and the first has been put out to pasture–integrity is passe in the corporate culture, and public values mean nothing.

There are several Big Lies at work here: News doesn’t matter; the public doesn’t need to know anything it doesn’t want to know; reporters are just employees, not professionals you hire to do a specific job; there’s no conflict between corporate goals and public needs. But perhaps the most important BL is this: Corporations as a whole have no responsibility to contribute anything to the common good, and corporate media in particular have no responsibility as democratic watchdogs; that they exist for one purpose and one purpose only: to make money.

Murrow’s generation understood that this was a Lie; Murdoch’s generation doesn’t.

Ashcroft’s Law

When you’re the law, you don’t have to explain anything if you don’t want to. That seems to be Motto #1 for high-ranking members of the Bush Admin.

# Cheney insists there’s an Al Qaeda/Saddam connection even after the 9/11 Commission proves there isn’t. Why? Because he says so. What’s the evidence? He won’t say but it’s ‘overwhelming’.

# Bush says his Veep is right. Hussein had ‘terrorist connections’ to AQ. Why? Because he says so. What’s the evidence? He won’t say.

# Rumsfeld, caught breaking the law by agreeing to hide a prisoner from the Red Cross, says he didn’t have to report this prisoner because he was ‘in a different category’. Different how? ‘Just different,’ he says.

And now we come to Ashcroft, who took over the cameras personally yesterday in order to announce the arrest of the first private US contractor to be prosecuted for taking part in the torture at Abu Ghraib. In appropriately stentorian tones of official, not to say officious, disapproval of such a heinous crime, Ashcroft prattled on for some time about his Admin’s ‘respect for the rule of law’ and how this prosecution proved his ‘commitment to justice’, and it was all very impressive–or would have been except for three tiny little problems hardly worth mentioning:

1) It was Ashcroft and his DoJ who formulated the legal defense for using torture in the first place;

2) The contractor isn’t being charged with torture, primarily to prevent his lawyer from bringing up 1) in court as part of his defense;

3) Ashcroft’s ‘commitment to justice’ is right now being highlighted in a completely different case in which he is fighting to deport a Saudi man married to an American woman. Why does he want to deport him? Because, he says, the man knew a guy who knew a guy who may have known a guy who knew two of the 9/11 hijackers, or something almost as tenuous.

To understand how far the federal government will go to justify targeting individuals in its war on terror, look no further than the case of Hasan Saddiq Faseh Alddin.

Arrested outside the home of an elderly woman he takes care of, he was publicly linked in a press release from the Department of Homeland Security to the two San Diego hijackers, Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar — albeit one step removed. In its release, the department said Alddin was believed to have roomed with a close friend of the hijackers. Department officials did not call Alddin a terrorist, but their largest investigative arm, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said it had been investigating Alddin ever since Sept. 11 and wanted him out of the U.S., citing two misdemeanor convictions for spousal battery in 1998 and 2000 as grounds for deportation.Now targeted for deportation, the married father of two is an example of how the government is unapologetically using whatever tools it can to deport foreigners it contends are a threat. And it is doing so without revealing what it says is secret evidence, citing minor crimes that would have gone unnoticed by federal officials before Sept. 11

Alddin is, they say, a ‘danger to America’, but they won’t say why.

“They’re not saying he’s a terrorist,” said Lauren Mack, ICE spokeswoman in San Diego. “They’re just saying they can’t say publicly why [the case] is a national security concern.”

Ah. Well, that clears it up. Off with his head. But wait–Alattas, the supposed connection between Alldin and the hijackers, left the US almost 2 years before the attacks, a year or so before the attack plans were even decided on.

A month after their arrival, Alhazmi and Almihdhar moved in with Alattas for about two weeks, maybe longer, the friends said. They said Alattas gave up his apartment that same month, when he returned to live in Saudi Arabia.The friends said it is unlikely that he had prior knowledge of the Sept. 11 attacks. They said he left the country in February 2000, more than 1 1/2 years before the attacks. They describe him as a Muslim who liked the Western lifestyle and was hardly a religious zealot. Ill-disciplined, they said, Alattas used his apartment as a gathering place for recently arrived young Muslim men who would join him in watching pornography and smoking marijuana — vices that made him an unlikely recruit for Al Qaeda.


But it doesn’t matter. The DoJ wants him gone and that’s that. Why?

Because they say so, that’s why. This is John Ashcroft’s America where people are guilty because he says they are and that’s all the explanation he has to give anybody. ‘National security’, you know.

Army May Courtmartial Abu Ghraib Whistleblower

Sgt Sam Provance blew the Abu Ghraib situation wide open when he gave interviews to the American press after lodging his charges with military investigators. Provance, reassigned to Heidelberg, Germany, is apparently about to be courtmartialed by the Army–for not blowing his whistle soon enough.

When asked why he chose to jeopardize his career, Provance said: “I started getting bothered because innocent people were being held and they were getting lost in the system, and the military wanted to keep it secret. The abuse was being done by more than just a few bad apples. I don’t think military investigators had any interest in finding out how many people were involved.”Military investigators asked Provance why he failed to disclose what he knew after he arrived at Abu Ghraib last fall. [MajGen George] Fay, Provance said, told him, “You could have busted this thing wide open” if he had alerted officials earlier. The Army has informed Provance that he could face charges for not quickly divulging abuse allegations.

“I didn’t come forward earlier because I didn’t see anything,” Provance said. “It was just things I had heard. If somebody denied it, I’d have looked pretty stupid. I’d be the boy who cried wolf.”

The threatened courtmartial is nothing more than a blatant attempt by the Army to punish the messenger while appearing to be concerned with ‘justice’. It doesn’t seem like the storm has taught them very much. BAU for the Army.

CCR Sues CACI and Titan

The Center for Constitutional Rights announced today that it was suing Iraq contractors CACI and Titan under the RICO racketeering law for violations relating to the torture at Abu Ghraib. This is the first time any private contractor has been threatened with legal punishment for the torture their employees oversaw, largely because Bush signed an executive order declaring that no private American company working for the US govt in Iraq could be held responsible, legally, for anything it did that may have contravened either domestic or international law.

Racketeering charges may seem like a stretch but hang in there for a minute: CCR is basically arguing that RICO is relevant because the companies engaged in patently illegal activities for the purpose of making money–precisely what RICO forbids.

CACI and TITAN are publicly traded corporations that provide interrogation and translation services to U.S. government agencies. According to the complaint, beginning in January 2002, and continuing to the present, the two companies began providing services ranging from interrogation and interpretation to intelligence gathering and security. The complaint reveals that both companies were increasingly dependent on government contracts for revenue. Titan, for example, developed a unit known as “National Security Solutions,” which added 21 percent to its revenue growth in 2003.“We believe that CACI and Titan engaged in a conspiracy to torture and abuse detainees, and did so to make more money,” said Susan Burke of Montgomery, McCracken, Walker and Rhoads, an attorney for the plaintiffs. “It is patently clear that these corporations saw an opportunity to build their businesses by proving they could extract information from detainees in Iraq, by any means necessary. In doing so they not only violated a raft of domestic and international statutes but diminished America’s stature and reputation around the world.” (emphasis added)

In other words, the assumption here is that the Bush Admin had made it clear to the companies that if they didn’t get the information that was wanted, by whatever means necessary, their contracts would be in jeopardy and they would lose a fifth of their revenue–or more. Faced with the choice of losing business or breaking the law to keep it, CCR is arguing, CACI and Titan made a deliberate corporate decision to break the law, bringing RICO into force.

It’s a brilliant legal strategy in a way because it could force the companies to defend themselves by admitting that the BA pressured them into illegal activity and that they had government approval of their tactics. It’s also a dicey legal strategy because unless the companies provide proof of such pressure in their defense, a direct connection between company business decisions and govt policy is going to be hard to prove in court.

To make it as easy as possible for the companies to mount such a defense, and to provide evidentiary support for its own position, CCR has obtained a copy of the internal Pentagon report outlining the new rules on torture.

CCR President Michael Ratner stated, “This memo and others show there was planning far up the chain of command to torture detainess; the atrocities at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere cannot be swept under the rug by going after low-level soldiers. Apparently highly placed U.S. officials were willing to approve interrogation methods that violate every convention on torture the United States has ever signed. But they needed to find cover for their actions and a defense to possible criminal prosecution. Government lawyers writing this report wildly distorted the law in an effort to exempt officials from potential criminal prosecution.”

A pdf. facsimile of the full Pentagon report is available here.

This suit is bound to run head-on at some point into the question of whether or not Bush had the authority to declare American companies legally untouchable for any illegal activities in which they may have taken part while carrying out their contracts. In this connection, the Bush directive looks like little more than the equivalent of a DA on the Mafia payroll telling his attorneys that no matter what the Mafia did, it was not to be prosecuted. Such an order would have the appearance of making Mafia activities exempt from prosecution but the order itself would be illegal. Imagine that that DA had requested that illegal activity, making the directive a device to cover his own ass, and the metaphor is complete.

I don’t know how far these guys are going to get with this suit, but one certainly hopes they get as far as calling into serious question the power of the US president to place himself above the law just by issuing an order that says he is.

(Tip courtesy of MoJo)

Abu Ghraib Painting Provokes Violence

In America we tend to honor art more in theory than in fact. It is, we think, a fine-sounding idea, but faced with the reality we usually turn to the NASCAR channel and pop a beer. We like art that’s distant from our own reality, either geographically or temporally–‘100 years and 1000 miles away’ is more or less our rule of thumb for ‘acceptable’ art. The term ‘contemporary art’, on the other hand, seems to carry an image of combined difficulty and insult. While we don’t seem to be able to fathom how it could be that van Gogh only sold a single painting in his lifetime, we think Robert Mapplethorpe should be strung up by the heels and drawn-and-quartered for daring to print ‘lewd’ images and De Kooning should have been put in a Rest Home with bars on the windows and guards on the doors because he was obviously ‘crazy’.

Occasionally, though we generally ignore most art no matter where it came from or how old it is, some piece of work comes along that really gets our juices flowing, either in a good way–as in the response to the Assassins revival–or in a bad, as in this little episode in San Francisco:

The furor began on May 16 when Colwell, an East Bay artist, made an addition to his monthlong showing at Haigh’s gallery on Powell Street. Angered by the pictures he saw of Iraqi prisoners being abused, he created a black and white painting depicting three hooded and naked men undergoing electric shock torture by American soldiers. Colwell, who took down his paintings Saturday, declined to comment.Two days after the painting went up, Haigh arrived at her gallery to find broken glass, eggs and trash strewn outside her storefront. Haigh also began receiving the first of about 200 angry voicemails, e-mails and death threats.

A week ago, a man walked into the gallery and spit in Haigh’s face. On Tuesday, Haigh decided to temporarily close the gallery and began to consider giving up on her dream of owning an art gallery. Just two days later, another man knocked on the door of the gallery and then punched Haigh in the face, knocking her out, breaking her nose and causing a concussion.

Art critics.

That this is deplorable goes without saying. That it was likely Freepers or their sympathizers is a good bet (SF is a main Freeper stomping ground). That’s it’s symptomatic of a deep American..well, let’s be kind and call it ‘ambivalence’..toward art in general and contemporary art in particular and political art most especially is a reasonable conclusion given the ease with which Jesse Helms cut the NEA budget and the extraordinary difficulty arts organizations in this country have just surviving. What is surprising, in a way, is that a painting hanging in an obscure gallery could cause such a furor in this age of LCD ‘culture’.

Maybe that’s a good sign, along with Avenue Q‘s Tony win as Best Musical. If a political painting can get a gallery owner beaten up and an adult puppet show with scathing political satire can win a pretigious award, then maybe art isn’t as dead in America as everybody thought. (Assassins won, too–in every category for which it was nominated.) Poor Lori, who thought it would be fun to run an art gallery, didn’t know how dangerous art can be to your health. She, like the rest of us, was used to art being considered a harmless diversion for the 5% of the population that *wrinkling their nose* ‘likes that sort of thing’.

I’m sorry Lori had to pay the price for my learning but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that somewhere deep inside me there was an ecstatic chill I haven’t felt in a long time:

YES! Art still has POWER!

How could I have doubted it?

(Thanks to Charles Dodgson at Through the Looking Glass for the tip)

Culture Wars

Frank Rich: How (and why) the right is blaming Abu Ghraib on Time/Warner:

It sounds laughable, but it’s not a joke. Some of our self-appointed moral leaders are defending the morally indefensible by annexing Abu Ghraib as another front in America’s election-year culture war. Charles Colson, the Watergate felon turned celebrity preacher, told a group of pastors convened by the Family Research Council that the prison guards had been corrupted by “a steady diet of MTV and pornography.” The Concerned Women for America site posted a screed by Robert Knight, of the Culture and Family Institute, calling the Abu Ghraib scandal the ” `Perfect Storm’ of American cultural depravity,” in which porn, especially gay porn, gave soldiers “the idea to engage in sadomasochistic activity and to videotape it in voyeuristic fashion.” (His chosen prophylactics to avert future Abu Ghraibs include abolishing sex education, outlawing same-sex marriage and banishing Howard Stern.) The vice president of the Heritage Foundation, Rebecca Hagelin, found a link between the prison scandal and how “our country permits Hollywood to put almost anything in a movie and still call it PG-13.”

Denial Hurts the Military

Tom Engelhardt in his Dispatch titled ‘State of Denial: AbuGrabbed in Washington’ is taken by the level of denial in Bush’s ‘lackluster Iraq speech’ as illustrated by his promise (spurned by the IGC) to tear down the offending building as if it were the building that was at fault.

In terms of the President’s speech, the strangest thing about his prison offer is that he’s so ready to shuck blame for our torture regime (though not Saddam’s) off on the building itself.

The essence of whatever was “new” in his speech lay in odd lines that popped up every now and then and were clearly meant to pass for a reckoning with Iraqi reality. In half an hour of otherwise forward-thrusting turns of phrase, all few of these swipes at reality were cast in the passive tense as if, out of a blue sky, something — call it history, call it chance — had done George in. Our own President, it seemed, had been Abugrabbed.Here are more or less all of those lines:

“There are difficult days ahead, and the way forward may sometimes appear chaotic….In the last 32 months, history has placed great demands on our country and events have come quickly… History is moving and it will tend toward hope or tend toward tragedy.”

In other words, if it goes wrong, history’s what done me in.

Apparently they’re running out of individuals to blame and Rove has now decided to just blame ‘history’. ‘History’, after all, can’t talk back. History can’t defend itself or go on tv or testify in front of a Congressional committee or write a book explaining how the Bush Administration ignored its advice, denied its reality, and twisted its facts. From the Rove perspective, ‘history’ is the perfect scapegoat, especially if you’re busy re-writing it in your favor almost as soon as it happens.

When the President didn’t shift the blame for events to Abu Ghraib or history in the speech, he unerringly found someplace else for it to lie. On troop levels in Iraq, for instance, he had this curious comment:”Our commanders had estimated that a troop level below 115,000 would be sufficient at this point in the conflict. Given the recent increase in violence, we will maintain our troop level at the current 138,000 as long as necessary.”

Here he repays history for its indignities with a good, stiff jab to the jaw. At the Army War College, in front of an audience of military men some of whom must have been squirming with anger, he managed to wipe out his administration’s rejection of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki’s prewar suggestion that several hundred thousand troops would be needed to occupy Iraq. Now, it’s the “[military] commanders” themselves who made the only real mistake he manages to acknowledge, however indirectly — not Donald Rumsfeld or Paul Wolfowitz who laughed Shinseki out of the service. As it turned out, I guess, history (division of rewriting) had its uses after all.

The damage of denial grows by the hour and spreads from one area to another like weeds in a neglected garden. One of the most serious–and least talked-about–of its effects is liable to be on the state of the US military itself. When Generals like Tony Zinni and Eric Shinseki get fired for their honest evaluations and are promptly replaced by yes-men like Myers and Kimmet who will faithfully regurgitate the political-party line without questions, express no doubts, refer to no reality in their assessments beyond the capacity of the ‘presidential bubble’ to understand, you inevitably create a military unable to respond effectively to anything.

History has desperately tried to teach the Bushies a lesson or two, and it has been spurned like a clueless CEO spurns his tech expert because she’s an ‘egghead’ who doesn’t understand the cold realities of the business world; refuse to listen, though, and before long all your systems crash.

There are, as Wanda wrote, new stirrings about the necessity for a draft again to keep America’s many adventures around its empire stocked with a steady supply of cannon fodder, and it may come. But the alternative–and it’s happening right now–is even worse: a privatized army–highly paid mercenaries hired to do the dirty work in our colonies around the world as another George hired Hessians 240 years ago to put down the insurgency in that other upstart colony full of terrorists who fired at you from behind trees and then blended back into the population so you couldn’t tell who was who. Using mercenaries is a tacit admission of empire as well as an unavoidable signal that government has become a corporation and war is now a business expense.

The proud tradition of the US military, while inevitably marred from time to time by the political uses to which it has been put (see Gen Smedley Butler for detailed examples), has by-and-large been able to believe that it serves the nation’s interests for love of country, not love of money. What happens to that belief when it sees itself replaced by much higher-paid mercs in the field? when its logistics are serviced by corporate contracts given without a bidding process to companies that have ties to govt officials? when more money is thrown at the latest unworkable high-tech battlefield gadget while their health care, travel expenses, death benefits, hazardous duty pay, combat pay, and personal equipment budgets are being cut to the bone and their families are having bake sales to buy their body armor for them?

Recruitment apparently remains at its usual levels but the number of re-ups is diving toward the cellar. The call to help protect and defend our country is as strong as it ever was but when soldiers see how the Bush Administration is mis-using and abusing their sacrifices, many more than ever before decide they want out after a single hitch. The National Guard–a home-grown, part-time militia intended, like the Minutemen, for defending against an invasion–has become little more than the maid service for a stretched-thin military, filling in gaps, cleaning up after it, and getting no respect.

Once again, what has happened is the result of standard corporate attitudes held by the ex-CEO’s and high-level corporate flunkies with which Bush has filled the govt, men–and women, at least one–who see the military as they have always seen it: a corporate asset whose only legitimate use is to further their business interests, and to do so as cheaply as possible and shut up about it. Can it really surprise anyone that when young men who join believing they are serving their country discover that in fact they’re serving Halliburton, they turn away in disgust?

We are looking at the potential creation of a privatized, corporate military serving at the exclusive pleasure of the business interests of the dominant companies, a sort of US East India Company that is expected to function according to the highest corporate values: No military analysis is to contradict stated corporate policy; no military department is to exceed its budget and every budget is to be cut; anyone dissenting from the corporate goals will be considered disloyal, negative, and ‘not a team member’ and will be disciplined accordingly; no military employee is allowed to express a personal opinion not in line with the corporate agenda; all military employees must sacrifice any and all benefits for the good of the corporation; no corporate goal, agenda, or business plan is to be discussed by the employees in public or private; no employee below the executive level has any rights whatever beyond those granted by the corporation–and the corporation grants NO rights.

In short, we are witnessing the US military being turned into Wal-Mart, which Dick Cheney called ‘one of our nation’s best companies’, blithely ignoring little things like ‘its poverty-level wages, mistreatment of workers and repeated violations of…law.’

He claimed the company “exemplifies some of the very best qualities in our country—hard work, the spirit of enterprise, fair dealing and integrity.” He failed to mention the 60 federal complaints against the company for workplace violations, Wal-Mart’s decisions to lock workers into stores and charges that it doctored hourly employees’ time records in order to skimp on wages. Instead, he parroted the Wal-Mart executives, the same ones who are bankrolling the Bush-Cheney campaign, and called for “litigation reform,” saying the problem afflicting America is pesky workers who have the nerve to challenge corporate malfeasance in court.

If the BA is allowed to continue the way it’s going, the US military may well become the equivalent of Wal-Mart security guards. Does that make you feel safer?

A Privatized War

by Kryton

(moved from Comments and mildly edited by Mick–I exchanged an already published quote for another from K’s second link)

The Abu Ghraib story has shed an unwelcome spotlight on private contractors like CACI, Titan and Halliburton and their central role in waging America’s new wars. Many of these contractors are soldiers by another name, more commonly called mercenaries. They are not subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, nor to the Geneva Conventions. Contractors have been identified as “giving orders” to the MPs who abused Iraqis; none have lost their jobs, and CACI is still advertising interrogator jobs on its Web site. It is estimated that 10,000-15,000 are on the ground in Iraq, but their operations are shrouded in secrecy.

Many of these contractors have been called “retired military,” with the innocent-sounding explanation that retired soldiers have the most appropriate background. Now reports are emerging that all is not as it seems. Twenty-six-year old soldiers, in the military for three years, are being recruited while on active duty. If they accept, they are temporarily “retired.” When done with their contractor assignments, they return to their units.

Why would the U.S. military engage in this shell-game, moving soldiers from active duty to contractor status and back again? While working for the contractors, they are essentially indistinguishable from the military, with three exceptions: No uniform. No chain of command. And no accountability to any legal authority.

In a related story, it was revealed — but not widely circulated — that the U.S. is setting up a secret police in Iraq to keep control over the country after the formal handover1. This police force will be staffed by contractors paid for by U.S. taxpayers. From the Washington Post:

The events of the last few days illustrate those differences well. When reports of abuses at Abu Ghraib surfaced, it was clear that the 800th Military Police Brigade (which includes the 372nd Military Police Company, home to many of the accused) was in charge of the prison; prisoner interrogations were run by the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade. But Taguba’s report also mentions four civilian contractors, all of whom were assigned to the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade. Two of those civilians, Steven Stephanowicz and John Israel, were “either directly or indirectly responsible for the abuses” at Abu Ghraib, the report says. A third contractor, Adel Nakhla, is named as a translator — and a suspect. A fourth, Torin Nelson, was said to be a witness. Both Nakhla and Nelson are listed as employees of Titan Corp., a security contractor based in San Diego.The report identified Stephanowicz as an interrogator working for CACI; Israel, an interpreter, was also said to be working for CACI, although the company has denied that. Some news reports have identified Israel as an employee of Titan, which in turn has said he works for one of its subcontractors.

So, we are not even sure for whom these contractors work or worked. Nor do we know how many other contract employees were — and may still be — working at the prison.

Is this how we’re spreading the light of democracy around the world?

Note: 1. This would likely be our old friend, Ahmad Chalabi. Viceroy Paul Bremer turned over all of Saddam’s Secret Police files to Chalabi when he replaced Gen Garner. Ahmad, so the (perfectly believable) rumors say, has been using them to blackmail his way to power ever since.–M

A Prez Who Doesn’t Read

The AJC’s Cynthia Tucker nails it.

Perhaps the most disturbing thing about the pictures is the smiling visages of American soldiers as they force naked Iraqi men into degrading sexual poses. They remind me of photographs of lynchings from the bitter days of Jim Crow, when white Southerners brought their families out to watch the torture and execution of black Southerners, as if they were going to the circus. In those photos, too, the torturers are all smiles.The White House acknowledges that Rumsfeld alerted the president several weeks ago — if not months ago — to a sweeping investigation of complaints of abuse and torture of prisoners by U.S. soldiers, not just in Iraq but also in Afghanistan. But Bush never bothered to read the full report. For that matter, neither did Rumsfeld. He complained in a TV interview that the documents comprise “a mountain of paper.”

So neither man had any deep and abiding concern over the fact that U.S. soldiers were emulating some of the torment employed by Saddam Hussein when he held prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Before the release of the photos, neither seemed to care that abusing Iraqi prisoners — forcing them into just the sort of humiliating poses that are most offensive in the Islamic world — would only set back the cause of establishing a pro-Western democracy in Iraq.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Clueless, The Sequel.

See, the President doesn’t read, and Rumsfeld, who does, couldn’t be bothered. Too much work and, anyway, Junior had his bass-fishing expedition to think of. But then they saw the pictures. Words? Pish-tosh. Not visual enough. But pictures? ‘Oh, is that what those words mean?’

What, are we drealing with 2nd graders here?

Of course, there is another explanation: they didn’t have to read it because they already knew what was in it because they ordered it.

The Real Reason Rumsfeld Should Be Fired

And it isn’t because he ordered and condoned the torture. As horrible as it is–I say ‘is’ because I’ve seen no sign that G2 and the mercs have been removed from control–the truth is that any GOP SecDef would have done exactly the same thing. It’s our policy. It was done deliberately, yes, by Rumsfeld, but the other Likud-supporting neocons think no differently; Perle and Wolfowitz are even worse. If Rumsfeld should resign over Abu Ghraib, then so should Bush, most of the Cabinet, a healthy chunk of presidential advisors, much of the top tier of the US military, and a majority of Congress–anybody who approved the adoption or prosecution of Sharon’s hardline tactics in Iraq.

But, like it or not, it wasn’t just the mercs and MI goons doing the bashing; ordinary grunts were involved, and the question ‘How could they do that?’ is threatening to take over the story. Well, this is how and this is why Rumsfeld should resign:

The orders that sent most of the 320th Military Police Battalion to Iraq came on Feb. 5, 2003, as part of the tide of two-week-a-year soldiers being called up from the National Guard and the Army Reserve in preparation for war.In theory, the battalion’s specialty was guarding enemy prisoners of war, a task that was expected to be a major logistical problem. In fact, an Army report said few of the 1,000 reservists of the 320th had been trained to do that, and fewer still knew how to run a prison. They were deployed so quickly from the mid-Atlantic region that there was no time to get new lessons.

“You’re a person who works at McDonald’s one day; the next day you’re standing in front of hundreds of prisoners, and half are saying they’re sick and half are saying they’re hungry,” remembered Sgt. First Class Paul Shaffer, 35, a metalworker from Pennsylvania. “We were hit with so much so fast, I don’t think we were prepared.”

He doesn’t ‘think’ they were prepared. He’s being kind. They weren’t prepared at all. Almost none of them were. And that is the crime for which Rumsfeld is directly responsible.

What is now crystal clear is that Rummy’s chickenhawk background left him with a serious handicap for a Defense Secretary: his concept of what the American military is and how it operates seems to have been based on Davy Crockett movies where the call goes out to the untried, untested frontiersman and they respond by rallying ’round and crunching the evil-doers with their deadly accurate long-rifles. You think that’s an exaggeration?

Rumsfeld’s whole defense strategy was built around the assumption that the new realities required speed above all other response attributes. Right-wing militarists just love their toys, but the problem is that they tend to over-value them. Rummy, trained in America’s corporate culture, brought its key illusions into govt with him, one of the strongest of which is that the worst machine in the world is still worth more than the best hundred workers in the world put together. It never seems to occur to them that a) there are some things machines just can’t do; and b) somebody has to run the damn things, and those somebodies need training. Rumsfeld, like all clueless CEO’s everywhere, thinks like a corporate manager: ‘If we’ve got a problem here, why we’ll just take personnel from there and plug them in; they can learn on the job.’

At the level of the factory-floor, I have seen that idiotic assumption create more havoc, chaos, and accidents than any other single dopey corporate illusion, most of which are stoopid and clueless but relatively harmless. This one gets people killed, either because they’re asked to do dangerous tasks for which they’re unprepared or because dropping untrained workers into a high-pressure environment causes an incredible amount of stress to build up.

The treatment of our troops in Iraq represents not one but three distinct corporate illusions: 1) Untrained workers are as good as trained ones; 2) untrained workers can learn on the job; and 3) they don’t need vacations. In a military setting, any one of those illusions is deadly; put all three of them into play at the same time and they’re positively toxic.

And that’s what Rumsfeld did. When the Neocon Wonder Boys were putting their strategies and uninformed wishful-thinking into actual plans back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, they made that judgment about the importance of speed (didn’t think I’d get back to that, didja?) in responding to threats. Then, under the necessity of meeting this self-imposed requirement, they came up with a bunch of cockamamie notions about ‘perpetual readiness’ and using the National Guard and military reserves as integral parts of the invasions they were planning (N Korea, Iran, and the Philippines were all on the list along with Iraq). It seems never to have occurred to them that reservists were in many cases years away from their last intensive training, or that the NG was largely composed of young men playing glorified paintball one weekend a month. Or less. For no reason other than that they needed the bodies available for the plans to work on paper, they included these inactive segments as if they were fully-trained and ready to go on a moment’s notice. When Rumsfeld assured Congress during his confirmation hearings that the US military was capable of instantaneous response times in several theaters at once, that’s what he was talking about.

The PNAC (Project for the New American Century) plans had ‘hardline, know-nothing, corporate whacko’ written all over them. When the NWB’s tried to push Clinton into adopting them, it was the military establishment who squashed them, calling them ‘unrealistic’ and ‘not militarily feasible’–they knew damn well that the reserves and the NG would need massive re-training before they were ready to be usefully deployed, and by ’94 they were certain that a Republican Congress intent on cutting corporate taxes would never approve the funds for that re-training; they were right.

But Rumsfeld, as Secretary of Defense, didn’t know that. His faith-based strategies didn’t allow for realities that would undercut them. So, despite being told by military authorities that his plans were the bunk, Rumsfeld went ahead with them, rushing hundreds of thousands of untrained or poorly trained soldiers into the field without either proper equipment or supervision.

To the degree that our regular troops overstepped their bounds due to exhaustion and poor preparation, Rumsfeld is directly responsible for their appalling behaviour. He adopted those plans and he insisted on their implementation in the face of opposition from the US military structure. What’s really appalling here is the level of his incompetence.

No Chinese Gordon in Iraq

Girl-blogger (her designation for herself) River of Baghdad Burning has written a couple of incredible posts about the situation in Iraq since the release of the Abu Ghraib photographs. Here’s some of what she wrote yesterday:

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.Everyone knew this was happening in Abu Ghraib and other places… seeing the pictures simply made it all more real and tangible somehow. American and British politicians have the audacity to come on television with words like, “True the people in Abu Ghraib are criminals, but…” Everyone here in Iraq knows that there are thousands of innocent people detained. Some were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, while others were detained ‘under suspicion’. In the New Iraq, it’s “guilty until proven innocent by some miracle of God”.

People are so angry. There’s no way to explain the reactions- even pro-occupation Iraqis find themselves silenced by this latest horror. I can’t explain how people feel- or even how I personally feel. Somehow, pictures of dead Iraqis are easier to bear than this grotesque show of American military technique. People would rather be dead than sexually abused and degraded by the animals running Abu Ghraib prison.

There was a time when people here felt sorry for the troops. No matter what one’s attitude was towards the occupation, there were moments of pity towards the troops, regardless of their nationality. We would see them suffering the Iraqi sun, obviously wishing they were somewhere else and somehow, that vulnerability made them seem less monstrous and more human. That time has passed. People look at troops now and see the pictures of Abu Ghraib… and we burn with shame and anger and frustration at not being able to do something. Now that the world knows that the torture has been going on since the very beginning, do people finally understand what happened in Falloojeh? (emphasis added by me–M)

Do we? River’s question cuts to the heart of the Abu Ghraib issue in a way that no pundit’s analyzing has. Are we finally willing, on the stength of incontrovertible, undeniable evidence, to admit that Fallujah (note her Persian spelling) was a native insurrection fueled by anger at what our troops have been ordered to do to them?

The Sharon-style tactics of the past year–bulldozing the houses of Iraqis “suspected” of knowing where or who the insurgents are; midnight raids when troops break down doors without warning, throw the inhabitants to the floor and handcuff them, male and female, put bags over their heads, and hustle them off to prison; strip searches; the arbitrary arrest and detention of civilians guilty of no bigger crime than trying to pass through a checkpoint; and on and on–have produced exactly the response from Iraqis that Israelis get from the Palestinians: fear, suspicion, hatred, and, finally, insurrection. What did we expect was going to happen? Did we think the Iraqis were somehow different, weaker, more subservient than the Palestinians? Is that what we thought?

Randi reported the other day on an incident in Baghdad when US soldiers at a checkpoint began searching a man’s wife as the two of them tried to pass through. The husband became agitated, not unnaturally, and protested. The soldiers hit him, handcuffed him, and arrested him. When another man attempted to intervene, they threw him to the ground on his stomach, hand-cuffed his hands behind his back, and one of the soldiers held the man’s face to the tarmac with his boot–a horrendous insult in Arabic cultures (and not much appreciated in any others).

What we MUST understand about this is that these are tactics that were deliberately and carefully developed by the Israeli military to humliate a subject population. THESE SOLDIERS WERE UNDER ORDERS TO DO WHAT THEY DID, just as Israeli soldiers are under orders when they do them. NONE OF THIS IS ACCIDENTAL, these are NOT “isolated incidents”: THEY ARE US POLICY, a policy stolen whole from the Israeli Army Occupation Playbook, a policy that will produce in Iraq exactly what it produces in Israel–fear, suspicion, hatred, and insurrection. It has backfired in Israel, it will backfire in Iraq. As it has made Israelis less safe, it will make us less safe. THERE CAN BE NO OTHER OUTCOME.

The uprising in Fallujah is not some bastard child unwanted and unbidden, it is the direct offspring of Sharon’s (and Likud’s) utterly failed hard-line strategies, the step-brother of the intifadehs, and a promise of things to come. “Quagmire” doesn’t begin to describe it any more. If these people aren’t stopped–and stopped SOON–we are going to make bin Laden’s crazy dream come true: we are going to create a massive jihad–the Great Jihad that the Mahdi tried to raise against the British in the 1880’s, a jihad prosecuted by the entire Arab world. This isn’t a “quagmire”; it’s a religious war.

The British Army may have broken the back of the Mahdi’s rebellion militarily, but it could only do so because Gordon’s unswerving devotion to the Sudanese and his martyred death in their name broke its spirit. To put it bluntly, Bremer is no Chinese Gordon. We have not a single figure in Iraq who represents Iraqi interests, only neocon faith-healers who represent their own grand illusions and ignorant pipe-dreams, greedy corporations draining the country as dry as they can as fast as they can, and crooked wanna-be kings like Chalabi who are maneuvering to have their US masters leave them on the throne to rape whatever’s left when they bolt.

Kerry has to stop all this horseshit about how “we have to stay and make the best of it” and GET US OUT.

Rush Praises Torturers: "A Brilliant Maneuver", Says Limbo-Large

Hey, man, don’t blame me. He said it. I’m not making this up. Yesterday, Rush-to-Limbo spaketh his wisdom on the Abu Ghraib torturing thusly:

Maybe the people who ordered this are pretty smart. Maybe the people who executed this pulled off a brilliant maneuver. Nobody got hurt. Nobody got physically injured. But boy there was a lot of humiliation of people who are trying to kill us — in ways they hold dear. Sounds pretty effective to me if you look at us in the right context.

There are two blatant lies in that single paragraph, but don’t let that bother you. Let’s look at the Big Picture.

LIMBAUGH: The thing though that continually amazes — here we have these pictures of homoeroticism that look like standard good old American pornography….

Now there’s something we’d always suspected about Rush–he’s a devotee of pornography, and of a particular type. Apparently, he’s intimately familiar with homoerotic, sado-masochistic pornography, familiar enough to know it when he sees it, anyway. One just knew in one’s heart that the man gets his jollies from pictures of naked men with hoods over their heads and electric wires attached to their Cheneys. Now he admits it.

It’s out there, it’s in the open, Be Loud Be Proud: The torturers are Dittoheads. Rush’s People. His Kinda Guys. Those ex-South African pro-apartheid mercs and G-2, School-of-the-Americas graduates are Limbo Lusties. HE LOVES ‘EM! “These are MY PEOPLE!” he screams while massaging his…leg and ogling the pictures for the 40th time. Dittoheads everywhere rejoice.

They’re exploding from the closet in waves. First Bush, now Rush, trapped into truth. The facade is crumbling like a stale cookie. CLAP YOUR HANDS TOGETHER AND GIMME AN AMEN! Somebody up there is watching after all; apparently God has decided to take a hand and cancel that loan on Limbo’s talent. As Michael Feldman said, “It was just a small loan, hardly worth the bookkeeping.”

(From David Brock’s Media Matters)

No Choice: We Have To Get Out

About a month ago, I wrote in “Gitmo Commander Taking Over Irag Prisons”:

Gitmo is a legal travesty. Prisoners have been badly mistreated (torture is routine), lawyer-client conversations are bugged by authorities (when prisoners are allowed to see lawyers at all), most of the 600 inmates are being held without charge and without opportunity for bail, and not one conviction for any “crime” has been obtained. The only inmate charged with wrong-doing, Jimmy Yee, was recently released for lack of evidence after almost two years’ incarceration, and nobody even apologized. The whole operation is disgraceful, an exercise in extrajudicial revenge that is in direct violation of the Geneva Convention.So what do the Bushies do? Why, promote the man in charge, of course.

I fully expected that Maj Gen Geoffrey Miller in his new assignment as head of the whole Iraq prison system would bring his award-winning techniques with him and turn the prisons of Iraq into the hellish nightmare that Gitmo is. Little did I know he was bringing nothing new to the table, just taking over a going concern.

Today, in what may be the Irony of Ironies, Maj Gen Miller, who has never admitted to much less apologized for the atrocities committed under his command in Cuba, stepped before the cameras to do just that over Abu Ghraib.

“I would like to apologize for our nation and for our military for the small number of soldiers who committed illegal or unauthorized acts here at Abu Ghraib,” Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller told Arab and Western reporters taken on a military tour of the prison.”These are violations not only of our national policy but of how we conduct ourselves as members of the international community,” Miller said.

“It has brought a cloud over all the efforts of all of our soldiers and we will work our hardest to re-establish the trust that Iraqis feel for the coalition and the confidence people in American have in their military.

Uh-huh. The ring of sincerity is palpable, isn’t it? Can’t you feel the love?

I was getting concerned about the potential for atrocities in Iraq and had planned to do a post on it soon. Our troops are way overextended, morale is low, many of them haven’t been trained for the jobs they’ve been assigned to for too long, and–worst–they weren’t prepared for the wearing grind of a long war before they came by their “leaders”, who told them it would be an easy in-out: knock out Saddam, be strewn with roses by grateful Iraqis at the Victory Parade a few days later, and then home to hoopla and hosannas. It’s a classic scenario.

But I thought it would come as My Lai came or the depredations of Tiger Force–in gonzo attacks on Iraqis in the field. I expected Fallujah might very likely be that moment. Marines storming into a beleagured city where you can’t tell the enemy from the friendlies and mowing down everything in sight without fear or favor. It’s still possible, don’t kid yourself. The troops are exhausted, angry, betrayed by their own commanders (anybody remember “fragging”?) and by the President who lied to get them there and then put them in the position of jail-keepers, only the jail they have to watch over is an entire country. It is hard enough to control an army when it believes in its mission; it is almost impossible when it doesn’t.

I’m not making excuses for those involved, only trying to put what’s happened into the context of the reality they are now facing, a reality most of us–lucky us!–will never have to face. If you ask young men and women to die for you in the name of some great humanitarian cause and it turns out to be a crock, it turns out that you’ve asked them to die for some cock-eyed dream of empire or the piling up of your personal wealth or the fortunes of yourself and your family–and in this case, your contributors–you have turned those young men and women into mercenaries, Hessians. You have made them not a force of liberation but a force of occupation, not liberators but oppressors, and don’t think they don’t know it. Their rage, depression, and growing sense that everything they’ve just done was pointless, worthless, a sham, has to go somewhere.

And so we have not seen the end of this, oh no. There is more to come, and worse. Just ask Napoleon, if you don’t believe me. There are costs to Empire, and this is one of them when the Empire turns greedy (which this one didn’t have to “turn into” as it was that way from the beginning) and the greed makes it blind. It is illogical and unrealistic to expect anything else.

The revelations from Abu Ghraib–and it doesn’t matter that the perps were mostly military intelligence types from the School of the Americas, and mercs trained by the jolly guys who used to run South Africa’s anti-apatheid prisons–mean we no longer have a choice: Kerry has to get us out of Iraq. Armageddon is on the horizon. The Arab world hates us now with a virulent passion formerly reserved only for Israel; we have deadly enemies everywhere, even in the ones that pretend to be our friends. The nature of the tortures at Abu Ghraib has convinced them that America has launched a religious war on them. There is no way to alter that perception short of leaving. Iraq must be turned over to the Iraqis without conditions whether Bechtel and Halliburton like it or not.

Yes, chaos will ensue. Yes, the new Iraqi govt may be Islamic, may be dictatorial, may be corrupt and there won’t be much we can do about any of it. But as bad as all that is, it’s better than the alternative: a Holy War that engulfs the entire region in flames and blood, a Holy War that could easily, almost without our noticing it, become WW III in a NY minute. That may be what Junior wants (I think it is; I think he sees himself as God’s Warrior, the man chosen to bring about the Biblical Prophecies of Armageddon that prepare the way for the Second Coming), but it isn’t what you want. It isn’t what they want, either, except for fanatics like bin Laden whose attack on 9/11 produced exactly the response he hoped it would, a response that all but guarantees a wide-spread jihad. Every day we play deeper into his hands, give him more of what he needs to enflame the Arab World. Abu Ghraib is a powerful weapon, and he will use it cheerfully.

We’re sunk. We have to get out. It’s our only hope–maybe the only hope for the whole world.

Gitmo Commander Taking Over Iraq Prisons

Gitmo is a legal travesty. Prisoners have been badly mistreated (torture is routine), lawyer-client conversations are bugged by authorities (when prisoners are allowed to see lawyers at all), most of the 600 inmates are being held without charge and without opportunity for bail, and not one conviction for any “crime” has been obtained. The only inmate charged with wrong-doing, Jimmy Yee, was recently released for lack of evidence after almost two years’ incarceration, and nobody even apologized. The whole operation is disgraceful, an exercise in extrajudicial revenge that is in direct violation of the Geneva Convention.

So what do the Bushies do? Why, promote the man in charge, of course.

MIAMI — The Army general in charge of the prisoner operation at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has been reassigned to oversee prisoner detention operations in Iraq, U.S. military officials said Wednesday.For the last 18 months, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller has commanded the joint task force at Guantanamo that holds 600 foreign terrorism suspects, most of them captured during the war in Afghanistan. He will become deputy commander for detainee operations for the U.S.-led forces in Iraq, officials said.

Tom Engelhardt makes a case that this “temporary” prison system is about to become permanent, creating what he calls a “career ladder” in the military.

In Guantanamo, Cuba, and in occupied Iraq, in other words, we now have two black holes of injustice; and once you have two of anything that needs to be managed, you can always imagine one of them as more important than the other and you immediately have a career ladder.******************************

With remarkably little attention from our media, and deep in the shadows, the Bush administration is creating what Neal Katyal, chief counsel to the military defense lawyers in the Guantanamo case pending at the U.S. Supreme Court, calls a “legal Frankenstein.” Or maybe it’s just a Frankenstein.

In other words, the Bush Administration is about to replicate Gitmo in Iraq, presumably with its contempt for justice and legal procedures intact. Way to win their hearts and minds, guys.

One of the outstanding characteristics of all radcons is that they just loooooove enemies. Enemies justify their whole world-view; enemies excuse their greed, their nascent fascistic impulses, and their irritation with democratic principles. Enemies are, in fact, a requirement of radcons: without a passle of enemies, their policies have no reason to exist and their goals are meaningless. So if no enemies happen to be around, they create them.

This is, of course, in the finest Bush Family tradition. No sooner had the wall fallen in ’89 than Poppy was casting around for a new bad-guy. He found what he was looking for in Saddam. Randi pointed out in her show yesterday that before Hussein invaded Kuwait, he called us and, bassically, asked if it was OK? He was told that “the US government takes no position in Arab-to-Arab conflicts.” In other words, “Don’t worry about it, we won’t stop you.”

That wasn’t just a lie, it was a trick to justify announcing a new enemy to replace the one we’d just lost. And so the First Gulf War was born amid fanciful tales of Iraqi soldiers murdering incubator babies and eating them that was cooked up by an ambitious Publican PR flack who, like most Publicans these sad days, wasn’t overly concerned with facts, let alone truth, and the seeds of the Second Gulf War were sown to set up the second Imperial round.

One of the biggest necessities of all imperial govts is a prison system to house all its enemies and keep the satellite states in line. So we’re making one. The fact that prison systems are fertile ground for private companies like Blackwater is just a bonus.