Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Knight-Ridder: Harper & Bush "ideological cousins"

Blech. Check'r oot: "Bush may find political soul mate in Canada's Harper" By William Douglas (Knight Ridder Newspapers)
Harper, a 46-year-old economist, rose to Canada's highest office by talking about his religious faith, vowing to cut taxes and end government corruption, and promising to reconsider a same-sex marriage law that Canada's Parliament approved last June - all themes that Bush campaigned on in 2000 and 2004. In addition, Harper said he'll consider the White House's offer for Canada to join in fielding a continental ballistic missile shield, an invitation that former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin rejected.
"If George Bush can't get along with Stephen Harper, he can't get along with any world leader," said David Taras, a political science professor at the University of Calgary. "They're ideological cousins, if not twins."
[...] [Harper's trip to Afghanistan] also sent a message to Washington, according to John Hulsman, an analyst for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.
"That was to show the cavalry is back in town, that they're not going to be anti-American," he said. "Harper, like Bush, has a black-and-white, good-and-evil view of the world - they're cut from the same cloth." [...]"The world is a friendlier place for the president, but the timing is wrong," Hulsman said. "When he was riding high, he had anti-Americans to deal with. Now, he's in a political zombie state, he gets people he can work with."

Read on, MacDuff!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Hamdan v. Rumsfeld , No. 05-184

Meet Salim Hamdan:
Five years ago, Salim Hamdan was living all but anonymously in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, driving a Toyota pickup for Osama bin Laden on his Kandahar farm.
On Tuesday, the tale of the wiry Yemeni with a fourth-grade education will take center stage at the U.S. Supreme Court, as lawyers argue a landmark case over whether President Bush had the power to create a special war court to try Hamdan.
So how did Hamdan get swept up?
In a sense, Hamdan started down his roundabout road to the Supreme Court on Nov. 13, 2001, when President Bush signed an order authorizing the defense secretary to detain foreigners indefinitely - and ordered him to prepare military commissions to try some of them.
Across the globe, when U.S. bombs blasted Afghanistan, Hamdan spirited his pregnant wife and 2-year-old daughter to safety in Pakistan.
Hamdan's attorney says Hamdan was returning a borrowed car when Afghan warlords captured him and handed him over to American forces, for a bounty that U.S. agents were offering for foreign Muslims, he believes.
By the time Washington inaugurated its offshore interrogation center with an 8,000-mile air bridge to Cuba in January 2002, Hamdan was already in American hands.
He was taken to Cuba four months later, manacled and masked in a 27-hour trip long after the Bush administration had declared captives there "unlawful combatants," not prisoners of war.
Hamdan did not enter a plea. He filed a habeas corpus petition in the US District Court, in Washington D.C. Here's the biggest problem: there is no possibility of habeas corpus for Hamdan or any of the 10 Gitmo detainees who face kangaroo-tribunals (the fact that only 10/~500 inmates have yet to be charged with anything is another blood-boiling matter!!). Here's what the WaPo had to say:

The case may not produce a frontal clash between the judiciary and the executive -- if the court decides that a recently enacted federal law on military commissions deprives it of jurisdiction to rule on Hamdan's case. Yet another possibility is that the court could reach an inconclusive 4 to 4 tie because Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. had ruled on the case while he was
on a federal appeals court and must sit out now.

[...] Last year, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, one of whose members was Roberts, upheld the administration's position, overruling a decision in Hamdan's favor by the U.S. District Court in Washington.

Interesting. And does anybody remember when John Roberts Jr. ruled on the Hamdan case? Only one bloody week before he was nominated by Bush for the High Court. Amy Goodman was on this like a dirty shirt, last August:

Since 2003, Roberts served on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. As we reported previously, Roberts was part of a three-judge panel that handed President Bush an important victory the week before he announced Roberts' nomination to the bench. The appeals court ruled in the Hamdan V. Rumsfeld case that the military tribunals of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, could proceed. The decision also found that Bush could deny terrorism captives prisoner-of-war status as outlined by the Geneva Conventions.
[...]Roberts" answers to a Senate questionnaire reveal that he met with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales six days before hearing oral arguments. The Hamdan case was argued on behalf of the administration by a top Gonzales deputy, Assistant Attorney General Peter Kiesler.
In addition to Gonzales, he met with Vice President Dick Cheney, the vice president's chief of staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby, White House chief of staff, Andrew Card, Bush's top political strategist, Karl Rove and White House legal council Harriet Miers. And,
on the day the ruling was issued in favor of the administration, Bush himself conducted the final job interview with Roberts.
That's right: Roberts ruled against Hamdan on the day of his final job interview for the bench. Ok, ok, you least Roberts is recusing himself. That's good. But what about the others? Well check this out: Newsweek's Michael Isikoff is reporting that Scalia gave a speech about enemy combatants in Switzerland. Antonin Scalia implied that Europeans were hypocrites for disapproving of GITMO etc. He said:
War is war, and it has never been the case that when you captured a combatant you have to give them a jury trial in your civil courts ...Give me a break.
Scalia should recuse himself too. No Foolin!

To read more about the Hamdan v. Rumsfeld case, please check out:

Read on, MacDuff!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Chomsky takes your questions!

Hey! Noam Chomsky will be live online tomorrow at 2PM Friday afternoon. Submit your questions to The website.

If you're shy, you can wait and read the transcript later on tomorrow :)

Read on, MacDuff!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

"No Blood, No Foul": The Black Room at Camp Nama

In case you missed today's NY Times: "In Secret Unit's 'Black Room,' a Grim Portrait of U.S. Abuse" by Eric Schmitt and Carolyn Marshall
As the Iraqi insurgency intensified in early 2004, an elite Special Operations forces unit converted one of Saddam Hussein's former military bases near Baghdad into a top-secret detention center. There, American soldiers made one of the former Iraqi government's torture chambers into their own interrogation cell. They named it the Black Room.
In the windowless, jet-black garage-size room, some soldiers beat prisoners with rifle butts, yelled and spit in their faces and, in a nearby area, used detainees for target practice in a game of jailer paintball. Their intention was to extract information to help hunt down Iraq's most-wanted terrorist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, according to Defense Department personnel who served with the unit or were briefed on its operations.
The Black Room was part of a temporary detention site at Camp Nama, the secret headquarters of a shadowy military unit known as Task Force 6-26. Located at Baghdad International Airport, the camp was the first stop for many insurgents on their way to the Abu Ghraib prison a few miles away.
Placards posted by soldiers at the detention area advised, "NO BLOOD, NO FOUL." The slogan, as one Defense Department official explained, reflected an adage adopted by Task Force 6-26: "If you don't make them bleed, they can't prosecute for it." According to Pentagon specialists who worked with the unit, prisoners at Camp Nama often disappeared into a detention black hole, barred from access to lawyers or relatives, and confined for weeks without charges. "The reality is, there were no rules there," another Pentagon official said.
Schmitt & Marshall point out (what should be) the obvious: there is no legitimate "few bad apples" defense
The new account reveals the extent to which the unit members mistreated prisoners months before and after the photographs of abuse from Abu Ghraib were made public in April 2004, and it helps belie the original Pentagon assertions that abuse was confined to a small number of rogue reservists at Abu Ghraib.
The abuses at Camp Nama continued despite warnings beginning in August 2003 from an Army investigator and American intelligence and law enforcement officials in Iraq. The C.I.A. was concerned enough to bar its personnel from Camp Nama that August.
It is difficult to compare the conditions at the camp with those at Abu Ghraib because so little is known about the secret compound, which was off limits even to the Red Cross. The abuses appeared to have been unsanctioned, but some of them seemed to have been well known throughout the camp.
So how did Schmitt & Marshall get the military to talk?
Many were initially reluctant to discuss Task Force 6-26 because its missions are classified. But when pressed repeatedly by reporters who contacted them, they agreed to speak about their experiences and observations out of what they said was anger and disgust over the unit's treatment of detainees and the failure of task force commanders to punish misconduct more aggressively. The critics said the harsh interrogations yielded little information to help capture insurgents or save American lives.
Welcome to Hotel California...such a lovely place:
Just beyond the screening rooms, where Saddam Hussein was given a medical exam after his capture, detainees were kept in as many as 85 cells spread over two buildings. Some detainees were kept in what was known as Motel 6, a group of crudely built plywood shacks that reeked of urine and excrement. The shacks were cramped, forcing many prisoners to squat or crouch. Other detainees were housed inside a separate building in 6-by-8-foot cubicles in a cellblock called Hotel California.
The interrogation rooms were stark. High-value detainees were questioned in the Black Room, nearly bare but for several 18-inch hooks that jutted from the ceiling, a grisly reminder of the terrors inflicted by Mr. Hussein's inquisitors. Jailers often blared rap music or rock 'n' roll at deafening decibels over a loudspeaker to unnerve their subjects.
[...]Defense Department personnel briefed on the unit's operations said the harsh treatment extended beyond Camp Nama to small field outposts in Baghdad, Falluja, Balad, Ramadi and Kirkuk. These stations were often nestled within the alleys of a city in nondescript buildings with suburban-size yards where helicopters could land to drop off or pick up detainees.
At the outposts, some detainees were stripped naked and had cold water thrown on them to cause the sensation of drowning, said Defense Department personnel who served with the unit.
And, finally, the current state of the whitewash-er-investigation:
The Justice Department inspector general is investigating complaints of detainee abuse by Task Force 6-26, a senior law enforcement official said. The only wide-ranging military inquiry into prisoner abuse by Special Operations forces was completed nearly a year ago by Brig. Gen. Richard P. Formica, and was sent to Congress.
But the United States Central Command has refused repeated requests from The Times over the past several months to provide an unclassified copy of General Formica's findings despite Mr. Rumsfeld's instructions that such a version of all 12 major reports into detainee abuse be made public.

Read on, MacDuff!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Devil's Advocates

Raw Story & Keith Olbermann have warned that a big-scoop is coming out tonight in U.S. News and World Report. Specifically, the news magazine will report that White House lawyers advocated for warrantless searches of "terrorism" suspects--domestic suspects--right after 9/11:
Soon after the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks, lawyers for the White House and the Justice Department argued that the same legal authority that allowed warrantless electronic surveillance inside the United States could also be used to justify physical searches of terror suspects' homes and businesses without court approval.
According to two current and former government officials, the Bush Administration lawyers presented the arguments to senior FBI officials who expressed strong reservations about the proposal.
It could not be determined whether any warrantless physical searches had been carried out under the legal authority cited by the Administration, but at least one defense attorney representing a terrorism suspect has alleged that his law office and home may have been searched without a court warrant.
That's right: black bag jobs. So who are these lawyers? The same crew that brought us torture memos and assorted deletions from the US Constitution. One such Devil's Advocate? Check out today's Knight Ridder profile of David Addington:
Most people have never heard of David Addington, but he's been at the center of nearly every controversy shaking the White House.
President Bush's eavesdropping program, the so-called torture memo, the Guantanamo Bay detention center, the administration's penchant for secrecy - all bear his fingerprints. Addington's influence is especially remarkable because he doesn't work for Bush, he works for Vice President Dick Cheney.
[...] "David has always been one of those quietly influential staffers that has an impact all of out proportion to their public profile," said Bradford Berenson, who spent two years as a lawyer in the Bush White House. "He knows how to get things done, and when he talks, people listen because they know he has the authority of the vice president behind him."
Addington's advocacy of far-reaching presidential power underlies several of Bush's most controversial acts, including his decision to authorize a domestic surveillance program without approval from Congress or the courts.
It also provided the foundation for the treatment of detainees captured in the war on terrorism. Addington helped draft the strategy for keeping suspected terrorists outside the reach of American courts by sending them to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Some of the harshest criticism of Addington stems from his role in a fierce debate within the administration over interrogation techniques. A 2002 Justice Department memo - now known as the "torture memo" - said interrogators should have wide latitude in their efforts to pry information from terrorist suspects.
The memo offered a narrow definition of torture that left open the possible use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading" tactics. It also concluded that Bush could authorize such tactics without interference from Congress.
Addington didn't write the memo, but he became its chief advocate in battles with officials from the departments of Justice, Defense and other agencies that challenged the abusive tactics. Although the memo was rewritten two years later, Addington continued to push for flexibility in dealing with terror suspects - most recently in White House negotiations over successful efforts by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to ban cruel, inhuman and degrading tactics.
Addington also has led administration efforts to withhold information from Congress, starting in 2001 with the fight over internal documents from Cheney's energy task force. His view prevailed in court.
I emphasized the name "Bradford Berenson" because he's another Devil's Advocate (asst. WH counsel from 2001-2003). You might remember Brad "I look this way 'cause I'm dead inside" from "The Torture Question" Frontline documentary. If you haven't seen it, please check it out (the whole thing is available online). Of course, if you want to see the capo di capi, you have to check out former WH lawyer John Yoo in Gillian Findlay's A Few Bad Apples.

The U.S. News & World Report scoop about warrantless physical searches should appear online tonight. It will physically hit newstands on Monday.

Read on, MacDuff!

Friday, March 17, 2006

"Habeas Schmaebeas"

This is mandatory: please go & listen to Jack Hitt's latest program, "Habeas Schmaebeas" on Chicago public radio (click on the Real Audio link or buy the CD for $13). Here's a blurb:
The right of habeas corpus has been a part of this country's legal tradition longer than we've actually been a country. It means the government has to explain why it's holding a person in custody. But now, the war on terror has nixed many of the rules we used to think of as fundamental. At Guantanamo Bay, our government initially claimed that the prisoners should not be covered by habeas – or even by the Geneva Conventions – because they're the most fearsome terrorist enemies we have. But is that true? Is it a camp full of terrorists, or a camp full of our mistakes?
Thanks to The Majority Report for having Jack Hitt on Air America to promote his program. I learned, among other things:
  • only 5% GITMO prisoners are people who were picked up by the US; the rest were turned over by Pakistani army/intel or the Northern Alliance, usually in exchange for significant bounties
  • The Pentagon actually has an official designation for innocent detainees: "NLEC" or "no-longer enemy combatant"; Hitt alluded to this Dec 23, 2005 WaPo article about a specific subgroup of NLEC prisoners:
A federal judge in Washington ruled [December 22] that the continued detention of two ethnic Uighurs at the U.S. prison facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is "unlawful," but he decided he had no authority to order their release.
U.S. District Judge James Robertson criticized the government's detention of Abu Bakker Qassim and Adel Abdu Hakim, who have been jailed at Guantanamo for four years; they have been cleared for release because the government has determined they are not enemy combatants and are not a threat to the United States. But Robertson said his court has "no relief to offer" because the government has not found a country to accept the men and because he does not have authority to let them enter the United States.
Robertson wrote that the government has taken too long to arrange a release for the men, who cannot return to their Chinese homeland because they would likely be tortured or killed there. U.S. authorities have asked about two dozen countries to grant the men political asylum, but none has accepted, in part out of fear of angering China.
The Uighurs -- along with seven other detainees who have been found to be "no longer enemy combatants" -- are in Guantanamo's Camp Iguana, a less-restrictive area of the prison. They were cleared by a combatant status review tribunal about nine months ago, but no solution for their release has been reached. Robertson wrote that their situation is untenable.
"The detention of these petitioners has by now become indefinite," Robertson wrote in a 12-page opinion. "This indefinite imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay is unlawful."
Hitt also interviews Seton Hall law prof. Baher Azmy about the prisoners and, more specifically, about one of his clients. If Azmy's name rings a bell, you're not alone:
"THE EXPERIMENT: The military trains people to withstand interrogation. Are those methods being misused at Guantánamo?" (Jane Mayer, New Yorker, July 11, 2005):
Baher Azmy, a professor at Seton Hall Law School, in Newark, New Jersey, represents a Guantánamo detainee named Murat Kurnaz, a twenty-three-year-old Turkish citizen who was born in Germany. Kurnaz, who was apprehended while on a trip to Pakistan, has been detained in Guantánamo since 2002. Azmy told me that Kurnaz has complained of being sexually taunted by female interrogators who, he said, offered to have sex with him in exchange for giving information. When one woman began embracing him from behind, Kurnaz said, he turned and head-butted her. According to Kurnaz, he was then beaten by members of the Initial Reaction Forces, a military-police squad that patrols the cellblocks. Kurnaz claimed that he was made to lie on the floor, with his hands cuffed behind his back, for nearly a day. He also told Azmy that he was threatened with starvation and forcibly injected with unknown and debilitating drugs. (All of Kurnaz’s charges have been denied by U.S. authorities.) Azmy told me, “These psychological gambits are obviously not isolated events. They’re prevalent and systematic. They’re tried, measured, and charted. These are ways to humiliate and disorient the detainees. The whole place appears to be one giant human experiment.”
Azmy was also interviewed by the (excellent) "" site. Please check that out, along with the other interviews compiled on this site.

Made in Canada injustice: Thursday's papers announced some pretty damning stuff.
  1. Khadr to face extradition hearing: Brother already being held at Guantanamo Bay
  2. Suspected terrorist 'step closer' to deportation (this last one refers to Mahmoud Jaballah, one of 4 men currently held under those disgusting "security" certificates).
Brian, of, has done an amazing job of keeping track of the 4 men held without charge under these security certificates. Please visit his site and sign the petition (if you haven't already). Also, please see "Sumoud: A Political Prisoner Solidarity Group" for announcements regarding protests, actions and new legal developments.

Read on, MacDuff!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Hello visitor #3313

"GTMO Morale and Welfare Recreation"?! *shudder* Something tells me the 'morale & welfare' does not refer to the disparus :(

Serves me right for checking-in with, eh? Has anyone else seen this before? I know it's prolly says they spent "0" minutes on the site, which means H&O just got caught in one of those spider-type things. Anyway, here's the site they would have read, had they stopped and read-a-spell: "No backsies on McCain's torture amendment"

Read on, MacDuff!


Watch Keith Olbermann bring it...on C-Span Q & A.

If you don't have time to watch the whole thing, watch this snippet from E.g.:
There are people I know in the hierarchy of NBC, the company, and GE, the company, who do not like to see the current presidential administration criticized at all. ... There are people who I work for who would prefer, who would sleep much easier at night if this never happened.
Yeah, baby. He done brung it :)

Read on, MacDuff!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Colbert's "Long War"

Thanks to Crooks & Liars for posting this clip from The Colbert Report--it's one of the Klassiks :)

...and that's The Word.

Read on, MacDuff!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Floppy hats vs. Helmets

Afghanistan makes me sad. Not because "we" are there--I think Canada has a lot to offer that country. I'm just not so sure that we can do it the way we need to. Let's pretend that the US never raided homes, humiliated/tortured prisoners, suffocated young men in cargo containers...or invaded Iraq. Then---maybe then---we could have helped Afghanistan the way it deserved to be helped. As it stands today, there is no way that this can be a purely humanitarian mission.

What I'm getting at is the helmet vs. floppy-hat approach. Canadian soldiers (and British, for that matter) do not like to alienate themselves by hiding behind helmets and mirrored sunglasses. That seems a wise approach to making connections with Afghani citizens. And then there was Trevor Greene. Now what do they do?

The following isn't a direct US vs. Canada comparison but Christian Parenti's article does compare US vs. ISAF/European approaches to counterinsurgency & aid in Afghanistan. First off, Parenti summarizes the failure to properly fund reconstruction & development in the brutalized country:
I am riding along with these two Humvees from the 164th Military Police Company to observe the American effort at keeping a lid on the Afghan caldron. I also want to compare US methods with those of the European troops who are taking over an ever larger part of the military mission here.
[...] The backdrop to this gathering crisis is Afghanistan's shattered economy. The country's 24 million people are still totally dependent on foreign aid, opium poppy cultivation and remittances sent home by the 5 million Afghans living abroad. Yes, there is a new luxury hotel in Kabul, but Afghanistan ranks fifth from the bottom on the UNDP's Human Development Index. Only a few sub-Saharan semi-failed states are more destitute, more broken down.
Since late 2001 the international community--that consortium of highly industrialized nations, international financial institutions, aid organizations and UN agencies that in concert manage the world's disaster zones--has spent $8 billion on emergency relief and reconstruction in Afghanistan. That's a lot of money, perhaps, but given what the World Bank has called the aid sector's "sky-high wastage" and the country's endemic poverty, it's simply not enough.
In the face of Afghanistan's deepening troubles, the US government is now slashing its funding for reconstruction from a peak of $1 billion in 2004 to a mere $615 million this year. And thanks to the military's recruitment problems, the United States is drawing down its troops from 19,000 to 16,000. In short, despite Bush's feel-good rhetoric, the United States is giving every impression that it is slowly abandoning sideshow Afghanistan.
To pick up the slack, the primarily European- and Canadian-staffed, NATO-led International Security Assistance Force is increasing its troop levels from about 9,000 to 15,000. On the economic front an additional $10.5 billion in aid has been pledged for the next five years--$1.1 billion of that promised by the United States; the rest from Japan, the European Union, international institutions and seventy other donor nations.
[...]Many observers hope that a European-led counterinsurgency strategy will be more sophisticated and effective than current American methods, which are rightly criticized as heavy-handed, overly focused on military means, inflexible, culturally insensitive and badly marred by the torture and murder of prisoners at the Bagram detention facility. The next five years--with a new round of funding and an infusion of fresh European troops--are seen as Afghanistan's last chance to stanch the growing Taliban insurgency and build a functioning state.
And the aid? The "good stuff"?
As consolation, Sergeant Chesley begins an aid handout. All the GIs on this patrol have mixed feelings about aid giveaways. "There are villages where they throw themselves in front of our Humvees demanding food and blankets because we've created a welfare mentality," says Chesley. But his instructions are to occasionally give things away, especially in villages where no previous surveys have been conducted.
As the windup radios, blankets and gloves come out, the gaggle of men listening to the survey conversation suddenly swells to a boisterous crowd. The narrow road between the mud wall and the small creek is now full of men and children. There are no women over 15 in sight. Pandemonium is immediate.
Chesley and a village elder attempt to impose order, but it's useless. Every object handed out is seized by several competing men. Shouting children squirm around underfoot. Two younger men start punching each other over a pair of gloves; Chesley and a local intervene to break it up. Now the loser, a skinny guy in a loose shaweer kamis and a Nike ski cap, not only lacks gloves but has hurt pride. More goods come out of the Humvee. A teenager assaults an older man who has just grabbed a blanket; the elder emerges with the blanket but loses his turban. People press in as the victors carry off their trophies.
I jump up on one of the Humvees and shoot video from the safety of the roof. The crowd below is a churning mass of desperation, poverty, hunger and the broken-up pieces of traditional, hierarchical Afghan society.
When we finally pull out of the village, a trail of young boys and men jogging and riding bicycles follows us for about half a mile. Occasionally, one of the GIs throws an MRE out the window. I ride in the gun turret with Specialist Stacey. As far as I can see, the whole pathetic spectacle of the aid handout has had no positive political or cultural impact. "They call us infidels, but they're begging for blankets," says Stacey in his Alabama drawl. He shakes his head and tips a bag of M&Ms into his mouth.
How about the Europeans/ISAF?
Can the Europeans do any better than the US forces? Attempting to find out, I fly to a Lithuanian base called a PRT, for Provincial Reconstruction Team. These small military bases aim to mix peacekeeping and reconnaissance with development work and political support for fledgling local government institutions like the police and the provincial governor's offices.
[...]The Lithuanian-run PRT also includes a small Danish contingent. I am assigned to one of their squads, called a Mobile Liaison and Observation Team, or MLOT. These teams of six soldiers riding in two SUVs are the PRT's main means of operation. Their job is similar to that of the American squad I had been embedded with on the Shomali Plain. The MLOTs here comb their terrain of operations, driving for up to a week at a time, patrolling from village to village, gathering information, mapping the region's strengths and weaknesses, building links to the local population and letting people know that the foreign supporters of the central government are out and about with their guns, grenade launchers and who knows what else.
[...] Unlike the American patrol, with its sloppy, halfhearted, ultimately divisive handouts, the Danes and Lithuanians limit their aid work to a few well-thought-out emergency-response projects: heat for an orphanage, shoes for the children of a displaced persons' camp, a few other things.
The European troops work hard to build bridges to the locals, growing beards, taking off their boots for indoor meetings, learning some Dari. And their sympathy seems genuine.
"I understand why everyone is armed," says Capt. Bo Jepsen while we wait for one of his vehicles to be towed out of the mud. "There is no law and order out here. They have to protect themselves."
Finally, the most depressing part of Parenti's visit to Afghanistan:
Toward the end of my stay I meet a European "contractor" who is in fact a Western intelligence agent in charge of several important dossiers pertaining to Afghan security. All of this is confirmed through Afghan intelligence sources. But my "contractor" friend maintains his pretenses and I remain respectful of that, and we proceed with otherwise very frank conversations.
To my surprise, this agent to the great powers, this builder of empire, is the most cynical person I've met my whole trip. Highly intellectual, he talks of Afghanistan as doomed, a hostage to history and to the idiocy, arrogance and Iraq obsession of the Bush clique. He passes me a series of "red gaming papers"--intentionally dissenting analyses of the Afghan situation written by and for the coalition.
The papers paint an arrestingly bleak picture of Afghanistan as a political "fiction," a buffer state that no longer buffers, a collection of fiefdoms run by brutal local warlords. The coalition's mission is portrayed as a fantasy game managed by sheltered careerists. One of the papers is by an American. It ends on this note: Nothing short of an open-ended blank check from the United States will keep Afghanistan from returning to chaos.
One of our meetings takes place at a dinner party. The contractor and I get rather drunk and talk politics by a big outdoor fire pit. He sums up the situation with a Kipling poem: "When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains/And the women come out to cut up what remains/Just roll to your rifle and blow out your brains/An' go to your Gawd like a soldier."
I can't believe how grim his view of things is (though he is cheerful), and I keep pushing him to test for exaggeration. "I know an Afghan commander who is with the government and has been at this for quite a long time," says the contractor. "He described the current situation as 1983: The Taliban can't take on armored columns yet, but they are building momentum."
This analogy between the present and 1983 seems a bit unfair. "The mujahedeen had US backing," I suggest. "The Taliban have no superpower patron."
"Yes, but neither does Afghanistan," says the contractor. He fills my glass once more with dark red wine and stares into the flames.

Read on, MacDuff!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Wetting their beak the US/India nuke deal, that is. I must have missed it but it was right there, as plain as day. Leave it to the business-type rags to find the real criminals:
March 6 (Bloomberg) -- President George W. Bush returned to Washington from South Asia facing the task of selling the trip's centerpiece -- a nuclear accord with India -- to a Congress increasingly willing to challenge him on foreign policy.
[...] The agreement, which would open the way for companies such as General Electric Co. and Westinghouse Electric Co. to sell power plant equipment and expertise to India, would require a change in U.S. laws that prohibit sales of nuclear material to nations that aren't part of the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It also is subject to approval by India's parliament and the 44-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, which sets guidelines for the transfer of nuclear-related equipment.
This has been in the hatching for at least a year. And it's not just GE/Westinghouse. Guess who else is (literally) coming to dinner? [July 23, 2005]

[click "Read on, MacDuff!" to continue reading]
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Just over an hour after the White House's surprise pledge to help India develop its civilian nuclear power sector, the head of General Electric, the American company that could benefit most from the policy change, sat down for a celebratory dinner.
The host was President George W. Bush; a few feet away was India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, and his top aides. GE Chief Executive Jeff Immelt, a contributor to Bush's presidential campaigns, had a coveted seat at the president's table.
Bush's announcement on nuclear trade with India -- followed by a formal dinner in the State dining room -- was not just a victory for Singh. For GE, the only U.S.-owned company still in the nuclear business, it marked a possible turning point in a years-long push to re-enter the Indian nuclear power market, which it was forced to leave in 1974 when India conducted its first nuclear test.
"In the short term, it's really business as usual. ... But if things unfold the way it looks they may, then clearly it is a significant opportunity for us," said Peter Wells, general manager of marketing for GE Energy's nuclear business.
While the policy change may benefit GE and other companies in the long term, critics contend Bush's move closer to accepting the world's largest democracy as a nuclear weapons state could weaken decades-old prohibitions against atomic arms.
[...] GE was not mentioned in the joint statement issued by Bush and Singh, but Bush specifically pledged "expeditious consideration of fuel supplies for safeguarded nuclear reactors at Tarapur."
GE built Tarapur and one of its immediate goals in India would be resuming fuel sales to the reactors, Wells said.
Immelt -- who said in May that "all conditions are right to invest in India" and predicted that GE revenues from there could jump to $5 billion by 2010 -- was not the only American executive at Monday's dinner with a reason to court Singh.
Bush also invited Lockheed Martin Corp. chief Bob Stevens and Boeing Co.'spotential $9 billion market selling combat planes to India. GE makes jet engines for Lockheed and Boeing.
new chief executive, James McNerney. Bush cleared the way in March for the two defense contractors to compete for a
Excuse me. I have to go vomit in terror now.

Read on, MacDuff!

Friday, March 03, 2006

No backsies on McCain's torture amendment

Honestly, it's not like we didn't see this coming: "U.S. Cites Exception in Torture Ban; McCain Law May Not Apply to Cuba Prison" (Washington Post, March 3, pg A04, Josh White & Carol D. Leonnig)
Bush administration lawyers, fighting a claim of torture by a Guantanamo Bay detainee, yesterday argued that the new law that bans cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees in U.S. custody does not apply to people held at the military prison.
In federal court yesterday and in legal filings, Justice Department lawyers contended that a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, cannot use legislation drafted by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to challenge treatment that the detainee's lawyers described as "systematic torture."
Government lawyers have argued that another portion of that same law, the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, removes general access to U.S. courts for all Guantanamo Bay captives. Therefore, they said, Mohammed Bawazir, a Yemeni national held since May 2002, cannot claim protection under the anti-torture provisions.
Bawazir's attorneys contend that "extremely painful" new tactics used by the government to force-feed him and end his hunger strike amount to torture.
U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler said in a hearing yesterday that she found allegations of aggressive U.S. military tactics used to break the detainee hunger strike "extremely disturbing" and possibly against U.S. and international law. But Justice Department lawyers argued that even if the tactics were considered in violation of McCain's language, detainees at Guantanamo would have no recourse to challenge them in court.
So...what exactly happened to Bawazir at Gitmo?
In Bawazir's case, the government claims that it had to forcefully intervene in a hunger strike that was causing his weight to drop dangerously. In January, officials strapped Bawazir into a special chair, put a larger tube than they had previously used through his nose and kept him restrained for nearly two hours at a time to make sure he did not purge the food he was being given, the government and Bawazir's attorneys said.
Richard Murphy Jr., Bawazir's attorney, said his client gave in to the new techniques and began eating solid food days after the first use of the restraint chair. Murphy said
the military deliberately made the process painful and embarrassing, noting that Bawazir soiled himself because of the approach.
Kessler said getting to the root of the allegations is an "urgent matter."
"These allegations . . . describe disgusting treatment, that if proven, is treatment that is
cruel, profoundly disturbing and violative of" U.S. and foreign treaties banning torture, Kessler told the government's lawyers. She said she needs more information, but made clear she is considering banning the use of larger nasal-gastric tubes and the restraint chair.
Remember all of those "negotiations" that were supposed to happen between Bush & the so-called anti-torture senators on Capitol Hill? Well...funny story:

[click "Read on, MacDuff!" to continue reading]
In court filings, the Justice Department lawyers argued that language in the law written by Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) gives Guantanamo Bay detainees access to the courts only to appeal their enemy combatant status determinations and convictions by military commissions.
"Unfortunately, I think the government's right; it's a correct reading of the law," said Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. "The law says you can't torture detainees at Guantanamo, but it also says you can't enforce that law in the courts."
In other words, they knew this blocking of Habeus Corpus would come in handy real-soon-like:
Thomas Wilner, a lawyer representing several detainees at Guantanamo, agreed that the law cannot be enforced. "This is what Guantanamo was about to begin with, a place to keep detainees out of the U.S. precisely so they can say they can't go to court," Wilner said.
Murphy told the judge the military's claims that it switched tactics to protect Bawazir should not be believed. He noted that
on Jan. 11 -- days after the new law passed -- the Defense Department made the identical health determination for about 20 other detainees, all of whom had been engaged in the hunger strike.
Luckily, the Judge (Kessler) appears every bit as skeptical about these Dept. Justice shenanigans as she should be:
Navy Capt. Stephen G. Hooker, who runs the prison's detention hospital, noted that the hunger strike began on Aug. 8, reached a peak of 131 participants on Sept. 11, and dropped to 84 on Christmas Day. After use of the restraint chair began, only five captives continued not eating.
Hooker wrote that he suspected Bawazir was purging his food after feedings. Bawazir weighed 130 pounds in late 2002, according to Hooker, but 97 pounds on the day he was first strapped to the chair. As of Sunday, his weight was back to 137 pounds, the government said.
Kessler noted with irritation that Hood and Hooker made largely general claims about the group of detainees on the hunger strike in defending the switch to the new force-feeding procedures used on Bawazir.
"I know it's a sad day when a federal judge has to ask a DOJ attorney this, but I'm asking you -- why should I believe them?" Kessler asked Justice Department attorney Terry Henry.

Read on, MacDuff!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


Do a gal a favour, wouldya? Amble over to Google and search for "Kubark" and see what pops up.

I wonder if you'll get the same Google "Sponsored Links" as I did. I got:
Step-by-Step Interviewing
Guide for Law Enforcement Officers
Get Admissions & Confessions!

BTW, I have to read this book. And the Canadian/McGill connection really creeped me out too.

Happy Smarch.

Read on, MacDuff!