As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, May 06, 2004

They don't get it.

Rush Limbaugh thinks torture and sexual humiliation is nothing more than kids "having a good time":

CALLER: It was like a college fraternity prank that stacked up naked men --

LIMBAUGH: Exactly. Exactly my point! This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation and we're going to ruin people's lives over it and we're going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You of heard of need to blow some steam off?

And then, the requisite slap at liberal Hollywood:

LIMBAUGH: You know, if you look at -- if you, really, if you look at these pictures, I mean, I don't know if it's just me, but it looks just like anything you'd see Madonna, or Britney Spears do on stage. Maybe I'm -- yeah. And get an NEA grant for something like this. I mean, this is something that you can see on stage at Lincoln Center from an NEA grant, maybe on Sex in the City -- the movie. I mean, I don't -- it's just me.

Boy, I missed that part of the Geneva Convention where it exempts soldiers from sticking lanterns in people's asses if they're just "blowing off steam." War is hell, after all. Making Limbaugh... Satan? No, that'd be giving him too much credit. After all, we know that he doesn't blow off steam through sexual degredation... he does it through popping 3,000 painkillers.


Turned on CNN this morning...

And Press Secretary Scott McClellan was on, the caption underneath said something like "White House thanks Rumsfeld for his service," and I got absolutely giddy. I thought the die was cast. I thought Rumsfeld got the "You're Fired" treatment. I thought he could join the 3 million-plus other unemployed workers under BushCo.

I think it's closer than ever to happening, actually, it would fit in with Bush's campaign meme of "A Reformer with Results." And today's leak that Bush had a scream-fest on the phone with Rummy yesterday obviously reinforces that. But the fact that there would have to be congressional confirmation hearings to appoint a new Defense Secretary makes it very unlikely. It'd just be another chance to beat the administration with a stick for a couple weeks.

But once again, this is a classic "pass the buck" situation. Bush is channel-surfing, sees 60 Minutes II, gets blindsided by these photos, and wonders "How did I not know about this?" after running an administration based precisely on the notion that he not know about anything. It's like the CEO of the company shocked to find out what goes on in the company lunchroom. He's completely insulated from the real-world effects of his policies. Bush runs the White House with a heavy reliance on the people around him, and when they fail, instead of taking the blame for hiring them in the first place, he lays the blame at their feet.

This is not going away, this doesn't deserve to go away. It's the inevitable result of this administration's policies.


Wednesday, May 05, 2004

The President didn't know about the torture photos

...until he saw them on television, on 60 Minutes II. Just reported on CNN.

I can hear Cheney now: "He's not really in the loop on these kind of things."


If you're interested

Here's the text of the Taguba report, prepared by Major General Antonio Taguba regarding the Iraqi prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. The first page you read will put you one ahead of JCS Chairman Richard Myers or Secy. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, both of whom have admitted that they have yet to read the two month-old report.

Some gems:

Currently, due to lack of adequate Iraqi facilities, Iraqi criminals (generally Iraqi-on-Iraqi crimes) are detained with security internees (generally Iraqi-on-Coalition offenses) and EPWs in the same facilities, though segregated in different cells/compounds.

And apparently, that includes scientists too. Scientists who we wanted information from about where the WMD are (or aren't).

I find that the intentional abuse of detainees by military police personnel included the following acts: 

a.  (S) Punching, slapping, and kicking detainees; jumping on their naked feet;

b.  (S) Videotaping and photographing naked male and female detainees;

c.  (S) Forcibly arranging detainees in various sexually explicit positions for photographing;

d.  (S) Forcing detainees to remove their clothing and keeping them naked for several days at a time;

e.  (S) Forcing naked male detainees to wear women’s underwear;

f.   (S) Forcing groups of male detainees to masturbate themselves while being photographed and videotaped;

g.  (S) Arranging naked male detainees in a pile and then jumping on them;

h.  (S) Positioning a naked detainee on a MRE Box, with a sandbag on his head, and attaching wires to his fingers, toes, and penis to simulate electric torture;

i.   (S) Writing “I am a Rapest”  (sic) on the leg of a detainee alleged to have forcibly raped a 15-year old fellow detainee, and then photographing him naked;

j.   (S) Placing a dog chain or strap around a naked detainee’s neck and having a female Soldier pose for a picture;

k.  (S) A male MP guard having sex with a female detainee;

l.   (S) Using military working dogs (without muzzles) to intimidate and frighten detainees, and in at least one case biting and severely injuring a detainee;

m. (S) Taking photographs of dead Iraqi detainees.

The two boldfaced ones don't seem to be getting through to anyone. It's more than torture. It's rape and murder. Let me add other allegations in the report, "pouring phosphorous liquid on the detainees," "sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broomstick," and "handcuffing their hands together and their legs with shackles and... stacking them on top of each other by insuring that the bottom guy's penis will touch the guy on top's butt.”

Let's not forget Rumsfeld's press conference yesterday, which included an oops revelation about 25 mysterious homicides at Abu Ghraib currently under investigation.

Here are some Keystone Kops examples:

12.  (U) I find that prior to its deployment to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom, the 320th MP Battalion and the 372nd MP Company had received no training in detention/internee operations. 

29. The Iraqi guards at Abu Ghraib BCCF) demonstrate questionable work ethics and loyalties, and are a potentially dangerous contingent within the Hard-Site.  These guards have furnished the Iraqi criminal inmates with contraband, weapons, and information.  Additionally, they have facilitated the escape of at least one detainee.

30.  (U) In general, US civilian contract personnel (Titan Corporation, CACI, etc…), third country nationals, and local contractors do not appear to be properly supervised within the detention facility at Abu Ghraib.  During our on-site inspection, they wandered about with too much unsupervised free access in the detainee area. 

What does third-country nationals mean? Are Israelis walking around this prison unattended? Jordanians? Who?
Anyone who thinks this is exceptional is deluded. This is SOP at Guantanamo, Afghanistan, and anywhere else we need to get information from prisoners. It just gets worse and worse.


Tuesday, May 04, 2004

God I hate Tucker Carlson

So Bowtie Boy starts upbraiding Democrats for asking Barbara Streisand to come to their fund-raisers. "It's funny that you guys care so much about a singer's views." Then, within 30 seconds, "Coming up next on Crossfire, we'll talk about the Iraqi prison torture scandal with Bianca Jagger and..." What? Bianca Jagger is your expert? Not even a celebrity, but the ex-wife of a celebrity?

I find myself longing for the insightful analysis of Jenny McCarthy on Politically Incorrect.


The Hedge Begins

Rumsfeld just now, at a Pentagon press briefing, talking about the mandated deadline for Iraqi sovereignty, "We are headed towards June 30... or thereabouts."


Then he started banging on the desk like a chimp and saying how terrible Saddam and his rape rooms were (because, as I've said before, our rape rooms at Abu Ghraib are much cleaner), and how we should expect uncertainty from people on the ground about the June 30 date because it's so tough to go from a brutal dictatorship to a democracy (especially when it's an unwanted occupation propped up as a puppet democracy).

That June 30 press conference should be fun, if they're already backing off the date.


The Bus Tour

Apparently Bush cannot tell the difference between a bus and a plane.

President Bush's bus tour is a scam on several levels. First, he isn't actually using the bus: "The bus tour, about 60 miles through western Ohio, actually includes two airplane flights — one from Detroit to Toledo and another from Toledo to Dayton."

Detroit to Toledo, by the way, doesn't take more than an hour or so. This is the guy calling John Kerry a patrician. If you want to fly around the country to show how big your balls are, fine. Just don't call it a bus tour.

Second, Bush skipped mentioning the torture -- and that's what it is, by the way -- of Iraqis in U.S. custody... He did mention that the "world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power," and that "torture rooms are closed."

They're still spouting this line of bullshit? The same week that Sy Hersh's article in the New Yorker, a must-read, documents the abuse we've already seen photographically? Hey idiot, we re-opened the torture rooms. Under new management. Remember? Oh yeah, you don't read the paper.

And in addition, the "town hall meetings" are by invitation only and the questions are planted. We wouldn't want another situation where the President had to think on his feet, now, would we?


Monday, May 03, 2004

Republicans are great at fighting the war... the Vietnam War

Tomorrow a bunch of Navy veterans led by partisan hack John O'Neill (a former law clerk for Chief Justice William Rehnquist) are going to present a letter saying that John Kerry is unfit to be Commander-in-Chief. Here's the story.

O'Neill has apparently been after Kerry for about 35 years, once debating him in 1971 on the Dick Cavett show. According to the Houston Chronicle, "President Nixon and top aide Charles Colson had taken a keen interest in O'Neill as part of their effort to discredit Kerry and the anti-war movement, according to memos and tapes in the National Archives. A clean-cut Naval Academy graduate, O'Neill was viewed by Nixon's team as an effective messenger against Kerry, who was causing the administration headaches as the leader of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War."

But forget the one-man crusade here for a second. This is the latest in a series of meaningless mini-scandals (throwing of medals, releasing of records, and now this) that show the Bush administration and his cadre running against the 1971 John Kerry rather than the 2004 version. Now, it can be argued that Kerry himself went into a time warp during the Democratic primary season, never missing an opportunity to have veterans at his side or use his Vietnam experience to answer a debate question. But recently, Kerry has become more substantive, leaving his biographical information where it should be, in the background. I thought his speech at Westminster College last Friday was brilliant, not only because he highlighted the need for international cooperation in Iraq, but because of his overall theme of regaining our moral importance around the globe. A quote:

"We must reclaim our country’s standing in the world by doing what has kept America safe and made it more secure before—leading in a way that brings others to us so that we are respected, not simply feared, around the globe."

That is clearly the way you bring about stability and safety in the world, not through endless cycles of violence and repression. I also thought it was brilliant that he said "If the President will take the needed steps to share the burden and make progress in Iraq – if he leads – then I will support him on this issue." First of all, we all know Bush won't do it, so offering the olive branch is all reward and no risk. It shows that Kerry is willing to lead by setting as the top priority the country, not politics. In response, we get endless attacks on a 30 year-old war record. Bush can only lead into the gutter of negative campaigning.

I think there's more to be said here, but work beckons. I'll update later.



I thought a couple weeks ago that when Bush endorsed a permanent Israeli settler presence in the West Bank (which was cannily hidden in the language of "I endorse a pullout of all of the Gaza Strip, and, um, SOME of the West Bank!"), this was a much bigger story than anyone realized. Going back on 40 years of existing U.S./Israeli policy once again made us look like liars and thieves to the Arab world. Worse, it gave Sharon the gumption to start changing other policies, for instance, his claim that he is "no longer bound" to by prohibitions against assassinating Yassir Arafat, which would be as much a flintspark to starting WWIII as the killing of Archduke Franz Ferdinand was to starting WWI. The Arab/Israeli conflict has everything to do with the "war on terror," for the radicalization of Islam is directly tied to its hatred of policies that punish and oppress Muslims. If the US really wanted to install an Arab democracy that could be a beacon to the world, it should have started in Palestine, not Iraq.

Which makes today's overwhelming defeat of the US-backed Gaza pullout plan about the only good news we've seen in the Middle East in what seems like the entire millennium. I see it as the end of Sharon's stranglehold on power in the Knesset, though he survived a no-confidence vote. What's interesting about it is that it came from Sharon's own party members, and really it was an attack from his right, with the foregrounded issue being the Gaza pullout. But the message this would have sent, that there will be a permanent Israeli presence in occupied lands, a presence that would undermine efforts to ever achieve a two-state solution, means that sometimes friends must come from the lowest places.

Both sides of the process are as distrustful and intractable as ever, which stands to reason in the absence of any meaningful world leadership. Palestine sees only the US concessions to a permanent settler presence, Israel sees only continuing terror attacks and neglects their policy implications in them. It's been over three years since we've been on any kind of road to peace in this depressing situation, and it gets all the more depressing when from the sidelines, you cheer for a far-right dictate of support for settlers in occupied lands.

This is the greatest threat to world peace that there is. It shares common cause with al Qaeda, and continuing violence and oppression will just give an endless flow of suicide bombers and support to their side. At least this huge defeat for Sharon might allow the winds of "enough is enough" to blow slowly through Jerusalem, where (since Washington won't do a damn thing) the only hope for an eventual solution resides. If the Likudniks are as out of touch with the populace as it seems (a poll showed 60% of all Israelis favored the pullout in Gaza, but under 40% of the Likud voted voted for it), maybe the collapse of Sharon will coincide with the collapse of the ideology of oppression.