“When historians look back to the moment when the post-Cold War reign of American power ended, they may well settle on 2010 as a crucial year. Everywhere, it seemed, there were signs that the long-predicted “rise of the rest” had finally occurred, whether in the newfound assertiveness of fast-growing China or the impatient diplomacy of new powers like Brazil and Turkey. Foreign Policy’s second annual list of the Top 100 Global Thinkers fully reflects that new world.“
As above, Foreign Policy has picked its Top 100 Global Thinkers of the year. And, while there are some really atrocious choices on here (for example, the man at #33, who much more deservingly made the list in the next entry too), the article is worth a perusing regardless. (FWIW, #65, #68, and #80 seem really iffy to me as well.)
I don’t mean to be too harsh — There’s nothing terribly wrong with this edutainment-y attempt to explain de-Baathification, highly dubious detainee procedures, and most notably the faked WMD casus belli to disinterested laypersons by way of action-thriller. And, in a way, I sorta admire the gutsiness of the the attempt. But, if you were already well aware of these grim developments, and I assume most GitM readers are, then it’s hard to escape the sensation that one is mainly just being talked down to for two hours. Wait, there were no WMD in Iraq? You’re kidding me, right? And, while I’m a great fan of Greengrass’ previous output — I said over and over again in this space that I wish he had stuck with Watchmen, and on the Top 100 films of last decade list, Bloody Sunday was #84, his two Bournes were at #49, and the exemplary United 93 was at #6 — The Green Zone feels quite a bit more leaden than usual.
As with the political edutainment project Greengrass aspired to here, I like the idea of fusing his highly visceral action work (the Bournes) with his fly-on-the-wall discursions into recent history (Sunday, ’93)…on paper. But The Green Zone gets lost somewhere in the interstice, and lacks the gripping power of either of these previous Greengrass grooves. Instead, Zone ends up mostly being two grainy hours of watching Matt Damon run around at night, as he tries to uncover an insidious government plot that our nation has been fully aware of for years…and has chosen to greet with a yawn.
More on that depressing problem in a bit, but, first, to bring y’all up to speed: Loosely based on Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Imperial Life in the Emerald City, a non-fiction examination of Dubyaite imbecility and excess in post-war Baghdad, Green Zone begins with a brief sequence set amid the original Shock-and-Awe period of the war, followed by, a few weeks later, a tense raid on a possible WMD storehouse by American soldiers. Led by Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Damon), this crack MW2-ish assault ends up finding, well, bupkis, just like the time before and the time before that.
To Chief Miller, the problem here is obvious — the intel must be rotten. But, when he brings this up at the next briefing for high-level military muckety-mucks, he is basically told to shut up and do his job. Nonetheless, events soon conspire to introduce Miller to the “Jack of Clubs” in the Dubya deck, a Baathist general (Yigal Naor) with a still-clearly extant power base in Baghdad. And, when our hero digs deeper to figure out how this Jack might know “Magellan,” the top-secret source of all this lousy intel, he soon finds himself trapped — along with a very Judith Miller-y reporter (Amy Ryan) — in a power play between a slimy executive branch bureaucrat (Greg Kinnear, stuck no more) and a grizzled CIA hand (Brendan Gleeson), one that might just end up getting Miller fragged by the creepy Special Forces guy (Jason Isaacs, with great accent) who keeps popping up…
Along the way, there’s a digression into a detainee facility with all the makings of an Abu Ghraib waiting to happen, the tearful homecoming of the administration’s hand-picked Iraqi stooge (re: Ahmed Chalabi), some rather pained attempts to make the decision to de-Baathify an action beat…In other words, Green Zone is basically an attempt to dramatize the Iraq war for people who, for whatever reason, weren’t paying much attention the first time ’round. And, to be fair, it’s done with solid acting all around (including several folks recognizable from United 93), quality production values, and a reasonable degree of versimilitude throughout. (Note also the brief Paul Rieckhoff cameo, which should nip any IAVA whining about dramatic license right in the bud.)
But, for all its edutainmenty truths to tell, Green Zone still ends up feeling rather fake and film-ish to me, perhaps in part because — unlike Greengrass’ other recent histories — it seems to subscribe to a very movie-like All the President’s Men view of things, where, once word of misdeed gets out, justice will be done tho’ the heavens fall. Not to get all Debbie Downer up in here, but that’s not really the way the world works anymore, is it? One of the saddest and scariest moments in the recent and very worthwhile Daniel Ellsberg: The Most Dangerous Man in America is when Ellsberg explains how he thought everything would change once the Pentagon Papers got out…and then he finds that, in the face of clear and irrefutable evidence of government wrongdoing, most people just shrugged.
This is the uncomfortable horror that Green Zone almost seems willfully designed not to recognize. The whole premise of the movie seems to be that, if We the People knew what really went down in Iraq (or could just be taught via action-movie), we would be totally livid about the corruption involved. But, is the problem really that the American people don’t know what happened in the build-up to Iraq? Or is it that we know pretty well what happened and don’t much seem to care?
Just as with our indefensible dabbling in torture and indefinite detention in recent years, we have known about the lies and incompetence that fueled the Iraq fiasco for awhile now. And, alas, nothing ever happened. Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and the whole awful, lying lot are still deemed Serious People with Serious Opinions by the nation’s domesticated media watchdogs, who, by the way, have also been studiously ignoring the Blair hearings overseas. Our current president, elected with the largest mandate for change in a generation, has deemed all of this just the sins of the past and refused to “look backward” (or worse, made himself complicit in these Dubya-era crimes.) And life continues, much as it has this past age, with no sense of reckoning whatsoever for the Big Lies that were told.
One of the main reasons Bloody Sunday and United 93 work so well is that they offer complex, nuanced portraits of complicated times. But, as Green Zone moves along, it just ended up feeling more and more like a cartoon to me, and one predicated mainly on wishful thinking. Like I said, I guess I admire what Paul Greengrass & co. were trying do here, but Green Zone as an action film feels flat and mostly uninvolving. And Green Zone as a political enterprise — Iraq War: The Movie!, basically — often seems at best condescending and at worst dangerously naive.
Do you remember the Iraq War of 2003? Remember those heady days of euphoria when it ended two months later, with only 139 American lives lost? Journey back with me — TIME-LIFE style, if you will — to the scene of our triumph: “Chris Matthews on MSNBC called Bush a ‘hero’ and boomed, ‘He won the war. He was an effective commander. Everybody recognizes that, I believe, except a few critics.’ PBS’ Gwen Ifill said Bush was ‘part Tom Cruise, part Ronald Reagan.’ On NBC, Brian Williams gushed, ‘The pictures were beautiful. It was quite something to see the first-ever American president on a — on a carrier landing. This must be very meaningful to the United States military.’“
Well, today marks the five-year anniversary of our glorious victory, the day that “splendid little war” came to a close. Among those honoring the day, and the remarkable achievement of our Commander-in-Chief:
Paging Yuri Orlov: By way of Dangerous Meta, a new Congressional study finds the US atop the leaderboard in terms of selling weaponry to the developing world. “Pakistan, India and Saudi Arabia were the top buyers…The study makes clear also that the United States has signed weapons-sales agreements with nations whose records on democracy and human rights are subject to official criticism.“
“OPEC would like you to believe that it’s an international agency dedicated to world peace and economic development, like the United Nations or the World Bank. But of course, OPEC is a cartel.” Tim Noah examines a new bill before Congress that would work to bring OPEC’s behavior under American antitrust law. “The White House Office of Management and Budget says it opposes the NOPEC bill ‘adamantly.’ Perhaps this is because, as I’ve noted before, OPEC is just about the only international organization that President Bush has any regard for.“
“Surveys consistently show that Americans are viewed as arrogant, insensitive, over-materialistic and ignorant about local values. That, in short, is the image of the Ugly American abroad and we want to change it.” Concerned about the “worryingly accurate” international stereotype of boorish Americans abroad, the State Department and several corporate partners create a handy etiquette manual for would-be world travelers. Some sample advice: “Listen at least as much as you talk. (By all means, talk about America and your life in our country. But also ask people you’re visiting about themselves and their way of life.)” Hmm…can we get a copy to Dubya?
By way of a friend, the State Department releases its mandated yearly human rights report for 2005 (here), finding cause for alarm in Iran, Russia, China, Venezuela, Burma, North Korea, Belarus and Zimbabwe and (surprise, surprise) progress in Iraq and Afghanistan. The report doesn’t delve into human rights violations here at home (although China tries to fill that gap in response every year), but it does unequivocally state — in bold, no less — that “countries in which power is concentrated in the hands of unaccountable rulers tend to be the world’s most systematic human rights violators.” Hey y’all might be on to something. Deadpans the head of Amnesty International: “The Bush administration’s practice of transferring detainees in the ‘war on terror’ to countries cited by the State Department for their appalling human rights records actually turns the report into a manual for the outsourcing of torture.”
“For whatever reason, Bush seems fixated on his rug. Virtually all visitors to the Oval Office find him regaling them about how it was chosen and what it represents. Turns out, he always says, the first decision any president makes is what carpet he wants in his office…Sometimes Bush describes it as a metaphor for leadership. Sometimes he relates how Russian President Vladimir Putin admired the carpet. Sometimes he seems most taken by the lighting qualities.” Ah, the glory days…I guess it was only after that tough second decision — the drapes, maybe? — that the job started getting to Dubya.
Given Dubya’s recent dismal poll position, the NYT‘s David Kirkpatrick assesses the prospects of the Bush second-term agenda in the wake of his incipient lame-duckness.
“While he remains sympathetic to the democracy-spreading mission, Fukuyama castigates the unilateral and militaristic turns that gave us such concepts as ‘preventive war,’ ‘benevolent hegemony,’ and ‘regime change.’ Neoconservatives, he contends, have abandoned their fundamental political insight, namely that ambitious schemes to remake societies are doomed to disappointment, failure, and unintended consequences. ‘Opposition to utopian social engineering,’ Fukuyama writes ‘…is the most enduring thread running through the movement.’ Yet neoconservatives today are bogged down in an attempt to remake a poorly understood, catastrophically damaged, and deeply alien semi-country in the Middle East. How did these smart people stray — and lead the country — so far off course?“
Um, well, maybe ’cause a lot of ‘em read Fukuyama’s The End of History back in the day? Jacob Weisberg reviews Francis Fukuyama’s new book, America at the Crossroads, and, while it’s good to see principled conservatives take this administration’s egregiously inept Iraq policy to task, it’s also hard to believe that the neocons didn’t share Fukuyama’s earlier contention going in that “the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government” was both an historical inevitability and in full flourish. Fukuyama can play the aggrieved realist now, but that’s definitely not how he made a name for himself.
“Grisly attacks and other sectarian violence unleashed by last week’s bombing of a Shiite Muslim shrine have killed more than 1,300 Iraqis, making the past few days the deadliest of the war outside of major U.S. offensives, according to Baghdad’s main morgue.” While the Iraqi cabinet disputes the 1300 figure as “inaccurate and exaggerated,” the news from Baghdad is still tragic and horrifying: After the bombing of the Golden Mosque last week, Iraq appears to be in freefall, with 68 more casualties just today, and civil war looms. Dubya’s response so far: Civil war won’t happen, and, if it does, it’s y’all’s problem.
“The bigger problem is that U.S. funding will discredit the very people we seek to encourage. Many Iranians, perhaps even a majority, despise their rulers. They yearn for democracy. To a degree unmatched in any other Middle Eastern nation besides Israel, they even like the United States. However, as anyone who knows anything about Iran’s history would emphasize, these same Iranians deeply distrust outsiders — including American ones — who try to interfere in their domestic affairs…By openly calling for regime change and backing it up with money (however trifling a sum), the Bush administration is playing into Ahmadinejad’s hands.” Slate‘s Fred Kaplan assesses the Dubya administration’s new Iran strategy, and finds that they’re repeating the same amateurish tone-deafness that helped propel Ahmadinejad into office in the first place. (Perhaps Dubya might get it if someone reminded him of the Guardian‘s experiment in Ohio in 2004.)
“‘The suspicion is we would undermine the policy,’ said one of the officials who have felt sidelined. ‘That is what all of us find most offensive. We are here to serve any administration.’” Career State Department officials tell of a punitive “reorganization” by Dubya political appointees to “punish long-term employees whose views they considered suspect“…and to close a back door channel that once bypassed ideological wingnut John Bolton. “About a dozen top experts on nonproliferation have left the department in recent months, with many citing the reorganization as a reason.”
“We’ve always said that Guantanamo Bay was something that shouldn’t have happened.” A report by the UN Human Rights Commission argues that the US should shut down the Gitmo gulag immediately, a conclusion shared by Kofi Annan and — apparently — the British government. As to be expected from this gang, the White House is shrugging the criticism off.
A quick note on Tuesday’s State of the Union: I actually think Dubya has delivered some well-crafted speeches (1/23) in the past, even if I disagree with almost all of their content. This wasn’t one of them. Except for the “America is addicted to oil” line (which Jimmy Carter basically said over 25 years ago) and the “human-animal hybrid” goofiness (which, as Crooked Timber points out, might mean trouble for diabetics), there wasn’t a single memorable moment throughout, just more of the same “9/11″ and “freedom, yeah” grandstanding. (And Kaine was no better — I like to think I’m more interested in politics than most people, and I was bored stiff after a minute or two. Nice fireplace, tho’.) If the White House was looking for this address to reverse their ailing fortunes, a la Clinton in ’98, my guess is that they failed. (Pharyngula link via Now This.)
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.” That flaming liberal Dwight Eisenhower’s somber farewell address to the nation is the historical and thematic anchor for Eugene Jarecki’s documentary Why We Fight, a sobering disquisition on American militarism and foreign policy since 9/11. In essence, Why We Fight is the movie Fahrenheit 9/11 should have been. Like F911, this film preaches to the choir, but it also makes a more substantive critique of Dubya diplomacy and the 9/11-Iraq switcheroo, with much less of the grandstanding that marred Moore’s earlier documentary (and drove right-wing audiences berzerk.)
Sadly, the basic tale here is all-too-familiar by now. Ensconced in Dubya’s administration from the word go, the right-wing think-tank crowd (Wolfowitz, Perle, Kristol, etc.) used the tragedy of 9/11 as a pretext to enact all their neocon fantasies (spelled out in this 2000 Project for a New American Century report), beginning in Iraq. Taken into consideration with Cheney the Military-Contractor-in-Chief doling out fat deals to his Halliburton-KBR cronies from the Vice-President’s office, and members of Congress meekly signing off on every military funding bill that comes down the pike (partly because, as the film points out, weapons systems such as the B-1 or F-22 have a part built in every state), it seems uncomfortably clear that President Eisenhower’s grim vision has come to pass.
To help him rake this muck, Jarecki shrewdly gives face-time not only to learned critics of recent foreign-policy — CIA vet Chalmers Johnson, Gore Vidal (looking unwell) — but also to the neocons themselves. Richard Perle is here, saying (as always) insufferably self-serving things, and Bill Kristol glows like a kid in a candy store when he gets to talk up his role in fostering Dubya diplomacy. (Karen Kwiatkowski, a career military woman who watched the neocon coup unfold within the corridors of the Pentagon, also delivers some keen insights.) And, when discussing the corruption that festers in the heart of our Capitol, Jarecki brings out not only Charles Lewis of the Center for Public Integrity but that flickering mirage of independent-minded Republicanism, John McCain. (In fact, Jarecki encapsulates the frustrating problem with McCain in one small moment: Right after admitting to the camera that Cheney’s no-bid KBR deals “look bad”, the Senator happens to get a call from the Vice-President. In his speak-of-the-devil grimace of bemused worry, you can see him mentally falling into line behind the administration, as always.)
To be sure, Why We Fight has some problems. There’s a central tension in the film between the argument that Team Dubya is a corrupt administration of historical proportions and the notion that every president since Kennedy has been party to an increasingly corrupt system, and it’s never really resolved satisfactorily here. Jarecki wants you to think that this documentary is about the rise of the Imperial Presidency across five decades, but, some lip service to Tonkin notwithstanding, the argument here is grounded almost totally in the Age of Dubya. (I don’t think it’s a bad thing, necessarily, but it is the case.) And, sometimes the critique seems a little scattershot — Jarecki seems to fault the Pentagon both for KBR’s no-bid contracts and, when we see Lockheed and McDonnell-Douglas salesmen going head-to-head, for bidding on contracts. (Still, his larger point is valid — As Chalmers Johnson puts it, “When war becomes that profitable, you’re going to see more of it.“)
Also, the film loses focus at times and meanders along tangents — such as the remembrances of two Stealth Fighter pilots on the First Shot Fired in the Iraq war, or the glum story of an army recruit in Manhattan looking to turn his life around. This latter tale, along with the story of Wilton Sekzer, a retired Vietnam Vet and NYPD sergeant who lost his son on 9/11 and wants somebody to pay, are handled with more grace and less showmanship than similar vignettes in Michael Moore’s film, but they’re in the same ballpark. (As an aside, I was also somewhat irked by shots of NASA thrown in with the many images of missile tests and ordnance factories. Ok, both involve rockets, research, and billions of dollars, but space exploration and war are different enough goals that such a comparison merits more unpacking.)
Nevertheless, Why We Fight is well worth-seeing, and hopefully, this film will make it out to the multiplexes. If nothing else, it’ll do this country good to ponder anew both a president’s warning about the “disastrous rise of misplaced power,” and a vice-president’s assurance that we’ll be “greeted as liberators.”
“So, here’s the big question: If diplomacy is the only rational solution to this problem yet the Iranians just want nukes — in other words, if there is no deal (or at least no deal that the United States would realistically offer) that would compel them to give up their dream — what’s the next step?” Slate‘s Fred Kaplan admits to being stymied on the troubling question of Iranian nukes.
“The West has given more significance to the myth of the genocide of the Jews, even more significant than God, religion, and the prophets.” In the world-gets-even-scarier-department, Iran’s hardliner president publicly indulges in Holocaust denial. Clearly, Iran is living up to its axis-of-evil appellation these days, but remember: Ahmadinejad’s election was in part blowback from Dubya’s amateurish and tone-deaf Middle-East policy in the first place. At any rate, it’s clear that our Iran situation is worsening, and that Iranian possession of nukes could be a very frightening scenario.
“It is true that much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong. As president I am responsible for the decision to go into Iraq.” In his final speech on Iraq before tomorrow’s elections, (text) Dubya admits the case for war was FUBAR, while insisting it was a good idea anyway. (“The United States did not choose war — the choice was Saddam Hussein’s.“) Of course, Bush neglected to mention that it was he, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al who cherry-picked through the available intelligence and continued to recite claims they knew to be false. Still, for someone who’s seems pathologically incapable of accepting reality at times, this has to be considered a step forward.
Shunned by Dubya and spurred on by Bill Clinton, the rest of the world comes together to limit greenhouse gases and extend the Kyoto treaty. “Brushing aside the Bush administration’s fierce protests, all the industrialized nations except the United States and Australia were near an agreement Friday night to embark on a new round of formal talks aimed at setting new mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions after 2012, when the existing pact known as the Kyoto Protocol expires.“
“The Arab states agree on one thing: Iran is emerging as the big winner of the American invasion, and both President Bush’s new strategy and the Democratic responses to it dangerously miss the point…[T]he Shiite clerics in Iraq have achieved fundamental political goals: capturing oil revenues, strengthening the role of Islam in the state, and building up formidable militias that will defend their gains and advance their causes as the Americans draw down and leave. Iraq’s neighbors, then, see it evolving into a Shiite-dominated, Iranian buffer state that will strengthen Tehran’s power in the Persian Gulf just as it is seeks nuclear weapons and intensifies its rhetoric against Israel.”
By way of Dangerous Meta, former Dem candidate Wesley Clark argues for a revised strategy in Iraq, one centered on border control, the reduction of Iranian influence in the region, and the use of carrots rather than sticks to defang insurgents.
“It is symptomatic of everything that’s gone wrong with this war that, after two and a half years of fighting it (and four years after starting to plan it), the White House is just now getting around to articulating a strategy for winning it.” Fred Kaplan surveys yesterday’s Dubya speech, one full of sound and fury about winning the war but, apparently, signifying nothing.
As the State Department stalls for time, the European Union considers suspending the voting rights of those member nations which were home to secret CIA gulags. (Human Rights Watch has said that Poland and Romania are the most likely suspects, although many other nations may have witnessed CIA flights go to and fro.)
“After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the former official said, he was told that Bush felt that ‘God put me here’ to deal with the war on terror. The President’s belief was fortified by the Republican sweep in the 2002 congressional elections; Bush saw the victory as a purposeful message from God that ‘he’s the man,’ the former official said. Publicly, Bush depicted his reelection as a referendum on the war; privately, he spoke of it as another manifestation of divine purpose.” By way of Salon‘s War Room, The New Yorker‘s Sy Hersh scrutinizes the terrifying dogmatism and tone-deafness at work in the White House with regards to Iraq.
Here’s more: “[Rove and Cheney] keep him in the gray world of religious idealism, where he wants to be anyway,’ the former defense official said. Bush’s public appearances, for example, are generally scheduled in front of friendly audiences, most often at military bases. Four decades ago, President Lyndon Johnson, who was also confronted with an increasingly unpopular war, was limited to similar public forums. ‘Johnson knew he was a prisoner in the White House,’ the former official said, ‘but Bush has no idea.’“
“I was trying to escape. Obviously, it didn’t work.” If it’s any consolation, Dubya, we all feel just as trapped. In one of those resounding visual metaphors that capture a presidency and that life occasionally kicks up for all to see (the last one being Dubya’s fiddling during Katrina), our leader gets stymied by a locked door while trying to evade a reporter’s questions about his China trip (which were pretty softball, given all the things he could’ve been asking these days.)
In somewhat related news, in the relatively sanguine Post story about the door incident, the following depressing information is included: “In five years in the presidency, Bush has proved a decidedly unadventurous traveler…As he barnstormed through Japan, South Korea and China, with a final stop in Mongolia still to come, Bush visited no museums, tried no restaurants, bought no souvenirs and made no effort to meet ordinary local people…[Laura Bush] once persuaded him to go to the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, only to see him burn through the place in 30 minutes. He dispensed with the Kremlin cathedrals in Moscow in seven minutes. He flatly declined an Australian invitation to attend the Rugby World Cup while down under.”
“Saddam is gone. It’s a good thing, but I don’t agree with what was done. It was a big mistake. The American government made several errors … one of which is how easy it would be to get rid of Saddam and how hard it would be to unite the country.” On the day after the GOP-controlled Senate tightened the reins on Dubya, President Clinton reasserts his contempt for this administration’s rank amateurism in Iraq and the Middle East.
Another week, another secret torture center…anyone else sensing a pattern? Tensions in Iraq simmer to a boil as a secret prison holding 173 Sunnis is uncovered in Baghdad. “The discovery…created a new aura of crisis for American officials and Iraqi politicians who hold power in the Shiite-led transitional government. For many Iraqis, the episode carried heavy overtones of the brutality associated with Saddam Hussein and his Sunni-dominated government.“
Whatsmore, the head of the Badr Organization, a Shiite militia suspected of pulling the strings and wielding the implements in this center, says: “This bunker is run by the Interior Ministry, the Americans are there every day.” Whether or not that’s true (and for the love of Pete, let’s hope not), it’s obvious that recent events, from Abu Ghraib to the Frist-sanctioned CIA black sites to the al-Jamadi murder, have seriously damaged our credibility as opponents of torture, in this prison and around the world.
Wary of increasing public opposition to the Iraq war and spurred to action by a Democratic amendment advocating a specific timetable for withdrawal, Senate Republicans craft legislation calling for an Iraq exit strategy. “On the Iraq resolutions, the Democratic and Republican proposals say that ’2006 should be a period of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty, with Iraqi security forces taking the lead for the security of a free and sovereign Iraq, thereby creating the conditions for the phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq’…The White House is also directed ‘to explain to Congress and the American people its strategy for the successful completion of the mission in Iraq.’” Unfortunately, with the exception of quarterly reports to Congress on the war effort, the language of the proposal is not binding. Update: It passes, 98-0 (Lamar Alexander and Governor Corzine didn’t vote.)
“President Bush and his national security adviser have answered critics of the Iraq war in recent days with a two-pronged argument: that Congress saw the same intelligence the administration did before the war, and that independent commissions have determined that the administration did not misrepresent the intelligence. Neither assertion is wholly accurate.“ Update: Slate‘s Fred Kaplan parses Dubya’s speech further.
“Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist says he is more concerned about the leak of information regarding secret CIA detention centers than activity in the prisons themselves…’I am not concerned about what goes on [in the prisons] and I’m not going to comment about the nature of that,’ Frist replied.” Unbelievable. The same guy who blew a gasket over a closed-door Senate session last week couldn’t care less what goes on behind closed doors in secret, illegal CIA gulags. (I guess he figures it couldn’t be much worse than your average day at the Frist family animal shelter.)
“Two years ago, at Abu Ghraib prison, outside Baghdad, an Iraqi prisoner in [C.I.A. officer Mark] Swanner’s custody, Manadel al-Jamadi, died during an interrogation. His head had been covered with a plastic bag, and he was shackled in a crucifixion-like pose that inhibited his ability to breathe; according to forensic pathologists who have examined the case, he asphyxiated…Swanner has not been charged with a crime and continues to work for the agency.” So, as the New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer reports, “we do not torture“…we just crucify. Sweet merciful Jesus, what have we become? (Via Malice Aforethought.)
As our GOP Congress looks to shoot the messenger over secret prisons, England’s House of Commons rejects an anti-terror bill pushed by Prime Minister Blair — his “first defeat” after 8 years in office — which would allow terrorist suspects to be held for 90 days without charge. Meanwhile, France approaches the two-week mark of youth rioting, despite curfews, increased jail time, threats of deportation, and the shutdown of instigating blogs, and the rest of Europe looks on with trepidation…
Republicans…they never stop surprising me. The nation discovers that, contrary to our most basic principles, the CIA has a series of secret, illegal gulags around the world, and how do GOP leaders respond? They want to know who told the press. (Mind you, this is after stonewalling investigations into prewar intelligence and the Plamegate leak for many a year.)
To be fair, not all GOP Senators are with them on this. Said Gang of 14 member Lindsey Graham (R-SC): “Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees. The real story is those jails…I’d like to know why we’ve got secret prisons and what oversight precautions we have.” And Trent Lott (R-MS) believes that a Republican is likely responsible for the leak, after hearing about the prisons from Mr. Torture himself, Big Time Dick Cheney. “‘Every word that was said in there went right to the newspaper,’ Lott said. ‘We can’t keep our mouths shut.‘” But, perhaps Catkiller knows this, and suspects one of his probable primary opponents? (LA Times story via Quiddity.) Update: Wheels within wheels…Was the leak investigation letter accidentally leaked? Regardless, Pat Roberts has put the kibosh on a congressional investigation…for now.
Typical Dubya Doublespeak: Just as Bush tells the world, “We do not torture,” his vice-president continues his quest to exempt the CIA from a congressional torture ban, which would obviously be an unnecessary action were Dubya’s remarks truthful. In related news, the Dems want a wide-ranging inquiry into pre-war intelligence, and members of both parties are concerned about increased “terrorism” inquiries under the Patriot Act.
“After President Bush’s disastrous visit to Latin America, it’s unnerving to realize that his presidency still has more than three years to run. An administration with no agenda and no competence would be hard enough to live with on the domestic front. But the rest of the world simply can’t afford an American government this bad for that long.” The NY Times editorial staff come out swinging against Dubya.
“There has never been more frustration with the war in Iraq, and less clarity about our mission there, than we face today…And while we haven’t heard the administration clearly articulate our military mission in Iraq, there is another silence that is just as deafening — the lack of a debate in Congress about how and when that mission will be brought to an end.” Over at Salon, Sen. Russ Feingold argues for a timetable in Iraq, or at the very least a congressional debate on the issue.
As the Cheney-Addington gang work to strip the Geneva Convention from prisoner treatment manuals, the Washington Post uncovers an overseas network of CIA “black sites,” a.k.a. gulags, some of which actually use old Soviet compounds in Eastern Europe(!) “It is illegal for the government to hold prisoners in such isolation in secret prisons in the United States, which is why the CIA placed them overseas…Legal experts and intelligence officials said that the CIA’s internment practices also would be considered illegal under the laws of several host countries, where detainees have rights to have a lawyer or to mount a defense against allegations of wrongdoing.”
Whatsmore, these gulags, created under this administration since 9/11, “were built and are maintained with congressionally appropriated funds, but the White House has refused to allow the CIA to brief anyone except the House and Senate intelligence committees’ chairmen and vice chairmen on the program’s generalities.” There’s no other way to look at this: By appropriating the tactics of our enemies, as John McCain warned earlier this month, we have abandoned our most fundamental principles and shamed our nation. Evildoers? Please. Dubya need look no further than his own White House and CIA. Update: Congress and the EU want answers.
According to National Security Agency historian Robert Hanyok, his recent work outlining a deliberate NSA cover-up following the Gulf of Tonkin incident has been suppressed by the agency since 2001, in part because of Weaponsgate. “He said N.S.A. historians began pushing for public release in 2002, after Mr. Hanyok included his Tonkin Gulf findings in a 400-page, in-house history of the agency and Vietnam called ‘Spartans in Darkness.’ Though superiors initially expressed support for releasing it, the idea lost momentum as Iraq intelligence was being called into question, the official said.“
As Iraq announces the approval of its draft constitution (which passed in a manner Slate‘s Fred Kaplan has deemed “the worst of both worlds“), the war claims its 2000th US military casualty. (Of these, 357 were under 21, 487 were National Guard, and 1863 — over 9 in 10 – have died since Dubya’s “Mission Accomplished” fiasco.) We’re still well under the casualty rate for Vietnam, true, but what comfort is that to the families of the fallen? Two thousand US men and women have been killed in the line of duty, and this blatantly amateurish administration still has no plan either to win or to disengage from a conflict they orchestrated, other than “stay the course.” As with so much else under this president, the conduct of this war from its inception has been shameful and unacceptable — in short, a national embarrassment.