“The Times article, based on information from former intelligence officers who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Abu Zubaydah had revealed a great deal of information before harsh methods were used and after his captors stripped him of clothes, kept him in a cold cell and kept him awake at night. The article said interrogators at the secret prison in Thailand believed he had given up all the information he had, but officials at headquarters ordered them to use waterboarding.” Perusing last week’s sordid torture memos, eagle-eyed blogger Marcy Wheeler discovered an unsettling statistic: two suspects — Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed — were waterboarded by the CIA 266 times. Zubaydah “revealed no new information after being waterboarded, the article said, a conclusion that appears to be supported by a footnote to a 2005 Justice Department memo saying the use of the harshest methods appeared to have been ‘unnecessary’ in his case.“
Meanwhile, as right-wing stooges like former CIA director Michael Hayden and Mike Allen’s anonymous friend excoriate the president for breaking tradition and revealing the illegalities of the Dubya era, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel ventured onto the Sunday shows to tamp down talk of any prosecutions, even for the higher-ups. “[P]eople in good faith were operating with the guidance they were provided. They shouldn’t be prosecuted…those who devised policy, he [Obama] believes that they were — should not be prosecuted either, and that’s not the place that we go — as he said in that letter.“
Wrong answer, Rahm. And, unless President Obama were to grant full pardons to the architects of Dubya-era torture, it’s not even his call whether or not they should be prosecuted. In fact, choosing not to prosecute them would constitute a violation of international law.
Update: The White House doesn’t necessarily agree with Rahm. “[A]dministration officials said Monday that Mr. Emanuel had meant the officials who ordered the policies carried out, not the lawyers who provided the legal rationale. Three Bush administration lawyers who signed memos, John C. Yoo, Jay S. Bybee and Steven G. Bradbury, are the subjects of a coming report by the Justice Department’s ethics office that officials say is sharply critical of their work. The ethics office has the power to recommend disbarment or other professional penalties or, less likely, to refer cases for criminal prosecution.“
Update 2: “With respect to those who formulated those legal decisions, I would say that that is going to be more of a decision for the attorney general within the parameters of various laws, and I don’t want to prejudge that.” President Obama opens the door further for prosecution.
With the final episode airing Friday (I’ll be visiting friends in CA, so probably won’t catch it until next week), the cast and writers of Battlestar Galactica visit the UN to “discuss issues such as human rights, children and armed conflict, and terrorism. Also on the agenda: dialogue among different civilizations and faiths.” Uh…so their advice to leaders would be, what. exactly? Meander about with no plan and little-to-no-purpose, retcon thorny individuals into line with your newest idea whenever necessary, and, when faced with an intractable situation, throw someone in the brig and/or stage either a show trial or a weepy, teeth-gnashing breakdown?
Perhaps I’ve been ruined by meticulously planned out shows like The Wire. Nevertheless, this last half-season of Galactica has been operating at about 3:1 filler-to-good-episode ratio, and that’s being charitable. As I feared, imho, the show’s been going down the FTL tubes ever since the ill-advised Dylan 5 reveal. Ah well…we’ll always have New Caprica.
By a count of 14-0 (Russia abstaining), the UN Security Council votes to shut down their inquiry into Iraq WMDs. Well, so much for that particular casus belli. From the vaults: “Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.” — Vice President Dick Cheney, Aug. 29, 2002. (There’s another one for the impeachment file.)
With an international dispute over 15 seized British sailors simmering to a boil in Tehran and Ahmadinejad cancelling his trip to New York in protest, the UN Security Council unanimously opposes sanctions against Iran for its continuing nuclear program (details.) “‘The impact is primarily political rather than practical,’ said Abbas Milani, the director of Stanford University’s Iranian studies program. The financial and military restrictions are ‘rather limited and toothless,’ but they are having a profound psychological impact on investors and eroding Ahmadinejad’s standing in Iran, he said.“
By way of Do You Feel Loved and Ed Rants respectively, see how many member UN nations (143) and American states (49) you can name in ten minutes. Harder than you might think, particularly if you go about it randomly rather than systematically. (Or, at least, that’s my excuse.)
In a welcome bit of good news on the international front, negotiators strike a deal in North Korea that lays down a plan for nuclear disarmament by Kim Jong Il’s regime. But all is not rosy yet: “In a harbinger of the potential for difficulties ahead, the official North Korean news agency said the agreement required only a temporary suspension of the country’s nuclear facilities…The agreement also seemed likely to face opposition in Washington by conservatives who remain unconvinced that the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il, ever intends to relinquish his nuclear weapons. Similarly, the Bush administration faced criticism from Democrats who charge the administration that broke away from the Agreed Framework in 2002 ended up five years later with a roughly similar accord.“
Meanwhile, in related but considerably more depressing news, a European Union report argues that it is now too late to prevent Iran from developing its own nuclear weaponry. “The admission is a blow to hopes that a deal with Iran can be reached and comes at a sensitive time, when tensions between the US and Tehran are rising. Its implication that sanctions will prove ineffective will also be unwelcome to EU diplomats.”
Happy day at the UN (if not at the White House): Facing unbeatable opposition on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (thanks to outgoing Senator Lincoln Chafee, to his credit, joining the Dems against him), interim UN ambassador John Bolton is forced to resign as predicted. Good riddance. “‘The president now has an opportunity to nominate an ambassador who can garner strong bipartisan and international support and effectively represent the interests of the United States at the United Nations at a time of extraordinary international challenge,’ [incoming committee chairman] Biden said. ‘If the president nominates such a person, I look forward to scheduling hearings promptly in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.‘”
“It is no secret that I have serious questions about this Administration’s policies in the Middle East.” Desperate to shore up his maverick cred before the GOP primary next week, Sen. Lincoln Chafee puts a hold on the GOP’s planned Bolton coronation. (Of course, the UN would never have had to put up with Bolton in the first place were it not for Chafee’s capitulation last year.)
“‘What about Kofi Annan?’ Bush asked Blair. ‘I don’t like the sequence of it. His attitude is basically cease-fire and everything else happens.’” Dubya and Tony Blair get caught (apparently) off-guard and on tape discussing the escalating crisis in the Middle East. “Bush said that he feels ‘like telling Kofi to get on the phone with [Syrian President Bashar] Assad and make something happen. We’re not blaming Israel, and we’re not blaming the Lebanese government.’” (A lot of news sources seem to be fronting Dubya’s use of the S-word — “See the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it’s over.” — but, really, who gives a shit about his language?) “Bush also told Blair that he would be sending Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the region soon. ‘She’s going,’ Bush said. ‘I think Condi’s going to go pretty soon.’” Update: Watch it online, just to get a sense of how boorish and out-of-his-depth our president seems on the world stage. (Exhibit B: Dubya’s ill-fated and cringeworth back-rub attempt.)
“The State party should cease to detain any person at Guantanamo Bay and close this detention facility, permit access by the detainees to judicial process or release them as soon as possible, ensuring that they are not returned to any State where they could face a real risk of being tortured, in order to comply with its obligations under the Convention.” A day after an ugly prisoner uprising, the UN Committee Against Torture implores the US to close the prison at Gitmo. The report (PDF) also calls for the US “to expressly ban controversial interrogation techniques, and to halt the transfer of detainees to countries with a history of abuse and torture.“
While the Pope, Kofi Annan, Richard Clarke, and others try to stem the increasing saber-rattling over Iran, more trouble brews in Tehran: Along with possibly expanding their nuclear fuel plants and upgrading their centrifuges, the “Iranian government has intensified efforts to illegally obtain weapons technology from the United States.” Well, let’s at least hope the White House isn’t helping them this time…
“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.
Well, that’s that, then. As expected (and although he may be late to the party), Dubya has appointed Bolton to the UN ambassadorship by fiat. Well, the Dems pushed as hard as they could on this one, and only George Voinovich ended up seeing the light. Shame on supposed moderates Lincoln Chafee and Chuck Hagel for letting this freakshow get out of committee in the first place.
Chalk up another X against Dubya’s UN nominee: It now turns out John Bolton lied to Congress about his part in the investigation of the Iraq-Niger claim. (He claimed he hadn’t been interviewed…He had.) Regardless, Dubya still has plans to appoint Bolton by fiat after Congress skips town. After all, what’s one more liar in this truth-starved administration? He should fit right in.
Stymied by the Senate, Dubya looks to sneak Bolton into the UN with a recess appointment, perhaps as early as this Friday. “Senate Democratic leaders have removed a possible hurdle by signaling that they would not use a recess appointment of Bolton to hold up Bush’s nomination of John Roberts to the U.S. Supreme Court.” Update: Next week?
Although he’s been upstaged of late by O’Connor and Rove, potential UN freakshow John Bolton still waits in the wings, and is prepared to accept a recess appointment by Dubya sometime next month. In fact, he’s already acting like he owns the place. “Two months ago, while his confirmation was in trouble, Bolton began efforts to double the office space reserved within the State Department for the ambassador to the United Nations.”
“‘I don’t know how the Bolton nomination stands,’ said Danforth, who resigned in January. ‘But she could certainly do that job and anything else.’” While the Bolton nomination withers on the vine, it seems career diplomat and acting US Ambassador Anne Patterson is handling the UN position with all the grace, aplomb and savvy Bolton lacks. Can we keep her?
Since the White House still won’t cough up the necessary info, the Dems (and Sen. Voinovich) manage to keep Bolton out of the UN once again, prompting Dubya to consider putting him there by recess appointment fiat. (As Fred Kaplan wryly noted, that should teach those evildoers abroad what we mean by democracy up in these parts.) And the big winners in this affair thus far? The State Department, who no longer have Bolton as a “roadblock” against diplomacy.
“Frist had only eight years of Senate experience when he succeeded Lott, and some colleagues felt he was more Bush’s choice than the GOP caucus’s. He was bound to need more White House help than did up-through-the-ranks predecessors such as Lott and Dole, they said, but sometimes Bush seemed to dump tough problems at his door and walk away.” As right-wing Republicans hammers the GOP moderates who crafted the nuclear compromise, Charles Babington examines the political import of Catkiller’s lousy week. Meanwhile, Frist’s possible primary nemesis John McCain calls for a compromise on Bolton, in which the White House would release the info they’ve been holding in exchange for a vote.
Still waiting in vain for the White House to turn over some crucial intelligence documents regarding Dubya’s pick, the Dems succeed in holding off the Bolton vote until next week. The GOP moderates still don’t seem to be joining Voinovich in apostasy, though, so it looks like Bolton will soon be representing us before the world. For shame.
“After hours of deliberation, telephone calls, personal conversations, reading hundreds of pages of transcripts, and asking for guidance from Above, I have come to the determination that the United States can do better than John Bolton.” Nevertheless, Senator George Voinovich (R-OH) will let the Bolton nod go to a floor vote, arguing he has “every faith in [his] colleagues” to do the right thing. (Sen. Chafee (R-RI), for his part, already reluctantly folded.) “Voinovich called Bolton ‘the poster child of what someone in the diplomatic corps should not be.’ He said Bolton would be fired if he was in the private sector.” Update: Fred Kaplan has more: “A special place in the halls of cowardice should be reserved for Sen. Lincoln Chafee, the Republican from Rhode Island.”
Meanwhile, as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee inquiry into John Bolton widens, a deeply concerned Dubya and the GOP now threaten to sidestep the concerns of Dems and moderate Republicans completely by bringing Bolton’s nomination to a floor vote, regardless of the committee’s recommendation. Hopefully Senators Voinovich, Hagel, and Chafee, as well as other independent-minded Senators in the Republican Party, will take serious umbrage at this attempt to ride roughshod over the committee’s usual advise & consent prerogatives.
As more ugly details leak out about John Bolton’s private war with dissenting intelligence analysts, Newsweek reports that England (and Jack Straw) think he’s a jackass too. Is it time for Dubya & Cheney to pull the plug? Many observers think so. Update: Arlen Specter wonders aloud about Bolton’s prospects on CNN Late Edition.
Dubya & Cheney may still love the guy, but right-wing freakshow John Bolton has clearly irked former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who bore the brunt of Bolton’s obfuscation in the past. Will Powell’s not-very-off-the-record contempt be enough to sway Sens. Chafee, Hagel, and Voinovich?
Now that Sen. Voinovich has bravely put his foot in the door, GOP Senator Lincoln Chafee also declares he’s less likely to vote for John Bolton at this point. But, judging from his remarks today, Dubya isn’t getting the message. After embracing the Hammer earlier this week, one wonders how many more radioactive liabilities the White House is willing to continue accommodating. At a certain point, even this administration’s considerable arrogance of power will have to bow to political reality.
“It’s a good guess that one of two things is going to happen in the coming days and weeks: Either Bolton goes down — or we start learning a lot of unpleasant things about Sen. George Voinovich.” (And, right now, it’s looking like the latter.) To his credit, Senator Voinovich (R-OH) follows his conscience and admits “real concern” about John Bolton, forcing the Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to forestall the vote on Bolton’s nomination. And, if Slate‘s Fred Kaplan is correct and Bolton has perjured himself, Dubya had better start warming up another right-wing freakshow for the post.
More troubling information piles up about John Bolton, Dubya’s dubious UN pick — Apparently, along with trying to spike the careers of analysts who talk back to him, Bolton has been blocking the flow of important information to Dubya’s Secretaries of State. It’s gotten to the point where Chuck Hagel (R-NE), one of the more rational Republicans in the Senate, has begun to voice his doubts about the candidate, although he still plans to vote for him tomorrow.
“‘I’m as conservative as John Bolton is,’ Ford said. ‘But the fact is that the collateral damage and the personal hurt that he causes is not worth the price that had to be paid.’” A former State Department intelligence chief, described in the WP as “a loyal Republican, a staunch supporter of Bush and a ‘huge fan’ of Vice President Cheney,” entreats the Senate to reject Bolton as UN Ambassador. (Alas, the GOP members don’t seem to be biting.)
“In short, John Bolton came off as strikingly lacking in the credibility, values, and basic commitment that, especially these days, the job of U.N. ambassador requires.” Slate‘s Fred Kaplan, a frequent critic of Dubya’s freak show choice for UN ambassador, sizes up Bolton’s performance before the Senate today.
“The case against Bolton, which has been made here a few times, rests not so much on his ultra-neoconservatism (an insufficient disqualification on its own) or on his past criticism of the United Nations (the organization merits criticism). Rather, it boils down to his long-standing attacks on the principles underlying the United Nations and to his wholesale rejection of the legitimacy, propriety, and even the political expediency of international law, which, after all, is the United Nations’ currency of enforcement.” With an editorial Hail Mary, Slate‘s Fred Kaplan pleads with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to vote down on John Bolton as UN Ambassador. We can only hope.
“There’s no such thing as the United Nations…if the UN secretary building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.” So Dubya has picked John Bolton as our new UN ambassador and, guess what? Yep, he’s a right-wing freakshow. Said avowed UN enemy and former Sen. Jesse Helms (no, not yet) of Bolton: He’s “the kind of man with whom I would want to stand at Armageddon.” Brilliant. (CLW link via BookNotes & Digby) Update: Slate‘s Fred Kaplan has more.
Stick a fork in him, and say goodbye to what semblance of multilateralism has existed in the Dubya era. To Rummy’s relish (and to no one’s surprise) Colin Powell’s ignominious tenure at State is through. Seemingly well-intentioned but weak and sidelined most of the time, Powell’s tour at State will probably be best remembered for his losing battles with the Neocons and his embarrassing and misleading performance before the United Nations in 2003.
Following Powell out the door are Education Secretary Rod Paige, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. Margaret Spellings, Dubya’s domestic policy advisor, is taking Paige’s gig…I dread to think who else will sign on for Dubya II. Ken Lay at Energy? John Danforth has been mentioned as a possible Powell replacement, but, heck, why not pull Helms out of mothballs? Update: Looks like it’s Condi…and more of the same.
“Those who think AIDS is over are dreaming. It is one of the most serious epidemics the world has ever faced, and we need to really, really get serious about it.”
– Kofi Annan
Facing the lowest numbers of his presidency and a increasingly troubling lack of WMD, Dubya fails to garner any new international support for the reconstruction of Iraq. And what did he expect, after waltzing into the UN and insulting the intelligence of the world? Amateur hour continues at our nation’s peril.
In the newest set of 2004 preview polls, Dubya is tied with a number of Dems, including Clark, Kerry, and Lieberman (Dean and Gephardt run slightly behind.) For his part, Bush say he’s not listening to the primary furor, yet that’s not stopping the White House from sweating today’s UN address, or GOP flaks from decrying the Dems’ “political hate speech.” Hate speech? Heh. Perhaps Gillespie should be referred to a little matter called impeachment…it was in the papers a few years back. Also in Election 2004 news, be sure to check out Value Judgment, a site I found in the referrer logs a few weeks ago. It’s very pro-Dean, but nevertheless does a superlative job in keeping up with Dem primary news.
“As Paul Wolfowitz has all but admitted, the ‘bureaucratic’ reason for war — weapons of mass destruction — was not the main one. The real reason was to rebuild the pillars of American influence in the Middle East. Americans may have figured this out for themselves, but it was certainly not what they were told. Nor were they told that building this new pillar might take years and years. What they were told — misleadingly and simplistically — was that force was justified to fight ‘terrorism’ and to destroy arsenals of mass destruction targeted at America and at Israel.” In a wide-ranging article for the NYT Magazine, Michael Ignatieff offers an historical critique of our currently muddled intervention policy, and outlines his own best-case-scenario proposal for US-led UN reform. “Putting the United States at the head of a revitalized United Nations is a huge task. For the United States is as disillusioned with the United Nations as the world is disillusioned with the United States. Yet…Pax Americana must be multilateral, as Franklin Roosevelt realized, or it will not survive.“
Trapped in a quagmire of their own making, the Bushies beg the UN to help out in Iraq. Well, although he may not admit it now, I guess Sec. Powell deserves some cred for seeing the writing on the wall and trying to end a failed policy. But, let’s be serious — do we really expect the international community to snap to and take over the body count after the White House tried so hard to demean them and to undermine the UN as an institution along the road to war? Sheah. Although the GOP probably never expected it’d come to this, I’m afraid we will now reap the bitter rewards of Dubya’s amateurish diplomacy.
Whether or not WMDs are ever found in Iraq at this point, it has become increasingly clear that the Bushies were contradicting their own intelligence last September and overstating the WMD capabilities of Iraq to the UN, the international community, and the American people. Lying to America? Falsifying intelligence? As John Dean points out for CNN, we’re now entering Nixon territory. (Second two links via Pigs and Fishes and Medley.)