The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Friday, July 29, 2005

The Truth About Abu Ghraib

The Truth About Abu Ghraib
"The Truth About Abu Ghraib

Friday, July 29, 2005; Page A22

FOR 15 MONTHS now the Bush administration has insisted that the horrific photographs of abuse from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were the result of freelance behavior by low-level personnel and had nothing to do with its policies. In this the White House has been enthusiastically supported by the Army brass, which has conducted investigations documenting hundreds of cases of prisoner mistreatment in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but denies that any of its senior officers are culpable. For some time these implacable positions have been glaringly at odds with the known facts. In the past few days, those facts have grown harder to ignore.

The latest evidence has emerged from hearings at Fort Meade about two of those low-level Abu Ghraib guards who are charged with using dogs to terrorize Iraqi detainees. On Wednesday, the former warden of Abu Ghraib, Maj. David DiNenna, testified that the use of dogs for interrogation was recommended by Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, the former commander of the Guantanamo Bay prison who was dispatched by the Pentagon to Abu Ghraib in August 2003 to review the handling and interrogation of prisoners. On Tuesday, a military interrogator testified that he had been trained in using dogs by a team sent to Iraq by Gen. Miller.

In statements to investigators and in sworn testimony to Congress last year, Gen. Miller denied that he recommended the use of dogs for interrogation, or that they had been used at Guantanamo. "No methods contrary to the Geneva Convention were presented at any time by the assistance team that I took to [Iraq]," he said under oath on May 19, 2004. Yet Army investigators reported to Congress this month that, under Gen. Miller's supervision at Guantanamo, an al Qaeda suspect named Mohamed Qahtani was threatened with snarling dogs, forced to wear women's underwear on his head and led by a leash attached to his chains -- the very abuse documented in the Abu Ghraib photographs.

The court evidence strongly suggests that Gen. Miller lied about his actions, and it merits further investigation by prosecutors and Congress. But the Guantanamo commander was not acting on his own: The interrogation of Mr. Qahtani, investigators found, was carried out under rules approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Dec. 2, 2002. After strong protests from military lawyers, the Rumsfeld standards -- which explicitly allowed nudity, the use of dogs and shackling -- were revised in April 2003. Yet the same practices were later adopted at Abu Ghraib, at least in part at the direct instigation of Gen. Miller. "We understood," Maj. DiNenna testified, "that [Gen. Miller] was sent over by the secretary of defense."

The White House and Pentagon have gotten away with their stonewalling largely because of Republican control of Congress. When the Abu Ghraib scandal erupted, GOP leaders such as Sen. John W. Warner (Va.) loudly vowed to get to the bottom of the matter -- but once the bottom started to come into view late last year, Mr. Warner's demands for accountability ceased. Mr. Rumsfeld and other senior officials have never been the subject of an independent investigation. A recommendation by the latest Army probe that Gen. Miller be reprimanded for his role in the Qahtani interrogation was rejected by Gen. Bantz Craddock of Southern Command.

The only good news in this shameful story is that a group of Republican senators, though resisting justified Democratic demands for an independent investigation, are attempting to reform the policy of abuse to which the administration still adheres. Six GOP senators led by John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) have backed an amendment to the defense operations bill that would exclude exceptional interrogation techniques at Guantanamo Bay and ban the use of "cruel, inhumane and degrading" treatment for all prisoners held by the United States. The administration contends that detainees held abroad may be subject to such abuse. Attempts by the White House and Mr. Warner to block or gut the legislation failed, and on Tuesday the GOP leadership pulled the defense bill from the floor rather than allow a vote. The administration probably will spend the next month trying to quell this rebellion of conscience and good sense. The nation would be better served if President Bush instead accepted, at last, the truth about Abu Ghraib."

And this from Newsweek

There is also evidence of a possible Pentagon cover-up. According to Taguba's report, which was first revealed in The New Yorker, a previous Army investigator, Maj. Gen. Donald Ryder, somehow failed to note last fall that MPs were being asked to facilitate interrogation. In addition, a mounting body of other evidence around the world suggests that abuses did not stop there or even in Iraq, that the Geneva Conventions protecting prisoners of war from beatings and humiliation were being routinely flouted in an environment where, as at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib, almost anything can happen because almost no one is held accountable. In Afghanistan, the abuse of prisoners seems to have led to at least three deaths at U.S. interrogation facilities. According to U.S. military pathologists, two Afghan detainees died of "blunt force injuries" to "the lower extremities" and "legs" at Baghram in December 2002 and another Afghan prisoner died at a U.S. military camp in Kunar province in June 2003. Yet 18 months after the first deaths, a military investigation is still incomplete, and no broad inquiry like the Taguba probe has been launched into conditions at Baghram, according to a military spokesman in Kabul.


Many critics say the Bush administration routinely uses the global war on terrorism as a blanket justification for all sorts of human-rights violations. "The United States is running a gulag, a series of detention centers around the world where international legal standards are not having sway," says Carroll Bogert of Human Rights Watch. "They opened the door to a little bit of torture, and a whole lot of torture walked through." Nigel Rodley, who was the U.N. special rapporteur on torture and has written an authoritative book, "The Treatment of Prisoners Under International Law," dismisses Rumsfeld's claims that the Geneva Conventions have been observed. Rodley says that even some interrogation practices the Pentagon acknowledges using are "clearly violations both of international human-rights law and international humanitarian law as codified in the Geneva Conventions." He adds that the problem "goes back to the whole process of essentially creating legal black holes where people are held in the dark and secret reaches of state power. When that happens it breeds a sense of impunity and people do things that they shouldn't do."

One American intelligence officer admitted as much, telling NEWSWEEK: "The U.S. government and military capitalizes on the dubious status [as sovereign states] of Afghanistan, Diego Garcia, Guantanamo Bay, Iraq and aircraft carriers, to avoid certain legal questions about rough interrogations. Whatever humanitarian pronouncements a state such as ours may make about torture, states don't perform interrogations, individual people do. What's going to stop an impatient soldier, in a supralegal location, from whacking one nameless, dehumanized shopkeeper among many?"

Daily Kos: The End Of The War On Terror

Daily Kos: The End Of The War On Terror
"The End Of The War On Terror
by lsoderman
Fri Jul 29th, 2005 at 07:40:06 PDT

The "War on Terror" has ended. It is now the "Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism". We've gone from WOT to GSAVE.

The Bush Administration Thesaurus Team has yet again changed the name of something in hopes of changing perception.

I say "good".

Let them change it. And we should welcome it, because it eliminates one of the last vestiges of unequivocal support that this administration has counted on.

Since 9/11, we have been told that the country is on a "war footing"; that this president is a "Wartime president"; that it is unpatriotic to criticize an administration in a "time of war".

Say buh-bye.

It's not a war anymore. Ask Rumsfeld, Myers, or any of the other spin-sters. No, it is now GSAVE. Fine with me. Because it's no longer a war. And he's no longer a wartime president. And if it's not a war, why are our troops in Iraq? And if it's global, where is the global support? And if we're not at war, why aren't we doing more to defend ourselves at home?

And then there are the real questions, the ones that this "name change" brings up. Why change the name? What does it really mean?

The answer is simple: You can't lose a war that doesn't exist. The Bush administration never had a plan for getting out of Iraq. But we were at "war", so they didn't need one, right? But with support for US presence in Iraq falling faster by the minute, they need to get out. Pulling out while it's a "war" means defeat. "Mission Accomplished" becomes "Mission Failed". Instead of declaring that they screwed up, that hundreds of servicemen and thousands of Iraqis have died in a poorly planned and falsely justified action, they'll just change the name and hope no one notices.

Sorry, I noticed. In fact, many folks have noticed.

The original justification for going to Iraq was that Saddam was a threat because he was producing WMD. That was, at best, a gross overstatement, and at worst, a flat out lie. Faced with being caught with their hand in the proverbial cookie jar, they changed the justification to the "War on Terror"; Saddam was harboring terrorists, they said, and needed to be removed because it would attack the terrorists there before they came here.

However, there was another reality check in store. There was very little terrorism in Iraq before the US stormed in. The acts of terrorism seen now are a response to US forces in the ground, and are increasing every day. Iraqis live with the reality of over 60 violent attacks in their country every day. Hundreds are dying each week, killed by actions that are being exacerbated by the presence of US troops, troops who themselves are taking casualties on a daily basis.

But remember, our troops were to be greeted as heroic liberators, with images of flowers being strewn at their feet. A fantasy at best.

Now, with support waning here at home, and the justifications for being in Iraq all reduced to falsehoods and fabrications, the administration is looking for a way to come out of the mess without letting the American public know they'd been duped into a useless military action that has done nothing to improve (and in fact have worsened) the conditions that breed terrorism around the world. So they change the name. If it's not a war, you aren't losing. A struggle is much more nebulous. There's a whole bunch more wiggle room. And they need it.

They've tried to morph the whole thing into "spreading freedom and democracy". But it's not flying. While we often hear how gullible American populace is, they have a finite amount of patience for lies. The first one, they'll excuse, to the point of bending their own logic to find ways to accept the lie as truth. This is what happened after 9/11. As a whole, the country wanted not just justice, but revenge. And they were played. The administration used that need for retribution to justify the run-up to going into Iraq.

But they knew that the need for vengeance would cool. And Americans wouldn't stand for just invading another country because they had a bad guy running the country. No, they needed to be convinced that he was coming after them. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. Nothing. But the administration did their level best to connect the dots, particularly the ones that didn't exist.

The Rove/Libby leak scandal shows the depths to which this administration would sink to ensure their "spin" on Iraq would stay up front. And it worked. At the time of the 2004 elections, a large portion of the American electorate was convinced that Saddam Hussein was intimately involved in the 9/11 attacks. Images of atomic explosions and roving WMD factories on trucks had been burned into their consciousness. And they were all fabrications. There was no nuclear program, there were no WMD factories. But the spin machine had worked. And the meme of the "wartime president" had taken hold.

Flash forward to the present. The WMD claims have been revealed for their falsity. The connections between 9/11 and Iraq have been debunked. The administration's intentions to go into Iraq regardless of any real proof have been exposed by investigative committees and in items like the Downing Street Memos/Minutes. White House officials are implicated in the exposure of a CIA operative whose job it was to analyze WMD, and whose blown cover may be just the tip of the iceberg in intelligence fallout.

So, before the whole house of cards falls down, they change the name. Instead of a "war", it's a struggle. "War" implies enemies and combatants. A winner and a loser. But the administration know that they can't win the "war on terror", making them the loser. Can't have that! Make it a struggle. No implied foe, no implied resolution. It's a struggle, after all.

And let's look at that "struggle". A "global struggle against violent extremism". What fits into that description. Certainly, planes flying into buildings and bombs going off in subways. But how about attacking abortion clinics, their employees, and their patients because you don't believe in abortion. Does that count? How about espousing the belief that "activist judges" are getting what they deserve when they or their families are gunned down, because you don't agree with their decisions? Is that violent extremism? It's a global struggle, after all. Should the UK send troops over to help quell the extremists? Peraps Poland should send their forces over as part of a "coalition".

Not likely.

But they are questions that should be asked. After all, it's not a war anymore. Bush is no longer a wartime president. We are no longer on a war footing. With no war, this administration has little left to fall back on.

Let them have their GSAVE, as it only further lays bare their lies and obfuscations. Help them with their meme. There is no more "War on Terror". It's only a struggle. There is no more "wartime" for this president to hang his hat on. Make sure everyone you know hears it. They were the first to say "Bring It On". With no war, it's time to say "Bring Them Home".

Encourage your representatives in government to spread this meme. There's no war. War's over. Why'd we go there in the first place?"

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Los Angeles Times: Operation Coverup,0,3614014.story?coll=la-news-comment-editorials
Operation Coverup

July 27, 2005

Scandals metastasize. That is the pattern since Watergate. What starts out looking like a small, isolated incident gradually reveals itself to be part of a larger abuse of power. Meanwhile, an unraveling coverup adds new elements. Is that happening now with the scandal over White House leaks of the identity of a CIA agent?

Some folks say that as we learn more, the scandal is getting smaller, not larger. Valerie Plame was a CIA functionary commuting openly to agency headquarters, not a spy working behind enemy lines. The law against revealing the identities of intelligence agents is complicated and probably wasn't broken in this case. And the story line gets muddier: Journalists may have revealed Plame's identity to White House honchos.

We don't buy it. However they came to learn about this juicy factoid, people in the Bush administration misused an intelligence secret to discredit a critic of its Iraq policy. And outing Plame, whether illegal or not, did harm to our national security. Plame may work in Langley, Va., but she worked with others who work in more dangerous locales. You only need to imagine how Republicans would have treated such a leak in the Clinton administration to dismiss their protestations that it's all no big deal.

It's a good bet that there has already been some lying under oath. One theory about the puzzling tenacity and ferocity of special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald — why he is sending journalists to jail for refusing to provide information he already has about an activity that probably wasn't even a crime by people other than the ones he is persecuting — is that he's switched his attention from the leak itself to perjury by White House officials who were asked about it earlier in the investigation.

Perjury is your classic coverup method, and still is used when other methods have failed. Advances in the science of spin since Watergate, however, have made a high-risk, Nixon-style coverup unnecessary in many situations.

President Bush says he won't publicly comment about the Plame case while the investigation continues. But the reason the investigation continues is partly his fault. He should have determined early on who leaked Plame's CIA identity to members of the press, and dealt with it.

Why didn't Bush two years ago just ask Karl Rove and a few others in the administration whether they had leaked Plame's identity to Bob Novak and the others? Why doesn't he ask Rove now? Is it because he knows the answer? Or because he doesn't want to have to fire Rove?

As a precaution against such a catastrophe, Bush now says he will fire anyone found to have broken the law by outing an undercover intelligence operative. Previously he had said he would fire anyone who outs an intelligence officer, period.

The coverup, in short, is going well.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Frank Rich - Eight Days in July - New York Times

Eight Days in July - New York Times
"The New York Times
July 24, 2005
Eight Days in July

PRESIDENT BUSH'S new Supreme Court nominee was a historic first after all: the first to be announced on TV dead center in prime time, smack in the cross hairs of "I Want to Be a Hilton." It was also one of the hastiest court announcements in memory, abruptly sprung a week ahead of the White House's original timetable. The agenda of this rushed showmanship - to change the subject in Washington - could not have been more naked. But the president would have had to nominate Bill Clinton to change this subject.

When a conspiracy is unraveling, and it's every liar and his lawyer for themselves, the story takes on a momentum of its own. When the conspiracy is, at its heart, about the White House's twisting of the intelligence used to sell the American people a war - and its desperate efforts to cover up that flimflam once the W.M.D. cupboard proved bare and the war went south - the story will not end until the war really is in its "last throes."

Only 36 hours after the John Roberts unveiling, The Washington Post nudged him aside to second position on its front page. Leading the paper instead was a scoop concerning a State Department memo circulated the week before the outing of Joseph Wilson's wife, the C.I.A. officer Valerie Plame, in literally the loftiest reaches of the Bush administration - on Air Force One. The memo, The Post reported, marked the paragraph containing information about Ms. Plame with an S for secret. So much for the cover story that no one knew that her identity was covert.

But the scandal has metastasized so much at this point that the forgotten man Mr. Bush did not nominate to the Supreme Court is as much a window into the White House's panic and stonewalling as its haste to put forward the man he did. When the president decided not to replace Sandra Day O'Connor with a woman, why did he pick a white guy and not nominate the first Hispanic justice, his friend Alberto Gonzales? Mr. Bush was surely not scared off by Gonzales critics on the right (who find him soft on abortion) or left (who find him soft on the Geneva Conventions). It's Mr. Gonzales's proximity to this scandal that inspires real fear.

As White House counsel, he was the one first notified that the Justice Department, at the request of the C.I.A., had opened an investigation into the outing of Joseph Wilson's wife. That notification came at 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 29, 2003, but it took Mr. Gonzales 12 more hours to inform the White House staff that it must "preserve all materials" relevant to the investigation. This 12-hour delay, he has said, was sanctioned by the Justice Department, but since the department was then run by John Ashcroft, a Bush loyalist who refused to recuse himself from the Plame case, inquiring Senate Democrats would examine this 12-hour delay as closely as an 18½-minute tape gap. "Every good prosecutor knows that any delay could give a culprit time to destroy the evidence," said Senator Charles Schumer, correctly, back when the missing 12 hours was first revealed almost two years ago. A new Gonzales confirmation process now would have quickly devolved into a neo-Watergate hearing. Mr. Gonzales was in the thick of the Plame investigation, all told, for 16 months.

Thus is Mr. Gonzales's Supreme Court aspiration the first White House casualty of this affair. It won't be the last. When you look at the early timeline of this case, rather than the latest investigatory scraps, two damning story lines emerge and both have legs.

The first: for half a year White House hands made the fatal mistake of thinking they could get away with trashing the Wilsons scot-free. They thought so because for nearly three months after the July 6, 2003, publication of Mr. Wilson's New York Times Op-Ed article and the outing of his wife in a Robert Novak column, there was no investigation at all. Once the unthreatening Ashcroft-controlled investigation began, there was another comfy three months.

Only after that did Patrick Fitzgerald, the special counsel, take over and put the heat on. Only after that did investigators hustle to seek Air Force One phone logs and did Mr. Bush feel compelled to hire a private lawyer. But by then the conspirators, drunk with the hubris characteristic of this administration, had already been quite careless.

It was during that pre-Fitzgerald honeymoon that Scott McClellan declared that both Karl Rove and Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis Libby, had personally told him they were "not involved in this" - neither leaking any classified information nor even telling any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the C.I.A. Matt Cooper has now written in Time that it was through his "conversation with Rove" that he "learned for the first time that Wilson's wife worked at the C.I.A." Maybe it all depends on what the meaning of "telling," "involved" or "this" is. If these people were similarly cute with F.B.I. agents and the grand jury, they've got an obstruction-of-justice problem possibly more grave than the hard-to-prosecute original charge of knowingly outing a covert agent.

Most fertile - and apparently ground zero for Mr. Fitzgerald's investigation - is the period at the very outset when those plotting against Mr. Wilson felt safest of all: those eight days in July 2003 between the Wilson Op-Ed, which so infuriated the administration, and the retaliatory Novak column. It was during that long week, on a presidential trip to Africa, that Colin Powell was seen on Air Force One brandishing the classified State Department memo mentioning Valerie Plame, as first reported by The New York Times.

That memo may have been the genesis of an orchestrated assault on the Wilsons. That the administration was then cocky enough and enraged enough to go after its presumed enemies so systematically can be found in a similar, now forgotten attack that was hatched on July 15, the day after the publication of Mr. Novak's column portraying Mr. Wilson as a girlie man dependent on his wife for employment.

On that evening's broadcast of ABC's "World News Tonight," American soldiers in Falluja spoke angrily of how their tour of duty had been extended yet again, only a week after Donald Rumsfeld told them they were going home. Soon the Drudge Report announced that ABC's correspondent, Jeffrey Kofman, was gay. Matt Drudge told Lloyd Grove of The Washington Post at the time that "someone from the White House communications shop" had given him that information.

Mr. McClellan denied White House involvement with any Kofman revelation, a denial now worth as much as his denials of White House involvement with the trashing of the Wilsons. Identifying someone as gay isn't a crime in any event, but the "outing" of Mr. Kofman (who turned out to be openly gay) almost simultaneously with the outing of Ms. Plame points to a pervasive culture of revenge in the White House and offers a clue as to who might be driving it. As Joshua Green reported in detail in The Atlantic Monthly last year, a recurring feature of Mr. Rove's political campaigns throughout his career has been the questioning of an "opponent's sexual orientation."

THE second narrative to be unearthed in the scandal's early timeline is the motive for this reckless vindictiveness against anyone questioning the war. On May 1, 2003, Mr. Bush celebrated "Mission Accomplished." On May 29, Mr. Bush announced that "we found the weapons of mass destruction." On July 2, as attacks increased on American troops, Mr. Bush dared the insurgents to "bring 'em on." But the mission was not accomplished, the weapons were not found and the enemy kept bringing 'em on. It was against this backdrop of mounting desperation on July 6 that Mr. Wilson went public with his incriminating claim that the most potent argument for the war in the first place, the administration's repeated intimations of nuclear Armageddon, involved twisted intelligence.

Mr. Wilson's charge had such force that just three days after its publication, Mr. Bush radically revised his language about W.M.D.'s. Saddam no longer had W.M.D.'s; he had a W.M.D. "program." Right after that George Tenet suddenly decided to release a Friday-evening statement saying that the 16 errant words about African uranium "should never have been included" in the January 2003 State of the Union address - even though those 16 words could and should have been retracted months earlier. By the next State of the Union, in January 2004, Mr. Bush would retreat completely, talking not about finding W.M.D.'s or even W.M.D. programs, but about "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities."

In July 2005, there are still no W.M.D.'s, and we're still waiting to hear the full story of how, in the words of the Downing Street memo, the intelligence was fixed to foretell all those imminent mushroom clouds in the run-up to war in Iraq. The two official investigations into America's prewar intelligence have both found that our intelligence was wrong, but neither has answered the question of how the administration used that wrong intelligence in selling the war. That issue was pointedly kept out of the charter of the Silberman-Robb commission; the Senate Intelligence Committee promised to get to it after the election but conspicuously has not.

The real crime here remains the sending of American men and women to Iraq on fictitious grounds. Without it, there wouldn't have been a third-rate smear campaign against an obscure diplomat, a bungled cover-up and a scandal that - like the war itself - has no exit strategy that will not inflict pain.