2004-05-28T14:25:00-04:00

So Simple

“The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof. What I want is so simple I almost can’t say it: Elementary kindness. Enough to eat, enough to go around. The possibility that kids might one day grow up to be neither the destroyers nor the destroyed. That’s about it…”

Barbara Kingsolver (italics are mine)

That said (so eloquently and honestly by Ms. Kingsolver), I give you Blessed Are the Peacemakers, by David R. Hoffman, Legal Editor of PRAVDA and Former Communications Professor.

Just a taste:

“Some say the mark of true evil is not in the sadistic acts one does, but in having the power to encourage or inspire others to engage in such acts.”

Friday, May 28th, 2004 by Kate Storm |
Category: Uncategorized

2004-05-28T12:20:00-04:00

My Twisted Simple Logic

Forget the friggin’ polls (even those showing John Kerry widening his lead on monkey boy). Please — shoot me down if I’m wrong. Don’t just sit there thinking, “Wow, this guy’s a moron.” Tell me why I’m a fucking moron for my logic below (that’s what the little “comment” link at the bottom of postings is for). I’ve been saying it for months: President-elect Kerry has nothing to worry about. But there’s still a lot of nervous nellie progressives out there.

  • President Gore won the popular vote in 2000 by roughly a half-million votes
  • Almost all who voted in 2000 for Gore will vote for Kerry.
  • A statistically significant percentage of those who voted for pResident Bush in 2000 will vote for Kerry.
  • Bush won many red states in 2000 by a razor thin margin.
  • Gore won most blue states in 2000 by comfortable margins.

Please be among the first to welcome President John F. Kerry, 44th President (actually, 43rd, but who’s splitting hairs) of the United States.

It’s axiomatic.

Come in here, dear boy, have a cigar.

You’re gonna go far, fly high,

You’re never gonna die,

You’re gonna make it if you try;

They’re gonna love you.

Well I’ve always had a deep respect,

And I mean that most sincerely.

Friday, May 28th, 2004 by Richard Blair |
Category: Uncategorized

2004-05-28T00:15:00-04:00

A Memorial Day Gift to the Serviceperson in Your Life

What a concept! And it’s FREE.

As the country heads toward Memorial Day, we feel it’s the appropriate time for Salon to extend the following offer to all active-duty military personnel. If you are currently serving in the U.S. military and have a .mil e-mail address, send us your name and address and we will give you a free one-year Salon Premium subscription. If you are one of the active-duty GIs already receiving Salon Premium, we will extend your subscription for a year free of charge…

No-strings-attached details at Salon’s Website.

(Thanks to Phred on Atrios’ comment section for the head’s up!)

Friday, May 28th, 2004 by Richard Blair |
Category: Uncategorized

2004-05-27T21:57:00-04:00

Shades of Fallujah?

Politics of convenience are fun, particularly when it comes to Bushraq. Yesterday’s terrorist/outlaw/murderer/liberal/all-around-badguy (and we don’t negotiate with with the likes of them) is today’s diplomat:

No one seemed to know if or when Sadr would disband his militia, or surrender to face charges which accuse him, among other things, of involvement in the April 2003 murder of moderate Shiite cleric Abdel Majid al-Khoei. Both were unshakeable demands of U.S. authorities in early April. But subsequent weeks of debilitating violence—and the looming June 30 transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis—may have reshaped priorities for the Coalition. Now, it seems, Sadr himself will negotiate the future status of his militia and his arrest warrants with Shiite political and religious figures.

Bring ‘em on.

Friday, May 28th, 2004 by Richard Blair |
Category: Uncategorized

2004-05-27T15:59:00-04:00

War Machinery

As the Abu Ghraib scandal has evolved over the past few weeks, there’s been a lot of talk in both Left and Right Blogistan about the topic of “following orders”, “war crimes” and the Nuremberg precedent. One of the seminal documents on the whole issue of responsibilities for war crimes was written back in 2001 for the journal, “Military Review”, by Staff Judge Advocate Lt. Col. Michael Davidson. A quick google of Davidson’s name will turn up many references to his work, prosecutions, and Senate hearing testimony that he’s given over the years. He’s clearly a conservative, and his opinions err on the side of protecting military personnel.

The subject of Davidson’s paper, “Staff Officer Responsibility for War Crimes”, is focused on the topic of what constitutes a legal order in the military. Secondarily, the paper broaches the topic of executive responsibility in the chain of command. Davidson opines that Staff principals would be criminally responsible for law-of-war violation their staff sections committed if they ordered an illegal act, had actual knowledge of the illegal activity, or should have known of it and failed to “take the necessary and reasonable steps to insure compliance with the law of war or to punish violators thereof.â€

To the layperson, the most interesting aspect of Davidson’s interpretation might be the discussion he provides regarding how nations other than the U.S. presume lawful and unlawful orders, and execution of both by subordinates. In short, an illegal order is defined (internationally) as “in evident contradiction to all human morality and every international usage of warfare”.

Perhaps most frustrating to the international community is determining where the American buck stops in the Abu Ghraib scandal. I don’t think there’s any question in anyone’s mind that the events at Abu Ghraib prison were “in evident contradiction to all human morality”. So where does the moral buck stop? With the Staff Sergeant who was apparently one of the prime instigators? With the intelligence operatives who ordered “softening up”? With General Janice “Not My Fault” Karpinski, who apparently never heard of the concept of MBWO (management by walking around) or (perhaps worse) turned a totally blind eye to the abuses? Perhaps even further up the ladder to General Rick Sanchez, who (despite his Chief of Staff’s signature to the contrary on the ICRC report in 2003) yanked out the Sgt. Shultz defense and claimed he knew nothing — until late January, 2004? Or even higher, further, broader than that?

The precedent of determining where the buck stops dates back to the Nuremberg trial. In the Nuremberg trial, the allies (U.S., U.K., France and Russia) decided to prosecute a total of 22 defendants who committed the most egregious acts during the Nazi regime. Hermann Goering was the highest ranking Nazi official still alive at the time. At the beginning of the trial, he was steadfast in his defense, which shored up the other 21 guys behind him. Hell, maybe they were still scared of Goering, who held onto his beliefs to his grave. Goering’s primary defense?

“I was just following orders.”

As his defense fell apart, though, other Nazi songbirds began to chortle. Albert Speer took Clarke-esque responsibility for the crimes. I guess he wasn’t sleeping well at night. Ultimately, all but three of the 22 defendants were convicted. Even into the early 1960′s, at the trial of Adolf Eichmann, the defense was trotting out the “following orders” excuse.

So, it’s clear that there’s historic legal precedent for establishing parallels and examples of military law as might be applicable to Iraq and Afghanistan abuses. As this process continues to unfold, the most important aspect is to understand why this type of thing happens in war. Actually, in my mind it’s a no-brainer, but let’s go to the expert – Gustav Gilbert, the psychiatrist who spent a lot of time picking the brains of the Nazi prisoners during the Nuremberg trial. His late-in-life book, “Nuremberg Diary†described his quest to find out what motivated such evil, and he came to an inescapable conclusion: all of the German defendants lacked empathy. He also concludes that Germans, having been raised with a culture of obedience and a history of propaganda, had a proclivity towards this behavior.

(Sidebar – I realize that, in a very real sense, “empathy†cannot play a role in dealing with armed enemy combatants. You can get dead quick by being empathetic to your enemy in a live fire situation. However, a subdued, naked, man/woman in a jail setting is a donkey of a totally different color.)

What Gilbert didn’t overtly state is that he was describing the culture of military service, totally irrespective of nationality. From the first moment a soldier/sailor/airman enters the service, s/he is psychologically taken apart, and reconstructed to fit military personnel specifications. It’s cold, but it’s been effective for thousands of years. Gilbert’s “blind obedience” and “propaganda” observations are squarely on the mark. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that, a) shared empathy was not present in Abu Ghraib, and b) no one seemed to question “irregularities”.

The real crimes of this whole episode lie in the “irregularitiesâ€, tacit executive sanctioning, and institutional acceptance of the abuses by senior leadership. Still an open issue: how far up the pecking order will accountability be assigned?

There’s one last quote from Davidson’s paper regarding Nuremberg that is so germane to any discussion of Afghanistan and Iraq abuses:

The US war crimes tribunal rejected the defense of superior orders and convicted various members of the Nazi Einsatzgruppen for murdering almost a million civilians in Russia, and said, â€The obedience of a soldier is not the obedience of an automaton. A soldier is a reasoning agent. He does not respond, and is not expected to respond, like a piece of machinery.â€

I served in the military for 8 years. I’m laughing even as I type the above words. My bosses in the military expected that I’d respond like a piece of machinery. It’s what I was taught. Cognition and reasoning never enter into the equation.

Thursday, May 27th, 2004 by Richard Blair |
Category: Uncategorized

2004-05-27T11:51:00-04:00

‘We have daughters, husbands. For god’s sake don’t tell anyone.’

Look! Over there! Rape Rooms

James Ridgeway at the Village Voice is keeping the “other half” of the human torture fad in view. In the rest of the US media we get to see leering young women (AKA female bad apples we are told) mugging for the camera. We don’t hear much other than a whisper of the rape-torture of the women prisoners in Iraq. (Okay, a little, we read a little but not much.) I have a quiet hope that the systematic humiliation and torture of men AND women in Iraq will be part of what brings the Cabal …ensconced in DC… down. Hope springs eternal.

(At left, some of those bad apples)

An aside: Mike at What Really Happened asks the musical question (I paraphrase) : Where are all those ’80s feminists’ who made so much noise about rape now? And I say: Hey, Mike. Those 80s feminists were a pale shadow of what we were in the late 60s and 70s. The big bad backlash hit when Ronnie Raygun took office, and it was then that it became vogue to say: “I’m not a feminist, but…” Women hid their previous activism in droves. I have a partially begun manuscript on the great sell out, that began then, not just in feminist circles…

Now. Onward. Here is the Ridgeway link: Rape at Abu Ghraib

From the top: “Practically ignored in the Abu Ghraib torture scandal are the Iraqi female prisoners who have told their attorneys they were raped by U.S. soldiers. The Taguba report confirms that some women were indeed raped by American G.I.’s. There is one photo of an American soldier having sex with an Iraqi woman. And there is the by now infamous story of how American soldiers harnessed a 70-year-old woman and rode her around, calling her a donkey.”

“No matter how cynical you get, it’s impossible to keep up.”

Lily Tomlin

Addendum: fooled around with photo and formatting and fixed some typos

Addendum: I’m remembering now reading that the Taguba report had 2000 pages omitted from what was submitted to the US Congress (Regress). Might the rape of Iraqi women be among those pages?

Thursday, May 27th, 2004 by Kate Storm |
Category: Uncategorized

2004-05-27T09:38:00-04:00

Hood a Statue Today (for Jeebus!)

Sublime protest of US government-sanctioned torture of Iraqi prisoners! Rodin sculptures used in protest of treatment of Iraqi prisoners

From the Stanford Daily, By Nancy Wang

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

The Burghers of Calais at the Quad were found donned with hoods Thursday morning. Last Thursday and Friday, hoods similar to those photographed on the Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison were discovered on several Rodin sculptures at the Cantor Arts Center. Administrators at the Arts Center said they do not know who is responsible and will not further investigate the matter because none of the sculptures was damaged.

I also saw political cartoon with the Statue of Liberty hooded.(I’ll see if I can find it and add it later) Apparently the Cabal was not amused. But really, it’s in keeping with the government’s hooding of the truth in general, and even the Lord High Inquisitor Torquemada AshKKKroft draped the statues in the DOJ building. That was tacit permission, wasn’t it? Iconoclasm without destruction?

Add: Found it! I love those Eureka moments… From USA Today: Lady Liberty hooded in political ad

Thursday, May 27th, 2004 by Kate Storm |
Category: Uncategorized

2004-05-26T22:13:00-04:00

Is it Time for Dubya’s Vacation Yet?

Both this story and this story are datelined for tomorrow. Lucky you – you read it here first! Dubya’s posse has pissed off Lakhdar Brahimi again (they did it before, and Brahimi was –>

I.swear.to.Christ.

These guys can’t seem to get anything right. It’s one fucking comedy of errors after another. What the hell must other leaders of the free world think? Especially after President Gore’s speech?

From the Independent (UK): The Bush administration was accused yesterday of undermining the work of the UN envoy attempting to put together an interim Iraqi government, by suggesting that a respected nuclear scientist was tipped to be prime minister.

The spokesman for Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN envoy in Baghdad, reacted with fury after US officials were quoted as saying that Hussain Shahristani had emerged as the leading candidate. Mr Shahristani, a Shia, spent almost a decade in prison under Saddam Hussein after refusing to build a nuclear weapon, but he escaped into exile in 1991.

“There is no final list yet, we are still working on it,” said the spokesman, Ahmad Fawzi, who denied that Mr Shahristani was the leading contender for the post. “Now his life could be in danger,” he added, now that Mr Shahristani’s name had been leaked…

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – With only a few days left, the U.N.’s hunt for Iraqis to fill 30 posts in a new government heated up Wednesday. But a scientist who was said to be the front-runner for the prime minister’s job took himself out of contention.

Hussain al-Shahristani, a Canadian-educated nuclear expert who says Saddam Hussein jailed him for refusing to help develop bombs, was mentioned in recent days as having the inside track for prime minister, the most important job in the transition government to take office June 30…

Thursday, May 27th, 2004 by Richard Blair |
Category: Uncategorized

2004-05-26T19:03:00-04:00

Al Gore’s Speech

It must be good to be Al Gore. People will show up to listen to him, he doesn’t need to run for office anymore, and he can just have a whole bunch of fun smacking on Bush! Here’s the beginning of Mr. Gore’s speech:

George W. Bush promised us a foreign policy with humility. Instead, he has brought us humiliation in the eyes of the world.

He promised to “restore honor and integrity to the White House.” Instead, he has brought deep dishonor to our country and built a durable reputation as the most dishonest President since Richard Nixon.

Honor? He decided not to honor the Geneva Convention. Just as he would not honor the United Nations, international treaties, the opinions of our allies, the role of Congress and the courts, or what Jefferson described as “a decent respect for the opinion of mankind.” He did not honor the advice, experience and judgment of our military leaders in designing his invasion of Iraq. And now he will not honor our fallen dead by attending any funerals or even by permitting photos of their flag-draped coffins.

How did we get from September 12th , 2001, when a leading French newspaper ran a giant headline with the words “We Are All Americans Now” and when we had the good will and empathy of all the world — to the horror that we all felt in witnessing the pictures of torture in Abu Ghraib.

To begin with, from its earliest days in power, this administration sought to radically destroy the foreign policy consensus that had guided America since the end of World War II. The long successful strategy of containment was abandoned in favor of the new strategy of “preemption.” And what they meant by preemption was not the inherent right of any nation to act preemptively against an imminent threat to its national security, but rather an exotic new approach that asserted a unique and unilateral U.S. right to ignore international law wherever it wished to do so and take military action against any nation, even in circumstances where there was no imminent threat. All that is required, in the view of Bush’s team is the mere assertion of a possible, future threat – and the assertion need be made by only one person, the President.

More disturbing still was their frequent use of the word “dominance” to describe their strategic goal, because an American policy of dominance is as repugnant to the rest of the world as the ugly dominance of the helpless, naked Iraqi prisoners has been to the American people. Dominance is as dominance does.

Dominance is not really a strategic policy or political philosophy at all. It is a seductive illusion that tempts the powerful to satiate their hunger for more power still by striking a Faustian bargain. And as always happens – sooner or later – to those who shake hands with the devil, they find out too late that what they have given up in the bargain is their soul.

I had huge problems avoiding copying the whole thing here. Gore is sharp, witty, and absolutely on the mark. This is a speech that more Americans ought to read. I’ve never been a huge Gore fan, but his patriotism and acumen stand side by side here, in stark contrast to a Bush, who has led us to disaster.

Thursday, May 27th, 2004 by SpinDentist |
Category: Uncategorized

2004-05-26T14:49:00-04:00

I was Gonna Avoid This Topic Entirely

But after five minutes of chuckling, I can’t.

Certain Higher Terror Threat To U.S., Says Washington; Threat Level Raised From Yellow To “Yellower”

Today the Department of Homeland Security warned of a much higher risk of a terrorist attack over the coming months, which prompted them to raise the threat level from Yellow (“Elevated”) to Yellow (“Still Elevated”). “The threat level remains fundamentally the same,” said Tom Ridge, “Except that it is definitely, certainly much threatier.”

And it gets even better from there

(Don’t depose me! Props to Lawgeekgurl for the pointer.)

Wednesday, May 26th, 2004 by Richard Blair |
Category: Uncategorized
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