Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Bush Pedaled while Cindy's Spurned: Extreme sports with President "Bike Guy"

The Story of Cindy's vigil is one of contrasts. The longer she waits, worse the outrageous antics of the other side looks in comparison with her quiet dignity

This Morning's outrage came with an extra-large side of Irony. You simply can't make up something like a man plowing his pick-up through a field of crosses and American flags to show his Patriotism and support for our good Christian president. (and anyone want to bet on whether the truck that demolished a War memorial had a "support our Troops" ribbon on it?)

Truck boy though is a red herring. For sheer stupidity, effrontery and callousness, nothing can match what W did on Sunday. The man too busy with fundraisin', and world-runnin', and all sorts of important president stuff to meet with Cindy, Held a bike ride- complete with commemorative socks

However, on his bike and away from his handlers President Pee-Wee let his guard down and let his true character come out, and its not pretty. Lets put on a full-body condom and dive into that psyche shall we?

The money quote of the afternoon, W's Depak Choopra-esque soliloquy on balance in his life has been covered extensively already. But there was so much more revealed during this little jaunt.
Let's start at the beginning of the ride when
W, laid down the Rules, to the reporters (and yes, he was serious in that way that people who later claim to be "only kidding" always are:)

Standing on the driveway outside his home, President
Bush explains the rules for people who go mountain biking with him.
It will
be a vigorous workout. It is not a race. And no one, the president says with a
smile, is allowed to pass him.

Is our Commander-in- Chief really that much of a competitive asshole frat boy? Don't those rules remind you of the insecure jackass boss who will fire you if you beat them at a game but constantly gloat if you let them win?
How pathetically insecure is our president that he seeks validation by beating people who are forced to be nice to him? He's the freaking most powerful Man in the world {well after Karl and Dick} and he still needs people he can belittle to stroke his ego?!!

And make no mistake; the president was trying very hard to show off during the ride.

Let's hear USA Today's Sal Rubial's take on the ride:

Over the course of a two-hour Tour de Crawford, Bush
humbled every rider in Peloton One with a strong and steady pace over scorching
hot paved roads, muddy creek crossings, energy-sapping tall grass and steep
climbs on loose and crumbling rock....I started out riding next to him at the
beginning of the ride, but when we left the dirt trails and hit the rolling
asphalt the pace accelerated to more than 20 mph, which is pretty good for road
bikes but absolutely blazing for heavier, knobby-tired mountain bikes. And did I
mention that the only factor mitigating the mid-80s temperatures was a very
strong headwind?

and this is where things get really Freudian:
(Bill Adair again)

"I like speed," he says. He has gotten to 32 mph on a hill at Camp David,
lightning-fast when you're riding knobby tires on a paved road.

It brings out the child in you," he says. "I think it's okay for a 59-year-old guy to still seek that youth, chase that fountain of youth. And I hope to be mountain biking for a long time."

Lovely. Our president is an adrenaline junky with a Peter Pan complex. Good thing he doesn't have access to nuclear weapons or anything. Going down hill at 35 mph on a bike is also called "recklessly hurtling down a hill out of control" . Which, come to think of it, is kinda an apt metaphor for America recently, wonder if there's a connection?.

And Sportswriter Sal Rubial's assessment of W's biking style is an equally apt analysis of his for his foreign policy:

The president does prefer the speed zones to the
technically difficult traverses

Invasions, blowing shit up, destroying 3rd rate armies weakened by a decade of sanctions? Love that. Sticking around, rebuilding the nation, ensuring a stable peaceful society in the interim? Not so much.

Well Lets give credit where credit due. Bush is actually a very good bike rider:

Keeping up with Bush -- was as difficult as any race
I've entered.

And this is significant because Sal is not USA Today's WH guy, (no, of course not, why oh why would you send a real journalist to private event with the president? the rest of the crew included "seven journalists, a woman from the State Department and her husband - a D.C. bike messenger Bush calls "Mailman" - and two Secret Service agents.)

Ya see, according to his bio:

Sal Ruibal is a 51-year-old sportswriter for USA TODAY who has covered the Tour de France six times and ridden most of the Tour's mountain passes.

He is an
experienced mountain bike racer who finished fifth in the Masters category at the 2002 World Championships of 24-Hour Solo Mountain Biking.

So no slouch on the pedals himself, he had to work to keep up with W, who was having an "alpha male" moment.

Of course, its not an entirely fair competition since unlike the sportswriter, who presumably has a day job, the president certainly has had plenty of time to train:

( From the St. Petersburg Times again)
He tries to work out
six days
a week,
if not on the mountain bike, then on a bike Lance Armstrong gave him
that hooks to a stationary trainer. Bush takes it on long flights aboard Air
Force One.

And W himself described how he snatches tiny fragments of relaxation from his intense Presidential schedule:
(Sal again)

"I love the outdoors," he says, straddling his $3,000
Trek Fuel mountain bike.
"If I'm not exercising here, I'll be fishing over
there. If I'm not fishing, I'll be working with the chainsaw.

{ for those of you playing the home game "being President" and "comforting a
grieving Mother, were a very close 6th and 7th on his last, but were discarded
for lack of time

I really enjoy being outside, and mountain biking is a way for me to spend a fair amount of time -- four or five days a week -- outdoors.

{ NB he's not talking about while he's on vacation, he talking about what passes for his regular schedule}

Now, see, that's the advantage of taking a nice low stress job with no important decisions to make like being the PRESIDENT OF THE FREAKING UNITED STATES!, you have plenty of time to exercise.

But of course W Makes no apologies for his badly skewed priorities (shocker)

He has taken heat for his devotion to his bike. Twice, in the middle of the
day, he was exercising when a crisis erupted: in 2001, a man wielding a gun was
shot outside the White House, and in May, a plane strayed into restricted
airspace above Washington. As the White House and Capitol were evacuated, Bush
was riding his bike, as a Washington Post columnist put it, "blissfully
unaware." { yeah I may have mentioned something about that too}

Bush is well aware of the perception and makes no apology.

"I think you can do your job better if you're fit. People think more
clearly if you're fit."

Oh, I get it! your utterly narcissistic fitness obsession is Job Related you need to work out so you can be a better president! { when's that expected to kick in anyway?}
Which is a lovely theory, except: Bill Clinton was, how can I put this gently?, -a Big 'Ol Tub of Goo- by comparison, and he, well, kicked your scrawny ass in every metric of Presidential performance imaginable!

Hmm. Wonder if he got an edge by spending all that extra time reading PDB's Instead of showing off a skill mastered in grade school to middle aged reporters? Just thinking out loud here.....

and then W's musings turn downright delusional:

Even surrounded by security, biking gives him solitude, he says. It's "a
chance for me to feel like I'm outside the bubble."

Georgie, "you keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means." > Swallow hard and get this: W thinks that riding his bike on a private ranch in the Middle of Freaking Nowhere Texas, surrounded by armed security guards is getting outside the Bubble!. W has officially retreated so far into the bubble he doesn't even recognize it anymore.

No Mr. President, "getting outside the bubble" means going to Camp Casey, or giving a speech in front of an audience that hadn't been pre-screened for their sycophancy. It does NOT mean playing around on a private retreat when you are Supposed to be governing!!!

and I promised you Socks and indeed there were Socks:

The president pulled out a cardboard box and passed out Peloton One bike socks to the participants, then posed with each rider for the official White House photographer.

Hmm Peloton....Sounds awfully French to me...Does Bill O'Reilly know about this?
But I saved the best for last. possibly the most revealing moment of the day, was when W gave himself a nickname:

In keeping with his pet name habit, he referred to himself as "Bike Guy." It is clearly an identification that has great meaning for him.

"Bike Guy". Hmm. That's just....spiffing. We are being led by a man who calls HIMSELF "Bike Guy". Its only too bad being "President Guy" or "Statesman Guy" or even "world Leader Guy" doesn't have the same meaning to him.

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Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Bad apples my Ass! Trial reveals ops of CIA/Army Torture units

Every Day a new revelation, a new Stain on our national honor, a new worry that maybe those stains are permanent.  a fear that even after Chimpy and his minions are rotting in their well-deserved places in hell, we'll never be the same, never able to look the world straight in the eye again, never occupy anything resembling the moral high ground.  

Today we take another blow, learn of another outrage, committed in our name and by our people.  Thanks to some First class reporting by Josh White of the Washington Post we have the sordid story of Army Interrogators and a CIA Torture Squad, who teamed up to literally beat a nearly 60 year-old Iraqi POW  to death.)  Worse yet, this is nothing more than SOP for these units.

So much for isolated incidents and bad apples:  

Iraqi Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush was being stubborn, ...a series of intense beatings ...were not enough to break his will. On the morning of Nov. 26, 2003, a U.S. Army interrogator and a military guard grabbed a green sleeping bag, stuffed Mowhoush inside, wrapped him in an electrical cord, laid him on the floor and began to go to work. Again.

It was inside the sleeping bag that the 56-year-old detainee took his last breath through broken ribs, lying on the floor beneath a U.S. soldier in Interrogation Room 6

Two days before, a secret CIA-sponsored group of Iraqi paramilitaries, working with Army interrogators, had beaten Mowhoush nearly senseless, using fists, a club and a rubber hose, according to classified documents.

And let there be no mistake about this being a random or aberrant act.  The CIA trained thugs who delivered the rubber hose beating were merely part of a highly structured system of brutality:

At Blacksmith, according to military sources, there was a tiered system of interrogations. Army interrogators were the first level.

When Army efforts produced nothing useful, detainees would be handed over to members of Operational Detachment Alpha 531, soldiers with the 5th Special Forces Group, the CIA or a combination of the three. "The personnel were dressed in civilian clothes and wore balaclavas to hide their identity," according to a Jan. 18, 2004, report for the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division.

If they did not get what they wanted, the interrogators would deliver the detainees to a small team of the CIA-sponsored Iraqi paramilitary squads, code-named Scorpions, according to a military source familiar with the operation."

Sometimes, soldiers and intelligence officers used the mere existence of the paramilitary unit as a threat to induce detainees to talk, one Army soldier said in an interview. "Detainees knew that if they went to those people, bad things would happen," the soldier said. "It was used as a motivator to get them to talk. They didn't want to go with the masked men."

The Scorpions went by nicknames such as Alligator and Cobra.

Well isn't that lovely? They even went to the trouble to the have special uniforms  and dangerous sounding codenames for our torturers as well.  I wonder if it brought some solace to the operative assigned to breaking the bones of a helpless detainee that he got a cool code name as part of the deal?

The Story of general Mowhoush's Demise is as sickening for its brutality as it was the Futility and worthlessness of the tactics used.  It needn't have been that way.  The man eventually beaten to death for his intransigence started his ordeal by voluntarily walking onto the US Army Base

The U.S. military initially told reporters that Mowhoush had been captured during a raid. In reality, he had walked into the Forward Operating Base "Tiger" in Qaim on Nov. 10, 2003, hoping to speak with U.S. commanders to secure the release of his sons, who had been arrested in raids 11 days earlier.

Now in the annals of military honor, This kind of voluntary appearance, even of an enemy, is understood to be a Parley, and safe conduct is an implicit guarantee.  This has been an accepted part of the rules warfare stretching back to about 1200 b.c. when Piram appeared at Achilles tent during the Trojan war to beg for the return of his son's body.

Unfortunately for the General, he appeared at the wrong place at the wrong time, and honor was the least of the soldiers' concerns.

In the months before Mowhoush's detention, military intelligence officials across Iraq had been discussing interrogation tactics, expressing a desire to ramp things up and expand their allowed techniques to include more severe methods, such as beatings that did not leave permanent damage, and exploiting detainees' fear of dogs and snakes, according to documents released by the Army.

Officials in Baghdad wrote an e-mail to interrogators in the field on Aug. 14, 2003, stating that the "gloves are coming off" and asking them to develop "wish lists" of tactics they would like to use

Now lets be clear: Gen Mowhoush was hardly an angel:

The general, they believed, had been a high-ranking official in Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard and a key supporter of the insurgency in northwestern Iraq. Mowhoush was one of a few generals whom Hussein had given "execution authority," U.S. commanders believed, meaning that he could execute someone on sight, and he had been notorious among Shiites in southern Iraq for brutality.

But that is part of what makes what happened to him so stupid.  This is a man who had survived and thrived working for a capricious and brutal dictator was hardly going to be intimidated by a few masked thugs.  And when they were nice to him they were getting results:

The heavyset and imposing man was moderately cooperative in his first days of detention. He told interrogators that he was the commander of the al Quds Golden Division, an organization of trusted loyalists fueling the insurgency with mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, sniper rifles, machine guns and other small arms.

but then apparently he wasn't giving them "enough", whatever that was:

A week into Mowhoush's detainment, according to classified investigative documents, interrogators were getting fed up with the prisoner. In a "current situation summary" PowerPoint presentation dated Nov. 18, Army officials wrote about his intransigence, using his first name (spelled "Abid" in Army documents):

(Now lets just take a moment to digest the fact that our torturers are documenting their evil with Freaking Powerpoint Presentations!!  If that doesn't speak to the utter banality of evil, I don't know what does)

And then the interrogator did an exceptionally stupid thing:

In an interrogation that could be witnessed by the entire detainee population, Mowhoush was put into an undescribed "stress position" that caused the other detainees to stand "with heads bowed and solemn looks on their faces," said the document.

"I asked Abid if he was strong enough a leader to put an end to the attacks that I believed he was behind," the document said, quoting an unidentified interrogator. "He did not deny he was behind the attacks as he had denied previously, he simply said because I had humiliated him, he would not be able to stop the attacks. I take this as an admission of guilt."

Well I'm not an expert on the Iraqi psyche but I take that as a simple statement of fact.  Whatever credibility the General had with his men was destroyed when he was publicly made to seem weak and powerless before the interrogators.  In ten seconds some middle rank interrogator, following an idiotic playbook, turned a potential ally, who might have saved the lives of hundreds of troops and civilians, into a powerless middle-aged man.

A few days later, still blaming the general for their troubles, the interrogators ramped up the treatment even more

On Nov. 24, the CIA and one of its four-man Scorpion units interrogated Mowhoush,...

"OGA Brian and the four indig were interrogating an unknown detainee," according to a classified memo, using the slang "other government agency" for the CIA and "indig" for indigenous Iraqis.

"When he didn't answer or provided an answer that they didn't like, at first [redacted] would slap Mowhoush, and then after a few slaps, it turned into punches," Ryan testified. "And then from punches, it turned into [redacted] using a piece of hose."

"The indig were hitting the detainee with fists, a club and a length of rubber hose," according to classified investigative records.

Soldiers heard Mowhoush "being beaten with a hard object" and heard him "screaming" from down the hall, according to the Jan. 18, 2004, provost marshal's report. The report said four Army guards had to carry Mowhoush back to his cell.

Two Days Later the Fatal sleeping Bag beating occurred.


Chief Warrant Officer Lewis E. Welshofer Jr. did a first round of interrogations for 30 minutes, taking a 15-minute break and resuming at 8:45. According to court testimony, Welshofer and Spec. Jerry L. Loper, a mechanic assuming the role of guard, put Mowhoush into the sleeping bag and wrapped the bag in electrical wire.

Welshofer allegedly crouched over Mowhoush's chest to talk to him.

Sgt. 1st Class William Sommer, a linguist, stood nearby.

Chief Warrant Officer Jeff Williams, an intelligence analyst, came to observe progress.

Investigative records show that Mowhoush "becomes unresponsive" at 9:06 a.m. Medics tried to resuscitate him for 30 minutes before pronouncing him dead.

and every one of the soliders involved in the fatal beating, and their superiors defended their actions in the subsequent investigation:

In a preliminary court hearing in March for Williams, Loper and Sommer, retired Chief Warrant Officer Richard Manwaring, an interrogator who worked with Welshofer in Iraq, testified that using the sleeping bag and putting detainees in a wall locker and banging on it were "appropriate" techniques that he himself used to frighten detainees and make them tense....

Col. David A. Teeples, who then commanded the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, told the court he believed "claustrophobic technique" was both approved and effective. It was used before, and for some time after, Mowhoush's death, according to sources familiar with the interrogation operation.

"My thought was that the death of Mowhoush was brought about by [redacted] and then it was unfortunate and accidental, what had happened under an interrogation by our people," Teeples said in court, according to a transcript.

You know, its just one of those unfortunate and unforeseeable accidents that someone you work over for three hours with a rubber house and then stuff into a sleeping bag and kick the hell out of dies.  oopsie.

Well at least they've admitted that they were actually there when he died, which is more than can be said for the CIA:

The CIA has tried hard to conceal the existence of the Scorpions. CIA classification officials have monitored pretrial hearings in the case and have urged the court to close much of the hearing on national security grounds.

The ..."Autopsy Examination Report" of Mowhoush's death was manipulated to avoid references to the CIA. In contrast to the other autopsy reports of suspicious detainee deaths released by the Army, Mowhoush's name is redacted and under "Circumstances of Death," the form says: "This Iraqi [redacted] died while in U.S. custody. The details surrounding the circumstances at the time of death are classified."

Huh. Well isn't that Convenient  the highly embarrassing fact of the existence of CIA trained torturers just happens to also be a classified matter of national security.   Otherwise I'm   sure they'd love to discuss the evil they are doing in our name at length.   too bad.

Well the one ray of hope in this sordid mess is this time the Sacrificial lambs, uuhh Soldiers, on trial aren't going to roll over like WV's famous Fun Couple: England and Grainer:

Frank Spinner, an attorney for Welshofer, said his client is going to fight the murder charge. Reading from a statement prepared by Welshofer during his Article 32 hearing this spring, Spinner quoted his client as saying that he is proud of the job he did and that his efforts saved U.S. soldiers' lives


William Cassara, who represents Williams, {said}"The interrogation techniques were known and were approved of by the upper echelons of command of the 3rd ACR," Cassara said in a news conference. "They believed, and still do, that they were appropriate and proper."

I'm not sure which is scarier, the fact that he might have really believed that, or the fact that the evidence may prove him right