Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Suskind: W personally ordered Mentally Ill Terrorist be Tortured

Ron Suskind's new Book is currently garnering media attention for its story of  the Subway attack that wasn't,   but there are FAR bigger Revelations in his book.  

For example:

  Bush personally ordered the torture of a suspected terrorist mastermind who turned out to be nothing more than a mentally ill Al-Qaeda flunky, just to save face.

This amazing bit of news is courtesy of the WaPo's review of Suskind's book

When  Abu Zubaydah. Was captured he.. [was] described as al-Qaeda's chief of operations [however] ..Zubaydah,  his captors discovered, turned out to be mentally ill and nothing like [who]they supposed him to be... [he] also appeared to know nothing about terrorist operations; rather, he was the go-to guy for ...minor logistics [like} travel for wives and children"

That judgment was ... briefed to the President ...yet somehow, in a speech delivered two weeks later, President Bush portrayed Zubaydah as "one of the top operatives ..planning death and destruction on the US"

And when Zubadayah  Couldn't deliver any info on terrorist plots:?

Well, Bush had already said it, and in the spirit of his adminstration's habit of "creating their own reality"  it was now officially true, so when Zubaydah wasn't forthcoming with the details of plots he knew nothing about:

under White House and Justice Department direction, the CIA would make him its first test subject for harsh interrogation techniques.

And here's the Stunner.  Bush Personally Ordered his torture, because he was worried about losing face:

"I said he was important," Bush reportedly told Tenet at one of their daily meetings. "You're not going to let me lose face on this, are you?" "No sir, Mr. President," Tenet replied. Bush "was fixated on how to get Zubaydah to tell us the truth," Suskind writes, and he asked one briefer, "Do some of these harsh methods really work?"

This question  ranks only slightly below "Will no One rid me of this Meddlesome Priest?" as an obvious indirect command. Not Surprisingly, just like Henry Plantagenet's goons, the CIA took the hint and ran with it:

Interrogators did .. strapped Abu Zubaydah to a water-board, which reproduces the agony of drowning. They threatened him with certain death. They withheld medication. They bombarded him with deafening noise and harsh lights, depriving him of sleep

Now let's keep firmly in Mind all of this Torture (best to call things what they really are, I find) , was going on MONTHS after the CIA and the FBI had conclusive proof this guy was not merely insane, but actively suffering from multiple personality disorder:

CIA and FBI analysts, poring over a diary he kept for more than a decade, found entries "in the voice of three people: Hani 1, Hani 2, and Hani 3" -- a boy, a young man and a middle-aged alter ego. All three recorded in numbing detail "what people ate, or wore, or trifling things they said." Dan Coleman, then the FBI's top al-Qaeda analyst, told a senior bureau official, "This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality."

and it Bears repeating again

Abu Zubaydah also appeared to know nothing about terrorist operations; rather, he was al-Qaeda's go-to guy for minor logistics -- travel for wives and children and the like. That judgment was "echoed at the top of CIA and was, of course, briefed to the President and Vice President,"  {long BEFORE the torture was ordered-ED}

Amazingly, after being tortured for weeks and months,  the crazy Al-qaeda flunky suddenly remembered anything his interrogators wanted him to remember.   Zubaydah, gave up details of All KINDS of terrorist plots.  Too bad they were, technically speaking, completely made up fantasies:

Under that duress, he began to speak of plots of every variety -- against shopping malls, banks, supermarkets, water systems, nuclear plants, apartment buildings, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty

And of Course

 With each new tale, "thousands of uniformed men and women raced in a panic to each . . . target."

Wasting, of course,  thousands of  man hours, Millions of dollars, and letting who knows how many  REAL  plots go undetected because our law enforcement apparatus was occupied chasing fantasies?

This is normally the part where I throw in a concluding paragraph  telling you what I think  It all means, but frankly I can't do better than this sentence from Suskind's book:

"the United States would torture a mentally disturbed man and then leap, screaming, at every word he uttered."

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Smoking Cable: US Ambassador tells it like it REALLY is in Iraq

To hear our Fearless Leader tell it; things In Iraq are going great and they're only getting better (in fact the future's so bright, he'll let Wallsten wear shades.)

Bush even went so far as to demonstrate the progress towards peace and stability in Iraq by sharply  banking into Baghdad Airport for a quick, absolutely clandestine,(for security reasons), hello.    He apparently wanted to see first hand how peaceful and prosperous, the insides of  the most secure buildings in the Green Zone are,  when 70,000  troops patrol the surrounding city.. An Boy Howdy, he was certainly impressed; he held up Iraq as the model for transforming the Middle East.

His Iraqi listeners however, could be forgiven for suspecting Bush had inhaled a little too much of the glue he used to put the model together however. A leaked  secret State Dept cable from the US embassy in Baghdad paints a much grimmer picture of a Baghdad and the situation in Iraq, and puts lie to the Sunshine and flowers being offered by W.

Let's compare and contrast:

 From Bush's speech to US troops:

We expect an Iraqi government to honor its traditions and its histories and its religious faiths. But we do expect the Iraqi government to honor the right of every man, woman and child to live in a free society. And when Iraq succeeds -- and it will -- the rest of the world, particularly in the Middle East, will see such a hopeful example of what's possible.

.....I believe the Iraqi government that's formed does respect human rights and human dignity.

Now Let's see what the Cable  has to say

Beginning in March and Picking up in Mid-May Iraqi staff in the public Affairs section have complained that Islamist and/or Militia groups have been negatively affecting their daily routine.  Harassment over proper dress and habits have become increasingly pervasive.

One Shiite who favors Western clothing was advised by an unknown woman in her upscale Shiite/Christian neighborhood to wear a veil and not drive at all Indeed, she said, some groups are pushing women to cover their faces completely A step not taken in Iran even at its most conservative


Another, A Sunni, said people in her middle class neighborhoods are harassing people and telling them to cover up and stop using cell phones...A female in the PAS Cultural section is now wearing a full abaya after receiving direct threats in May.


They also tell us that some Ministries, notably the Sadrist controlled Ministry of Transportation have been forcing females to wear the Hijab at work.

Staff members have reported that ti is dangerous fro men to wear shorts in public and that they no longer let their children play outside in shorts.  People who wear jeans in public have come under attach from what staff members call Wahabis ( Uber-conservative  hard line Sunnis -ed) and Sadrists( Uber-conservative  hard line Shiites -ed)

okay Swing and a miss, but hey, he was just getting warmed up, he had a long flight, and the phrases "suppress human rights and "support Human rights" are so close.   So let's give him another shot.

Showing the remarkable positive effects of the occupation W also highlighted the striking contrasts between the Iraq of today and Saddam's Iraq:

Saddam Hussein destroyed many of the institutions necessary for this society to succeed. It is clear that he was a selfish, brutal leader who was willing to sacrifice infrastructure and civil society in order to meet his narrow objectives. ...the Iraqi people have a chance to realize the great blessings of liberty because Saddam Hussein is no longer in power.

{ not Counting of course, the ones that were demolished by US firepower during "shock and Awe"}

Well, at least we fixed that, right?  Hundreds of Billions of dollars in  Halliburton contracts later why the infrastructure now, well let's let the cable speak for itself:

Temperatures in Baghdad have already reached 115 degrees (46 C for the rest of the world that measures funny, and Goddamned Bloody Hot on the British Imperial Gin and Tonic scale -ed)

Employees all confirm that by the last week of May they were getting One hour of power for every six hours without


The Central Baghdad neighborhood Bab Al Mu'atham has had no city power for over a month

Areas Near hospitals political Party headquarters (emph added) and the Green Zone have  the best supply In some cases reaching 24 hours

The cable goes on to describe how  fuel shortages (in IRAQ!) are so bad that lines for gas can last 12 hours or more and the black market price for gas is 4x the offical rate.   And keep in mind this is happening in Baghdad, the Capital City  conditions here are as good as they get anywhere.

And the Security Infrastructure is even worse.  (after all, the power does work occasionally)  Not only are embassy workers afraid to tell even their own families where they work but:

Personal safety depends on good relations with the "neighborhood" governments, who barricade streets and ward off outsiders. the central government, our staff say, is not relevant  even local mukhtars have been displaced or co-opted by militias

The US is widely perceived as fully controlling the country and tolerating the malaise---

...{many believe} that the US is punishing populations as Saddam did.  Otherwise the allocation of power and security would not be so arbitrary

Okay, no human rights, Not so much on the "great blessings of liberty" thing,.  Well, at least W still has that whole "goal of a stable and unified Iraq"  thing:

I met with the cabinet officials from all walks of life here in Iraq, and came away with the distinct impression that they are unified in serving the people of Iraq. They want to succeed. The faith and future of Iraq is in their hands, and our job is to help them succeed -- and we will

Well, While it can be said that the some Iraqi officals do want a unified Iraq, it should be noted that others are  already actively engaged in ethnic cleansing:

{[describes a Kurdish woman forced from her home after 30 years through the use of an Antique law] Such uprootings may be a response to by new Shiite government authorities ti similar actions against Arabs by Kurds in other parts of Iraq (NOTE: An Arab Newspaper editor told us he is preparing an extensive survey of ethnic cleansing which he said is taking place in every Iraqi province as political parties and their militias are seemingly engaged in tit-for-tat reprisals all over Iraq. One editor told us the KDP (Kurdish Defense Party) is now planning to set up tent cities in Irbil to house Kurds being evicted from Baghdad.

And Lest the author of this cable be denounced as some gloomy liberal flunky at State who Hates America, lets compare the opening lines of Bush's speech:

You know, one of the things I try to do is put good people in place who accomplish hard jobs. And I can't think of two better leaders than Zal Khalilzad and General Casey to lead this important effort. (Applause.) I thank you all very much for your service to our country. Your sacrifice is noble and your sacrifice is important.

and the signature line of the Cable


I strongly urge you to read the whole memo.  While it's only about six pages long, and focuses mostly on the troubles the Embassy is having with its own staff, it provides the clearest and most honest picture of what life is REALLY like in Iraq right now.

 The embassy staff are very good proxies for ordinary Iraqis living under nearly the best possible conditions Iraq has to offer.  Unfortunately, even for them, those conditions are bad and getting worse every day.  

If you want to truly understand the anger, hatred and resentment the common people are feeling towards the US consider only this sentence, and imagine yourself in his place:

One collegue told us he feels "defeated" by circumstances, citing the example of being unable to help his two year old son who has asthma and cannot sleep in the stifling heat

If you are a parent, or even you aren't, its very easy to imagine how such a situation would first make you depressed and hopeless, then scared, and then finally very, very, angry at those who would hurt your child this way.  Now consider that this kind of situation is happening every day in every city in Iraq, to hundreds more people.

 As the memo noted earlier, WE are the ones being held responsible for these failures,  they happen so often that people are convinced they are deliberate.  Given this situation, and  the infinite recruiting possibilities it provides the other side;  does anyone seriously think that there exists a military solution to "defeat" the insurgency anymore?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Today's Supreme Court Decision: It's the exclsionary rule that got banged up

Well the Alito Effect is starting at the Supreme Court. Sitting in O'Connor's vacated seat, he's proving a very different and far more right wing judge. Case in point. Today's Ruling on Knock and Announce rules when serving a search warrant

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that police armed with a warrant can barge into homes and seize evidence even if they don't knock, a huge government victory that was decided by President Bush's new justices
Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, said Detroit police acknowledge violating that rule when they called out their presence at a man's door then went inside three seconds to five seconds later.

"Whether that preliminary misstep had occurred or not, the police would have executed the warrant they had obtained, and would have discovered the gun and drugs inside the house," Scalia wrote.

But suppressing evidence is too high of a penalty, Scalia said, for errors by police in failing to properly announce themselves

Knock and Announce, the rule at issue here, has been the rule for serving a warrant since the English common law stretching back Centuries.
However it wasn't until 1997 and Wilson V. Arkansas 514 US 927 (1997) that the US supreme Court formally recognized that the common law requirement was also part of the 4th Amendment. (Clarence Thomas of all people wrote the opinion) However the opinion recognized there would be times when knocking was not possible or wise, and declined to set any hard and fast rules.
Also in 1997, in Richards v. Wisconsin, 520 U.S. 385 (1997) found that there might be times when a No-knock warrant was okay, but said that this had to be considered on a case by case basis, and that blanket rules for when issuing No-knock warrants violated the Constitution.
But really what's at Stake here is FAR greater than the "knock and Announce" rule. The Court rules that the officers broke the law and the search was illegal Alito's opinion isn't attacking the "knock and Announce rule", it is taking square aim at a far more importtant part of our law: the Exclusionary Rule itself.

The Exclusionary Rule was first created for Federal Courts in1914 by Weeks v. US.232 US 383 and then expanded to the States in 1964 by Mapp v. Ohio. 367 US 643 (1961). and it says simply that Illegally obtained evidence . May NOT> be used at tiral, and that all evidence that was discovered based onthe illegally obtained evidence was similarly excluded. (Fruit of the Poisonous Tree).

The rule is absolute because the court recognized there was no other effective way to restrain police from engaging in illegal behavior and violating people's rights. (in the Mapp case for instance, officer entered a woman's home without a warrant, looking for a fugitive, searched her entire house, broke opena small locked box inthe basement and then charge her with possession of pornography)Thus, even decisive evidence, wrongly obtained, is worthless, to the police. As a result police are HIGHLY motivated to do things the right way.

However that whole "better to let 10 guilty men go free" line apparently doesn't sit well with Alito or Scalia . Therefore he basically says "eh the law could be clearer, and after all they guy's guilty so , no harm no foul" His ruling, recognizes the clear illegality of the police's action , but still allows the Evidence to be introduced. It is, I fear, the beginning of very long chipping away process that will not end well for us.