Green Voicemail

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Superhilarity . .

posted by Green Voicemail 3/12/2005 12:10:00 PM

Isolated Incidents

Notes, "Around 6 or 7 October 2003, I learned that three interrogators and a translator went in Tier 1B to interrogate two female detainees and possibly had been drinking alcohol." "I learned that the interrogators and one civilian linguist had the MPs release a female juvenile detainee (17) under the guise of an interrogation and moved her to an isolated cell area and purportedly asked her to remove her top and kissed her." Was told "that an interrogator and an analyst had a detainee disrobe during an interrogation one evening and walked back to his area." Notes, "OGA and TF-121 routinely brought in detainees for a short period of time. The A/519th soldiers initiated the term 'ghost.' They stated they used this term as the detainees were not inprocessed in the normal way via the MP database and were not yet categorized. It was difficult to track these particular detainees and I and other officers recommended that a Memorandum of Understanding be written up between OGA, the 205th MI BDE and the 800th MP BDE to establish procedures for a ghost detainee. [REDACTED] suggested an idea of processing them under an assumed name and fingerprinting them but COL PAPPAS decided against it.

Hard reading this morning. The American Civil Liberties Union has obtained documents regarding the Abu Ghraib torture scandal from the United States Military. For anyone who assumes that I'm just looking for the "bad parts", you can find the documents in their unedited form here .

Public Affairs Officer found DVD of "Ramadi Madness", an edited composite of many video clips of B Company operations. It depicted: 1. wounded EPW flexicuffed lying on ground, soldiers filmed entry and exit wounds while EPW moaned in pain, one soldier kicked prisoner in face. SFC watching video said he "thought the dude eventually died. We weren't in any hurry to call the medics."SFC admitted to being the person in the video kicking soldier (8616).

There are two questions you have to ask yourselves when you read accounts like this, and I think these questions would be the same, whether or not you're on the "left" side or the "right" side.

1) Are these incidents merely isolated incidents, a case of a few bad apples spoiling the pot? Or was this actually Army policy?

2) How far should the United States go in obtaining information? If torture will stop the terrorism in Iraq...should we torture?

I think the answer to the first question is pretty obvious if you read the documentation. I'm sure many conservatives are left uneasy having to read this. However, there are a few conservatives out there who state "isolated incident". "We caught the few bad apples. Things are better now."

Investigations, as a course, are difficult things. You will find many indications of incidents where the investigations were stopped because there was basically not enough evidence to pursue. However, you will find the notation "several individuals" on at least two of the reports I've read, indication that maltreatment of prisoners was not a matter confined to just eight people at Abu Ghraib.

These are internal reports from the Army and the FBI -- if even 1/10 of this stuff is true, these are fairly damning statements. The European press is all over it; in America, one hears nothing. Why the United States media isn't covering this? Well, who knows?

This is once again a matter of trust and impression. One has to come either one of two conclusions, either

a) the US Army is incompetent, with very little discipline, or
b) the abuse is allowed with a "wink and a nod" in some cases, and is institutionalized in other cases.

If the case is a), then our efforts in Iraq are doomed anyway. We have 150,000 troops in Iraq and here we are talking about getting the Iraqi army in shape while our own army is out of shape. The tail is wagging the dog.

But is the case b)? We return to the actions of Alberto Gonzalez. A summary can be found here . In 2002, Alberto Gonzalez was George W. Bush's general counsel. (He is now Bush's Attorney General.) In the memos, Gonzalez,

a) states that if the President authorizes the torture, torture is not illegal. Furthermore, torture is not really torture unless some significant impairment results. (Give me a bucket of water, and I can disprove that one.)

b) argued that the laws against torture in the Geneva convention are "quaint".

c) he knew that his views would undermine military discipline. "could undermine U.S. military culture which emphasizes maintaining the highest standards of conduct in combat, and could introduce an element of uncertainty in the status of adversaries...." Secretary of State Powell argued against Gonzalez's line of reasoning allowing torture.

What laws was Gonzalez trying to undermine? Those of the Geneva Convention in 1949, which prohibited the use of special interrogation camps. The reason these laws were passed was to prevent a nation from doing what Hitler did, who had his own interrogation camps to question Allied prisoners.

The Geneva convention ruled not only that there was no real justification for torture in ANY war, it ruled universal juridiction. If you're from France, let us say, and you torture civilians as part of French government policy, and you flee to America, you can not only be extradited back to France, but America also has a right to try you for the crimes you committed on French soil.

The memos are quite damning. They state that not only did Gonzalez know the torture was illegal under the Geneva Convention (and that he must have written the memos to provide a legal groundwork for a defense "ahead of time", in the event that United States government officials were arrested for crimes against humanity), but that he suspected that indiscrimate torture and denial of human rights would poison the United States military.

Some say that Vice President Dick Cheney had a hand in working with Gonzalez in the creation of these memoes. Whether that is true or not, the General Counsel of the President -- the President's personal legal advisor -- endorsed the use of torture, and at least one of these memoes was addressed to President George W. Bush.

My conclusion is that, yes, these memoes represent the personal policy of President Bush, Vice-President Cheney and others in the United States Government. We have signed off on the use of torture. Without using the word as a perjorative -- and it is very hard to say that with a straight face, we -- that is the Government of the United States -- are torturers.

This answers question one. I'll write about question two later.

posted by Green Voicemail 3/12/2005 09:50:00 AM

Friday, March 11, 2005

Armed and Dangerous

I have just completed auto-ranking my players for the draft in tas of Loaded Mouth's Fantasy Baseball League. Teams run by progressive bloggers will go neck and neck for the mythical Blogger League championship.

Fear me!!

posted by Green Voicemail 3/11/2005 11:08:00 PM

A Matter of Trust

I'm going to wax philosophical for a bit. In the future, I might be combining this blog with my discontinued personal blog, so you might see a bizarre mix of posts.

I'll admit that the last two months have been pretty good. When you think that you can do a "political blog", you spend your time looking for outrageous news stories, things to be angry about, and I decided that I didn't need that for a couple of months. So I'm going to try a different approach to things.

tas over at Loaded Mouth said that he had tried to post about the Social Security fiasco, but all he ended up doing was boring himself. You need a little bit of education about how the system works in the first place to understand it well enough to blog about it.

I agree with tas. One is overwhelmed by the mere effort it takes to make sense of it all. And I think that with a lot of Americans, it comes down to a matter of trust.

It isn't just Republicans who have been suspicious of Social Security. Democrats, Independents, free-thinkers of all stripes have know there's a problem with the current system. From my understanding, the problem is that the US Congress have treated SS Deposits like a gigantic pot of free money, borrowing against it as need be. Furthermore, with people able to live longer and longer lives than they did in the 1930s, people can draw SS income for years longer. There are more and more people becoming eligible for SS income and fewer and fewer people to deposit into the system.

I think that honestly, what many people (and this includes most of the bloggers I read) want is for someone to come along like a doctor and just lay out the facts. "Tell it to me straight, doc. Am I all right? How much time do I have left?" Tell us what's wrong with the system, and the right way to fix it, and we'll get on board.

The problem is that the fellow trying to tell us what's wrong with the system is named George W. Bush, the most divisive leader in modern history. When deluged with a mountain of graphs and documentaries, the question is going to be, "do you trust George W. Bush to fix the system?"

My answer is "no".

Right now, there are two images of George W. Bush -- the left vision and the right vision. And you have to understand the "right" vision.

The "right" vision is that of a man with experience in business, an MBA, a jolly trustworthy fellow, a Christian and a Republican, a man people basically like. Our Commander-in-Chief, the man out to fight terrorism and keep the country safe. Now, President Bush is going to keep social security safe for years to come. A wise man, a just man.

The "left" vision is different, obviously.

And we can talk social security and private accounts until we're blue in the face but until you face that "right" vision head on you're not going to defeat Bush's plans to divvy up that free pot of money to his friends on the stock exchange.

In order to do that, you need to find facts that undermine that vision, that cannot be easily explained away by the Republicans. And the Republicans are masters of the art of exculpation:

Bad businessman? "The oil business was risky."
Drug-addled boozer? "He's washed in the blood of Christ now."
Not Christian? "Who are you to judge?"
Hated around the world. "Yes, by those who want to undermine America."
Failure in Iraq. "They just had free elections there."
Lied about WMD? "Better safe than sorry."

So you begin the undermining with facts.

1. Why has George W. Bush talked about Social Security to audiences which are:
a) invitation-only,
b) mostly Republican-leaning,
c) mostly sympathetic?

2. Why has George W. Bush not provided any details to his plan? Why is he so incredibly vague about it? Why is anything not written down? Is it a case of "I'll tell you my plan, but only if I have your support?"

3. Why is George W. Bush using taxpayer-funded campaigning -- using federal tax money to fund a "war room" inside the Treasury Department? Does he have no defenders elsewhere?

4. Does George W. Bush even understand his own plan? Can you explain it? Can HE explain it?

WOMAN IN AUDIENCE: I don't really understand. How is it the new [Social Security] plan is going to fix that problem?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Because the -- all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers. For example, how benefits are calculated, for example, is on the table. Whether or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price increases. There's a series of parts of the formula that are being considered. And when you couple that, those different cost drivers, affecting those -- changing those with personal accounts, the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be -- or closer delivered to what has been promised. Does that make any sense to you? It's kind of muddled. Look, there's a series of things that cause the -- like, for example, benefits are calculated based upon the increase of wages, as opposed to the increase of prices. Some have suggested that we calculate -- the benefits will rise based upon inflation, as opposed to wage increases. There is a reform that would help solve the red if that were put into effect. In other words, how fast benefits grow, how fast the promised benefits grow, if those -- if that growth is affected, it will help on the red.


5. If George Bush said that private accounts won't remedy the gap in funds for Social Security (and he did), why is he pushing them so hard if they won't solve the problem?

The point to winning this battle is to take Bush's actions and make him justify them. MAKE HIM ACCOUNTABLE. And if you do that, you win. Because Bush's "plan" for social security is indefensible. He is a man not to be trusted.

posted by Green Voicemail 3/11/2005 11:58:00 AM

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

My hiatus has been quite enjoyable. Daria blogging, and not watching the news.

However, it's probably time to get back in the saddle again. We'll see what happens.

posted by Green Voicemail 3/10/2005 04:40:00 PM

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