Saturday, May 8, 2004


The General J. C. Christian's "inner Frenchman" got the better of him.

From the "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro" Department:

This via Hammerdown:

Bush Aide to Graduates: Character Counts. That's the actual headline. You just can't make this stuff up.

LYNCHBURG, Va. - President Bush's chief political adviser told graduates of the Rev. Jerry Falwell's Liberty University on Saturday to judge leaders on the basis of character.

America needs people who have "the moral clarity and courage to do what's right, regardless of consequence, fashion or fad," Karl Rove said.

"You either have values ingrained in your heart and soul that will not change with the wind or you don't," he said.

I wonder if anyone at "Liberty" University worried about being too near to Rove, lest they too be struck by lightning.

Say Hello to

Awe Contraire

Props for a fellow Okie lefty.

Impeach the War Criminals

Found at Winston Smith's Daily Journal.

And while we're at it, let's travel down memory lane and enjoy some choice quotes from none other than America's very own Chimperor Junior Caligula. First, let's take his own 2003 State of the Union Address, and contrast it with the news of our soldiers' torture of Iraqis. Damn, my 37th birthday will forever live in infamy, not just for the tainted "16 words" but for the whole fiasco that address set in motion. There's also a choice Rush Limbaugh quote thrown in for good measure (note: I think he's on Oxycontin again).

Perhaps he didn't make himself clear, details some of Junior Caligula's own words at the start of the war against Iraq. That's our "war president" for you: so many empty words.

Junior Caligula's Waterloo?

Iraq: Bush's Waterloo?

Clip that caught my attention:

In the meantime, the CBS News/New York Times poll has a disquieting statistic for the president. Forty-eight percent of Americans now consider the Iraq war was a mistake, exactly the margin that, in 1968, made the same judgment about the war in Vietnam.

Bush: "I know exactly where I want to lead this country."

George Carlin: "Where are we going? And what's with this hand basket?"

Vonnegut Doesn't Mince Words When It Comes to Junior Caligula's Reign of Error

courtesy of fellow Bokononist Sleaze at Caffeine and Nicotine

Vonnegut's rail to the chief

Nobody needs to tell Kurt Vonnegut to stop beating around the Bush.

"They're adroit criminals," the 81-year-old literary lion labeled President Bush and his underlings while riding in a taxi with Lowdown's Hudson Morgan to Wednesday night's 27th anniversary party for In These Times, the paleoliberal magazine.

"They're committing war crimes - attacking a country that hasn't attacked us. Pretending it had. And torturing prisoners and filling countless graves with dead Iraqis. But adroit, sure. Al Capone was adroit."

The pop-culture icon added dismissively: "I don't care how Bush does, because I don't believe him. He believes himself, and that's what is quite terrifying."

As for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz, they're the ones "who allowed this torture to go on, kept it secret since January. These are war crimes," Vonnegut said. "I dealt with prisoners when I was a soldier. We sure didn't torture them - we were well aware of the Geneva Convention. I myself became a prisoner" of the Germans as an Army corporal in Dresden during World War II.

"It's my country, not theirs," he continued lashing the Bushies. "And they've trashed the reputation of Americans. ... It's possible to destroy a great civilization. Bush and those people have no love for it at all."

Vonnegut - the author of "Slaughterhouse-Five," "Cat's Cradle" and "Breakfast of Champions" - has been penning polemics for In These Times and is hoping to produce another novel.

"I've taken an advance. But now is not the time for a novel, is what Samuel Goldwyn would have said. If you have a message, send a telegram. And it's time to send telegrams right now."

What he'd really like to do is be an analyst on CNN. "What I want is - they've got all these generals and stuff and military retired consultants to CNN and so forth, I want 'em to have a retired corporal - me!"

He sure won't mince words.

Sadism, arrogance and the Marx Brothers

A column by Frank Rich

As we know from "Mission Accomplished" and Colin Powell's aerial reconnaissance shots displayed as evidence to the United Nations, pictures can be made to lie - easily. But over time pictures, because they have a true story to tell, can trump the phonies. Eventually there comes a point when the old Marx Brothers gag comes into play: "Who are you going to believe - me or your own eyes?" Last weekend, many, if not most, of us had little choice but to believe our own eyes.

More perspectives on the Abu Ghraib torture scandal:

Wikipedia's Abu Ghraib (prison) page.

Pretty thorough commentary and links. I really dig the whole concept of wiki sites as collaborative efforts in web-based information dissemination.

The words match the pictures

Brian Flemming pairs George W. Bush quotes (as well as a quote by Lt. Gen. William Boykin) with pictures of Abu Ghraib torture victims.

Our Lady of Minor Hostilities

Peter Manseau offers his own juxtaposition of imagery, and has some cogent remarks.

Pictures from an Inquisition

Places a couple of the images from the Abu Ghraib attrocities within the context of The Spanish Inquisition and the lynchings of African Americans. Also some cogent commentary.

Friday, May 7, 2004

From the Freeway Blogger:



Rumsfail (rums´ fāl), v., 1. To self-destruct, melt-down or implode under the weight of one's own arrogance. 2. To fail spectacularly, particularly in matters of warfare or diplomacy; to plunge into chaos. 3. Absolute, unmitigated disaster of national or international proportions and consequence; policy failure so utterly abject and miserable as to approach the realm of the epic. "Although long considered to be a costly and murderous fiasco, the prisoner abuse scandal revealed the war in Iraq to be nothing short of a rumsfailure." See also: "Karma"

And the war in review:

Say Hello To

What are we to believe?

Statement of purpose:

Tracking press conferences, news reports and and other publicly disseminated information that are either untrue or clearly misleading.

Usually these are items that lead viewers/US citizens to believe that the war against Iraq is not only justified and that US citizens need to be very afraid of what Saddam will do to them if he's allowed to live.

A good resource.

Here's Some Food for Thought:

The Trouble With Left Activism via Adam Beach at Reality is Radical.

A couple clips that especially stood out:

"[There is] a failure to think of our work in a larger context, and a reluctance to ask people what they believe. There needs to be a venue for talking about alternative economic systems. But these questions don't get talked about, and people who do think about them are afraid to bring them up in meetings. It's like, 'there's no time for it, we need to win the living wage campaign right now.'

"It's important to encourage better thinking so hippie-to-yuppie doesn't happen again. Without an analysis of what's really wrong with the world - or a vision of the better world you're trying to create - people have no reason to continue being activists once a particular campaign is over. Activistism is tedious, and its foot soldiers suffer constant burnout. Thinking, after all, is engaging; were it encouraged.

..."Marxism's decline (but not death) has led to wooly ideas about a nicer capitalism, and an indifference to how the system works as a whole. This blinkering is especially virulent in the U.S. where a petit-bourgeois populism is the native radical strain, and anti-intellectualism is almost hard-wired into the culture. And because activistism emphasizes practicality, achievability, and implementation over all else, a theory dedicated to understanding deep structures with an eye towards changing them necessarily gets shunted aside.

..."We are calling for a more democratic approach to the life of the mind and creating spaces for ideas in our lives and political work.

"We're not calling for leadership by intellectuals. On the contrary, we challenge left activist culture to live up to its anti-hierarchical claims: activists should themselves become intellectuals. ...ideas don't belong on pedestals. They belong in the street, at work, in the home, at the bar and on the barricades.

..."In many other countries, activists' tiny apartments are stacked with the well-thumbed works of Bakunin, Marx and Fanon. We'd like to see that kind of engagement here. in major European cities... activists there have far more influence on mainstream discourse and even government policy. In the long run, movements that can't think can't really do too much either."

I think there's some rich material to be pondered. How do we go about adding a bit more intellectual substance to activist movements? I'm reminded of a saying by Kurt Lewin (a Gestalt psychologist who made some lasting contributions to social psychology): "...there is nothing so practical as a good theory." Why? Theory guides one into thinking about hypothetical outcomes flowing from proposed actions. Of course theories themselves are tentative constructs that should be flexible enough to change as new data becomes available, and activists need to appreciate the necessity of modifying theory as we discover what theory-based actions work and fail to work. Successful theory-based activism can be found historically, ranging from the Gandhian approaches to non-violent action (e.g., Lanza del Vasto in Italy), Martin Luther King inspired activism (e.g., Cesar Chavez & the UFW), The Philadelphia Life Center with its almost anarchistic approach to community building and direct action.

It beats the hell out of mere slogan chanting.

Reuters Round-up of US Iraq Human Rights Violations

US Soldier Says Her Job Was to Make Prison 'Hell'


The Washington Post reported that Spec. Sabrina Harman told it in e-mail interviews that detainees were handed over to her military police unit at the Abu Ghraib prison by military intelligence officers, or by civilian contractors who conducted interrogations.

She was assigned to break the detainees down for interrogation, Harman said in e-mails this week from Baghdad, the Post said on its Web site. But she did not discuss specific charges against herself.

... The Post said Harman was one of the soldiers who posed for a photograph next to naked Iraqi detainees stacked in a pyramid.

The article said she had been charged with striking detainees and attaching wires to a prisoner's hands while he stood on a box with his head covered. She is accused of telling him if he fell off the box, he would be electrocuted, the Post said.

Arabs Say Bush Interviews Are Too Little Too Late

My favorite passage from this article:

"If Bush is really sincere that the torturing of the Iraqis does not represent American values then he should couple his talk with deeds. He should uncover what is going on inside Guantanamo (the U.S. detention center in Cuba)"

Soldier Who Killed 2 in Iraq Jail Defends Actions

A clip:

He said the U.S. government had exacerbated difficulties in Abu Ghraib by jailing many Iraqis who did not deserve to be there. He cited one man arrested for stealing a toothbrush and given what he said was a long sentence.

Stowe also blamed the military and politicians in Washington for turning a blind eye to realities in Iraq. "The military chain of command is so uptight with politics, they don't want to know the real deal. Our people are put under so much stress ... they don't know where to turn."

Rumsfeld Apologizes for Abuse, Says Worse to Come

Some clips:

Rumsfeld, lacking his trademark bravado, told the Senate and later the House Armed Services Committee that he had created a special commission to investigate the actions. But Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain said Americans needed all the available information at once, adding he was concerned that images of abuse would erode domestic support for the war.

Reaction in the Arab world was skeptical at best. "The Americans are playing God and they don't want to be answerable to anybody," said Jassem Ali Hussein, watching from a restaurant in the Bahraini capital Manama.

...The Vatican called the abuse an offense against God.

...Several Democrats, including presidential candidate John Kerry, have called for Rumsfeld's resignation because of the physical and sexual abuse of Iraqis held at the Abu Ghraib prison west of Baghdad, which had previously served as a torture center under deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Kerry called on Bush to take full responsibility for the scandal because "the chain of command goes all the way to the Oval Office."

...The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Friday there had been widespread abuse and human rights violations, tantamount to torture, in U.S.-controlled Iraqi detention centers, which appeared to go beyond the revelations that have emerged from Abu Ghraib.

And there were protesters at Rumsfeld's hearing in the Senate today:

"Just a good ol' girl, never meanin' no harm..."

Racism, Imperialism, and Iraq.

Props to ddjango for pointing this one out. Some clips:

POINTING crudely at the genitals of a naked, hooded Iraqi, the petite brunette with a cigarette hanging from her lips epitomised America’s shame over revelations US soldiers routinely tortured inmates at Abu Ghraib jail near Baghdad.

Lynndie England, 21, a rail worker’s daughter, comes from a trailer park in Fort Ashby, West Virginia, which locals proudly call “a backwoods world”.

She faces a court martial, but at home she is toasted as a hero.

At the dingy Corner Club Saloon they think she has done nothing wrong.

“A lot of people here think they ought to just blow up the whole of Iraq,” Colleen Kesner said.

“To the country boys here, if you’re a different nationality, a different race, you’re sub-human. That’s the way girls like Lynndie are raised.

“Tormenting Iraqis, in her mind, would be no different from shooting a turkey. Every season here you’re hunting something. Over there, they’re hunting Iraqis.”

In Fort Ashby, in the isolated Appalachian mountains 260km west of Washington, the poor, barely-educated and almost all-white population talk openly about an active Ku Klux Klan presence.

There is little understanding of the issues in Iraq and less of why photographs showing soldiers from the 372nd Military Police Company, mostly from around Fort Ashby, abusing prisoners has caused a furore.

Like many, England signed up to make money and see the world. After her tour of duty, she planned to settle down and marry her first love, Charles Graner.

Down a dirt track at the edge of town, in the trailer where England grew up, her mother Terrie dismissed the allegations against her daughter as unfair.

“They were just doing stupid kid things, pranks. And what the Iraqis do to our men and women are just? The rules of the Geneva Convention, do they apply to everybody or just us?” she asked.

She said she didn’t know where her daughter was being held, but had spoken to her on the phone.

“She told me nothing happened which wasn’t ordered by higher up,” she said.

“They are trying to pin all of this on the lower ranks. My daughter was just following orders. I think there’s a conspiracy. “

A colleague of Lynndie’s father said people in Fort Ashby were sick of the whingeing.

“We just had an 18-year-old from round here killed by the Iraqis,” he said.

“We went there to help the jackasses and they started blowing us up. Lynndie didn’t kill ‘em, she didn’t cut ‘em up. She should have shot some of the suckers.”

It's useful to understand the context in which human rights abuses, such as torture, occur. In the case of the dingbat dominatrix of Abu Ghraib, ignorance and racial prejudice were likely already part of her background. Granted the racism inherent in Pvt. England and cohorts' actions is rather crude, but that same ignorance and racism (albeit in a more "refined" form) is inherent in the Iraq occupation from the get-go. Whether that racism manifests itself in the idealistic-sounding manifest destiny pronouncements of bringing Democracy to our little brown brothers and claims that we are occupying Iraq to "help" the Iraqis (which begs the question: who are we to assume they need our "help"?) or the more belligerent claims that the Iraqi people are "savages" who must be tamed by force as that's all they presumably understand, it is still a profound insult to fellow humans who would probably just as soon do without US interference. It is in this context that torture of human beings occurs. It is in this context that soldiers and mercenaries can bomb or shoot civilians without batting an eyelash.

Who are the savages really? My guess is that those who have been supporting Junior Caligula's war need look no further than their reflections in their own mirrors.

Disappearing Act

Rural America is in danger of being just dust in the wind, it seems. This caught my attention, as I currently reside and work in a small university town. It's a great place to live. Unfortunately, out here in the high plains, the writing has been on the wall for quite a long time: the small farming and ranching communities are slowly dying out in many cases. The article touches on some of the social, economic, and political forces that are undermining our small communities. The effects of NAFTA, the overwhelming dominance of corporate farms & ranches (up until about a generation ago, much of my extended family could make a living farming wheat, cotton, and so on. They couldn't now), the Walmart factor (which has killed the mom & pop businesses), outsourcing of jobs. My little town is fortunate to be home to a thriving university. Some of the communities that I've travelled through around the Texas & Oklahoma panhandles, eastern New Mexico, and southwest Kansas are veritable ghost towns. One can see evidence of an increasingly receding past in which those communities once thrived, where families once worked and lived, where travellers such as myself might have stayed the night enjoying a good meal and a good chat with some of the locals. Those days are gone; instead one sees merely crumbling structures and tumbleweeds.

Thursday, May 6, 2004

How to Get Out of Iraq: A Forum

published at The Nation.

Lots of food for thought. Check it out.

Here's What Dave Chandler of Has to Say About the Unfolding Scandal:

It is over.

The United States has lost the war in Iraq and suffered a major political defeat in the "war on terror." The photograph released yesterday of the American soldier holding the leash tied to a prostrate naked Iraqi detainee is so horrible and degrading that Earthside simply will not post it on this site. Anyone who has even a rudimentary understanding of Arab/Muslim culture knows that this is a picture of atrocious, tortuous abuse, perpetrated by American soldiers, that will reverberate with negative consequences in the Middle East for years to come. Additionally, this scandal strikes a blow at all Americans. Those of us who have opposed this ill-advised war from the beginning have an idealistic belief in the principles of this nation as articulated in the Declaration of Independence. This scandal cuts us to the quick, it injures our pride in our country. Opponents of this war, for the most part, do not lack confidence in the ideals of the republic, but have known from the beginning that is was the radical, 'pre-emptive' policies of George W. Bush that were wrong-headed and, ultimately, un-American.

George W. Bush, Dick "Chickenhawk" Cheney, Condeleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz have mismanaged the occupation of Iraq in such a irresponsible manner that they have created the best recruiting poster for al Qaida that Osama bin Laden ever could have hoped to imagine. Indeed, Earthside cannot conceive of a more depraved image than the one described above to validate bin Laden's charge that America is a corrupt, decadent society, arrogantly desiring to spread its influence into the Ummah (the community of all Muslim believers). That photograph is why, bin Laden would argue, the Americans must be fought and resisted at all costs. This is the sorry state that the Bush administration has put us in ... It is more tragic than we ever thought possible.

Yet here inside the United States, we have heard the radical defenders of the Bush regime - not express contrition or sincere regret - they have ranted that because of the killing of the four Blackwater mercenaries at Fallujah last month, somehow the torture of the Iraqi detainees was justified - "that's how those people do things over there" - is the way we heard radio talker Laura Ingram say it. This can only be called a racist smears leveled at the Iraqi people. But what sense is this? These are the very same human beings who just a few weeks ago the Bush supporters were declaring as "liberated". If this is truly what the radical Republicans believe, then not another single soldier should die in Iraq. We have also heard this described as low-level problem that simply does not merit the attention it is getting. But what kind of military management is the Bush Pentagon running that assigns National Guard, Reservists, and 'private contractors' to occupation duty for which they have minimal or no training? What kind of commander-in-chief has such little experience and knowledge of history and military policy that they would order an attack and occupation that cannot be competently carried out because the nation lacks sufficient personale and resources?

Perhaps now, more and more Americans will begin to see the pattern of incompetence and demagoguery that characterizes the Bush administration. An obvious intelligence failure lead to America being unprepared for 9/11 ... but no one was fired, no one was held accountable. There was an obvious intelligence failure concerning the non-existent weapons of mass destruction used as the number one reason for the unprovoked attack on Iraq ... but no one has been fired, no one has been held accountable. And we have a scandal of immense proportions, cutting at the very heart of the moral standing of the United States, but Bush publicly stands by Donald Rumsfeld, even though the Secretary of Defense stonewalled Congress on the Iraqi prisoner torture episode. It appears as if the only people who will receive any punishment, if the radical Republicans get their way, are the low-level volunteers on the ground in Iraq.

It is past time for some real accountability. Whether or not Rumsfeld is fired or resigns is immaterial at this point. Bush and Cheney are stuck with the consequences of their misguided and arrogant plans and decisions. We are in the presidential political season; Americans need to let the pollsters and the pundits know that we demand honesty and responsibility in the White House. We need experience and intelligence in a commander-in-chief. Let's clean out the White House and install John Kerry. Perhaps then America can begin to rectify its tarnished reputation.


Ted Rall Gets Hate Mail

The goons really crawl out of the woodwork, eh?

Some excerpts:


Sleep tight. I'm coming to kill you.


You are one fucked up piece of shit. I hope someone blows your head off, you filthy cocksucker.

Fortunately assholes like you don't live long.


...From :

(snip) ...However, you will die as a coward, liberal, GAY, communist. I doubt if any law enforcement officer in the USA would come to your defense if someone was cramming a Cadilac(made in the USA) up your ass. Like the New York fire fighter said at the 9/11 memorial concert. I live in San Jose, CA and if you know where to find me.


Ted Rall - dead man walking . . . .

That's the wingnut way: if you disagree with someone, resort immediately to bully tactics. Avoid rational thought and rational dialog at all costs.

Regardless of what one might think about his Pat Tillman cartoon (and I thought it was a bit much), I consider his rationale behind the cartoon in question to be spot on.

I Wanna Be Your Dog

I Wanna Be Your Dog

(J. Osterberg/D. Alexander/R. Asheton/S. Asheton)

So messed up I want you here

And in my room I want you here

And now we're gonna be face to face

And I'll lay right down in my favorite place

Yeah you know what that is

Now I wanna be your dog

Now I wanna be your dog

Now I wanna be your dog

(C'mon) (I wanna be your dog you know it)

Ooh give it to me

Now I'm ready to close my eyes

Yes now I'm ready to close my mind

Now I'm ready to feel your hands

Lose my heart on the burning sand

Now I wanna be your dog

Now I wanna be your dog

Now I wanna be your dog

(C'mon) (I wanna be your dog you know it)

Do it

Yeah that's right

So messed up I want you here

And in my room I want you here

And now we're gonna be face to face

And I'll lay right down in my favorite place

Yeah you know what that is

Now I wanna be your dog

Now I wanna be your dog

Now I wanna be your dog

(C'mon) (I wanna be your dog you know it)

Well come on

I'll be your dog

Wednesday, May 5, 2004

From the "Haven't You Done Enough Already!?" Department:

The US escalates hostilities in various locations around Iraq.

The controversy of US torture of Iraqi and Afghani prisoners takes on a life of its own, with the revelation of investigations into the deaths of numerous detainees and the murder of at least two.

And I guess possessing posters of Muqtada al-Sadr now makes one a suitable target for interrogation. So much for "liberation."

The fallout from the photos is hitting close to home for those who were involved in the scenes of humiliation and torture. I find it quite comforting to know that Lynndie England (the dingbat dominatrix of Abu Ghraib) is "a very sweet girl", at least according to a friend of hers. Well, "sweet girls" can do some pretty nasty things, as we've seen.

Depressing? Take two Prozac and call me in the morning.

Update: And it just keeps getting better. Matt Drudge has this little gem on his main page:


The pictures obtained by The Post include shots of soldiers simulating sexually explicit acts with one another and shots of a cow being skinned and gutted and soldiers posing with its severed head. There are also dozens of pictures of a cat's severed head....

Other photographs show wounded men and dead bodies. In one, a dead man is lying in the back of a truck, his shirt, face and left arm covered in blood. His right arm is missing. Another photograph shows a dead body, gray and decomposing. A young soldier is leaning over the corpse, smiling broadly and giving the "thumbs-up" sign.

And in another picture a young woman lifts her shirt, exposing her breasts. She is wearing a white band with numbers on her wrist, but it is unclear if she is a prisoner.

Another photograph of a naked man with a dark hood over his head, handcuffed to a cell door. And another of a naked man handcuffed to a bunk bed, his arms splayed so wide that his back is arched...

A picture shows a soldier holding a leash tied around a naked man's neck in an Iraqi prison....

Drudge is definitely on the sensationalistic tip, and this is all up his alley to be sure. We'll see if the story breaks as he says.

In the meantime, a link I found on Drudge's page: Guardsman Probed for Iraq Naked Soldier Photos

A clip:

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The head of a U.S. military police unit at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison is under investigation following charges he secretly photographed naked female American soldiers, officials said on Wednesday.

Capt. Leo Merck, 32, a member of the California National Guard who commanded the 124-strong 870th Military Police Company, is under U.S. Army investigation and has been relieved of duty, they said.

"He was their commander and he led them into Iraq. While he was there this alleged incident happened," California National Guard spokesman Andrew Hughan said.

Merck, a veteran of the first Gulf War who worked as a financial analyst before going to Iraq, is suspected of photographing the soldiers as they showered. The Guard said complaints were made against Merck in November. His unit arrived in Iraq in May a year ago.

The incident is the latest embarrassment for the U.S. occupying force in Iraq. In recent days media worldwide has aired pictures of grinning soldiers abusing naked male Iraqi prisoners at the same prison that was once used by Saddam Hussein's torturers.

Merck, who is married and resides in Fremont, California, a suburb of San Francisco, is at an undisclosed location under U.S. Army control. "The U.S. Army justice system is working its wheels," Hughan said.

The Contra Costa Times, which broke the story on Wednesday, quoted Spc. Myrna Hernandez, 26, as saying she saw Merck photograph her as she was showering with two other women.

"I saw a guy get on all fours with a digital camera in his hands. His head was going under the wall, and we made eye contact," she told the newspaper. "I was in shock, like what do I do now?"

Merck worked as a senior financial analyst at San Jose, California-based KLA-Tencor Corp, a firm specializing in equipment that finds defects in computer chips. He had an MBA degree from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"At this time the company thinks it's inappropriate to comment," said KLA-Tencor spokesman Kern Beare. A woman at his family home in North Dakota declined to comment.

Merck first enlisted in the National Guard in 1989 and had received a series of decorations and service medals.

What kind of outfit is Bu$hCo running out there?

So much for the two Prozacs. Make that a double.

Iron Chef Fan?

How about Iron Blog?

Link courtesy of one of the Iron Bloggers, Folkblum.

Iron Chef is one of my own not-so-guilty pleasures. I don't get to catch it nearly as often as I would like, but find the various contests (each of which centers around a specific theme ingredient) to be fascinating. For the Iron Chef and his challenger, it's an exercise in extreme cooking - one might even call the situation they're in a pressure cooker (I know, groan, bad pun).

So now I shall tune into Iron Blog.

Tuesday, May 4, 2004

Here's the Taguba report on the Abu Ghraib abuses


This is the report described in the Seymour Hersh article in The New Yorker magazine. Always good to have the source material at hand. Props to Sean-Paul at The Agonist for posting this.

America's Deep Dark Secret:

A reminder of our dark history of warehousing unwanted children.

Some clips:

Now, a new book, "The State Boys Rebellion," by Michael D'Antonio, reveals even more: A large proportion of the kids who were locked up were not retarded at all. They were simply poor, uneducated kids with no place to go, who ended up in institutions like the Fernald School in Waltham, Mass.


"We thought for a long time that we belonged there, that we were not part of the species. We thought we were some kind of, you know, people that wasn't supposed to be born," says Boyce.

And that was precisely the idea.

The Fernald School, and others like it, was part of a popular American movement in the early 20th century called the Eugenics movement. The idea was to separate people considered to be genetically inferior from the rest of society, to prevent them from reproducing.

Eugenics is usually associated with Nazi Germany, but in fact, it started in America. Not only that, it continued here long after Hitler's Germany was in ruins.

At the height of the movement - in the ‘20s and ‘30s - exhibits were set up at fairs to teach people about eugenics. It was good for America, and good for the human race. That was the message.

But author Michael D'Antonio says it wasn't just a movement. It was government policy. "People were told, we can be rid of all disease, we can lower the crime rate, we can increase the wealth of our nation, if we only keep certain people from having babies," says D’Antonio.

The stories of some of the individuals featured in this article are nothing short of tragic. Kids warehoused in places like Fernald often had a rough start to life to begin with: unstable families, physical abuse, neglect, abandonment. Given the abusive conditions of Fernald and similar institutions, these kids were in a very profound sense robbed of their childhoods, and robbed of their potential. As one of the former residents at Fernald puts it:

"They took away my childhood and my education. The two things that you need in life to make it, they took from me."

Perhaps more sickening is that these same kids also were unwitting lab rats for a range of rather twisted "studies":

In 1994 Senate hearings, it came out that scientists from MIT had been giving radioactive oatmeal to the boys - men now - in a nutrition study for Quaker Oats. All they knew is that they'd been asked to join a science club.

Among those who attended the hearing was Almeida, also a member of the club. He says the boys were recruited with special treats: "We were getting special treatment, you know, extra dessert, we got to eat away from the other boys. We were getting extra oatmeal. We're getting extra milk."

"But they forgot to mention the milk was radioactive," says David White-Lief, an attorney who worked on the state task force investigating the science club.

He says he was outraged that the children were exploited without their knowledge. "It’s my contention, and it was my contention on the task force, that these experiments, because of the lack of informed consent, violated the Nuremburg Code established just 10 years earlier," says White-Lief. "The lesson of Nazi Germany was we don't do experiments on people without informed consent. They didn't use the word "informed consent" - without knowing consent."

Boyce, also in the science club, got a group of members together and they sued. Each received approximately $60,000 in compensation from MIT, Quaker Oats and the government.

But hey, these kids were "less than human" according to the eugenics crowd, so their well-being wasn't important. Kind of like those Iraqi "savages" who have been subject to various acts of abuse.

As ddjango puts it, let's connect a couple dots. Think of what Fernald, Abu Grhaib, and the Stanford Prison Experiment have in common. Wanda from the comments of my Stanford Prison Experiment post definitely gets it. ddjango gets it. There's a lesson to be learned that perhaps is far from comforting, but necessary to learn nonetheless.

Here's a Blast from the Past

US finds strange bedfellows in UN vote on torture

Basically, two years ago the US was opposed to strengthening a UN treaty against torture.

Washington has found itself on the same side as Cuba, Libya, and Syria, among other states, in trying to block a proposal before the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva designed to give more teeth to the Convention Against Torture.

No big surprise there.

Okay, this is just funny

Hazing Sean Hannity

Gen. J.C. Christian strikes a manly heterosexual way, of course...with a terrific suggestion for how Hannity and Colmes can help the American public make sense of what happened at Abu Grhaib.

Social Psychology Tuesday

via dhosek's diary at Daily Kos, describing the famous (or infamous) Stanford Prison Experiment:

On Sunday morning, Aug., 17, 1971, nine young men were "arrested" in their homes by Palo Alto police. At least one of those arrested vividly remembers the shock of having his neighbors come out to watch the commotion as TV cameras recorded his hand-cuffing for the nightly news.

The arrestees were among about 70 young men, mostly college students eager to earn $15 a day for two weeks, who volunteered as subjects for an experiment on prison life that had been advertised in the Palo Alto Times. After interviews and a battery of psychological tests, the two dozen judged to be the most normal, average and healthy were selected to participate, assigned randomly either to be guards or prisoners. Those who would be prisoners were booked at a real jail, then blindfolded and driven to campus where they were led into a makeshift prison in the basement of Jordan Hall.

Those assigned to be guards were given uniforms and instructed that they were not to use violence but that their job was to maintain control of the prison.

From the perspective of the researchers, the experiment became exciting on day two when the prisoners staged a revolt. Once the guards had crushed the rebellion, "they steadily increased their coercive aggression tactics, humiliation and dehumanization of the prisoners," Zimbardo recalls. "The staff had to frequently remind the guards to refrain from such tactics," he said, and the worst instances of abuse occurred in the middle of the night when the guards thought the staff was not watching. The guards' treatment of the prisoners ­ such things as forcing them to clean out toilet bowls with their bare hands and act out degrading scenarios, or urging them to become snitches ­ "resulted in extreme stress reactions that forced us to release five prisoners, one a day, prematurely."

Your assignment: think of the events at Abu Ghraib in light of the findings in Zimbardo's experiment. Was an Abu Ghraib style attrocity committed by US troops and so-called "civilian contractors" inevitable?

Now from the profane to the profound:

Your casualties are human beings who have names, memories, families and friends.

Our casualties have no names, no faces and no memories.

That's the poison you publish day and night.

We have kids who were murdered so young in their age of roses.

We have kids who are the victims of cluster bombs [we will publish photos about them on the site].

We have kids who became orphans after losing both their parents.

We have women who lost their partners and became widows and their children became orphans.

We have houses that house non-stop crying and prayers against Saddam and Bush and this damn war they have nothing to do with.

We have people who were subject of injustice and humiliation and their houses were raided.

But the media pictures the American as the only human out there and the rest are barbarians. Didn't you call us that after the Falluja incident?

Now God in the highest is smiling and asking: Who are the barbarians now??

A verse in the Holy Quran orders us: " O you who believe! Let not (one) people laugh at (another) people perchance they may be better than they, nor let women (laugh) at (other) women, perchance they may be better than they"

The holy books were revealed to educate people and to bring them closer together, not to enforce arrogance and injustice.


Posted Monday, May 3, by Faiza at A Family in Baghdad.

As the news from Iraq is uniformly depressing these days

time for some gallows humor.

What shall we call the US occupation of Iraq in light of the reports of the abuse suffered by Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib?

I was thinking along the lines of "Operation Spank and Wank."

Has a ring to it, although I keep thinking that something more clever is in order.

Feel free to add your ideas to the comments. The winner gets one million points (bonus million points to the person who gets the pop culture reference).

By the way, I do realize that humor may be inappropriate in the present context, but I'll tell you that sometimes if I didn't find a way to laugh about some of this I'd be screaming.

Monday, May 3, 2004

Want a quick summary of the S&M operation the US is running in Iraq in the name of "liberation"?

Go no further than xymphora, who has a spot-on review of the facts and their implications.

While we're at it, Kurt Nimmo summarizes things quite aptly through a series of quotes.

What if it turns out that the US not only didn't initiate the Iraq war for WMDs, "freedom" for Iraqis, or oil but merely because Chimperor Junior Caligula has a fetish for S&M themed snuff films and wanted something a bit more exotic to add to his dvd collection?

Best Line of the Day (So Far)

is from The Man Who Lost Iraq

"Pfc England", by the way, is Lynndie England, the dingbat dominatrix of Abu Ghraib.

Ms. England is the woman we see grinning in several of the pictures that have made the rounds in the news and in blogtopia. Freaky deaky (and not the good kind of freaky deaky).

Congratulations, You Are the 5000th Visitor

At least as of today sometime, assuming the usual Monday traffic materializes.

Traffic's been good enough for this blog to consistently remain a "Crawly Amphibian" in the blog ecosystem, and even occasionally evolve into "Slithering Reptile" status.

For those of you who have visited, leave comments, and send kind emails, thank you!

Stupid President Tricks

...or, Dave the Brave. Feature in LA Weekly on David Letterman's Bush bashing.

A clip:

Just look at the startling difference between Bush reading a prepared text at the start of his April 13 live news conference and the long pauses, repetitive phrases and overall pathetic-ness of his replies when he tried to parry the press during the Q&A portion. But by the time the footage reached the nightly news, Bush seemed and sounded smooth. In his monologue Letterman even joked about the president’s poor performance: “Bush’s press conference was such a big deal that Fox pre-empted American Idol. That makes sense: You don’t want too many amateurs on TV the same night.”

Which is why Letterman’s Stupid President Tricks segment is so deliciously subversive: because it’s truthful. Truthful, at a time when the news media are engaged in unsettling arguments over how much unvarnished truth about the war in Iraq — from footage of the desecration of American victims in Fallujah to photographing the rows of coffins of U.S. soldiers on their sad voyage home — is palatable to the public. Truthful, when Bush’s image makers have been editing the official White House transcripts to make the president and his people sound more presidential. (Remember that low point in the aftermath of 9/11 when Bush mouthpiece Ari Fleischer warned that Americans “need to watch what they say”? Those Big Brother tactics were edited out of the official White House transcript.) Truthful, when the Bush administration has been purging government-issued facts and statements, like last year’s deletion from cyberspace of the gross understatement made by the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development that U.S. taxpayers would not have to pay more than $1.7 billion to reconstruct Iraq, or like the gutting of a chapter on global climate change from a 2002 government study on the state of the environment.

Check out the rest.

An aside: LA Weekly was a part of my regular reading diet back when I lived in the LA/Orange County area. I've really dug keeping up with the Weekly's on-line edition.

And Ever the Monty Python Fan, I Thought This Terry Jones Editorial Was Apt:

The war of the words

Some clips:

Then there's the problem of what the Americans are going to call the Iraqis - especially the ones that they kill. You can call people who are defending their own homes from rockets and missiles launched from helicopters and tanks "fanatics and terrorists" only for so long. Eventually even newspaper readers will smell a rat.

Similarly it's fiendishly difficult to get people to accept the label "rebels" for those Iraqis killed by American snipers when - as in Falluja - they turn out to be pregnant women, 13-year-old boys and old men standing by their front gates.

It also sounds a bit lame to call ambulance drivers "fighters" - when they've been shot through the windscreen in the act of driving the wounded to hospital - and yet what other word can you use without making them sound like illegitimate targets?

I hope you're beginning to see the problem.

...But perhaps the most exciting linguistic development is to be found away from the areas of conflict - in the calm of the Oval Office, where very few people get killed for looking out of their windows. Here words such as "strategy" and "policy" are daily applied to the kneejerk reactions of politicians and military commanders who think that brute force is the only way to resolve difficult problems in a delicate situation. As Major Kevin Collins, one of the officers in charge of the marines in Falluja, put it: "If you choose to pick a fight, we'll finish it."

In the past, one might have used a phrase such as "numbskull stupidity" rather than "strategy". But then, language has a life of its own ... which is more than one can say for a lot of innocent Iraqis.

Seeing the Forest

Dave Johnson has this to say about NPR's Barbara Haggerty planting right-wing propaganda in her reports:
Actually I think that story is part of a larger campaign designed to pull religious people into the conservative camp. There are many signs of an organized, planned marketing campaign here... Have you noticed a number of stories about how church-goers vote Republican while people who do not believe or do not regularly attend church are Democrats? I think this is part of the same campaign targeting religious voters and messaging them with reasons they shouldn't trust Democrats. Why are these stories in the news? The data used to support the "news" angle of the story could be presented differently, perhaps to say something like Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans and others are NOT voting predominantly Republican while Southern Baptists are, in large numbers. But that wouldn't have the same pro-Republican effect, would it?
Personally, I'm more than a little peeved by the stereotype of Christians as generally conservative Republicans. Having spent some time in Methodist churches in recent years (credit to my wife, Madame, for rekindling my interest), I can safely say that there are plenty of decent, caring, honorable Christians whose political leanings are decidedly non-conservative and non-Republican. Kudos to Dave Johnson and similar bloggers (such as those at The Village Gate - see my blogroll) for their efforts to shoot holes in a rather terribly inaccurate myth.

Closer View of Wall

From the artist's description:

Here's a close of of the wall...The Bush stencil is mine, the chimp was a student work.

Bush Filho da Puta

From the artist's description:


Filho da Puta

Bush, warLord...

Sunday, May 2, 2004

Sen. Robert Byrd keeps delivering these poigniant speeches

Mission Not Accomplished.

If someone had told me a few years ago that old Sen. Byrd, to me a somewhat conservative and relatively hawkish Democratic Senator, would become the Senate's most vocal and impassioned voice against a war (in this case the Iraq war), I would surely have thought that the person was losing their mind. Strange times make for stranger actions, I suppose. In any event, I find Byrd's words to be most welcome.

More on US Human Rights Abuses at Abu Ghraib


I saw Seymour Hersh interviewed by Wolf Blitzer late this morning. Usually, I just flip to another station or turn the tv off when I see old Wolfie's mug, but making an exception today was worth the while. Certainly, seeing Wolfie tortured by evidence that his precious war in Iraq has gone awry is amusing in and of itself. Needless to say, I definitely wanted to read Hersh's article, and to post the link to it here.

I'll just cut to the chase and provide the concluding paragraphs from the article. Suffice it to say, you should read the whole thing.

After the story broke on CBS last week, the Pentagon announced that Major General Geoffrey Miller, the new head of the Iraqi prison system, had arrived in Baghdad and was on the job. He had been the commander of the Guantánamo Bay detention center. General Sanchez also authorized an investigation into possible wrongdoing by military and civilian interrogators.

As the international furor grew, senior military officers, and President Bush, insisted that the actions of a few did not reflect the conduct of the military as a whole. Taguba’s report, however, amounts to an unsparing study of collective wrongdoing and the failure of Army leadership at the highest levels. The picture he draws of Abu Ghraib is one in which Army regulations and the Geneva conventions were routinely violated, and in which much of the day-to-day management of the prisoners was abdicated to Army military-intelligence units and civilian contract employees. Interrogating prisoners and getting intelligence, including by intimidation and torture, was the priority.

The mistreatment at Abu Ghraib may have done little to further American intelligence, however. Willie J. Rowell, who served for thirty-six years as a C.I.D. agent, told me that the use of force or humiliation with prisoners is invariably counterproductive. “They’ll tell you what you want to hear, truth or no truth,” Rowell said. “‘You can flog me until I tell you what I know you want me to say.’ You don’t get righteous information.”

Under the fourth Geneva convention, an occupying power can jail civilians who pose an “imperative” security threat, but it must establish a regular procedure for insuring that only civilians who remain a genuine security threat be kept imprisoned. Prisoners have the right to appeal any internment decision and have their cases reviewed. Human Rights Watch complained to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld that civilians in Iraq remained in custody month after month with no charges brought against them. Abu Ghraib had become, in effect, another Guantánamo.

As the photographs from Abu Ghraib make clear, these detentions have had enormous consequences: for the imprisoned civilian Iraqis, many of whom had nothing to do with the growing insurgency; for the integrity of the Army; and for the United States’ reputation in the world.

Captain Robert Shuck, Frederick’s military attorney, closed his defense at the Article 32 hearing last month by saying that the Army was “attempting to have these six soldiers atone for its sins.” Similarly, Gary Myers, Frederick’s civilian attorney, told me that he would argue at the court-martial that culpability in the case extended far beyond his client. “I’m going to drag every involved intelligence officer and civilian contractor I can find into court,” he said. “Do you really believe the Army relieved a general officer because of six soldiers? Not a chance.”

Update: Here's a roundup of articles on these human rights abuses via Truthout.

One of the more profound rejoinders of last year's "Mission Accomplished" PR stunt

can be found at the Agonist. A listing of the names of the soldiers who have died so far in Iraq.

I'd add to that a reminder of the Iraqi people who have also died as a result of Chimperor Junior Caligula's war, including an enormous number of civilians; and let us also not forget the many soldiers and civilians who have been wounded. These are all human beings whose lives have been altered and/or destroyed at the behest of a handful of ruling elites.


That's the number of local and state governments that have passed resolutions condemning the aptly mis-named Patriot Act:

As of Thursday, the 300 local and municipal jurisdictions – including the states of Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, and Vermont – that have passed such measures represent more than 51 million people, or one in every six U.S. residents, according to the Massachusetts-based Bill of Rights Defense Committee which has been working with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other groups to marshal public opinion against the Act.