Saturday, December 30, 2006

Well, That Didn't Take Long

Bush hung Saddam today. Err... I mean, our puppet state hung our former puppet dictator... no, wait, the Free People Of Iraq have freely hung their former leader and America had nothing to do with any of it! Yeah, that's it! Sorry, I get confused about which version of reality I'm supposed to believe in... I mean, it was supposedly an Iraqi court which carried out an independently arrived-at decision... but he was hung in the Green Zone in an American prison. Huh. Whatever. He's dead and we won the war in Iraq! Right? We can go home now? Please?!

Saddam Hussein Executed
By Sudarsan Raghavan
The Washington Post
Friday 29 December 2006

Former Iraqi leader hanged for crimes against humanity.

Baghdad - Clutching a Quran and refusing a hood, Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein went to the gallows to be executed before sunrise Saturday morning in Baghdad, according to Iraqi state television.

Hussein, 69, who demanded a cultlike devotion from his people and built monuments to proclaim his own greatness, was hung around 6 a.m. local time (10 p.m. Friday EST) in the American-controlled Green Zone in central Baghdad. Hussein was executed before a small group of observers, including some who had been tortured by his regime.

The execution took place three days after Iraq's highest court upheld Hussein's death sentence, a decision that meant the execution should take place within 30 days. On Thursday, he met in his prison cell with his two maternal half brothers and handed them personal messages, according to his lawyers.

The Sunni Arab son of a landless peasant who died before he was born, Hussein was raised by an uncle in the farmlands that surround the northern town of Tikrit. As a young man, he joined the Iraqi Baath Party, which advocated secular pan-Arab nationalism, eventually playing a key role in the 1968 coup that brought the party to power. In July 1979, Hussein become Iraq's president and quickly plunged the nation into a vicious, debilitating eight-year war against Iran. Three years after that war ended, a U.S.-led coalition attacked Iraq in 1991 over Hussein's invasion of Kuwait the year before.

Almost nine months after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Hussein was captured near a small village on the outskirts of Tikrit. The following June, Iraq's interim government took legal custody of the former president and prosecuted him for crimes against humanity.

Many human rights groups criticized the trial as unfair, delivering nothing more than victor's justice, a charge Iraqi officials denied.

Also hanged on Saturday morning were Hussein's half-brother Barzan Ibrahim and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, the former chief justice of the Revolutionary Court.

As the noose was placed around his neck, Saddam shouted: "God is great. The nation will be victorious, and Palestine is Arab."

Iraqi TV did not broadcast the moment of Saddam's execution but officials said his death was recorded on video. The television footage included a shaky image of the aftermath: a shot of what appeared to be Saddam's corpse, laid out on a hospital gurney, his head wrenched grotesquely to the right. His neck appeared to be bruised.

Hussein leaves behind a fractured Iraq. Cycles of sectarian violence have deepened the divide between Sunnis and Shiites and paralyzed the government. Sunni insurgents are killing U.S. troops almost every day, with this month's death toll already the second-highest this year. Shiite militias are storming neighborhoods and using power drills and other forms of torture before killing victims. Sunni Arab loyalists have already vowed to take revenge for Hussein's execution.
Well, it was certainly smart of them to simultaneously kill Barzan... that kills the last paternal male blood relation of Saddam. Along with the killings of Saddam's sons Uday and Qusay and his 14-year-old nephew Mustafa, the new Caliphate of Iraq will be safe from challenge by the previous ruler's bloodline! Huzzah! A return to 13th Century politics! Show trials and show executions! This is why we invaded Iraq... to give them American-style freedom!

Take a good look at that official photo of Saddam on the gallows... look at his hangmen. Does that have the look of an official ceremony carried out by a responsible Government? Because to me, it just looks like four fat thugs in ski masks and mis-matching pleather coats hanging an old man... the imagery isn't much different than what we see when the "insurgents" cut the heads off of kidnapped American truck drivers. What, the Iraqi government couldn't whip up four matching police uniforms and some wicked cool hoods?

No doubt George W. Bush will tell us in a few hours that it is a "great day" for Iraqis and will hope that the Muslim world will forget that Saddam's death sentence was signed on the very eve of the Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, the last day of the annual Hadj, and the very moment of greatest forgiveness in the Arab world.

Ooooops!

This entire trial was designed for one thing: to send the signal to the American taxpayer that George Bush Is Winning The War! The trial just -happened- to end with a death sentence on the eve of the American elections. Now Saddam's execution just -happens- to occur just before the end of the year. Coincidence? Not likely, especially with Bush needing to have a big "Win" in his column before giving his annual State of the Union speech in 3 weeks.

Hussein was a scumbag who needed to be held to account... but even scumbags deserve fair trials, honest judgments and justly-applied punishments. The former dictator got none of these.

The test of a government's commitment to human rights is measured by the way it treats its worst offenders... and this new Iraqi government has essentially proven itself no different in method or means than the previous head of government whom they just executed. State-sponsored execution is the tool of the Chinese and Iranians (and Governor George W. Bush). The vast majority of the world's nations have eliminated the "death penalty" because it's an irreversible punishment which deters no one, is commonly misapplied, and reduces the government to the moral status of murderer. But Iraq isn't Vermont and George Bush has never met a criminal (or brain-damaged retard) that he didn't want to execute, so why should we expect anything better from his hand-picked puppet government?

But don't take MY word for it... last month Human Rights Watch, issued a niney-seven-page report detailing the severe problems with the trial. Human Rights Watch, incidentally, has been baying for Saddam's head on a pike for 20+ years... but in keeping with their group's stated principles that EVERYONE deserves a fair trial, they wanted the former dictator prosecuted properly. Instead, their report, based on close monitoring of the prosecution of the former president, found that:

•"(The) Iraqi High Tribunal was undermined from the outset by Iraqi government actions that threatened the independence and perceived impartiality of the court."

• The Iraqi administrators, judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers lacked sufficient training and expertise "to fairly and effectively try crimes of this magnitude."

• The government did not protect defense lawyers--three of whom were killed during the trial--or key witnesses.

• "(There were) serious flaws in the trial, including failures to disclose key evidence to the defense, violations of the defendants' right to question prosecution witnesses, and the presiding judge's demonstrations of bias."

• "Hussein's defense lawyers had 30 days to file an appeal from the November 5 verdict. However, the trial judgment was only made available to them on November 22, leaving just two weeks to respond."<

The report did not study the appeals process, but the speed with which the tribunal's verdict and sentence were confirmed suggests that the Iraqi Appeals Chamber failed to seriously consider the legal arguments advanced by Hussein's legal team. It defies imagination that any independent Appeals Chamber could have thoroughly reviewed the 300-page judgment and the defense's written arguments in less than two weeks time.

Most importantly, the terms of Saddam's "Fair Trial" were dictated to the Iraqi Government by George W. Bush. Ill-mannered questions like "WHO encouraged Saddam to invade Iran in 1980?" (surely the greatest of Saddam's war crimes because it led to the deaths of a million and a half people) or "WHO sold Saddam the components for the chemical weapons with which he drenched Iran and the Kurds?" were strictly forbidden to be raised by prosecutors because the answers would also expose America's culpability in Saddam's war crimes.

There will, of course, be those Right Wingers who counter criticism of this unfair trial's processes by pointing out that Saddam Hussein himself did not give his victims fair trials or just sentences. That is certainly true, but such statements don't defend... instead they stand as a stinging indictment of the new Iraqi government and its judiciary. With all the support of the United States government, with massive resources and access to the best legal advice in the world, with all the lessons of the past, Iraq has a legal system that delivers no better justice than that of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. Congratulations. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

This is the ugly legacy of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq: An awful mess of a country that cannot even get the trial and punishment of a deposed dictator right, a justice system that schedules the taking of life for political and propaganda purposes, a thuggishly brutal state that executes according to whim rather than legal standard and due process. The crude lawlessness of Saddam Hussein has been officially replaced... by the calculated lawlessness of the new regime.

Finally, as the head of Iraq's deposed Baath party lies on a gurney with his neck broken (awaiting, no doubt, some type of humiliating cremation and ignominious disposal rather than a proper Muslim burial--something else for the Sunni rebels to revenge themselves upon), we should look at the political state that Saddam built with truly open eyes free of our leaders' recent propaganda.

While it's fun to sit around after the fact and despise Saddam's Baath Party and everyone who belonged to it, let's remember for a second the founding principles of the Iraqi Baath Party: it advocated secular pan-Arab nationalism, unlike the exclusionary, explicitly-religious, sectarian Shiite-only Dawa Party which America helped the Baathists depose in 1968. Yes, the same Dawa Party which was until recently officially listed as a terrorist group, the same Dawa Party which set off car bombs all across Iraq during Saddam's reign killing thousands of innocent Iraqis, the exact same terrorist Dawa Party which dumbfuck George W. Bush has now put back in charge of Iraq.

Moreover, until America's invasion, the Baath Party was open to ALL Iraqis and had kept the lid on religious fundamentalism and Iraq's tribal and religious tensions by uniting the various parties as Iraqis, not Kurds or Shiites or Sunnis. Saddam's secularized Iraq was also the BEST Middle Eastern country in which to be a woman... there was no formal dress requirement and women were allowed to work in any job and even to drive (shock! horror!). Not so in today's increasingly fundamentalist Iraq.

When Saddam was captured in December of 2003, the insurgency against American troops increased in ferocity. Now, after his state-sponsored murder, it will redouble in intensity again. Worse, freed from the remotest possibility of Saddam's return by his execution, the West's enemies in Iraq have no reason to fear the return of Saddam's Baathist secular regime. Osama bin Laden will certainly rejoice, along with Bush and Blair... and there's a thought to chill the blood.

Four years into a messy occupation which has cost 3,000 American soldiers their lives, and one year into an increasingly violent religious civil war, and with no end or exit in sight, America may soon find ourselves wishing for another secular Iraqi strongman fierce enough to make the country's warring parties subvert their fanatical religious hatreds to secular politics. Too bad we're probably going to get a pro-Iranian religious zealot like Moqtada Al Sadr instead.
###

Addendum: as I predicted, Bush has already weighed in with his Official Response, and it's almost exactly as I predicted it would be, including the already-hoary "Fair Trial which he denied others" excuse:
Today, Saddam Hussein was executed after receiving a fair trial -- the kind of justice he denied the victims of his brutal regime.

Fair trials were unimaginable under Saddam Hussein's tyrannical rule. It is a testament to the Iraqi people's resolve to move forward after decades of oppression that, despite his terrible crimes against his own people, Saddam Hussein received a fair trial. This would not have been possible without the Iraqi people's determination to create a society governed by the rule of law.

Saddam Hussein's execution comes at the end of a difficult year for the Iraqi people and for our troops. Bringing Saddam Hussein to justice will not end the violence in Iraq, but it is an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain, and defend itself, and be an ally in the War on Terror.

We are reminded today of how far the Iraqi people have come since the end of Saddam Hussein's rule - and that the progress they have made would not have been possible without the continued service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform.

Many difficult choices and further sacrifices lie ahead. Yet the safety and security of the American people require that we not relent in ensuring that Iraq's young democracy continues to progress.
###
Ehhrr... great! Saddam got a Fair Trial! We managed to America's complicity in his gassing of the Kurds and Iranians out of his Fair Trial! Saddam's Death is an important milestone towards Democracy! The Iraqis have come far! Support Our Troops! Don't Relent... Stay The Course! We're Winning The War In Iraq!

What a bunch of bullshit.

Additional Reading:
How George Bush Created a Theocracy in Iraq by Professor Juan Cole
U.S. tolerated, then Villified Saddam

Some Ye Olde Saddam Captured Propaganda Unraveled:
Republican Lawmaker Predicts Saddam Capture "Within Days"
How We Got Saddam
Democratic Lawmaker Claims Saddam Capture Story Phony
Kurds Say They Captured Saddam, Not Americans
Was Saddam actually captured on December 13?
Former Marine Admits Saddam Capture Fabricated
Pentagon Denies Marine's Version of Saddam's Capture
Indications Imply Saddam Not Captured, But Rescued From Captors By US

And finally, the REAL Story that Saddam's "Capture" was designed to obscure:
Bush Grabs New Power for FBI while Nation Distracted
President Signs Key Section of "Withdrawn" Patriot Act II

And the real stories that Saddam's execution is most likely timed to obscure today:
Pentagon to Request $100 Billion More in War Money
Bush's Guantánamo "Review Boards" Fail To Deliver Due Process

We live in a Propaganda State. Government by Propaganda. Culture™ by Propaganda. Finance by Propaganda. And now, History by Propaganda. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Happy New Year, Time To Die

Happy New Year, Saddam, it's time for us to kill you!

Saddam Hanging Ordered in Iraq
Execution must occur within 30 days
USA TODAY

BAGHDAD — Iraq's highest court said Tuesday that Saddam Hussein must be hanged within 30 days. The decision generated uncertainty about the timing of an execution and concern over whether his death could spark more violence. The court rejected an appeal by the former Iraqi dictator, who was convicted and sentenced to death Nov. 5 for ordering the killings of 148 Shiite Muslims in the town of Dujail in 1982. "From tomorrow, any day could be the day" for the execution, said Aref al-Shahin, the court's chief judge.

The Iraqi government has not announced any details of plans to send Saddam to the gallows. There were no announcements Tuesday of plans for curfews in Baghdad. Curfews would probably be imposed for an event as politically sensitive as Saddam's execution.

The White House called the decision a milestone in Iraq's efforts "to replace the rule of a tyrant with the rule of law."

"Saddam Hussein has received due process and legal rights that he denied the Iraqi people for so long. So this is an important day for the Iraqi people," said deputy White House press secretary Scott Stanzel.

Some, however, such as Human Rights Watch, condemned the sentence as unfair because of alleged interference by the Shiite-dominated government in Saddam's trial.

Basam Ridha, an adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said the presidency council cannot delay or alter Saddam's sentence under Iraqi law. Ridha said Iraqi officials will meet in the next few days to discuss when to send Saddam to hang. "We're anxious to do it as soon as we can," he said. "We want to put an end to it."

A prompt execution would short-circuit an ongoing trial in which Saddam and former top aides are accused of killing tens of thousands in a genocidal campaign against the Kurds in the late 1980s. That trial is in recess until Jan. 8. Some Iraqi politicians said Saddam's execution would aggravate efforts at a political reconciliation between Iraq's Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish factions — and could intensify the Sunni-led insurgency.
It's like some sort of pulse-pounding mystery! When will our puppet government execute our former puppet dictator? Oh, it's so exciting!

Let's reflect on the fact, for a moment, that few people deserve death as much as Saddam Hussein does. Likewise, those who aided and abbetted his murders should also pay for those crimes, no? Too bad that includes several members and ex-members of President Bush's administration (i.e. Donald Rumsfeld and all the other 80's-leftovers who helped arm Saddam to help him kill the Iranians).

For all the discussion of Saddam's murders, let's also reflect on the fact that killing him only legitimizes the use of state-sanctified murder as a principle of a modern government -- this, in a country which NEEDS to shed itself of government-by-murder.

Likewise, since killing a deposed and pathetic Saddam now can ONLY serve to strenghten the insurgency, the best thing to do would be to sentence Saddam rot in jail forever... but that doesn't fit President Bush's need for a "WIN" on the books, does it?
###

Added: 3:48pm

Sigh, THIS didn't take long, did it?
Baath Party Threatens to Retaliate
By Shafika Mattar
The Associated Press
Wednesday 27 December 2006

Amman, Jordan - Saddam Hussein's Baath Party threatened Wednesday to retaliate if the ousted Iraqi leader is executed, warning in an Internet posting it would target U.S. interests anywhere.

The statement appeared on a Web site known to represent the party, which was disbanded after U.S.-led forces overthrew Saddam in 2003. The site is believed to be run from Yemen, where several exiled Baathists are based.

On Tuesday, Iraq's highest court rejected Saddam's appeal against a conviction and death sentence for the killing of 148 people who were detained after an attempt to assassinate in Dujail, northern Iraq, in 1982. The court said the former president should be hanged within 30 days.

"Our party warns again of the consequences of executing Mr. President and his comrades," the statement said. "The Baath and the resistance are determined to retaliate, with all means and everywhere, to harm America and its interests if it commits this crime," the statement added, referring to Baath fighters as "the resistance."

"The American administration will be held responsible for any harm inflicted on the president because the United States is the decision-maker (in Iraq) and not the puppet Iraqi government."

The statement said that if the execution takes place, it would be impossible for the Baath to take part in any prospective negotiations with U.S. and Iraqi officials to reduce the violence in Iraq.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas, You're Drafted

SURPRISE!

Perfectly timed to coincide with the news cycle downturn at Christmas comes this stealth announcment from the Bush Administration. I've been saying this for years: we don't have enough troops to keep 130-150,000 combat troops in Iraq full-time for the 10-20 years that it's going to take to pacify the country. It appears that someone in the Bush Administration understands this finally and is seeking an "alternative" to the current system... OR you can choose to believe their protestations that they don't want a draft and would never accept a draft and blah blah blah. Considering their record on other important topics of the day (WMDs, War is Final Option, Saddam = Osama, etc.), I'm going with a new draft.

Military Draft System To Be Tested
Friday 22 December 2006

Washington - The Selective Service System is making plans to test its draft machinery in case Congress and President Bush need it, even though the White House says it doesn't want to bring back the draft.

The agency is planning a comprehensive test - not run since 1998 - of its military draft systems, a Selective Service official said. The test itself would not likely occur until 2009.

At the direction of the White House, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Knoller, Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson is making it clear he is not advocating the reinstatement of a military draft. He told a news conference that society would benefit from a return to the draft, but a few hours later, after the White House disavowed the remark, Nicholson issued a statement in line with administration policy. He said he strongly supports the all-volunteer military and does not support returning to a draft.

President Bush has repeatedly stated that the all-volunteer army would remain all-volunteer. The administration has for years forcefully opposed bringing back the draft, and the White House said Thursday that policy has not changed and no proposal to reinstate the draft is being considered.

The "readiness exercise" would test the system that randomly chooses draftees by birth date and its network of appeal boards that decide how to deal with conscientious objectors and others who want to delay reporting for duty, Campbell said. The Selective Service will start planning for the 2009 tests next June or July, although budget cuts could force the agency to cancel them, Campbell said.

President Bush said this week he is considering sending more troops to Iraq and has asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates to look into adding more troops to the nearly 1.4 million uniformed personnel on active duty.

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, increasing the Army by 40,000 troops would cost as much as $2.6 billion the first year and $4 billion after that. Military officials have said the Army and Marine Corps want to add as many as 35,000 more troops.

Recruiting new forces and retaining current troops is more complicated because of the unpopular war in Iraq. In recent years, the Army has accepted recruits with lower aptitude test scores.

In remarks to reporters, Nicholson recalled his own experience as a company commander in an infantry unit that brought together soldiers of different backgrounds and education levels "in the common purpose of serving."
###
Ohhh, it's Okay... it's ONLY a "Readiness Test." Go back to sleep, America...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Media Asks The Wrong Question... Again

Today over at Slate.com, Jacob Weisberg has an interesting, yet fatally flawed piece up today that gets everything wrong and reveals the underlying bigotry underlying most Mainstream Media discussions of religion (hint: it'ts not what you think):

Romney's Religion
A Mormon president? No way.
By Jacob Weisberg

Someone who refuses to consider voting for a woman as president is rightly deemed a sexist. Someone who'd never vote for a black person is a racist. But are you a religious bigot if you wouldn't cast a ballot for a believing Mormon? The issue arises with Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's as-yet-undeclared bid for the 2008 Republican nomination.
The piece goes on to tell us the history of famous Mormons in federally elected positions, and to discuss the likelihood of a Mormon ever being elected president, and that's all well, and good, but it's the underlying unasked question I take issue with. See if you can spot what's wrong with THIS paragraph:
But if he gets anywhere in the primaries, Romney's religion will become an issue with moderate and secular voters—and rightly so. Objecting to someone because of his religious beliefs is not the same thing as prejudice based on religious heritage, race, or gender. Not applying a religious test for public office, means that people of all faiths are allowed to run—not that views about God, creation, and the moral order are inadmissible for political debate. In George W. Bush's case, the public paid far too little attention to the role of religion in his thinking. Many voters failed to appreciate that while Bush's religious beliefs may be moderate Methodist ones, he was someone who relied on his faith immoderately, as an alternative to rational understanding of complex issues.
While that's a great dig about Bush's immoderate reliance upon the voices in his head as a replacement for actual advisers, Weisberg not only dances around the real point raised by his article, but by positing the question as he does, he reinforces its implicit prejudice. Here's the REAL question we should be asking ourselves as a nation:

Why can ONLY politicians who profess belief in ancient magikal tales of Gods & Devils be elected president?

Weisberg says that objecting to someone based on his religious beliefs isn't the same thing as a prejudice based on religious heritage, race or gender, then continues:
Nor is it chauvinistic to say that certain religious views should be deal breakers in and of themselves. There are millions of religious Americans who would never vote for an atheist for president, because they believe that faith is necessary to lead the country.
And Zing, Weissberg is done, flowing into whether or not he would vote for a Hassidic Jew:
Others, myself included, would not, under most imaginable circumstances, vote for a fanatic or fundamentalist—a Hassidic Jew who regards Rabbi Menachem Schneerson as the Messiah, a Christian literalist who thinks that the Earth is less than 7,000 years old, or a Scientologist who thinks Earth is haunted by the souls of space aliens sent by the evil lord Xenu. Such views are disqualifying because they're dogmatic, irrational, and absurd. By holding them, someone indicates a basic failure to think for himself or see the world as it is.
So... Atheism which rejects ALL dogmatic, irrational and absurd unprovable religious beliefs in invisible superpowered Gods is equal to Scientology and people who think Satan put dinosaur bones into the Earth to trick us?

Right. WE'RE the ones who are unreasonable. I mean, God forbid anyone elect an atheist!

Weisberg continues:
By the same token, I wouldn't vote for someone who truly believed in the founding whoppers of Mormonism. The LDS church holds that Joseph Smith, directed by the angel Moroni, unearthed a book of golden plates buried in a hillside in Western New York in 1827. The plates were inscribed in "reformed" Egyptian hieroglyphics—a nonexistent version of the ancient language that had yet to be decoded. Smith was able to dictate his "translation" of the Book of Mormon first by looking through diamond-encrusted decoder glasses and then by burying his face in a hat with a brown rock at the bottom of it. He was an obvious con man. Romney has every right to believe in con men, but I want to know if he does, and if so, I don't want him running the country.
Nicely done. You've managed to tie Romney's belief in his hokey fairytales to his ability to govern rationally... except I don't find the idea of magic diamond-encrusted decoder glasses to be any more or less ridiculous than I do the idea that God formed the world in seven days a mere 5000 years ago and populated it with the offspring of Adam and Eve. In other words, the stupid shit that Mitt Romney believes is no more ridiculous than the stupid shit that George W. Bush believes or John Kerry and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama all profess to believe. Oh, but Weisberg is ready for MY sort:
One may object that all religious beliefs are irrational—what's the difference between Smith's "seer stone" and the virgin birth or the parting of the Red Sea? But Mormonism is different because it is based on such a transparent and recent fraud. It's Scientology plus 125 years. Perhaps Christianity and Judaism are merely more venerable and poetic versions of the same. But a few eons makes a big difference. The world's greater religions have had time to splinter, moderate, and turn their myths into metaphor. The Church of Latter-day Saints is expanding rapidly and liberalizing in various ways, but it remains fundamentally an orthodox creed with no visible reform wing.


One may object that all religious beliefs are irrational. Chrisianity and Judaism are better than Scientology or Mormonism because they're more ancient and their baloney has been translated over the years into beautiful religious metaphor Nice wiggle language, but guess what? Those religions, beautifully splintered, moderated and metaphorical though they may be, are just as fucking ridiculous as the Mormon faith. The con men who concocted Judaism and Christianity and Islam were no different than Joseph Smith and L. Ron Hubbard. We just have better record-keeping for the last two centuries than we do for 2000 years ago, that's all.

Belief in supernatural Gods is a salve for the simpleminded. The idea that invisible supermen live in outer space spying our every deed and eavesdropping our every thought in order that they may correctly decide at the end of our life if we get angel wings or burn in a lake of fire is purely stupid. Gods of any kind are a fairy tales invented to keep people in line.

More importantly "God" doesn't work in a globalized world where religious fanatics of all stripes are only a $300 ticket away from smacking a 767 into the side of the World Trade Center. If you believe that God exists and that he chooses sides, then you should convert to Islam right now because God obviously allowed 9/11 to happen because He hates America and loves Osama Bin Laden. See? Shocking to say, and yet, by the logic of belief, it's utterly true. In fact, if you'll remember, several of America's holiest men like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell insinuated that we got hit on 9/11 because God Hates Fags (or whatever kinder words they used at the time).

What's good for the goose is good for the gander: if you're silly enough believe in ANY God, you're not allowed to deny the existence of anyone else's God or to proscribe anyone else's religion, including fundamentalist Islam and fake religions made up by convicts so they can legally smoke dope. Otherwise you're just another "my religion is the only TRUE religion" hypocrite. It's all stupid and just because the magical fairytales of Virgin Birth and burning bushes and plagues of frogs in the Bible are older than the magical fairytales of Joseph Smith's magic sunglasses doesn't make them any more useful or credible in today's world.

Which brings us back to Mitt Romney. No, idiot, you don't get to be President, because as Weisberg correctly points out,
Romney has never publicly indicated any distance from church doctrine. He is an "elder" who performed missionary service in France as a young man and did not protest the church's overt racism and priestly discrimination before it was abolished in 1978.
The Mormon Church is a regressive, conservative, bigoted, power-hungry institution whose followers are cult-like in their exclusion of The Other, up to and including, up until 1978, naming black people as the evil against which mankind must struggle. I'm already saddened that their church has bought itself 2 U.S. Senators. Hell, screw Clearwater, Florida... the Church of Latter Day Saints shows the way forward for Scientology and other modern financially well-endowed "alternative religions." Wyoming only has 500,000 residents... surely Scientology can convince a million of its members to move there and electorally seize control of its governmental institutions? With two Senators in their pocket, Scientology would suddenly be a force to be reckoned with, that's for sure. I'm fascinated mostly by the fact that they seem not to have realized they already have the power to do it.

Weisberg's piece correctly posits that
Various evangelical sects continue to view Mormonism as heretical, non-Christian, or even satanic. But because of their shared faith in social conservatism, evangelical leaders seem open to supporting Romney.
That's true... but Evangelical leaders are ONLY supporting Romney because of their common cause of turning back America's Moral Clock to the 1800's... once the god-fearing dummies who voted for GW twice find out about some of the juicier aspects of the Mormon religion, however, I predict that they'll quickly rush to Sam Brownback's side (and yes, they'll tell themselves, although Brownback's a born-again Evangelical who converted and became a filthy Catholic, at least THAT evil papist-led false church has a few thousand years of history and beautiful religious metaphor behind it).

Don't take MY word for it..., let's allow noted Christian writer Jack T. Chick to show us what's going to happen:













Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Introducing The "Smoky Bomb"


Peter D. Zimmerman, a nuclear physicist, is a professor of science and security in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London. He was chief scientist of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 2001 to 2003.

The exotic murder-by-polonium of the former K.G.B. spy Alexander Litvinenko has embroiled Russia, Britain and Germany in a diplomatic scuffle and a hunt for more traces of the lethal substance. But it also throws into question most of the previous analyses of “dirty bombs,” terrorist attacks using radioactive isotopes wrapped in explosives (or using other dispersion techniques) to spread radioactive material in crowded areas.

Essentially all analysts, including myself, played down the possibility of using alpha radiation — fast-moving helium nuclei ejected during the radioactive decay of certain isotopes, such as of polonium 210, the substance that killed Mr. Litvinenko — as a source of dirty bombs. We concentrated instead on isotopes that emit penetrating gamma rays, which are basically super-powered packets of light, hard to shield and effective at a yard or more.

The alpha radiation from polonium can be easily shielded — by a layer of aluminum foil, a sheet or two of paper, or the dead outer layer of skin. And so, the reasoning went, alpha radiation could not hurt you as long as the source stayed outside your body. Exactly. Mr. Litvinenko was apparently killed by polonium that he ate or drank or inhaled. That source was so physically small that it was hard to see, perhaps the size of a couple of grains of salt and weighing just a few millionths of a gram.

Dirty bombs based on gamma emitters, analysts have learned, can’t kill very many people. Mr. Litvinenko’s death tells us that “smoky bombs” based on alpha emitters very well could.

Polonium 210 is surprisingly common. It is used by industry in devices that eliminate static electricity, in low-powered brushes used to ionize the air next to photographic film so dust can be swept off easily, and in quite large machines placed end-to-end across a web of fabric moving over rollers in a textile mill. It is even used to control dust in clean rooms where computer chips and hard drives are made.

It may be difficult to get people to eat polonium; it isn’t hard to force them to breathe it. The problem for a radiological terrorist is to get his “hot” material inside people’s bodies where it will do the most harm. If the terrorist can solve that problem, then alpha radiation is the most devastating choice he can make. Precisely because alphas emit their nuclei so quickly, they deposit all of their energy in a relatively small number of cells, killing them or causing them to mutate, increasing the long-term risk of cancer.

The terrorist’s solution lies in getting very finely divided polonium into the air where people can breathe it. I see several fairly simple ways to accomplish this: burn the material, blow it up, dissolve it in a lot of water or pulverize it to a size so small that the particles can float in the air and lodge in the lungs.

It would be unwise of me to dwell on the details of just how one goes about getting a hot enough fire or breaking polonium into extremely fine “dust.” In the end, however, the radioactive material will appear like the dust from an explosion, or the smoke from a fire. My point is to demonstrate the urgent need for new thinking in the regulatory arena, not to give away important information.

Air containing such radioactive debris would appear smoky or dusty, and be dangerous to breathe. A few breaths might easily be enough to sicken a victim, and in some cases to kill. A smoky bomb exploded in a packed arena or on a crowded street could kill dozens or hundreds. It would set off a radiological emergency of a kind not seen before in the United States, and the number of people requiring life support or palliative care until death would overwhelm the number of beds now available for treating victims of radiation. First responders dashing unprotected into the cloud from a smoky bomb might be among the worst wounded. Fire and police departments around the country will need alpha radiation detectors, since the counters they carry now cannot see alphas.

Some of the steps involved with making a good smoky bomb from polonium would be dangerous for the terrorists involved, and might cost them their lives. That, unfortunately, no longer seems like a very high barrier.

What can we do to stop them? We must make it far less easy for them to acquiring polonium in deadly amounts. Polonium sources with about 10 percent of a lethal dose are readily available — even in a product sold on Amazon.com. Only modest restraints inhibit purchase of significantly larger amounts of polonium: as of next year, anyone purchasing more than 16 curies of polonium 210 — enough to make up 5,000 lethal doses — must register it with a tracking system run by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. But this is vastly too high — almost no purchases on that scale are made by any industry.

The commission (and the International Atomic Energy Agency as well) is said to be considering tighter regulations to make a repeat of the Litvinenko affair less probable. There is talk that it might tighten the polonium reporting requirement by a factor of 10, to 1.6 curies. That’s better, but still not strict enough.

The biggest problem is that the regulatory commission’s regulations do not restrict the quantity of polonium used in industry. This may make it quite easy for terrorists to purchase large amounts of one of the earth’s deadliest substances. A near-term goal should to require specific licensing of any person or company seeking to purchase alpha sources stronger than one millicurie, about a third of a lethal dose. A longer-term goal ought to be eliminating nearly all use of polonium in industry through other technologies.

That is a technical challenge and would cost some money, but it would certainly be less expensive than coping with the devastation of a smoky bomb.

Monday, December 18, 2006

One Less Dead Fish In The Bucket

Evan Bayh Drops Out of Presidential Race
Indiana Senator Evan Bayh announced a surprise decision today that he would not to run for president. Bayh began unofficially running the moment that John Kerry lost in 2004, immediately calling Kerry's largest contributors and announcing that he was a moderate Democrat, the only type who could win in 2008. This announcement shows how much established Democrats are being affected by the excitement the surrounding possible presidential candidacy of Illinois Senator Barak Obama. Whether or not Obama can prove to America that he's got the experience to run the world (which is, essentially, the current job description of the President of the United States), remains to be seen.

One thing that doesn't remain to be seen, though, is whether Obama can draw a crowd. He can. Evidently Bayh was scared out of the race by the contrast between Obama's rock-star-like reception last week in New Hampshire (which holds the nation's first presidential primary in January 2008), and the modest turnout of wait for it... DOZENS... for Bayh's own appearance there on the same day. Eeeep.

2008 used to be Hilary Clinton's turn. It's been well known for years that she's going to run. She's quietly raised millions of dollars in the last six years and has a huge war-chest because she hasn't faced a serious challenger yet for her Senate seat... but has been able to use that seat to gather cash, prepping for a Presidential run.

She used to have the all-important Black Vote clinched because of Bill Clinton's popularity in the African-American community and because she's spent the last six years courting it directly. She had brought all the African-American minister organizations into her camp. Right there, that's 40% of the Democratic vote. That leaves only the 60% White + Hispanic vote for Hillary's 4 to 5 competitors to squabble over, and she would likely get a LOT of those votes, too. Yes, the 2008 Democratic nominee -USED- to be a lock for Hillary.

Now, however, she may be pushed out. If Barack Obama enters the race, her best-laid mousey plans gang aft aglay. Suddenly the Black Vote is up for grabs and Hillary's strategy of triangulation on the Iraq War begins to drastically hurt her. She's been one of the most vocal supporters of this idiotic war (in preparation for nullifying a "weak on defense" charge in 2008 because of her Democratic-ness and femalen-ess) and that continuing support will hurt her badly if our troops aren't out of Iraq by 2008. The exit polls in this last election showed that the #1 concern on people's minds was this stupid war. If Hillary and the Senate allow Bush to leave our troops in harm's way refereeing Iraq's civil war, that opens the door wide for Obama to become the "I never voted for this war" candidate and push for withdrawal.

The Wild Card in her favor is the dangerous streak of Royalism that's emerged in American culture where we pick a family and anoint them as our elected sovereigns. The Bushes. The Kennedys. People seem to actually like the idea of a family which hands power down from generation to generation. I'm sure that in 20 years we'll see Jeb Bush's stalker-creep son George Prescott Bush running for Florida Senator and winning. Maybe one of Neil's kids. Or Doro Bush's unholy offspring. We loves us a royal family over here. That royalist streak helps Hillary Clinton because her husband is known countrywide in a way that it doesn't help Evan Bayh because his daddy never won. Christ, Paris Hilton has more of a shot than Evan Bayh... everyone's stayed in one of her Grandpa's hotels.

US Special Forces Spy Teams Operating In Europe

US Seeks to Rein in Its Military Spy Teams
By Greg Miller
The Los Angeles Times
Monday 18 December 2006

Washington - U.S. Special Forces teams sent overseas on secret spying missions have clashed with the CIA and carried out operations in countries that are staunch U.S. allies, prompting a push for tighter rules for military units engaged in espionage, according to senior U.S. intelligence and military officials.

The spy missions are part of a highly classified program that officials say has better positioned the United States to track terrorist networks and capture or kill enemy operatives in regions such as the Horn of Africa, where weak governments are unable to respond to emerging threats.

But the initiative has also led to several embarrassing incidents for the United States, including a shootout in Paraguay and the exposure of a sensitive intelligence operation in East Africa, according to current and former officials familiar with the matter. To date, the effort has not led to the capture of a significant terrorist suspect.

Some intelligence officials have complained that Special Forces teams have sometimes launched missions without informing the CIA, duplicating or even jeopardizing existing operations. And they questioned deploying military teams in friendly nations - including in Europe - at a time when combat units are in short supply in war zones.
More in link, but how much more do you need to know that our President is a fucking madman who sees enemies every direction he looks, whether they exist or not?

Support Our Fucking Troops!

y'know, I'm getting REALLY tired of being yelled at by Conservatives and Liberals alike that I -must- at all costs, Support Our Troops. This is a mindless slogan designed to Propagandize our citizenry into supporting The Military, supporting the underlying Military-Industrial Complex and supporting societal Militarism.

Guess what? I don't believe that the institution of Militarism as it exists in this country today is worthy of respect OR support. The Pentagon is a giant money-sponge sucking up every available dollar to increase its own growth. Our short-sighted commitment to Military Keynesianism has set America on a path to destruction and I can't celebrate that.

That said, the "troops" or the individual soldiers in uniform who carry out the orders of the Military-Industrial Complex (aka, the cogs in the War Machine) are generally free of blame for this war. I don't blame them for either being born poor and having limited options in life, nor do I dislike those who join the service out of a sense of altruism and wanting to help other people, and I genuinely admire the guts that all of these groups show in the face of hostile forces who want to kill them.

I don't, however, subscribe to the notion that "the military keeps us free" or we only have our freedoms because soldiers are in Iraq defending them for us. Saddam never once threatened our freedom, and America's militaristic response to the 9/11 attacks has harmed our individual liberties far more than Osama Bin Laden ever dreamed of. If and when the orders come down to impose Martial Law, I'm sure that all these troops that I'm supposed to support will willingly shoot me dead in the street after curfew. Post-Katrina New Orleans proved that.

Either way, I do, for the most part, support the men and women in uniform. The good ones, anyway. Then, occasionally, I come across an Abu Ghraib/Haditha/Rape-And-Murder-Of-A-14-Year-Old-Iraqi-Girl type story which drives home just how FUCKED it is to blindly support anything, much less "our troops" who are, in the final equation, just people subject to the same pressures and failings that the rest of us are. Here's just one such story about troops whom I have no fucking intention of ever supporting.

FBI: Military Recruiters Ran Cocaine

A Midtown strip mall that should have housed the best of the best served as Corruption Central in Tucson. Two military recruiting stations sit side-by-side there, one run by the Army, the other by the Marines. Between them, a total of seven recruiters were on the take, secretly accepting bribes to transport cocaine, even as most spent their days visiting local high schools. They had help from several more recruiters at an Army National Guard office, where one recruiter was said to be selling cocaine from the trunk of his recruiting vehicle.
The big difference is that when civilians commit crimes, they don't expect blind patriotism to wallpaper over it.

Let's Just Stay In Iraq Forever, Then...

In the NYT's op-ed page, Ben Connable, a major in the Marine Corps who is no stranger to writing for the papers, says any talk of withdrawal from Iraq should take into account how that would affect the people on the ground. U.S. troops have withdrawn from Anbar Province twice, and each time, insurgents were quick to take over and proceeded to kill and torture many of those who were seen as friendly to U.S. interests.

Well, what are we to do, then? Connable (and whoever at the White House agreed to let him write opinion pieces for the Times) doesn't have an answer, but he DOES have a warning:

The confusion caused by withdrawal would be compounded as religious, militia and political loyalties divided inadequately prepared military and police units. Full-scale ethnic killing would become a very real possibility.

For some, the collapse of Iraqi society into Hobbesian mayhem is inevitable no matter how many American troops remain on the ground. A few argue that disintegration of the Iraqi state actually would bring about the national catharsis that seems so elusive today — that absolute civil war would be a greater good.

This cold calculus ignores the very real impact of an American withdrawal on the people we now protect. Any debate that does not consider the bloody reality we would leave in our wake does a disservice to the people of Iraq and the troops who have fought so hard to defend them.
Okay, so I guess you can put me into the "some" and "few" categories: I feel that Hobbesian mayhem is inevitable, a vicious round of ethnic cleansing unstoppable and the division of the country into three hostile territories inescapable and probably for the better.

The good major seems to think our first allegiance, however, is to the "people on the ground" in Iraq and to the "disservice... to the troops who have fought so hard to defend them." Here are my rebuttals to the good major: First, Abu Ghraib, Second, Haditha, Third, 200,000 dead Iraqi Civilians since we invaded and Fourth, "disservice" to the troops? IT'S YOUR FUCKING JOB TO DO WHATEVER YOU'RE ORDERED TO DO. If we order you to defend those Iraqis, you do it. If we order you to pull out, you do it. I'll tell you something that every single Social Worker, Teacher, Ambulance Driver, Cop, Fireman, and Doctor has hammered home to them in their early training on the job: Don't Get Attached. Fuck you and your "disservice" to the troops.

Let me get this straight, Major:
(1) The Bush Administration lied to the American people to falsify a case for war,
(2) The Bush Administration fatally screwed up the post-election planning,
(3) The Bush Administration deliberately ignored the State Department who tried to war everyone that Civil War was sure to follow after Saddam was deposed,
(4) The Bush Administration fucked up every opportunity to fix Iraq and instead concentrated assisting their rich friends in the looting of the $18 Billion "rebuilding" funds,
(5) Now, one invasion and failed rebuilding later, Bush says we can't leave or a civil war will break out?

Tough.

At this point, its exceptionally clear that Bush could give a rat's ass about the poor people of Iraq... he's reputedly killed between 50,000 and 200,000 of them by this point.

All this talk of staying "until the job is done" is to ignore the fact that the job will NEVER be "done." These people HATE each other. It's just like Yugoslavia... Tito kept that country together with an iron fist and when he died, poof... here comes the ethnic cleansing and wholesale slaughter. The same thing was clearly what was going to happen when Saddam was deposed, those of us on the Commie Traitor Left said so at the time, but stupid-ass Bush didn't even know there were three different kinds of Iraqis until 2 weeks before the invasion began.

The reason the Republicans don't want America out of Iraq now is because they don't want the inevitable civil war & genocide to happen on their watch. Once Bush is out of office, they will blame this entire war on the Democrats, they will blame the failure of Iraq on the Iraqis and they will make a deal with the genocidal Shiite victors for the oil.

It's clear now that this war was always about two things: (1) getting Bush relected as a heroic War President, and (2) The Oil. Nothing else ever mattered to these people, nothing else ever will.

Meanwhile, estimates have this war costing the taxpayers of America $2 Trillion dollars. That number goes up for every single day we're in Iraq. Bush has racked up an additional $4 Trillion in national debt since he took office. Soon there will be no money left for anything in our budget except for Social Security and paying interest on our debt.

This is the penalty we pay for our current system of Military Keynesyiaism. Until we are willing to stop the war spending, we will increasingly go broke paying for these wars until our foreign debtors (China: $825 Billion in US savings bonds and Japan $850 Billion in US savings bonds) close the books on our country and we find ourselves in the position of a third-world banana republic: broke & with a despotic ruler.

At some point America needs to look deep into its gut and ask itself: do the lives of foreigners (80% of whom want us to leave the country immediately) count more than the entire future of this country? Are the lives of these foreigners who want us gone worth more than our Constitution? More than our own children & grandchildren? More than our jobs and way of life? Because THOSE are the opportunity costs to America if we stay in Iraq and if we continue on our permanent war economy path.

This war is the straw which will break the camel's back: America is already headed towards becoming an impoverished debtor nation with no industry, no economy and a warped authoritarian government. Staying in Iraq means hastening that end.

The good major (and his Republican backers) want to stay in Iraq to protect the Iraqis from one another at the cost of bankrupting our nation. I think we should leave and let them fight it out amongst themselves and attempt to preserve our Republic from the debt and dictatorship which are both accumulating under this war. It's an easy choice for me... but then, my job doesn't require there to be an American Empire.

Colin Powell = Surrendermonkey

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell broke his long-held silence on the issue of Bush's handling of the military when he declared yesterday that the U.S. Army "is about broken" and he doubts an increase in the number of troops in Iraq would help resolve the current situation. Instead, he said the United States should work to transfer security responsibilities to Iraqi forces and American troops should begin withdrawing next year.

One is tempted to call him a coward for advocating a withdrawal from Iraq, but I'd have to say that he's a coward for not having the guts to go directly to the media about the fact that Bush's entire case against Iraq was bullshit from word one. Colin Powell was too cowardly to go behind George Bush's back before the war and now that Bush has fucked it up, I'm supposed to think Powell's some sort of hero for speaking out? F--- that and F--- him for being a coward.

Europeans Helped CIA Kidnap Squad

So much for the "But we had No Idea this was happening to our citizens" defense.

Also, note that these are only the cases which this report could PROVE. There are quite a few more, I would guess, that they know about but can't prove, or sadly, don't even know about.

Once more, WHEN did America become the world's jailer?
---
Testimony Helps Detail CIA's Post-9/11 Reach
By Craig Whitlock
The Washington Post
Saturday 16 December 2006

Europeans told of plans for abductions.

Milan - A few days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the CIA station chief in Rome paid a visit to the head of Italy's military intelligence agency, Adm. Gianfranco Battelli, to float a proposal: Would the Italian secret services help the CIA kidnap terrorism suspects and fly them out of the country?

The CIA man did not identify which targets he had in mind but was "expressly referring to the possibility of picking up a suspected terrorist in Italy, bringing him to an airport and sending him from there to a foreign country," Battelli, now retired, recalled in a deposition.

This initial secret contact and others that followed, disclosed in newly released documents, show the speed and breadth with which the CIA applied in post-9/11 Europe a tactic it had long reserved for the Third World - "extraordinary rendition," the extrajudicial abduction of Islamic radicals overseas for interrogation in friendly countries.

A year after the first contact, the CIA officer held another meeting with his Italian counterparts, this time sharing a list of more than 10 "dangerous people" the agency was tracking in Italy, Belgium, Austria and the Netherlands, according to a deposition from Gen. Gustavo Pignero, another high-ranking Italian military intelligence official. "It was clear that this was an aggressive search project, that their willingness to employ illicit means was clear," Pignero said, adding that the list was later destroyed and he could not recall the names.

U.S. spies drew up suspect lists with the help of European intelligence agencies and chased some of the men around the globe before putting a brake on the operations in early 2004, about a year after the invasion of Iraq, according to documents unearthed in criminal investigations, lawsuits and parliamentary inquiries.

All told, the U.S. agency took part in the seizure of at least 10 European citizens or legal immigrants, some of them from countries not cited in that list of "dangerous people" received by the Italian spies. Four renditions occurred on European soil: in Sweden, Macedonia and Italy. Six operations targeted people who were traveling abroad or who had been captured in Pakistan; European intelligence agencies provided direct assistance to the CIA in at least five of those cases, records show.

Each prisoner was then secretly handed over to intelligence services in the Middle East or Africa with histories of human rights abuses. Some remain imprisoned in those countries; others have been taken to the U.S. naval prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. One man was later released after being taken from the Balkans to Afghanistan, the victim of an apparent case of mistaken identity.

In the early stages, the CIA had prepared even more ambitious plans, according to the depositions from the Italian intelligence officials, who testified last summer during a criminal investigation into a CIA- sponsored kidnapping of a radical Islamic cleric in Milan.
###
more in linked story...

"Worst Of The Worst" Set Free

Majority of Gitmo Detainees Freed in Other Countries
By Andrew O. Selsky
The Associated Press
Friday 15 December 2006

The Pentagon called them "among the most dangerous, best-trained, vicious killers on the face of the earth," sweeping them up after Sept. 11 and hauling them in chains to a U.S. military prison in southeastern Cuba.

Since then, hundreds of the men have been transferred from Guantanamo Bay to other countries, many of them for "continued detention."

And then set free.

Decisions by more than a dozen countries in the Middle East, Europe and South Asia to release the former Guantanamo detainees raise questions about whether they were really as dangerous as the United States claimed, or whether some of America's staunchest allies have set terrorists and militants free.

The United States does not systematically track what happens to detainees once they leave Guantanamo, the U.S. State Department says. Defense lawyers and human rights groups say they know of no centralized database, although one group is attempting to compile one.

When the Pentagon announces a detainee has been moved from Guantanamo, it gives his nationality but not his name, making it difficult to track the roughly 360 men released since the detention center opened in January 2002. The Pentagon says detainees have been sent to 26 countries.

But through interviews with justice and police officials, detainees and their families, and using reports from human rights groups and local media, The Associated Press was able to track 245 of those formerly held at Guantanamo. The investigation, which spanned 17 countries, found:

Once the detainees arrived in other countries, 205 of the 245 were either freed without being charged or were cleared of charges related to their detention at Guantanamo. Forty either stand charged with crimes or continue to be detained.

Only a tiny fraction of transferred detainees have been put on trial. The AP identified 14 trials, in which eight men were acquitted and six are awaiting verdicts. Two of the cases involving acquittals - one in Kuwait, one in Spain - initially resulted in convictions that were overturned on appeal.

The Afghan government has freed every one of the more than 83 Afghans sent home. Lawmaker Sibghatullah Mujaddedi, the head of Afghanistan's reconciliation commission, said many were innocent and wound up at Guantanamo because of tribal or personal rivalries.

At least 67 of 70 repatriated Pakistanis are free after spending a year in Adiala Jail. A senior Pakistani Interior Ministry official said investigators determined that most had been "sold" for bounties to U.S. forces by Afghan warlords who invented links between the men and al-Qaida. "We consider them innocent," said the official, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.

All 29 detainees who were repatriated to Britain, Spain, Germany, Russia, Australia, Turkey, Denmark, Bahrain and the Maldives were freed, some within hours after being sent home for "continued detention."

Some former detainees say they never intended to harm the United States and are bitter.

"I can't wash the three long years of pain, trouble and humiliation from my memory," said Badarzaman Badar, an Afghan who was freed in Pakistan. "It is like a cancer in my mind that makes me disturbed every time I think of those terrible days."

Overall, about 165 Guantanamo detainees have been transferred from Guantanamo for "continued detention," while about 200 were designated for immediate release. Some 420 detainees remain at the U.S. base in Cuba.

Clive Stafford Smith, a British-American attorney representing several detainees, said the AP's findings indicate that innocent men were jailed and that the term "continued detention" is part of "a politically motivated farce."

"The Bush Administration wants to be able to say that these are dangerous terrorists who are going to be confined upon their release ... although there is no evidence against many of them," he said.

When four Britons were sent home from Guantanamo in January 2005, Britain said it would detain and investigate them - then released them after only 18 hours. Five Britons repatriated earlier were also rapidly released with no charges.

Murat Kurnaz, a German-born Turkish citizen, was also quickly freed when he was flown to Germany in August, bound hand and foot, after more than four years at Guantanamo.

U.S. officials maintained he was a member of al-Qaida, based on what they said was secret evidence. But his New Jersey-based lawyer, Baher Azmy, said he was shown the classified evidence and was shocked to find how unpersuasive it was.

"It contains five or six statements exonerating him," Azmy said.

In October German prosecutors said they found no evidence that Kurnaz had links to Islamic radicals in Pakistan or Afghanistan and formally dropped their investigation.

The United States insists that the fact that so many of the former detainees have been freed by other countries doesn't mean they weren't dangerous.

"They were part of Taliban, al-Qaida, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners," said Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman.

But Joshua Colangelo-Bryan, a lawyer representing several detainees, says the fact that hundreds of men have been released into freedom belies their characterization by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as "among the most dangerous, best-trained, vicious killers on the face of the earth."

"After all, it would simply be incredible to suggest that the United States has voluntarily released such 'vicious killers' or that such men had been miraculously reformed at Guantanamo," Colangelo-Bryan said.

Mohammed Aman, a 49-year-old Afghan who describes himself as a former low-level member of the Taliban, said he initially wasn't worried when U.S. troops detained him.

"I was relaxed because I was innocent," he said. "I was sure I would be freed. I was always thinking that today or tomorrow I will be free."

He spent three years at Guantanamo until he was finally put on a plane at the base, blindfolded and with headphones covering his ears. When he made it back to his home in Malaik Khail, Afghanistan, villagers streamed out to greet him, many weeping.

Detainees are held at Guantanamo Bay because a military panel classifies them as an "enemy combatant," which refers not only to armed fighters but to anyone who aids enemy forces. Every year, each gets a hearing to determine whether he remains a security threat to the United States or has intelligence value.

Using those hearings as guidance, Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England decides whether to keep the detainee at Guantanamo, release him, or send him to another country for detention.

This year, through Nov. 20, he had ruled on 149 prisoners. He decided that 106 should be held, 43 should be transferred to custody of other countries and none should be released outright.

Azmy, the New Jersey lawyer, said the distinction between release and transfer is largely a fiction because recipient countries are under no obligation to imprison the returnees. The United States doesn't even ask them to.

A senior U.S. State Department official acknowledged that "We do not ask countries to detain them on our behalf, so when a decision is made by a country to move forward with an investigation for prosecution, that is something they have decided to do pursuant to their own domestic law."

Requesting anonymity because she is not authorized to speak on the record, she said about 15 former detainees returned to the battlefield after being freed. The Pentagon was unable to provide details.

"That's the risk that goes along with transferring people out of Guantanamo," she said. "It's not foolproof."

Some former detainees still face the justice systems of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and France.

Six Kuwaitis returned from Guantanamo stood trial on terror-related charges. Five were acquitted, and on Dec. 5 an appeals court overturned the conviction of the sixth, Nasser al-Mutairi.

In France, the trial of six transferred Guantanamo detainees has focused as much on the U.S. prison camp as on their prosecution on charges of "criminal association with a terrorist enterprise."

Prosecutor Sonya Djemni-Wagner has requested light sentences, saying she took into account the defendants' "arbitrary detention ... at a facility outside all legal frameworks."

She is seeking one year in prison plus suspended sentences for five suspects and no sentence for the sixth, all of whom are currently free.

Their time already served behind bars in France should be counted toward their sentences, she said, meaning that even if convicted, none would be locked up.
###

So... over half of the "worst of the worst" were no so bad that they could be released. Nice! This comes in addition to the news that several dozen of the detainees were under the age of 17 when first captured in 2002, and that many have undergone torture since being imprisoned at Gitmo.

Those of us on the "Commie Traitor Left" said from the beginning that paying cash money for "Al Qaeda" captives would result in nothing more than kidnap for bounty among hostile Afghan tribes. We were jeered at and told that the men in Gitmo had ALL been captured "on the battlefield."

Then we said that using torture as a routine questioning tactic was immoral because several hundred of them HAD to be innocent of all charges. We were sneered at and told that these men were "the worst of the worst" and deserved whatever they got.

Then we said that without trials, these men were being held illegally by a President out of control. We were laughed at and the GOP slammed Bush's "Torture Enabling Act" through a willing Congress.

Now we find out that everything we said was true: torture, underage kids, innocent tribesmen, and much much more. America's reaction? More sneering, jeering & ignoring the fact that their government has set aside all Rule of Law in its pursuit of this Gitmo Gulag.

I'm now of the opinion that the people of the US are a complaisant lot who deserve the Imperium that's coming. One day soon they'll wake up and realize that their country is broke, that their jobs have disappeared, and that they're in a political re-education camp...

and then they'll blame it on the Democrats.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

They Hate Us For Our Freedom


US ARMY REVERTS TO STRIKEBREAKER PAST

Ahhh, it's been too long since we saw US troops operating out in the open against American workers. The last time I remember is in October 2002 when Bush threatened to turn out troops against America's dockworkers. This time, however, Bush and his big business cronies have a just and glorious war in Iraq to justify their planned destruction of the steelworkers union.

Remember: Support Our Troops! (even if they're shooting at us)

US Army might break Goodyear strike
By Bernard Simon in Toronto
Dec 15, 2006

The US Army is considering measures to force striking workers back to their jobs at a Goodyear Tire & Rubber plant in Kansas in the face of a looming shortage of tyres for Humvee trucks and other military equipment used in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A strike involving 17,000 members of the United Steelworkers union has crippled 16 Goodyear plants in the US and Canada since October 5. The main issues in dispute are the company's plans to close a unionised plant in Texas, and a proposal for workers to shoulder future increases in healthcare costs.

An army spokeswoman said on Friday that "there's not a shortage right now but there possibly will be one in the future".

According to Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House of Representatives armed services committee, the strike has cut output of Humvee tyres by about 35 per cent.

The last six years have been an unending Federal assault on Unions and union organizing, such as Bush's recent raids on illegal aliens to cripple the impending meatworkers organizing efforts among illegal workers. But illegal aliens just aren't enough to sate Bush's lust for Union blood, so now we get the grim spectre of American troops shooting down American workers once more. It's just another side-benefit of Bush's Iraq War!

Friday, December 15, 2006

So We Made 'Em Uncomfortable, So What?

2004 Pentagon Report Cites Detention Concerns
By Carol D. Leonig
The Washington Post
Thursday 14 December 2006

A previously undisclosed Pentagon report concluded that the three terrorism suspects held at a brig in South Carolina were subjected to months of isolation, and it warned that their "unique" solitary confinement could be viewed as violating U.S. detention standards.

According to a summary of the 2004 report obtained by The Washington Post, interrogators attempted to deprive one detainee, Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, a Qatari citizen and former student in Peoria, Ill., of sleep and religious comfort by taking away his Koran, warm food, mattresses and pillow as part of an interrogation plan approved by the high-level Joint Forces Command.

Interrogators also prevented the International Committee of the Red Cross from visiting at least one detainee, according to the report, which noted evidence of other unspecified, unauthorized interrogation techniques.

The report by the Navy's inspector general was presented to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in May 2004 and was declassified in 2005. It was the first to raise the question of mistreatment of alleged enemy combatants inside the United States.

Its details about conditions at the Navy brig in 2004 could prove critical to the fate of two of the "enemy combatant" detainees who spent years in the prison: Marri, the only one of the three who remains there and is facing the prospect of a special military trial, and Jose Padilla, a Brooklyn-born U.S. citizen now facing criminal charges in Miami.

Attorneys for Padilla have argued in recent court filings that any abusive interrogation methods used on their client may mean that his statements to government agents were coerced and, therefore, inadmissible in his trial. He is accused of engaging in a conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens and provide material support to terrorists abroad.

The attorneys told a federal judge in Florida yesterday that they have a right to learn about those interrogation methods, and they recently sought to subpoena Brigadeer General Daryl D. Thiessen, the deputy inspector general who made the findings after inspecting the brig, and other senior military officers who worked at the prison. The attorneys said Padilla spent 1,307 days in a 9-by-7-foot cell in an isolated unit, was often chained to the ground for hours by his wrists and torso, and was kept awake at night by guards using bright lights and loud noises.

Prosecutors asked the judge to quash the subpoenas, arguing that Padilla's attorneys are making "meritless" and "sensationalist" claims to turn the court's attention away from his alleged misconduct. In previous filings, the government decried the "absurdity of Padilla's assertion" that he was abused, noting that the government was "conscientious enough to tend to his toothache."

Marri remains at the brig awaiting an appeals court ruling on whether he will be tried in a U.S. court or by a military commission, as the government requested last month. He sued the government last year over the conditions of his confinement, alleging that for 16 months in 2003 and 2004, he had been barred from contact with anyone but guards delivering food, causing his mental state to deteriorate.

Thiessen wrote in his summary that the Joint Forces Command had approved that "one detainee in Charleston has Koran, mattress, and pillow removed and is fed cold MRES as part of interrogation plan." He also noted concerns about isolation: "Limited number and unique status of detainees in Charleston precludes interaction with other detainees. Argument could be made that this constitutes isolation."

Extended solitary confinement can be considered a form of inhumane treatment. In 2003, Rumsfeld specified the use of isolation as an interrogation tactic, but he cautioned that its use required detailed plans and approvals from superiors for the length of time. His memo warned that use of isolation for more than 30 days was atypical, and that nations that consider detainees subject to prisoner-of-war protections may view this technique as "inconsistent with the requirements of Geneva [Article] III."

"What you're describing confirms what we said in our complaint," said Jonathan Hafetz of the Brennan Center for Justice and an attorney for Marri, when asked to review the summary findings. "There were periods of time when al-Marri felt he was losing his mind. He went months without hearing a human voice.... And these weren't rogue officers, but it was part of a deliberate violation of the laws of the U.S. by the top levels of the administration."

Padilla's attorneys - Orlando do Campo, Andrew Patel and Michael Caruso - did not return calls seeking comment or declined to comment. Federal prosecutors also declined to comment. A hearing is expected soon on whether Padilla's attorneys can question military officials about his treatment and the conditions at the brig.

A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Cmdr. J.D. Gordon, said multiple reviews of detention operations have not found policies that condoned abuse and have led to more consistent policies to prevent abuse.

"The reviews have resulted in numerous recommendations which have been implemented and have improved our detention operations," he said. "The Department of Defense policy is clear: We treat detainees humanely."

Thiessen's report is part of a larger review by Vice Adm. Albert T. Church III, then the Navy's inspector general. Rumsfeld ordered the wide-ranging military investigation to determine whether any interrogation policy for terrorism suspects had caused detainee abuse in U.S. military detention facilities.

The Church report presented to Congress in March 2005 concluded that there was no deliberate high-level policy that led to the numerous cases of mistreatment. Instead, it blamed inept leadership at low levels and confusion over changing interrogation rules.

Church focused on the conditions for foreign nationals held at Guantanamo Bay. But the details of what Thiessen found in the Charleston brig were not mentioned. When asked, high-ranking military officers asserted that the brig fared well in the review.

"The brig here has a good record, and the people who run it are well trained," then-Secretary of the Navy Gordon England told reporters in 2004.

A third prisoner at the brig, Yaser Hamdi, was released in 2004 after the Supreme Court ruled that the government could not hold him indefinitely without a trial, and after he agreed to U.S. conditions that he go to Saudi Arabia and give up his U.S. citizenship.
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Yes, Hamdi was released... this "worst of the worst" criminal was released from illegal indefinite imprisonment only after volunteering to surrender his American citizenship.

He was an American. Being held illegally in isolation without counsel, charge or trial. So... what makes him any different from YOU?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Federal Judiciary Approves Torture


Federal Judge Issues Split Decision on New Military Commissions Act
By David G. Savage
The Los Angeles Times
Thursday 14 December 2006

Washington - In the first legal decision on a federal law that denies access to U.S. courts to detainees in the war on terrorism, a federal judge ruled Wednesday that foreign prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, could not sue for freedom.

But, in a split decision, U.S. District Judge James Robertson also ruled that the law's denial of that right to the more than 12 million legal immigrants living in the United States was unconstitutional.

The first part of the ruling affirmed what Congress intended when it passed the Military Commissions Act in October. The decision came in the case of Salim Hamdan, the onetime driver to Osama bin Laden, who won what appeared to be a landmark victory in the Supreme Court in June.

Taking up Hamdan's lawsuit, the high court's justices said President Bush had overstepped his power when he created a system of military tribunals for foreign-born alleged terrorists.

In response, Congress passed a law authorizing military tribunals. In addition, it moved to deny access to the courts to "aliens" accused by the president of being terrorists or "unlawful combatants."

Critics in the Senate said the provision was written so broadly that it took away legal immigrants' right of habeas corpus. This right allows people who are arrested and imprisoned to go before a judge and plead for freedom.

In Wednesday's ruling, Robertson said lawmakers had the legal power to close the courts to the detainees at Guantánamo Bay.

"Congress unquestionably has the power to establish and define the jurisdiction of the lower federal courts," he wrote in a 22-page opinion. Until some recent decisions, he said, it had always been understood that "an alien captured abroad and detained outside the United States" did not have a right to sue in a federal court.

Hamdan was captured in Afghanistan, and Guantánamo Bay is, technically, sovereign territory of Cuba, Robertson noted.
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Hey, look, he's one of those "Liberal" judges that Clinton appointed! http://www.dcd.uscourts.gov/robertson-bio.html So much for the theory of activist judges, eh?

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Incredible Shrinking Presidency

Americans are overwhelmingly resigned to something less than clear-cut victory in Iraq and growing numbers doubt the country will achieve a stable, democratic government no matter how the U.S. gets out, according to an AP poll.

At the same time, dissatisfaction with President Bush's handling of Iraq has climbed to an all-time high of 71 percent. The latest AP-Ipsos poll, taken as a bipartisan commission was releasing its recommendations for a new course in Iraq, found that just 27 percent of Americans approved of Bush's handling of Iraq, down from his previous low of 31 percent in November.

Still... that's 27% approval which still seems high to me. What's his bottom number? And how many soldiers have to die before he gets there? I read once that hardcore Right-Wing Theocratical Evangelicals are 18% of the population (and therefore an astonishing 36% of that party... no wonder they can't nominate good candidates). I'm assuming that 18% of Americans is Bush's ground-floor... where everyone of every stripe except those who think BTK Bush is the second coming of Christ has abandoned him.

What will it take for that last 9% of non-nutso-Evangelicals to peel away from Bush's War On Iraq? And who are these people?

11 Troops In One Day

Wednesday's Toll for U.S. Troops in Iraq Rises to 11
BAGHDAD, Dec. 7 -- The U.S. military raised the number of service members killed Wednesday to 11, making it one of the deadliest days for U.S. troops this year.

Also, a soldier died Thursday from wounds suffered the day before in a battle in the volatile western province of Anbar.

The deaths bring to at least 31 the number of U.S. troops killed in the first week of December.
Why is it the people shouting "Support Our Troops" can't see that shoving them into a meat grinder for tour after tour of the same old tactics which ARE NOT WORKING is the exact opposite of "support"?

I -do- support our troops, but I can't understand this idea that to criticize their mission is to criticize the people tasked with carrying out that poorly-planned "mission."

I don't blame the Army for not securing Iraq... they haven't been given the proper orders to enable them to do so (not that those orders have EVER existed and not that the slim window of opportunity for those orders to work hasn't slammed shut a long time ago). Firing Rumsfeld is the equivalent of putting a band-aid on a sucking chest wound and praying for Jesus to heal you.