Tuesday, May 31, 2005

AMERICA'S GRAVEST DANGER

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The volumes written to try to explain why such an absolute mediocrity like George W Bush is allowed to sit in the White House-- even if you agree with your host that he was absolutely NOT elected in either 2000 (when the election was stolen in Florida) or in 2004 when the GOP had gained enough control of vote counting in enough places to totally corrupt the results, especially in gold ole Florida and Ohio-- would fill a full wall, if not a full library. Americans overall might have become intellectually and politically lazy but you can look at it another way. We're a trusting people with a tremendous sense of respect for the office of the presidency. We are optimistic and really expect pretty unreasonably high standards from people we look up to even if the admiration is ex oficio. As a people we always are willing-- MORE than willing-- to give the President the benefit of the doubt. I can always remember reading about Russian peasants and workers in 1905 being shot down in front of the czar's palace when they came to petition "The Little Father" about the intolerable conditions under which they and their families were existing. Even as they were being mowed down by his military, they blamed everyone but The Little Father. I don't know what it would take for more Americans to see through George W. Bush and realize, far more than the czar, he and all that he represents ARE the root of our society's ills. But regardless of his dwindling opinion polls and the realization that he actually IS trying to destroy the Social Security system the Far Right has always detested as "socialist" and despite the growing revelation and resulting "uneasiness" about the war against Iraq, Americans still feel confident-- even if slightly less so-- that Bush will protect us from all Evil. Rove's absolute most important task was to erase the early images of Bush lame and confused flying around the country like a chicken-without-a-head in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 with the image of a strong and resolute heroic leader. Reality was willing tossed overboard by far too many Americans in order to embrace Rove's comfortable repainting job. And reality-- something the Right loathes-- hasn't been much of an impediment to pulling the wool over Americans' eyes/having the wool pulled over our eyes for the past 5 years (at least).

And that brings us to the biggest real danger our nation has faced since the Southern right-wing extremists tried to break up the Union or at least since FDR confronted extreme right-wing fascism. Most Americans are uncomfortable with the idea of too much religious interference in government and take it for granted-- important phrase, "take it for granted"-- that The Constitution and The Government (even Bush) will always protect us from any tendencies towards a theocracy. Again, whether it takes intellectual laziness or Rovian magic to fall into this trap-- or a total national negation of Reality-- this confidence seems... misplaced. I want to urge you to read the following piece by Steve Weissman which TRUTHOUT published today under the heading "The Ayatollah of Holy Rollers."

America's Religious Right - Saints or Subversives?
    By Steve Weissman
    
  
    Death by stoning for atheists, adulterers, and practicing male homosexuals.
    Stoning - or possibly burning at the stake - for atheists, heretics, religious apostates, followers of other religions who proselytize, unmarried females who are unchaste, incorrigible juvenile delinquents, and children who curse or strike their parents.
    And, oh yes, death to witches, Satanists, and those who commit blasphemy.
    Does this sound like a radical Islamist nightmare, a replay of Afghanistan under the Taliban?
    Welcome to the United States of America as Christian Reconstructionists hope to run it. Not as a democracy, which they see as secular heresy. But as a reconstructed Christian nation, complete with biblically sanctioned flogging and slavery.
    The Bible rules, OK? And, in its name, a small elect of true believers are now seeking capital-D Dominion over every aspects of our government, laws, education, and personal lives.
    An Unlikely Prophet
    Reconstructionists have become the extremists to watch, and the key to understanding the current political zing of everyone on the religious right from Sunday-go-to-church Southern Baptists to neo-Nazis in Christian identity militias.

    The movement and its "Dominion Theology" are relatively new, dating from the publication in 1973 of The Institutes of Biblical Law by the late Rousas John Rushdoony. A man of widely acclaimed brilliance and near-encyclopedic knowledge, Rushdoony claimed to descend from a long line of aristocratic Armenian clerics reaching back to the year 315. He himself was an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, not be confused with the generally liberal Presbyterian Church (USA).
    Rev. Rushdoony was no liberal. Though gentle in his personal demeanor, he and his Chalcedon Foundation preached nothing less than a holy war "to demolish every kind of theory, humanistic, evolutionary, idolatrous, or otherwise, and every kind of rampart or opposition to the dominion of God in Christ."
    As early as 1963, Rushdoony wrote a "Christian revisionist" historical account called The Nature of the American System, in which he rejected the separation of church and state. The authors of the Constitution, he wrote, intended "to perpetuate a Christian order."
     He similarly opposed the secular bent of American public schools, becoming an early proponent of Christian home-schooling, which he defended as a First Amendment right of their parents.

    "We must use the doctrine of religious liberty ... until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government," explained his son-in-law Gary North. "Then they will get busy constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God."
    Rushdoony opposed labor unions, women's equality, and civil rights laws. He favored racial segregation and slavery, which he felt had benefited black people because it introduced them to Christianity. He largely denied the Holocaust. And he made it kosher for Christian leaders like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell openly to despise democracy.
    "Supernatural Christianity and democracy are inevitably enemies," wrote Rushdoony, "Democracy is the great love of the failures and cowards of life."
    In the highly divided world of Christian denominations, Rushdoony was - in journalist Marghe Covino's exquisite phrase - the most unlikely "Ayatollah of Holy Rollers." Few members of the Assembly of God or other evangelical, Pentecostal, or charismatic churches even know his name, and they are only now becoming comfortable with some of his ideas.
    Evangelicals, who provide most of the foot soldiers for the religious right, have long stressed a personal relationship with God and the importance of having a born-again religious experience. Rushdoony, as an Orthodox Presbyterian, focused less on how they felt their inner faith than on how they lived their lives and obeyed "God's law."
    Evangelicals immerse themselves in the New Testament and some of their mega-churches at times seem almost New Age. Rushdoony was an Old Testament patriarch, following in the more austere tradition of Puritan rule in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Calvin's theocratic governance of early 16th Century Geneva, and the Mosaic law of the ancient Israelites.
    Evangelicals - or at least most of them at present - believe that Christ will return to establish a Millennium of biblical rule, and many take as gospel the End Time stories of the Rapture that the Rev. Tim LaHaye has popularized in his "Left Behind" novels. Rushdoony saw LaHaye's dispensational prophecies as "cheap grace" and "escapist theology," preaching instead that Christ would return only after virtuous Christians created "a world order under God's law."
    Nor are Evangelical leaders rushing to proclaim their adherence to the terrifying Christian theocracy that Rushdoony's Reconstructionists now seek. Few Americans want to live like Puritans or die at the stake for committing a sin. "Dominion Theology" is not an easy revolution to sell, at least not yet.
    In the November 1998 issue of Reason, Walter Olson told of two of televangelist Jerry Falwell's associates who wrote an article in which they criticized the Reconstructionists for advocating ideas that even they, as biblical fundamentalists, found "scary." As an example, the authors mentioned "mandating the death penalty for homosexuals and drunkards."
    Rushdoony dashed off a letter to the editor complaining. Reconstructionists, he wrote, had no intention of putting drunkards to death.
    With denials like this, the Reconstuctions "allow everyone else to feel moderate," Olson concluded. "Almost any anti-abortion stance seems nuanced when compared with Gary North's advocacy of public execution not just for women who undergo abortions but for those who advised them to do so. And with the Rushdoony faction proposing the actual judicial murder of gays, fewer blink at the position of a Gary Bauer or a Janet Folger, who support laws exposing them to mere imprisonment."
    But the gap between the Biblical "moderates" and Reconstructions is getting shorter every day. As an Evangelical Southern Baptist, Falwell still distances himself from Rushdoony over questions of theology. But, he increasingly talks of Christians exercising dominion over America's secular institutions.
    So does the charismatic Pat Robertson. ""There is no way that government can operate successfully unless led by godly men and women operating under the laws of the God of Jacob," he wrote in The New World Order.
    So do evangelical preachers like James Dobson, Don Wildmon, D. James Kennedy, and Tim LaHaye. Whatever they might believe about the End Times, and no matter how often they deny that they've become Reconstructionists, today's evangelical leaders no longer leave the future to the power of prayer while waiting passively for Christ to return.
    "Christian Reconstructionism is a stealth theology, spreading its influence throughout the Religious Right," explains journalist Frederick Clarkson, who closely follows the field. As he sees it, the Reconstructionists gave evangelicals a new set of ideological tools. These included Rushdoony's apocalyptic vision of rule by biblical law, his analysis of America as a Christian nation, the prospect of complete control, intellectual self-confidence, and a positive program for political involvement.
    All of these the evangelicals had historically lacked, while the Reconstructionists wanted the one thing the evangelicals had - a huge army of followers they could mobilize with their churches, Bible colleges, publishing houses, and broadcasting stations.
    "As recently as the early 1990s, most evangelicals viewed Reconstructionists as a band of theological misfits without a following," says Clarkson. "All that has changed, along with the numbers and character of the Christian Right. The world of evangelicalism and, arguably, American politics generally will not be the same."
    If Clarkson is right, and the evidence suggests that he is, Rushdoony has inspired a major revolution in American religious thought, one that now threatens to provoke a political revolution as well. But before taking to the barricades with Bible in hand, his troops would do well to realize that Rushdoony has smuggled into their kit some very un-Christlike politics.
    Witch Hunting
    No surprise to those who track the religious right, Rushdoony enjoyed a long friendship with Robert Welch, the founder of the John Birch Society and the man who accused President Dwight Eisenhower of being a knowing Communist agent. Rushdoony took great interest in how the Birchers worked and even mentioned them admiringly in his epic Institutes of Biblical Law. "The key to the John Birch Society's effectiveness has been a plan of operation which has a strong resemblance to the early church," he wrote. Rushdoony denied ever becoming a Bircher himself, but not because of any political disagreement. As he told Marghe Covino of the Sacramento News & Review, "Welch always saw things in terms of conspiracy and I always see things in terms of sin." A witty bon mot, Rushdoony's response overstated the divergence. He, too, found conspiracies everywhere. But where his friend Welch saw Reds, Rushdoony saw Satan and his modern-day hellhounds, the followers not only of Karl Marx, but also of Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, John Dewey, and - of course - the Unitarians.
    "All sides of the humanistic spectrum are now, in principle, demonic; communists and conservatives, anarchists and socialists, fascists and republicans," he explained.
    Pushing his rightwing politics, Rushdoony was one of the first members of the secretive Council for National Policy, which the Rev. Tim LaHaye and others started to bring right-wing Christians, other conservative activists, and John Birchers together with wealthy patrons willing to fund them. He also served on the board of Dr. Jay Grimstead's Coalition on Revival (COR), an umbrella group that attempted to bridge the theological differences of competing sects within an increasing emphasis on dominating secular institutions.
    Characteristically, Rushdoony soon found fault with both the Council and Coalition, as he did with most religious and political organizations. But both succeeded in selling his far right politics and theocratic religious ideas to millions of unsuspecting evangelicals, who had once led America's fight to keep church and state forever separate.
    They should have known better, and so should we all. "The purpose of regeneration is that man reconstruct all things in conformity to God's order, not in terms of man's desire for peace," Rushdoony warned in his Institutes of Biblical Law. "This purpose and mission involves law and coercion."

Saturday, May 28, 2005

GOP COIN THIEVES IN OHIO... AND SOCIAL SECURITY

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I hope you've seen that great film ENRON-- THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM. It's a kind of cautionary tale about how the smart guys-- the Ken Lays, Jeff Skillings, Andrew Fastows-- figure out a way to steal. They buy off and cozy up with-- and get patronage and protection from-- the Bush Family and then go on to systematically, ruthlessly, rapaciously rob everyone in sight: their customers, the owners (stockholders) of the company they were managing, the public (especially in California), their employees and, of course, Society at large. All this from the biggest contributors to George W. Bush's political career. Is it a coincidence? Well, not really. The smartest guys in the room seek out corruptible politicians all over the world; it's an investment. Historically, the smartest guys in room after room after room in country after country and age after age, always buy into the political types in order to get rules and regulations favorable to them (and, of a grosser level, to get protection). "Kenny Boy" Lay, Jeff Skilling and crew and their long, long relationship with George Bush I and George Bush II-- extremely profitable for both parties-- was a classic example. And the ENRON film lays it out as clear as clear can be. So what does this have to do with coin thieves in Ohio and Social Security? Plenty!

First the basics of the Ohio story. I heard about Republican Party Chairman/kingmaker/George W. Bush Pioneer Thomas Noe on NPR a few weeks ago and the story struck me as newsworthy. Apparently it didn't strike the Michael Jackson/OJ Simpson/runaway bride/Paula Abdul-obsessed mass media as newsworthy, although I was able to follow the story as it unfolded online thanks to local Ohio newspapers. And finally today the NEW YORK TIMES ran a piece (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/28/national/28coins.html). To make a long story, that is going to get a LOT longer, short, Thomas Noe has been Mr. GOP power broker in NW Ohio for many years. There isn't an important Republican office holder in a state where ALL the important office holders are Republicans who isn't beholden to Mr. Noe-- from Governor Taft, Secretary of State Blackwell, ex-Governor/now Senator Voinovich, Attorney General Petro, State Auditor Montgomery, right up to 5 of the 7 Supreme Court judges. And in a state with virtual one-party rule (and with a Secretary of State who has been clearly shown to be a manipulator of vote counting), there were no checks and no balances. Even if you didn't follow the Enron case too closely, you must be aware how many millions of dollars were lost (read: "STOLEN") from employees' retirement funds (that is, from the voluntary private accounts the employees had). In this case, the Republican office holders-- the ones with the legal fiduciary responsibility for protecting the money collected from taxpayers, the ones with no checks and no balances-- decided to invest MILLIONS of dollars from the Ohio Workers' Compensation Bureau into a highly speculative fund, which buys and sells rare coins, run by the GOP Chairman of Lucas County, Thomas Noe. No other state invests public money in something this risky but the most charitable thing I've heard about this "strategy" is that its safer than taking the money to a riverboat gambling operation.

While Mr. Noe was funneling HUGE sums of money into the Bush/Cheney campaign and into the campaigns of Governor Taft, Secretary of State Blackwell, ex-Governor/now Senator Voinovich, Attorney General Petro, State Auditor Montgomery and 5 of the 7 Ohio Supreme Court judges, as much as 20% of the investment was "lost" (again, read: "stolen"). We're not talking about the values decreasing; we're talking about the coins being PHYSICALLY lost ("stolen").

My friend Peter says I write too much for a blog. I just want to make one more point though: Social Security. When Franklin D. Roosevelt and Henry Morgenthau campaigned for it and fought for it and designed it the GOP attacked it as "communism" and anti-American, and anti-business and catastrophic, all that. The GOP fought it tooth and nail (ensuring themselves 2 decades of minority status) and have never given up hating it. There is nothing in Social Security for the Greedy and Selfish segment of the Republican constituency, They've been plotting against it for over 70 years and with the Republicans in control of the White House, both houses of Congress and the Judiciary, they've been salivating at the prospects of gutting it and replacing it with a system that will benefit their wealthy, powerful backers-- the Ken Lays and Thomas Noes of the world, the smart guys. Since FDR brought is Social Security not one dime has been lost ("stolen"). For the GOP this is intolerable.

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Friday, May 27, 2005

A NICE SONG YOU WON'T HEAR ON CLEAR CHANNEL

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A free download of Coffin Break's "Kill the President"
can be found at this url.

http://krucoff.com/archives/2004/sep/090104.html

It sure does rock (although I'm not sure if it's legal under the so-called
"Patriot Act").

HILLARY CLINTON, BOB NOVAK AND CNN

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In the interests of full disclosure-- something GOP propagandist Bob Novak never does under any circumstances-- let me start off by saying I am indeed, among other things, what the Right wing hacks call "a Hollywood liberal" (although I live somewhat northeast of Hollywood).

Today on her CNN blabfest Judy Woodruff interviewed Bob Novak. Although the main point of the incestuous and asinine "interview" was to plug Novak's own CNN blabfest (in other words, were Novak not a CNN talking head the chances of this so-called interview having taken place were exactly zero), Woodruff started off by mentioning that Novak had been "out in Hollywood talking with Liberals." I looked up from the bills I was paying; Woodruff had actually gotten my attention. I mean, why would any Liberal, Hollywood or otherwise, talk with what all Liberals see as a lowlife bottom feeder like Bob Novak? Hopefully a court of law will determine whether or not Novak committed treason in the case of Valerie Plame, but meanwhile Liberals have good reason-- in fact, many, many, many good reasons executed systematically and publicly over many decades-- to be suspicious of him, and, by the way, reason enough to NOT talk to him, especially not candidly. So what exactly did Woodruff think was so newsworthy about Novak's exclusive discussions with Hollywood Liberals that she would take up valuable time that could have been used to ask people like Scott McClellan if he was considering resigning after his credibility, or what was left of it, was destroyed when the Pentagon admitted Korans have been desecrated in order to manipulate Moslem prisoners in U.S. custody or to ask Bill Frist to explain how Pricilla Owens' long and clear record of always ruling in favor of corporate interests over the rights of individuals was going to help his constituents in Tennessee? Well it turns out, Bob Novak was getting the inside scoop on how Hollywood Liberals weren't in favor of Hillary Clinton running for President. Odd that CNN should decide to "do" this piece on the very day that USA TODAY should run a piece by Susan Page entitled
"Majority Say They'd Be Likely to Vote for Clinton." What a coincidence! The article starts with a clear statement that must have given Novak chest pains. "WASHINGTON (May 27) -- For the first time, a majority of Americans say they are likely to vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton if she runs for president in 2008, according to a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday.
The survey shows that the New York senator and former first lady has broadened her support nationwide over the past two years, though she still provokes powerful feelings from those who oppose her." And so on.

But Novak had even more insider scoop he got from The Hollywood Liberals. I swear I'm not making this up. He laid it on Woodruff's viewers who the Hollywood elite is getting behind. Evan Bayh. Did they like Evan Bayh because he's even more conservative than the thoroughly despised Joseph Lieberman? Well, Woodruff's show doesn't go into matters like that to begin with but Novak had one word to describe Bayh's appeal over Clinton (on the day USA TODAY was reporting she would likely beat anyone the Republicans would put up in '08). Actually it was two words-- "good looking." Yes, indeed, Bob Novak went to Hollywood and found out that Hollywood Liberals are not backing semi-liberal Hillary Clinton because they like very conservative Evan Bayh because he's "good looking."

So I called some of my Hollywood Liberals friends. Not one would admit to having ever talked to Bob Novak. Several said they would consider punching him in the nose if he tried to talk to them. Not one said they preferred Evan Bayh over Hillary Clinton. I did find one, however, who thought Evan Bayh is better looking than Hillary and that person is gay.

MTV, NiNs and right-wing censorship

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If you go to the Nine Inch Nails website you'll find a short message from Trent Reznor on the news page (http://www.nin.com/current/index.html), dated May 26, 2005 and signed by Trent: "Nine Inch Nails will not be performing at the MTV Movie Awards as previously announced. We were set to perform "The Hand That Feeds" with an unmolested straightforward image of George W Bush as the backdrop. Apparently the image of our president is as offensive to MTV as it is to me. See you on tour this fall when we return to play America."

What's the story behind the statement? Apparently someone high up enough at MTV to write off an appearance by one of the most creative, respected and popular pop artists in the world vetoed Trent's plan to make a mildly suggestive statement that George W Bush is not perfect. Has MTV caved in to the Religionist Right's echo chamber demanding that poets, musicians and entertainers should have no platform for their political beliefs? Rush Limbaugh always described himself as "an entertainer" but when someone's thoughts are put to a melody and backed by guitars... well,
then the Right brands them as brain dead and unworthy of expressing an opinion. Of course this isn't as bad as what the extreme right does to politicians they deem a threat to their interests, the ones who have a direct charasmatically-based connection to people (like John and Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Paul Wellstone. At least Howard Dean was only "assassinated" with a soundbyte.)

A little postscript-- my friend Jim sent me this article that ran today in the L.A. DAILY NEWS. It's even scarier.

Bush as Groucho Posters Removed from School
Dana Bartholomew, The L. A. Daily News, May 27, 2005
http://www.dailynews.com/Stories/0,1413,200~20954~2890519,00.html

WOODLAND HILLS -- A doctored poster of President George W. Bush -- sporting Groucho Marx's dark eyebrows, mustache and stogie -- was supposed to promote a high school play.

http://media.mnginteractive.com/media/paper200/DN27_play.jpg

But for award-winning drama students at El Camino Real High School, it turned out to be a stark lesson in free speech. The poster was close, but no cigar.

After one student complained last week, school officials ordered a hundred of the posters ripped from the Woodland Hills campus on grounds they promoted smoking and political preference.

"There's an issue in the first (poster) regarding the smoking and endorsing one ideology over another," said Principal Kenny Lee, who had the posters removed. "That's our take on the student speech and conduct."

The controversy began when students of the theater department created the poster, paid for by the school, to promote their new play, "The Complete History of America (Abridged)," a zany spoof on the last 500 years.

Because the jacket of the original play depicts George Washington with a Groucho treatment, students thought their production promo deserved a fresh look.

So on Dubya's sleepy-eyed mug they dabbed black bushy brows, a thick mustache and a lit Macanudo cigar. Dubya stood for politics; Groucho for satire. Perfect twin symbols of their play, they reasoned.

All went well until a high school senior and Bush supporter wrote a letter of complaint to the administration last week for the way the president was depicted, according to teachers and students. The complaining student added that Bush was also made to look "like an Israeli."

"We had one student who was very upset," Lee said. "So much turmoil within himself, he was distraught. The older generation understood the message. I don't think the younger one did.

"If something is bothering a student on campus, we're going to address it. We're not going to sweep it under the table."

Lee said that he forwarded the complaint to the Los Angeles Unified School District attorney and local district officials, then decided to pull the posters because they represented a school-sponsored event.

Many students are incensed at the ban.

"It taught us that the First Amendment certainly does not guarantee the right of free speech," said Jes Shah, 16, of West Hills, a junior enrolled in the school drama program.

"Instead, we have more restrictions on what we can say."

It took two hours for school administrators to tear down the offending posters. Lee then asked students to go back to the drawing board.

The result: six new play promotion broadsheets with a silhouette of Bush and a burning cigar, including such inscriptions as: "Free Expression for All (unless you are in high school)." "What First Amendment?" "LAUSD (heart symbol) Censorship." "Support Our Troops."

And "ECR Drama Hates Smoking."

"They're good," Lee said. "I like the follow-ups."

The drama department, voted No. 1 in the nation by the American High School Theatre Festival, is raising money to perform "The Laramie Project," a controversial play about the death of a young gay man in Wyoming, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland this August

Drama teacher Sue Freitag said she didn't think the Los Angeles Unified School District understood the meaning of political satire -- a humorous spoof on government -- and that obviously some Republican didn't like George Bush looking like Groucho Marx.

"You have to know, all of this goes together perfectly with our play," said Freitag, a 1988 graduate of El Camino Real who enjoys the support of the principal. "It's kind of playful. We don't need to attack anyone over this. It's great publicity for our play."

A spokesman for the White House did not return calls.

LAUSD's rules on political speech cite California laws that guarantee freedom of the press for all official school publications distributed to the student body.

The exceptions: obscene, libelous or slanderous materials; or when such publications incite students to violence, unlawful behavior or disruptions of school operations.

But because the speech was made by a school-sponsored poster and not a school journalist or writer, said one First Amendment attorney, the poster ban was not a violation of free speech.

"This is institutional speech as opposed to any student speech," said Doug Mirell, a First Amendment attorney at Loeb & Loeb LLP who has taught free speech law at the University of Southern California and Loyola Law School.

"It's unfortunate that such censorship has occurred and that people can't take a joke. But this doesn't appear to rise to the level of a First Amendment issue."

Human rights advocates didn't think it was an anti-Semitic one, either.

"It would be very different if someone were saying (the students) were trying to make Bush look like a Jew," said Alison Mayersohn, the Anti-Defamation League's associate director of the Pacific Southwest Region, who hadn't seen the poster.

"As far as a stereotype of an Israeli, I would say there is no stereotypical Israeli."

The original poster, say students, was created by none other than a high school native of Israel.

"We're a bunch of crazy, light-hearted drama kids," said Joan Hurwit, 17, of Canoga Park, a four-year veteran of the drama department. "We never intended to promote such controversy, to mock any political group, or our president.

"We're just trying to promote our play and get to Scotland."

--Dana Bartholomew, (818) 713-3730 dana.bartholomew@dailynews.com

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

NEWSWEEK HAD IT RIGHT AFTERALL

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Are White House spokesman Scott McClellan and Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman resigning? Or is credibility not a requirement for those jobs? These were the two who led the charge against NEWSWEEK when the magazine retracted its story-- which like the ones about Bush's outrageous personal military record were not proven to the standards on normal journalistic standards but were also not false-- about American guards at Guantanamo torturing Moslem prisoners by defacing their holy book. I'm not really that concerned, at least not personally, about religionist loons and their superstitions, be they Moslems, Hindus, Jews or Christians. These religionist fanatics have been responsible for the worst travesties mankind has ever experienced and the world be WAY better off if they all disappeared post haste. But I do have a great concern about the successful intimidation of the free press, the less-and-less-free press, by the right wing regime in control of the United States. As the Bush Regime moves in a more and more fascist and more and more totalitarian direction, they have gotten more egregiously aggressive in their tactics towards the what's left of a free mass media. Middle of the road media (or anything even remotely to the left of Josef Goebbels or Atilla the Hun's scribe) is savaged by Bush's fanatic attack dogs, and I'm talking about CNN, NPR, the NY Times, CBS and NEWSWEEK, not The Nation, The Daily Weasel and Mother Jones. Anyway, the whole brouhaha the right wing echo chamber was focusing on last week-- that NEWSWEEK was lying (recently supplanted by Bill Maher's need to resign after being accused of some KKK Congressloon from Alabama of being unpatriotic)-- is brought into focus by the Reuters report today showing that the FBI has been well aware for several years that, at the very minimum, Moslem detainees have been claiming EXACTLY what the NEWSWEEK story alleged: that U.S. guards are tormenting prisoners (illegally) by abusing the Koran and even flushing it down the toilet. I bet they find a couple of pathetic low-grade soldiers to blame this on too.

FBI Memo Reports Guantanamo Guards Flushing Koran
Reuters, May 25, 2005

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An FBI agent wrote in a 2002 document made public on Wednesday that a detainee held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had accused American jailers there of flushing the Koran down a toilet.

The release of the declassified document came the week after the Bush administration denounced as wrong a May 9 Newsweek article that stated U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo had flushed a Koran down a toilet to try to make detainees talk.

The magazine retracted the article, which had triggered protests in Afghanistan in which 16 people died.

The newly released document, dated Aug. 1, 2002, contained a summary of statements made days earlier by a detainee, whose name was redacted, in two interviews with an FBI special agent, whose name also was withheld, at the Guantanamo prison for foreign terrorism suspects.

The American Civil Liberties Union released the memo and a series of other FBI documents it obtained from the government under court order through the Freedom of Information Act.

"Personally, he has nothing against the United States. The guards in the detention facility do not treat him well. Their behavior is bad. About five months ago, the guards beat the detainees. They flushed a Koran in the toilet," the FBI agent wrote.

"The guards dance around when the detainees are trying to pray. The guards still do these things," the FBI agent wrote.

The Pentagon stated last week it had received "no credible and specific allegations" that U.S. personnel at Guantanamo had put a Koran in the toilet.

The documents indicated that detainees were making allegations that they had been abused and that the Muslim holy book had been mishandled as early as April 2002, about three months after the first detainees arrived at Guantanamo.

In other documents, FBI agents stated that Guantanamo detainees also accused U.S. personnel of kicking the Koran and throwing it to the floor, and described beatings by guards. But one document cited a detainee who accused a guard of dropping a Koran, prompting an "uprising" by prisoners, when it was the prisoner himself who dropped it.

The Pentagon had no immediate comment on the documents.

The United States currently holds about 520 detainees at Guantanamo, a high-security prison it opened in January 2002 for non-U.S. citizens caught in the U.S. war on terrorism.

Former detainees and a lawyer for current prisoners previously have stated that U.S. personnel at Guantanamo had placed the Koran in a toilet, but the Pentagon last week said it did not view those allegations as credible.

'MORE CREDIBLE'

"Unfortunately, one thing we've learned over the last couple of years is that detainee statements about their treatment at Guantanamo and other detention centers sometimes have turned out to be more credible than U.S. government statements," said ACLU lawyer Jameel Jaffer.

Jaffer said the latest documents show the U.S. government had heard detainees complain as early as 2002 about desecration of the Koran at Guantanamo Bay, including at least one mentioning it had been placed in a toilet.

In another document, written in April 2003, an FBI agent related a detainee's account of an incident involving a female U.S. interrogator.

"While the guards held him, she removed her blouse, embraced the detainee from behind and put her hand on his genitals. The interrogator was on her menstrual period and she wiped blood from her body on his face and head," the memo stated.

The U.S. military launched an inquiry after the Newsweek article was published into whether Guantanamo personnel placed the Koran in a toilet, but the review was limited to searching through official day-to-day log entries.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan last week said Newsweek "got the facts wrong." Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman last week called the article "demonstrably false."

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

IKE WARNED US ABOUT BUSH-- in 1954!!

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I went to see Intangible play at the Roxy last night. It was their record release party. Their first CD is in stores today! (And their music is on the iTunes music store.) But I was up late (and missed South Park) so I'm playing catch up this morning. I do have one thought I want to pass along today though. First, I have to admit that although I wasn't a fan of President Eisenhower-- my family firmly supported Adlai Stevenson both times he ran-- he did say some interesting things worth noting. "Everyone" knows about his Washingtonian warning about the dangers of the Military-Industrial Complex. This ditty isn't quite as well known-- but should be! Especially now.
"Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things.  Among them are a few Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid."

-President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1954 (source:  Eisenhower Presidential Papers, Document #1147; November 8, 1954 The Papers of Dwight David Eisenhower, Volume XV - The Presidency: The Middle Way Part VI: Crises Abroad, Party Problems at Home; September 1954 to December 1954,) Chapter 13: "A new phase of political experience"

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Monday, May 23, 2005

VOTING IN THE U.S.A.

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My pal Johnny Wendell asked me to cite some specifics bolstering my claims that the Bush political machine stole the election in 2004. I'm attaching a couple acrticles that show examples of how they did it. It drives me crazy with Bush hypocritically lectures other countries on "democracy," as if anyone didn't know that his installation as "president" was the antithesis of Democracy. His regime's shallow understanding of what Democracy is let'sthem claim-- with relatively straight faces-- that "Democracy" has triumphed in Afghanistan and Iraq because people "voted."

If you don't want to read the whole long articles about voter fraud, please ponder this paragraph for a moment:
"In Florida's Dixie County, located on the Gulf Coast between Tallahassee and Tampa, 77.5 percent of the 4,988 registered voters are Democrats, 15 percent are Republicans. On Election Day, Bush carried the county with 4,433 votes vs. 1,959 for Kerry." Imagine for a moment that the majority of the Democrats in this largely African-American community decided they were thankful for the abolition of the "death tax" and the rejiggering of the tax system to benefit millionaires at the expense of the working poor, and that because of this they would vote for Bush. Unlikely? Of course but, theoretically possible. But what is NOT possible is that slightly under 5,000 registered voters produced over 6,000 votes. Is this democracy? Was Bush elected? No and no.

Published on Monday, November 15, 2004 by Zogby International

I Smell a Rat
by Colin Shea

I smell a rat. It has that distinctive and all-too-familiar odor of the species Republicanus floridius. We got a nasty bite from this pest four years ago and never quite recovered. Symptoms of a long-term infection are becoming distressingly apparent.
The first sign of the rat was on election night. The jubilation of early exit polling had given way to rising anxiety as states fell one by one to the Red Tide. It was getting late in the smoky cellar of a Prague sports bar where a crowd of expats had gathered. We had been hoping to go home to bed early, confident of victory. Those hopes had evaporated in a flurry of early precinct reports from Florida and Ohio.
By 3 AM, conversation had died and we were grimly sipping beers and watching as those two key states seemed to be slipping further and further to crimson. Suddenly, a friend who had left two hours earlier rushed in and handed us a printout.
"Zogby's calling it for Kerry." He smacked the sheet decisively. "Definitely. He's got both Florida and Ohio in the Kerry column. Kerry only needs one." Satisfied, we went to bed, confident we would wake with the world a better place. Victory was at hand.
The morning told a different story, of course. No Florida victory for Kerry--Bush had a decisive margin of nearly 400,000 votes. Ohio was not even close enough for Kerry to demand that all the votes be counted. The pollsters had been dead wrong, Bush had four more years and a powerful mandate. Onward Christian soldiers--next stop, Tehran.
Lies, damn lies, and statistics
I work with statistics and polling data every day. Something rubbed me the wrong way. I checked the exit polls for Florida--all wrong. CNN's results indicated a Kerry win: turnout matched voter registration, and independents had broken 59% to 41% for Kerry.
Polling is an imprecise science. Yet its very imprecision is itself quantifiable and follows regular patterns. Differences between actual results and those expected from polling data must be explainable by identifiable factors if the polling sample is robust enough. With almost 3.000 respondents in Florida alone, the CNN poll sample was pretty robust.
The first signs of the rat were identified by Kathy Dopp, who conducted a simple analysis of voter registrations by party in Florida and compared them to presidential vote results. Basically she multiplied the total votes cast in a county by the percentage of voters registered Republican: this gave an expected Republican vote. She then compared this to the actual result.
Her analysis is startling. Certain counties voted for Bush far in excess of what one would expect based on the share of Republican registrations in that county. They key phrase is "certain counties"--there is extraordinary variance between individual counties. Most counties fall more or less in line with what one would expect based on the share of Republican registrations, but some differ wildly.
How to explain this incredible variance? Dopp found one over-riding factor: whether the county used electronic touch-screen voting, or paper ballots which were optically scanned into a computer. All of those with touch-screen voting had results relatively in line with her expected results, while all of those with extreme variance were in counties with optical scanning.
The intimation, clearly, is fraud. Ballots are scanned; results are fed into precinct computers; these are sent to a county-wide database, whose results are fed into the statewide electoral totals. At any point after physical ballots become databases, the system is vulnerable to external hackers.
It seemed too easy, and Dopp's method seemed simplistic. I re-ran the results using CNN's exit polling data. In each county, I took the number of registrations and assigned correctional factors based on the CNN poll to predict turnout among Republicans, Democrats, and independents. I then used the vote shares from the polls to predict a likely number of Republican votes per county. I compared this ‘expected' Republican vote to the actual Republican vote.
The results are shocking. Overall, Bush received 2% fewer votes in counties with electronic touch-screen voting than expected. In counties with optical scanning, he received 16% more. This 16% would not be strange if it were spread across counties more or less evenly. It is not. In 11 different counties, the ‘actual' Bush vote was at least twice higher than the expected vote. 13 counties had Bush vote tallies 50--100% higher than expected. In one county where 88% of voters are registered Democrats, Bush got nearly two thirds of the vote--three times more than predicted by my model.
Again, polling can be wrong. It is difficult to believe it can be that wrong. Fortunately, however, we can test how wrong it would have to be to give the ‘actual' result.
I tested two alternative scenarios to see how wrong CNN would have to have been to explain the election result. In the first, I assumed they had been wildly off the mark in the turnout figures--i.e. far more Republicans and independents had come out than Democrats. In the second I assumed the voting shares were completely wrong, and that the Republicans had been able to massively poach voters from the Democrat base.
In the first scenario, I assumed 90% of Republicans and independents voted, and the remaining ballots were cast by Democrats. This explains the result in counties with optical scanning to within 5%. However, in this scenario Democratic turnout would have been only 51% in the optical scanning counties--barely exceeding half of Republican turnout. It also does not solve the enormous problems in individual counties. 7 counties in this scenario still have actual vote tallies for Bush that are at least 100% higher than predicted by the model--an extremely unlikely result.
In the second scenario I assumed that Bush had actually got 100% of the vote from Republicans and 50% from independents (versus CNN polling results which were 93% and 41% respectively). If this gave enough votes for Bush to explain the county's results, I left the amount of Democratic registered voters ballots cast for Bush as they were predicted by CNN (14% voted for Bush). If this did not explain the result, I calculated how many Democrats would have to vote for Bush.
In 41 of 52 counties, this did not explain the result and Bush must have gotten more than CNN's predicted 14% of Democratic ballots--not an unreasonable assumption by itself. However, in 21 counties more than 50% of Democratic votes would have to have defected to Bush to account for the county result--in four counties, at least 70% would have been required. These results are absurdly unlikely.
The second rat
A previously undiscovered species of rat, Republicanus cuyahogus, has been found in Ohio. Before the election, I wrote snide letters to a state legislator for Cuyahoga county who, according to media reports, was preparing an army of enforcers to keep ‘suspect' (read: minority) voters away from the polls. One of his assistants wrote me back very pleasant mails to the effect that they had no intention of trying to suppress voter turnout, and in fact only wanted to encourage people to vote.
They did their job too well. According to the official statistics for Cuyahoga county, a number of precincts had voter turnout well above the national average: in fact, turnout was well over 100% of registered voters, and in several cases well above the total number of people who have lived in the precinct in the last century or so.
In 30 precincts, more ballots were cast than voters were registered in the county. According to county regulations, voters must cast their ballot in the precinct in which they are registered. Yet in these thirty precincts, nearly 100.000 more people voted than are registered to vote -- this out of a total of 251.946 registrations. These are not marginal differences--this is a 39% over-vote. In some precincts the over-vote was well over 100%. One precinct with 558 registered voters cast nearly 9,000 ballots. As one astute observer noted, it's the ballot-box equivalent of Jesus' miracle of the fishes. Bush being such a man of God, perhaps we should not be surprised.
What to do?
This is not an idle statistical exercise. Either the raw data from two critical battleground states is completely erroneous, or something has gone horribly awry in our electoral system--again. Like many Americans, I was dissatisfied with and suspicious of the way the Florida recount was resolved in 2000. But at the same time, I was convinced of one thing: we must let the system work, and accept its result, no matter how unjust it might appear.
With this acceptance, we placed our implicit faith in the Bush Administration that it would not abuse its position: that it would recognize its fragile mandate for what it was, respect the will of the majority of people who voted against them, and move to build consensus wherever possible and effect change cautiously when needed. Above all, we believed that both Democrats and Republicans would recognize the over-riding importance of revitalizing the integrity of the electoral system and healing the bruised faith of both constituencies.
This faith has been shattered. Bush has not led the nation to unity, but ruled through fear and division. Dishonesty and deceit in areas critical to the public interest have been the hallmark of his Administration. I state this not to throw gratuitous insults, but to place the Florida and Ohio electoral results in their proper context. For the GOP to claim now that we must take anything on faith, let alone astonishingly suspicious results in a hard-fought and extraordinarily bitter election, is pure fantasy. It does not even merit discussion.
The facts as I see them now defy all logical explanations save one--massive and systematic vote fraud. We cannot accept the result of the 2004 presidential election as legitimate until these discrepancies are rigorously and completely explained. From the Valerie Plame case to the horrors of Abu Ghraib, George Bush has been reluctant to seek answers and assign accountability when it does not suit his purposes. But this is one time when no American should accept not getting a straight answer. Until then, George Bush is still, and will remain, the ‘Accidental President' of 2000. One of his many enduring and shameful legacies will be that of seizing power through two illegitimate elections conducted on his brother's watch, and engineering a fundamental corruption at the very heart of the greatest democracy the world has known. We must not permit this to happen again.
Colin Shea is author of "The Freezer Box"

http://www.commondreams.org/cgi-bin/print.cgi?file=/views04/1115-20.htm

This one is a good one too:

Published on Tuesday, November 16, 2004 by United Press International

Election 2004: Lingering Suspicions
by Greg Guma

The Internet, that wonderful engine of democracy, is rife with messages purporting to demonstrate how the U.S. presidential election results were manipulated in ways benefiting the Republicans.
To start, voting analyses of selected Florida and Ohio precincts conducted by the University of Pennsylvania's Steven Freeman and independent investigator Faun Otter have revealed surprisingly high percentages for Bush. Those skeptical about the results further suggest spoiled ballots and provisional votes, which may have a disproportionate impact on the results in the areas with high concentrations of minority voters, could have made the difference.
The earliest exit poll data released on Nov. 2 indicated Kerry -- who had run narrowly behind Bush but within the margin of error for most of the race -- was rolling to victory and carrying many of the battleground states, including Florida and Ohio, by higher than expected margins. These same polls also suggested the Republicans were ahead in most of the tight U.S. Senate races.
By the end of the night, however, the predictions in the presidential exit were wrong while the Senate projections were largely correct.
Exit polling by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International, which created the National Election Poll for ABC, AP, CBS, CNN, Fox, and NBC, had shown Kerry leading by 3 percentage points in Florida and by 4 points in Ohio. Kerry lost Florida by 5.2 percent, with Bush running ahead of his 2000 performance in 58 of the state's 67 counties. In Ohio, the margin was 2.5 percent.
Florida's 8.2-percent spread -- between the early exits and the results -- is more than double the standard error rate. In Ohio, the spread is 6.5 percent.
In Baker County, Fla. located near the city of Jacksonville and just across the border from Georgia, there are 12,887 registered voters: 69.3 percent are Democrats, 24.3 percent are Republicans. Yet 2,180 of county residents voted for Kerry while 7,738 voted for Bush -- the opposite of what some election critics say was the typically pattern elsewhere in the United States.
In Florida's Dixie County, located on the Gulf Coast between Tallahassee and Tampa, 77.5 percent of the 4,988 registered voters are Democrats, 15 percent are Republicans. On Election Day, Bush carried the county with 4,433 votes vs. 1,959 for Kerry.
Nationally, few outlets have pursued the story of what happened in Baker and Dixie, why and whether it actually indicates a problem with the counting of the ballots. Most of the coverage of the alleged irregularities has focused on why the exit polls were so far off. Skeptics dismiss them as flawed or somehow favoring Kerry and say that, though they may have influenced the narrative of election coverage, they couldn't affect the outcome.
To explain the difference, some unconvincing theories have been floated including the one offered by the architects of the sampling system used for exit polling. They say Kerry voters were simply more willing to answer the questions. It's called the "chattiness thesis" and it sounds like a weak excuse -- but so was the pollsters' earlier claims that the numbers were right, the media just read them wrong. In an article for Tom Paine.com, a liberal Internet publication, Greg Palast, an author and frequent critic of the 2000 election returns in Florida, goes farther.
"Although the exit polls show that most voters in Ohio punched cards for Kerry-Edwards, thousands of these votes were simply not recorded," he writes. Palast says he thinks the election was decided by "spoilage," the small part of the vote that is voided and thrown away.
In Ohio, as in Florida four years ago, a large number of spoiled votes were cast on punch cards, 54 percent of which were cast by black voters, according to statisticians investigating the issue for Verified Voting, a group formed by a Stanford University professor to assess electronic voting. Verified Voting has collected 31,000 reports of alleged election abnormalities.
Other factors also could have affected the vote count, including last-minute legal challenges filed in several states, both by Democrats trying to block Ralph Nader from appearing on state ballots and Republicans concerned about lax registration rules. Long lines at precincts in the evening and the large number of total provisional ballots cast across the United States also may have influenced the outcome somewhat.
Taken together, such factors could significantly change the vote in some areas, bringing the count more into line with the exit poll results.
Were the election results manipulated in some way? At the moment, the question invokes the same kind of polarizations generated by the election choice itself; a much more thorough analysis is needed -- and will not be quick in the offing -- before the Internet chatter can taken seriously, even though some will always believe it did in fact occur.
Even if the thesis can eventually be demonstrated to be accurate, that some form of manipulation did occur, the technology involved is so complex that those responsible will likely escape the consequences.
Postscript: There is as yet no solid proof that a cyber-attack occurred on Nov. 2. For one thing, it would probably require hacking into multiple local computer systems, presumably from one or more remote locations. Nevertheless, suspicions are mounting and evidence is emerging to suggest that the U.S. presidential election results were manipulated to some extent.
Could it be pulled off? As far as we know, the CIA’s successes in cyber-war include targeting specific bank accounts and shutting down computer systems. But stealing an election is considerably more difficult, requiring the alteration of data in many computers.
According to Robert Parry, writing for Consortium News, "a preprogrammed ‘kernel of brain’ would have to be inserted into election computers beforehand, or teams of hackers would be needed to penetrate the lightly protected systems, targeting touch-screen systems without a paper backup for verifying the numbers."
It’s a form of "information warfare," a hot item within the U.S. military since the mid-1990. The Pentagon has even produced a 13-page booklet, "Information Warfare for Dummies." Indirectly, this primer acknowledges considerable secret capabilities in these areas.
It also recognizes the sensitivity of the topic. "Due to the moral, ethical and legal questions raised by hacking, the military likes to keep a low profile on this issue," it explains.
So, did it happen here? Perhaps time will tell. But as the Pentagon readily admits, cyber-warfare has considerable advantages over other tactics. "The intrusions can be carried out remotely, transcending the boundaries of time and space," the manual explains.
And, best of all, if the fraud is ever discovered, there is such a technological buffer between those responsible and those doing the deed you might say it’s the state-of-the-art in plausible deniability.  
Greg Guma edits the Vermont Guardian, a statewide weekly, and Toward Freedom. He can be reached at greg@vermontguardian.com

Sunday, May 22, 2005

COLLECTIVE GUILT AND ARMAGEDDON

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I don't know what grade I was in-- or if it was even in school-- that I first confronted the idea of collective guilt, collective guilt as in the WW II generation of Germans. They kind of elected Hitler-- well he really did have a lot of votes, even if he actually attained power extra-Constitutionally. But, even more than that there were a helluva lot of them-- true mostly in the south (Bavaria) but, eventually all over Germany-- who were enthusiastically supportive of Hitler and his radical/conservative Far Right regime. And even the ones who were less enthusiastic... went along.

Why bring this up in 2005? 1935 was 70 years ago. (Disclaimer: I admit that when the U.S. invaded Vietnam, bombed and brutalized its heroic people and turned that country into a hell on earth, I was also concerned about collective guilt and, in fact, left the U.S. for quite a few years, not so much to avoid military service-- luck of the draw gave me a very high selective service # so I was clearly never gonna get called-- as to try to avoid the karma for what my country was doing in Southeast Asia.) My latest bout of obsession over collective guilt isn't really about the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq per se.

It's much worse. I mean the Germans were cursed long before Hitler invaded the Sudetenland, reoccupied the Saar and then the Rhineland areas, even before he unilaterally tore up treaties and started sabotaging the League of Nations. They were cursed when they allowed themselves to slip, step by step, into the ever tightening grip of fascist totalitarianism.

My forebearers were European Jews. The ones I know of were long gone before Hitler was a factor. But growing up as a person of Jewish heritage, in Brooklyn no less, I couldn't help but ponder-- more than once-- how those people could have complied more-or-less calmly, at least to the extent of not fighting to the death, as they and their families were systematically exterminated. I mean that's even scarier than watching your country turn into a totalitarian fascist state. I don't foresee concentration camps or extermination camps in America-- not even for gay people-- although, the Jews that didn't die in ovens and "showers" were the ones that were fast enough on the uptake to get out of Dodge early. But what I do see-- more clearly with each passing day-- is my country slipping, slipping, slipping into totalitarianism and fascism. OMG! I said it.

Now what the hell am I gonna do about it? Did you read that thing from the NY TIMES I posted a day or two ago-- the one about how our Army is brutalizing innocent-- innocent as in random, minding-one's-own-business-- Afghanis who just happen to get swept up in a general swoop. And we're doing it in Iraq too. Big time. By the way I said "we're," not "they're." If a bunch of yahoos with Confederate flags in their tent, following orders from the White House and the Pentagon brutally torture and then beat some innocent Afghanis to death. It's our men and women, boys and girls, over there, following orders from our civilian-controlled government. You can probably guess I didn't vote for Bush. But I'm not in prison either, so those soldiers are acting for me-- and you.

My friends are pretty smart, pretty educated, pretty well-informed. Pretty much every one of them voted against Bush and even the ones who preferred Nader over the pathetic Kerry were smart enough, this time, to vote for Kerry. I keep talking to them and lots of them don't know what "The Nuclear Option" is. They don't know that in like 2 days the radical wing of the Republican Party will have unilaterally changed the rules of the United States Senate in a way so that they can do anything they want with no checks and no balances. This is alarming-- particularly for someone like me who's looked closely at the election returns in 2000 and 2004 and was greatly disturbed to see African-American precincts in Florida and Ohio which had always voted OVER 90% Democrat, being reported as voting over 90% Republican. No checks, no balances.

I don't want to contemplate the kind of Armageddon the Germans experienced so I'm gonna cut this one short and just think about it for a few days. I'll bring it up again though.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

THE CONSERVATIVE VOICE Asks: Norm Coleman For Prez???

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Although Norm Coleman, the Republican U.S. Senator from Minnesota recently exposed to the world as a pathetic dimwit and embarrassment, managed to have George Gallaway's brilliant remarks in front of his committee excised from the Congressional Record (this is true; I'm not making it up; it now officially "never happened"), even conservatives are laughing at this moron. This article from THE CONSERVATIVE VOICE puts the whole thing in context (and makes sure conservatives can never say they didn't know what actually happened in Coleman's committee room). By the way, this isn't just some distant, intellectual exercise for me. Coleman and I went to elementary school together in Brooklyn and were both elected class secretaries at the same time. He was an unbearably pompous asshole back in PS 197 then too. We all knew he'd grow up to be a nightmare.

Norm Coleman for President???
by Jude Wanniski
Re: George Galloway vs. Senator Norm Coleman [R Minn]

When I first arrived in Washington, D.C., in the spring of 1965 to work for the Dow Jones' newsweekly, The National Observer, I assumed that members of Congress, especially members of the U.S. Senate, were among the smartest, wisest, most knowledgeable American citizens. I quickly found out that on some topics of the greatest importance... Vietnam being one of them... they were as dumb as posts. In preparing myself for my new job, I'd read everything I could lay my hands on about Vietnam, newspaper articles, magazine articles, and more than a dozen books written by men and women of a great many different political persuasions.

I'd done my homework so I could report intelligently on that topic... and a great many other topics I was assigned first as a general assignment reporter, then as the newspaper's chief political columnist. I soon found I knew more about Vietnam than the members of Congress I interviewed and members of the executive branch at State and Defense who I assumed would know everything.

Thinking back, I can recall being impressed with the intelligence and knowledge of several U.S. Senators... Jacob Javits [R NY], Russell Long [D LA], Hubert Humphrey [D MINN], John Stennis [D MISS], John Tower [R TX], Henry Jackson [D WA], but even these superior politicians I found now and then stumbled into areas where they just didn't know what they were talking about. Almost invariably, I think it was because of failures at their staff levels. They were briefed or given talking points or speech drafts with inferior material collected by inferior staffers. As an example, I specifically recall reading the Congressional Record one morning in the Senate press dining room to discover that Sen Gordon Allott [R CO], who was as dumb as a post the last time I read his blatherings, suddenly had made a brilliant speech on the Senate floor. I quickly called his press secretary to congratulate him on the speech and to ask who had helped draft it for the Senate. It turned out to be a new staff member, practically straight out of college, a 25 year-old young man named George Will. As long as George worked for Allott, Allott was smart.

Which brings us to Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota, a young Republican who clearly has dreams of riding the so-called "Oil-for-Food Scandal" to the White House, a la Richard Nixon's prosecution of Alger Hiss as a Communist spy. From what I've seen do far, though, Coleman's background as a prosecutor may make him smarter than his colleagues in understanding the Minnesota penal code, but otherwise he is as dumb as a post. At least in the sense that he still doesn't realize he has been chosen by the neo-cons and their friends in the pro-war conservative press. His mission: to smear the United Nations, Secretary General Kofi Annan, and ultimately all the agencies of the U.N. that are likely to get in their way of an Imperial America. In return, they are telling him he is, by gosh, presidential timber!!

Senator Coleman seems to think that as long as the stuff he is getting from the neo-cons is winning him the plaudits of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Rupert Murdoch's news empire, he can not only take it to the Sunday talk shows, but also attack members of the British Parliament who have different views on the subject. He did so recently by accusing George Galloway of the House of Commons of corruption in the so-called "Oil-for-Food Scandal" and instead of slinking away into the London fog, Galloway showed up in Washington this last week to appear before the Coleman subcommittee investigating the "Scandal." He did so having won in December 150,000 British pounds in libel damages from the Daily Telegraph over its separate claims he had received money from Saddam's regime. After Coleman laid out a series of charges against him, here is what Galloway had to say. The last we saw, Senator Coleman was seen slinking away into the fog:

Published on Tuesday, May 17, 2005 by the Times Online (UK)
Galloway vs. The US Senate: Transcript of Statement
George Galloway, Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, delivered this statement to US Senators today who have accused him of corruption

* * * * *

"Senator, I am not now, nor have I ever been, an oil trader. and neither has anyone on my behalf. I have never seen a barrel of oil, owned one, bought one, sold one - and neither has anyone on my behalf.

"Now I know that standards have slipped in the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice. I am here today but last week you already found me guilty. You traduced my name around the world without ever having asked me a single question, without ever having contacted me, without ever written to me or telephoned me, without any attempt to contact me whatsoever. And you call that justice.

"Now I want to deal with the pages that relate to me in this dossier and I want to point out areas where there are - let's be charitable and say errors. Then I want to put this in the context where I believe it ought to be. On the very first page of your document about me you assert that I have had 'many meetings' with Saddam Hussein. This is false.

"I have had two meetings with Saddam Hussein, once in 1994 and once in August of 2002. By no stretch of the English language can that be described as "many meetings" with Saddam Hussein.

"As a matter of fact, I have met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps the better to target those guns. I met him to try and bring about an end to sanctions, suffering and war, and on the second of the two occasions, I met him to try and persuade him to let Dr Hans Blix and the United Nations weapons inspectors back into the country - a rather better use of two meetings with Saddam Hussein than your own Secretary of State for Defense made of his.

"I was an opponent of Saddam Hussein when British and Americans governments and businessmen were selling him guns and gas. I used to demonstrate outside the Iraqi embassy when British and American officials were going in and doing commerce.

"You will see from the official parliamentary record, Hansard, from the 15th March 1990 onwards, voluminous evidence that I have a rather better record of opposition to Saddam Hussein than you do and than any other member of the British or American governments do.

"Now you say in this document, you quote a source, you have the gall to quote a source, without ever having asked me whether the allegation from the source is true, that I am 'the owner of a company which has made substantial profits from trading in Iraqi oil'.

"Senator, I do not own any companies, beyond a small company whose entire purpose, whose sole purpose, is to receive the income from my journalistic earnings from my employer, Associated Newspapers, in London. I do not own a company that's been trading in Iraqi oil. And you have no business to carry a quotation, utterly unsubstantiated and false, implying otherwise.

"Now you have nothing on me, Senator, except my name on lists of names from Iraq, many of which have been drawn up after the installation of your puppet government in Baghdad. If you had any of the letters against me that you had against Zhirinovsky, and even Pasqua, they would have been up there in your slideshow for the members of your committee today.

"You have my name on lists provided to you by the Duelfer inquiry, provided to him by the convicted bank robber, and fraudster and conman Ahmed Chalabi who many people to their credit in your country now realize played a decisive role in leading your country into the disaster in Iraq.

"There were 270 names on that list originally. That's somehow been filleted down to the names you chose to deal with in this committee. Some of the names on that committee included the former secretary to his Holiness Pope John Paul II, the former head of the African National Congress Presidential office and many others who had one defining characteristic in common: they all stood against the policy of sanctions and war which you vociferously prosecuted and which has led us to this disaster.

"You quote Mr Dahar Yassein Ramadan. Well, you have something on me, I've never met Mr Dahar Yassein Ramadan. Your sub-committee apparently has. But I do know that he's your prisoner, I believe he's in Abu Ghraib prison. I believe he is facing war crimes charges, punishable by death. In these circumstances, knowing what the world knows about how you treat prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison, in Bagram Airbase, in Guantanamo Bay, including I may say, British citizens being held in those places.

"I'm not sure how much credibility anyone would put on anything you manage to get from a prisoner in those circumstances. But you quote 13 words from Dahar Yassein Ramadan whom I have never met. If he said what he said, then he is wrong.

"And if you had any evidence that I had ever engaged in any actual oil transaction, if you had any evidence that anybody ever gave me any money, it would be before the public and before this committee today because I agreed with your Mr Greenblatt [Mark Greenblatt, legal counsel on the committee].

"Your Mr Greenblatt was absolutely correct. What counts is not the names on the paper, what counts is where's the money. Senator? Who paid me hundreds of thousands of dollars of money? The answer to that is nobody. And if you had anybody who ever paid me a penny, you would have produced them today.

"Now you refer at length to a company names in these documents as Aredio Petroleum. I say to you under oath here today: I have never heard of this company, I have never met anyone from this company. This company has never paid a penny to me and I'll tell you something else: I can assure you that Aredio Petroleum has never paid a single penny to the Mariam Appeal Campaign. Not a thin dime. I don't know who Aredio Petroleum are, but I daresay if you were to ask them they would confirm that they have never met me or ever paid me a penny.

"Whilst I'm on that subject, who is this senior former regime official that you spoke to yesterday? Don't you think I have a right to know? Don't you think the Committee and the public have a right to know who this senior former regime official you were quoting against me interviewed yesterday actually is?

"Now, one of the most serious of the mistakes you have made in this set of documents is, to be frank, such a schoolboy howler as to make a fool of the efforts that you have made. You assert on page 19, not once but twice, that the documents that you are referring to cover a different period in time from the documents covered by The Daily Telegraph which were a subject of a libel action won by me in the High Court in England late last year.

"You state that The Daily Telegraph article cited documents from 1992 and 1993 whilst you are dealing with documents dating from 2001. Senator, The Daily Telegraph's documents date identically to the documents that you were dealing with in your report here. None of The Daily Telegraph's documents dealt with a period of 1992, 1993. I had never set foot in Iraq until late in 1993 - never in my life. There could possibly be no documents relating to Oil-for-Food matters in 1992, 1993, for the Oil-for-Food scheme did not exist at that time.

"And yet you've allocated a full section of this document to claiming that your documents are from a different era to the Daily Telegraph documents when the opposite is true. Your documents and the Daily Telegraph documents deal with exactly the same period.

"But perhaps you were confusing the Daily Telegraph action with the Christian Science Monitor. The Christian Science Monitor did indeed publish on its front pages a set of allegations against me very similar to the ones that your committee have made. They did indeed rely on documents which started in 1992, 1993. These documents were unmasked by the Christian Science Monitor themselves as forgeries.

"Now, the neo-con websites and newspapers in which you're such a hero, senator, were all absolutely @#%#*-a-hoop at the publication of the Christian Science Monitor documents, they were all absolutely convinced of their authenticity. They were all absolutely convinced that these documents showed me receiving $10 million from the Saddam regime. And they were all lies.

"In the same week as the Daily Telegraph published their documents against me, the Christian Science Monitor published theirs which turned out to be forgeries and the British newspaper, Mail on Sunday, purchased a third set of documents which also upon forensic examination turned out to be forgeries. So there's nothing fanciful about this. Nothing at all fanciful about it.

"The existence of forged documents implicating me in commercial activities with the Iraqi regime is a proven fact. It's a proven fact that these forged documents existed and were being circulated amongst right-wing newspapers in Baghdad and around the world in the immediate aftermath of the fall of the Iraqi regime.

"Now, Senator, I gave my heart and soul to oppose the policy that you promoted. I gave my political life's blood to try to stop the mass killing of Iraqis by the sanctions on Iraq which killed one million Iraqis, most of them children, most of them died before they even knew that they were Iraqis, but they died for no other reason other than that they were Iraqis with the misfortune to born at that time. I gave my heart and soul to stop you committing the disaster that you did commit in invading Iraq. And I told the world that your case for the war was a pack of lies.

“I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims did not have weapons of mass destruction. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al-Qaeda. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11 2001. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning.

"Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies.

If the world had listened to Kofi Annan, whose dismissal you demanded, if the world had listened to President Chirac who you want to paint as some kind of corrupt traitor, if the world had listened to me and the anti-war movement in Britain, we would not be in the disaster that we are in today. Senator, this is the mother of all smokescreens. You are trying to divert attention from the crimes that you supported, from the theft of billions of dollars of Iraq's wealth.

"Have a look at the real Oil-for-Food scandal. Have a look at the 14 months you were in charge of Baghdad, the first 14 months when $8.8 billion of Iraq's wealth went missing on your watch. Have a look at Halliburton and other American corporations that stole not only Iraq's money, but the money of the American taxpayer.

"Have a look at the oil that you didn't even meter, that you were shipping out of the country and selling, the proceeds of which went who knows where? Have a look at the $800 million you gave to American military commanders to hand out around the country without even counting it or weighing it.

"Have a look at the real scandal breaking in the newspapers today, revealed in the earlier testimony in this committee. That the biggest sanctions busters were not me or Russian politicians or French politicians. The real sanctions busters were your own companies with the connivance of your own Government."

http://www.theconservativevoice.com/modules/news/article.php?storyid=5755

Friday, May 20, 2005

I WENT TO BAGRAM

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I visited Afghanistan in 1969 and again in 1971. I loved the country and the people I met. The country has a breathtaking physical grandeur that is raw and invigorating. The people I met in the 6 months or so I was there were straightforward, generous and open with a well-defined sense of honor and an hilarious sense of humor. I chalked it up-- along with Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand-- as one of my favorite places on earth. I even drove up to Bagram once time.

After I left Afghanistan things changed drastically and the country has been tormented and devastated in 30 years of absolute horror. The Afghan people I remember have been brutalized beyond endurance-- by Russians, by fellow Afs, by Arab jihadists and, most recently, by Americans. When I think of these folks I think of the family that gave me shelter for a winter in their mud-brick house in the Hindu Kush northeast of Kabul. I just wandered by in bad shape and they took me in and fed me 'til the snow started melting and I could get back to Kabul-- 4 months later. Lovely people!
So generous and loving! Never experienced electricity and never heard of the U.S.A. though. I don't know if they made it through all the turmoil; it doesn't seem likely. How many didn't? Hundreds of
thousands? Millions? I'm not certain. But millions have been killed, horribly maimed (i.e.- loss of limbs, eyes, things like that), displaced (sounds innocuous but it means they lost their homes and maybe they are still alive as a whole or partial family unit but as exiles somewhere in Afghanistan or Pakistan or Europe or Canada or even America). Close your eyes and think about your own community and the people you know and love going through what the people of Afghanistan have gone through. These people didn't do anything. Many, literally, didn't even know they were in a country called Afghanistan! But they were in a place on earth deemed "strategic" by forces in Moscow, Washington, New York, Islamabad, Riyadh, Tehran.

I don't know if any U.S. president could have not reacted to the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon by al Qaida, then guests of Afghanistan's reactionary theocracy (The Taliban), too much differently than George Bush did. Maybe there was some diplomacy that could have been engaged in; I don't know. In light of what has come out about how Bush and his team manipulated the country into a disgraceful war against Iraq, I have zero trust in him or his regime. But I suspect that any U.S. president would have HAD to have gone after Osama bin-Laden after 9/11.

Bush botched it though. He hasn't caught bin-Laden and he has made the lot of the Afghan people even more miserable and intolerable than it was before. The U.S. activities in Afghanistan today brand Bush and the inner core of his regime clearly as Class 1 war criminals who must someday face Justice. It may be difficult but I urge you to read this piece by Tim Golden in today's NEW YORK TIMES:

Even as the young Afghan man was dying before them, his American jailers continued to torment him.
    The prisoner, a slight, 22-year-old taxi driver known only as Dilawar, was hauled from his cell at the detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan, at around 2 a.m. to answer questions about a rocket attack on an American base. When he arrived in the interrogation room, an interpreter who was present said, his legs were bouncing uncontrollably in the plastic chair and his hands were numb. He had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days.
Mr. Dilawar asked for a drink of water, and one of the two interrogators, Specialist Joshua R. Claus, 21, picked up a large plastic bottle. But first he punched a hole in the bottom, the interpreter said, so as the prisoner fumbled weakly with the cap, the water poured out over his orange prison scrubs. The soldier then grabbed the bottle back and began squirting the water forcefully into Mr. Dilawar's face.
    "Come on, drink!" the interpreter said Specialist Claus had shouted, as the prisoner gagged on the spray. "Drink!"
    At the interrogators' behest, a guard tried to force the young man to his knees. But his legs, which had been pummeled by guards for several days, could no longer bend. An interrogator told Mr. Dilawar that he could see a doctor after they finished with him. When he was finally sent back to his cell, though, the guards were instructed only to chain the prisoner back to the ceiling.
    "Leave him up," one of the guards quoted Specialist Claus as saying.
    Several hours passed before an emergency room doctor finally saw Mr. Dilawar. By then he was dead, his body beginning to stiffen. It would be many months before Army investigators learned a final horrific detail: Most of the interrogators had believed Mr. Dilawar was an innocent man who simply drove his taxi past the American base at the wrong time.
    The story of Mr. Dilawar's brutal death at the Bagram Collection Point - and that of another detainee, Habibullah, who died there six days earlier in December 2002 - emerge from a nearly 2,000-page confidential file of the Army's criminal investigation into the case, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times.
    Like a narrative counterpart to the digital images from Abu Ghraib, the Bagram file depicts young, poorly trained soldiers in repeated incidents of abuse. The harsh treatment, which has resulted in criminal charges against seven soldiers, went well beyond the two deaths.
    In some instances, testimony shows, it was directed or carried out by interrogators to extract information. In others, it was punishment meted out by military police guards. Sometimes, the torment seems to have been driven by little more than boredom or cruelty, or both.
In sworn statements to Army investigators, soldiers describe one female interrogator with a taste for humiliation stepping on the neck of one prostrate detainee and kicking another in the genitals. They tell of a shackled prisoner being forced to roll back and forth on the floor of a cell, kissing the boots of his two interrogators as he went. Yet another prisoner is made to pick plastic bottle caps out of a drum mixed with excrement and water as part of a strategy to soften him up for questioning.
    The Times obtained a copy of the file from a person involved in the investigation who was critical of the methods used at Bagram and the military's response to the deaths.
    Although incidents of prisoner abuse at Bagram in 2002, including some details of the two men's deaths, have been previously reported, American officials have characterized them as isolated problems that were thoroughly investigated. And many of the officers and soldiers interviewed in the Dilawar investigation said the large majority of detainees at Bagram were compliant and reasonably well treated.
    "What we have learned through the course of all these investigations is that there were people who clearly violated anyone's standard for humane treatment," said the Pentagon's chief spokesman, Larry Di Rita. "We're finding some cases that were not close calls."
    Yet the Bagram file includes ample testimony that harsh treatment by some interrogators was routine and that guards could strike shackled detainees with virtual impunity. Prisoners considered important or troublesome were also handcuffed and chained to the ceilings and doors of their cells, sometimes for long periods, an action Army prosecutors recently classified as criminal assault.
    Some of the mistreatment was quite obvious, the file suggests. Senior officers frequently toured the detention center, and several of them acknowledged seeing prisoners chained up for punishment or to deprive them of sleep. Shortly before the two deaths, observers from the International Committee of the Red Cross specifically complained to the military authorities at Bagram about the shackling of prisoners in "fixed positions," documents show.
    Even though military investigators learned soon after Mr. Dilawar's death that he had been abused by at least two interrogators, the Army's criminal inquiry moved slowly. Meanwhile, many of the Bagram interrogators, led by the same operations officer, Capt. Carolyn A. Wood, were redeployed to Iraq and in July 2003 took charge of interrogations at the Abu Ghraib prison. According to a high-level Army inquiry last year, Captain Wood applied techniques there that were "remarkably similar" to those used at Bagram.
    Last October, the Army's Criminal Investigation Command concluded that there was probable cause to charge 27 officers and enlisted personnel with criminal offenses in the Dilawar case ranging from dereliction of duty to maiming and involuntary manslaughter. Fifteen of the same soldiers were also cited for probable criminal responsibility in the Habibullah case.
    So far, only the seven soldiers have been charged, including four last week. No one has been convicted in either death. Two Army interrogators were also reprimanded, a military spokesman said. Most of those who could still face legal action have denied wrongdoing, either in statements to investigators or in comments to a reporter.
    "The whole situation is unfair," Sgt. Selena M. Salcedo, a former Bagram interrogator who was charged with assaulting Mr. Dilawar, dereliction of duty and lying to investigators, said in a telephone interview. "It's all going to come out when everything is said and done."
    With most of the legal action pending, the story of abuses at Bagram remains incomplete. But documents and interviews reveal a striking disparity between the findings of Army investigators and what military officials said in the aftermath of the deaths.
    Military spokesmen maintained that both men had died of natural causes, even after military coroners had ruled the deaths homicides. Two months after those autopsies, the American commander in Afghanistan, then-Lt. Gen. Daniel K. McNeill, said he had no indication that abuse by soldiers had contributed to the two deaths. The methods used at Bagram, he said, were "in accordance with what is generally accepted as interrogation techniques."

The Interrogators

In the summer of 2002, the military detention center at Bagram, about 40 miles north of Kabul, stood as a hulking reminder of the Americans' improvised hold over Afghanistan.
    Built by the Soviets as an aircraft machine shop for the operations base they established after their intervention in the country in 1979, the building had survived the ensuing wars as a battered relic - a long, squat, concrete block with rusted metal sheets where the windows had once been.
    Retrofitted with five large wire pens and a half dozen plywood isolation cells, the building became the Bagram Collection Point, a clearinghouse for prisoners captured in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The B.C.P., as soldiers called it, typically held between 40 and 80 detainees while they were interrogated and screened for possible shipment to the Pentagon's longer-term detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
    The new interrogation unit that arrived in July 2002 had been improvised as well. Captain Wood, then a 32-year-old lieutenant, came with 13 soldiers from the 525th Military Intelligence Brigade at Fort Bragg, N.C.; six Arabic-speaking reservists were added from the Utah National Guard.
    Part of the new group, which was consolidated under Company A of the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, was made up of counterintelligence specialists with no background in interrogation. Only two of the soldiers had ever questioned actual prisoners.
    What specialized training the unit received came on the job, in sessions with two interrogators who had worked in the prison for a few months. "There was nothing that prepared us for running an interrogation operation" like the one at Bagram, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the interrogators, Staff Sgt. Steven W. Loring, later told investigators.
    Nor were the rules of engagement very clear. The platoon had the standard interrogations guide, Army Field Manual 34-52, and an order from the secretary of defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld, to treat prisoners "humanely," and when possible, in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. But with President Bush's final determination in February 2002 that the Conventions did not apply to the conflict with Al Qaeda and that Taliban fighters would not be accorded the rights of prisoners of war, the interrogators believed they "could deviate slightly from the rules," said one of the Utah reservists, Sgt. James A. Leahy.
"There was the Geneva Conventions for enemy prisoners of war, but nothing for terrorists," Sergeant Leahy told Army investigators. And the detainees, senior intelligence officers said, were to be considered terrorists until proved otherwise.
    The deviations included the use of "safety positions" or "stress positions" that would make the detainees uncomfortable but not necessarily hurt them - kneeling on the ground, for instance, or sitting in a "chair" position against the wall. The new platoon was also trained in sleep deprivation, which the previous unit had generally limited to 24 hours or less, insisting that the interrogator remain awake with the prisoner to avoid pushing the limits of humane treatment.
    But as the 519th interrogators settled into their jobs, they set their own procedures for sleep deprivation. They decided on 32 to 36 hours as the optimal time to keep prisoners awake and eliminated the practice of staying up themselves, one former interrogator, Eric LaHammer, said in an interview.
    The interrogators worked from a menu of basic tactics to gain a prisoner's cooperation, from the "friendly" approach, to good cop-bad cop routines, to the threat of long-term imprisonment. But some less-experienced interrogators came to rely on the method known in the military as "Fear Up Harsh," or what one soldier referred to as "the screaming technique."
    Sergeant Loring, then 27, tried with limited success to wean those interrogators off that approach, which typically involved yelling and throwing chairs. Mr. Leahy said the sergeant "put the brakes on when certain approaches got out of hand." But he could also be dismissive of tactics he considered too soft, several soldiers told investigators, and gave some of the most aggressive interrogators wide latitude. (Efforts to locate Mr. Loring, who has left the military, were unsuccessful.)
    "We sometimes developed a rapport with detainees, and Sergeant Loring would sit us down and remind us that these were evil people and talk about 9/11 and they weren't our friends and could not be trusted," Mr. Leahy said.
    Specialist Damien M. Corsetti, a tall, bearded interrogator sometimes called "Monster" -he had the nickname tattooed in Italian across his stomach, other soldiers said - was often chosen to intimidate new detainees. Specialist Corsetti, they said, would glower and yell at the arrivals as they stood chained to an overhead pole or lay face down on the floor of a holding room. (A military police K-9 unit often brought growling dogs to walk among the new prisoners for similar effect, documents show.)
    "The other interrogators would use his reputation," said one interrogator, Specialist Eric H. Barclais. "They would tell the detainee, 'If you don't cooperate, we'll have to get Monster, and he won't be as nice.' " Another soldier told investigators that Sergeant Loring lightheartedly referred to Specialist Corsetti, then 23, as "the King of Torture."
    A Saudi detainee who was interviewed by Army investigators last June at Guantánamo said Specialist Corsetti had pulled out his penis during an interrogation at Bagram, held it against the prisoner's face and threatened to rape him, excerpts from the man's statement show.
    Last fall, the investigators cited probable cause to charge Specialist Corsetti with assault, maltreatment of a prisoner and indecent acts in the incident; he has not been charged. At Abu Ghraib, he was also one of three members of the 519th who were fined and demoted for forcing an Iraqi woman to strip during questioning, another interrogator said. A spokesman at Fort Bragg said Specialist Corsetti would not comment.
In late August of 2002, the Bagram interrogators were joined by a new military police unit that was assigned to guard the detainees. The soldiers, mostly reservists from the 377th Military Police Company based in Cincinnati and Bloomington, Ind., were similarly unprepared for their mission, members of the unit said.
    The company received basic lessons in handling prisoners at Fort Dix, N.J., and some police and corrections officers in its ranks provided further training. That instruction included an overview of "pressure-point control tactics" and notably the "common peroneal strike" - a potentially disabling blow to the side of the leg, just above the knee.
    The M.P.'s said they were never told that peroneal strikes were not part of Army doctrine. Nor did most of them hear one of the former police officers tell a fellow soldier during the training that he would never use such strikes because they would "tear up" a prisoner's legs.
    But once in Afghanistan, members of the 377th found that the usual rules did not seem to apply. The peroneal strike quickly became a basic weapon of the M.P. arsenal. "That was kind of like an accepted thing; you could knee somebody in the leg," former Sgt. Thomas V. Curtis told the investigators.
    A few weeks into the company's tour, Specialist Jeremy M. Callaway overheard another guard boasting about having beaten a detainee who had spit on him. Specialist Callaway also told investigators that other soldiers had congratulated the guard "for not taking any" from a detainee.
    One captain nicknamed members of the Third Platoon "the Testosterone Gang." Several were devout bodybuilders. Upon arriving in Afghanistan, a group of the soldiers decorated their tent with a Confederate flag, one soldier said.
    Some of the same M.P.'s took a particular interest in an emotionally disturbed Afghan detainee who was known to eat his feces and mutilate himself with concertina wire. The soldiers kneed the man repeatedly in the legs and, at one point, chained him with his arms straight up in the air, Specialist Callaway told investigators. They also nicknamed him "Timmy," after a disabled child in the animated television series "South Park." One of the guards who beat the prisoner also taught him to screech like the cartoon character, Specialist Callaway said.
    Eventually, the man was sent home.

The Defiant Detainee

The detainee known as Person Under Control No. 412 was a portly, well-groomed Afghan named Habibullah. Some American officials identified him as "Mullah" Habibullah, a brother of a former Taliban commander from the southern Afghan province of Oruzgan.
    He stood out from the scraggly guerrillas and villagers whom the Bagram interrogators typically saw. "He had a piercing gaze and was very confident," the provost marshal in charge of the M.P.'s, Maj. Bobby R. Atwell, recalled.
    Documents from the investigation suggest that Mr. Habibullah was captured by an Afghan warlord on Nov. 28, 2002, and delivered to Bagram by C.I.A. operatives two days later. His well-being at that point is a matter of dispute. The doctor who examined him on arrival at Bagram reported him in good health. But the intelligence operations chief, Lt. Col. John W. Loffert Jr., later told Army investigators, "He was already in bad condition when he arrived."
    What is clear is that Mr. Habibullah was identified at Bagram as an important prisoner and an unusually sharp-tongued and insubordinate one.
    One of the 377th's Third Platoon sergeants, Alan J. Driver Jr., told investigators that Mr. Habibullah rose up after a rectal examination and kneed him in the groin. The guard said he grabbed the prisoner by the head and yelled in his face. Mr. Habibullah then "became combative," Sergeant Driver said, and had to be subdued by three guards and led away in an armlock.
    He was then confined in one of the 9-foot by 7-foot isolation cells, which the M.P. commander, Capt. Christopher M. Beiring, later described as a standard procedure. "There was a policy that detainees were hooded, shackled and isolated for at least the first 24 hours, sometimes 72 hours of captivity," he told investigators.
    While the guards kept some prisoners awake by yelling or poking at them or banging on their cell doors, Mr. Habibullah was shackled by the wrists to the wire ceiling over his cell, soldiers said.
    On his second day, Dec. 1, the prisoner was "uncooperative" again, this time with Specialist Willie V. Brand. The guard, who has since been charged with assault and other crimes, told investigators he had delivered three peroneal strikes in response. The next day, Specialist Brand said, he had to knee the prisoner again. Other blows followed.
    A lawyer for Specialist Brand, John P. Galligan, said there was no criminal intent by his client to hurt any detainee. "At the time, my client was acting consistently with the standard operating procedure that was in place at the Bagram facility."
    The communication between Mr. Habibullah and his jailers appears to have been almost exclusively physical. Despite repeated requests, the M.P.'s were assigned no interpreters of their own. Instead, they borrowed from the interrogators when they could and relied on prisoners who spoke even a little English to translate for them.
    When the detainees were beaten or kicked for "noncompliance," one of the interpreters, Ali M. Baryalai said, it was often "because they have no idea what the M.P. is saying."
    By the morning of Dec. 2, witnesses told the investigators, Mr. Habibullah was coughing and complaining of chest pains. He limped into the interrogation room in shackles, his right leg stiff and his right foot swollen. The lead interrogator, Sergeant Leahy, let him sit on the floor because he could not bend his knees and sit in a chair.
    The interpreter who was on hand, Ebrahim Baerde, said the interrogators had kept their distance that day "because he was spitting up a lot of phlegm."
    "They were laughing and making fun of him, saying it was 'gross' or 'nasty,' " Mr. Baerde said.
    Though battered, Mr. Habibullah was unbowed.
    "Once they asked him if he wanted to spend the rest of his life in handcuffs," Mr. Baerde said. "His response was, 'Yes, don't they look good on me?' "
    By Dec. 3, Mr. Habibullah's reputation for defiance seemed to make him an open target. One M.P. said he had given him five peroneal strikes for being "noncompliant and combative." Another gave him three or four more for being "combative and noncompliant." Some guards later asserted that he had been hurt trying to escape.
    When Sgt. James P. Boland saw Mr. Habibullah on Dec. 3, he was in one of the isolation cells, tethered to the ceiling by two sets of handcuffs and a chain around his waist. His body was slumped forward, held up by the chains.
    Sergeant Boland told the investigators he had entered the cell with two other guards, Specialists Anthony M. Morden and Brian E. Cammack. (All three have been charged with assault and other crimes.) One of them pulled off the prisoner's black hood. His head was slumped to one side, his tongue sticking out. Specialist Cammack said he had put some bread on Mr. Habibullah's tongue. Another soldier put an apple in the prisoner's hand; it fell to the floor.
    When Specialist Cammack turned back toward the prisoner, he said in one statement, Mr. Habibullah's spit hit his chest. Later, Specialist Cammack acknowledged, "I'm not sure if he spit at me." But at the time, he exploded, yelling, "Don't ever spit on me again!" and kneeing the prisoner sharply in the thigh, "maybe a couple" of times. Mr. Habibullah's limp body swayed back and forth in the chains.
    When Sergeant Boland returned to the cell some 20 minutes later, he said, Mr. Habibullah was not moving and had no pulse. Finally, the prisoner was unchained and laid out on the floor of his cell.
    The guard who Specialist Cammack said had counseled him back in New Jersey about the dangers of peroneal strikes found him in the room where Mr. Habibullah lay, his body already cold.
    "Specialist Cammack appeared very distraught," Specialist William Bohl told an investigator. The soldier "was running about the room hysterically."
    An M.P. was sent to wake one of the medics.
    "What are you getting me for?" the medic, Specialist Robert S. Melone, responded, telling him to call an ambulance instead.
    When another medic finally arrived, he found Mr. Habibullah on the floor, his arms outstretched, his eyes and mouth open.
    "It looked like he had been dead for a while, and it looked like nobody cared," the medic, Staff Sgt. Rodney D. Glass, recalled.
    Not all of the guards were indifferent, their statements show. But if Mr. Habibullah's death shocked some of them, it did not lead to major changes in the detention center's operation.
    Military police guards were assigned to be present during interrogations to help prevent mistreatment. The provost marshal, Major Atwell, told investigators he had already instructed the commander of the M.P. company, Captain Beiring, to stop chaining prisoners to the ceiling. Others said they never received such an order.
    Senior officers later told investigators that they had been unaware of any serious abuses at the B.C.P. But the first sergeant of the 377th, Betty J. Jones, told investigators that the use of standing restraints, sleep deprivation and peroneal strikes was readily apparent.
    "Everyone that is anyone went through the facility at one time or another," she said.
    Major Atwell said the death "did not cause an enormous amount of concern 'cause it appeared natural."
    In fact, Mr. Habibullah's autopsy, completed on Dec. 8, showed bruises or abrasions on his chest, arms and head. There were deep contusions on his calves, knees and thighs. His left calf was marked by what appeared to have been the sole of a boot.
    His death was attributed to a blood clot, probably caused by the severe injuries to his legs, which traveled to his heart and blocked the blood flow to his lungs.
    The Shy Detainee
    On Dec. 5, one day after Mr. Habibullah died, Mr. Dilawar arrived at Bagram.
    Four days before, on the eve of the Muslim holiday of Id al-Fitr, Mr. Dilawar set out from his tiny village of Yakubi in a prized new possession, a used Toyota sedan that his family bought for him a few weeks earlier to drive as a taxi.
    Mr. Dilawar was not an adventurous man. He rarely went far from the stone farmhouse he shared with his wife, young daughter and extended family. He never attended school, relatives said, and had only one friend, Bacha Khel, with whom he would sit in the wheat fields surrounding the village and talk.
    "He was a shy man, a very simple man," his eldest brother, Shahpoor, said in an interview.
    On the day he disappeared, Mr. Dilawar's mother had asked him to gather his three sisters from their nearby villages and bring them home for the holiday. But he needed gas money and decided instead to drive to the provincial capital, Khost, about 45 minutes away, to look for fares.
    At a taxi stand there, he found three men headed back toward Yakubi. On the way, they passed a base used by American troops, Camp Salerno, which had been the target of a rocket attack that morning.
    Militiamen loyal to the guerrilla commander guarding the base, Jan Baz Khan, stopped the Toyota at a checkpoint. They confiscated a broken walkie-talkie from one of Mr. Dilawar's passengers. In the trunk, they found an electric stabilizer used to regulate current from a generator. (Mr. Dilawar's family said the stabilizer was not theirs; at the time, they said, they had no electricity at all.)
    The four men were detained and turned over to American soldiers at the base as suspects in the attack. Mr. Dilawar and his passengers spent their first night there handcuffed to a fence, so they would be unable to sleep. When a doctor examined them the next morning, he said later, he found Mr. Dilawar tired and suffering from headaches but otherwise fine.
    Mr. Dilawar's three passengers were eventually flown to Guantánamo and held for more than a year before being sent home without charge. In interviews after their release, the men described their treatment at Bagram as far worse than at Guantánamo. While all of them said they had been beaten, they complained most bitterly of being stripped naked in front of female soldiers for showers and medical examinations, which they said included the first of several painful and humiliating rectal exams.
    "They did lots and lots of bad things to me," said Abdur Rahim, a 26-year-old baker from Khost. "I was shouting and crying, and no one was listening. When I was shouting, the soldiers were slamming my head against the desk."
    For Mr. Dilawar, his fellow prisoners said, the most difficult thing seemed to be the black cloth hood that was pulled over his head. "He could not breathe," said a man called Parkhudin, who had been one of Mr. Dilawar's passengers.
    Mr. Dilawar was a frail man, standing only 5 feet 9 inches and weighing 122 pounds. But at Bagram, he was quickly labeled one of the "noncompliant" ones.
    When one of the First Platoon M.P.'s, Specialist Corey E. Jones, was sent to Mr. Dilawar's cell to give him some water, he said the prisoner spit in his face and started kicking him. Specialist Jones responded, he said, with a couple of knee strikes to the leg of the shackled man.
    "He screamed out, 'Allah! Allah! Allah!' and my first reaction was that he was crying out to his god," Specialist Jones said to investigators. "Everybody heard him cry out and thought it was funny."
    Other Third Platoon M.P.'s later came by the detention center and stopped at the isolation cells to see for themselves, Specialist Jones said.
    It became a kind of running joke, and people kept showing up to give this detainee a common peroneal strike just to hear him scream out 'Allah,' " he said. "It went on over a 24-hour period, and I would think that it was over 100 strikes."
    In a subsequent statement, Specialist Jones was vague about which M.P.'s had delivered the blows. His estimate was never confirmed, but other guards eventually admitted striking Mr. Dilawar repeatedly.
    Many M.P.'s would eventually deny that they had any idea of Mr. Dilawar's injuries, explaining that they never saw his legs beneath his jumpsuit. But Specialist Jones recalled that the drawstring pants of Mr. Dilawar's orange prison suit fell down again and again while he was shackled.
    "I saw the bruise because his pants kept falling down while he was in standing restraints," the soldier told investigators. "Over a certain time period, I noticed it was the size of a fist."
    As Mr. Dilawar grew desperate, he began crying out more loudly to be released. But even the interpreters had trouble understanding his Pashto dialect; the annoyed guards heard only noise.
    "He had constantly been screaming, 'Release me; I don't want to be here,' and things like that," said the one linguist who could decipher his distress, Abdul Ahad Wardak.

To read the rest of this article, which is fascinating (and which Blogspot isn't allowing me to post-- probably because it's too long) you'll have to go to the NEW YORK TIMES or to the Truthout website-- http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/052005Y.shtml

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