Irritable Powell Syndrome

Written by Chris Floyd 21 November 2005 5019 Hits

Jonathan Schwarz outdoes himself -- no mean feat -- with this immortal line in yet another blistering expose of the endless fount of falsehood that is Colin Powell:

"I think the real question with Colin Powell is not why he has a blot on his reputation, but why he has any reputation left on his blot."

For more background, from Schwarz and your correspondent, see I, Bagman: The Story of Colin Powell.

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The War Against Civilization

Written by Chris Floyd 21 November 2005 9672 Hits

Dispatches from the front (NYT):
GM to Cut 30,000 Jobs and Close 12 Plants
For a GM Family, the American Dream Vanishes

It's obvious now that we made a mistake here in coming up with our "War on the Poor" tag to describe the rapacious and ruinous policies of the Bush Regime, and the brutal corporate ethos it represents. For it's not just a war on the poor, of course. That war was won long ago; Bush and the boys grind the poor beneath their heels just for the hell of it these days, just for kicks, a sadistic thrill. No, it's also a war against working people, against the middle class, against the very idea that there is a common good beyond the raw bottom line, that individual human lives and human communities have any intrinsic value or meaning whatsoever, except as raw material to be squeezed for blood money and chump change.

It is a war that is destroying, very deliberately, a way of life that brought an unprecedented measure of security and stability and prosperity to millions of Americans across generations. It's being systematically destroyed because the business elite can reap even higher, more obscene profits than they already command by gutting America and "outsourcing" its jobs (and not just in the auto industry, of course) to places that pay slave wages to unprotected, unorganized workers and kick back secret sweeteners to keep the corporate lords fat and happy. And it's being systematically destroyed because the political elite prefer an atomized, terrorized, polarized rabble -- scrambling for survival, worn out with worry, broken down with untreated illness or bankrupted by medical costs, fighting each other for a dwindling number of ill-paid, going-nowhere jobs -- to a secure and confident citizenry that stands up for its rights.

So it's not just a war against the poor, although the poor are its greatest victims. It's a war against civilization itself, if we define civilization as the struggle to overcome the worst instincts of our human nature, as free people coming together in search of betterment and enlightenment -- "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," in other words. The War on Civilization being waged by Bush and the elite has been far more destructive of the "American way of life" than the not-dissimilar war on civilization being pursued by the pockets of violent religious extremists could ever hope to be.

Both forces seek to destroy the idea of compassion, tolerance and inclusion that is the hallmark of true civilization, and instead impose a harsh, narrow vision of life, a society dominated by the arbitrary will of a privileged few. The "War on Terror" is not a "clash of civilizations;" it is in many respects a civil war between the enemies of civilization, fighting it out to see which of their barbaric, degenerate views of human society will prevail.

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Body Politics:The Senate's Sham Rebellion Against Tyranny and Torture

Written by Chris Floyd 17 November 2005 10536 Hits

Below is an expanded version of my column in the Nov. 18 edition of The Moscow Times.

Four years ago, George W. Bush quietly assumed dictatorial powers with a secret executive order granting himself the right to imprison anyone on earth indefinitely, without charges or trial or indictment or evidence, simply by declaring them an "enemy combatant," on his say-so alone. This week, the assemblage of bootlickers and bagmen that now befoul the U.S. Senate voted to codify the core of this global autocracy under the pretense of curtailing it.

With great self-fluffing fanfare, the Senate passed two measures ostensibly designed to stem the flood of torture and tyranny issuing from the White House. But the twinned amendments to a military spending bill have the curious effect of cancelling each other out: the anti-torture measure leaves Bush's tyranny intact, while the anti-tyranny measure will allow torture to continue unabated. This switcheroo, we are told by one of the scam's sponsors, "will reestablish moral high ground for the United States," the Washington Post reports.

But what can we actually see from this lofty moral promontory? We see that all foreign captives in Bush's worldwide gulag have now been stripped of the ancient human right of habeas corpus. They will not be allowed to challenge "any aspect of their detention" in court – until they have already been tried and convicted by a "military tribunal" constituted under rules concocted arbitrarily by Bush and his minions. Only then, after years of incarceration without rights or legal protection, will they be given access to a single federal appeals court which can review their conviction – subject to the usual "national security" restrictions on challenging evidence gathered by secret means from secret sources in secret places. Remarkably, the Supreme Court is expressly prohibited from any jurisdiction whatsoever over any aspect of gulag captivity, the Washington Post reports. And of course, Bush can simply skip the tribunal and keep anyone he pleases chained in legal limbo until they rot. Neither of the ballyhooed amendments affects this raw despotism.

Meanwhile, American citizens can also be arbitrarily imprisoned indefinitely without charge or trial. But for now, any Homelanders caught in Bush's Terror War net can at least appear briefly in court prior to their conviction, where they will enjoy a "judicial process" that Stalin or Saddam would have loved: Bush officials present the judge with a piece of paper declaring that the prisoner is one bad hombre, but all the evidence against him is classified and nobody can see it – especially the prisoner, the Washington Post reports. And that's it. The captive is then plunged back into the gulag, to be disposed of according to Bush's whim. Again, this medieval mechanism of tyranny was left untouched by the Senate actions.

The Senate originally voted to cast Bush's captives into outer darkness forever, without a single legal recourse. But then a few prissy hens and bleeding hearts made the usual squawk about rights and law and all that pinko jazz. So the compromise of allowing a post-conviction appeal – for people who have been arbitrarily seized and held in isolation for years without charges, often tortured, humiliated and driven to madness or attempted suicide before facing a kangaroo court – was hastily cobbled together and presented to the world as a triumph of the human spirit and the American way.

Ah, but what about the anti-torture amendment, sponsored by the Republican "maverick," Senator John McCain, and hailed by editorialists across the land as a great leap forward in the evolution of political morality? The effusions that have greeted this measure are puzzling. It does nothing more than re-state what is already the law of the land. American forces were already forbidden to subject any captive "to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment" as prohibited by the U.S. Constitution and the UN Convention Against Torture. This regurgitation of existing law is the extent of the McCain amendment, along with an adjuration to interrogators to follow written guidelines for rough stuff set down by the Pentagon.

But the partisans of atrocity in the Bush White House knew these laws when they set up the gulag's torture regimen in 2001. They simply re-defined "torture" to accommodate any brutal technique they cared to implement, then declared that the Commander-in-Chief is beyond the reach of law in wartime – and that any underlings who commit crimes at his order are likewise absolved of legal liability. This sinister sophistry is still very much in operation – and remains unchallenged by the toothless amendment of the "maverick."

This is borne out by a little-noticed announcement released by Bushist warlord Donald Rumsfeld earlier this month. The directive gives Rumsfeld – or anyone he deputizes to act for him – the power to "authorize exemptions" to those still-unformulated Pentagon guidelines restricting "inhumane" treatment, AFP reports. This mile-wide loophole makes a sick joke of the much-trumpeted crackdown on "abuse" in the Bush gulag.

The dual amendments are little more than a cynical PR ploy: torture will be condemned in public, but quietly continued in the former KGB camps and other secret hellholes that Bush has strung across the world like a barbed-wire necklace. The Pentagon's own lawyers certainly understand the true nature of the game. As one told the Observer: "If detainees can't talk to lawyers or file cases, how will anyone ever find out if they have been abused?" No one ever will, of course; that's the point. With habeas corpus denied up front, the worst cases of torture and false imprisonment can now be buried forever in "indefinite detention;" the tribunals, with their access to appeals, will be reserved for open-and-shut showpieces.

These draconian measures reach far beyond a handful of hard-core terrorists. According to the Pentagon's own figures, more than 21,000 innocent people have been caged without due process in Iraq alone, the Guardian reports. Hundreds more have been unjustly imprisoned around the world. A regime that thrives on fear requires a steady stream of "enemy combatants" to justify its unlimited "war powers." The belly of this beast will never be full.

See annotations below:

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Annals of Liberation, cont.

Written by Chris Floyd 16 November 2005 8601 Hits

From the New York Times and The Guardian; offered without comment because the stories speak for themselves.

Torture Alleged at Ministry Site Outside Baghdad (NYT)
173 prisoners found beaten and starved in Iraq government bunker (Guardian)

Excerpts: Iraq's government said Tuesday that it had ordered an urgent investigation of allegations that many of the 173 detainees American troops discovered over the weekend in the basement of an Interior Ministry building in a Baghdad suburb had been tortured by their Iraqi captors. A senior Iraqi official who visited the detainees said two appeared paralyzed and others had some of the skin peeled off their bodies by their abusers...

The discovery of what appeared to have been a secret torture center created a new aura of crisis for American officials and Iraqi politicians who hold power in the Shiite-led transitional government. For many Iraqis, the episode carried heavy overtones of the brutality associated with Saddam Hussein and his Sunni-dominated government.

Ominously, amid rising sectarianism here, Interior Ministry officials reported that the abused detainees appeared to have been mostly Sunni Arabs, and their abusers Shiite police officers loyal to the notorious Badr Organization, a militia with close links to Iran...

Reports received by the Guardian from sources in Baghdad said there were rumours that mutilated corpses and torture instruments had also been found at the underground bunker, including bodies with electric drill holes in their heads....

Meanwhile in Washington two Iraqi businessmen detained by US forces in 2003 have claimed soldiers threw them into a cage of lions, pretended to be executing them, and carried out other acts of torture during months in captivity.

Sherzad Khalid, 35, and Thahe Sabbar, 37, are suing defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other US officials in a federal court in Washington. They said they had been abused because they could not tell their captors where Saddam Hussein was hiding, and knew nothing about weapons of mass destruction.

"That was a terrifying moment for me," Mr Khalid told the Washington Post on Monday, describing how three times he was shoved into a lions' cage at a presidential palace in Baghdad, and then soldiers lined him up for a mock execution. "I was wondering if it could be real that the American army would act this way."

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Mogadishu on the Tigris: The Reality of Bush's Iraq

Written by Chris Floyd 16 November 2005 15493 Hits

The Independent provides more depth and perspective to the breaking story about the Iraqi torture chamber uncovered yesterday: Raid on torture dungeon exposes Iraq's secret war .

This story has the potential of becoming a "Katrina" moment: a revelatory episode that exposes long-suppressed truths about the reality of Bush's "leadership" and its agonizing consequences. Just as the hurricane finally brought Bush's incompetence, cronyism and callousness to mainstream attention, the torture chamber revelations could lead to a broader awareness of the murderous chaos that Bush's "liberation" has unleashed upon Iraq, with sectarian and ethnic death squads roaming the land, murdering and oppressing the people -- often with tacit U.S. backing or U.S. training. As one American officer said of Baghdad -- the centerpiece of Bushist "democracy" in Iraq: "It's getting more like Mogadishu every day."

Some excerpts from The Independent: Yesterday, 24 hours later, the Prime Minister, Ibrahim Jaafari, promised an investigation after the shocking demonstration of how paramilitary units working for the government, and death squads allegedly linked to it, are waging a savage war in the shadows.

People are arrested and disappear for months. Bodies appear every week of men, and sometimes women, executed with their hands tied behind their backs. Some have been grotesquely mutilated with knives and electric drills before their deaths.

The paramilitaries are not held responsible for all the deaths - some are the work of insurgents murdering supposed informers or government officials, or killing for purely sectarian motives.

You very seldom see American soldiers on the streets of Baghdad now. The Iraqi police are in evidence outside, but so are increasing numbers of militias running their own checkpoints - men in balaclavas or wrap-around sunglasses and headbands, with leather mittens and an array of weapons. An American official acknowledged: "It is getting more and more like Mogadishu every day."

Travelling through the Iraqi capital you meet Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi army; fellow Shias from the Badr Brigade; the Kurdish peshmerga; as well as Western and Iraqi security guards. Then there are Iraqi soldiers and policemen, government paramilitaries, special police commandos and a group which prides itself on being the most feared, the Wolf Brigade of the interior ministry.

Many of the allegations from Sunni leaders of abuse are against the 2,000-strong Wolf Brigade, which was formed in October 2004 after training with US forces and first saw action during the widespread disturbances in Mosul last year...

Although the US forces had ridden to the rescue on this occasion, many of these units have been created, trained and armed by the Americans. According to reports, $3bn (£1.7bn) out of an $87bn Iraq appropriation that Congress approved last year was earmarked for the creation of paramilitary units to fight the insurgency. Vincent Cannistraro, the CIA's former head of counter-terrorism, said: "They set up little teams of [Navy] Seals and special forces with teams of Iraqis, working with people who were in senior intelligence under the Saddam regime."

Iraqi politicians in the new regime have repeatedly accused the CIA of refusing to hand over control of the recreated Iraqi intelligence service to the Iraqi government, and the paramilitaries are run by Adnan Thabit, allegedly a former CIA "asset".

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It's Helltime, Man: Atrocity at Ground Level

Written by Chris Floyd 15 November 2005 6185 Hits
Amy Goodman has a remarkable interview with Tony Lagouranis, a conscience-stricken former Army interrogator in Iraq. Lagouranis arrived after the worst of the Abu Ghraib atrocities, yet found fresh hell awaiting, especially out in the field, where U.S. forces were torturing Iraqis in their own homes. It's an important piece that should be read in full, but below are some excerpts. (Note: There seems to be a chunk of the transcript repeated in the middle on the Democracy Now site, but it will probably be fixed soon.)

AMY GOODMAN: You were in Fallujah?
TONY LAGOURANIS: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: What were you doing there?
TONY LAGOURANIS: My job in Fallujah was to go through the clothes and pockets of the dead bodies that we were picking up on the streets, and we would bring them back to a warehouse, and I would go through their pockets and try to identify them, and read whatever intel or anything that they had on them...

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about that? And who you understood the people who were dead to be?
TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, a lot of them were certainly insurgents. You know, a lot of them had weapons. They had hand grenades, they had ammo vests, but a lot of them weren't, either. We had women and children, old men, young boys. So, you know, it's hard to say. I think initially, the reason that we were doing this was they were trying to find foreign fighters. They were trying to prove that there were a lot of foreign fighters in Fallujah. So, mainly, that's what we were going for, but most of them really didn't have I.D.'s but maybe half of them had I.D.'s. Very few of them had foreign I.D.'s. There were people working with me who would -- in an effort to sort of cook the books, you know they would find a Koran on the guy and the Koran was printed in Algeria, and they would mark him down as an Algerian, or you know guys would come in with a black shirt and khaki pants and they would say, well, this is the Hezbollah uniform and they would mark him down as a Lebanese, which was ridiculous, but -- you know....
AMY GOODMAN: What about the women and kids?
TONY LAGOURANIS: I don't know. I mean, I don't know, I would get a kid burnt to a crisp. I don't know. I don't know what to say. We had women and children...

TONY LAGOURANIS: Yeah. North Babel was probably the place where I saw the worst evidence of abuse. This was from August to October of 2004, so, it was well after the Abu Ghraib scandal. And we were no longer using any harsh tactics within the prison, but I was working with a marine unit, and they would go out and do a raid and stay in the detainee's homes, and torture them there. They were far worse than anything that I ever saw in a prison. They were breaking bones. They were smashing people's feet with the back of an axe head. They burned people. Yeah, they were doing some pretty harsh stuff...Well, I was interrogating at the detention facility at Forward Operating Base, CALSU. I was getting prisoners that were arrested by Force Recon marines, and they -- every time Force Recon went on a raid, they would bring back prisoners who were bruised with broken bones, sometimes with burns. They were pretty brutal to these guys, and I would ask the prisoners what happened, you know, how they received these wounds, and they would tell me that it was after their capture, while they were subdued, while they were handcuffed and they were being questioned by the force recon marines.
AMY GOODMAN: And what did they say happened to them?
TONY LAGOURANIS: They were being punched, kicked, you know, hit with -- as I said the back of an axe head. One guy was forced to sit on an exhaust pipe of a humvee. I would check out that story with other people that they had been arrested with, and they were consistent...So I was supposed to interrogate these guys.
AMY GOODMAN: And how do you go about doing that, as they're in front of you with broken bones, beaten, smashed, punched, burned?
TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, as you know, as I said, this was really late in the year, and I had really sort of given up using any harsh tactics, so, I was trying to get these guys to trust me, telling them I'm going to help them out, which I really couldn't help anybody out at that place, because everyone they arrested, innocent or guilty, no matter what I said, they would just send them to Abu Ghraib anyway... Basically everybody who came to the prison, they determined, they were a terrorist, they were guilty and they would send them to Abu Ghraib.
AMY GOODMAN: What did you determine?
TONY LAGOURANIS: That like 98% of these guys had not done anything. I mean, they were picking up people for the stupidest things like -- there's one guy they picked up, they stopped him at a checkpoint, just a routine stop, and he had a shovel in his trunk, and he had a cell phone in his pocket. They said, well, you can use the shovel to bury an IED, you can use the cell phone to detonate it. He didn't have any explosives in his car, he had no weapons, nothing. They had no reason to believe that he was setting IED's other than the shovel and cell phone. That was the kind of prisoner they were bringing us....

AMY GOODMAN: Vice president Dick Cheney is trying to get an exemption for CIA officers to be allowed to torture. What do you have to say to ice president Cheney?
TONY LAGOURANIS: I think that using torture is the worst possible thing we could do. You cannot win a war against terrorism with bombs and force. It doesn't work. You have to win hearts and minds and we're really failing. You know, using torture is absolutely the wrong way to go. And we're not getting any intel out of it, either. Like how many people did we get intel out of in Guantanamo? You know, a small handful, and in Abu Ghraib also. I didn't work there for that long, but many of my friends did they worked there all of 2004, and they told me, they got nothing. They got no intel out of that place.

AMY GOODMAN: Would you say when you see the court-martial of a few low-level soldiers, would you say that will start to stop the abuse, or how high up do you feel it goes?
TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, it obviously goes right up to the Pentagon, because they were issuing the interrogation rules of engagement, and the interrogation rules of engagement are not in accordance with the army field manual and not in accordance with the Geneva conventions. So, it's all the way up. You know, obviously, Lindsey England and Grainer, these guys -- you know, they needed to be punished, but it's not just them. It's -- it should have gone all the way up the chain...


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Annals of Liberation

Written by Chris Floyd 15 November 2005 7504 Hits
From AP (via Antiwar.com): The Iraqi army and multinational forces violated international law during military operations in western Iraq last month by arresting doctors and occupying medical facilities, a U.N. report said Monday. The five-page report, from the U.N. Assistance Mission in Iraq, said military operations by the two forces had "a negative impact on human rights" and cited figures that more than 10,000 families have been displaced in two restive provinces - Anbar and Nineveh - alone. Add a comment
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"France and the Muslim Myth"

Written by Chris Floyd 14 November 2005 8250 Hits
There has been much throwing about of brains in the American media regarding the upheavals in France, but very very little sense. For that, we must look elsewhere -- specifically, to Jason Burke in The Observer, who provides us with this succinct and savvy overview.

France and the Muslim Myth

Excerpt: First, the facts. According to the French intelligence services, the areas where radical Islamic ideologies have spread furthest in France have actually proved the calmest over recent weeks. Second, characterising the rioters as 'Muslim' at all is ludicrous. Most were as Westernised as you would expect third-generation immigrants to be and far more interested in soft drugs and rap than getting up for dawn prayers.

Indeed, a high proportion was of sub-Saharan African descent and not Muslim at all. Others were white and so, following [right-wing] descriptions of the darker skinned rioters as 'Arab Muslims', should presumably be referred to as 'Caucasian Christians'.

Also, it is clear that the rioters were not seeking to destroy the French state but were demanding a greater stake in it. Otherwise, there would have been many more direct confrontations with the security forces. The point the rioters made again and again was that they felt rejected by 'the Republic', not that they wanted to tear it down. With all other channels of communication blocked, they sent, literally, smoke signals instead.
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Abuse of Power/The Power of Abuse

Written by Chris Floyd 14 November 2005 7067 Hits

We have been most remiss in not linking people to this important story by John Gorenfield: Ambassadaor de Sade.  (From Alternet, via Mark Levine via Buzzflash.) It's a chilling account of how cruelty and corruption always rise to the top, like heavy scum, in the Bush Administration. This is a horror story that spreads its tentacles deep into the power structure of the American elite, and shows the preciptious decline in honor, morality, reason and compassion in American society under the relentless pressure of the right-wing money/ideology machine. Gorenfield's reporting is, as always, vigorous and piercing. Excerpts just won't do; read the whole thing.

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The Body Snatchers

Written by Chris Floyd 14 November 2005 9346 Hits

Just when you think the sick and sinister Bush gangsters have hit bottom, they blow a hole in the floor and drag us down even deeper.

I will be writing on the Senate's evisceration of habeas corpus in this week's upcoming Moscow Times column, but meanwhile, below is an excellent article by Sabin Willett in the WP, Detainees Deserve Court Trials, which sums up the case well. Meanwhile, David Cole, in Slate, demolishes the double standard that Bush is employing to torture his foreign captives while claiming that he is not violating U.S. laws against torture: Who They Are: The Double Standard That Underlies Our Torture Policies.

The excerpts below from Willett's article give us a picture of Bush's draconian powers at work, crushing the life of a captive who has already been officially certified as innocent, but still remains trapped in Bush' gulag:

Adel is innocent. I don't mean he claims to be. I mean the military says so. It held a secret tribunal and ruled that he is not al Qaeda, not Taliban, not a terrorist. The whole thing was a mistake: The Pentagon paid $5,000 to a bounty hunter, and it got taken.

The military people reached this conclusion, and they wrote it down on a memo, and then they classified the memo and Adel went from the hearing room back to his prison cell. He is a prisoner today, eight months later. And these facts would still be a secret but for one thing: habeas corpus...

He has no visitors save his lawyers. He has no news in his native language, Uighur. He cannot speak to his wife, his children, his parents. When I first met him on July 15, in a grim place they call Camp Echo, his leg was chained to the floor. I brought photographs of his children to another visit, but I had to take them away again. They were "contraband," and he was forbidden to receive them from me...

In a wiser past, we tried Nazi war criminals in the sunlight. Summing up for the prosecution at Nuremberg, Robert Jackson said that "the future will never have to ask, with misgiving: 'What could the Nazis have said in their favor?' History will know that whatever could be said, they were allowed to say. . . . The extraordinary fairness of these hearings is an attribute of our strength."

The world has never doubted the judgment at Nuremberg. But no one will trust the work of these secret tribunals.

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