|Ken Novak's Weblog
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Monday, May 10, 2004
Time for Bush to See The Realities of Iraq:
Even George Will is disgusted: "Pat Moynihan [once[ said: "The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself." Here we reach the real issue about Iraq.. -- our ability to wield political power to produce the requisite cultural change in a place such as Iraq. Time was, this question would have separated conservatives from liberals. Nowadays it separates conservatives from neoconservatives.
Condoleezza Rice, a political scientist, believes there is scholarly evidence that democratic institutions do not merely spring from a hospitable culture, but that they also can help create such a culture. She is correct; they can. They did so in the young American republic. But it would be reassuring to see more evidence that the administration is being empirical, believing that this can happen in some places, as opposed to ideological, believing that it must happen everywhere it is tried.
Being steadfast in defense of carefully considered convictions is a virtue. Being blankly incapable of distinguishing cherished hopes from disappointing facts, or of reassessing comforting doctrines in face of contrary evidence, is a crippling political vice. " 9:48:48 PM
Anti-Bayes spam starts to resemble AI. 4:13:05 PM
How to Get Out of Iraq
: Detailed exploration of options for powersharing in Iraq, from a diplomat who worked in the Balkans. Advocates loose federation of 3 states as only alternative, along with its implications for US policy. 4:02:21 PM
Sy Hersh on the chain of command: More direct evidence of torture, and details on who did or should have done what in the prison scandal, naming a major general, a provost marshal and a contractor, with hints of CIA involvement. Insights into the Rumsfeld regime in the process: "The Pentagon official told me that many senior generals believe that, along with the civilians in Rumsfeld’s office, Sanchez and Abizaid .. had done their best to keep the issue quiet in the first months of the year. .. [A] Pentagon official said. “What is the motive for not being forthcoming? They foresaw major diplomatic problems.”
Secrecy and wishful thinking, the Pentagon official said, are defining characteristics of Rumsfeld’s Pentagon, and shaped its response to the reports from Abu Ghraib. “They always want to delay the release of bad news—in the hope that something good will break,” he said. The habit of procrastination in the face of bad news led to disconnects between Rumsfeld and the Army staff officers who were assigned to planning for troop requirements in Iraq. A year ago, the Pentagon official told me, when it became clear that the Army would have to call up more reserve units to deal with the insurgency, “we had call-up orders that languished for thirty or forty days in the office of the Secretary of Defense.” Rumsfeld’s staff always seemed to be waiting for something to turn up—for the problem to take care of itself, without any additional troops. The official explained, “They were hoping that they wouldn’t have to make a decision.” The delay meant that soldiers in some units about to be deployed had only a few days to prepare wills and deal with other family and financial issues.
The same deliberate indifference to bad news was evident in the past year, the Pentagon official said, when the Army conducted a series of elaborate war games. Planners would present best-case, moderate-case, and worst-case scenarios, in an effort to assess where the Iraq war was headed and to estimate future troop needs. In every case, the number of troops actually required exceeded the worst-case analysis. Nevertheless, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and civilian officials in the Pentagon continued to insist that future planning be based on the most optimistic scenario. .. The official added, “From the beginning, the Army community was saying that the projections and estimates were unrealistic.” ..
No amount of apologetic testimony or political spin last week could mask the fact that, since the attacks of September 11th, President Bush and his top aides have seen themselves as engaged in a war against terrorism in which the old rules did not apply. The Pentagon’s impatience with military protocol extended to questions about the treatment of prisoners caught in the course of its military operations. Soon after 9/11, as the war on terror got under way, Donald Rumsfeld repeatedly made public his disdain for the Geneva conventions. Complaints about America’s treatment of prisoners, Rumsfeld said in early 2002, amounted to “isolated pockets of international hyperventilation.” 3:18:35 PM
Undercutting Mideast Democracy: The Mid East democracy focus of the Bush administration has essentially imploded. Not only the photos from Abu Ghraib, but Israel and Libyan policies. The "withdrawal of settlements from the Gaza Strip was welcomed by most Arabs, above all the liberals. But Bush's gratuitous concession to Sharon of far-reaching changes in the public U.S. stance on the terms of a final Israeli-Palestinian settlement was greeted with dismay." And, "Gaddafi represents everything the Bush initiative is meant to be against. He is a massive violator of human rights and a dictator who grooms his children to succeed him. He seeks the same devil's bargain with the United States that Arab autocrats have always cut: Ignore my domestic thuggery, and I'll sell you oil and cooperate with your foreign policy. "
Each decision on its own has merits. "But that's not the point. What the Libya and Israel decisions show is that, despite its New Year's resolution, the White House isn't ready to change the old calculus of U.S. Middle East policy. Promotion of democracy remains the top priority -- except when it conflicts with something else."
Once again, there's a lack of coherent strategy in US foreign policy -- nobody home integrating policy across the departments and interest groups. Depressing, esp combined with US ineptitude on gathering and integrating human intelligence (Abu Gharab, WMD, inability to hit Al Queda before and after 9/11). 12:50:27 PM
Aljazeera.Net - ICRC in US for Guantanamo talks: Turns out Aljazeera covered the ICRC visit, from story dated 15 Jan 04: "Eight months after openly criticising the US treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay naval base, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross is back in Washington for talks with senior administration officials. Jakob Kellenberger, who arrived in the US capital on Thursday, is scheduled to meet with US Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, said the ICRC in a statement.
It added that the Guantanamo situation would be top of the agenda, as it was last May when Kellenberger met with Powell and Rice. .. In an unusual act after that meeting, Kellenberger publicly called for US authorities to institute due legal process for the more than 650 detainees at Guantanamo and also demanded significant changes in their conditions of detention." 9:35:53 AM
The Observer: Catastrophe: Many important details on the Iraq abuse story. "For [Red Cross president Jakob] Kellenberger and other senior officials in Geneva, that [late December] summary report confirmed worrying reports that were coming from across the US-administered prison system set up to deal with suspects detained in the war in terror. From Afghanistan to Guantanamo Bay to Iraq and to friendly third-party countries with poor human rights records which were willing to open up their facilities to the US, a picture was emerging of routine and arbitrary ill treatment. Of men picked up, sometimes on the smallest pretext, disappearing into a chilling closed world.
Determined to raise the organisation's concerns, Kellenberger had scheduled a trip to Washington to talk to the most senior US officials in the Bush administration. On 13 and 14 January he attended a series of meetings in Washington. In two days he would meet US Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. In each meeting, say Red Cross sources, Kellenberger would deliver the same message: his organisation's belief that coalition soldiers were torturing and mistreating Iraqi detainees. Within hours that message would be on the desks of Donald Rumsfeld and the most senior officers in the US military. But if Rumsfeld is to be believed, even as a discreet inquiry was launched into the allegations, none of the President's most senior officials thought to tell George Bush. ..
But Kellenberger was not alone in being concerned. According to the timeline leaked by investigators to the US media, army investigators had also been tipped about the abuses and, after months of inaction, were taking the issue seriously. Joseph Darby, a 24-year-old reservist at Abu Ghraib, had plucked up his courage and slipped an anonymous note underneath the door of one of his superior officers. It described brutal incidents of abuse of Iraqi prisoners and the existence of graphic photographs taken by Darby's own colleagues. .. Darby eventually turned over a computer disk of pictures to a sergeant in his unit on 13 January. A few hours later, army investigators seized other computers and disks from members of the unit. By 14 January - according to this version of events - General John Abizaid was on the phone to Rumsfeld, as Kellenberger was also raising his concern.
On 16 January, the US army curtly announced it had ordered an investigation into abuses at the prison - a five-sentence press release said that an inquiry into 'reported' incidents of detainee abuse had begun. It did not even name the prison. ..
According to one officer recently returned from Iraq, sexual humiliation of prisoners in Abu Ghraib was not an invention of 'maverick guards' but part of a system of degradation developed for use by British and US troops called R2I - resistance to interrogation - which uses sexual jibes and stripping prisoners to prolong 'the shock of capture' when detainees are at their most vulnerable. In an interview with the Guardian yesterday, the officer said: 'It was clear from discussions with US private contractors in Iraq that prison guards were using R2I techniques, but they didn't know what they were doing.'
What has also emerged is the role that US military intelligence officers - and private intelligence contractors - have played in directing the abuse with most of the reservists involved alleging that they thought their duty was to 'soften up' the prisoners for questioning. Indeed, Taguba's leaked confidential report identifies at least three contractors as being potentially to blame for the problems - contractors who are neither subject to Iraqi law, military discipline or the Geneva Conventions" 9:32:42 AM
Unmarried, Female and Turned Off by Politics: "According to pollsters, when single women are compared with married men, married women and single men, they account for the largest number of Americans who are, in essence, voluntarily disenfranchised. More than 21 million single women — almost half of those eligible — did not cast ballots in the last presidential election. .. Had this group voted in the same proportion as married women in the 2000 election, she discovered, an additional 6 million votes would have been cast around the country .. In the survey, 65% of single women said they viewed the country as "seriously off on the wrong track." (During the same period, 50% of all respondents to The Times Poll agreed with that statement.)" 9:15:35 AM