Monday, January 17, 2005

People are rightly noting Hersh's "The Coming Wars" in the New Yorker, but take a moment to note Webster's "The Man In the Hood" from Vanity Fair

The first guard was Caucasian, tall, blond, and very thin. He was clean-shaven and on some days wore eyeglasses. Then, N. says, speaking in Arabic through a translator, "I was sexually abused by an American soldier." N.'s modesty as a Muslim, as an Iraqi, and as an adolescent prevents him from detailing much more about the episode, though in a declaration recently filed on his behalf under penalty of perjury in the U.S. District Court in Southern California, his attorney provides a somewhat more explicit account, saying one or more guards placed "fingers in his anus." (In 20 minutes of humiliating, circular discussion with N. about the above allegation, mediated by a translator, I could never fully ascertain the precise narrative of the July 23 assualt, but N. made it clear that a guard's finger or fingers were willfully placed inside him in a manner that N. didn't welcome.)
Far clearer, by N.'s account, are the events of two days later, when he says he was once again torn from his wooden box and dragged to the bathroom during the morning shift. This time the American previously a spectator -- a male of average height, clean-shaven, blond, and without eyeglasses -- also sexually abused N. After shaming by watching him defecate, the American grabbed N. by the penis and directed a stream of N.'s urine toward a spider crossing the florr a few feet away.
Later that same day, N. received an apology and was released by his captors at the airport camp (so called by prisoners because they could hear propeller aircraft taking off day and night). The man doing his exit interview, N. says, was a black-haired Caucasian known as James.
"You were wrongly arrested," James said. Then he directed N. to sign a release statement, printed in English, which N. doesn't read well enough to comprehend. After N. signed the statement, James saw that he was given $50 in U.S. currency, then said, "We apologize."
For his two weeks of wrongful incarceration in conditions violating Geneva Convention law on as many as a dozen different counts -- among them prohibitions against detaining minors with an adult population -- N. says he was given one shower, the apology, a clean set of clothes, and the $50. He was released sometime around midnight on July 25 of last year, outside the American run Green Zone in Baghdad.
This is a part of the War on Terror yet to make the nightly news.

Donovan Webster wrote the above ("The Man In The Hood: And New Accounts of Prisoner Abuse in Iraq") . To read other news that's not making the nightly "news" (or for that matter the pages of the New York Times), pick up the new issue of Vanity Fair. (Star Wars is on the fold-out cover, past and present. Which includes Carrie Fisher whose books a number of you cited on Sunday's list of favorite books.)

Before this site started, Vanity Fair (or Van Fair as a number of people refer to it) had an excellent article on the Court's decision during the Florida recounts. (How excellent was it? It frightened Orrin Hatch enough to send out his Senate boy-toys to condemn the Court clerks who spoke to Van Fair -- including John "Send me in, Coach Orrin!" Cornyn from Texas.)

Van Fair could be counted on in the last two years to repeatedly address issues that in depth which Time and Newsweek either gave superficial treatment to or else ignored.

Of the general interest magazines, when people look back on this period, I wouldn't be at all surprised if Van Fair were ranked higher than many of the other mainstream magazines.
Seymour Hersh's article in the latest New Yorker is being cited by many. (Irritating to a subscriber like myself who received two issues of The New Yorker this weekend, neither of which is the new issue everyone is talking about.) Randi Rhodes addressed it today on her Air America Radio show, BuzzFlash has linked to it and it will get a great detail of attention.

All of which it deserves. But Vanity Fair (which does not make articles available online) has been overlooked by many.

BuzzFlash did an interview with Graydon Carter last year discussing Vanity Fair's articles (you can usually count on one per issue being about the effects of the Bullies Without Borders' policies) as well as Carter's book:

BuzzFlash: Many people are surprised that you, the editor in chief of Vanity Fair, have taken such a strong critical position of the Bush administration. Most of the mainstream press has avoided casting a critical light, or publishing the sort of truthful exposés that have appeared in your magazine. Explain to us how Vanity Fair, which isn’t a political magazine per se, offers perhaps the most scathing critiques of the Bush administration.

Graydon Carter: I think it began in the build-up to the war in Iraq, which I saw as both optional and potentially destructive, and its elements unnecessary, at least at that time. The reports from the weapons inspectors said there were no weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein was not a credible threat to us at that point, nor was he an active enemy of ours at that point. And all the tension that was dragged away from Afghanistan made that area of the world even more of a terrorist breeding ground. Furthermore, Saddam Hussein had no connection to the terrorists of September 11, and no major connection to terrorism at all.

BuzzFlash: Many people forget this, but during the build-up to the Iraq war, critics pointed out that the inspectors hadn’t found any weapons of mass destruction and called for restraint until WMDs were found. But the administration’s response was that since the inspectors couldn’t find WMDs, it was proof that Saddam was only hiding them.

Graydon Carter: Everything is counter-intuitive in this administration. I try to maintain a centrist line in our reporting. We did probably 20 stories on the Clintons, and I don’t think they liked one of them. But I thought the decision to invade Iraq was made at a critical juncture. Since I have a platform, I thought I would speak my mind, because I felt very strongly about the build-up to the war. I felt that it could have ramifications not only for years, but for decades potentially.
(To read more of the above BuzzFlash interview click here:

We're not a breaking news site. We're a resource/review. And that means highlighting what's out there. Vanity Fair is a magazine available in drug stores, book stores, grocery stores, Tower Records, etc. But I'm wondering how many are checking it out for anything other than whichever celebrity made this month's cover?

It's a monthly magazine -- a glossy. Usually, each month you'll find one in depth piece addressing an issue of the administration's policies. So if you've dismissed it as sex and death of the idle rich (48 Hours often seems to be the TV version of people's idea of Van Fair), take a moment to reach over and grab the display copy of Vanity Fair. Find the in depth article (or any that interest you) and give it a read. See if it speaks to you. If it doesn't put it back. If it does, consider checking it out in the coming months.

Again, Vanity Fair doesn't make any articles available online (perhaps if they did, they'd receive more attention?). Their web site is and if you click on "in this issue" you can find a listing of the contents. Here are the feature articles for this month's Vanity Fair:

*If the return of Darth Vader doesn't make Star Wars: Episode III--Revenge of the Sith irresistible, an army of Wookiees should do the trick. Jim Windolf gets a preview of the epic's final installment from an unusually candid George Lucas, who reveals the true nature of his helmet-headed villain. Photographs by Annie Leibovitz.

*Perhaps the most sickening image to come out of Abu Ghraib was of the hooded man on a box with electrical wires trailing from his fingertips. In exclusive interviews with the man believed to be that victim and other Iraqis who claim they've been sexually assaulted and brutalized since the scandal broke, Donovan Webster exposes the darkest side of the war. Photographs by Ron Haviv.

*Annie Leibovitz and Laura Jacobs spotlight the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, which is dancing up new storms.

*The friendship is history, but there's still big money at stake in the Delaware courtroom where the shareholders' suit over Disney C.E.O. Michael Eisner's $140 million severance payment to ousted president Michael Ovitz has been playing out. The principals talk to Dominick Dunne.

*The Israeli town of Neve Dekalim and its neighbor, the devastated Palestinian city of Rafah, have nothing--and everything--in common. With Ariel Sharon's "disengagement" plan endorsed and Yasser Arafat's successor being chosen, Scott Anderson probes the inescapable logic of Gaza's daily bloodshed. Photographs by Paolo Pellegrin.

*A-list celebrities already beleaguered by stalkerazzi face another threat: a yearlong wave of brazen burglaries at some of Los Angeles's most desirable addresses. Michael Shnayerson investigates an ongoing crime spree that has wealthy victims wondering if the thieves have an inside track.

*The wild success of Penthouse allowed Bob Guccione to realize his most grandiose dreams. But by the time his publishing empire came crashing down, he'd lost what he loved most. At the palatial Manhattan home Guccione no longer owns, Patricia Bosworth, one time executive editor of his magazine Viva, reconnects with the enigmatic pornographer. Portrait by Jonathan Becker.

Here's the link to the Seymour Hersh story everyone is talking about (from the latest issue of The New Yorker -- latest issue for everyone but subcribers):

From that article (entitled "The Coming Wars"):

Despite the deteriorating security situation in Iraq, the Bush Administration has not reconsidered its basic long-range policy goal in the Middle East: the establishment of democracy throughout the region. Bush’s reëlection is regarded within the Administration as evidence of America’s support for his decision to go to war. It has reaffirmed the position of the neoconservatives in the Pentagon’s civilian leadership who advocated the invasion, including Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, and Douglas Feith, the Under-secretary for Policy. According to a former high-level intelligence official, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff shortly after the election and told them, in essence, that the naysayers had been heard and the American people did not accept their message. Rumsfeld added that America was committed to staying in Iraq and that there would be no second-guessing.
"This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq is just one campaign. The Bush Administration is looking at this as a huge war zone," the former high-level intelligence official told me. "Next, we're going to have the Iranian campaign. We’ve declared war and the bad guys, wherever they are, are the enemy. This is the last hurrah -- we've got four years, and want to come out of this saying we won the war on terrorism."
Bush and Cheney may have set the policy, but it is Rumsfeld who has directed its implementation and has absorbed much of the public criticism when things went wrong --whether it was prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib or lack of sufficient armor plating for G.I.s' vehicles in Iraq. Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have called for Rumsfeld’s dismissal, and he is not widely admired inside the military. Nonetheless, his reappointment as Defense Secretary was never in doubt.
Rumsfeld will become even more important during the second term. In interviews with past and present intelligence and military officials, I was told that the agenda had been determined before the Presidential election, and much of it would be Rumsfeld's responsibility. The war on terrorism would be expanded, and effectively placed under the Pentagon’s control. The President has signed a series of findings and executive orders authorizing secret commando groups and other Special Forces units to conduct covert operations against suspected terrorist targets in as many as ten nations in the Middle East and South Asia.
The President’s decision enables Rumsfeld to run the operations off the books -- free from legal restrictions imposed on the C.I.A. Under current law, all C.I.A. covert activities overseas must be authorized by a Presidential finding and reported to the Senate and House intelligence committees. (The laws were enacted after a series of scandals in the nineteen-seventies involving C.I.A. domestic spying and attempted assassinations of foreign leaders.) "The Pentagon doesn't feel obligated to report any of this to Congress," the former high-level intelligence official said. "They don’t even call it 'covert ops' -- it’s too close to the C.I.A. phrase. In their view, it's 'black reconnaissance.' They’re not even going to tell the cincs" -- the regional American military commanders-in-chief. (The Defense Department and the White House did not respond to requests for comment on this story.)