Friday, March 11, 2005

Some of the news that's fit to print from this morning's New York Times -- some, not all

In this morning's Times, Douglas Jehl has a story entitled "Pentagon Seeks to Transfer More Detainees From Base in Cuba" -- or as we like to think of it "In a Pinch? Rendentions Made Easy."

From the article:

The Pentagon is seeking to enlist help from the State Department and other agencies in a plan to cut by more than half the population at its detention facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in part by transferring hundreds of suspected terrorists to prisons in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Yemen, according to senior administration officials.
The transfers would be similar to the renditions, or transfers of captives to other countries, carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency, but are subject to stricter approval within the government, and face potential opposition from the C.I.A. as well as the State and Justice Departments, the officials said.
Administration officials say those agencies have resisted some previous handovers, out of concern that transferring the prisoners to foreign governments could harm American security or subject the prisoners to mistreatment.

Oh what's to worry. It's not like anyone's had to go on record admitting that torture has happened. (Jehl previously interviewed an unnamed CIA official who granted isolated incidents may have occurred because, well, golly gee, the CIA can't be present for interrogations at every minute of the day. The CIA official apparently missed the reporting of Raymond Bonner that the Times had published.)

What's behind the rush to clear out Guantanomo?

The proposal comes as the Bush administration reviews the future of the naval base at Guantánamo as a detention center, after court decisions and shifts in public opinion have raised legal and political questions about the use of the facility.
The White House first embraced using Guantánamo as a holding place for terrorism suspects taken in Afghanistan, in part because the base was seen as beyond the jurisdiction of United States law. But recent court rulings have held that prisoners there may challenge their detentions in federal court.

Let's put in plain speak. "Oh my God, the courts refuse to remain silent. We better get these people somewhere out of US juridisction quick before we're forced to obey the Constitution. And before the people held for God knows how many years start talking! We still cool on Pakistan?"

Eric Schmitt (or a copy editor or someone else) is back to promoting Vice Admiral Albert T. Church III to Admiral again today in "Official Declines to Pin Blame for Blunders in Interrogations." While we're glad someone found out the Vice Admiral is a "III" (it's listed on the official bio we cited and noted yesterday), one still wonders where the editorial oversight is. And one wonders if the same person/people were writing of Dick Cheney would he start out the article as "vice-president" and then morph into president at the end?

From Schimtt's article:

A senior military investigator told Congress on Thursday that high-level American officials failed to establish clear procedures for interrogating prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, but said it was not his job to hold anyone responsible.
In response, several Democrats faulted the investigator, Vice Adm. Albert T. Church III of the Navy, for not assigning blame to specific senior Defense Department civilians and military commanders for the lack of guidance and oversight in developing interrogation policy.
"This failure of accountability of senior leaders sends the wrong signal to our troops and to the American people," Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, said at the panel's hearing on Thursday.
But several Republicans and Admiral Church himself sharply rebutted the accusations, saying an independent panel, headed by former Defense Secretary James R. Schlesinger, had assigned responsibility for the misconduct, sometimes indirectly, to senior officials in its report last August. That panel, for instance, found that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had contributed to confusion over techniques permissible for interrogating prisoners in Iraq.

Did you catch when the vice admiral became an admiral? I knew you would. Are we also still catching that the New York Times is pimping a report that the LA Times refuted Wednesday?
Here's the New York Times playing catch up and still pimping the whitewash while acting as though they were first out of the gate and best at covering it.

And for anyone wondering, yes, Mark Mazzetti covered Schlesinger's report in the LA Times Wednesday:

Two months later, an outside panel led by former Defense Secretary James R. Schlesinger harshly criticized Rumsfeld and other senior civilian leaders for failing to provide consistent, specific policies on the treatment of detainees. Schlesinger's report also chastised Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the former U.S. ground commander in Iraq, and other military leaders for not properly training and staffing units to guard and interrogate prisoners at the Abu Ghraib facility outside Baghdad.

I don't know which is worse, seeing the New York Times plagued by "paper envy" or realizing how their ovecompensation can't hide the fact that when measured against the LA Times on this story, they're coming up . . . short. (Want to bet on who won't be changing in front of the others in the locker room this weekend?)

John Files has an article worth noting: "Plan to Reimburse Cost of Combat Gear Has Fallen Behind." Seems this supposed troops-loving administration doesn't have enough love to open the purse. From the article:

The Pentagon has not developed guidelines for allowing soldiers, their families and charities to be reimbursed for the cost of some combat equipment they bought for use in Iraq and Afghanistan, despite a new law that called for such a plan by February.

The Pentagon dragging their feet? Being unresponsive to Congress? Quell surprise. Maybe they were hoping Glenn Beck and Clear Channel would fund raise at another set of rallies?
Isn't Clear Channel part of the administration's press department at this point?

Senator Dodd isn't thrilled about the delay. Back to the article:

The law permits groups and individuals to make claims for up to $1,100 for certain purchases made from Sept. 11, 2001, to July 31, 2004. It required that the Department of Defense set rules and standards for the reimbursement program by Feb. 25, but that has not been done.
Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, sent a letter to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Wednesday urging compliance. "There should be no higher priority for our government than ensuring that American troops are well equipped," Mr. Dodd wrote, adding that "the critical contributions of their families and communities" have sought to ensure the safety of those men and women.
A spokesman for the Pentagon said Mr. Rumsfeld would respond to Mr. Dodd after reviewing the letter.

Maybe Rummy can fall back on Condi's old excuse with some sort of, "I had no idea that Congress passed a law. Maybe someone in the bowels of the agency knew, but the information wasn't passed up to me."

Give it up for Joel Brinkley who actually gets a little obvious truth into the paper in "Bush Names Envoy in Kabul to Be Ambassador to Iraq." Brinkley notes:

Mr. Khalilzad, a blunt, garrulous Afghan-American, replaces John Negroponte, who found the job so aggravating that he was agitating to leave after less than a year in the post. Last month, Mr. Bush chose Mr. Negroponte as the nation's first director of national intelligence.

Done shouting "Way to go Brinkley!" yet? Good. Brinkley made time and space to tell us about the following:

He played basketball during high school in Kabul and attended college at the American University in Beirut and the University of Chicago. He earned a Ph.D. in 1979. He took a job at the State Department in 1984 and worked for Mr. Wolfowitz, who was director of policy planning. When Mr. Wolfowitz moved to the Pentagon, Mr. Khalilzad moved with him.
During the Persian Gulf war, he got the attention of Mr. Cheney, who was secretary of defense. They stayed in touch during the Clinton administration, and in 2000 Mr. Cheney chose him to head Mr. Bush's transition team at the Pentagon. Then in May 2001, he was named to the National Security Council post.

Now I know how the Times loves talking their sports and pretending that they were all big athletes 'back in the day;' however, more pertinent details fell by the wayside. Were they edited out of a draft or never included?

From Wikipedia:

He is a member of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) and was one of the signers of the January 26, 1998, PNAC Letter ( sent to President William Jefferson Clinton.

With a PNAC, polly whack, give a dog a bone . . . Those wacky PNACers. Strange that's not in the Times.

Here's some more strange omissions. I mean reading Brinkley's article one has no idea of just how much Khalilzad had invested into Afghanistan long before the Bully Boy strong armed his way into the oval office.

For instance (Wikipedia again):

Khalilzad served under former U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush as special assistant to the president for Southwest Asia, the Near East and North Africa. From 1985 to 1989, Khalilzad served as a senior United States Department of State official advising on the Soviet war in Afghanistan and the Iran-Iraq war, and from 1991 to 1992, he was a senior Defense Department official for policy planning. He served as a counsellor to Donald Rumsfeld. Khalilzad initially viewed the Taliban as a potential force for stability and as counter balance to Iran, but his views changed over time, especially after the events of September 11.

Now how could the Times overlook telling readers that he "initially viewed the Taliban as a potential force for stability and as counter balance to Iran?" Or that the sort of misbegotten chess game he was engaged in is just the sort of action that allows us to arrive to where we're at today?

Wait, Wikipedia has more:

Khalilzad was an advisor for the Unocal Corporation. In the mid 1990s, while working for the Cambridge Energy Research Associates, Khalilzad conducted risk analyses for Unocal for a proposed 1,400 km (890 mile), $2-billion, 622 m³/s (22,000 ft³/s) natural gas pipeline project which would have extended from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan.

Well isn't he just the little Afghanistan expert? Now why do you suppose the Times didn't see any of that as being part of "all the news that's fit to print?"

Hey, want to hear something ironic? While Schmitt and the Times try to basically rewrite the LA Times for two consecutive days on the non-report report, they somehow missed the LA Times' coverage of Khalizad! From SourceWatch:

In September 2004, Khalilzad was charged with trying to influence the October 9 Afghan presidential elections. "Several [Afghan presidential] candidates ... maintain that the U.S. ambassador and his aides are pushing behind the scenes to ensure a convincing victory by the pro-American incumbent, President Hamid Karzai," reported the Los Angeles Times. One candidate, Mohammed Mohaqiq, said Khalilzad had asked him and others to withdraw from the race: "They have been doing the same thing with all candidates. That is why all people think that not only Khalilzad is like this, but the whole U.S. government is the same. They all want Karzai -- and this election is just a show."[3]
Khalilzad denied the charges, but the Los Angeles Times notes: "Khalilzad has been nicknamed 'the Viceroy' because the influence he wields over the Afghan government reminds some Afghans of the excesses of British colonialism. ... Delegates to gatherings that named Karzai interim president in 2002 and ratified Afghanistan's new Constitution last December also accused the ambassador of interfering, even of paying delegates for their support."
[4] (,1,6766309.story)

That's all a bit more complicated than what the Times superficially tells you:

Mr. Khalilzad, a protege of Vice President Dick Cheney and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz since long before Mr. Bush took office, served as a senior director on the president's national security council staff during the early years of Mr. Bush's first term. Administration officials say his deep knowledge of Afghanistan and its internecine politics was invaluable during and after the Afghan war.
[. . .]
He served as special envoy to Afghanistan before his appointment as ambassador in 2003, and his knowledge of the tribal players has seemed to serve him well there.

I guess that depends upon how you define "well" and how you define "seemed."

Not quite the way The Nation's Christian Parenti might define it, I'm guessing. Let's cover some of things that Brinkley or "Brinkley" was unable or unwilling to.

From Democracy Now!'s '"Imposing Imperial Democracy" - Upcoming Afghan Elections Marked by U.S. Pressure, Fraud and Corruption:'

JUAN GONZALEZ: Christian, if I can ask you what about the reports of the United States officials getting involved in trying to pressure candidates or having a much more active role in these elections?
CHRISTIAN PARENTI: Well, definitely there's a lot of those rumors circulating. That's not really been what I've been following up on. I've been sort of being out of Kabul more. But, yeah, there's -- the word on the street is that the U.S. Ambassador, who is the real power behind the throne here, is pressuring and cutting deals with all of these former commander/warlords like Rashid Dostum and others to get people to turn out the vote for Karzai. Not that Dostum won’t turn out the vote for Karzai, but more minor players whose names are unknown outside of their region.
JUAN GONZALEZ: There was a front page story in the Los Angeles Times, Christian –
CHRISTIAN PARENTI: And the thing that will come out of this – the real something –
JUAN GONZALEZ: Christian, there was a front page story in the Los Angeles Times on September 23 that quoted Mohammed Mohaqeq, one of the Afghan candidates, saying that the U.S. Ambassador had dropped by his campaign office and proposed a deal, quote: “He told me to drop out of the elections, but not in a way to put pressure. It was like a request,” According to Mohaqeq.
CHRISTIAN PARENTI: Yes. That's what's going on. The proof of all this deal making, I think, will be seen after Karzai wins when he forms his cabinet and that is also a dangerous moment when people – if they see all the same faces, that is to say all the faces of the Mujahedin commanders that were backed by the United States against the Soviet Union during the 1980's and then between 1992 and 1994 and 1996, just destroyed much of the country and destroyed half of Kabul, these people are now – they were beaten by the Taliban, cornered in Northern Afghanistan, reinvented as the Northern Alliance and lost the war with U.S. air power. And everybody hates these quote-unquote commanders, despite there being incredible fear in Afghanistan. It reminds me a lot of Guatemala, people are very afraid to talk. But people are very open about how much they resent commanders, this from former Mujahedin soldiers. The fear is that Karzai will appoint a cabinet full of war criminals and that will send a message to the people that they have no voice and no hope for any kind of real development in the future.
AMY GOODMAN: Christian –
CHRISTIAN PARENTI: All of these Mujahedin commanders are, you know, involved in drug running, extortion and land theft. There's a massive problem right now with enclosures of common lands. The warlords of the Northern Alliance are back in power and they are – many of them, you know, are now pawning themselves off as police officials and governors and they have a new legitimacy and they have uniforms to go along with their informal power in guns, and they are seizing poor people's property and seizing common property. And part of the impetus for that is that there's so much money to be made in poppy that – opium poppy that –
[. . .]
AMY GOODMAN: Christian, we want to turn for a moment – Christian is speaking to us from Kabul, Afghanistan. We also want to turn to Sonali Kolhatkar, who is host of the popular KPFK program “Uprising” on the Pacifica radio station in Los Angeles. She is also President of the Afghan Women’s Mission, a group that works in solidarity with Afghans to improve health and educational facilities for Afghan refugees in Pakistan and is writing a book on Afghanistan. Sonali, you have written a piece called “Afghan Elections: A U.S. Solution to a U.S. Problem.” Explain.
SONALI KOLHATKAR: [. . .] It's very clear if you look at what Christian said about Zalmay Khalilzad is absolutely true. Khalilzad, the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, a U.S. Citizen, is pulling the strings in this country. We found in my research with my partner, we found a blueprint written by him in 2000 in the Washington Quarterly where he had laid out how the United States should approach Afghanistan. It's called “Afghanistan: The Consolidation of a Rogue State,” where he basically talks initially about, you know, why not extend an olive branch to the Taliban, why not engage the Taliban? And then his other scenario was to create a military stalemate. The United States should offer existing foes of the Taliban assistance, meaning the Northern Alliance. All of this has been drawn out. Interestingly enough, he also says in this blueprint the Clinton Administration, because this was written up during Clinton's era. The Clinton administration should appoint a high level envoy for Afghanistan who can coordinate overall U.S. policy. His own job description. He started out as a U.S. envoy to Afghanistan. He is now the U.S. Ambassador, and he is really pulling the strings. He is pressuring candidates and in Afghanistan, according the Los Angeles Times article by Paul Watson, he is known as a Viceroy. The Viceroy, reminiscent of the British colonialist era. He is telling Karzai what to do, and the voter intimidation that Christian was talking about is so real, and this is all with the blessing of Karzai and Khalilzad. One example was that there was a gathering of about 300 clan leaders from a Terazai tribe in Paktia province who decided to throw their support behind Karzai, and they made a radio announcement saying all Terazai tribes people should vote for Karzai and said, if any people vote for other candidates, the tribe will burn their houses. What did Karzai do? He welcomed their support. He extended an invitation to the leaders to visit Kabul. He brushed aside any criticism of the radio broadcast saying, “Such warnings are just a tradition, they’re not meant as a serious threat." So Karzai is having his strings pulled by Khalilzad who is the U.S. ambassador. This election is for U.S. purposes alone and it's meant to solve the U.S. problem of the Bush administration not having enough of a success in Iraq to point to, as he goes into election, this November.

From Democracy Now!'s 'Christian Parenti in Afghanistan: Saturday's Elections Were A

AMY GOODMAN: We have those reports that Khalilzad, the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, met with Dostam, trying to put pressure for them to remove the boycott. Khalilzad. The allegations go according to some of those candidates, ones, was meeting with them to put pressure on them to pull out before the presidential election.
CHRISTIAN PARENTI: Well, yeah, he definitely met with people before the presidential election. And a few, two parties did pull out. He was actually going to come to the meeting where 14 of the candidates, or at least many of the deputies, were there in Kabul, where a bunch of us journalists were. He was on his way there, but then I think once a bunch of press showed up, he decided that that might look a bit poor for the U.S. Ambassador to come and knock heads together and try and cool people down. But I think that this boycott is probably going to fall apart as people, as these presidential candidates get their, their rewards, their positions.

Oh, Joel Brinkley. What is it Joni Mitchell once sang (and wrote)?

After the rush when you come back down
You're always disappointed
Nothing seems to keep you high
Drive your bargains
Push your papers
Win your medals
F**k your strangers
Don't it leave you on the empty side
("Woman of Heart And Mind" lyrics and music by Joni Mitchell -- from the Mitchell album, For the Roses.)

Don't it though, Brinkley? Don't it leave you on the empty side?