The Bush administration is embroiled in a sharp internal debate over whether a new set of Defense Department standards for handling terror suspects should adopt language from the Geneva Conventions prohibiting "cruel," "humiliating" and "degrading" treatment, administration officials say.
Advocates of that approach, who include some Defense and State Department officials and senior military lawyers, contend that moving the military's detention policies closer to international law would prevent further abuses and build support overseas for the fight against Islamic extremists, officials said.
Their opponents, who include aides to Vice President Dick Cheney and some senior Pentagon officials, have argued strongly that the proposed language is vague, would tie the government's hands in combating terrorists and still would not satisfy America's critics, officials said.
The above is from Eric Schmitt and Tim Golden's "Detainee Policy Sharply Divides Bush Officials" in this morning's New York Times. Golden and Schmitt (which I think is the actual order for the byline) take up a lot of space but never tell you the most important thing. The US government doesn't need to worry about "vaugue." We have no problem, check the State Dept. reports, identifying what is torture when done in other countries by other governments. The administration can dance around this forever (and will as long as reporters like Golden and Schmitt refuse to point out the obvious) but we define torture. We compile reports of what we see as human rights abuses. By the way the State Dept. categorizes that (or did before Condi stepped into that office), what we have done is torture. Bully Boy can sign off on all the executive orders he wants and we can torture the definition of torture in print (and other media forums) but the government knows what it is and calls it that when it is used by others. Bully Boy wants an exemption. That's the story.
And that's the one thing Schmitt and Golden don't tell you as they go off with their backstory gossip that they pass off as news. Condi feels this way. Does she really? That's not what Brent Scowcroft told The New Yorker. It's a cute little article that relies on anonymice to make various people come off looking good while not noting the anonymice (unless we're to believe that Schmitt and Golden are in on the administration's policy debates -- policy debates? I know try to quit laughing).
Maybe it's just still being sick, but reading this nonsense I wonder why the Times even published today. Adam Liptak takes a stab (a strong stab) at going over Alito's record. Otherwise, the paper reads like a base newsletter. There's really no excuse for the Times to publish this nonsense, full of whispers of praise from unnamed sources, and still call itself a newspaper today.
It's just nonsense and they've got nothing to add re: the outing of Valerie Plame or, in fact, Iraq. (I'm not in the mood to note the nonsense on how the US government has a new plan for the resistance.) They're all over the place scurrying for bits of cheese like the little rats they are today, noting any favorable whisper and looking for a pat on the head from the Bully Boy & co.
Meanwhile, in the Washington Post, Dana Priest has "CIA Holds Terror Suspects in Secret Prisons: Debate Is Growing Within Agency About Legality and Morality of Overseas System Set Up After 9/11" -- which we'll read a summary of in the Times tomorrow but today they're too busy sucking up to guarantee the access they're so fond of. From Priest's article:
The CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe, according to U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the arrangement.
The secret facility is part of a covert prison system set up by the CIA nearly four years ago that at various times has included sites in eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan and several democracies in Eastern Europe, as well as a small center at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, according to current and former intelligence officials and diplomats from three continents.
The hidden global internment network is a central element in the CIA's unconventional war on terrorism. It depends on the cooperation of foreign intelligence services, and on keeping even basic information about the system secret from the public, foreign officials and nearly all members of Congress charged with overseeing the CIA's covert actions.
Keeping information from the public? While secret detentions go on? The USSR lives on and it lives on in the heart of the Bully Boy. This isn't the behavior of an open democracy. This is a bunch of little minds in little boys and girls thinking they can do whatever they want, that they can subvert any rule, any norm, any law just by screeching "national security" and the nation will respond like scared children whimpering, "As long as you protect us!" For those whimpering, shame on you. That's not what this country was built upon.
Again, expect to see the story (watered down) summarized in the Times tomorrow. Today they're just a base newsletter telling you about who showed up and who left, tossing out a little mild base gossip that won't offend anyone.
They've got nothing to add re: the closed session Harry Reid invoked in the Senate yesterday.
(Read Elaine's comments on that from last night.) Carl Hulse and David D. Kirkpatrick go with the "Partisan!" cry in "Partisan Quarrel Forces Senators to Bar the Doors." As though it hasn't been over a year since Pat Roberts promised the second part of the investigation into intelligence -- the part that focuses on whether the administration manipulated intell.
On the radio last night, I heard Bill Frist clucking that he wasn't sure he could ever trust Harry Reid again. What does that mean? I guess it means Harry Reid better not hope for any insider trading tips for Bill Frist. Considering Frist's own problems (and the investigation into them), he might want to purchase something in a non-high horse for the next time he wants to hop on the soapbox. Then there was Rick Santorum, who always sounds on the verge of tears, whining that politics were being played in the Senate! Dear Lord, what's next? Gambling in Vegas!
But the mild report in the Times is written in such a way as to not offend anyone in power, thus keeping those access channels open for another day.
Let's go to the real world, Barbara e-mails to note John R. MacArthur's "Pro-War Liberals Frozen in the Headlights" (Common Dreams):
It's been dreadful, these past three years putting up with George Bush's fraudulent rationales for invading Iraq. And there's no respite in sight -- the phony justifications keep coming, no matter how many corpses pile up, no matter how badly the political situation deteriorates in Baghdad, no matter how many lies surface about the pre-war propaganda campaign.
The other night in a restaurant I had to bite my tongue, instead of my bread, when a man at a neighboring table declared his "trust" in Dick Cheney and the president.
But as much as I'm infuriated by the Bush brigade's steadfast support of the Iraq horror, I find myself angrier still when pro-war liberals -- the so-called reluctant hawks -- wring their hands over the bloody mess they've wrought with their neo-conservative allies.
There are many such handwringers in politics, especially within the leadership of the Democratic Party. Sen. Joseph Biden, of Delaware, is forever asking "tough questions" about Iraq (the torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo upset him terribly), without drawing the obvious conclusion that we never should have attacked in the first place, and need to get out as fast as possible.
In journalism, the current handwringer-in-chief is the New Yorker writer George Packer, whose book The Assassins' Gate has met with high praise from handwringers, hawks, and a subset of pundits I call trimmers. Handwringers "anguish" over their past or current support for the war; hawks don't apologize for anything; and trimmers criticize Bush the foolish president, but avoid unequivocal denunciations of this foolish war.
Zach finds something the Times couldn't print because it's too much truth for them and not enough gossip, Robert Higgs' "Worst U.S. War Criminals Escape Justice" (Constorium News):
By violating the UN Charter, which the U.S. Constitution makes part of the supreme law of the land, President George W. Bush has violated that law. He has further violated his oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution by taking the armed forces to war without a congressional declaration of war.
The failure of Congress to protest his impudence is immaterial to this violation, in which Congress itself has chosen, by funding the war, to serve as the president's accomplice rather than checking and balancing his exercise of unconstitutional power as the Framers intended.
Inasmuch as President Bush has so clearly violated his oath of office, exceeded his constitutional power, and contravened the supreme law of the land, one wonders why he has not been impeached for his high crimes. Can the answer be that we now live in a lawless society, where the strong simply do as they please, notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the Constitution or the laws?
In Iraq, U.S. forces have brought death to tens of thousands, most of them noncombatants, and physical injuries to countless others. They have wreaked vast damages to property by bombing, shelling, shooting, and other violent means. They have brought about conditions of life for ordinary Iraqis marked by rampant crime, unemployment, impoverishment, and extreme insecurity of life, health, and property, as well as criminal looting by everyone from the highest state officials to the lowest street thugs.
Such are the fruits of the U.S. government's war of aggression--war crimes and crimes against humanity laid atop its crimes against the peace.
Yet, to date, all we have to show for the legal process against top U.S. officials is an indictment for one apparatchik's workaday dirty tricks--the sort of thing countless government flunkies do every day of the week.
Be grateful for small blessings, we might tell ourselves. All right: so far, so good, Mr. Fitzgerald. You've gone the first yard. Still, you have miles and miles ahead of you if justice is to be served.
In the real world, Marci notes John Nichols' "Cheney, Libby and the Mess They Made" (The Online Beat, The Nation):
Much of official Washington remains focused on the issues -- legal and political -- that have arisen from the indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Cheney who was a principal architect of the administration's approach to Iraq before and after the invasion and occupation of that distant land. This is as it should be: Libby and his former boss need to be held accountable for leading this country's military forces into a quagmire that has cost more than 2,000 American lives and tens of thousands of Iraqi lives.
The only problem with this otherwise healthy obsession with the investigation is that it draws attention away from the disaster that Cheney, Libby and their crew of neoconservative nutcases have created.
In addition to the rapidly mounting death toll -- 93 U.S. troops were killed in October, the highest casualty rate since January -- the insurgency's Tet offensive-level attacks within the capital city of Baghdad, and the degeneration of the trial of Saddam Hussein into a legal farce, there is the tragedy of the country's bumbled attempt to craft and implement a constitution.
Lloyd e-mails to note Matthew Rothschild's "Cheney Promotes Two with Dirty Hands to Take Over for Libby" (This Just In, The Progressive) which gives you the background on David Addington and John Hannah:
Addington's and Hannah's hands are dirty for other reasons, as well.
Addington was assistant general counsel to the CIA from 1981 to 1984, when Reagan's CIA was funding the death squads in El Salvador and raising an illegal contra army to fight the Sandinistas.
As Cheney's counsel in the Vice President's office, Addington was a primary advocate of Bush's military tribunal policy and his relaxed attitude toward torture.
"On at least two of the most controversial policies endorsed by Gonzales, officials familiar with the events say the impetus for action came from Addington," R. Jeffrey Smith and Dan Eggen reported in The Washington Post on January 5. Addington even "drafted an early version of a legal memorandum circulated to other departments in Gonzales’s name."
According to The Nation, that memorandum was the one dated January 25, 2002, which contains the following notorious line: "This new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions requiring that captured enemy be afforded such things as commissary privileges, scrip (i.e., advances of monthly pay), athletic uniforms, and scientific instruments." This memo also advises that a Presidential determination that says the Geneva Conventions don't apply "substantially reduces the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act."
Hannah, for his part, allegedly served as the funnel that Ahmad Chalabi used to pour misinformation about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction back to the White House. Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress (INC) led the propaganda effort, with an apparent assist from Hannah. "On June 26, 2002, the INC wrote a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee staff identifying Hannah as the White House recipient of information gathered by the group," according to a Knight Ridder article by Jonathan S. Landay and Warren P. Strobel. (The article noted that Cheney's office has denied Hannah received the information from the INC.)
Please note, Rothschild has more reality in his column than the Times (see next entry) offers on the same subject (until paragraph ten) in a lengthy article.
Rod gives us a heads up to the scheduled topics for today's Democracy Now!:
* Attorney Joshua Colangelo-Bryan speaks about his recent trip to Guantanamo where one of his clients attempted to commit suicide in his presence.
* Juan Gonzalez examines how the New York City mayoral race is a watershed battle for workers and the progressive movement in Urban America.
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