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Now Marc Zell yesterday

Now Marc Zell (yesterday quoted at length in Salon trashing Ahmed Chalabi) denies everything.

In his letter Zell says, "I have never met with Mr. Ahmed Chalabi nor have I ever held any discussions with him. I have no personal knowledge of his past or present dealings, other than what I myself read in the international and national press."

It seems a little hard to figure that he knows so little since he's in business with Chalabi's nephew. But read the exchange and make up your own mind.

There is a passage

There is a passage in the Taguba Report that reads as follows ...

MG Miller’s team recognized that they were using JTF-GTMO operational procedures and interrogation authorities as baselines for its observations and recommendations. There is a strong argument that the intelligence value of detainees held at JTF-Guantanamo (GTMO) is different than that of the detainees/internees held at Abu Ghraib (BCCF) and other detention facilities in Iraq. Currently, there are a large number of Iraqi criminals held at Abu Ghraib (BCCF). These are not believed to be international terrorists or members of Al Qaida, Anser Al Islam, Taliban, and other international terrorist organizations.

There's a lot of jargon here. So let me try to add a little <$Ad$>context and explanation.

"MG Miller" is Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, until recently the commanding officer of the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He was just recently placed in command the US prison system in Iraq.

In August and September of last year Miller went to Iraq to study and report on the prison facilities the US military was running in the country and how they were being utilized for generating intelligence by means of interrogations. He made his report in October.

[ed. note: I got some hints this evening of high-level interest in the contents of Miller's report. And I strongly suspect that we'll be seeing that report show up in print and online some time pretty soon.]

In the passage above, Taguba makes the point that Miller was using Gitmo rules as "the baselines for its observations and recommendations" for how things should be conducted in Iraq.

Now, there are all sorts of problems with what's happening at Guantanamo Bay. In my mind, the issue is not so much the particular conditions and procedures -- which are hard to determine since everything is so secret -- but the fact that the US government has tried from the first to argue that the camp is literally off-limits for law of any sort. Geneva Convention rules don't apply. US courts have no oversight whatsoever. Nothing.

That's simply beyond the pale in a democratic state under the rule of law. Everybody gets to go before a magistrate. Even if it's a hanging judge. Everybody.

Now, having said that, it's not hard to see why different procedures might be called for if you're dealing with active and hardened terrorists (though with no rule of law at Guantanamo there's really no way to know if that's even the case). But in Iraq you've got everything from petty criminals to bona-fide terrorists in detention. And between those two extreme categories you've got plenty of people picked up for various levels of association with the former regime, sympathy with various anti-American groups, insurgent violence, people picked in raids looking for intelligence, innumerable people who were just at the wrong place at the wrong time, almost everything under the sun.

Many are probably, no doubt, not the most pleasant folks. But to imply, as Taguba does, that we shouldn't be applying Guantanamo rules to these folks is really an understatement. Basically, the idea seems to be that we're taking the unprecedented and extra-legal Gitmo rules and applying them as the baseline for how we're going to deal with everyone we take into custody in Iraq.

Now, we can't draw too much from Taguba's brief description of what Miller's report contains or the context of its commission. And certainly this doesn't mean that everyone in Iraq literally got the Gitmo treatment. But I can't think of a more tangible example of the corrosive effect our embrace of lawlessness at Guantanamo has had on our conduct. First we devise these outlandish rules to deal with the worst bad guys behind 9/11 and the next thing you know we're applying those brave new rules to miscellaneous bad actors who fall into our net in Iraq. What are we looking at here but the fraudulent connection between Iraq and 9/11 suddenly become flesh, as we look into our own faces and see a paler shade of our enemies looking back at us?

Sy Hersh from last

Sy Hersh from last night on O'Reilly ...

First of all, it's going to get much worse. This kind of stuff was much more widespread. I can tell you just from the phone calls I've had in the last 24 hours, even more, there are other photos out there. There are many more photos even inside that unit. There are videotapes of stuff that you wouldn't want to mention on national television that was done. There was a lot of problems.

There was a special women's section. There were young boys in there. There were things done to young boys that were videotaped. It's much worse. And the Maj. Gen. Taguba was very tough about it. He said this place was riddled with violent, awful actions against prisoners.

Worse and worse.

I feel knocked on

I feel knocked on my <$NoAd$>heels by this stuff.

From the AP:

U.S. soldiers who detained an elderly Iraqi woman last year placed a harness on her, made her crawl on all fours and rode her like a donkey, Prime Minister Tony Blair's personal human rights envoy to Iraq said Wednesday.

The envoy, legislator Ann Clwyd, said she had investigated the claims of the woman in her 70s and believed they were true."


"She was held for about six weeks without charge," the envoy told Wednesday's Evening Standard newspaper. "During that time she was insulted and told she was a donkey. A harness was put on her, and an American rode on her back."

Clwyd said the woman has recovered physically but remains traumatized.

"I am satisfied the case has now been resolved satisfactorily," the envoy told British Broadcasting Corp. radio Wednesday. "She got a visit last week from the authorities, and she is about to have her papers and jewelry returned to her."

I can't think of anything to say.

Can someone explain this

Can someone explain this quote to <$NoAd$>me?

This passage is from an AP story on the White House's new request for a $25 billion supplemental appropriation for operations in Iraq, more than six months ahead of schedule ...

In recent weeks, administration officials have raised the possibility that they also will need extra money for the final weeks of this fiscal year, with many members of Congress saying they believe billions will be needed.

But as recently as Monday, a senior administration official downplayed the need for money right now for U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So far, Bush ``has not been told that there is a resource problem,'' said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

That official also said there was currently enough money for reconstruction in Iraq.

A bad CEO.

Along similar lines see this cartoon.


KING HENRY. I dare say you love him not so ill to wish him here alone, howsoever you speak this, to feel other men's minds; methinks I could not die anywhere so contented as in the King's company, his cause being just and his quarrel honourable.

MICHAEL WILLIAMS. That's more than we know.

JOHN BATES. Ay, or more than we should seek after; for we know enough if we know we are the King's subjects. If his cause be wrong, our obedience to the King wipes the crime of it out of us.

MICHAEL WILLIAMS. But if the cause be not good, the King himself hath a heavy reckoning to make when all those legs and arms and heads, chopp'd off in a battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place'- some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of anything when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the King that led them to it; who to disobey were against all proportion of subjection.

King Henry V
Act IV, Scene I

Don Rumsfeld I think

Don Rumsfeld: "I think that -- I'm not a lawyer. <$NoAd$>My impression is that what has been charged thus far is abuse, which I believe technically is different from torture. I don't know if it is correct to say what you just said, that torture has taken place, or that there's been a conviction for torture. And therefore I'm not going to address the torture word."

Taguba Report: "Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees; pouring cold water on naked detainees; beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair; threatening male detainees with rape; allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell; sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick, and using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee."

Doug Feith today at

Doug Feith today at AEI: "No one can properly assert that the failure, so far, to find Iraqi WMD stockpiles undermines the reasons for the war."

Shaken but apparently not

Shaken, but apparently not stirred.

Yesterday in a Q & A with editors from Detroit area newspapers President Bush said he was "shaken" by reports of abuse of prisoners in US military custody in Iraq. Yet, according to his press secretary this morning, he hasn't even looked at the Taguba Report, the one people around the world are buzzing about in disappointment and outrage and half of Washington seems already to be reading.

In fact, in this exchange from that Q & A yesterday it wasn't even clear the president knew what the report was ...

Q: Are you concerned that there was a report completed in February that apparently --

THE PRESIDENT: I haven't seen --

Q: -- Myers didn't know about yesterday --

THE PRESIDENT: Well, if Myers didn't know about it, I didn't know about it. In other words, he's part of the chain -- actually, he's not in the chain of command, but he's a high ranking official. We'll find out.

Q: The question is, should something causing --

THE PRESIDENT: I just need to know --

Q: -- concern, raised eyebrows --

THE PRESIDENT: Exactly. I think you'll find the investigation started quickly when they found out what was going on. What I need to know is what the investigators concluded.

From this exchange, the president <$Ad$>seemed unaware of what the report even was and claimed to believe that he somehow couldn't get a hold of it until it came up through the chain of command.

The point here isn't that the president is stupid, but that he seems blithely indifferent to what is a huge setback to American goals and standing in the Middle East and indeed throughout the world.

There's an echo here of his response to the pre-9/11 warnings streaming up through the government bureaucracy. It hasn't landed on his desk yet, with an action plan, so what is he supposed to do? He talked to Rumsfeld who says he's on top of it. So what more can be done?

This isn't a matter of the aesthetics of leadership. It is another example of how this president is a passive commander-in-chief, how he demands no accountability and, because of that, allows problems to fester and grow. Though this may not be a direct example of it, he also creates a climate tolerant of rule-breaking that seeps down into the ranks of his subordinates, mixing with and reinforcing those other shortcomings.

The disasters now facing the country in Iraq -- some in slow motion, others by quick violence -- aren't just happening on the president's watch. They are happening in a real sense, really in the deepest sense, because of him -- because of his attention to the simulacra of leadership rather than the real thing, which is more difficult and demanding, both personally and morally.