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A new article from

A new article from Newsweek reveals some interesting cleavages in the internal administration debate ...

The handling of al-Libi touched off a long-running battle over interrogation tactics inside the administration. It is a struggle that continued right up until the Abu Ghraib scandal broke in April—and it extended into the White House, with Condoleezza Rice's National Security Council pitted against lawyers for the White House counsel and the vice president. Indeed, one reason the prison abuse scandal won't go away—two months after gruesome photos were published worldwide—is that a long paper trail of memos and directives from inside the administration has emerged, often leaked by those who disagreed with rougher means of questioning.

Always the VP, always the VP.

The BBC reports that

The BBC reports that Muqtada al-Sadr delivered a conciliatory sermon on Friday: "Mr Sadr called upon the interim government to work to end the occupation according to a timetable set by Iraqi officials, reported a correspondent for Voice of Mujahidin radio present at the sermon. Mr Sadr added that the formation of the government was a good opportunity to bury past differences and 'forge ahead toward the building of a unified Iraq'."

From the front page

From the front page of Friday's Post ...

U.S. intelligence personnel ordered military dog handlers at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq to use unmuzzled dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees during interrogations late last year, a plan approved by the highest-ranking military intelligence officer at the facility, according to sworn statements the handlers provided to military investigators.

A military intelligence interrogator also told investigators that two dog handlers at Abu Ghraib were "having a contest" to see how many detainees they could make involuntarily urinate out of fear of the dogs, according to the previously undisclosed statements obtained by The Washington Post.

The statements by the dog handlers provide the clearest indication yet that military intelligence personnel were deeply involved in tactics later deemed by a U.S. Army general to be "sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses."

Then there's this from the Associated Press ...

"What I've authorized is that we stay within U.S. law," Bush told reporters at the close of the G-8 summit in Savannah, Ga.

Asked if torture is ever justified, Bush replied, "Look, I'm going to say it one more time. ... The instructions went out to our people to adhere to law. That ought to comfort you."

When addressing this topic today <$Ad$>President Bush placed great emphasis on the fact that whatever may have happened would have been consistent with his order that "anything we did would conform to U.S. law and would be consistent with international treaty obligations."

But that statement has a certain, shall we say, tortured ring to it when we've just seen this lengthy Pentagon memo which describes novel and improbable legal interpretations by which actions that seem on their face to violate US laws and international treaties actually do not because of the president's plenary powers as commander-in-chief and grand interrogation muckety-muck.

And one other thing: can we have a show of hands of those who still think those half dozen reservists weren't following orders?

Even back home theyre

Even back home they're starting to <$NoAd$>wonder. This from an editorial in yesterday's Houston Chronicle ...

The United States' moral authority to call for the rule of law and respect for human rights has been undermined by legal machinations the Bush administration undertook to justify torturing prisoners taken in the war on terror.

Administration officials have attempted to downplay the significance of a March 6, 2003, Justice Department memorandum that concluded that, as commander in chief in time of war, President George W. Bush is bound neither by federal law nor the tenets of the Geneva Conventions that ban torture as a means of extracting information from detainees.


The March memo asserts that interrogators could inflict severe pain on a detainee with impunity as long as the intent was something other than to torture. An interrogator would be culpable only if he knew his actions would inflict suffering that is severe enough to induce "prolonged" physical or mental effects. An interrogator would be immune from punishment if he believed he acted to prevent a larger harm, the lawyers determined.

The memos were obviously concocted to defend acts that are clearly beyond the bounds of a civilized nation.

The memos support the view that the prisoner abuses uncovered at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were not merely the grave mistakes of a few soldiers, but resulted from policies formed at the highest levels of government. They strengthen concerns about how detainees at Guantanamo and in Afghanistan are being treated.

As I suggest today in The Hill, I think we're actually pretty far past that point.

We're like contestants on Wheel of Fortune with a long phrase spelled out in front of us with maybe one or two letters missing. We know what the letters spell. It's obvious. We just don't have the heart to say it out loud.

Dont miss Fred Kaplans

Don't miss Fred Kaplan's piece in Slate on the interplay between Reagan and Gorbachev, how Reagan did play a key role in triggering, though not causing, the end of the Cold War -- though not in precisely the way his hagiographers imply. It's a good piece, with illustrative quotes from declassified documents. Also take a look at this piece by Sid Blumenthal in Salon, which looks at this dimension of Reagan's presidency from a distinct though complementary perspective.

A few days ago

A few days ago I noted a divergence between the websites of the two presidential candidates. John Kerry's website showed lots of pictures of John Kerry in all the expected poses of authority, empathy and so forth. Meanwhile, President Bush's website also showed lots of pictures of John Kerry caught, as you might imagine, in poses suggesting buffoonery, arrogance, indecision and the like. What the GWB website didn't have any of was pictures of George W. Bush.

Now, earlier today I noted how the Bush campaign has replaced the front page of their website with a Reagan tribute, with a huge picture of the late president backgrounded with flags, accompanied by links to a Reagan tribute video, links to President Reagan's most famous speeches and statement of his praise for President Reagan by President Bush.

That's the Bush website now. (You really need to see it to get the picture.)

Now, how many days of leaving the site that way will it take before people start to see the obvious: that President Bush's campaign staffers believe that pushing their own guy isn't a particularly good political strategy and that bashing Kerry or grasping on to Reagan nostalgia is far preferable?

Now to a related point. I've got a number of notes from people (few of them Bush supporters in the first case, of course) who are outraged by the Bush campaign's unabashed exploitation of Reagan's passing as part of their reelection campaign effort --- the morphing of the Bush website into the Reagan tribute website being a key example.

Yes, it's crass and cynical. But it's also a tad desperate. And that's the more important point, I think. Having watched the Bush White House for some time and seen them try all manner of crude and crass political gambits, very few of them, in my recollection, haven't ended up biting them in the behind.

I suspect this case will be the same.

A note to TPM

A note to TPM internship applicants: First, thanks for your patience and the really excellent applications. Second, we'll be making our decision shortly. So expect to hear from us soon.

From the Associated Press

From the Associated Press ...<$NoAd$>

Reversing itself, the Army said Tuesday that a G.I. was discharged partly because of a head injury he suffered while posing as an uncooperative detainee during a training exercise at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

The Army had previously said Specialist Sean Baker's medical discharge in April was unrelated to the injury he received last year at the detention center, where the United States holds suspected terrorists.

Mr. Baker, 37, a former member of the 438th Military Police Company, said he played the role of an uncooperative prisoner and was beaten so badly by four American soldiers that he suffered a traumatic brain injury and seizures. He said the soldiers only stopped beating him when they realized he might be American.

Bruce Simpson, Mr. Baker's lawyer, said his client is considering a lawsuit.

What can you say about this stuff?