Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

From a late article out from USA Today: "Shortly before Bush administration officials presented Republican congressional leaders with a request for $25 billion in Iraq funding this week, Secretary of State Colin Powell was telling members of the Congressional Black Caucus that no such request would be forthcoming ... Powell's associates tried to downplay the mix-up. But it underscores the continuing rift between President Bush's departments of State and Defense and deepens the impression that the nation's top diplomat is being cut out of the decision-making process."

Can the president apologize for humiliating this guy too? Even apologizing to Abdullah would be a start.

I see no point dragging out this presidential apology business any more. The president did what he was willing to do after the politicals told him the first try wasn't enough. Everyone's drawn their conclusions, and so forth. But what precisely was the idea in apologizing to Abdullah and then going out and announcing that he'd apologized to Abdullah?

Abdullah's an Arab. And he's from nextdoor to Iraq. And he was in town. Actually he was at my house. So I figured I'd apologize to him. How's that? Did I mentioned that I apologized to Abdullah?

And how about Rush Limbaugh's idea of a fun night out and blowing off steam?

You know when you're worked to the bone and you really need to unwind there's just nothing like grabbing a half dozen Arab dudes, stripping them naked, tying their bodies together against their will and pressing one guy's penis up against another guy's butt to make it like they're having anal sex. Right?

Party time for Rush, it would seem, is a mix of Studio 54 and Jack the Ripper.

As fun as A Clockwork Orange.

It's the Abner Louimafication of regime change.

An interesting tidbit from this evening's <$NoAd$>edition of The (must-read) Nelson Report ...

We can contribute a second hand anecdote to newspaper stories on rising concern, last year, from Secretary of State Powell and Deputy Secretary Armitage about Administration attitudes and the risks they might entail: according to eye witnesses to debate at the highest levels of the Administration...the highest levels...whenever Powell or Armitage sought to question prisoner treatment issues, they were forced to endure what our source characterizes as "around the table, coarse, vulgar, frat-boy bully remarks about what these tough guys would do if THEY ever got their hands on prisoners...."

-- let's be clear: our source is not alleging "orders" from the White House. Our source is pointing out that, as we said in the Summary, a fish rots from its head. The atmosphere created by Rumsfeld's controversial decisions was apparently aided and abetted by his colleagues in their callous disregard for the implications of the then-developing situation, and by their ridicule of the only combat veterans at the top of this Administration.

Tough guys ...

There's a rush of new articles out this afternoon which, at first blush, make me think Don Rumsfeld is finished.

An article in Reuters has a Republican senate staffer saying this about what Rumsfeld needs to do to keep his job ...

A Senate Republican aide said Rumsfeld must "give the performance of his life," and show contrition.

"He needs to have full disclosure of the facts, no parsing of words or displaying the usual convoluted testimony that the Senate Armed Services Committee has been accustomed to," the Republican aide said.

As far as people losing their jobs goes, political storms have two phases: a dynamic phase and an equilibrium phase. The first comes right after the revelation when everything is influx and the person <$Ad$>on the line is wholly embattled. Usually, and always if the person in question is to survive, you then reach a point of equilibrium where the person's defenders find some point, some firm ground, on which they feel they can defend him.

If that second stage doesn't kick in quickly the person is almost always finished. In virtually every case, what does someone in is not an abundance of critics but a lack of defenders.

One thing that makes Rumsfeld more vulnerable is that he's already lost what was once a key pillar of support: hawks and neocons. Just recently, Bill Kristol and Bob Kagan wrote a piece in the Weekly Standard that all but called on Bush to fire Rumsfeld.

For all these reasons it's difficult for me to see where Rumsfeld's equilibrium comes from. Yet there's an added political question.

Let's say Rumsfeld resigns on Friday. The election is still six months away. And the nation is at war. So a new Defense Secretary would be needed more or less immediately. That would open up a very uncomfortable prospect for the administration.

Confirmation hearings for a new Sec Def would, I think, inevitably turn into a national forum for discussing the management of the Pentagon, the planning for the war and the lack of planning for the occupation. The new nominee would be drawn into all sorts of uncomfortble public second-guessing of what's happened up until this point. Sure, that's stuff under Rumsfeld. But, really, it's stuff under Bush -- the civilian head of the United States military.

That, I have to imagine, is something the White House would like to avoid at any cost.

Le Monde has posted some hand-written letters <$NoAd$>home from Sergeant Ivan L. "Chip" Frederick II. Frederick is one the soldiers at the heart of the prison scandal in Iraq. And these letters were in the form of accounts of behavior he was both participating in but also morally troubled by.

I've just skimmed through so far. But this section, which I've transcribed to the best of my ability, is one that jumped out at me ...

Back around Nov[ember] an OGA prisoner was brought to IA. They stressed him out so bad that the man passed away. They put his body in a body bag and packed him in ice for approximately 24 hours in the shower in 1B. The next day the medics came in and put his body on a stretcher, placed a fake I.V. in his arm and took him away. This OGA was never processed and therefore never had a number.

That's on page 10 of the .pdf document on the Le Monde website. It's also noted in Hersh's piece in The New Yorker.

Lettin' off a little steam ...

Rush <$NoAd$>Limbaugh from yesterday ...

This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation and we're going to ruin people's lives over it and we're going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You of heard of need to blow some steam off?

Another example of how a war for liberal democracy can't be run by the most illiberal people in our society.

And just what is Rush's idea of a 'good time'?

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 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 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 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.