Wednesday, February 28, 2007

You drive me crazy

Not much of a story, as it is now about a man who is not much of a person anymore. Jose Padilla was arrested in May, 2002 and detained (nice word) for a month before he was named an enemy combatant by George Bush, and transferred to a naval brig in a ship off the coast of South Carolina. He was kept in a 7 x 9 foot cell with no windows, no clock, and no control over the lights or sound. Whenever he was let out of his cell to go anywhere, they used goggles and "ear defenders" (as they're called in the gun trade) to essentially cut off as much sensory information as possible from reaching his brain. As the CIA knows, from experiments conducted in the early 60s, this sort of interrogation/confinement technique slowly erodes the mind to a point now where Padilla trusts his jailers more than his lawyers.

Essentially, they drove him out of his mind, and would now like to (finally!) try him for aiding terrorists. Or something. They've changed their minds once or twice about what they can charge him with, now that he's actually being brought to trial. The beauty of all this is, now his lawyers are saying that he's unfit, and his treatment in the hands of the American government is being put on trial. If the defense team can prove torture, Padilla could go free. And if he truly is a dangerous person, then our government's short-sighted behavior will have let a potential terrorist loose to commit actual crimes (as opposed to incarcerating him indefinitely - and illegally - for crimes he was thinking of committing).

The judge found him competent to stand trial today, and capable in assisting with his own defense, even though he refuses to discuss his case with his lawyers. The judge did not say that Padilla hadn't been tortured. The government tried to argue that there is this Al Qaeda manual stating that if incarcerated, you should always say you've been tortured, even if you hadn't been. The judge pointed out that there's no proof Padilla had ever seen the manual, let alone that he was a member of Al Qaeda. The government's psychiatrist testified that Padilla is competent to stand trial, even though his two conversations with Padilla had taken place through the slit in his cell door and were two years apart.

I'm so proud to be an American. Maybe, eight years ago. For about twenty minutes.

In other horrific news, a woman (Sabrine Al Janabi) was raped in Iraq by Iraqi security forces (over and over and over). This would not really be news to some. The difference is, she had the (forgive me) balls to go to the media. Nouri Al Maliki (the current president of Iraq) has investigated the matter and within hours determined that the woman had not been raped, and, as matter of fact, the security forces who didn't do this horrible thing are "heroes."

For those not interested in cultural relativism, skip this paragraph. Women who are raped (and report it) in Muslim society are often societally shunned, in some cases, even by their own families. By reporting this crime, she exposed herself to a potential honor killing, murdered for committing "adultery." Or as we in the "educated" west refer to it, rape. So to say that she's done this to embarrass the security forces is basically assuming that Iraq has suddenly become non-Muslim.

Cultural Relativism: "principle that an individual human's beliefs and activities should be interpreted in terms of his or her own culture." -- Wikipedia

This term and the mindset behind it was in response to western ethnocentrism, i.e., we're the best the brightest the smartest, and all you folks in the third world are primitive. And how we prove it every single time.

For a more complete account of this little atrocity, please read the Baghdad Burning blog via the link to the left. You might find yourself throwing up, but it's worth knowing this crap.


Indonesia - 1965 President Sukarno was balancing the Muslim military against the populist PKI (Indonesian Communist Party), and was even intending to arm the PKI in order to better maintain a balance between the two. The CIA thought this was a very bad idea (the CIA and President Johnson thought ALL communists were a bad idea), and came up with a plan to deal with the problem: identify all the communists at once, and maybe get them killed. So the CIA planted information that a shipment of arms was coming in for the PKI. The PKI membership went to go get the arms, and surprise! the military was there waiting for them. between 300,000 and 1 million Indonesians were killed. Most of them were of an ethnic Chinese background that made them easier to spot (unless, of course, they weren't PKI, but just the wrong ethnic background). According to John Stockwell, a former CIA agent, the CIA thought this was a very successful operation at the time. Sukarno was overthrown by General Suharto two years later. Suharto ruled for thirty years and was one of the least nice people in the region. And therefor a friend to the US. We allowed him to invade East Timor during the Ford and Carter administrations (1975), because there were fears that the Timorese were friendly with Communist China. The E Timorese finally gained their independence in 2002, after years of brutal repression and guerrilla warfare.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Mistrials on Ice

Lt. Ehren Watada - Free at Last!

For a few months, anyway.

Lt. Ehren Watada is on trial for "missing a movement" and "conduct unbecoming an officer". I think the "conduct unbecoming" is a more severe charge. After reading all the information he could on the War against Iraq, he decided that by going to participate in that theatre of operations, he would be giving tacit approval to a war crime, and could therefor be charged under the Geneva Conventions as a war criminal. He is on fairly solid ground, as I understand the law. Doesn't matter how lowly he is, if he feels the order is illegal, he is obligated to disobey. This may get him in trouble, but at least he won't go to prison for the rest of his life (or face execution) for committing what might be called atrocities.

The judge felt that introducing Lt. Watada's reasons for "missing his movement" as tantamount to confessing to a crime to which he was pleading Not Guilty. In other words, the prosecution and the judge both felt that Watada's defense couldn't be introduced, but every witness against him said that he was refusing to deploy to an illegal war. And his statement to the prosecutors was simply a restatement of why he wouldn't deploy to Iraq. In other words, with every prosecution witness, with every statement and stipulation, the judge was having to introduce evidence that he said was not allowable in his courtroom.


Double jeopardy may or may not apply. The civilian defense attorney says it would in civilian court, but this is a military court-martial. Who can tell what the military will do when faced with opposition within the ranks?

I suppose they could always try and order him to go to Iraq again, and court-martial him all over again, when he refuses to go...


Vietnam - 1952 onward After ignoring repeated pleas from Ho Chih Minh to help them repel the French Colonial power (Ho Chih Minh sent President Truman a copy of their Declaration of Independence, which freely quotes from our Declaration and from the French Rights of Man and the Citizen), the United States finally involved itself in Indochina by assisting in the appointment of Ngo Dinh Diem, a Catholic elitist with little understanding of the politics of the mostly agrarian, Buddhist society he was to govern. Besides banning prostitution, opium dens and trying to impose Catholic values, his government was also responsible for the torture and execution of countless thousands of suspected communists. He was eventually assassinated with a blind eye turned by John F Kennedy (who was himself assassinated 20 days later), and replaced with chaos and continuing power struggles. Given the choice between American colonizers (as they were seen by the Vietnamese people) and Communists (who were, at least, themselves Vietnamese) soldiers in the Army of the Republic of Viet Nam (ARVN) found themselves more often than not sympathizing with the Communist north. And we know how all that eventually went.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Reflapping the Lips

Two stories of mild interest, Libby (again), and large blocks of money.

So Lewis Libby's Grand Jury testimony is being played for the jury, and what they're hearing is that Dick Cheney told Libby to leak Valerie Plame's name to certain journalists, and also to leak particular passages of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIA) to one particular journalist: Judith Miller, formerly of the New York Times. This was meant to discredit Joseph Wilson's assertions that the Bush administration was exaggerating the threat re: Iraq and nuclear anything. More specifically, Joe Wilson's OpEd where he basically said the Niger Uranium story was BS and the fact that Bush included it in the State of the Union was not only wrong, it wasn't true. Libby spoke to a number of other reporters, (Robert Novak, Tim Russert, etc.) and basically told them the same story: that Joe Wilson's wife worked at the CIA, that she got him the job.

Sort of true, sort of not. Valerie Plame did indeed work at the CIA as part of a team investigating Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the movement of said WMDs through various backchannels, terrorist networks, etc. She did so under what is known as commercial cover, i.e., as a business doing legal, legit stuff as a front for doing a lot of behind the scenes investigating. All of this was outed, first by Robert Novak. So, the company that she "worked" for was outed to the world, and all its employees were then put in jeopardy. Any people she had contacted might then be arrested or killed under suspicion for talking to a foreign agent.

Valerie suggested her husband to the working group that was investigating the Niger claims, as he had an extensive background working in Africa. He had been praised by George HW Bush as a "hero" after the first Gulf War, as he was the last American official to talk to Saddam Hussein before the bombs started falling. He helped get many American citizens out of Iraq, right up until Desert Storm began. This guy knows stuff, and could find out stuff, both where Africa and Iraq were concerned. So Wilson went, talked to various folks, who all said essentially, yeah, Iraq might have asked, but there is no way we would have sold anything to them, and the documents you've got there are really crappy forgeries.

There's the backstory.

So Libby has been caught in numerous fibs (which is why he's on trial, after all), but the testimony of various prosecution witnesses has been super-extra damaging to the VeeP's office, as it would appear that Cheney was positively obsessed with shutting Wilson up no matter what. The revelations, even from current staff members working for Cheney, should be causing pretty large ripples in the media pond. So far, however, it's just us leftwing moonbats who are stirring the pot. There is even talk that some of this goes back to the Pres, but the only one who knows that for sure is probably Cheney, and I kind of doubt he'd screw over his boss.

The other short story is the money in Iraq. Lots of it. Lost. Shrink-wrapped pallets of $100 bills. Enough to just hand each Iraqi $150 in cash. $4,000,000,000. I love that term - "unaccounted." We forgot to count it. It's not stolen, it's unaccounted for. So they've been holding Paul Bremer's feet to the fire over there in the Oversight Committee. Not only are they bothered that he had 363 tons (TONS!) of cash just sort of dropped on the tarmac in Iraq, they're also asking uncomfortable questions like "what did you do with the $8.8 Billion, mister?" The Republicans on the committee, true to form, are accusing the Dems of playing the "blame game."

Heard that one before.

Actually, I believe the "game" they are playing is their jobs. The purpose of Congress is to make sure our tax dollars are spent properly. I for one, am delighted that they're finally doing their jobs, after a six year vacation.


Guatemala - 1954 Jacobo Arbenz Guzman was the first democratically elected leader of Guatemala, after a peaceful declaration of independence. One of his very first efforts was to redistribute unused, flat land to the citizens of the country (based upon the United States' own Homestead Act of 1860). Since the country is more than 30% mountainous, finding flat acreage was, in and of itself, a challenge. United Fruit Growers (who owned the bulk of arable land in Guatemala) opposed the efforts, saying that their land was worth $75 per acre (while reporting to the IRS that it was worth only $3 per acre). Guzman took them at their official word and offered to pay them $3 per acre. UFG was one of the power players in US business in the region. The US Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, and the Director of the CIA, Allen Dulles (brothers) were both major shareholders in UFG, as well as having connections to the law firm that represented UFG. The United States looked for any way they could oppose the land redistribution. The CIA began operation WASHTUB, and attempt to plant a phony Soviet arms cache in Guatemala.

Guzman was, at the time, looking to purchase arms with which to equip his army. The United States refused to help him, and Western Europe followed Washington's lead. Guzman was then able to purchase a small quantity of (poor quality) small arms and artillery from Czechoslovakia. This became the opening by which the United States was able to say that there was undue Soviet influence in the country. A CIA-sponsored coup was carried out against Guzman's government, beginning a civil war in Guatemala that lasted until 1996, and decimated much of the indigenous Mayan population.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

You're kidding me...

More articles and punditry being written about the lie:

Al Gore: "I invented the Internet!"

Strangely enough, he never said that. What he said was, "As a Congressman, I led the initiative in creating the Internet." Which he did. Newt Gingrich and he eventually worked together to make sure the funding and the technology would be put in place.

I'm amazed this one still gets traction anywhere. You can still find the damn video on the internets of the Wolf Blitzer interview with then-candidate Gore.

Short post, no doughnut.

Give me liberty, or give me HDTV!!!

With apologies to the Firesign Theatre.

So the various big newses of the day include the Court-Martial of Lt. Ehren Watada in my home state of WA, and the Republicans killing debate on the senate floor concerning the non-binding resolution opposing the troop surge.

Sean Penn is hangin' with the protesters at Fort Lewis, about a thousand of 'em, while inside the judge basically tells the defense to f*** off with that whole Nuremberg defense. Watada (for those of you living under rocks) is a Hawaii Pacific University grad, very committed to the Army, happy to serve his country - EXCEPT - as he got closer and closer to deployment in Iraq, he had been doing his reading, like any soldier should, and he realized something: the war in Iraq could easily be treated as a War Crime under the Geneva Accords! So if he participated, the "I was only following orders" defense might not do him any good, just like it didn't do Nazi Camp Guards any good after WWII. Lt. Watada volunteered to go to Afghanistan, and the Army said no, you're bad, and arrested him on "missing a movement" and "Conduct Unbecoming an Officer" - he badmouthed the war in front of a crowd.

So, Watada kinda went the other way - he and his lawyer are simply arguing the legality of the war in the first place: how Cheney, Rumsfeld and Co. conflated intelligence to create a need for war based on a lot of fiction. If true, this would place the war squarely in the War Crimes column (which it may yet end up in) and would therefor make Lt. Watada a War Criminal were he to participate. Which would probably work as a defense, except the judge has basically said, "you can't go into that." So now, Watada is reduced to speaking in his own defense, and calling one character witness, a former commander. Watada will probably end up in the brig for some unpleasant amount of time, and be dishonorably discharged from the Army. Here's a guy, willing to go to Afghanistan to fight against the folks who most probably engineered the disaster of 9/11, being told he has to go fight in a country that presented no threat at all to the US, and we're gonna throw the book at him. Nice values.

On the other front, a story I'm of two minds about, since it's basically a story about the Unspeakable hunting the Uneatable. The House and Senate Democrats have finally put forth a Non-Binding Resolution, telling the President that they're opposed to the additional troop surge in Iraq.

Sorta like a skinny guy in bare feet, a tank top and shorts, putting up his hand and telling the bulls in Spain to "stop right there, please."

Come on. Who do you boys and girls think you're fooling? All this does is tell the President we disapprove. Do you idiots think he cares WHAT you think?

But then the Republicans go one further - they filibuster the debate. So now no one can talk about the Resolution in the Big House. The Repubs are talking about other options, but I'm not sure if they've made themselves clear yet.

So, here's where I'm a bit conflicted: we're giving the Pres a note saying bad boy, but he doesn't have to do anything about it, or even read it. And he won't, he's going forward no matter what the Senate says. But the Senate (thanks to the minority) has decided not to give him the note. And the Dems are OUTRAGED!!!

So, if the resolution doesn't make it to the Shrub's desk, nothing happens. And if it does, nothing happens. The Repubs are backing themselves into a corner, and the Dems are OUTRAGED!!!

'nuff said for one day.


Iran - 1953 Mohammad Mossadeq was the democratically elected President of Iran in 1953. He had been insisting on the nationalization of the oil fields, basically taking the oil revenue (which had been negotiated away to the British before the Iranians knew what oil could do for their economy), and giving it to the people of Iran. This infuriated the British, specifically British Petroleum (BP). They leaked false info to the CIA, telling them that Mossadeq had made overtures to the Soviet Union for military aid. The CIA engineered a coup, putting Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi back in power, and ending the development of shared oil revenues. The Shah became one of the most brutal dictators seen in the middle east. Even though the United States governments knew what his human rights record was like, we sold him advanced military armaments, culminating in a sale during the Ford administration (and deliveries that continued through the Carter administration), making Iran the largest customer for F14 fighter jets in the world (outside of the United States). He was then overthrown in the late 70s by his own foreign minister Shahpour Bakhtiar, and an exiled fundamentalist mullah, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Thursday, February 1, 2007


I made a point in my earlier post about Clinton lying to someone and getting impeached. I realize that I wasn't clear why he was being impeached. I made it sound as if he was being impeached because of lying to the FBI. He was impeached because he denied "having sex" with Monica Lewinsky to a grand jury. Which was really, really stupid.

Everything else about the original investigation, known as Whitewater, ended up exonerating the Clintons (or at least unable to prove anything substantive against either Bill or Hillary).

Short post so no extras.