Sunday, October 30, 2005

Now serving Libby on a stick

Just what the blogging world needs, another post about posts about Fitzgerald, Libby, and Plame. They are so hard to come by...

But seriously, I read so many this weekend. As I plowed along through my favorites -- TPM, Political Animal, Whiskey Bar, War and Piece, Just World News, Kos... -- I noted my favorite points. And in the end I looked and saw that almost all that I recorded were by Digby and Tristero on Hullabaloo. Coincidence? I think not. They just put the finest point on what has happened. No offense to the others who are all over the story, and the back-story of the incredible corrupt putresence of Dick Cheney's administration. They're all doing good work. But Hullabaloo digests all the layers of the story and puts it in plain, strong English. If you want to read at length from one place. Skip the rest of this and just read Digby and Tristero.

Or let me indulge you with my favorite passages:

The Big Picture:

If the Republican leadership of congress weren't spineless Bush toadies and insane religious fanatics they would do their job and investigate this honestly for the good of the country. But they won't. They are nothing more than braindead fatcats gorging at the pork barrel with a fistfull of C-notes in one hand and a bible in the other.

The Republicans will do anything to advance their agenda. They are fundamentally undemocratic --- they do not believe that the people have a right to vote, to see their elected politicians allowed to serve a full term, to know the reasons for their government's policies or even why they are going to war. They believe that they can do anything. That's what this case is about.

Rove Must Resign, Too
Karl, stop wasting my taxes and go back to whatever rock you crawled out from under. Oh, and one more thing. Fuck you, traitor.
On or about...:
Can there be any doubt that the Bush administration bet the farm on the idea that the press would keep their mouths shut? And can we all see that they were very close to being right? If Fitzgerald hadn't been willing to take it to the mat, they would have gotten off scott free.

The Republican (Washington) estabishment very wisely have figured out that they can use the press to disseminate anything they choose and the press will either eagerly report it or 'decline' to follow up. They consider the press a cog in their noise machine and the press is willing to be a cog as long as they are given access.

Turdblossom In The Punchbowl

Karl Rove is spinning like Tanya Harding at the nationals right now, telling everyone who will listen that he wasn't part of any conspiracy to leak Plame's identity to the press, that he has a major case of CRS disease (can't remember shit.) But it just doesn't hold water.
Do I want to see Rove indicted? Is the pope Catholic? Do bears shit in the woods? But would it be enough for me to have Libby locked up and skinned by the media? As long as his story told, sure. I'll take it.

But you can bet I will be celebrating even more if Rove goes down in flames.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Don't mess with The Onion

Did you hear that the White House (someone working for Harriet Miers no less!) has demanded that The Onion stop using the presidential seal? Who's bright idea was that? Well, the Onion is having fun with it. (Was there any doubt? Earth to Bush: don't mess with educated satirists.) In fact, they're getting all rude on the royal family: "I Just Wish I Could Stop Shitting Blood". The sacred seal of the POTUS is still displayed proudly on their parody Weekly Radio Address. This week is a sorta funny one about Halloween. Put that in your litigating pipe and smoke it, idiots!

OK, the Halloween joke wasn't that funny, but this audio clip is: Catholic Nutritionists Warn Of Transubstantiating Fats. "holy lipids", "Bile of Christ", love it...

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Picturing quarks

PhysicsWeb, a site that features news of physics research, has this cool bit of news: Particles come to life:
What does a quark, a photon or a gluon look like? No one knows for sure but Jan-Henrik Andersen, an artist at the University of Michigan in the US, has created a series of visual images of elementary particles based on conversation with physicists at Michigan.
Totally weird, but cool.

My neighbor, the Freeway Blogger

The Freeway Blogger was one of my heros during the 2004 election. Turns out she moved to Bernal a while back and is now active in my hood. And she's opened up a freeway blogging yahoo group! Right on.

Wal-Mart's logic on healthcare

Kevin Drumm gets this just about right: Wall-Mart and Healthcare:

In any system that doesn't cover the entire population of a country, each individual insurer has an incentive to cherry pick only the healthiest workers and leave the sick ones to someone else. This problem is rarely stated as baldly as it is in the Wal-Mart memo, but it's always there. Our entire system is built around an incentive to make sure that it's always someone else who's responsible when someone gets sick.
SFUSD is faced with the threat of a strike that is laregely about healthcare costs. It just drives the truth of this home to me. We so need universal health insurance. How long 'til the entrenched health care status quo can be routed and real reform happens?

Kerry's withdrawal plan

Kevin Drum, who has been advocating for establishing a timetable for withdrawal from Iray, offers this repot of Kerry's plan for getting out: Benchmarks for withdrawal:

....John Kerry is calling for a withdrawal plan from Iraq based on concrete benchmarks:
The insurgency will not be defeated unless our troop levels are drawn down,' Kerry, D-Mass., said in a speech at Georgetown University.

To undermine the insurgency,' he said, 'we must instead simultaneously pursue both a political settlement and the withdrawal of American combat forces linked to specific, responsible benchmarks. At the first benchmark, the completion of December elections, we can start the process by reducing our forces by 20,000 troops over the course of the holidays.'

...blogging about this subject has persuaded me that a benchmark-based plan retains most of the advantages of a timetable approach (reduces support for the insurgency, forces the Iraqi government to take security seriously, relieves strain on the American military) while avoiding some of the drawbacks (primarily that it gives the insurgents a withdrawal date to hold out for).
Why oh why isn't this man in the White House now?

Paul Begala channels the Rude Pundit

Paul Begala dishes up one of the most enjoyable blog reads in recent memory over at TPM Cafe. While we all wait for Fitzgerald to drop his bomb, check out this Clinton vet's take on What It's Like:

The pressure of a federal criminal investigation - especially one in the media spotlight - is bone-crushing... Already we hear rumors of President Bush exploding at his aides, at the President blaming Vice President Cheney, Karl Rove, and anyone else in sight for his woes.

This I know first hand: when The Boss explodes like that, there are two kinds of aides -- those who fight and those who flee. When he came to Washington, Mr. Bush surrounded himself with tough-minded people who seemed not to be afraid to stand up to him. But now his team is loaded with weak-kneed toadies, and Mr. Bush is home alone. Karl Rove, of course, is fending off a potential indictment. His prodigious brain has not entertained another thought in months...

Mr. Bush would do well to augment his current staff, a C-Team if ever there was one, with some stronger characters. But to read the Bush-Miers correspondence is to gain a disturbing insight into Mr. Bush's personality: he likes having his ass kissed. Ms. Miers' cards and letters to the then-Governor of Texas belong in the Brown-Nosers Hall of Fame. You can be sure the younger and less experienced Bush White House aides are even more obsequious. The last thing this President wants is the first thing he needs: someone to slap his spoiled, pampered, trust-funded, plutocratic, never-worked-a-day-in-his-life cheek and make him face the reality of his foul-ups.
Yeah, I know, this is the same Begala that brought us the debased WWF-style politics of Crossfire -- and it was just as much Begala's baby as Carlson's. So shrill bombast is his stock and trade. But you gotta love reading "slap his spoiled, pampered, trust-funded, plutocratic, never-worked-a-day-in-his-life cheek".

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Sever the head

So many leaks: "The limbs keep moving even after the head is severed, but not with the same coordination."

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Daily Dish update on Ian Fishback

Have I railed enough about how blogs chasing the meme-of-the-moment? How they all flock to whatever story is hot right now? I hate it.

So let's take a second and check up on Captain Ian Fishback. A few weeks ago his story broke and helped compel Congress to pass legislation banning Bush's torture insanity. Well, time passes, blogs move on, and the law is in jeopardy and Captain Fishback apparently remains incarcerated in an Army brig.

Andrew Sullivan has the most recent update on Fishback and the risks to the anti-torture legislation:

I'm still forwarding emails of support to Ian Fishback, who tried for months and months to get clear guidance from his superiors about treatment of military detainees, and whose letter to Senator McCain helped shift momentum to pass an amendment to codify the existing ban on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of any prisoners. President Bush and especially vice-president Cheney are determined to prevent the amendment from becoming law. Senator McCain is hanging tough. If you want to send a message of support to Fishback, you still can:

Plame, Plame, everywhere. Praise Jesus!

The political blogs are on fire with the story, The Plame Game. Rather than link hither and thither, I'll point you to Digby. First with the chance that Cheney is caught lying:

Normally, I would be outraged at the thought that someone not under oath could be indicted for lying. I thought Martha's case was a total sham because the underlying crime was insignificant and commonplace. I'm not big on 'send a message' prosecutions. But I'm willing to make exceptions when it comes to a group of criminal thugs who are bamboozling the press and stealing elections to gain power so they can start wars for no reason and bankrupt the country. I just don't know what else can stop these people.
I'm fine with it too. But then he goes and turns it into bad news with this: And now for something completely different.
Atrios reports that the rumor that there are rumors that Cheney might resign are true. Got that?

Well let's just say Cheney does resign (be still my beating heart!). Who do you think Bush would choose to replace him?

Now unfortunately, the link Atrios chose mentions my first choice, Condoleeza Rice. So for those of us who say Condi as the new Veep, I don't want you to be left out of all the fun and games. Here's a question for youse (as we used to say back in Jersey):

If Condi becomes the Veep, how many hours/weeks/months/hours will it take for Bush to resign, Condi to become president, and all the Democratic hopes for a weak opponent in 2008 to be dashed?

Condi '08? A small price to pay for cleaning out Cheney's Augean Stables and ridding the union of the dangerous idiot Shrub. Oh how I hope this turns out to be true!!!

Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, there goes Antarctica

Another New Scientist story puts some more mortar on the climate change edifice, Antarctic glaciers calving faster into the ocean:

The edges of the Antarctic ice sheets are slipping into the ocean at an unprecedented rate, raising fears of a global surge in sea levels, glaciologists warned on Monday.

The findings confound predictions made just four years ago, by the UNÂ’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), that Antarctica would not contribute significantly to sea level rise in the 21st century.

Something tells me that we don't really understand the sea level equation well enough yet. Another recent story talked about the Amazon basin sinking about three inches under the load of a rainy season drainage -- which makes me wonder if the continental crust isn't somehow more adaptive — maybe even buoyantt — than we think. Maybe all the ice melting into the ocean will just cause some tectonic compensation?

Or maybe it's a bad time to invest in low-lying coastal land...

Should we be rushing a bird flu vaccine to market?

New Scientist sounds off on the need for action on bird flu: Bird flu: kick-start vaccination or face the consequences

Substantial commercial, political and bureaucratic barriers remain that will stop us being able to vaccinate enough of the world's people to contain any pandemic. What is urgently required is a global plan to combat the threat.

The problem boils down to numbers. A hybrid vaccine virus has already been produced that could immunise people against the H5N1 bird flu virus. But manufacturers can't make enough of it.

Then, when most observers flinch at the analogy to the swine flu scare, they raise it as a hopeful example.
The science is in place. Now the world needs to push forward to test and license a vaccine. When pandemic fears surfaced with swine flu in 1976, the US government developed, tested and licensed a vaccine, then made enough for most of its people, within six months. "We did it in 1976," says Fedson. "Why can't we do it now?"
Most people think that swine flu vaccination was a waste because it never progressed beyond a scare, and many people died from the hastily concocted vaccine. Interesting that they feel differently; that it is an example of how we can protect ourselves against a threat before the threat becomes a disaster.

I really don't know how scared to be about this...


Saw Gus Van Zandt's Elephant a couple days ago. It's about Columbine. But not the story of Columbine as much as the state of mind of those kids. And it's really stuck with me:

His film is a highly stylized, dreamlike tone poem that defies linear conventions and is almost surreal in its approach. Using flashbacks and recurring images from different points of view, the film captures the mood and tone of its adolescent world: its perceptions, its self-absorption, and ultimately its darkest instincts.
Definitely recommended.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Sudoku ate my brain

OK, so Planarity was interesting. But it got kind of tedious after about level 10. Didn't stop me from playing it to cringe level 23. But I'm not proud.

Sudoku is a much better. A much more powerful time sucking machine. Not as deep as chess or go. Each new game has its own challenges. Lots of fun. Check it out.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Riverbend recommended Iraqi blogger...

Recently Riverbend the blogger behind Baghdad Burning recommended a few new-to-me Iraqi bloggers (who write in English). Among them was this interesting one. Check it out: Truth About Iraqis: The death squads of Iraq:

I am not against the Shia Arabs of my country (how could I be, there are Shia in my family). I am not opposed to any Iraqi who supports pluralism, gender rights, recognition of minority rights, and the unity of the country.

But I am opposed to those who would prostitute this great country to an occupier, whether it be the US or Iran.

I believe the Americans have been royally duped into this. The greatest threat for Iran was Saddam. He has been removed.

The only deterrent to an Iranian takeover of the Middle East is, was, and always will be Iraq.

GCC: Cow Power!

Continuing with my Green Car Congress obsession, here's an article on cow manure:

Biomethane from Dairy Manure Could Power 1M Cars in the US:
There are 8.5 million cows in the United States, each producing enough manure to potentially generate about 30 cubic feet of biomethane per day, which could replace significant amounts of natural gas at today’s prices. If used as vehicle fuel, biomethane could power a million cars.
OK, so I don't really care about manure of methane. I just wanted an excuse to link to Ms. Cow Power!

O'Reilly on Google Maps Data Providers

Here's an interesting insight into the business behind google maps from O'Reilly: Google Maps and Their Data Providers

Never assume it's easy to bring a free API to fruition. Check out Google Maps as web app versus Google Maps as API. Notice something different about the two maps? The former has "map data (c) NAVTEQ" whereas the latter has "map data (c) TeleAtlas". In the past, both API and consumer maps credited both companies, but it's a safe bet that Google has had a battle with NAVTEQ to offer their free API. The provider changed occurred around October 4 and prompted a discussion on the developer list about the greater number of errors in the TeleAtlas tiles
OK, maybe that's only interesting to me, a map geek and google map hacker.

Life's building blocks found all over space

Cool. NASA Discovers Life's Building Blocks Are Common In Space

'NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has shown complex organic molecules called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are found in every nook and cranny of our galaxy. While this is important to astronomers, it has been of little interest to astrobiologists, scientists who search for life beyond Earth. Normal PAHs aren't really important to biology,' Hudgins said. 'However, our work shows the lion's share of the PAHs in space also carry nitrogen in their structures. That changes everything.'

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

James Yee - An American in chains

Found a lot of links to this story today. Definitely worth a read: An American in chains - Sunday Times

James Yee entered Guantanamo as a patriotic US officer and Muslim chaplain. He ended up in shackles, branded a spy. This is his disturbing story

Google Maps census and housing data mashup

I love the Google Maps Mania blog. No doubt what they're about. They listed my SFUSD mashup recently. How cool is that?

They list tons of cool map apps -- you'll like this one: US Demographic Information Geocoding mashup

American debacle - Zbigniew Brzezinski

Zbigniew Brzezinski penned this op-ed for the LA Times: American debacle

Some 60 years ago Arnold Toynbee concluded, in his monumental 'Study of History,' that the ultimate cause of imperial collapse was 'suicidal statecraft.' Sadly for George W. Bush's place in history and — much more important — ominously for America's future, that adroit phrase increasingly seems applicable to the policies pursued by the United States since the cataclysm of 9/11. ...
Because America is extraordinarily powerful and rich, it can afford, for a while longer, a policy articulated with rhetorical excess and pursued with historical blindness. But in the process, America is likely to become isolated in a hostile world, increasingly vulnerable to terrorist acts and less and less able to exercise constructive global influence. Flailing away with a stick at a hornets' nest while loudly proclaiming "I will stay the course" is an exercise in catastrophic leadership.
"suicidal statecraft" and "catastrophic leadership". Sounds like the Bush administration to me.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Pandemic worrying

In recent days I've been ruminating about pandemics. Yes, I've been bitten by the flu worry bug. It is truly scary stuff. I tried to put my thoughts down in a blog post on sfschools, "Kids and flu" where I disguise my worry about avian flu under the guise of basic public health info about managing flu. I do think that we're getting ahead of ourselves worrying about avian bird flu. There are plenty of potential disasters in the world. And this one is still just potential.

But I really am a bit freaked out. There is a flu wiki that (in typical wiki form) is a mix of interesting info and gaping holes where info will hopefully be added. The one good source of info I've found is this blog: Avian Flu - What we need to know. Check out their analysis of A Bush plan for avian flu:

I am hoping to write a longer piece on what we should do, but frankly Bush's idea had not crossed my mind. For a start, quarantines don't usually work, especially in a large, diverse, and mobile country. The Army would if anything spread the flu. A list of better ideas would include well-functioning public health care systems at the micro-level, early warning protocols, and good decentralized, robust plans for communication and possibly vaccine or drug distribution. Might the postal service be more important than the Army here? How about the police department, and the training of people in the local emergency room?
More on this in the future, I'm sure.

Disturbing news of fascism in China

Laura Rosen at War and Peace tossed a link to this really disturbing Guardian article about a mob attack against a Chinese activist: 'They beat him until he was lifeless'.

The last time I saw Lu Banglie, he was lying in a ditch on the side of the street - placid, numb and lifeless - the spit, snot and urine of about 20 men mixing with his blood, and running all over his body.

I had only met him that day. He was to show me the way to Taishi, the hotspot of the growing rural uprisings in China. It felt like heading into a war. Taishi is under siege, I was warned. The day I arrived a French radio journalist and a Hong Kong print journalist were rumoured to have been beaten somewhere around Taishi.

This BBC article gives more details of the events in Taishi: Chinese activist attacked by mob

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Hullabaloo's perspective

"for no good reason at all, 37 % of the American people still approve of Bush. Incredible how many people remain duped."


One more from Green Car Congress makes a hat trick: Sales of Full-Size SUVs Crater in September

Combined sales of full-size SUVs dropped 43.5% in September from the year before. GM and Ford, the most dependent on SUV sales, were the hardest hit, with drops of 42.5% and 54.5% respectively.
One month doesn't mean much. But it runs deeper than that:
For the first 9 months of the year, sales of full-size SUVs are down 16.8% year-on-year.
The bad news about SUVs is that even if the new car buyers wise up, we will still have to endure a period when older, dilapidated SUVs become the "cheap wheels" on the roads. And they are likely to share the roads with much lighter, smaller vehicles.

Still, nice to see the gas guzzling, dangerous beasts turning into turkeys — or maybe white elephant is more apt.

too bad the New Yorker no longer runs those "block that metaphor" bloopers!

Good times for transit agencies

More good news from Green Car Congress: US Mass Transit Ridership Increasing:

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) reports that ridership of mass transit in the US is increasing in a number of metropolitan areas.

Transit organizations are reporting indications of ridership growth such as increased fare revenue, more crowded rail cars and buses, higher traffic on web sites, and more inquiries about vanpools.

Increased use of public transportation is the single most effective way to reduce AmericaÂ’s energy consumption, and it does not require any new taxes, government mandates or regulations. With todayÂ’s growing concern about energy security, transit is emerging as a critical part of the solution.
— APTA president William W. Millar

While high gas prices have contributed to the recent growth in ridership, numerous transit systems were seeing increases even before the gas prices started skyrocketing this summer.

I hope to be part of this trend, for many reasons that go beyond the price of gas. I want to commute by bike + BART a few days a week — partly to get out of the car, partly to get off the Bay Bridge, and partly to get another regular workout. If only I worked in SF, I'd commute by MUNI, drop our 2nd car, and sign up for Car Share. If only...

SF to Pilot Next-Gen Heavy-Duty Trucks

Green Car Congress brings us word that San Francisco to Pilot Wesport Next-Gen LNG for Heavy-Duty Trucks:

The City of San Francisco and Norcal Waste Systems Inc., the city’s refuse collection, recycling and transfer company, will deploy and demonstrate Westport’s second-generation High Pressure Direct Injection (HPDI) LNG technology for heavy-duty trucks in a pilot program through 2011.
I hate getting stuck behind those stinking big rigs filled with trash. There are so many of them headed east with me on the Bay Bridge. Now I'll have a reason to take a second look. Might be powered by some cool harbinger of post-diesel truck power.

Unfortunately, it will still stink.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

To the most arrogant secretary of defense in our history

Joe Galloway is Knight Ridder's senior military correspondent. He has serious credibility when he says, as he wrote in a recent editorial, Military higher-ups get to the bottom of abuse scandals:

There have been 17 separate investigations of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and other prisoner abuse scandals. All have gone straight to the bottom of every case. All have consistently claimed that no one higher up the chain of command, including the civilian leadership in the Pentagon, bears any responsibility for any of this.

Hogwash. BS. Nonsense.

If the lowest private fails, then others have failed in training, leading and directing that private. The chain runs from sergeant to lieutenant to captain to lieutenant colonel to colonel to one, two, three and four stars, on to the longest serving, most arrogant secretary of defense in our history, Donald H. Rumsfeld, and beyond him to the commander in chief, President Bush.

It's long past time for responsibility to begin flowing uphill in this administration. It's time for our leaders to take responsibility for what's being done in all our names and under our proud flag. It's time for Congress to do its job if the administration won't do its job.
You can bet they will again try pin this on the bottom-most soldier they can. But can there be any mistking what's going on? Can we all sing along, "There's something happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear. ..."

TalkLeft sums up the Ian Fishback story

TalkLeft has a good summary, with some quotes from Fishback, in It's Not a Game: Blame Rumsfeld:

When the military plays the blame game, the blame rolls downhill. Capt. Ian Fishback, the primary source of information about detainee abuse in a recent Human Rights Watch report, fears that military investigators are making no serious effort to trace knowledge of or participation in the abuse up the chain of command.
'I'm convinced this is going in a direction that's not consistent with why we came forward,' Captain Fishback said in a telephone interview from Fort Bragg, N.C., where he is going through Army Special Forces training. 'We came forward because of the larger issue that prisoner abuse is systemic in the Army. I'm concerned this will take a new twist, and they'll try to scapegoat some of the younger soldiers. This is a leadership problem.'
... Fishback was interrogated soon after the military learned that he was speaking to Senate aides, and he was interrogated repeatedly after it learned that HRW was going public with his complaints. The investigators want to know the names of the individuals who corroborated his reports, but Fishback has honored his promise not to divulge their identities.
'They're asking the same questions over and over again,' he said. 'They want the names of the sergeants, and they keep asking about my relationship with Human Rights Watch.'
Investigators have threatened Fishback with criminal prosecution if he doesn't nark on the soldiers he persuaded to talk to HRW.
Captain Fishback said the investigators who have questioned him in the past 10 days seemed to be less interested in individuals he identified in his chain of command who allegedly committed the abuses.
One might hope that investigators would be less obsessed with outing HRW's sources and more interested in the details of Fishback's observations. Fishback is right about the failure of leadership. Has Sen. McCain heard enough? Is he ready to investigate Rumsfeld's military mismanagement?
Really, is McCain an honourable soldier? Or has he fully made his bed with the corrupt status quo? Time for him to show his cards.

Intel Dump pays attention

Intel Dump, one of my most trusted blogs, is paying very close attention to the prisoner abuse story. I love this blog. In a period of three days they ran four posts with extended coverage of the issue:

Read them all. Go. Now. But since you won't, here are two poles of what you'll find there. The first Intel Dump post, The Hard Right Over the Easy Wrong, gets right to the heart of the matter:
The honor of his unit, and of the United States Army, does not consist of doing things that should be hidden from view, and it is certainly not 'honorable' to hide things from the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Is the Army officer corps under Rumsfeld becoming one full of 'yes-men' instead of those willing to do the right thing regardless of peer pressure and politics? More disturbing and dangerous, is it becoming one that puts loyalty to the president above loyalty to the Constitution?

I'd boil that question down to, are we already in a fascist police state? Are we that far gone?

Next up, in Abu Ghraib Deja Vu we get a more limited view of the story, one that imagines that the trail does not reach all that far up the chain of command. This view is still pretty damned fetid, and by no means makes excuses for the abuse.

Does this indicate systemic detainee abuse? Depends on how you look at it. If you want to see Administration or Pentagon malfeasance every time a soldier stubs his/her toe, then its absolutely systemic, from the top down. However, take away the press and anti-war exploitation of these events and this is a systemic problem like drug use is systemic, rape is systemic, and gay bashing is systemic. All are problems unique to individuals, not the Army as a whole, and the military is aware of and is trying to address these problems through training, investigation, military justice, and reculturization. The Army went through this with drill sergeant abuse scandals, the PVT Winchell scandal at Fort Campbell (another example of elite troops behaving like animals), and the Army will go through this with the next scandal that will pop up on the radar screen.
Boys will be boys? Like rape and drug abuse? Sorry. That's pretty lame. Does that explain why we see the same techniques, the same abuse, in Afghanistan, Guantanamo, and Iraq? That's why three soldiers are, at immense personal risk, coming forward to allege that abuse was known and accepted, if not officially condoned. Sorry, this story strongly suggests something more systematic than that.

Finally, in Kill the Messenger? we find this cogent summation:

Yes, it is. If Captain Fishback is telling the truth (and his story sounds very credible) then there should be relief en masse for several officers - and, dare I say it, Mr. Rumsfeld. It was wrong to abuse detainees (period, non-negotiable, circumstances notwithstanding). ... Any officer in the chain of command that doesn't have the moral courage to step forward and do the right thing needs to be relieved from command before he can do more damage, both to his unit and to the honor of the United States Army, the noblest of our institutions and the guardian of the republic. This is too important for partisan politics.

Leadership Failure

Before diving into the story of Captain Fishback any further, let's also take note of the Human Rights Watch report that broke Fishback's allegations: Leadership Failure, Firsthand Accounts of Torture of Iraqi Detainees by the U.S. ArmyÂ’s 82nd Airborne Division. HWR's press release accompanying the report can be found here: New Accounts of Torture by U.S. Troops, Soldiers Say Failures by Command Led to Abuse.

I wont pretend to have read the full report. But I did cut to the conclusion to find this stinger:

... As we have reported elsewhere, there is increasing evidence that high-ranking U.S. civilian and military leaders made decisions and issued policies that facilitated serious and widespread violations of the law. The circumstances strongly suggest that they either knew or should have known that such violations took place as a result of their actions. There is also mounting information that, when presented with evidence that abuse was in fact occurring, they failed to act to stop it.

Human Rights Watch reiterates its call for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate any U.S. officials — no matter their rank or position — who participated in, ordered, or had command responsibility for war crimes or torture, or other prohibited ill-treatment against detainees in U.S. custody.

Hell will freeze over (or maybe Antarctica will melt away?) before Bush endures a single independent prosecutor or special counsel. So you can bet that someone will walk the plank over this — just as soon as Fishback is broken and the two sergeants weeded out. Short of a public outrage, there will be no serious examination of the chain of command here. But really, as with Katrina, how hard can it be to accept the need for an independent,unfetteredd, thorough investigation?

Saturday, October 01, 2005

NYT story that broke Captain Fishback's allegations

I spent some time sorting through the Capt. Ian Fishback story. The first newsprint reference I can find to him comes in this NYT article dated 9/24/2005, 3 in 82nd Airborne Say Beating Iraqi Prisoners Was Routine Unfortunately this story is no longer freely available. (NYT Select archive link):

Three former members of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division say soldiers in their battalion in Iraq routinely beat and abused prisoners in 2003 and 2004 to help gather intelligence on the insurgency and to amuse themselves.

The new allegations, the first involving members of the elite 82nd Airborne, are contained in a report by Human Rights Watch. The 30-page report does not identify the troops, but one is Capt. Ian Fishback, who has presented some of his allegations in letters this month to top aides of two senior Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee, John W. Warner of Virginia, the chairman, and John McCain of Arizona. Captain Fishback approached the Senators' offices only after he tried to report the allegations to his superiors for 17 months, the aides said. The aides also said they found the captain's accusations credible enough to warrant investigation.

An Army spokesman, Paul Boyce, said Friday that Captain Fishback's allegations first came to the Army's attention earlier this month, and that the Army had opened a criminal investigation into the matter, focusing on the division's First Brigade, 504th Parachute Infantry. The Army has begun speaking with Captain Fishback, and is seeking the names of the two other soldiers.

The report from Human Rights Watch is here: Leadership Failure: Firsthand Accounts of Torture of Iraqi Detainees by the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division

From what I can discern, Captain Fishback says he tried to get answers from his chain of command over a period of 17 months. When that failed, he contacted senators Warner and McCain, as well as Human Rights Watch. The Human Rights Watch report included testimony from Fishback and two other sergeants. Now according to Andrew Sullivan, the army has opened an investigation aimed it seems at identifying the sergeants who talked to Human Rights Watch -- not into the alleged prisoner abuse itself. Captain Fishback is not divulging these soldiers' identities.

Bear with me if I obsess on this story. I think it is incredibly important. In following posts I will catch up with other bloggers who think so too. I cannot understand why his story, and his ongoing ordeal in the hands of Army investigators, is not on page one of every paper and leading every newscast. Have we really gotten that callous about the US's use of torture? I cannot accept that.