I don’t mean to make light of something that’s obviously very serious… but doesn’t the government say something like this every year around Memorial Day?
The United States has “credible intelligence from multiple sources” that al-Qaida is determined to launch an attack in the United States in the next few months that could be linked to events such as an upcoming international economic summit and the summer political conventions, Attorney General John Ashcroft said Wednesday.
Speaking at a Justice Department news conference, Ashcroft said the intelligence, together with recent public statements attributed to al-Qaida, “suggest that it is almost ready to attack the United States.”
“This disturbing intelligence indicates al-Qaida’s specific intention to hit the United States hard,” Ashcroft said.
They didn’t raise the terror-alert level, though, which strikes me as odd, if this is really as serious as they’re making it sound. They did release the names and photos of seven wanted men.
P.S. Speaking of the U.N., isn’t it ironic that, whereas our government’s push for war in Iraq clearly was not motivated by oil (or at least, that’s what I’d tend to conclude when we control the Iraqi oil fields yet gas costs $2.06 a gallon), at least some of the war’s opponents clearly were motivated by oil? I’m eagerly awaiting the inevitable apologies (and demands for Kofi Annan’s resignation) from the “no blood for oil” crowd… still waiting…
During my sojourn in Connecticut, the world has not stopped turning, and news has not stopped breaking. But I have been, for the most part, too busy/lazy to post about it. Here, however, is a brief overview of some stories that I should be posting about. :)
Gay marriage in Massachusetts: Today’s the day. But is there really any point in posting about this? You all know where I stand, and I know where all of you (i.e., my regular readers) stand. Blah blah, civil rights, blah blah, judicial activism. Been there, done that. Moving on…
Report says Rummy ordered torture; Pentagon denies it: Full ramifications not immediately clear, since who knows if it’s true? If true, smoking gun. If not true, liberal media bias. Again, we’ve had this debate before. Moving on…
Saddam’s WMD: Poorly constructed sarin-gas artillery round detonates in Iraq; was probably an old Saddam relic. Again, full ramifications not immediately clear. Maybe I’ll have more to say when the fog of war lifts.
Iraqi governing council president killed: Sad, but not as devastating as it might seem, since it’s a monthly rotating presidency anyway. Also, I don’t need to post about it, because CNN Breaking News did so for me.
Michael Moore’s big day: Audience gives anti-Bush documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11″ the longest standing ovation (20 minutes!) in the history of the Cannes film festival. But are we really surprised? They’re French. Drudge goes nuts. But are we really surprised? He’s Drudge.
UPDATE: I will add this, regarding gay marriage, from here in Connecticut:
Connecticut law does not allow for same-sex marriages, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said today. …
Blumenthal said there is nothing in Connecticut law that allows or authorizes marriage licenses to be issued to same-sex couples.
Blumenthal said Connecticut statutes refer to a “bride” and “groom” and a “husband” and “wife” and said these terms are commonly understood to refer to a man and a woman.
He declined to say whether Connecticut can recognize same-sex marriages from out of state.
“An answer would require me to make law, not interpret it,” Blumenthal said.
And non-legislative officeholders would never dream of doing that. :)
Congratulations to all the newly married Massachusetts couples. Blogger John Scalzi has some advice for them. It applies just as well to straights as to gays, and I e-mailed the link to Becky. Some good stuff, there.
Britain’s Daily Mirror has apologized for publishing fake photos of alleged Iraq prison abuse, and has fired its editor.
Not that that’s enough to convince some people of the photos’ inauthenticity. “Fake” Abuse Photos Help Al Qaeda - UK Soldiers, declares the Reuters “news” service.
Meanwhile, the Boston Globe is also eating crow over some pornographic prison-abuse fakes that it published.
Of course, really, this is all part of a vast military cover-up, don’t you know. All of these “fakes” are actually real, and there are many more out there, including a picture — nay, a video! — of George W. Bush personally torturing several Iraqi babies while Dick Cheney looks on, pointing and smiling. [/sarcasm]
I’m back from our weekly Wednesday lunch meeting, which is on-the-clock work time, so I have a few more minutes of freedom to post some lunch-break tidbits…
The Reform Party has endorsed Ralph Nader. Wow: from Perot to Buchanan to Nader in just eight years. What a circus.
(If the party of Perot, who arguably acted as the “spoiler” in Bush I’s defeat in 1992, now acts as the spoiler that keeps Bush II in office in 2004, will that be poetic justice… or sad irony? I guess it depends which side you’re on.)
Meanwhile, USA Today has an analysis of John Kerry’s struggles in today’s paper. The money quote comes from David Letterman, who said on Monday night’s show, “Gas prices are up, the stock market is down, Iraq is a mess, and John Kerry is saying to himself, ‘How am I going to beat this guy?’” Heh.
Kaus has more dump-Kerry fodder (of course) in his “Dem Panic Watch 5,” pointing out that the haughty, Tales from the Crypt-looking senator who by the way served in Vietnam is only up by one point in California. But hey — “Don’t worry! He’s a good closer!” Mickey adds sarcastically.
In other news, notwithstanding this article that Andrew e-mailed me on Monday, “A group of libertarian-minded Republicans in Congress is blocking President Bushâ€™s effort to strengthen domestic counterterrorism laws and reauthorize the USA Patriot Act, which the president has made one of his top domestic priorities this year,” according to The Hill. Well, good for them.
Fox is airing a 10-minute preview of the global-warming disaster flick The Day After Tomorrow tonight at 7:44 PM Arizona time. (Check your local listings for the time in your area.) That’s right, 7:44 PM. That 70s Show goes from 7:00 to 7:44, the Tomorrow preview runs from 7:44 to 7:54, and the American Idol results show begins at 7:54 and ends at 9:00. Methinks the Fox scheduling people were smoking a bit too much crack when they came up with this one. (Tomorrow, Al Gore’s new favorite movie, opens on May 28.)
And finally, in today’s inflame-the-comment-war item, let it be known that Vatican foreign minister Giovanni Lajolo thinks Abu Ghraib is a bigger blow to America than 9/11.
I’m, uh, not so sure about that one… but then he actually gives a rather intelligent summary of the whole thing, IMHO:
Lajolo said that “intelligent people in Arab countries understand that in a democracy such episodes are not hidden and are punished … Still the vast mass of people â€” under the influence of Arab media â€” cannot but feel aversion and hate for the West growing inside themselves.”
Well, that’s it for now. Oh, but wait! Breaking news from Drudge! “‘I don’t know how the hell these people got into our army,’ Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO) said after viewing more abuse images from Abu Ghraib prison.” Story here.
Lynndie England, the female soldier made notorious by the photos of her dragging an Iraqi on a leash and pointing at prisoners’ genitals, speaks:
Army Pfc. Lynndie England, seen worldwide in photographs that show her smiling and pointing at naked Iraqi prisoners, said she was ordered to pose for the photos, and felt “kind of weird” in doing so. …
England, 21, repeatedly insisted that her actions were dictated by “persons in my higher chain of command.” …
“I was instructed by persons in higher rank to stand there and hold this leash and look at the camera,” she said.
England said the actions depicted in the photos were intended to put psychological pressure on the Iraqi prisoners.
“Well, I mean, they [the photos] were for psy-op reasons,” she said “And the reasons worked. I mean, so to us, we were doing our job, which meant we were doing what we were told, and the outcome was what they wanted. They’d come back and they’d look at the pictures, and they’d state, ‘Oh, that’s a good tactic, keep it up. That’s working. This is working. Keep doing it. It’s getting what we need.’“
Her account should be taken with a grain of salt, of course. But if she’s telling the truth, my dad’s worst fears are realized: it was the spooks.
The impetus for a Rumsfeld resignation grows.
George F. Will says Donald Rumsfeld should resign — and predicts that “being honorable, he will do so.”
The response by the nation’s government must express horror, shame and contrition proportional to the evil done to others, and the harm done to the nation, by agents of the government. …
The nation’s response must, of course, include swift and public prosecutions. And the destruction of that prison. And punctilious conformity to legal obligations — and, now, to some optional procedures — concerning persons in American custody. But this is not enough.
For me, the key word in Will’s argument is “proportional.” This is why I, too, believe Rummy must go. Our reaction must be — and, as the Economist said, must be seen to be — proportional to the wrongs that have been committed. Rolling low-level heads and slapping mid-level wrists is simply not sufficient, given the gravity of what has happened. Someone at the highest level must take a fall here. That someone is Rumsfeld.
Will also gives an excellent summary of the importance of accountability, and a damning indictment of this administration’s failure to hold itself accountable for its many failures:
When there is no penalty for failure, failures proliferate. Leave aside the question of who or what failed before Sept. 11, 2001. But who lost his or her job because the president’s 2003 State of the Union address gave currency to a fraud — the story of Iraq’s attempting to buy uranium in Niger? Or because the primary and only sufficient reason for waging preemptive war — weapons of mass destruction — was largely spurious? Or because postwar planning, from failure to anticipate the initial looting to today’s insufficient force levels, has been botched? Failures are multiplying because of choices for which no one seems accountable.
Emphases added. Of course, ultimately, George W. Bush is accountable, and that’s why I’ll be voting against him in November. (Well, that’s one of about a dozen reasons why.)
Pentagon possesses three disks of photos, one of which includes some brief video clips. Many of the photos are redundant, and some have little to do with Iraqi detainees but show sex between U.S. soldiers… Pentagon officials prevailed at least temporarily in their insistence that the administration not immediately release the images, which include the forced masturbation of a detainee…
That liberal rag, the Army Times, is calling for heads to roll:
This was not just a failure of leadership at the local command level. This was a failure that ran straight to the top. Accountability here is essential â€” even if that means relieving top leaders from duty in a time of war.
If the liberal establishment is calling for Rumsfeld’s head, and the military types are even more ticked off at him, who’s left to defend him? Who’s on Rummy’s side these days (besides his boss)? And who will still be on his side when the photos and videos of rape and murder are released?
Anyway, the Army Times elaborates:
There is no excuse for the behavior displayed by soldiers in the now-infamous pictures and an even more damning report by Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba. Every soldier involved should be ashamed.
But while responsibility begins with the six soldiers facing criminal charges, it extends all the way up the chain of command to the highest reaches of the military hierarchy and its civilian leadership.
The entire affair is a failure of leadership from start to finish. From the moment they are captured, prisoners are hooded, shackled and isolated. The message to the troops: Anything goes.
In addition to the scores of prisoners who were humiliated and demeaned, at least 14 have died in custody in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army has ruled at least two of those homicides. This is not the way a free people keeps its captives or wins the hearts and minds of a suspicious world.
Read the whole thing, as they say.
Andrew Sullivan’s latest, lengthy post on the situation in Iraq is also well worth reading. He’s in just about the same place that I am. Excerpt, with emphasis added:
[T]urning the country into a more open and democratic place was both worthy in itself and a vital strategic goal in turning the region around. It was going to be a demonstration of an alternative to the autocracies of the Arab world, a way to break the dangerous cycle that had led to Islamism and al Qaeda and 9/11 and a future too grim to contemplate. The narrative of liberation was critical to the success of the mission - politically and militarily. This was never going to be easy, but it was worth trying. It was vital to reverse the Islamist narrative that pitted American values against Muslim dignity. The reason Abu Ghraib is such a catastrophe is that it has destroyed this narrative. It has turned the image of this war into the war that the America-hating left always said it was: a brutal, imperialist, racist occupation, designed to humiliate another culture. Abu Ghraib is Noam Chomsky’s narrative turned into images more stunning, more damaging, more powerful than a million polemics from Ted Rall or Susan Sontag. It is Osama’s dream propaganda coup. It is Chirac’s fantasy of vindication. It is Tony Blair’s nightmare. And, whether they are directly responsible or not, the people who ran this war are answerable to America, to America’s allies, to Iraq, for the astonishing setback we have now encountered on their watch.
The one anti-war argument that, in retrospect, I did not take seriously enough was a simple one. It was that this war was noble and defensible but that this administration was simply too incompetent and arrogant to carry it out effectively. I dismissed this as facile Bush-bashing at the time. I was wrong. I sensed the hubris of this administration after the fall of Baghdad, but I didn’t sense how they would grotesquely under-man the post-war occupation, bungle the maintenance of security, short-change an absolutely vital mission, dismiss constructive criticism, ignore even their allies (like the Brits), and fail to shift swiftly enough when events span out of control. …
To have humiliated the United States by presenting false and misleading intelligence and then to have allowed something like Abu Ghraib to happen - after a year of other, compounded errors - is unforgivable. By refusing to hold anyone accountable, the president has also shown he is not really in control. We are at war; and our war leaders have given the enemy their biggest propaganda coup imaginable, while refusing to acknowledge their own palpable errors and misjudgments. They have, alas, scant credibility left and must be called to account. Shock has now led - and should lead - to anger. And those of us who support the war should, in many ways, be angrier than those who opposed it.
But we must still win. This isn’t about scoring points. It should not be about circling partisan wagons. And it must not mean withdrawal or despair. … To my mind, these awful recent revelations - and they may get far worse - make it even more essential that we bring democratic government to Iraq, and don’t cut and run. Noam Chomsky is wrong. Abu Ghraib is not the real meaning of America. And we now have to show it - in abundance. That is the opportunity this calamity has opened up. And then, when November comes around, we have to decide whether this president is now a liability in the war on terror or the asset he once was. How he reacts to this crisis - whether he is even in touch enough to recognize it as a crisis - should determine how the country votes this fall. He and his team have failed us profoundly. He has a few months to show he can yet succeed.
Again, read the whole thing… and let the comment-flaming begin…
I do not automatically take everything that international humanitarian organizations say at face value, as it has been aptly demonstrated that many of these groups have a decidedly liberal, anti-war agenda. Yet if these Red Cross allegations, and now a new statement by Amnesty International that “British soldiers have shot, killed civilians in non-threatening situations,” turn out to be true, they add an additional level of awfulness to the already awful story of abuses in Iraq.
The worst is yet to come, Rumsfeld says:
“There are other photos that depict incidents of physical violence towards prisoners, acts that can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhumane,” he said. “It’s going to get a good deal more terrible, I’m afraid.”
Rumsfeld did not describe the photos, but U.S. military officials told NBC News that the unreleased images showed U.S. soldiers severely beating an Iraqi prisoner nearly to death, having sex with a female Iraqi female prisoner and “acting inappropriately with a dead body.” The officials said there was also a videotape, apparently shot by U.S. personnel, showing Iraqi guards raping young boys.
Jesus f***ing Christ.
UPDATE: Moments ago, I signed a petition calling on Donald Rumsfeld to resign. I had been on the fence about this until now, but after reading these latest revelations, I now feel that Rummy must go, for the good of the country. I don’t care if he’s a scapegoat — we need a scapegoat. We need to show the world how seriously we take this, and that means accountability at the highest levels. In other words: heads must roll.
Literally moments after signing the petition, I went to Andrew Sullivan’s blog and found a link to an article from The Economist declaring, “Resign, Rumsfeld.” Heh. Further proof that The Economist and I always agree about everything. Money quote, with emphasis added:
Responsibility for what has occurred needs to be takenâ€”and to be seen to be takenâ€”at the highest level too. It is plain what that means. The secretary of defence, Donald Rumsfeld, should resign. And if he won’t resign, Mr Bush should fire him.
Another good quote that I whole-heartedly agree with:
The pictures of abuse, especially the one on our cover of the hooded man wired as if for electrocution, stand an awful chance of becoming iconic images that could haunt America for years to come, just as the famous photograph of a naked girl running during a napalm attack did during the Vietnam war. One way of dealing with that risk is by countering it with your own iconic act: ejecting the man at the head of the Pentagon, the man most identified with America’s use of military power during the past three years.
The Economist also points out that if Rummy does lose his job, it would be “unwise” to replace him with, say, Paul Wolfowitz.
California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, has condemned the torture of Iraqi prisoners by some U.S. soldiers, and has called for Donald Rumsfeld to resign over the scandal. But yesterday, she couldn’t bring herself to vote in favor of a House resolution condemning the actions of the soldiers involved.
Neither could 48 other Democrats, including eight of Pelosi’s fellow Californians, six New Yorkers, and the entire Ohio Democratic delegation (all five of them). One Arizona congressman, Raul M. Grijalva, voted against the measure, as did 26 other Dems from around the country. (One Republican, Ron Paul of Texas, also voted against the resolution.) The final roll call was 365-50.
The obvious question for the 50 dissenters is: Why?
Examining the full text of the resolution, it is difficult to find anything objectionable. It is hard to believe, for example, that a bunch of “usual-suspect” liberals — Pelosi, Maxine Waters, Henry Waxman, Charlie Rangel, etc. — would have suddenly become so pro-military as to disagree that “the American people and the world are dismayed by revelations of abuses inflicted upon detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad” or that “the United States Central Command has identified problems of leadership, chain of command, and training that contributed to the instances of abuse” or that “such abuses are offensive to the principles and values of the American people.”
So perhaps these “Democrats for torture” actually opposed the resolution because of its flip side — the part that praises the brave men and women who make up the bulk of our military? That seems slightly more plausible, but again, it’s hard to find anything worth voting against:
Resolved, That the House of Representatives…
Declares that the alleged crimes of a handful of individuals should not detract from the commendable sacrifices of over 300,000 members of the United States Armed Forces who have served, or who are serving, in Operation Iraqi Freedom…
Expresses the deep appreciation of the Nation to the courageous and honorable members of the Armed Forces who have selflessly served, or who are currently serving, in Operation Iraqi Freedom;
Expresses the support and thanks of the Nation to the families and friends of the soldiers, Marines, airmen, sailors, and Coast Guardsmen who have served, or who are serving, in Operation Iraqi Freedom; and
Expresses the continuing solidarity and support of the House of Representatives and the American people for the partnership of the United States with the Iraqi people in building a viable Iraqi government and a secure nation.
So if there’s nothing objectionably anti-military, and nothing objectionably pro-military, then what was so wrong with this resolution that 49 Democrats, including the minority leader, felt the need to vote against it? Well, according to Reuters, it isn’t what the resolution said — it’s what it didn’t say:
While foes of the resolution deplored the mistreatment of inmates, they said the measure should have also affirmed the need for bipartisan congressional investigations. …
Democrats had sought to broaden the House resolution to declare the need for congressional investigations that would examine alleged abuse by military personnel as well as by civilian personnel and “into the chain of command.”
“Congress has not only the right but the responsibility to determine what went wrong,” said Rep. James McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat.
The Hill has more on the partisan machinations that led to the votes against the resolution.
Leaving aside the question of whether the Democrats’ desire for a congressional investigation is right or wrong, I’m struck by the silliness of their decision, after losing that particular battle, to actually vote against the final resolution as written. Their opponents thwarted their attempts to include an amendment, so, like a three-year-old throwing a temper tantrum, they proceeded to vote against a resolution whose only alleged sin was one of omission. They didn’t disagree with anything in the text, but they voted “nay” on it anyway, just to spite the Republicans!!!
I know this sort of thing is common in Washington, but I still think it’s really, really stupid. Call me old-fashioned, but I would like to see the representatives of the people in the Congress — my Congress — put partisanship aside for a moment and, oh I don’t know, unanimously condemn the torture of Iraqis.
Whatever their rationale, the fact is that Pelosi and 49 others are permanently on record as not condemning torture. And I don’t think that’s something to be particularly proud of.
Is the draft coming back? Should we draft women? Should we draft 30-year-olds? Let the comment-war begin…
It just gets worse: Drudge reports that “criminal investigations have been launched since December 2002 into 35 cases of alleged detainee abuse in military prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan — including 25 deaths in custody, a senior U.S. army official said Tuesday.” Jeez.
Rummy says the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib is “totally unacceptable and un-American.” Um, yeah. He adds, “It is, we hope, an isolated case.” We certainly do hope that.
“Any who engaged in such action let down their comrades who serve honorably each day and they let down their country,” Rumsfeld told a Pentagon news conference.
I hadn’t thought of this abuse issue in a political context before (honest!), but it begins to strike me that if these revelations continue, it seems like it might demoralize the public enough to reduce Bush’s “war” advantage. If we do have a quasi-systematic problem in the military, doesn’t that at some point begin to reflect badly on the commander-in-chief? (Regardless of whether it should, it seems like it would.)
Meanwhile, Mickey Kaus wonders if Bush truly graps the severity of this issue [scroll past the part about Kerry being a lying scumbag, you’ll get there eventually]. Emphasis in original:
Does President Bush … understand the extent to which the photos of Iraqi prisoner abuse have made America palpably less safe by encouraging some non-trivial number angry Muslims (and others) to become anti-U.S. terrorists? The real events themselves are bad enough; magnified by the highly efficient Arab anti-American propaganda machine they become a huge defeat in the war on terror. It won’t be much of an answer, when another attack kills thousands of Americans, to protest “But there were only a handful of bad apples in Iraq.” The President’s job isn’t just to be able to defend the U.S. position. It’s to prevent the attacks.
Andrew will protest, no doubt, but I think Kaus may have a point. He also has a suggestion: the president needs to make a “grand gesture” of some sort:
Why doesn’t President Bush ask for three minutes on the U.S. networks, plus CNN and Al Jazeera and the other international satellite channels. He could look directly into the camera; and a) condemn and apologize; b) explain why this isn’t what America is about; c) give his personal pledge to punish the perpetrators, describing those Americans already punished; and d) ask to be judged on the results. Keep the righteousness and self-congratulation about how Saddam wouldn’t have taken corrective action to a minimum, and he might begin to turn this defeat around. … The gesture would not only reassure the world that the U.S. still knows right from wrong–it would reassure the world (and the American electorate) that the President knows the world needs reassuring.
BrendanLoy.com: your #1 source for extensive Kausfiles quotations, our apparent implicit endorsement of which we reserve the right to later disavow [We were just quoting him, we didn’t say we agree! –ed.] if Andrew successfully shoots them down in a subsequent comment-war. :)