New Civilization News: A Single Image    
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picture20 May 2004 @ 09:33, by Richard Carlson

Clouds come from time to time---
and bring a chance to rest
from looking at the moon.


True words always seem paradoxical but no other form of teaching can take their place.


Death destroys a man, but the idea of death saves him.

---E.M. Forster

There were 2 photographs that ended the United States involvement in the Viet Nam Civil War. One was of a Vietnamese citizen an instant before his execution by an officer of the army of his country. The other was of a child---a naked little girl running down a road crying.

The Iraq escapade is over as of NOW.

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20 May 2004 @ 10:26 by jstarrs : Amen... that, Jazz.  

20 May 2004 @ 11:45 by istvan : Did you know?
Some eastern masters teach that death should be celebrated.
This soldier is doing just that according to the teachings of her own guru.

Published on Wednesday, May 19, 2004 by the Inter Press Service
Pentagon's Feith Again at Center of Disaster
by Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON - Although it will take weeks, if not months, to sort out precisely who was responsible for what increasingly appears to have been the systemic abuse by U.S. soldiers of Iraqi detainees, it should be no surprise if Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith is found to have played an important role.

Feith, who, according to Bob Woodward's new book, 'Plan of Attack', was described by the military commander who led last year's invasion, Gen Tommie Franks, as ''the f---ing stupidest guy on the face of the earth'', has been at the center of virtually everything else that has gone wrong in Iraq, so there is no reason to think he was very far from this one.

It was his office, for example, that created shortly after 9/11 the Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group and the Office of Special Plans (OSP) which re-assessed 12 years of raw intelligence and the Arab press, to find evidence of ties between the regime of former Iraq President Saddam Hussein and the al-Qaeda terrorist group.

The OSP then ''stovepiped'' that information, unvetted by professional intelligence analysts, straight to Vice President Dick Cheney's office for use by the White House.

Similarly, it was Feith's office, along with the Defense Policy Group (DPG) whose members Feith appointed, that served as the point of entry and influence for Iraqi National Congress (INC) chief Ahmed Chalabi and his ''defectors'' who provided phony intelligence about Hussein's vast stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

It was Feith's office that was charged with planning the post-war occupation and reconstruction process, and, in so doing, effectively excluded input from Iraqi experts from the State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and even from the Iraqi-American community, who had participated in a mammoth project that anticipated most of the problems occupation authorities have since encountered.

And it was Feith's office that also housed the future undersecretary for intelligence, Stephen Cambone, who facilitated the transfer of Maj Gen Geoffrey Miller, the commander of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp that houses suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban prisoners, to Abu Ghraib prison in the interests of extracting more intelligence from detainees there about the fast-growing insurgency in Iraq.

Both Cambone and Miller, who brought high-pressure interrogation tactics barred by the Geneva Conventions with him from Guantanamo, are considered prime targets of ongoing congressional investigations into the prisoner abuse scandal.

But the announcement Tuesday by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner that he is seeking testimony in the coming weeks from Feith may have unwittingly cast new light on the reasons why Secretary of State Colin Powell is alleged by Woodward to have referred to Feith's operation as the ''Gestapo Office''.

Evidence of Feith's involvement in the prisoner abuse scandal rests primarily on reports that have appeared in 'Newsweek', the 'New York Times', and the 'Los Angeles Times'. They have reported that, even before the Iraq War, top officials in the Pentagon, acting on the advice of civilian lawyers, authorized a reinterpretation of the Geneva Conventions to permit tougher methods of interrogation of prisoners of war (POWs).

This effort was strongly resisted by Powell, a retired army general, when it came to his attention, and by the Judge Advocates Generals (JAG) Corps, the formal name given to the military's lawyers. They argued, among other things, that the introduction of ''stress and duress'' techniques, sleep deprivation and other methods that violate the Conventions would not only result in dubious intelligence, but could also be cited as a precedent for use against U.S. soldiers who fell into enemy hands.

Dissenters, however, were essentially excluded from the discussion, and, according to 'Newsweek', new techniques were formally approved during the Iraq invasion in April 2003, although Feith's immediate superior, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz testified last week he was unaware of such a decision.

At the same time, senior Pentagon officials also authorized the exclusion of JAG officers from observing interrogations to ensure they complied with the Conventions. That was a major departure from the practice in the 1991 Gulf War, when JAG officers were present in all interrogation facilities and could intercede if they witnessed violations of the Conventions.

Even after the new orders came down, senior JAG officers did not give up. According to a number of accounts, a delegation of officers contacted Scott Horton, a former high-ranking JAG officer and chairman of the Committee on International Human Rights of the New York City Bar Association, to see if he and like-minded attorneys would intervene.

''They were extremely upset'', Horton told the 'Los Angeles Times'. ''They said they were being shut out of the process, and that the civilian political lawyers, not the military lawyers, were writing these new rules of engagement.''

According to Horton, the JAG officers identified the main forces behind loosening the rules as Feith and the Pentagon's general counsel, William Haynes, another political appointee.

''If we -- 'we' being the uniformed lawyers -- had been listened to, and what we said put into practice, then these abuses would not have occurred'', Rear Adm Don Guter, the Navy JAG from 2000 to 2002, told ABCNews.

Feith, who was also interviewed by ABC, denied there was any disagreement from JAG officers concerning rules and practices authorized by his office, but the issue is unlikely to rest with his word alone.

Indeed, the accounts given by JAG officers are fully consistent with what is already known about Feith's policy-making practices. As with the pre-war intelligence and pre-war planning for the occupation, the experts and professionals were either circumvented or systematically excluded from participating in the policy process, so that civilian ideologues with ideas about how to extract information from uncooperative Arabs, for example, would not have to address informed criticism before plunging ahead.

Like his mentor, former Defense Policy Board Chairman Richard Perle, Feith has long been a hardliner on foreign policy, arms control issues and Israel.

As a youth, his father, Dalck Feith, was active in pre-World War II Poland in Betar, a militantly Zionist movement and forerunner of Israel's Likud Party. His parents perished in the Nazi Holocaust, according to the neo-conservative 'Wall Street Journal', which last week demanded a public apology from Powell for his reference to Feith's operation as the ''Gestapo Office''.

Feith worked for Perle in the Pentagon under Ronald Reagan, and the two teamed up in the late 1980s to lobby on behalf of the Turkish government and build military ties between Turkey and Israel. In 1996 he participated in a private study by a right-wing Israeli think tank that called for ousting Saddam Hussein as a means to transform the balance of power in the Middle East in such a way that Israel could ignore pressure to trade ''land for peace'' with the Palestinians or Syria.

In 1997, Feith argued in 'Commentary' magazine for Israel to re-occupy the Occupied Territories and repudiate the Oslo accords, and the following year he signed an open letter to then-President Bill Clinton calling for Washington work with Chalabi's INC to oust Hussein.

© Copyright 2004 IPS - Inter Press Service


21 May 2004 @ 09:10 by Quinty @ : More on the madness in Iraq
Remember Nicholas von Hoffman? He's back (if he was ever gone?) with an essay which brilliantly illuminates the madness we, as a nation, society, the world, are currently passing through. For a long time many of us have said the emperor is wearing no clothes. Here's another cry...... if you are curous......  

21 May 2004 @ 10:12 by Quinty @ : The white man's burden

Have you ever thought that at times it's impossible to tell the difference between stupidity and madness? Yet here in the USA we still have people who chortle that Saddam was a menace who had to be done away with at all costs: and Americans, because they are Americans, believe that whatever those means are they're necessary and for the better good. Are we the only people in the world which doesn't realize that we have neighbors, whose humanity is as important as ours? Are we so isolated that we blithely believe that whatever we do is good simply because it is American and we do it? All the nations and empires in history, you may agree, that fell into ruin believed they were somehow special, better than everyone else: "barbarians," "uncivilized savages," "the white man's burden." We couldn't be taking a topple for more absurd reasons now. But if that is what is required to stop us, then let it happen. American imperial power, as I see it, has become a mindless juggernaut, led on by fanatics with a fanciful world-view. At what a cost, what a cost.  

22 May 2004 @ 15:01 by jazzolog : What Is A War Crime?
New York Times editorial this morning~~~

May 22, 2004
An Abu Ghraib Investigation

It has been gratifying to see Senator John Warner, the Republican who is chairman of the Armed Services Committee, lead a bipartisan effort to look into the abuse of prisoners in Iraq. The hearings have already done far more than the Pentagon ever intended to do in providing a public airing of the Abu Ghraib disaster. But with each day's horrible revelations, it seems evident that the hearings will not be enough. It is also hard to believe that the military's own investigations will yield much, given the shifting of blame offered up by top Pentagon leaders, who continue to insist that the nightmare at Abu Ghraib was an isolated case of unsanctioned behavior by a few sick soldiers.

That defense, never particularly credible, has been undercut by the Red Cross, by the emerging testimony of detainees and now by the Pentagon's own records. The Denver Post reported this week that military records documented the deaths of at last five Iraqi prisoners during brutal interrogations, only one of them at Abu Ghraib. In one especially chilling case, the former head of Iraq's air force turned himself in and was held at a "high value" prison, where interrogators appear to have killed him by stuffing him headfirst into a sleeping bag, sitting on his chest and covering his mouth. The Pentagon papered this over with a press release saying the prisoner "said he didn't feel well and subsequently lost consciousness."

Despite the efforts of some of the senators — notably two Republicans, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, and three Democrats, Carl Levin, Jack Reed and Hillary Clinton — each new panel of witnesses simply adds to the fog of misunderstanding. This week, for example, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of the troops in Iraq, said he had never seen a protocol permitting the harsh treatment of prisoners until it surfaced at a hearing a week earlier. The Army's subsequent claim that the orders were the work of a single captain seemed even more implausible.

The theory that a midranking intelligence officer carried out such a drastic shift in the military's normal rules did fit right in with the overriding theme of testimony thus far: senior officers blaming those far below them for everything. General Sanchez said Red Cross reports on prisoner abuse had gone to low-level officers who had never passed them on. Other accounts contradict that. But in any case, that's not a defense — it's an indictment of his command.

Among the big questions that need to be answered is how the government and the military handled the repeated complaints from the Red Cross. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and some of his closest aides said they had been kept in the dark even longer than General Sanchez. But Red Cross officials met more than once in the past year with top American officials in Iraq and in Washington. Douglas Jehl and Eric Schmitt reported in The Times this week that the American military's first response had been to curtail Red Cross inspections. The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the Red Cross had been so outraged by the soldiers' treatment of prisoners that it considered changing its policy and making its reports public.

The military has repeatedly assured us that it will get to the bottom of this mess, but it has not provided any evidence that it's really capable of doing so. Senator Warner, meanwhile, has a long list of witnesses to call. He also wants the Pentagon to deliver a pile of documents, including all reviews by Defense Department lawyers of interrogation rules at Iraq and at Guantánamo Bay. Mr. Rumsfeld should fully and immediately comply.

But given the quality of the testimony so far, it is not likely that the Senate hearings will produce the answers the public deserves. While this may not be the ideal time for an independent investigation, it is getting hard to see another option. Neither the Defense Department's inspector general nor Mr. Rumsfeld's office seems capable of mounting a reliable investigation so close to home. The best bet is for Congress to form a special committee with subpoena powers and an investigative staff. That would require, however, that other Republican leaders in Congress show the same honorable determination that Mr. Warner has demonstrated.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company  

22 May 2004 @ 17:25 by Quinty @ : The tug between truth and falcity

Well, at least all the roaches, rats, and snakes scurrying under the rotting floor boards are finally being exposed. And how desperately the higher ups are trying to obfuscate and confuse their involvement. Witness the thumb's up photo of the private grinning over a dead man's body above. Don't tell me she did that on her own: that she and some other psychotic privates ran roughshod through the prison. This was posed.

A private in the army has all his/her individuality drilled out of him/her. They become part of a team, and at the bottom it is very difficult for a mere private to say no. Not when obedience and conformity have been so thorougly drilled in. Not when they believe they are part of an important team fighting for an important cause. And that they must sacrifice themselves for it and their fellow soldiers. Even the privates of the Wermach went home after the war. It was those giving the orders higher up who faced the military courts. And they were the ones who couldn't claim they were merely following orders to evade their responsibility. That no one higher wasn't involved in these crimes is the crudest of lies.

It's interesting that Senator Warner is taking a hard line on this, since, as I can clearly remember, he was the administration's point man leading the Senate into the war. And how hateful his smug complacency seemed at the time! So sure, so certain that the Bush administration was doing the right thing.  

24 May 2004 @ 03:41 by jazzolog : A Few Bad Apples---at the top?
Molly Ivins' column in the Star-Telegram yesterday~~~

Following the spoor of depravity
By Molly Ivins

It's pretty easy to get to the point where you don't want to hear any more about the Abu Ghraib prison and what went on there. But there are some really good reasons why Americans should take a look at why this happened.

I suspect the division here is not between liberals and conservatives (except for a few inane comments made by some trying to be flippant), but between those who are following the story closely and those who are not.

I particularly recommend both Sy Hersh's follow-up piece in the current issue of The New Yorker and the investigative piece in the current issue of Newsweek. What seems to me more important than the "Oh, ugh" factor is just how easy it is for standards of law and behavior to slip into utter depravity.

The problems go all the way back to the administration's refusal to abide by the Geneva Conventions.

President Bush, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Attorney General John Ashcroft "signed off on a secret system of detention and interrogation that opened the door to such methods. It was an approach that they adopted in order to sidestep the historical safeguards of the Geneva Conventions, which protect the rights of detainees and prisoners of war," according to Newsweek.

Secretary of State Colin Powell and the military's lawyers objected. You may recall that the military's objections (broadcast, as usual, by retired officers) were on the excellent grounds that if we didn't observe the Geneva Conventions, neither would our enemies -- the very reason they were signed in the first place.

The Pentagon still insists that "suspected al Qaeda followers" have no rights under Geneva III, as they are "enemy combatants" rather than POWs. Geneva III also has procedures for what to do if the status of a detainee is in doubt -- full Geneva rights apply until "a competent tribunal" decides.

We have been holding 595 prisoners at Guantanamo for 2 1/2 years, not counting those we have already let go, in conditions in violation of Geneva. Only now are a few of these prisoners being assigned lawyers, and the lawyers are raising Cain about the whole process.

The legal rationale came from White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, including the line, "In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions."

According to Newsweek, Bush first signed a secret order granting new powers to the CIA, a directive authorizing it to set up secret detention facilities outside the United States and to question those held in them with unprecedented harshness. The agency also schlepped suspected terrorists off to other countries known to practice torture.

In addition to the fact that torture is morally repulsive, it also doesn't work. Of course you can torture information out of people. What you can't do is torture accurate information out of people who don't have it.

The Defense Department's JAGs were so concerned that they finally went to a New York lawyer who specializes in international human rights law and told him, "There is a calculated effort to create an atmosphere of legal ambiguity" about how Geneva should be applied.

These military lawyers named Assistant Secretary Douglas Feith and the Pentagon's general counsel, William Haynes, since nominated for an appeals court judgeship by Bush.

Meanwhile, Gitmo had been taken over by Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, under whose loving care the "72-point matrix for stress and duress" was developed, laying out as ugly a set of rules for of-course-it-is-torture-stupid as anyone could dream up.

You may recall Rumsfeld testifying before Congress that Miller had been sent to "inspect" Abu Ghraib in September 2003, as though that had been some step toward responsible oversight. In fact, Miller told the general then running the prison that the place should be turned over to military intelligence.

Normally something like Abu Ghraib can be blamed in part on the Downward Communication Exaggeration Spiral, which afflicts most organizations. Someone at the top makes a mild suggestion, and by the time it reaches the troops, it's iron-clad law.

This appears to be a rare case of a reverse spiral, with the orders coming from the very top and questions being raised about them all the way down, until finally Army Spc. Joseph Darby spoke out and set off the Taguba investigation.

In this case, there is more than sufficient evidence pointing to the culpability of those at the top. But at the same time, the Pentagon is putting out the word that it was "only a few bad apples," six low-level soldiers who already have been charged, with no one else involved.

This just stinks of cover-up. Damned if I think these six low-level soldiers should be hung out there to take the blame for a set of explicitly written and signed policies made by people wearing expensive suits, getting paid big bucks and bearing some of the highest titles in the land.

You can read all the memos and documents for yourself. It's important to know how fascism starts.

Molly Ivins writes for Creators Syndicate. 5777 W. Century Blvd., Suite 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045  

24 May 2004 @ 11:41 by Quinty @ : Rough times

Molly, a Texan whose exasperation turned long ago to comedy, probably to keep her sanity, hasn't been laughing so much lately. Signs of our times.  

25 May 2004 @ 10:11 by celestial @ : Iraq Escapade IS OVer
You are so right Richard, and the White House is NOW a museum. That's the way the cookie crumbles this time!  

25 May 2004 @ 14:30 by jazzolog : "hold this hard won ground..for liberty"
concluded Bush last night...

The Coalition Authority Explains Democracy to the Iraqi People

[from the June 7, 2004 issue]

We'll give you back the country soon.
Your leaders at the end of June
Will be there democratically.
We'll let you know soon who they'll be.

Democracy is on the way.
We smashed this place to free it.
Democracy is on the way.
You'll know it when you see it.

Your press is free forever, but
The papers we were forced to shut
Should know, when all is said and done,
It's free, though not for everyone.

Democracy is on the way.
We smashed this place to free it.
Democracy is on the way.
You'll know it when you see it.

A person's treatment post arrest
Can be democracy's true test--
Though, sometimes, soldiers are unkind,
Because... that is... oh, never mind.

Democracy is on the way.
We smashed this place to free it.
Democracy is on the way.
You'll know it when you see it.  

28 May 2004 @ 06:31 by jazzolog : Gore Unleashed
As summarized by Bob Herbert this morning~~~

The New York Times
May 28, 2004

A Speech That's No Joke

It has always been easy to make fun of Al Gore. But if there's any truth to the thunderous criticism he's turned loose on the Bush administration this week, it's time to dispense with the jokes and listen seriously to what the man is saying.

If Mr. Gore is right, the nation is faced with a crisis of leadership that is perilously close to an emergency.

If he's wrong, then all the folks who have made the easy jokes at his expense can consider themselves vindicated.

The war in Iraq, said Mr. Gore, in an interview on Wednesday, "is the worst strategic fiasco in the history of the United States. It is an unfolding catastrophe without any comparison."

In an echo of the growing chorus of criticism here and around the world, he said the war has not only damaged "our strategic interests" and isolated the U.S. from its allies, it has also made the country more — not less — vulnerable to terror.

In a widely covered speech earlier in the day, Mr. Gore said that Iraq had not become, as President Bush has asserted, " `the central front in the war on terror.' " But he said it has become, unfortunately, "the central recruiting office for terrorists."

The speech was extraordinary — blunt, colorful and delivered with the kind of passion you seldom see in politics anymore. The former vice president described Mr. Bush as incompetent and untrustworthy, and said his policies had endangered the nation.

The president, said Mr. Gore, had "planted the seeds of war, and harvested a whirlwind."

In the view of Mr. Gore (and many others), the essential problem has been the triumph in the Bush crowd of ideology over reality. The true believers knew everything better than everybody else, and the arrogance born of that certainty led, step by tragic step, to the war with no exit doors that we are locked in today.

That arrogance gave rise to the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war, the contempt for international agreements like the Geneva Conventions, the dismissal of concerns by some of the highest-ranking military professionals about the way a war in Iraq should be fought and the willingness of top administration figures to blow smoke in the eyes of ordinary Americans who were traumatized by Sept. 11 and worried about the possibility of further terrorist attacks.

"The same preference for ideology over reality has turned trillion-dollar surpluses into multitrillion-dollar deficits," said Mr. Gore. "And that same approach has led to the locking up of American citizens without recourse to lawyers or access to courts or even a right of their families to know they're being held in secret."

These and other matters are transforming the United States into a country that is more warlike, more brutal, less free, less just, less admirable and much less appealing than the nation that existed when Mr. Bush stepped into the presidency in January 2001.

Those who disagree with Mr. Gore should challenge him on his facts. Those who agree must look for ways to defend the honor and perhaps the very identity of the United States as we've known it.

The least serious part of Mr. Gore's speech was the part that got the most attention, his call for top officials of the Bush administration to resign. As an attention-getter, it worked.

But this was a speech in which the former vice president said: "What makes the United States special in the history of nations is our commitment to the rule of law and our carefully constructed system of checks and balances. Our natural distrust of concentrated power and our devotion to openness and democracy are what have led us as a people to consistently choose good over evil in our collective aspirations, more than the people of any other nation."

This is a time to remember the principles that made this a great nation, and to reaffirm them. I don't know what will happen in the election in November. What I know is that the nation is facing a crisis now. The Bush administration needs to step back from the abyss its ideology has dragged us to.

It may be that the president never understood what made the U.S. great. In that case, he'd be among those who could benefit most from a reading of Mr. Gore's speech. If he followed that up with a look at the Bill of Rights (it would only take a few minutes), he'd have a better understanding of what this country, at its best, is about.


Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company  

30 May 2004 @ 03:22 by jazzolog : Who Do The NeoCons Blame For Abu Ghraib?
The New York Times
May 30, 2004

It Was the Porn That Made Them Do It

THE day was April 2, 2003, the town was Najaf, the mood was giddy, and, yes, the citizens did greet the American liberators from the 101st Airborne Division with cheers. One Iraqi was asked what he hoped the Americans would bring, and Jim Dwyer reported the answer on the front page of The New York Times: " `Democracy,' the man said, his voice rising to lift each word to greater prominence. `Whiskey. And sexy!' "

Well, two out of three ain't bad.

This joyous memory came rushing back after the grim revelation of yet another kink in the torture regime at Abu Ghraib. As if sexual humiliation and violent abuse weren't punishment enough, the guards also made prisoners violate Islamic practice by force-feeding them booze.

How do we square the tales of American cruelty with the promise of democracy we thought we were bringing to Iraq? One obvious way might be to acknowledge with some humility that our often proud history has always had a fault line, running from slavery to Wounded Knee to My Lai. (Read accounts of Andersonville, the Confederate-run Civil War prison at which some 13,000 died, for literal echoes of some of Abu Ghraib's inhumanity.) But there's an easier way out in 2004: blame Janet Jackson for what's gone wrong in Iraq, or if not her, then Jenna Jameson.

It sounds laughable, but it's not a joke. Some of our self-appointed moral leaders are defending the morally indefensible by annexing Abu Ghraib as another front in America's election-year culture war. Charles Colson, the Watergate felon turned celebrity preacher, told a group of pastors convened by the Family Research Council that the prison guards had been corrupted by "a steady diet of MTV and pornography." The Concerned Women for America site posted a screed by Robert Knight, of the Culture and Family Institute, calling the Abu Ghraib scandal the " `Perfect Storm' of American cultural depravity," in which porn, especially gay porn, gave soldiers "the idea to engage in sadomasochistic activity and to videotape it in voyeuristic fashion." (His chosen prophylactics to avert future Abu Ghraibs include abolishing sex education, outlawing same-sex marriage and banishing Howard Stern.) The vice president of the Heritage Foundation, Rebecca Hagelin, found a link between the prison scandal and how "our country permits Hollywood to put almost anything in a movie and still call it PG-13."

Some of these same characters also felt that the media shouldn't show the Abu Ghraib pictures too much or at all — as if the pictures were the problem rather than what they reveal. They are of an ideological piece with Jerry Falwell, who, a mere two days after 9/11, tried to shift the blame for al Qaeda's attack to the "pagans" and abortionists and gays and lesbians who have "tried to secularize America."

This time the point of these scolds' political strategy — and it is a political strategy, despite some of its adherents' quasireligiosity — is clear enough. It is not merely to demonize gays and the usual rogue's gallery of secularist bogeymen for any American ill but to clear the Bush administration of any culpability for Abu Ghraib, the disaster that may have destroyed its mission in Iraq. If porn or MTV or Howard Stern can be said to have induced a "few bad apples" in one prison to misbehave, then everyone else in the chain of command, from the commander-in-chief down, is off the hook. If the culture war can be cross-wired with the actual war, then the buck will stop not at the Pentagon or the White House but at the Paris Hilton video, or "Mean Girls," or maybe "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy."

The hypocrisy of those pushing this line knows few bounds. They choose to ignore the reality that the most popular images of sadomasochism in American pop culture this year have been those in "The Passion of the Christ," an R-rated "religious" movie that many Americans took their children to see, at times with clerical blessings. Mel Gibson's relentlessly violent, distinctly American take on Jesus' martyrdom is a more exact fit for what's been acted out in Abu Ghraib than the flouncings of any cheesy porn-video dominatrix.

The other hypocrisy of the blame-the-culture crowd is that "normal Americans" — a phrase favored by Mr. Knight — don't partake of the "secular" entertainment that is doing all this damage. In other words, the porn that led to prison abuse is all ghettoized in the blue states. The facts say otherwise. Phil Harvey, the president of the North Carolina-based Adam & Eve, one of the country's largest suppliers of mail-order adult products, said in an interview last week that his business has "for years" been roughly the same per capita throughout the continental United States, with those Deep South bastions of the Bible Belt, Alabama and Mississippi, buying only 10 percent fewer sex toys and porn videos than everyone else. Even residents of the Cincinnati metropolitan area — home to Citizens for Community Values and famous for antismut battles over Larry Flynt and Robert Mapplethorpe — turned out to be slightly larger-than-average users of porn Web sites, according to a 2001 Nielsen Internet survey.

Americans, regardless of location or political affiliation, have always consumed a culture of sex and violence. David Milch's explicit HBO recollection of the cruelty and carnality that accompanied our "winning" of the west, "Deadwood," is hardly fiction. As Luc Sante and Susan Sontag have pointed out, the photographs from Abu Ghraib themselves have a nearly exact historical antecedent in those touristy snapshots of shameless Americans posing underneath the victims of lynchings for decades after the Civil War. The horrific photos were sent around as postcards in the same insouciant spirit that moved Abu Ghraib guards to e-mail their torture pictures or turn them into screensavers — even though the reigning mass-culture pin-ups of the time were Mary Pickford and Shirley Temple rather than Janet Jackson or Britney Spears.

To blame every American transgression on the culture, whether the transgression is as grievous as Abu Ghraib or the shootings at Columbine or as trivial as lubricious teenage fashions, is to absolve Americans of any responsibility for anything. It used to be that liberals pinned all American sins on the military-industrial complex; now it's conservatives who pin them all on the Viacom-Time Warner complex. It used to be liberals that found criminals victims of "root causes"; now it's conservatives who find criminals victims of X-rated causes. Since it's conservatives who are now in power, we've reached the absurd state where we have an attorney general who arrived in Washington placing a higher priority on stamping out porn than terrorism; we have a Federal Communications Commission that is ready to sacrifice a bedrock American value (the First Amendment) to the cause of spanking Bono for using a four-letter word on TV. As Congress threatens to police cable TV as well, we face the prospect that the history in "Deadwood" may yet be airbrushed by the government until it resembles "Little Women."

All of this is at odds with one of President Bush's most persistent campaign themes. He has repeatedly vowed to introduce "a culture of responsibility in America" in which "each of us understands we are responsible for the decisions we make in life." Up to a point. Now he talks about how the Abu Ghraib pictures are not "the America I know." (Maybe he should get out more.) If he really practiced "a culture of responsibility" he would take responsibility for his own government's actions rather than plead ignorance and express dismay. He might, for instance, explain how his own White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales, came to write a January 2002 memo that labeled the Geneva Conventions "quaint" and "obsolete" for dealing with prisoners in the war on terrorism (of which Iraq, we're told, is a part). The dissemination of that memo's legal wisdom through the Defense Department and the military command over the past 26 months may tell us more about what led to Abu Ghraib than anything else we've heard so far from the administration, let alone any Heritage Foundation press release that finds the genesis of torture in the sexual innuendos of prime-time television.

In his speech last Monday night, the president, reeling in the polls and seeking a life raft, seemed to be well on his way to adopting the cultural defense being pushed by his political allies. He called Abu Ghraib a symbol of "death and torture" under Saddam Hussein and then said that the same prison also "became a symbol of disgraceful conduct by a few American troops." The idea, it seemed, was to concede American fallibility, if not exactly error. But by reducing the charge to "disgraceful conduct," he was performing a verbal sleight-of-hand that acquitted those troops of torture and found them guilty instead of the lesser crime of pornographic horseplay. (He was also trying to confine culpability to a "few" troops.) Perhaps he hopes that we will believe that what happened at Abu Ghraib is the work of just a handful of porn-addled freaks, and that by razing the prison we can shut the whole incident down the way Rudy Giuliani banished the sex emporiums of Times Square.

But it's hard to imagine that any of this will fool that man in Najaf who had hoped we'd replace the terror of Saddam with that elixir he rightly called democracy. Whatever else America may represent — whiskey and sexy included — it stands most of all for the rule of law. We won't bring democracy to Iraq until those of high rank and low alike submit to an all-American prosecution for crimes that clearly extend well beyond the perimeters of pornographic pictures that, in the end, are merely the evidence.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company  

31 May 2004 @ 14:29 by Quinty @ : Yes, very sad

Not just the sanctimony but the inability to own up to what actually happened. If you watch CSPAN you may have seen that senator from Oklahoma rant on the floor that he was "outraged by the outrage" over Abu Ghraib. As if attempting to fix responsibility for what happened were merely some biased liberal political game.

With that kind of moral compass no wonder the country has gone haywire.  

31 May 2004 @ 14:44 by Quinty @ : This guy was screaming
about the upcoming war when most of the rest of the media was cheerleading: for the latest by Robert Fisk.  

8 Jun 2004 @ 01:53 by jazzolog : 56-Page Memo On Torture Revealed
The New York Times
June 8, 2004

Lawyers Decided Bans on Torture Didn't Bind Bush

WASHINGTON, June 7 — A team of administration lawyers concluded in a March 2003 legal memorandum that President Bush was not bound by either an international treaty prohibiting torture or by a federal antitorture law because he had the authority as commander in chief to approve any technique needed to protect the nation's security.

The memo, prepared for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, also said that any executive branch officials, including those in the military, could be immune from domestic and international prohibitions against torture for a variety of reasons.

One reason, the lawyers said, would be if military personnel believed that they were acting on orders from superiors "except where the conduct goes so far as to be patently unlawful."

"In order to respect the president's inherent constitutional authority to manage a military campaign," the lawyers wrote in the 56-page confidential memorandum, the prohibition against torture "must be construed as inapplicable to interrogation undertaken pursuant to his commander-in-chief authority."

Senior Pentagon officials on Monday sought to minimize the significance of the March memo, one of several obtained by The New York Times, as an interim legal analysis that had no effect on revised interrogation procedures that Mr. Rumsfeld approved in April 2003 for the American military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

"The April document was about interrogation techniques and procedures," said Lawrence Di Rita, the Pentagon's chief spokesman. "It was not a legal analysis."

Mr. Di Rita said the 24 interrogation procedures permitted at Guantánamo, four of which required Mr. Rumsfeld's explicit approval, did not constitute torture and were consistent with international treaties.

The March memorandum, which was first reported by The Wall Street Journal on Monday, is the latest internal legal study to be disclosed that shows that after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks the administration's lawyers were set to work to find legal arguments to avoid restrictions imposed by international and American law.

A Jan. 22, 2002, memorandum from the Justice Department that provided arguments to keep American officials from being charged with war crimes for the way prisoners were detained and interrogated was used extensively as a basis for the March memorandum on avoiding proscriptions against torture.

The previously disclosed Justice Department memorandum concluded that administration officials were justified in asserting that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to detainees from the Afghanistan war.

Another memorandum obtained by The Times indicates that most of the administration's top lawyers, with the exception of those at the State Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, approved of the Justice Department's position that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to the war in Afghanistan. In addition, that memorandum, dated Feb. 2, 2002, noted that lawyers for the Central Intelligence Agency had asked for an explicit understanding that the administration's public pledge to abide by the spirit of the conventions did not apply to its operatives.

The March memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Times, was prepared as part of a review of interrogation techniques by a working group appointed by the Defense Department's general counsel, William J. Haynes. The group itself was led by the Air Force general counsel, Mary Walker, and included military and civilian lawyers from all branches of the armed services.

The review stemmed from concerns raised by Pentagon lawyers and interrogators at Guantánamo after Mr. Rumsfeld approved a set of harsher interrogation techniques in December 2002 to use on a Saudi detainee, Mohamed al-Kahtani, who was believed to be the planned 20th hijacker in the Sept. 11 terror plot.

Mr. Rumsfeld suspended the harsher techniques, including serving the detainee cold, prepackaged food instead of hot rations and shaving off his facial hair, on Jan. 12, pending the outcome of the working group's review. Gen. James T. Hill, head of the military's Southern Command, which oversees Guantánamo, told reporters last Friday that the working group "wanted to do what is humane and what is legal and consistent not only with" the Geneva Conventions, but also "what is right for our soldiers."

Mr. Di Rita said that the Pentagon officials were focused primarily on the interrogation techniques, and that the legal rationale included in the March memo was mostly prepared by the Justice Department and White House counsel's office.

The memo showed that not only lawyers from the Defense and Justice departments and the White House approved of the policy but also that David S. Addington, the counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney, also was involved in the deliberations. The State Department lawyer, William H. Taft IV, dissented, warning that such a position would weaken the protections of the Geneva Conventions for American troops.

The March 6 document about torture provides tightly constructed definitions of torture. For example, if an interrogator "knows that severe pain will result from his actions, if causing such harm is not his objective, he lacks the requisite specific intent even though the defendant did not act in good faith," the report said. "Instead, a defendant is guilty of torture only if he acts with the express purpose of inflicting severe pain or suffering on a person within his control."

The adjective "severe," the report said, "makes plain that the infliction of pain or suffering per se, whether it is physical or mental, is insufficient to amount to torture. Instead, the text provides that pain or suffering must be `severe.' " The report also advised that if an interrogator "has a good faith belief his actions will not result in prolonged mental harm, he lacks the mental state necessary for his actions to constitute torture."

The report also said that interrogators could justify breaching laws or treaties by invoking the doctrine of necessity. An interrogator using techniques that cause harm might be immune from liability if he "believed at the moment that his act is necessary and designed to avoid greater harm."

Scott Horton, the former head of the human rights committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, said Monday that he believed that the March memorandum on avoiding responsibility for torture was what caused a delegation of military lawyers to visit him and complain privately about the administration's confidential legal arguments. That visit, he said, resulted in the association undertaking a study and issuing of a report criticizing the administration. He added that the lawyers who drafted the torture memo in March could face professional sanctions.

Jamie Fellner, the director of United States programs for Human Rights Watch, said Monday, "We believe that this memo shows that at the highest levels of the Pentagon there was an interest in using torture as well as a desire to evade the criminal consequences of doing so."

The March memorandum also contains a curious section in which the lawyers argued that any torture committed at Guantánamo would not be a violation of the anti-torture statute because the base was under American legal jurisdiction and the statute concerns only torture committed overseas. That view is in direct conflict with the position the administration has taken in the Supreme Court, where it has argued that prisoners at Guantánamo Bay are not entitled to constitutional protections because the base is outside American jurisdiction.

Kate Zernike contributed reporting for this article.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company  

9 Jun 2004 @ 04:21 by jazzolog : Ashcroft: Bush Didn't Order Torture
The New York Times
June 9, 2004

Bush Didn't Order Any Breach of Torture Laws, Ashcroft Says

WASHINGTON, June 8 — Attorney General John Ashcroft, whose subordinates have written confidential legal memorandums saying the administration is not bound by prohibitions against torture, told a Senate committee on Tuesday that President Bush had "made no order that would require or direct the violation" of either international treaties or domestic laws prohibiting torture.

Appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Ashcroft was questioned about a cascade of recently disclosed memorandums in which lawyers from his department as well as those from the Defense Department and other agencies provided legal arguments that inflicting pain in interrogating people detained in the fight against terrorism did not always constitute torture.

In heated exchanges with Democrats on the committee, Mr. Ashcroft refused to provide several of the memorandums, saying they amounted to confidential legal advice given to the president and did not have to be shared with Congress.

For the nearly three hours of Mr. Ashcroft's appearance, the committee room became the stage for a debate that has ranged across all three branches of the government since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, about the proper reach of a president's power in wartime.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat who is a committee member, challenged Mr. Ashcroft on his unwillingness to release the memorandums and said that the reported abuses of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison were the inevitable outcome of the administration's efforts to find ways to evade legal responsibility.

Mr. Kennedy cited one of the memorandums reported in newspapers on Tuesday that concluded President Bush was not bound either by international treaties prohibiting torture or by federal anti-torture law because as commander-in-chief Mr. Bush was responsible for protecting the nation.

"In other words, the president of the United States has the responsibility," Mr. Kennedy said, holding up a photograph of prisoners cowering before American guards and dogs at Abu Ghraib. "We know when we have these kinds of orders, what happens. We get the stress test, we get the use of dogs, we get the forced nakedness that we've all seen on these and we get the hooding. This is what you get with those kind of memoranda out there."

The administration has responded to the memorandums by saying they were merely legal opinions offered as policies were being formulated.

"First of all," Mr. Ashcroft said, "this administration opposes torture," adding that the "kind of atrocities displayed in the photographs are being prosecuted by this administration."

Mr. Ashcroft strove to make a distinction between memorandums that may have provided theoretical legal justifications for torture and his assertion that there had never been any directive that actually authorized its use.

But the memorandums, by their numbers and their arguments — aimed at justifying the use of interrogation techniques inflicting pain by spelling out instances when this did not legally constitute torture and the inapplicability of international treaties — have produced outrage from international human rights groups and members of Congress, mostly Democrats.

Over the past few weeks, The New York Times, Newsweek, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal have disclosed memorandums that show a pattern in which administration lawyers set about devising arguments to avoid constraints against mistreatment and torture.

Mr. Ashcroft's appearance before the committee had been scheduled before most of the memorandums were disclosed, and he looked deeply uncomfortable under the harsh questioning.

He said several times that critics consistently failed to take into account that the United States was at war.

Mr. Kennedy challenged Mr. Ashcroft, telling him he could not withhold the memorandums from Congress unless there was an invocation of executive privilege, something only the president himself can do. Mr. Ashcroft seemed uncertain when he was asked if he had spoken to the president about invoking it.

He eventually said he was not invoking the privilege but that it was simply not good policy to openly debate what powers a president had in wartime.

Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware, in a heated exchange with Mr. Ashcroft, asked him if he believed torture was ever justified. When he first declined to answer, Mr. Biden accused him of being evasive, and Mr. Ashcroft replied: "You know I condemn torture. I don't think it's productive, let alone justified."

But Mr. Biden persisted, saying: "There's a reason why we sign these treaties: to protect my son in the military. That's why we have these treaties, so when Americans are captured they are not tortured. That's the reason in case anybody forgets it."

One of the recently published memorandums, dated March 6, 2003, provides elaborate and tightly constructed definitions of torture in an effort to to allow interrogators to avoid being charged with that offense. For example, if an interrogator "knows that severe pain will result from his actions, if causing such harm is not his objective, he lacks the requisite specific intent even though the defendant did not act in good faith," the report said. "Instead, a defendant is guilty of torture only if he acts with the express purpose of inflicting severe pain or suffering on a person within his control."

Another memorandum, written in August 2002 and disclosed Tuesday by The Washington Post, appeared to establish a basis for the use of torture for senior Al Qaeda operatives in custody of the C.I.A. That memorandum was written by Jay S. Bybee, then the associate attorney general. Mr. Bybee, now a federal appeals court judge in California, did not respond to telephone messages.

Mr. Ashcroft said proof that the administration was opposed to torture in practice, despite any legal memorandums, could be seen in the establishment of a task force to prosecute charges of abuse against United States contractors and soldiers.

While most Republican committee members defended Mr. Ashcroft, Senator Larry Craig, an Idaho Republican, told Mr. Ashcroft that he was disturbed by the growing power of the executive branch.

"I hope that in the end," Mr. Craig said, "Saddam Hussein will not have taken away from us something that our Constitution, in large part, granted us, and that we have it taken away in the name of safety and security."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company  

9 Jun 2004 @ 04:24 by jazzolog : Bush's Case for Working Outside the Laws
The New York Times
June 9, 2004

Documents Build a Case for Working Outside the Laws in Interrogations

JANUARY 2002 A series of memorandums from the Justice Department, many of them written by John C. Yoo, a University of California law professor who was serving in the department, provided arguments to keep United States officials from being charged with war crimes for the way prisoners were detained and interrogated. The memorandums, principally one written on Jan. 9, provided legal arguments to support administration officials' assertions that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to detainees from the war in Afghanistan.

JAN. 25 Alberto R. Gonzales, the White House counsel, in a memorandum to President Bush, said that the Justice Department's advice in the Jan. 9 memorandum was sound and that Mr. Bush should declare the Taliban and Al Qaeda outside the coverage of the Geneva Conventions. That would keep American officials from being exposed to the federal War Crimes Act, a 1996 law that carries the death penalty.

JAN. 26 In a memorandum to the White House, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said the advantages of applying the Geneva Conventions far outweighed their rejection. He said that declaring the conventions inapplicable would "reverse over a century of U.S. policy and practice in supporting the Geneva Conventions and undermine the protections of the laws of war for our troops." He also said it would "undermine public support among critical allies."

FEB. 2 A memorandum from William H. Taft IV, the State Department's legal adviser, to Mr. Gonzales warned that the broad rejection of the Geneva Conventions posed several problems. "A decision that the conventions do not apply to the conflict in Afghanistan in which our armed forces are engaged deprives our troops there of any claim to the protection of the conventions in the event they are captured." An attachment to this memorandum, written by a State Department lawyer, showed that most of the administration's senior lawyers agreed that the Geneva Conventions were inapplicable. The attachment noted that C.I.A. lawyers asked for an explicit understanding that the administration's public pledge to abide by the spirit of the conventions did not apply to its operatives.

AUGUST A memorandum from the Office of Legal Counsel in the Justice Department provided a rationale for using torture to extract information from Qaeda operatives. It provided complex definitions of torture that seemed devised to allow interrogators to evade being charged with that offense.

MARCH 2003 A memorandum prepared by a Defense Department legal task force drew on the January and August memorandums to declare that President Bush was not bound by either an international treaty prohibiting torture or by a federal anti-torture law because he had the authority as commander in chief to approve any technique needed to protect the nation's security. The memorandum also said that executive branch officials, including those in the military, could be immune from domestic and international prohibitions against torture for a variety of reasons, including a belief by interrogators that they were acting on orders from superiors "except where the conduct goes so far as to be patently unlawful.'

APRIL A memorandum from Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld to Gen. James T. Hill outlined 24 permitted interrogation techniques, 4 of which were considered stressful enough to require Mr. Rumsfeld's explicit approval. Defense Department officials say it did not refer to the legal analysis of the month before.

DEC. 24 A letter to the International Committee of the Red Cross over the signature of Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski was prepared by military lawyers. The letter, a response to the Red Cross's concern about conditions at Abu Ghraib, contended that isolating some inmates at the prison for interrogation because of their significant intelligence value was a "military necessity," and said prisoners held as security risks could legally be treated differently from prisoners of war or ordinary criminals.

OTHER MEMORANDUMS Some have been described in reports in The Times and elsewhere, but their exact contents have not been disclosed. These include a memorandum that provided advice to interrogators to shield them from liability from the Convention Against Torture, an international treaty and the Anti-Torture Act, a federal law. This memorandum provided what has been described as a script in which officials were advised that they could avoid responsibility if they were able to plausibly contend that the prisoner was in the custody of another government and that the United States officials were just getting the information from the other country's interrogation. The memorandum advised that for this to work, the United States officials must be able to contend that the prisoner was always in the other country's custody and had not been transferred there. International law prohibits the "rendition" of prisoners to countries if the possibility of mistreatment can be anticipated. NEIL A. LEWIS

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company  

9 Jun 2004 @ 11:02 by jazzolog : Big Trouble
News services around the world are picking up the Ashcroft story today...and the word "fascist" is on not a few lips. Here are some samples~~~

The Salt Lake Tribune

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

The Australia Herald Sun {link:,5478,9794452%255E663,00.html}

At the same time, is reporting that indictments against the entire Bush administration are being drawn up regarding the Valerie Plame outing. They surmise these indictments are the real reason for Tenet's resignation, and they predict Powell and Armitage are soon to follow. At this rate, the Bush government won't make it even to the Republican Convention.  

9 Jun 2004 @ 15:15 by jazzolog : Worse Trouble
Here are 3 more news items today on this Ashcroft mess~~~

Columbia Daily Tribune

NPR's Morning Edition coverage, with a link to the 9 minute audio which includes excerpts from yesterday's hearing

Washington Post (free registration required)  

10 Jun 2004 @ 03:26 by jazzolog : War Crimes
USA Today Takes The Torture Story One Step Further

Posted 6/9/2004 10:24 PM
Lawyers raised concerns on interrogations
By Dave Moniz and Tom Squitieri, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — Military attorneys working for the Pentagon's top general raised concerns early in 2003 that interrogation guidelines approved for use at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, could put their boss in legal jeopardy if prisoners there were abused, three Defense Department officials say.
Staff lawyers for Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, joined a group of the Pentagon's top uniformed legal officers in questioning tougher interrogation methods for prisoners at Guantanamo that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld eventually authorized in April 2003.

The concerns expressed by Myers' attorneys demonstrate that worries about the potential criminal mistreatment of U.S.-held prisoners rose to the highest levels of the military several months before abuses occurred at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison in the fall of 2003.

Myers' attorneys were worried that the chairman, as the top-ranking U.S. military officer, could be held accountable if U.S. interrogators violated international laws governing the treatment of prisoners in an attempt to extract information from al-Qaeda detainees, said the officials, who all had direct knowledge of the internal debate at the Pentagon.

A group of military lawyers from the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force raised similar concerns about fallout for lower-ranking U.S. troops if abuses occurred during interrogations, one official said.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said that he was not aware of anyone on Myers' legal staff objecting to the Guantanamo guidelines. "The only thing that Secretary Rumsfeld received was the consensus report," Whitman said.

The lead attorney on Myers' staff in 2003, Navy Capt. Jane Dalton, declined to be interviewed.

Torture permissible?

Top Pentagon civilian officials assured Myers' attorneys that the Bush administration had developed a legal argument that would not leave Myers or other U.S. troops culpable, according to a high-ranking Pentagon official involved in the debate.

That justification was presented in a series of memos prepared by Justice Department lawyers in 2002 and 2003 arguing that President Bush, as commander-in-chief, had the authority to sanction harsh interrogation techniques if the information obtained from prisoners could save American lives, said an official with knowledge of the Justice Department legal opinions.

In April 2003, Rumsfeld authorized 24 interrogation methods, including four that were outside normal U.S. military procedures, for use in the questioning of prisoners in Cuba. The methods were developed by a Pentagon working group led by Mary Walker, the Air Force's top civilian attorney, with input from other top civilian attorneys at the Pentagon between January and March 2003.

The methods Rumsfeld approved last spring are classified but, according to officials with knowledge of the list, include sleep deprivation, disorientation, manipulation of diet and isolation. Their approval ended a 15-month process in which lawyers from the Justice Department, White House, State Department and Pentagon debated and developed the legal basis and the guidelines for interrogating detainees held at Guantanamo Bay.

Top military lawyers for each of the services raised concerns on numerous occasions while the Guantanamo Bay guidelines were crafted at the Pentagon. They were joined by the Navy's top civilian attorney, Alberto Mora, in raising alarms that the new rules would violate a 50-year history of following the Geneva Conventions, could open a door to widespread prisoner abuses and could put U.S. troops at risk of prosecution.

Some methods dropped

Because of concerns raised by the Navy's top civilian lawyer, Myers' lawyers and the judge advocates general (JAGs), the working group dropped several proposed interrogation methods that were significantly more harsh, Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita said last month. The Pentagon has refused to detail the methods that were approved or rejected.

The Pentagon's interrogation procedures have come under scrutiny since Iraqi prisoners were abused and tortured by U.S. guards at Abu Ghraib prison last fall. On Tuesday, Attorney General John Ashcroft told a Senate committee that the Bush administration "rejects torture." Ashcroft declined to discuss the 2002 Justice Department memos but said there is no link between the administration's directives on interrogation and the abuses in Iraq.

Pentagon officials said last month that at the end of the deliberations over the guidelines for Guantanamo, the military lawyers were satisfied with the changes. However, Scott Silliman, a former Air Force attorney who teaches law at Duke University, disputes that interpretation.

"The implication that the senior military JAGs signed off on the Guantanamo policy is not true," Silliman said.

Silliman spent seven years serving commanders who were Air Force four-star generals. He said that Myers' attorneys would have been concerned that a series of precedents coming out of the Nuremberg Tribunals after World War II could possibly subject him to prosecution if he knowingly passed down the chain of command an order to commit illegal conduct.

"Gen. Myers has a well-deserved reputation as an upstanding and moral individual," Silliman said.

The military lawyers argued that the interrogation rules established by the Pentagon were by themselves not objectionable.

But one Pentagon official directly involved in the discussions said the lawyers were concerned that the interrogation guidelines "opened the door to mistreatment. ... The problem with the rules is that the devil is in the implementation. If they are used by people who are well trained in interrogation and with the Geneva Conventions, that is fine," he said.

"But without that essential training, you could easily veer off in a different direction, especially if they were applied somewhere else; you could get in trouble," the official said.

Last month, Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, asked Rumsfeld for copies of all legal reviews and related documents dealing with interrogation guidelines. The Pentagon has not responded to the request.

Contributing: Jim Drinkard and wire reports

© Copyright 2004 USA TODAY

In other developments, news coverage around the world of Ashcroft's refusal to turn over to Congress his memos of authorization (which Biden threatens is contempt) has drawn responses from human rights advocates. One story out of Toronto's Globe And Mail is here~~~

Bush government blasted over memo advising on torture
UPDATED AT 5:14 AM EDT Thursday, Jun 10, 2004

WASHINGTON -- Leading human-rights advocates accused the Bush administration of making "a mockery of international human-rights law" after the disclosure of an internal government memo that claims President George W. Bush is not bound by laws and treaties banning the use of torture.

Revelation of the 56-page draft memo, which was prepared for Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in March of 2003, cites the President's "complete authority over the conduct of war" to justify overriding a range of domestic laws and international treaties including the Geneva Conventions, the international treaty against torture and U.S. federal laws that explicitly ban torture.

"We now know that at the highest levels of the Pentagon, there was a shocking interest in using torture and a misguided attempt to evade the criminal consequences of doing so," said Kenneth Roth, president of Human Rights Watch.

He noted that intent to engage in torture is a war crime.

Mr. Roth said that the memo proposed ignoring the ban on torture in all circumstances, including wartime, whether in domestic or international law.

"If this legal advice were accepted, dictators worldwide would be handed a ready-made excuse to ignore one of the most basic prohibitions of international human-rights law," Mr. Roth said.

The memo, first disclosed by The Wall Street Journal, is believed to have been prepared to back the use of robust interrogation techniques at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Several hundred Taliban fighters and suspected al-Qaeda members have been held there since their capture that began with the war in Afghanistan in retaliation for the attacks on Washington and New York on Sept. 11, 2001.

It is only one of a series of similar documents revealed in the news media in recent weeks.

When the memo turned to the definition of torture, the working group said that the "infliction of pain or suffering per se, whether it is physical or mental, is insufficient to amount to torture." The punishment had to be "severe" and "must be of such a high level of intensity that the pain is difficult for the subject to endure."

The memo, prepared by a working group appointed by William Haynes, general counsel of the Defence Department, led to a series of nasty exchanges at a congressional hearing on Tuesday at which Attorney-General John Ashcroft insisted that the administration opposes torture.

But Mr. Ashcroft would not disclose the contents of any such memos.

"For us to discuss all the legal ramifications of the war is not in our interest, and it never has been in times of war," the Attorney-General told the lawmakers. He also insisted that Mr. Bush has not ordered any conduct that would violate the U.S. Constitution.

"In order to respect the President's inherent constitutional authority to manage a military campaign, [the U.S. law banning torture] must be construed as inapplicable to interrogations undertaken pursuant to his Commander-in-Chief authority," the memo said.

"In light of the President's complete authority over the conduct of war, without a clear statement otherwise, criminal statutes are not read as infringing on the President's ultimate authority in these areas."

"This is not just a step backwards but a whole series of steps backward," said Michael Byers, an expert on human-rights law and newly appointed Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia.

"It's very bad news for the administration because it undermines any leverage they have on human-rights issues anywhere," Mr. Byers said in an interview, pointing to the annual directory of human-rights abuses published by the U.S. State Department.

Mr. Roth of Human Rights Watch said the Nuremberg trials after the Second World War made it clear that it was not a defence for Nazi leaders to say they were simply following orders, if those orders were clearly illegal.

He called the memo's justification for ignoring the torture ban "a complete perversion of Nuremberg because, of course, Hitler probably authorized the kind of torture and mistreatment that was on trial at Nuremberg and he was commander-in-chief at the time."

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said that in April of 2003 Mr. Rumsfeld approved 24 "humane" interrogation techniques for use at Guantanamo, four of which required the Defence Secretary's personal review before being used.

Thirty-four techniques were considered by a working group of Defence Department legal and policy experts before Mr. Rumsfeld approved the final list, Mr. Whitman said.

"None were determined to be tortuous in nature [by the working group]. They were all found to be within internationally accepted practice," Mr. Whitman told Reuters.

© 2004 Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc.  

11 Jun 2004 @ 03:10 by jazzolog : State Dept. Warned White House @ Torture
Jun 11, 2:53 AM (ET)

WASHINGTON (AP) - The State Department warned the White House two years ago that rejecting international standards against torture when dealing with detainees could put U.S. troops at risk.

A department memo from Feb. 2, 2002, surfaced Thursday as President Bush said he ordered U.S. officials to follow the law while interrogating suspected terrorists. Bush sidestepped an opportunity to denounce the use of torture.

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

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

The memo followed recommendations from the Justice Department advising the president he could suspend international treaties prohibiting torture. It warned that failing to apply the Geneva Conventions to detainees from the war in Afghanistan - whether al-Qaida or Taliban - would put U.S. troops at risk.

"A decision that the conventions do not apply to the conflict in Afghanistan in which our armed forces are engaged deprives our troops there of any claim to the protection of the convention in the event they are captured," State Department legal adviser William H. Taft IV wrote in the 2002 memo to presidential counsel.

Furthermore, refusing Geneva standards to detainees "weakens protections afforded by the conventions to our troops in future conflicts," Taft wrote. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the memo.

The Justice Department also told the White House that U.S. laws against torture do not apply to the fight against terrorism. The department memos say torture "may be justified" against al-Qaida detainees in U.S. custody abroad and laws and treaties barring torture could be trumped by the president's supreme authority to act as necessary in wartime.

Bush said Thursday he does not recall seeing any of the Justice Department advice.

Democrats say that by suggesting that Bush could legally authorize torture, the memos would have lain the legal foundation for Iraqi prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib prison.

In its memo, the State Department also advised that following Geneva standards "demonstrates that the United States bases its conduct not just on its policy preferences, but on its international legal obligations."

Five days after the State Department memo was written, Bush decided the Geneva Conventions apply to Taliban prisoners but not to captured al-Qaida terrorists.

The Bush administration has said that even though it does not believe the Geneva Conventions apply to prisoners in the war on terror, it has complied with the treaty's guidelines.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press  

12 Jun 2004 @ 04:48 by jazzolog : Molly On The Memos

AUSTIN, Texas -- When, in future, you find yourself wondering, "Whatever happened to the Constitution?" you will want to go back and look at June 8, 2004. That was the day the attorney general of the United States -- a.k.a. "the nation's top law enforcement officer" -- refused to provide the Senate Judiciary Committee with his department's memos concerning torture.

In order to justify torture, these memos declare that the president is bound by neither U.S. law nor international treaties. We have put ourselves on the same moral level as Saddam Hussein, the only difference being quantity. Quite literally, the president may as well wear a crown -- forget that "no man is above the law" jazz. We used to talk about "the imperial presidency" under Nixon, but this is the real thing.

The Pentagon's legal staff concurred in this incredible conclusion. In a report printed by The Wall Street Journal, "Bush administration lawyers contended last year that the president wasn't bound by laws prohibiting torture and that government agents who might torture prisoners at his direction couldn't be prosecuted by the Justice Department. ...

"The report outlined U.S. laws and international treaties forbidding torture, and why those restrictions might be overcome by national security considerations or legal technicalities."

The report was complied by a group appointed by Department of Defense General Counsel William J. Haynes II, who has since been nominated by Bush for the federal appellate bench. "Air Force General Counsel Mary Walker headed the group, which comprised top civilian and uniformed lawyers from each military branch and consulted with the Justice Department, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Defense Intelligence Agency and other intelligence agencies. It isn't known if President Bush has ever seen the report."

When members of the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned Ashcroft about his department's input, he simply refused to provide the memos, without offering any legal rationale. He said President Bush had "made no order that would require or direct the violation" of laws or treaties. His explanation was that the United States is at war. "You know I condemn torture," he told Sen. Joe Biden. "I don't think it's productive, let alone justified."

But another memo written by former Assistant Attorney General Jay S. Bybee, now a federal appeals court judge in California, establishes a basis for the use of torture for senior Al Qaeda operatives in custody of the CIA. I am not one to leap to conclusions, but it seems quite clear how whatever perverted standards allowed at Guantanamo Bay jumped across the water to Abu Ghraib prison.

Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, commander at Gitmo, was dispatched last August to Abu Ghraib to give advice about how to get information out of prisoners. "Miller's recommendations prompted a shift in the interrogation and detention procedures there. Military intelligence officers were given greater authority in the prison, and military police guards were asked to help gather information about the detainees," according to The New York Times.

Among the legal memos that circulated within the administration in 2002, one is by White House counsel Alberto Gonzalez, famously declaring the Geneva Convention "quaint," and another from the CIA asked for an explicit understanding that the administration's public pledge to abide by the spirit of the Geneva Convention did not apply to its operatives. The only department consistently opposing these legal "arguments" was State. In April 2002, Secretary Rumsfeld sent a memo to Gen. James T. Hill outlining 24 permitted interrogation techniques, four of which were considered so stressful as to require Rumsfeld's explicit approval before they were used.

It has been apparent for some time that the abuses at Abu Ghraib were not isolated instances -- torture from Afghanistan to Gitmo to Iraq has so far resulted in 25 deaths now under investigation. As the late Jacabo Timmermann, the Argentine journalist who was tortured during "the dirty war," said, "When you are being tortured, it doesn't really matter to you if your torturers are authoritarian or totalitarian." I doubt it helps any if they're supposed to be bringing democracy, either. And as Ashcroft said, it isn't productive.

The damage is incalculable. When America puts out its annual report on human rights abuses, we will be a laughingstock. I suggest a special commission headed by Sen. John McCain to dig out everyone responsible, root and branch. If the lawyers don't cooperate, perhaps we should try stripping them, anally raping them and dunking their heads under water until they think they're drowning, and see if that helps.

And I think it is time for citizens to take some responsibility, as well. Is this what we have come to? Is this what we want our government to do for us? Oh and by way, to my fellow political reporters who keep repeating that Bush is having a wonderful week: Why don't you think about what you stand for?

To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at


17 Jun 2004 @ 07:12 by jazzolog : Are They Still Being Tortured?
Lessons Unnoticed
Why German accents bother me
by Bryan Zepp Jamieson

Ever since the images from Abu Ghraib first started coming out, something about them has been eating at me, affecting my day-to-day life.

Certainly, I felt disgust and outrage. But that usually doesn’t leave me feeling depressed. This did.

So I’ve been picking at it for a while, trying to figure out what bothered me so deeply but at the same time seemed so hard to face.

When you read books about the Third Reich, such as Shirer’s, or see movies such as Spielberg’s "Schindler’s List" you become aware of what a nightmarish place Hitler’s Germany was. There’s the outlandish, over the top rallies, the brutal nationalism and racism. There’s the deep corruption, the lack of law. There’s the systemized gulag of murder and slavery, the death camps, the work camps and the ghettoes.

But to me, what always made the nightmare real, what put it at a level and on a scale that I could immediately feel in my gut, was the behavior of the guards and the troops. Whether it was a small group of soldiers, rifles carelessly slung over shoulders, humiliating an old Jewish man, or brutal, cold guards promising young women two more weeks of unendurable life in return for some quick unfeeling sex, they represented the face of Nazi Germany.

Whether in Treblinka or Abu Ghraib, in the streets of Paris or the streets of Baghdad, the images are the same: young, smiling, brutal people in uniform abusing others for no other reason than the fact that they can. Psychologists tell us that often they aren’t acting out of hatred or even callousness, but simply because they are allowed to. No other reason. No other reason even needed.

When I see the grinning gargoyles in American military uniforms posing gleefully next to humiliated, hurt, tortured people, playing with their sex organs and making them display their anuses to the camera as part of a form of light entertainment, I see humanity at its lowest and most sickening. This is what exists at the bottom of the pit. It is the darkness that lies within each of us, what we build civilizations and religions and philosophies to control, escaped.

Even as I find it pathetic, even contemptible, I understand why people try to deny the images from Abu Ghraib. Some, despite overwhelming evidence, deny it ever happened at all, claiming the photos were faked, or shot in a porn studio. Others say that it represents only some isolated incidents, despite admissions from the Pentagon that investigations into the matters were already widespread before the story ever broke, and that it wasn’t limited to Abu Ghraib or even Iraq, but existed in Guantanamo and in prisons throughout America. There are still 3,000 people locked up, without charges and without prospects of trials, in Ashcroft’s Gulag. I wonder if they are being tortured, tormented and abused.

Of course they are. Because the guards can. No other reason.

We know, from Ashcroft’s testimony before Congress and even as he flatly refuses to turn over memos, that orders to mistreat prisoners came right from the top, from the Oval Office itself. The memo the moral and Christian Ashcroft didn’t want Congress to see stated that such abuse was torture only if the inflictor "knows that severe pain will result from his actions, if causing such harm is not his objective, he lacks the requisite specific intent even though the defendant did not act in good faith . . .[A] defendant is guilty of torture only if he acts with the express purpose of inflicting severe pain or suffering on a person within his control."

Senator Joe Biden was withering in his contempt and anger that the administration would write such a thing, but even there, Biden could come up with no better reason to condemn the torture than to point out that it put American troops at risk for retaliation. Perhaps Biden realized that any evocation of morality would be lost on Ashcroft, but there was a television audience of millions who might have liked to have heard a declaration of principle higher than "because we might get caught."

In Germany, after the war, when the madness of Nazi Germany was put out and examined, the Germans did an admirable job of facing the vileness and atrocities that occurred under Hitler. They took many steps to try to ensure that something like the Holocaust would never happen again.

But they never could, and never have, addressed the fact that so many Germans knew what was going on in their country between 1933 and 1945, and simply accepted it. Even today, filmmakers and artists who ask the simple question, "Why did the German people put up with it? Why did they cooperate?" are vigorously suppressed – in the name of fighting the sort of censorship the Nazis employed.

The worst thing about Abu Ghraib isn’t the grinning goons in American uniforms humiliating their charges; it isn’t the religiously insane nutjob who is the nation’s top law enforcement officer; it isn’t the vacant, vicious little wastrel in the Oval Office. It isn’t the people who blindly deny that there was torture, or that it was widespread, or that the leadership knew.

Or that it mattered.

It’s the number of people who know in their hearts that the torture was deliberate, calculated, a part of American policy, and has been used widely. It’s the people who know this, and don’t care.

Some of them even realize that the torture and humiliation and rape don’t produce the results given as a rationale. It hasn’t slowed down al Qaida. It hasn’t scared the Iraqi people into submission. There’s no reason to believe that any useful intelligence has been gathered; certainly the notable lack of success of the administration in its unending "war on terror" is proof of that.

They know all this, and they still think "whatever it takes" is justified.

The German people never came to grips with their own role in Hitler’s Germany, and that’s why, two generations later, I don’t quite trust Germans, and why they retain a slight whiff of the charnel house about them. That’s why, even though I was born seven years after Hitler killed himself, and the England of my youth was largely rebuilt, I still pull my head back slightly, defensively, whenever I hear a German accent.

That Americans are reacting to Abu Ghraib, in such large numbers, with angry bellicosity and the assertion that it’s justified – even if there are no results, even as it smears America throughout the world – is to me the most profoundly depressing and disheartening thing about the entire Iraqi misadventure.

It isn’t the disgraceful guards, or the slouched thugs of the administration, or even the smirking, strutting little clown in the White House that leave me feeling like I’m looking into the abyss of Nazi morality. It’s the well-fed American pig whose only response to Abu Ghraib is a grunted, "So what?"

"I know vhat is in the smoke over the work camps. So vhat?"

"Morality? What kind of pansy-ass crap is that?"

And for the first time in my life, I find myself asking myself this question:

Is America still worth it?  

18 Jun 2004 @ 03:48 by jazzolog : Will The Pope Vote For Bush?
DallasFortWorth Star-Telegram
Posted on Thu, Jun. 17, 2004

I certainly feel better now
By Molly Ivins
Creators Syndicate

AUSTIN - Such comfort. At the close of the G-8 summit, described by President Bush as "very successful" (except we didn't get anything we wanted), the president offered us comfort on the uncomfortable topic of torture: "Look, I'm going to say it one more time. The instructions went out to our people to adhere to the law. That ought to comfort you.

"We're a nations of laws," he went on. "We adhere to laws. We have laws on the books. You might look at those laws, and that might comfort you."

There, don't you feel all better now? How comforting to know the Department of Justice memo on the subject of torture advises that it "must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impaired bodily function or even death."

Just beating the tar out of someone doesn't count. The Geneva Conventions are not binding on us, nor are any other international agreements if their restrictions impede the war effort, says the DOJ.

As Professor Michael Froomkin of Miami University told Salon: "The lawyers who wrote it are guilty. The people who asked them to write it, who read it and who may have acted on it -- they're the people who really have to answer for it."

The Department of Defense memo, reported by The Wall Street Journal, says the president can unilaterally nullify the federal war crimes statutes, describes how to evade federal court jurisdiction over Guantanamo and lays out ways for government employees to avoid being charged with torture under federal law. The CIA's contribution was to ask for explicit permission to use torture on suspected al Qaeda operatives at Gitmo.

Excuse me, but what did they think was going to happen? The first thing one learns about torture is that it gets out of control in no time.

Spc. Sean Baker, who had the misfortune to play an uncooperative prisoner at Gitmo during a training exercise, had his head slammed against a steel floor so hard that it resulted in traumatic brain injury. He was given a medical discharge and is now on nine medications and still suffering seizures.

The "ally-ally-in-free" attitude toward torture traveled from suspected al Qaeda members at Gitmo (mind you, only "suspected," and there is considerable evidence that a lot of the people we've been holding for years at Gitmo are low-level types or even accidental pickups) to Iraqi civilians -- 70 percent to 90 percent of whom, according to Gen. Antonio Taguba's report, were in prison by accident.

Abu Ghraib guards were "just following orders."

Also of great comfort is the National Catholic Reporter's story that during his visit to Rome, Bush told the Vatican's secretary of state, "Not all the American bishops are with me" on cultural issues.

"The implication was that he hoped the Vatican would nudge them toward more explicit activism," said the Reporter. "While Bush was focusing primarily on the gay marriage question, he also had in mind other concerns, such as abortion and stem cell research."

As Josh Marshall observed: "I guess on one level we can say we've come a long way since 1960, when John F. Kennedy had to forswear that he'd follow the instructions of the pope in his decisions of governance. Today we have a Protestant born-again who tries to enlist the pope to intervene in an American election."

This follows, of course, recent announcements by a few bishops that any Catholic politician who is pro-choice should be denied Communion. One bishop said voting for a pro-choice Catholic would result in denial of communion.

The bishops seem to refer only to John Kerry rather than to pro-choice Republicans such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom Ridge.

I take great comfort in the idea that the pope will decide our policy on stem cell research, not to mention abortion and gay marriage. The Vatican is never wrong on scientific questions. Why, in 1992, the church apologized to Galileo and said he was right -- the Earth does revolve around the sun.

It took them only 376 years. Less time than it would take George W. Bush to admit an error. I find that comforting.

Molly Ivins writes for Creators Syndicate. 5777 W. Century Blvd., Suite 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045
© 2004 Star-Telegram and wire service sources  

10 Jul 2004 @ 04:12 by jazzolog : Why We Went To Iraq
The New York Times editorial this morning~~~
The New York Times
July 10, 2004
The Senate Report

In a season when candor and leadership are in short supply, the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on the prewar assessment of Iraqi weapons is a welcome demonstration of both. It is also disturbing, and not just because of what it says about the atrocious state of American intelligence. The report is a condemnation of how this administration has squandered the public trust it may sorely need for a real threat to national security.

The report was heavily censored by the administration and is too narrowly focused on the bungling of just the Central Intelligence Agency. But what comes through is thoroughly damning. Put simply, the Bush administration's intelligence analysts cooked the books to give Congress and the public the impression that Saddam Hussein had chemical and biological weapons and was developing nuclear arms, that he was plotting to give such weapons to terrorists, and that he was an imminent threat.

These assertions formed the basis of Mr. Bush's justifications for war. But the report said that they were wrong and were not a true picture of the intelligence, and that the intelligence itself was not worth much. The freshest information from human sources was more than four years old. The committee said the analysts who had produced that false apocalyptic vision had fallen into a "collective groupthink" in which evidence was hammered into a preconceived pattern. Their bosses did not intervene.

The report reaffirmed a finding by another panel investigating intelligence failures before the 9/11 attacks in saying that there was no "established formal relationship" between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. It also said there was no evidence that Iraq had been complicit in any attack by Osama bin Laden, or that Saddam Hussein had ever tried to use Al Qaeda for an attack. Although the report said the C.I.A.'s conclusions had been "widely disseminated" in the government, Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have repeatedly talked of an Iraq-Qaeda link.

Sadly, the investigation stopped without assessing how President Bush had used the incompetent intelligence reports to justify war. It left open the question of whether the analysts thought they were doing what Mr. Bush wanted. While the panel said it had found no analyst who reported being pressured to change a finding, its vice chairman, Senator John Rockefeller IV, said there had been an "environment of intense pressure." But the issue was glossed over so the report could be adopted unanimously.

The panel's investigation into how President Bush handled the intelligence has been postponed until after the election. But the bottom line already seems pretty clear. No one had to pressure analysts to change their findings because the findings were determined before the work started.

By late 2002, you'd have had to have been vacationing on Mars not to know what answer Mr. Bush wanted. The planning for war had begun. The C.I.A. was under enormous pressure over getting it wrong before 9/11. And the hawkish defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, wanted to set up his own intelligence agency to get the goods on Iraq that the wishy-washy C.I.A. couldn't seem to deliver.

Both political parties see all this as an election issue, and the international community will see the committee report as another reason to decry Mr. Bush's go-it-alone foreign policy. But the report also speaks to a critical long-term security threat. We cannot afford to have the public become too cynical about the government's assessment of danger.

There may well come a time when Mr. Bush, or another president, will have to ask the nation and its allies to back a pre-emptive military strike against terrorists, or a country that poses a real threat. And he's probably going to have to rely on intelligence that is hardly the "slam dunk" that George Tenet reportedly called these shoddy reports on Iraq. The public will have to believe that the president is acting against a real threat, not one manufactured to justify a political agenda.

This administration has not made it easier for people to have that confidence. Its continuing insistence on linking Iraq and Al Qaeda is not aimed at helping the public understand the situation in the Middle East, but at providing political cover for an increasingly unpopular invasion.

Then there are the news conferences that administration officials hold periodically to warn us that we're about to be attacked. Everyone is aware of the danger out there, but there is no reason to go on television and repeat vague warnings that seem to be intended to frighten everyone, but are more likely to lull people into complacency by their familiarity and repetition. When Tom Ridge, the secretary of homeland defense, holds a news conference to warn the nation of dire peril and it winds up as fodder for comedy shows, there's something very wrong somewhere.

The Senate Intelligence Committee's report ought to be the first move back from the brink of destructive public cynicism. The next must come from the president, who could help restore confidence in the government's risk assessment by simply being frank about the errors his administration made and the lessons it learned. That would do more to prepare the country for the next crisis than a full season of scary press conferences by Mr. Ridge.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company  

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