Saturday, May 28, 2005

The long goodbye (for now)

As you can see, the blogging has lightened up in the past week or so. That's because I'm in the final week of packing for my move, and so it's quite difficult to blog and do all the things associated with blogging. Even my blog reading is down.

Therefore, I'm going to make it official: I'm going on hiatus for at least the next three weeks. There will be an occasional post or two, but for the most part I'm going to be doing my packing, driving, and moving into a new house and new life. For everyone who's been reading regularly, thank you for stopping by, and for new readers, don't be discouraged, I will return, and there's plenty of archived material. I'd also encourage everyone to check out the links I have. I try to have links to both left and right, and every place I've linked to has mainly intelligent, well-written pieces.

Until later, goodbye.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

So, what do y'all have to say NOW?

Yeah, so I think Newsweek got a little vindication today about that maligned Periscope story. Between Karzai's enoxeration of blame for them the other day and this today, they don't look so wrong now. Read 'em and weep.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An FBI agent wrote in a 2002 document made public on Wednesday that a detainee held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had accused American jailers there of flushing the Koran down a toilet.

The Pentagon said the allegation was not credible. The declassified document's release came the week after the Bush administration denounced as wrong a May 9 Newsweek article that stated U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo had flushed a Koran down a toilet to try to make detainees talk. The magazine retracted the article, which had triggered protests in Afghanistan in which 16 people died.

The newly released document, dated Aug. 1, 2002, contained a summary of statements made days earlier by a detainee, whose name was redacted, in two interviews with an FBI special agent, whose name also was withheld, at the Guantanamo prison for foreign terrorism suspects.

The American Civil Liberties Union released the memo and other FBI documents it obtained from the government under court order through the Freedom of Information Act.

"Personally, he has nothing against the United States. The guards in the detention facility do not treat him well. Their behavior is bad. About five months ago, the guards beat the detainees. They flushed a Koran in the toilet," the FBI agent wrote.

"It's not credible," chief Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita said of the allegation regarding a Koran in a toilet.

Di Rita said the U.S. military questioned the detainee on May 14, and that the man was "very cooperative and answered the questions but did not corroborate the allegation recorded on Aug. 1, 2002." Di Rita said he did not know whether the man actually recanted the allegation.

"These kind of, sort of, fantastic charges about our guys doing something willfully heinous to a Koran for the purposes of rattling detainees are not credible on their face," Di Rita told reporters.


The documents indicated that detainees were making allegations that they had been abused and that the Muslim holy book had been mishandled as early as April 2002, about three months after the first detainees arrived at Guantanamo.

In other documents, FBI agents stated that Guantanamo detainees also accused U.S. personnel of kicking the Koran and throwing it to the floor, and described beatings by guards. But one document cited a detainee who accused a guard of dropping a Koran, prompting an "uprising" by prisoners, when it was the prisoner himself who dropped it.

"Unfortunately, one thing we've learned over the last couple of years is that detainee statements about their treatment at Guantanamo and other detention centers sometimes have turned out to be more credible than U.S. government statements," said ACLU lawyer Jameel Jaffer.

Former detainees and a lawyer for current prisoners previously have stated that U.S. personnel at Guantanamo had placed the Koran in a toilet, but the Pentagon has said it also does not view those allegations as credible.

In document written in April 2003, an FBI agent related a detainee's account of an incident involving a female U.S. interrogator.

"While the guards held him, she removed her blouse, embraced the detainee from behind and put her hand on his genitals. The interrogator was on her menstrual period and she wiped blood from her body on his face and head," the memo stated.

A similar incident was described in a recent book written by a former Guantanamo interrogator.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan last week said Newsweek "got the facts wrong" and Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman called the article "demonstrably false." Di Rita said last week the Pentagon had received "no credible and specific allegations" that U.S. personnel had put a Koran in the toilet.

So, here's my question. If Newsweek got it SO wrong, and the Pentagon is denying all of this, does that mean they are calling the FBI liars? If so, what does it say about Pentagon leadership that they are calling all of these people liars? These are the same people who let Abu Ghraib happen on their watch. My faith in their credibility is shaken from that. It bothers me, because I like Don Rumsfeld. I just think he's been grossly incompetent. In any case, if the Pentagon calls everyone liars, and there's proof that the Pentagon has covered things up before, doesn't that put the burden of proof on them?

Monday, May 23, 2005

The wrong reading

One of my readers, and a fellow blogger (albeit to the right of me), commented that we are too sensitive to the Arab world, and later blogged that the press has been whining that we should return to the pre-9/11 days.

First off, my reply comment, which I shall repost in the body here.

Perhaps you missed the point. It's not so much being sensitive as it is understanding them. And yes, it damn well matters to understand them, because knowing the psychology of any opponent is how you beat them. You can't win just by simply playing your game, because you have to know how they play theirs. Getting the information necessary out of the people we interrogate happens by showing an understanding of their culture, not just insulting them all the time. Not all Arabs and Muslims are extremists, but you can't ignore their psychology just because they don't act the way we want them to. You can't get them there just by force.

This isn't the Soviet Union, where force was the only thing they understood. Religious motivation is the strongest and most dangerous force around. It can be used for immense good or immense evil. The British say religious wars are the nastiest, and while we think this is just a good vs. evil conflict, it's not. To them, it's a religious war, and they aren't going to back down, no matter how many we kill. This is why we should've had other Muslim nations when we went into Iraq: it would've taken away part of their recruiting factor. The way we've insulted key portions of their religion, whether deliberately or accidently (remember Bush's "crusade"?), have been a motivating factor, and it's part of why they won't go away. It's not capitulation to terrorists. It's being smart.

Not every death blow to a twisted force was done with a blunt instrument, which is what we've done for the past four years. This is where I admire Reagan, because he used sharp, pointed words and shadow actions to take down the Soviet Union. How I only wish Bush could show the same ability, but he does everything with brute force, and that's not how we're going to win this war. It's a police war, it's a funding war, it's a military war, and by God, it is a psychological war.

As long as they believe it's a religious war, and we ignore that because we think they're stupid and hypocritical, we aren't going to win. There's a difference between sensitivity and understanding. Not, "Oh, I understand, I'm sorry," but instead "I understand how they think, and this is what we need to do to win."

Yes, their reactionism is ridiculous and wishing another September 11 is heinous. It doesn't mean we can ignore their motivation, because to do so risks losing more people than necessary, and is that a price you really want to pay? If we fight this smart, we can cut down our losses. If we don't, we will sacrifice more soldiers to the tar pit that Iraq remains.

Secondly, I haven't seen the press cheering for anything. They've been booing because Ron Ziegler's reincarnation, Scott McClellan, has been trying to pull a Ziegler and tell a media outlet what it should do. And it's quite possible such a line might never have run had it not become clear that we have shown the penchant for abuse and disregard of Muslim prisoners. The simple fact that most people in Guantanamo have eventually been cleared and released says something. The fact that we're sending people to regimes who torture says something. The fact that a new DOJ report came out on how badly guards abused people rounded up in the post-9/11 sweep, and yet not one of them has been prosecuted or disciplined says something.

Like I say in my comment, blunt force doesn't always get us the results we want, and beating the hell out of prisoners, satisfying as it might be to some guards or interrogators, isn't making our security better. I don't believe for a second we should pamper any of these people. Can't we be humane, though? Treat them like the humans they are, or hell, treat them like your dog, because our pets got better treatment than a lot of these detainees.

I don't want a 1990's-style deal, where it took forever to get action on Bosnia. At the same time, I don't want a 2003 deal where we just piss off the world, do what we want, and then ask for help when things are going to shit. I don't want a policy that allows for rendition, or doesn't punish torture, because Lord knows Abu Ghraib would still be going on if it hadn't gone public, because that had been going on for months, and no one did anything until the media put it out there.

And the Arab and Muslim world is pissed because Abu Ghraib showed that anything was possible and perhaps likely, and that's why they blew up. Not because of Newsweek, but because it fit their idea of a pattern. Like it or not, we gave them that idea. It's probably too late, but maybe making a Muslim the deputy to Karen Hughes might not be such a bad idea. We could use the help.