Browsing the archives for the Iraq War tag.


The Unrelease

-->
Iraq War, Middle East, Obama Administration, torture

I’m about to butt heads, and not with righties. I understand there’s a lot of anger at President Obama because he changed his mind about releasing more prisoner abuse photos. I respect a difference of opinion on this matter.

But I also think the reason given for the reversal is understandable — commanders warned that the images could set off a deadly backlash against American troops. Even if it’s only a small chance this would happen, I might have made the same decision President Obama made. If something could stir up more violence against U.S. troops in the Middle East, and doing that something isn’t absolutely imperative for the survival of the nation, I would think twice about it, too.

Thers writes, “So there will never be a “good” time to release them. Release them now and face the music.” The ones “facing the music” are in Iraq and Afghanistan, and while there might never be a “good” time to release the photos, there ought to be a “better” time, which is after most troops are withdrawn.

I realize this isn’t going to happen right away. But, at the same time, it isn’t as if we don’t already know there was terrible prisoner abuse, some of which caused deaths. I don’t personally need to see any more photos. I can barely look at the ones that are in circulation already.

So, I don’t think the President’s decision necessarily means that he’s got a Dick Cheney microchip planted in his head. What’s more important is that there are investigations into who ordered what, and who knew what, and who approved what.

Share Button
31 Comments

Prove It

-->
torture

We’ve learned that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in one month. This begs the question: If torture is so good at extracting information, why did it need to be applied 183 times in one month?

Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times in August 2002. Of this, CIA officials have said,

The methods succeeded in breaking him, and the stories he told of al-Qaeda terrorism plots sent CIA officers around the globe chasing leads.

In the end, though, not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaida’s tortured confessions, according to former senior government officials who closely followed the interrogations. Nearly all of the leads attained through the harsh measures quickly evaporated, while most of the useful information from Abu Zubaida — chiefly names of al-Qaeda members and associates — was obtained before waterboarding was introduced, they said.

Before he was waterboarded, Zubaida provided information that led to the capture of Khalid Sheik Mohammed and other al Qaeda operatives. Moreover, before the 83 waterboardings the Bush Administration already knew that Zubaida was not an al Qaeda insider. He wasn’t a member of al Qaeda at all. He worked directly with al Qaeda only after 9/11.

What do you want to bet that the torture of Zubaida and KSM was more about Iraq than al Qaeda? Zubaida was waterboarded in August 2002. We know that the decision to invade Iraq had been made by then, and that Bushies were busily fixing intelligence and facts around policy. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded in March 2003, the same month the Iraq invasion began. The Bushies wanted more “intelligence” that gave them permission to invade Iraq. Whether the intelligence was true or not wasn’t that important.

You cannot get a wingnut or ex-Bush Administration official to admit that waterboarding doesn’t work. As Timothy Rutten writes in today’s Los Angeles Times, since leaving office many Bush officials (especially ex-Veep Dick Cheney) have publicly declared that their “enhanced” interrogation techniques “worked” to extract valuable information from terrorists that foiled real terrorist plots.

The argument that torture gets the job done was made yet again Thursday, when a person identified only as a former top official in the Bush administration told Politico that release of the memos was “damaging because these are techniques that work. … Publicizing the techniques does grave damage to our national security by ensuring they can never be used again — even in a ticking-time-bomb scenario where thousands or even millions of American lives are at stake.”

As John Cole says, “There better be a pretty damned long fuse on that ticking time bomb.”

The part about “not being able to use the techniques again” makes no sense whatsoever. What techniques were used that surprised anyone? Waterboarding goes back to the bleeping Inquisition.

There is copious testimony from people with experience in intelligence that torture is not an effective tool for extracting useful information. For example, Rear Admiral (ret.) John Hutson, former Judge Advocate General for the Navy, said,

“The United States has been a strong, unwavering advocate for human rights and the rule of law for as long as you and I have been alive. I’m not ready to throw in the towel on that just because we are in a battle with some terrible people. In fact, in a war like this, when we are tempted to respond in kind, we must hold ever more dearly to the values that make us Americans. Torture, or “cruel, inhuman or degrading” conduct, are not part of our national character. Another objection is that torture doesn’t work. All the literature and experts say that if we really want usable information, we should go exactly the opposite way and try to gain the trust and confidence of the prisoners. Torture will get you information, but it’s not reliable. Eventually, if you don’t accidentally kill them first, torture victims will tell you something just to make you stop. It may or may not be true. If you torture 100 people, you’ll get 100 different stories. If you gain the confidence of 100 people, you may get one valuable story.” (Legal Affairs “Debate Club” January 27, 2005)

However, what you get from Bushies and Bushie apologists are vague claims and ticking time bomb scenarios. Of course, the perps can always hide behind “national security,” but I would argue that allowing this chapter of our history slide by unexamined is the greater long-term threat to our national security. As Rutten says,

There will be another terrorist attack on American soil eventually. If it occurs in the absence of a clear historical record of what the Bush/Cheney torture policies did or did not accomplish, those who supported the former administration will come roaring out of the weeds to charge that Americans died because their soft-headed countrymen were preoccupied with civil liberties and human rights.

The next time the wingnuts claim torture works, ask them to prove it.

Share Button
15 Comments

More News That’s Not News

-->
torture, War on Terror

You can file this under the heading of “stuff we already knew.” Peter Finn and Joby Warrick write for the Washington Post that

…not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaida’s tortured confessions, according to former senior government officials who closely followed the interrogations. Nearly all of the leads attained through the harsh measures quickly evaporated, while most of the useful information from Abu Zubaida — chiefly names of al-Qaeda members and associates — was obtained before waterboarding was introduced, they said.

I already wrote a post about this same subject. It’s dated September 9, 2006. According to news stories then, what useful information came from Abu Zubaida was obtained through standard (e.g., Gevena convention-sanctioned) interrogation techniques. Once the “harsh interrogators” took over, no more useful information came from Zubaida.

Moreover, within weeks of his capture, U.S. officials had gained evidence that made clear they had misjudged Abu Zubaida. President George W. Bush had publicly described him as “al-Qaeda’s chief of operations,” and other top officials called him a “trusted associate” of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and a major figure in the planning of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. None of that was accurate, the new evidence showed.

In other words, the Bush Administration detained and tortured Abu Zubaida for the propaganda value.

This is not to say Abu Zubaida was not a player in the world of Islamic terrorism. He was, and there are good arguments for not releasing him, assuming he’s still sane.

But Abu Zubaida had strained and limited relations with bin Laden and only vague knowledge before the Sept. 11 attacks that something was brewing, the officials said.

Oh, I so miss the days when Ari Fleischer would tell us those cute stories about plots to take apart the Brooklyn Bridge with a chainsaw.

Anyway, Scott Horton, publius, and Marcy Wheeler all have insightful things to say about this mess.

There’s not much reaction from the Right yet, and I doubt there will be. There’s a story flying around that Joe Biden’s daughter was caught snorting coke, so you know the righties will be all over that for the next several days. It’s proof that liberals are bad parents, you know. The one rightie reaction I have seen dismisses the WaPo article as hearsay, and adds,

Once again we have a string of wild assertions made by the Washington Post via some “anonymous officials” and unrevealed “documents.”

Of course we are supposed to believe these anonymous sources over Mr. Zubaida’s own claims. (The Post helpfully notes that he has memory problems, due to a head wound.)

I’m assuming the writer has unique knowledge of what “Mr. Zubaida’s own claims” are that contradict the WaPo story.

But obviously this is just the Post once again beating the drum for show trials about the (entirely legal and ethical) interrogation of terrorists.

And we know the interrogation is legal and ethical, because we say it is!

It really is too bad that the terrorists Flight 77 hit the Pentagon instead of, say, 15th Street.

See, the problem is that the Washington Post wasn’t happy enough during the Bush Administration. Indeed, many of us were insufficiently happy and should have received political re-education and maybe some harsh interrogation until we were happy.

Share Button
4 Comments

When Failure Is an Option

-->
Bush Administration, conservatism, Iraq War, Middle East, Obama Administration

Rush and other mouthpieces for movement conservatism are not backing down from their public wish that Barack Obama fails. As Dave Neiwert says, his excuse for this is the time-honored foundation of all conservative morality — That other kid did it first.

Limbaugh: Did the Democrats want the war in Iraq to fail?

[Crowd shouts:] Yeah!

Limbaugh: Well, they certainly did. And they not only wanted the war in Iraq to fail, they proclaimed it a failure! There’s Dingy Harry Reid, waving a white flag, ‘This war is lost. This war — ‘ They called General Petraeus a liar before he even testified! [Boos.] Mrs. Clinton — [Loud boos] … Said she had to suspend, willingly suspend disbelief for whenever one had to listen to Petraeus. We were in the process of winning the war and the last thing they wanted was to win. They hoped George Bush failed.

Dave’s comment:

It would be one thing if Republicans were simply warning that Obama’s stimulus plans were doomed to failure. We’d understand that. It certainly would mirror how we felt about the Iraq war: we believed it was a doomed enterprise that would not only cost far more in human lives than anything that might possibly be gained from it, but would actually worsen the conditions for terrorism it purportedly meant to combat. We recognized that Bush’s rosy scenarios might come to pass, but we doubted it deeply — and said so, and rightly.

But it’s another thing altogether to openly hope for failure — in the case of the Iraq war, because it meant American soldiers would die needlessly, an outcome no one who loves America would want; and in the case of the economy, because it means that America is doomed to slide into a Depression. It will mean that millions of Americans will lose their jobs, millions will slide into poverty, and misery will be rampant.

Of course, from the moment the invasion of Iraq became public discussion, any arguments against it evoked howls about “Fifth Columnists” and “Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys” from the Right. I do not believe most of them see a difference between expressing the opinion that X is a bad idea and wanting X to fail. There’s a huge difference, of course, but I suspect it would be easier to teach algebra to a gerbil than to teach that difference to your standard wingnut. I personally would not want to waste my time trying.

However, it’s also the case that when a wingnut evokes “Iraq” and the rest of us speak of “Iraq,” we’re talking about entirely different things. I go back to my contention that right wingers, like the Tamarians of Star Trek TNG, see everything as part of a vast mythology.

When most people think of the War in Iraq, they see the Mother of All Boondoggles; a hopeless mess that was entered into foolishly, for reasons that proved to be false, and without proper planning, that has wasted billions (at least) of taxpayer dollars, has taken the lives of 4,255 American soldiers (so far), has caused immeasurable stress and hardship for military and reservists’ families, has drastically decreased our military’s ability to respond to other (and possible real this time) crises, has eroded American prestige, has probably increased the risk of another terrorist attack, and has generally pissed off the planet.

When you say “Iraq” to a wingnut, however, out of the misty haze of his brain comes a mythical vision of good versus evil, where the shining forces of righteousness (righties) eternally battle the dark, malevolent Other (everybody else). And victory over the Other is not really about the Middle East or even 9/11. It’s about preserving Christmas and Jesus and gun shows, and the right of white Americans to hear no language but English spoken in the aisles of Wal-Mart. And, of course, conquering the Other requires unwavering faith. To doubt is to embolden the enemy. Through our very brain waves, we doubters gave strength to the Other; and because we refused to clap, the fairy almost died.

For the rest of us, who think somewhat more analytically, if we are accused of wanting the war in Iraq to “fail,” I’d have to ask for clarification. What part of it exactly did we want to “fail”? We on the Left do have a pubescent fringe whose antics are lovingly documented by Michelle Malkin as representative of all of us, but the truth is that Democratic Party leaders and the huge majority of liberal political activists have been supportive of the troops all along, and have not spoken against military victory in Iraq. Nor am I aware of anyone who has opposed democratic elections in Iraq or hoped the government of Iraq would fail and be replaced by a junta of Islamic radicals.

What we’ve opposed, other than the damnfool invasion itself, is the incompetence and corruption. It’s the way the Bush Administration was perpetually six months (at least) behind in responding to ongoing developments. It’s the way billions of taxpayer dollars have been soaked up by corrupt contractors or just plain evaporated. It’s the way the Bush Administration was forever coming up with post-hoc strategies that were more about domestic consumption than real-world application.

Because we actually noticed this stuff, and commented on it out loud, we were not playing by the rules of rightie myth. “Winning” requires us all to shut our eyes, keep visions of John Wayne at Iwo Jima in our heads, and to speak only of honor, glory and resolve.

On the other hand, if President Obama’s stimulus programs fail, we and much of the rest of the planet will be plunged into another Great Depression. We might end up there, anyway, for policies that are too little and too late. But not acting pretty much guarantees it.

Now, it may be that righties really don’t want another Great Depression, any more than I supported Saddam Hussein or wanted Iraq to collapse into a failed state. (Note to wingnuts: I didn’t, and I didn’t.) They just don’t comprehend that we’ll end up there if we don’t get currency moving through peoples’ hands again, and fast. Whether they don’t understand this because they’re blinkered by ideology or just plain stupid, I’ll let you decide. The fact is that the Right hasn’t come up with a alternative plan beyond oh, let’s just keep doing what we’ve been doing, which is what got us into this mess. Not an option.

Then you’ve got the faction (most righties, I suspect) who sincerely believe Barack Obama is an agent of totalitarian socialism who is trying to undermine republican government and turn the U.S. into a gulag. These are the same people who are insulted if you call them “John Birchers,” mind you.

If one really believes this, then I suppose it would be one’s patriotic duty to want Barack Obama to fail. I would argue it’s their patriotic duty to get professional help.

Update: See John Cole.

Share Button
11 Comments

Reassurance on Iraq

-->
Iraq War, Obama Administration

There has been much grumbling about President Obama’s current plans for leaving Iraq. Some critics say he is backtracking on his campaign promise to get us out of Iraq. Juan Cole says there is no reason for alarm, and that “we’re really leaving Iraq.”

Share Button
6 Comments


    About this blog

    About Maha
    Comment Policy

    Vintage Mahablog
    Email Me
















    eXTReMe Tracker













      Technorati Profile