Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Friday, August 18th, 2006.


Bush Administration, Iraq War

If you are out and about this weekend, find a bookstore or newsstand and buy a copy of the September issue of Harper’s. The cover art is a modernist (modernist may be the wrong word; I’m not keeping up with trends in contemporary art) painting of a teacher and students posed for a class picture.

There are a number of good articles in this issue, but the one I most particularly want to call to your attention is “American Gulag: Prisoners’ Tales from the War on Terror” by Eliza Griswold. Griswold interviewed several former prisoners at Guantanamo and elsewhere, and talked to family members and lawyers of prisoners still being held. The lawyers, working pro bono, are among 500 lawyers organized by the Center for Constitutional Rights to represent prisoners at Guantanamo. (The article probably will be posted on the web eventually, but not for two or three months.)

If even half of what Griswold writes is true, Guantanamo could be the blackest mark yet on our country’s history.


►There is no indication that the Hamdan decision will make a dime’s worth of difference to the “450 prisoners held at Guantanamo, let alone the 13,000 people currently ‘detained’ in Iraq, the 500 or so in Afghanistan, and the unknown number (estimated to be about 100) at secret CIA ‘black sites’ around the world,” Griswold writes. President Bush has made up his mind that the Court in Hamdan ruled in his favor, so he sees no reason to change.

►To date, “98 detainees have died (34 of those deaths are being investigated as homicides) and more than 600 U.S. personnel have been implicated in some form of abuse.”

►Since even the Red Cross is given extremely limited and restricted access to the prisons (and, of course, no access at all to the “black sites,” shipboard brigs, or “forward operating sites” where most abuses occur), essentially this means there is no way to find out what’s really going on.

►Only about 5 percent of the prisoners at Guantanamo were arrested by Americans. The rest were captured by other Arabs Muslims/Middle Easterners and turned over or sold for a bounty. For example, Abdullah al Noaimi of Bahrain was captured by Pashtun tribesmen and sold to Pakistani security forces in 2001. At the time, Griswold writes, “there seemed to be a bounty on every Arab’s head, and fliers promising ‘wealth and power beyond your dreams’ were dropping, as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, ‘like snowflakes in December in Chicago.'” After several weeks of detention by the Pakistanis, al Noaimi was turned over to Americans at Kandahar. Al Noaimi had visited the U.S. and for a time was a student at Old Dominion University in Virginia. He figured he’d tell the Americans his arrest was a mistake, and he could go home.

Abdullah al Noaimi was kept in Guantanamo for four years. He only recently returned home. The U.S. military decided al Noaimi was an enemy combatant, although the evidence supporting this claim remains secret.

►”Despite everything that is hidden about the practices in Guantanamo Bay,” Griswold says, “it is still the most transparent piece of the large mosaic of U.S. detention. And so the U.S. has begun to employ a sort of shell game to hide the more embarrassingly innocent detainees from public scrutiny: we simply send them home to be imprisoned by their own governments.”

►A prominent Yemeni businessman, Abdulsalam al Hila, was in Egypt on business in September 2002 when he disappeared. His family had no idea where he was until, two years later, they received a letter smuggled out of a U.S. prison in Afghanistan.

►In 2004 an Afghani man was taken prisoner with his 12-year-old son. Both the father and son had a bag over their heads for eighteen days.

►Men released from Bagram describe frequent beatings and days without food. The lawyers of the Center for Constitutional Rights say there is nothing they can do for prisoners there. They cannot even prove that U.S. law applies in Bagram.

Someday, whatever is going on in those prisons will see the light of day. And then there will be global outrage, and Americans will be shocked and say they had no idea any such thing was going on.

Elsewhere in this issue of Harper’s –a young man describes his internship with the Lincoln Group in Iraq. Lincoln Group is a pack of amateurs who got multi-million dollar contracts form the Pentagon to plant pro-U.S. stories in Middle Eastern newspapers. It’s a jaw-dropping story. See also Lewis Lapham’s “tribute” to Halliburton.

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Warriors and/or Wankers


Tbogg speaks for me.

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Many Thanks

Bush Administration, Iraq War

Not many bloggers noticed it, but yesterday Dan Froomkin revealed what it will take for President Bush to decide the Iraq mission is fulfilled so that our troops can leave.

He is waiting for Iraq to thank him.


Alarmed at a brief dribble of actual un-spun news from inside the White House, spokesman Tony Snow yesterday tried his darndest to discredit it.

The dribble emerged courtesy of four scholars invited to talk with President Bush about Iraq on Monday. None of them substantively disagreed with Bush’s policies — see my column yesterday, Bush Bubble Alive and Well — but they did talk to New York Times reporters afterwards about where the president seemed to be coming from.

As a result, Thom Shanker and Mark Mazzetti wrote in the Times yesterday: “President Bush made clear in a private meeting this week that he was concerned about the lack of progress in Iraq and frustrated that the new Iraqi government — and the Iraqi people — had not shown greater public support for the American mission, participants in the meeting said Tuesday. . . .

“[T]he president expressed frustration that Iraqis had not come to appreciate the sacrifices the United States had made in Iraq, and was puzzled as to how a recent anti-American rally in support of Hezbollah in Baghdad could draw such a large crowd.”

Froomkin goes on to describe Tony Snow’s denial of the President’s frustration. The President is not frustrated, says Snow. He is determined. And that’s the official White House position.

But Froomkin found more evidence of presidential frustration.

As columnist Sidney Blumenthal points out in Salon today: “Bush’s demand for expressions of gratitude from the Iraqis is not a new one. In his memoir, L. Paul Bremer III, head of the ill-fated Coalition Provisional Authority, records that above all other issues Bush stressed the need for an Iraqi government to declare its thanks.”

Peter W. Galbraith has more in his article on Bremer’s book for the New York Review of Books: Bremer “had lunch with the President before leaving for Baghdad — a meeting joined by the Vice President and the national security team — but no decision seems to have been made on any of the major issues concerning Iraq’s future. Instead, Bremer got a blanket grant of authority that he clearly enjoyed exercising. The President’s directions seem to have been limited to such slogans as ‘we’re not going to fail’ and ‘pace yourself, Jerry.’ In Bremer’s account, the President was seriously interested in one issue: whether the leaders of the government that followed the CPA would publicly thank the United States. . . .

“Bush had only one demand: ‘It’s important to have someone who’s willing to stand up and thank the American people for their sacrifice in liberating Iraq.’ According to Bremer, he came back to this single point three times in the same meeting. Similarly, Ghazi al-Yawar, an obscure Sunni Arab businessman, became Bush’s candidate for president of Iraq’s interim government because, as Bremer reports, Bush had ‘been favorably impressed with his open thanks to the Coalition.’ “

If that’s what he’s waiting for, Iraq, by all means thank the man. Send him flowers and a fruit basket. Bake him the biggest bleeping cake you can fit into an oven and write Thank you President Bush on top. And add a picture of Bush surrounded by bald eagles (white and dark chocolate feathers!). If you can’t mail the cake, send him some of the chocolate feathers with a photo of the cake and tell him it was delicious.

And, Iraq, if mailing a thank you card is inconvenient — or dangerous — here is a selection of free email thank you cards. Customize one and send it to

If it’s not too much trouble, stage a parade in his honor. I know you can’t have a real parade without inviting mass slaughter, but maybe you could build a secured soundstage and fake it. Have marchers walk past one of those blue screens and add street scenes later. Or maybe some Bollywood producer would make it for you, in India. The President won’t know the difference. Trust me on this.

Tell him you’re commissioning Iraq’s best sculptor to create a statue of President Bush the Victorious to be erected where the statue of Saddam Hussein used to stand. Send him sketches showing three or four versions of what the statue might look like, and tell him he can pick the one he likes best. Promise to invite him to a big ceremony when the statue is unveiled. Don’t forget to make up some excuse to explain why it’s going to take a really long time to get the statue finished. Like, you’re all out of bronze.

And don’t forget to tell the President that because of his determined and resolute guidance Iraq is all grown up now and can manage on its own. Say you’ll miss us, but now you’re standing up, and you want all those coalition soldiers so dear to your hearts to stand down. Maybe promise the President a nice going away present — something really special you’ll send him just as soon as all the Americans and Brits are gone.

You don’t have to mean it.

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