And he shall be judged

On the morning of Thursday, April 10, 2003, Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon prepared a top-secret briefing for George W. Bush. This document, known as the Worldwide Intelligence Update, was a daily digest of critical military intelligence so classified that it circulated among only a handful of Pentagon leaders and the president; Rumsfeld himself often delivered it, by hand, to the White House. The briefing’s cover sheet generally featured triumphant, color images from the previous days’ war efforts: On this particular morning, it showed the statue of Saddam Hussein being pulled down in Firdos Square, a grateful Iraqi child kissing an American soldier, and jubilant crowds thronging the streets of newly liberated Baghdad. And above these images, and just below the headline secretary of defense, was a quote that may have raised some eyebrows. It came from the Bible, from the book of Psalms: “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him…To deliver their soul from death.”

This mixing of Crusades-like messaging with war imagery, which until now has not been revealed, had become routine. On March 31, a U.S. tank roared through the desert beneath a quote from Ephesians: “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” On April 7, Saddam Hussein struck a dictatorial pose, under this passage from the First Epistle of Peter: “It is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.” [continued…]

Heads in the sand

The history books will record that the so-called Sunni Awakening—when many of Iraq’s Sunni tribes, in return for money and other considerations, began cutting deals with American forces and turned away from their nationalist insurgency—got under way in late 2006. The Sunni tribes, concentrated in Anbar province, had long been the backbone of the insurgency. In the Iraq of Saddam Hussein, Sunni Arabs had exercised a domination far out of proportion to their numbers (some 20 percent of the population), and after the American-led invasion, suddenly excluded from power and influence, they exacted a bloody revenge. After the Awakening, the Sunnis helped obliterate al-Qaeda’s networks in most of Sunni Iraq, a development that many believe did more to dampen the violence than the subsequent “surge” in American troop numbers. Having reached a peak in 2006 and early 2007, the casualty rates for combatants and civilians quickly plummeted.

What the history books should also record, revealed here for the first time, is that the Sunni insurgents had offered to come to terms with the Americans 30 months earlier, in the summer of 2004, during secret talks with senior U.S. officials and military commanders. The Sunnis were gathered by an Iraqi named Talal al-Gaaod, a Sunni sheikh and wealthy businessman based in the Jordanian capital, Amman. The American officials included Jerry H. Jones, then a special assistant to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and later serving as an expert on transitional government to Rumsfeld’s successor, Robert Gates; the late ambassador Evan Galbraith, Rumsfeld’s special envoy to Europe; Colonel Mike Walker, the head of civil affairs for the Marine Corps in Iraq; and James Clad, then a counselor to the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (which was seeking to foster economic development in Iraq) and later the Pentagon’s deputy assistant secretary for South and Southeast Asia. These men were desperate to pursue the Sunni contacts, and took serious risks with their own careers in order to do so. They were supported by officers close to the top of the U.S. military, including Lieutenant General James T. Conway, then the Marine Corps commander in Iraq and today the commandant of the Corps. For a variety of reasons, some of them petty, some of them ideological, and some of them still obscure, these men were blocked by superiors in the State Department, the Pentagon, and the White House. [continued…]

Rumsfeld’s renegade unit blamed for Afghan deaths

Troops from the US Marines Corps’ Special Operations Command, or MarSOC, were responsible for calling in air strikes in Bala Boluk, in Farah, last week – believed to have killed more than 140 men, women and children – as well as two other incidents in 2007 and 2008. News of MarSOC’s involvement in the three incidents comes just days after a Special Forces expert, Lieutenant-General Stanley McChrystal, was named to take over as the top commander of US and Nato troops in Afghanistan. His surprise appointment has prompted speculation that commando counterinsurgency missions will increase in the battle to beat the Taliban.

MarSOC was created three years ago on the express orders of Donald Rumsfeld, US defence secretary at the time, despite opposition from within the Marine Corps and the wider Special Forces community. An article in the Marine Corps Times described the MarSOC troops as “cowboys” who brought shame on the corps.

The first controversial incident involving the unit happened just three weeks into its first deployment to Afghanistan on 4 March 2007. Speeding away from a suicide bomb attack close to the Pakistan border, around 120 men from Fox Company opened fire on civilians near Jalalabad, in Nangahar province. The Marines said they were shot at after the explosion; eyewitnesses said the Americans fired indiscriminately at pedestrians and civilian cars, killing at least 19 people. [continued…]

Human rights investigator, attorney John Sifton: torture investigation should focus on estimated 100 prisoner deaths

FBI interrogator, Ali Soufan: The interrogator uses a combination of interpersonal, cognitive and emotional strategies to extract the information needed. If done correctly, this approach works quickly and effectively, because it outsmarts the detainee using a method that he is not trained nor able to resist. The Army Field Manual is not about being soft. It’s about outwitting, outsmarting and manipulating the detainee.

The approach is in sharp contrast of the enhanced interrogation method that instead tries to subjugate the detainee into submission through humiliation and cruelty. A major problem is it—it is ineffective. Al-Qaeda are trained to resist torture, as we see from the recently released DOJ memos on interrogation. The contractors had to keep requesting authorization to use harsher and harsher methods.

In the case of Abu Zubaydah, that continued for several months, right ’til waterboarding was introduced. And waterboarding itself had to be used eighty-three times, an indication that Abu Zubaydah had already called his interrogators’ bluff. In contrast, when we interrogated him using intelligent interrogation methods, within the first hour we gained important actionable intelligence. [continued…]

Obama can’t turn the page on Bush

To paraphrase Al Pacino in “Godfather III,” just when we thought we were out, the Bush mob keeps pulling us back in. And will keep doing so. No matter how hard President Obama tries to turn the page on the previous administration, he can’t. Until there is true transparency and true accountability, revelations of that unresolved eight-year nightmare will keep raining down drip by drip, disrupting the new administration’s high ambitions.

That’s why the president’s flip-flop on the release of detainee abuse photos — whatever his motivation — is a fool’s errand. The pictures will eventually emerge anyway, either because of leaks (if they haven’t started already) or because the federal appeals court decision upholding their release remains in force. And here’s a bet: These images will not prove the most shocking evidence of Bush administration sins still to come.

There are many dots yet to be connected, and not just on torture. This Sunday, GQ magazine is posting on its Web site an article adding new details to the ample dossier on how Donald Rumsfeld’s corrupt and incompetent Defense Department cost American lives and compromised national security. The piece is not the work of a partisan but the Texan journalist Robert Draper, author of “Dead Certain,” the 2007 Bush biography that had the blessing (and cooperation) of the former president and his top brass. It draws on interviews with more than a dozen high-level Bush loyalists. [continued…]

Separation anxiety as U.S. prepares to leave Sadr City

The unthinkable is happening in Sadr City as the U.S. military begins to shut down its outposts to meet a June 30 deadline to withdraw from Iraqi cities.

Separation anxiety is growing among residents, local leaders and American soldiers in the sprawling, impoverished Shiite district that was once the most dangerous battlefield in Baghdad for U.S. troops.

“When the Americans leave, everything will be looted because no one will be watching,” an Iraqi army lieutenant newly deployed there said. “There will be a civil war — without a doubt,” predicted an Iraqi interpreter. Council members have asked about political asylum in the United States. [continued…]

World watches for U.S. shift on Mideast

[Chas] Freeman, in a telephone interview last week, said he still believed that Mr. Obama would go where his predecessors did not on Israel. Mr. Obama’s appointment of Gen. James L. Jones as his national security adviser — a man who has worked with Palestinians and Israelis to try to open up movement for Palestinians on the ground and who has sometimes irritated Israeli military officials — could foreshadow friction between the Obama administration and the Israeli government, several Middle East experts said.

The same is true for the appointment of George J. Mitchell as Mr. Obama’s special envoy to the region; Mr. Mitchell, who helped negotiate peace in Northern Ireland, has already hinted privately that the administration may have to look for ways to include Hamas, in some fashion, in a unity Palestinian government.

Mr. Obama’s meeting with Mr. Netanyahu, while crucial, may only preview the beginning of the path the president will take, Mr. Freeman said.

“You can’t really tell anything by what happened to me and the fact that he didn’t step forward to take on the skunks,” he said, referring to his own appointment controversy and Mr. Obama’s silence amid critics’ attacks. “The first nine months, Nixon was absolutely horrible on China. In retrospect, it was clear that he had every intention to charge ahead, but he was picking his moment. He didn’t want to have the fight before he had to have the fight.”

“I sense that Obama is picking his moment,” Mr. Freeman said. [continued…]

Images, the law and war

Andrew C. McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor who has handled terrorism cases, said the only prudent course in the current case is to withhold the images. “If you’re in a war that’s been authorized by Congress, it should be an imperative to win the war,” he said. “If you have photos that could harm the war effort, you should delay release of the photos.”

But Jameel Jaffer, a lawyer with the civil liberties union, said history favored disclosure, citing the 2004 photographs from Abu Ghraib and the 1991 video of police beating Rodney King in Los Angeles.

But the touchstone remains the Pentagon papers case. It not only framed the issues, but also created a real-world experiment in consequences.

The government had argued, in general terms, that publication of the papers would cost American soldiers their lives. The papers were published. What happened?

David Rudenstine, the dean of the Cardozo Law School and author of “The Day the Presses Stopped,” a history of the case, said he investigated the aftermath with an open mind.

“I couldn’t find any evidence whatsoever from any responsible government official,” he said, “that there was any harm.” [continued…]

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One thought on “NEWS & VIEWS ROUNDUP: May 17

  1. DE Teodoru

    Mr. Rich, while strategic an-alphabets like Gen. Keane and his protege Petraeus insist we need 50 more years to our anti-Islam COIN crusades, North Korea still has nukes because China said “yes” Pyongyang and “no” to our doing anything about it. Get used to it Mr&Mrs USA, China decides because it owns our dollars– BANKERS RULE and we are indebted to our own greed.

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