Friday, June 30, 2006

Put Away the Flags (Howard Zinn)

Please visit Mikey Likes It! for Mike's thoughts. Everyone's tired tonight and except C.I. (who may also not be tired) pretty bummed. C.I.? "Well, I think it's liberating." Read Mike's post tonight. He has a column coming out Sunday in Polly's Brew. While the rest of us were saddened by the news of who took a pass on noting the fact that the US is keeping body counts on Iraqis, C.I.'s attitude is that it shows that you don't owe anyone anything. I suppose that's one way to look at it. It may be the correct way to look at it. Rebecca was quoting Joni Mitchell and saying, "Everybody's in it for their own game." That's, sadly, very true.

There's always space for nonsense and half-assed 'explorations,' but reality that matters doesn't stand a chance even on the supposed, brave left net. Which is really funny if you think about it, how they're all running from a story that ran in countless papers -- it's not like they're being asked to 'break' news. Merely to link an article or note it.

Well, it is all their own game in one way or another. It's been a highly depressing week.

Next week, I'm on vacation. I may blog once (possibly even twice) or I may not. Sunny wanted to take a crack at it. So she'll fill in at least once next week. She says she'd love to write every night but not sure if she can. She knows she's got at least one post in her. I appreciate whatever she does (or attempts) and it was very nice of her to insist. (Insist, not just offer. I don't want a Devil Wears Prada type book following me around. I didn't ask her to fill in. She offered and I said I thought it would be too much work. She thinks it could be fun.) So Sunny, smart, funny and, yes, sunny will be subbing for me at least once. I'll be on vacation as part of a four-some and, yes, that includes Rebecca and Flyboy. Rebecca's got Betty filling in for her some. I'm not sure of the schedule, so check out Rebecca's post. I will post here on Monday. Possibly Tuesday. The 5th starts my vacation and I'm gone until the 12th at least.

After that, shortly after, I have another break, work-break, not a vacation, coming down the line. With those two exceptions, I should be here enough to make you sick of me.

"Supreme Court Rebukes White House Over Guantanamo Tribunals" (Democracy Now!):
In a landmark decision the Supreme Court has rebuked the Bush administration for forming military tribunals to try prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. In a five to three ruling, the court said the military tribunals violated both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Convention.

What does this mean if the administration ignores it? Will the American people be outraged or will it look the other way and whine, "But we are at war!"?

My faith is gone, by the way, tonight. If I seem odd, you're not sensing something that's off the wall. It's the same all over. Nine to Five quote: "Where you gonna go? Besides, it's the same all over. Face it ladies, we are living in a pink collar ghetto." I'm sure I screwed that up. But I think you got the point. Music trivia, did you know that Dolly Parton came up with the rhythm for that song by knocking her fingernails together (actually running them across each other)? "That song" being the title track "Nine to Five." "Stumble out of bed and I tumble to the kitchen . . ."

"Justices Say U.S. Must Follow Geneva Conventions" (Democracy Now!):
The impact of the case is expected to go well beyond Guantanamo as the justices ruled that the so-called war on terror must be fought under international rules. Legal experts say the ruling challenges the Bush administration's legal defense of harsh interrogation methods, the CIA's secret prisons and the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program. The court ruled that the Geneva Convention must apply to detainees captured in the war on terror. [The Los Angeles Times reported "The real blockbuster in the Hamdan decision is the court's holding that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention applies to the conflict with Al Qaeda -- a holding that makes high-ranking Bush administration officials potentially subject to prosecution under the federal War Crimes Act."] In Thursday's ruling, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote “the Executive is bound to comply with the Rule of Law that prevails in this jurisdiction."

The administration doesn't seem at all bothered by the decision. They've given no indication that they feel they are bound by it. It's hard for me not to wonder what comes next. (Even if I weren't in my current mood.)

"Pentagon Says Homosexuality Not A Mental Disorder" (Democracy Now!):
In military news, the Pentagon announced on Wednesday that it would no longer describe homosexuality as a mental disorder. The Pentagon had come under criticism from the American Psychiatric Association and other groups after it was uncovered that a 1996 document placed homosexuality among a list of "certain mental disorders."

That's from Thursday and I wanted to note it. Better late than never seems to be this week's weak-ass apology.

Okay, new topic. How dumb am I? I've been burning up since I got home. I opened the front door this evening and thought, "It is so hot in here. Why is it so hot?" I turned the a.c. down low and it's cooled off. But after I got off the phone this evening, right before beginning to blog, I went to the kitchen to get a water out of the fridge. I was standing in there and sweating. I thought it was just because I was tired. I went back in a moment ago to get a glass of ice. I'm pouring the water bottle into the ice (I hate drinking out of plastic bottles and wish I didn't buy them but I don't trust my city's water supply or -- for that matter -- the pipes) and I look over to the stove by chance. No, it wasn't on. But the oven was.

Then I remembered that when I came home last night, I turned on the oven. I was going to toss something in while I took a shower but the phone rang and I forgot about it. I took a shower and then collapsed on the bed. The oven has been on this entire time (wasting energy I know, but what's done is done) and I could not figure out why it was so hot in the kitchen.

I can't even remember what I had planned to toss in. I don't have any pizzas in the house and I can't think of anything microwaveable. I did toss two potatoes in, after I turned it off. The oven's hot enough that it should bake those and I might feel a bit less awful about wasting so much energy (the oven's gas, not electric, not that it matters but when there's a blackout, it does come in handy).

"Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror" (Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales interview Dr. Steven Miles, "professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School and a faculty member of its Center for Bioethics"):
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Gerald Koocher, President of the American Psychological Association a few weeks ago on Democracy Now! The New York Times wrote a piece a few weeks ago saying that the military is turning away from psychiatrists, because of their policy that they should not be involved with interrogations, and is now relying on psychologists. You heard what Dr. Gerald Koocher had to say. There's a growing movement within the American Psychological Association for psychologists to withhold dues from the American Psychological Association, to withdraw from the APA, and the question of whether there will be a resolution put forward that says "no involvement in interrogation." What is your response to Koocher and that?
DR. STEVEN MILES: Well, I think that it's interesting that Koocher talks about the psychologists who did resist the abuses and then says that the ones who participated have to be APA members, or something like that. But there actually is a well-known name, a psychologist by the name of Leso. And Leso participated in the interrogation of a guy called Qahtani. Qahtani was subjected to an incredibly brutal and extended interrogation, which included such stupid things as running three liters of saline into his body, and then when he needed to urinate, keeping him strapped to a table so he had to pee on himself. And then also he was chilled with an air conditioner to the point where his heart actually slowed down. He was hospitalized, and then he was brought out to be interrogated some more after he was re-warmed, and then he was chilled again, and his heart again slowed down.
In addition to that there was a whole set of degrading psychological techniques applied to him, and it appears that this Leso was directly involved in the oversight of that. The complete interrogation log is available on the
Time website. So, the problem -- overall problem, though, is that American medicine was entirely caught off guard by the American military involvement in brutal treatment. This does represent a break in terms of our treatment of POWs compared to World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Gulf War I. And the AMA and the American Psychiatric Association have come out with very good standards, but the problem is they waited four years to do so.
The APA came out about a year after the Abu Ghraib pictures constituting a committee where the clean voting block, by about two-thirds voting block, was people with former military experience. And there was a group think within this process which essentially wound up creating an accommodation between psychologists and, of course, of interrogation. They said that the Geneva Conventions had to apply, but they allowed psychologists to conceal their identity, they allowed psychologists to work with interrogations so long as they were safe and legal in order to make them effective.
Well, this government's definition of what's a legal interrogation is infinitely elastic and so that this is not a profound barrier to psychologists, and it doesn't surprise me that the military will shift over to working with psychologists. In fact, they screen the docs before they go down to Guantanamo to make sure they have no moral objections to force-feeding and then they take the docs who don't have an objection to force-feeding, and those are the docs who get to go to Guantanamo.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain force-feeding.
DR. STEVEN MILES: Well, hunger-striking is a form of political protest by prisoners. It's against medical ethics for prison physicians to force-feed prisoners, because what it’s felt that it does is that by keeping a prisoner alive, it basically extends the abuse of the prisoner, okay? And that's exactly what's happening in Guantanamo. These prisoners have no rights, they have no correspondence, anything like that, and so by feeding them, all that's being done is their indeterminate sentences, their lack of correspondence, and the other types of interrogational abuse are being extended. And so the military is tying them into six-point chairs -- legs, thorax, abdomen and arms -- and then sticking a tube down them, running a bunch of food in, pulling the tube out, and because docs object to this professionally, they're selecting a subset of docs to take down to Guantanamo to do this procedure.
JUAN GONZALEZ: I'd like to get back to your comment where you said that you thought that what was happening in the war on terror was a break with past practices of the U.S. military. How big is that break, really, because obviously there have been instances where client states with which -- or allies of the United States were participating in terror, and there are questions clearly about how the U.S. military acted in Vietnam with the Phoenix Program and other programs where there were documented cases of torture, of captured Viet Cong?
DR. STEVEN MILES: Yeah, I think it’s important to recognize I'm talking here about the military medical system and its treatment of POWs. The subset of issues of the U.S. support for client states that engage in torture has happened commonly throughout South America, for example, is one thing. The Phoenix Program was actually operated in coordination with the government of South Vietnam, in which we supplied lists of people to be captured, interrogated and killed by the South Vietnamese. But with regard to the actual operation, the medical treatment of POWs, we really, I think, have set the standard up until now.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And in your book, you often refer to what happened during World War II and Nazi Germany. And many Americans who are not that familiar with our practices there would say that you're stretching the analogy to begin to compare what we're doing here as a country that is involved in torture with what happened in Nazi Germany.
DR. STEVEN MILES: Well, I think that’s a fair criticism, and the only point that I make about World War II is that's where the standards came from. And I think there's a big difference between what's going on in Iraq and Afghanistan and Guantanamo with Nazi medicine, because in Nazi medicine what the docs did was they created this theory of race hygiene and eugenics which justified this wholesale genocide policy.
Similarly in the Soviet Union they developed this -- the physicians developed this concept of sluggish schizophrenia, which resulted in the imprisonment for treatment of dissidents. What this looks like is much more like the experience in South American prisons, where the physicians come in and essentially certify that you're going to be able to take this kind of abuse and then going ahead and monitoring it. And then, in the case of several of the South American countries, there were physicians who wrote false death certificates, some of which were actually disbarred after the reign of terror in various countries and at least one of whom was assassinated after the reign of terror.

The comparison we're not supposed to make (Don't you dare!), he made. I think he handled it wonderfully. (He is Dr. Steven Miles.)

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend but, as much as I hope that, I also hope that you're paying attention to what's going on in Iraq.

"Iraq snapshot" ("Democracy Now: Barbara Olshansky, Steven Miles," The Common Ills):
Chaos and violence continue. So much so that
Jeffrey Snow (US "Army Col.") tells Reuters the obvious, "I think since we have started Operation Together Forward, you'll find that the number of attacks are going up." He's referring to the "crackdown" in Baghdad. As other news emerged, the latest allegations of crimes committed by US forces, Snow began making noise that "bad" media coverage could "lose" the war. Considering bad media sold the war it would be poetic if "bad" media could end it -- poetic but not likely.
Also continuing is the confusion regarding Romania.
AP leads with the withdrawal is now a dead issue which isn't correct. The Supreme Defence Council said no to "withdrawal." Kind of, sort of. What they're doing (today, at this moment) is dropping the number of troops from 890 to 628. That's today's comprise with an emphasis on "today." Why? The council's decision is meaningless if parliament doesn't back it up. (A point Edward Wong failed to grasp in the Times this morning.) For that reason as well as the fact that it will be parliament who will make the decision whether or not the Romanian troops mission is extended at the end of the year (six months away), Calin Popescu Tariceanu (Romania's prime minister) stated: "The decision was only delayed today."
AFP reports: "In a new blow to the coalition, Poland said it will pull its troops out of Iraq by the middle of next year."
Noting the indifference to Iraq (which I would place with the media),
Danny Schechter wonders if we need a "War Clock" to bring the economic costs home since "[t]he drama of human beings dying and a country like Iraq being devastated doesn't seem to register"?
We need something. Iraq's not registering. We'll probably hear some of it even though it's the 4th Weekend so everyone's rushing off to their vacations. What will we hear?
Ryan Lenz (Associated Press) reports: "Five U.S. Army soldiers are being investigated for allegedly raping a young woman, then killing her and three members of her family in Iraq" in Mahmoudiyah. The alleged crimes are said to have taken place in March and the five are alleged to have burned the body of the rape victim.
CNN is reporting that it was a "deadly" day for children, noting that a clash "between gunmen and Iraqi soldiers left a teenage girl dead" in Latifiya and that one of six corpses discovered in Baghdad was "a boy believed to be between 4 and 6. . . . shot . . . signs of torture." Corpses? AFP reports that four corpses were discovered in Al-Rashaad, near Kirkuk ("bullet-riddled"). That's ten corpses total reported thus far.
CBS and AP report that, in Abu Saida, Sunni Sheik Hatam Mitaab al-Khazraji was gunned down. RTE News notes that three are dead and at least seven wounded from a roadside bomb that went off Kirkuk.
AFP is currently estimating that "at least 14 people" died in violent attacks today (Iraiqi civilians) and the AP notes that Kyle Miller, member of 682nd Engineer Battalion, has been identified by Dean Johnson ("Guard Brig. Gen.") as the National Guardsman who died today in Iraq (a bomb "detonated near his convoy").

The Fourth of July is Tuesday, with that in mind . . .

"Put Away the Flags" (The Progressive):
It was always supposedly for benign purposes that our country went to war.
We invaded Cuba in 1898 to liberate the Cubans, and went to war in the Philippines shortly after, as President McKinley put it, "to civilize and Christianize" the Filipino people.
As our armies were committing massacres in the Philippines (at least 600,000 Filipinos died in a few years of conflict), Elihu Root, our secretary of war, was saying: "The American soldier is different from all other soldiers of all other countries since the war began. He is the advance guard of liberty and justice, of law and order, and of peace and happiness."
We see in Iraq that our soldiers are not different. They have, perhaps against their better nature, killed thousands of Iraq civilians. And some soldiers have shown themselves capable of brutality, of torture.
Yet they are victims, too, of our government's lies.
How many times have we heard President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld tell the troops that if they die, if they return without arms or legs, or blinded, it is for "liberty," for "democracy"?