i haven’t been posting much recently. this (among other things) is the reason why:

Bush Seeks Retroactive Immunity for Violating War Crimes Act
By Elizabeth Holtzman
23 September 2006

Thirty-two years ago, President Gerald Ford created a political firestorm by pardoning former President Richard Nixon of all crimes he may have committed in Watergate – and lost his election as a result. Now, President Bush, to avoid a similar public outcry, is quietly trying to pardon himself of any crimes connected with the torture and mistreatment of U.S. detainees.

The “pardon” is buried in Bush’s proposed legislation to create a new kind of military tribunal for cases involving top al-Qaida operatives. The “pardon” provision has nothing to do with the tribunals. Instead, it guts the War Crimes Act of 1996, a federal law that makes it a crime, in some cases punishable by death, to mistreat detainees in violation of the Geneva Conventions and makes the new, weaker terms of the War Crimes Act retroactive to 9/11.

Press accounts of the provision have described it as providing immunity for CIA interrogators. But its terms cover the president and other top officials because the act applies to any U.S. national.

Avoiding prosecution under the War Crimes Act has been an obsession of this administration since shortly after 9/11. In a January 2002 memorandum to the president, then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales pointed out the problem of prosecution for detainee mistreatment under the War Crimes Act. He notes that given the vague language of the statute, no one could predict what future “prosecutors and independent counsels” might do if they decided to bring charges under the act. As an author of the 1978 special prosecutor statute, I know that independent counsels (who used to be called “special prosecutors” prior to the statute’s reauthorization in 1994) aren’t for low-level government officials such as CIA interrogators, but for the president and his Cabinet. It is clear that Gonzales was concerned about top administration officials.

Gonzales also understood that the specter of prosecution could hang over top administration officials involved in detainee mistreatment throughout their lives. Because there is no statute of limitations in cases where death resulted from the mistreatment, prosecutors far into the future, not appointed by Bush or beholden to him, would be making the decisions whether to prosecute.

To “reduce the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act,” Gonzales recommended that Bush not apply the Geneva Conventions to al-Qaida and the Taliban. Since the War Crimes Act carried out the Geneva Conventions, Gonzales reasoned that if the Conventions didn’t apply, neither did the War Crimes Act. Bush implemented the recommendation on Feb. 7, 2002.

When the Supreme Court recently decided that the Conventions did apply to al-Qaida and Taliban detainees, the possibility of criminal liability for high-level administration officials reared its ugly head again.

What to do? The administration has apparently decided to secure immunity from prosecution through legislation. Under cover of the controversy involving the military tribunals and whether they could use hearsay or coerced evidence, the administration is trying to pardon itself, hoping that no one will notice. The urgent timetable has to do more than anything with the possibility that the next Congress may be controlled by Democrats, who will not permit such a provision to be adopted.

Creating immunity retroactively for violating the law sets a terrible precedent. The president takes an oath of office to uphold the Constitution; that document requires him to obey the laws, not violate them. A president who knowingly and deliberately violates U.S. criminal laws should not be able to use stealth tactics to immunize himself from liability, and Congress should not go along.

Congress gives Bush the right to torture and detain people forever
By Glenn Greenwald
September 28th, 2006

Following in the footsteps of the House, the Senate this afternoon approved the bill which vests in the President the power of indefinite, unreviewable detention (even of U.S. citizens) and which also legalizes various torture techniques. It is not hyperbole to say that this is one of the most tyrannical and dangerous bills to be enacted in our nation’s history.

The final Senate vote was 65-34. The Democrats lacked the votes for a filibuster and therefore did not attempt one. Twelve (out of 44) Senate Democrats voted in favor of this bill, while only one Republican (Chafee) voted against it. The dishonorable list of Democrats voting for the bill: Carper (Del.), Johnson (S.D.), Landrieu (La.), Lautenberg (N.J.), Lieberman (Conn.), Menendez (N.J), Nelson (Fla.), Nelson (Neb.), Pryor (Ark.), Rockefeller (W. Va.), Salazar (Co.), Stabenow (Mich).

One can look at the Democrats’ conduct here in one of two ways. On the one hand, it is true that the Democrats disappeared from the debate until today, all but hiding behind John McCain in the futile hope that he would remain steadfast in his opposition to the White House. Once the Democrats designated McCain as the Noble and Wise Torture Expert who spoke on their behalf, it became very difficult for them to oppose the “compromise” bill whereby McCain predictably capitulated and gave the Bush administration virtually everything it wanted. Democrats painted themselves into this corner by failing forcefully to advocate their own position against torture and indefinite detention.

Nonetheless, it is simply a fact that virtually every Republican in the House and the Senate (with one sole exception in the Senate and only 7 in the House) voted in favor of this tyrannical bill, while Democrats overwhelmingly opposed it (in the House, 160 Democrats voted “no,” while 34 voted “yes”). With those facts assembled, it is fair to say that the Republicans are the party of torture, indefinite and unreviewable detention powers, and limitless presidential power, even over U.S. citizens on U.S. soil. By contrast, Democrats have largely opposed these tyrannical, un-American and truly dangerous measures. Even if Democrats didn’t oppose them as vociferously as they could have and should have — and that is plainly the case – this is still a meaningful and, at this point in our country’s history, a critically important contrast.

Senate backs Bush over terror suspects
September 29, 2006

The US Senate has voted for legislation endorsing President George Bush’s plan for tough measures to interrogate and prosecute terrorism suspects.

The new laws will grant the president permission to authorise interrogation techniques viewed as illegal under international conventions and allow the setting up of “military commissions” to prosecute terror suspects.

The 65-34 vote gives final approval for a bill seen by Republicans as a chance to highlight their tough stance against terrorism in the run-up to congressional elections on November 7.

Senators voted predominantly along party lines, though 12 Democrats voted for the bill and one Republican against it.

President Bush welcomed the news last night, saying in a statement: “The Senate sent out a strong signal to the terrorists that we will continue using every element of national power to pursue our enemies and to prevent attacks on America.”

Apparently referring to the once-secret American intelligence programme of detention and aggressive interrogations of suspects, he added: “The Military Commissions Act of 2006 will allow the continuation of a CIA programme that has been one of America’s most potent tools in fighting the war on terror.”

The House of Representatives passed almost identical legislation by 253-168 on Wednesday. It must make a technical change to bring it in line with the Senate’s measure and Bush is expected to sign the bill soon afterwards.

The bill would prohibit severe abuses such as rape and torture but allow the president to “interpret the meaning and application” of the Geneva conventions governing the treatment of war prisoners.

This measure could allow Mr Bush to authorise aggressive interrogation methods that might otherwise be viewed as illegal by international courts.

Human rights groups fear it could allow harsh techniques that border on torture such as sleep deprivation and induced hypothermia.

The bill expands the definition of “enemy combatants” – mostly held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba – to include those who provide weapons, money and other support to terrorist groups.

Under the new legislation, a terrorist suspect held there could be tried by a military commission that would allow the use of evidence obtained by coercion but would give defendants access to classified evidence being used to convict them.

Those subject to commission trials would be people who have “engaged in hostilities or who [have] purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its co-belligerents”.

Proponents say this definition would not apply to US citizens.

The bill would also remove some rights present in military and civilian courts. Hearsay evidence, for example – currently barred from civilian courts – would be allowed as long as a judge considered it reliable.

The administration failed in its efforts to push through the terrorism surveillance programmes championed by Bush, which would include wiretapping without the need for a warrant.

Agreement between the Senate and the House on this is now unlikely before the elections.

Most Iraqis Favor Immediate U.S. Pullout, Polls Show
By Amit R. Paley
September 27, 2006

Iraqis want US out!

BAGHDAD, Sept. 26 — A strong majority of Iraqis want U.S.-led military forces to immediately withdraw from the country, saying their swift departure would make Iraq more secure and decrease sectarian violence, according to new polls by the State Department and independent researchers.

In Baghdad, for example, nearly three-quarters of residents polled said they would feel safer if U.S. and other foreign forces left Iraq, with 65 percent of those asked favoring an immediate pullout, according to State Department polling results obtained by The Washington Post.

Another new poll, scheduled to be released on Wednesday by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, found that 71 percent of Iraqis questioned want the Iraqi government to ask foreign forces to depart within a year. By large margins, though, Iraqis believed that the U.S. government would refuse the request, with 77 percent of those polled saying the United States intends keep permanent military bases in the country.

The stark assessments, among the most negative attitudes toward U.S.-led forces since they invaded Iraq in 2003, contrast sharply with views expressed by the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Last week at the United Nations, President Jalal Talabani said coalition troops should remain in the country until Iraqi security forces are “capable of putting an end to terrorism and maintaining stability and security.”

“Only then will it be possible to talk about a timetable for the withdrawal of the multinational forces from Iraq,” he said.

Recent polls show many Iraqis in nearly every part of the country disagree.

“Majorities in all regions except Kurdish areas state that the Multi-National Force-Iraq (MNF-I) should withdraw immediately, adding that the MNF-I’s departure would make them feel safer and decrease violence,” concludes the 20-page State Department report, titled “Iraq Civil War Fears Remain High in Sunni and Mixed Areas.” The report was based on 1,870 face-to-face interviews conducted from late June to early July.

The Program on International Policy Attitudes poll, which was conducted over the first three days of September for, found that support among Sunni Muslims for a withdrawal of all U.S.-led forces within six months dropped to 57 percent in September from 83 percent in January.

“There is a kind of softening of Sunni attitudes toward the U.S.,” said Steven Kull, director of PIPA and editor of “But you can’t go so far as to say the majority of Sunnis don’t want the U.S. out. They do. They’re just not quite in the same hurry as they were before.”

The PIPA poll, which has a margin of error of 3 percent, was carried out by Iraqis in all 18 provinces who conducted interviews with more than 1,000 randomly selected Iraqis in their homes.

Using complex sampling methods based on data from Iraq’s Planning Ministry, the pollsters selected streets on which to conduct interviews. They then contacted every third house on the left side of the road. When they selected a home, the interviewers then collected the names and birth dates of everyone who lived there and polled the person with the most recent birthday.

Matthew Warshaw, a senior research manager at D3 Systems, which helped conduct the poll, said he didn’t think Iraqis were any less likely to share their true opinions with pollsters than Americans. “It’s a concern you run up against in Iowa or in Iraq,” he said. “But for the most part we’re asking questions that people want to give answers to. People want to have their voice heard.”

The greatest risk, he said, was the safety of the interviewers. Two pollsters for another Iraqi firm were recently killed because of their work.

The State Department report did not give a detailed methodology for its poll, which it said was carried out by an unnamed Iraqi polling firm. Lou Fintor, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, said he could not comment on the public opinion surveys.

The director of another Iraqi polling firm, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared being killed, said public opinion surveys he conducted last month showed that 80 percent of Iraqis who were questioned favored an immediate withdrawal. Eight-five percent of Sunnis in that poll supported an immediate withdrawal, a number virtually unchanged in the past two years, except for the two months after the Samarra bombing, when the number fell to about 70 percent, the poll director said.

“The very fact that there is such a low support for American forces has to do with the American failure to do basically anything for Iraqis,” said Mansoor Moaddel, a professor of sociology at Eastern Michigan University, who commissioned a poll earlier this year that also found widespread support for a withdrawal. “It’s part of human nature. People respect authority and power. But the U.S. so far has been unable to establish any real authority.”

Interviews with two dozen Baghdad residents in recent weeks suggest one central cause for Iraqi distrust of the Americans: They believe the U.S. government has deliberately thrown the country into chaos.

The most common theory heard on the streets of Baghdad is that the American military is creating a civil war to create an excuse to keep its forces here.

“Do you really think it’s possible that America — the greatest country in the world — cannot manage a small country like this?” Mohammad Ali, 42, an unemployed construction worker, said as he sat in his friend’s electronics shop on a recent afternoon. “No! They have not made any mistakes. They brought people here to destroy Iraq, not to build Iraq.”

As he drew on a cigarette and two other men in the store nodded in agreement, Ali said the U.S. government was purposely depriving the Iraqi people of electricity, water, gasoline and security, to name just some of the things that most people in this country often lack.

“They could fix everything in one hour if they wanted!” he said, jabbing his finger in the air for emphasis.

Mohammed Kadhem al-Dulaimi, 54, a Sunni Arab who used to be a professional soccer player, said he thought the United States was creating chaos in the country as a pretext to stay in Iraq as long as it has stayed in Germany.

“All bad things that are happening in Iraq are just because of the Americans,” he said, sipping a tiny cup of sweet tea in a cafe. “When should they leave? As soon as possible. Every Iraqi will tell you this.”

Many Iraqi political leaders, on the other hand, have been begging the Americans to stay, especially since the February bombing of a Shiite Muslim shrine in Samarra, which touched off the current round of sectarian reprisal killings between Sunnis and Shiites.

The most dramatic about-face came from Sunni leaders, initially some of the staunchest opponents to the U.S. occupation, who said coalition forces were the only buffer preventing Shiite militias from slaughtering Sunnis.

Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, the outspoken Sunni speaker of parliament who this summer said that “the U.S. occupation is the work of butchers,” now supports the U.S. military staying in Iraq for as long as a decade.

“Don’t let them go before they have corrected what they have done,” he said in an interview this month. “They should stay for four years. This is the minimum. Maybe 10 years.”

Particularly in mixed neighborhoods here in the capital, some Sunnis say the departure of U.S. forces could trigger a genocide. Hameed al-Kassi, 24, a recent college graduate who lives in the Yarmouk district of Baghdad, worried that rampages by Shiite militias could cause “maybe 60 to 70 percent of the Sunnis to be killed, even the women, old and the young.”

“There will be lakes of blood,” Kassi said. “Of course we want the Americans to leave, but if they do, it will be a great disaster for us.”

In a barbershop in the capital’s Karrada district Tuesday afternoon, a group of men discussed some of the paradoxical Iraqi opinions of coalition troops. They recognized that the departure of U.S.-led forces could trigger more violence, and yet they harbored deep-rooted anger toward the Americans.

“I really don’t like the Americans who patrol on the street. They should all go away,” said a young boy as he swept up hair on the shop’s floor. “But I do like the one who guards my church. He should stay!”

Sitting in a neon-orange chair as he waited for a haircut, Firas Adnan, a 27-year-old music student, said: “I really don’t know what I want. If the Americans leave right now, there is going to be a massacre in Iraq. But if they don’t leave, there will be more problems. From my point of view, though, it would be better for them to go out today than tomorrow.”

He paused for a moment, then said, “We just want to go back and live like we did before.”

dude, where’s my country?


A "War on Terror" can’t be won, because it can’t be fought
by Vin Suprynowicz

It’s widely asserted the United States is fighting a “war on terror.” But that’s absurd.

Terror is a tactic – an attempt to undermine the morale of a much stronger foe, whom the “terrorists” know they cannot defeat in traditional battle.

When our ancestors sent John Paul Jones in a fast frigate to burn some English coastal towns and harass their shipping during the American Revolution, that was an attempt at terrorism – engaging English non-combatants (who had little if any say in their King’s colonial wars) on the home front in an attempt to convince the British Parliament this seemingly remote and distant war was not a good idea, when we knew darned well our fledgling Navy wouldn’t have stood a chance in a fleet action against the Royal Navy. (The Royal Navy even beat the French – though fortunately shortly AFTER that military genius Cornwallis found the French Admiral DeGrasse at his back at Yorktown.)

Terror is a tactic. Imagine the New York Yankees taking the field against the Baltimore Orioles, and announcing their opponent this night is not the Orioles themselves, but that instead they are waging a “battle against the bunt.” They could bring all seven of their defensive players well inside the base paths, and pretty successfully stop the bunt. Of course, the Orioles would circle the bases like merry-go-round ponies after hitting what would otherwise be easily-caught flies to the outfield. But darn it, the bunt would be defeated!

Terrorism is a tactic. It makes no sense to launch a war against a tactic.

Imagine Franklin Roosevelt announcing on Dec. 8, 1941, that we were declaring war not on Japan, but on the evil tactic of the sneak attack via aircraft carrier.

Wising up, the Japanese could easily have agreed to scuttle all their aircraft carriers, and instead stationed battlewagons just off Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sydney and Seattle, shelling those cities to smithereens.

Imagine Roosevelt, Marshall, and McArthur responding, “Well, that’s OK then. We have no objection to the shelling of our major west coast cities, so long as it’s done by conventional battleships and not those darned, sneaky aircraft carriers. This was a war against sneak attack by aircraft carriers, after all, and with Admiral Yamamoto’s gracious scuttling of the Japanese carrier fleet, we consider that we’ve brought our war to a successful conclusion, even though the Japanese still occupy all of East Asia as far south as Australia. The residents of our West Coast cities will just have to move further inland, that’s all.”


What tactic will we make war on next, the artillery barrage?

Terrorism is a tactic. It makes no sense to launch a war against a tactic, no matter how nasty, because it ignores the fact that we or our friends may well choose to adopt tactics in which someone else might see similarities to the enemy tactics we condemn, and that meantime the enemy can simply choose another tactic. What tactic will we make war on next, the artillery barrage? The amphibious landing? Chess players resorting to the devilish fianchetto?

The other problem with declaring “war” against a tactic, of course, is that there’s no reasonable point at which the subjects of the war-making government can expect that “war” to end. There are always going to be a few more goofballs out there, yearning for a way to extract revenge on “The Great Satan” for some perceived slight to them or their ancestors … right? They don’t and won’t ever have fleets of aircraft carriers or armored divisions to invade us through Mexico or Canada. So their only option is what we choose to call “terrorism.”

Americans gladly put up with the draft, margarine rationing, wage controls, and all kinds of other hardships (many unnecessary, harmful, and counterproductive, as could be expected from a loose cannon like Franklin Roosevelt, though that’s another story) to defeat Hitler and Tojo. But the deal always was that once the thugs in question were dead and their armies defeated, it would all be over and we could turn on the lights again.

When is it we can reasonably expect a “victory” in this war on terror, whereupon we can sell off the airport metal detectors for scrap, fire all these TSA body-gropers, start carrying our hunting rifles onto the planes again, and tell the banks it’s once again none of their business why we want to withdraw or deposit $50,000 in cash, since we’re no longer looking for sneaky Arab terrorist money-launderers, and surely that stuff never had anything to do with red-blooded Americans dodging the income tax … did it?

Besides, if we’re engaged in a “War on Terror,” how are we going to decide whether our enemy in the Caucasus is the Russians or the Chechens? Which side initiated the use of terror, there? (Hint: The Chechens never tried to conquer Russia, leveling whole cities and kidnapping the children to be hauled home and raised in a foreign culture and religion.) After all, we can’t make war on some terrors, and ignore others, and claim to be fighting a “War on Terror” … can we? Wouldn’t that be like fighting the 1940s Nazis in North Africa, but not in France, since France was harder to get to?

No one knows what the heck a “War on Terror” really means except the permanent institutionalization of the predictable paranoia of tyrants afraid their oppressed peasant classes will eventually wise up and shoot back.

Since no one knows what the heck a “War on Terror” really means except the permanent institutionalization of the predictable paranoia of tyrants afraid their oppressed peasant classes will eventually wise up and shoot back, making the absurd claim that we’re fighting a “War on Terror” easily justifies anything that makes our rulers “feel safer,” starting with the random search and disarming of domestic airplane passengers, subway passengers, and down-on-their luck residents being expelled at gunpoint from waterlogged New Orleans (by guardsmen bringing home the skill and habit of disarming civilians learned in their deployments to Bosnia and elsewhere, just as I’ve long predicted.)

What ever happened to fighting a war against – oh, I don’t know … the people who attacked us, regardless of their tactics?

And this may get us to the heart of the matter: Is all this nonsense merely so we can avoid confronting the simple but Politically Incorrect act of naming our real enemy?

What ever happened to fighting a war against the people who attacked us, regardless of their tactics?

Since Sept. 11, 2001 – if not earlier – we’ve been at war with a considerable bunch of radical, fundamentalist Middle Eastern Islamic men, men who shoot popes and behead Christian schoolgirls in Indonesia and lady missionaries in Iraq and otherwise behave in a manner which would get them put outside in the cold till they learn to stop soiling the carpets in any civilized home even at Christmastime, and who unfortunately draw comfort and support from a much larger mass of mewling Muslims (even here in the West) who may not be actively taking up arms (though they do seem to be out to burn every automobile in France, as this is written in early November, 2005), but who are willing to lend them both moral and financial support, whining, “Well, what do you expect when there is no justice for the Palestinian people who were kicked out of Jordan by the son-of-a-dog Jews after the regrettable events of September, 1970?” – at war with a bunch of wild-eyed Middle Eastern Mohammedans who hope to expel any remainder of post-15th-century cultural progress from their homelands, the better to lead their people back to a vicious 14th century religious tyranny, complete with the stoning to death of rape victims, Christian missionaries, and any woman who goes out in public with her forearms exposed.

Now, do such folks have a right to live under Sharia law? The answer is pretty much yes – pluralism, self-determination and all – though of course we commiserate with any minority who find themselves stranded in regions where such gibbering loonies hold sway, and who wish they could live in conditions we’re more likely to describe as “freedom.” The solution, however, is to allow those who wish to live in freedom to emigrate (while concentrating on restoring our previous freedoms right here at home), so long as they comply with a few reasonable requirements, like: They should learn English if they want to vote, they have no right to demand our women dress up like bag ladies at the public swimming pool, and they have to offer some convincing evidence that they understand and embrace quaint notions like “religious tolerance and the separation of church and state.”

Then we could and should have a sensible, open debate in Congress about whether this struggle properly fits any standard definition of a “war,” and how best to prosecute it – starting with how we locate and identify our enemy.

For instance, the Constitution allows the equipping of private warships under “letters of marque” to make war on selected foreign enemies. Might not the retention of such mercenaries, giving them a “license to kill” those designated enemies and seize their stuff anywhere away from our shores, make more sense than undertaking, oh – I don’t want to be TOO ridiculous here – the task of rebuilding the entire infrastructure of the cobbled-together and decrepit state of Iraq, while taking fire from every disgruntled towelhead who can lay hands on a Kalashnikov and scrape up bus fare to Baghdad?


Torture’s Long Shadow
By Vladimir Bukovsky
December 18, 2005


One nasty morning Comrade Stalin discovered that his favorite pipe was missing. Naturally, he called in his henchman, Lavrenti Beria, and instructed him to find the pipe. A few hours later, Stalin found it in his desk and called off the search. “But, Comrade Stalin,” stammered Beria, “five suspects have already confessed to stealing it.”

This joke, whispered among those who trusted each other when I was a kid in Moscow in the 1950s, is perhaps the best contribution I can make to the current argument in Washington about legislation banning torture and inhumane treatment of suspected terrorists captured abroad. Now that President Bush has made a public show of endorsing Sen. John McCain’s amendment, it would seem that the debate is ending. But that the debate occurred at all, and that prominent figures are willing to entertain the idea, is perplexing and alarming to me. I have seen what happens to a society that becomes enamored of such methods in its quest for greater security; it takes more than words and political compromise to beat back the impulse.

This is a new debate for Americans, but there is no need for you to reinvent the wheel. Most nations can provide you with volumes on the subject. Indeed, with the exception of the Black Death, torture is the oldest scourge on our planet (hence there are so many conventions against it). Every Russian czar after Peter the Great solemnly abolished torture upon being enthroned, and every time his successor had to abolish it all over again. These czars were hardly bleeding-heart liberals, but long experience in the use of these “interrogation” practices in Russia had taught them that once condoned, torture will destroy their security apparatus. They understood that torture is the professional disease of any investigative machinery.

Apart from sheer frustration and other adrenaline-related emotions, investigators and detectives in hot pursuit have enormous temptation to use force to break the will of their prey because they believe that, metaphorically speaking, they have a “ticking bomb” case on their hands. But, much as a good hunter trains his hounds to bring the game to him rather than eating it, a good ruler has to restrain his henchmen from devouring the prey lest he be left empty-handed. Investigation is a subtle process, requiring patience and fine analytical ability, as well as a skill in cultivating one’s sources. When torture is condoned, these rare talented people leave the service, having been outstripped by less gifted colleagues with their quick-fix methods, and the service itself degenerates into a playground for sadists. Thus, in its heyday, Joseph Stalin’s notorious NKVD (the Soviet secret police) became nothing more than an army of butchers terrorizing the whole country but incapable of solving the simplest of crimes. And once the NKVD went into high gear, not even Stalin could stop it at will. He finally succeeded only by turning the fury of the NKVD against itself; he ordered his chief NKVD henchman, Nikolai Yezhov (Beria’s predecessor), to be arrested together with his closest aides.

So, why would democratically elected leaders of the United States ever want to legalize what a succession of Russian monarchs strove to abolish? Why run the risk of unleashing a fury that even Stalin had problems controlling? Why would anyone try to “improve intelligence-gathering capability” by destroying what was left of it? Frustration? Ineptitude? Ignorance? Or, has their friendship with a certain former KGB lieutenant colonel, V. Putin, rubbed off on the American leaders? I have no answer to these questions, but I do know that if Vice President Cheney is right and that some “cruel, inhumane or degrading” (CID) treatment of captives is a necessary tool for winning the war on terrorism, then the war is lost already.

Even talking about the possibility of using CID treatment sends wrong signals and encourages base instincts in those who should be consistently delivered from temptation by their superiors. As someone who has been on the receiving end of the “treatment” under discussion, let me tell you that trying to make a distinction between torture and CID techniques is ridiculous. Long gone are the days when a torturer needed the nasty-looking tools displayed in the Tower of London. A simple prison bed is deadly if you remove the mattress and force a prisoner to sleep on the iron frame night after night after night. Or how about the “Chekist’s handshake” so widely practiced under Stalin — a firm squeeze of the victim’s palm with a simple pencil inserted between his fingers? Very convenient, very simple. And how would you define leaving 2,000 inmates of a labor camp without dental service for months on end? Is it CID not to treat an excruciatingly painful toothache, or is it torture?

Now it appears that sleep deprivation is “only” CID and used on Guantanamo Bay captives. Well, congratulations, comrades! It was exactly this method that the NKVD used to produce those spectacular confessions in Stalin’s “show trials” of the 1930s. The henchmen called it “conveyer,” when a prisoner was interrogated nonstop for a week or 10 days without a wink of sleep. At the end, the victim would sign any confession without even understanding what he had signed.

I know from my own experience that interrogation is an intensely personal confrontation, a duel of wills. It is not about revealing some secrets or making confessions, it is about self-respect and human dignity. If I break, I will not be able to look into a mirror. But if I don’t, my interrogator will suffer equally. Just try to control your emotions in the heat of that battle. This is precisely why torture occurs even when it is explicitly forbidden. Now, who is going to guarantee that even the most exact definition of CID is observed under such circumstances?

But if we cannot guarantee this, then how can you force your officers and your young people in the CIA to commit acts that will scar them forever? For scarred they will be, take my word for it.

In 1971, while in Lefortovo prison in Moscow (the central KGB interrogation jail), I went on a hunger strike demanding a defense lawyer of my choice (the KGB wanted its trusted lawyer to be assigned instead). The moment was most inconvenient for my captors because my case was due in court, and they had no time to spare. So, to break me down, they started force-feeding me in a very unusual manner — through my nostrils. About a dozen guards led me from my cell to the medical unit. There they straitjacketed me, tied me to a bed, and sat on my legs so that I would not jerk. The others held my shoulders and my head while a doctor was pushing the feeding tube into my nostril.

The feeding pipe was thick, thicker than my nostril, and would not go in. Blood came gushing out of my nose and tears down my cheeks, but they kept pushing until the cartilages cracked. I guess I would have screamed if I could, but I could not with the pipe in my throat. I could breathe neither in nor out at first; I wheezed like a drowning man — my lungs felt ready to burst. The doctor also seemed ready to burst into tears, but she kept shoving the pipe farther and farther down. Only when it reached my stomach could I resume breathing, carefully. Then she poured some slop through a funnel into the pipe that would choke me if it came back up. They held me down for another half-hour so that the liquid was absorbed by my stomach and could not be vomited back, and then began to pull the pipe out bit by bit. . . . Grrrr. There had just been time for everything to start healing during the night when they came back in the morning and did it all over again, for 10 days, when the guards could stand it no longer. As it happened, it was a Sunday and no bosses were around. They surrounded the doctor: “Hey, listen, let him drink it straight from the bowl, let him sip it. It’ll be quicker for you, too, you silly old fool.” The doctor was in tears: “Do you think I want to go to jail because of you lot? No, I can’t do that. . . . ” And so they stood over my body, cursing each other, with bloody bubbles coming out of my nose. On the 12th day, the authorities surrendered; they had run out of time. I had gotten my lawyer, but neither the doctor nor those guards could ever look me in the eye again.

Today, when the White House lawyers seem preoccupied with contriving a way to stem the flow of possible lawsuits from former detainees, I strongly recommend that they think about another flood of suits, from the men and women in your armed services or the CIA agents who have been or will be engaged in CID practices. Our rich experience in Russia has shown that many will become alcoholics or drug addicts, violent criminals or, at the very least, despotic and abusive fathers and mothers.

If America’s leaders want to hunt terrorists while transforming dictatorships into democracies, they must recognize that torture, which includes CID, has historically been an instrument of oppression — not an instrument of investigation or of intelligence gathering. No country needs to invent how to “legalize” torture; the problem is rather how to stop it from happening. If it isn’t stopped, torture will destroy your nation’s important strategy to develop democracy in the Middle East. And if you cynically outsource torture to contractors and foreign agents, how can you possibly be surprised if an 18-year-old in the Middle East casts a jaundiced eye toward your reform efforts there?

Finally, think what effect your attitude has on the rest of the world, particularly in the countries where torture is still common, such as Russia, and where its citizens are still trying to combat it. Mr. Putin will be the first to say: “You see, even your vaunted American democracy cannot defend itself without resorting to torture. . . . ”

Off we go, back to the caves.

Vladimir Bukovsky, who spent nearly 12 years in Soviet prisons, labor camps and psychiatric hospitals for nonviolent human rights activities, is the author of several books, including “To Build a Castle” and “Judgment in Moscow.” Now 63, he has lived primarily in Cambridge, England, since 1976.

Iraq torture ‘worse after Saddam’
21 September 2006

Torture may be worse now in Iraq than under former leader Saddam Hussein, the UN’s chief anti-torture expert says.

Manfred Nowak said the situation in Iraq was “out of control”, with abuses being committed by security forces, militia groups and anti-US insurgents.

Bodies found in the Baghdad morgue “often bear signs of severe torture”, said the human rights office of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq in a report.

The wounds confirmed reports given by refugees from Iraq, Mr Nowak said.

He told journalists at a briefing in Geneva that he had yet to visit Iraq, but he was able to base his information on autopsies and interviews with Iraqis in neighbouring Jordan.

“What most people tell you is that the situation as far as torture is concerned now in Iraq is totally out of hand,” the Austrian law professor said.

“The situation is so bad many people say it is worse than it has been in the times of Saddam Hussein,” he added.

Brutal methods
The UN report says detainees’ bodies often show signs of beating using electrical cables, wounds in heads and genitals, broken legs and hands, electric and cigarette burns.

Bodies found at the Baghdad mortuary “often bear signs of severe torture including acid-induced injuries and burns caused by chemical substances”.

Many bodies have missing skin, broken bones, back, hands and legs, missing eyes, missing teeth and wounds caused by power drills or nails, the UN report says.

Victims come from prisons run by US-led multinational forces as well as by the ministries of interior and defence and private militias, the report said.

The most brutal torture methods were employed by private militias, Mr Nowak told journalists.

The report also says the frequency of sectarian bloodletting means bodies are often found which “bear signs indicating that the victims have been brutally tortured before their extra-judicial execution”.

It concludes that torture threatens “the very fabric of the country” as victims exact their own revenge and fuel further violence.

Mr Nowak said he would like to visit Iraq in person, but the current situation would not allow him to prepare an accurate report, because it would not be safe to leave Baghdad’s heavily guarded Green Zone where the Iraqi government and US leadership are situated.

House Approves Strip Search Bill
September 20, 2006

A bill approved by the U.S. House yesterday would require school districts around the country to establish policies making it easier for teachers and school officials to conduct wide scale searches of students. These searches could take the form of pat-downs, bag searches, or strip searches depending on how administrators interpret the law.

The Student Teacher Safety Act of 2006 (HR 5295) would require any school receiving federal funding — essentially every public school — to adopt policies allowing teachers and school officials to conduct random, warrantless searches of every student, at any time, on the flimsiest of pretexts. Saying they suspect that one student might have drugs could give officials the authority to search every student in the building.

DPA supporters and others who opposed this outrageous bill called their members of Congress this week to express their disapproval. However, House leaders circumvented the usual legislative procedure to bring the bill to a quick vote. It did not pass through the committee process, but went straight to the House floor. There, it was passed by a simple voice vote, so constituents cannot even find out how their Representative voted.

The bill moves next to the Senate, but it is unlikely to be considered there this session.

Bill Piper, DPA’s director of national affairs, said, “It looks like this bill was rushed to the House floor to help out the sponsor, Rep. Geoff Davis (R-KY/4th), who is in a tight re-election race. This vote lets him say he’s getting things done in Washington. But I would be surprised to see a similar push in the Senate.”

HR 5295 is opposed in its current form by several groups, including the Drug Policy Alliance, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, the ACLU, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Parent Teacher Association, the American Association of School Administrators, and the National School Boards Association.

DPA will be watching the bill so that if and when it does come up again, this wide array of opponents can mobilize to stop it.


the horned one the horned one the horned one the horned one the horned one

my rationale for doing this (search for “political signs” and “location”, chapter 21A.20.120.C.1 and 2). more information can be found here.

basically, everybody else puts “garbage” political advertisements on public property with impunity, even though it’s illegal, and at least 50% of the political advertisement signs that are posted legally don’t follow the guidelines (“shall be removed within ten days following the election”), so, ultimately, they’re illegal as well. what i’m doing is obeying the law by removing that illegal advertisement. as a side effort, i am replacing it (when it appears on public property, as putting a sign on private property without the owner’s permission is also illegal) with a sign that is not an adverisement, therefore legal. if someone else wants to take it down, that’s their right, and i can’t stop them from excersising that right, but that doesn’t make what i’m doing illegal.

that’s my story and i’m sticking to it.


H.R. 4752: Universal National Service Act of 2006

                         H. R. 4752

To provide for the common defense by requiring all persons in the United
    States, including women, between the ages of 18 and 42 to perform
    a period of military service or a period of civilian service in furtherance
    of the national defense and homeland security, and for other purposes.

                          FEBRUARY 14, 2006
     Mr. RANGEL introduced the following bill; which was referred to the
                      Committee on Armed Services

                            A BILL
To provide for the common defense by requiring all persons
   in the United States, including women, between the ages
   of 18 and 42 to perform a period of military service
   or a period of civilian service in furtherance of the na-
   tional defense and homeland security, and for other pur-

 1         Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representa-
 2 tives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

 4         (a) SHORT TITLE.--This Act may be cited as the
 5 ``Universal National Service Act of 2006''.
 1          (b) TABLE           CONTENTS.--The table of contents for

 2 this Act is as follows:
     Sec. 1. Short title; table of contents.
     Sec. 2. National service obligation.
     Sec. 3. Two-year period of national service.
     Sec. 4. Implementation by the President.
     Sec. 5. Induction.
     Sec. 6. Deferments and postponements.
     Sec. 7. Induction exemptions.
     Sec. 8. Conscientious objection.
     Sec. 9. Discharge following national service.
     Sec. 10. Registration of females under the Military Selective Service Act.
     Sec. 11. Relation of Act to registration and induction authority of military se-
                       lective service Act.
     Sec. 12. Definitions.


 4          (a) OBLIGATION                SERVICE.--It is the obligation

 5 of every citizen of the United States, and every other per-
 6 son residing in the United States, who is between the ages
 7 of 18 and 42 to perform a period of national service as
 8 prescribed in this Act unless exempted under the provi-
 9 sions of this Act.
10          (b) FORM            NATIONAL SERVICE.--National service

11 under this Act shall be performed either--
12                (1) as a member of an active or reserve compo-
13          nent of the uniformed services; or
14                (2) in a civilian capacity that, as determined by
15          the President, promotes the national defense, includ-
16          ing national or community service and homeland se-
17          curity.

       HR 4752 IH
 1       (c) INDUCTION REQUIREMENTS.--The President
 2 shall provide for the induction of persons covered by sub-
 3 section (a) to perform national service under this Act.
 4       (d) SELECTION             MILITARY SERVICE.--Based

 5 upon the needs of the uniformed services, the President
 6 shall--
 7            (1) determine the number of persons covered by
 8       subsection (a) whose service is to be performed as a
 9       member of an active or reserve component of the
10       uniformed services; and
11            (2) select the individuals among those persons
12       who are to be inducted for military service under
13       this Act.
14       (e) CIVILIAN SERVICE.--Persons covered by sub-
15 section (a) who are not selected for military service under
16 subsection (d) shall perform their national service obliga-
17 tion under this Act in a civilian capacity pursuant to sub-
18 section (b)(2).

20       (a) GENERAL RULE.--Except as otherwise provided
21 in this section, the period of national service performed
22 by a person under this Act shall be two years.
23       (b) GROUNDS         EXTENSION.--At the discretion of

24 the President, the period of military service for a member

      HR 4752 IH
 1 of the uniformed services under this Act may be ex-
 2 tended--
 3            (1) with the consent of the member, for the
 4      purpose of furnishing hospitalization, medical, or
 5      surgical care for injury or illness incurred in line of
 6      duty; or
 7            (2) for the purpose of requiring the member to
 8      compensate for any time lost to training for any
 9      cause.
10      (c) EARLY TERMINATION.--The period of national
11 service for a person under this Act shall be terminated
12 before the end of such period under the following cir-
13 cumstances:
14            (1) The voluntary enlistment and active service
15      of the person in an active or reserve component of
16      the uniformed services for a period of at least two
17      years, in which case the period of basic military
18      training and education actually served by the person
19      shall be counted toward the term of enlistment.
20            (2) The admission and service of the person as
21      a cadet or midshipman at the United States Military
22      Academy, the United States Naval Academy, the
23      United States Air Force Academy, the Coast Guard
24      Academy, or the United States Merchant Marine
25      Academy.

     HR 4752 IH
 1            (3) The enrollment and service of the person in
 2       an officer candidate program, if the person has
 3       signed an agreement to accept a Reserve commission
 4       in the appropriate service with an obligation to serve
 5       on active duty if such a commission is offered upon
 6       completion of the program.
 7            (4) Such other grounds as the President may
 8       establish.

10       (a) IN GENERAL.--The President shall prescribe
11 such regulations as are necessary to carry out this Act.
12       (b) MATTER         BE COVERED           REGULATIONS.--
                       TO                  BY

13 Such regulations shall include specification of the fol-
14 lowing:
15            (1) The types of civilian service that may be
16       performed for a person's national service obligation
17       under this Act.
18            (2) Standards for satisfactory performance of
19       civilian service and of penalties for failure to per-
20       form civilian service satisfactorily.
21            (3) The manner in which persons shall be se-
22       lected for induction under this Act, including the
23       manner in which those selected will be notified of
24       such selection.

      HR 4752 IH
 1              (4) All other administrative matters in connec-
 2         tion with the induction of persons under this Act
 3         and the registration, examination, and classification
 4         of such persons.
 5              (5) A means to determine questions or claims
 6         with respect to inclusion for, or exemption or
 7         deferment from induction under this Act, including
 8         questions of conscientious objection.
 9              (6) Standards for compensation and benefits
10         for persons performing their national service obliga-
11         tion under this Act through civilian service.
12              (7) Such other matters as the President deter-
13         mines necessary to carry out this Act.
14         (c) USE        PRIOR ACT.--To the extent determined

15 appropriate by the President, the President may use for
16 purposes of this Act the procedures provided in the Mili-
17 tary Selective Service Act (50 U.S.C. App. 451 et seq.),
18 including procedures for registration, selection, and induc-
19 tion.

21         (a) IN GENERAL.--Every person subject to induction
22 for national service under this Act, except those whose
23 training is deferred or postponed in accordance with this
24 Act, shall be called and inducted by the President for such
25 service at the time and place specified by the President.

      HR 4752 IH
 1       (b) AGE LIMITS.--A person may be inducted under
 2 this Act only if the person has attained the age of 18 and
 3 has not attained the age of 42.
 4       (c) VOLUNTARY INDUCTION.--A person subject to in-
 5 duction under this Act may volunteer for induction at a
 6 time other than the time at which the person is otherwise
 7 called for induction.
 8       (d) EXAMINATION; CLASSIFICATION.--Every person
 9 subject to induction under this Act shall, before induction,
10 be physically and mentally examined and shall be classified
11 as to fitness to perform national service. The President
12 may apply different classification standards for fitness for
13 military service and fitness for civilian service.

15       (a) HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS.--A person who is pur-
16 suing a standard course of study, on a full-time basis, in
17 a secondary school or similar institution of learning shall
18 be entitled to have induction under this Act postponed
19 until the person--
20            (1) obtains a high school diploma;
21            (2) ceases to pursue satisfactorily such course
22       of study; or
23            (3) attains the age of 20.
24       (b) HARDSHIP            DISABILITY.--Deferments from

25 national service under this Act may be made for--

      HR 4752 IH
 1            (1) extreme hardship; or
 2            (2) physical or mental disability.
 3       (c) TRAINING CAPACITY.--The President may post-
 4 pone or suspend the induction of persons for military serv-
 5 ice under this Act as necessary to limit the number of per-
 6 sons receiving basic military training and education to the
 7 maximum number that can be adequately trained.
 8       (d) TERMINATION.--No deferment or postponement
 9 of induction under this Act shall continue after the cause
10 of such deferment or postponement ceases.

12       (a) QUALIFICATIONS.--No person may be inducted
13 for military service under this Act unless the person is
14 acceptable to the Secretary concerned for training and
15 meets the same health and physical qualifications applica-
16 ble under section 505 of title 10, United States Code, to
17 persons seeking original enlistment in a regular compo-
18 nent of the Armed Forces.
19       (b) OTHER MILITARY SERVICE.--No person shall be
20 liable for induction under this Act who--
21            (1) is serving, or has served honorably for at
22       least six months, in any component of the uniformed
23       services on active duty; or
24            (2) is or becomes a cadet or midshipman at the
25       United States Military Academy, the United States

      HR 4752 IH
 1       Naval Academy, the United States Air Force Acad-
 2       emy, the Coast Guard Academy, the United States
 3       Merchant Marine Academy, a midshipman of a Navy
 4       accredited State maritime academy, a member of the
 5       Senior Reserve Officers' Training Corps, or the
 6       naval aviation college program, so long as that per-
 7       son satisfactorily continues in and completes at least
 8       two years training therein.

10       (a) CLAIMS        CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR.--Noth-

11 ing in this Act shall be construed to require a person to
12 be subject to combatant training and service in the uni-
13 formed services, if that person, by reason of sincerely held
14 moral, ethical, or religious beliefs, is conscientiously op-
15 posed to participation in war in any form.
16       (b) ALTERNATIVE NONCOMBATANT                   CIVILIAN

17 SERVICE.--A person who claims exemption from combat-
18 ant training and service under subsection (a) and whose
19 claim is sustained by the local board shall--
20            (1) be assigned to noncombatant service (as de-
21       fined by the President), if the person is inducted
22       into the uniformed services; or
23            (2) be ordered by the local board, if found to
24       be conscientiously opposed to participation in such
25       noncombatant service, to perform national civilian

      HR 4752 IH
 1       service for the period specified in section 3(a) and
 2       subject to such regulations as the President may
 3       prescribe.

 5       (a) DISCHARGE.--Upon completion or termination of
 6 the obligation to perform national service under this Act,
 7 a person shall be discharged from the uniformed services
 8 or from civilian service, as the case may be, and shall not
 9 be subject to any further service under this Act.
11 Nothing in this section shall limit or prohibit the call to
12 active service in the uniformed services of any person who
13 is a member of a regular or reserve component of the uni-
14 formed services.

16                  TARY SELECTIVE SERVICE ACT.

17       (a) REGISTRATION REQUIRED.--Section 3(a) of the
18 Military Selective Service Act (50 U.S.C. 453(a)) is
19 amended--
20             (1) by striking ``male'' both places it appears;
21             (2) by inserting ``or herself'' after ``himself'';
22       and
23             (3) by striking ``he'' and inserting ``the per-
24       son''.

      HR 4752 IH
 1        (b) CONFORMING AMENDMENT.--Section 16(a) of
 2 the Military Selective Service Act (50 U.S.C. App. 466(a))
 3 is amended by striking ``men'' and inserting ``persons''.


 6                   SERVICE ACT.

 7        (a) REGISTRATION.--Section 4 of the Military Selec-
 8 tive Service Act (50 U.S.C. App. 454) is amended by in-
 9 serting after subsection (g) the following new subsection:
10        ``(h) This section does not apply with respect to the
11 induction of persons into the Armed Forces pursuant to
12 the Universal National Service Act of 2006.''.
13        (b) INDUCTION.--Section 17(c) of the Military Selec-
14 tive Service Act (50 U.S.C. App. 467(c)) is amended by
15 striking ``now or hereafter'' and all that follows through
16 the period at the end and inserting ``inducted pursuant
17 to the Universal National Service Act of 2006.''.

19        In this Act:
20             (1) The term ``military service'' means service
21        performed as a member of an active or reserve com-
22        ponent of the uniformed services.
23             (2) The term ``Secretary concerned'' means the
24        Secretary of Defense with respect to the Army,
25        Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, the Secretary

       HR 4752 IH
 1      of Homeland Security with respect to the Coast
 2      Guard, the Secretary of Commerce, with respect to
 3      matters concerning the National Oceanic and At-
 4      mospheric Administration, and the Secretary of
 5      Health and Human Services, with respect to matters
 6      concerning the Public Health Service.
 7           (3) The term ``United States'', when used in a
 8      geographical sense, means the several States, the
 9      District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Is-
10      lands, and Guam.
11           (4) The term ``uniformed services'' means the
12      Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard,
13      commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and At-
14      mospheric Administration, and commissioned corps
15      of the Public Health Service.

     HR 4752 IH


Next Attack Imminent: Muslims ordered to leave the United States
By Paul L. Williams & David Dastych
September 16, 2006

Urgent news from Abu Dawood, one of the newly appointed commanders of the al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan:

Final preparations have been made for the American Hiroshima, a major attack on the U. S. Muslims living in the United States should leave the country without further warning.

The attack will be commandeered by Adnan el Shukrijumah (“Jaffer Tayyer” or “Jafer the Pilot”), a naturalized American citizen, who was raised in Brooklyn and educated in southern Florida.

The al Qaeda operatives who will launch this attack are awaiting final orders. They remain in place in cities throughout the country. Many are masquerading as Christians and have adopted Christian names.

Al Qaeda and the Taliban will also launch a major strike (known as the “Badar Operation” against the coalition forces in Afghanistan during the holy month of Ramadan.

The American people probably will be treated to a final audio message from Osama bin Laden which will be aired some time later.

The announcements from Abu Dawood were obtained by Hamid Mir, the only journalist to interview Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Taliban leader Mullah Omar in the wake of 9/11. Mir earlier reports regarding the resurgence of the Taliban with support from Iran and Russia and an unofficial truce (reported by some Western sources) between President Pervez Musharraf and al Qaeda have been panned out by the press in recent months.

Mr. Mir interviewed Dawood (no specific date indicated) at the tomb of Sultan Mehmud Ghaznawi, on the outskirts of Kabul. Dawood and the al Qaeda leaders who accompanied him sported short beards and were dressed casually, for disguise. The al Qaeda commander had contacted Mir by cell-phone to arrange the meeting. The contents of the encounter are as follows:

Q: How did you have my local mobile number?

A: We watched you on Geo TV walking in the mountains near Kabul with British troops. You were embedded with our enemies. We were sure that you are staying in one of the few hotels or guest houses in Kabul. We were looking for you in Serena and Intercontinental hotels, but then some Taliban friends informed us that they had your phone number and you might visit them in Zabul [an Afghani province]. We got your number from Commander [Muhsen] Khayber. [Khayber was responsible for a homicide bombing in Casablanca that killed 32 people]. Don’t worry about that. We will not make any harm to you. We just want to warn you that you better don’t take any rides in the tanks and humvis of the Western Forces; they are not safe for any journalist in Afghanistan.

Q: Thanks for your concern; can I know your name?

A: Yes my name is Abu Dawood, if you remember, we have already met in Kunar two years ago, but at that time I had a long beard, now I have a small one. You were there in the mountains, close to Asadabad [a small village in the Kunar province of eastern Afghanistan] and you met some Al Qaeda fighters. I was among them.

Q: OK. I just want to say that I am a journalist, I have to speak to both sides of a conflict, for getting an objective view and that is why I was traveling with the British troops; now I am sitting with you and that is my real job. I have interviewed Osama bin Laden as well as Condoleezza Rice, General Pervez Musharraf and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan. I hope you will appreciate my objective approach?

A: You have claimed to be objective, but you and your TV channel have always given much time to the propaganda of our enemies. Anyhow, it was our moral responsibility to warn you that you better try to avoid traveling with the British, American, Canadian, French, Spanish and Italian troops in Afghanistan, we will target all of them, we don’t want that people like you suffer by our attacks, it is not good for you, and at least you should not be killed with the enemies of Islam. I am sure, brother Khayber have informed you that the Taliban will launch a big operation against the Crusader Forces, in the holy month of Ramadan; don’t come to Afghanistan in Ramadan. You will see a lot of fadaee amalyat [“suicide bombings”] in the coming days, Kabul will become a graveyard of NATO and ISAF.

Q: Yes Khayber told me about the “Badar Operation” in Ramadan. I think you are an Afghani but you are not a Talib, are you a member of Al Qaeda?

A: You are right. But we are with the Taliban, just helping them, fighting under their command. Every Al Qaeda fighter can become a Talib, but every Talib cannot become Al Qaeda.

Q: So where is Sheikh Osama bin Laden?

A: I don’t know exactly, but he is still in command of Al Qaeda, and he is in contact with his Mujaheddin all over the world.

Q: Why there was no new video statement from him, in last two years?

A: Because the CIA can feed his fresh picture to the computers fitted on their Predator planes, and these planes can get him, like Nek Muhammad or Akbar Bugti. But he has released many audio messages this year. Listen to him carefully. Don’t underestimate his warnings. America is playing with the security of Muslims all over the world, now it is our turn again. Our brothers are ready to attack inside America. We will breach their security again. There is no timeframe for our attack inside America; we can do it any time.

Q: What do you mean by another attack in America?

A: Yes a bigger attack than September 11th 2001. Brother Adnan [el Shukrijumah] will lead that attack, Inshallah.

Q:Who is Adnan?

A: He is our old friend. The last time, I met him in early 2004, in Khost. He came to Khost from the North Waziristan. He met his leaders and friends in Khost. He is very well known in Al Qaeda. He is an American and a friend of Muhammad Atta, who led 9/11 attacks five years ago. We call him “Jaffer al Tayyar” [“Jafer the Pilot”]; he is very brave and intelligent. Bush is aware that brother Adnan has smuggled deadly materials inside America from the Mexican border. Bush is silent about him, because he doesn’t want to panic his people. Sheikh Osama bin Laden has completed his cycle of warnings. You know, he is man of his words, he is not a politician; he always does what he says. If he said it many times that Americans will see new attacks, they will definitely see new attacks. He is a real Mujahid. Americans will not win this war, which they have started against Muslims. Americans are the biggest supporters of the biggest terrorist in the world, which is Israel. You have witnessed the brutality of the Israelis in the recent 34-day war against Lebanese civilians. 9/11 was a revenge of Palestinian children, killed by the US-made weapons, supplied to Israel. The next attack on America would be a revenge of Lebanese children killed by US-made cluster bombs. Bush and Blair are the Crusaders, and Muslim leaders, like Musharraf and [Afghani President Hamid] Karzai are their collaborators, we will teach a lesson to all of them. We are also not happy with some religious parties in Pakistan and Egypt, they got votes in the name of Mujaheddin, and then, they collaborated with Musharraf and [Egyptian President] Hosni Mubarak. Now look at all of them, Musharraf and Karzai don’t trust each other, the CIA and ISI don’t trust each other, all the hypocrites and enemies of Mujaheddin are suspecting each other; this help to us is coming from Heavens. Allah is with us.

Q: But if you attack inside America again, then Muslims living in America will face lot of problems, why would you like to create new problems for your brothers and sisters?

A: Muslims should leave America. We cannot stop our attack just because of the American Muslims; they must realize that American forces are killing innocent Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq; we have the right to respond back, in the same manner, in the enemy’s homeland. The American Muslims are like a human shield for our enemy; they must leave New York and Washington.

Q: But your fighters are also using the American Muslims as their shield, if there are no Muslims in America, then there would be no Al Qaeda, may be the Americans would feel safer?

A: No, not at all. We have a different plan for the next attack. You will see. Americans will hardly find out any Muslim names, after the next attack. Most of our brothers are living in Western countries, with Jewish and Christian names, with passports of Western countries. This time, someone with the name of Muhammad Atta will not attack inside America, it would be some David, Richard or Peter.

Q: So you will not attack America, until Muslims are there?

A: I am not saying that, I am saying that Muslims must leave America, but we can attack America anytime. Our cycle of warnings has been completed, now we have fresh edicts from some prominent Muslim scholars to destroy our enemy, this is our defending of Jihad; the enemy has entered in our homes and we have the right to enter in their homes, they are killing us, we will kill them.


U.S. Holds AP Photographer in Iraq
Sep 18, 2006

The U.S. military in Iraq has imprisoned an Associated Press photographer for five months, accusing him of being a security threat but never filing charges or permitting a public hearing.

Military officials said that Bilal Hussein, an Iraqi citizen, was being held for “imperative reasons of security” under United Nations resolutions, and a Pentagon spokesman reiterated that stance on Monday. AP executives said the news cooperative’s review of Hussein’s work did not find anything to indicate inappropriate contact with insurgents, and any evidence against him should be brought to the Iraqi criminal justice system.

Hussein, 35, is a native of Fallujah who began work for the AP in September 2004. He photographed events in Fallujah and Ramadi until he was detained on April 12 of this year.

“We want the rule of law to prevail. He either needs to be charged or released. Indefinite detention is not acceptable,” said Tom Curley, AP’s president and chief executive officer. “We’ve come to the conclusion that this is unacceptable under Iraqi law, or Geneva Conventions, or any military procedure.”

Hussein is one of an estimated 14,000 people detained by the U.S. military worldwide – 13,000 of them in Iraq. They are held in limbo where few are ever charged with a specific crime or given a chance before any court or tribunal to argue for their freedom.

In Hussein’s case, the military has not provided any concrete evidence to back up the vague allegations they have raised about him, Curley and other AP executives said.

The military said Hussein was captured with two insurgents, including Hamid Hamad Motib, an alleged leader of al-Qaida in Iraq. “He has close relationships with persons known to be responsible for kidnappings, smuggling, improvised explosive device (IED) attacks and other attacks on coalition forces,” according to a May 7 e-mail from U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Jack Gardner, who oversees all coalition detainees in Iraq.

“The information available establishes that he has relationships with insurgents and is afforded access to insurgent activities outside the normal scope afforded to journalists conducting legitimate activities,” Gardner wrote to AP International Editor John Daniszewski.

Hussein proclaims his innocence, according to his Iraqi lawyer, Badie Arief Izzat, and believes he has been unfairly targeted because his photos from Ramadi and Fallujah were deemed unwelcome by the coalition forces.

That Hussein was captured at the same time as insurgents doesn’t make him one of them, said Kathleen Carroll, AP’s executive editor.

“Journalists have always had relationships with people that others might find unsavory,” she said. “We’re not in this to choose sides, we’re to report what’s going on from all sides.”

AP executives in New York and Baghdad have sought to persuade U.S. officials to provide additional information about allegations against Hussein and to have his case transferred to the Iraqi criminal justice system. The AP contacted military leaders in Iraq and the Pentagon, and later the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad.

The AP has worked quietly until now, believing that would be the best approach. But with the U.S. military giving no indication it would change its stance, the news cooperative has decided to make public Hussein’s imprisonment, hoping the spotlight will bring attention to his case and that of thousands of others now held in Iraq, Curley said.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said on Monday that military authorities have reviewed Hussein’s case and recommended his continued detention. Whitman said it would be up to Iraq’s criminal court to charge Hussein.

But Whitman is being “disingenuous,” said Dave Tomlin, AP’s associate general counsel, because the military’s decision to detain him indefinitely means that the Iraqi court system can’t charge him. The AP has specifically asked that his case be turned over to Iraqi courts, so he gets a public hearing.

One of Hussein’s photos was part of a package of 20 photographs that won a Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography last year. His contribution was an image of four insurgents in Fallujah firing a mortar and small arms during the U.S.-led offensive in the city in November 2004.

In what several AP editors described as a typical path for locally hired staff in the midst of a conflict, Hussein, a shopkeeper who sold cell phones and computers in Fallujah, was hired in the city as a general helper because of his local knowledge.

As the situation in Fallujah eroded in 2004, he expressed a desire to become a photographer. Hussein was given training and camera equipment and hired in September of that year as a freelancer, paid on a per-picture basis, according to Santiago Lyon, AP’s director of photography. A month later, he was put on a monthly retainer.

During the U.S.-led offensive in Fallujah in November 2004, he stayed on after his family fled. “He had good access. He was able to photograph not only the results of the attacks on Fallujah, he was also able to photograph members of the insurgency on occasion,” Lyon said. “That was very difficult to achieve at that time.”

After fleeing later in the offensive, leaving his camera behind in the rush to escape, Hussein arrived in Baghdad, where the AP gave him a new camera. He then went to work in Ramadi which, like Fallujah, has been a center of insurgent violence.

In its own effort to determine whether Hussein had gotten too close to the insurgency, the AP has reviewed his work record, interviewed senior photo editors who worked on his images and examined all 420 photographs in the news cooperative’s archives that were taken by Hussein, Lyon said.

The military in Iraq has frequently detained journalists who arrive quickly at scenes of violence, accusing them of getting advance notice from insurgents, Lyon said. But “that’s just good journalism. Getting to the event quickly is something that characterizes good journalism anywhere in the world. It does not indicate prior knowledge,” he said.

Out of Hussein’s body of work, only 37 photos show insurgents or people who could be insurgents, Lyon said. “The vast majority of the 420 images show the aftermath or the results of the conflict – blown up houses, wounded people, dead people, street scenes,” he said.

Only four photos show the wreckage of still-burning U.S. military vehicles.

“Do we know absolutely everything about him, and what he did before he joined us? No. Are we satisfied that what he did since he joined us was appropriate for the level of work we expected from him? Yes,” Lyon said. “When we reviewed the work he submitted to us, we found it appropriate to what we’d asked him to do.”

The AP does not knowingly hire combatants or anyone who is part of a story, company executives said. But hiring competent local staff in combat areas is vital to the news service, because often only local people can pick their way around the streets with a reasonable degree of safety.

“We want people who are not part of a story. Sometimes it is a judgment call. If someone seems to be thuggish, or like a fighter, you certainly wouldn’t hire them,” Daniszewski said. After they are hired, their work is checked carefully for signs of bias.

Lyon said every image from local photographers is always “thoroughly checked and vetted” by experienced editors. “In every case where there have been images of insurgents, questions have been asked about circumstances under which the image was taken, and what the image shows,” he said.

Executives said it’s not uncommon for AP news people to be picked up by coalition forces and detained for hours, days or occasionally weeks, but never this long. Several hundred journalists in Iraq have been detained, some briefly and some for several weeks, according to Scott Horton, a New York-based lawyer hired by the AP to work on Hussein’s case.

Horton also worked on behalf of an Iraqi cameraman employed by CBS, Abdul Ameer Younis Hussein, who was detained for one year before his case was sent to an Iraqi court on charges of insurgent activity. He was acquitted for lack of evidence.

AP officials emphasized the military has not provided the company concrete evidence of its claims against Bilal Hussein, or provided him a chance to offer a defense.

“He’s a Sunni Arab from a tribe in that area. I’m sure he does know some nasty people. But is he a participant in the insurgency? I don’t think that’s been proven,” Daniszewski said.

Information provided to the AP by the military to support the continued detention hasn’t withstood scrutiny, when it could be checked, Daniszewski said.

For example, he said, the AP had been told that Hussein was involved with the kidnapping of two Arab journalists in Ramadi.

But those journalists, tracked down by the AP, said Hussein had helped them after they were released by their captors without money or a vehicle in a dangerous part of Ramadi. After a journalist acquaintance put them in touch with Hussein, the photographer picked them up, gave them shelter and helped get them out of town, they said.

The journalists said they had never been contacted by multinational forces for their account.

Horton said the military has provided contradictory accounts of whether Hussein himself was a U.S. target last April or if he was caught up in a broader sweep.

The military said bomb-making materials were found in the apartment where Hussein was captured but it never detailed what those materials were. The military said he tested positive for traces of explosives. Horton said that was virtually guaranteed for anyone on the streets of Ramadi at that time.

Hussein has been a frequent target of conservative critics on the Internet, who raised questions about his images months before the military detained him. One blogger and author, Michelle Malkin, wrote about Hussein’s detention on the day of his arrest, saying she’d been tipped by a military source.

Carroll said the role of journalists can be misconstrued and make them a target of critics. But that criticism is misplaced, she said.

“How can you know what a conflict is like if you’re only with one side of the combatants?” she said. “Journalism doesn’t work if we don’t report and photograph all sides.”


the horned one the horned one the horned one the horned one

so i made a couple of signs and decided that they didn’t look the way i wanted them to with the sign as the background, so i made another stencil (the signs are good for that, and there are plenty of them, heh heh heh… 8) ), which is just the background, and i must say that they look substantially better with both of them in place.


livejournal has arbitrarily changed my style again, and this time, even though i have a customised theme layer with my name on it when i view “my layers”, it doesn’t show up on the dropdown menu when i choose “look and feel” from the customise style page. 8P

EDIT: however, when i select the right style and click “save”, suddenly my style does show up on the dropdown menu, and i can select it and click “save” again and everything is back to normal. now i don’t have to wait a month before some drone at LJ says they’re thinking about working on the problem eventually! whee!


the horned one the horned one the horned one the horned one

also, i went by the location from which my signs in response to the jeezis signs have been regularly being removed this morning, on my way to home depot, and there were no signs posted, but when i came back from home depot, there were jeezis signs posted there… so i removed them. i must have missed them by no more than 30 minutes, because there were no signs when i was going, but there were when i was coming back… which means that the signs themselves were not there for more than 15 minutes or so… heh heh heh… 8)



my sousaphone is already broken… well, more broken… and because of the fact that i have absolutely no room, even to simply turn around, much less actually manhandle something as large as a sousaphone, this is all the repair work i can do to it. i’ve already taken it completely apart once, so i could hone the valves (i had to store most of the parts on the living room couch and chair when i had the valve cluster off), because otherwise the first valve was sticking pretty badly. please note: i am not showing this repair because i am proud of it, i am showing it as a way of showing what my tiny, cramped space has reduced me to. yes, you’re seeing right, here: those are zip-ties holding the horn together. i had to reinforce it with something, and i don’t have room to do stuff like solder, in spite of the fact that, if i did have room, soldering it would be the repair of choice, and would only take about 10 minutes.

needless to say, i’m depressed, in spite of the fact that i sold a beaded sivalingam necklace. a good deal of my depression is because things like this, and things like it, and other political things closer to home, are still leaking in to my realm of consciousness, in spite of the fact that i’ve been making a concerted effort to keep them out. it’s gonna take a lot more than one sivalingam necklace to make up for that.

thanks, hobbit… 8)

i was thinking about simply not posting today, because everybody else will be posting 9.11 stuff and i am totally not interested in buying into remembering an atrocity perpetrated by criminals, both foreign and domestic, and even moreso because i don’t buy into the whole “fear of terrorists” and giving up basic rights in the name of “homeland security” thing (there’s a whole other rant floating around out there about how the only people to use the word “homeland” do so to evoke fear into the hearts of their fellow human beings in order to manipulate them – like the nazis), to say the least… but then i saw a post by my friend howlin’ hobbit about the 11th of september being the 100th anniversary of satyagraha, and that’s a cause i can get firmly behind…

and besides, i’ve got a list of interesting links about brain injury, starting with the wikipedia article on cerebral arteriovenous malformation and taking off from there into craniotomy and trephanation, and, from there into the WHO surgical instructions on burr holes, and finally an interview with a trephanee who underwent the operation in 2000 and recommends against it.


sillyville is now officially open at the puyallup fair. it was really cool. we got there at 9:30 and the gates were supposed to open to the general public at 10:00. we parked, literaly, no more than 100 yards from the purple gate, which is right next to sillyville, and because of the fact that it was supposed to rain today, which it didn’t, by the time we were done performing at 12:30, there were still no where near the crowds of people that are usually at the fair, which meant that we didn’t have to wait in line for anything. the only problem was that we performed for 2 hours, which was about an hour and a half longer than my embrochure was there for, even with the “correct” mouthpiece… which means that when we perform at the puyallup fair next year (three separate concerts, all on one day!) i’d better have practiced enough that my lip doesn’t completely die. but, you know, i originally auditioned for the BSSB because i wanted to play my trombone more frequently, and that’s precisely what i got, so i should be at least part of the way there by next year, if not completely there.

moe bought a flame-coloured pimp hat…

moe's pimpin' hat

hee hee… 8)


Pakistan signs pact with pro-Taleban militants
By Haji Mujtaba
September 6, 2006

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan – Pro-Taleban militants and the Pakistani government reached a peace deal overnight under which the militants agreed to stop attacks in both Pakistan and across the border in Afghanistan, negotiators said.

Hundreds of Pakistani troops and militants have been killed in the Waziristan region as the government has attempted to push its authority into semi-autonomous tribal lands on the Afghan border as part of efforts in the US-led war on terrorism.

“The agreement will pave the way for permanent peace in the region,” said Malik Shahzada, a member of a tribal council that has been overseeing the negotiations with the rebels.

The agreement was signed on a dusty football ground at a college in Miranshah, the main town of the North Waziristan region.

Scores of members of the tribal council, most in turbans and with long beards, watched as a Pakistani army commander, Major General Azhar Ali Shah, embraced representatives of the militants after the pact was signed.

Many members of the al Qaeda network and the Taleban fled to Waziristan after US-led forces overthrew the Taleban in Afghanistan in late 2001.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who is due to visit Afghanistan on Wednesday for security talks with President Hamid Karzai, has said no group could use Pakistan as a springboard for attacks on other countries.

But Afghanistan and its allies have long complained the Taleban are able to benefit from havens on the Pakistani side of the long, rugged border.

Musharraf has also vowed to clear foreign militants from the Pakistani side of the border but Tuesday’s agreement said foreigners could stay in Waziristan, as long as they kept the peace.

According to a copy of the agreement obtained by Reuters, the militants agreed that all foreigners would have to leave but those unable to do so would have to respect the peace deal.

Osama bin Laden is believed to be hiding out somewhere along the Afghan-Pakistani border but security analysts doubt he is in Waziristan, given the security forces’ focus on the area.

Several of bin Laden’s Arab lieutenants have been killed in North Waziristan and US drone aircraft have carried out missile strikes on al Qaeda targets from across the border in Afghanistan.

Security officials say some central Asian militants are also in the area.

The fiercely independent ethnic Pashtun tribes that inhabit both sides of the porous border have never been brought under the control of any government, including British colonial rulers.

The Waziristan-based militants had been demanding free movement into Afghanistan, which the tribes have always enjoyed, to support the Taleban in their jihad, or holy war, there.

But that had been ruled out under the deal, an official said.

“Except for trade, people will not be allowed to go to Afghanistan to launch attacks,” said Nek Zaman, a member of the tribal council who is also a member of the Pakistani parliament.

Under the agreement, the government will stop air and ground operations in Waziristan and dismantle newly built checkposts.

People arrested during military operations would be released and confiscated property, including weapons, would be returned, according to the agreement.

Pakistan Gives Bin Laden Free Pass
By Brian Ross
September 06, 2006

Osama bin Laden, America’s most wanted man, will not face capture in Pakistan if he agrees to lead a “peaceful life,” Pakistani officials tell ABC News.

The surprising announcement comes as Pakistani army officials announced they were pulling their troops out of the North Waziristan region as part of a “peace deal” with the Taliban.

If he is in Pakistan, bin Laden “would not be taken into custody,” Major General Shaukat Sultan Khan told ABC News in a telephone interview, “as long as one is being like a peaceful citizen.”

Bin Laden is believed to be hiding somewhere in the tribal areas of Pakistan, near the Afghanistan border, but U.S. officials say his precise location is unknown.

In addition to the pullout of Pakistani troops, the “peace agreement” between Pakistan and the Taliban also provides for the Pakistani army to return captured Taliban weapons and prisoners.

“What this means is that the Taliban and al Qaeda leadership have effectively carved out a sanctuary inside Pakistan,” said ABC News consultant Richard Clarke, the former White House counter-terrorism director.

The agreement was signed on the same day President Bush said the United States was working with its allies “to deny terrorists the enclaves they seek to establish in ungoverned areas across the world.”

The Pakistani Army had gone into Waziristan, under heavy pressure from the United States, but faced a series of humiliating defeats at the hands of the Taliban and al Qaeda fighters.

“They’re throwing the towel,” said Alexis Debat, who is a Senior Fellow at the Nixon Center and an ABC News consultant. “They’re giving al Qaeda and the Taliban a blank check and saying essentially make yourselves at home in the tribal areas,” Debat said.

Pakistan Denies Bin Laden Gets a Pass
By Brian Ross
September 06, 2006

The government of Pakistan today denied it would allow Osama bin Laden to avoid capture under terms of a peace agreement it signed with Taliban leaders in the country’s North Waziristan area.

“If he is in Pakistan, today or any time later, he will be taken into custody and brought to justice,” the Pakistani ambassador to the United States, Mahmud Ali Durrani, said in a statement.

The ambassador said a Pakistani military spokesman, Major General Shaukat Sultan, had been “grossly misquoted” when he told ABC News Tuesday that bin Laden would not be taken into custody “as long as one is being like a peaceful citizen.” The comments were recorded in a telephone interview with ABC News.

Q. ABC News: If bin Laden or Zawahiri were there, they could stay?

A. Gen. Sultan: No one of that kind can stay. If someone is there he will have to surrender, he will have to live like a good citizen, his whereabouts, exit travel would be known to the authorities.

Q. ABC News: So, he wouldn’t be taken into custody? He would stay there?

A. Gen. Sultan: No, as long as one is staying like a peaceful citizen, one would not be taken into custody. One has to stay like a peaceful citizen and not allowed to participate in any kind of terrorist activity.

General Sultan said today it was “hair splitting” to speculate whether troops would be sent in if bin Laden was found in North Waziristan.

“If someone is found there, we will see what is to be done,” General Sultan said today. “Pakistan is committed to the war on terror, and of course we will go after any terrorist found to be operating here,” he said.

Under the terms of the peace agreement, the Pakistani Army promised to cease action in the area and to return captured Taliban weapons and soldiers.

Former White House counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke, an ABC News consultant, said “What this means is that the Taliban and al Queida leadership have effectively carved out a sanctuary inside Pakistan.”

General Sultan said today he “rejected” the idea that Pakistan had created a safe haven for terrorists.


the gamelan x concert was incredible. they had all of the traditional instruments of the balaganjur, plus they had a clarinet, flute, trombone, trumpet, sousaphone(!!) and a trap-set, plus a whole bunch of oil-can drums, with which they did an interesting taiko-like piece with four drummers and six drums and movements so fast and complex that if one of them had put their foot down in the wrong place, the whole piece would have fallen apart. they did a piece with the bass gongs and the sousaphone that was EXCELLENT, but i could just be saying that because i like the low end of any piece of music, and this featured the low end. they also did a brief demonstration of Kecak with audience participation. now it’s time to sleep.


i have an acupuncture appointment at noon. later i’m going to see a Gamelan X concert, which is a group i mentioned on the 10th of july. tomorrow the ballard sedentary sousa band has a performance at the puyallup fair, where we are playing for the grand opening of sillyville. the next day we’re playing at the phinney ridge neighborhood association for the greenwood senior center. woo.



whether you like it or not, bush is a dictator on the same level as adolph hitler, pol pot or saddam hussain. something must be done to stop him… NOW!!

Bush Aims to Kill War Crimes Act
By Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith
05 September 2006

The US War Crimes Act of 1996 makes it a felony to commit grave violations of the Geneva Conventions. The Washington Post recently reported that the Bush administration is quietly circulating draft legislation to eliminate crucial parts of the War Crimes Act. Observers on The Hill say the Administration plans to slip it through Congress this fall while there still is a guaranteed Republican majority-perhaps as part of the military appropriations bill, the proposals for Guantánamo tribunals or a new catch-all “anti-terrorism” package. Why are they doing it, and how can they be stopped?

American prohibitions on abuse of prisoners go back to the Lieber Code promulgated by Abraham Lincoln in 1863. The first international Geneva Convention dates from the following year.

After World War II, international law protecting prisoners of war and all noncombatants was codified in the Geneva Conventions. They were ratified by the US Senate and, under Article II of the Constitution, they thereby became the law of the land.

Wishing to rebuke the unpunished war crimes of dictators like Saddam Hussein, in 1996 a Republican-dominated Congress passed the War Crimes Act without a dissenting vote. It defined a “war crime” as any “grave breach” of the Geneva Conventions. It thereby advanced a global trend of mutual reinforcement between national and international law.

The War Crimes Act was little noticed until the disclosure of Alberto Gonzales’s infamous 2002 “torture memo.” Gonzales, then serving as presidential counsel, advised President Bush to declare that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to people the United States captured in Afghanistan. That, Gonzales wrote, “substantially reduced the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act.”

Noting that the statute “prohibits the commission of a ‘war crime’ by or against a US person, including US officials,” he warned that “it is difficult to predict the motives of prosecutors and independent counsels who may in the future decide to pursue unwarranted charges.” The President’s determination that the Geneva Conventions did not apply “would provide a solid defense to any future prosecution.”

Unfortunately for top Bush officials, that “solid defense” was demolished this summer when the Supreme Court in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld ruled that the Geneva Conventions were indeed the law of the land.

The Court singled out Geneva’s Common Article 3, which provides a minimum standard for the treatment of all noncombatants under all circumstances. They must be “treated humanely” and must not be subjected to “cruel treatment,” “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment,” or “the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.”

As David Cole of the Georgetown University Law Center pointed out in the August 10 issue of The New York Review of Books, the Supreme Court’s decision in Hamdan v. Rusmfeld “suggests that President Bush has already committed a war crime, simply by establishing the [Guantánamo] military tribunals and subjecting detainees to them” because “the Court found that the tribunals violate Common Article 3-and under the War Crimes Act, any violation of Common Article 3 is a war crime.” A similar argument would indicate that top US officials have also committed war crimes by justifying interrogation methods that, according to the testimony of US military lawyers, also violate Common Article 3.

Lo and behold, the legislation the Administration has circulated on Capitol Hill would decriminalize such acts retroactively. Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice, told the Associated Press on August 10, “I think what this bill can do is in effect immunize past crimes. That’s why it’s so dangerous.” Human rights attorney Scott Horton told Democracy Now! on August 16 that one of the purposes of the proposed legislation is “to grant immunity or impunity to certain individuals. And these are mostly decision-makers within the government.”

The Coming Debate
Bush officials have not acknowledged that one of their real motives for gutting the War Crimes Act is to protect themselves from being prosecuted for their own crimes. But so far they have apparently offered only one other reason for tampering with the law: The existing law, especially the Geneva language prohibiting “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment,” is too vague to enforce. (Perhaps the Bush Administration should declare the US Constitution’s ban on “cruel and unusual punishment” as too vague to enforce as well.)

Fidell noted in an August 9 Washington Post article that military law includes many terms like “dereliction of duty,” “maltreatment” and “conduct unbecoming an officer” that may appear vague but that are nonetheless enforceable. The Army Field Manual bars cruel and degrading treatment. When Attorney General Gonzales recently testified at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that “outrages upon personal dignity” was too ambiguous, Senator John McCain stated that top military lawyers see no problem in complying with Common Article 3.

The arguments for preserving the War Crimes Act and rejecting the Bush amendments, in contrast, are multiple and overwhelming:

  1. Commitment to the Geneva Conventions protects US service people from future retaliation.

    As former Secretary of State Colin Powell has argued, abandoning the Geneva Conventions would put US soldiers at greater risk, would “reverse over a century of US policy and practice in supporting the Geneva Conventions” and would “undermine the protections of the law of war for our troops, both in this specific conflict [Afghanistan] and in general.”

  2. The War Crimes Act will prohibit “torture-lite” in the future.

    According to Scott Horton, the proposed legislation is “designed to provide an OK to certain techniques which fall just short of torture that are being used by the CIA,” including “waterboarding, longtime standing and hypothermia,” techniques that have been “linked to severe injuries and fatalities.”

  3. The War Crimes Act will prohibit future Abu Ghraib-type outrages.

    The Bush Administration’s legislation would remove the prohibition on “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.” Repealing the War Crimes Act, the Washington Post’s R. Jeffrey Smith reported, is decriminalizing the forced nakedness, use of dog leashes and wearing of women’s underwear that shocked the world at Abu Ghraib prison.

    Derek P. Jinks an assistant law professor at the University of Texas, author of a forthcoming book on the Geneva Conventions, said in an August 9 Washington Post article that the “entire family of techniques” used to degrade, humiliate and coerce prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo “is not addressed in any way, shape or form” in the Bush Administration’s proposal. Retired Army Lieut. Col. Geoffrey Corn, until recently chief of the war law branch of the Army’s Office of the Judge Advocate General, said in the same article, “This removal of [any] reference to humiliating and degrading treatment will be perceived by experts and probably allies as ‘rewriting'” the Geneva Conventions.

    This “rewriting” could have very concrete ramifications in practice. The international tribunal prosecuting war crimes in the former Yugoslavia deemed acts like placing prisoners in “inappropriate conditions of confinement,” forcing them to urinate or defecate in their clothes, and threatening them with “physical, mental, or sexual violence” to be humiliations, degrading treatment and outrages. The proposed changes to the War Crimes Act would indicate that it is not a crime for Americans to conduct such acts.

  4. Gutting the War Crimes Act will promote the perception of the United States as an outlaw country.

    As a letter signed by sixteen members of Congress recently said, such legislation “would harm the reputation of the United States as a leader promoting and protecting human rights.” What would be more deserving of scorn than a country that lets potential war-crime defendants repeal the very law under which they might be prosecuted?

  5. The Bush legislation unfairly exempts high government officials from the very war crimes charges they are leveling against lowly “grunts.”

    Since the start of the Iraq War there have been more than thirty prosecutions under the military law that prohibits war crimes, with many more pending. But they have all prosecuted low-level military personnel. Gutting the War Crimes Act would leave the military “bad apples” at the bottom subject to prosecution but would let the civilian “bad apples” at the top evade all responsibility.

    As Horton points out, the Uniform Code of Military Justice already incorporates the Geneva Convention rules, but it does not apply “to Donald Rumsfeld or Stephen Cambone or to people in the White House.” The point of the War Crimes Act is that it “spreads the application of the Geneva Conventions the next level up to civilians, and particularly to civilian policymakers.” From the beginning, the “prosecutorial focus” of the War Crimes Act “was intended to provide deterrence at that level.” Repealing it undermines the fundamental principle of equal justice under law.

  6. Preserving the War Crimes Act is part of reasserting the rule of law in America.

    The War Crimes Act has been a central focus of the Bush Administration’s scorn for all Constitutional limits on the power of the President and the executive branch. It was the idea that the President could by fiat declare US and international law null and void that animated the Gonzales torture memo. It was this denial of constitutional limits that the Supreme Court resoundingly rebuked in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. A rebuff to the Bush Administration’s attack on the War Crimes Act is a reassertion of those constitutional limits.

The War Crimes Act can be a bridge to a more just and peaceful world. The incorporation of the Geneva Conventions’ prohibitions on war crimes into national law affirms America’s commitment to international law. It embodies an implementation of the global heritage of the Nuremberg trials, the UN Charter and the Geneva Conventions. It embeds that tradition within our own national law.

In the wake of World War II, Justice Robert Jackson, chief American prosecutor at the Nuremberg Tribunal, observed that “the ultimate step in avoiding periodic wars, which are inevitable in a system of international lawlessness, is to make statesmen responsible to law.” Making statesmen responsible to law is what the War Crimes Act is all about.

Defending the Law
The arguments for preserving the War Crimes Act are conclusive (except perhaps to those who might face criminal prosecution under them). Indeed, the Administration’s decision to gut the War Crimes Act is a gift to those who want to see American statesmen held accountable to national and international law. It suggests that the Bush Administration itself recognizes the criminality of many of its actions. And it shows in the sharpest relief why the War Crimes Act is needed.

But, at least for the moment, Bush’s Republican allies still control both houses of Congress; they are in a position to slip a repeal of the War Crimes Act into any piece of legislation they choose. Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey, senior member of the House Committee for Homeland Security, told The Nation, “The Bush Administration and the GOP leadership in Congress is trying to quietly excuse and even codify cruel and inhuman treatment of prisoners in US custody, at secret CIA prisons abroad and even the abhorrent practice of extraordinary rendition [the outsourcing of torture and other cruel treatment to other countries].”

While the Administration has been lining up its ducks, the campaign to save the War Crimes Act has just begun. The advocacy group Just Foreign Policy has started an online campaign to save the War Crimes Act. “This is not an obscure point in the law. What’s at stake here is whether, for example, the abuses of prisoners by sexual humiliation that shocked us at Abu Ghraib are clearly illegal under US law,” national coordinator Robert Naiman observes. “If we found these actions outrageous, we are obligated to tell our members of Congress to protect the law that bans them.”

Markey adds, “Every American citizen should call the White House and their members of Congress because these changes being made in the dead of night could be the green light for other countries that capture American troops to treat them cruelly or torture them.”

Bush admits to CIA secret prisons
6 September 2006

President Bush has acknowledged the existence of secret CIA prisons and said 14 key terrorist suspects have now been sent to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The suspects, who include the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, have now been moved out of CIA custody and will face trial.

Mr Bush said the CIA’s interrogation programme had been “vital” in saving lives, but denied the use of torture.

He said all suspects will be afforded protection under the Geneva Convention.

In a televised address alongside families of those killed in the 11 September 2001 attacks, Mr Bush said there were now no terrorist suspects under the CIA programme.

Mr Bush said he was making a limited disclosure of the CIA programme because interrogation of the men it held was now complete and because a US Supreme Court decision had stopped the use of military commissions for trials.

He said the CIA programme had interrogated a small number of key figures suspected of involvement in 9/11, the attack on the USS Cole in 2000 in Yemen and the 1998 attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Mr Bush spelled out how the questioning of detainee Abu Zubaydah had led to the capture of Ramzi Binalshibh, which in turn led to the detention of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Mr Bush said the CIA had used an “alternative set of procedures”, agreed with the justice department, once suspects had stopped talking.

But he said: “The US does not torture. I have not authorised it and I will not.”

He said the questioning methods had prevented attacks inside the US and saved US lives.

“This programme has helped us to take potential mass murderers off the streets before they have a chance to kill,” the president said.

The CIA programme had caused some friction with European allies. Some EU lawmakers said the CIA carried out clandestine flights to transport terror suspects.

Revised guidelines
Mr Bush said he was asking Congress to authorise military commissions and once that was done “the men our intelligence officials believe orchestrated the deaths of nearly 3,000 Americans on September 11 2001 can face justice”.

All suspects will now be treated under new guidelines issued by the Pentagon on Wednesday, which bring all military detainees under the protection of the Geneva Convention.

The move marks a reversal in policy for the Pentagon, which previously argued that many detainees were unlawful combatants who did not qualify for such protections.

The new guidelines forbid all torture, the use of dogs to intimidate prisoners, water boarding – the practice of submerging prisoners in water – any kind of sexual humiliation, and many other interrogation techniques.

The BBC’s Adam Brookes in Washington says that in one stroke the Pentagon is moving to defuse all criticism of the way it treats the people it has captured in its war against terrorism.

The US administration has faced criticism from legal experts and human rights activists over the policy on detentions of terrorism suspects.

Mr Bush also said he was asking Congress to pass urgent legislation to clarify the terms under which those fighting the war on terror could operate.

He said the laws must make it explicit that US personnel were fulfilling their obligations under the Geneva Convention.

Mr Bush said those questioning suspected terrorists must be able to use everything under the law to save US lives.


Steve Irwin dead

Steve Irwin

The Crocodile Man, Steve Irwin, is dead. He was killed in a freak accident in Cairns, police sources said. It appeared that he was killed by a sting-ray barb that went through his chest, Queensland Police Inspector Russell Rhodes said. He was swimming off the Low Isles at Port Douglas where he had been filming an underwater documentary when it occurred.

Ambulance officers confirmed they attended a reef fatality this morning at Batt Reef off Port Douglas.

Mr Irwin, 44, was killed just after 11am, Eastern Australian time.

His American wife Terri learned for the tragedy from police in Tasmania, where she had been trekking in Cradle Mountain National Park.

His friend and manager John Stainton said Mr Irwin was filming some segment for daughter Bindi’s show on the reef between sessions filiming the main documentary.

It is understood Mr Irwin was killed instantly.

A source said Mr Irwin was already dead when his body was brought onto the Isle.

A source said Mr Irwin’s body was being airlifted to Cairns Hospital in North Queensland for formal identification.

An Emergency Services Response Management spokeswoman said they received a call about the tragedy at 11.11 am, Australian Eastern Standard Time.

The response unit left in a helicopter for the Batt Reef at 11.18am and arrived shortly after.

Mr Irwin was pronounced dead at the scene immediately, the spokeswoman said.

Steve Irwin’s activities went far beyond his universally-known roles as an international TV star and owner of Australia Zoo, north of Brisbane.

They includes assisting Australian Quarantine Inspection service with advertising campaigns warning travellers not to bring foreign matter into the country, and he was becoming a vocal critic of the slaughter of Australian wildlife.

The federal government recently dropped plans to allow crocodile safaris for wealty tourists in the Northern Territority after Irwin intervened, taking Environment Minister Ian Campbell on a tour of croc infested Cape York.

At the time, Irwin told Australian TV program A Current Affair that: “Killing one of our beautiful animals in the name of trophy hunting will have a very negative impact on tourism, which scares the living daylights out of me.”

The Prime Minister John Howard considered Irwin a friend, inviting him to a barbecue at The Lodge for US President George W. Bush in 2003.

Irwin was a devoted father to his two children Bindi, 8, and Bob, 3.

“Bindi is the reason I was put on this earth. All I want to do is be with her and all she wants to do is be with me. We have such a great time together and it’s not just a father and daughter relationship, it’s also like I’m a big brother and she’s my little sister,” he told New Idea magazine in 2005.

However the previous year Irwin had created a furore when he took ‘Baby Bob’ into Australia Zoo’s crocodile enclosure while feeding a four-metre salt water crocodile.

Irwin burst onto the media scene with his documentary The Crocodile Hunter in 1992, and his over-the-top persona soon made him a star. In 2002 he burst on to the big screen on Crocodile Hunter: The Collision Course, soon achieving A-list fame.

His celebrity friends include Russell Crowe.

Despite his worldwide popularity, closer to home Irwin got bad press after he was controversially paid $175,000 for a quarantine ad.

Irwin was named Queenslander of the Year in 2003.


roof yantra roof yantra roof yantra

i put in 10 hours on the roof yantra today, and got it almost finished. between the first and second picture i got some timely advise and a demonstration from moe(!) on how to do the blending the way i want it, using sponges rather than brushes. i didn’t think it would work, but i was wrong. if i had done it my way, i wouldn’t be anywhere as close to being finished with it as i am currently, and the blending would be adequate, but not what i had in mind originally. that’s one of the reasons i married her: along with everything else, she’s an artist in her own right.

now i’m a lot more tired than i should be, considering that i didn’t go anywhere except out the front door and up our little two-step stepstool thinger. time to eat, and go to bed. tomorrow i’ll finish it, and likely post more pictures.