Monday, March 31, 2008

Defining Moments

Odd Ends to catch up with myself.

Someone who goes by the nom de web "Purdue Matt" has twice sought to post the same comment about my condemnation of torture--"If torturing one person prevents the deaths of thousands of Americans by a potential terrorist attack, then it was worth it [my emphasis]." I ignored this twisted piece of ratiocination the first time it came through, but the second time, with the U.S. pounding Sadr City in Baghdad and Sadrist positions in Basra and elsewhere after attacks by the U.S. trained Iraqi security forces on Moqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army faltered, I decided to post the thing with a short gloss.

The easy response is to dismiss the comment as hopelessly illogical. There is no way to know in advance that torturing someone will save anyone, and arguably if interrogators know that much, they already have enough knowledge to proceed without torture. But on a practical level, an interrogator is more likely to gain information through skilled questioning, even 'befriending' his or her prisoner, than through torture, as study after study has shown. Indeed, torture usually produces bad information. Moreover, in most moral systems, each life is precious, and the taking of one or the abuse of a person for any reason, with the possible exception of self-defense is unacceptable. Possibly warding off a potential attack that might kill one or more people of a particular group does not constitute self defense. Unfortunately, Purdue Matt is not alone in his adherence to this specious argument, a favorite of the Bushies.

Of course, no one can accuse the Emperor Boy George of clear headed thinking--of any kind of higher order thinking! Certainly, the latest maneuver ranks with the most cynically inane of the occupation. David "Counter Insurgency" Petraeus and Ambassador Rryan "Sugar Coat It" Crocker, due in Washington next month to testify about the results of the surge and splurge, have over the past few weeks made clear that the Maliki government had squandered the relative pause in violence following the splurge, utterly failing to make any political progress toward stabililzing the political situatiion. Much of the reduction in violence, we are told, derives less from American force than from Sadr's decisioin to declare unilaterally a ceasefire and to renew it for six months. That didn't stop the Mehdi Army from making mischief, especially in Basra, where it was one of the militia's dividing the city after the British left, but the mischief was slight compared with the constant harassment of Sadrists by Maliki, Petraeus and company. Despite those continuing lowlife attacks, Sadr held firm, and Petraeus has gladly worn the aura of success Sadr's ceasefire has given him. That success, as I said, served ultimately to focus attention on the Maliki government's dismal political failure.

We now know that the answer to the dilemma--it has the odor of something cooked up in Washington and delivered in person by Dickie Cheney in such a way as to make the US appear out of the Maliki loop, except for those special forces targeting sites in Basra and so on--was to send 30,000 or more of those newly trained Iraqi troops against the Sadrists in Basra. To insure that Americans and Brits understand that Sadr is the devil, the English speaking press always calls him the "radical cleric," meaning he's a badass because he represents the poor and disgruntled and because he considers America an occupying power and because he is a threat to gain power through the ballot box, if the elections in October are fair, according to most knowledgeable observers. Imagine if that happened. To forestall it, Maliki attacked. The assault also was designed so that the Bushies could testify in Congress that Maliki had taken a bold step forward militarily and politically. Jauntily, the Bushbucker in Chief, announced last week that the Maliki attack on Sadr and his followers represented a 'defining moment' in the new Iraq's history.

The moment it defined is not the sort of glorious victory the Emperor Boy George had in mind. Abject failure is more the case--from the Bushies' perspective, anyway. More than anything, the events of last week underscore the absolute absurdity of the American position in Iraq. Unfortunately, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, John McCain, seems clueless to the Bush degree, and he is not alone among the members of Congress, who have failed to bring this surreal absurdity to a halt. McCain alone, except perhaps for the Emperor Boy and his immediate court, believes that Malikii acted without consulting or informing his American handlers and that Sadr's ordering of a ceasefire was a sign of weakness.

Maliki is allied--albeit, sometimes shakily--with another militia, the Badr Organization of the Islamic Supreme Council in Iraq, heavily in thrall to Iran, which also has a stake in not seeing Sadr succeed. Of course, Iran faces the difficult task of trying to keep the Bushies so busy in Iraq that they don't refocus on it while also keeping Iraq calm so the US. will leave. The Iranians might arm the Mehdi Army and harbor Sadr in order to make mischief against their old enemies, the Sunnis and Americans, but they don't want him to prevail over their old friends in the Islamic Supreme Council in Iraq, under Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, an enemy of Sadr. That's right, the Emperor Boy George is on the side of his nemesis Iran's president, Mahoud Admadinejad in his support of Maliki and Hakim.

Patraeus proclaims that the Iranians are arming the Mehdi Army while neglecting to add that they also support Maliki and Hakim against the same Mehdi Army. More to the point, the U.S. has now declared itself a full partisan in a civil war and turned its military into a mercenary force, serving a known ally of Iran, adding one more degradation to a long list of despicable acts.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

No Torture (Again)!

The editorial in today's New York Times takes a strong stand against torture while calling on Bush not to veto the anti-torture bill--actually an amendment to the intelligence budget bill requiring the CIA and other intelligence agencies to defer to the Army Field Manual--it's a massive file--if there is any question about the meaning of torture. The manual is clear--Bush favorites like waterboarding, sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation, assault, dogging, hooding and duct taping eyes, exposure to cold are torture. The Bush says that he will veto and probably will because at this point to sign a bill expressively defining treatments of prisoners he ordered as torture would be tantamount to admitting to a war crime. The U.S. would have to fulfill its treaty obligations and send him to the Hague to be tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity. That would be fitting and proper, but is it likely to happen under the presidency of John McCain, who voted against this bill, or of Hillary [Clinton-Barack] Obama, who could not be bothered to stop campaigning long enough to return to Washington to cast a vote?