Just Above Sunset
May 9, 2004 - Things spinning down, as if it matters...

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Ah, William Butler Yeats – and do you remember this one? 


Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity. 

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand. 
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds. 
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? 


Oh yeah – the second coming and the end of the world as we know it – the times the evangelical Christians long for could be drawing near. 

Ah, no way.  But there is a bit of a "widening spiral of things" afoot. 

Tony Blair is with us still, and one of his strongest supporters dumps this into the mix. 

See U.S. Troops Said to Mistreat Elder Iraqi
Sue Leeman, Associated Press - Wednesday, May 05, 2004- 4:39 PM ET


LONDON - U.S.  soldiers who detained an elderly Iraqi woman last year placed a harness on her, made her crawl on all fours and rode her like a donkey, Prime Minister Tony Blair's personal human rights envoy to Iraq said Wednesday. 

The envoy, legislator Ann Clwyd, said she had investigated the claims of the woman in her 70s and believed they were true. 

During five visits to Iraq in the last 18 months, Clwyd said, she stopped at British and U.S.  jails, including Abu Ghraib, and questioned everyone she could about the woman's claims.  But she did not say whether the people questioned included U.S.  forces or commanders. 

Asked for details, Clwyd said during a telephone interview with The Associated Press that she "didn't want to harp on the case because as far as I'm concerned it's been resolved."

Clwyd, 67, is a veteran politician of the governing Labour Party and a strong Blair supporter who regularly visits Iraq and reports back on issues such as human rights, the delivery of food and medical supplies to Iraqis, and Iraq's Kurdish minority.  Her job as Blair's human rights envoy is unpaid and advisory. 

"She was held for about six weeks without charge," the envoy told Wednesday's Evening Standard newspaper.  "During that time she was insulted and told she was a donkey.  A harness was put on her, and an American rode on her back."

Clwyd said the woman has recovered physically but remains traumatized. 

"I am satisfied the case has now been resolved satisfactorily," the envoy told British Broadcasting Corp.  radio Wednesday.  "She got a visit last week from the authorities, and she is about to have her papers and jewelry returned to her."


Oh good.  All fixed.  Why are Tony Blair’s friends bringing up such stuff?

Remember, as Rush Limbaugh explains, this is no big deal -


Exactly.  Exactly my point! This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation and we're going to ruin people's lives over it and we're going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time.  You know, these people are being fired at every day.  I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release?  You of heard of need to blow some steam off? 


Ah, our people just blowing off steam. 

But maybe, just maybe, this is not just a few rowdy guys and gals letting their enthusiasm get the better of their judgment.  No? 

Why would you think the problem is systemic?  Bush says its an aberration, and you need to understand we’re not like that, as a people, at all.  He said that to two Arab television networks today – one funded by us and the other owned by the Saudis.  The questioner from the first had become an American citizen the day before the interview.  Curious. 

Okay, why would you not believe this is an aberration? 

Matthew Yglesias lists some reasons. 


One: the US government sometimes shipped suspects off to foreign countries in order to have them tortured as a means of procuring information.  Two: the US government has gone out of its way to maintain the claim that people detained in Iraq and Afghanistan should not be considered either prisoners of war with Geneva Convention protections or criminals with constitutional rights.  Three: the US government wanted to procure information from the people detained at Abu Ghraib. 

Now I seriously doubt an explicit order ever came down from on high saying, "sadistically torture these guys," but I'm not sure what other conclusion the people charged with handling the interrogations were supposed to draw from the top leadership's conduct other than that torture would be condoned as long as the people doing it didn't call attention to themselves.


Does Matt have his facts wrong? 

Working backwards, we do want information.  And last week Ted Olsen argued to the Supreme Court that the court had no jurisdiction over anything the administration wanted to do with the prisoners at Guantánamo – that place was not our soil and anyway, the folks we held were not prisoners of war nor were they criminals, and then too, the two Americans we held here as “enemy combatants” have no rights either as they also were neither criminals nor prisoners of war.  New category - thus no court has the right to stop the administration.  And then the first item – shipping off folks to places where they could be tortured for information so we could claim we don’t do such things. 

There are lots of stories about that.  Remember that Canadian fellow we picked up by mistake at the Newark Airport – that Maher Arar fellow?  Ashcroft and the Justice Department did apologize.  So did the Canadians.  A little oops thing.  So even though he was a Canadian citizen picked up in the United States through a bit of misplaced enthusiasm – he’d done nothing – somehow he got shipped to Syria, to Damascus, and ended up in their military intelligence's Far Falasteen (Palestine Branch) prison - handcuffed and blindfolded, on October 9, 2002.  He was “interrogated” there at the request of Canadian and US intelligence agencies.  But mild, moderate or even severe torture is not terribly effective when you want information the dude just doesn’t have. 

Well, he got popped free after six or seven months, as he was useless.
Read all about it.


Or, on the other hand, consider what Thomas Jefferson has to say about another George, way back when.


He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.


He has combined with others to subject us to... pretended Legislation:


·         For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury.

·         For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences.


He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.


That seems to be in our Declaration of Independence. 


This is not a case of a few bad apples letting off a little emotional steam – to mix metaphors egregiously.  It’s not even a case of steaming emotional apples.  This is what got Jefferson all hot and bothered!

And we have not exactly been playing nice on a lot of levels.

See CIA May Have Had a Role in Hiding Iraqi Prisoners
Bob Drogin, The Los Angeles Times, May 5, 2004

Without detail, here’s the essence -


WASHINGTON — The CIA is seeking to determine whether its operatives had a role in the imprisonment of so-called ghost detainees, Iraqi prisoners who were held without names, charges or other documentation at U.S.-run detention facilities across their homeland, intelligence officials said Tuesday. 

A little-noticed portion of the military's classified report on the abuse of prisoners in Iraq says that a number of jails operated by the 800th Military Police Brigade "routinely held" such prisoners "without accounting for them, knowing their identities, or even the reason for their detention."

In one case, the report says, U.S.  military police at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad shifted six to eight undocumented prisoners "around within the facility to hide them" from a visiting delegation from the International Committee of the Red Cross. 

"This maneuver was deceptive, contrary to Army Doctrine and in violation of international law," the report adds. 

Human rights groups said the practice of keeping prisoners off written lists and physically concealing them from humanitarian aid groups and independent monitors has been well known over the years in dictatorships from Guatemala to Sudan. 


Hey, if the International Red Cross doesn’t know, well, how can they get all upset with us? 

Pretty cool, huh? 

Consider a detail from the New Yorker exposé of last weekend -


In November … an Iraqi prisoner under the control of what the Abu Ghraib guards called “O.G.A.,” or other government agencies—that is, the C.I.A. and its paramilitary employees—was brought to his unit for questioning.  “They stressed him out so bad that the man passed away.  They put his body in a body bag and packed him in ice for approximately twenty-four hours in the shower....  The next day the medics came and put his body on a stretcher, placed a fake IV in his arm and took him away.” The dead Iraqi was never entered into the prison’s inmate-control system, Frederick recounted, “and therefore never had a number.”


No number, no problem. 

So, we will punish a few low-level soldiers.  They were, at best, doing really stupid things that embarrassed the whole nation.  But we’re good people.  Bush says so. 

So good people, pony up some more money for all this!

Bush Asks Congress for Additional War Funding
$25B Needed for Contingencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Says
Jonathan Weisman and William Branigin, The Washington Post, Wednesday, May 5, 2004; 5:21 PM


Driven by unanticipated combat, higher-than-expected troop levels and rising political pressure, the White House reversed course today and asked Congress for an additional $25 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the fiscal year that begins in October. 

… Bush included no war funding in his fiscal 2005 budget, and he had hoped to avoid such a request until after the November election, fearing a divisive, campaign-year debate over the war's conduct and future, Republican congressional aides said.  Congress has already approved two wartime emergency spending laws totaling $166 billion, of which $149 billion went to Iraq. 

But in recent weeks, military officials publicly stated that U.S.  forces were already running into financial problems, and would likely run out of money even before Sept. 30, the end of the current fiscal year.  Accounting tricks would likely patch those holes, they said, but it was unclear how the military would be able to wait until January or February, when the administration planned to detail its next war request. 


Hey, you want to protest any of this? 

Don’t even think about it.  Consider this week’s big Hollywood story. 

How did Oliver Willis sum this up?  First they got Clear Channel to force out Howard Stern, then Sinclair refused to broadcast Nightline's episode about the fallen, and now this.

What is this? 

See Disney Forbidding Distribution of Film That Criticizes Bush
Jim Rutenberg, The New York Times, May 5, 2004

The key points? 


WASHINGTON, May 4 — The Walt Disney Company is blocking its Miramax division from distributing a new documentary by Michael Moore that harshly criticizes President Bush, executives at both Disney and Miramax said Tuesday. 

The film, "Fahrenheit 911," links Mr. Bush and prominent Saudis — including the family of Osama bin Laden — and criticizes Mr.  Bush's actions before and after the Sept.  11 terrorist attacks. 

Disney, which bought Miramax more than a decade ago, has a contractual agreement with the Miramax principals, Bob and Harvey Weinstein, allowing it to prevent the company from distributing films under certain circumstances, like an excessive budget or an NC-17 rating. 

Executives at Miramax, who became principal investors in Mr. Moore's project last spring, do not believe that this is one of those cases, people involved in the production of the film said.  If a compromise is not reached, these people said, the matter could go to mediation, though neither side is said to want to travel that route. 

In a statement, Matthew Hiltzik, a spokesman for Miramax, said: "We're discussing the issue with Disney.  We're looking at all of our options and look forward to resolving this amicably."

But Disney executives indicated that they would not budge from their position forbidding Miramax to be the distributor of the film in North America.  Overseas rights have been sold to a number of companies, executives said. 

"We advised both the agent and Miramax in May of 2003 that the film would not be distributed by Miramax," said Zenia Mucha, a company spokeswoman, referring to Mr.  Moore's agent.  "That decision stands."

Disney came under heavy criticism from conservatives last May after the disclosure that Miramax had agreed to finance the film when Icon Productions, Mel Gibson's company, backed out. 

Mr. Moore's agent, Ari Emanuel, said Michael D.  Eisner, Disney's chief executive, asked him last spring to pull out of the deal with Miramax.  Mr. Emanuel said Mr.  Eisner expressed particular concern that it would endanger tax breaks Disney receives for its theme park, hotels and other ventures in Florida, where Mr.  Bush's brother, Jeb, is governor. 


Well, Jeb won’t be offended now.  And Jeb certainly won’t be jetting off to the Cannes Festival where this is one of the official entries. 

Oh, don’t worry.  We’ll all be able to see it without having to go to France.  Someone will distribute it.  And make lots of money – even if Disney doesn’t want such tainted money.  And it’s probably as over the top and hysterical as “Bowling for Columbine” was.  And that was not a good film.  Moore hasn’t made a good film since “Canadian Bacon.”  He can be a buffoon. 

But Ezra Klein comments on the implications:


This isn't an isolated incident; it's part of a worrying trend where the corporate friends of the Republican Party are using their positions to help reshape media coverage.  When Howard Stern started down his anti-Bush road, Clear Channel forced him off.  When Nightline attempted to honor the fallen, Sinclair dropped the episode from their lineup and Fox news promised a night devoted to our accomplishments in Iraq.  When Michael Moore inks a deal with Miramax for his new, anti-Bush movie, Disney halts its distribution. 

Aside from the worrisome trend towards censorship that Oliver [Willis] identifies, there's a deeper problem with these attempts to curry administration favor.  The article on the Disney deal makes clear that Disney fears losing the tax breaks and perks that Jeb and George have given them.  It's the cost-benefit analysis here that worries me.  These corporations are making moves that will certainly anger the Democratic Party; they must then be looking towards some payback from the right that outweighs the ire of the left.  These are corporations, their actions respond to an anticipated profit.  When they make public stands like these they're taking a serious risk, what are they expecting in return? 


What does a corporation expect in return for leaning far to the right and trying to please the Bush crew?  Duh!

And so it goes. 


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
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