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May 22, 2005 - When in Doubt, Send a Librarian

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On Monday 17 May in May 22, 2005 - Newsweek, Suckered, Sucks the Air Out of the Room it seemed the story of the week would be the business with Newsweek and the Koran-that-may-not-have-been-in-the-toilet story – which devolved into those on the right suggesting it was time to rein in this so-called free press and force it to report what the White House says it should report.  You can read all about it there.  Or you can read what the Medium Lobster has to say - Stop Newsweek... Before It Kills Again!

Then there was that business with the MP from Scotland testifying to a senate committee that wanted to put him in his place.  Didn’t work.  He called them out and made them look like fools – see The Scots are Known for Being Blunt from Tuesday for that.  And for a late reaction you might want to glance at An Open Letter to Democrats - Listen to Galloway and Learn Something


George Galloway did that for which you have proven incapable; he spoke as an opposition. Since there seems to be a great dark space in the middle of your heads where the notion of opposition should be - a void filled by parliamentary molasses and the pusillanimous inability to tell simple truths - I suggest you all review the recordings of Galloway's confrontation with Republican Senator Norm "Twit" Coleman to see exactly how effortless it is to stand up to these cheap political bullies (watch the video). While you are at it, you can watch your colleague Carl Levin demonstrate exactly what I mean about most of you and your party, as he alternately hurls petulant cream-puff insults at Galloway and kisses Coleman's stunned, clueless ass to give that toothy dipshit some comfort in the wake of Galloway's verbal drubbing.

Galloway didn't have to walk up to the docket and slap the cowboy shit out of Coleman - though I admit I still struggle with my own secret urges to do just that with most of the air-brushed, combed-over, Stepford meat-puppets who now people the United States Congress. No, all Galloway had to do was tell the unvarnished truth, and it had exactly the same effect. If Democrats had half the spine that Galloway does if you would stop chasing your creepy little careers through the caviar and chicken-salad circuits of duck-and-cover American political double-speak, then not only would people like me not be calling for all to abandon the Democratic Party and take their fight to the streets like good Bolivians not only that, but you'd have won the last election.

The reason Galloway was able to break from your mirror party in UK - Blair's sell-out Labor Party - and still get elected, is that Galloway fights for his convictions and the real needs of his constituents, and doesn't run for cover every time the bully-boys of the capitalist establishment attempt to take him down.


Oh my!  And that’s just part of it.

Then at the end of the week we get Saddam Hussein in his underwear and a leaked US Army report, an internal one, that we have been torturing people we know are innocent and, not surprisingly, a number of them die, and it is not just in Iraq and Guantánamo, but in Afghanistan too – as in wide-spread and systematic and that sort of thing.  In the middle of this, scientists in South Korea come up with a medical breakthrough involving stem cells.  The medical community cheers.  The president says this is awful.  Congress moves to loosen the rules on the medical use of stem cells, and the president, who as governor of Texas broke the record for approving executions, without paying much attention to the cases he had to review, says he will veto any such legislation.  All life is sacred.  When a cell is fertilized THAT is fully functional human being, after all, or could be one day.  One almost expected him to break into a chorus of that Monty Python tune Every Sperm is Sacred - but he didn’t.  But, now in his fifth year in office, this would be his very first veto – if he doesn’t veto the highway bill first.

And the senate is mired in that filibuster business – change the rules to get those last few judges approved.  Enough has been said on that.

Meanwhile the war is not going well.  Mid-week the top commanders in our military risked angering the president and reluctantly admitted things are getting worse and worse - and our guys won’t be coming home any time soon.

So those in power had a bad week.  With such a muddle, what to do?

Send in the librarian!

Laura Bush on a Mideast tour to fix damaged U.S. image
Friday, May 20, 2005 10:00:00 PM GMT


U.S. first lady Laura Bush started on Friday a Middle East tour with the aim of fixing the U.S. image that was damaged among the Muslim world as a result of the Iraq war, Abu Ghraib scandal and the Qur’an desecration report, that was retracted by the Newsweek magazine earlier this week.

Arriving in Jordan on Friday, Mrs. Bush was greeted by Alia Hatough-Bouran, the country's minister of tourism and antiquities. Mrs. Laura prepares to give a speech on Saturday before the World Economic Forum.

Mrs. Bush said she hopes her Mideast tour will help repair the U.S. image damaged by a recently retracted Newsweek report that American interrogators desecrated the Qur’an at Guantanamo Bay, as well as the abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad.

"We've had terrible happenings that have really, really hurt our image of the United States," she said.

"People in the United States are sick about it."

“I hope that the Middle East, the broader Middle East, get to know Americans like we really are,” Mrs. Bush told reporters before arriving in Amman.

“I don’t think they really have the sense of Americans being religious.”

Mrs. Bush hopes her five-day mission in Jordan, Israel, the West Bank and Egypt will help repair that damage. …


"I don’t think they really have the sense of Americans being religious?"

Oh, one suspects they do.  They just wonder about our particular religion – the one with the Avenging Jesus, Bringer of Pain and Death.

And by the way, that excerpt was the story in Al Jazeera Online.

Got a problem with that?

Tell them -

AJ Publishing
Sheikh Zayed Road, PO Box 31303
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Tel:(9714) 319 7575
Fax: (9714) 319 7573
Email: editor@aljazeera.com

Anyway, the Saddam in his skivvies story just compounds the Newsweek business.  Laura will have to be extra charming.

Over at Editor and Publisher you can find a detailed summary of the Saddam issues.


- Our military on Friday condemned a British newspaper's decision (the British tabloid Sun) to print photographs of a captive Saddam Hussein, including one showing him in his underwear. Later the New York Post published on its front page one of the photos of Saddam in his white briefs, under the headline, "Butcher of Sagdad."

- The Pentagon raised fears that the photos could cause a backlash in Iraq. But President Bush said Friday that he did not think photos of Hussein clad only in his underwear would incite further anti-American violence in Iraq. "I don't think a photo inspires murderers," Bush said.

- Bush was briefed by senior aides Friday morning about the photos' existence, and "strongly supports the aggressive and thorough investigation that is already under way" that seeks to find who took them, White House press spokesman Trent Duffy said.

- The Post had described the photos this way: "The pictures capture a Saddam Hussein far removed from the man who once owned 100 palaces, a huge yacht and a fleet of cars. This is the post-downfall Saddam -- a man of no wealth, no luxuries and underwear that doesn't fit right."

- From the Pentagon? The photos were "expected to fuel anti-American sentiment among supporters of the former dictator who are believed to be the driving force behind the country's insurgency," the Associated Press observed.

- The Sun said it obtained the photos from "U.S. military sources." Both the Sun and Post are controlled by Rupert Murdoch, a longtime supporter of the U.S. invasion that toppled Hussein.

Then Editor and Publisher quotes Col Allan, editor of the New York Post giving a very short answer to why they ran the pictures - "They were interesting." And he was not aware of the Pentagon's objections and would not comment on them. But our guys say the photos violated military guidelines "and possibly Geneva Convention guidelines for the humane treatment of detained individuals." And they are, of course, disappointed the pictures got out.

Editor and Publisher tells us the Sun said it received the pictures from a source in the military who, according to the New York Post account, "hoped the release of the pitiful pictures will deal a body blow to the lingering Iraqi insurgency." The source supposedly said: "Saddam is just an aging and humble old man now. It's over, guys. The evil days of Saddam's Ba'ath Party are never coming back -- and here's the proof." And late in the day the Post spokesmen at Howard J. Rubenstein Associates says this - "Saddam Hussein is a genocidal maniac who tortured, gassed and killed tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis. The photographs published today by the New York Post show the U.S. military is treating him with a regard he never showed his own people."

Yeah, whatever.

Just what is Rupert Murdoch up? He wants a holy war – for News Corp?

Do you remember this exchange of telegrams in January 1897 between William Randolph Hearst and his reporter in Havana?


To: W. R. Hearst, New York Journal, N.Y.:
Everything is quiet. There is no trouble here. There will be no war. I wish to return. - Remington.

To: Remington, Havana:
Please remain. You furnish the pictures, and I'll furnish the war.


Well, this may not have happened - but maybe Murdoch saw Citizen Kane one to many times and has Orson Welles’ voice ringing in ears – “You provide the prose poems, I'll provide the war!”

Is Charles Foster Kane running these tabloids and Fox News – telling Roger Ailes what to do?  Could be.

But Friday’s big story was the New York Times letting everyone know what was in a classified US Army report on torture – this time at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

This was all over the news so there is no need to deal with it in detail – but a good summary of where we now stand on all this torture stuff comes from Andrew Sullivan (paragraphing changed for emphasis ) –


It has gone chronologically something like this:

"It's not true. It's not true."

"It may be true but it's not torture."

"Okay, it's torture, but isn't official policy."

"It may be true and official policy, but we changed the policy and we uncovered the abuses ourselves."

"It may be true, it may have been widespread, but we've punished the culprits."

“It may be true, it may have been widespread, it may still be happening, but all these reports are old news."

Well, give these guys points for effort.

How about: it is true; it should never have happened; the people responsible for the policy as well as the criminals should be punished.

Ah, but that would mean taking responsibility, wouldn't it? And we don't do that in this administration, do we? …


Those of use who are news addicts, and political junkies, and policy wonks – those of us who follow such things – know Sullivan has provided a quite useful review here.  It is pretty amazing.

Laura has her work cut out for her.

As for what was in the Times? 


It seems our guys beat prisoners to death – using the famous "common peroneal strike" - a real good whack to the side of the leg, just above the knee.  They did this so often to certain prisoners within a short period of time that they developed blood clots from the injuries and died - and said they did this mostly just to hear them scream - it was funny.  The tissue on their legs, as the coroner described it, "had basically been pulpified."  The guys were mostly body builders who called themselves "the testosterone gang" and decorated their tents with the confederate flags.

Cool.  Why does the Times hate America?  And the South?

Key excerpts –


Even as the young Afghan man was dying before them, his American jailers continued to torment him.

The prisoner, a slight, 22-year-old taxi driver known only as Dilawar, was hauled from his cell at the detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan, at around 2 a.m. to answer questions about a rocket attack on an American base. When he arrived in the interrogation room, an interpreter who was present said, his legs were bouncing uncontrollably in the plastic chair and his hands were numb. He had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days.

Mr. Dilawar asked for a drink of water, and one of the two interrogators, Specialist Joshua R. Claus, 21, picked up a large plastic bottle. But first he punched a hole in the bottom, the interpreter said, so as the prisoner fumbled weakly with the cap, the water poured out over his orange prison scrubs. The soldier then grabbed the bottle back and began squirting the water forcefully into Mr. Dilawar's face.

"Come on, drink!" the interpreter said Specialist Claus had shouted, as the prisoner gagged on the spray. "Drink!"

At the interrogators' behest, a guard tried to force the young man to his knees. But his legs, which had been pummeled by guards for several days, could no longer bend. An interrogator told Mr. Dilawar that he could see a doctor after they finished with him. When he was finally sent back to his cell, though, the guards were instructed only to chain the prisoner back to the ceiling.

"Leave him up," one of the guards quoted Specialist Claus as saying.

Several hours passed before an emergency room doctor finally saw Mr. Dilawar. By then he was dead, his body beginning to stiffen. It would be many months before Army investigators learned a final horrific detail: Most of the interrogators had believed Mr. Dilawar was an innocent man who simply drove his taxi past the American base at the wrong time.


Yep, they sort of knew he was just unlucky?  Oh well.

And there is this pop culture aspect to it all –


Some of the same M.P.'s took a particular interest in an emotionally disturbed Afghan detainee who was known to eat his feces and mutilate himself with concertina wire. The soldiers kneed the man repeatedly in the legs and, at one point, chained him with his arms straight up in the air, Specialist Callaway told investigators. They also nicknamed him "Timmy," after a disabled child in the animated television series "South Park." One of the guards who beat the prisoner also taught him to screech like the cartoon character, Specialist Callaway said.

Eventually, the man was sent home.


No comment.

And there is this –


With most of the legal action pending, the story of abuses at Bagram remains incomplete. But documents and interviews reveal a striking disparity between the findings of Army investigators and what military officials said in the aftermath of the deaths.

Military spokesmen maintained that both men had died of natural causes, even after military coroners had ruled the deaths homicides. Two months after those autopsies, the American commander in Afghanistan, then-Lt. Gen. Daniel K. McNeill, said he had no indication that abuse by soldiers had contributed to the two deaths. The methods used at Bagram, he said, were "in accordance with what is generally accepted as interrogation techniques."


What is generally accepted on our side isn’t playing well in the Middle East.

Digby over at Hullabaloo adds this


As we already know from the stories in Guantánamo, many of the prisoners were sold or turned over to the Americans by Afghan warlords with an agenda. They were not guilty of anything.

… Perhaps most tellingly, the soldiers felt they were justified in beating and torturing prisoners because the secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, had declared that the detainees, as "terrorists," were not covered under the Geneva Conventions. They took the gloves off. Just as their superiors told them to.

Perhaps when Newsweak "takes action" to remedy the damage they caused to US credibility, they can explain …


Oh, they don’t have to.  Laura the Librarian will explain it all.  No one envies her that job – and we really do wish her well.

But sometimes the wife just cannot clean up the mess the husband has made.


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. 
See the Details page for the relevant citation.

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