Just Above Sunset
August 7, 2005 - Trouble Brewing (and the Sleeping Bag of Death)

Home | Question Time | Something Is Up | Connecting Dots | Stay Away | Overload | Our Man in Paris | WLJ Weekly | Book Wrangler | Cobras | The Edge of the Pacific | The Surreal Beach | On Location | Botanicals | Quotes

As of Wednesday, August 3, where did we stand?

Everyone got off the Air France plane in Toronto before it burned itself to a cinder.  Good.

Paul Hackett, the fellow running for the open congressional seat in Ohio - see Cincinnati to the Moon last weekend - came close.


Not bad in a heavily pro-Bush district for a marine who saw combat in Iraq, and a lawyer, who repeatedly called Bush a "chickenhawk" - and an SOB for that "Bring it on!" comment.


But he lost:


US HOUSE Ohio 2nd District, 753 precincts of 753 reporting

57,974 - 52%

54,401 - 48%


Assessment?  Political observer Charlie Cook had written:


If Schmidt's victory margin is in double digits, this tells us that there is not much of an anti-GOP wind in Ohio right now. If the margin is, say, six to nine points for Schmidt, then there is a wind, but certainly no hurricane. A Schmidt win of less than five points should be a very serious warning sign for Ohio Republicans that something is very, very wrong, while a Hackett victory would be a devastating blow to the Ohio GOP.


So I guess this falls in the "serious warning" category.


But he lost.  Warnings are rather useless.

Other than that? 


Here's a list:


1.) In Iraq: Twenty-One Marines Killed in Three Days (all but one reservists from the Cleveland area, and the first six snipers who got ambushed because someone revealed their positions)

2.) Our enthusiastic guys dealt with an Iraqi general who surrendered to us by stuffing him into a sleeping bag and beating him to death - the Washington Post reviews just-released documents

3.) We are told Iraq's Defense Ministry 'riddled with crippling problems' (the New York Times on this one)

4.) A freelance journalist is killed after filing his report on Iraqi police ties to radicals

6.) Bush poised to set vacationing record...

And the president's call for teaching "intelligent design" in science classes on equal footing with evolution is still ruffling feathers.  Note this press release from the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) –


"We stand with the nation's leading scientific organizations and scientists, including Dr. John Marburger, the president's top science advisor, in stating that intelligent design is not science. Intelligent design has no place in the science classroom," said Gerry Wheeler, NSTA Executive Director.

... "It is simply not fair to present pseudoscience to students in the science classroom," said NSTA President Mike Padilla. "Nonscientific viewpoints have little value in increasing students' knowledge of the natural world."


John Marburger?  The Carpetbagger says that fellow has The Worst Job in Washington.

Why?  He recognizes reality:


Speaking at the annual conference of the National Association of Science Writers, Marburger fielded an audience question about "Intelligent Design" (ID), the latest supposedly scientific alternative to Charles Darwin's theory of descent with modification. The White House's chief scientist stated point blank, "Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory." And that's not all - as if to ram the point home, Marburger soon continued, "I don't regard Intelligent Design as a scientific topic."


Yeah, but the man can tap dance with the best:


At the White House, where intelligent design has been discussed in a weekly Bible study group, Mr. Bush's science adviser, John H. Marburger 3rd, sought to play down the president's remarks as common sense and old news.

Mr. Marburger said in a telephone interview that "evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology" and "intelligent design is not a scientific concept." Mr. Marburger also said that Mr. Bush's remarks should be interpreted to mean that the president believes that intelligent design should be discussed as part of the "social context" in science classes.

... Mr. Marburger said it would be "over-interpreting" Mr. Bush's remarks to say that the president believed that intelligent design and evolution should be given equal treatment in schools.


The trouble is that that is exactly what the president said.

Ah well.  Not important.

Is this important?


"If the security situation in Baghdad remains unstable," Iraq's transportation minister suggests re-routing air traffic to a new airport in Najaf, funded by Iran.

Aren't they the bad guys?


One suspect the beat-the-general-in-the-sleeping-bag-to-death story (number 2 above) is the one of some importance, as that is the one that that will get the most play overseas.  It makes Karen Hughes' new PR job - convince the Muslim world we are the good guys - a tad more difficult.

Over at UCLA, professor Mark Kleiman is a bit angry:


The death came two months after a dispatch from Baghdad told troops in the field "the gloves are coming off."

Naturally, lying went along with murder: the Army promptly put out a press release claiming that the victim had died of natural causes, and told reporters that he'd been captured when in fact he walked in to try to arrange for the release of his sons.

Three noncoms are on trial for the murder; as usual, the officers aren't being charged. The CIA folks involved, both directly and through the Iraqi "Scorpion" units they recruited, are also being protected.

There's no reason to weep for the victim, who simply made the error of assuming that an American flag meant that the people serving under it would be less brutal than he himself was. Save your tears for the flag, and the Republic for which it stands.


Gee, as World War II came to an end a good number of Germans surrendered to the Americans because they knew if they surrendered to the Russians they'd be in big trouble. The Americans were the good guys. Times change.

From the Post review of the new documents:


[T]he Dec. 2, 2003, autopsy, quoted in classified documents and released with redactions, showed that Mowhoush had "contusions and abrasions with pattern impressions" over much of his body, and six fractured ribs. Investigators believed a "long straight-edge instrument" was used on Mowhoush, as well as an "object like the end of an M-16" rifle.

"Although the investigation indicates the death was directly related to the non-standard interrogation methods employed on 26 NOV, the circumstances surrounding the death are further complicated due to Mowhoush being interrogated and reportedly beaten by members of a Special Forces team and other government agency (OGA) employees two days earlier," said a secret Army memo dated May 10, 2004.


How did this happen? Perhaps the result of policy:


In the months before Mowhoush's detention, military intelligence officials across Iraq had been discussing interrogation tactics, expressing a desire to ramp things up and expand their allowed techniques to include more severe methods, such as beatings that did not leave permanent damage, and exploiting detainees' fear of dogs and snakes, according to documents released by the Army.

Officials in Baghdad wrote an email to interrogators in the field on Aug. 14, 2003, stating that the "gloves are coming off" and asking them to develop "wish lists" of tactics they would like to use.

An interrogator with the 66th Military Intelligence Company, who was assigned to work on Mowhoush, wrote back with suggestions in August, including the use of "close confinement quarters," sleep deprivation and using the fear of dogs, adding: "I firmly agree that the gloves need to come off."


Perhaps one shouldn't ask for wish lists. One of the three noncoms used his imagination:


Iraqi Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush became stubborn, and a series of beatings and interrogation tactics were not enough to break his will.

On Nov. 26, 2003, a U.S. Army interrogator and a military guard grabbed a green sleeping bag, stuffed Mowhoush inside, wrapped him in an electrical cord, laid him on the floor and began to go to work. Again.

It was inside the sleeping bag that the 56-year-old detainee took his last breath through broken ribs, lying on the floor beneath a U.S. soldier in Interrogation Room 6 in the western Iraqi desert.

Two days before, a secret CIA-sponsored group of Iraqi paramilitaries, working with Army interrogators, had beaten Mowhoush nearly senseless, using fists, a club and a rubber hose, according to classified documents.

The sleeping bag was the idea of a soldier who remembered how his older brother used to force him into one, and how scared and vulnerable it made him feel. Senior officers at the facility near the Syrian border believed that such "claustrophobic techniques" were approved ways to gain information from detainees, part of what military regulations refer to as a "fear up" tactic, according to military court documents.


So the kid took the policy and improvised.  Do they call that initiative?  Well, you cannot blame the leaders if it was the low-level guy misunderstanding his mandate.  Sometimes your reward a subordinate's initiative, and sometimes you breathe a sigh of relief and hide behind it.

Poor Karen Hughes.  Her new PR job gets harder by the day.


Late addition to the beat-the-general-in-the-sleeping-bag-to-death story -

Digby over at Hullabaloo offers this:


I know that war is hell and all, but it's really important to keep in perspective one particular thing. We invaded Iraq; it didn't attack us. We weren't invited in either. We just did it. And as we now know, the reasons we gave for doing it were false. And when we got there we were so unprepared that we allowed the country to immediately devolve into chaos. Out of that chaos an insurgency developed. Our reaction was to "take the gloves off" - in a country we had allegedly just liberated - the same way we "took the gloves off" with al Qaeda.

The vast majority of Iraqis were not Saddam's bitter-enders, not insurgents and certainly not terrorists. They had just spent 30 years under the thumb of a totalitarian dictator. And yet we were rampaging through their homes, "hunting insurgents" and treating them as if they were an enemy. We sent in too few troops and those we sent were untrained and inexperienced. And we let the CIA and other unacountables have a free hand.

Again, these were Iraqis, the people we claimed to be liberating - not a country of terrorists who threatened our way of life. And yet I think many of our troops did not understand this. And why would they? The president of the United States constantly made it sound as if they were one in the same. He evoked 9/11 in the same breath as Iraq over and over again. Many of our troops believed that the Iraqis were responsible for the terrorist attacks. And with the instructions to "take the gloves off" they took out their rage against those they believed were responsible.

This is why the chickenhawks should be forced go to war. It's not that they must be willing to die for their country; nobody's dying for America over there - they are dying for George W. Bush. It's because if young (and not so young) men and women are going to be forced to have blood on their hands like this; to be involved in the killing of innocents and torture and abuse due to political incompetence, then the political supporters of this war should have to share in their nightmares and their guilt. Let them be the ones fending off nervous breakdowns and suicide, let them have this on their consciences. The chickenhawks who support "taking the gloves off" in an unjust war should be forced to be the ones who do this barbaric dirty work on behalf of the man they see as the great deliverer of freedom and democracy.

I sincerely hope that George W. Bush's God exists. Because if he does, he's sending that SOB straight to hell.


Yeah, well, this is angry.  But one suspects there are more than enough people in the United States who assume that bad stuff happens all the time and, anyway, slapping the world around is our right, and there will always be enough young and nave low-level suckers who can be counted on to do the wet work, and take the rap if it gets a bit messy.


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.

This issue updated and published on...

Paris readers add nine hours....