Who is The Talking Dog?

The Talking Dog

"Sure, the dog can talk…but does it say anything interesting?"

He ain't The Man's best friend

May 25, 2015, Set your watches back... to the future?

The old joke was "Welcome to Ireland; please set your watches back 200 years." Times they would appear to be changing as Ireland appears to be at the forefront of one of the big human rights developments in the world; the Grey Lady treats us to this discussion of the future of the Catholic Church in Ireland, in light of the impressive (62% to 38%) referendum win for a constitutional amendment permitting same sex marriage in Ireland.

While a huge (and well-deserved) rebuke for one of the most abusive and corrupt religious institutions in the Western world the Church, the Grey Lady's piece looks, a bit, at the never-ending child abuse scandals that the Church covered up for a long time, I see the Times article failed to mention "Magdalene Laundries," which persisted for "fallen women" until recently. It does, however, mention the virtual theocratic hold the Church had from rendering homosexual relations a crime to airtight bans on divorce and abortion. But... times, they are a changing.

What I'm trying to figure out, of course, is why a place like Ireland-- albeit a small country-- is first in the world with something like this. Similar referenda have failed in most American states in which they were posed (the most prominent example being California in 2008, where the vote was largely voted down by millions of people who voted for Barack Obama, himself a staunch opponent of gay marriage at the time), only to have the United States Supreme Court deliberately frustrate the popular will on made-up technical grounds, specifically that the political elites (in the form of California governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown-- note the bipartisan nature of elite thought here), didn't want to defend the referendum result in federal court. And as far as I know, my own State of New York is the largest jurisdiction where gay marriage actually passed the way we are told laws come into being, by a bill passed by both houses of the legislature and then signed by the governor; in most cases gay marriage became law by judicial decision, though the scorecard of 37 states with same-sex marriage shows that 26 were by court decision, eight by legislation (though some of these were as a result of court decision) and three by popular vote.

In some sense, this is what makes Ireland's referendum all the more startling: this wasn't one of the perceived uber-liberal places, like Scandinavia or the Netherlands, but somewhere supposedly conservative... and yet, the measure passed by a wide margin.

And that's kind of where I'm going here. I've been blogging now for 13 1/2 years. When I started (days after 9-11), gay marriage was legal nowhere in this country; Hawaii's Supreme Court had permitted it for a short time in the 1990's, but the decision was ultimately thwarted by legislation. Then, out of nowhere, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts found that the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that banned same-sex marriage violated that state's constitution, just in time to create wedge issue to be used against already flawed presidential candidate Senator John Kerry.

But somewhere along the line, elites changed their view on this. Who knows how much of this had to be with former George W. Bush campaign chief (in 2004 no less!) and Republican National Committee Chairman, the now out-as-gay Ken Mehlman, who seems to have spearheaded Republican support of gay marriage? The Grey Lady herself reported on the heavy hitters in finance who were behind the ultimate passage of gay marriage in New York, including my college classmate (the one who isn't Barack) Dan Loeb, vulture capitalist Paul Singer (whose son is gay) and Cliff Asness.

Thing is, boys and girls, my point is that while same-sex marriage (which has only recently crossed 50% in popularity, and is now around 54% in this country) has its own merits as a matter of, say, "equal protection jurisprudence" (that is to say, it is well-nigh indefensible to assert that a couple consisting of two people of opposite genders can receive a large package of governmentally dictated rights, privileges and benefits from their status as "married" while another couple of two people of the same gender cannot), the grudging and quite recent "popularity" is not what's driving this issue. What's driving this issue is that elites-- specifically, moneyed White men, usually because someone in their lives happens to be gay-- want it to go the way it is. I have noted that this country is no longer even remotely a democracy, but an oligarchy (according to a Princeton study), it makes sense that public policy as such will reflect what elites want-- not what non-elites want (or don't want).

So, it should come as no surprise at all that elites in Ireland got behind the gay marriage referendum, as that's who supports it here.

I find myself in an interesting position: I agree with the substance of the decision-- defenders of "traditional" marriage don't seem to understand that "tradition" is subjective-- other "traditions" include child marriage, arranged marriage, bride price and polygamy-- and so, the "tradition of one man and one woman" (note the order!) doesn't win the day. And issues of institutions devoted to child-rearing, cries of "don't go there" might be in order in a country where the majority of women under thirty seem to have at least one child out of wedlock. So... the issue itself has, in my view, only one reasonable outcome; there are age differences to be sure in its popularity, but little besides nostalgia for the Ozzie and Harriet era or outright bigotry supports the other side of this issue. Sorry, that's how I see it. But I have a rather pressing discomfort level...

Gay marriage, which now has the support of the powerful (and hence, is the new status quo, and will presumably become the law of the land in a month or so when the U.S. Supreme Court endorses it by a presumed 5-4 vote), costs the powerful nothing. Indeed, they benefit from it, by being able to show their support for "civil rights." But, of course, it's the civil rights of affluent (usually White) people-- "those people" aren't getting married as much. And so, isn't that interesting? An institution that is becoming the province of the elite as it is-- is now opened up to a group that the elites want?

Notice that things that might cost the elites, such as living wages for the working class, single-payer health insurance, or banks paying interest on savings, or public schools that aren't simply post-industrial baby-sitting services, meaningful food and drug safety testing, and I could go on for days... aren't happening, by referendum or otherwise.

We can wave a cautionary rainbow flag on this one and celebrate the people of Ireland and their apparent open mindedness; but we have to think about a future where the only things we will be getting are things that the elites want us to have...

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May 17, 2015, The Meaning of Life

The Grey Lady treats us to this simultaneous hagiography/hit-piece/elegy called "Poor Little Rich Women", discussing an alleged sociologist's case-study of around 100 pampered glam-SAHM's (glamorous stay at home moms) of the Upper East Side, which, as this Gothamist observation notes, ,correctly, , is the Grey Lady's core demographic, to wit, the aging rich White folk of the Upper East Side of Manhattan-- specifically, the parts between 63rd and 94th between Lex and 5th... roughly a square mile or so, at most, which houses an insanely high portion of the Masters of the Universe.

The big takeaway from the piece seems to be the "Wife Bonuses"-- that is, apparently, some kind of cash incentives/rewards for "good service" or "hitting numbers" or whatever (be they as ordained by pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreements, or perhaps simply in the discretion, whim, or pattern and practice of the various male Masters of the Universe who dispense said bonuses to their, ahem, beloved). But yes -- annual, cash payments from husband to wife are an integral part of some number of these relationships (the only thing we can say for sure is that the number is at least two, as the author-- with the uber-cool name of Wednesday Martin-- noted that the bonuses were "plural.")

"The rich are different from you and I," famously said Fitzgerald, to have Hemingway archly add, "Yes, they have more money." The fact is, this "lifestyles of the rich and famous" paradigm: fabulously beautiful and fit moms toting around the fabulously bright and beautiful tots to the first-rate schools and social engagements and keeping the Master's houses (always houses plural) in order... is not only the American Dream, it is, in fact, the epitome of the American imagination. These are the lives we desire most of all (and certainly what we are constantly told we desire from every television and computer screen, billboard and passing transit ad imaginable)... Indeed, so many of us feel we are but a lottery ticket away from them! Yes-- the most intimate of relationships-- hearth and home-- are just another basis for monetized transactions-- another monetary bonus to be doled out for services well-rendered, whether the "the Mrs.," or to a brilliantly performing personal assistant or division chief... cash is life's sweetest reward-- whether on the giving or the receiving end.

The funny thing is, Ms. Martin the author's upcoming book has the title "Primates of Park Avenue." She has stumbled into the relevant observation, which, perhaps, she will make in her book (hint: it's actually not about mocking the Stepford Wives lifestyle of her subjects... though I do wish someone else would have made that observation). Actually, I was going for the observation that human beings-- even the rarefied ones of the Upper East Side-- are actually primates at all, to wit, products of biological evolution. Sure, social Darwinism has put them (and especially their masters powerful husbands on top of the social heap... but all they really are is the product of the logical omega point of American life... to wit, nothing is merely about "love" (let alone "honor" or "social obligation" or even "biological imperative" or "just because.") Every transaction must be monetized. Not merely the employment of (presumably a vast army) of household servants, but the family members themselves... "wife bonuses" are discussed, but doubtless, children have various financial incentives in their allowance structures for good grades, athletic performances, perhaps even for landing the right life-partner (corporate mergers and acquisitions are handsomely rewarded, and since all-is-money, it is inconceivable that Junior or Juniorette wouldn't be either for making a smart catch). This is, on the one hand, simply a throw-back to Victorian costume drama type novels of the Jane Austen variety-- the English Upper Class revisited.

But it's a little bit more than that. Oh yes. Back to the primate thing. You see, back in the Victorian era, social relations of all kind were governed by all sorts of things. Some of which, were social constructs, like money for things like dowery/bride price, to be sure. But some of which were broader senses of family honor, some sense of class noblesse oblige, and some sense of only-recently broken off dynastic and feudal ties. Most of these things were actually not easily convertible into pounds and shillings. But I'm still going far afield.

This is really a "communism/capitalism" thing. Most families the world over-- including, I bet, yours and mine-- are organized communistically-- that is, the entire resources of the family are, for the most part, available to every member of the family, and in any event, are not doled out in accordance with some measure of "economic value." Apparently, that is not how we should be living, of course, as Ms. Martin's article tells us: real men bring capitalism into the bosom of the family, and money and family resources are dispensed on the basis of economic value, as it should be. This, in an American society where so many functions-- attending to children (including educating them), preparing food (and at one time growing it), cleaning the house, personal grooming-- have now all been "monetized," reduced to monetary payments, often to unrelated people or institutions. Obviously the truly advanced above us have set about making sure that we have a paradigm before us of monetizing
everything... the last great frontier of still-not-monetized American existence is a Man's (always a man's) "relationship" to his wife and children... now, it seems, a few truly enlightened individuals have figured out a way to monetize even that. Kudos are clearly in order.

The irony is that, in order to be a Master of the Universe in finance (what most of the UES Masters described by Ms. Martin presumably are), one probably works for institutions that were the beneficiaries of psychotically large amounts of government largesse after the last financial crisis (the one caused by the very same Masters of the Universe in Finance). So... we'll overlook that, because they earned their places fair and square by being the right place in order to bribe convince the government to hand them (immense amounts of) the taxpayers' money, which they then benefit humanity by allocating to the efficient employment of capital themselves.

Got all that? If it seems a tad grim to you... perhaps we should question your bona fides as an American.

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May 14, 2015, Consistency

What to say about the President's (rather quiet) approval of a permit for the Shell Oil Company to start drilling for oil in the Arctic? The business of America is business, particularly multi-national global corporations not based in the United States (among the major beneficiaries of the proposed uber-top-secret "free trade agreements" he is trying to thrust on us).

So, while he screws around on approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline, the delay of which does not really or necessarily keep the tar-sands "oil" in the ground... his government approves a practice that is pretty much a consensus environmental disaster. The only big surprise to me is that Shell got the permits, rather than BP.

There are a number of other permits required before the environmental holocaust drilling for oil can begin... but this was pretty big.

The moral of the story: at least notional Republicans might face actual opposition to their devastation; notional Democrats still get a pass. And we get crap like this.

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May 13, 2015, All in all, maybe I'd rather not be in Philadelphia

The City of Brotherly Love is the site of a disastrous Amtrak train crash, in which at least six people have been confirmed dead with dozens injured.

It's been a bad period for trains in our area , what with an earlier incident in Valhalla, NY where a commuter Metro-North struck an SUV, killing several people, and 2013's disastrous derailment in the Bronx killing four.

I'll make the obvious point: American infrastructure is not being maintained-- and that's physical infrastructure like track and rolling stock, and human beings, who, if you look carefully, are probably working longer hours than ever for the same or lesser pay than they received a long time ago. With the occasional deadly consequence. And for what? So a few sociopaths in the financial sector can continue to drive up real estate prices and pay outrageous prices for Picassos?

Given our blase national reaction to everything that the powerful don't want us to react to, I expect... a big yawn after this.

But it's falling apart, boys and girls. Rome was neither built nor brought apart in a day. We won't be either. But it's under way. Apparently, well under way.

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May 11, 2015, Glorious Misleader

Who are you going to believe-- Seymour Hersh-- a journalist who has broken amazing stories time after time, from the My Lai Massacre to Mafia-style hit his present piece documenting the blatant falsehoods surrounding the Mafia-style hit murder daring raid of the compound in Pakistan where Osama bin Laden was hiding out and then murdered taken out by Navy Seal Team Six, and has proven a reliable source for decades... or my lying sack of sh*t college classmate the President of the United States, who might, you know, exaggerate from time to time.

Bottom line: I obviously believe Hersh. The only credible part of the OBL story is that he was actually killed (or was he?) by Navy Seals... that's about it. The rest-- hogwash. OBL was a prisoner of the Pakistani military and intelligence apparatuses, for God's sake. Was it inconceivable to believe that the world's most wanted terrorist would be hiding out on Pakistan's equivalent of the campus of West Point without those apparatuses knowing about it? Yes... yes it was. OBL was their prisoner. Bottom line is that someone with knowledge handed over OBL's whereabouts for the reward money., No "following the courier" bullsh*t. Then the CIA stalked him for a good long time to ascertain it was him-- but then, when the raid was ordered, it was with the acquiescence of two key Pakistani generals... not by slipping through Pakistani defenses. The generals opened the door; helicopters could easily have been shot down otherwise-- and would have been.

But since everything is about Barack, and in 2011, he was still facing reelection the following year, so he needed to make it about him, and then made it... all about him, thereby burning his Pakistani General cooperators (and the Navy Seals, btw, who he silenced). Yes... he made the heroes into chumps. And let's not forget the campaign line, "GM is alive and OBL is dead." And Zero Dark Thirty. All. Bull. Sh*t.

But the American people want the bullsh*t. Dear Lord. As so many other bloggers say... read the whole thing.

This has been, "Glorious Misleader."

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May 10, 2015, I'm not quite dead

Given my posting frequencies of late, one would never know if I were live or if I were Memorex some kind of net-bot, or if i were just an aging malcontent watching his nation decline (environmentally, financially, morally, in health terms, you name it...) so quickly (under the "management" of his own college classmate the President) that not even the self-indulgence of blogging is worth the trouble very often.

Oh well. It's a lovely proto-summer day here in the Big City; I managed to eke out race 7 of 9 toward qualification toward NYC Marathon #15 which will take place in 2016 (thanks to the missed year caused by Hurricane Sandy, my streak-- now at 13 consecutive-- no longer conforms to the calendar year)... to wit, the Japan Day 4-miler.

And so, a Happy Mothers Day to all so celebrating (starting with Mrs. TD, her mom, my mom, TD sister, TD sister-in-law, etc. and all.) And a happy birthday to TD Dad (actually yesterday, a birthday he shares with Billy Joel among others). Even now-- with an NYC high in the low 80's-- I'm still hesitant to fully install my roof vegetable garden yet... last year went into June before I did-- this year's winter was relentless, and I remain convinced it still has something to say. Even, of course, if I don't seem to have much to say myself.

For no reason, here's the Grey Lady's Frank Bruni with "How Hillary is Winning." The answer (Bruni doesn't want to give) is "by being the only candidate." Hey Frank: no one else is running as a Democrat (the only announced candidate for the Dem nomination, Bernie Sanders, is an independent, not a Democrat).

Meanwhile, in non-candidate news, progressive love-child Elizabeth Warren is the subject of a Barack-Obama-rant on how "she is dead wrong" about the biggest corporate give-aways and sell-outs of American sovereignty, jobs, and health, safety and the environment in human history ultra-secret "free trade deal" known as the "Trans-Pacific Partnership," a deal so bad that it is being kept at the highest level of top-secret even though it will be "law of the land" if it passes Congress... because the public would be vehemently opposed to it if they knew what it was.

What it is... is a giveaway of the ability of American federal, state and local governments to protect worker safety, worker rights, environmental safety, public health, indeed, anything that would threaten the profit of the selected corporate behemoths who benefit from TPP, whether in the United States or in its "trading partners." Lookit boys and girls: when it comes to a question of a "balance" between profits of the people who gave enough money to put him in office and the health, safety and welfare of the American people, Barack has shown that, 100% of the time, he will go with the former, and with TPP, he does it again, this time, evidently, swinging at Elizabeth Warren... then again...

Did I say that out loud?

April 20, 2015, Alles Gute zum Geburtstag

That would be German for "Happy Birthday," specifically for Germany's most infamous leader born in 1889 (I won't invoke "Godwin's Law" by naming him). It was used as the occasion for the Columbine Massacre several years ago. No, as an American Jew, I haven't lost my mind in invoking this date to make my point.

It's my country's government that has lost its mind. In planning to commence the training of the "Ukrainian National Guard" on this date, the United States is more than being provocative toward a nearby power. Among the groups within the "Ukrainian national guard" are, ahem, the Azov Batallion and others who sport swastika-like insignia and venerate Nazi collaborators during World War II. The notional Obama Administration might appear peculiarly tone-deaf in this particular case of poking a stick at the Russian bear... sure, the United States fought Nazi Germany too, but we did not do so on our own soil at a cost of well over 20,000,000 lives of our own citizens, now did we?

All of this comes at a time when "the Doomsday Clock" has been set down to only three minutes,
supposedly because of a step-up in nuclear weapons and an apparent failure of world leaders (leader being a funny term to describe Barack Obama, who seems to have no control over his own cabinet, be it when his Treasury Secretary refuses to close down a miscreant bank or his Defense Secretary refuses to take action to close Guantanamo... when it's not just political opponents disrespecting him, but his own appointees on key matters of policy, maybe "leader" is a misnomer here, and he's just not really in charge of anything... just saying...)

Anyway, coupled with rather hostile rhetoric toward Russia in general (such as false accusations of everything from troop and equipment movements viz Ukraine to shooting down Malaysian Airlines flight 17) to conducting military exercises right on the Russian border,
it seems the mad-persons in the American power establishment are trying to provoke something... and today's little symbolic exercise seems to reflect more than mere tone-deafness...

After having helped arrange the coup to put neo-Nazis in charge of Ukraine in the first place, the United States now steps it up... on this particular day, no less. It's time we all wake up and smell the global conflagration, boys and girls: to cover up its vast and unmitigated economic failures, the American government and its allies colonial vassals seem hellbent on starting wars... bit-player Syria was bad enough... but nuclear armed Russia?

There really should be some kind of outcry... while we're still notionally a "free country"... again... just saying...

April 1, 2015, Gaypril Fools

Thanks to our buddies at The Onion, noting that [Arkansas-based] Walmart Vows to Defend Whichever Gays Buy Their Cheap Sh*t. A perfectly reasonable observation, given that Indiana Governor Mike Pence, who signed a bill into law that was expressly designed to allow open discrimination against Black gay people in Indiana was itself an early April Fool's joke... he just wants to "clarify" that.

And, of course, the U.S. unemployment rate is at a seven year low at 5.5%, stocks are at or near record highs, and (as usual), the major force for diplomacy is the United States the European Union Russia, in this case, Russia's foreign minister is suggesting that a deal with Iran over nuclear issues may be in the offing.

California may have In-N-Out Burger... but evidently, it doesn't have... water... as Gov. Moonbeam Brown imposes mandatory water restrictions on everyone in the State... for the first time ever, requiring a 25% reduction in water usage.

And, in light of his efforts to reach a nuclear deal with Iran, Michelle Bachmann compares President Obama with the evidently deranged German pilot Andreas Lubitz, to wit, Obama is a deranged pilot flying the 300 million souls of America toward the rocks, just as Lubitz flew the 150 souls on the Germanwings flight... Come on, people... it was obviously a Gaypril Fools joke. Give it a rest.

March 18, 2015, Another day at the office

If... it's the Israeli Prime Minister's office, which now features the ultra-irresponsible Benjamin Netanyahu for a fourth term, after an apparent big win in Israeli national elections for his Likud party and its right-wing-nut allies. Crazy and irresponsible continue to work in popular elections everywhere... in Israel, that means a reckless politician who has tried to foment a potential world war involving the United States and Iran, who has just promised no two-state solution, neo-liberal economics destroying Israel's economy (the nation was founded on economically egalitarian principles by Central/Eastern European socialists), and, of course, jeopardizing Israel's most important international relationship by deliberately intervening in American domestic politics in the interest of advancing his own domestic political position.

In the end, emotional appeals to fear, distrust and hatred of "the other" have evident universal appeal...and in Israel, it proved to be no exception this election.

An interesting development for the long term is that Israel's domestic Arabs, who vote (as opposed to its Palestinian house-guests in the permanently occupied West Bank and Gaza, who have no vote)... Arab parties now agreed to run together, and as such, have over ten per cent of representation in the Knesset... though they have vowed not to be part of any ruling coalition, and though there may be enough outright right-wingers to form a government on their own without help from the "center left". If not now, perhaps in the next election, the Arab parties could be a pivotal block.

Then again, one suspects that appeals to fear and other baser instincts might well prevail again. Congratulations Bibi. You're still an a**hole.

March 15, 2015, Beware the Ides of March

A finish today at the United Airlines NYC Half today... maybe 500th or so from the end of the field of just under 20,000, in an interesting "reverse split," as an early exercise- induced-asthma "event" caused numerous stoppages in the first mile... nature of a winter from hell which ostensibly prevented me from running outside until today (despite being signed up for four earlier races... which, for various reasons all associated with weather, I bagged.) Well... puts me at three of the nine races I need to qualify for the 2016 NYC Marathon... which, assuming I finish this year and next, will be 15, and, by the grandfathered rules of the game, would entitle me to permanent guaranteed entry (as well as, evidently, moving me into a limited group that now includes, apparently, 113 people with active streaks of 15 or more consecutive NYC finishes.) I'm 25 behind the leader... had I started marathoning in NYC when I was 13, instead of 38, I'd be right there with him. Anyway, nothing like gasping for air and clutching your chest in the middle of an athletic event to remind you that, amidst the bullshit of this world, the sad reality is... we're all mortal.

And now... just how did the world learn about "Hillary E-mail-gate?" Could it be... Satan the vast right-wing conspiracy [TM] Obama White House adviser and closest-of-confidantes Valerie Jarrett? So sayeth Rupert's New York Post. It being the Ides of March, the logical question is, "Et tu Valerie?" (or perhaps "Et tu Barry?") Obviously, the "source" is the very same source (Edward Klein) who suggested (or if you like "reported") that Obama was going to favor Elizabeth Warren over Hillary. And hence... "consider the source."

Still... if [my college classmate] Barack and Hillary [with whom I share a birthday] really do intensely dislike each other... perhaps we finally have something definitive to recommend both (although, to be fair, I suppose they both already hate Bill.)

And c/o her digs-ness, we give you Tom Tomorrow, who tells you all you need to know about the Supreme Court.

March 14, 2015, Sure... wtf... why not?

It's really difficult to respond to a headline like that of the WaPo op-ed by one Joshua Muravchik (who?) that "War with Iran is probably our best option." I'll yield to my friend Scott for some of what's wrong here... aside from the obvious refusal to recognize that the United States military has not actually had a definitive military success against an opponent larger than Panama in seventy years... the question, of course, is exactly "what policy" is being served here? I submit it's the policy of American empire-- the desire of our ruling class to be able to pressure anyone on Earth to go along with our economic empire program (that is, enter an economic relationship favorable to American industrial and financial corporations)... or face... trouble... up to and including American military assaults that won't exactly result in American "victory"... but will kill a lot of people, make a huge mess, and... well... generally be in everyone's interest... to avoid.

Here's the thing with nuclear weapons: they can't be used. In today's world, they serve precisely one purpose-- but it's an important purpose. That, of course, is that possessing nuclear weapons means you are military inviolate against direct American invasion. You see, that is why we are so opposed to Iranian nuclear weapons. It's why all three members of the "Axis of Evil[TM]" rushed to develop nuclear programs-- North Korea successfully [and hence, it is beyond our reach], Iraq bluffed success and Saddam paid with his head [and those of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of his countrymen], and Iran... isn't quite there, and has to rely on a close relationship with club members Russia and China and a rather large conventional military. Having a nuclear weapon would put Iran in the same position as Russia, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, yes, Israel, and to an extent, Britain and France, as countries utterly immune to direct American (or for that matter, Israeli) military assault.

Meanwhile... Mr. Benjamin "Compulsive Liar" Netanyahu can tell us that Iran's leaders vow to "wipe Israel off the map" (a lie, of course, just like Netanyahu's claims of Hamas involvement in the deaths of three Israeli teenagers in his rush to attack Gaza last year was based on lies... the reality is, Israel's own intelligence services tell us Iran is nowhere near ready to produce a nuclear weapon... oh... and an Islamic country extraordinarily hostile to Israel (that would be "Pakistan"... former host of Osama bin Laden) already has nuclear weapons. In the event Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons, it could not use them on Israel, because once anyone besides the attacker has nuclear weapons... no one can use them, without risking (or assuring) their own destruction. And in this case, Israel... holder of around 80 nuclear warheads... would not be shy about so responding. Netanyahu should stfu... and confine himself to talking about the evils of Obamacare. Because... he's having problems in his own country's election (coming up, amusingly, on St. Patrick's Day).

I really do wonder exactly who "The Beltway[TM]" is even talking to anymore... I know of no one under eighty years of age who takes anything that comes out of MoscowBeijing Washington as anything other than irrelevant propaganda... but they keep putting it out. And crap like Muravchik's verbal upchuck there doesn't even cause eyebrows to be raised anymore: the business of the United States is the Pentagon, and its contractors, period. All other businesses suffer from "supply and demand"... and, in a worldwide depression soon entering its seventh year, the military-industrial-financial complex and its immense sucking sound of all other economic (and other) activity on this planet is the only game in town, and its life blood is some war, somewhere.

So yeah... let's start a war, somewhere. Anywhere. Who cares why? We'll just bomb away... "as needed." Sure... wtf... why not?

March 4, 2015, Today in Elite Immunity

If your "crime" is to intentionally expose "secrets" that in no way threaten the security of the United States, but instead reveal its crimes and misdeeds (and potentially embarrass its mandarins)... and you dare do so at the lowly rank of Private... thirty-five years in maximum security awaits you.

OTOH, if you have the good sense to be a General, and the CIA Director... you can merrily share the nation's deepest and darkest and potentially most damaging secrets with your mistress, utterly bereft of concern as to what she would do with it ... and you're looking at a misdemeanor, a $40,000 fine (now representing a few days income at your newly vaunted means) and two years probation.

The irony, as I see it, is that General Petraeus has been held accountable at all. If he had the good sense to have been a banker at the time, he would have taken his rightful place as completely above the law.

This has been... "Today in Elite Immunity."

February 28, 2015, TD Blog Interview with Nancy Hollander

Nancy Hollander is a partner at the law firm of Freedman, Boyd, Hollander, Goldberg, Urias & Ward in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her practice is largely devoted to criminal cases, including those involving national security issues. She has also been counsel in numerous civil cases, forfeitures and administrative hearings, and has argued and won a case involving religious freedom in the United States Supreme Court. Ms. Hollander also served as a consultant to the defense in a high profile terrorism case in Ireland, has assisted counsel in other international cases and represents two prisoners at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. On February 28, 2015, I had the privilege of interviewing Ms. Hollander by e-mail exchange.

The Talking Dog: Where were you on Sept. 11, 2001?

Nancy Hollander: I was in Albuquerque getting dressed to go to work and watching the news. I saw the first one and the second one. I went to work but we spent the day watching TV and calling everyone we knew in NYC to make sure they were o.k.. I did not appreciate at the time just how much the world had changed.

The Talking Dog: Please identify your Guantanamo clients, by name, nationality and current whereabouts (since, if I understand correctly, both are still detained at GTMO, the particular location there, if you can disclose it), and please tell us something about each of them (family, personality, anything you believe relevant of that nature?). To the extent you can publicly talk about it, can you tell me where their respective habeas litigations now stand procedurally, and since at least one has something to do with the on-again, apparently really, really off-again, military commissions, where those stand with your client(s)? And can you comment on the recent decision to shut down the commissions pending review of the decision to force the tribunal members to remain in Cuba, and if you can comment about any effect on the scheduling of Mr. Nashiri's commission trial?

Nancy Hollander: I represent two prisoners. Abd Rahim Al-Nashiri and Mohamedou Ould Slahi. I started representing Mohamedou in 2005 and Abd Rahim in 2008.

Mohamedou won his habeas case in 2010 but the government appealed and the court of appeals remanded for a re-do under its newer, looser evidentiary and legal standards. This was part of a concerted effort by the Obama Administration to make it far more difficult for anyone to actually prevail in a habeas case. His case has stalled now for four years with no action from the district court. Mohamedou is a citizen of Mauritania. He won a scholarship to study in Germany as a young man and completed his degree in engineering there in the mid 1990’s. In approximately 1990, he went to Afghanistan to fight against the communist-controlled government. He trained at an AQ camp but when he left, he never had anything else to do with AQ. As you know, the U.S. supported the Afghans at that time with millions of dollars in guns and money. The federal judge who heard his case recognized that this was not the AQ that attacked us in 2001. Unfortunately the Justice Department and its client, the military, have tagged Mohamedou with “joining AQ” and that is where they hang their hat. At one point they accused him of being part of the Millennium Plot and later of recruiting for 9/11 but they did not have evidence for either so all they have is that he is still “part of AQ.” Much of this stems also from his cousin, Abu Hafs Al-Mauritani, who was reportedly a spiritual advisor to OBL. Abu Hafs, however is said (in the 9/11 Report) to have opposed the 9/11 action. It is now known that shortly after that he went to Iran, where he was under a sort of house arrest until 2012, when he was returned to Mauritania. After a short jail stay he was released and is now a free man---after talking to the FBI. How they can let him out and keep Mohamedou in is a mystery.

I have several co-counsel in the case---Theresa Duncan in Albuquerque, who has been with me since the beginning when she was an associate in my firm. She now has her own firm. Hina Shamsi and Jonathan Hafetz joined in 2009 when Jonathan was with the ACLU. He is now a law professor at Seton Hall and Hina is the National Security Director at the ACLU. Both still work on the case. Sometime later, Art Spitzer from the ACLU in D.C. joined us. And Linda Moreno from Tampa also joined in 2009. We all work pro bono and pay our own expenses.

Abd Rahim is charged in the military commission with being the “mastermind” of the USS Cole, etc. from 2002. He is facing the death penalty. The ACLU John Adams Project supports me in this representation. I work primarily as a consultant to the trial team at the commission. I find and prepare experts and do other tasks. I also represent the client in his habeas which is in the midst of appeals. And I represent him in one case before the European Court of Human rights. We just won that case but I cannot say much about it. Yesterday the government rescinded the order to transfer the judges to GTMO so who knows what will happen next. We should find out on Monday. I cannot talk about how or where they live. Suffice to say, they are imprisoned.

Abd Rahim has a team of civilian and military lawyers, led by Rick Kammen.

The Talking Dog: How did you come to represent the Guantanamo clients? Also... how did you come to represent Chelsea Manning? Can you draw parallels to their respective treatment-- the draconian terms of incarcerations of all of them seemingly serves little purpose other than to avoid embarrassment to the government of Barack "no drama" Obama, for example... can you comment on the parallels between the matter of "state secrets" in the war on terror and war on whistleblowers, and now, apparently, American life in general?

Nancy Hollander: A lawyer I know in France asked me to represent Mohamedou and the ACLU asked me to represent Abd Rahim. I was part of the first legal team to see both. Chelsea wrote to me and asked me to represent her on appeal. My law partner, Vincent Ward is co-counsel and she also has military detailed counsel who work with us. Our work for Chelsea is supported by the ChelseaManning support group at ChelseaManning.org. and Courage to Resist. The parallel I can draw is that evidence that embarrasses the government should not be classified. But the government has classified everything the prisoners in Guantanamo say and I believe that is to prevent us knowing about their torture. And in Chelsea’s case we know that she provided information about human rights violations the government did not want to share. This is wrong. A government that has secrets like this (as opposed to true sources and methods that can be classified) is not consistent with a free society. We have to know what our government is doing, including what might embarrass it. President Obama should have closed Guantanamo when he said he would. He should have tried those for which his government had probable cause and released the rest. Remember that President Bush released 500 people! President Obama also should have begun investigations into the prosecutions of the torturers. We know who they are. The treaties we have signed require that they be prosecuted if there is probable cause to do so. But the Administration has stepped in to stop even the civil lawsuits on “state secret” grounds over and over. This is reprehensible.

The Talking Dog: Can you tell me the last time you saw your clients, particularly Mr. Slahi, and is there anything you can tell us of your observation of them (healthy, unhealthy, aging, thinning...) and if there isn't, can you tell us if you are now actively litigating conditions of their confinement in their habeas cases, or elsewhere?

Nancy Hollander: We take turns visiting Mohamedou and try to do so approximately every two months. I saw him in the Fall, Teri, in January and Linda most recently. I will see him again in April. He is certainly healthier now than earlier, both physically and mentally but there is a fragility to him. He was so badly tortured that he will need the support and love of his family to adjust when he gets out---although I believe that ultimately he will be ok. He has great strength. I cannot talk about the conditions of confinement here.

The Talking Dog: Turning to your client Mohamedou Ould Slahi (or "Salahi" in court papers), I understand that his unusual, heavily redacted memoir Guantanamo Diary is now a best-seller at this point... do you have any thoughts on why that is [such as, for example, the intriguing redactions]? Assuming interest in him and his book ends up making him some kind of "Anne Frank of Guantanamo," do you see this as any kind of turning point in the Guantanamo project, in terms of either public (or more importantly, elite) opinion, and perhaps stepped up general media coverage or interest... or do you think this will soon fall back into a "nothing to see here, move along" situation... like everything else GTMO -related over the last 13 years? Assuming you are at liberty to talk about any of this, I take it that the Diary represents material that, by definition, was presumed classified and had to be reviewed by "the privilege team" and ultimately cycled through the secure facility for lawyers near the Pentagon before any of it could be publicly disclosed... am I correct in my surmise that what ended up being the Diary was material Mr. Slahi handed to you or your co-counsel during legal visits, or did he mail it to you in "legal mail"? Did the government (military, intel services, etc.) review the book prior to publication to make sure nothing "classified" got published?" Or if you prefer, you may just answer "how the heck did you get this released?"

Nancy Hollander: On my first visit to Mohamedou in 2005, he handed me 90 pages that he had written so his lawyers would know something about him and about what had happened to him. During the course of that year he wrote the remaining 466 pages and sent it up in sections. The Privilege Team refused to review it because it was so long. We litigated this for years arguing that going to the “court of public opinion” is part of our litigation strategy and we want the book out. Finally, we gave up and he agreed to waive the attorney-client privilege so the various equity holders could review it. We do not know which intelligence organizations did the review but it came back a couple years later as “Protected.” This meant we could share it within the team but could not show it to anyone else. I went back to the government and told them he did not waive the privilege just so they could see what he wrote. I had various memos to back this up---that he waived to get a cleared copy that he could release to the public. Eventually they reviewed it again and we received the cleared copy. The whole 466 pages are up in a read-only file at www.guantanamodiary.com. We hired Larry Siems to edit into a book. The whole purpose of this book was to bring his story out and to assist in getting him freed. I hope it will do that. Everyone should read it---hard copy or Kindle. And it is now out in several languages. We have contracts already with about 23 countries so within the next few months, it will be out all over the world.

The Talking Dog: Turning to Slahi's habeas case (or "Salahi's"), my understanding is that the D.C. Circuit remanded Judge James Robertson's previous grant of habeas relief to Slahi... I understand that the habeas is still pending before Judge Robertson. The D.C. Cir.'s decision was that Slahi could be properly held notwithstanding that he was not captured on a battlefield anywhere near Afghanistan-- but handed himself in to Mauritanian authorities in November 2001, who in turn rendered him to Jordan, and then on to Bagram and GTMO... Among the government's contentions is that notwithstanding that Slahi's ties to al Qaeda date from the early 1990's when it was ostensibly an American ally (if not contractor) in the fight against communists, he left it (and Afghanistan) to live in Germany in 1992, and alleges that he severed his ties to Al Qaeda at that point. According to the government, Salahi nonetheless continued to serve Al Qaeda by acting as a recruiter in Germany, and in that capacity in 1999 helped persuade three of the eventual 9/11 plotters to travel to Afghanistan to receive training, that he assisted an Al Qaeda agent in Germany with the purchase of telecommunications equipment in the 1990s, sent money to an Al Qaeda agent in Mauritania in this period, interacted in Montreal with an Al Qaeda cell later linked to the attempted millennium bomb plot, and upon returning to live in Mauritania explored the possibility of computer-based attacks. The D.C. Circuit noted that between Judge Robertson's grant of habeas and the reversal/remand, D.C. Circuit case law had changed (or at least "clarified"), loosening up the requirements of what the government had to show on just about everything, right up to the "mosaic" theory so that no credible or reliable or otherwise admissible evidence at all is require to detain as long as there's a lot of unreliable evidence... Anyway... to the extent you can publicly talk about any of this, and if you like, you can answer by noting what you have asserted in public filings, how much of the government's allegations are based on the statements of either Slahi himself or other detainees that you have alleged were obtained by torture? By the way-- same question kind of flipped... are you aware of public allegations of statements supposedly incriminating other Guantanamo detainees (or anyone else, as he alludes to many such inculpatory statements in his Diary) made by Slahi while under torture? Given the D.C. Circuit's new and improved GTMO standards of proof and showing required to sustain detention, do you see much opening for Slahi in a "legal" sense, or would you agree with me, that whether or not Mr. Slahi is ever released will, like every other GTMO detainee to date of which I am aware, ultimately be a "political" matter?

Nancy Hollander: I answered much of this above. By the time Mohamedou got to Guantanamo from Jordan and Afghanistan, I believe the government already knew he had nothing to do with the Millennium Plot. They did not just release him because they didn’t want anyone to know where he had been. His family had been told he was in Mauritania the whole time and had been bringing food and clothing to the jail in Mauritania every day he was actually in Jordan. By the time of his hearing in 2010, the government admitted that he probably didn’t even know about 9/11. Judge Robertson found that all they proved was that Ramsi Bin Al-Shibh had been in his home one night in 1999. Mohamedou did make statements against others under his own torture and later admitted that he made them up. He talks about this in the book. We have a petition at the ACLU---aclu.org/freeslahi---asking the department of defense to stop fighting his habeas so he can be released. We also understand that he will receive a PRB hearing and hope that one way or the other he will be released this year. He is innocent.

The Talking Dog: Turning to specific allegations of torture, I'll summarize by noting that Slahi was one of the few detainees with a "special interrogation plan" so special it required SecDef Rumsfeld's personal permission, and, aside from physical abuse, involved months on end of sleep deprivation, forced standing, round-the-clock interrogation sessions, threats, bizarre sexual humiliation (readers are invited to read the book for more specifics) ... the Diary suggests that the military officer ostensibly responsible for leading the team performing these abusive interrogations (i.e. torture) was one Navy Reserve Lt. Richard Zuley, who we have just learned from a Guardian report, is a retired detective from the Chicago Police Department, where, during his time on the police force, he evidently engaged in similar abusive treatment of criminal suspects, often resulting in false confessions. First question is straightforward-- I take it Zuley is named specifically in publicly filed papers in Slahi's habeas case? Do you know if other detainees have made public allegations concerning treatment by him? My next question is a bit broader (noting that,coincidentally, our mutual friend Candace Gorman hails from and practices in Chicago and coincidentally Barack Obama and I both graduated New York's Columbia College in 1983 with degrees in political science concentrating in international politics)... is there something about Chicago (where both you and President Obama spent some time as community organizers,and Detective Zuley allegedly abused suspects) that the rest of us should know about?

Nancy Hollander: I cannot comment about Zuley. But I can tell you about the Chicago I knew in the 1960s and 70s--- a subject for another day. Suffice to say, nothing would surprise me. I lived in the Foster Ave Police District where a bunch of them went to jail for selling stolen goods out of the basement of the police station. And I watched them shoot a man on the streets of Uptown.

The Talking Dog: How disappointed are you in President Obama concerning the fact that GTMO is still open and the prison there remains alive and well (even as some of its detainees are not, with 122 still there potentially indefinitely), his aggressive stance in appealing habeas cases (such as Slahi's), and his prosecution of whatever the war on terror is called now as well as his advancement of the total security state?

Nancy Hollander: Completely disappointed. He folded on everything important---health care, immigration, criminal justice. What else is there?

The Talking Dog: I join my readers in thanking Nancy Hollander for that candid and informative interview. I encourage all readers interested in the story of Mohamedou Ould Slahi to check out Guantanamo Diary.

Readers interested in legal issues and related matters associated with the "war on terror" may also find talking dog blog interviews with former Guantanamo military commissions prosecutors Morris Davis and Darrel Vandeveld, with Guantanamo military commissions defense attorney Todd Pierce, with former Guantanamo combatant status review tribunal/"OARDEC" officer Stephen Abraham, with attorneys Jon Eisenberg, David Marshall, Jan Kitchel, Eric Lewis, Cori Crider, Michael Mone, Matt O'Hara, Carlos Warner, Matthew Melewski, Stewart "Buz" Eisenberg, Patricia Bronte, Kristine Huskey, Ellen Lubell, Ramzi Kassem, George Clarke, Buz Eisenberg, Steven Wax, Wells Dixon, Rebecca Dick, Wesley Powell, Martha Rayner, Angela Campbell, Stephen Truitt and Charles Carpenter, Gaillard Hunt, Robert Rachlin, Tina Foster, Brent Mickum, Marc Falkoff H. Candace Gorman, Eric Freedman, Michael Ratner, Thomas Wilner, Jonathan Hafetz, Joshua Denbeaux, Rick Wilson,
Neal Katyal, Joshua Colangelo Bryan, Baher Azmy, and Joshua Dratel (representing Guantanamo detainees and others held in "the war on terror"), with attorneys Donna Newman and Andrew Patel (representing "unlawful combatant" Jose Padilila), with Dr. David Nicholl, who spearheaded an effort among international physicians protesting force-feeding of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, with physician and bioethicist Dr. Steven Miles on medical complicity in torture, with law professor and former Clinton Administration Ambassador-at-large for war crimes matters David Scheffer, with former Guantanamo detainees Moazzam Begg and Shafiq Rasul , with former Guantanamo Bay Chaplain James Yee, with former Guantanamo Army Arabic linguist Erik Saar, with former Guantanamo sergeant-of-the-guard Joseph Hickman, with former Guantanamo military guard Terry Holdbrooks, Jr., with former military interrogator Matthew Alexander, with law professor and former Army J.A.G. officer Jeffrey Addicott, with law professor and Coast Guard officer Glenn Sulmasy, with author and geographer Trevor Paglen and with author and journalist Stephen Grey on the subject of the CIA's extraordinary rendition program, with journalist and author David Rose on Guantanamo, with journalist Michael Otterman on the subject of American torture and related issues, with author and historian Andy Worthington detailing the capture and provenance of all of the Guantanamo detainees, with law professor Peter Honigsberg on various aspects of detention policy in the war on terror, with Joanne Mariner of Human Rights Watch, with Almerindo Ojeda of the Guantanamo Testimonials Project, with Karen Greenberg, author of The LeastWorst Place: Guantanamo's First 100 Days, with Charles Gittings of the Project to Enforce the Geneva Conventions, Laurel Fletcher, author of "The Guantanamo Effect" documenting the experience of Guantanamo detainees after their release, and with John Hickman, author of "Selling Guantanamo," critiquing the official narrative surrounding Guantanamo, to be of interest.

February 21, 2015, TD Blog Interview with Joseph Hickman

Joseph Hickman spent most of his life in the military, first as a marine, then as a soldier in both the army and the National Guard. He has deployed on several military operations throughout the world, sometimes attached to foreign militaries. The recipient of more than twenty commendations and awards, Hickman was awarded the Army Achievement Medal and the Army Commendation Medal while he was stationed with the 629th Military Intelligence Battalion in Guantánamo Bay.He is currently working as an independent researcher and Senior Research Fellow at Seton Hall Law School’s Center for Policy and Research. On the evening of June 9, 2006, when the world was told that three Guantanamo detainees had simultaneously committed suicide by hanging themselves in their cells, then Sergeant Joseph Hickman was serving as sergeant of the guard at Camp America. He is the author of "Murder at Camp Delta: A Staff Sergeant's Pursuit of the Truth About Guantanamo Bay" On February 19, 2015, I had the privilege of interviewing Joseph Hickman by telephone. What follows are my interview notes, as corrected by Mr. Hickman.

The Talking Dog: My traditional first question is "where were you on September 11th." We know from your book that on September 11, 2001, you were working as a correction officer in Maryland for Baltimore and Anne Arundel Counties, but you had previously served in the military, and as a result of the September 11th attacks, you believed it was your duty to rejoin the military and you joined the Maryland National Guard, which eventually activated and deployed you to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In your case, my first question will be two part: (1) what specifically were you doing at the time of the attacks, and what went through your mind at that moment and shortly thereafter, and (2) reminiscent of the scene in The Matrix involving two capsules, one of which would support happy delusion and the other would show unpleasant reality, do you ever wish that you had never been deployed to Guantanamo and learned the unfortunate reality of what the United States intelligence community and military were up to there?

Joseph Hickman: On the morning of September 11th, I was transporting twelve prisoners from a jail in Anne Arundel County (MD) to a commissioner's office in the county. In the courthouse, we saw an F-16 flying overhead, very low... the courthouse is a 30-minute drive from the Pentagon. Once in the courthouse, we saw a black and white t.v. in the commissioner's office. We saw the towers on fire. People in the hall could see the television. It was surreal: me and my partner, and the prisoners, all watched the t.v. screen together.

As to the Guantanamo mission, in hindsight, I believed in the mission at the time, and ultimately, I am glad I saw what I did so that I could report it to the outside world.

The Talking Dog: Your book describes aspects of training at Fort Lewis, in Washington State, that had, unfortunately, a racial aspect (your unit included mostly people of color, and received significantly less favorable treatment than other units), and you also described the limited utility of your training. In an interview I conducted in 2009 with a GTMO guard named Terry Holdbrooks, Jr., we had the following exchange concerning his pre-deployment training:

The Talking Dog : ... Before deploying to GTMO, regardless of "cultural or religious training" (for which, I understand the answer was "none") did you have any specific prison guard training (under any applicable Army Manual, Geneva Conventions, anything like that?) Can you describe any training and/or indoctrination (such as what you have described as "propaganda films") that you did receive? Can you comment on the overall "professionalism" of your fellow guards, and tell me why you come to this assessment? Were they generally from military police backgrounds?

Terry Holdbrooks : Well, we were given an introduction to detention tactics for a week or two in the course of training, but I did not find it particularly meaningful, or particularly realistic compared to what we eventually encountered. This was conducted at Fort Dix, New Jersey just before we left for GTMO. This was a crash course given to us by 5 random sergeants of the "31c mos", meaning, correctional officers. It was nothing like what we were going into, and in no way a real preparation for the experience ahead.

We also did see quite a number of what I would call propaganda films: films of towers falling, pictures of bin Laden, people crying and flags flying, and then random presumably Muslim individuals, all with heavy metal music playing, usually in three minute song length segments. Before going to Guantanamo (and even at Guantanamo) we saw a lot of these things, I just thought that this is how the Army stoked up people during training. Drowning Pool's Let the Bodies hit the Floor was a common song for this. It is simple to see how it is propaganda and programming. We also took a trip to "Ground Zero" just before the day we flew out, this was to really nail in the idea that "these people are bad" and to get us riled and ready for hatred. I remember reading a quote someone had left on the wall there, "this is the worst tragedy to happen to mankind". It really made me sad to think our educational system is so lacking, that this was the worst someone could think of to mankind . Never mind the Holocaust, Josef Stalin, the Crusades, the Armenian Genocide, they don’t count, they're not American-related, I suppose.

Also part of the training was an actual mock detention facility, which featured 2 or 3 cell blocks, and a larger area for recreation, a mess hall and so forth, we practiced guarding other guards... but frankly, the anger and animosity that we were supposed to encounter just wasn't there in this exercise (perhaps had we been trained in a real prison, like Leavenworth, it might have been more realistic).

As to "professionalism"... that was just not a word I would use to describe guards at Guantanamo, other than when VIPs such as my home state's esteemed Senior Senator John McCain or generals, diplomats or other dignitaries showed up, when suddenly, everything would appear to be in perfect order. Otherwise, most guards were just eager to leave, and new guards were disappointed to be there. (While the guards were less than professional, the medical staffs, usually Navy and Marine Corpsmen were quite professional... patient care was patient care, whether the patient was an American or an accused terrorist.)

As to the backgrounds of the guards, almost all were military police, and not many of them had corrections background. We had a week of corrections training in military police school, but that is not enough to certify you to work in a facility as far as I am concerned.

--- Can you comment on Mr. Holdbrooks' description of his pre-deployment training, and compare it to your own, and your understanding of the training received by the naval personnel responsible for guarding of the individual cell blocks, and do you have any broader comments on the issues of training of guards (particularly in, say, compliance with Geneva Conventions and Army Field Manuals and the like), and your observations, and do you have any broader comment on issues of racism (i.e., broader than the limited context of the treatment of your own unit)?

Joseph Hickman: The training we received at Fort Lewis was terrible. There were problems with the command, but at least the soldiers were trying their best to be professionals. The command was disorganized at best-- they did not set up for real training for the mission we would actually have- they kept saying "read the SOP [standard operating procedure]". We had something like one hour of "cultural awareness training", in which were were told not to call the detainees "Haji's" or "Sand N*ggers".. that was the gist of "cultural awareness training."

We were also told that the detainees would kill us all, if they could. I was 41 when I was training and had some experience with hyperbole... but some of the soldiers believed this.

As to the matter of racism, I must say this was the first time I saw it in my time in the United States military. I was quite sensitive to it, as other than myself, I was in an all-Black squad. But this was still a surprise to me-- after all, the United States military was one of the first institutions in this country to ban segregation. Nonetheless, it happened, and it was disgusting.

The Talking Dog: Moving right along on the subject of training which I think ties in to "SOPs"-- or standard operating procedures-- which members of the military are trained to follow (and apparent deviations from SOPs seem to be endemic to the story of the three deaths at Guantanamo in June 2006 discussed in Murder at Camp Delta)-- let me ask for your comment on this observation made by former Army linguist Erik Saar when I interviewed him in August 2006:

The Talking Dog: Let me ask you about your training in the Army Field Manual 34-52 on interrogations, which I understand contains limitations consistent with the Geneva Conventions... Erik Saar: Let me stop you there, because this is a critical point that isn't discussed much. I was NEVER trained in the Army Field Manual on interrogations. Indeed, no Army linguists as far as I know were trained in interrogations. Linguists were ordered NOT to question what they saw. Military interrogators and linguists were supposed to "balance" each other. Of course, linguists had a conflict. This was especially so among civilian contractors, who would frequently tell interrogators that what they were doing was outside the custom and norm of the culture of the detainee, and hence, likely to be counter-productive. Training is a critical factor-- training is everything in the service; we do nothing unless we are trained to do it first. We were, of course, lectured as I described in the book that we had "detainees" who were not POWs because they didn't wear uniforms and other legal explanations given and as such interrogators didn't have to comply with Geneva Conventions. BUT-- interrogators had been trained one way-- don't EVER violate the Geneva Conventions. Indeed, I recall one incident where an interrogation trainee made a joke during interrogation school about "now we go to the electric shock"-- he was almost thrown out of interrogation school just for joking like that.

The drill was all Geneva all the time, BECAUSE INTERROGATION IS AND CAN BE MOST EFFECTIVE WITHIN THOSE LIMITS. At Guantanamo, of course, the constraints were "relaxed" by various orders, but the interrogators had never been trained in the new methods.

When I had the Power Point presentation telling us Geneva didn't have to apply, I left, not particularly outraged, but kind of confused. My thinking was a process-- when I left that meeting, my thought was-- this is contrary to Army practice-- we are not TRAINED for this... how can we use techniques that we are NOT TRAINED IN and how do we know this is effective?... Its not just the interrogation methods themselves that are contrary to every aspect of Army practice-- but using improvised, untested techniques that interrogators were not trained in, regardless of what they were-- is contrary to procedure as we were drilled.

---- OK... I realize that you were involved in the detention aspect rather than interrogations, of course, but my question does concern a "cognitive dissonance" of training to comply with Geneva conventions and military norms in general and suddenly being told "the gloves are off" when it comes to Guantanamo and its prisoners-- just as you noted that you had complete control of the perimeter of Camp America (the area incorporating Camp Delta and most of the "official" detention facilities at Guantanamo) except for "the pizza van", or paddy wagon moving actual detainees, perhaps to interrogation, and "the ice man," or director of interrogations, whom you were not permitted to search at all... my question is... wait for it... how did you and your men deal with the cognitive dissonance of it all?

Joseph Hickman: The explanation from the command at Guantanamo was that the soldiers were repeatedly told "just follow the SOPs for Guantanamo -- these are detainees not subject to the Geneva Conventions, they are not prisoners of war." Now, I was there serving as a sergeant-- and I was well aware that the Geneva Conventions applied to non-uniformed freedom fighters. The French Resistance was treated as POWs during World War II, despite its members bombing German facilities and being considered "terrorists" by the Germans.

I personally questioned why these people held at GTMO would fall under a category any different from French Resistance fighters.

Nonetheless, most soldiers did what they were told... it certainly makes your life easier if you do. I will say I certainly questioned the SOPs, and with respect to the particular gaps in security that were imposed on us (the "pizza van" and the "Iceman")... all of us questioned those gaps.

The Talking Dog: I know in the case of others I've interviewed, particularly in the interrogation area (interrogator Matthew Alexander and linguist Saar come to mind), their books had to be vetted by the military and the intelligence services before publication (presumably to ensure that no "national security secrets" were disclosed; in particular, others have had to use the term "Other Government Agency" for what I call "the Company" and you call "the CIA..." ); was your book vetted as well?

Joseph Hickman: My book was not submitted for government vetting. I note that it is based on research including over 125,000 publicly available government documents from official government sources. While the book did go through a lengthy and extensive legal review process with my publisher Simon & Schuster, it was not vetted by the government.

The Talking Dog: I understand you were the first soldier who gave the order to fire on GTMO detainees, in the course of responding to a prisoner riot at Camp 4, the supposed "compliant prisoner" camp, where, in responding to prisoners attacking your squad members, some of the prisoners had make shift weapons and you directed your men to fire "rubber bullets" or more accurately plastic pellets (called muppets?) at range so close it may have been lethal; your book indicates that you were strongly pressured to write a report that fudged the range of the discharge, and that you left out a key detail or two... As a career military man and/or corrections officer, how surprised were you about that, and if you could, please tell me what your general understanding is of the purpose of "after action reports" and why fudging them (or worse) is a problem? Also, please tell me about how these events (you can summarize them if you want) primed you for the "main event" of the night of June 9, 2006?

Joseph Hickman: Being pressured to write up a misleading report disturbed the hell out of me. An after-action report is supposed to describe what went right, what went wrong, and most importantly, how we can correct it later on. In my case, I was told to keep re-writing my report, for hours and hours after the incident. I felt like I was being interrogated. I eventually gave in, and felt horrible about it. I was up for over 24 hours, and was told that my report was going to Donald Rumsfeld personally, and that it was up to me to protect myself, my men, and to protect the command.

As far as the aftermath of the incident, the command came down really hard on the detainees after the riot in camps 1,2,3 and 4. Orders came down through the "DIMS" (Detainee Information Management System) not to tolerate any uncooperative detainees-- they got two strikes, and on any third strike (that would be, refusing a direct instruction), they would be "IRFed" (subject to intervention of an "Immediate Reaction Force"). The QRF ("quick reaction force") I was in charge of was actually moved outside the camp boundaries (it had been in the medical clinic), because detainees were protesting the new rules with a hunger strike, and they needed to make room for force-feeding in the medical clinic.

The Talking Dog: Please tell me about your discovery of "Camp No," and in particular your colleague's exclaiming: "we just found our Auschwitz.? Do you have any sense of perspective on this discovery, given that the events of June 9, 2004 took place almost two years to the day after the discovery of the events at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, and the situations were seemingly almost a perfect parallel (i.e., military run detention facility with CIA "black site" operating right in its midst and out of the military's control, occasionally "going a little too far" resulting in abuse and death)?

Joseph Hickman: It strikes me this way: Guantanamo was set up not because it was going to hold "the worst of the worst"-- but to test out interrogation techniques on a group of prisoners isolated from the rest of the world, and to see what worked, and what didn't work, and then send those techniques all over the world, including to places like Abu Ghraib.

Indeed, General Geoffrey Miller publicly stated in August of 2003, after a visit to Iraq and Abu Ghraib, that we would like to "Gitmo-ize" Abu Ghraib"... and then a few months later, the disturbing pictures came out.

At the time I first found Camp No, I did not know it was a CIA facility. No one knew it was a CIA facility.

When the Harper's piece came out, I was criticized and my critics said "there was no CIA site at GTMO."

But, in 2013, the A.P. published a piece reporting that "Camp NO" was a CIA black site after all, code named "Penny Lane." The government keeps going back and forth on this... even in the Senate Torture Report that came out, government officials conceded that Camp No was a CIA black site, but they said it was a "good black site," with fewer casualties than other black sites!

And amazingly, people buy these things.

The Talking Dog: Turning to the night of June 9, 2006, when the world was told that three detainees ( two Saudi detainees identified as Manei al-Otaibi and Yasser al-Zahrani and one Yemeni identified as Ahmad Abdullah) had committed suicide in their cells by simultaneously hanging themselves, despite constant monitoring of every aspect of their lives, we know from your book that you were Sergeant of the Guard that night , more or less in charge of "the perimeter" of Camp America, with a low-flying bird's eye view of quite a bit... I know it's in the book, but why don't you walk us through that night and tell us what you did and did not see. Follow up to that, given the talk given to you and your men by Colonel Bumgarner the next morning, to wit, that the three men choked to death (presumably on fabric), but that news stories would indicate hanging (and the wonderfully Orwellian term "act of asymmetrical warfare" used by Admiral Harry Harris in briefing the press) and you were sworn to utmost secrecy... please tell us specifically what's wrong with "the official story" and why even the most credulous member of the press should have spotted that right then and there. Bonus follow-ups... (1) the NCIS, or Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which also investigated the events of June 9th, unsurprisingly (to me) endorsed the "official story"... without, for example, interviewing you or your men... were you surprised by this, and why? and (2) you obviously didn't see anyone stuffing rags down anyone's throat and I understand you didn't see the bodies of detainees... so other than being certain that "the official story" is a load of transparent hogwash, how do you know that what probably happened (detainees choking to death on fabric stuffed down their throats) constituted "murder" [title of your book] as opposed to, say, "negligent homicide" from an "enhanced interrogation" session getting a little out of hand, or maybe even an actual suicide from lax supervision (for example, a detainee named Juma al-Dossari tried to hang himself on a bathroom break during a meeting with his lawyer Joshua Colangelo-Bryan as described in my interview here)?

Joseph Hickman: The first thing that matters is that the NCIS immediately asserted that I was "only" a perimeter guard and not in a position to see what happened. That was, of course, a half truth. Half of my duties were inside Camp Delta. I was in a position to see what happened from inside the camp, and this "perimeter guard" characterization irritates me.

I was on duty. I was a reconnaissance soldier, which means you are trained in observation and what you see is important. That night I visited a number of positions. I was in charge of the solders at all of the towers inside Camp Delta. Tower 1 was only thirty-five feet from the medical clinic... it is also less than 50 yards from the walkway in Camp One, with a clear view of it. I was also next to the entrance to Camp Delta. In the tower, I saw the white paddy wagon (which, of course, could pass without inspection or having to sign in)... I saw it back up to Camp One, and I saw two guards get out and put a detainee in the vehicle. And then I saw the van make a right, and then a left-- leaving Camp America. And then I saw the van return around twenty minutes later, and repeat the process with a second detainee.

Now this was a Friday night-- there were no commissions scheduled, and there wasn't a different camp outside the perimeter to take them to... but where they going?

And then the van returned a third time. This time, I went to ACP [access control point] Roosevelt, the exit from Camp America, and watched. If the van went right, it would be going to the main part of the Guantanamo base-- where the McDonalds, the PX and other facilities were. But if it went left, that led only to the beach (for personnel's recreation) or to Camp No-- the road led nowhere else. And the van went left. I knew it wasn't taking detainees to the beach. This made me curious, as my only conclusion was that the van was going to Camp No. And so, I continued to do my duties of making rounds of my men's positions.

At 11:30 pm that night, the van returned to Camp Delta. I was back in Tower 1. The van backed up to the medical clinic. I was back in Tower 1, with a clear view of the medical clinic. The van backed up to the medical clinic-- my view was obstructed by the van's doors-- but I watched the guards take stretchers into the clinic. Twenty to thirty minutes later, the lights in the camp all went on, and all hell seemed to be breaking loose.

I got down from the tower, and found a Navy corpsman (or medic) who I knew, and she told me that three detainees had stuffed rags down their throats and killed themselves. I knew something horrible was happening.

I asked the guards under my command for their observations. Three guards were stationed 20 feet from the medical clinic-- and they reported that no detainees had come from Camp One-- the only movement of detainees had been the paddy wagon. In fact, none of the guards in my command-- who were watching the camp all night-- saw anyone transported from any camp-- other than the paddy wagon.

The next morning, of course, Col. Bumgarner gave us his talk about what "actually happened"-- the detainees choked to death on rags-- and what we would see in the news-- that they simultaneously hanged themselves and were found that way in their cells... and we were ordered not to talk about it. Nonetheless, I was sure we would be asked about what we observed, by someone. Again, I asked the tower guards in camp 1-- was anyone transported? The answer was consistent-- no. And so, if they didn't see it, it didn't happen. And they did not see detainees taken from Camp 1 (where they supposedly hanged themselves in their cells) to the medical clinic. It did not happen.

And the NCIS did not contact me, or my men-- ever.

At the time, I tried to put this behind me. But some details stick with you: it is just so hard to kill yourself at Guantanamo. I am aware of the suicide attempt during an attorney visit you described... that was a gap in security that was solved-- and even the detainee in that situation still failed in his attempt. It's just so hard to do it.

But the biggest thing is what just couldn't add up: three men simultaneously (in non-contiguous cells) tying their hands together, putting masks on, forming nooses, shoving rags down their throat, and then managing to hang themselves simultaneously while being watched by soldiers every three minutes.

I should also note than I came forward to speak to the Justice Department-- it was not just me. Seven guards came forward to tell them what we observed.

And finally, I can tell you that the way I ended the book-- noting that I can't name names, but nonetheless, from all I know, I consider what happened on June 9, 2006 "murder" (notwithstanding that a clever lawyer might characterize it as something else)... I put out the evidence I found-- this is what I believe, but the reader can decide. I still think it was murder.

The Talking Dog: Within a few days of June 9, 2006, I interviewed former British detainee Shafiq Rasul who gave me the following statement:

I think the American Government needs to stop using phrases like "warfare against the U.S", and "Jihadi Code of conduct" for these recent deaths and stop blaming the detainees for what is happening in Guantanamo and start blaming themselves for what is happening . I mean it is very sad and shocking that these deaths have happened for me personally because we were all like family to each other and we would do anything to help each other in any way but knowing that these guys are never going to get any kind of justice and never be able to see their families is hard and hurts a lot. Inevitably, it was going to happen because of the despair that they were going through. People have to understand that when we say that these people have no rights that we mean that they do not have any rights at all, they are being treated much, much worse than if they had actually been convicted of a crime. They have now been incarcerated for four and half years in Guantanamo with no form of justice. They are in constant fear, worry and despair. For some reason the American Government thinks that these people have no values and are not human, and that this situation that they are in is not enough punishment for them. We in the west believe in democracy and in justice, so I believe it is about time that these people got some form of justice.

In particular, I'd like you to comment on Rasul's statement that " these people have no rights that we mean that they do not have any rights at all, they are being treated much, much worse than if they had actually been convicted of a crime." Given your perspective as both a member of the military and a stateside corrections officer, can you comment on Rasul's characterization?

Joseph Hickman: Rasul's comments are dead on. Animals in zoos get far better treatment than the detainees got.

The Talking Dog: Let me ask you about a discovery by another British man, U.K. resident Shaker Aamer (last British man at GTMO), code named "the professor" and one of the 2006 hunger strikers, who, in statements given to his lawyers, suggested that he was pulled out of his cell and had fabric shoved down his throat and thought he would be killed that very night. Now, I take it you are absolutely clear in your observations (as correlated by reports of the men in your command from their positions) that only three detainees that were observed being removed from their cells (and Camp Delta) that evening, and three dying or dead detainees returned to the medical clinic... so I'm trying to get a time and space correlation with when and where Aamer might have received this particular treatment... did you ever reach any conclusions about that? (Bonus follow-up... what in particular was the reaction of the camp commanders to hunger strikes, and why?)

Joseph Hickman: I can tell you that I believe Aamer's statement. He was in Camp 5, a "less-compliant" camp, in isolation most of the year (a camp not within my observation that night), so Aamer, from his isolation, would not have known what else happened on June 9th, and yet he described treatment that same night very similar to my understanding of what killed the three detainees.(He could keep track of time as daylight was discernible in the Camp 5 cells).

As far as hunger strikes, the medical doctors assigned to Guantanamo-- not the BSCTs responsible for interrogations, but the regular doctors, were good doctors, concerned with the welfare of their patients. They came up with SOPs providing that a detainee on a hunger strike more than a short period could not be interrogated. The joint medical group has enough power to make this happen.

The interrogation program was running over 200 interrogations a week. Hunger strikes crippled interrogations-- and infuriated the command..

The Talking Dog: Let's turn to drugs... as a matter of the question! Specifically, you tell us that you were told that following the cell-extraction riot in which you ordered the discharge of "the muppet" (and earned your moniker "Satan" from the detainees), there was a significant calm in the camps following that incident, and you were told that sedatives had been administered to all of the detainees. Later, I understand that in the course of your later research, some which made its way into a Seton Hall University Law School report called "Guantanamo: America's Battle Lab" you discovered that at the time of their arrival, all Guantanamo detainees were administered an anti-malarial drug called Mefloquine, an anti-malarial medication, at excessive (5X recommended) doses at levels known to induce anxiety, paranoia and other mental harm. Aside from "everything"... what exactly is wrong with doing that?

Joseph Hickman: The administration of these drugs is absolutely a war crime, as I see it.

I can tell you that my discovery of the use of Mefloquine was a turning point in my figuring out that Afghanistan was "America's Battle Lab." When you consider how the detainees were transported from Afghanistan-- under total sensory deprivation (gloves, masks, goggles, ear plugs-- totally cutting them off from use of any of their senses -- we saw techniques taken right out of the Russian playbook from the early 1970s. So the detainees were deprived of the use of their senses for over 17 hours, and then they are administered a dosage of 5X the recommended dosage of a fat soluble drug that induces psychosis at that level-- that will remain in their system for 30 days or more, with an SOP providing that for 30 days, they will get no Red Cross visits, no books, no Korans, or anything-- other than interrogations.

In short... the whole thing was all some kind of a game.

The Talking Dog: Jumping back to my interview with Erik Saar... from his closing comments:

A military organization's good order and discipline requires that soldiers follow their orders-- you cannot run an army if orders are routinely questioned. But... Since leaving Guantanamo I have discussed this with JAG officers... I asked "does this mean we all violated international law?" Needless to say, they couldn't give me a response! What would have happened if a junior soldier-- an interrogator or a translator, or both-- said "I'm sorry, sir, this order violates international law and I will not comply"? Best case their career would have been over. Worst case they would have faced discipline, if not outright court-martial and jail. Yes, they would have just been vindicated by the Supreme Court, but... who would do it? I WISH someone would have done it. They'd be justified now. But all along the way, no E-3, E-4 or E-5 should be deciding this. Culpability for this goes all the way up the chain of command...

Please comment on Sgt. Saar's observations there, in light of your own experience (i.e., feeling that as a matter of conscience you had to retire from the military just a few years before being eligible for a nice pension in order to be able to tell your story, having to respond to criticism from the military that "you were on the perimeter and didn't see anything," etc.).

Joseph Hickman: I would agree with Saar's comments. I am only aware of one case of military personnel refusing their orders, that being the navy nurse who refused to follow orders with respect to force-feeding a detainee on hunger strike. That nurse was threatened with court martial.

From my perspective, this was the first time in my military career that I felt that I had to question the people over me, and what they were asking me to do..

The Talking Dog: In bringing your story out to the world, you eventually sought out Professor Mark Denbeaux at Seton Hall Law School, who helped you engage the services of (his son) attorney Joshua Denbeaux [interviewed by me here]... and you presented your story to, among others (my former employer), the U.S. Department of Justice. And although your story did result in some award winning journalism by Scott Horton at Harper's, much of the so-called mainstream media and of course, the Justice Department, just concluded "nothing to see here folks, move along." I note that your actions in this regard took place after you left the military and after George W. Bush left the White House to be replaced by (my college classmate) Barack Obama, he of "I will close Guantanamo within one year [of taking office]"... which was over six years ago. Did you ever reach any conclusion as to why (1) the new government supposedly committed to closing the place and (2) a media supposedly interested in salacious stories (such as your provocatively titled story of Murder at Camp Delta)... had no interest whatsoever in disturbing the official narrative?

Joseph Hickman: When ABC News, or any other major media outlet looked at this story, they immediately brought questions to the Pentagon, the Pentagon would keep saying "he was only a perimeter guard and not in the camps that night"-- and the media simply believed it, without further questions. They had no interest in investigating further. I can tell you that I wish that I was "only a perimeter guard" on May 18th of 2006-- the night of the riot when I had to fire on the detainee. But the media uncritically bought the government's story, much more than it should have.

With respect to the Justice Department, Obama kept saying that he was trying to put torture and dark sites behind us, without accountability-- by "looking forward and not backward." And so it is not surprising that the Justice Department had a strong interest in not having my story go forward and reveal the existence of a CIA black site-- indeed, that alone might be a major reason "not to look backward."

The Talking Dog: Professor Denbeaux and his team at Seton Hall have been researching this area for nearly a decade; you now have a title at Seton Hall Law School ("Adjunct Professor and Senior Research Fellow, Seton Hall Law Center for Policy and Research")... can you comment on the methodology used in preparing its reports, and why you believe it is a reliable account of what it purports to present?

Joseph Hickman: The Seton Hall reports strictly rely on only the government's own publicly released documents. By doing it that way, we can rely on government sources and government documents to use the government's own words against it-- such as pointing out a vast number of contributions in the recidivism area in the Seton Hall recidivism report.

The Talking Dog: Anything else I should have asked you but didn't, or anything else that you believe needs to be told to my readers and the public on these important issues?

Joseph Hickman: I just want the story out there-- especially the families of the men who died that night, particularly al-Zahrani's... his father was actually a Brigadier General in the Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) police... I wanted him to know that his son did not die the way our government said he did. I want accountability for our government's actions, and I want a real investigation. I am by no means sure how or if that will happen, but that is what I want to see, and what I believe is needed.

The Talking Dog: I thank Joseph Hickman for that eye-opening interview, and encourage all interested readers to check out
"Murder at Camp Delta: A Staff Sergeant's Pursuit of the Truth About Guantanamo Bay".

Readers interested in legal issues and related matters associated with the "war on terror" may also find talking dog blog interviews with former Guantanamo military commissions prosecutors Morris Davis and Darrel Vandeveld, with Guantanamo military commissions defense attorney Todd Pierce, with former Guantanamo combatant status review tribunal/"OARDEC" officer Stephen Abraham, with attorneys Jon Eisenberg, David Marshall, Jan Kitchel, Eric Lewis, Cori Crider, Michael Mone, Matt O'Hara, Carlos Warner, Matthew Melewski, Stewart "Buz" Eisenberg, Patricia Bronte, Kristine Huskey, Ellen Lubell, Ramzi Kassem, George Clarke, Buz Eisenberg, Steven Wax, Wells Dixon, Rebecca Dick, Wesley Powell, Martha Rayner, Angela Campbell, Stephen Truitt and Charles Carpenter, Gaillard Hunt, Robert Rachlin, Tina Foster, Brent Mickum, Marc Falkoff H. Candace Gorman, Eric Freedman, Michael Ratner, Thomas Wilner, Jonathan Hafetz, Joshua Denbeaux, Rick Wilson,
Neal Katyal, Joshua Colangelo Bryan, Baher Azmy, and Joshua Dratel (representing Guantanamo detainees and others held in "the war on terror"), with attorneys Donna Newman and Andrew Patel (representing "unlawful combatant" Jose Padilila), with Dr. David Nicholl, who spearheaded an effort among international physicians protesting force-feeding of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, with physician and bioethicist Dr. Steven Miles on medical complicity in torture, with law professor and former Clinton Administration Ambassador-at-large for war crimes matters David Scheffer, with former Guantanamo detainees Moazzam Begg and Shafiq Rasul , with former Guantanamo Bay Chaplain James Yee, with former Guantanamo Army Arabic linguist Erik Saar, with former Guantanamo military guard Terry Holdbrooks, Jr., with former military interrogator Matthew Alexander, with law professor and former Army J.A.G. officer Jeffrey Addicott, with law professor and Coast Guard officer Glenn Sulmasy, with author and geographer Trevor Paglen and with author and journalist Stephen Grey on the subject of the CIA's extraordinary rendition program, with journalist and author David Rose on Guantanamo, with journalist Michael Otterman on the subject of American torture and related issues, with author and historian Andy Worthington detailing the capture and provenance of all of the Guantanamo detainees, with law professor Peter Honigsberg on various aspects of detention policy in the war on terror, with Joanne Mariner of Human Rights Watch, with Almerindo Ojeda of the Guantanamo Testimonials Project, with Karen Greenberg, author of The LeastWorst Place: Guantanamo's First 100 Days, with Charles Gittings of the Project to Enforce the Geneva Conventions, Laurel Fletcher, author of "The Guantanamo Effect" documenting the experience of Guantanamo detainees after their release, and with John Hickman, author of "Selling Guantanamo," critiquing the official narrative surrounding Guantanamo, to be of interest.

February 19, 2015, Ends with a whimper

My very first GTMO related interview was with Josh Dratel, nearly ten years ago. Josh was one of the civilian attorneys who represented "Australian Taliban" David HIcks, then held at Guantanamo, and subjected to charges and possible trial before a military commission. Hicks eventually pleaded guilty to "material support of terrorism" in exchange for immediate release to Australia, where he served out nine months pursuant to a plea deal-- but got himself out of GTMO.

Coming full circle, we give you this decision of the U.S. Court of Military Decision Review in the case of Hicks v United States" vacating Mr. Hicks' conviction on the grounds that the "war crime" he pleaded to (he contended under extreme duress)... was not a "war crime" at the time he took his plea.

Still 122 men at GTMO, ostensibly "the worst of the worst," with the promised "9-11 [show] trials" the centerpiece of the place. My college classmate Barack Obama promised to close the place, but has, at best, released only half the prisoners there (despite finding dozens more "cleared for release"), a mere ten dozen or so, in over six years, have been released by the Obama Administration, even as it has fought (tooth and nail) any and every effort to obtain habeas relief. Even as (like our economy, our culture, and certainly our moral authority) the military commissions continue imploding in front of us.

This long national nightmare is over thirteen years and counting, of detaining-- under the harshest of conditions-- dozens of men that the government itself says are completely innocent... with no particular end in sight.

Beyond this... I got nothin'...

The Story of
the talking dog:

Two race horses have just been worked out on the practice track, and are being led back into the stable.

After the stable boy leads them into their stalls, the first race horse tells the second, "Hey, did you notice something odd about that guy?  I don't know, he just doesn't seem right to me".

The second race horse responds, "No, he's just like all the other stable boys, and the grooms, and the trainers, and the jockeys – just another short, smelly guy with a bad attitude, 'Push, push, push, run harder…We don't care if you break down, just move it, eat this crap, and get back to your stall".

The first race horse says, "Yeah, I know what you mean!  This game is just a big rat race, and I'm really tired of it."
A stable dog has been watching the two of them talk, and he can't contain himself.

"Fellas", he says.  "I don't believe this!  You guys are RACEHORSES.  I don't care what they say about lions, YOU GUYS are the kings of the animal world!  You get the best digs, you get the best food, you get the best health care, and when you run and win, you get roses and universal adulation.  Even when you lose, people still think you're great and give you sugar cubes.  And if you have a great career, you get put out to stud, and have an unimaginable blast better than anything Hugh Hefner ever imagined.  Even if you're not in demand as a stud, you still get put out to pasture, which is a mighty fine way to spend your life, if you ask me.  I mean, you guys just don't appreciate how good you have it!"

To which, the first race horse turns to the second race horse and says, "Would you look at this!   A talking dog!"

Your comments are welcome at:  thetalkingdog@thetalkingdog.com

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