I'm afraid the prognosis for the reconstruction of New Orleans got a tad bleeker... oh, I can think of something like 10 billion reasons for that... $9.5, maybe 10 billion, or about three times previous estimates, being the newly announced estimated cost of reconstructing the New Orleans levee system.
My guess is that the previous figure, in the $3 billion range, is probably what will be allocated for the project, as its probable political cost limit. Best we put hundreds of thousands of people (and hundreds of billions of dollars worth or more of property) at mortal risk than dare risk the mortal political cost of rolling back or even abating the incessant flow of tax cuts. After all, Poppy went back on the "no new taxes" thing... and lost (Poppy also won his war too early). And losing is just... for losers. It's not an option. Ever. So no new taxes. Period. Ever.
And if a large American city with an irreplaceable historical and cultural value cannot be rebuilt and is lost forever as a result... well, that's the way it is. The people of New Orleans should have protected themselves better, anyway... after all: this is the era of responsibility.
But think of it this way: with large number of residents having left New Orleans probably forever, Louisiana will now be a more solidly reliable red state then ever. When life gives you lemons, mix some Tom Collinses...
I don't know who pays for nonsense like this (the article indicates, at least, that it's largely a private foundation rather than the taxpayers) but in a story sure to bring a smile to our former co-blogger the Raving Atheist, it seems that a (long-awaited!) scientific study of heart patients has shown that the power of other people's prayer is... wait for it... of no help whatsoever, and in some cases, there were worse results than for people for whom others didn't receive any prayers from others. (This is entirely distinct from people praying on their own for their own health; the placebo effect in medicine is well-documented-- having a good attitude is a very important factor in healing-- and one's own prayers might be a reflection of that-- is a different matter entirely. This is a different kind of science... like the study of stars and s**t-- you know... astrology...)
I'm shocked. Shocked I tell you. Soon, we'll find out that praying for rain and praying for victory for your favorite sports team are ineffective as well, and that the attitude of a citizen of a democracy who opposes their government's actions, say, its decisions to have a war, is of no effect whatsoever on the outcome of those policies. What will they think of next?
The only thing astounding is that there are people who reasonably believed that any other outcome was possible. But that would probably be the overwhelming majority of Americans.
Freelance journalist Jill Carroll, who was kidnapped while working in Iraq some three months ago, has been released, unharmed.
She appeared on Iraqi t.v. pleading for her life; demands were made (and unheeded) that all women prisoners in Iraq be released. Nonetheless, despite deadlines for her murder passing, she was released to American authorities, unharmed, not knowing herself why she was kidnapped.
I will speculate that there appears to be some version of chivalry (or maybe it's just machismo or sexism) at play, among some sectors in Iraq, that just will not permit them to murder a woman ("it's unmanly") at least not under circumstances like a kidnapping. There are plenty of other maniacs in Iraq that have no such compunction, of course. Miss Carroll was fortunate to fall into the clutches of the type of group that had compunctions about killing her.
We can call this one of those "good news out of Iraq" situations. We can wish we had more of them to talk about.
Seriously... that's pretty much what this WaPo article says... the vaguest and most general warning possible to Iran to pretty please with sugar on top to not go to uranium enrichment that will be a precursor to weapons was what emerged from the U.N. Security Council.
As Russia and China still oppose sanctions, or anything with actual teeth against Iran, subtlety will be the order of the day... after the international popularity of our excellent Iraq adventure, subtlety is pretty much our main defense against nuclear weapons falling into the hands of Ayatollah Ferbissina and the number one state sponsor of terrorism.
How can it be? Pat Robertson's buddy former Liberian president and indicted war criminal Charles Taylor was apprehended in Nigeria.
I guess this calls for a prayer meeting or something. Does anyone have Abramoff's or Norquist's phone number?
A strange day... they say it comes in threes (well, someone says that)... in this case, two temporal deaths (Weinberger and Nofziger) and one political death (Card)... We'll start with the political career death (apparently)...
White House Chief of Staff Andy Card announced his resignation after five years of holding the President's pee pee and cutting his food and otherwise pretending he worked for a functioning human being, who, most unfortunately for the rest of us, managed to attain the Presidency of the United States. Card had been Transportation Secretary in Poppy's government. Card took s**t for the President's failures at Katrina, and it was Card who whispered something about planes crashing into the WTC that resulted in the President's decision to read a book about goats.
And it is Card who will now spearhead the non-shake-up shake-up as the President's approval ratings hover in the 30's. So he will be replaced with the Budget Director who presided over the largest expansion of any country's deficit in human history, Josh "Yosh" Bolten (no relation... and spelled differently!)
And as we write Card's political obituary (maybe), we see two actual obituaries, of rather substantial figures from the Reagan era. We'll start with former Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger, who died at 88. Among Weinberger's accomplishments were service as Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare (and OMB Director) in the Nixon White House (and HEW Secretary for Ford), and then coming back to be St. Ron's DOD chief; Poppy pardoned him for his role in Iran-Contra just as the trial on a felony obstruction charge was about to begin, an ignominious end to a political career that involved helping set up the military industrial complex that is so big on "industrial" and "complex" and less big on "military", at least in terms of how the dollars are spent... indeed, he was part of helping create the myth that St. Ron spent the Soviet Union into oblivion. (Correct answer: he spent the United States into oblivion, as his ideological heir is doing; only some level of budgetary responsibility by Poppy and a Democratic Congreses and later by Clinton and a Republican Congress prevented... well... you'll see... but I digress.) Anyway, Weinberger worked for Bechtel before St. Ron, just as Cheney worked for Halliburton before coming to be Junior's veep. Get the picture?
And onto the other Republican big to pass today, Lynn Nofziger passed away. Nofziger ran Reagan's press operations when St. Ron was governor of California, and served as Deputy Communications Director in the early days of the Reagan Presidency. He is noted historically for stepping up when St. Ron himself and press secretary James Brady were gunned down by a scion of a family with close ties to the then vice-president. Nofziger is also credited with a good deal of the image manufacturing that make many people look back fondly on St. Ron.
So there you have it.
Could Justice Anthony Kennedy be the safety making the game-saving tackle that ensures that we continue to have a Constitution? That's what it looks like from this account of the argument in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the second-most important case of our lives (the first being Padilla, which the Supreme Court is still sitting on a decision of whether to review.)
Your talking dog knew the importance of this case some time ago, when we got this detailed interview from Neal Katyal, who argued on behalf of Mr. Hamdan today at the High Court. To recap, Salim Hamdan is accused of being OBL's driver; he was captured in Afghanistan, and held at Guantanamo Bay as an enemy combatant, one of only ten out of over 500 still detained charged and scheduled to be tried by military commission. Again, as my savvy readers know (because I have interviewed lawyers for three of the ten so charged, my interview with Josh Dratel, counsel for David Hicks, here, and my interview with Rick Wilson, counsel for Omar Khadr, here), the commissions are arbitrary procedurally, with no rhyme or reason to rules changes, they are heavily dependent on evidence not admissible in other American trials, civilian or military, including hearsay and evidence potentially obtained under torture, there is no clear right to confront accusing witnesses, and... lots of other problems. They are also problematic substantively, as "the worst of the worst" consist of OBL's auto mechanic/motor pool member, a 15 year old kid who threw a hand grenade in a battle, and some Australian schmuck who guarded a Taliban tank position.
It's as if we charged Hitler's manicurist and the bathroom attendant at the Reichstadt building at Nuremberg. And tried them arbitrarily at that.
That was the rap on the national elections in Israel for the 120 seat Knesset, that with Ariel Sharon in the hospital, and Kadima leader and ex-Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert essentially acting as a caretaker interim PM, even now as he is the elected head of the newly victorious Kadima Party, which looks like it will garner the most seats of any party in Israel's fractious national proportion electoral system (the same system now in place in Iraq and Italy, which explains the general political instability in both of those places... well, a small part of Iraq's problems, anyway). Israelis also thought it was boring, with a 63% turnout-- very low for Israel, though it would be an amazingly high turnout here.
It looks like Kadima will have somewhere between 29 and 32 seats, the re-energized Labour Party with around 20, the good-old-lefty Meretz Party with around 5 seats, and some Arab parties somewhere between 5 and 8 seats... though it is unclear if Arab parties will be invited into a governing coalition of a party founded by Ariel Sharon. The rump Sharon-less Likud Party headed by the loathsome Bibi Netanahu got around 10-12 seats, the worst dropoff of a ruling party in Israeli history.
And so... this is interesting (after all). As some of you know, this blog took tremendous interest in Israel's last national election some three years ago, when then Labour leader Amram Mitzna proposed a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, building "the wall" and negotiations over withdrawal from everywhere else with whatever Palestinians wanted to negotiate. Since that time, Sharon's government (which trounced Mitzna in the election)... unilaterally withdrew from Gaza, built the wall... and has pretty much stopped talking to the Palestinians.
So where it goes now looks like Israel will simply do unilaterally what it could not do in the context of a deal: pull out of parts of the West Bank that it doesn't want (much of which reflect troublesome Palestinian population centers), while consolidating Israel's hold on Jerusalem, and some of the largest, best established settlement blocs.
In some sense, the Palestinians made this easier by electing Hamas (which today won a big confidence vote in the Palestinian parliament 71-36, paving the way for a Hamas led Palestinian government.) The Palestinians are now led by a group committed to the destruction of Israel... so why should Israel deal with them? Olmert has pledged to move to Israel's "final borders" more or less unilaterally.
This wasn't exactly how Mitzna would have done it. It is, of course, where Sharon was going. Israel has decided it can't really coexist with its Arab neighbors (other than those inside Israel willing to live as second class citizens)... so there's no point in prolonging it. Israel will now make peace on its own terms, and set its own "final borders".
We'll see how long that lasts.
For this week's installment of Saturday talking dog blogging, we give you McGruff, the crime dog. McGruff's signature expression is "take a bite out of crime." Like our subject of last week, McGruff is an employee (the technical term is "tool") of the Establishment. While, of course, there's nothing wrong with encouraging children to be perennially vigilant to avoid their victimization, one suspects that there is... more... going on.
McGruff, of course, unlike our usual Saturday morning subjects (is it a coincidence that this segment of this blog appears on Saturdays?) is not intended to be "entertainment," but, like such characters as Smokey the Bear and Chimpy the President, is actually intended to be propaganda... to get the rubes to think a certain way, and then behave that way.
In this case, of course, the simple and not particularly subtle message is "crime is bad." Yes, thank you. The actual subtext of the message, of course, is "crime is bad... unless you have a license to commit it, of course, in which case, make sure the rubes keep watching the stupid cartoon dog... look at him... notice he's moving... tres freakie, n'est-ce pas?"
McGruff's emphasis, unlike the subversive intellectual Hector Peabody, or The Good Soldier Schweik Muttley, or even the common man/superhero Underdog, is much less on the "talking" part and much more on the "dog" part. In McGruff's case, as in THE MAN's best friend.
And so we get into the interesting question of why (or whether) we won't see either McGruff, or some other cartoon creation, telling us to "take a bite out of terrorism." You know... "Kids, have Mommy and Daddy been talking on the phone too long to friends in the Middle East?"... "Have any of your friends been saying bad things about the President that will make our soldiers feel bad about what they are doing?" "Are you supporting our troops... enough?" "You know that Jesus registered as a Republican, don't you?"
That sort of thing. It's really only a matter of time... because only you... can take a bite out of
the Axis of Evil Crime.
Further giving us the definition of "compassionate conservatism" the Senate is poised to pass something like its version of a bill already passed in the Republican controlled House of Representatives which would change the status of persons in the United States without proper immigration credentials from violators subject to deportation to felons.
Naturally, the Congressman who introduced the bill, James Sensenbrenner from Wisconsin, was the happy recipient of lots of nifty protests from his constituents; they might want to consider a voter registration drive to get a s***load of new citizens as registered Democrats and unseat him... or they can scream and carry signs if they like... OTOH, the voter registration thing is... hard...
Anyway, my state's junior senator, Mrs. Clinton. decided to refer to "Scripture", pointing out that under the bill proposed, "The Good Samaritan would be made a criminal. and probably Jesus Himself would be too. I dunno... the Roman Empire in those days was pretty big... and I think might have had pretty lax immigration laws for Jesus, seeing as he was a resident of Judea which was, you know, already a Roman province, and I'm not aware of any revelation that Jesus ever travelled very far from Judea. Further, as Jesus could walk across water, there might just not have been any way to prevent him from illegally entering another nation absent tough immigration restrictions like the new bill... Hillary's triangulation by, in this case, trying to appeal to the religious right becomes downright bizarre... as someone suggested to me today... perhaps we can call it obtuse triangulation...
Anyway, we'll see where the bill goes. The idea, of course, is, in the ubiquitous name of "fighting terrorism," to kick poor Latinos (mostly Mexicans) and West Indians as hard as possible, because, well, we can... Of course, if the effect of the bill actually does make it harder for illegal immigrants to come here and stay here, then that will drive up labor costs; the offsetting labor increase (suppressing wages) as a result of banning abortion, by contrast, won't take effect for decades...
Maybe the Republicans should think this one through a little better...
On March 11, 2006, an explosive letter appeared in Britain's prestigious medical journal, The Lancet, decrying the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and in particular, the practice of force-feeding hunger-striking detainees. Dr. David Nicholl, a neurologist based in Birmingham, England, and a human rights activist, was the lead signatory to that letter, which was signed by over 250 physicians from throughout the world. Subsequently, Dr. Nicholl was interviewed by the BBC, by Britain's Channel 4, and by CNN.
On March 19, 2006, Dr. Nicholl was kind enough to answer a few of my own questions, by exchange of e-mails.
The Talking Dog Largely for solipsistic reasons involving being in downtown Manhattan myself, my obligatory first question is always "where were you on 11 September 2001"? I'll start with that question. I'll then also ask you were you were on the day of the London bombings (7 July 2005), and, because I know that you hail from Belfast, Northern Ireland, and that you have had medical training in, among other places, Cape Town, South Africa, I would like to know if you have ever been directly involved with seeing terrorism, as either a witness, or for example, providing medical treatment to its victims (and I'll consider "the troubles" or anything associated with the fall of apartheid to fall into that category)?
David Nicholl: 11th Sept 2001, I was on holiday on a beach in Wales on a beautiful sunny day watching my 1 year old daughter crawling across the sand. Truly a perfect day, and then I switched the car radio on, and all our lives changed.
7th July, 2005- sitting in clinic examining a patient when my cell phone goes off, and its my registrar calling telling me not to come down to London for a scheduled meeting as there are bombs going off everywhere. My registrar missed the Russells Square bomb by about 5 minutes.
Northern Ireland- no direct involvement with acts of terrorism. Best friend's dad was murdered by Republican terrorists. My Dad's car was stolen by IRA for a bank robbery (left a few empty rounds in the trunk I recall). A very close relative was a high ranking officer in an army regiment responsible for one half of Northern Ireland- to be honest, I don't know how he is still alive as he lived very close to the border in a very dangerous area, so he could have been picked off by the IRA without too much bother.
Medical treatment of victims- I have seen many asylum seekers as patients who have been witnesses to. e.g. the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia, victims of torture from Iran and Iraq, bombings in Afghanistan etc., etc.
I worked in Cape Town in 1994 just before the first democratic election- very interesting time as everyone predicted there would be a civil war when there wasn't.
After school, I was a foreign exchange student in Boca Raton, Florida in 1983-84. I can still recall this student saying with pride that her granddad sent $50/month to support the IRA. I didn't know what to say to her. The next day, the IRA blew up Harrods in London killing 6 and injuring 75 others in an indiscriminate attack. I wish could have spoken to her then!!
The Talking Dog: Can you tell me about your work with human rights groups, specifically Amnesty International UK and Physicians for Human Rights, and any others, and what led to your involvement? Included in that question, I understand that you ran the London Flora Marathon last year in an orange jump suit and chains to raise money for Amnesty International. Can you comment further on that experience?
David Nicholl: I am also involved with Reprieve and Medical Foundation for Care of Victims of Torture.
Information about the marathon experience is at Dave's 2005 marathon challenge.
Where do I begin? Like all good stories, everything I'm about to say is true, but some names have been changed to protect identities. I am a 40 year old consultant neurologist at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and City Hospital, Birmingham. I have been a member of Amnesty International (AI) for 20 years since I was a medical student, but have never really been an activist. I've written the odd letter, but never joined a local AI group. I am happily married with 3 young children and live in a very comfortable part of rural Worcestershire where most people's idea of stress is whether to have a new BMW or a new Audi, and what their personalised number plate should be.
So what made me run the Flora London Marathon (FLM) dressed as a Guantanamo internee? The turning point for me was after September 11th. I had become a Christian in 2000 after the birth of our first child, and I can still recall a very powerful sermon which our Minister gave just prior to the outbreak of the Afghanistan conflict. Essentially his message boiled down to "turning the other cheek" and the West needed to face up to the fundamental injustices between the developed and developing World. I didn't agree with that sermon at that time, and basically felt we should bomb the hell out of Bin Laden and the Taliban, but clearly there was a message in that sermon which ultimately struck a chord. In 2002, I became increasingly disturbed at the worsening racial tensions within this country, the Iraq war, human rights abuses within Iraq against everybody, Guantanamo Bay etc and general air of Islamophobia etc. I was very impressed by the dignity with which Azmat Begg (father of detainee Moazeem Begg) had spoke out for justice for his son. Similarly, I became increasingly irritated by the inaction of the government on this issue when I and others wrote letters etc. In 2004, I started running, largely because of the inspiration of one of my friends who started running as she overcome breast cancer. Then just prior to running my first Great North Run, when I was out running (and having a quiet prayer) minding my own business, when I really felt God speaking to me. I always wanted to run the London marathon, but what would Jesus do if he was running the marathon? Jesus was an asylum seeker, immigrant and also detained without trial and crucified. Well I can't change being a white middle class Christian doctor, but I can show the world that Christians do care wherever they see abuse and pain. Indeed the very fact I did not meet the usual activist stereotype and wasn't Muslim made the image all the more powerful..I was not one of the "Usual Suspects." as far as the Press were concerned. So I suppose my inspiration was very much along the lines of the "Good Samaritan". Originally, I had thought of running the New York marathon dressed like this, but (fortunately) my wife became pregnant which put paid to this altogether more risky strategy.
Just before Christmas 2004, I found out that I had a place with Amnesty for the marathon and that settled it. I e-mailed all my mates on New Years eve to let them know what I was planning for 2005, and started trawling the Internet for appropriate clothing as essentially I needed to have an outfit that was both convincing and that I could run 26 miles in.alive!! In addition, I approached Azmat Begg (via the Guanatanamo Human Rights Commission), as I wanted to make sure that the Begg family were agreeable with my plan, and I started my running training in earnest. Eventually I sourced a
medical equipment company medical equipment company that made orange surgical scrubs. Ironically, the outfits were actually made in George Bush's home state of Texas.
In February 2005, I went to a service of thanksgiving for the release of Moazeem Begg and the remaining British citizens from Guantanamo at St Martins-in-the-Field Church near Trafalgar Square organised by the Guanatanamo Human Rights Commission. The vicar recounted how this church in many ways was where Amnesty International began. The catalyst for the original campaign was Peter Benenson's sense of outrage after reading an article on the Tube about the arrest and imprisonment of two students in a café in Lisbon, Portugal, who had drunk a toast to liberty. He reportedly got off the train and sat in one of the back pews of St Martins-in-the-Field thinking about what could be done. From that idea, he helped set up AI in 1961. As I thought about this, I thought how angry I was about Guantanamo, I quickly popped out of the service to change into my Guantanamo gear. Afterwards I went up to Terry Waite, told him what I was doing, and asked for his picture to help with publicity. This subsequently helped with 'hooking' the Press onto the story later.
As my training came on, I realized I needed to do a 'test' run in full kit to see what problem there might be. Being discrete, I needed to know how much Vaseline to use and where! However, I also thought this would be an excellent press opportunity by doing a half-marathon in my gear from my home to the Law Courts in the centre of Birmingham where I was met by Moazeem Begg and his family. The week before the AI press office and gone overboard so there were lots of local radio and TV interviews the week before and the day of the run. It was an odd way to have my first meeting with Moazeem Begg. A pack of journalists running after me asking for my first impression of Moazeem whilst trying to catch my breath after 12 miles of running. My first impression was actually "He's short", but I realised that this was not exactly the profound quote the Press would be looking for, so I went for "I think he's incredibly brave to face you lot after what he's been through" or something similar.
When I saw my TV interview, I realized that you shouldn't talk about human rights after running, there is just too much adrenaline going- you look angry, and hence people think you're probably a nutter! Nonetheless, both AI and I were extremely pleased with the Press coverage. A few weeks later, I was due to go to my home town of Belfast for a neurological conference, so I contacted the Belfast Amnesty office to see if it was worth doing a similar stunt when I was over in Belfast. We did a similar run to the US consulate and were covered in all the Northern Irish and Irish papers, The Times and local radio and TV..I made sure I stayed calm this time- Alistair Campbell would have been proud of me! However, the Belfast run had been difficult for lots of reasons. World events never get viewed quite the same way in Northern Ireland as they do in the rest of the planet. At the start of my week, I had a very close relative tell me that "Amnesty were a bunch of IRA sympathizers". By the end of that week, that same relative had given me a £50 sponsorship cheque- this told me that no-one is immune to change.
Thus with the final week of my marathon training, the pressure was really on. There was the very real anxiety as to whether I would even finish due to a knee injury that I'd picked 3 weeks before the race. Believe me, it is not the marathon that is a killer, it is all that training. Plus, the amount of e-mail and press stuff was building up. On the final Friday, the London Amnesty office had confirmation that I plus 5 others could go to the steps of Downing Street the day before the marathon to hand in a letter of protest. In addition, BBC News 24 said they wanted to do a live studio interview. So I drove down to London with the family more nervous about the events for the day before the marathon rather than the day itself. Anyhow the News 24 interview went great on the Saturday morning. In fact, too well. When I got down to Downing Street and met the relatives of some of the British residents who are still being held in Guantanamo, it was pretty clear someone from No 10's press office had seen the interview and basically thought we can't have this lot on the steps of Downing Street three weeks before the Election. Our access had mysteriously been denied.
Nonetheless it was humbling to meet the 3 families of current detainees (Saeed Siddique, 62, father-in-law of a British resident - Shaker Abdur-Raheem Aamer (originally from Saudi Arabia) - being held in Guantanamo Bay. Mr Aamer, 38, has been held without charge or trial at Guantanamo Bay since February 2002. Amani Deghayes, sister of British resident - Omar Deghayes (originally from Libya) - being held in Guantanamo Bay. Mohammed Kiyemba, whose brother Jamal Kiyemba (originally from Uganda) - another UK resident - is similarly being held in Cuba.
The day of the race, the atmosphere was fantastic. Several runners came up to me, who had clearly seen the News 24 interview, and this definitely spurred me on.
Humour is a fantastic way to get people to think of even a very complex issue such as Guantanamo Bay. I did this in 2 ways:
By singing Englebert Humperdink's "Please Release Me en route (see photo) and by shouting out at the end of each mile "Only another 25 miles of torture to go", I have to say my fellow runners got somewhat fatigued with this tactic by the half-way mark, but the crowd seemed to still find the joke funny. I also had a very loud whistle to draw attention to myself for those who were colour blind.
Having not been an activist before, the marathon has had a profound affect on me. I've got fitter, more confident and spiritually stronger. I'm working on other campaigns, eg trying to get Fair Trade Products into hospitals. This running is a dangerous malarkey!
What was the weirdest thing BEFORE the marathon? Finding out that the shackles used in Guantanamo are made by a Birmingham company!
What was the weirdest thing AFTER the marathon?
Finding out that during my training runs, I'd been running past the front door of the chairman of the above shackle company. No prizes for guessing what the next campaign was then!
The Talking Dog In your letter you asserted that the military had a specific policy of not assigning medical personnel to Guantanamo unless they indicated that they had no qualms about involuntary force-feeding. What is the basis of your knowledge of that?
David Nicholl: This is documented in the New England Journal of Medicine, December 15th 2005 edition. Another version of that article is here.
The Talking Dog: I had heard from at least one detainee's counsel that his understanding was that prior to the hunger strikes of prisoners, the quality of medical care at Guantanamo for detainees was "comparable to perhaps good veterinarians", but since the hunger strikes, the military has brought in very skilled practitioners to keep these people alive (whether they like it or not). Can you comment on that?
These questions can best be answered by reading the government's own court papers from the Al Joudi case involving conditions for Guantanamo detainees can be found in these links:
Al Joudi court papers, part 1,
part 3, and
Of particular interest are
Dr. Edmondson's Affidavit, and
Dr. Edmondson's letter to me.
The restraint chairs they use are at this link.
The Talking Dog: Can you tell me if you have spoken to detainees, or detainees' counsel?
I've spoken to Clive Stafford-Smith, human rights lawyer, and counsel to a number of detainees numerous times. I've also spoken to Moazzeem Begg, ex Gitmo detainee (from the UK), numerous times, and to Mamdouh Habib, ex Gitmo detainee who was forcefed (from Australia); he has spoken to me once.
The Talking Dog: I understand that there is a civil action pending in California concerning possible professional discipline for violating medical ethics against the medical director at Guantanamo, Captain John Edmondson. Are you familiar with that action, and do you have anything to do with it?
David Nicholl: I have lodged complaints against Dr. Edmondson to medical authorities in California and Georgia.
I'm sure join all of my readers in thanking Dr. Nicholl for being kind enough to take the time to answer my questions, and to provide the documents he sent along that shed a great deal of light on specific aspects of how detainees at Guantanamo are being treated in American custody, as well as the contentions of those responsible for their care.
Readers may also find talking dog blog interviews with attorneys Rick Wilson,
Neal Katyal, Joshua Colangelo Bryan, Baher Azmy, and Joshua Dratel (representing other Guantanamo detainees) and with attorneys Donna Newman and Andrew Patel (representing "unlawful combatant" Jose Padilila) to be of interest.
That's right, Russia (with strong support from China) blocked consensus on a sharp U.N. Security Council statement against Iran backed by Britain, France and presumably the United States; such a statement is usually a precursor to sanctions.
The disagreement means that diplomatic discussion will go on concerning measures to try to get Iran to back off its proposed reprocessing of nuclear materials, widely believed to be a precursor to its development of nuclear weapons; not even Iran's friends and clients in Moscow and Beijing believe its public nonsense that it is trying to develop civilian nuclear power.
In any event, the diplomatic work will go on. At some point, if Iran views it as a matter of protecting itself from American aggression, it may elect to proceed with development of nuclear weapons (which American and Israeli estimates put at some years away even under the best of conditions)... which is a problem.
Interestingly, I have not yet seen anybody bring up the United States' special side-deal with India outside of the IAEA framework- the sort of thing that could easily bite us in the ass if and when other countries try to make their own side-deals (e.g., Russia and China with Iran...) This might be out there, of course... I just haven't seen it yet.
Again, as I have opined before in the context of Saddam Hussein and our principal bogus reason for going to war in Iraq, it seems unlikely that a sovereign state would put something with the dangerous potential to blow back upon its own leaders, like nuclear weapons, in the hands of shadowy terrorists. In Shia Iran's case, it doubtless despises Sunni Al Qaeda (though Iran does support Hizbollah and enough other groups to make it number one with a bullet on our State Department's list of terrorist sponsoring states), or even that the ravings of its current President Ahmandidjad about attacking Israel are credible (they are not). The problem is command and control in the event (the eventual certainty, actually, if Iran continues to operate in its current manner) of the failure of Iran as a state. At that point, of course, either elements in Iran may chose to sell nuclear weapons to anyone, or seize them for their own purposes, or God knows what. Same problem, of course, in Pakistan (although Pakistan's bizarre pattern of unpopular democracies interwoven with military coups lends a strange sense of long-term stability) and, of course, in North Korea, though it's unlikely Dear Leader's cadres have a particular interest in being vaporized... they do know at some point that if they fall into a (well-deserved) Ceauciescieu kind of outcome, then just about anything might happen to their weapons...
And so, there we have it. It would be best, of course, if Iran can be convinced not to pursue its nuclear ambitions. Russia and China's leaders probably don't want terrorists with nuclear weapons running around themselves, so there is some common ground. Of course, our domestic politics seem to dictate diplomacy in the manner of cave-men... one fears this might not be the best time for that.
In a move that should surprise no one, a piece of legislation billed as "pension reform" appears to be poised to come out of a Congressional conference committee in a form that would, wait for it... weaken the nation's private pensions.
The solution to a national problem of underfunded private pensions, which arise because of various factors ranging from financially failing companies and underperforming assets, to simple greed, to outright thievery, according to Congress, is to weaken companies' funding requirements, and to permit even rosier projections than currently exist and have led to the current crisis. (Further, there appear to be escape clauses for entire industries, such as airlines, allowing them to take almost three times as long as other industries to close up their pension shortfalls, and for whatever reason... actually, because Mike DeWine is facing a tough battle for reelection in Ohio... as a result, Smithfield Farm Hams gets a special exemption.)
Here's the freest of free shots for Democrats (aside from censuring the President for his admittedly illegal spying on Americans, which incumbent Democrats oppose simply because their constituents by and large favor it, but the people who invite them to cool cocktail parties do not): seemingly unbelievably, Bush Administration Labor Secretary Elaine Chao (a/k/a Mrs. Senator Mitch McConnell) actually did the right thing, and proposed legislation that would actually toughen up the nation's pension laws and move closer to providing actual security for workers.
The cognitive dissonance of a Bush Administration cabinet secretary proposing something responsible proved too much for the Republican Congress: almost immediately, various industry lobbyists got on board and made sure that their industries got special privileges in a standard issue legislative feeding frenzy, and on net... that's right... the nation's pension system will end up weaker as a result of this bill.
While the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation will be slightly better funded through an increased premium, this, on net, will come nowhere near covering the increased exposure of what will soon be permissible shortfalls.
Might the President use his first veto for this measure, to correct Congress's failure to adopt what his Administration proposed doing? Let's just say that unless the Emir of Dubai wants it, I wouldn't count on it.
Private pensions now join social security as something that the Bush Administration and its Congressional allies just don't think Americans have any right to count on. Compassionate conservatism's new pillar (joining the health care plan of "don't get sick" and the social policy of "don't get pregnant") is... "don't get old." Simple, easy enough to understand... and yet, Democrats seemingly have no answer to it... no wonder we keep losing elections.
This week's featured talking dog doesn't exactly talk, in the manner of, say, our previous subjects like Mr. Peabody or Underdog. In this case, Muttley, the canine sidekick of cartoon villain Dick
Cheney Dastardly with whom he is pictured above, snickers with an asthmatic laugh, and mutters under his breath, but makes himself understood in something vaguely resembling English, and hence, falls into the genre.
Muttley appeared first in that incarnation (wearing only a collar) in the Wacky Races, where he and Dastardly driving "Double 0" would try to sabotage other racers (such as Penelope Pitstop, Peter Perfect, Professor Pat Pending-- the Wacky Races loved "P'sP--the Ant-Hill Mob, the Arkansas Chug-a-mug, the Red Max, the Gruesome Twosome, Rufus Roughcut and the Buzzwagon... I'm doing this from memory... but I do think that's all of them...) Anyway, Dastardly and Muttley would forever try to screw someone else out of victory, never managing to achieve it themselves. Think of them as the Ralph Nader, or Green Party, of the Wacky Races.
Muttley and Dastardly eventually graduated to their own spin-off from Wacky Races (the other being "the Perils of Penelope Pitstop" where the heroine was forever threatened in cliffhanger situations and usually assisted by the Anthill Mob)... their show was called "Dastardly and Muttley in their Flying Machines," their garb and flying machines from the World War I era, where Dick and Muttley, along with Klunk and Zilly (it's Hanna Barbera, people) form the Vulture Squadron that forever tried, unsuccessfully, to thwart the enemy's line of communication, which evidently comes down to a single carrier pigeon, the irritating Yankee Doodle Pigeon. Anyone who's ever played the trombone (as have I) is familiar with the slide play involved in the Vulture Squadron's theme song, the utilitarian "Stop the Pigeon!" The fact remains, the crutch of high technology, such as the bi-planes and the various inventions of Klunk attempting to stop a small bird, will often fail against simple plans, better execution, and moral authority... a lesson our nation never, ever seems to learn.
Muttley was forever demanding a medal for mere competent service (at least it was competent; compare and contrast the Bush Administration) after which he would go into an orgasmic performance reminiscent of some other cartoon dog when he got a dog biscuit.
It being Hanna Barbera, Muttley's appearance and signature laugh were later recycled in a character called "Inspector Mumbly" which is an ironic full circle, because Muttley was intended to refer to the "Max" character, sidekick to Dastardly's analog "Professor Fate" from the '60's movie "The Great Race;" Max was played by Peter Falk (Fate by the late great Jack Lemmon). Well, Mumbly is a cross between Muttley... and Inspector Columbo... also played by Peter Falk (as both characters are voiced by Don Messick, you can rightly consider Mumbly simiply "Muttley... in a trench coat.")
Muttley's universal appeal, of course, is that like the typical American worker (private or public sector), he dutifully does what he is asked, day in day out, and only asks for a little recognition every now and again. The fact that the mission of his enterprise is, perhaps, absurd, if not outright evil, is really of no concern to someone at Muttley's pay-grade. It's no wonder that Muttley is forever snickering.
In honor of St. Patrick's Day, we'll honor this most un-blarney-like exegesis of recent ersatz intelligence releases by the Bush Administration offered by Barbara O'Brian (it's all thematic) of the O'Maha Blog.
You see, with his approval ratings sinking deeper than the Lower Ninth Ward led by an ever more unpopular Iraq War taking him down faster than Dick Cheney with a shotgun, the President and the team must go back in time, and now show us just why the current intractable situation was fully justified from the beginning. They do this by providing misleading "intelligence", essentially juxtaposing various sources to create the still unsupported impression that Saddam Hussein was joined at the hip to Al Qaeda. 9-11 9-11 9-11. Strong leader. WAR President. You see? Don't you have that warm fuzzy feeling already?
Barbara de-bunks this bunk nicely. Those of you who can read Arabic may enjoy this immensely, as a number of the sources offered are in untranslated Arabic... most likely, we're talking rather mundane writings... like Saddam's dry-cleaning tickets or something... If you can read Arabic and you find anything there, please let me know... and I'll pass it on...
The largest military assault in Iraq since... well, the last time a large military assauult was announced... this time, called Operation Swarmer, involving over 1,500 U.S. troops and over 50 aircraft of various sizes were deployed in an anti-insurgent operation near the Samarra area of Iraq, toward purported insurgent strongholds and weapons caches. Coming just a few days shy of the third anniversary of the commencement of the Iraq war, I guess we can call this "shock and awe light". Perhaps very light. It comes as the extremely fragile "democracy" we installed met in the form of a brief meeting of Iraq's parliament, still unable to form a government, which promptly adjourned.
While one hopes that the primary goal of this operation is, in fact, a military one, and that there is reasonably good intelligence about the location of insurgent positions... one has grave doubts about such things with the Bush Administration. That anything and everything it does might well be timed for maximum political value as opposed to military logistical, strategic or tactical value... is always a concern. Certainly the President's record low (for him) poll numbers and approval ratings (exacerbated by the bizarre confluence of Fudd-gate showing us that Administration "grown-up" Dick Cheney is not merely a putz but a klutz and the insanely cognitive dissonance generating ports deal) might well call for... something...
Or, perhaps, Congress needs a quick diversion lest anyone notice its voting to increase the national debt ceiling to a staggering $8.96 trillion... as promise after promise about fiscal restraint by the so-called "conservative" majority went by the way-side amidst the political imperative to solve problems by throwing money at them... and heaven help us, paying for this spending with actual taxation cost Poppy Bush his job in '92, and not paying for it has kept the GOP in clover from '94 to date... so they'll be damned if they get all "responsible" on us now...
Or perhaps, both Congress and the White House need a big diversion lest anyone pay attention to the whitewash bill to retroactively make the Bush Administration's blatantly unconstitutional and illegal warrantless surveillance suddenly legal... with the approval of just a handful of friendly senators... Republican Senators DeWine, Hagel, Snowe and Graham think that they can get away with that... All they've shown us is that if Dick Nixon had been blessed with a GOP majority in Congress, he'd have simply asked them to pass a law retroactively making breaking into the other party's offices and then attempting to cover it up legal...
As always, the consistent, harmonized theme of both the Bush White House and its lapdogs in the Republican controlled Congress remains the same: quick... look over there...
The Arctic ice cap has receded for the second year in a row, making for the largest reduction in size in the world's Northern ice cover since satellites began measuring this in the 1970's. Some predict that at this pace, it may disappear entirely later in this century.
Though not discussed in the article, that would likely raise global sea levels, as an awful lot of water is contained in that ice. It could also effect climate in other profound ways.
While there is dispute over whether these particular changes can be explained by natural year to year localized weather variation (answer: yes), there is less dispute that the long-term build-up of greenhouse gases (especially CO2) is leading to increases in world-wide temperatures, again, with profound climatic effects, from rising ocean levels to increased hurricane activity to alterations in the gulf stream, which will effect everything-- agriculture, wildlife habitats... everything.
There is, at least, some potentially good news from this: the rise in Arctic temperatures will likely make it much easier to drill for oil through the tundra and permafrost in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve.
You might well be photographed by the FBI, or some other government agency, particularly if you're some pinko who opposes what the President is up to...according to documents released by the ACLU...
The events described took place in Pittsburgh, in 2002, and supposedly, the FBI agent involved destroyed the photographs when the target of surveillance didn't show up (on that last point, there's a bridge near my house that Mr. Roebling designed... perhaps you'd like to buy it?)
Tip of the iceberg, folks. In a "L'Etat C'est moi" ethos, this sort of thing will happen... a lot...
Before I get to the stunning Moussaoui developments, let's take a moment to point out the fecklessness of the Democratic Party, as done brilliantly here by the perennially succinct Elton Beard... Yes, yes, Russ Feingold is himself running for President... but the man has some cojones. A censure for the President's brazen commission of crimes and affronts to our constitution, including but not limited to, to wit, the deliberate and wanton violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which the senate Republican majority has made it clear they couldn't care less about (while Arab-bashing over the ports issue remains in fashion) may be the only expression of outrage the President gets. But... will his fellow Democrats give him any cover at all? Even the spouse of the last President against whom Congress considered a censure resolution, herself a senator now? Don't bet on it...
And now, on with the soap opera... it seems that the trial of Zaccarias Moussaoui, once called "the twetieth highjacker" and now just called "that Arab guy the President wants to see executed-- not Saddam-- the other one..." has taken yet another bizarre turn. Specifically, Judge Leonie Brinkema of the federal district court in Alexandria, Virginia stopped the trial, now in its death penalty phase, because federal prosecutors told her that the government's witnesses were tampered with... prepared by allowing them to read other witness statements and the government's opening statements in express and direect violation of Judge Brinkema's order not to do so. Typically, witnesses can be excluded during the testimony of other witnesses during a trial (and in my own legal practice, I often ask for the exclusion of such witnesses); in this case, Judge Brinkema also limited what those witnesses could see and hear prior to their testimony to include transcripts of the court proceedings.
It's unclear what Judge Brinkema will do next. She has previously ruled that the death penalty was off the table in this case for government misconduct, and was promptly reversed by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, sending the case right back to her. This particular action leads to pretty much two options as I see it: either pick a new jury and start the penalty phase over, or, since the government's witnesses have already been tampered with, just take the death penalty off the table, period as a sanction for the government's inability to follow the rules of her court.
Since Moussaoui pleaded guilty presumably based on the strength of the testimony of other witnesses, it may well be that if the trial phase witnesses were also improperly coached, there may be a basis to reopen the guilt or innocence phase of the trial itself. I don't know. This trial has been a circus from the get-go.
And it highlights the absurd arbitrariness of our approach to the legal process in the "war on terror". Moussaoui and Lindh get tried; Padilla gets brigged; the Gitmo detainees get warehoused... and abused; the Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq, Bagram, Diego Garcia and CIA Black Prison detainees get... forgotten... and God knows what else.
A government not of men, but of laws. It would be nice for a change.
Update: Judge Brinkema, after a bizarre hearing at which an FAA lawyer testified briefly, decided to preclude the government from calling the witnesses that yon FAA attorney had tampered with, ostensibly scuttling the government's case that but for Moussaoui's purported misstatements unter interrogation, the 9-11 plot would have been thwarted... Brinkema called it the most bizarre trial she had encountered or was aware of...
Yes, this year's Gridiron Dinner, the ultimate Inside the Beltway Self-Fellatiation event where the press corps throws itself a white-tie dinner where the biggest of the big muckity-muck politicians must show up and be "self-deprecating" took place again, with the President using the occasion to mock
the real leader of the free world the Vice-President, Dick Cheney. For good measure, Dick's wife Lynne Cheney used the occasion to mock him too. Dick, of course, has his permanent game-face on, and, well, didn't shoot anyone at the dinner in retaliation.
Senator Barack Obama was also there, to sing about just how much he needs to associate with John McCain... I'm not sure he does, but this is all part of the irritating agenda of the supposedly good-intentioned "humor"... In year's past, Bill Clinton said something like "Knock, knock... my lawyer's tell me I can't answer that..." or something not particularly funny...
While this sort of self-congratulatory event from the Main Stream Media is de rigeur (the lefty blogosphere has its own version, the Koufaxes, in which y'all haven't been showin' your talkin' dog the love... though you can vote here... one last desperate chance to vote for the unlawful combatant attorney interviews as best series... perchance to dream... voting closes at midnight tomorrow, the 13th... or don't show the love... life will go on, either way... [sad-face smiley, or frowny, or whatever you call it...])
Where the f*** was I? Oh yes... when last we encountered the Gridiron dinner, the President used the occasion somewhat controversially, with a bit in which he looked under various pieces of furniture in a mock hunt for WMDs... some people took offense at that. (Just because they lost a loved one in Iraq, suddenly they have no sense of humor? I mean, suddenly everybody is Cindy Sheehan. Sheesh...)
Apparently this event has been going on for eons, having been started in 1885. But maybe we should end it right about now... As, pursuant to executive order, 9-11 changed everything... habeas corpus started around 1215, and we've kind of had enough of that... surely the Gridiron Dinner is something we need to lose more urgently, is it not?
At a cell in the Hague, the Netherlands (the only "double the" place-name I can think of) former Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic was found dead, apparently of natural causes.
While many will feel cheated at the lack of a verdict, given how the trained-as-a-lawyer Milosevic was conducting himself, and giving the complexity of the case that the Euro-justice-ers had concocted against him... as it wound into its third year... a conviction was by no means a foregone conclusion.
Without question, Milosevic ordered, or at least failed to order the cessation of, the worst atrocities committed in Europe since the Second World War... Could this be proven satisfactorily to the special tribunal set up to try him? Don't know. But I do know he did it. And he knew it too. And he now takes that to his grave.
Intereestingly, at 65, Milosevic was around the same age as Saddam Hussein... most interesting...
Mr. Peabody, pictured with his adopted boy Sherman, takes the whole talking dog concept to another level... the level... of... dare I say it... this blog.
You see, Hector Peabody (yes, that's his first name; and though the museum at Yale is apparently named for him, he is a graduate of Harvard-- wagna cum laude) doesn't just talk. He talks brilliantly. He is erudite... a polymath, seemingly well informed on everything.
And for fun, he likes to take his pet, a boy he adopted named Sherman, on the Wayback Machine (it is spelled various ways) to travel throughout time and space in search of bad puns.
In short, Mr. Peabody is a perfect metaphor for, say, the United States... or, perhaps, for the internet(s). The absolute pinnacle of eons of evolution have given us not merely a dog that talks, but one who is utterly brilliant to the point of inventing something beyond human comprehension. Which he then uses absolutely frivolously... simply to amuse himself with the sort of cheap pun that I often go for...
Just as the greatest communication device in history to that point-- television-- is used mostly to watch professional wrestling, cooking shows, soap operas, and other forms of ethereal flotsam, when it could be the greatest educational and cultural enrichment advancer ever conceived... and then, the internet(s)... largely used for gambling, pornography, debates as to whether Captain Picard is cooler than Captain Kirk (answer: no) and for whiny ass liberals like m'self to take cheap shots at our Dear Leader... and post meaningless diatribes about the metaphoric value of cartoon characters...
I guess you could call this the... pay-back machine...
Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton (the greatest friend to the environment in that post since James Watt) tendered her resignation to the President, effective March 31st.
Why did she resign? And on her 52nd birthday, no less? The CNN report I linked to... is conspicuously quiet on that point...
The Washington Post clears it up for us a bit, here. You don't recall the names Steve Griles (deputy secretary of the interior... until recently) or Italia Federici (a "public interest" lobbyist and good friend of the now departing Secretary Norton)? Who are they, you ask? Oh yes... they are also good buddies of Jack Abramoff, and indeed, are under investigation as part of that scandal...
Makes perfect sense, as... the Bureau of Indian Affairs is under the Dept. of Interior umbrella, and of course... Jack's clients included a lot of American Indian tribes with gaming interests... so, let's just say, this was a natural.
Hey, the rest of the Interior Department's portfolio was for sale-- everything from clean air and water given away in sweetheart court settlements to advocating literally selling off our national parks to the highest bidder ... So why not deals for Indian tribes? Their trust funds were so hopelessly mismanaged by Secretary Norton... it had to be made up somewhere, right?
Sort of an odd "first major casualty in the Administration" of Abramoff, but you've got to start somewhere. Yet another issue Democrats will likely fail to capitalize on going into this year's mid-terms... as they say... why start now?
As I've suggested before, everyone and their Dubaian Uncle was coming out of the woodwork to try to save George W. Bush from himself over the ports deal debacle. The culmination of these efforts is the announcement by Dubai Ports World that it will be divesting itself of its United States operations, thereby (hopefully) obviating the need for legislation that would have the same result-- legislation that the President has vowed to veto, which would be a really, really stupid idea if he did.
Now, this whole ports thing seems to have caught the usually well-oiled Bush Administration spin-machine off its game. My speculation is that this is the result of two unfortunate events. The first is that the President himself foolishly felt emboldened as a result of Fudd-gate, and decided he could show off his tough-guy act with his extremely unusual Air Force One announcement that he would veto any effort to thwart the Dubaians' bid'ness deal... Years of the most careful handling can be undone in moments like that... There is a reason that Dick Cheney is the Administration's designated heavy... he's good at it.
Second, of course, is the failure to comprehend what we have all known: nearly five years of a drum-beat designed to make Americans fear and despise Moslems has worked wonders: Americans readily admit that they are prejudiced against Moslems in far greater numbers than in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks. Professor Cole sums it up for us nicely. While, admittedly, there are some legitimate concerns that have been raised about the ports deal, it struck me that those could be worked out, if the will to do so was there. What cannot be worked out is the scaremongering sound-bites... members of Congress having to answer to their constituents about why our government is handing over management of our ports to the Arabs. Again, that Dubai is a trusted ally, with professional (mostly American) managers with overall security still entrusted to the Coast Guard (and Heaven help us, Michael Chertoff's Homeland Security Department)... the deal is not so bad. But trust the Arabs? Are you crazy?
In our Rush Limbaugh and Rupert Murdoch dominated discourse... this sort of thing was, sadly, inevitable. Let's just say that I remain perplexed about the sudden failure of the Bush spin-machine on this one. It seems as if Dick and Karl may have simply been unable to stop Junior himself, who was eager to do his own deal... I really don't know.
I do know that it looks like this had been shaping up for some extreme ugliness for the Bush Administration, forcing the President to either (1) appear to cave under actual bipartisan pressure, or (2) have to beat up his own party's Congressional delegation with primary season upon us... neither of which is the kind of move that has kept this Administration and its Congressional allies in the money for so long.
Fortunately for the President and his Congressional allies, the grown-ups (I'm thinking Rove, Cheney, or quite possibly Jim Baker if not Poppy Bush) picked up the phone and called the Emir of Dubai, and told him to "un-f*** this", thus saving George W. Bush from himself.
Now, if only someone were available to save the rest of us from him.
On February 22, 2006, I had the privilege of speaking with Professor Rick Wilson of American University's Washington College of Law, one of the civilian attorneys representing Omar Khadr, a 19-year old Canadian national now detained at Camp 4, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Mr. Khadr was first detained a few months before his 16th birthday, and transferred to Guantanamo Bay shortly after his 16th birthday, and is, as far as anyone is aware, currently the youngest detainee still held there. Mr. Khadr is one of a handful (10 are charged) of detainees scheduled to be tried in military commissions, with his next proceeding scheduled for the first week of April. The following reflect my interview notes, as corrected where appropriate by Professor Wilson.
The Talking Dog: I always ask this question first (because I happened to be across the street from the WTC) and the answer is always interesting (others I've talked to were in downtown Manhattan or downtown Washington, and in one case, had a loved on an airplane heading to New York). Where were you on 9-11? If it's not privileged or classified, and if you can tell me, where was your client Omar Khadr?
Rick Wilson: I was at the law school, in a supervisory session with two students discussing their cases. We came out of the room, and there was total silence. Everyone was riveted to television sets. We saw the towers fall and started watching just as the second plane had just hit.
The Talking Dog: The law school, of course, is in Washington, D.C.. When did you see or hear about the Pentagon being hit?
Rick Wilson: The Pentagon was hit just a bit later. We are almost on top of a hill overlooking the City of Washington. You can't see the Pentagon itself from the campus, but in the distance, we could certainly see smoke, and planes and helicopter activity, especially from the cafeteria on the top floor of the building. I remember feeling at that moment that everything in human rights and everything in my law practice and teaching was going to change. It took longer than I thought it would, but it effects every aspect of my clinical practice.
The Talking Dog: Well, let me ask you about that. How, besides your representation of Mr. Khadr, has your practice been effected?
Rick Wilson: For one thing, about half our cases in the Human Rights Clinic are in the context of domestic political asylum. The other half covers a wide range of human rights issues, of which Omar's case is one. As to immigration, you know you have problems when even the Attorney General of the United States Alberto Gonazales has to direct immigration judges to curb their rudeness and inappropriate behavior in handling their immigration cases. Apparently, the immigration judges feel it is now permissible to abuse immigrants-- the attitude is that they could all be terrorists, even a 17-year old female Costa Rican domestic violence victim arrested-- and jailed-- for the crime of entering on a false visa-- the best example of something that never would have happened earlier. Fear of “the other” is now dominant.
The Talking Dog: Have you been involved in representing any of the Middle Easterners who were detained on immigration violations after September 11th?
Rick Wilson: I have not, though my co-counsel on Omar's case [Professor] Muneer [Ahmad] has been. He has represented a Canadian of Middle Eastern origin detained in immigration proceedings, on a pro bono basis. We also have a clientele mostly from Africa and South Asia rather than the Middle East, and some Latin Americans of course. I will say that since September 11th we have lost more asylum cases than ever before-- we lose on cases when an immigration judge just concludes that false or missing identification papers presented by the asylum seeker are enough to mean they lose the case, even though those same false or missing papers are a hallmark of the desperate measures necessary to escape from persecution in the home country -- the judges insist that they don't want to be the one responsible for admitting the next 9-11 bomber. It's a very difficult situation.
As to Omar, and where he was on September 11th, he and his family were in Kabul, Afghanistan. As of September 11, 2001 he was 14; his birthday is in late September, I believe, I think he turned 15 later that September. As the war rhetoric got louder here about attacking the Taliban, Omar's family decided to leave Kabul. His father ran orphanages between Kabul and Pakistan, so they headed that way towards the Pakistani border. Omar has a large family. His family is infamous in Canada. There have been all manner of allegations against his father and his connections with bin Laden and Al Qaeda, though none of these claims have ever been substantiated in a court of law....
The Talking Dog: I had read that Omar's mother has said that Osama bin Laden was a guest at her wedding...
Rick Wilson: Yes, no question that there has been some history of family relationships with bin Laden, all of which took place when Omar was quite young and more concerned with his playmates than politics. Omar's parents have been linked to a lot of different people, though a lot of the contact dates back to the early days of bin Laden in Afghanistan when bin Laden was at least tolerated by the United States for helping support the Mujahadeen against the Soviet Union. But that's the family. Certainly, Omar has been victimized as a result of the family reputation, including some of the grounds for his selection for trial by a military commission.
The Talking Dog: I understand that your client's military commission trial has been adjourned until some point in April. What is the next scheduled procedural stage there? Is there any chance that the outcome of the Hamdan case at the Supreme Court or any of the proceedings at the D.C. Circuit will result in delaying the military commission case still further, or possibly derailing it altogether? Has a military lawyer been appointed for him?
Rick Wilson: Yes, he recently got the military lawyer he had wanted, Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Colby Vokey, out of Camp Pendleton, California. Col. Vokey just made a trip to Guantanamo with me. We went down Super Bowl weekend, and from Saturday morning to Monday morning, due to the vagaries of Guantanamo, we weren't permitted to see Omar. I had to leave Guantanamo without being able to get in at all. Vokey stayed two more days, and maybe got to see him for an hour, hour and a half on his last day, just "hello, good-bye." It is another testimony to the vagaries of Guantanamo that even a high ranking military officer has to struggle-- he was there five days. As far as proceedings, the first week of April is the next scheduled session. Colonel Vokey is lead counsel now-- he is a very capable defense lawyer.
The Talking Dog: Might a delay in the Commission proceedings allow the Hamdan case to be decided in the interim, and does it look like Graham Levin issues will also be covered by it?
Rick Wilson Hamdan is scheduled for oral argument on March 28th. The case of Al Odah, in which we are also included in a large group of detainees’ appeals, is scheduled for argument in the D.C. Circuit on March 22nd. We had a district court decision on the Judge Green side, which found that the detainees do have rights to due process and other constitutional and habeas protections in the US court, while Judge Leon found the opposite - those are the two cases consolidated as Al Odah on appeal. At the Court’s direction, we did indeed file supplemental briefs based on Graham Levin relying on the suspension clause of the constitution and the statute's own provisions as to not applying retroactively to pending cases. As to Hamdan itself, the Supreme Court has said it intends to take up some issues of detainee treatment and Graham Levin during argument, and supposedly, decide whether to deal with it all at once after they hear arguments. We would expect Hamdan to be decided by the very end of June. We have no idea when the Al Odah appeal will be decided. But to answer your question, both cases will likely have a profound impact on Omar's detention and the military commissions, though we don't know for certain. We don't believe that our judge, Judge Bates, would be friendly to action before him that would slow up the commission process. We may well have a more receptive court at least as to scheduling matters with the commission itself.
The Talking Dog: My understanding is that Omar Khadr's case tracks that of the detainee representing himself...?
Rick Wilson: Omar's case was originally scheduled on the same date as that of Al Bahlul. But now the cases seem to be taking on lives of their own and going on different tracks. The prosecution team for the commissions is the same overall, with individual prosecution teams for each case; the judges on each case are different.
The Talking Dog: Let me turn to the specifics of the commission or military tribunal case. My understanding is that American forces had bombed a private home enclosed in by a compound wall in Afghanistan; Omar Khadr somehow survived the bombing,and threw a hand grenade killing an American soldier. At the time of this incident, he was 15 years old. I guess two issues emerge for me, and I'd like you to discuss each. One is the one you often raise-- his standing as a juvenile, and what American law is and international law is (and whether we are a party to such international law) regarding juveniles in a combat situation, international law, and what the supposed justification is for not treating Omar as a "juvenile" combatant if there is such a word. The other is more basic: doesn't killing a soldier in a combat situation invest Omar with a belligerent immunity? In other words, shouldn't he be a straight prisoner of war (or if this is a "war crime" shouldn't he be tried in civilian courts like John Walker Lindh)? Hypothetically, suppose Omar had been standing at the fence of an American military base in the United States and tossed a grenade that killed a soldier: what would happen to him, i.e., what authority would detain him, charge him, try him, etc.?
Rick Wilson: Well, there is an easy answer, and a complicated answer! You have raised a number of points. So let me start this way. There are certainly kids of military dependents on military facilities and reservations, and they get in trouble for a variety of conduct, and there are a range of responses, sorted out between military and civilian courts. The military will assume jurisdiction over minors for very minor infractions. For a major juvenile infraction, it would be referred to the civil courts in the federal system-- where the accused would still be treated as a juvenile, but with all due process protections that juveniles get. Indeed, while such a juvenile might be susceptible to be tried as an adult, a transfer order would have to be requested, and there are strict rules governing all parts of the process of transfer from juvenile to adult jurisdiction, including the possibility that transfer is rejected as inappropriate. There are of course, no analogs at all in the case of the Guantanamo military commissions, where the government has determined that it does not recognize juvenile status or have a minimum age.
As far as the complicated answer, the questions you raise, including possible belligerent privilege/immunity, or whether Omar is properly a prisoner of war, or his proper status as a juvenile-- are key questions to be litigated. Nothing is clear on this.
History tells us some very definite things about children affected by armed conflict: since Nuremberg, there has never been a trial of a juvenile-- that is someone under 18-- for war crimes. The United States has a treaty-- the so-called “Child Soldier” Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child – that governs this situation. The United States ratified the Protocol but not the Convention on the Rights of the Child itself, which is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the world, but the US is one of two countries that have not, the other being Somalia. The protocol was designed to address issues of what happens when a country captures a child combatant. The goal is to reintegrate the child into society somehow-- prosecution and punishment are not the answer under the protocol.
Again, these issues haven't been argued; the government, of course, has a different view.
The Talking Dog: There hasn't exactly been anywhere to argue these points, has there?
Rick Wilson: That's certainly true. The only issue really litigated in Omar’s case has been the issue of his treatment while detained and, of course, the legality of the detention itself, which is still pending. The combat situation, the fact that he appeared to be under fire in a combat situation against a military entity, not with his family, that is an issue that has not been discussed publicly, and I can’t today. However, we welcome a chance to argue it. Again, even if Omar was "unprivileged" [by belligerent immunity] for the war crimes, war crimes do not involve routine actions against a soldier in a combat situation. We don't accept that on its face... this really does drastically alter the laws of war.
The Talking Dog: Couldn't this blow back on our soldiers,
increasing the risk that they will be tried for war crimes committed in a combat situation?
Rick Wilson: No question this would increase those risks-- certainly to soldiers captured out of uniform, if nothing else.
The Talking Dog: On that note, my understanding is that a decision was made not to appeal a judicial decision denying an injunction against mistreating Omar (including, inter alia, his use as a "human mop," isolation and other mistreatments). Without disclosing anything of a privileged or classified nature, can you tell me in general terms what went into that decision, and why you thought an appellate court would not be sympathetic to the plight of someone abused by the military in derogation of our own laws and military regulations? Am I correct that this was essentially just a calculation that an appeals court was not likely to be sympathetic, and you didn't want to risk an adverse higher court ruling?
Rick Wilson: There is no question that our motivation was concern for what we saw as a very likely adverse decision from a higher court, simply because appellate courts tend to favor upholding the lower court decision, and we lost there. If we believed we had a viable chance for a reversal for Omar's case, we would have taken an appeal. But Judge Bates was very careful in his opinion, noting that even if he accepted our allegations of abuse as true, he still wouldn't tell the military how to conduct itself. For one thing, because of his family’s history and the facts of his capture, our client may not have been all that sympathetic (as Guantanamo detainees go) in the appellate court, which may have some effect on his treatment in the D.C. District Court and in other courts. The nature of the detainees and the abuse of detainees in general is becoming better documented-- we now have the National Journal report, and the Seton Hall study, documenting detainees' profiles, noting that 80-90% of them were not captured anywhere near a battlefield, but by the Northern Alliance or by Pakistan. Joe Margulies has said in his view that Gitmo is a response to the massive failure of intelligence around 9/11, and I think he’s right. In any event, Guantanamo is an aberration-- it is a gigantic albatross around the neck of our military and our government.
The Talking Dog: Can you summarize (more than I have in the last question plus, say food and sleep deprivation and isolation) what Omar's allegations of abusive treatment are? How would you respond to a reference to "the Manchester Document"-- that Al Qaeda supposedly has a training manual that all captured are supposed to claim they are being tortured? Is Omar participating in the hunger strike?
Rick Wilson: The government's statements that detainees are trained to claim torture is ludicrous on its face, especially with a kid of Omar’s age. Actually, one can make exactly the same argument in reverse, because there is an Army interrogation manual that states that, if asked about torture and whether you have engaged in it, deny, deny, deny. Denying it doesn't mean the abuse didn't happen. Certainly, Omar suffered sleep deprivation, food denial and other abuse as described and catalogued in Judge Bates' decision. Indeed, the case of "O.K. v. Bush" from July 2005 involves evading the ultimate question and accepting our facts, but refusing to grant an injunction because the court was ostensibly asking "but what have they done lately"-- the issue being likely future misconduct. The Administration hasn't actually modified its policy permitting aggressive interrogations although, officially, it's not supposed to be torturing anyone, and the President tells us, repeatedly, “we do not torture.”
Omar is not in the current hunger strike, he was in the prior one-- last July he lost 30 lbs. He was transferred from Camp 5-- where he was kept for more than a year with no human contact but his interrogators-- and moved to Camp 4, the "lightest": of the camps. They kept this teenage kid in total isolation for over a year. On its face, Omar's treatment certainly suggests "torture", or at the least, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, under either international law or Senator McCain's definition.
The Talking Dog: Has Omar gone through a Combatant Status Review Tribunal, and if so, what has it "concluded"? Has anything else in the nature of charges against Omar been disclosed to you? Has the nature of the evidence to be presented against him been disclosed to you? Do you think you (or we) will larn anything new about Omar's case-- or other detainees-- from the production of information from the Associated Press Freedom of Information Law case?
Rick Wilson: The CSRT allegations and conclusions, classified and public parts, appear to be parallel, and somewhat consistent as to what Omar is charged with, to wit, the basis for asserting that he is an enemy combatant is roughly the same claims made about him in the military commission, which we have discussed. I don't know what new material will come out from the A.P. case, but if nothing else, we should at least learn something just from learning the names of the other detainees.
The Talking Dog: My understanding is that Omar's father, a purported Al Qaeda financier was killed in a shoot-out in another area of Afghanistan and after Omar’s capture, a shoot out in which his brother was seriously injured. I understand another of Omar's brothers, Abdurahman, was himself a prisoner at Guantanamo, but has since been released. My understanding (from what I've read) is that Abdurahman Khadr claims he was sent to Bosnia and Herzegovina after his release, and was expected to spy on possible terrorists there and in the Balkans. Can you comment on one of my own theory, i.e., that Omar may be, essentially, being held as some kind of security for his brother Abdurahman's continued cooperation, or whether the treatment of the two is in any way related, or if there is any rhyme or reason to any of this (and if you can't comment on this, please say so)?
Rick Wilson: You should know that there are two brothers of relevance--Abdullah the oldest, who I'll discuss shortly, and Abdurahman. As to Abdurahman, there is no suggestion of a connection between the two brothers' cases, other than they evidently shouted to each other while imprisoned inside of Guantanamo. Supposedly, Abdurahman has claimed to be a CIA mole, and as such he was sent to Bosnia. He is now in Toronto, where he seems to be something of a pariah both in the Moslem community, for his claims of CIA alignment, and with the community in general, for his alleged ties to terrorists. Needless to say, he is struggling. He enjoys the limelight, but is of, shall we say, marginal credibility.
Omar's oldest brother Abdullah was just returned to Canada after 15 months in detention in Pakistan. He was released as a result of joint efforts by the Royal Canadian Mounties and by U.S. authorities; he was released briefly, to live with his family, but is now in the custody of the Canadians, where he awaits extradition and possible trial in the United States, for his alleged involvement in supplying weapons to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. He is represented by the family's Canadian lawyer, Dennis Edney of Alberta.
The Talking Dog Is Abdullah the brother who was injured in the shootout in Pakistan in which their father was killed?
Rick Wilson: No, that's his younger brother Kareem, who is confined to a wheel chair, in and out of the hospital in Toronto. The brothers have quite a history, and frankly, the notoriety of Omar's family, as I have said, has not been helpful to him.
But the case of the brothers is demonstrative of just how aberrational Guantanamo is. Abdullah's case is proceeding through normal legal procedures with due process at every step, Kareem was sent home despite his apparent support for the father, apparently because of his youth, whereas Omar is incarcerated with no due process at all, and now faces trial and a possible life sentence by an extremely questionable military commission..
The Talking Dog: Is there anything else either I, my readers, or the American and Canadian general public need to know about this case, or any questions that I should have asked you but didn't?
Rick Wilson: The thing that surprised me the most has been the Canadian government's inaction in protecting their child citizen.
The Talking Dog: Well, Canada did send interrogators to Cuba talk to Omar...
Rick Wilson: Yes, they did. I was surprised by the Canadian government's hostility to Omar - not just inaction but active participation in his interrogation with their own intelligence services-- he a citizen of their country. The United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and France have of course, been saying that Guantanamo should be closed. The Canadians have been conspicuously silent. Just remarkable. They have kept a low profile. Two of their citizens were detained at Guantanamo (including Omar's brother), and now one has been held for years. Some nations, most prominently Great Britain, have raised a ruckus about their nationals, and gotten them released. Others, like Australia, have demanded more fair treatment and special conditions for trial by military commission of their citizens. Canada has been conspicuously silent.
Certainly, the Khadrs are not the most popular of families in Canada. But this is all remarkable as a betrayal of citizenship-- an unwillingness to go to bat for their own national. Following the recent UN report, the Toronto Star issued an editorial stating that Omar should be released-- he is, after all, a child, and should be sent home (unsurprisingly, we wholeheartedly agree with the Toronto Star's editorial). But the Canadian government has shown no movement toward any kind of a change in policy on this.
The Talking Dog: Professor Wilson, thank you for being so generous with your time, and I'm sure my readers will find this most interesting and informative.
Readers may also find talking dog blog interviews with attorneys Neal Katyal, Joshua Colangelo Bryan, Baher Azmy, and Joshua Dratel (representing other Guantanamo detainees) and with attorneys Donna Newman and Andrew Patel (representing "unlawful combatant" Jose Padilila) to be of interest.
There's no other way to interpret what the Vice-President means by "serious consequences for Iran" if that nation does not satisfactorily resolve the stand-off over the development of its nuclear program between it and the other nuclear powers (in particular, the United States, Britain and France... and without saying its name... oops, I did... Israel).
This seems to me to be part of a sudden concerted campaign as we approach the third anniversary of the Iraq war to quite possibly have "the sequel" against Iran. Certainly, stories designed to gin up public hatred of Iran have emerged, such as the unsupported contention reported by ABC that Iran was supplying explosive devices to Iraqi insurgents, or DOD's contentions (again, out of nowhere) that Iran is actually having its own Revolutionary Guard troops meddle in Iraq.
Haven't we seen all of this before? What's next... Condi Rice making a power-point presentation to the United Nations that tanker-trucks on a street in Tehran are actually nuclear missile silos? The fact is, Iran is a number of years away from having a workable nuclear bomb... but the sudden talk (again... out of nowhere) is of some kind of incredible urgency... Now why might that be?
Oh wait... midterm elections are coming up in... eight months? (The indicted Tom "Bugs" DeLay faces a primary today, for example.)
Obviously, I'm cynical. Certainly, the terrorist supporting Islamic Republic of Iran is a problem child among nations... but as to the sudden, and more importantly, suddenly urgent, apparent stated need by the highest officials of our government for the United States to have a war against Iran... let's just say that if it looks like something that came out of the back of a cow, smells like something that came out of the back of a cow...
A number of interesting events today.
We'll start with the South Dakota Governor signing a bill purporting to ban virtually all abortions in that state that do not imminently threaten the life of the mother. That's one way to make the courts work.
Speaking of the courts, in a case called FAIR v. Rumsfeld, the Supreme Court, by an 8-0 holding, rejects arguments by law schools that the military can be barred from recruiting on their campuses while said schools (or their students) receive any federal funding, even though the military does not abide by the schools' policies not to discriminate based on sexual orientation. Although Chief Justice Roberts' explanation based on Congress's constitutional prerogative to raise a military and a minimal connection to freedom of expression is... convoluted... the decision is correct. (Indeed, ominously, the Court held that Congresscan order the law schools to have the military recruit on their campuses... ) That part really wasn't necessary to the holding: Congress can condition its spending, and that would have probably been a sufficient basis for this holding.
And in a lower court, the Government opened its case seeking the death penalty against purported 9-11 plot participant Zaccarias Moussaoui, for misleading investigators in a way to throw them off of a possible discovery of the main 9-11 plot... dangerous area. Moussaoui denies such direct involvement (and frankly, a "but for" causation of his responses to federal questioning as having caused the 9-11 events seems a stretch). But moreso, if misleading investigators can be a death penalty offense, how shall we treat what appears to be misleading of federal investigators by White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rove, Vice-Presidential Advisor and Chief of Staff Libby and indeed, the Vice-President himself? If such leaks prove to have led to the deaths of American operatives, should their misleading investigators (forget the leaks themselves) be... a death penalty offense? Maybe the poobahs should think this through...
And, out of nowhere, the first President in (literally) centuries not to have vetoed a single bill in over five years in office has asked for authority to have line item vetoes over spending bills. The President seems unconcerned that this, like so many things he proposes, is unconstitutional (and was so held as recently as the Clinton Administration).
As to such concern... why start now?
For one, you might skin it without actually infecting yourself with anthrax. In a pair of WTF posts , Diana tells us here of the saga of a man who traveled from West Africa, and here, brought goat skins through customs at JFK airport to a warehouse in Brooklyn, so he could make drums. The infected fellow has apparently performed in New York City schools.
Needless to say, as one with a child in a New York City school, and someone who lives around a mile from the warehouse that has become infected with anthrax, this story is more than a little troubling.
As Katrina and Fudd-gate, and frankly, 9-11, have taught us, our federal government under its current management is incapable of protecting us from any threats that it is in a position to stop. Yes, local authorities can still function (and thank God, in New York they function better than in Louisiana, for example), but until the end of January 2009... that's all we got.
I hope we make it.
The Associated Press is reporting that over 5,000 federal criminal cases (of which it is aware) have been conducted in complete secrecy. While some of these cases do apparently involve terrorism allegations, for the most part, the cases involve drug gangs and plea bargain and other deals given to cooperating witnesses. As the A.P. piece notes, one is hard-pressed to criticize the government's actions in such cases if one has no idea what they are. The Sixth Amendment's right to a public trial is not only a protection for the defendant, but for the people themselves, to know that their justice system is proceeding in front of them, fair or unfair, better or worse.
We'll juxtapose this with some other items. Let's take a look at this WaPo article identifying a Bush Administration policy initiative to step up punishment of whistle-blowing and reporting... deeming all attempts to disclose to the public what the government is doing that is not coming off of GOP and White House political propaganda blast faxes as treason. If you think I'm exaggerating-- read the damned article.
How about efforts to re-classify tens of thousands of pages of documents at the National Archives that were previously public? Cheerleaders for the Bush Administration (a declining category these days, but still out there!) can note that this program started under the Clinton Administration... but appears to have picked up with a vengeance under the Bush Administration.
I'm merely scratching at the surface of a vast and alarming trend. The obvious question, of course, is... why is the government so eager to hide everything from us? Indeed, desperate to do so. Occam's razor tells us that the simplest explanation is usually the best... the simplest explanation for a democratically elected government desperately trying to hide things from the people who elected them is because it has something to hide. Probably a great deal.
Much as we continue to covet our status as having once been a finalist (for the anomolous "best non-liberal blog at Wampum's Koufax Awards"), we are up again this year for our series of "Unlawful Combatant Attorney Interviews". Go over to Wampum and vote... not for best blog, just "best series"... so many better blogs than this one up in every category... we have no chance. Still, the essence of the series is that one little guy with a blog can talk to key players on one of the most compelling stories of the day, and get angles that the MSM is ignoring... Oh, who am I kidding?
But then again... was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Was it?
Please. Man, I'm begging here. It's o.k. if you don't, of course. Still...
And so we continue our survey of the cultural talking dog phenomenon with one of the most popular talking dogs of all time, Underdog, voiced by the late great Wally Cox, and his female friend, Sweet Polly Purebred, pictured in the montage above.
Mrs. TD has pointed out to me that the talking dog is an extremely powerful metaphor (and one with literary and cultural antecedents of longstanding.) The basic premise, of course, is that man's best friend the dog is to be seen, and not heard. The dog is simply not to tell us what it is thinking, even as it observes the goings on, and even as, we suspect, it is more sentient than we would like to credit it for being. The talking dog, is, thus, at its core, an upsetting metaphor: the universe just isn't supposed to work this way.
Ah, but The Underdog Show improves even upon this. The ultimate metaphor for the downtrodden is duly topped in the Underdog cartoons by, in turn, making that dog downtrodden among dogs, i.e., the underdog.
The basic premise is interesting enough: Underdog's alter ego, Shoeshine Boy, is a menial worker in an unsung and humble trade. But he is in a position to be out in the open, to be among the first to observe trouble. And when trouble rears its ugly head, such as one of the show's stock villains (Simon Bar Sinister- apparently a relative of one of our semi-regular commenters, or perhaps mob boss Riff Raff), Shoeshine Boy then would dash into a phone booth, the phone booth would explode (Ma Bell was a monopoly then and presumably could better afford this sort of thing) and Underdog would emerge, with super-human (or super-anthropomorphized canine) powers to save the day. When weakened from his travails, in typical American fashion, Underdog reached for pharmaceuticals-- usually a trusted energy pill he kept in his ring.
The metaphors for early 1960's America just go on... and on... We have Sweet Polly, the Lois Lane stand-in, a/k/a the working professional girl. The villains are, well, villains: nothing subtle or complicated about thousands of Soviet ICBMs pointed at us, is there? The hero is humble, and indeed, virtually invisible unless he is called upon to intervene and save the day, in which case, he does so with decisive and overwhelming force.
And there you have it. Amusingly, Underdog was paired with such other geniuses as Commander McBragg and Klondike Kat, and, IIRC, Tennessee Tuxedo (respectively a braggart ex-naval officer, an incompetent cat policing the Canadian North, and an overachieving talking penguin incarcerated in a zoo), who reflected failings of the established order, even as Underdog, the unsung hero, operated to preserve that order. Indeed, without the contribution and acquiescence of the underdogs of the world, the established order would crumble in the face of villainy. All the dog asks is a living wage and the opportunity to speak, and help, every once in a while.
Needless to say, this was an underdog of his time. Such a challenger to the established order (after all, who are his parents? where does he summer?) would be most unwelcome in the present order. Most unwelcome.
The Department of Defense has, almost unbelievably, actually complied with an order of a court doing something that the Bush Administration didn't want to do, in this case, releasing this list of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The government of our democratic and free country has decided, after holding some of these men well over four years, to tell us their names. As many of you know, the Hamdan case is coming before the Supreme Court (discussion with Salim Hamdan's attorney Neal Katyal is contained in my interview here) which may, hopefully, spell out once and for all the legal status of our Guantanamo guests.
One of these days, perhaps the Pentagon will see fit to tell us just what it is these people did (hint: in 80-90% of their cases, the answer is "nothing") to warrant spending our taxpayer money (and squandering what's left of our national moral authority) to hold them under conditions that, shall we say, don't meet our treaty obligations.
In the not inconceivable event that their names are flushed down the memory hole and disappear from other websites, I am publishing them here (by nationality) under my "extended entry" for those interested. Notice the large number of "R's" next to those hailing from European countries, and the smaller number from... other countries. You'll recognize a few of the names from the interviews with some of their lawyers (and hopefully, more interviews will be coming soon).
But this is, nonetheless... interesting in its own right. They say sunlight is the best disinfectant; this is just a glimmer, but its more than we had yesterday.
DETAINEES BY COUNTRY (Name, Country, "R" designates released)
Abasin, Said Afghanistan R
Abdul Ghaffar, Mulla Afghanistan R
Agha, Ismail (Muhammad Ismail) Afghanistan R
Akhber, Mohammed Afghanistan R
Ali, Sahibzada Usman Afghanistan R
Aslam, Noor Afghanistan R
Bacha, Saki Afghanistan
Bader, Abdul Manan Afghanistan R
Badr, Badrzaman Afghanistan R
Barhoumi, Sufyian Afghanistan
Barhoumi, Sufyian Afghanistan
Dost, Haji Rahim Muslim Afghanistan R
Ehsannullah Afghanistan R
Farooq, Muhammad Naim Afghanistan R
Fazil or Fadhil, Mullah Afghanistan
Ghafar, Maulvi Abdul Afghanistan R
Ghulab, Sher Afghanistan R
Gul, Lall Afghanistan R
Gul, Nate Afghanistan R
Habibulla, Nur Afghanistan R
Khairkhwa, Khairullah Afghanistan
Khan, Alif Afghanistan R
Khan, Aziz Afghanistan R
Khan, Haji Mohammed Afghanistan R
Khan, Juma Afghanistan
Khan, Merza Afghanistan R
Koochi, Naeem Afghanistan R
Mazloom, Fazel Afghanistan
Mohammed Afghanistan R
Mohammed, Hajii Faiz Afghanistan R
Mohammed, Jan Afghanistan R
Mohammed, Wazir Afghanistan
Muhammad, Mirza Afghanistan
Naqibullah Afghanistan R
Osman, Haji Afghanistan R
Osman, Mohammad Afghanistan R
Rahim, Abdur Afghanistan R
Rahman, Asadullah Afghanistan R
Rahmatullah Afghanistan R
Raouf, Mullah Abdel Afghanistan
Razeq, Abdul Afghanistan R
Rehman, Abdul Afghanistan R
Russol Habir Afghanistan R
Sabitullah Afghanistan R
Sarajudim Afghanistan R
Shah, Rostum Afghanistan R
Shah, Sliman Afghanistan R
Shah, Sulaiman Afghanistan R
Shah, Zakhim Afghanistan R
Shakur, Mullah Afghanistan
Shehzada, Mullah Afghanistan R
Sidiq, Mohammed Afghanistan R
Sidiq, Muhammad Afghanistan R
Tahir, Mohammad Afghanistan R
Ullah, Asad Afghanistan
Wali, Badshah Afghanistan R
Wazir, Mohammed Afghanistan R
Zahir, Abdul Afghanistan
Zaeef, Mohammed Afghanistan
Abdullah, Abu Algeria
Ait Idir, Mustapha Algeria/Bosnia
Belkacem, Bensayah Algeria
Boumediene, Lakhdar Algeria
El Hadj, Boudella Algeria
Lahmar, Saber Algeria/Bosnia
Nechle, Mohamed Algeria
Slaa, Byami Abu Algeria
Zemiri, Ahcene Algeria (Canada resident)
Habib, Mamdouh Australia R
Hicks, David Australia
Al Balushi, Salah Abdul Rasool Bahrain
Al Dossary, Juma Mohammed Bahrain
Al Khalifa, Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Bahrain R
Al Merbati, Isa Bahrain
Al Noaimi, Abdulla Majid Bahrain R
Al Wadi, Adil Kamil Abdullah Bahrain
Hajee , Adel Kamel Abdullah Bahrain R
Zemmouri, Moussa Belgium R
Khadr, Abdur Rahman Canada R
Khadr, Omar Canada
Abdu Hakim, Adel China
Ahmed, Siddiq China
Qassim, Abu Bakr China
Abderrahmane, Slimane Hadj Denmark R
Al-Laithi, Sami Egypt R
El-Weleli, Reda Fadel Egypt
Mazrou, Alaa Abdel-Maqsoud Egypt
Meshad, Sherif Egypt
Rahman, Ahmed Abdel Egypt
Mohammed, Binyam Ethiopia
Benchellali, Mourad France R
Kanouni, Imad France R
Mustafa, Khaled ben France R
Patel, Mushtaq Ali France R
Ridouane, Khalid France R
Sassi, Nizar France R
Yadel, Brahim France R
Al Rawi, Bisher Iraq
Anvarkord, Mohammad Iran R
Bameri, Bahktiar Iran R
Abdul Rahman, Wesam Jordan R
Al Asmar, Khalid Jordan R
Al Banna, Jamil Jordan (U.K. resident)
Asnar, Khalid Jordan
Azzam, Hussein Jordan
Nabaytah, Hassan Jordan
al Ajmi, Abdullah Saleh Ali Kuwait R
Al Azmi, Saad Madai Saad Kuwait R
al Daihani, Mohammed Funaitel Kuwait R
Al Hameydani, Khalid Bin Abdullah Kuwait R
Al Kandari, Abdullah kamel bin Abdullah Kamal Kuwait
Al Kandari, Fayiz Mohammed Ahmed Kuwait
Al Mutairi, Khalid Abdullah Mishal Kuwait
Al Mutairi, Nasser Nijer Naser Kuwait R
Al Odah, Fawzi Khalid Abdullah Fahad Kuwait
Al Rabiah, Fwad Mahmoud Kuwait
al Shimmari, Abdulaziz SayerOwain Kuwait R
al Zamel, Adel Zamil Abdull Mohssin Kuwait R
Amin, Omar Rajab Kuwait
Deghayes, Omar Libya
Gherebi, Falen Libya
Ghereby, Salem Abdul Libya
Fauzee, Ibrahim Maldives R
Ould Slahi, Mouhamedou Mauritania
Abdullah, Ahmad Morocco
Abdullah, Noorudeen Morocco
Abdulsalam, Reswan Morocco
Ash Shaqoori, Usamah Morocco
Al Shaqoori, Yunus Morocco
Ali, Abu Sana Morocco
Al Ouali, Mohamed Morocco R
Aouzar, Mohamed Morocco R
Ash Shaqoori, Usamah Morocco
Bajadiyah, Saeed Morocco
Benchakroun, Brahim Morocco R
Binmoojan, Muhammad Morocco
Chekkouri, Redouan Morocco R
Chekkouri, Younes Morocco
Feroze, Muhammad Morocco
Ikassrien, Lahcen Morocco
Lahcini, Najib Morocco R
Laalami, Mohammad Souleymani Morocco R
Mazouz, Mohamed Morocco R
Shaqroon, Ibrahim bin Morocco
Tabarak, Abdallah (Abu Omar) Morocco R
Abbas, Muhammad Pakistan
Ahmad, Ali Pakistan R
Ahmad, Ejaz Pakistan
Ahmed, Sarfaraz Pakistan
Alam, Noor (Abdullah Mahsud Pakistan R
Ali, Sarfraz Pakistan
Ali, Syed Saim Pakistan
Amin, Aminullah Pakistan
Ansar, Muhammad Pakistan R
Anwar, Muhammad Pakistan
Ashraf, Muhammad Pakistan
Ayub, Haseeb Pakistan
Dad, Fazal Pakistan
Hanif, Muhammad Pakistan
Iilyas, Muhammad Pakistan
Iqbal, Faid or Faiq Pakistan R
Iqbal, Zafar Pakistan
Irfan, Muhammad Pakistan
Ishaq, Muhammad Pakistan R
Jamaluddin, Muhammad Pakistan R
Jan, Aziaullah Pakistan
Khan, Alef Pakistan R
Khan, Aziz Pakistan
Khan, Badshah Pakistan
Khan, Ejaz Ahmad Pakistan R
Khan, Hamood ullah Pakistan
Khan, Issa Pakistan
Khan, Muhammad Ejaz Pakistan
Khan, Muhammad Kashif Pakistan R
Khan, Tariq Aziz Pakistan R
Manzoor, Hafiz Liaqat Pakistan R
Maula, Abdul Pakistan R
Mehmood, Majid Pakistan R
Mehmood, Talli Pakistan R
Muhammad, Ali Pakistan
Muhammad, Shah Pakistan R
Naseer, Muneer bin Pakistan
Nauman, Muhammad Pakistan
Omar, Muhammad Pakistan
Paracha, Saifullah Pakistan
Rafiq, Muhammad Pakistan
Rahim, Abdul Pakistan
Raza, Abid Pakistan
Raza, Muhammad Arshad Pakistan
Razaq, Abdul/Abdur Pakistan R
Rehman, Abdul Pakistan
Rehman, Hafiz Khalil ur Pakistan
Rehman, Sajid-ur Pakistan R
Saeed, Hafiz Ehsan Pakistan
Saeed, Muhammad Pakistan
Safeesi, Abdul Sattar Pakistan
Sagheer, Muhammad Pakistan R
Salahuddin, Ghazi Pakistan R
Sattar, Abdul Pakistan
Shah, Syed Zia Hussain Pakistan
Sultan, Zahid Pakistan
Tariq, Muhammad Pakistan
Tariq, Muhammad Pakistan
Wali, Jehan/Jan Pakistan R
Zaman, Badar uz Pakistan
Zaman, Qaisir Pakistan R
Akhmyarov, Rustam Russia R
Gumarov, Ravil Russia R
Ishmuradov, Timur Russia R
Khazhiyev, Shamil Russia R
Kudayev, Rasul Russia R
Mingazov, Ravil Russia
Odigov, Ruslan Russia R
Vakhitov, Aryat Russia R
Aamer, Shaker Abdur-Raheem Saudi Arabia
Al Anazi, Abdullah Saudi Arabia
Al Areeni, Khalid Saudi Arabia
Al Aseemi, Fahd Sultan Ubaid Saudi Arabia
Al Aushan, Abdul Aziz Sad Saudi Arabia
Al Aushan, Salih bin Abdullah Saudi Arabia
Al Aushan, Salman Saudi Arabia
Al Badaah, Abdul Aziz bin Abdur Rahman Saudi Arabia
Al Bahooth, Ziyad bin Salih bin Muhammad< Saudi Arabia
Al Barakati, Khalid Saudi Arabia
Al Bedani, Abdul Khaled Ahmed Sahleh Saudi Arabia
Al Fawzan, Fahd Fawzan Saudi Arabia
Al Fifi, Jaber Saudi Arabia
Al Fouzan, Fahd Saudi Arabia
Al Ghamdi, Abdur Rahman Uthman Saudi Arabia
Al Ghamdi, Khalaf Awad Saudi Arabia
Al Ghamdi, Saeed Farhah Saudi Arabia
Al Ghamdi, Zaid Saudi Arabia
Al Ghanimi, Abdullah Muhammad Salih Saudi Arabia
Al Habardi, Mane Shaman Saudi Arabia
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Al Shahrani, Muhammad bin Abdur Rahman< Saudi Arabia
Ash Shaibani, Bandar Saudi Arabia
al-Shammari, Majed Afas Radi al-Tumi Saudi Arabia R
Al Shamri, Anwar Hamdan al Noor Saudi Arabia
Al Sharbi, Ghassan Saudi Arabia
Ash Shareef, Fahd Umar Saudi Arabia
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Al Utaibi, Bajad bin Daifillah Saudi Arabia
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Al Utaibi, Naif Fahd Al Aseemi Saudi Arabia
Al Zahrani, Khalid Saudi Arabia R
Al Zahrani, Sad Ibrahim Ramzi al-Jundubi Saudi Arabia
Al Zahrani, Yasser Talal Saudi Arabia
As Sabeei or Al Sabeei, Muhammad Jayid Saudi Arabia
As Sabeei, Abdul Hadi Muhammad Saudi Arabia
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Aseeri, Turki Mashawi Zayid Ale Jabali Saudi Arabia
Ash Shabani, Fahd Abdullah Saudi Arabia R
Ash Shahrani, Muhammad bin Abdur Rahman Saudi Arabia
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Ash Shamri, Anwar Hamdan al Noor Saudi Arabia
Ash Shareef, Fahd Umar Saudi Arabia
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Fouzan, Fahed Saudi Arabia
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Ahmed, Hamed Abderrahman Spain R
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Al Haj, Sami Mohy Eldin Sudan
Al Qosi, Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud Sudan
Babikir, Muhammad al Ghazali Sudan R
Ghezali, Mehdi Muhammed Sweden R
Al Muhammad, Mahmood Syria
Dukhan, Mamar Syria
Nabiyev, Yusuf Tajikistan
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Hkimi, Adel Tunisia
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Bayifkan, Lutfi Turkey
Celik, Abdullah Turkey
Celikgogus, Yuksel Turkey R
Eksi, Mustafa Turkey
Kurnaz, Murat Turkey (German resident)
Mert, Nuri Turkey R
Sen, Ibrahim Turkey
Sen, Mesut Turkey R
Uyar, Salih Turkey R
Uzel, Turgut Turkey
Abdullah, Jamal Uganda R
Abbasi, Feroz United Kingdom R
Ahmed, Ruhal United Kingdom R
Al-Harith, Jamal Udeen United Kingdom R
Begg, Moazzam United Kingdom R
Belmar, Richard United Kingdom R
Dergoul, Tarek United Kingdom R
Iqbal, Asif United Kingdom R
Mubanga, Martin United Kingdom/Zambia R
Rasul, Shafiq United Kingdom R
Al Qadasi, Walid Unknown R
Arbaish, Khalid bin Suleiman Unknown
Maimoundi, Hassan Unknown
Abd, Allah Ab Aljalil Abd Al Rahman Yemen
Abdoh, Atag Ali Yemen
Abdulraheem, Othman Yemen
Ahmed, Fahmi Abdullah Yemen
Ahmed, Faruq Ali Yemen
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Al Dhabbi, Khalid Mohamed Saleh Yemen
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Al Dini, Omar Saeed Yemen
Al Ghaith, Abdurahman ba Yemen
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Ghanem, Mohamed Ragab Abu Yemen
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Hamdoon, Zahir Omar bin Yemen
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Hatem, Saeed Yemen
Ismail, Yasin Qasem Muhammad Yemen
Kassim, Khalid Ahmed Yemen
Khasraf, Mohamed Nasser Yahya Abdullah Yemen
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Murshid, Ayoub Yemen
Omar, Othman Ali Yemen
Qaid, Yaseen Yemen
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Quraish, Nasr Abdullah Yemen
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Rashid, Hani Saleh Yemen
Salman, Mohamed bin Yemen
Shaalan, Hani Abdo Muslih Yemen
Utain, Riyad Yemen
Uthman, Abdur Rahim Mohammad Uthman Yemen
Wazeer, Abdullah ba Yemen
More not-so-good news for the President: even a Fox poll shows the ports issue to be a political albatross on the President, with only 17% in favor of the ports deal and an astounding 69% opposed; indeed, even on a Fox poll, Bush's support among Republicans (the only people who actually like him) dipped below 80%, to 77%... so you know he has some problems. Of course, the hidden undercurrent there: more people (by 44% to 42%) think opposition to the ports is more motivated by politics than legitimate concern for security; of course, 69% of respondents say they oppose the ports deal, and many admit that it is out of knee jerk prejudice against Arabs.
Once again, this is what I have been saying: you can't gin up irrational hatred of an ethnic group for almost five years as your basis for remaining in power, and then pretend you can turn it off on a dime just because your friends want to make a few bucks. As the polling shows-- Bush still has strong support among Republicans, and virtually no support anywhere else. So-- undermining his most rabid supporters with this kind of cognitive dissonance is sheer idiocy. Or is it? The possiblity remains (I'll keep saying it) that Karl Rove is planning a grand misdirection: actually make the Republicans in Congress look good by distancing themselves from a hopelessly unpopular president.
We'll see. The Katrina revelations could be explosive... we don't know yet.
The one thing the President has in his favor: the Democrats. Yes, yes, the same Fox poll above shows that more Americans feel that the Democrats should control Congress... but... well... they're still the Democrats.
Still... at some point, perhaps the country will decide to have an "accountability moment"? Then again... the Democrats. Time will tell.
Update: As if on cue, Bruce the Veep sends along this CNN report indicating that New York Republican Congressman Peter King of Long Island is accusing the Bush Administration of lying to Congress about its conducting of a thorough review; King insists that the same officials told him they did nothing more than ask if there was an intelligence file-- the most cursory of cursory reviews. So who looks like their protecting us against foreign threats? Republican members of Congress, that's who.
I don't know... if it smells like a plant, looks like a plant, feels like a plant...
The Associated Press released video footage showing that, in direct contrast with his own his own later statement that "we couldn't anticipate the breach of the levees", the President and Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff were advised of everything that was later going to happen as a result of Hurricane Katrina.
The Emperor has no clothes. We have videos of him stripping, in fact, and laughing about being naked.
As I've said on other occasions: imagine for a moment if this were President Clinton, or Gore, or Kerry. Would we ever hear the end of this?
Democrats finally have their mantra (and still might find a way to f*** it up): it's Katrina, stupid.
The President has arrived to as warm a welcome as possible in New Delhi, India; Prime Minister Singh went to the airport himself to greet him. One of the joys of blogging and the internet is the immediate availability of foreign sources; in this case, the Hindustan Times, the sidebar's entry from India, has extensive coverage on the visit, and notes that one of the key issues is a civilian nuclear power cooperation agreement between the United States and India. Who knew? As India already has nuclear weapons, this is sort of the same order the United States developed nuclear power: bombs first, powering toasters... second. So, there you go.
A fuller explanation of the nuclear deal is contained in this from Dawn, our sidebar's entry from Pakistan. The agreement is that India will get American cooperation, and India wil separate its civilian program from its military program, and submit to the IAEA regulation and inspection regime, and tacitly, receive acknowledgment as one of the world's nuclear powers.
The good news for the President about this visit to India is that he has found a country where he will be warmly welcomed (possibly, because he hasn't ordered the willy nilly bombing of its houses.)
We'll see what transpires in a few days when the President visits Pakistan. It might be a little different. We'll see...
Update: It seems that the nuclear deal with India is a done deal. I spoke too soon re: Pakistan, as an explosion near the U.S. Consulate in Karachi killed at least four people, including an American foreign service officer. The President still plans on going forward with his visit to Pakistan, but this is surely a troubling development.