The Talking Dog

November 29, 2007, Rudy, Judy, Booty and Duty

The Rudy laugh fest continues, what with reports that while Mayor (of my fair City), Giuliani arranged for his personal security detail to have his then adulterous tryst with his paramour Judy Nathan in the Hamptons paid for by the City out of various City agencies and funds under the ubiquitous title "security". It's one thing for former State Comptroller Alan Hevesi to hae been ridden out of town on a rail for using a State employee to drive his wife to the doctor, but Rudy used City cops to drive him to his mistress, and they had to be housed and fed while doing it... on the taxpayer's dime!!! And Rudy obscured all the evidence of this by charging the Loft Board, the fund for indigent defendants... hell, anything he could think of getting away with! (Note the reference to the City's emergency center being in the WTC to it being Rudy's own love shack.)

I also vaguely recall millions going for a police detail to Rudy post being Mayor... at a time when the new mayor (Billionaire Mike) was shuttering firehouses for lack of money!

Fortunately, it looks like Bible-Thumpin' Huck may be garnering the good-old boy vote... while not as overt a racist as Rudy, he is from Arkansas, and that might be good enough. (Yes, I realize that arguably Hillary is from Arkansas too, but it's not the same thing! No one believes she is a racist!)

This has been Rudy, Judy, Booty and Duty.

Update: I think it's time we considered the possibility that Rudy has super-powers. Neither falling skyscrapers nor corrupt police commissioners he nominates for Homeland Security Secretary nor having his own children refuse to talk to him nor being on his third marriage nor, in the present case, outrageous public corruption and criminally fraudulent accounting to cover the expenses of seeing his mistress (an offense that would get a mere mortal instantaneously indicted) can come close to harming him (let alone derailing his presidential campaign). All of these things just seem to bounce right off of Rudy's chest! Rudy is clearly no ordinary mortal. We must seriously consider the possibility that he has super-powers (possibly a result of radioactive material released on September 11th... or it is possible that he has always had them.)

How else could he be able to get away with publicly saying that he was only doing this to help out the police officers themselves, lest they have to wait for travel reimbursement!? Or of course, how else could he keep going... and going... after it is revealed (surprise, surprise) that his then mistress Judith Nathan had her own police car and driver (see above, re: Hevesi, Alan, who interestingly, was City Comptroller when Rudy was mayor... hmmm....) (h/t to Bruce the Veep.)

I'll tell you how I think Rudy does it: super-powers.

While as a registered Democrat and allegedly liberal blogger, it certainly disappoints me that none of our candidates have anything close to super-powers like Rudy (hell, none of the majors have even been divorced!), it does seem more and more obvious each day that Super Rudy Giuliani... just has to. He is simply just above the rest of us.

And the law. Just ask him.

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November 26, 2007, Things is lookin' up!

We get some helpful and hopeful news (c/o Bruce the Veep... who else?!) such as this item from the AP and this item from TPM Muckraker, that tell us essentially on a semi-official basis what we have known for years... this time, in the nature of "dreams with a deadline". (Hint: it's about Iraq.)

We have known since the heady early days when the Bushmen wanted to call the Excellent Iraq AdventureTM "Operation Iraqi Liberation", but Karl Rove himself had to scotch that because even Americans could figure out that if you called it "O.I.L.", it would be hard to deny that the whole thing was always about the, well, oil [and hence "Operation Iraqi Freedom" was born.] In this case, the dream is a deal of a permanent American military presence to prop up Maliki's Iraqi sort-of-government, in exchange for preferential treatment for American investors in Iraqi oil infrastructure... or as I like to call it, finally the worthy replacement of the "Oil for Food" program: "Oil for Blood". The deadline is roughly June, 2008, or perhaps July, just in time to be rolled out in an effort to deflate any "bounce" any Democratic nominee might get around their nominating convention (never saw that before), at which time, the announcement will finally be made that "we have been asked by the Iraqi government to draw down our force levels to around 50,000 or so", i.e., hey, we can declare victory!

Well, glad to hear that all worked out, for everyone. Except for the American soldier and the American taxpayer. But hey, we didn't say we wouldn't get our hair mussed. Oh, and the war will now go on forever. But other than that, one has to say... things is lookin' up!

And speakin' of gettin' our hair mussed... a guy who never goes out without a first-rate 'do, Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi announced his early retirement from his Senate seat (roundup c/o TMV is here). Turn that frown upside down... Trent's gonna make lots money taking advantage of a short window he has to enter the high stakes lobbying world before some awful law that that awful John McCain probably thought up kicks in which might make it harder to cash in.

I know, I know... the Senate won't be the same without Trent, but we'll just have to make do. As it were!

And finally, we'll give you (also c/o Bruce!) this description of how our Secretary of State learned about the Hamas victory in Palestinian elections and how totally off guard she was taken by it... note that like the Commander in Chief, our Secretary of State is an exercise freak, and like the Commander in Chief, our Secretary of State appears to be clueless and seems to live in a bubble! Just something else to think about as the two of them host... a Middle East peace conference!!!

This has been "Things is lookin' up!"

Update: First Trent Lott, and now that nice Mr. Hastert has announced his resignation too. Congress just won't be the same without those two guys.

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November 25, 2007, Deep thoughts

It's been a while since I read my own comments about the gigantic protest march against the Iraq war in New York City on 15 February 2003, one of the coldest days I remember, at which hundreds of thousands turned out. I did not realize that I mentioned that the local "paper of record" suggested as many as 400,000 attended, which, ultimately, was my own best estimate; I just remember its insistence on treating the Republican Lord Mayor's self-serving estimate at only 100,000 as if it were of equal importance. (In retrospect, I was too kind to Bush by... a lot. In addition to his various crimes against our Constitution, history may well judge him as being responsible for the deaths of more Iraqis than even Saddam; time will tell.)

The point is that we now live in a society where the successful performance of the task is no longer as important as getting credit for that task. Why the average high school senior's Ivy League College application package reads like the average obituary for a Nobel Prize winner, even though by most objective measures, our high school graduates seem to be as dumb, if not dumber, than ever (certainly when measured against the rest of the industrialized world). Or why the great fortunes are not earned by and large by those brilliant at delivering value for customers or shareholders, but at those best at playing games with tax and regulatory dodges and technical legardemaine in their hedge funds, or perhaps, by using their connections to gain government contracts. When even earned victories in elections are often not credited, when partisan vote counters (or pre-election vote manipulators) have spoken first... and last.

Why rights once thought of as sacrosanct, such as the Bill of Rights and its prohibition on deprivation of liberty without due process of law is thrown under the bus in the cases of Padilla and al Marri, or its prohibition on unreasonable search and seizure can be thrown out so communications may be monitored at executive whim, or its prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment is thrown under the bus so that we may "waterboard" those we find troublesome... in short, why the fundamental Constitutional protections that have enabled this nation to become the most prosperous and powerful that has ever existed... are no longer even credited.

Why our courts, which once existed to apply the law and the Constitution in an evenhanded way (at least in theory), have become little more than hyper-partisan agents for enforcing the status quo and particularly the interests of the rich and powerful.

Deep sigh. It's a nice, sunny day here in Brooklyn. I think I'll go outside. I urge you to do the same.

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November 24, 2007, Back to plan "A"

No, I'm not sure whose plan "A" it is, given the apparent "surge" in violence in Iraq after a downturn of late, particularly after a Shiite group (naturally, the official story is that it is backed by bogeyman du jour Iran) appears to have admitted responsibility for a bombing in Central Baghdad that killed at least 15. Interestingly, the target was in a largely Shiite area, and had been previously attacked by Sunni insurgents; the current Shia on Shia attack was supposedly a misdirection to get the Shia residents to turn to their friendly neighborhood Shiite death squads for assistance.

Certainly, things in Iraq were starting to look... a little different. I heard a BBC report, for example, that many refugees were returning to Iraq from Syria. In (small) part, this was because of a perception that things were less violent in Iraq, though it appears that most of the counter-exodus is the result of Syria tightening things up, by making visas harder to renew and because many Iraqis fear running out of money in Syria (and, I suppose, other unstated factors about things not being comfortable in Syria; of note, there is no counter-exodus from Jordan, which leads me to this conclusion).

And of course, the usual suspects had been touting supposed "improvement" in the Iraqi security situation ("violence down 55%"), whatever that means, doubtless as a result of The SurgeTM, though, of course, this has come at the expense of American treasure, and of course, American blood, as 2007 has been the bloodiest year yet of this bloody war.

So... WTF is happening? In part, it may be that Cheney and the Dead-Ender Neocons are still hoping to get us in an insanely suicidal war with Iran at all costs, and need to undermine even the "success story" of reduced violence in Iraq in order to blame it on Iran. Or perhaps, there is less violence because large swathes of Iraq have already been ethnically cleansed as it is-- Shiite death squads can't kill any Sunnis if they've already killed or driven them away as it is. Or perhaps all sides are biding their time until we leave to make their actual intents clear. And as is made crystal clear in this fabulously well-thought out series of pieces from Mother Jones (newest and most overdue entrant to the newslinks on the sidebar), leave we will [barring our military having an infinite capacity, which it does not, and our electorate standing for a draft, which it will not], the only question is how and when we get out, and whether we have actually thought about doing it on our own terms and with an actual strategy, or whether we get out in as half-assed a manner as we got in.

Which takes us back to plan "A". The President's "plan A" will simply be to keep the mirth and merriment going for another 423 days, until whatever happens then can be blamed on his successor, presumably a Democrat (any Democrat)!
General Petraeus's "Plan A" will be to tell us that no matter what he may have said before, we are winning (and always have been). The insurgents seem to have a number of "Plan A's" working... our intelligence is still somewhat problematic on this... perhaps, if we hadn't sacked all the Arabic translators for being gay, we might be in a better position to know wtf was happening on the ground there... hey, who knows, really?

I certainly don't. I don't even pretend to. This has been... Back to plan "A".

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November 22, 2007, Happy Thanksgiving

Let's see what we Americans have to give thanks for this year... our Dear Leader now has "the right" to lock any of us up at his sole (AND UNREVIEWABLE) whim... for "our security" you know. Dear Leader can listen in to any of our electronic communications, without one of those annoying warrants... heck, Dear Leader can order any of us to be tortured water-boarded (it's for our own protection of course)... I could go on, and on (I'll refrain from discussing, for example, matters fiscal, or environmental, or our overall security and moral standing position in the world). That there are "only" 426 days left in this Administration isn't as comforting a thought as it might otherwise be, as it seems clear that any of the likely successors to this Administration will find many aspects of the national security state to their liking as well.

Care of our friend Steve Truitt (interviewed here), we get this Boston Globe article discussing the recent GTMO trend that detainees from certain countries are released much, much faster than those from other countries... and Yemen, with a limited and tenuous relationship with the United States, simply doesn't rate as much as its neighbor, the much more influential Saudi Arabia, which, at this time, has managed to extricate most of its nationals from GTMO (this was also part of the subject matter of our recent interview with Martha Rayner, one of whose clients features prominently in the Globe piece). Just part of that package of arbitrary "real-politik" that passes for American policy.

We were once a more welcoming (not to mention better-behaved) country, all in all, without the current knee-jerk fear of "the other" that has led us to our current overall situation. As an aspirational matter, we might stop to consider, on this day of Thanksgiving, what sort of a place we'd like to be, going forward.

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November 20, 2007, We interrupt the end of the world...

For some surprisingly conciliatory (I'll try to refrain from saying "good") news coming out of the usual troublespots.

First, it appears that Pervez (Our-Man-in-Islamabad), who is now going to Saudi Arabia, has released thousands of detained political prisoners, and has signaled some level of "softening" in that department-- perhaps more will be released. No word that he would meet with former Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif (whom Pervez deposed in the first place) while visiting Sharif's exile situs of Saudi Arabia. Still... anything even a little calming in nucular-armed Pakistan is a good thing.

And on the other side of the Pakistani border, it looks like Iran will be opening up talks with the United States on the Iraqi security situation, the insanely hostile rhetoric out of Washington on that score has eased, and who knows? Maybe Iran will even talk about its own nucular program. That's the funny thing about talking, rather than shooting.

Admittedly, with 427 days left of the Bush Administration, any optimism on any subject is probably a fool's errand. But we'll take what we can get.

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November 17, 2007, These Army Boots Are Made for Walkin'...

Almost certainly thanks to the

the Army reports that desertions since 2003 are up around 80%. This comes at the same time that the Army's usual 18% or so rate of early discharge, primarily for physical inability (and including other things, such as reporting oneself as gay) dropped to around 7%, as major military action (in the form of occupations) in Iraq and Afghanistan roll on. One would think that this would mean that the Army should be more exacting in its physical standards, rather than less. So... something has to give, and many soldiers have decided to vote with their feet; the range is around 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers a year deserting (close to 3,000 last year... close to 5000 this year.)

The Army brass is... concerned. Chances are, the Army, and for that matter, the rest of our republic, will survive the next 430 days until the next President is sworn in. But it's not all that clear that that's how you bet.

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November 16, 2007, Happy birthday to...

Mrs. TD.

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November 14, 2007, Rudy, Rudy, Rudy (& Judy)

Lindsay, writing at In These Times, asks the musical question: Rudy Giuliani: Criminal or Liar?

Eric Boehlert at Media Matters tells us of the love- and-schmooze-fest between Rudy and NBC's Brian Williams.

And Judith Nathan Regan has contended in court filings that she was directed by her News Corp. overlords to lie about her affair with Bernard "Rudy's-Best-Friend-Forever" Kerik, lest it interfere with St. Rudy's political aspirations.

This has been... Rudy, Rudy, Rudy (& Judy).

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November 12, 2007, TD Blog Interview with Martha Rayner

Martha Rayner is Associate Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the International Justice Clinic at Fordham University School of Law in New York, and is counsel to five men who have been held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, or "GTMO" (three of whom have been released to their home countries). On November 5, 2007, I had the privilege of interviewing Professor Rayner by telephone. What follows are my interview notes, corrected where appropriate by Professor Rayner.

The Talking Dog: Where were you on September 11th?

Martha Rayner: I was in New York City (I live on the Upper West Side). I just dropped off my kids at school; someone said a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I went home to see what was happening on television. I saw the second tower hit, and the rest, as they say, is history. We put up friends who couldn't get home to Queens that day, as the subways, of course, were closed. I remember the sea of people walking north, away from the Towers, away from the smoke. My partner was in the Bronx far away from danger, but I was greatly relieved when he made his way home by foot.

The Talking Dog: Can you identify your clients, their nationality, and their location (e.g. "released to Yemen", "Camp 6 GTMO", or whatever the applicable answer is), and can you tell me your personal impression of them as individuals? Have you met any of their family members?

Martha Rayner: The clinic has represented five clients over the years. One was released in May, 2006, to Saudi Arabia, Saleh al-Khatemi, who I understand is no longer in Saudi custody. We only met him once before he was released. Another Saudi, Fahd al Fawzan was released in September of this year, and he is in Saudi custody, in their "re-education program." We are optimistic he will be released within six months. We met Mr. Al-Fawzan’s cousin in Bahrain (an island nation just 15 miles off the coast of Saudi Arabia). A third client, Ali Mohammed Nasser Mohammed, was released to Yemen at the end of September. He is currently in Yemen's Political Security prison. We met Ali’s family when we were in the capital of Yemen, Sana’a, this year.

We have two clients still held at Guantanamo, Sanad Al-Kazimi of Yemen, who is held at Camp 6, and Mohammed Al-Shimrani of Saudi Arabia who is imprisoned at Camp 1. Neither has been designated as "approved for release," though that could happen at any point without me or my clients being notified. We’ve met with Mr. Al-Kazimi’s family and other American lawyers met with Mr. Al-Shimrani’s family.

Making and maintaining contact with our clients’ families is very important since they cannot visit their loved one (only the Australian, David Hicks—now repatriated—has been allowed a family visit) and mail is heavily censored and sporadic. Information about the status and future prospects of their loved ones is so limited that we feel an obligation to focus on communicating with family members.

The International Justice Clinic’s clients are all unique individuals—each quite different in their own way, with different personalities and views of their situation. This perspective is often overlooked because the military portrays our clients as a unified group of men with a common ideology. The fact that our clients are all Muslims means they share a religion, but they each have a unique world view.

The Talking Dog: Can you tell me the status of your clients' pending legal proceedings? Have any of your clients been designated for military commissions?

Martha Rayner: None of my clients have been charged with a war crime. Only three prisoners at Gtmo are currently charged, even though GTMO has been operating for close to six years.

Sanad Al-Kazimi has a pending habeas corpus case that is part of a petition that was filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights in late December 2005 just before the Detainee Treatment Act took effect. Sanad’s petition to the court is simple—he respectfully requests that the court order our government to come forward in an open court and establish the factual basis for his imprisonment and the legal basis—the rule of law that allows indefinite imprisonment under the circumstances that brought Sanad to Guantanamo.
Sanad’s path to GTMO is terribly troubling. He was grabbed by some entity of the United Arab Emerates in 2003—far away in time from the invasion of Afghanistan and very far away from the battlefield of that war. In secret custody, he was viciously tortured and then turned over to Americans who transferred him to a CIA “black site” in Afghanistan that has come to be known as the “prison of darkness.” Here Sanad was subjected to more torture. A year and a half later, he was transferred to GTMO, where he languishes.
After many, many years in U.S. custody, our government has never declared the legal and factual basis for imprisoning Sanad. Like all the Guantanamo habeas cases, Sanad’s case is stayed—fully frozen-- until the Supreme Court, yet again, determines whether our courts can rule on the lawfulness of the Guantanamo detention regime.

Mr. Al-Shimrani’s habeas matter is in a peculiar limbo—a situation that seems to arise frequently in the Guantanamo litigation landscape. Suffice it to say that his habeas matter has been the victim of the ping-ponging of higher courts, including the Supreme Court. We hope the courts will restore Mr. Al-Shimrani’s habeas matter, though of course, the hiatus of waiting for the Supreme Court to rule will prevent us from moving forward on the merits.

Mr. Al Shimrani also has a Detainee Treatment Act petition pending, a peculiar animal designed by Congress that is mired in the government’s continuing effort to block having to answer to a court of law. We are hoping Mr. Al-Shimrani will be part of the Saudi repatriation program that is supposed to be completed by January 2008; there are between 30 and 40 Saudis left at GTMO, and we hope that the program includes all remaining Saudis. The Saudi government has done quite a bit of work in pressuring—working with the United States-- to gain the return of its nationals

As I mentioned, our clients were not charged with a crime under the first military commission system, found to be unlawful by the Supreme Court, nor the newly designed military commission system, which remains controversial. As to what they are accused of, the publicly released information is thin and stated as conclusions without support. I have grave doubts as to the reliability of these conclusions. Recent declarations by officers who participated in deciding whether these men are our enemies have revealed deep problems with the evidence and process of decision making. And, since the military for years insisted one of my clients was a Saudi national contrary to readily available knowledge and evidence, I have little faith in the accuracy of military information in the context of Guantanamo.

The Talking Dog: Can you tell me something about your clinical program at Fordham, and how GTMO representations have fit into its mission?

Martha Rayner: The clinic was essentially formed around the representation of these men. I originally undertook the representation in the context of Fordham’s Criminal Defense Clinic-- we answered the call of the Center for Constitutional Rights for voluntary lawyers to represent prisoners at GTMO. I felt that a clinical program such as Fordham's could do this work and do it well and it felt like this work might contribute to curbing rule of law abuses in a post-9/11 world. The work became sufficiently encompassing to justify a clinic dedicated to the work. In the Fall of 2006, I formed the International Justice Clinic. The students engage in broad-based advocacy- not confined simply to legal proceedings, but to policy concerns, and interaction with the media, foreign diplomats, and officials of home countries, and to the extent possible, with our own government.

While a court has yet to hear the actual merits of our clients' cases, the court of public opinion is an area where we educate and air these important issues. It is, of course, difficult to get media interaction in the current climate. One of the barriers I've found particularly for television is the lack of visuals associated with this story and the military’s prohibition on media access to our clients. It is possible to do interviews with families, for example, but the media is unwilling to send people to Yemen or Saudi Arabia to do these interviews. At one time, I naively thought that our news outlets had bureaus in these countries. Part of the problem is that the United States public has so little exposure to this part of the world—due to a lack of US media presence in these countries.

The Talking Dog: My understanding is that you have one client (Mohammed Ali Nasser Mohammed) who, by virtue of his birth in Saudi Arabia (to Yemeni parents, and he has grown up in Yemen, and is for all purposes except GTMO's a Yemeni), classified as "Saudi", and hence, seems to present special problems re: repatriation. Can you tell me about that situation?

Martha Rayner: Ali has finally gone home to Yemen. This is certainly what he wanted. His situation was particularly troubling—he was held almost 6 years and almost half of that time the government had approved him to leave Guantanamo.

It’s unclear whether Ali was ever even considered an enemy of the U.S. The government put together Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs) after the Supreme Court decided there had to be some semblance of a fair process to justify the deprivation of freedom of hundreds of men. This was the Rasul case. The CSRTs were the government’s stab at legitimizing the imprisonment of hundreds of men, but they were explicitly designed to confirm the military’s determination that each man was a bad guy. Ali may or may not have been deemed a bad guy—I don’t know because the government has never made public Ali’s CSRT, but very soon after all the CSRTs were completed, perhaps within weeks, the government decided that there was no longer any reason to continue keeping Ali locked up. Through a few documents that the government has released to the public, I’ve learned that in January of 2005, two years after he arrived at Gtmo, the government didn’t want him there anymore. But almost two years later, when I first met Ali, he was still there.

I was stunned to learn this history. As best we could piece together—and countless requests to the government to discuss the problem, were turned down—the U.S. misclassified Ali as a Saudi, tried to send him to Saudi Arabia, but the Saudis, understandably, would not accept him since he was not one of theirs. The misclassification appears to be based on pure ignorance mixed with bureaucratic incompetence. Though Ali was born in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, citizenship in the Gulf States is not determined by place of birth, but by one’s father’s nationality. Ali’s parents are both Yemeni, thus he is a Yemeni national and in fact did most of his growing up in Yemen. Even after it was clear he was Yemeni and not Saudi, still he languished. It took the U.S. almost a year and a half after learning Ali was not a Saudi national to reclassify his true home country and arrange for his repatriation—he was sent to Yemen at the end of September.

This is what happens when there is no judicial oversight of a prison system. Some say Ali’s situation: locked up for close to six years –almost half of which his jailers admit they didn’t even see any need for—is rough justice. Rough justice--is that really what our country aspires to?

The Talking Dog: To the extent you can talk about it, can you tell me the circumstances of your clients' apprehensions, and to what extent, if any, they contend that they have been mistreated in custody (whether at GTMO, Bagram, or elsewhere)?

Martha Rayner: I’ve described just the bold outlines of Mr. Al-Kazimi’s journey to GTMO. He was subjected to extraordinary rendition—the secret movement of human beings around the world in contravention of U.S. and international standards and principles. Americans would not allow our politicians to debate the lawfulness and utility of torture if they could sit with a human being subjected to such grotesque “techniques,” as I have.

The Talking Dog: You are, of course, in New York, in the same local media market as I am; can you comment on how you believe your representations (and the overall detention policy) in the "war on terror" has been covered by the commercial media here (broadcast, cable, print, etc.), and nationally?

Martha Rayner: I actually give high marks to the New York Times (whatever else one thinks of it) in assigning reporters to a regular GTMO beat. This represents a significant allocation of resources. It has enabled reporters to file detailed stories and educate people about the complexity of the issues involved and put a spotlight on GTMO. The Times deserves a lot of credit for the focus.

Television hasn't done much. A presence on t.v. news is critical, as this is where so many people obtain their news and information-- but for one thing, there is a lack of visual content coming out of Guantanamo—and any visuals are carefully orchestrated by the government.

I will say that radio has covered the issue-- public radio especially-- as perhaps the story is more amenable to radio, where the reading of transcripts, for example, can be very effective.

It’s important for the U.S. media to keep pushing the reporting on this important topic even when faced with the many obstacles involved.

The Talking Dog: Do you see an exit strategy (whether or not distinct from the exit of the Bush Administration itself) for (1) GTMO and (2) overall American detention policy in the war on terror, and if so (a) what do you see as likely to happen, and (b) what would you like to have happen? Do you see an exit strategy for your particular clients, and for Yemenis in general (now, I believe, the largest group left at GTMO)?

Martha Rayner: I don't see an exit strategy separate and distinct from the exit of the Bush Administration. The Administration does want to reduce the number of detainees at GTMO, and is sending men home regularly. This should have been done much earlier, and much faster. The talk now is that there are around "200 men" that are "too dangerous to be released" of whom 80 are to be charged with war crimes.

One solution is to bring the charges, and give those men fair trials (including accepting acquittals with immediate release). But those numbers indicate a class of over 100 men who our government claims can't be charged or released. This is inexplicable, and unacceptable. They presumably cannot be prosecuted because the evidence against them is tainted by torture and coercion. So where does that leave us? The Bush Administration uses torture, and then tries to hide the use of torture by avoiding the scrutiny of a public courtroom... the situation is untenable. I’m particularly troubled by the "lawyering away" of illegal actions—the use of smart and clever government lawyers who parsed the law into oblivion.

In some sense, the simplest solution is the best: if the men committed crimes, charge them; if convicted, punish, if acquitted (or not charged), release. Period.

The Talking Dog: Can you tell me (if you can) what efforts you have made vis a vis the Yemeni government or the American government (in addition to pursuing litigation) with respect to your clients?

Martha Rayner: We as lawyers certainly need to be aware of the political dimension to all this. The Europeans have gone home. The Australians have gone home. The Saudis are finally getting their nationals home. By contrast, countries that seem to lack power or leverage in dealing with the United States have more nationals left. Yemen is a classic example. Yemen could certainly exert more pressure, but it is not clear how much political capital it wants to expend for its men at GTMO.

The ultimate result has been arbitrary and unacceptable. We have to work now with home country human rights agencies, American lawyers, and the pan-Arab press... this will come down to the court of public opinion, both in the United States and the Middle East, and ultimately, will the home countries step up?
Would the U.S. tolerate its citizens being imprisoned without charges or trial, indefinitely, in other countries... why should other countries tolerate such treatment of their people?

The Talking Dog: How do you think-- say, projecting forward 2 or 3 decades from now-- our Constitutional structure will emerge from how the Bush Administration has behaved with the "unitary executive" theory and other presidential perogatives taken (which to me, always comes back to the word "Padilla")-- whole, slightly damaged, seriously damaged... something else?

Martha Rayner: We will look back at this chapter of our history very critically. I am fairly optimistic that ultimately our Constitutional structure won't be permanently damaged. We will recalibrate. A new Administration will realize that this was all a mistake-- that Iraq, Guantanamo, etc. were terrible decisions.
We need to stop the "Global War on Terror". Just stop the concept, period. War must-- must-- be a tool of last resort. The GWOT is NOT rhetorical. The Bush Administration has engaged in a real war, with the tremendous power that can be unleased accordingly, of death, destruction the loss of rights and "collateral damage". To say we are at war... is a disaster. We need to end it. It is one thing to say we are at war in Afghanistan, or in Iraq... but not a GLOBAL war. The blunt force of war needs to be reined in.

The Talking Dog: Is there anything else I should have asked you but didn't, or anything else the public and my readers need to know on these subjects?

Martha Rayner: Like the concept of a global war, the increasing use of the term "Islamo-fascism" needs to stop. This provocative (and offensive) term and the fear it represents has led to the grave mistakes of Guantanamo and Iraq -- we are allowing fear based on gross hyperbole and overstatement of potential danger guide our actions. The use of the term that equates al Qaeda with the threat of fascist Europe or Naziism is absurd. To draw these parallels and exaggerate the situation we are now in has led directly to bad decisions, and to emergency and war powers that were not, and are not, necessary, which has led directly to misguided policies and courses of conduct that do not serve our ultimate interests.

The Talking Dog: On behalf of all of my readers, I thank Professor Rayner for that informative interview.

Readers interested in legal issues and related matters associated with the "war on terror" may also find talking dog blog interviews with attorneys Angela Campbell, Stephen Truitt and Charles Carpenter, Gaillard Hunt, Robert Rachlin, Tina Foster, Brent Mickum, Marc Falkoff H. Candace Gorman, Eric Freedman, Michael Ratner, Thomas Wilner, Jonathan Hafetz, Joshua Denbeaux, Rick Wilson,
Neal Katyal, Joshua Colangelo Bryan, Baher Azmy, and Joshua Dratel (representing Guantanamo detainees and others held in "the war on terror"), with attorneys Donna Newman and Andrew Patel (representing "unlawful combatant" Jose Padilila), with Dr. David Nicholl, who spearheaded an effort among international physicians protesting force-feeding of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, with physician and bioethicist Dr. Steven Miles on medical complicity in torture, with law professor and former Clinton Administration Ambassador-at-large for war crimes matters David Scheffer, with former Guantanamo detainees Moazzam Begg and Shafiq Rasul , with former Guantanamo Bay Chaplain James Yee, with former Guantanamo Army Arabic linguist Erik Saar, with law professor and former Army J.A.G. officer Jeffrey Addicott, with law professor and Coast Guard officer Glenn Sulmasy, with author and geographer Trevor Paglen and with author and journalist Stephen Grey on the subject of the CIA's extraordinary rendition program, with journalist and author David Rose on Guantanamo, with journalist Michael Otterman on the subject of American torture and related issues, and with author and historian Andy Worthington detailing the capture and provenance of all of the Guantanamo detainees, to be of interest.

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November 11, 2007, More dividends

President Pervez, a/k/a our man in Islamabad, while jailing lawyers and students and dissidents (oh my)... has begun releasing captured Taliban, including the highest ranking Taliban in Pakistani custody.

Not much we can do: the DeciderTM says Pervez is our man, and nothing-- NOTHING-- he does will change that (until, say, 21 January 2009, anyway).

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November 9, 2007, With friends like these...

His unreconstructed racism, his cocksure arrogance, his personal nastiness, his incompetent governance (which, quite frankly, must be recognized to include failing, despite clear warning, to provide adequate emergency communications equipment to firefighters and to locate the emergency response center in the likeliest target), and his clear likelihood of following in Dubya's footsteps as a xenophobic institutional torturer (Abner Louima anyone?)... all seem to be features, rather than bugs, as St. Rudy Giuliani marches toward the Republican nomination (NOT: his front-runner-ness is actually by and large a media creation, insofar as the actually moderate and not bat-shit-insane-like-Rudy Mitt Romney is way ahead in both New Hampshire and Iowa, and hence, will win the nomination... but hey, let's play along anyway.)

While the "family values" party toys with a [pro-gay rights, pro-abortion rights, pro-gun control] candidate on his third wife (and she on her third husband) and whose own children not only won't campaign for him, but evidently won't talk to him... one of America's Mayor's leading political time-bombs still remains his best-friend-forever, Bernard "America's Cop" Kerik, today indicted in a 16-count indictment on a variety of federal charges, including lying to White House officials, tax evasion, and obstruction of justice associated with a mobbed-up company that, among other things, performed renovation work on Bernie's apartment, apparently gratis (while it was being investigated... or thanks to Bernie, not being investigated.)

Anyway, serious enough charges to warrant $500,000 bail (arranged easily enough if you're St. Rudy's best-friend-forever). Once again, this is not a guilt-by-association thing: most of us have friends who have disappointed us in one way or another, and in the case of politicians, those disappointments often come with jail time. But Kerik has-- and has always had-- more skeletons in his closet than the average anatomy lab. And St. Rudy still thought he could foist Kerik upon the rest of us as his choice for Homeland Security Secretary. And in response to being called on his... questionable judgement... on the campaign trail, St. Rudy adopts the Roveian misdirection ploy, and points 9-11 to the 9-11 great record that 9-11 he singlehandedly achieved 9-11 as mayor (because his predecessor David Dinkins hired Ray Kelly as his police commissioner who got all the trends in motion, and because of demographic and economic reasons, and some things within St. Rudy's control and many more things that were not.)

Which, once again, is a feature, rather than a bug. Just ask Pat Robertson. As Stephen Colbert says, reality has a disturbing liberal bias.

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November 8, 2007, Don't make me go all Henry V on your ass...

As the "emergency" rolls on, former PM Benazir "Pinky" Bhutto has planned a massive (though banned) political rally for Rawalpindi, near the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. Pres./Gen. Musharraf has already said he would have "an election" by mid-February, though he will doubtless win that "election", as everyone has figured out by this point.

Revelations have come out recently that billions went to Pakistan in the form of a blank U.S. check to "fight terrorism"... "terrorism", evidently defined as "India". And of course, there is Pakistani nuclear proliferation... like nuclear powers America and Russia, Musharraf has a fellow follow him around with 'the briefcase"... only, while Bush's and Putin's nuclear briefcases contain "the button"... Musharraf's contains... product samples.

With luck, the present "emergency" will be short-lived, and everyone in Pakistan will realize that they should love Musharraf as much as George W. Bush does. While Pakistan's own lawyers, teachers and students may put some pressure on him... Pervez can rest assured that the United States of America will not... no matter what he does. While, as a major financier of the Pakistani regime, we should be taking a much more active role in all this... the United States will just stay out of it.

Let's just hope that Pres./Gen. Musharraf really doesn't see the need to go all Shakespearean or anything.

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November 7, 2007, It's on the web so it must be true

A vote for Mitt Romney is a vote for Satan.

Dershowitz says Democrats will lose the White House unless they embrace torture (like he has).

The Clintons killed Kathleen Willey's husband Ed (just ask her).

Just more grist for the mill of the nation where 25% of us believe the rapture will occur this year.

This has been... "It's on the web so it must be true."

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November 6, 2007, Mind games

Well, I had to think of something to call this timely account of the saga of Ali Al-Marri by our friend Andy Worthington, (interested readers can find our interview with Andy here)which discusses the non-torture torture of what I told Andy could only be considered a continuation of the most important case of our time (Padilla), and hence... the most important case of our time.

Al-Marri, as you will recall, is a legal resident alien, who, like Jose Padilla, was originally detained per the criminal justice system, and then magically called an "enemy combatant" and sent, not to GTMO, but to the Naval Brig in Charleston, SC. Al-Marri's attorney, Jonathan Hafetz (our interview with Mr. Hafetz is here) noted that, while his client's mental deterioration is not as severe as Padilla's, the years of isolation without charge, pointless interrogations, etc., have taken their toll. (Or, just because it doesn't leave physical marks don't mean it ain't torture.)

Why is this case so important? Let me quote from my interview with Jonathan Hafetz:

The Talking Dog: Is it not the case that this is a still-live case presenting virtually the identical issue as Padilla (which the Supreme Court just ducked)?

Jonathan Hafetz: Certainly, the issue is very much live, and presents a danger to us all insofar as the government is asserting the right to strip any one of us of all due process rights and constitutional protections. So yes, that is definitely still the case– Al-Marri’s immigration status as opposed to citizenship doesn’t change that.

Mr. Al-Marri's case continues to crawl its way through our courts, and may or may not reach the Supreme Court some day; unless and until that Court decides once and for all that a person legally within the United States cannot be detained by the government save on probable cause found by a competent neutral magistrate and subject to due process of law (i.e. the Bill of Rights), we will remain a de facto dictatorship.

This virtually unknown case is that important.

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November 5, 2007, A Faustian Deal is a Faustian Deal

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow, nor earthquakes, nor support of nuclear proliferation or Islamist extremists nor imposition of martial law will interfere with American aid from making its rounds into Pakistan. The bet was "all in" on Pervez Musharraf, and so, boys and girls, that's that. [Perhaps, like another double-dealing politician from the Islamic world always willing to tell us what we wanted to hear, we might call him... Mush-arraf-at-- say it three times fast... naaaaaa...]

There's nothing Pres. Gen. Musharraf can do that will piss off the United States enough to, well, do anything about it, whether that be ceding total control to jihadists in North and South Waziristan, continuing proliferation or outright supporting the Taliban and other Islamist extremists, not doing anything to rein in extremist madrassahs, or in the current case, declaring martial law.

The DeciderTM has decided, and this is the deal. Any questions?

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November 3, 2007, Sportin' death

After last month's horrors involving the death of a marathoner and hospitalization of hundreds of runners at the unseasonably warm Chicago Marathon, and the death of yet another runner at D.C.'s Army Ten-Miler, I was hoping that we had come to the end of tragedies in the sport, at least for a while (my sport... I'll be taking my chances-- and apparently I do mean chances-- in my seventh consecutive ING New York City Marathon tomorrow)... the running world (and the world) is shocked by the collapse and death during the U.S. Men's Olympic Trials in New York's Central Park of world class runner Ryan Shay after just 5 1/2 miles.

I am aware of at least two runners dying in races in which I have participated in (one a Staten Island Half Marathon, and the other a Marine Corps Marathon) but I don't recall a death-- or anything like this-- in an Olympic trial, where all of the participants are already elite athletes in obviously top condition, and Shay was a top runner. His death overshadowed the three Americans (Ryan Hall, Dathan Ritzenhein and Brian Sell) who made the team.

Man. Condolences to everyone who knew and loved Ryan Shay. What else can you say?

Update: I finished my seventh NYC (and 18th marathon) in just a few minutes under 5 1/2 hours; as I continue growing inexorably older, being able to do these things at all becomes most of the fun... The race, in some of the best weather conditions I've encountered (mostly mid 50's and clear), was won by Paula Radcliffe of the UK and Martin Lel of Kenya.

As to Mr. Shay, it appears that autopsy results are inconclusive as to identifying a cause of death, for the former Notre Dame standout and Olympic hopeful.

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November 3, 2007, Plus que ca change, plus que c’est la meme chose

And so we come to that point in our show where General President (or is it President General) Pervez Musharraf (also known as "Our Man in Islamabad") has decided, once again, to declare a "state of emergency" and suspend Pakistan's constitution, in the face of violence on the streets, former PM Benazir "Pinky" Bhutto returning (probably to lead opposition to Musharraf) and the Supreme Court of Pakistan all set to find enough irregularities in the recent "election" to put Musharaf's continued rule in jeopardy, and so, like, well Rudolph Giuliani... Musharaf just doesn't want to give up power at what should be the end of his term.

It's really difficult to know what to say to this (other than my French attempt at a post title there, which means, more or less, same excrement different day). Musharaf ascended to the helm of Pakistan by a coup in the late 1990's, and declared martial law then, too. This is just how the game is played in Pakistan, as unpopular civilian rule is replaced by unpopular military rule, vice versa, and back and forth.

American policy has been to back Musharraf, despite his roles, at various times, in the disastrous Kargil attacks in Kashmir, his assistance in stirring up Islamist extremists in Kashmir and Afghanistan (and yes, that includes you know who), his role in the advancement of Pakistan's nuclear proliferation, and... well, you get the idea. I'm nearly finished with a book that recently came over my transom (Deception: Pakistan, the United States and the Secret Trade in Nuclear Weapons by A. Levy and C. Scott-Clark) which makes one's hair stand on end in describing the history of Pakistan's transformation from third or fourth world basket case to nuclear exporter and proliferator... it seems the stuff of a spy novel, except it has happened, right under our noses, with the full knowledge and connivance of American governments from Carter to G.W. Bush (with Ronald Reagan mostly responsible, as his Administration largely paid for Pakistan's nuclear program).

While it's bad enough that a country full of Islamist extremists (including OBL and the leadership of AQ itself) even has nuclear weapons... that same country is exporting the weapons and technology to make the weapons to even more unstable and troublesome countries. And yet, American post-9-11 policy has been to attack the heads of the hydra, rather than the proliferating beast itself (as, after all, we have few options, having insisted on vilifying the other potential logistical gateway to Afghanistan, Iran).

Despite all of these enumerated nightmares doomsday scenarios issues, American policy has been to keep Pres./Gen. Musharraf in power (over his country of 140,000,000 by and large miserably poor people) at all costs. Thus, American policy appears to be closely aligned with Pakistani policy at least in this one area, as Pres./Gen. Musharraf also wants to keep Musharaf in power at all costs. So we now have an "emergency" in Pakistan. Again. While we all continue to hope that the Islamabad Macchiavellian can keep all of the balls he is juggling -- including internal Islamist extremists (including mullahs and of course AQ), his own military, the United States, his country's own nuclear export business, etc.-- from crashing down on him, with untold consequences for everyone else. On Earth.

Allah be praised, God help us, or whatever other homile is appropriate... Because this could all end up being... bad. Very bad.

Update: Bruce the Veep sends us the breaking news that Musharraf has sacked the Supreme Court, arrested Pinky (Benazir Bhutto) and taken control of the press and other institutions. And away we go...

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November 3, 2007, Helpful hints

Care of our friends at Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo, we give you this thoughtful suggestion on what the Senate could do now that two key "Democratic" members of the Judiciary Committee (Chuck "The Whore" Schumer from my own state and Diane "Sellout/Neocon Enabler" Feinstein from California) will back Judge Michael Mukasey to be our next attorney general, no matter what. (My own thoughts on Mukasey may be found here.) BTW, I still like Mukasey even as it appears his son works for Rudy!

That said, John Dean's suggestion, that Mukasey be appointed with a quid pro quo, i.e., he agrees to appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate allegations of war crimes by the highest members of the Bush Administration, is an excellent one.

When pigs begin to take the sky under their own power, and "Democrats" like Reid, Pelosi, Schumer, Feinstein and Rahm Emanuel stop doing the Republicans' dirty work for them, then something like this might happen.

Until then... this has been "Helpful Hints".

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November 1, 2007, Cats and dogs... living together...

Perhaps another sign of the Apocalpyse... who knows? But John Cole, who, back in those halcyon pre-Iraq war days when I was doing the Dog Run as the Encyclopedia Blogospherica, was solidly in my right wing grouping (though he considered himself more moderate than the views on his site... and he has always proven to be a thoughtful and independent thinker). Today, John Cole tells us he has joined the Democratic Party, and so registered.

Look: anyone who believes in the rule of law, fiscal sanity, caution before engaging in foreign adventures... hell, in any principle at all besides blind allegiance to authority... just has no place in the Republican Party any more.

The GOP is set to give themselves a killing blow in November 2008 (though never discount the Democrats' ability to kill themselves). The question remains as to whether the GOP, in the next year and change, will take what's left of our Constitution and republic with them. In the meantime, one more won't be along for the ride.

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