Rumsfeld's Growing Troubles
Less than a week after Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld left the Bush administration, he was charged with war crimes in a lawsuit filed in Germany by the U.S.-based Center for Constitutional Rights, on behalf of prisoners from Abu Ghraib. The story received some coverage here in the U.S., mostly about how "ridiculous" or "frivolous" the lawsuit was. Today, however, Madrid's El Pais newspaper published an interview with Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, who was in charge of Abu Ghraib at one time and is the only high-ranking officer to be punished for what happened at the prison. She claims that Rumsfeld authorized the abuses at Abu Ghraib.
Karpinski, who ran the prison until early 2004, said she saw a memorandum signed by Rumsfeld detailing the use of harsh interrogation methods.Karpsinski is prepared to testify against Rumsfeld in the war crimes case in Germany. As The Nation and a few other media sources have said, the lawsuit may not be as frivolous as some thought.
"The handwritten signature was above his printed name and in the same handwriting in the margin was written: "Make sure this is accomplished,"" she told Saturday's El Pais.
"The methods consisted of making prisoners stand for long periods, sleep deprivation ... playing music at full volume, having to sit in uncomfortably ... Rumsfeld authorized these specific techniques."
Most of the English-language coverage today omits other interesting aspects of the Karpinski interview. If your Spanish is good, I suggest reading the full interview [the link above]. If not, I offer some quickly translated parts.
El Pais: When did the tortures begin at Abu Ghraib?
Karpinski: Everything started with the visit of Geoffrey Miller, commander of the prison at Guantánamo, in September 2003. He was sent by Rumsfedl or Stephen Cambone to teach members of Military Intelligence new harder techniques that they were using at Guantánamo. Before he left, he told me he wanted to take control of Abu Ghraib to convert into an interrogation center for all of Iraq, and that's what he did. From Guantánamo he was giving order and making sure everything worked according to what he wanted. . . .
In all of my jails, the Geneva Convention was followed. Now we know that they weren't followed in the interrogations, but I didn't know that because I wasn't in charge of interrogation.
EP: When did you realize the interrogations were using torture?
Karpinski: When I saw the photos for the first time, at the end of Jan 2004. Today I know that the photos weren't taken during the interrogations, because they would have shown other installations, outside of Block 1A, which is where the photos were taken. The photos were taken to use as a method of persuasion in the interrogations - to convince the detainees to talk. I assure you, if someone had taken photos during the interrogations, they never would have seen the light of day.
Karpinski also says that Sanchez removed her from her position at Abu Ghraib, because he and Thomas Pappas, head of Military Intelligence, and Miller knew that she was following the Geneva convetions and were concerned that she would raise an alarm if she found out what they were doing.
She also relates a case where a detainee wasn't registered, though this goes against Geneva convetions as well. When she found out, she went to the legal asst. of Gen Sanchez and said that if Sanchez didn't take reponsibility to register the prisoner, she would release him. She was assured that Sanchez would register him. A week later, she received a message from Rumsfeld to hold the prisoner without registering him in the databasae.
EP: Why do you think things got worse when the civil intelligence contractors arrived?
Karpinski: Miller sent them . . . . The law didn't matter to them; they operated in a realm without law.
EP: Why do you want to testify against Rumsfeld in this case?
Karpinski: I don't have anything personal against Rumsfeld. I think the people who were ultimately responsible for what happened haven't been held accountable for this responsibility. It's bad to accuse someone of something, but to accuse someone that you know had nothing to do with it, while you yourself haven't taken any responsibility, that to me is a sign of cowardice; and that's what I think of Sanchez, Rumsfeld and all the others are - they're cowards. I'm going to continue telling what I know because the whole world, not just Americans, should know what happened so it doesn't happen again.
EP: Have you received any pressure not to testify?
Karpinski: I received an email from someone at the Dept of Justice that advised me not to testify because I would be seen as anti-American and that this wasn't going to help Rumsfeld. I responded that no one was going to shut me up because I'm protected by the Constitution, and furthermore, Rumsfeld, Sanchez and Miller have never done anything to help me.
Did the CIA Kill Bobby Kennedy?
The Guardian has an interesting story on the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. Irish Filmmaker Shane O'Sullivan has "uncovered new video and photographic evidence suggesting that three senior CIA operatives were behind the killing." The story also portrays Sirhan Sirhan as a real-life Manchurian Candidate. O'Sullivan's report was done for BBC's Newsnight program and aired last week.
As far as I can tell, there hasn't been any coverage of the story in the U.S., despite obvious tie-ins with Emilio Estevez's new motion picture, Bobby. I know Emilio's production was a low-budget thing, but doesn't he have any PR people?
I'm not sure how much of the Guardian story I believe, but I've always had a gut feeling that we weren't told everything about his death. I grew up in a house where Bobby Kennedy was the big hero, and it just seems unfair that his older brother gets all the conspiracy theories. Heck, now we're told that the FBI was behind the assassination of Martin Luther King. So I think we have to at least consider that Bobby may have been done in by invisible forces from the Dark Side.
Unidentified U.S. Counter-Terrorism Officials
Abbott & Costello and the War on Terror
Is the Bush administration trying to set records for ineptitude? Scotland Yard and MI5 must think so:
A team of suspected terrorists involved in an alleged UK plot to blow up trans-atlantic airliners escaped capture because of interference by the United States, The Independent has been told by counter-terrorism sources.Read the full article here.
An investigation by MI5 and Scotland Yard into an alleged plan to smuggle explosive devices on up to 10 passenger jets was jeopardised in August, when the US put pressure on authorities in Pakistan to arrest a suspect allegedly linked to the airliner plot.
As a direct result of the surprise detention of the suspect, British police and MI5 were forced to rush forward plans to arrest an alleged UK gang accused of plotting to destroy the airliners. But a second group of suspected terrorists allegedly linked to the first evaded capture and is still at large, according to security sources.
The escape of the second group is said to be the reason why the UK was kept at its highest level - "critical" - for three days before it was decided that the plotters no longer posed an imminent threat.
I wonder if we can get Daniel Craig in a trade for Madonna? Surely, he could tackle the bad guys better than the Bushies.
Senator Barack Obama (D-IL)
Barack Obama's Larger Strategy to Court Hispanic Voters
Rock Star Barack Obama seems surprised that Latinos are upset that he voted for the 700-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Obama has met privately with Hispanic leaders in an effort to convince them that his vote is part of a larger strategy."We had to destroy the village in order to save it." Oh, wait, wrong war. Wrong story.
"It's a done deal, he did it. You know, what am I going to say? Well , I know you made a mistake and we were told it was part of a bigger strategy. What strategy?" [Hispanic leader Carmen] Velasquez said.
I, too, want to know, what Obama's "larger strategy" is, so I wrote him a long letter this week, asking him to fill me in on the details. I'll let you know what he says as soon as he gets back to me.
Perhaps, Obama didn't realize the powerful symbolic nature of the Fence. Hey, what's a symbol anyway? It's not like the Statue of Liberty holds any powerful meaning for immigrants.
Or, perhaps, Obama is simply courting conservative "Hispanics" who've been here a while and don't like those damn Mexican immigrants messing up their image, rather than courting "Latinos," who probably don't donate much money to presidential campaigns.
Or maybe Barack just doesn't like immigrants, period.
Oh, wait, that's right, his father was an immigrant. Well, the fence shouldn't affect any of his relatives from Kenya.
Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY)
Hillary Clinton Surprisingly Disliked
[FYI: This is not an actual photograph of Hillary Clinton. It's simply used to illustrate the accompanying article. It is not meant to reflect in any way my personal feelings about the Senator from New York.]
Speaking of Presidential candidates, this article appeared in the Boston Herald back in August. It re-appeared last week on a political blog, though in all the post-Thanksgiving travelling and tryptophan, I can't remember now which one. I've talked with various people about Hillary as a candidate in 2008, and it's interesting how many Liberals dislike her. I wondered if it wasn't just certain people in New York, but this article and its poll numbers suggest otherwise.
Just for the record, she voted for the Fence as well. But I haven't seen any articles about Latinos being upset at her.
HATIN' ON HILLARY; With friends like these: N.H. DEMS lambaste Clinton. By BRETT ARENDS
MANCHESTER, N.H. - Dick Bennett has been polling New Hampshire voters for 30 years. And he's never seen anything like it.
"Lying b**** . . . shrew . . . Machiavellian . . . evil, power-mad witch . . . the ultimate self-serving politician.''
No prizes for guessing which presidential front-runner drew these remarks in focus groups.
But these weren't Republicans talking about Hillary Clinton. They weren't even independents.
These were ordinary, grass-roots DEMOCRATS. People who identified themselves as "likely'' voters in the pivotal state's Democratic primary. And, behind closed doors, this is what nearly half of them are saying.
"I was amazed,'' says Bennett. "I thought there might be some negatives, but I didn't know it would be as strong as this. It's stunning, the similarities between the Republicans and the Democrats, the comments they have about her.''
Bennett runs American Research Group Inc., a highly regarded, independent polling company based in Manchester, N.H. He's been conducting voter surveys there since 1976. The polls are financed by subscribers and corporate sponsors.
He has so far recruited 410 likely voters in the 2008 Democratic primary, and sat down with them privately in small groups to find out what they really think about the candidates and the issues.
His conclusion? `"Forty-five percent of the Democrats are just as negative about her as Republicans are. More Republicans dislike her, but the Democrats dislike her in the same way.''
Hillary's growing brain trust in the party's upper reaches already knows she has high "negatives'' among ordinary Democrats. They think she can win those voters over with the right strategy and message.
But they should get out of D.C., New York and L.A. more often, and visit grassroots members.
Because we're not talking about "soft'' negatives like, say, "out of touch'' or "arrogant.''
We're talking: "Criminal . . . megalomaniac . . . fraud . . . dangerous . . . devil incarnate . . . satanic . . . power freak.''
And: "Political wh***.''
(Note: I don't usually like reporting such personal remarks, but in this case you can hardly understand the situation without them. I have no strong personal feelings about the senator.)
There are caveats. Any survey can be inaccurate or misleading. And 55 percent of ARG's sample was either neutral or positive about Sen. Clinton. Thirty-two percent currently say they plan to vote for her in the primary.
But Bennett says he's never before seen so many N.H. voters show so much hatred toward a member of their own party. He's never even seen anything close.
He believes top national Democrats are missing this grassroots intensity. Instead, he suspects, they are blinded by poll numbers, which give Hillary a big early lead based on her name recognition.
Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, agrees.
"There is far more anti-Hillary sentiment in the Democratic Party than the pollsters understand,'' he says. In the race for the nomination, "she is ripe for plucking,'' he says.
Sen. Clinton's team could not be reached for comment.
New Hampshire is small, but it's a bellwether state with clout.
Its primary probably holds the key to the Democratic nomination. And New Hampshire, alone, swung from Bush to Kerry in '04.
It's hard to see any Democrat winning the White House without carrying the state in the presidential election. And it's hard, right now, to see Hillary carrying the state.