Saturday, November 25, 2006

News Roundup

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.

"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."
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.

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.

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.
Read the full article here.

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.

"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.
"We had to destroy the village in order to save it." Oh, wait, wrong war. Wrong story.

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.


Liam said...

Quite a lot to chew on, Batman. I still like Obama, and I hope this is just a dumb mistake that will make him try that much harder. Wishful thinking, perhaps.

I'm not quite sure what to say about the whole Hillary thing. I personally feel she's more ambitious than idealistic and will blow with the wind without checking an ethical compass in order to get elected. That's true of most prominent Democrats right now, certainly true of John Kerry, for example. I don't think she is "the ultimate" example of it, but at the same time I see where a lot of those whose responded are coming from.

A Hillary supporter might suggest a lot of that negativity comes from people threatened by a strong woman who asserts herself. They may be blind to less sexist negative responses that Hillary evokes, but I'm sure they're not completely off the mark in every case. Insults like witch, bitch, or shrew certainly ring misogynist to me. That is mainly an image question, and thus open to manipulation by a well-run campaign.

I think some of those opinions might mellow once she turns her machine on New Hampshire. I don't like Hillary, but I don't think she is as unelectable as a lot of people think. I would rather the Democrats get a better (politically and ethically) candidate, but I would not write her off.

New Hampshire is a strange place. I'm glad the Democrats are trying to take away some of its influence, though I don't know if giving to Nevada is the best idea. New Hampshire is small, homogeneous, and politically not very indicative of the rest of the country. The style is New England rural libertarian grouchy. For God's sake, they put the motto "Live Free or Die" on their license plates, over the image of a rock formation that apparently chose the second of the two options. And they tell us who's going to be president?

Liam said...

PS: Yes, Daniel Craig. I saw the film on Friday -- he's a great Bond.

Jeff said...

Hi William,

There's a lot to chew on and digest here. New Hampshire is an interesting place. Usually well-known for being a conservative island in New England (they even have a NASCAR track), a big Democratic blue wave washed through the state this month. It will be fascinating to see what happens in 2008.

Some of my earliest recollections center around the JFK assasination in 1963, but my memories of the assasination of RFK are very stark and vivid. I've always been inclined to think that the matter of Sirhan Sirhan was a case of what-you-see-is-what-you-get, but I remember that we owned a book years ago called RFK Must Die in which there were extended exhibits of Sirhan's notes and diaries. There were many, many cryptic references to a certain "Peggy Osterkamp" all over his notes that no one at the time was really able to figure out that I am aware of. A Manchurian-Candidate type of conspiracy of some sort? The old "Honey-trap" has been known to work before. Sounds fascinating.

crystal said...

A lot to chew on here :-)

I posted something a little while ago about the Rumsfeld war crimes thing ... the US only supports war crime tribunals when it works to our advantage, it seems.

I don't really like Hillary as a person, but I would rather have her elected than a republican ... I believe she'd do a pretty good job.

Cospiracy theories :-)

cowboyangel said...

Hmm... I guess I offered up the blogger version of a plate piled high with turkey (or tofurky) and stuffing. Maybe I shouldn't have served the mashed potatoes AND sweet potatoes.

Liam, I'm not implying that Obama is suddenly evil incarnate because he voted for the fence. I do think it's an interesting - and potentially telling - vote, however. I really did write him and ask about it. There could many reasons why he voted for the fence. I personally can't think of any good ones. He seems too smart to really believe it is anything more than an empty and symbolic act. It's certainly not going to do anything to stop illegal immigration. Why not sponsor a bill using those 7 billion dollars to work with the Mexican government in redeveloping the shattered rural economy in Mexico? That would be interesting.

I am a bit sick of the Obama hype, though. (Did the pic of Bono give me away?) The guy hasn't done anything. He has a lot of potential, but I think people need to give him some time to see what he's really like. Part of the reason I think he's so well liked is that he hasn't been around as long as someone like Hillary and, thus, hasn't had a chance to veer back and forth according to prevailing winds. Maybe he won't be like that, but how can we possibly know at this point? He gave a good speech at the Democratic Convention. But I think there are too many expectations being placed on the guy. I say that to myself as much as anyone else. Most people, I think, want to believe there's a great politician out there somewhere. But we seem to be crowning this guy awfully quickly. Studying his voting record, I like most of what he's done - but there are a few concerns.

On Hillary: "a lot of that negativity comes from people threatened by a strong woman who asserts herself." I totally agree with that. What's interesting, to me, is to see how much of that mentality may exist within the Dems themselves. I disagree, though, that a well-run campaign could change her image that much.

Why do you think she's electable? Given the kind of response she gets from the right-wing and some of the information in this poll about the Dems? Do you think these are extremems and she can find a genuine point in the center?

I don't see how she could beat John McCain. But I'm not sure he'll be the Republican candidate. From what I gather, he's as disliked among some Republicans as Hillary is among some Democrats. I think they're both partly media creations. I think Hillary has the contacts and the machine in place to be a serious threat. I'm not convinced she'll ultimately do that well in the primaries. it will depend on who else is running.

cowboyangel said...

Jeff, Thanks for the comments. I hope you had a good Thanksgiving.

I'm not much of a conspiracy theory guy, and I can't say I believe much of the info about RFK. But it's intriguing to me. There was another interesting article that includes an interview with Sirhan Sirhan's brother. It has this to say: "Even more strangely, Sirhan has always maintained, even under repeated attempts at intensive hypnosis, that he has no memory of the crime.

'Even when the family spoke to him, we tried to find out how, why and where because he couldn’t remember, and that was a concern. Coincidentally, there’s no actual photograph of the shooting itself, even with all the press there that day. Nearly 3,000 photos were destroyed by the LAPD from the moments around the shooting, and there were contradictions about things like the amount of bullets,' says Munir Sirhan.

Maybe Peggy Osterkamp is "The Polka-Dot Lady" referred to in the article.

What I didn't know until reading these two articles was that Sirhan Sirhan was from an Eastern Orthodox Christian family. I knew he was Palestinian, and I very wrongly assumed he was a Muslim, since he supposedly killed Bobby because Bobby wanted to sell weapons to Israel. Even if Sirhan Sirhan did kill Kennedy by himself for the reasons stated, it's still interesting, because I suddenly realize it's an early terrorist assassination for the same reasons that eventually lead us to 9/11. And this was in 1968.

Liam said...

I would prefer she didn't get the nomination, and I'm not certain she is electable. I just wouldn't write her off. She seems to have done pretty well at convincing New Yorkers to vote for her overwhelmingly, even though here too there are conservatives that believe she's the antiChrist and lefties who think she's not really a Democrat. I think she may be capable of running a surprisingly smart campaign.

Lots of hype about Obama. There are a lot of us who are desparate for what he seems to be. We'll have to see how it will play out.

If the Republicans were united, I don't think anyone could beat McCain. But I think this primary will be a bloodbath, and even if he gets the nomination, he may come out scarred. There could even be a third party candidate on the right a la Pat Buchanan who could syphon off Republican support. A lot also depends on what happens in Iraq. If we're still there, that will be a problem for McCain, since his plan is to send more troops (from where?) and stay forever. It will be interesting to see.

cowboyangel said...

Crystal, Thanks for the laugh. Hope you didn't "chew" too much on my post. I was in Texas when you posted the Rumsfeld piece - sorry I missed it. I would have mentioned it otherwise. Thought you had some good things to say.

>I don't really like Hillary as a person, but I would rather have her elected than a republican ... I believe she'd do a pretty good job.

That viewpoint may be why she does well in many polls but can also have high negativity ratings at the same time. People don't particularly like her but they think she'd do well.

I read somewhere that Barack Obama's popularity may be in part a response from Democrats towards Hillary. That is, Dems were choosing her a lot in polls but weren't really happy with her. So when someone "fresh" and new and more likable comes along, they've become very excited.

Your smiley face after "conspiracy theories" is a little cryptic. Are you trying to tell me something that you can't express more openly because someone is monitoring us?

The truth is out there.

cowboyangel said...

>She seems to have done pretty well at convincing New Yorkers to vote for her overwhelmingly

Yes, but it took over $30 million. Schumer spent half that in 2004 and won by more points. She spent more than any other senate candidate this year. Santorum was the next closest at $24 million. And now she doesn't have as much money as expected for a presidential campaign, though she's doing okay. This is all from the NYT article, "Clinton Won Easily, but Bankroll Shows the Toll." Interesting piece if you haven't read it already.

>I think she may be capable of running a surprisingly smart campaign.

No doubt. Even without the guy she's married to, I'm sure she'd run a smart campaign. And, as I said, she has the machine in place to do very well. She has to be considered the frontrunner.

But the likability thing is a big factor in American presidential campaigns. The NYT story is interesting to me because, along with the negative NH poll numbers, it could point to potential problems for her down the road. If she has to spend that much money in NY, as an incumbent, in an election that heavily favored Democrats, how much is she going to have to spend - financially and in terms of effort - in Iowa, North Carolina, or Florida?

Edwards and Obama are more likable, but they don't have her experience. Vilsack is unknown for the most part. Gore probably won't run and I doubt Kerry will either. I still feel like someone we're not thinking of now could emerge later and do well.

George Clooney? He just got Sexiest Man of the Year again.

Good points about the Republicans. I agree with you. the growing split between the religious right-wing and the traditional conservatives is only going to get worse after this recent election. Newt Gingrich against John McCain. It's like Alien vs. Predator.

Liam said...

Alien vs. Predator -- that's good.

As far as Clooney goes, I have decided to put off seppeku until they name a sexiest man alive who is younger than me.

crystal said...

Seppeku - ouch! :-) I like Clooney more for his personality and acting.

cowboyangel said...

>I like Clooney more for his personality and acting.

I only like Penelope Cruz for her personality and acting.


cowboyangel said...

After discussing the "likability" factor yesterday, I may have to revise my thoughts on Hillary. Evidently, she's more likeable than I thought.

A Quinnipiac University "Thermometer Poll" was released Monday. The poll asks respondents to rank the warmth of their feelings for a particular politican on a scale of 0-100.

1) Rudolph Giuliani - 64.2.
2) Sen. Barack Obama 58.8
3) Sen. John McCain 57.7
4) Condoleezza Rice - 56.1
5) Bill Clinton - 55.8
6) Sen. Joseph Lieberman - 52.7
7) NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg - 51.1
8) John Edwards - 49.9
9) Sen. Hillary Clinton - 49
10) N.M. Gov. Bill Richardson - 47.7
11) Sen. Joseph Biden 47
12) Nancy Pelosi 46.9
13) Gov. Mitt Romney - 45.9
14) Former VP Al Gore - 44.9
15) President George Bush - 43.8
16) Sen. Evan Bayh - 43.3
17) Newt Gingrich - 42
18) Sen. Bill Frist - 41.5
19) Sen. Harry Reid - 41.2
20) Sen. John Kerry - 39.6

I find these numbers a little odd. Rudy's No.1? I can only assume they polled conservatives outside of New York City. Kerry last? Below Newt Gingrich? Wow. And why is Bush doing better here than in other polls? Interesting that Bloomberg is on the list. Actually, I think he would do well as a presidential candidate. Poor Tom Vilsack - the only person to actually announce his presidential campaign and he doesn't even rate a mention.

cowboyangel said...

Lieberman number 6!?!? Now I know these numbers are slanted towards conservatives.

Liam said...

Interesting. Of course, the Bush factor is interesting -- it shows that people can separate likeability and job approval (though polls show people don't trust him anymore, either).

We probably can't put too much faith in a poll that tests on such a vague category.

crystal said...

perceived likeability, intelligence, and competence are attractive ... I think that's what makes Clooney seen as sexy, not so much the way he looks. Tom Cruise is very good looking, but he is not all that attractive.

maybe this touches on Hillary's problem :-)