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Daily Flog: Poland to the rescue, homicidal geezer school-bus driver, China imports gold, Georgia imports Rice, more abuse (ho-hum) of Iraqis

Running down the press:

Times: ‘U.S. and Poland Set Missile Deal’

Refusing to take off their Cold War monocles, Thom Shanker and Nicholas Kulish ignore the hilarity of Condi Rice going to Georgia to simmer things down. Instead, they try to get poetic on our asses:

The deal reflected growing alarm in countries like Poland, once a conquered Soviet client state, about a newly rich and powerful Russia’s intentions in its former cold war sphere of power. In fact, negotiations dragged on for 18 months — but were completed only as old memories and new fears surfaced in recent days.

The funniest line in this super-self-consciously serious piece:

Polish officials said the agreement would strengthen the mutual commitment of the United States to defend Poland, and vice versa.

Vice versa . . . Poland defending the U.S. . . . let’s see . . . oh, yeah, maybe we could get Poland to step in on behalf of Williamsburg’s Poles to try to stop Manhattan developers from wrecking the Brooklyn enclave’s waterfront.

Solidarność with the hipsters!

See FAIR’s fresh dissection of media blubber: “Georgia/Russia Conflict Forced Into Cold War Frame.”


McClatchy: ‘U.S. ‘no’ to intervention leaves Russia in control of Georgia’

One of the best U.S. sources of world news — and probably the liveliest — the McClatchy D.C. Bureau (the old Knight-Ridder operation) is a solid site. For the full flavor of the good reporting and breezy writing, try this from Nancy A. Youssef, Tom Lasseter, and Dave Montgomery:

American officials on Thursday ended speculation that the U.S. military might come to the rescue of Georgia’s beleaguered government, confirming Russia’s virtual takeover of the former Soviet republic and heralding Moscow’s reemergence as the dominant power in eastern Europe.

“I don’t see any prospect for the use of military force by the United States in this situation. Is that clear enough?” Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told reporters in his first public comments since the crisis began Aug. 7.

“The empire strikes back,” said Ariel Cohen, a Russia expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Gates’ comments came just 24 hours after President Bush dramatically announced in a televised White House appearance that American military aircraft and ships would be dispatched to carry humanitarian aid to Georgia and that the U.S. was expecting unfettered access to Georgia’ ports and airports.

But Bush apparently had spoken out of turn, before Turkey, which by treaty controls access to the Black Sea, had agreed, and on Thursday, Pentagon officials said they doubted that U.S. naval vessels would be dispatched.


Slate: ‘Conventional Nonsense: Making the case for a press boycott of the national political conventions’

Jack Shafer notes the foregone conclusions of these non-events. Amen.


Post: ‘HILLARY PUSHES WAY ONTO STAGE’

The tab’s institutional contempt for Hillary pays off in this case, because she really did push her way onto the DNC stage. Not that this is big news. But how many more shots at Hillary does the Post have left? And she is such an easy target.


Christian Science Monitor: ‘Mexican citizens asked to fight crime’

Sara Miller Llana‘s story notes:

[I]f Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard has his way, a new corps of 300,000 residents will become watchdogs of sorts — monitoring and turning in police officials who operate outside the law.

The Times reports on the same story — citizens outraged that corrupt cops are even aiding and abetting kidnappings of children — but of course it takes the establishment side, not even noting Ebrard’s call for a citizen corps.

Can you imagine a crew of 300,000 New Yorkers regularly keeping tabs on the NYPD? The Times sniffs, Don’t even mention it. And its story sez:

Given the involvement of some wayward officers in the kidnapping trade, it is easy to see why victims’ relatives look outside police forces in trying to bring such nightmares to an end.

But Luis Cárdenas Palomino, director of intelligence for the federal police, says that private negotiators do not have the same experience as his veteran agents, who he says have been catching more kidnappers and freeing more victims in recent years.

No wonder that, here in NYC, the Times, with its institutionalized obeisance to authority, doesn’t hold the NYPD’s feet to the fire.


Post: ‘TRAGIC MOM’S BABY IS SAVED’

A runaway school bus crushes pregnant NYPD traffic agent Donnette Sanz, “but a superhuman effort by 30 strangers who lifted the vehicle off her body miraculously saved her baby before she died.”

Word pictures of the bus driver with his head in his hands — “”The light turned red, and I couldn’t stop . . . I tried to miss her. I tried to go behind her, but she stopped and moved back, and I hit her.”

Oh, by the way, we find out only at the end of this weeper that the 72-year-old driver hasn’t had a license in 40 years and that his record includes “a gun bust and arrests for driving on a suspended license, grand larceny, menacing and aggravated harassment.”

And he was driving a school bus — a school bus!

Most absurd quote of the day:

Mayor Bloomberg, who went to St. Barnabas to comfort [her] relatives, said, “I hope that as this child grows up, he comes to understand that his mother gave her life in service to our city, and we are forever grateful.”

The Daily News account is lamer, but it does include this quote from Bloomberg:

“It is a terrible poignancy that Donnette’s son’s birthday will now coincide with the day his mother died.”

Give Bloomberg a break. George W. Bush couldn’t have connected those dots.


Post: ‘ “WRONG MAN” FREED AFTER 14 YRS.: BAILED OUT ON “BAD RAP” IN QNS. SLAY’

Great quote garnered by Ikimulisa Livingston:

Kareem Bellamy stepped out of Queens Supreme Court to the open arms of relatives and cheers from his relentless law team, which spent nearly four years working to get him freed.

“I hope I don’t get struck by lightning,” he joked in the midst of a thunderstorm. “I can’t believe I’m really walking out.”


Times: ‘Bomber Kills 18 on Shiite Pilgrimage in Iraq’

Obsessed with Georgia, the Times editors are now consigning Iraq news to a roundup — you know, like those small-town-newspaper city council stories that always include “in other business” items.

Today’s example is yet another suicide bombing. In other business, the Times adds:

And at Camp Bucca, an American military base in southern Iraq, six sailors who were working as prison guards in Iraq are facing courts-martial on charges of abusing detainees, the United States Navy said in a statement on Thursday.

Only two other brief grafs, both far down the story, about this abuse. No mention of exactly what kind of abuse is alleged or that Camp Bucca is the largest U.S. prison in Iraq, housing a staggering 18,000 Iraqis, probably none of whom have been to trial.

At least the BBC saw fit to present a separate story on this.

But the U.S. establishment press has consistently underplayed jail abuse, except when it reaches the high embarrassment level of Abu Ghraib. Remember the proud “Murderous Maniacs” at Camp Mercury near Fallujah, the U.S. soldiers who beat up prisoners for sport? If you don’t, see yesterday’s Daily Flog.


Post: ‘TRAP PLAY TARGETS GIANTS; “SEX-TORTION PLOT” VS. COACH COUGHLIN’

Feds yesterday busted a birdbrained Philadelphia man for allegedly trying to blackmail Giants Coach Tom Coughlin with false allegations of extramarital flings with two women.

Stop right there, unless you want to walk around all day with images swirling in your brain of this aging coach naked and having sex.


Post: ‘DEM’S KILLER WENT “POST-IT” ‘

Hed of the day, lovingly applied to a wire story:

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The man who fatally shot the chairman of the state Democratic Party after he lost his job had a Post-it note at home with the victim’s last name and phone number along with 14 guns, antidepressants and a last will and testament, according to court documents.

Wall Street Journal: ‘World Economy Shows New Strain’

If you can tear yourself away from Olympic water polo for a second, remember that China is losing the gold-medal battle but is raking in the gold anyway.

The WSJ reports, in other business:

The global economy — which had long remained resilient despite U.S. weakness — is now slowing significantly, with Europe offering the latest evidence of trouble. . . .

With the European growth report, four of the world’s five biggest economies — the U.S., the euro zone, Japan and the U.K. — are now flirting with recession.

China, the world’s fourth-largest economy, is still expanding strongly, as are India and other large developing economies. . . .

The global weakness marks a sharp reversal of expectations for many corporations and investors, who at the year’s outset had predicted that major economies would remain largely insulated from America’s woes.

The Journal almost always leavens its dense reporting with a human touch (not on its inhumane editorial pages, but in news stories), and even this piece has a good morsel:

British consumers are hunkering down. “The cost of living has rocketed,” says Gareth Lucas, 34 years old. He works part time at a hospital in Swansea, south Wales. With fuel costs so high, Mr. Lucas tries to fit more tasks into each car trip and no longer treats himself to cappuccino at a nearby café.

At night, to make extra cash, Mr. Lucas does gigs as a stand-up comedian — but increasingly he performs to smaller audiences. “People just aren’t going out anymore,” he says.


Wall Street Journal: ‘Data Raise Questions On Role of Speculators’

Suspicions confirmed: The oil market is being driven by scumbag speculators, not the “free market.” The WSJ puts it into perspective:

Data emerging on players in the commodities markets show that speculators are a larger piece of the oil market than previously known, a development enlivening an already tense election-year debate about traders’ influence.

Last month, the main U.S. regulator of commodities trading, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, reclassified a large unidentified oil trader as a “noncommercial” speculator.

The move changed many analysts’ perceptions of the oil market from a more diversified marketplace to one with a heavier-than-thought concentration of financial players who punt on big bets.

This is a fascinating developing story — let alone a probable explanation of why gas costs so much — if only the rest of the press would take the topic seriously.

Here’s the politics of it:

The . . . questions about the reliability and transparency of data in this market are feeding into efforts by Congress to impose restrictions on energy trading. Four Democratic senators on Thursday called for an internal CFTC inspector-general investigation into the timing of a July 22 release of a report led by the agency. That report concluded speculators weren’t “systematically” driving oil prices. Oil prices soared until mid-July before beginning a decline.

In recent months, legislators in Congress have demanded insight about the distinction as they try to answer concerns of constituents, from companies to consumers, about what has contributed to the high price of gasoline and other fuels.

 

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Chains of Command

To unravel the tortured excuses for Abu Ghraib abuses, go back to June 25, a day of brilliant journalism.

Once so proud of plans for “War on Terror detainees” that they even showed off their special Gitmo chains and other jewelry, the Bush regime’s various soldiers are now crying, as the Nazis did, “We were only following orders.” Or they’re saying, “Hey, I didn’t even give the orders.”

Blame them, but save the biggest share of blame for their higher-ups — all the way up to Vise President Dick Cheney.

The freshest example is that of Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, whose court-martial right now at Fort Meade, Maryland, for Abu Ghraib abuses that occurred on his watch is a travesty of cover-up upon cover-up.

Despite the fact that the soldiers under Jordan got off by torturing and humiliating prisoners — most of whom were innocent and none of whom were of any intelligence value — Jordan himself will probably get off with a wrist-slap.

Today’s account of this extremely important trial is buried on page A14 of the Washington Post:

Army Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, the only officer charged in connection with abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison, did not train, supervise or work directly with interrogators who questioned detainees, the prison’s top military intelligence officer testified yesterday.

Testifying for the prosecution in Jordan’s court-martial at Fort Meade, Col. Thomas M. Pappas said that Jordan’s duties centered on improving the quality of life for soldiers at the austere base outside Baghdad and improving the flow of intelligence information — not on the interrogations or harsh methods of eliciting information approved for use at the time.

The news cycles of real news, especially follow-ups, cause so much frustration. How can anyone put his or her hands around what’s going on?

Abu Ghraib blazed in the headlines in 2004, but now that details of who did what and when are coming out, it’s considered old news. That’s why I try to salt my posts with so many links. All we can do is point to some stories that point to the facts and provide context.

And one unmistakable fact is that no matter what happens to Jordan, the torture scandal goes all the way up the chain of command, right into the White House run by Dick Cheney.

When it comes to Abu Ghraib, all you really have to do is focus on just one day’s worth of brilliant journalism. Go back to this past June 25 and you’ll see what I mean.

Now, I’m not faulting the Post for burying today’s Jordan story. It has kicked the ass of the New York Times on almost every topic since the Bush regime came to power. While Jordan’s court-martial continues, go back and re-read the Post‘s stellar series on Cheney, particularly Barton Gellman and Jo Becker‘s June 25 “Pushing the Envelope on Presidential Power,” which I wrote about that day. Here’s how that Post story began:

Shortly after the first accused terrorists reached the U.S. naval prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, on Jan. 11, 2002, a delegation from CIA headquarters arrived in the Situation Room. The agency presented a delicate problem to White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales, a man with next to no experience on the subject. Vice President Cheney’s lawyer, [David Addington], who had a great deal of experience, sat nearby. The meeting marked “the first time that the issue of interrogations comes up” among top-ranking White House officials, recalled John C. Yoo, who represented the Justice Department. “The CIA guys said, ‘We’re going to have some real difficulties getting actionable intelligence from detainees'” if interrogators confined themselves to humane techniques allowed by the Geneva Conventions.

From that moment, well before previous accounts have suggested, Cheney turned his attention to the practical business of crushing a captive’s will to resist. The vice president’s office played a central role in shattering limits on coercion in U.S. custody, commissioning and defending legal opinions that the Bush administration has since portrayed as the initiatives, months later, of lower-ranking officials.

Remarkable stuff. Too bad it didn’t come out before the November 2004 presidential election.

If you really want to understand how such a coverup happened — and what tragic roles this Colonel Jordan and various other officials played in this sick drama —go back to Seymour Hersh‘s brilliant piece “The General’s Report: How Antonio Taguba, who investigated the Abu Ghraib scandal, became one of its casualties,” also published on June 25.

Taguba’s investigation (PDF of his report) was circumscribed by his higher-ups, Hersh reveals. And of course now it comes out that Jordan supposedly wasn’t read his rights at the proper time and he might skate on serious charges.

What about the people above — way above — Jordan? Hersh’s reporting explodes the Bush regime’s lame excuse that Abu Ghraib’s abuses were the work of a few “rogue soldiers”:

Taguba came to believe that Lieutenant General [Ricardo] Sanchez, the Army commander in Iraq, and some of the generals assigned to the military headquarters in Baghdad had extensive knowledge of the abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib even before Joseph Darby came forward with the CD. Taguba was aware that in the fall of 2003 — when much of the abuse took place — Sanchez routinely visited the prison, and witnessed at least one interrogation. According to Taguba, “Sanchez knew exactly what was going on.”

Taguba learned that in August, 2003, as the Sunni insurgency in Iraq was gaining force, the Pentagon had ordered Major General Geoffrey Miller, the commander at Guantánamo, to Iraq. His mission was to survey the prison system there and to find ways to improve the flow of intelligence. The core of Miller’s recommendations, as summarized in the Taguba report, was that the military police at Abu Ghraib should become part of the interrogation process: they should work closely with interrogators and intelligence officers in “setting the conditions for successful exploitation of the internees.”

Taguba concluded that Miller’s approach was not consistent with Army doctrine, which gave military police the overriding mission of making sure that the prisons were secure and orderly. His report cited testimony that interrogators and other intelligence personnel were encouraging the abuse of detainees. “Loosen this guy up for us,” one M.P. said he was told by a member of military intelligence. “Make sure he has a bad night.”

The M.P.s, Taguba said, “were being literally exploited by the military interrogators. My view is that those kids” — even the soldiers in the photographs — “were poorly led, not trained, and had not been given any standard operating procedures on how they should guard the detainees.”

Rogue soldiers? No, a rogue presidency.

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‘Incorporeity’: Increase Your Wartime Vocabulary

This morning’s L.A. Times report that the U.S. and its allies are killing more Afghan civilians than the Taliban are could be just the tip of the coffin.

In Iraq, documents that the ACLU pried from the War Department indicate that the U.S. often rejects claims — even defying judges’ rulings — that its troops have killed innocent civilians. And one of those rejected claims shows that a seldom-used word — “incorporeity” — is creeping into the wartime language.

Judges are granting “incorporeity damages” for civilian deaths, as the document below shows, but U.S. officials often rejected such claims. In the case below, an Iraqi claims that his son was killed by troops as he approached a checkpoint on his way to market. A judge valued the son at $7,500 — $5,000 for “killed my son” and $2,500 for “incorporeity damages” — but U.S. officials said his behavior was “threatening” and refused to pay.

Heretofore not used to describe the death of Iraq civilians, “incorporeity” comes from “incorporeal,” according to my OED, which I guess you could say backs up the U.S. position: The first OED definition of “incorporeal”:

Having no bodily or material structure; not composed of matter; immaterial.

The second definition gets right to it:

Of, pertaining to, or characteristic of immaterial beings.

That’s accurate. As I pointed out in October 2004, General Tommy Franks remarked early on, “We don’t do body counts,” but others were, including Iraq Body Count, which has documented 65,000 violent deaths so far. It used to be that we did most of the killing, but now of course it’s the rebels’ bombs and suicide runs that account for most of it. Nevertheless, IBC noted in a March 2007 rundown:

Coalition-caused deaths.
Coalition forces, principally US as well as some UK, were identified to have killed at least 536 Iraqi civilians in year four (excluding a major incident in Najaf in January which is still under investigation by IBC). This compares with 370 in year three. If 536 seems insignificant in light of the overall total, consider for a moment what it would mean if in your country there were, on average, three incidents a week in which a foreign army killed civilians, including the killing of a 5-yr-old girl and entire families with their children. Would this army be a stabilising influence?

Check out the batch of Iraq death claims yourself at this ACLU page; there’s even a search engine on civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The same kind of destabilizing is happening in Afghanistan, where Hamid Karzai‘s government is shakier all the time. This morning’s L.A. Times story notes:

After more than five years of increasingly intense warfare, the conflict in Afghanistan reached a grim milestone in the first half of this year: U.S. troops and their NATO allies killed more civilians than insurgents did, according to several independent tallies. . . .

But the growing toll is causing widespread disillusionment among the Afghan people, eroding support for the government of President Hamid Karzai and exacerbating political rifts among NATO allies about the nature and goals of the mission in Afghanistan.

More than 500 Afghan civilians have been reported killed this year, and the rate has dramatically increased in the last month.

The Times story tries to be fair:

Still, Western military leaders argue that any comparison of casualties caused by Western forces and by the Taliban is fundamentally unfair because there is a clear moral distinction to be made between accidental deaths resulting from combat operations and deliberate killings of innocents by militants.

“No [Western] soldier ever wakes up in the morning with the intention of harming any Afghan citizen,” said Maj. John Thomas, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. “If that does inadvertently happen, it is deeply, deeply regretted.”

Well, it’s not true that no Western soldier wakes up in the morning with the intention of harming a civilian. How about the Abu Ghraib tortures, which my colleague Graham Rayman recently revisited?

A better example is soldier Steven Green, leader of a rape crew that prosecutors say got drunk, put on masks, invaded an apartment, raped a 14-year-old girl and killed her and her whole family.

Green’s now facing the death penalty, so maybe at some point he’ll become incorporeal himself.

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Morning Report 5/13/05Rider On the Storm

Meddle faster, Bush, before the rest of the world catches you

White House

 

A Schwinn-Schwinn situation: Bush on his mountain bike last year in Crawford

Whatever plans George W. Bush‘s handlers have for the rest of the world, they’d better get it in gear.

We don’t know how many revolutions per minute the POTUS was spinning Wednesday on his bike ride while that Cessna, unbeknownst to him, was heading for the White House. But on the other side of the planet, it’s no joke: Things are spinning out of control in the dictatorships we’ve embraced.

Their revolutions, in other words, may trump Bush’s, and his helmet (see photo above) won’t protect him when he crashes.

Anti-American rioting has spread from Afghanistan into Pakistan, as the Washington Post reports:

The unrest was triggered by a brief report in the May 9 edition of Newsweek that interrogators at Guantánamo had placed Korans in bathrooms and “flushed a holy book down the toilet.” Desecration of the Koran is punishable by death in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pakistan protested to the U.S. government last weekend about the alleged abuse.

Diplomats and officials have been taken aback by the intense reaction, which was exacerbated by a police crackdown on anti-U.S. protesters in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad on Wednesday that left four dead and more than 70 wounded.

How in the world could they be taken aback?

Anyway, there’s more. The long-oppressed people of Uzbekistan, one of the Bush regime’s key allies, are starting to openly rebel against dictator Islam Karimov, whose 15 years of arresting people for practicing Islam are surely coming to an end.

Prisoners in Uzbekistan are beaten and boiled to death and their family members are raped in front of them.

Meanwhile, Karimov’s strictly controlled press celebrates his reign, and he proudly shows himself off with celebrities like Don Rumsfeld.

Defense Dept.

 

Take a picture; it’ll last longer than Karimov: Rumsfeld chats with the Uzbek dictator in November 2001, happier times for both of them.

 

U.S. officials have had many chances to speak out against Karimov’s outrageous human-rights violations—as the U.K.’s Craig Murray courageously did when he was ambassador to Tashkent—but we pointedly haven’t. Our ambassador, Jon Purnell, has barely opened his mouth.

Forget the hype from the Bush regime. When it comes to democracy, this administration is usually on the wrong side.

That’s certainly true in Asia. In a February 24, 2004, press conference in Tashkent starring Rumsfeld, Karimov, and Purnell, a Reuters reporter had this exchange with Rumsfeld:

Reuters: You spoke of this strategic framework, of the relationship between two countries. Uzbekistan said yesterday they’re going to free a 62-year-old woman from jail, who human rights activists say was jailed on trumped-up charges because she revealed that her son had been tortured to death in prison. Do you welcome this, sir, and to what extent will improvements in human rights in this country deal with continued U.S. military aid to Uzbekistan?

Rumsfeld: Well, obviously our relationship with this country and other countries is multi-faceted. I mentioned the military-to-military relationship because I’m involved with the Department of Defense, but it’s also a political and economic relationship. Needless to say the United States and the other NATO countries are always interested in seeing reform not just in the military, but also in the political and economic areas. I’m not intimately knowledgeable about the statement you just made, but my understanding is that from the Ambassador that—that is in fact the case and that the Embassy has expressed their awareness of that and I forget what the phrase was but—the Ambassador pointed out that they were pleased that the decision was made.

No wonder we’re seen by common folk the world over as a defender of human rights and democracy. The Reuters reporter pressed the issue:

Reuters: Sir, did you discuss human rights with the President and the other officials?

Rumsfeld: In all of our meetings, the broad range of topics were discussed, the political and human-rights issues, as well as, economic issues and military-to-military issues. Yes—

A little more than a year later, Karimov had better get on his own bicycle and pedal his way out of the country as fast as he can. Peter Finn of the Washington Post explains why:

Resentment over a government campaign against alleged Islamic extremists exploded into violence in the Central Asian republic of Uzbekistan Friday when protesters stormed a local prison in the eastern city of Andijan, freeing thousands of inmates and triggering protests that left at least nine people dead, according to government officials and telephone interviews with local residents.

We’ve got a big military base in Uzbekistan—built by Halliburton, of course. If we have to start packing it up, why not hire Halliburton to do it for us?

The fact is that the enmity we’ve sowed in the Muslim world is just about ready for harvest.

Meanwhile, Bush pedals away, and if anyone needed more proof that he’s merely a prop for Dick Cheney et al., the Cessna scare the other day in D.C. was it.

A testy press briefing by White House flack Scott McClellan yesterday reads like a “Who’s on First Alert?” routine. (Thanks to colleague Syd Schanberg for the tip.) Editor & Publisher scooped it up, publishing choice excerpts and saying:

On the day after more than 30,000 people—including the vice president, the first lady, and a former first lady—were evacuated from their offices or homes in Washington, D.C., but the president, who was biking in Maryland, was not notified until the threat passed, reporters grilled Press Secretary Scott McClellan at his daily briefing.

For those who might have missed it on TV—that is, nearly everyone— … McClellan continually refers to “protocols” and reporters essentially ask, “Wouldn’t most men like to know when their home is evacuated and their wife is hustled to a secure bunker?” They also wonder about the small matter of the president being commander in chief and the capital, theoretically, coming under attack.

What’s even more bizarre is that Cheney was evacuated and taken away from the place while Laura Bush and Nancy Reagan, who was visiting the White House at the time, weren’t. Meanwhile, George W. Bush, who was riding his bike outside the city, wasn’t even notified about the Cessna incident until after it was over. Sure, he was riding his little bike and he had his little helmet on, but c’mon.

Now we’re told there’s an investigation of this “47-minute delay” in notifying the president. Can’t wait for the results of that probe.

Meanwhile, here’s part of the exchange between reporters and McClellan, from the White House site:

Q: I’m just finishing up the timeline. Mrs. Bush and Mrs. Reagan were put in a secure location in the White House—so the bunker, I assume?

McClellan: I will just leave it at that they were taken to a secure location.

Q: In the White House?

Q: On the grounds?

McClellan: They were here at the White House and they were taken to a secure location.

Q: You can’t say on the grounds or off the grounds? All right. But you’re saying that—but the Vice President was actually evacuated—

McClellan: That’s right.

Q: —off the grounds?

McClellan: That’s correct.

Q: That’s correct. Why the distinction, given the history of this?

McClellan: Well, the Secret Service has security precaution protocols that are in place. And as I mentioned at the beginning, those precautions were followed. That’s what they have in place. And it was consistent with the protocols that were in place.

In other words, if Bush is pedaling his bike, don’t bother the little feller. Let him play. We’ll put him before the cameras when we need him. But for God‘s sake, protect Cheney. He’s the one who made all the decisions, such as they were, on 9/11. As long as there’s oil underneath other countries, protect Cheney.

In the unlikely event that Bush isn’t biking but is reading—say, The Pet Goat—don’t disturb him then either. The grownups have everything under control. Except for the billions of Muslims angry at us.

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Starving for Guantánamo Info

Subway’s Jared, at secretive torture base, follows media guidelines, opening mouth only to eat

As word of mouth about horrendous tortures and a secret CIA interrogation center leaks out of Guantánamo Bay, we’re left hungry for more information on the War of Terror. Subway spokesman Jared Fogle may be the only recent visitor to the Pentagon’s sunny torture chamber in Cuba who was allowed to circulate freely. Typically, though, he kept everything he learned under wraps.

Last June, probably about the same time that the Israeli flag was being used to torture at least one Muslim captive, people of the chewish persuasion stopped in at the local Subway at Gitmo to see Jared present the Most Inspiring Health Improvement essay contest award to supply manager Rebecca Jeffries.

Two months later, when the unconstitutionally delayed (and unconstitutional) tribunals of mostly foreign prisoners were launching, the Navy conducted “media training” seminars to remind all Gitmo personnel to keep a lid on things.

The local rag, the Guantánamo Bay Gazette, carried the warning from Assistant Public Affairs Officer Gabe Puello of an invasion by reporters:

This media presence on board GTMO will be sustained between 10 to 25 days each month until January 2005. Schedules beyond January 2005 have not yet been projected, but with the number of detainees about to be charged with crimes increasing, Puello anticipates media interest in the commissions to be ongoing for some time.

It must be tough to resist chewing the fat about what’s going on down there. I mean, what if someone saw some tinpot Torquemada draping an Israeli flag over a Muslim prisoner? And can you imagine how difficult it would be to put a crimp in the Gitmo grapevine after some soldier tells you he stuck a lit cigarette in some Muslim’s ear or slapped him upside the head? Puello apparently didn’t talk about any of that, but he did tell the Gazette:

“Planning and executing a media-relations strategy that tells the story accurately is critical. The media can be your biggest ally, or your worst nightmare. Media training can prepare you to project a comfortable, competent on-camera image, while providing meaningful messages with confidence and sincerity.”

Not too meaningful, of course. But that job has been easier—and the American public has been kept in the dark—by the Pentagon’s strict squelching at Gitmo. The Gazette story noted:

All media are required to have a military escort at all times. If media personnel badger or harass you, politely terminate the conversation/interview and contact the NAVBASE Public Affairs Office at 4502/4520.

Once again, those numbers are 4502 and 4520. Call now if you’re afraid of reporters.

But you probably won’t have to, because reporters who dare go to Gitmo have it rough. Until October 2003, reporters had to sign a goddamn form promising not to ask questions. After protests from news organizations and other groups, the Pentagon relented. Here’s how Reporters Without Borders put it in 2003:

U.S. authorities have lifted a ban on journalists asking questions about ongoing investigations when visiting the U.S. military base at Guantánamo. Five journalists flying there from Florida on October 14 were required to sign a form saying only that officials would not answer such questions. In an earlier version last week, three visiting journalists had been obliged to agree not even to ask them.

Guantánamo spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Pamela Hart confirmed the ban had been lifted and said the U.S. military had been “momentarily a bit too conservative” in its intention to “protect the integrity of the investigation and ongoing assessment” at the base. Among the latest group of five journalists were a reporter from the daily Miami Herald and one from Vanity Fair magazine.

The new version of the form still forbids journalists from communicating with or identifying prisoners on pain of losing their accreditation, banning them from taking pictures on which detainees can be identified, recording remarks by them, or covering the transfer of prisoners from one part of the base to another.

Props to the ACLU for its dogged pursuit of the explosive files it released at the beginning of this week. Other watchdogs are also doing great work at trying to shine light on what’s happening at Gitmo. A good place for the curious to start with is Global Security.org’s Guantánamo Bay page. For grins, check out the Pentagon’s official Gitmo site.

Or, the next time Jared comes to your town, promise to buy him a sandwich, but first grill him.

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Morning Report 12/16/04Rock the Vote!

Election season in Iraq: It’s a blast

Iraq’s Shiite majority, expected to win control of the country in the January 30 election, are already getting bombed.

Eight of them were killed earlier today near the holy shrine of Imam Hussein in Kerbala, according to Swiss Info.

The country’s youngsters, caught up in the merriment, hit the streets to swap photos with Americans through the Department of Defense’s Operation Picture Peace.

Although his mission has already been accomplished, George W. Bush‘s job of protecting Iraqis is not done. He declared yesterday:

“We will continue to make it clear to both Syria and Iran that . . . meddling in the internal affairs of Iraq is not in their interests.”

Bush didn’t elaborate, according to the story by David Morgan of Reuters, and no one apparently asked him why his regime decided years ago to meddle in the internal affairs of Iraq by invading it.