How High Does the Abu Ghraib Scandal Go?

Thank you for your excellent article. The terrifying and grossly illegal excuse offered by the Defense Department attorneys makes me ashamed of the legal profession – once again. The president’s powers derive SOLELY FROM THE CONSTITUTION of the United States. He cannot derive powers outside the limitations of the U.S. Constitution, to wit, the limitations of the first amendment (or any other), the express statement that international treaties shall be the highest law of the land, the limitations of the president’s powers by the other two coequal branches of government. (Nixon ran afoul of that one and Bush & Co have also.)

The entire military, including the commander in chief (perhaps especially the commander in chief) is subject to the civilian government and the rule of law. The ancient and tiresome excuse of protecting the citizens of the state by violating the laws of the state is false and dangerous. A somewhat recent movie explored this very issue. You or other readers might wish to view it; its on VHS tape: Defence of the Realm, starring Gabriel Byrne, visits this issue in the context of a cover-up of a near nuclear catastrophe on a US air base.

~ Katharine Rundle


Chalabi

Doesn’t anyone think it odd that the US could have fostered this man for over 10 years, and is just now “learning” that he has been a “spy” for Iran? To me this seems to be stretched to the breaking point.

Are we really to believe that in the past 10+ years, we had no inkling that he was passing “secrets” to the Iranians? Sorry, but it does not compute, not with all the various intercept devices/ personnel in place.

It sounds to me like the groundwork for an invasion of Iran.

Just my opinion, of course.

~ James Hogan


Troubles in Kurdistan

As I read Dahr Jamail’s article I cannot ignore his negativity towards the situation in Kurdistan and it is not as bad as he makes it out to be, there are so many positive things the Kurds have done there that the title should be “I wish the rest of Iraq would be as good as Kurdistan.” But that is not my point; you note out that the Turkmen you interviewed said the solution would be to go back to the 1957 consensus in Kirkuk to solve the problem, where the Turks were the majority then. As a journalist we need to do some research, the Turks were never a majority and even less in 1957, since the expulsion of Kurds from Kirkuk had not even started then. …

Thanks.

~ A.S. Karadaghi

Dahr Jamail (in Baghdad) replies:

First, I would like to point out that this is a weblog, and not a hard news story. Thus, it is basically a diary entry. While I do make it a point to keep the facts straight, it is not anywhere near as researched and fact checked as the hard news stories I write for The NewStandard.

I would like to address one of your points, from where I wrote: “I ask him what the solution is, and he felt it was to go by the ’57 Census in the city, where Turkmen were the majority. So, again I ask, what is the solution?”

Since this was a weblog, I did not make it a point to quote him… when in reality, he believed the ’57 census showed a greater Turk population than Kurdish population in Kirkuk.

This is why I made the comment in my blog which followed his claim, “So, again I ask, what is the solution?”

My aim in writing what I did concerning his comment was to suggest that I felt what he mentioned was rather absurd, and provided no solution whatsoever.

I agree with you in that Kurdistan is the safest, and most likely best place in Iraq today.

I also want to add that I sympathize with the plight of the Kurds, after all they have suffered.

However, as the theme of my blog entry suggests, the situation in Kurdistan today is far from resolved, far from settled, and quite troubled. The potential for the Kurds to become engulfed by the rest of the fighting throughout Iraq is, unfortunately, quite high today. And Kirkuk stands a good chance of being the touchstone for this.


The Reagan-Haters

Once again you have shown that anti-communism is the only thread that endears you to anyone. Reagan has mourners because they either do not know what he stood for and did or they do and rejoice. I find it reprehensible that the man who broke PATCO, killed thousands in Latin America, stalled AIDS awareness, bombed Libya without cause, attacked ‘Welfare-Queens’ and the poor as responsible for their plight, intensified the humanitarian crises in the USSR by continuing the economic attack that brought about dissolution to the detriment of hundreds of millions of people is honored in such a way as to make him some kind of national hero or godhead!

He did not shrink government. He left us with trillions of dollars in Defense spending debt that we are still accumulating! He attacked every protection that the workers have gained through struggles. He was a racist and a homophobe. Let’s call it like it is.

I am sorry for his family and friends but the man was one of the worst Presidents we have ever had in terms of the working class and their issues. He whipped up racist, nationalists tendencies that have not served us well in the world arena. Now we have the evolutionary degeneration of his legacy in the White House. The U.S. is divided precisely because a growing majority reject this chauvinism and see these people for what they were!

Why are you so hateful of communists? Communists, NOT STALINISTS, fight for the rights of every working and oppressed person on all fronts. Always have. And always will. You distort history and reality every time you open up an attack on Marxists and Communists. Stalinism and Western capitalists destroyed the Socialist Union, NOT REAGAN! Enough of the platitudes and pageantry. Was he a monarch? Is this a democracy? Never has been and never will be until the working and oppressed people throw off the shackles of capitalism so well embodied in this dead man and the people like you who defend them!

~ Scott Cossette, Santee, CA

Justin Raimondo replies:

I attack Communism because it killed millions. Always have, always will….

Even when I disagree with you, as I often do, I usually find your stuff well argued. Monday and today, though, it appears that your obvious affection for Reagan has caused a short-circuit. I grant you everything you say about Hitchens, because the guy is so incoherent and arrogant that I think he can’t see straight. As far as Palast, though, the inflammatory adjectives he uses to describe Reagan seem to have caused you to miss his point.

Palast’s approach may not be artful, but he is obviously not criticizing Reagan for pulling out of Lebanon or for negotiating with Iran – quite the opposite. He’s calling him a hypocrite for criticizing Carter’s perceived weakness (“Reagan’s boys called Jimmy Carter a weanie and a wuss”) and then running for the hills when it got too hot in Beirut, for example. That’s not a Palast endorsement for staying in Lebanon. While we can’t exactly call Reagan a chickenhawk given his willingness for active duty military service during W.W.II, we can definitely say that he was bellicose and that he tended to exaggerate the threats from various fronts in a manner presaging Dubya, particularly Grenada as Palast points out. Furthermore, it was under Reagan’s administration that the worst crimes of Saddam Hussein (e.g., the famous gassing of the Kurds) were tolerated and actively supported for the sake of anti-Iranian realpolitik. “Shining City on a Hill” my ass.

As for Palast’s comments that “we should have invaded Saudi Arabia,” once again you miss his point. He was obviously using a standard rhetorical device: It’s a bad idea to invade anyone, but IF you’re going to do so, at least invade a country vaguely related to the problem you’re trying to solve.

In any case, the real point of Palast’s article about Reagan is to recall – in the midst of the ceaseless accolades – that the Reagan administration covertly conducted a murderous terrorist war that killed tens of thousands of Central Americans during his tenure, and it’s hard to see why that doesn’t appear to bother your antiwar, anti-intervention instincts. Say what you will about the Sandinistas and their commitment to democracy, but their efforts ended a decades-long, U.S.-supported dictatorship and almost immediately they had to fight a war against a U.S.-backed proxy army. Not exactly ideal conditions for a burgeoning democracy. I have no idea what would have happened had the US not intervened in this way, but I think you would agree that it’s a matter for the Nicaraguans (or the Hondurans, Salvadorans, Guatemalans, etc.), not Washington, to decide.

I’m a huge supporter of Antiwar.com in every way, but on this subject we strongly disagree. I think you’re giving Reagan a completely undeserved pass.

~ Lance Langston

“… thousands died in the U.S.-provoked civil war, which allowed the Marxist junta to consolidate its power and move rapidly toward a Cuban-style one-party dictatorship.”

In Stalinist fashion, Raimondo simply erases the 1984 elections from history. They were intensely scrutinized by the international community and generally deemed fair. The Sandinistas won those elections primarily because their economic policies were succeeding. After 13 years of Contra rule, Nicaragua is now the poorest country in Latin America, even poorer than Haiti. But Raimondo doesn’t let such facts get in the way of his preconceived conclusions about “the inevitable failure of Nicaraguan state socialism.”

~ Tom M.

It’s true – Palast’s piece was lame. Calling Reagan a coward for not not killing more people than he did makes no sense if you’re complaining about all the people he killed. But for you, of all people, to say that Reagan “didn’t treat Nicaragua very well” while mentioning almost in passing that thousands died as a result of US intervention makes no sense for the same reason. With a website called antiwar, you write forcefully and eloquently against US intervention but when it’s Bedtime for Bonzo, you give the old bastard a pass!

And I hate that gin-soaked blowhard Hitchens as much as the next guy, but you really have to work to miss his central point regarding Mother Teresa, which is that she washed the feet of the poor with one hand while using the other to give full support to the murderous power elite who kept them that way.

Come on, Raimondo, you’re the best political writer on the web for my money, don’t go all wishy-washy on me now.

~ Jim Priest, Los Angeles

I got over hating Reagan years ago. Once he left office, his power in the world was gone. He became a bumbling shell of a man, helpless to carry out whatever malice still lived in his heart. He has been succeeded by others as bad or worse. I don’t even hate him for the traffic jams his corpse, in its posthumous travels, has been causing in my own San Fernando Valley.

But I am angered by the lachrymose tributes to his skill as a “communicator,” his triumphs in bringing “freedom” to so many, and his “optimism.” He read his lines well enough, but most of what he communicated was nonsense – or lies, which in the lingo of the day equaled”plausible deniability.” And I have my doubts about his overall score as a “liberator,” too. That leaves optimism, and I can’t argue with that.

When it came to the slaughter of innocents in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala, you gotta hand it to The Gipper. 50,000 dead in Nicaragua. Another 50,000 Indians in Guatemala. Whole villages burned alive in El Salvador. Day care centers and medical clinics shot up by Contras (the drug-dealing, baby-killing equivalents of our founding fathers) determined that no Sandinista scheme for the betterment of the poor should succeed. Nuns raped; priests murdered. He presided over all that – he must have known! – and came up smiling.

When he became governor of California, my mother was watching the swearing-in ceremony with me, and she pointed at the screen, “look at his mouth,” she said, “there is a mean man.” And I never saw a shred of evidence to prove her wrong. “One may smile, and smile, and be a villain,” Shakespeare wrote. Reagan was the old granddad everybody likes, or the one about whom it is said, “he was such a nice, quiet old man.” AFTER all the shallow graves have been discovered in his backyard or basement. The trouble is, the bodies were right in front of us all the time: they just didn’t matter, because Reagan made us all feel so GOOD about being Americans.

I’ve been cursed all my life with an inability to make the necessary patriotic distinctions between US – those who deserve to live, who deserve the protection of our lives and freedoms – and THEM – those Indians, and poor people, and brown people, nonAmericans or UNAmericans, whose lives don’t matter at all in a scheme of things like Reagan’s – or Bush’s, for that matter. So while he sermonized the world with pious talk about liberty, I could not be distracted from the Reign of Terror Reagan visited on the poor of Central America.

Alzheimer’s is said to be a cruel disease, but sometimes it must be nicer to forget. A conscience would be a fearful burden after such a life, and, if you were so encumbered, Alzheimer’s would be a kindness. After a while, I suppose, Reagan forgot everything. Judging by the crowds lined up to cry over the remains of the murderous old granddad, so did we.

~ Adrien Rain Burke, Sunland, California


The Pointless Poll

Serbs may very well be between the devil and the deep blue sea, as Malic suggests,but even so, their presidential elections can’t be as irrelevant as he suggests. First, they are the first free elections for the head of their state with quite clear differences between the contestants. Second, the Serbs will show, at least to themselves, in what mood they are. If they choose Nikolic they will have shown their will to resist foreign tutoring and subservience. An attitude which corresponds more to their tradition. Election of Tadic, on the other hand, would represent an unmistakable sign of resignation that their fate is in hands of others – a signal they are willing to do what they are told by the Kultur-Trägers. It is enough to think of the Bush-Kerry sham contest to realize that Serbian elections are a much more serious event.

~ Peter Vujacic

Nebojsa Malic replies:

Good point. Compared to Bush vs. Kerry, any other contest is much more serious. However, none of the parties currently active in Serbia – to the best of my knowledge – truly has a vision of changing the way the state works. What Serbia needs is to ditch the whole concept of omnipotent government, not just replace someone at its head, or make cosmetic changes to the constitution. That’s not going to happen regardless of who wins; this is why I called the election meaningless – even though in regards to foreign relations it is anything but.


The Torture Working Group

“Though licensing torture is a ghoulish first for America, so was 9-11. So I’m not losing any sleep over any al-Qaeda torture victims at Gitmo.”

So we have another writer who is more suited for the medieval ages than for the 21st century. Torture is not permissible under international law under any circumstances.

If Sperry thinks that the US can torture supposed al-Qaeda prisoners in Gitmo because al-Qaeda killed 3,000 US citizens, does that give Iraqi the right to torture captured US soldiers who participated in an illegal war in which over 10,000 Iraqis were killed?

I should also point out that torture doesn’t extract useful information, and that at least some, if not many, of the prisoners at Gitmo are innocent.

~ Paul Tremblay

Paul Sperry replies:

Sorry, I’m just not losing much sleep over al-Qaida leaders like Khalid Shaikh Mohammad being “surfboarded” to prevent another 9-11. Al Qaeda broke our interrogators at Gitmo, not the other way around, until some of these “torture” techniques were applied. Then we started to get some info to break up terrorist plots, which maybe isn’t important to people who live outside America, but it is to us – especially those of us living in Washington and New York. And time is of the essence. Unfortunately the stick works faster than the carrot. And torture methods were used on a select few high-value detainees at Gitmo, not all detainees. Problem is, it appears to have been legally sanctioned not just for illegal combatants such as al Qaeda, but even for state-sponsored militia protected under the Geneva Conventions. The Gitmo methods should NEVER have been exported in Iraq. Those are clearly war crimes stemming from the original war crime of an unprovoked military incursion. Over this, I am losing a lot of sleep.

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