Friday, January 28, 2005

Alberto Gonzales does not merit confirmation

The editorial in the Minneapolis Star Tribune says it far more eloquently than I could:

Editorial: Alberto Gonzales has blood on his hands
January 6, 2005 ED0106A

When the White House announced in November that Attorney General John Ashcroft would depart and be replaced by presidential counsel Alberto Gonzales, it was a good news-bad news sort of day: good news that Ashcroft, enemy of the Bill of Rights in this war-on-terror era, would be departing; bad news that he would be replaced by Gonzales, enemy of the rights of prisoners of war and architect of policies that led to the abuses at Guantanamo Bay and Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.

Since November, the bad news has gotten large amounts worse as horrific abuses of prisoners have been documented, especially by the American Civil Liberties Union and documents it forced into the public domain. Which leaves us to ask: Why in the world should the United States be saddled with an attorney general who, from the White House, framed cockamamie legal policies that sought to make it permissible for American forces to commit war crimes?

Indeed, when Gonzales comes before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, the committee must challenge him to explain fully both his role in authorizing torture and his rationale for doing so. If the answers aren't satisfactory, and it is impossible to imagine how they could be, then the full Senate should reject his nomination and tell President Bush to pick someone else.

At the height of the Abu Ghraib scandal, someone leaked to Newsweek a memorandum Gonzales authored in January 2002 which argued that the war on terror had "rendered obsolete" the Geneva Conventions prohibiting torture and abuse of prisoners of war. The conventions, he said, did not apply to enemy combatants captured in Afghanistan. Gonzales also was a principal architect of Bush's order authorizing the secret trial of combatants from Afghanistan by military tribunal.

Only within the last few days has it become known just how key a role Gonzales played in the formation of a notorious Department of Justice memo issued in August 2002. That memo defined torture quite narrowly -- it said that only physical pain "of an intensity akin to that which accompanies serious physical injury such as death or organ failure" amounted to torture. It also said the president had inherent authority to authorize use of extreme means of interrogation on detainees suspected of terrorist activities.

Gonzales asked for the memo and discussed draft language with its author. Small wonder that, according to a "senior administration official" interviewed by the New York Times, the memo hewed closely to views already held by senior White House officials.

That memo, by the way, was rescinded by the Justice Department last week (a bit of tidying before Gonzales' confirmation hearing) and replaced with a new one that explicitly rejects the reasoning put forward in the first.

Gonzales has a great deal to answer for. He contributed substantially to prisoner abuses that brought the United States into worldwide disrepute and sullied its record for valuing human rights. If the Judiciary Committee should find his answers evasive or uncompelling, he doesn't deserve to be attorney general of this nation.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Why we must continue the fight against the Iraq war

The photo is so very apt and yet so very, very sad. Both girls had no choice over their parents. Yet that is where the similarity ends. View it and weep for what our country has become.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Evil runs rampant in the world at times

Rachel Corrie's death almost two years ago was a signal event in my life. I learned then that people that I thought were rational and caring, could in one instant be turned into raving lunatics, akin to those they sought to eliminate.

It is frightening to hear supporters of the state of Israel sound like Waffen SS members when they talk about the Palestinians and when they erect prison walls that take even more Palestinian property. The Israelis have become in some sense, what they were reacting to when they formed their country.

By this criticism I do not mean to exempt the Palestinians from their heinous behaviour, e.g. the promotion of The Protocols of Zion, the absolute fabrications about Israelis being devils, the promotion of suicide bombing. These are all horrific and I condemn them.

But Israel is in the driver's seat. They have the weaponry, the money, the power. They have, to me, the greater responsibility to behave in a civilized fashion. If they can't and they descend to the level of those whose territories they are occupying, they have become just as bad. And frankly, they don't realize it. They are too personally involved, too invested to be able to look at the deteriorating situation in a rational and detached light. And without that, they are no better than those they oppress.

What was Solomon's solution in this situation? What the Israelis are doing is cutting off an arm and giving it to the mother. Solomon threatened to cut the baby in half. Until and unless that is done, there is a very grave danger that the arm will in fact be cut off. And the entire entity will die as a result.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Stratfor says we have lost the Iraq War

This came from a friend who can read the Andrew Sullivan site w/o ill effect:

"STRATFOR ON THE WAR: Like many other smart analysts, the pro-war Stratfor military experts have concluded that the war to control the Iraq insurgency or to erect democratic institutions in Iraq has been lost (subscription required). I think it's time to start truly absorbing this possibility. Why lost? Because we blew the opportunity to control the terrain with insufficient troops and terrible intelligence; because all the institutions required to build democracy in Iraq have already been infiltrated by insurgents; because at key moments - they mention the fall of 2003 or spring of 2004 - we simply failed to crush the insurgency when we might have had a chance of success. Short version: we had a brief window of opportunity to turn our armed intervention into democratic liberation and we blew it. Money quote:

The issue facing the Bush administration is simple. It can continue to fight the war as it has, hoping that a miracle will bring successes in 2005 that didn't happen in 2004. Alternatively, it can accept the reality that the guerrilla force is now self-sustaining and sufficiently large not to flicker out and face the fact that a U.S. conventional force of less than 150,000 is not likely to suppress the guerrillas. More to the point, it can recognize these facts: 1. The United States cannot re-engineer Iraq because the guerrillas will infiltrate every institution it creates. 2. That the United States by itself lacks the intelligence capabilities to fight an effective counterinsurgency. 3. That exposing U.S. forces to security responsibilities in this environment generates casualties without bringing the United States closer to the goal. 4. That the strain on the U.S. force is undermining its ability to react to opportunities and threats in the rest of the region. And that, therefore, this phase of the Iraq campaign must be halted as soon as possible.

They recommend withdrawing U.S. forces to the periphery of Iraq and letting the inevitable civil war take place in the center.

DARKNESS BEFORE DAWN? The war has not been a complete loss, Stratfor argues, because it has engineered a slight shift in the behavior of neighboring regimes, and has allowed us to have a new base in the Middle East. The conclusion:

Certainly, it would have been nice for the United States if it had been able to dominate Iraq thoroughly. Somewhere between "the U.S. blew it" and "there was never a chance" that possibility is gone. It would have been nice if the United States had never tried to control the situation, because now the United States is going to have to accept a defeat, which will destabilize the region psychologically for a while. But what is is, and the facts speak for themselves. We are not Walter Cronkite, and we are not saying that the war is lost. The war is with the jihadists around the world; Iraq was just one campaign, and the occupation of the Sunnis was just one phase of that campaign. That phase has been lost. The administration has allowed that phase to become the war as a whole in the public mind. That was a very bad move, but the administration is just going to have to bite the bullet and do the hard, painful and embarrassing work of cutting losses and getting on with the war. If Bush has trouble doing this, he should conjure up Lyndon Johnson's ghost, wandering restlessly in the White House, and imagine how Johnson would have been remembered if he had told Robert McNamara to get lost in 1966."