Tom Engelhardt has a two part piece that is a must read.
George Orwell... meet Franz Kafka
Add it all up -- only what's been revealed so far -- and you have a global system of injustice and torture, purposely mounted in the moral and legal darkness, beyond the reach or oversight of anyone but the President, vice-president, secretary of defense and associated officials, meant to extract information (and take revenge), meant as in Kafka's fictional penal colony to write the sentence these men had passed on the bodies of America's captives.
And talk about paper trails! If you need any evidence of the combination of arrogance, incompetence, and plain stupidity of the Bush administration, it now sits unavoidably before our eyes. Didn't they know anything about deniability? Didn't they know that you can get so much done without committing anything to paper? Didn't they know that you can signal what you want from the top without issuing orders, making direct demands, or demanding supporting opinions on paper?
Note two things here: That almost all of the above, this whole little global shop of horrors, is already documented -- quite literally in papers pouring out of the bowels of this administration. These documents are leaking daily from an administration that seems to have split open along many angry rift lines. The British Telegraph this week, writing of the leaking of a legal document on torture to the Wall Street Journal commented, for example:
"The leak appears to be part of an extraordinary civil war in the Pentagon between civilian officials and uniformed officers appalled by what they have described as moves by political appointees to shroud the war on terrorism in an ‘environment of legal ambiguity'."
Water-boarding in the White House
On Sunday, in part one of this dispatch on our global torture system, George Orwell… meet Franz Kafka, I wrote: "There will be so much more to learn. Already, when it comes to Abu Ghraib, Iraq, and Afghanistan, the Pentagon keeps heaping investigations on top of one another, each subsequent one led by a figure with a higher rank and so more capable of investigating responsibility at higher levels, and I think it can be said with certainty that this will only get worse -- worse probably than anything we now imagine." As it happens, this administration is hemorrhaging documents. It took exactly twenty-four hours for my modest prediction to come true.
In the space of a day, we learned much more; it got significantly worse; and the Pentagon announced yet another investigation, this time of prisoner conditions at Guantanamo, where, it is rumored, much treatment and mistreatment was systematically and bureaucratically videoed, filed, and stored. Though this may seem but the next case of the criminal investigating the crime, there are numerous military men and intelligence officials angry enough, often disgusted enough, at what this administration has let loose to make even insider investigations dangerous for the administration these days.
Were the subject at hand anything but the creation of an American torture regime (and implicitly "high crimes and misdemeanors"), some of what's happened would be hilarious. For instance, Attorney General Ashcroft has stiff-armed Congress, refusing to declassify the memoranda that the administration's many legal minds produced justifying torture and the most literal sort of imperial presidency (to be presided over by a torturer-in-chief); and yet, in the last day or so, these memos have sprouted like so many wretched weeds at news sites all over the Internet. (To read several of these lengthy, tedious, pretzeled documents posted in their grim near-entireties, go to the Washington Post, Newsweek, or Global Beat and click away.)
What they make clear is that the Bush administration had torture on the brain. Its officials were fixated on the subject, which went so naturally with the President's new-style, no-holds-barred, we're-the-only-law-in-town, dead-or-alive, assassination-and-kidnapping "war on terrorism." It's no longer a matter of whether knowledge of the acts committed at Abu Ghraib prison reach the President and his advisors, but of what can only be termed a complete obsession with the subject of torture among those figures. The highest officials at the Pentagon, in the military, in the CIA, and at the Justice Department clearly couldn't stop thinking about torture -- as over the course of more than a year they requested legal memorandum after memorandum, all chewing over how to define torture so that various inhumane acts involving the infliction of mental and physical pain would not be considered such; over how far to go when too far was never quite far enough. In this sense, whether they were aware of the individual acts of horror at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere (and a number of them evidently were), they were certainly intensely aware that acts of this nature and worse were a "necessity" of their war (even if photos of them were not).
Mexican popular imagery
This is a must read about the military's role in our descent into fascism.
A Very American Coup
While some in the military may put loyalty to the republic above loyalty to the Republicans - the Judge Advocate General's Corps appears to be fighting a particularly fierce rear guard action at the moment - I think for many the tide is already running too strongly the other way. These things always look a lot better going in than coming out.
Like I said at the beginning, it's an incremental process - one of fits and starts, albeit with occasional leaps forward, as in the 2000 election. How long it will take and how it will end up are never clear. There's no master plan - at least, I don't think there is. But while I don't know exactly where the imperial tide is taking the U.S. military, and the United States, I don't think it's going to be any kind of place I would want to go, or produce any kind of regime I would want my children to have to live under.
Photo Gallery/Michelangelo's David
The hand of Michelangelos masterpiece David is seen after restoration was completed May 24, 2004 at the Galleria dell Accademia in Florence, Italy. The work has taken a painstaking two years to complete with the statue going on show to the public May 25.
thanks to Marja-Leena Rathje
Here are two posts from Iraq dispatches, a good source for reporting from outside the Green Zone, thanks to Dahr Jamail.
“The student is gone; the master has arrived.”
This became a very popular saying in Iraq after the US ousted Saddam Hussein.
The situation continues to degrade in occupied Iraq. I know I’m beginning to sound like a broken record... but the need to describe life on the ground here continues, as I see it slipping from the news as of late. Overshadowed by more dramatic stories like car bombs and heavy fighting, the silent suffering that has become the daily reality here just isn’t catching much attention.
One exception was the LA Times recently reporting the US military's claim that in the last 9 weeks over 800 people in Sadr City have been killed by occupation forces. Doctors I talked to in the main hospital there confirmed this, adding that the vast majority of them were women and children.
Salam, one of my Iraqi friends, asks: “Why is the news so quiet about all of these things? In the last 6 months 20 people I know have been killed, for nothing! They weren’t fighters -- they were just living their life.”
This is life in Iraq today.
“It has begun.”
Several of us are sitting in the hotel room having lunch, watching the news trying to keep up with the violence daily engulfing Iraq. Let me give you a quick rundown from the last 24 hours.
Late last night fighting continued in Sadr City between the Mehdi Army and occupation forces... leaving at least five Iraqis dead, three of them civilians.
This morning the Republican Palace, where Bremer is headquartered, was blasted by a rocket.
Shortly after 9 this morning, a huge blast rocked Baghdad when a car bomb detonated near Camp Cuervo, a US Army Camp in the northern part of the capital. The explosion left 12 Iraqis dead, 4 of whom were policemen.
While we were watching all of this news, small, black helicopters of special operations forces and private security contractors buzzed like flies over central Baghdad and sirens blared randomly from the blazingly hot streets.
As footage of cars with broken glass and bullet holes in their frames flashed across the screen of the television, my friend’s translator, Hamid, an older man who has grown weary of the violence, said softly: “It has begun. These are only the start, and they will not stop. Even after June 30th.”
Fuck it, I'm out of here
Well, that ends another Bush plan. I guess he didn't like the way the interim government was chosen over his head.
Real politics starting inside Iraq?
It is possible, just possible, that the coming weeks will see the emergence of real internal politics inside Iraq. That is, the kind of politics marked by realistic discussion and tough negotiating among leaders of the country's different major factions. That's not to say the violence will completely go away. But if the discussions/negotiations are serious enough, they might be able to win out over the tendency to violence, and the country might yet be able to hold the fair, nationwide elections that everyone--everyone!--says they want to see before the end of January 2005.
That consensus around the need for elections is a great starting point.
Under the Red Star
Cold War Uniform Visor Caps of the Soviet Union 1945-1991
thanks to consumptive.org
america — the land of fear
Welcome to America
When writer Elena Lappin flew to LA, she dreamed of a sunkissed, laid-back city. But that was before airport officials decided to detain her as a threat to security ...
Somewhere in central Los Angeles, about 20 miles from LAX airport, there is a nondescript building housing a detention facility for foreigners who have violated US immigration and customs laws. I was driven there around 11pm on May 3, my hands painfully handcuffed behind my back as I sat crammed in one of several small, locked cages inside a security van. I saw glimpses of night-time urban LA through the metal bars as we drove, and shadowy figures of armed security officers when we arrived, two of whom took me inside. The handcuffs came off just before I was locked in a cell behind a thick glass wall and a heavy door. No bed, no chair, only two steel benches about a foot wide. There was a toilet in full view of anyone passing by, and of the video camera watching my every move. No pillow or blanket. A permanent fluorescent light and a television in one corner of the ceiling. It stayed on all night, tuned into a shopping channel.
As it turned out, I was to spend 26 hours in detention. My crime: I had flown in earlier that day to research an innocuous freelance assignment for the Guardian, but did not have a journalist's visa.
thanks to War and Piece
Literature for the Imminently Dead
Having so little time at hand gives one a sense of urgency that the likes of you may only wonder at. I have experienced this myself, having recovered from a terminal illness earlier this year. Hours are precious; minutes tolerably valuable; days of great import, excepting vomiting-days. One does not want to waste time reading a long tome when a short would suffice. Neither does one want to waste time learning skills and information which will soon be as useless as hats for silt.
No, what anyone in this position wants - and by "anyone" I mean myself, and by extension others - is some means of sampling the cream of the crop without reading, or indeed encountering at all, tedious quantities of unnecessary words.
With this in mind, here are the classics in five words or fewer.
1984 (George Orwell)
Misery. Tortured by State. Happy.
thanks to J-Walk Blog
good news — for some
It isn’t going to be a happy summer for Bush administration intelligence and military officials. The number of investigations is proliferating so rapidly, with many reports scheduled to be released this summer, that the White House may look back on the first half of 2004 as the “good old days,” despite the hammering Bush has already taken.
There are almost too many inquiries to count. There are several investigations of U.S. intelligence in connection with Iraq, the 9/11 commission is finishing its work, the Joe Wilson/Valerie Plame investigation is proceeding, there are several panels looking at the Abu Ghraib scandal, investigators are examining who leaked what to Ahmed Chalabi, there is Halliburton dirt to be revealed and more. In normal times, any one of these would be enough to knock the pins out from under a president, but taken together it’s a blitzkrieg.
John Kerry, who specialized in investigations in the Senate (meanwhile forgetting to legislate anything), must be marveling at the irony: official investigators are going to help elect him this summer.
thanks to War and Piece
This is M. Sasek
Welcome to the wonderful world of Miroslav Sasek. This site is devoted to the life and works of the Czech artist, illustrator and author of the This is series of children's books.
This is Paris (1959)
thanks to The Cartoonist
Douglas Adams, that great galactic hitchiker, once said: "I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by." Today was my day to vacate my house. I'm not sure but that the deadline didn't whoosh by as much as it ran me over.
Fortunately my house is being sold and should close any day now. That means that the previous landlord hasn't got anyone to move in because it isn't going to be his house and the new landlord doesn't own it yet so he can't rent it out, yet. So it's not a problem to stay another week. I hope that does it. This is turning into the Neverending Move™.