Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Monday, May 25, 2009
On Memorial Day: Honoring the dead
Burying the dead at Arlington Cemetery

No matter what a clever ad campaign tells you, today is not just a day for partying and shopping. To date, the U.S. has lost 4,300 troops in Iraq, and 687 in Afghanistan. More than 30,000 have been wounded in both wars. The distribution of U.S. casualties by state can be found here.

U.S. casualties in all of this country's wars can be found here. The remarkable difference is that modern medicine has made many once unsurvivable wounds survivable. But that means that we have an even greater responsibility to care for those who return to us alive. So on this Memorial Day, God bless the dead, and the living, who have done what the rest of us wouldn't have the courage to do.

To see President Obama's ceremony honoring the troops on Memorial Day, go here.

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posted by JReid @ 1:50 PM  
Friday, December 12, 2008
The torture report
A little light holiday reading for in-coming Attorney General Eric Holder:
Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other members of the Bush administration "conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees," claims a Senate Armed Services Committee report issued Thursday.

According to the committee, prisoners were tortured in the Iraqi prison Abu Ghraib, the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and other US military installations. Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ) were responsible for the content of the Senate's findings.

The report determined that placing the blame on "a few bad apples," as Bush administration officials attempted to do in the aftermath of the Abu Ghraib scandal, is inappropriate.

The policies were adopted after government assessments determined waterboarding and other torture techniques were "100 percent effective" at breaking the wills of US officers who underwent the military's Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape program.

What's more:
General Richard Myers, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is also singled out for approving inhumane interrogation techniques, which the former general counsel of the navy, Alberto Mora, said had led to attacks on US troops in Iraq.

"There are serving US flag-rank officers who maintain that the first and second identifiable causes of US combat deaths in Iraq — as judged by their effectiveness in recruiting insurgent fighters into combat — are, respectively, the symbols of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo," Mr Mora said.

The report, which took 18 months to compile, was issued jointly by Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the Democratic chairman of the panel, and Senator John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican.

It said the techniques used were "based, in part, on Chinese communist techniques used during the Korean War to elicit false confessions" from captured US prisoners.

Instructors from the Pentagon agency that trains soldiers in resisting such treatment were sent to Guantanamo, Afghanistan and Iraq to assist in adapting the methods, it said. The report said senior Defence Department officials approached that agency about techniques as early as December 2001. The head of the agency responded that his officials "stand ready to assist" Pentagon efforts at prisoner "exploitation".

See, we do get too much stuff from China. So when do the trials start?

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posted by JReid @ 9:27 PM  
Monday, July 28, 2008
Stupid is as stupid does
From David Kilcullen, a "former Australian Army officer who is now an adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice," and the guy who helped design the current U.S. counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq with David Petraeus:
Kilcullen, who helped Petraeus design his 2007 counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq, called the decision to invade Iraq "stupid" -- in fact, he said "fucking stupid" -- and suggested that if policy-makers apply the manual's lessons, similar wars can be avoided in the future.

"The biggest stupid idea," Kilcullen said, "was to invade Iraq in the first place."

I guess he cares more about pointing out stupidity than he does about the security of the American people... right John McCain? Sadly, Kilcullen's assessment is far from a unique one:
David Rothkopf, a former Clinton administration official and now with the Carnegie Endowment in Washington, said: "Declaring this to be a success based on recent improvements is like saying that a person badly disabled by gunshots has seen his wounds heal. The damage has been done.

"Bush's foreign policy has been a failure and it will be judged on Iraq. He will bear responsibility for an unnecessary and costly war that violated international law, alienated allies and distracted us from the core issues of terrorism, Afghanistan and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons.

"This has to be the worst managed foreign policy of any president since the Second World War. Even if in the medium term Iraq becomes comparatively peaceful, would it be worth the cost? I do not think so."

As for America's standing around the world, the war alienated some major American allies, France and Germany most notably. Others did send troops after the invasion - Spain and Italy among them - but then left as public opinions at home turned hostile.

On the other hand, a number of smaller countries, many of them from the former Soviet block, saw an opportunity to show their loyalty to the US and sent contingents - the Czech Republic, Poland, Georgia and others. For them, a strong and active United States bodes well for their future security.

In turn, Britain's support for the United States has led to further divisions within Europe. These had an impact in the Lisbon treaty talks about a future foreign policy for the EU, strengthening the British determination to keep it firmly in the hands of individual governments.

The invasion of Iraq also caused alarm bells to ring in Russia. There, a new mood of hostility to the West has developed and the Russians have become wary of American power.

Nor has Iraq sparked the democratic revolution in the Middle East that Mr Bush hoped for. And the Israeli/Palestinian conflict remains unresolved.

Ironically it is Iran, with which the US shares a mutual hostility, that has emerged with greater strength, to the concern of the Gulf Arab states.

Ah yes, but at least we've got "the surge.."


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posted by JReid @ 5:40 PM  
Vets suicide hotline drew 22,000 callers; veterans respond to McCain
The war at home:

WASHINGTON (AP) — More than 22,000 veterans have sought help from a special suicide hot line in its first year, and 1,221 suicides have been averted, the government says.

According to a recent RAND Corp. study, roughly one in five soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan displays symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, putting them at a higher risk for suicide. Researchers at Portland State University found that male veterans are twice as likely to commit suicide than men who are not veterans.

This month, a former Army medic, Joseph Dwyer, who was shown in a Military Times photograph running through a battle zone carrying an Iraqi boy, died of an accidental overdose after struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder for almost five years.

Janet Kemp, national suicide prevention coordinator for the Veterans Affairs Department, said the hot line is in place to help prevent deaths such as Dwyer's. "We just want them to know there's other options and people do care about them, and we can help them make a difference in their lives," she said in an interview.

The VA teamed up with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to launch the hot line last July after years of criticism that the VA wasn't doing enough to help wounded soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. In April, two veterans groups sued the VA, citing long delays for processing applications and other problems in treatment for veterans at risk for suicide. The department has spent $2.9 million on the hot line thus far.

The hot line receives up to 250 calls per day — double the average number calling when it began. Kemp said callers are divided evenly between veterans from the Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam wars. Richard McKeon, public health adviser for SAMHSA, said 10 to 20 of the 1,575 calls received each week have to be rerouted to high-volume backup call centers throughout the country.

The VA estimates that every year 6,500 veterans take their own lives. The mental health director for the VA, Ira Katz, said in an e-mail last December that of the 18 veterans who commit suicide each day, four to five of them are under VA care, and 12,000 veterans under VA care are attempting suicide each year.

Meanwhile, the Huffpo has some reactions from members to John McCain's smear campaign against Barack Obama. A sample:

Leaving aside for a moment the fact that Senator McCain has yet to clearly define what victory in Iraq looks like for the United States, it is extremely discouraging to hear such divisive rhetoric coming out of what Senator McCain promised would be a campaign "on the issues." During my time as a soldier and now as a civilian, I have never doubted that anyone on either side of the political spectrum has wanted anything less than the complete success for our troops. It is so unfortunate to see Senator McCain adapt the old tactic of baselessly calling a political opponent's patriotism into question as a campaign tool.

Neil Riley
Ashburn, VA
Iraq and Afghanistan veteran
2002-03 and 2004-05


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posted by JReid @ 2:50 PM  
Monday, July 21, 2008
The pictures that are messing with the minds of Team McCain
While this

... is the photo most of the cable networks are running with (it shows Sen. Barack Obama sitting beside Gen. David Petraeus in a military aircraft,) ABC's Jake Tapper points out how little pic love the senior Senator on the trip: Jack Reed of Rhode Island, is getting from the snapperati. Chuck Hagel? He's doing slightly better.

Meanwhile, the Military News Network releases video of Barack Obama greeting the troops in Kuwait. Take a look at how young these soldiers look:

And this video shows Obama shooting some hoops with the soldiers, and sinking a big corner shot.

The military is strictly neutral, at least publicly. But its clear from the videos that, especially black troops, are hyped about Obama.

Meanwhile #2, from John McCain today: "hey you kids, get off my lawn!!!"

Meanwhile #3, a report says the U.S. Marines, like Obama, are increasingly focusing on Afghanistan, while the Iraq war continues to put the strain on military families.


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posted by JReid @ 5:22 PM  
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Joint Chiefs Chair: the forgotten war needs more troops
The latest in the "Iraq stole our war" saga, courtesy of the Washington Post:

The nation's top military officer said today that more U.S. troops are needed in Afghanistan to help tamp down an increasingly violent insurgency but does not have sufficient forces to send because of the war in Iraq.

Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said insurgent Taliban and extremist forces in Afghanistan have become "a very complex problem" that is tied to the extensive drug trade, a faltering economy and the porous border region with Pakistan. Violence in Afghanistan has increased markedly over recent weeks, and June was the deadliest month for U.S. troops since the war began in 2001, with 28 combat fatalities.

"I am and have been deeply troubled by the increasing violence there," Mullen said, adding that he has made no secret of wanting to send more forces into the country. "The Taliban and their supporters have become more effective in recent weeks. ... We all need to be patient. As we have seen in Iraq, counterinsurgency warfare takes time and commitment."

Mullen said military commanders are looking at the prospects for sending additional troops to Afghanistan in 2009, but conditions in Iraq would have to continue to improve for that to happen. The war in Iraq has occupied as many as 20 military brigades during the troop buildup over the past year. The military is reducing that force to 15 brigades this year.

"I don't have troops I can reach for, brigades I can reach to send into Afghanistan until I have a reduced requirement in Iraq," Mullen said. "Afghanistan remains an economy of force campaign, which by definition means we need more forces there. We have the ability in almost every single case to win from the combat standpoint, but we don't have enough troops there to hold. That is key to the future of being able to succeed in Afghanistan." ...

And as for the neocons' plans for the next war?

Mullen said plainly that he opposes the U.S. or Israel engaging Iran with a military strike.

"My strong preference is to handle all of this diplomatically with the other powers of government, as opposed to any kind of strike occurring," Mullen said. "This is a very unstable part of the world and I don't need it to be more unstable."
Shhh! Don't tell Lieberman and McCain!


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posted by JReid @ 6:08 PM  
Monday, June 30, 2008
Pardon my surrogate
Barack Obama takes a (not that big) step away from General Clark ... and John McCain goes to, of all people, a former member of the ironically-named "Swiftboat Veterans for Truth" to carry his response water. Huh??? Day, on a conference call today for McCain's new "military service truth squad," wasted no time doing what he does best: denigrating the service of a fellow Vietnam vet:
Defending McCain's service, Day was quick to personalize his remarks.

"Things were very difficult for [McCain]," he said. "He was horribly wounded in his extremities, and it was questionable if he would survive his experience. He set a high standard for himself because the Vietnamese tried to release him and he showed courage by refusing that to come about. We had an opportunity to watch a president in office, a Democrat who was extremely ineffective during those years. [McCain] learned an awful lot from that... General Clark spent a month in Vietnam, got badly wounded and was evacuated, that was his experience. I say let's hold the two of them up and compare them."

That Day would politicize Vietnam in his defense of McCain is not surprising. During the 2004 campaign, he said of Kerry: "My view is he basically will go down in history sometime as the Benedict Arnold of 1971." And after appearing in a national advertisement for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign, Day formed the Vietnam Veterans Legacy Foundation, an extension of the Swift Boat effort.

Obama's chief spokesman, Bill Burton, meanwhile, issued the following statement about Clark's comments:

"As he's said many times before, Senator Obama honors and respects Senator McCain's service, and of course he rejects yesterday's statement by General Clark."

Yeah, except that Clark didn't smear John McCain, and what he said is accurate -- simply being a combat veteran, or even a war hero, doesn't qualify you to be president. Nor does it predispose the public to choose you as their commander in chief. Just ask Bob Dole, or George McGovern, whose war service was of no practicable use to them in getting elected. Besides, for all of Bud Day's politicking, Wes Clark spent 34 years in the U.S. military, commanding men and women in the field, in wartime. I think I trust his assessment on this one over a slimeball like Bud Day's. Translation: don't mess with the General.

Related: Any former fellow Clarkies out there, give me an email holla!



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posted by JReid @ 6:15 PM  
More revelations: Iraq, torture, and hello, Dick Myers!
From the Associated Press:
A nearly 700-page study released Sunday by the Army found that "in the euphoria of early 2003," U.S.-based commanders prematurely believed their goals in Iraq had been reached and did not send enough troops to handle the occupation.

President George W. Bush's statement on May 1, 2003, that major combat operations were over reinforced that view, the study said.

It was written by Donald P. Wright and Col. Timothy R. Reese of the Combat Operations Study Team at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., who said that planners who requested more troops were ignored and that commanders in Baghdad were replaced without enough of a transition and lacked enough staff.

... The report said that the civilian and military planning for a post-Saddam Iraq was inadequate, and that the Army should have pushed the Joint Chiefs of Staff for better planning and preparation. Retired military leaders, members of Congress, think tanks and others have already concluded that the occupation was understaffed.
The U.S. combat death toll so far: 4,113. This story, combined with the New York Times piece on the Bush administration's failures in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, should combine for a powerful critique of the Bush foreign policy doctrine -- one which John McCain is pushing to extend. McCain has surrounded himself with the same neocon advisors who pushed for the Iraq invasion, and who underestimated its difficulty (as did the candidate himself.) Not a good look.

Back to the U.S. military, and its superb penchant for introspection, as pointed out by the Times article. That introspection also extended to the issue of torture, where we pick things up with
The former Air Force general and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Richard Myers, helped quash dissent from across the U.S. military as the Bush administration first set up a brutal interrogation regime for terrorism suspects, according to newly public documents and testimony from an ongoing Senate probe.

In late 2002, documents show, officials from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps all complained that harsh interrogation tactics under consideration for use at the prison in Guantánamo Bay might be against the law. Those military officials called for further legal scrutiny of the tactics. The chief of the Army's international law division, for example, said in a memo that some of the tactics, such as stress positions and sensory deprivation, "cross the line of 'humane treatment'" and "may violate the torture statute."

Myers, however, agreed to scuttle a plan for further legal review of the tactics, in response to pressure from a top Pentagon attorney helping to set up the interrogation program for then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Ah yes, torture. Another thing John McCain used to be against... A bit more on Myers' role:

"He is rarely referenced as one of the usual suspects," noted Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington Law School who is following the continuing Senate investigation. "He did play a much more central role" than previously known, Turley said. "The minute the military lawyers expressed concern, they were shut down."

The chain of events involving Myers began in late 2002. Rumsfeld was considering the approval of three categories of interrogation techniques for use at Guantaánamo. The list included some brutal tactics, including stress positions, exploitation of phobias, forced nudity, hooding, isolation, sensory deprivation, exposure to cold and waterboarding, or simulated drowning.

According to written correspondence that came to light during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing June 17, various military leaders balked at the plans in a series of memos produced during the first week of November 2002. In addition to the criticisms raised by the Army, the Air Force leadership cited "serious concerns regarding the legality" of the list of proposed techniques. The Navy also called for further legal review, and the Marine Corps stated that the techniques "arguably violate federal law."

Dick Myers was already on the line, as far as I'm concerned for his part in transporting torture techniques from Gitmo to Iraq, and retired Gen. Rick Sanchez has previously pointed out the administration's incompetence in a war his book dubs "the strategic blunder of all time." These new accounts just add more texture to the case.


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posted by JReid @ 8:19 AM  
The (non) hunt for Osama bin Laden
The New York Times reports the U.S. military's effort to find Osama bin Laden is tripping all over the Bush administration.

Intelligence reports for more than a year had been streaming in about Osama bin Laden’s terrorism network rebuilding in the Pakistani tribal areas, a problem that had been exacerbated by years of missteps in Washington and the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, sharp policy disagreements, and turf battles between American counterterrorism agencies.

The new plan, outlined in a highly classified Pentagon order, was intended to eliminate some of those battles. And it was meant to pave a smoother path into the tribal areas for American commandos, who for years have bristled at what they see as Washington’s risk-averse attitude toward Special Operations missions inside Pakistan. They also argue that catching Mr. bin Laden will come only by capturing some of his senior lieutenants alive.

But more than six months later, the Special Operations forces are still waiting for the green light. The plan has been held up in Washington by the very disagreements it was meant to eliminate. A senior Defense Department official said there was “mounting frustration” in the Pentagon at the continued delay.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush committed the nation to a “war on terrorism” and made the destruction of Mr. bin Laden’s network the top priority of his presidency. But it is increasingly clear that the Bush administration will leave office with Al Qaeda having successfully relocated its base from Afghanistan to Pakistan’s tribal areas, where it has rebuilt much of its ability to attack from the region and broadcast its messages to militants across the world.


The story of how Al Qaeda, whose name is Arabic for “the base,” has gained a new haven is in part a story of American accommodation to President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, whose advisers played down the terrorist threat. It is also a story of how the White House shifted its sights, beginning in 2002, from counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan to preparations for the war in Iraq.

Just as it had on the day before 9/11, Al Qaeda now has a band of terrorist camps from which to plan and train for attacks against Western targets, including the United States. Officials say the new camps are smaller than the ones the group used prior to 2001. However, despite dozens of American missile strikes in Pakistan since 2002, one retired C.I.A. officer estimated that the makeshift training compounds now have as many as 2,000 local and foreign militants, up from several hundred three years ago.

Heck of a job, Bushie. The piece goes on to describe bitter turf battles between the White House and CIA over how to conduct the hunt for bin Laden, and the supposedly cowboy-led Bush administration's reticence to launch actual raids, which would logically yield the best results. It's almost as if they don't want to a) offend Pervez Musharraf, or worse, b) find Osama bin Laden...


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posted by JReid @ 8:07 AM  
Monday, June 02, 2008
Ghost ships of the 'war on terror'
Even as the U.S. military struggles to make improvements in the way we treat detainees in Iraq, the Bush administration continues to stain America's honor with its brutal, ugly so-called "war on terror." First, the military effort:
BAGHDAD — Once a byword for torture and disgrace, the American-run detention system in Iraq has improved, even its critics say, as the military has incorporated it into a larger counterinsurgency strategy that seeks to avoid mistreatment that could create new enemies.

But these gains may soon be at risk. Thousands of detainees are to be turned over to the Iraqi government, some perhaps as early as the end of the year, a further step toward Iraqi sovereignty. Yet however tarnished America’s reputation may be for its treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay, the reputation of many Iraqi prisons is worse.

“The Americans are better than Ministry of Interior prisons,” said Mahmoud Abu Dumour, a former detainee from Falluja, the Sunni stronghold west of Baghdad. “They will torture you. Maybe you will die. With the Americans, if you enter Abu Ghraib, they will only wage psychological war on you.”

Already, Human Rights Watch has criticized the military for transferring some convicted juveniles to Iraqi custody, where they are kept in what the group said are abusive conditions.

Criticism also remains high that the American military detains too many people, deprives them of due process and holds them too long, even if innocent. Many are taken in only because they were near an insurgent attack.

While nearly all of the more than 21,000 detainees in Iraq are in American custody, Maj. Gen. Douglas M. Stone, who runs detainee operations countrywide, is proceeding with a broad experiment to restructure it. His goal is to use the system of detention centers as another front in the counterinsurgency war, trying to reduce the likelihood that they become a recruiting ground for militants.

“The extremists owned the battlefield of the mind,” said General Stone, a Marine Reserve counterinsurgency expert who took responsibility for the detention system last spring. Before he arrived, moderate and extremist detainees were usually mixed, turning the American-run detention facilities into what he called a “jihadi university.”

General Stone’s goal now is to isolate those he believes are extremists, who are a minority of detainees, and persuade the other detainees that they will have better lives if they keep away from those who preach jihad. It is part of the effort to bring detention policy here in line with American military strategy that seeks to separate insurgents from civilians, mentally and physically.

General Stone’s goal is to move detainees, particularly more moderate ones, through the system faster by instituting review boards to hear each detainee’s case. So far, these boards have released at least 8,400 people. He has also pushed to expand paid work programs, like carpentry shops, brick factories and laundries, as well as educational programs, especially for juvenile detainees and the many illiterate adults.

It is difficult to assess this drive toward improvement. Outsiders are forbidden to interview detainees. The International Committee of the Red Cross has regular access to the facilities, but the United Nations and human rights groups say they have not been permitted to enter. ...
And then there's this, not-so-minor issue, that has to do with the wind-down of the Bush administration's stewardship, if you can call it that, of Iraq:
Looming on the horizon is the end of the United Nations authorization of the American involvement in Iraq, including the detention system. The authorization expires Dec. 31 and the United Nations is not expected to take up the issue again, leaving it to negotiations between the United States and Iraq. But the outlook for such a deal, which involves sweeping issues of troop withdrawal, as well as detention and other aspects of an American presence in Iraq, is in doubt.

On Sunday, for instance, the Iraqi government said it would not accept an American draft proposal on the issues.

The detention issues at play cover difficult legal and ethical ground, so much so that no American official interviewed for this article was willing to speak on the record about the discussions.

At the heart of the problem are all the so-called security detainees, who make up an overwhelming majority of the 21,000 people in American custody. They are the people who have been arrested because, in the judgment of the United States military, they could present some threat, even if they are not accused of extremist activity.

It is expected that Iraqi officials, who are now completing new prisons, will seek to take more control of detention operations, including taking custody of at least some of the current Iraqi detainees. That prompts the question characterized by one American military lawyer as “What do we do with the red population?” or those detainees the Americans consider to be extremists — the 8,000 detainees that General Stone referred to as a continuing threat.

Even as the Americans try to overcome their reputation for past mistreatment, serious allegations of torture and substandard conditions in some Iraqi prisons persist. Iraq’s Interior Ministry detention centers, which hold the largest numbers of pretrial detainees, have been run primarily by Shiites and have a record of overcrowding and abuse against the predominantly Sunni detainee population.

There have also been many allegations of torture. In cases in 2005 and 2006, it was American and British soldiers who rescued beaten and starved prisoners.

“If the coalition is going to turn over detainees, there are real Convention Against Torture issues,” said Kevin Lanigan, a former Army Reserve judge advocate in Iraq who is director of the law and security program at Human Rights First, a rights organization.

He was referring to the international Convention Against Torture, which among other things prohibits nations that have signed it from turning detainees over to countries where there are “substantial grounds” to believe that they would be tortured. Iraq has also signed the convention.

And speaking of "Convention Against Torture issues," the Guardian reports on "ghost ships" rendering detainees to ports unknown, where they may indeed, pose those issues.
The United States is operating "floating prisons" to house those arrested in its war on terror, according to human rights lawyers, who claim there has been an attempt to conceal the numbers and whereabouts of detainees.

Details of ships where detainees have been held and sites allegedly being used in countries across the world have been compiled as the debate over detention without trial intensifies on both sides of the Atlantic. The US government was yesterday urged to list the names and whereabouts of all those detained.

Information about the operation of prison ships has emerged through a number of sources, including statements from the US military, the Council of Europe and related parliamentary bodies, and the testimonies of prisoners.

The analysis, due to be published this year by the human rights organisation Reprieve, also claims there have been more than 200 new cases of rendition since 2006, when President George Bush declared that the practice had stopped.

It is the use of ships to detain prisoners, however, that is raising fresh concern and demands for inquiries in Britain and the US.

According to research carried out by Reprieve, the US may have used as many as 17 ships as "floating prisons" since 2001. Detainees are interrogated aboard the vessels and then rendered to other, often undisclosed, locations, it is claimed.

Ships that are understood to have held prisoners include the USS Bataan and USS Peleliu. A further 15 ships are suspected of having operated around the British territory of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, which has been used as a military base by the UK and the Americans.

Reprieve will raise particular concerns over the activities of the USS Ashland and the time it spent off Somalia in early 2007 conducting maritime security operations in an effort to capture al-Qaida terrorists.

At this time many people were abducted by Somali, Kenyan and Ethiopian forces in a systematic operation involving regular interrogations by individuals believed to be members of the FBI and CIA. Ultimately more than 100 individuals were "disappeared" to prisons in locations including Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Guantánamo Bay.

Reprieve believes prisoners may have also been held for interrogation on the USS Ashland and other ships in the Gulf of Aden during this time. ...

So let's get this straight. The Bush administration is concerned about turning over Iraqi prisoners to the Iraqi government because of concerns they might be tortured, but we continue to ferry prisoners secretly on American military vessels, where we might be torturing them ... I mean "interrogating" them ... and where we very well might be rendering them to rogue governments so that THEY can torture them?

And right wingers want to keep this outrage going with four years of John McCain?


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posted by JReid @ 11:01 AM  
Thursday, May 22, 2008
John McCain erupts over G.I. Bill
John McCain is a hot head. Most people know that. His reaction today to Barack Obama's criticism of his failure to support the G.I. Bill which passed the Senate today can only be described in two words: ape shit. Observe:
"And I will not accept from Senator Obama, who did not feel it was his responsibility to serve our country in uniform, any lectures on my regard for those who did," the Arizona senator said in a harshly worded statement issued Thursday.

McCain lashed out at Obama's personal history despite Obama's repeated praise of McCain's military service. As Obama said Tuesday night in Des Moines, Iowa: "We face an opponent, John McCain, who arrived in Washington nearly three decades ago as a Vietnam War hero, and earned an admirable reputation for straight talk and occasional independence from his party."
In fact, that's just a snippet of what was actually an eight-paragraph screed, which is posted on McCain's web-site. A few snippets:
"It is typical, but no less offensive that Senator Obama uses the Senate floor to take cheap shots at an opponent and easy advantage of an issue he has less than zero understanding of. Let me say first in response to Senator Obama, running for President is different than serving as President. The office comes with responsibilities so serious that the occupant can't always take the politically easy route without hurting the country he is sworn to defend. Unlike Senator Obama, my admiration, respect and deep gratitude for America's veterans is something more than a convenient campaign pledge. I think I have earned the right to make that claim. ...

And later, after a curious segway reminding voters that he was very much alive during World War II ... there's this:
""Perhaps, if Senator Obama would take the time and trouble to understand this issue he would learn to debate an honest disagreement respectfully. But, as he always does, he prefers impugning the motives of his opponent, and exploiting a thoughtful difference of opinion to advance his own ambitions. If that is how he would behave as President, the country would regret his election."

It will be interesting to see how the old man's bitter demands for respect from the haughty young ... whippersnapper ... yeah, let's go with that ... will go over on Main Street.

Meanwhile, it's helpful to remember that this is the same John McCain who has stood with George W. Bush, who ducked his National Guard service by going AWOL during the Vietnam War, with Dick "Five Deferments" Cheney, with Joe "More Wars ... but I never served" Lieberman and other chickenhawks time and again as he helped them push the useless war in Iraq, and who stands with the GOP firestarters who slam congressional Democrats -- many more of whom HAVE served their country versus elected Republicans -- as unpatriotic for not me-tooing GWB on the war.

It's also the same John McCain who has, unconscionably, refused to support a G.I. Bill with the kinds of benefits afforded to people like him when he left military service, because in his view, it's too expensive, and might woo servicemen out of repeated tours in Iraq. Too expense? Shouldn't it be that nothing is too expensive for those who have sacrificed so much and received so little in return? Too expensive? When we're draining our treasury to help the Iraqis buy cheap oil and use our soldiers as their policemen? Too expensive? For who, John? You seem prepared to spend every penny of American treasure for Iraq, but not for your fellow soldiers...?

Worse, the response from McCain, whether from him or approved by him, is so over-the-top, so enraged, that it calls into question McCain's mental fitness to serve as commander in chief.

Time for a temper check, John, old boy.


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posted by JReid @ 5:20 PM  
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Congress watch: the G.I. Bill
Congress faces a crucial vote on a new G.I. Bill tomorrow. From an IAVA press release today:
On Thursday, May 8, the House of Representatives will vote on a World War II-style GI Bill for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the nation's first and largest nonpartisan organization for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, strongly endorses this critical legislation. It was originally introduced in Congress by some of the Senate's own combat veterans, including Senators Jim Webb (D-VA) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE). The bill has the extraordinary bipartisan support of more than 330 Senators and Representatives and the endorsement of every major Veterans Service Organization from IAVA to the American Legion to Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). The GI Bill is being voted on as an amendment to the war supplemental spending plan.

"Congress has a historic choice to make tomorrow. Lawmakers will go on record regarding whether they support our nation's newest generation of veterans," said Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. "The momentum for a 21st Century GI Bill has been incredible. The widespread support among lawmakers on both sides of the aisle proves that caring for our nation's veterans is not a partisan issue. Tomorrow, we urge every member of Congress to vote ‘yes' on GI Bill funding and show unanimous support for our troops."

The GI Bill being voted on tomorrow would substantially increase the educational benefits available to servicemembers who have served since September 11th, 2001. The bill would cover the cost of tuition up to the most expensive in-state public school and provide a living and book stipend, so that new veterans can focus on their educations and their readjustment to civilian life. It would also offer a more equitable benefit to National Guardsmen and Reservists than what is currently available. Furthermore, because the legislation is linked to the cost of higher education, it would keep its value over time.

"In addition to providing veterans with a brighter future, a 21st Century GI Bill would stimulate our nation's economy and serve as a tremendous boon to military recruitment," said Rieckhoff. "Passing a new GI Bill is simply the right thing to do."

The Senate version is the one NOT being supported by U.S. Navy veteran John McCain.

Let's see what the House does.


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posted by JReid @ 10:36 PM  
Monday, April 28, 2008
Pentagon suspends propaganda generals
For now, the Pentagon has shelved its program sending retired generals to the major TV and cable networks as propagandists for the war. Official reason: "internal review." Unoficial reason: New York Times...


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posted by JReid @ 4:12 PM  
Larry Korb should know
Above: a picture you won't find of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity,
Dick Cheney or any of the chicken hawks attacking Jeremiah Wright
and questioning his patriotism.

I'm privileged to know Lawrence Korb, who served as undersecretary of defense for manpower during the Reagan administration and who now is a senior fellow at the Democrat-leaning Center for American Progress. Dr. Korb remains a Republican, if an iconoclastic one on the subject of Iraq, and he is, in my experience, the smartest analyst on the subject of the war. I met him in December 2003 during a brief journalism fellowship in Maryland, and he was my number one "go to guy" on Iraq when I was with Radio One. I say that to say that Korb's opinion is one I deeply respect. So when I noticed that it is he who co-authored (with fellow military veteran and CAP staffer Ian Moss -- Korb is a Navy man, Moss a former Marine,) this editorial, I took particular notice. So should you:
In 1961, a young African-American man, after hearing President John F. Kennedy's challenge to, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country," gave up his student deferment, left college in Virginia and voluntarily joined the Marines.

In 1963, this man, having completed his two years of service in the Marines, volunteered again to become a Navy corpsman. (They provide medical assistance to the Marines as well as to Navy personnel.)

The man did so well in corpsman school that he was the valedictorian and became a cardiopulmonary technician. Not surprisingly, he was assigned to the Navy's premier medical facility, Bethesda Naval Hospital, as a member of the commander in chief's medical team, and helped care for President Lyndon B. Johnson after his 1966 surgery. For his service on the team, which he left in 1967, the White House awarded him three letters of commendation.

What is even more remarkable is that this man entered the Marines and Navy not many years after the two branches began to become integrated.

While this young man was serving six years on active duty, Vice President Dick Cheney, who was born the same year as the Marine/sailor, received five deferments, four for being an undergraduate and graduate student and one for being a prospective father. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, both five years younger than the African-American youth, used their student deferments to stay in college until 1968. Both then avoided going on active duty through family connections.

Who is the real patriot? The young man who interrupted his studies to serve his country for six years or our three political leaders who beat the system? Are the patriots the people who actually sacrifice something or those who merely talk about their love of the country?

After leaving the service of his country, the young African-American finished his final year of college, entered the seminary, was ordained as a minister, and eventually became pastor of a large church in one of America's biggest cities.

This man is Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the retiring pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, who has been in the news for comments he made over the last three decades.
The two men go on to disagree with some of Wright's statements, but they add a very important caveat:
... Some of the Wright's comments are inexcusable and inappropriate and should be condemned, but in calling him "unpatriotic," let us not forget that this is a man who gave up six of the most productive years of his life to serve his country.

How many of Wright's detractors, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly to name but a few, volunteered for service, and did so under the often tumultuous circumstances of a newly integrated armed forces and a society in the midst of a civil rights struggle? Not many.

While words do count, so do actions.

Let us not forget that, for whatever Rev. Wright may have said over the last 30 years, he has demonstrated his patriotism.
Thank you, Dr. Korb.


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posted by JReid @ 3:48 PM  
Monday, April 21, 2008
The propagandists
I'm not sure how much of a bombshell it is that the military analysts paraded constantly on television in the lead up to, and during, the war in Iraq, were there to promote and propagandize the conflict. As far back as 2003, I had discussed creating an online backgrounder on analysts like Gen. Wayne Downing, who was part of the planning for the war, and other retired generals who a quick Google search would reveal were members of various pro-war think tanks, including the American Enterprise Institute (think about that one for a second -- a group pushing for war, devoted to "enterprise" -- not a long leap.)

Still, it's good that the NYT is making the facts plain, for those who didn't Google their analysts, to see. From Sunday's report:
In the summer of 2005, the Bush administration confronted a fresh wave of criticism over Guantánamo Bay. The detention center had just been branded “the gulag of our times” by Amnesty International, there were new allegations of abuse from United Nations human rights experts and calls were mounting for its closure.

The administration’s communications experts responded swiftly. Early one Friday morning, they put a group of retired military officers on one of the jets normally used by Vice President Dick Cheney and flew them to Cuba for a carefully orchestrated tour of Guantánamo.

To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.

Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.

The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.

Those business relationships are hardly ever disclosed to the viewers, and sometimes not even to the networks themselves. But collectively, the men on the plane and several dozen other military analysts represent more than 150 military contractors either as lobbyists, senior executives, board members or consultants. The companies include defense heavyweights, but also scores of smaller companies, all part of a vast assemblage of contractors scrambling for hundreds of billions in military business generated by the administration’s war on terror. It is a furious competition, one in which inside information and easy access to senior officials are highly prized.

Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse — an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks.

Analysts have been wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior military leaders, including officials with significant influence over contracting and budget matters, records show. They have been taken on tours of Iraq and given access to classified intelligence. They have been briefed by officials from the White House, State Department and Justice Department, including Mr. Cheney, Alberto R. Gonzales and Stephen J. Hadley.

In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access.

A few expressed regret for participating in what they regarded as an effort to dupe the American public with propaganda dressed as independent military analysis.

“It was them saying, ‘We need to stick our hands up your back and move your mouth for you,’ ” Robert S. Bevelacqua, a retired Green Beret and former Fox News analyst, said.

Kenneth Allard, a former NBC military analyst who has taught information warfare at the National Defense University, said the campaign amounted to a sophisticated information operation. “This was a coherent, active policy,” he said.

As conditions in Iraq deteriorated, Mr. Allard recalled, he saw a yawning gap between what analysts were told in private briefings and what subsequent inquiries and books later revealed.

“Night and day,” Mr. Allard said, “I felt we’d been hosed.”
When I did a Knight journalism fellowship at the University of Maryland in December 2003 for editorial writers, we were given the same sort of treatment. We were given briefings by top Pentagon officials, including Douglas Feith, Stephen Cambone, etc., and those briefings were clearly designed to present the administration's view in a way that might reflect in our editorial writing. For about half of our group, it just made us more cynical, and more skeptical.

Back to the generals. Some of them were obvious plants from the start. Take the late (and legendary) Gen. Wayne Downing, in December, 2001, the Washington post wrote of him:
Wayne Downing is the most famous terrorism fighter you've never heard of. Less than a month after the Sept. 11 attacks, he shelved his semi-retirement to coordinate the nation's far-flung campaign "to detect, disrupt and destroy global terrorist organizations and those who support them," as the White House put it. He has the president's ear -- but whatever he's saying is not for public consumption. Even the size of his staff has been deemed a national security secret.

As a young Ranger, Downing, now 61, learned to stalk the enemy at night and capture rattlesnakes for food. In 34 years he rose through the ranks to command all special operations troops, including the clandestine Delta Force commandos whose close-quarter tactics are vital in places like Afghanistan. Battle-tested in Vietnam, Panama and the Persian Gulf, Downing is revered among the elite soldiers who call themselves "the quiet professionals."

He reports to national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge. He has more experience with terrorism than either of them. His unwieldy title is national director and deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism. Those who admire Downing would suggest a more concise one: the president's secret weapon.

"They brought him in because he knows how to get things done," says L. Paul Bremer, the State Department's ambassador at large for counterterrorism during the Reagan administration. "The bureaucracy very often needs a very good kick in the pants. He's going to have to crack some heads together."
And this:
But for brief periods he has ventured into the limelight, usually to sound the alarm about terrorism. Since leaving the Army in 1996, he has served on task forces investigating how terrorists operate and urging heightened security.

"They and their state sponsors have begun an undeclared war on the United States," he wrote in an August 1996 review of the truck-bombing of the Khobar Towers military housing complex in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 and wounded hundreds more. "They must be seen as 'soldiers' employing different means of achieving their political and military goals. They wear uniforms we cannot recognize and use tactics that we find repugnant and cowardly . . . Fanatics will be prepared to sacrifice their lives to achieve their goals."

Downing also war-gamed a scenario that exposed America's vulnerability to chemical and biological attacks. It foresaw terrorists releasing chemical agents with crop-dusting planes. Carl Stiner, a fellow retired general, recalled that he and Downing delivered their findings to the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 1997.

On Sept. 12, 2001, Downing was on ABC, explaining to viewers of "Nightline" the notion of "asymmetric" warfare: These foes, though small in number, knew exactly how to exploit the weaknesses of the strongest nation on Earth. "The paradigm has changed," he said. "And this isn't going to be over in a month or two months or six months. But this may well take years."

ABC quickly signed him up as an on-air consultant. These days Downing wears his gray hair slightly longer than when he was a West Point plebe; on camera he looked a bit uncomfortable, his neck tightly cinched in a button-down shirt. But his authority was obvious.

"We're going to find out where they are," he said of the perpetrators. "And then we're going to go get them."

It was no saber-rattling act. He made it sound like his destiny.

Downing once was courted for the job of White House drug czar, but friends say he felt that was an unwinnable war. He later vowed he wouldn't return to the government unless there were a national emergency. He preferred to stay in Colorado, enjoying the fishing and skiing, the time with his wife and grandkids. He also had enough land for four hefty Labradors.

But on Oct. 9, he reenlisted for public service, leaving the army of TV talking heads and giving up his seat on the board of an Australian high-tech weapons firm, Metal Storm, which boasts of inventing a gun that can fire a million rounds a minute. And he put aside another of his passions: serving as military adviser to a group of Iraqi dissidents who have been hoping for years to depose dictator Saddam Hussein.

He was no longer interested in media attention. He spoke for a minute and a half at the news conference announcing his White House post before concluding, "It's going to be a tough fight, but we will prevail. Thank you very much."

Then he exited to the shadows.
Downing, and another MSNBC favorite, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, also sat on the board of an organization called the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which pushed for the invasion of that country prior to the war. Other familiar names from that group: Deocon Richard Woolsey and the Dark Lord himself, Richard Perle, along with two elected officials who served as honorary co-chairs: Joe Lieberman and John McCain...

Back to Sunday's NYT piece:
Five years into the Iraq war, most details of the architecture and execution of the Pentagon’s campaign have never been disclosed. But The Times successfully sued the Defense Department to gain access to 8,000 pages of e-mail messages, transcripts and records describing years of private briefings, trips to Iraq and Guantánamo and an extensive Pentagon talking points operation.

These records reveal a symbiotic relationship where the usual dividing lines between government and journalism have been obliterated.

Internal Pentagon documents repeatedly refer to the military analysts as “message force multipliers” or “surrogates” who could be counted on to deliver administration “themes and messages” to millions of Americans “in the form of their own opinions.”

Though many analysts are paid network consultants, making $500 to $1,000 per appearance, in Pentagon meetings they sometimes spoke as if they were operating behind enemy lines, interviews and transcripts show. Some offered the Pentagon tips on how to outmaneuver the networks, or as one analyst put it to Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary, “the Chris Matthewses and the Wolf Blitzers of the world.” Some warned of planned stories or sent the Pentagon copies of their correspondence with network news executives. Many — although certainly not all — faithfully echoed talking points intended to counter critics.

“Good work,” Thomas G. McInerney, a retired Air Force general, consultant and Fox News analyst, wrote to the Pentagon after receiving fresh talking points in late 2006. “We will use it.”

Again and again, records show, the administration has enlisted analysts as a rapid reaction force to rebut what it viewed as critical news coverage, some of it by the networks’ own Pentagon correspondents. For example, when news articles revealed that troops in Iraq were dying because of inadequate body armor, a senior Pentagon official wrote to his colleagues: “I think our analysts — properly armed — can push back in that arena.”

The documents released by the Pentagon do not show any quid pro quo between commentary and contracts. But some analysts said they had used the special access as a marketing and networking opportunity or as a window into future business possibilities.

John C. Garrett is a retired Army colonel and unpaid analyst for Fox News TV and radio. He is also a lobbyist at Patton Boggs who helps firms win Pentagon contracts, including in Iraq. In promotional materials, he states that as a military analyst he “is privy to weekly access and briefings with the secretary of defense, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other high level policy makers in the administration.” One client told investors that Mr. Garrett’s special access and decades of experience helped him “to know in advance — and in detail — how best to meet the needs” of the Defense Department and other agencies.

In interviews Mr. Garrett said there was an inevitable overlap between his dual roles. He said he had gotten “information you just otherwise would not get,” from the briefings and three Pentagon-sponsored trips to Iraq. He also acknowledged using this access and information to identify opportunities for clients. “You can’t help but look for that,” he said, adding, “If you know a capability that would fill a niche or need, you try to fill it. “That’s good for everybody.”

At the same time, in e-mail messages to the Pentagon, Mr. Garrett displayed an eagerness to be supportive with his television and radio commentary. “Please let me know if you have any specific points you want covered or that you would prefer to downplay,” he wrote in January 2007, before President Bush went on TV to describe the surge strategy in Iraq.

Conversely, the administration has demonstrated that there is a price for sustained criticism, many analysts said. “You’ll lose all access,” Dr. McCausland said.
And the person behind much of the campaign, is none other than Torie Clarke, now a TV analyst in her own right:
By early 2002, detailed planning for a possible Iraq invasion was under way, yet an obstacle loomed. Many Americans, polls showed, were uneasy about invading a country with no clear connection to the Sept. 11 attacks. Pentagon and White House officials believed the military analysts could play a crucial role in helping overcome this resistance.

Torie Clarke, the former public relations executive who oversaw the Pentagon’s dealings with the analysts as assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, had come to her job with distinct ideas about achieving what she called “information dominance.” In a spin-saturated news culture, she argued, opinion is swayed most by voices perceived as authoritative and utterly independent.

And so even before Sept. 11, she built a system within the Pentagon to recruit “key influentials” — movers and shakers from all walks who with the proper ministrations might be counted on to generate support for Mr. Rumsfeld’s priorities.

In the months after Sept. 11, as every network rushed to retain its own all-star squad of retired military officers, Ms. Clarke and her staff sensed a new opportunity. To Ms. Clarke’s team, the military analysts were the ultimate “key influential” — authoritative, most of them decorated war heroes, all reaching mass audiences.

The analysts, they noticed, often got more airtime than network reporters, and they were not merely explaining the capabilities of Apache helicopters. They were framing how viewers ought to interpret events. What is more, while the analysts were in the news media, they were not of the news media. They were military men, many of them ideologically in sync with the administration’s neoconservative brain trust, many of them important players in a military industry anticipating large budget increases to pay for an Iraq war.

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posted by JReid @ 8:29 AM  
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
When you can count 'em on one hand...
John McCain may have a surrogate who can't tell Barack Obama from Tiger Woods, but McCain's real problem may be that the vet who uttered today's foot in mouth classic could be one of Baghdad John's few supporters among the men and women who have actually fought in Iraq:
Vice President Dick Cheney came to rouse the troops in Iraq this week. But their replies are any indication, the VP's peroration wasn't very persuasive.

ABC's Martha Raddatz talked with troops gathered to hear Cheney speak. Just one was quoted speaking highly of McCain -- though she suggested she found other McCain supporters. The airman's remark?

"Might as well keep it going."
By the way, I think the Keith count tonight was 11 troops in the group, 4 for Obama, 2 for Hillary, 1 for McCain and the rest undecided, but hoping whoever wins will get them the hell out of Iraq.

By the way, apparently comparing Barack to Tiger is very much in fashion. A Google search of "Obana and Tiger Woods" turns up some 437,000 entries. Even with duplicates of the same linked stories, we're talking about thousands of possible references, with everyone from Cliff May to John Fund to some guy named John Ziegler getting in on the act. (Fund, by the way, is no Tiger Woods of journalism: his December 2006 reference comes in a column predicting Obama won't run for president.)

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posted by JReid @ 11:43 PM  
Monday, March 24, 2008
The Iraq war reaches a grim milestone for American troops, courtesy of a roadside bomb in Baghdad. An other 29,000 U.S. troops have been injured in the folly to find Saddam Hussein's non-existent weapons of mass destruction. More on the progression of the dead:

The 1,000th US soldier to die was in September 2004, in the midst of a presidential election that returned Mr Bush to office for a second term.

The toll climbed to 2,000 in October 2005 as Sunni Arab insurgents battled to oust the Iraqi Government, and 3,000 in December 2006, before the US President unveiled a plan to send 30,000 more troops to Iraq to quell violence that has killed tens of thousands of Iraqis and displaced millions more.

And we rarely know their names. The most recent death, so far unofficially reported, was 27 year old David Stelmat, who was in the Army, and who was somebody's beloved son, probably someone's brother, possibly the love of someone's life... He died on March 22nd. His and the other fallen troops are listed here.

Meanwhile, in the even more forgotten war, 488 U.S. troops and 296 coalition troops have been killed in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

And the question of who was killed in the war (or wars) and who was not remains open for some families, who are having to fight the military just to get their loved ones counted. From the Army Times:

WAUSAU, Wis. — Joan McDonald believes her son was a casualty of the war in Iraq, but the Army says that while he did suffer a severe head wound in a bomb blast, the cause of his death is undetermined, keeping him off the casualty list.

She and her family are demanding more answers in the death of Sgt. James W. McDonald.

“I don’t want it to be an undetermined cause of death,” said Joan McDonald. “That is ridiculous.”

McDonald, 26, was injured in a roadside bomb blast in Iraq last May. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment based at Fort Hood, Texas. After treatment in Germany, McDonald returned to Fort Hood and underwent extensive facial surgery in August.

His body was found in his barracks apartment Nov. 12, a Monday. He was last seen alive the previous Friday.

The Army ruled out suicide and accidental factors, but an autopsy could not determine the exact cause of death, in part because of the decomposition of the body, said Col. Diane Battaglia, a base spokeswoman.

As a result, McDonald’s death is considered noncombat-related, with the caveat that medical experts couldn’t rule out that “traumatic brain injury” may have been a factor, Battaglia said.

Joan McDonald, of Neenah, has no doubts about her son’s death.

“If my son was not at the war, he would not be dead, plain and simple,” she said. “He was a strong healthy boy. ... Don’t tell me it was unrelated to the war. I will never accept that.”

Tom Wilborn, a spokesman for Disabled American Veterans in Washington, said the question of whether McDonald was a war casualty is the first that he was aware of from the Iraq war.

“But it happened a lot during Vietnam,” he said. “There’s a long history where guys would be wounded in the jungle and they might live long enough to come home. And then they would pass away and were not counted as a combat casualty.”

According to an Army study in 2007, 1.4 million people in the U.S. suffer traumatic brain injuries each year. Of those, 50,000 die, 235,000 are hospitalized and 1.1 million are evaluated, treated at a hospital emergency department and released.

A Government Accountability Office study found that of soldiers who required a medical evacuation for battle-related injuries in Iraq or Afghanistan, 30 percent suffered a traumatic brain injury. But it was unknown how many soldiers suffered more mild forms of brain injury. ...

The family has turned to Russ Feingold for help. And how do members of the armed services measure the time, and the loss? In friends and marriages lost, and in time, that at times, seems wasted. A couple of posts from the Military Times website:
Robert Delgado, March 21 -

It’s a media hype(The Annivesary), we as soldiers don’t care about the 5 year time span. I served with the 4th Infantry Division Artillery from 2001 till 2004 and recieved the Purple Heart wounds recieved in combat. Most soldiers have done at least two tours in iraq and some more than 4. But what sticks out more than anything is that we are still there. The insurgency is not going anywhere and we have become the police force for the Iraqi nation. As you read this wewill have lost over 4000 soldiers.What were our goverments plans for this war? We know now that there were no weapons of mass destruction. Forget 5 and down let’s bring our men and women home.

Warrior, March 23 -

5 years, I agree, it is merely a number…I’ve just begun reading the book, ‘The Final Move Beyond Iraq,’ by Mike Evans. I’m so proud of each and every Service Member that is courageously sacrificing their life for the freedom we call home here in America. It’s not about being a republican or democrat, not about the right or the left wing, not about pro or anti-war…but what it is about is taking the enemy down with a unified Army. However, it is maddening and saddening about all the families that have been split up, loves ones lost, and the health affects the war is having on so many troops…one thing to keep in mind is that war has been a part of history before any of us were a mere thought…
Whether you love the war or hate the war, how can you help but love the warriors? God bless each and every one.

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posted by JReid @ 9:32 AM  
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
El Desperado
I listened to as much as I could stand of Rush Limbaugh (talent on loan from the Devil) this afternoon, and I have to admit, it was pretty funny. Limbaugh launched into about a 15 minute tirade against Harry Reid, Tom Harkin (who speculated hilariously about El Rushbo's possible return to drug use yesterday) and other Congressional Democrats who have condemned his September 26 slur against American troops who oppose the president's Iraq policy. Rush said last week that any troops who speak out against the Iraq war as being fought under the direction of Mr. Bush are "phony soldiers." Since then, Democrats have been excoriating him, taking full advantage of the rank hypocrisy on display by a man who has never served his country, took draft deferrments during Vietnam, and who lambasted for coining the Blackfive blog phrase "Betray-us" in an ad criticizing the P.R. flacking of Gen. David Petraeus, Bush's man in Iraq.

So today, Rush desperately tried to turn the tables on the Dems, accusing them of trying to reverse their irrelevancy by attacking him, and even comparing Harry Reid to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and a soldier who stars in a new Internet ad denouncing Rush's comments on behalf of to a suicide bomber ... says Rush:
"This is such a blatant use of a valiant combat veteran, lying to him about what I said and then strapping those lies to his belt, sending him out via the media and a TV ad to walk into as many people as he can walk into. This man will always be a hero to this country with everyone. Whoever pumped him full of these lies about what I said and embarrassed him with this ad has betrayed him, they aren't hurting me they are betraying this soldier," Limbaugh said.

lord have mercy...

Rush is desperate, I'd wager because at long last, he has waded into a controversy from which he cannot wriggle out, cannot stop the curtain from falling back, cannot retreat before being fully exposed for the rank hypocrite he is. Finally, it has been made plain for all to see that Rush -- who once had sole ownership of the airwaves our troops are fed, Armed Forces Radio -- really doesn't give a rat's ass about the troops. In fact, he has use for them, only in so far as they serve as willing props for his masters in the White House and the GOP. In short, Rush is a White House stooge and Party hack, and the soldiers he claims to be the champion of are nothing more than political cannon fodder. It's when they start thinking things through that they become the enemy, just like the Democrats, just like the "drive by media" and just like anyone who dares to criticize George W. Bush.

Rush, who is every bit a coward and chickenhawk, ought to just apologize, rather than doctoring the podcasts (seriously...) to try and cover up his statement, and rather than attacking others who are raising legitimate criticisms of him.

But he won't. He can't. He has too much to lose.

Rush skated on the whole drugs and foreign sex trips vibe, but if his die-hards ever start to doubt him on matters of patriotism of military might, well, they just might start asking some uncomfortable questions about their lovable, lisping windbag of an airwaves leader... ahem...

Meanwhile, the Dems send a letter of condemnation to Mark Mays, who runs Clear Channel, which incidentally, owns Jeff Christie's ... er ... Rush's show -- (hm ... no wonder he's on so many stations ... his bosses OWN the stations ... kind of changes the context of his primacy in radio... on his own merits, I wonder how prolific El Rushbo would be...)

Related: Media Matters displays excellence in fact checking.

(Photo credit:

UPDATE: Mark Mays responds to the Dems, saying essentially, "free speech, bitches." Full letter here.

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posted by JReid @ 7:47 PM  
Thursday, September 27, 2007
I won't hold my breath waiting for the frighty Congress, let alone the right wing nut-0-shere, to condemn draft dodger and theoretical troop supporter Rush Limbaugh for branding soldiers who question the rationale of the Iraq war "phony soldiers," any more than I'd expect them to attack the first person to come up with the term "General Betray-us" -- no, not, and not Keith Olbermann -- rather, a commenter called Brad R. Torgerson, who coined the phrase in a posting on the blog belonging to conservative milblogger Blackfive (who apparently doesn't see the irony in filing an FEC complaint over an ad for which one of his posters essentially wrote the headline.)

Here's Blackfive's post, dated November 19, 2005 and titled "Generals of yesterday and today" (hat tip to Democratic Underground, though the poster there copied the wrong commenter's handle):
Posted by: Brad R. Torgersen November 17, 2005 at 07:23 PM

I don't know GEN Petraeus personally...but when I was in the "Devil Brigade" folks called him "Colonel Betrayus". He came up with things like the "Devil button" (button your BDU collar up to the top when on jumps) and the "Devil grip" (special name for keeping your trigger finger out of the trigger well) which sounded hokey to most of the troops at the time.Can any other All American paratroopers out there expand on my comment?Posted by: TBone November 19, 2005 at 10:52 AM
Torgersen was participating in a thread comparing the relative greatness of past era generals like Patton to the modern ilk. The exchange started when another poster, "IRR Soldier", posted a positie review of then Lt. Gen. Petraeus:

Posted by: IRR Soldier... November 17, 2005 at 06:09 PM

LTG Petraeus. When I arrived to my battalion in the 82nd Airborne as a private, he was leaving the battalion as it's commander. The troops loved him, and would have followed him without question.
To which Torgersen responded:

Posted by: Brad R. Torgersen November 18, 2005 at 08:07 AM

Petraeus may have been loved by his troops but his officers hated him. He was a pompous, "mine is bigger than yours" kind of guy. However, he is one of the most brilliant men I have ever met or worked for.

My vote goes to BG Bill Mayville. He was my BC in the 82nd before leading the 173d into Iraq. Hard as woodpecker lips, tough, but fair.
Then further down the thread, Torgersen posts the "Betray-us" line.

So doesn't that mean that when Congress condemned the Move-on ad, they were really condemning the Devil Brigade???

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posted by JReid @ 8:39 PM  
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Is this any way to support the troops?
NBC did a report tonight of the U.S. Army's refusal to switch from Interceptor body armor, which has been in use for decades, to state-of-the art "dragon skin" armor, made by a company called Pinnacle, which in March of 2006 was banned by the Army for use by its soldiers, two months before it was tested, and even though top generals and other dignitaries were knowingly protected by troops who were issued dragon skin, and the CIA also issued the superior dragon skin to its operatives in Iraq. Even the inventor of the Interceptor armor told NBC that dragon skin is far superior to his design, because it's flexible and covers more of the body's vital parts, and that if he were deployed to combat, he'd choose dragon skin.

After listening to the report on Countdown, I decided to do a little bit of digging. What I found is nothing new, just as the reports of our troops being issued defective body armor isn't new (not least to the troops themselves). But new or not, here it is:

Interceptor body armor is manufactured by a company called Point Blank Body Armor, which is a division of DHB Industries out of right down here in Pompano Beach, Florida (they also have offices in Deerfield Beach, Oakland Park, Jacksboro, TN and Washington D.C).

DHB has a retired 4 star general as its president, a retired California State Senator (William Campbell) as its chairman of the board, and as of March of this year, and a retired Marine general (Lt. Gen. Martin Berndt) as one of its directors. The company announced that it had received some $248 million in contracts to supply the U.S. Army with body armor. According to a January press release:

January 16, 2007


Pompano Beach, Florida – DHB Industries Inc. (OTC Pink Sheets: DHBT.PK), a leader in the field of protective body armor, announced today that it had received orders for approximately $82 million to supply the U.S. Army with the Deltoid Axillary Protection System (DAPS) and the Enhanced Side Ballistic Insert (ESBI). These orders came under contracts awarded to Point Blank Body Armor, one of the Company’s wholly-owned subsidiaries.

New Orders

The Company received an order of approximately $51 million to supply the United States Army with DAPS. The Company anticipates it will begin shipping product against this new order in May 2007 and complete shipments in October 2007. This order is part of the approximately $239 million contract awarded in June 2004, which was subsequently modified to approximately $248 million. Potential orders now remaining on the DAPS three-year contract are about $67 million.
Oh, and the DHB in DHB Industries? It stands for David H. Brooks. A bit about him:
From an article by Katrina Vanden Heuvel published in The Nation on my birthday in 2005:

Bat Mitzvah Corruption: In terms of sheer outrage, millionaire defense contractor David H. Brooks is hard to top. The New York Daily News recently reported that Brooks spent an estimated $10 million on his daughter's bat mitzvah reception. Aerosmith performed at the reception (reportedly earning a cool two million dollars), and Kenny G, 50 Cent, Tom Petty and The Eagles' Don Henley and Joe Walsh also played. Here's the kicker: Brooks has reportedly made more than $250 million in wartime profits as the CEO of DHB Industries-- which has had thousands of defective bulletproof vests recalled by the government!

According to a government investigation into the faulty vests that was uncovered by the Marine Corps Times, DHB's equipment saw "multiple complete penetrations" when 9mm pistol rounds were fired into the vests. One government ballistics expert quoted in the government's findings said he had "little confidence" in DHB's equipment. Meanwhile, the SEC is looking into Brooks' 2004 sale of $186 million worth of company stock. Institute for Policy Studies' Sarah Anderson, who co-authored a report called "Executive Excess 2005," called Brooks a "world champion war profiteer," concluding, he has "no shame."
Sounds like just the Bushies' kind of guy.

Of course, Bushie kind of guys almost always come to a fretful end. Here's Brooks':

In November 2005, bulletproof vest maker David H. Brooks made national headlines when he blew a pile of his war windfalls on a celebrity-studded bash in New York City’s Rainbow Room. For Brooks, the highlight of the $10 million gala was a performance by rockers from Aerosmith. So pumped was the middle-aged Long Island businessman that he reportedly donned a hot pink, metal-studded suede pantsuit to cavort onstage with Steven Tyler.

While Brooks was enjoying his rock star fantasy, dark clouds were forming over him and his company, DHB Industries. The stock was in the toilet, the Securities and Exchange Commission was investigating him, and then there was the mood-killing matter of the military recalling his company’s bulletproof vests over concerns about their bulletproofness. In hindsight, the pink-suited Brooks showed all the symptoms of a man who feared his partying days were numbered.

And indeed, as of this week, his reign as America’s most ostentatious war profiteer does appear to be over. On July 10, the DHB Board of Directors issued a terse statement to the effect that Brooks had been put on indefinite “administrative leave” pending the outcome of unspecified investigations.

The Justice and Defense Departments are jointly investigating Brooks for possible criminal fraud and insider trading. The SEC had already been looking into the company in response to shareholder lawsuits charging that DHB execs carried out a “pump-and-dump” scheme to artificially inflate profits before selling off a boatload of their stock in 2004. Brooks personally sold about $186 million worth, shortly before the share price plummeted from about $22 to around $10. Today it’s selling over the counter for less than $1. The company was booted from the American Stock Exchange last month for blowing off reporting deadlines.

Getting shoved out of a company you named after yourself has gotta sting. But Mr. DHB’s forced vacation hardly makes up for the troubles he’s caused shareholders, taxpayers and soldiers as he capitalized on the “War on Terror.” ...
And yet, his company's substandard body armor lives on. Why?

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posted by JReid @ 9:37 PM  
Friday, May 04, 2007
What we're doing to our troops
What the U.S. is doing in Iraq is devastating for the Iraqi people, and could yet be equally so for the broader Middle East. But it's also hell on our troops, who are overstretched, overdeployed, and yet, determined to eke out some sort of success from this disaster George W. Bush allowed his handlers and sycophants to push the country into. If you need any further proof that Bush, Cheney and company have broken the United States military, you need only look at what this war has done to the ethics of American warriors:

In a significant new study of U.S. troops in Iraq, Pentagon medical officials found that “well over” one third of those surveyed believe torture should be permitted if it could save the life of a fellow Soldier or Marine.

The study found that only 40 percent of Marines and 55 percent of Soldiers would report a member of their unit for killing or wounding an innocent civilian and that about 10 percent of the more than 1,300 Soldiers and nearly 450 Marines in the survey admitted they had mistreated civilians or damaged property “when it was not necessary.”

In the first internal military study of battlefield ethics in Iraq, Pentagon officials said Friday they also found that only a third of Marines and roughly half of soldiers reported they believed that noncombatants should be treated with dignity.

The study also found major mental health problems among troops, who are facing long, repeated deployments with not nearly enough rest in between.

War is hell, but occupation without a clear plan or competent leadership is even worse.

Read the full report here.

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posted by JReid @ 9:17 PM  
Friday, April 27, 2007
An active duty soldier blasts the generals for their conduct of the Iraq war:

For the second time in a generation, the United States faces the prospect of defeat at the hands of an insurgency. In April 1975, the U.S. fled the Republic of Vietnam, abandoning our allies to their fate at the hands of North Vietnamese communists. In 2007, Iraq's grave and deteriorating condition offers diminishing hope for an American victory and portends risk of an even wider and more destructive regional war.

These debacles are not attributable to individual failures, but rather to a crisis in an entire institution: America's general officer corps. America's generals have failed to prepare our armed forces for war and advise civilian authorities on the application of force to achieve the aims of policy. The argument that follows consists of three elements. First, generals have a responsibility to society to provide policymakers with a correct estimate of strategic probabilities. Second, America's generals in Vietnam and Iraq failed to perform this responsibility. Third, remedying the crisis in American generalship requires the intervention of Congress. ...
And that's just the opening. Read the rest here.

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posted by JReid @ 3:58 PM  
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Mr. Maliki tears down the wall
Iraqi P.M. Nouri al-Maliki bows to the pressure to suspend the building of a wall to separate Sunni from Shia in Baghdad, which was to have been built by the U.S. military. Sunnis had complained the wall would turn them into "caged animals" and an international outcry had drawn comparisons to the Berlin Wall, not to mention the wall being built by the Israelis to close off the West Bank, often using confiscated Palestinian land. The idea was a really, really stupid one. Luckily, Maliki has more fear than the Bush administration has brains.

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posted by JReid @ 6:18 PM  
Friday, April 20, 2007
Baghdad bantustans?
The U.S. military builds a wall to separate the Sunni and Shia in Baghdad.
Several residents interviewed likened the project to the massive barriers built by Israel around some Palestinian zones.

"Are we in the West Bank?" asked Abu Qusay, 48, a pharmacist who said that he wouldn't be able to get to his favorite kebab restaurant in Adhamiya.

Residents complained that Baghdad already has been dissected by hundreds of barriers that cause daily traffic snarls.
Yep. There's a good idea. Make Baghdad more like the West Bank. That ought to win hearts and minds...

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posted by JReid @ 9:34 AM  
ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
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