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Accountability Knocks


From Maj. Gen. John Batiste (Ret.):

In testimony before the Democratic Policy Committee today, retired Maj. Gen. John R.S. Batiste, who commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq in 2004 and 2005 and served as a senior military assistant to former deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz, charged that Rumsfeld and others in the Bush administration "did not tell the American people the truth for fear of losing support for the war in Iraq."

He told the committee, "If we had seriously laid out and considered the full range of requirements for the war in Iraq, we would likely have taken a different course of action that would have maintained a clear focus on our main effort in Afghanistan, not fueled Islamic fundamentalism across the globe, and not created more enemies than there were insurgents."  (emphasis mine)

From Sen. Harry Reid:

Reid replied in a statement, "When the U.S. intelligence community confirmed that America is losing the war on terror because of Bush failures in Iraq, this White House lost all credibility on matters of national security. With Iraq in a civil war, Afghanistan moving backwards and our own borders unsecured, it’s clear George Bush and Dick Cheney are desperate to hide their record and distort the truth."

From Taliban Commander Muhammid Sabir (in Newsweek):

"One year ago we couldn’t have had such a meeting at midnight," says Sabir, who is in his mid-40s and looks forward to living out his life as an anti-American jihadist. "Now we gather in broad daylight. The people know we are returning to power."  (emphasis mine)

From Rear Adm. John Hutson (Ret.):

John D. Hutson, a retired rear admiral and the former top uniformed lawyer for the Navy, argued that a habeas right was fundamental to American law and identity. “Without these kinds of [habeas] protections, we’re just another banana republic,” Admiral Hutson said.

From Marty Lederman at Balkinization:

Perhaps most alarmingly, the new version contains a much broader definition of "unlawful enemy combatant." The "compromise" bill from last week defined "unlawful enemy combatant" as "an individual engaged in hostilities against the United States who is not a law enemy combatant." The new bill would expand the definition to cover:

(i) a person who has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its co-belligerents who is not a lawful enemy combatant (including a person who is part of the Taliban, al Qaeda, or associated forces); or (ii) a person who, before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, has been determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense.

Thus, if a person purposefully and materially supports hostilities, he will be an unlawful combatant, even if he never engages in any hostilities himself. [NOTE: At least one of the Administration’s supporters believes that the mere filing of a habeas petition is a form of "aggression against the United States." Presumably that is not the intent of the drafters, or else all those attorneys now representing military detainees would become "unlawful enemy combatants"!]

The second subsection is, perhaps, even more alarming: It appears to suggest that even if a detainee does has not engaged in hostilities or supported hostilities, he will be deemed an unlawful combatant if the Department of Defense has said so! This seems fairly absurd on the face of it. Indeed, it suggests that this definition as a whole should not be read (as some had feared it might be) to suggest statutory authorization to detain all "unlawful enemy combatants" so defined. (The bill does not expressly indicate that all persons defined here as "unlawful enemy combatants" may be militarily detained.) Otherwise, DoD’s determination of status based on whatever standard it wished to apply would be determinative of the Executive’s authority to detain. Even for these drafters, that sort of extreme carte blanche to the President to detain whoever he sees fit, without any statutory limit at all, seems highly unlikely.  (emphasis mine)

From TBogg:

In America they torture people, including their own, in secret prisons.

From the WaPo:

According to officials familiar with the classified report interviewed by The Washington Post over the weekend, the study found that rather than contributing to eventual victory in the international counterterrorism struggle, the war in Iraq has worsened the U.S. position. Many experts on terrorism regard that finding as unexceptional — indeed the CIA predicted it before the Iraq invasion — but it runs counter to the argument presented by the president and his senior advisers.

Bush has repeatedly claimed that he attacked Iraq to defeat terrorists, accused Hussein of sponsoring terrorists and, as he put it in a speech last month to the American Legion, considers the world "better off" with "the tyrant gone from power" in Baghdad. He has described Iraq as the "central front" in the war against terrorists, noting frequently how Osama bin Laden has urged his followers to go to Iraq to fight the Americans.

In a recent round of speeches on terrorism tied to the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush did not directly address the issue of whether the war in Iraq has spawned a surge in Islamic radicalism and terrorism. (emphasis mine)

From GOP pollster Tony Fabrizio:

One prominent GOP pollster said the new disclosures could put at risk any gains the White House may have made in recent weeks tying the war in Iraq to a broader war on terrorism. "Anything that undermines the connection between the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq is not helpful to us," said pollster Tony Fabrizio. "If nothing else, it puts the president on the defensive."  (emphasis mine)

Oh yeah, mission accomplished on that one.  Shorter Fabrizio:  "as Republicans, we knowingly lie to you, by omission and comission, for public relations purposes for the President of the United States and maintaining power for our party."

Now, go and read this article in the Boston Globe, but not before you take your blood pressure medication.   

This week’s congressional debate over torture policy will be an important benchmark in the war on terrorism. But because of the Bush administration’s restrictive policy on sharing classified information with Congress, very few of the people engaged in the debate will know what they’re talking about.

This doesn’t seem to bother President Bush. While the administration contends that limiting the number of people being briefed is necessary to reduce chances of a leak, it also suits his administration’s political aims.

The administration has tried to occupy as much of the fall campaign season as possible with discussion of terrorism — the Republican Party’s strongest issue — as opposed to the Iraq war, which has become a potent Democratic Party issue. But while it dominates the national stage with tough talk about terrorism, the administration doesn’t want actual scrutiny of its interrogation practices.

After all, even one concrete example could change the tenor of the debate. Every American has his or her own line to draw on what constitutes inhuman treatment: Simulated drowning? Threats of rape of a suspect’s loved ones? Electric shock?

In addition, specialists in interrogation would be able to weigh in on which techniques are effective, and which are merely brutal, leading to false confessions.

But with no actual practices to discuss, any opposition will be greatly muted. Arguing that a certain practice is torturous or ineffective doesn’t really provoke much outrage if no one can say whether the practice is for real. And opponents will naturally be wary of drawing too many dire hypotheticals, for fear of appearing to malign the CIA. It would be like raising the possibility of grotesque torture by the US Army before Abu Ghraib: Patriotic Americans don’t want to think ill of their protectors….

The Republican-controlled Congress has had five years to stand up for the American public and to put the Constitution and their responsibilities for oversight above their allegiance to party power and politics. They have not done so, and they should not be trusted any further to do so in the future. That the Bush Administration can get away with playing politics with a National Intelligence Estimate by restricting access to it at a time when Senators and Congresspeople should be well informed before casting a vote is unconscionable. But the GOP-controlled Congress will not force the issue, and the Democrats do not have numbers sufficient to force the issue at this point either.

To get accountability, to get hearings and oversight, the Democrats need to take one or both houses of Congress in November — it is that simple. If you have had enough, then let’s all find a way to get up off our butts and get to work. The thing that we can do to save our Republic is to put our efforts into electing Democrats. Had enough? I know that I sure as hell have.

Work on a local Democrat’s campaign, contact your local Dems, work a phone bank, canvass your neighborhood — whatever it takes.  And share suggestions with the rest of us on what is working in your neck of the woods.


10:58 am ET:  Steve Clemons reports that the Bolton nomination is all but dead.

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com