Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Burning Man

British Parliament-member George Galloway arrived in America yesterday to face allegations from Senate Republicans that he profited during the Iraq oil-for-food scandal.

The good folks at Daily Kos have found the transcript of Galloway's testimony from the Senate floor; here's a sampling (Be careful, this one's a scorcher!):

I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims did not have weapons of mass destruction.

I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al-Qaeda.

I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11 2001.

I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning.

Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies.

Galloway went on to add:

Mr. Senator, your comments on Iraq rank among the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point during your rambling, incoherent allegations were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.


Lucas, You Magnificent Bastard

According to the early reviews, not only is Episode III a quality film, i's also chock-full of Bush-bashing goodness!

The Chicago Tribune:

In "Revenge of the Sith," Chancellor Palpatine exploits war fears to turn the Republic into an Empire ruled by him alone. As Senator Padme, played by Natalie Portman, watches Palpatine consolidate his power amid a rapturous senate, she comments disgustedly, "This is how liberty dies: with thundering applause."

"I didn't expect that to be true," Lucas said, then laughed. "It gets truer every day, unfortunately."

Lucas said he wrote that line and the screenplay's other politically pointed elements before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the subsequent war on terror. So when Palpatine announces that he intends to remain at war until a certain General Grievous is captured, no parallels to the hunt for Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein were intended.

"First of all we never thought of Bush ever becoming president," "Star Wars" producer Rick McCallum said, "or then 9/11, the Patriot Act, war, weapons of mass destruction. Then suddenly you realize, `Oh, my God, there's something happening that looks like we're almost prescient.' And then we thought, `Well, yeah, but he'll never make it to the second term, so we'll look like we just made some wacky political parody of a guy that everybody's forgotten.'"


McCallum was willing to make one prediction: "There's no question that the French are going to love the movie. We are definitely going to get the Golden Freedom Fry Award for best movie of the year, because they'll see it exactly the way they see their relationship with us now."


Blame A Fool

Via AMERICAblog, The New York Times gives a pretty thorough account of the Newsweek caper. This is a long excerpt, but the piece is well worth reading, and much lengthier, in its entirety.

Mr. McClellan and other administration officials blamed the Newsweek article for setting off the anti-American violence that swept Afghanistan and Pakistan. "The report had real consequences," Mr. McClellan said. "People have lost their lives. Our image abroad has been damaged."

But only a few days earlier, in a briefing on Thursday, Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had said that the senior commander in Afghanistan believed the protests had stemmed from that country's reconciliation process.

"He thought it was not at all tied to the article in the magazine," General Myers said.

In the interview, Mr. Whitaker expressed frustration at the Pentagon for not informing the magazine of questions about the accuracy of the original account until about 10 days after it was published. He added that the magazine was continuing to report on the underlying accusations of Koran desecration.

An article in the current Newsweek said the original report, written by a veteran investigative reporter, Michael Isikoff, and the magazine's national security correspondent, John Barry, relied on a "longtime reliable source" who told Mr. Isikoff that a new report on prisoner abuses at Guantánamo would include a mention of a Koran being flushed down a toilet. The magazine said it showed the original article to a Pentagon official who challenged one aspect of the story but not the report about the desecration of the Koran.

Because of other reports about prisoner abuses there, the magazine said, the toilet incident "seemed shocking but not incredible."

In fact, complaints from released inmates that the Koran had been thrown into a toilet go back at least two years.

Among the more detailed accounts of United States soldiers mishandling copies of the Koran were depositions from three Britons who were released from Guantánamo in the summer of 2004. Asif Iqbal, one of the men, who were from Tipton, England, and had been captured in Afghanistan, said that guards "would kick the Koran, throw it in the toilet and generally disrespect it."

Military officials dismissed the complaints as commanders at Guantánamo conducted media tours of the facility during which they emphasized steps taken to demonstrate respect for Islam. Inmates, they noted, were given copies of the Koran along with a cloth surgical mask, which they used as a kind of sling to suspend the book from the wire mesh walls to ensure it did not touch the floor.

The official accounts of Guantánamo began fraying in later months, as the International Committee of the Red Cross charged in a confidential report in November that the procedures at Guantánamo amounted to torture, and F.B.I. memorandums disclosed in December portrayed harsh and abusive treatment by interrogators. The F.B.I. memorandums, disclosed in a lawsuit, did not mention any mishandling of the Koran.

Last month, a former American interrogator confirmed to The New York Times an account given in an interview by a former Kuwaiti detainee, Nasser Nijer Naser al-Mutairi, who said that mishandling of the Koran once led to a major hunger strike. The strike ended only after a senior officer expressed regret over the camp's loudspeaker system, which was simultaneously translated by linguists at the end of each cell block, the former interrogator said.

In that case, the accusations were of copies of the Koran being tossed on the floor in a pile and treated roughly, but there was no assertion that any had been put in the toilet.

Erik Saar, a co-author of the book "Inside the Wire" and an Arabic language translator at Guantánamo from January to June 2003, said in an interview Monday that while he "never saw anything along the lines of a Koran being flushed down a toilet," the issue of how guards and interrogators handled the book was a chronic problem.

"It was one of the things that kept resurfacing because guards had to inspect the cells occasionally for contraband," Mr. Saar said. He said that commanders tried to deal with detainees' sensitivity about the Koran in several ways, including enlisting some of the Muslims working for the military as translators to handle the books during inspections, so that nonbelievers would not touch the books. But that was not always done, he said, and there was no regular policy. The issue "created friction and problems all the time," he said.


Capital Gains (And Losses)

all over the place, the latest Pew survey sez President Mandate is sinking.

Bush Approval Ratings

Approve 43 (49)
Disapprove 50 (46)

And he's taking his cronies with him.

Congressional Republicans

Approve 35 (39)
Disapprove 50 (44)

Congressional Democrats

Approve 39 (37)
Disapprove 41 (44)

What happened to all that
political capital?

"I spents it all on this cool fog machine. Look Ma!
I'm in heaven!"


Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Are You Ready To Begins?

With just under a month to go (are you feeling it? is that a yes?), Warner Bros. has released a pair of new Batman Begins trailers. This link to The Movie Box features every single piece of Begins-related video available, including the fresh stuff (the new additions are the international trailer and TV spot #5).


Of Pots And Kettles

So now Newsweek has bowed to White House pressure and retracted the Quran desecration story. The problem? Their source is unsure of the document in which the allegations were reported.

The real problem? With a complete lack of irony, White House Press Secretary continues to make statements like this:

"The report had real consequences," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Monday. "People have lost their lives. Our image abroad has been damaged. There are some who are opposed to the United States and what we stand for who have sought to exploit this allegation. It will take work to undo what can be undone."

This man is an embarrassment to our country. From the editorial board at The Oregonian:

There's no question Newsweek damaged its credibility and worsened global disgust with the United States by publishing such a poorly sourced news item. But it isn't true, as White House spokesman Scott McClellan said at a briefing Tuesday, that "there is lasting damage to (the nation's) image because of this report."

The lasting damage to the nation's image has come from years of reports of prisoner abuse in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo, some unsubstantiated and some chillingly documented. A few of the incidents involved the reservist found guilty this week of abusing detainees at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.

Despite such incidents, the White House seems offended that anyone might suspect further problems.

Newsweek's report of Quran abuse may have inflamed deadly riots in the Muslim world, though accounts differ on the riots' causes. Ironically, Newsweek may be proven right: A Pentagon spokesman said in a briefing Tuesday that there may have been "inadvertent mishandlings of the Quran." [italics added]

As Abu Ghraib showed, anything is possible. And there is plenty of blame to go around.


Monday, May 16, 2005

What The Hell Is Going On Here?

Today's special:

The Pentagon has attacked as "irresponsible" an article in Newsweek magazine alleging that U.S. military interrogators desecrated copies of the Quran, and accused the magazine of "hiding behind" anonymous sources. Bryan Whitman, a spokesman for the Pentagon, claimed the report, published in last week's issue, was "demonstrably false," adding that it had had "significant consequences that reverberated throughout Muslim communities around the world."


The magazine has apologized for the story, in which it alleged interrogators at Guantánamo Bay had flushed a copy of the Quran down a toilet. "We regret that we got any part of our story wrong, and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the U.S. soldiers caught in its midst," the apology read.

Which is all fine and good, except that a) this isn't the first time American interrogators have been accused of defacing the Quran, and b) despite the Pentagon's best efforts, Newsweek hasn't actually backed off the story.

On Saturday, Isikoff spoke to his original source, the senior government official, who said that he clearly recalled reading investigative reports about mishandling the Qur'an, including a toilet incident. But the official, still speaking anonymously, could no longer be sure that these concerns had surfaced in the SouthCom report.

Juan Cole has plenty more.