Strong opinions, weakly held

Tag: war (page 2 of 3)

Links from May 25th

Rumsfeld’s special messages to President Bush

GQ has obtained one of the most astounding things I’ve seen — a series of covers from daily Pentagon intelligence reports prepared for the President during the Bush administration. Each includes a photo with some military theme and a selected Bible verse. Here’s one example:


It’s impossible to escape the conclusion that the Pentagon (under Donald Rumsfeld’s guidance) was angling to play into President Bush’s well-documented belief that he was on a mission from God to take on evildoers. No matter how much we learn about the Bush administration, we always find out it was worse than it appeared.

Here’s the accompanying article.

A soldier’s recollection of Gitmo

The Guantánamo Testimonials Project has the written testimony of a US military policeman who was stationed there at the beginning. I expect many more such stories will be told over the next few years:

At 0700 hrs the next day I reported like I was told, and was placed in 1st platoon. Then I was told that we would be deploying to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, within the next 24hrs. It was not until later that afternoon that we were told that we would be starting and running a detainee facility, not an EPW (or Enemy Prisoner of War) camp. We were told that a detainee camp had never been ran before, and that this would be the first time in history this had taken place since these people would not fall under the Geneva Convention.

There’s tons of awful but enlightening information in the interview. For example, it makes it clear that the infamous “IRF” teams were used not to bring out of control prisoners under control but rather to punish the noncompliant:

As far as IRFing, when I was there, it went somewhat in this order: (1) The block guards would have a problem with a detainee (not listening, maybe saying something, or not following rules). The guards would then contact the duty officer for that shift. We were told “If you were working a block and was having a problem with one of the detainees, and you couldn’t handle it, or get it under control, you should call the duty officer,” who was usually a E-7 (Sergeant First Class) or a 0-1 or 0-2 (First and Second LT). They would come to the block, assess the situation, and make the decision whether to take “comfort items” away or call the IRF team into play. If the latter, then (2) The duty officer would come to the block with an interpreter and tell the detainee to do whatever he was told to and, if not, the IRF team would be called upon. (3) Once the IRF team was called upon and arrived on the block there was no “I am sorry I will do it” from the detainee; the IRF team was going to enter that cage and hog tie that detainee.

Reading the interview what stands out to me is not just the horrible treatment we’ve inflicted upon detainees, but the burden the government placed on the troops who have served in Gitmo and elsewhere. One principle of leadership I believe in is that you should never ask anyone to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself. I can’t help but wonder whether most of the officials who designed and implemented the detention policies after 9/11 would be willing to personally subject prisoners to the treatment that they prescribed.

Links from January 26th

Links from January 23rd

I’m going back to packaging up my del.icio.us bookmarks daily and posting them here.

  • The Black Triangle is an article from 2004 about game development found by Jason Kottke. It describes the disconnect between programmers and users, where users are unimpressed by seeing something relatively simple on the screen, and developers are thrilled at the huge amount of work that into getting that simple thing onto the screen. I’ve found it’s never a good idea to show customers the Black Triangle. It always comes later in the process than they’d think and often freaks them out.
  • waferbaby: The Setup. Interviews with people about their computer setups. I can never read enough of these.
  • New York Times: Gazan Doctor and Peace Advocate Loses 3 Daughters to Israeli Fire and Asks Why. The horrific cost of war.
  • Dr. Saturday: Australian Rules’ blood’s worth bottling. A proposed playoff structure for college football. A more interesting approach
  • Going.com: Newspapers Covering Obama’s Inauguration. A huge collection of newspaper front pages from President Obama’s inauguration. And yes, it still feels weird to type “President Obama.”
  • CSS Newbie: The EqualHeights jQuery Plugin. I’m always looking for better ways to set columns to equal heights on a Web page.
  • Glenn Greenwald: Mohammed Jawad and Obama’s efforts to suspend military commissions. When anyone questions whether the United States tortures people or tortures the wrong people, you can forward them the story of Mohammed Jawad, a teenager captured in Afghanistan who was coerced to confess to killing US soldiers with a grenade. The military prosecutor in his case petitioned that he should be released and ultimately resigned rather than prosecute him.

Is al-Qaeda the winner in Gaza

New (to Foreign Policy magazine) blogger Marc Lynch makes a compelling argument that al-Qaeda stands to be the winner either way of Israel’s invasion of Gaza.

Update: By the same token, it’s pretty clear who’s losing. (See this blog post for background.)

The reality of Israel and Palestine

Ezra Klein’s post on Israel’s assault on Gaza is the smartest thing I’ve seen written about Israel and Palestine in a long time. It doesn’t lead to any conclusions, but his observations are incredibly important. The bottom line:

One important disconnect in Israel/Palestine debate is that Israel’s supporters tend to focus on what the Palestinians want while Palestine’s supporters tend to focus on what the Israelis do. Israel’s defenders, for instance, make a lot of Hamas’s willingness to kill large numbers of civilians. Palestine’s defenders make a lot of the fact that Israel actually kills large numbers of Palestinian civilians.

The human cost of war

A video of civilian casualties in Afghanistan was released by the London Times today. I don’t have much to say about this other than that this is war, and we’re involved in two of them. I think it’s often times thought of in too abstract a fashion, especially by its proponents.

Another blow to Thomas Friedman

Looks like an old saw I cited frequently has finally bitten the dust. That saw is that no two countries with McDonald’s restaurants have ever gone to war against one another. Russia’s invasion of Georgia has rendered it inoperative.

Gitmo detainees have rights under the Constitution

The Supreme Court ruled today that Gitmo detainees have rights after all:

In a stunning blow to the Bush Administration in its war-on-terrorism policies, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that foreign nationals held at Guantanamo Bay have a right to pursue habeas challenges to their detention. The Court, dividing 5-4, ruled that Congress had not validly taken away habeas rights. If Congress wishes to suspend habeas, it must do so only as the Constitution allows — when the country faces rebellion or invasion.

The Court stressed that it was not ruling that the detainees are entitled to be released — that is, entitled to have writs issued to end their confinement. That issue, it said, is left to the District Court judges who will be hearing the challenges. The Court also said that “we do not address whether the President has authority to detain” individuals during the war on terrorism, and hold them at the U.S. Naval base in Cuba; that, too, it said, is to be considered first by the District judges.

About time. Don’t miss Balkinization for insightful running commentary.

I’ll also say that the bottom line is that if John McCain is elected President, cases like this go the other way for a long, long time.

Update: Dahlia Lithwick has posted her analysis of the ruling.

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