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December 12, 2005


Say no to torture. We did. It's not that hard.

The 'Ministry of Human Rights'? Do the divvy up scarce human rights?

Just one more reason why the OFFICIAL policy has to be that torture is wrong, won't be tolerated and is against treaties which we have signed. That should be the official policy of our and every other government. Only that places the bar so high that if torture is ever used, and I'm not saying it should ever be, it is only in circumstances that the people involved truly, truly think justify it and are prepared to defend their actions if it comes out.

Instead, our policy of condining mistreatment in the WOT gives too many low-level people the ok to indulge themselves or simply make bad judgments. And our end-justifies-the-means, "I'm the Commander in Chief and the Constitution is just a piece of paper" attitude not only leads to abuses like this but completely undermines our ability to combat them, or, indeed, to convince the rest of the world, particularly the Arab world, that we don't torture our captives.

Elsewhere, I've been taken to task for ignoring the fact the Iranian-backed SCIRI is an enemy of the U.S. and that it's possible that busting these two prisons was just a way for Washington to undermine Shi'a power in addition to making it appear torture is really a bad thing in the view of the cabal.

Well, possible, but highly speculative.

The Badr militias that run these two detention centers are nasty pieces of work, and we knew that long ago. Maybe it's true that the U.S. is ignoring other torture chambers run by Iraqis whom Washington is more comfortable with. Maybe these discovered prisons are just a Rovian-style sham to push the theme that the U.S. must stay in Iraq. Maybe this is just window-dressing to take the heat off the discovery of secret prisons in Europe. The permutations are endless.

Of one thing we can be sure: we're not even close to seeing the whole picture, and it may be years before we do.

Since around May 1, 2003, when Omission Accomplished was declared from the decks of the USS Abraham Lincoln, Iraq has been swarming with shifting alliances, black ops carried out by dozens of entities, sophisticated disinformation specialists and tons of unaccounted for everything: money, weapons, militias, private "security" groups like Blackwater. What's actually going on is more impossible for on-the-ground old-timers to be sure of than in pre-World War II Rangoon.

Now, more than ever, we should not treat the American presence in Iraq as monolithic anymore than we should treat the Shi'a as such. Private operations outside the reach of any traditional controls plus traditional black ops units running under the veil of plausible deniability could easily be competing with each other and with American military units. Some generals are pissed off because they STILL haven't been able to get through to the White House. If they see their role as futile and their support from Washington unhelpful, who knows what they might do that's not in the interests of Donny Rumsfeld and the NeoImp Brigade? When a general, however politely, smacks down a SefDef in full public view, you know the jig is just about up.

Man, I wish I knew what to say about this.

I mean, what do you say? They're not even ashamed. They think the answer to "discovering" torture is to call 911.

In the year 2255, maybe as early as April if we're lucky, they should get around to visiting the thousandth of those detention centers, if it's still standing. I won't guarantee that further detention centers will not have come into existence in the interim. We may have to wait until the 25th century before U.S. troops get into the last of them and begin writing the final report.

I think my calculations are right. The existence of these centers and the horrific treatment of prisoners under the new Iraqi Interior Ministry had broken into the news by June of 2005 at the latest (and HRW may have been onto it even earlier). That means in the last six months the U.S. forces in Iraq have visited two detention centers, for a rate of four centers per year. The remaining 998 should take very approximately 249 and one half years.

I'm glad we're making such progress in Iraq. Curiously, when U.S. forces liberated European countries in 1945, they seemed to be able to visit the detention and torture centers at a much faster rate than they are now doing in the territories they themselves occupy. Why the non-rush?

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