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The Daily Journal: January 10, 2007

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The Bush Delusion
Irrational Is as Irrational Does

More troops needed for clean-up detail

A terrific column by the Post’s Richard Cohen on Bush’s faith-based insanity explaining “why the United States will stay in Iraq and with even more troops than before.” Let Cohen explain: “In Iowa, during the 2000 presidential campaign, Bush answered a question about why he so ardently supported capital punishment. He offered a number of reasons, but one—deterrence—prompted me to raise my hand and ask a follow-up: But, sir, there is absolutely no evidence that capital punishment is a deterrent. To my astonishment, Bush conceded my point: “You’re right. I can’t prove it. But neither can the other side prove it’s not.” Ponder that answer for a while. What it means is not just that Bush embraced a famously irrational way of thinking—the logical fallacy often called “proving a negative”—but in this case he used it to overwhelm all evidence to the contrary. Once you know this, you can appreciate what Bush means when he calls himself The Decider. It means that evidence, arguments, proof and logic cannot be conclusive when, as is often the case, the president proceeds on what can be called a matter of faith. I am not referring here just to religion—although surely that is paramount to Bush—but to supremely secular matters of state: when to go to war, why go to war and when to remain at war. In Bush’s mind, the bad guys will lose and the good guys will win and Iraq will become a democracy. This will happen not because Bush can prove that it will but because nobody can prove it won’t. This is why we are in Iraq today and why we are going to stay there. […] The execution of Saddam Hussein was Iraq in a nutshell. Aside from the dead man at the end of the rope, nothing went the way the Americans wanted. It was sloppy, putrid with the stench of sectarian hatred and, as always, totally unnecessary. George Bush saw it differently by not, as is his custom, seeing it at all.” The full column…

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January 11, 2002
Guantanamo Concentration Camp Is 5 Years Old

Thursday morning the press will be parsing what little there will be to parse out of the Bush speech the evening before, a lucky break for the president: he'd rather not be reminded of the ignoble anniversary the date represents. Guantanamo Bay as a concentration camp began five years ago Thursday with the arrival of the first hapless, and as long as proven otherwise in a court of law, absolutely innocent, prisoners in Bush's war on terror. Here's how The New York Times reported the initial story on January 7, 2002:

Soldiers from domestic American military bases began arriving today at the United States Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba to help build maximum-security jails for prisoners from Afghanistan. The United States is holding more than 300 prisoners. [...] Eventually, an anticipated 1,500 troops are to build facilities on Guantanamo to house up to 2,000 prisoners. President Bush has asked the Pentagon, the Justice Department and his National Security Office write guidelines for how to sort out the detainees and determine which ones might be eligible for military tribunals and which ones might be tried in federal court. Officials said the Pentagon was close to completing the rules on how to conduct the tribunals. So far, however, none of the detainees have been charged with specific crimes.

The innocence of it all, in retrospect—of that so far that has stretched into an eternity: the overriding criminal, so far as the detaining of those prisoners is concerned, turned out to be their warden. Not quite to mark the occasion, the ACLU on January 3rd released "more than 200 pages of documents obtained from the Federal Bureau of Investigation detailing 26 eyewitness accounts by agents of detainee abuse, 17 of which the Bureau apparently chose not to investigate further. "These documents contain eyewitness FBI accounts of prisoner abuse which cannot be dismissed by the Administration, and only underscore the need for a comprehensive investigation into the treatment of detainees at Guantánamo Bay and other U.S. controlled detention facilities," said Amrit Singh, an attorney with the ACLU. "The documents also call into question the FBI's apparent decision to not follow up on prisoner abuses by Defense Department personnel. The fact that Defense Department policy allowed this treatment does not mean that it was legal, humane or ethical." Included in the documents are some new accounts of abuse related to the detainees' religious beliefs: Investigators wrapped a detainee's head in duct tape "because he would not stop quoting the Koran;" another agent said an interrogator bragged about making a detainee listen to "satanic black metal music for hours and hours." According to the same report, the interrogator later "dressed as a Catholic Priest and baptized the detainee in order to save him." In another incident observed by an FBI agent, a Marine captain squatted over the Koran during an interrogation of a Muslim prisoner, which the prisoner found extremely offensive." See the full story...

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Back From Guantanamo
A Jihadi Goes Home to Yemen

I, jihadi

Mohammed al-Asadi was 21 when he was arrested in December 2001—a self-described jihadi who went to Afghanistan to fight for the Palestinian cause (go figure). He spent the next five years imprisoned at Guantanamo, one of hundreds of two-bit fools who loitered about, looking for themselves until terrorist hunters grabbed them. Just released, the Yemen Observer interviewed al-Assadi at his home: “The Guantanamo Bay detainees have been implementing a new hunger strike since last December in a protest over “religious abuses and bad treatment”, said a recently released prisoner. “The brothers in Guantanamo detention have agreed to stage this hunger strike mainly because of harassment while praying or while reading the Quran […] The soldiers interrupt the brothers from time to time even while praying, they inspect the Quran, they inspect their private organs, only to create psychological pressures on them,” he said. The treatment in general, he added, had become very bad, in terms of food, clothes, medicines, blankets and so on. “They take the blankets at dawn when it’s extremely cold.” […] However, he signed a paper before his release pledging he would not participate in any armed activity as he explained, “It is a general official procedure. Of course, they [the authorities] do not care about outside Yemen, and for me here, they have nothing against me.” […] He refused to sign a US paper pledging he would not join al Qaeda or the Taliban. “They told me that I no longer pose a threat to them but they asked me to sign a paper, which says if you join al Qaeda and or the Taliban, then the US has the right to arrest you once again. But I refused to sign that paper,” he said. “I told them I am now like any one else outside the prison. I am innocent, why you do not ask the other people , who do not pose threat to you, to sign such a paper. Why only me. They signed the paper and told me this paper will be sent to your country.” […] “They have an idea that any Arab in Afghanistan or Pakistan is a terrorist,” he said. […] Sana’a was the end of more than a five-year struggle between detentions from Peshawar, to Kandahar, to Guantanamo Bay. Al-Asadi left Sana’a early 2001 for Jihad. “At the time, I was affected by the Intifada (uprising) in Palestine, so I went for Jihad,” he said. The full story…

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Begging for Backwardness
How the Taliban Keep their Coffers Full

Asia Times Online’s Syed Saleem Shahzad: “Just as the Taliban move across the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan with impunity, so does the money needed to sustain the Taliban-led insurgency flow unrestricted between the countries. In the wake of September 11, 2001, the financial squeeze instigated by the United States and its allies in the “war on terror” severely disrupted the flow of funds for al-Qaeda and the Taliban, mainly through closer international scrutiny of bank accounts. However, as the insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq testify, the money has certainly not been stopped. The major reason for this is that Washington and its allies made the mistake of looking for and applying high-tech solutions. Had the focus been more on the “unschooled wisdom” prevalent in the mountains of Afghanistan and in the deserts of Iraq, the US might not be in such a poor position as it is now. […] [L]ocal Kandahari tribesmen take care of all routine expenditures of food, satellite telephone cards, fuel etc, and the additional money is used partly to help injured Taliban receive treatment. […] The UAE, though, remains the hub for the Taliban’s finances, with money moving through the traditional hawala (paper-free transfer) system or through direct contacts. Taliban commanders who have not yet made it on to any wanted list frequently visit the UAE, where they link with the Afghan diaspora to make financial appeals in support of the Afghan resistance. Before the spring offensive of last year, one-legged former Taliban intelligence chief Mullah Dadullah went to the UAE to raise money. And getting the money back to Pakistan and then to Afghanistan is not a problem, as the Taliban don’t use banks and they move freely across borders.” The full story…

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Atlanta, the City Too Busy to Have a Clue
Oxford Don Arrested for Jaywalking

It's not every year that the annual meeting of the American Historical Association produces news worthy of—well, something more than a footnote in the following year's American Historical Association's minutes of the previous year's meeting. This year's did. On Day 3, here's how Rick Shenkman reported it for the History News Network:

On Thursday, just after noon, the Tufts historian Felipe Fernandez-Armesto was arrested by Atlanta police as he crossed the middle of the street between the Hilton and Hyatt hotels. After being thrown on the ground and handcuffed, the former Oxford don was formally arrested, his hands cuffed behind his back. Several policemen pressed hard on his neck and chest, leaving the mild-mannered scholar, who's never gotten so much as a parking ticket, bruised and in pain. He was then taken to the city detention center along with other accused felons and thrown into a filthy jail cell filled with prisoners. He remained incarcerated for eight hours. Officials demanded bail of over a thousand dollars. To come up up with the money Fernandez-Armesto, the author of nineteen books, had to make an arrangement with a bail bondsman. In court even the prosecutors seemed embarrassed by the incident, which got out of hand when Fernandez-Armesto requested to see the policeman's identification (the policeman was wearing a bomber jacket; to Fernandez-Armesto, a foreigner unfamiliar with American culture, the officer did not look like an officer). The prosecutors asked the professor to plead nolo contendere. He refused, concerned that the stain on his record might put his green card status in jeopardy. Officials finally agreed to drop all charges. The judge expressed his approval. The professor says he has no plans to sue. But the AHA council is considering lodging a complaint with the city.

It doesn't end there. Watch the good professor's interview about the incident. The guy should be on Letterman:

Part two of the interview is available here, and part three here
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Coronary of the Day
How the US Ranks in Health Care Spending

From the Kaiser Family Foundation's latest report: "It is reasonably well known that for some time the United States has spent more per capita on health care than other countries.  What may be less well known is that the United States has had one of the highest growth rates in per capita health care spending since 1980 among higher income countries.  Health care spending around the world generally is rising at a faster rate than overall economic growth, so almost all countries have seen health care spending increase as a percentage of their gross domestic product (GDP) over time.  In the United States, which has had both a high level of health spending per capita and a relatively high rate of real growth in that spending, the share of GDP devoted to health grew from 8.8% of GDP in 1980 to 15.2% of GDP in 2003 (Exhibit 5).  This almost 7 percentage-point increase in the health share of GDP is larger than increases seen in other high-income countries." See the full report...
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