“Chain of Command? Uh….”

Several blogging soldiers have pointed out how egregiously bad was Donald Rumsfeld’s inability to cite the chain of command leading from the “six morons” to the top. A non-military person would be likely to miss this:


I saw Don Rumsfeld’s testimony today, and there is no honor. Certainly, the other men present at the witness table did not acquit themselves well, but in the end, it comes down to Rumsfeld and the President. And there is no honor.

“Who was in charge? What was the chain of command?” Simple questions, these. Asked by John McCain, an honorable man. Simple questions, deserving of a simple answer. But the simple answer never made it past the lips of the Secretary. There were evasions and dodges, a dance of deceit, if you will.

No one was in charge, it seems–because that way, the only people who suffer punishment are the sergeants and privates in the photographs and videos. And as for the chain of command, well…uh…well, that was left behind somewhere in the recesses of the Pentagon. And there is no honor in that.

Phil Carter:

Sen. John McCain’s audition for a job in the U.S. Attorney’s office went quite well, in my opinion. He asked simple, direct questions like “What is the chain of command from the guards to you, Sec. Rumsfeld?” and “What were the guards’ orders?” These questions are critical. Anyone who’s been through basic training can tell you that one of the first things you learn is your chain of command, from you to the President. Moreover, every recruit learns the general orders of a sentry, and learns that knowing one’s orders is critical to mission success. Yet, Secretary Rumsfeld could not answer either simple question. He tapdanced around the question, but ultimately, never gave Sen. McCain an answer as to the line of command from PV2 Joe Snuffy up to the Secretary of Defense. PV2 Snuffy has to know that; shouldn’t the SecDef? That’s bad.

Now, via Muslim WakeUp, there is this pointer to a Josh Marshall post, who’s musing on a certain infamous figure in the chain of command:

In many of the articles on this emerging Iraqi prisoners story, it has been claimed that some of the key instigators or enablers of bad acts were military intelligence officers.

Now, who’s the head of military intelligence? ‘Head’ is too vague. There’s no such post per se. But what comes pretty close is the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence.

And who’s that? Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin.

Remember him? He’s the one who got in trouble last year for describing his battle with a Muslim Somali warlord by saying “I knew that my God was bigger than his God. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol”, saying President Bush was chosen by God, and generally that the war on terror is an apocalyptic struggle between Christianity and Satan.

Last fall, after Boykin’s efforts to channel Charlemagne or perhaps Urban II became known, he asked Don Rumsfeld to initiate an ‘investigation’ into whether his comments “violated any Pentagon rules or procedures” whatever that might mean. Just this week it was reported that the ‘investigation’ still continues; and Boykin has not been disciplined in any way.

In any case, I doubt very much that all this mess we’ve gotten ourselves into is attributable to this one man. But at what point in this scandal does someone ask whether some of this might have some connection to the fact that the guy running military intelligence believes the war on terror is a literal holy war pitting Christian America against Satan and his Muslim minions?

Here’s a story from the Guardian, reported in December of 2003, which you will recall is a date when the torture at US military prisons in Iraq was still in full swing:

Israel trains US assassination squads in Iraq

Israeli advisers are helping train US special forces in aggressive counter-insurgency operations in Iraq, including the use of assassination squads against guerrilla leaders, US intelligence and military sources said yesterday.

The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) has sent urban warfare specialists to Fort Bragg in North Carolina, the home of US special forces, and according to two sources, Israeli military “consultants” have also visited Iraq.

US forces in Iraq’s Sunni triangle have already begun to use tactics that echo Israeli operations in the occupied territories, sealing off centres of resistance with razor wire and razing buildings from where attacks have been launched against US troops.

But the secret war in Iraq is about to get much tougher, in the hope of suppressing the Ba’athist-led insurgency ahead of next November’s presidential elections.
Colonel Ralph Peters, a former army intelligence officer and a critic of Pentagon policy in Iraq, said yesterday there was nothing wrong with learning lessons wherever possible.

“When we turn to anyone for insights, it doesn’t mean we blindly accept it,” Col Peters said. “But I think what you’re seeing is a new realism. The American tendency is to try to win all the hearts and minds. In Iraq, there are just some hearts and minds you can’t win. Within the bounds of human rights, if you do make an example of certain villages it gets the attention of the others, and attacks have gone down in the area.”

The new counter-insurgency unit made up of elite troops being put together in the Pentagon is called Task Force 121, New Yorker magazine reported in yesterday’s edition.

One of the planners behind the offensive is a highly controversial figure, whose role is likely to inflame Muslim opinion: Lieutenant General William “Jerry” Boykin.

In October, there were calls for his resignation after he told a church congregation in Oregon that the US was at war with Satan, who “wants to destroy us as a Christian army”.

“He’s been promoted a rank above his abilities,” he said. “Some generals are pretty good on battlefield but are disastrous nearer the source of power.”

I think we can speculate from this information that it is possible that Rumsfeld didn’t want to describe the chain of command responsible for abusing prisoners in Iraq because it might just remind people that the issue of Jerry Boykin is not only unresolved, but rather than removing him from influence, he was instead setting up assassination teams in Iraq under the guidance of the IDF. And we surely don’t want to discuss the IDF in relation to the Iraqi torture scandal, do we?

MSNBC describes Boykin in an Oct 15, 2003 article just after his bigoted remarks surfaced:

This summer, Boykin was promoted to deputy undersecretary of defense, with a new mission for which many say he is uniquely qualified: to aggressively combine intelligence with special operations and hunt down so-called high-value terrorist targets including bin Laden and Saddam.

But that new assignment may be complicated by controversial views Boykin — an evangelical Christian — has expressed in dozens of speeches at churches and prayer breakfasts around the country. In a half-dozen video and audiotapes obtained by NBC News, Boykin says America’s true enemy is not bin Laden.

“Well, is he [bin Laden] the enemy? Next slide. Or is this man [Saddam] the enemy? The enemy is none of these people I have showed you here. The enemy is a spiritual enemy. He’s called the principality of darkness. The enemy is a guy called Satan.”

Why are terrorists out to destroy the United States? Boykin said: “They’re after us because we’re a Christian nation.”

Yeah, Don – best not get into that chain of command question. The less people know about Boykin, the less likely they are to ask you to undergo an emergency mental evaluation to see if you put this guy in Iraq because you’re criminally insane.

Have Neocons Killed Satire?

I hate to tell you this, Micah, but the current right-wing schtick is becoming impossible to parody. It’s like Michael Bérubé wrote:

INSULT-UPON-INJURY, New York (AP)– Conservative commentators have induced a “satire crisis” for liberal and progressive bloggers in recent days, producing a stream of remarks so bizarre and unhinged that the blogosphere’s sharpest wits are at a loss to respond, according to a statement released today by the newly-formed Association of Flabbergasted Liberals.

“It started, as it always does, with Rush Limbaugh,” noted an AFL spokesman. “First he said that the torture and rape at Abu Ghraib was nothing more than you’d see at a Britney Spears or Madonna concert, or maybe Lincoln Center, and now he’s saying that it was just a bunch of people ‘having a good time.’ What can you do with that? Look at Ezra Klein over at Pandagon– all he can do is say he’s speechless at this stuff………
The strain has been felt most severely at Tom Burka’s site, “Opinions You Should Have,” as Burka works overtime to try to stay ahead of the massive right-wing mental collapse. “It’s like trying to outrun a tsunami,” Burka might have said if I had interviewed him.

Burka admits it. OK, look. You write:

Micah: Enemies of America, such as newspapers, have criticized Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, despite his many years of sterling service to America. Some even want Secretary Rumsfeld to resign.

And the next day, Barbara Amiel one ups you with this:

Barbara A: What a difference a year makes. In her fascinating 2003 biography Rumsfeld, Midge Decter gives a wry round-up of the “Rummy” love-ins that swept America when the defence secretary became a national celebrity in the wake of September 11. CNN called him a “virtual rock star”, Fox news “a babe magnet”.

People magazine named him one of the country’s “leading sex heroes”. Cut to last week’s blindingly thick Senate Armed Forces Committee Hearings, which resembled nothing so much as the preliminary inquiries of a war crimes trial. It was a couple of hours before one Democratic senator blew up like a puff adder to ask, portentously, the Killer Question: if it were in the national interest, would Mr Rumsfeld resign?

After a pause, the defence secretary, whose patriotism and press conference candour are no act, replied: “That’s possible.” The New York Times found this “stunning” in its “breathtaking simplicity”. I thought it a simple answer to a straw-man question.

How can that be parodied? There’s just no material to work with here – it’s already hilarious and over the top all on its own. Read the part where she compares handcuffing an old lady to the torture at Abu Ghraib. If that had been in your piece or on Burka’s site, people would have laughed and said you really nailed how ridiculous these people are. Check this out:

This is not to say we should withdraw from the Geneva Conventions in order to fight drug dealers and child molesters, but only to note that in some circumstances, our police may use such tactics. In Iraq, we are fighting men and women who routinely blow up civilians in a guerrilla war of the most merciless kind. If a 97-year-old woman is handcuffed for a traffic offence, what is the appropriate procedure for murderous guerrillas?

This is her actual argument!

At the rate the right is cribbing ideas from satirists, we should watch for this to be in an upcoming Presidential speech.

While diplomatic experts had questioned what exactly the sovereignty handed over to Iraq on June 30 would consist of, the president made it clear that it would consist solely of blame for the prison abuse scandal.

“As of June 30, we fully expect to put an Iraqi face on this fiasco,” Mr. Bush said.

At the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said that he was “delighted” by news of the decision to blame the prison scandal on the new Iraqi government.

“This is a solution that should satisfy even our toughest critics, because now those critics will be transferred to the new Iraqi government,” Mr. Rumsfeld said.

Prior to the president’s announcement, Mr. Rumsfeld had been bracing himself for the release of the Abu Ghraib Golden Edition DVD, including never-before-seen footage and special tormenters’ narration.

“This DVD is full of extremely radioactive stuff,” Mr. Rumsfeld. “Come June 30, the new government of Iraq will have a lot to answer for.”

Oh, and it’s Nikolai’s fault that I even read the dreadful Amiel piece in the first place.

Unjust detentions were no mistake

The AP reports on a new International Red Cross report released today:

The report by the International Committee of the Red Cross supports allegations that abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers was broad and “not individual acts” – contrary to President George W. Bush’s contention that the mistreatment “was the wrongdoing of a few.”

It also quoted U.S. officers as admitting that up to 90 per cent of the detainees had been arrested by mistake.

By “mistake?” Hardly. It has been extensively reported that Americans routinely rounded up whoever fell into their clutches during their raids. Iraqis have told their stories of disappeared relatives, friends and entire neighbourhoods repeatedly, but were ignored or ridiculed as unreliable Arabs by the war-supporting American public, the Likudnik-Republican neocons running Operation Crush Iraqi Untermenschen in Washington and Baghdad, and the neocon infested American military command in Iraq. 90% is far beyond a “mistake,” it is evidence of a systematic policy of collective punishment, a pervasive mindset of total disregard for Iraqi dignity and life, and irrefutable proof that the justification for the American presence in Iraq (after the WMD lie was exposed) is yet another lie.

The agency said arrests allegedly tended to follow a pattern.

“Arresting authorities entered houses usually after dark, breaking down doors, waking up residents roughly, yelling orders, forcing family members into one room under military guard while searching the rest of the house and further breaking doors, cabinets and other property,” the report said.

“Sometimes they arrested all adult males present in a house, including elderly, handicapped or sick people,” it said.

“Treatment often included pushing people around, insulting, taking aim with rifles, punching and kicking and striking with rifles.”

It said some coalition military intelligence officers estimated “between 70 per cent and 90 per cent of the persons deprived of their liberty in Iraq had been arrested by mistake.”

“They also attributed the brutality of some arrests to the lack of proper supervision of battle group units.”

We knew this all along, but it is good that the story is finally given credence in the mainstream media, though the fact that it took pictures of graphic abuse to force the truth to be admitted discredits the too-late reporting.

There was plenty of evidence out there, well known to anyone who cared enough to look. Remember Zeyad’s cousin who was killed by American troops who forced him to jump from a bridge?

Look at this picture, blatantly, casually posted on an American soldier’s internet journal, with the caption “wake up, haji…. hahaha.” Or, these. blowndooriraq

How about this story, documented with photos? Notice the circumstances of Mr. Abrahim’s arrest and detention

Here’s another typical ignored report, by David Hilfiker, M.D.:

The most vociferous complaints, however, concerned nighttime raids and detentions. Military people had previously acknowledged to us of implementing a policy of “45 seconds of rage and fury” on entering a house. They consider this necessary to obtain immediate submission and keep their troops safe. Soldiers break down doors, yell commands to lie on the floor, run through the house, and generally try to frighten the occupants into submissive behavior. “Why do the soldiers break down our doors and smash our cupboards. We would give them the key if they just asked?” was a typical question from the outraged lawyers.

“When Saddam raided,” said one, “he took only the person he was after. Now the whole family is taken, even when the soldiers know they have the wrong house.” The treatment of women infuriated some of these men. With embarrassment, one lawyer claimed that when the U.S. troops had raided a house and found a couple naked in their bed, they arrested them and took them away unclothed. “This is not acceptable in our culture,” he said.

Sounds much more credible now that the Americans have displayed their naked Iraqi pictures, doesn’t it? Hilfiker goes on to describe a meeting he arranged between the Iraqi lawyers and Colonel Nate Sassaman. The result of the meeting?

At 4 a.m. that morning, Sassaman’s men had staged a raid in Abu Hishma, a town over ten miles from the base. (It was the same town that Sassaman had previously ordered encircled with razor wire to pressure inhabitants into giving information about the insurgents.) Perhaps a hundred soldiers in fifteen to twenty vehicles entered the town, surrounded Mohaned’s father’s house, broke down the door, and smashed some of the family’s belongings. They took Mohaned and his five brothers at gunpoint out to the yard, handcuffed them, put hoods on their heads, had them sit in the rain while the house was searched, and then carted them off to the base.

You might remember Sassaman from this quote: “With a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them.”

We must challenge the lies currently being peddled about “bad apples,” “wrongdoing of a few,” and “mistakes.” The evidence is there. Those of us who rightly opposed the invasion and subsequent maltreatment of Iraqis and disgusting behavior of the occupation troops must oppose the substitution of an altered and propagandistic version of history for the truth we’ve repeatedly documented.

Pentagon: “Don’t Read This”

The Pentagon attempts another cover-up, this time by forbidding military personnel to read FOX News, the government’s favorite media whore! Why? Because FOX was carrying the Taguba report on the Iraqi prison abuses at its website. Here is Vivienne Walt’s expose for TIME, “Military Personnel: Don’t Read This! How a Pentagon email sought to contain the prison abuse scandal.”

    It’s not exactly every day that the Pentagon warns military personnel to stay away from Fox News. But that’s exactly what some hopeful soul at the Department of Defense instructed, in a memo intended to forbid Pentagon staff reading a copy of the Taguba report detailing abuse of detainees at prisons in Iraq that had been posted at the Fox News web site.

    An email to Pentagon staff marked “URGENT IT (Information Technology) BULLETIN: Taguba Report” orders employees not to read or download the Taguba report at Fox News, on the grounds that the document is classified. It also orders them not to discuss the matter with friends or family members. The emailed memo was leaked to TIME by a senior U.S. civilian official in Baghdad, who did not hide his disdain for the “factotums” in the Pentagon. “I do wonder how incredibly stupid some people in the Pentagon are,” he emailed TIME. “Not only are they drawing everyone’s attention to the report — and where it can be seen — but attempting to muzzle people never works.”

    Perhaps realizing that, the email’s author in “Information Services Customer Liaison” said: “This leakage will be investigated for criminal prosecution. If you don’t have the document and have never had legitimate access, please do not complicate the investigative processes by seeking information.” As the type-face switched to high-alarm red, the 180-word email continues: “THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THIS REPORT IS CLASSIFIED; DO NOT GO TO FOX NEWS TO READ OR OBTAIN A COPY.”

    The memo also contained four tips on how to plug the leaks of explosive prison-abuse tales. The first is “NOT to go to Fox News to read or obtain a copy” of the Taguba report. The American official in Baghdad received the email on Friday from the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Policy team, marked to “MAL POL ALL POLICY,” with a note telling employees that those who have read the Taguba report on the web should “CALL POLICY IT SECURITY IMMEDIATELY!”

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive” — Sir Walter Scott

Al-Sadr popular, US Isn’t

Knight Ridder reports:

Sadoun Dulame read the results of his latest poll again and again. He added up percentages, highlighted sections and scribbled notes in the margins.

No matter how he crunched the numbers, however, he found himself in the uncomfortable position this week of having to tell occupation authorities that the report they commissioned paints the bleakest picture yet of the U.S.-led coalition’s reputation in Iraq. For the first time, according to Dulame’s poll, a majority of Iraqis said they’d feel safer if the U.S. military withdrew immediately.
Dulame’s grim poll doesn’t even take in the prisoner scandal’s effects. It was conducted in mid-April in seven Iraqi cities. A total of 1,600 people were interviewed, and the margin of error is 3 percentage points. The findings, which must go first to coalition authorities, have not yet been made public.

According to Dulame, director of the independent Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies, prisoner abuse and other coalition missteps now are fueling a dangerous blend of Islamism and tribalism. For example, while American officials insist that only fringe elements support the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, a majority of Iraqis crossed ethnic and sectarian lines to name him the second most-respected man in Iraq, according to the coalition-funded poll.

Note to Rumsfeld: Better start planning the evacuation. And for once, do something right. You’ll need lots of helicopters, ropes, etc.

via the Poorman.

Hamill: Un-Kidnapped by Iraqis


Iraqi captors tougher: ex-hostage
From correspondents in Macon, Mississippi
May 10, 2004

THOMAS Hamill, who has returned to the US after escaping his abductors in Iraq, said his captors treated him more harshly after they saw pictures of US soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners.

“I’m not going into the details, but my treatment had changed and I was afraid it was going to get a lot worse,” he told reporters outside his home in the southern state of Mississippi.

Mr Hamill was captured when his convoy was ambushed on April 9 near Abu Ghraib, the town home to the prison where photos were taken of US soldiers abusing Iraqi detainees.

After the photos were published in US media, “that’s when they started shackling me at night and that’s when I knew I needed to speed my process up and try to get away,” Mr Hamill said.

Mr Hamill, 44, returned to a hero’s welcome in his hometown yesterday.

Oooh, poor Tommy, the Iraqis shackled him at night after they saw the torture photos from Abu Ghraib! Let’s see, was that before or after they made sure he got surgery on his wounded arm? Was it before or after his first escape?

Hamill’s cousin, Jason Higginbotham, said Hamill told him he had given his captors the slip days earlier — only to turn back when he failed to draw the attention of a passing American helicopter.

“He said he escaped one time about three days earlier, and he was out in the middle of the desert,” Higginbotham said.

“A helicopter came over, and he tried to flag it down, but it evidently didn’t see him. So he decided you know — he didn’t have any food and water — and he’d more than likely die in the desert trying to make it on his own, and they were taking pretty good care of him. So he went and put himself back in captivity without them knowing.”

Only FreeRepublicans or Fox News watchers are stupid enough believe this ridiculous story.

Here are things we know for facts: Hamill got surgery for his wound. He was in good shape when he finally located an American patrol. No Iraqi captors were in the farmouse he supposedly escaped from. There was an AK-47 at the empty farmhouse, along with bottled water and cookies. Hamill told stories about escaping twice, saying he went back to the Iraqis.

I think by the end of the adventure the Iraqis who held Hamill might have been about ready to pay some Americans to come and get him.