Posts from May 1, 2005

A war in search of an analogy

A war in search of an analogy

: They kept trying to say that our war in Iraq was Vietnam (or the Soviet Afghanistan): the no-win quagmire. But that dog didn’t hunt. So the search is for another analogy and Peter Maas returns from a brave trip with Iraqi counterinsurgency forces and thinks he has it in today’s NY Times magazine:

The template for Iraq today is not Vietnam, to which it has often been compared, but El Salvador, where a right-wing government backed by the United States fought a leftist insurgency in a 12-year war beginning in 1980. The cost was high — more than 70,000 people were killed, most of them civilians, in a country with a population of just six million. Most of the killing and torturing was done by the army and the right-wing death squads affiliated with it.

…[big snip]…

In El Salvador, Honduras, Peru, Turkey, Algeria and other crucibles of insurgency and counterinsurgency, the battles went on and on. They were, without exception, dirty wars.

Well, yes, it’s a dirty war (isn’t every war?)… It’s a dirty war when “insurgents” and imported murderers and deluded suicidal fanatics blow up and behead innocent civilians. Is it dirtier to stop them?

Fighting the PC war

Fighting the PC war

: Tonight’s 60 Minutes tried to act as if it blew the lid off Guantanamo Bay… but the worst they got from Sgt. Erik Saar, a former translator now cashing in on his time on the island with a book, is this about a female officer and a detainee:

“As she stood in front of him, she slowly started to unbutton her army blouse. She had on underneath the Army blouse a tight brown Army T-shirt, touched her breasts, and said, ‘Don’t you like these big American breasts?'” says Saar. “She wanted to create a barrier between this detainee and his faith, and if she could somehow sexually entice him, he would feel unclean in an Islamic way, he would not be able to pray and go before his God and gain that strength, so the next day, maybe he would be able to start cooperating, start talking to her.”

And then she unbuttoned her pants, acted as if she was getting menstrual blood on her fingers — actually ink — and put it on the prisoner, telling him her could not bathe and thus cleanse himself of this sin before praying.

Saar says she did this to a Saudi who took flying lessons in the U.S. He says this is a guy who should be locked away forever.

Now the technique may be infantile or ridiculous or stupid. But it is not torture.

And if this Saudi was taking flying lessons in the U.S. — do we sense a pattern? — then I see nothing wrong with trying use his own ridiculous views of women to get intelligence out of him to try to prevent the next mass murder.

CBS correspondent Scott Pelley says just what he should say: “You know, there are people at home watching this right now, saying, ‘Hey, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.'” But the sarge replies that the technique isn’t effective. Well, sarge, I’d say that’s not up to you to decide. You’re a translator — before you decided to make a buck off dissing your former colleagues.

There are mentions of other allegations at Guantamamo and frankly I would not be surprised — and would disapprove — if physical torture were used. And I don’t doubt Saar’s contention that most of the detainees are inconsequential (but who knows which ones?).There are mentions of the contentions of the prisoners, but I’d take those with a block of salt. There are no smoking cattle prods here. FBI memos mentioned in the report alleged a few bent thumbs and over-zealous duct-taping. But it’s still not torture. It’s war. Yet this report acts as if we must conduct that war under PC terms: Can’t offend this Saudi who took flying lessons in the U.S. No, that would be wrong.

Uh, who says?

No nuclear secrets

No nuclear secrets

: The NY Times reports today on a revolution-via-blog carried out at even the highly secret Los Alamos National Lab.

Several outside experts said that the director’s quick departure was inevitable and that the blog’s attacks were playing a significant role.

“Nanos is leaving,” said Greg Mello, director of the Los Alamos Study Group, a private organization in Albuquerque that monitors weapons laboratories. “The blog changed the climate, giving people an outlet they didn’t have before.”

Blogs seem to be everywhere. But this one is unusual, in that the Los Alamos National Laboratory, isolated in the mountains of New Mexico, has a long history of maintaining the highest level of federal secrecy. The lab’s very existence was once classified. Today, barbed wire rings many of its buildings, federal agents monitor its communications, and its employees are constantly reminded that loose lips sink ships.

I was called and quoted on it, saying that this isn’t really about blogs but about citizens empowered. Blogs happen to be the catalyst. The ethic of transparency is sweeping the land.