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February 10, 2005


Huh. And here I thought you were referring to the fact that North Korea has, at long last, offically admitted to having nuclear weapons. Frankly, I'm not sure whether I'm happy or sad to be wrong.

Most of all, I hate that it's my country, which I love, that let this happen

Your country isn't a person. George Bush let it happen during his first term in office. The people who voted for George Bush let it continue to happen during his second term in office. That's where the buck stops.

At least we weren't crucifying these detainees for hours or beating them to death.

Is it just me, or are people more upset about this one than anything else?

(what I mean is: I don't quite grok why THIS, of all things, seems to be the straw that broke the camel's back.)

The party of Family Values strikes again.

People have been abusing and torturing one another forever, but this weird sexual stuff we've added to the mix . . . wonder where it comes from? The ubiquity of porn? I dunno.

Praktike - americans aren't interested in anything unless it has a sexual angle. Plame, Iraq, this, none of it matters. Bush is untouchable unless he's got his own Monica.

Uh... praktike: what makes you think the camel's back is broken? AFAICT, the critter hasn't even gotten so much as a sprain yet. Sure, the "menstrual blood" stuff is icky, and good for lurid headlines on blogs, but what do you want to bet that somewhere on LGF, some commentor is lavishly praising our brave girls in uniform for being so creative in their "interrogation" techniques, and sneering at the "humiliated" prisoners (After all, it wasn't real blood!).
Disgusting as it may be, I sadly doubt this will do much to change (American) public opinion on Iraqi prisoner-abuse issues one iota. I hope I am wrong, but I doubt that, too.

praktike: I don't know. Personally, I'm not more upset about this than about, say, beating people to death. But I think there might be two things at work. First, it is (as I think I said to rilkefan in a comment when this story first emerged) not nearly as bad in one sense (no permanent physical damage, etc: in this sense obviously the guy who was beaten to death and stored in ice is obviously much worse), but there are other aspects os 'awful' on which this one trumps. Two that leap to mind are: (1) sick and twisted, and (2) something you can't imagine happening in a command structure that hadn't gone completely loopy. (I mean: in some sense it's possible for me to see how, in a reasonably well-run prison in which torture is generally out, someone might start beating up a prisoner, and maybe even kill him. Whereas it's hard for me to read this without thinking of Heart of Darkness: "Do you think my methods are unsound? -- I don't see any method at all, sir."

The other thing is that this was a story which I discounted when I first read it, and if I discounted it, I assume that people on the right surely did. When it got confirmed, my basic reaction not to its having happened, but to my having been wrong about what we were doing, was to think: yet again my take on them was too favorable. Who'da thunk? But I would imagine that people who have more invested in believing them might have felt a special sense of betrayal. Especially since, as I said, it's hard to think of a story according to which this was part of a generally well-run operation; and thus hard not to see it as showing that their trust was much more generally misplaced. Or so I'd imagine.

praktike: I see nothing but extraordinarily healthy camels loaded with the multitudinous straws of the past 4+ years loping toward the hay baler. Or something.

Just yesterday, our President responded to a question regarding the ballooning cost estimates for the Medicare drug benefit (his program; low-balled) by cheerfully and smirkingly pointing out that the "unfunded liabilities" of the Medicare program will be next on his list of "bold" initiatives. Raising the Medicare tax will be off the table, of course.

What does this have to do with smearing mentrual blood on Islamic prisoners? Nothing.

And everything.

You'll notice there is nary a peep to the FCC about broadcasting this news of these miniskirted, fulsomely fertile interrogators and their wardrobe malfunctions.

rif: "At least we weren't crucifying these detainees for hours or beating them to death."

I don't know about crucifying detainees (though the admittedly used "waterboarding" seems to me to come close), but several detainees are known to have died in US custody in Iraq. At least one appears to have been beaten to death. Another had a sleeping bag put over his head and an interrogator sit on his face, leading to suffocation. Don't assume that just because this is the current scandal that it is the only or even the worst abuse going on.

praktike: I see nothing but extraordinarily healthy camels loaded with the multitudinous straws of the past 4+ years loping toward the hay baler.

I was wondering how they were getting the raw materials for strawman. Mystery solved!

Is it just me, or are people more upset about this one than anything else?

Personally, I'm more upset about things like this:">">this:

“Fallujah is surrounded by refugee camps where people are living in tents and old cars,” he explains, “It reminded me of Palestinian refugees. I saw children coughing because of the cold, and there are no medicines. Most everyone left their houses with nothing, and no money, so how can they live depending only on humanitarian aid?”

The doctors says that in one refugee camp in the northern area of Fallujah there were 1,200 students living in seven tents.

“The disaster caused by this siege is so much worse than the first one, which I witnessed first hand,” he says, and then tells me he’ll use one story as an example.

“One story is of a young girl who is 16 years old,” he says of one of the testimonies he video taped recently, “She stayed for three days with the bodies of her family who were killed in their home. When the soldiers entered she was in her home with her father, mother, 12 year-old brother and two sisters. She watched the soldiers enter and shoot her mother and father directly, without saying anything.”

The girl managed to hide behind the refrigerator with her brother and witnessed the war crimes first-hand.

“They beat her two sisters, then shot them in the head,” he said. After this her brother was enraged and ran at the soldiers while shouting at them, so they shot him dead.

“She continued hiding after the soldiers left and stayed with her sisters because they were bleeding, but still alive. She was too afraid to call for help because she feared the soldiers would come back and kill her as well. She stayed for three days, with no water and no food. Eventually one of the American snipers saw her and took her to the hospital,” he added before reminding me again that he had all of her testimony documented on film.

A couple of random cites to back up the claim I made in my previous post (sorry about the length, I never have learned to do the links properly):

I could go on...

votermom: The following is a link to the story that made me finally think that it might be time to just give up on the US...especially the description of US soldiers shooting a 6 year old boy while he cried over the bodies of his parents, whom they had also recently shot.

Ooops....sorry all, in my 10:03 post above I should have put ".....public opinion on Guantanamo prisoner-abuse issues...." rather than "Iraqi".
Not, I am sure, that it would make much difference in in the public mind anyway......

"Two that leap to mind are: (1) sick and twisted, and (2) something you can't imagine happening in a command structure that hadn't gone completely loopy."

I guess that's part of it. But still ... in the grand scheme of things, putting a red marker on someone seems less morally problematic than, say, beating the crap out of them. I guess it's also that (a) menstrual blood is widely viewed as icky (b) it smacks of religious warfare (c) it reminds one of Rafael Patai's The Arab Mind (sex as a taboo vested with shame and repression in Arab culture).

I see the same camels that John Thullen so eloquently describes.

OK, so the camel's back is not broken. Is it bowed?

Here's something worse.

There are credible reports that a U.S. citizen was arrested in Saudi Arabia at the request of the United States because he was suspected of working with Al Qaeda. Other defendants were arrested in Saudia Arabia in connection with the same case, but they were extradited and tried here. Ali apparently was not because a grand jury found the evidence against him insufficient to issue an indictment. Ali was questioned by FBI agents in custody, and possibly tortured.

I apologize for the length of this, but I think it's worth posting and I can't find a link. These are excerpts from U.S. District Court Judge John D. Bates' ruling in Abu Ali v. Ashcroft, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 25239. This was issued last December; I don't know how I missed it. I have elided a lot and deleted the citations to make it shorter & more readable.

"I. The Arrest of Abu Ali

Petitioner Ahmed Abu Ali ("Abu Ali") is an American citizen who was born in Houston, Texas. After graduating as valedictorian of his high school class in Virginia, he enrolled as a scholarship student at the Islamic University of Medina in Saudi Arabia. On June 11, 2003, while he was taking his final exam at the university, Saudi security officers entered his classroom and arrested him. Since that day, Abu Ali has been detained indefinitely in a Saudi prison without charge or access to counsel.

At about the same time that Abu Ali was arrested, three other Americans in Saudi Arabia were also apprehended by Saudi officials. Unlike Abu Ali, each of these individuals was extradited a month later to the United States. Once in the United States, they were charged, along with eight other Northern Virginia men, with undertaking paramilitary training to wage a terrorist jihad on behalf of Muslims. Abu Ali thus was the only American citizen not extradited to the United States and charged with a crime.

FBI agents raided Abu Ali's home in Virginia on June 16, 2003, less than a week after he was arrested in Saudi Arabia. The search warrant was issued by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (the same court in which the Royer proceedings were located), and instructed the agents to look for weapons, cellular phones, and documents tending to show a conspiracy between Abu Ali and four of the defendants in the Royer case. Some time later, a prosecutor in the Royer proceedings would acknowledge that the search of Abu Ali's home was conducted "in connection with" the Royer prosecution.

Roughly five days after Abu Ali was arrested, and at about the same time as the raid on his home took place, FBI agents visited the Saudi prison in which Abu Ali was detained and watched as he was interrogated by Saudi officials. The prosecutor in the Royer case has acknowledged that this interrogation took place. The prosecutor says that during the interrogation Abu Ali confessed to joining a "clandestine al Qaeda cell" and admitted that "al Qaeda told him he must either conduct terrorist operations or return to the United States and establish an al Qaeda cell." Id.

II. The Months Following the Detention
Abu Ali's parents took their concerns to a newspaper reporter who had been covering the Royer prosecution. In a July 2003 article, that reporter quoted a Saudi Embassy spokesman as saying that the United States Legal Attache office -- the name for the FBI overseas station -- "had full and complete and [*8] direct access" to Abu Ali from the moment of his arrest....

In September 2003, several FBI agents traveled to Saudi Arabia and interrogated Abu Ali for at least four days. According to an affidavit from Abu Ali's mother, Abu Ali told her in a phone call that the FBI agents had threatened to declare him an enemy combatant and send him to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, if he did not cooperate....Abu Ali's mother also says that Abu Ali told her the FBI agents threatened to put him on trial in Saudi Arabia without counsel.

Abu Ali's father, who works as a system analyst at the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, D. C., prevailed on his contacts in the Saudi government to assist him in his search for information regarding the detention of his son. He claims that unidentified officials in the Saudi Embassy "consistently told me that Ahmed has not violated Saudi laws, and that there are no plans to prosecute him in Saudi Arabia." He also says that he spoke "to several high-ranking officials at the Saudi Embassy who are familiar with Ahmed's case, and whom I am unable to name for security and privacy concerns." Id. He claims that they "have described Ahmed's arrest and detention as an 'American case' that Saudi Arabia has no control over due to strong political pressure from the U.S. government to keep Ahmed in Saudi custody." Id. P 2.

Petitioners allege that they were receiving other indications at the time as well that the United States was behind the detention of their son. Abu Ali's father asserts that in September 2003 he asked a high-ranking government official in Saudi Arabia to visit his son in order to check on his safety. The official returned with the information that he "was instructed to 'stay away' because the U.S. was behind the case." Id. P 3. Abu Ali's parents also describe a November 2003 phone call in which Abu Ali told them that Consul Charles Glatz of the United States Embassy in Saudi Arabia had informed him that his case was in the hands of Washington, not the Saudi government....

Abu Ali's father states in an affidavit that members of the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office told his former attorney, Martin McMahon, that a grand jury had considered the case against Abu Ali and had found no evidence to indict him. See Aff. of Omar Abu Ali, Sept. 20, 2004, P 10. Abu Ali's father also says that friends and family members who were called as witnesses by the grand jury have confirmed that the grand jury deliberated from July 2003 through the first few months of 2004....

V. Allegations of Torture

Petitioners relate their growing concern that Abu Ali has been subjected to torture during his detention in Saudi Arabia. They maintain that they have received information from an unidentified eyewitness in Saudi Arabia who said that he saw Abu Ali experiencing so much pain in his hands that he was unable to pick up a pen to sign documents.

At the same time, petitioners cite two instances where the Assistant U.S. Attorney leading the Royer prosecution has allegedly made comments indicating that Abu Ali has had his fingernails removed. The first of these instances was allegedly in a meeting between the Assistant U.S. Attorney and the defendants in the Royer prosecution. According to petitioners, Seifullah Chapman, one of the defendants, reported to them in August 2004 that the prosecutor had said that Abu Ali "doesn't have to worry about clipping his fingernails anymore."

Salim Ali, a lawyer for one of the Royer defendants, describes in an affidavit a conversation that he claims he had with the same prosecutor while they were waiting at a courthouse in June 2003 after a hearing in the Royer case. Salim Ali says that he asked the prosecutor whether Abu Ali should be returned to the United States to face charges. He explains that the prosecutor "smirked and stated that 'he's no good for us here, he has no fingernails left.'" In a September 2004 phone call with Abu Ali, his parents mentioned the prosecutor's comments, to which Abu Ali replied, "there are hidden things which you don't know about that are even worse." ....When Abu Ali's mother asked Abu Ali about [a letter he had allegedly written], Abu Ali replied, "don't ask me these questions, it hurts me when you ask these questions." Abu Ali's mother asked him, "do they hurt you?", and he replied, "yes."

Here's an update on that same case.

The State Department has asked Saudi Arabia to either indict a U.S. citizen it is holding on suspicion of terrorist activities or allow the Justice Department to return him to the United States.

...Two U.S. officials from different national security agencies said the government did not really want Abu Ali returned. One said the government had hoped the Saudis would find a way to hold him, but was now seeking "to make the civil suit go away" because it risked forcing the government to disclose sensitive or embarrassing information about his case...

...Another source familiar with the Abu Ali matter said he had recently learned that prosecutors were subpoenaing people who knew him to testify before a grand jury, and that he expected prosecutors to seek an indictment against him.

He was apparently arrested in Saudi Arabia at the same time as they were making the arrests in the Riyadh bombing, so it may be that they plan to indict him on that instead of the stuff in Northern Virginia. I don't really know--I'm not real familiar with how indictments actually work.

I just heard about Abu Ali this morning on Morning Edition on my way to work -- I was burning mad by the time I got to my desk. The administration has been delaying a hearing on the detention as long as possible, and the latest development as I understand it is that all the evidence against him has been declared secret, so that his lawyers have no way to challenge any of it. It's all just too horribly maddening.

Oh, here's a link to the audio.

He explains that the prosecutor "smirked and stated that 'he's no good for us here, he has no fingernails left.'"
This is sickening. Is the prosecuter's name known?

Many of the sexual molestation "techniques" seem to resemble the acts of older adolescence on younger adolescence and toddlers.

The brutality some young men and women can inflict on their younger counterparts...this looks a lot like that stuff.

U.S. soldier claims gay panic made him kill
Guardsman says he shot Iraqi soldier after consensual sex

A North Carolina National Guard soldier claims he shot an Iraqi soldier 11 times and killed him last spring after the two men had consensual sex while on duty near Tikrit, Iraq, according to a court martial report released by the military to media outlets.

Pvt. Federico Daniel Merida, 21, pled guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Falah Zaggam, a 17-year-old Iraqi national guardsman, military records claim. After officials began an investigation into the death, Merida, who is married and has a 2-year-old son, used a gay panic defense as one of his three excuses for the crime.


The problem with the fake menstrual blood thing is that it's stupid and amateurish. This is supposed to be an important project. Is it too much to ask that it be handled professionally? This is just another example of people making stupid things up as they go along. Whoever thought this was a good idea is a moron and should be fired, but there is no accountability. Not just for abuse, but for the fact that none of this idiocy has any practical usefulness whatsoever. Now the real cops in the FBI, who know something about successfully interrogating and turning terror suspects, are ashamed to have anything to do with the incompetent spook psychos running these sessions. Great. Way to handle the war, guys.

Your worry about the sexual obsession of the torture-scandal is entirely justified: people are being beaten--and some to death--making ideological dehumanization seem tame by comparision.

Still, the political attention should, if oppositional parties use it carefully, be able to leverage the conservative digust-factor towards a more effective investigation of the means currently used to interrogate prisoners.

Given the current administrational whitewash and popular affirmation of trust, any tactic that will crack trust should be embraced, at least provisionally.

I'm not afraid of inflaming passions on this issue--as a feminist, I'm absolutely against forcing people into a sexual relationship, no matter the peculiarities of their culture. (When cultures prevent sexual relationships is trickier, but this is a separate question, or should be.)

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