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The tortuous path from Kandahar to Guantanamo

They say journalists provide the first draft of history. With the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, that draft led to an almost universal consensus, at least among Americans, that the attack was a justifiable act of self-defense. The Afghanistan action is commonly viewed as a "clean" conflict as well – a war prosecuted with minimal loss of life, and one that didn't bring the kind of international opprobrium onto the United States that the invasion of Iraq would lead to a year later.

Those views are also held by many Americans who are critical of the excesses of the Bush administration's "War on Terror." But there's a disconnect there. Everything that followed – secret detentions, torture, the invasion of Iraq, the assault on domestic dissent – flowed inevitably from the failure to challenge Bush's claim that an act of terror required a military response. The United States has a rich history of abandoning its purported liberal values during times of war, and it was our acceptance of Bush's war narrative that led to the abuses that have shattered America's moral standing before the world.

Thus does Joshua Holland begin an article in which he presents an interview with Andy Worthingnton, author of The Guantanamo Files which

 ... offers a much-needed corrective to the draft of the Afghanistan conflict that most Americans saw on their nightly newscasts. Worthington is the first to detail the histories of all 774 prisoners who have passed through the Bush administration's "legal black hole" at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. But his history starts in Afghanistan, and makes it abundantly clear that the road to Guantánamo – not to mention Abu Ghraib – began in places like Kandahar.

From there the process is one of connecting the dots and tracing the path that led to the abandoning of principles once held to be fundamental to the US system of justice. The process has been cloaked in lies and spin and the first question and answer addresses a fundamental misrepresentation:

Joshua Holland: I think most Americans believe that we went into Afghanistan to rout anti-American or anti-Western "jihadi," but your book captures the fact that the U.S. entered on one side of a long-standing civil war that had nothing to do with any sort of "clash of civilizations" between East and West. Can you give us some sense of what that conflict was about?

Andy Worthington: Sure, it's a very good question, actually. Briefly, the roots of the conflict lie in the Afghan resistance to the Soviet invasion in the 1980s, when the United States, via Pakistani intermediaries, and the Saudis vied to fund the mujahideen – Afghan warlords and their soldiers, backed up by a rather smaller number of Arab recruits.

At the end of the 1980s, when the Soviet Union withdrew, the country was plunged into a civil war, as the various warlords, pumped up with billions of dollars of U.S. and Saudi aid, fought each other to gain control of the country. Tens of thousands of civilians died, and crime and human rights abuses were rife.

Largely in response to this lawlessness, the Taliban – initially a group of ultraorthodox religious students from the south of the country – rose up to cleanse the country by creating a pure Islamic state. Their project, too, was soon derailed by brutality and by a religious fundamentalism that shocked the West, but it was the struggle between the Taliban and the warlords of the Northern Alliance that attracted thousands of foreign foot soldiers to Afghanistan in the 1990s, summoned by fatwas issued by radical sheikhs in their homelands, which required them to help the Taliban in their struggle against the Northern Alliance.

Osama Bin Laden, who had been living in Saudi Arabia and Sudan in the post- Soviet period, returned to Afghanistan in 1996 and became involved in funding military training camps and building up his plans for a global, anti-American jihad, but – although there was some overlap between Al Qaeda and parts of the Taliban leadership – the vast majority of the recruits, as I've indicated, were involved not in a grand "clash of civilizations" but in a provincial inter-Muslim civil war.

And from that we get to Guantanamo, and Iraq.

For more on the Guantanamo trial processes there is this further article by Worthtington.

It has been a long and twisted and tortuous path indeed.


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Thread closed

There have been a number of interactions with Bob over this thread, where he has made what the moderators feel to be unreasonable requests for the moderators to, essentially, weigh in on his side, with increasingly strident demands in emails etc. As a result of all this kerfuffle, Bob has been banned from Webdiary for three months. We feel it would be inappropriate for Bob's thread to remain open for comment when he is banned from responding, so the comment box on this thread is closed. If anyone else wants to carry on debating, then submit another piece to restart the debate.

Another case, and "Sure, I believe you"

Andy Worthington on yet another case ...

On February 5, the New York Times published a front-page story by Carlotta Gall and myself, Time Runs Out for an Afghan Held by the U.S., about Abdul Razzaq Hekmati, a 68-year old Afghan detainee who died in Guantánamo on December 30, 2007, in which we established that Mr. Hekmati, known to the authorities in Guantánamo as Abdul Razzak, had -- contrary to assertions that he was involved in both al-Qaeda and the Taliban -- helped free three anti-Taliban commanders from a Taliban jail in 1999, but that no significant effort had been made in Guantánamo to find witnesses who could easily have verified his story, which he had repeated throughout his five-year detention without charge or trial.

In the wake of various right-wing claims that the journalistic integrity of the article was in doubt, following an “Editor’s Note” issued by the Times, pointing out that I have described Guantánamo as part of “a cruel and misguided response by the Bush administration to the Sept. 11 attacks,” and that I have an “outspoken position on Guantánamo” and “a point of view,” I think it may be prudent to relate a little of the background to the story, explaining its genesis, and directing readers to other sources to help verify the story reported by Carlotta and myself.

And the behaviour we are examining here can lead to stories such as this which.

13/03/08 -- -- BEIJING (AFP) - China on Thursday accused the United States of human rights hypocrisy, as it branded the US invasion of Iraq the "greatest humanitarian disaster" of the modern world.

In an annual response to Washington's criticism of China's human rights record, the Chinese government labelled the United States arrogant, and highlighted what it said were widespread US failures at home and abroad.

"(America's) arrogant critique on the human rights of other countries are always accompanied by a deliberate ignoring of serious human rights problems on its own territory," said the report, released by the state Xinhua news agency.

"This was not only inconsistent with universally recognised norms of international relations, but also exposed the double standards and downright hypocrisy of the United States on the human rights issue, and inevitably impaired its international image."

The US-led war in Iraq that began in 2003 was one of the many issues of concern highlighted by China in the report, entitled "The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2007."

"The United States has a notorious record of trampling on the sovereignty of and violating human rights in other countries," it said.

"The invasion of Iraq by American troops has produced the biggest human rights tragedy and the greatest humanitarian disaster in modern world."

It also criticised civilian deaths in Afghanistan, secret prisons and torture of detainees.

"'Secret prison' and 'torturing prisoners' have become synonymous with America," the report said.


On the matter of hypocrisy, recall the Crawford Caligula's record when reading this

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush got an earful on Thursday about problems and progress in Afghanistan where a war has dragged on for more than six years but been largely eclipsed by Iraq.

In a videoconference, Bush heard from U.S. military and civilian personnel about the challenges ranging from fighting local government and police corruption to persuading farmers to abandon a lucrative poppy drug trade for other crops.

Bush heard tales of all-night tea drinking sessions to coax local residents into cooperating, and of tribesmen crossing mountains to attend government meetings seen as building blocks for the country's democracy-in-the-making.

"I must say, I'm a little envious," Bush said. "If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed."

Perhaps back during the Vietnam war Bush was simply confused about where the frontlines were -and no one pointed out that Texas and Alabama did not qualify. All night drinking sessions might have been his go but not, perhaps, tea. As to poppies, also perhaps not his preferred plant.

Justin, torture might work for some, but that is a matter for consenting adults.

Where's the court again?

Oh the slam dunk comment, rings a bell, Justin. The article I linked is far from the only one to  find Afghanistan a mess. "Failed state" has been used. Yet the US moves even further afield and alienates even more people. They couldn't do a better job of it if they tried. And that question has been asked.

That extract you highlighted and the linked article (why not Carry on up the Khyber?) - past efforts and past failures yet the same mistake keeps being made. The delusion by each power that tried that they were powerful enough to succeed.

Bloody folly.

Then the other aspects which I have dealt with - Ron Paul and others pointing out what the adoption of torture means to America. The winding back of freedoms and slicing bits from the Constitution. Equal opportunity destroyers.

Your suggestion for a solution is worth consideration. The money could be much better spent. But beware the military-industrial complex.

All things being equal

You know it would be reasonable to suggest that if torture is an effective way to get reliable intelligence regarding criminals then why don't we use it across the board?

I mean if a pack rapist is caught (and convicted) then why not roger the crap out of the bastard to get him to dob in his mates?

If an Alan Bond decides to shift all his wealth to his family before taking a few years holiday in the can as punishment for massive theft, then why not do things to him until he pays back his creditors?

Yep, torture is clearly the way to go and I'm sure there would be many who would be tempted to agree.

I suppose if we can quite happily torture an innocent taxi driver to death then a mongrel rapist or thief must be fair game.

In fact, I would argue that torturing garden variety criminals would be far more beneficial and productive than torturing ideologs. Maybe not as much fun but at least it would take a lot of crims out of circulation.

After we have got all the rapists and thieves rounded up we could then round up a druggie or two. Torture them until they dob in all their mates and so on. Soon all the druggies would be out of circulation.

And then we can have a look at  tax evaders, fare evaders, social security cheats, people who park in disabled spaces, and those who listen to James Blunt albums.

I think I shall invest in privatised prisons, vote for politicians who support torture and stock up on rubber gloves, electrodes, and James Blunt albums.

Besides, if we don't believe in torturing our home grown crimes then it would only be hypocritical to champion the torture of others.

You know, one finds it hard to understand why we stopped this torture thing in the first place - it worked really well for yonks ... didn't it?

Maybe people simply don't know a good thing when they see it. 

A slam dunk really

Thanks for the link Bob, I suppose it's all over bar the squealing, and that will probably go on for some time yet.

"That conclusion should hardly come as a surprise. As British correspondent Ronan Thomas notes, “Strategic success in Afghanistan has often been envisaged by outside powers – British, Soviet and now Coalition forces – but rarely if ever achieved.” Like its predecessors, the United States is losing the “great game” in Central Asia. "

We should all pack up and leave, pay the Taliban a few billion bucks to grow spuds (or whatever) instead of opium and be done with it. It would be a damn sight cheaper to subsidise a poor nation rather than spending heaps more destroying it.

Ron Paul speaks.

Here is the text of Rep. Ron Paul's speech before voting for the overriding of Bush's veto of H.R. 2062, the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2008.

I rise in somewhat reluctant support of this vote to override the President's veto of H.R. 2062, the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2008. Although I voted against this authorization when it first came to the floor, the main issue has now become whether we as a Congress are to condone torture as official U.S. policy or whether we will speak out against it. This bill was vetoed by the President because of a measure added extending the prohibition of the use of any interrogation treatment or technique not authorized by the United States Army Field Manual on Human Intelligence Collector Operations to the U.S. intelligence community. Opposing this prohibition is tantamount to endorsing the use of torture against those in United States Government custody.

We have all read the disturbing reports of individuals apprehended and taken to secret prisons maintained by the United States Government across the globe, tortured for months or even years, and later released without charge. Khaled al-Masri, for example, a German citizen, has recounted the story of his incarceration and torture by U.S. intelligence in a secret facility in Afghanistan. His horror was said to be simply a case of mistaken identity. We do not know how many more similar cases there may be, but clearly it is not in the interest of the United States to act in a manner so contrary to the values upon which we pride ourselves.

My vote to override the President's veto is a vote to send a clear message that I do not think the United States should be in the business of torture. It is anti-American, immoral and counterproductive.


The House on Tuesday failed to overturn President Bush’s veto of legislation that would have prohibited the Central Intelligence Agency from using waterboarding, which simulates drowning, on terrorism suspects.

Responses to the veto:

Jeffrey S. Kaye

"Alternative procedures." "Valuable tools in the war on terror." "Specialized interrogation procedures." "Safe and lawful techniques." "Good policies."

George W. Bush has more euphemisms for torture than his creepy Veep, Cheney, has expletives on supply.

On Saturday, in his weekly radio address, President Bush announced his veto of the Congressional Intelligence bill, which included a ban on CIA use of certain "enhanced" interrogation methods, like waterboarding. Bush defended the use of the so-called "alternative procedures" practiced by the CIA, as necessary for field intelligence officers interrogating "hardened terrorists." The play upon the fear of Americans of terrorist attack in the aftermath of the horrific 9/11 events turns upon well-understood traumatic mechanisms in the human psyche.

Tom Teepen

The final section deals outcomes:

Bush claims torture has prevented numerous terrorist attacks, but the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, says he has never heard of such an instance.

With this veto, Bush makes it clear that, beyond just scrambling to justify past lapses into torture after the fact, he emphatically wants torture to be cemented as national policy. Doing so, he adds a lurid extrusion to his astonishing claim that presidents, as commanders in chief, are beyond any control by Congress.

To champion torture, Bush has revolted allies and estranged them, thus compromising our options for their cooperation in intelligence, and he has ceded the high ground to moral claimants whose crowed indignation is often sly and tendentious but corrosive to our interests even so.

And most crucially, he has betrayed this country and its best values. We’ve never claimed to be perfect, but neither, up until now, have we ever claimed a right to be evil.

If these outcomes are accepted, why does Bush want torture permitted?

There are other points in the articles that might warrant discussion.

Now a report on Afghanistan.

Some points in there, Justin, related to our discussion last night.

History: A Constantly Changing Thing

There is a reason why cops love on the scene statements and a good lawyer's first question to a client is have you made one. The Bush excuse for hating Afghanistan action I maintain is a furphy.

Just so I am not accused of bias I will use this very site – Webdiary, 17 September 2001:

Can you tell me why America never asks itself this question: Why do others hate us enough to do such terrible things. Basically I seek to understand why the media broadcasts images of children cheering on the West Bank without any real analysis from any quarter.

No one is actually questioning why a country such as the USA which feels such an unending pride in its own virtue is hated by so many other peoples. Or is it simply part of the American psyche to need a demonised enemy whose motives are never questioned?

Yvette Elliott in South Perth, Western Australia

Some of it is really charming stuff and I recommend the reading. Not a great deal about Bush there though - if anything at all. There is plenty there about "Americans" and American Presidents - some of it spanning decades.

The simple fact is that for many of these people it wouldn't have mattered who was in charge or what action was taken: It would have ALWAYS been the wrong! Bush was never REALLY the problem!

One nice post:

Like many others my online time has been consumed with long traverses down the international email trails in search of people - and meaning - in the wake of the carnage. A swift visit today to the Webdiary - once the last best hope for considered, reflective commentary - left me reeling. Some people should have taken Mum's advice about the limited options that present in terms of bereavement-related characterisation.

Nothing is more indicative of a half-arsed grasp of reality than the fact that the pathologisation of the US and all its deeds, has received, in some quarters, a new moral imprimatur in the wake of the extremist horror visited upon New York and Washington.

How can there be any justification whatever, whenever, by whoever, for what has occurred?

These events can't be glibly excused by globalisation, capitalism or even plain old-fashioned envy.

This is the face of hatred. Naked and unadorned. I'd imagine that to be able to casually dispose of human life on a scale this vast, with singular disregard for individual or collective humanity, would require a rare degree of that less than multiculturally-appropriate quality - evil.

The US can and does behave badly. But it's also an open, diverse and pluralistic society. More so than any other society on the planet. No other nation has ever dared to constitutionally enshrine freedom to the extent that the US has and nor has any other nation undergone the degree of self-scrutiny and critical analysis that commitment rightfully engenders.

The totality of American adventurism in Chile, Vietnam and Cambodia wasn't the finger-pointing discovery of an outraged world. It was offered up to the world by Americans investigating their own heart of darkness, to a degree that no other society, including our own, has or would ever, permit.

This basic fact appears to have eluded the historical revisionists who delight in portraying the US as some bloody Messalina preying upon the peaceful, freedom-loving peoples of the world. These oppressed but delightfully diverse folk may have their minor little moral deficiencies but it's all the fault of globalisation, or capitalism, or some external force. It's absolutely nothing to do with being ruled by people who think that liberal democracy is a contemptuous weakness useful only for exacting a moral toll from countries rich enough and dumb enough to be hoist on their own liberal democratic petard.

Should we shut the door on people fleeing from a murderous regime like that of the Taliban? That question, understandably, has echoed in Australia for weeks. I've not heard the counter, however. Why should the people of Afghanistan - and 100 other nation states - have to endlessly endure tyranny as their natural state?

Developing world governments do have the ability to choose liberal democracy. Virtually none of them do. They are, for the most part, built around a clan loyalty ethos that doesn't encompass the broad communitarian accountability principle that we arrogantly assume to be the natural order of things.

For instance, no sooner had the self-righteous Western avengers of Big Pharma delivered cheap drugs to AIDS-stricken South Africa than that country's government announced that it had no intention of supplying them anyway, at any cost. They can apparently live with mass death. It's we who can't.

Afghanistan has been riven by endless fractricidal clan warfare for centuries. The Taliban is but the latest group to fruitlessly attempt to impose some form of national control. Its principal backers are the government of Pakistan - a nation itself born of sectional hatred and religious intolerance - and Usama bin Laden; a man who - irony of ironies - is a Saudi version of the familiar American over-privileged rich kid. A man whose only apparent interest is to kill people who offend him by virtue of vast wealth inherited from a family that made it's money in the naughty old world of global oil.

That his dilettantish destructiveness could move to encompass crumpling planes - and thousands of lives - against tall buildings is certainly possible. To imagine that it could all be explained away by the perceived inequities of US foreign policy is truly tragic.

Risha Jorgensen In New Jersey, 30 miles from New York City

Speed dialing

Michael Park: "Go find out Dylan: your response is not up to scratch. I suggest you come back with hard figures well backed up by links. Go count them if you have to."

I hope he has fast dialing fingers; only 200+ million opinions to seek. Best he get up bright and early.

It's good to be three...

I hope he has fast dialing fingers; only 200+ million opinions to seek. Best he get up bright and early.

They'd need to be quick to outdo those linking fingers one suspects Paul.

Hillary is need of such fingers at the present methinks. The end is nigh for the girl. You might well suggest that the Clintons have counters to cash but her latest pronouncements and behaviour would indicate they've been submitted to the change box. Pennsylvania has to be huge for her: another Texas and it's goodnight girl.

Oooops! Sorry Bob, I seem to have drifted from subject. I realise that I've done this in your study and apologise in advance of my coming admonition. I can, of course, provide my own penance: another six black beers.


Father Park

A ray of light ...

Thanks, Justin, for another considered post. Much to commend the points you made, but there were other points I was making that I'm sure you are aware of.

I am currently watching The Great War and its account of bloody folly. Appropriate. Craig posed the question about whether we are to keep making the same mistakes over and over. Sadly, the evidence is that we are, as people keep reacting in the ways you detailed, wherever and whenever they are. A reasonable generalisation I suggest.

As to the particular wars that concern us here, if they had been short and successful ... but was that possible given the places they were to be fought and the people who planned them? They were warned but hubris ruled ... and what follows hubris?

By jingo, one gets sick of it.

People dying and all the other suffering and out comes one of the architects, Doug Feith, (safe and secure in his latest job) with one of the grossest examples of self-serving bs. Galoots? You are far too kind. Delusional sociopaths is, I consider, a far more appropriate term.

Too many galoots...in

Bob: "Perhaps you could have tried to find out how many people in the US are not aware that the war against Iraq was a war of aggression and why they are not aware."

Would the unaware be any less lustful for revenge if they knew the war was primarily for imperial reasons?

The ordinary punter will conveniently forgive their adventurous leaders (for going to war) and support their wars provided the conflict promises to be successful and brief and most of all beneficial.

On the other hand a lenghty and costly war allows the punter to consider the moral dimension and conveniently retreat to the high ground in the hope of bringing an end to a bad idea. And especially if that bad idea impacts in a negative way on the punter or loved ones.

If the adventures into Afghanistan and Iraq were short and sweet then the punters could not have cared less what reasons the war. Winners are grinners and will quickly dismiss any moral argument in preference of pragmatism.

Morality is for idealists, pragmatism for realists, so they say.

And as they say the losers can suit themselves, but if you think about it if and if by some miracle the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq went as Rumsfeld had some believe then who would have complained?

Short and sweet wars would have meant that the locals quickly accepted occupation (after having the crap bombed out of them) and embraced the Western concept of freedom and democracy. And if that happened then all would have been forgiven, and after all who would complain about that? A win win and who gives a shit.

Sadly the dream of freedom and democracy in those targeted nations was at best wishful thinking, or at worst cynical manipulation of the traumatised punters, to give a noble aroma to the revenge they were about to inflict on the bad guys, and their women and children.

Usually the moral dimension is easily abandoned when pragmatism is victorious; however, if it all goes pear shaped then things, as we have seen, can get very ugly and costly in the superlative.

The moral of the story: if you start a war, win, and win quick. If so you're a hero, if not, your a galoot.

Pragmatically speaking one may claim there are - too many galoots in... the White House.


Dylan Kissane, thank you for your answer. I found it not so much informative as revealing. The same applies to Michael Park's intercession.

Response to Craig Rowley #2

Bob Wall: You said in your post 'The subject at hand' (on March 12, 2008 - 5:13am) addressed to Dylan Kissane: "... as Craig Rowley's questions have been largely ignored, you might like to address them. I am somewhat disappointed that such pertinent questions have not received the attention they deserve."

Craig Rowley has addressed a number of questions to me on this thread, and all of those fall into the 'ignored' class. Yesterday I posted my reason for having a personal policy of not engaging with Rowley (none of whose questions are difficult to answer) on any issue or thread.

The editors have chosen not to publish it to date. They possibly will, in time.

Fiona: Ian, what happens on other websites should be left there. Anyone interested knows what to do.

An intercession?

Oh dear Bob, you raise me above my station. Here at the Rectory of the Licentious Lush I often make intercessions on behalf of others: generally so as they may have a black beer or six. We often seek alcohol indulgences too.

If I do have a prayer to God on behalf of another it might be that you might find the way to conduct a discussion sans the resort to the Thatcher method. You know: "Who are these people who disagree" Can you name them? It is a pointless gambit with no answer and it is not meant to garner one. It is meant to stymie the debate.

Just as are "Perhaps you could have tried to find out how many people in the US are not aware that the war against Iraq was a war of aggression and why they are not aware" and "how many Americans would you say condoned the war of aggression against Iraq?"

Thatcher would, indeed, be proud.

Father Park

What have they to hide?

UN torture investigator, Manfred Nowak, said yesterday that American officials are refusing him access to US-run detention facilities in Iraq.

He said Iraqi officials had agreed in principle that he can visit the country later this year. British officials have also agreed to let him visit detainees held by their forces, he said.

But he was told by US officials that American-run prisons in Iraq were not subject to international human rights law because of the ongoing armed conflict in the country, and as such were outside of his remit as a torture investigator.


Paul Morrella says:

"Central Americans and Vietnamese and Cambodians have a much more justified complaint with American foreign policy than a terrorist masquerading as a Muslim ever had. Perhaps they value self control just that little bit more?"

Good point, but one wonders how and when those who formulate US foreign policy can be persuaded to "value self control just that little bit more".

A man of honour

The commander of US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, Admiral William Fallon, is to retire from his post early.

He cited the "embarrassing situation and public perception of differences between my views and administration policy" as the reason for retiring.

He was the subject of a recent article by Esquire magazine, which said he was opposed to the use of force against Iran over its nuclear programme.

Admiral Fallon is to be congratulated for standing up to the Bush and the neocons. I think that more of the top military leadership should vote with their feet rather than follow Bush and his mates into yet another hopeless war. It makes you think that Bush's last hurrah might just be an attack on Iran.

Apologies, John

The ramifications of your posting this morning were only drummed into me by the radio reports.  Remember just before the last  US elections, when the Army, Navy and Air Force editorials declared that nobody could deal with Rumsfeld any more?   That was the end of Rummy.  This time the mutiny has escalated.

Now, six months out from the Presidentials, Fallon says he can't work for Bush any more and jumps ship.  The Commander of US Armed Forces in the Middle East can't deal with his Commander-in-Chief!   What's he going to say when he's taken his cardboard box through the Pentagon's front gates?  Speaking of Gates, what a position for the Defence Secretary to be in!

Time for armchair warriors to install seat belts, methinks.  The election campaign could be about to get much more interesting.   I wonder what McCain's spin-doctors are contemplating at the moment?

Interesting times, to to standup and be counted.

No problems, Richard. Bush must be counting the days until he is out office, he has been well out of his depth for about 8 years and the world has had to pay the price. At last some of the guys behind the scenes are standing up to be counted.

Cheers, John

The subject at hand..

Dylan Kissane, unlike your answer Richard's question where you at least attempted to provide detail, in response to my question there is nothing more than feelings and imaginings:

My feeling would be that anyone defining the war as a "war of aggression" with the knowledge that such a war is contrary to international law would not have condoned it. Then again, I also imagine that a lot of people didn't see it as a war of aggression.

Perhaps you could have tried to find out how many people in the US are not aware that the war against Iraq was a war of aggression and why they are not aware. This could help understand why successive US governments have been able to get away with acts of aggression against or interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states. Given the massive casualty figures and repercussions resulting from the implementation of US foreign policy over many years it is a matter of enormous importance.

In addition, if you read the thread you will see that behaviour by some Americans is the intended subject of this thread. You might care to consider the effects that behaviour has had and the implications of it being allowed to continue.

Also, as Craig Rowley's questions have been largely ignored, you might like to address them. I am somewhat disappointed that such pertinent questions have not received the attention they deserve.

A fascinating exercise....

I have to admit to being somewhat fascinated at the banter that passes for "informed debate" here at times. It reminds me, I think, of why I absented myself.

Much might be highlighted but this is the "Visa moment":

Dylan Kissane, Unlike your answer Richard's question where you at least attempted to provide detail, in response to my question there isnothing more than feelings and imaginings....[said imaginings removed]...Perhaps you could have tried to find out how many people in the US are not aware that the war against Iraq was a war of aggression and why they are not aware.

What an utterly silly suggestion. Yes silly - in the complete Monty Python sense of it - that's what it is. One of those trite, banal lines that have children racing off to find the unanswerable. Just like:

Dylan Kissane, and how many Americans would you say condoned the war of aggression against Iraq?

Go find out Dylan: your response is not up to scratch. I suggest you come back with hard figures well backed up by links. Go count them if you have to. Perhaps the inane question might be reversed by asking how many did not.

Since the diversion from topic is well underway, the Iraq war was fought for geopolitical advantage; the guarantee of access and 'control' of access to - not necessarily ownership of -  an industrial empire's vital resource: oil. Tha actions of the US in this area are clear and explainable. That the strategy "blew up" and degenerated into the morass of Mesopotamia is incidental.

US actions in this regard are no different than the UK, French and Germans before it.

I've read your Mearschimer pice Dylan. Just need time to have another squizz and compile something articulate. 

Father Park

Question + Strategy = Go For It, Bob

Bob writes:

Perhaps you could have tried to find out how many people in the US are not aware that the war against Iraq was a war of aggression and why they are not aware. This could help understand why successive US governments have been able to get away with acts of aggression against or interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states. Given the massive casualty figures and repercussions resulting from the implementation of US foreign policy over many years it is a matter of enormous importance.

Alternatively, Bob, you could do this and answer your own question. You have a question, you've outlined a strategy to find the answer so go at it and let us all know what you find.

I Hate America....brrrrrrrrrrr

Bob Wall

Dylan Kissane, and how many Americans would you say condoned the war of aggression against Iraq?

From a person constantly writing about diversion. There is not a person that could write this stuff.

I guess Paul Morrella can thank you for speaking on his behalf, but then again maybe Geoff speaks for Paul now.

Nobody "speaks" for me.

If we ever cut off the military hardware the terrorist percentage might throw sticks and stones at us. A worse threat than communism: Surely you jest. I am still laughing......

More percentages.

Dylan Kissane, and how many Americans would you say condoned the war of aggression against Iraq?

No idea

Bob asks:

...how many Americans would you say condoned the war of aggression against Iraq?

I guess it would be important to figure out how many Americans thought it was a war of aggression first. My feeling would be that anyone defining the war as a "war of aggression" with the knowledge that such a war is contrary to international law would not have condoned it. Then again, I also imagine that a lot of people didn't see it as a war of aggression.

Craig adds:

...I guess Paul Morrella can thank you for speaking on his behalf...

As Paul notes, he speaks for himself, as do I.


Hi, Ian. In your comment (March 10, 2008, 5:19pm) you wrote:

The prevailing orthodoxy on Webdiary says that neither Iraq nor Afghanistan was justified in response to 9/11. This it seems to me presumes that there was a better alternative response to 9/11 in each case. My question was intended to find out what people thought it might be.

Fair enough, a loose reading of that might give the impression that you yourself thought there was no alternative to the invasion of Iraq, but I concede that is not necessarily the case.

Incidentally, I was going to pull you up on your apparently reflexive 'linkage' of Iraq to the WOT... but then remembered we'd been there before a while ago to no avail.

Schlachthof funf

Just put up with it. I think I read it correctly” You do indeed Ian, you see I would never recommend a course of action that I consider morally reprehensible. Politicians are not like us Ian, they are careless of other peoples' lives and value those of their countrymen only slightly above that of foreigners. What was it the Jolly Georgian said? You kill one person, it’s murder, kill a million, it’s a statistic and that hero of the hour, the “British Bulldog” recommended turning machine guns on the striking miners and gas for the truculent Iraqis. “That will put a lively terror in’em.”

Allied intelligence was well aware of the presence of POWs in Dresden but that did not deter them. I knew an old German couple in Canberra that somehow managed to survive that holocaust and they told me about it. No few died.

How could I recommend the invasion of Afghanistan when I know the inevitable consequences will be the deaths of thousands of innocents? Wedding parties bombed etc., carelessly classified as “collateral damage”. Should I kill an innocent that I might reduce risk to myself? Some would argue that I’m a bloody fool if I didn’t. 3000 or so dead as the result of 9/11 and how many more thousands of young American dead as the result of retribution? Doesn't make any sense to me but then I know I'm a weirdo.

“..retribution is seen by law enforcer and criminal alike as a preventive measure” . I’d debate that with you. Spontaneous crime is unmindful of retribution and in the case of premeditated crime the risks are weighed and accepted. Unfortunately it appears punishment is no deterrent to the criminal as is painfully obvious.

wrapped up in a pig carcass” hmm interesting, that chap must have read the same “Boy’s Own” annual that I did over half a century ago. Bugger of a job though, sifting through all the gore trying to find enough of the right bits to constitute a corpse, still worth a try I suppose.

Revenge is sweet...isn't it...

"Like it or not hoss Americans want justice to be served."

Nah, the Yanks wanted revenge Paul, that's all, so now they have got their revenge and don't like it any more. Good old revenge, quite often works like that.

BTW since Chris Parsons disappeared into the night sky red herrings have been somewhat scarce. Thanks for keeping an old albatross satisfied.

The times they are a'changeing

Craig Warton, no I have no idea.  I'm just glad that someone's looking for alternatives to bloodshed.  

A precedent to such moves has been set by South Australia administering Guantanemo Law, law that was created to avoid problems due to the law of the country of its creators.  But administer it we did, under the auspices of both Liberal and Labor governments.

If we can do something like that as a considered necessity of the changing times, why not consider legal aspects considered important by a population influx that has become a signifigant percentage of a community?  If we can change our due processes to satisfy the whims of one country, then why not another?

Friends in the UK tell me that some local areas cancelled their nativity displays so as not to offend muslim populations.  While I consider such things to be an extreme (and offensive to many) the fact that such things can happen is a display of an incredibly dire need to amalgamate populations.

If the alternative to rethinking our legal systems is to go into complete security lockdown to protect western cultures from attacks and reprisals, we'll have lost a lot anyway.

Instead of bringing everything back to Darwinism, do we need to consider every alternative solution possible?  I think that the Archbishop was indeed playing devil's advocate in trying to get his community to think along different lines.  Any different lines would be a good start.

Legal integration could be the dowry to cultural marriages.  Right now we're looking at a couple of hundred years of playing Hatfields and McCoys,  We need to start getting creative.


Changing times?

Richard,  you have been particularly voiciferous in opposing various things resulting from Guantanemo. But what you are suggesting here is not changing laws to accomodate another country - you are talking about changing laws based on a religion.

Nativity displays and the like have been pulled in Australia too, and several of the fast food chains also have Halal branches in various areas (at least in Sydney). But changing the law to suit the religious predilections of one group is a big one. Would you like to see anything happening on a Sunday banned because it breaches the sabbath? How about the total banning of abortion too because it offends some religious groups.

That's the problem with it, if you change civil law to pander to one religion, then its fair game for all of them.

It isnt an indication of a dire need to amalgamate communities, it is a result of one group asking for tolerance of its own beliefs, but trying to supress others that it does not like.

As a strong advocate of free speech and open Government I am at a loss to understand how you can even contemplate things like that.

The search for happiness

Craig Warton, I have the feeling that I'm digging a hole for myself from the bottom of the pit.

The possible religious bannings you mention worry me frequently.  Some of them remind me of Good Friday, others of where our society stood not that long ago.  As a superficial example, it hasn't been that long since Sunday trading in pubs was introduced.  Also, Roe vs Wade seems to be still under attack in the US, and while all the argument is not on religious grounds, religious groups seem to make up many of the challengers.

Given that I can't see any greater religious amalgamation occurring than that of the Uniting Church, how are we going to have an ordered society comprised of followers of religion unless we have a legal system that allows those religions to be followed?  Co-existence would necessitate followers of Islam in Western countries such the UK  modifying their religious practices, in the same way that Christians are beginning to, but if it leads to a modified Islam and a modified Christianity that are able to co-exist without either side wanting to eradicate the other that might be the way to go  I would prefer to see such things being thought about now than by irradiatied practitioners sitting in the rubble of mosques and chapels.

A common ground is going to take a lot of work from many people, over a long period of time.   Doesn't mean it can't be done, in a way that keeps pretty well everyone reasonably happy, and alive.

Have you been reading today about the NSW police keeping their APEC powers?  Happy abiout that, Craig?  The lines are blurring already.

Or maybe not, given today's news from Afghanistan.

Bush condones torture ...

... and even his commanders are worried about it.

From Nikolaj Nielsen's piece for Open Democracy:

A torture technique once used in the Spanish Inquisition has been condoned by the US president. 

George Bush vetoed a Congressional bill outlawing water boarding and other forms of torture. Bush's latest exercise of executive power will allow the CIA to continue practicing waterboarding.

Bush claims the bill would have made it more difficult for CIA operatives to obtain key information from terrorists, despite compelling evidence and advice that suggests otherwise.

US General David H. Petraeus says  the use of waterboarding will increase the risks of torture for future American prisoners of war.

I Don't Believe You

Craig Rowley, your ridiculous theories leap from Republican administration to Republican administration for whatever bizarre reason. Amazingly the administrations of Clinton and indeed Carter magically avoid any scrutiny. This proves in my mind that your axe is merely a party political one - the most meaningless axe. Not something that makes it particularly important but some of the things being written by you should be offensive to all Americans irrespective of political color. Frankly it should be offensive to Australians.

The fact is that no-one has blamed the people who died as an immediate result of the 9/11 attacks.  Paul's bluster and fury is all shadow boxing.  

The fact is that the constant use of George Bush is to bring guilt by association. Any person can pick up on this and does not need a great leap of logic. Australians would not put up with their city being attacked and neither will Americans. Like it or not hoss Americans want justice to be served.

Richard:Okay,can we tone down the mud-slinging a bit, please? 

More evidence for Ian...

...that Bush had, um, no choice but to attack Iraq:

Among the disclosures made by [Douglas Feith] in “War and Decision,” scheduled for release next month by HarperCollins, is Bush’s declaration, at a Dec. 18, 2002, National Security Council meeting, that “war is inevitable.”  The statement came weeks before U.N. weapons inspectors reported their initial findings on Iraq and months before Bush delivered an ultimatum to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.  Feith, who says he took notes at the meeting, registered it as a “momentous comment.”

That Bush had no choice...

Jacob: I never play devil's advocate, (though I seem to have found a role here as a combination gadfly, bumble bee and mud wasp).  Please correct me if I am wrong: I would never say GWB had no choice but to invade Iraq. What I did say in my post headed 'Responses' (March 10, 2008 - 5:19pm) was:

'Whether invading Iraq at the same time was sensible, particularly in the manner in which it was done, is now debatable, but I don't think settled.'

When Saddam invaded Iran, the US supported him, and deeply embittered the Iranian population against the US as a result. I have been to Iran, and have seen stark evidence of the effects of that war on the people. They are proud, intelligent and deeply religious, and are unlikely to forget in a hurry. Saddam stood to gain control of Iran's oil exports if he won, and his move into Kuwait can be seen in the same light. GWB and he were on a collision course over oil, and Saddam's assassination attempt on Bush senior no doubt rocked GWB right down to the sump of his heart.

But GWB had options other than attacking Saddam, right up to the start of the invasion. Afghanistan was more of an imperative, as that was where bin Laden was based, and few disputed that he was the mastermind behind 9/11. Had Al Gore been President, he might well have sent the troops into Afghanistan and dealt with the Taliban and bin Laden first. A further development might have been Saddam then coming to the aid of the Taliban in some significant way, which would have made a subsequent excursion to Iraq to finish the job begun in 1991 more readily justifiable.

Mark Sergeant
"..every dead suicide bomber to be wrapped up in a pig carcass for burial, thus ensuring that he could not enter Paradise to claim his 72 virgins.
"How do you think that would go down in Lakemba, Ian MacDougall?"

At a guess, I'd say it would be a smash hit for a support act and a riot for main attraction.

That was a suggestion made at the time by a military officer, as I saw it trying to deal with the fact that the enemy he was facing was (unlike most) not afraid of death, nor indifferent to it, but welcomed it, mainly for the heavenly paradise his religion promised.

Logical leaps And Such

Craig Rowley

American policy makers certainly could have and should have predicted that blowback was a highly likely result of the implementation of their rollback strategy during the Cold War. 

Absolute nonsense. The Russians invaded this region and at the time Americans were proud to support the people repelling this invasion. Communism will always be a bigger threat than Muslim terrorists ever could be. I feel much safer knowing communism is no more.

Unfortunately has terrorism goes it may be something the world does have to learn to live with. The world has undergone bigger trials and it will survive through this particular one. I certainly will not be changing my life because of a percentage of malcontents; their feelings on life are not important.

Richard Tonkin

Do you seriously believe that anybody here is advocating the anarchy that would be created by inadvertently decriminalising murder?  That's quite a logical leap!

Well it has been argued here that America should not have attempted to bring those criminals to justice. Apparently the victims should blame themselves along with George Bush. That is the astounding logical leap.

I note John Howard's recently displayed surprise at the Archbishop of Canterbury's suggestion of integrating aspects of Shariah law into that of Great Britian, and wonder if the PM had even contemplated other forms of preventative methodology than brute force.

I personally believe in the seperation of Church and State. A major- we are no longer in the middle ages. A large reason unfortunately that much of the Arab world still is. The Archbishop of Canterbury's suggestion is plain dumb.

The Law Is The Law

Richard Tonkin, America like almost all nations in the world is a nation of laws. Murder is something that is unlawful. If the United States was to allow mass murder to go unpunished than the point of having murder on the law book is lost. George Bush has nothing to do with this particular law.

There is not one nation in the world that would be expected to turn their back to such an outrage. In fact there is evidence in recent years of similar things occurring and the world understood the need for these nations' peoples to find justice. There is a different standard operating on this thread that does not operate for any other nation or any other nationality.

Craig Rowley, that you think American policy makers should have predicted in the 1970's (many long since departed) something that would happen in the year 2001 is clearly ridiculous and not something anyone could treat seriously

What's law got to do with it?

Paul Morrella, the law is indeed the law, and in a nation under the rule of law someone accused of murder is brought before a properly constituted court to answer the charges against them. If they are found guilty, they are sentenced and punished, according to law.

It is not law to punish someone without the benefit of a fair trial, no matter how much we believe in their guilt. No matter if they are, in fact, as guilty as sin.

Pursuing bin Laden with a view to bringing him to trial would have been entirely proper and legal. Initiating a war with the intention of killing him may or may not (I'd say not) be justified, but it has nothing to do with the rule of law.

Except for it being an attempt at homocide, with the incidental slaughter of thousands of innocents. And the commission of the gravest crime in international law.

Clearly ridiculous

Paul Morrella, you've been make clearly ridiculous comment after clearly ridiculous comment. 

American policy makers certainly could have and should have predicted that blowback was a highly likely result of the implementation of their rollback strategy during the Cold War. 


Paul, the fact that so much effort, co-ordinated across several countries, is being invested in the prevention of a future Islamic Jihad in the United Kingdom suggests that maybe the US' strategists should have been considering the possibility of such an event as 9/11 and working to deter it.  I note John Howard's recently displayed surprise at the Archbishop of Canterbury's suggestion of integrating aspects of Shariah law into that of Great Britian, and wonder if the PM had even contemplated other forms of preventative methodology than brute force.   The law is the law, yes, and those that are created from hereon in will influence the kind of world we live in.

 Do you seriously believe that anybody here is advocating the anarchy that would be created by inadvertently decriminalising murder?  That's quite a logical leap!

I also wonder how much respect a culture can expect for its laws when it displays blatant disregard for those of others.  Surely it cannot be helpful.

The Law is an ever-evolving creature.  It depends on what is legislated by the politicians a society elects as to what happens to it next. 

Illogical leaps

Richard, what Paul is engaged in is making huge illogical leaps so that he can target 'diarists he doesn't like.. 

The fact is that no-one has blamed the people who died as an immediate result of the 9/11 attacks.  Paul's bluster and fury is all shadow boxing.  

Must have read this wrong

Richard, I am sure I read this wrong but it seems to me that you are suggesting  the incorporation of Sharia law into English law should be looked at. Would you agree with the same being implemented here? Are there any other practices of various religions that you think we should consider implementing at the same time in order to minimise our offensive behaviour towards religious minorities?

It wasn't me, Craig

It wasn't me, Craig Warton.  Twas the Archbishop of Canterbury. 

[Archbishop's site extract]

He explained that his core aim was to: "to tease out some of the broader issues around the rights of religious groups within a secular state" and was using sharia as an example. These include:

- How when the law does not take seriously religious motivation, it fails to engage with the community in question and opens up real issues of power by the majority over the minority, with potentially harmful effects for community cohesion.
- How the distinction between cultural practices and those arising from genuine religious belief might be managed.
- How to deal with the possibility that a 'supplementary jurisdiction "could have the effect of reinforcing in minority communities some of the most repressive or retrograde elements in them, with particularly serious consequences for the role and liberties of women".


I know it wasn't you

Richard, I am aware that they are not your comments in the first place however you made a comment about looking at other non violent means which I took as taking you think it should be considered.

So do you think it should be?

Personally, I am firmly against any religious based law being incorporated into state law.

If this is not the type of means you considered, then how do you suggest dealing with violence prone religious fanatics of any faith?

A Legacy of Torture

From Dan Froomkin in the Washington Post today:

By refusing to impose on the CIA the same anti-torture prohibitions mandated by the Army Field Manual-- prohibitions against such tactics as waterboarding, prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures, forced nudity, sexual humiliation, mock executions, the use of attack dogs, the application of electric shocks and the withholding of food, water and medical care -- Bush cast his lot with the world's torturers and against the global human rights movement that was until recently the centerpiece of American foreign policy.

And by making the claim that the country would have been attacked again after 9/11 were it not for the CIA's interrogation program -- a claim allowed to go unrefuted in most media coverage -- Bush has further damaged his credibility among those who are paying attention.

Odds and Sods

Geoff Pahoff, my generalisation was merely a counter to that of Paul Morella.  What was that percentage of polled Australian disapproval of GWB before the election?  Without checking (which I will) 70% is the number lurking in my head.  Certainly, the fact that Howard chose to go to the rugby rather than meet Dubya off the plane spoke volumes about what was perceived as the opinion of Sydneysiders at the time of APEC.  What we now know of the Cabinet meeting schedule at that time makes me wonder, if not for the negative polling effect of the Bush visit, whether the backstabbers would've had sharp enough knives.

I don't think that generalising that a fair number of Australians have had enough of the current US Administration was a stab in the dark.  I know I don't speak for you (still got Old Glory up in the home office?) but don't need to, as you seem to be quite able to do so yourself.

Speaking purely for myself, I have gained a lot of new respect lately for the tenets of the American political system.   I've also gained a better understanding and respect for Islam.  As a result, my contempt and anger for those who have so badly besmirched both of those concepts is growing daily.

Good to see you around the traps again.   I've got some great close-ups of Air Force One at Mascot for you.  Taken by a friend, of course.

One man's experience.

Here is the story of Detainee 061.

NEWS: Shortly after German-born Murat Kurnaz arrived at Camp Delta, intelligence reports show the plan was to let him go. What happened?

Read all about it.

Richard thanks for comment - by pointing out an "inconsistency" you have saved me the trouble.

Some other thanks:

Justin, I don't know what the albatross equivalent of snapping the fingers is but you mentioned mind games and the suggestion Craig might have something to offer et voila!, see new thread. He might have been working on it but whatever, a good result.

Not to forget the rest of your post. Of course all that flag waving and pressure resulted in an environment ripe for exploitation.

Mark - as ever. Thanks.

And also to Jacob and Scott. And I take this opportunity to address the matter of area bombing by the RAF by providing an important reason why it was adopted. Early in the war Bomber Command, in its night bombing campaign, tried bombing specific targets e.g. armaments factories. See Scott's figures of losses and when photographing the target during and after a raid was introduced, analysis revealed something unsettling - they were being largely ineffective. It was found that only a small percentage of aircraft bombed within 5 miles of the target and some even bombed other towns, or empty fields, etc. There were, at that stage, limitations on navigational equipment. So what to do? The idea of bombing the area in which a factory (for example) was situated found favour. The factory workers lived in that area and the belief was that by being bombed they would be not only killed, injured and dehoused but, by such outcomes, also demoralised. Thus would production be affected. Further on this, as Jacob suggested, is perhaps for another thread.

"Some" Australians Are Strange And Odd

Richard:  On the other hand, some of us might find it strangely odd that you, Paul, find it strangely odd, after eight years of the Bush Administration, that some Australians might be grumpy with some Americans. 

This would have to be the strangest and oddest comment I have seen all year. With the greatest of respect Richard I for one would feel far more comfortable if in future you spoke only for yourself.

Strange and odd

I found Paul Morrella's Flares are Back to be one of the strangest and oddest comments I have seen all year. 

I also found it odd that Paul took the time to make several comments but not in one did he answer Richard Tonkin's reasonable question, which was: "Paul, what percentage of followers of Islam constitute the 'terrorist section'?"

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