Monday, January 31, 2005

For All You Pirates Out There -- Argh, Matey!

A post on Slashdot yesterday took notice of this well written article in Sunday's NYT about the growing number of television programs available for download, thanks in large part to technologies like BitTorrent. The story quotes several media execs who are aware of this trend and are trying to avoid, as the story puts it, "the disruptive fury that sideswiped the music industry."

I am happy to learn the television industry is taking this threat seriously and considering proposals that would make television-viewing more flexible:
Mr. Poltrack of CBS said that according to his network's research, a large number of viewers would welcome the chance to pay $1 to watch each television show, if they could do it on their own schedule and with the ability to skip commercials. With commercials, they'd be willing to pay 50 cents. And because the average viewer sees only half of a show's episodes, he said, this on-demand viewing won't hurt the regular showing.
In my view, the faster the media companies bring ideas like this to the market, the better. They could even take advantage of BitTorrent's filesharing principles and reduce the cost for providing online content. I hope they avoid the pitfalls that snagged the music industry, like placing too many restrictions on use and attempting subscriber fees.

Back to the Drawing Board

There's Big News in the courts today as district court judge Joyce Hens Green ruled that the special military trials being given to the Guantanamo prisoners are not good enough. Decision here. Washington Post coverage here. Probability of appeal: 1.

Feingold For President

Salvation for Democrats? Or just another opportunity for the Man to crush my hopes and dreams under his steel-toed boot? Russ Feingold is officially considering a run for the White House in 2008. I'm sure he'd be a long-shot, but he would be The Best President Ever.

We Are teh Bomb Yo!

A couple more site updates. We now have an RSS feed. You can get the link for it here or at the top of the page. Additionally I've added the capability to post summaries with a "read more" link (I made an example of one of the Iraq torture posts below). It's sort of a pain to use (you have to paste CSS code into your post), but I thought it might useful when one of us gets in the mood to write a long diatribe (I've been forewarned we may be getting a manifesto from Henry in the near future). If you want to know how to use it, you can check out the example or shoot me a message.

Update: another new feature: if you view the blog while logged in to blogger there should be a little pencil icon after the by-line of your posts which will allow you to instant edit it. All these cool things you find when poking around the blogger site..

Arab Press Growing Teeth

CS Monitor has a fine story about Al Jazeera and other Arab media outlets successfully shaming Arab governments into contributing aid to tsunami victims. I think it's a key point to note, particularly in light of analysis such as the Deptartment of Defense's Defense Science Board's report on Strategic Communication that I reported on in November. Credibility is currency in the cultural battle for hearts and minds, and stories like this demonstrate that the new independent Arab press has it in spades. The West needs to engage, rather than ridicule, organizations like Al Jazeera. They have what we need. Their opinions and positions ought to be taken seriously.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Important Research

What do monkeys do with monkey currency? They buy monkey porn. Nice. (Credit to slashdot)

Site Update

Just wanted to note a few changes here. The site now allows comments from anyone, and the main page show how many comments there are for each post. Additionally there is now a hit counter so we can see if there's anyone actually reading this other than us (I sort of doubt it). You can see the statistics by clicking on that little square image in the bottom left part of the page.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Close Encounters With the Bush Administration

Last night Ron Suskind (who is a UVA grad) came to Charlottesville and spoke at the Miller Center. There is a Real video of it on the Miller Center web site. It was a packed house (there are a couple of other rooms beside what you see on the film where we were watching on a closed circuit TV). Suskind put on a brilliant performance and detailed his whole experience with the administration, from the time he got an office in the White House for his Karen Hughes story, to his story on John DiIulio (the Mayberry Machiavellis story), to, of course, the book with Paul O'Neill. He is quite an orator and I highly recommend the video, and if you get a chance to see him, I'd highly encourage you to do so.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Liberals for Scalia?

Slate is running an interesting and fairly sensible column suggesting that Scalia replacing Rehnquist as chief justicemight not be a bad thing for liberals.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Re: When the US Government Backs Iraqi Torturers of American POW's

I've got another thought on this. :) Aside from all of the legal arguments raised by the extant cases, I think a normative case can be made on the separation of powers issue that these cases ought to be valid not withstanding whatever impacts they have on foreign relations. In the context of foreign relations these cases represent an effort to internalize costs that were previously externalized. It is unfair to force individuals to suffer grievous harm for the benefit of the nation at large. If the United States places a great value on fostering friendly relations with the nation in question which would be harmed by such judgments, the U.S. can pick up the tab and pay the damages. These costs should be viewed as an investment by government which will yield valuable foreign relations dividends. In doing so they will redistribute the harms from having an intense impact on an unfortunate few to a very small impact on all U.S. citizens. There is a problem with this argument in that, if I recall correctly, the enforcement measure passed by Congress gives teeth to collection on punitive damages, but not to compensatory damages, whereas were my argument valid it should be the other way around. Nonetheless, I like this argument on a generalized basis :).

Monday, January 24, 2005

Re: When the US Government Backs Iraqi Torturers of American POW's

I've got a couple of responses. I apologize for the Congressional record thing. I'm doing my research for this during study breaks (which is a sad comment in itself), and the discontinuity leaves me a bit confused at times as to what I'm actually looking at.

On the issue of official capacity: I had read that as plain English, not realizing it was a term of art. Having read up on the jargon, it still seems difficult to defend. I can't see how these 42 U.S.C. § 1983 distinctions could be sensibly applied to this situation. Are we now charging foreign officials for being unfaithful the U.S. Constitution? Surely the court does not literally intend to enforce § 1983 against foreign officials, but rather to apply the general distinction of official/personal capacity. The cases referenced in Ky v. Graham to illustrate the meaning of official capacity as opposed to personal capacity discuss the distinction in terms of abuse of official powers. The intention is to prevent immunity from applying when an official does not apply the powers of his office in good faith. The point of the Flatow Amendment is to create liability against agents of states whose official policy is terrorism. An official who promotes terrorism within the scope of his office in a state whose policy is the promotion of terrorism is not necessarily (or likely) abusing his office; it is the office itself which is abusive. To limit liability under such a statute to agents who were carrying out terrorist acts in a manner that abused their office would be, sorry to use this word, incoherent. It's a Catch 22. Either the state does not support terrorism, or the official is not abusing his powers, either way you're screwed.

And really there's no reason to read the statute this way. Rather than deciding first that Flatow does not offer a cause of action against foreign states, then reasoning backwards from there to reinterpret Flatow in a way that would neuter it almost entirely, why not read it in a plain-meaning fashion, and infer whether or not a cause of action is offered against foreign states? It seems necessary for Flatow to serve any purpose that it create a valid cause of action against a foreign officer who, acting in good faith with respect to his office, took some action to promote terrorism against American citizens. If this is true, then based on reasoning offered by the United States and accepted by the court in Cicipio that an action against an official acting in their official capacity is equivalent to an action against the entity, we can infer that there is a valid cause of action against a foreign state.

Additionally, I am not ready to dismiss the intent of Congress so quickly either. The issue is not that these cases occurred and Congress stood by and did nothing. Theses cases occurred, and Congress, recognizing that barriers still prevented the plaintiffs in them from recovering damages against the foreign state defendants, passed new legislation to facilitate that recovery. Get a look at this congressional research report detailing Congress' efforts through the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 to force the United States to pay up on a number of cases against foreign governments (including Cicipio!) out of funds that the U.S. had frozen from those countries. Flatow provided the cause of action for all these cases (in fact, the document remarks of Flatow: "Later in 1996 Congress enacted a counterpart statute giving injured parties or their legal representatives a cause of action for suits against terrorist states"). In the face of this legislation, I don't see how you could possibly argue that Congress did not intend Flatow to provide a cause of action against state sponsors of terrorism.

So anyway, I am still rather of the opinion that Cicipio (and thereby Acree) was botched.

Re: When the US Government Backs Iraqi Torturers of American POWs

Here are some additional comments in response to your recent post. I will save for a later post an elaboration on the issue of whether state law claims could serve as the basis for liability.

The D.C. Circuit has already considered, in Acree, the Government's argument that the Emergency Wartime Supplemental Appropriations Act removes Iraq from the reach of FSIA's terrorism exception, and it concluded, "While it is a close question, we agree with appellees that 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(7) is not a provision of law that falls within the scope of" that Act. 370 F.3d at 48. I'm sure that will not be the last we hear of that argument, but at least it's resolved in the D.C. Circuit. As Professor Moore observes in his petition for certiorari (available on Westlaw), it is unlikely there will be much action on these issues in other circuits because the venue provision of the FSIA favors the District of Columbia. See 28 U.S.C. § 1391(f).

I agree there are parts of Cicippio with strained reasoning (and I submit the same goes for Acree), though I disagree the opinion is "incoherent." That is a pejorative I prefer to save for the most appalling opinions (like the remedial majority's Booker opinion). And although the text of 28 U.S.C. § 1606 resolves the matter for me, it is certainly not conclusive on the issue of congressional intent. For instance, one could make a strong argument that the familiar doctrine of expressio unius est exclusio alterius (the expression of one thing implies the exclusion of another) applies--it seems at least plausible from the fact that the Flatow Amendment made officials, employees, and agents of foreign states liable that the Congress purposefully omitted a foreign state from the list.

As for your resort to legislative history, I note that beside its inherently dubious value, the portion you quote suggests to me not that the Congress intended to create a cause of action against a foreign state, as you suggest, but that it wanted to be sure someone with a viable claim against a foreign state could bring that claim in federal court, notwithstanding foreign sovereign immunity. Now, I humbly admit my skills of research into legislative history are not well-honed, and please correct me if I am wrong, but it appears you are citing a report that has nothing to do with the Flatow Amendment. Rather, you cite a portion of a House Conference report addressing the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), Pub. L. 104-132 (1996). The section from which you quote, section 221, is entitled "jurisdiction for lawsuits against foreign states"; in that section the Congress added the exception to immunity now found at 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(7). See H.R. Conf. Rep. 104-518 (Apr. 15, 1996).

~> Read More!
The Congress enacted the Flatow Amendment in title V, section 589, as part of the omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal year 1997, Pub. L. 104-208 (1996). For what little it's worth, the Committee report to that bill may be found at H.R. Conf. Rep. 104-863 (Sept. 28, 1996). The only portion I found addressing the liability provision states as follows:
The conference agreement inserts language expanding the scope of monetary damage awards available to American victims of international terrorism. The conferees intend that this section shall apply to cases pending upon enactment of this Act.
Not very helpful, in my opinion.

You suggest that something can be gleaned from the fact that the Congress has failed to act despite that numerous cases have been successfully brought against foreign state defendants. I disagree. I hesitate to point out the obvious--the Congress fails to act more often than it actually does something, and in any event acquiescence of a later Congress is not a reliable indicator of the intent of an earlier one. Further, neither the D.C. Circuit nor any other circuit to my knowledge has affirmed an order holding a foreign state liable under the Flatow Amendment. And, contrary to popular opinion, district courts do not create precedent.

Finally, it is perfectly logical that the Congress intended to impose personal liability on an official, employee, or agent acting in his official capacity, for that is the same scheme the Congress established under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. That section makes an individual liable in his individual capacity for damages resulting from an action he takes under color of state law that deprives a citizen of a constitutional right. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165-66 (1985). Section 1983 suits for damages may be brought directly against a municipality, but not against a State unless it has waived its sovereign immunity. To be sure, bringing § 1983 into the picture actually supports the ultimate conclusion that the Flatow Amendment creates liability of foreign states, because the exceptions to the FSIA remove the barrier of sovereign immunity. I cite that statute, however, to illustrate that it is not unprecedented to hold an individual personally liable for an official act.

Saving the Party from Howard Dean

There's an entertaining article by Howard Fineman in Newsweek about the desperate, and so far unsuccessful, efforts of Democratic insiders to prevent Howard Dean from becoming the party chairman. I particularly like the part where they were worried that Dean would "ruin the Democratic brand in Red States." Heaven forbid that, you guys have been doing such a bang-up job there. Bill Clinton went so far as to try and reenlist Terry McAuliffe, a move which, I fear, has forever ruined Clinton's credibility as far as I'm concerned.

Re: When the US Government Backs Iraqi Torturers of American POWs

I am convinced by your arguments on the state/federal cause of action issue. There is a nice law review note that summarizes developments in FSIA terrorist claims through the last decade, and including Acree and Cicipio: Jeewon Kim, Making State Sponsors of Terrorism Pay: A Separation of Powers Discourse Under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 22 Berkeley J. Int'l L. 513 (2004). As noted there, more than 20 judgments have been handed down against state defendants since 1996, although few plaintiffs have been able to recover any of the damages awarded them. In 2000, Congress passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, which was to allow some of these plaintiffs to be paid from frozen assets held by the United States. Congress also apparently passed legislation to allow plaintiffs in these cases to be able to attach the property of foreign states, but Clinton vetoed it. There is also some discussion of the additional complications that would arise in the suit should it be remanded with a go ahead for intervention by the Feds. They plan to argue that the Emergency Wartime Supplemental Appropriations Act officially removes Iraq from all the terrorist state sponsors lists and makes it no longer a valid target of an FSIA claim.

In any case, the Cicipio ruling seems fairly incoherent. The section you quote ("the foreign state shall be liable in the same manner and to the same extent...") provides ample opportunity for a textualist interpretation of the statute to allow for an action against a state. Moreover, the intent of Congress does not seem terribly difficult to ascertain. The Flatow Amendment was titled the Civil Liabilities for Acts of State Sponsored Terrorism Act, and the relevant Congressional committee report reads:

"This subtitle provides that nations designated as state sponsors of terrorism under section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act of 1979 will be amenable to suit in U.S. courts for terrorist acts. It permits U.S. federal courts to hear claims seeking money damages for personal injury or death against such nations".

104 H. Rpt. 518

Additionally, numerous cases have already occurred where foreign states have been sued under the act, and not only has Congress not acted to stop this from occurring, they have endeavored through legislation to help the plaintiffs recover from the foreign state defendants.

Finally, the court's interpretation that "the cause of action is limited to claims against those officials in their individual, as opposed to their official, capacities" is awfully difficult to reconcile with the language of the statute which states that an "official ... of a foreign state ... while acting within the scope of his or her office ... shall be liable".

I think it's interesting that they could make a separation of power issue out of this, but don't. Moreover, if they had just made the ruling to allow the Feds to intervene and remanded it, it probably would have become a separation of powers issue. It just seems odd that they fixated on this issue, which doesn't appear to have a lot of support.

I wonder if Dave has something to say on all this...?

Not a Prelude?

I had to laugh at the title of this CS Monitor column: Bush speech not a 'prelude to bellicose foreign policy', subtitled Bush Sr., others, say inaugural speech not start of 'new militarism'. Well, obviously it's not a prelude, we're already four years into the bellicose foreign policy. As an unnamed White House official states in the article "it's not a discontinuity ... but an acceleration."

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Re: When the US Government Backs Iraqi Torturers of American POWs

The causes of action you list are state law claims. That is, the source of law is the power of the State. A State may regulate an individual's conduct occurring within its boundaries, and to some extent it may regulate conduct occuring outside its boundaries so long as it can demonstrate the conduct directly affects its citizens. A State may not, however, regulate the conduct of foreign states because "power over external affairs is not shared by the States; it is vested in the national government exclusively." United States v. Pink, 315 U.S. 203, 233 (1942); see also U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 10 ("The Congress shall have Power ... To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations"); Zschernig v. Miller, 389 U.S. 429, 441 (1968) (discussing what has been dubbed the doctrine of "dormant foreign affairs preeemption.")

In Acree v. Republic of Iraq, 370 F.3d 41 (D.C. Cir. 2004), American plaintiffs brought an action against a foreign state, one of its agencies, and a foreign official in his official (rather than personal) capacity. The D.C. Circuit agreed with the district court that it had jurisdiction over the case, id. at 58, but disagreed that the plaintiffs stated a cause of action for which relief could be granted. The court ruled that the plaintiffs failed to identify a federal law the defendants allegedly broke. Id. at 59-60. Contrary to your suggestion, Joe, the source of law could not have been state common law because, as discussed above, the State does not have authority to regulate the conduct of foreign states. And "generic common law cannot be the source of a federal cause of action. ... Rather, as in any case, a plaintiff proceeding under the [Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act] must identify a particular cause of action arising out of a specific source of law." Id. at 59.

The district court ruled that the Flatow Amendment provided the cause of action. Codified as a note to 28 U.S.C. § 1605, the Flatow Amendment provides in relevant part:
An official, employee, or agent of a foreign state designated as a state sponsor of terrorism ... while acting within the scope of his or her office, employment, or agency shall be liable to a United States national ... for personal injury or death caused by acts of that official, employee, or agent.
In Cicippio-Puleo v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 353 F.3d 1024, 1033 (2004), the D.C. Circuit ruled that "the Flatow Amendment only provides a private right of action against officials, employees, and agents of a foreign state, not against the state itself." Further, an action under the Flatow Amendment must be against an official, employee, or agent in his individual (or personal) capacity, because official-capacity suits are, in substance, "a claim against the government itself." Id. at 1034.

If there is a flaw in reasoning anywhere, it must be in the Cicippio-Puleo decision. It is entirely reasonable to believe the Congress intended to hold foreign states liable for acts of torture. Consider the following portion of 28 U.S.C. § 1606, a provision of the FSIA the court neglects to mention in Cicippio-Puleo:
As to any claim for relief with respect to which a foreign state is not entitled to immunity unde section 1605 or 1607 of this chapter, the foreign state shall be liable in the same manner and to the same extent as a private individual under like circumstances.
The other appellate courts and the Supreme Court may disagree with the D.C. Circuit's conclusion that the Flatow Amendment does not provide a cause of action against foreign states, but until that happens there appears to be no other basis under which a citizen plaintiff may sue a foreign state for acts of torture.

In sum, a plaintiff suing a foreign state must allege a federal claim because the authority of the State does not reach that far into foreign affairs. One might suggest that is a subject matter limitation, though I believe it would be more accurate to characterize the limitation as one of federalism. There is no "generic federal common law" as such, so a plaintiff must identify some particular act of Congress or a provision of the Constitution that prohibits the alleged conduct and that provides the plaintiff the right to recover in federal court. After Cicippio-Puleo, it seems unlikely that a plaintiff can use the Flatow Amendment as the basis for liability against a foreign state.

Hope that clarifies things. I look forward to reading your response.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

China News

Former Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang passed away.

Re: When the US Government Backs Iraqi Torturers of American POW's

Well, the cause of action seems obvious enough; these people were heinously tortured and have claims for personal injury, battery, intentional infliction of emotional harm, etc. The question more seems to be against whom the claim is valid and whether sovereign immunity applies. The decision makes some reference to not having Federal Claims, which I don't really understand, but seems to imply that there must be a statutory claim. Is this a subject matter limitation? In the context of claim between a U.S. citizen and a foreign nation, the federal court should have jurisdiction regardless of the nature of the claim, I think. The statutes referenced in the case waive sovereign immunity for these sorts of claims against nations on some government list of terrorist sponsors, which I imagine Iraq was on. It's not clear to me, nor was it, I think, clear to Prof. Moore, what exactly the court's objection is. Moreover, Moore was rather incensed that the court killed his case on an issue, which not only didn't make a lot of sense, but had been not raised by any party in either the original trial or the appeal, and based on a ruling they had made in a case that occurred after his original trial and as such was never disputed in that trial. The court suggests that he should have noted this decision prior to appearing for oral arguments and been better prepared to rebut it, and perhaps he made a mistake there. However, I still can't see a whole lot of sense in their ruling. Maybe you can add some clarification?

re: METAL!!!!

Yeah, I saw the Jenna pic posted on a forum with the subtitle: "Hail Satan... er, I mean Dad!!"

Re: When the US Government Backs Iraqi Torturers of American POW's

I do not mean to suggest I agree or disagree with the decision to which Joe alludes (here is a link to the PDF), but I do take issue with Joe's characterization of the reason for the D.C. Circuit's dismissal as a technicality. The troops failed to identify a cause of action -- that is, they failed to explain what law Iraq allegedly broke and what law entitled the troops to recover. Regardless whether that decision was a correct evaluation of law, dismissal for failure to state a claim is not a technicality but goes the very heart of the case.

Re: METAL!!!!

Apparently it runs in the family.

A Small Step In the Right Direction

Iraqi Defense Minister Hazem Sha'alan announced on Al-Jazeera that Ahmed Chalabi will be arrested tomorrow and turned over to Jordan where he was convicted in absentia of bank fraud in 1992.

Friday, January 21, 2005


When the US Government Backs Iraqi Torturers of American POW's

I don't recall if I mentioned this previously, but I went to a lunch last fall with a UVA professor, John Moore, who is involved in a case to try and recover damages from Iraq for the torture of American POW's during the first Gulf War. The case was going along swimmingly until after Abu Ghraib, when the DoJ decided to try and torpedo the case. The district court had ruled in favor of the POW's, but the Justice Department appealed the decision to the D.C. Court of Appeals, where the case was dismissed on a technicality. The POW's are appealing this decision in turn, meanwhile Moore argues his case in a Slate column.

Leadership By Default

I was rather struck by this Washington Post column by Robert Bork and David Rivkin arguing that the court should stop managing the War on Terror. On the one hand, their arguments are entirely plausible. The Hamdi case serves as a perfect example. The court knew that something needed to be done, but they could hardly create a detailed policy directive as to how to treat enemy combatants. So they issued some vague requirements and left the government to figure out what the court was after through trial and error. It is hardly an ideal solution.

On the other hand, for the court to take a hands-off approach as Bork and Rivkin suggest would be even more absurd. The problem here is that Congress apparently doesn't give a crap about the War on Terror, and if the executive has an actual plan, they refuse to say a word as to what they are doing or why. The courts shouldn't be in a leadership position on this, but they have no choice. Nobody else will do it.

If the Administration would explain what exactly it is they're doing, their rationale, what sort of limits they place on themselves, and how they're enforcing those limits, then the courts would have a sound basis to grant them broad discretion. However, we have none of that, and instead have Abu Ghraib, a proposal for a jurisdiction-free-zone in Cuba, documents suggesting that the Geneva Conventions are quaint and torture is ok. How could the courts not intervene?

Bork and Rivkin attempt to write off these various indiscretions as abuses that "inevitably occur in war". I don't buy it. This morning I attended a presentation by reporter Donovan Webster, who recently wrote an article for Vanity Fair called "The Man In the Hood" (the article is not online, but there's a brief summary here, and an Aljazeera article about it here). Webster visited Iraq twice last fall and conducted 60 hours of interviews with former Iraqi detainees, visited detention sites, and spoke with the military personnel there. Webster contends (fairly convincingly) that the abuses famously exposed at Abu Ghraib were widespread, and continue to this day, and that no serious changes resulted from the initial round of publicity. This is an administration in desperate need of adult supervision, and it would be a horrific abdication for the courts to back down.

Re: Something to Blog

1. The liver.

2. It would be difficult to say how many times a person might be awoken (less than five events per hour is normal), but there are reported instances where a person suffered hundreds of sleep apnea events in one night. It seems the duration of the apnea is equally or more threatening than the frequency.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Boys Weekend Journal

1. What is the heaviest internal organ in the human body?

2. How many times a night might a person suffering from sleep apnea be forced awake to resume breathing?

Just feel like blogging something.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Monday, January 17, 2005

DOD Gets Defensive

Read this press statement put out by Pentagon spokesperson Larry DiRita. Seems like Hersh hit a sore spot.

Expanded Role of Military in Covert Operations, On To Iran

Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker has this story on Secretary Rumsfeld's effort to locate all covert operational authority within the DOD. It seems Secretary Rumsfeld has been lobbying for such a structural change for over two years, and it looks like the "accountability moment" (WP) of the 2004 presidential election will be used to further advance neocon policy. According to Hersh, Stephen Cambone and William G. Boykin, both prominent neocons within the administration, will be part of the chain of command for the new commando operations. Hersh reports that the administration has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran since last summer, and the Pentagon is updating its military war plan against Iran, now that a full-scale invasion force could enter through Iraq. Hersh claims a former high-level intelligence official told him, "It’s not if we’re going to do anything against Iran. They’re doing it.” Apparently covert operations have also been authorized in Algeria, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, Malaysia, and Tunisia.

Of the New Yorker article written by the same journalist who broke the Abu Graib story, White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett said, "I think it's riddled with inaccuracies, and I don't believe that some of the conclusions he's drawing are based on fact."

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Reelection equals full approval on Iraq?

Around the same time that President Bush conceded poor judgment on some of his first term statements (see previous post), he has made a curiously liberal interpretation of his reelection. Below is part of an interview with the Washington Post:

The Post: In Iraq, there's been a steady stream of surprises. We weren't welcomed as liberators, as Vice President Cheney had talked about. We haven't found the weapons of mass destruction as predicted. The postwar process hasn't gone as well as some had hoped. Why hasn't anyone been held accountable, either through firings or demotions, for what some people see as mistakes or misjudgments?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 election. And the American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me, for which I'm grateful.

Somehow, Bush equates his reelection with a full approval of his Iraq policy and implies that no other accountability measures should be taken. Yet, in the most recent poll regarding his Iraq policy that I could find, the majority of Americans stated that the conflict was not worth fighting given its cost. This, and other findings from the poll, hardly give one the impression that Americans completely approve of the Iraq policy. I guess the President's concessions to reality only go so far...

Friday, January 14, 2005

Bush: 'Bring It On' Not the Best Idea

A year and a half later, after challenging Iraqi resistance fighters to "bring it on", George Bush has admitted that he didn't really think that one through. I have to wonder whether this admission was at all impacted by this recently released English-language propaganda video, at the end of which the narrator taunts, "You have asked us to ‘Bring it on’, and so have we. Like never expected. Have you another challenge?” The video (transcript here) is really an impressive bit of work, both technically and in message. The music is a bit overblown, and the footage is at times quite distracting from the narration, but the footage itself is impressive and it's edited together well. The script, clearly tailored to a Western audience, paints the resistance as secular, confident, magnanimous, and multilateral. The source and authenticity of the video are unknown, but it has been widely circulated and reported.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Bring On the Death Squads

Because nothing says Freedom's on the March like roving bands of pro-US assassins. These guys were really thinking ahead when they put John Negroponte in Iraq...

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Fare Thee Well, Crossfire

Well, howdy-do, turns out that new CNN President Jonathan Klein agrees with Jon Stewart and has decided to scrap Crossfire, saying "I think he made a good point about the noise level of these types of shows, which does nothing to illuminate the issues of the day". I wonder if we'll hear anything about this on the Daily Show... :)

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Delaying the Elections

Former President of the Iraqi Governing Council, Adnan Pachachi has a column in the Washington Post urging that the Iraqi elections be delayed. Pachachi acknowledges that such a delay would be a victory for the insurgents, but feels that it is better for the nation's long term stability to let the insurgents win round one than to put in power a government who most Iraqis will consider illegitimate. I agree with his reasoning on this point, but underlying the decision to delay is an assumption that if the election is held later on security (and thereby voter turnout) will be better. I see nothing to justify that assumption, and, in fact, the insurgents may be emboldened by their success at having forced a delay in the first case.