Greg Djerejian And My Hard Heart

[Edited for clarity.]

I’ve always admired Greg Djerejian, over at Belgravia Dispatch. He’s intelligent, well-read, and thoughtful – qualities that are wider-spread than most of us fear but are still rare in the visible world of blogs and the media.

I’ve watched his change of heart about Iraq and worried, more than a little, over my own heart’s unwillingness to budge. I worry about that solidity, and about the fact that the events which drive him into what – for him – passes as vein straining paroxysms of rage only elicit a sad shake of the head when I read about them.

I’ve been amused at his attacks on the ‘six monthers‘ – those who think the next six months will see all as well. But then again, I’ve always been more of a ‘six yearer‘ myself. I do think, with some confidence, that the next six years will determine the outcome of this conflict.

In a way, I believe this because I think that the comic novels of George McDonald Frasier – the Flashman books – are closer to the truth of history than the neatly packaged, inevitable histories we all learned from and hang so much of our understanding – of ourselves and of others – upon. In the Flashman universe, incompetence, cowardice, and ignorance contest regularly with courage, skill and luck to decide the outcome of things. Frasier highlights the mess underneath the events we think we know, and in so doing renders them more real I’ll argue, than the historians who manage to edit it out.My professor Page Smith (famous for his book on chickens) wrote what is to me the best work of history that I know – his ‘People’s history ‘ of the Revolutionary War “A New Age Now Begins” (I sent my copy to the ITM brothers). What I love the most about this history is reading the contemporaneous accounts of the people who lived through the events and the sense of confusion, fear, and doubt that they felt and the overwhelming sense of contingency – of uncertainty about outcome – that they experienced.

Djerejian’s core position on Iraq today is best summed up, I think, by this paragraph from this post:

But, if you are like me, and you believe Baghdad is the strategic epicenter of Iraq, and that a Baghdad descending into Beirut like civil war means that the country will likely mostly disintegrate, then I’m afraid I am less optimistic than West. And so, again, on this Memorial Day, when we thank and remember the sacrifice of our troops over the decades, we must also ask, painful as it is, what precisely they are accomplishing at the present hour in Iraq? Yes, here and there they are making progress. Yes, they are staving off total anarchy. But, if you fear it’s a slow grind that we are losing, rather than winning, particularly given the continued lack of credible leadership at the Pentagon, the continued incorrectly placed concerns on ‘dependency’ theory, the continued dearth of troops, you must, at least to some extent if you are honest with yourself ponder, would it be worth my life (or the life of my son or daughter)? And the answer, it seems to me, is a very, very, very close call indeed.

We’re not clearly winning, so we must be losing. Boy, I’ve got to believe that sentiment would have made sense in the taverns of New England back in the day – but they pressed on regardless.

Why is the response to this uncertainty so different today? In no small part, I’ll suggest that it’s because of three things.

First, our sense of invulnerability. This was a war of choice, a war of revenge. We have nothing at stake, people would argue. We can’t really be harmed by our enemies. At worst, there is a kind of simple arithmetic (Greg again):

The bottom line is that more U.S. and Iraqi Army/Police forces (I’m not counting civilians, many of whom have died via generalized civil strife more than the insurgency, per se) have died since Cheney’s comment than perished on 9/11.

What’s really at stake there?

Greg goes on to discuss why it is that America is so badly regarded in the world today. He cites Roger Cohen in Times Select:

The image of the United States is in something close to a free fall.

There are lots of reasons, beginning with the fact that any elephant this big bestriding the world’s stage is going to irk people, especially when George W. Bush is riding it. But I suspect a basic cause is that in the 65-year period of 1941-2006, the United States has been at war in some form or another for all but 14 years.

There was World War II and then, after a two-year break, the Cold War, which ran until 1989, and then, after an interlude of a dozen years, the war on terror. These were different sorts of wars, of course, and among them were Korea and Vietnam. But somewhere along the way, most acutely in the past few years, people got tired.

They got tired of America’s insatiable need for an enemy; suspicious of the talk of freedom and democracy and morality in which every struggle was cast; forgetful of the liberty preserved by such might; alarmed at the American fear that appeared to fire American aggression; and disdainful of the distance between declarations and deeds.

In short they stopped buying the American narrative.

What’s missing from this, of course, is any sense of context at all for that narrative, any sense that – for example – there was an expansionist and brutal Soviet Union who would have gladly conquered all of Europe – and kept it conquered had we not opposed them. Or that there was a brutal China led my the mad, bad, and dangerous Mao Tse Tung who would have gladly enslaved all of Asia had we not opposed them. I’m more than a little puzzled by Greg’s failure to point out that gaping hole in Cohen’s logic.

So in that view, why is there war? Because America fights, of course.

I mentioned this in an email to neo-neocon:

I’ve thought for a while that this was a form (forgive me for stepping on your turf) of narcissism – they think that we (our culture, the West) are so powerful that we are, in effect, omnipotent. So of course we can get the bad guys without hurting them; of course we need rules to contain our strength. Because we’re so strong that everything that happens anywhere in the world is a reflection of something we do or have done.

And I do think it’s the strongest influence on our behavior and attitude toward this war. And, I believe that once it is gone – once the delusion of invulnerability slips away – we will be more brutal and bestial than the worst opponents of the wars today imagine us to be in their fevered dreams.

I’m reminded of the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles – when my devoutly liberal friends suddenly spouted a core of racist invective and anger, and when they were enraged that I wouldn’t lend them guns because I thought they were unhinged with fear and rage.

Second, because we have no direct experience of loss. I’ve wondered how it is, isolated from the blood and meat of death, that we have become so fascinated with a pornography of violence in our arts. Things which were everyday to a farmer in the 18th century – privation, disease, death – the crushing hand of Necessity – are strangers to us. But not to most of the people in the world.

That means that we are shocked by it when we see it; we don’t accept it as a part of the natural context of life.

My father (as I’ve written) built high-rise buildings. Construction work – particularly heavy construction work – is dangerous. Height, tools, heavy steel, cranes lifting buckets of concrete all combine to make up a hostile environment to the unlucky or careless. I think there were seven or eight deaths on his jobs in his career. The days that happened were the lowest I ever saw him. Was it worth it? To build an apartment building for rich people or an office building for lawyers?

Would it be different if they’d fallen of a barn roof? Or been maimed by a thresher and bled to death in a field?

Bad things happen all the time as an inevitable part of the human condition; of society. Somewhere today in Iraq, a U.S. soldier is abusing an Iraqi. Somewhere in Iraq this month, a U.S. soldier is murdering an Iraqi (I’ll write about Haditha soon).

Do I forgive them and consider what they did understandable? No, of course not. They are vile criminals, and worse for being criminals in the uniform of our country. I think that our greatness as a society is that we self-correct better than any society that there has ever been.

Should we do it better? Of course we should.

Will we ever be perfect? Will we ever be able to point to anything we do, whether go to war, go to the moon, build a building, or cure a disease without waste, death, and folly? I know we won’t and I’ve got to believe that Greg does as well. Does that make those things not worth doing?

Which brings me to the final point, and to me the most frightening. It’s an adjunct to the first two, and simply put, it suggests that everything that happens isn’t really about the thing itself – the war in Iraq as an example – but it’s about us; how we feel about ourselves, who has political advantage, who profits and who loses in the courts of power, prestige and wealth.

I’m genuinely afraid that the ruling cohort, and those who enable it by participating in the political process, have so much lost touch with the realities that we face that they are incapable of looking at an issue like Iraq, or 9/11, or the economic straits we have spent and borrowed ourselves into as a nation except as a foothold in climbing over the person in front of them. I imagine a small table of gentlemen and -women, playing whist on a train as it heads out over a broken bridge. The game, of course maters more than anything, and the external events – they’re just an effort to distract they players from their hands.

Ads on Winds of Change

As you’ll notice, we have changed out homepage and will shortly be changing our achive pages to allow us to run ads (our first go-round is with TribalFusion. We’ll see how that does and then look at alternatives if we’re unhappy).

Joe has stuck to running Winds as a labor of love – which I’ve also believed in – for some time. But hosting is starting to get expensive as our traffic grows, and the increasing maturity of the blogosphere suggests that it’s time to go selling out – and That’s Motivation.

Mo’ Karpinski

A little birdie (actually an attractive, well-armed birdie) mentioned that Karpinski is on a college lecture tour as a part of a program put on by the “World Can’t Wait” folks – the ones whose tagline is ‘Drive Out The Bush Regime’.

If you go to their website, and then to the Speaking the Unspeakable: Is the Bush Administration Guilty of War Crimes & Crimes Against Humanity section, you’ll see that Karpinski spoke on April 26 at Harvard, on the 27th at MIT, on May 3 at Berkeley, the 4th at Stanford, May 9 at Northwestern, and will be speaking on May 18 at UCLA, along with

Larry Everest, a journalist and author of Oil, Power, and Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda. He has covered the Middle East and Central Asia for over 20 years for Revolution newspaper and other publications.

among others.

She’s a co-signer on the site of a petition (the whole thing, including the notables who signed it at below the fold) which pretty much takes on all the moonbat Hitler-simile talking points and is signed by everyone from Mumia to Cindy Sheehan to Susan Sarandon, with a few Democratic Congressmen thrown in for good measure (note that next time you argue that I’m unfairly linking Democrats to the lunatic fringes).

The main impact on Karpinski is, sadly that she’s blowing any chance to have herself taken seriously as a military critic or reformer by aligning herself with these folks. And that for skeptics like me, it’s easier to dismiss her claims as a part and parcel of a worldview that’s only loosely attached to any reality that I know. That’s a shame, because part of me does believe that there are some things that need reforming in the military, and we need brave – if sane – critics to stand up and lead the way.Here’s the petition:

Sign the Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime

Your government, on the basis of outrageous lies, is waging a murderous and utterly illegitimate war in Iraq, with other countries in their sights.

Your government is openly torturing people, and justifying it.

Your government puts people in jail on the merest suspicion, refusing them lawyers, and either holding them indefinitely or deporting them in the dead of night.

Your government is moving each day closer to a theocracy, where a narrow and hateful brand of Christian fundamentalism will rule.

Your government suppresses the science that doesn’t fit its religious, political and economic agenda, forcing present and future generations to pay a terrible price.

Your government is moving to deny women here, and all over the world, the right to birth control and abortion.

Your government enforces a culture of greed, bigotry, intolerance and ignorance.

People look at all this and think of Hitler — and they are right to do so. The Bush regime is setting out to radically remake society very quickly, in a fascist way, and for generations to come. We must act now; the future is in the balance.

Millions and millions are deeply disturbed and outraged by this. They recognize the need for a vehicle to express this outrage, yet they cannot find it; politics as usual cannot meet the enormity of the challenge, and people sense this.

There is not going to be some magical “pendulum swing.” People who steal elections and believe they’re on a “mission from God” will not go without a fight.

There is not going to be some savior from the Democratic Party. This whole idea of putting our hopes and energies into “leaders” who tell us to seek common ground with fascists and religious fanatics is proving every day to be a disaster, and actually serves to demobilize people.

But silence and paralysis are NOT acceptable. That which you will not resist and mobilize to stop, you will learn — or be forced — to accept. There is no escaping it: the whole disastrous course of this Bush regime must be STOPPED. And we must take the responsibility to do it.

And there is a way. We are talking about something on a scale that can really make a huge change in this country and in the world. We need more than fighting Bush’s outrages one at a time, constantly losing ground to the whole onslaught. We must, and can, aim to create a political situation where the Bush regime’s program is repudiated, where Bush himself is driven from office, and where the whole direction he has been taking society is reversed. We, in our millions, must and can take responsibility to change the course of history.

Acting in this way, we join with and give support and heart to people all over the globe who so urgently need and want this regime to be stopped.

This will not be easy. If we speak the truth, they will try to silence us. If we act, they will try to stop us. But we speak for the majority, here and around the world, and as we get this going we are going to reach out to the people who have been so badly fooled by Bush and we are NOT going to stop.

The point is this: history is full of examples where people who had right on their side fought against tremendous odds and were victorious. And it is also full of examples of people passively hoping to wait it out, only to get swallowed up by a horror beyond what they ever imagined. The future is unwritten. WHICH ONE WE GET IS UP TO US.

The World Can’t Wait! Drive Out the Bush Regime!

Sign the call now!

Co-signers include (heck, here’s the whole list – it defines the beating heart of the “Amerikka” crowd):

ACT UP, New York City

Mumia Abu-Jamal, political prisoner, journalist

Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid, mosque of Islamic Brotherhood; Justice Committee, Majlis Ash-Shura, NY

Pam Africa, Move Organization and International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal

After Downing Street Coalition

Vicente “Panama” Alba, Organizer, Laborers Union Local 108, New York

“Alberto Lovera” Bolivian Circle, New York

Aimee Allison, army conscientious objector (Gulf War


Tom Ammiano, San Francisco Board of Supervisors


Aris Anagnos, Los Angeles

Arab American Community Coalition, Seattle Washington

Carlos Arango, director of Casa Aztlan*

Edward Asner

Asociacion Tepeyac de New York

Axis of Justice

Rosa Ayala, Justice for Janitors*

William Ayers, professor and author

Russell Banks, writer

Father Luis Barrios, Iglesia San Romero de Las Americas, New York

Rev. Willie Barrow, Women Connecting*

Ed Begley Jr.

Harry Belafonte

Dave Berenson, Cleveland, OH, U.S. Green Party

Michael Berg, anti-war activist

Jessica Blank, writer, actor

Blase Bonpane, author

Bob Bossie, SCJ, 8th Day Center for Justice*

Father Roy Bourgeois, MM

St. Clair Bourne, film maker

Elombe Brath, Patrice Lumumba Coalition, NYC

Catharina Breinholm, musician (Nina Hagen)

Jane Bright, Co-founder, Gold Star Families for Peace

Carol Brightman, author, “Total Insecurity: The Myth of American Omnipotence”

Dennis Brutus

Gabriel Byrne, Actor

Campus Anti-War Network(CAN)

Tim Carpenter, Director, Progressive Democrats of America

Center for Constitutional Rights

Chicago ADAPT


Ward Churchill

Citizens For Legitimate Government

Kate Clinton, humorist

Clothing of American Mind

David Cobb, 2004 Green Party Presidential Candidate

Code Pink: Women for Peace

Steve Colman, poet
John Conyers, US Representative

Carlos Cornier, percussionist, Funkadesi, Old Town School of Folk


Barry Crimmins, writer/
correspondent, Air America Radio 

Culture Clash

Charles W. Dahm (Father Chuck), Pastor, St. Pius V, Chicago

Chris Daly, San Francisco Board of Supervisors

Julie Delpy, Actress

DC Anti-War Network

Carl Dix, Revolutionary Communist Party

Leonard “Len” Dominguez, Candidate for Cook County Commissioner, Illinois

Dominican Women’s Development Center, New York

Ariel Dorfman, writer

Tom Duane, NY State Senator

Michael Eric Dyson, author, “Is Bill Cosby Right?”

Steve Earle, musician

Niles Eldredge, curator of the Darwin Show at the Museum of Natural History, NYC

Edwin Ellis, President of Veterans for Peace, LA*

Daniel Ellsberg, author of “The Pentagon Papers”

Eve Ensler

Michelle Esrick, actress, poet, filmmaker

Donelle Estey, artist, Artists Against the War

Christian Ettinger, exec. prod. of film “The Weather Underground

Jodie Evans, Code Pink

Nina Felshin, curator, writer

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Rev. John Fife

Jane Fonda

Prof. Barbara Forrest, Southeastern Louisana University (testifed in Dover against intelligent design)

Michael Franti, musician

Aaron Freeman, comdian

Samina Faheem Fundas, American Muslim Voice*

reg e. gaines, poet, playwright

Martin Garbus, NYC

Deborah Glick, NY State Assemblywoman

Ted Glick, Climate Crisis Coalition

Global Justice and Peace Ministries, Riverside Church,

New York

Frances Goldin, literary agent

Sam Greenlee, poet

André Gregory, theater director

Andy Griggs, US Labor Against the War, Exec. Board of United Teachers of LA*

Jose Guerrero, artist and muralist, Chicago

Lawrence Guyot, former SNCC member and former Chairman of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party

Paul Haggis, Academy Award Winning Director/Writer of Crash, screenwriter of Million Dollar Baby

Haitian Coalition for Justice

Suheir Hammad, poet

Sam Hamill, Poets Against War

Kathleen Hanna, Le Tigre

David Harris, founder of The Resistance*, writer

Jon Hendricks, jazz singer/lyricist

Jon Hendricks, artist

Warren M. Hern, MD, MPH, PhD, Director, Boulder Abortion Clinic

Eric Hilton, Thievery Corporation

Hip Hop Caucus

Dorothy Hoobler, PEN

Marie Howe, poet and writer

Impeach Bush Coalition

Mesha Monge Irizarry, Idriss StelleyFoundation

Islamic Association of America

Abdeen Jabara, past president, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee*

Rev. Jesse L. Jackson

Ron Jacobs, writer

Dahr Jamail, independent journalist

Pramila Jayapal, Executive Director, Hate Free Zone Washington

Alan Jones, Dean of Faculty at Pitzer College*

Bill T. Jones, dancer

Sarah Jones, poet and actor

Rickie Lee Jones, musician

Esther Kaplan, author of With God On Their Side

Janis Karpinski, Brig. General (retired)

Casey Kasem

M. Ali Khan, American Muslim Council

C. Clark Kissinger

Frances Kissling, President, Catholics for a Free Choice*

Yuri Kochiyama

Ron Kovic, author, Vietnam Veteran

Jonathan Kozol

Joyce Kozloff, artist

Jim Lafferty, Executive Director of the National Lawyer’s Guild of Los Angeles

Ray Laforest, organizer, DC 1707, AFSCME*; member, Pacifica National Board*

Beth Lamont

Jessica Lange

Lewis Lapham, former editor, Harper’s Magazine

Martha Lavey, Chicago

Mark Leno, California Assemblyman

Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine

James Levin, co-director of Cleveland Festival of Arts & Technology (Ingenuity)

Simon Levy, director, “What I Heard About Iraq” at Fountain St. Theatre

Toby Devan Lewis

Bruce Lincoln, professor, History of Religions, University of Chicago

Margarita Lopez, New York City Council Member

Haki R. Madhubuti, chairman, publisher, Third World Press

Devorah major, poet & novelist

Make the Road by Walking, Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY

Mike Malloy, syndicated radio talk show host

Lucinda Marshall, Founder Feminist Peace Network*

Bill Martin, philosopher

Bill Martinez, Attorney, Producer

Father Matthius, Pastor, St. Pius V, Chicago

Malachy McCourt, actor & author

Rosie Mendez, New York City Council

Allen Michaan, owner, Grand Lake Theater, Oakland, CA

Cynthia McKinney, US Representative

Ellen McLaughlin, actress and playwright

Camilo Mejia, conscientious objector

Dave Meserve, Arcata California city council member

Carol Migden, CA State Senator

Carly Miller, Clothing of the American Mind

Mark Crispin Miller, author, “Fooled Again”

Alderman Joe Moore, Chicago’s City Council

Millions More Movement, Pittsburg /Antioch CA organizing committee

Bill Mitchell, co-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace*

Leon Mobley, musician

Tom Morello, Audioslave

Tracie Morris, poet

Andrew Muñana, Images Salón, East Los Angeles

Steve Murphy, editor of Tales of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Cecil Murray, Retired Minister First AME Church, Los Angeles

Craig Murray, former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan

National Lawyers Guild
Armando Navarro, chair and professor, Ethnic Studies, UC Riverside

The Network in Solidarity with the People of the Philippines

Bill Nevins, teacher, Albuquerque

Northwestern College Feminists

Not in Our Name

Mike and Julie Nussbaum

Efia Nwangaza, director, African American Institute for Policy Studies, Greenville, SC

Brian O’Leary, PhD., author, former astronaut

Bertell Ollman, prof. Dept. of Politics, NYU

R. Tomás Olmos, President, Mexican American Bar Foundation, Los Angeles County*, Dean Emeritus, People’s College of Law*

Barbara Olshansky, Center for Constitutional Rights

E. Rendel T. Osburn, Southern Christian Leadership Foundation*


Major Owens, 11th Congressional District, D-NY


Jose Padilla*, executive director, California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA)

Cristina Page, author of “How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America”

Grace Paley, writer

Patrick Henry Democratic Club

Harvey Pekar, American Splendor

Sean Penn

Bill Perkins, New York City Council

Rosalind Petchesky, prof., Hunter College & Grad. Center, CUNY

Peter Phillips PhD, Project Censored, Sociology Dept Sonoma State University

Jeremy Pikser, screenwriter, Bulworth

Harold Pinter, Nobel Prize winning playwright

Frances Fox Piven

Sterling Plumpp, poet

Kevin Powell, writer

Sr. Helen Prejean CSJ, Moratorium Campaign to End the Death Penalty*

Progressive Democrats of America

Francine Prose, novelist

Puerto Rican Nationalist Party – New York Branch

Queers for Economic Justice

Jerry Quickley, poet and playwright

Malik Rahim, New Orleans Community Organizer

Michael Ratner, Center for Constitutional Rights*

Reach Hip Hop Coalition

Raghava Reddy, stem cell biologist, biomedical scientist, film maker

Maggie Renzi, filmmaker

Eric Resnick, Gay People’s Chronicle* reporter, peace activist, one time candidate for US Congress

Allan Rich, screenwriter/actor

Boots Riley, The Coup

Walter Riley, lawyer

Dennis Rivera, President of Local 1199 SEIU

Joshua Rosenblum, Composer/ Director of Bush is Bad

Mark Ruffalo, actor

Bobby Rush, US Representative, Chicago

Douglas Rushkoff, author

Kalamu ya Salaam, Listen to the People

Angelica Salas, executive director, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles*

JD Samson, Le Tigre

Sonia Sanchez

Rev. Henry Sanders, Fountain of Life Missionary Baptist Church, Watts, CA

San Francisco Bayview Newspaper

Sapphire, poet, writer

Sheley Secrest, Attorney, President NAACP Seattle-King County Branch

Susan Sarandon

John Sayles, filmmaker

Rinku Sen, Colorlines*

Richard Serra, artist

Rev. Al Sharpton

Lou Shaw, writer, creator of Quincy MD

Cindy Sheehan

Martin Sheen

Stanley Sheinbaum, economist, LA

Nancy Spero, artist

Dona Spring, Berkeley Council member

Gloria Steinem

Malcolm Suber, People’s Hurricane Relief Fund*

Serj Tankian System of a Down

Sunsara Taylor, Revolution newspaper

Studs Terkel

Marianne Torres, Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane*

Dwight Trible, jazz vocalist

George Tuttle & Ben Cushman, grapegrowers

Gore Vidal, writer

Kurt Vonnegut

Alice Walker

Maxine Waters, US Representative

Wavy Gravy

Leonard Weinglass, lawyer

Rev. Dave Weissbard, senior minister, The Unitarian Universalist Church, Rockford, IL

Cornel West, Princeton University

Rev. Phil Wheaton, Episcopal Co-pastor, Community of Christ, Washington DC

Joan Wile, Director, Grandmothers Against the War

Saul Williams, poet

Standish E. Willis, National Conference of Black Lawyers

S. Brian Willson. Veterans for Peace

Krzysztof Wodiczko, artist

Ann Wright, former US diplomat, resigned in protest of Iraq war

Daphne Wysham, Institute for Policy Studies

Leland Y. Yee, Speaker pro Tem, California State Assembly

Juanita Young, courageous resister, leader in October 22nd Coalition*

Dr. Quentin Young, Health and Medicine Policy Research Group*

Dave Zeiger, filmmaker, “Sir, No, Sir!”

Zephyr, graffiti artist, writer

Robert Zevin, Robert Brooke Zevin Associates, Inc.

Howard Zinn, historian, “A Peoples’ History of the United States

David Zirin, author, “What’s My Name, Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States

*Organization for identification purposes only.

Click here to view full list of signatories. 


So, a whole bunch of people have pointed out to me that the IG investigation document I linked to in the Karpinski post was marked “Secret/No Foreign”, implying that putting it up on whe Web is a Bad Thing.

As a reminder, I didn’t put it on the web, I just found it on the site using Google. Given that, I’m inclined to say that the barn door is open, and the horse has left. I’m interested in what other folks think I should do.

I have written NPR to ask if they are aware that their copy is classified, and I’m looking for someone to contact at the Army to mention it as well.

I’ll keep people posted, and as I find out more. I may well pull the article if the approproate folks feel I should.

And if you of you know a name in the Army I can contact to discuss this, I’d love to get it – in an email, please.

How Libya Stopped Loving The Bomb

Speaking of Iran, check out this article in Opinion Journal which analyzes Libya’s surrender of it’s nuclear weapons program.

How and why did Col. Gadhafi, the despotic, still dangerously capricious leader, decide to abandon a lifetime of revolution and terrorism and abandon the WMD programs he had pursued since seizing power in a coup in 1969? What role did American intelligence play in that decision? And how much change can Col. Gadhafi tolerate and still retain power?

Col. Gadhafi’s hip, 34-year-old son, Saif-al-Islam, told me in Vienna–where he earned an M.B.A. and lives when he’s not carrying out tasks for his father, or studying for a doctorate in political philosophy at the London School of Economics–that his father changed course because he had to. “Overnight we found ourselves in a different world,” said Saif, referring to the Sept. 11 attacks. “So Libya had to redesign its policies to cope with these new realities.”

But a review of confidential government records and interviews with current and former officials in London, Tripoli, Vienna and Washington suggest that other factors were involved. Prominent among them is a heretofore undisclosed intelligence coup–the administration’s decision in late 2003 to give Libyan officials a compact disc containing intercepts of a conversation about Libya’s nuclear weapons program between Libya’s nuclear chief and A.Q. Khan–that reinforced Col. Gadhafi’s decision to reverse course on WMD.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

(h/t Ann Althouse)

My Lunch With Janice Karpinski

[2 Updates: On the secret document, and on Karpinski’s backers]

I was invited to a luncheon at which Col./formerly Gen. Janice Karpinski was the guest speaker.

It was a Hollywood crowd; smart, well-dressed, strongly convinced about a number of things.

One of them is the innocence of Ms. Karpinski.

I sat to Ms. Karpinski’s (I use Ms. Karpinski through not out of disrespect to her rank, but because I’m honestly not sure which rank I should be addressing her by) left; to her right sat a woman wearing a large ‘Code Pink’ button (she left before I did, so I couldn’t ask her about their vigils at Walter Reed).

The readers of this blog are doubtless familiar with Janice Karpinski; she was the commander of the Reserve brigade that, among other things was responsible for Abu Ghraib back when Lynndie English had her little birthday party.

I’ve not commented deeply on the whole Abu Ghraib /torture issue because there’s been a lot more smoke than light everywhere I looked, and picking between the competing plausible narratives (I’m skipping the “U.S. military are bloodthirsty murders and torturers” one) require more knowledge than I have. I’m opposed to torture, for a variety of reasons, including lack of proof that it works, and think that the only moral position is one that requires the torturer to run the legal risk and moral hazard. But I’ll also suggest that there are a lot of aggressive techniques – most of what is done to our own troops in SERE training – that I would hesitate to classify as torture.

Even so, I was negatively predisposed to Ms. Karpinski when I did accept the invitation, but for a more general reason. Typically, people work for me in the course of my job, and I in turn am responsible to other people. Things go wrong, and some of them go wrong enough that far more-senior folks want to know what the hell happened.When that happens, I always take responsibility for what my people do; I believe that I am, without exception, ultimately responsible for them and their actions. That doesn’t mean I won’t fire someone – I do that a fair amount. Or that the thing I will take responsibility for was hiring a moron and then not supervising them well. I’ve done that, too.

From the press reports that I saw, Ms. Karpinski (I don’t know which rank I should use in addressing her) never did. She was reported as listing a host of other people who were responsible for what happened, and I was unimpressed by that.

But reality has a way of trumping my assumptions, so I decided that I should take on the opportunity to meet her and hear what she had to say for myself. At the end are the notes I took on my Treo. Note that she was asked if this was off the record, and said that she’d inform us if anything was off the record. Nothing was.

I’ll sum up her points as I took them:

* She led a battalion of reserves who were chartered with managing prisoners of war. But they were not used substantially in that capacity, and were used for escort service – she implies elite escort service – and other ‘random tasks’ for some time after deployment. They were then in charge of a network of prisons, including Abu Ghraib.

* At first they had ‘common prisoners’ who she suggested were common criminals and low-level POW’s. they processed and released 40,000 of them, and had a 0% recidivism rate – “because we were so good” (her words).

* But abuse was widespread in Iraq, and led from the top. Not her, or her team, but the Military Intelligence (MI) and Other Government Agency (OGA) folks who handled the specific cellblock where abuse took place.

* It was a deliberate policy to gather intel, and she opposed it, which is one key reason why she was at odds with her leadership. She hints at extensive cover-ups, reaching far up the chain of command.

* The MI and OGA subverted her leadership by reaching out to the weakest members of her teams and ‘seducing’ them.

* She knew nothing about the abuse at Abu Ghraib until she was informed by Gen. Sanchez.

I appreciated her willingness to come out and talk, and answer questions. I asked her two – first, whether she stood behind her charges that female soldiers had died because they were too afraid to use the latrines at night – because of the risk of rape – and so did not drink enough fluids.

Her response was that she absolutely did stand behind them.

I also asked her, when she was describing the mysterious contractors who wore no ID and never identified themselves how they had received access to the prison without ID badges. “If I were to drive up in a land Cruiser and ID myself as a spook, would they have let me in?” I asked. “No,” she replied. “So how did these guys get in?” “Col. Pappas authorized them.”

So I walked out of our nice restaurant, and one of the other attendees came out with me, and I asked him what he’d thought. “I’m not sure,” he replied.

“Me neither. I’ve got two huge problems with what she said. First, all the pictures were taken on one weekend. that undercuts the notion that someone in power wanted the pictures. Next, the fact that copies of the pictures stayed with the soldiers who took them – that the CIA spooks didn’t collect and keep them, knowing what would happen if they got out. And we know the soldiers kept them because of how they came out to the military and to the press.”

“And I can’t believe that people walked around a secure prison with no uniforms and no ID based on one Colonel’s say-so. How did that work?”

And so I drove away doubtful but still somewhat confused. So I went and did some research, and found the Inspector General’s report that she was so critical of. It’s available as a pdf on the NPR site. Go read the whole thing.

It paints a very different picture than that given by Ms. Karpinski; understandable given that she feels that the report scapegoated her. But there are a series of damning factual claims made in the report which go the heart of what may well have happened at Abu Ghraib. They include:

22. (U) The documentation provided to this investigation identified 27 escapes or attempted escapes from the detention facilities throughout the 800th MP Brigade’s AOR. Based on my assessment and detailed analysis of the substandard accountability process maintained by the 800th MP Brigade, it is highly likely that there were several more unreported cases of escape that were probably “written off” as administrative errors or otherwise undocumented. 1LT Lewis Raeder, Platoon Leader, 372nd MP Company, reported knowing about at least two additional escapes (one from a work detail and one from a window) from Abu Ghraib (BCCF) that were not documented. LTC Dennis McGlone, Commander, 744th MP Battalion, detailed the escape of one detainee at the High Value Detainee Facility who went to the latrine and then outran the guards and escaped. Lastly, BG Janis Karpinski, Commander, 800th MP Brigade, stated that there were more than 32 escapes from her holding facilities, which does not match the number derived from the investigation materials.

25. (U) After Action Reviews (AARs) are not routinely being conducted after an escape or other serious incident. No lessons learned seem to have been disseminated to subordinate units to enable corrective action at the lowest level. The Investigation Team requested copies of AARs, and none were provided. (Multiple Witness Statements)

26. (U) Lessons learned (i.e. Findings and Recommendations from various 15-6 Investigations concerning escapes and accountability lapses) were rubber stamped as approved and ordered implemented by BG Karpinski. There is no evidence that the majority of her orders directing the implementation of substantive changes were ever acted upon. Additionally, there was no follow-up by the command to verify the corrective actions were taken. Had the findings and recommendations contained within their own investigations been analyzed and actually implemented by BG Karpinski, many of the subsequent escapes, accountability lapses, and cases of abuse may have been prevented. (ANNEXES 5-10)

31. (U) SGM Marc Emerson, Operations SGM, 320th MP Battalion, contended that the Detainee Rules of Engagement (DROE) and the general principles of the Geneva Convention were briefed at every guard mount and shift change on Abu Ghraib. However, none of our witnesses, nor our personal observations, support his contention. I find that SGM Emerson was not a credible witness. (ANNEXES 45, 80, and the Personal Observations of the Investigation Team)

32. (U) Several interviewees insisted that the MP and MI Soldiers at Abu Ghraib (BCCF) received regular training on the basics of detainee operations; however, they have been unable to produce any verifying documentation, sign-in rosters, or soldiers who can recall the content of this training. (ANNEXES 59, 80, and the Absence of any Training Records)

33. (S/NF) The various detention facilities operated by the 800th MP Brigade have routinely held persons brought to them by Other Government Agencies (OGAs) without accounting for them, knowing their identities, or even the reason for their detention. The Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center (JIDC) at Abu Ghraib called these detainees “ghost detainees.” On at least one occasion, the 320th MP Battalion at Abu Ghraib held a handful of “ghost detainees” (6-8) for OGAs that they moved around within the facility to hide them from a visiting International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) survey team. This maneuver was deceptive, contrary to Army Doctrine, and in violation of international law. (ANNEX 53)

34. (U) The following riots, escapes, and shootings have been documented and reported to this Investigation Team. Although there is no data from other missions of similar size and duration to compare the number of escapes with, the most significant factors derived from these reports are twofold. First, investigations and SIRs lacked critical data needed to evaluate the details of each incident. Second, each investigation seems to have pointed to the same types of deficiencies; however, little to nothing was done to correct the problems and to implement the recommendations as was ordered by BG Karpinski, nor was there any command emphasis to ensure these deficiencies were corrected:

a. (U) 4 June 03- This escape was mentioned in the 15-6 Investigation covering the 13 June 03 escape, recapture, and shootings of detainees at Camp Vigilant (320th MP Battalion). However, no investigation or additional information was provided as requested by this investigation team. (ANNEX 7)

b. (U) 9 June 03- Riot and shootings of five detainees at Camp Cropper. (115th MP Battalion) Several detainees allegedly rioted after a detainee was subdued by MPs of the 115th MP Battalion after striking a guard in compound B of Camp Cropper. A 15-6 investigation by 1LT Magowan (115th MP Battalion, Platoon Leader) concluded that a detainee had acted up and hit an MP. After being subdued, one of the MPs took off his DCU top and flexed his muscles to the detainees, which further escalated the riot. The MPs were overwhelmed and the guards fired lethal rounds to protect the life of the compound MPs, whereby 5 detainees were wounded. Contributing factors were poor communications, no clear chain of command, facility-obstructed views of posted guards, the QRF did not have non-lethal equipment, and the SOP was inadequate and outdated. (ANNEX 5)

There’s a lot more…go read it.

Note that these deficiencies predated the November decision to give Military Intelligence control of portions of the prison, the conflict of command which Karpinski blames for the lack of control of her troops.

The picture painted is sadly one of a Dilbert-esque world, except that instead of keyboards the badly managed characters have guns, dogs, clubs, and glowsticks. Note that this doesn’t prove that there was no policy of torture or brutality. I think that the low number of prisoner deaths is good first evidence of that, along with a lack of verifiable reports – in the face of an aggressive international press. But absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, as they say, and I continue to keep my eyes and ears open.

Here are my direct notes:

Karpinski. Steve Jordan – charged re Abu Ghraib
Oversight for 1A & 1B reported to Col Papas. Had oversight for the troops who had responsibility for the dead Iraqi.

One of his soldiers raped a prisoner.
3 problem soldiers. Were sent back to Iraq.

Titan & Kaki & OGA (other govt agencies) played Grainer – claims pix were to be used to intimidate prisoners.

She is convinced pictures were requested by MI and OGA to ‘soften up’ prisoners at other camps.

(My question) Col. Pappas put contractors on the list.

Guard discriminates on race strongly.

Her brigade had no mission – were in Kuwait. Got a whole series of random missions.

Sanchez wouldn’t let her team ‘dock’ and get resources from the parent org.

Processed 40k Iraqi prisoners in 6mos and none came back. She says because they were so good.

Jordan is a reservist – no regular army charged.

Guy in sleeping bag. Ordered to sit on his chest until he stopped breathing.

Gen. Miller was resp for techniques.

A Ms. Wood was responsible for interrogation techniques.

She only saw one interrogation – was very polite. She (K) commented that it wasn’t very effective.

No interrogations at Abu Ghreib led to anything.

Saddam’s capture was due to bribes to locals.

Sleeping bag guy believed the order was legal.

Someone high up is picking panels for court-marshals. Gen Cradock reviewed inspector-general order & decided not to reprimand Miller.

Cradock is aide to SecDef.

Aggressive hinting at high level coverups.

Guantanimo has nondi signed by all troops. Interrogation techniques came from there.

Untrained troops – reserves.

She felt personally “screwed” by Sanchez who would’t give resources.

Thinks MI selected inexperienced troops a la Grainer.

Every night contractors – whose names he never got – scared them working the night shift. And they were led to do the wrong thing by the mystery contractors.

CodePink speaker present claims that there is widespread torture based on her experience in two trips and direct contact with Iraqis who claimed to have been abused.

Karpinski says they held press conference to let locals know where they could find loved ones.

Got email re investigation 12 Jan & saw pix 23 Jan. No knowledge until then.

She unilaterally set up court to review & release prisoners who – on file review – seemed harmless.

She did meet an Israeli near the compound that held High Value prisoners. She thought he was Arab and asked him – he was in civilian clothes – and he answered, “No, I’m Israeli.”
Miller wanted to change name back from BCCF to Abu Ghreib to scare prisoners.

Gary deLand – contractor one of the keys.

Wolfowitz visited AG in August 03. Walked whole site – spent time walking around. He was thrilled with what was being one.

Rumsfeld comes a week later. Took a tour – saw torture chamber & hanging chamber & left.

She doesn’t feel responsible (in affect) she’s lashing out at her leadership. the crowd loves it – v. positive feedback.

What To Do About Iran, Indeed.

Greg D. over at Belgravia Dispatch has a long post on ‘What To Do About Iran?’ In it, he lays out a solid case for negotiation.

Go on over and read it (and admire the picture of the happy Greg and Mrs. D dancing).


So what do I think about it? I think that he’s 1/3 right. I think that the path of negotiation he lays out is something we ought to be doing, and it should be front-and-center in the attention of everyone, because if it works, it’ll be the least-bad outcome in an array of bad outcomes. And God knows, it could work.

So what’s the other 2/3, you ask?Well, we need to be in a better position to militarily remove their capability to build nuclear weapons than we are today. That involves a bunch of things; human intelligence from within Iran, technical means intelligence, more planes and ships close by, more men and women who are combat-ready and available. All of those things take time – which we’ve pissed away over the last two years as this crisis has developed.

We should probably have a ‘snap’ plan ready to execute, in the event we get strong intelligence they are preparing a test or to export a weapon to test or use.

We should take the position that any smuggled nuclear weapon used against Israel, Western Europe, or the United States will be presumed to have come from Iran and North Korea, and that we will react appropriately – and massively.

Note that all of these things ought to help the Iranian leadership feel like they also have something to lose if the negotiations go badly.

So that’s two of three.

What’s next?

We keep doing what we’re doing, We keep destroying Al Quieda, keep supporting the nascent political institutions in Iraq, keep pressuring Syria, keep supporting Jordan, and make it clear that if this is going to be a long, slow conflict, we’re prepared to be patient as well.

That goes against the impulses of those who don’t see us as having anything at stake, and who see our foreign policy through the beer goggles of electoral advantage and desire. Too bad for them. And too bad for us all if they manage to win an election.

Flunking The 35 – Year Old Single Mom Test

[Updated below the fold.]

I’ve been working on a piece on how singularly unimpressed I am with the positions staked out by the netroots liberal community as their ‘unshakeable core liberal policy proposals’ as set out by Kevin Drum and Atrios, and how ineffective they really are in meeting my core litmus test on policy – the 35-year old single mom test – (note that the conflict is really about jobs – the policy jobs that will get handed out if the democrats can get back into power) when Captain Ed, in the midst of a series of interesting posts on the on again/off again mobile biolabs / weather balloon trailers stepped up and channeled Dickens’ Alderman Cute:

Ruth Cohen looks at an issue for mothers in the workplace that often gets little coverage from the media. With media conglomerates aiming for prized demographics, usually any discussion of workplace challenges for mothers revolve around high-powered executives hitting glass ceilings as they attempt to balance family and career concerns. For most working women, that dilemma would represent a slice of heaven, for more often they worry about keeping their jobs at all when family emergencies hit

Ed goes on to explain why mandating family leave or flextime is impossible, and suggests instead that the parents accept the burden:

So what are parents to do? The simple answer would be to recast their expectations of work and salary. They should pursue opportunities for flex shifts or, where both spouses work, that their schedules allow for one parent to always be available for the children. Night shifts exist in many industries, and sometimes pay better as companies will often give a bonus for non-daytime hours. Outside intervention in the workplace only exacerbates the problem, as with union contracting, and leads to more inflexibility rather than relieving it.

So parents need to lower their salary expectations, and think hard about the kind of work they wish to take on. Possibly by having one parent take on a night shift job while the other works days. Right.

Now Ed is a conservative, and so it’s understandable that he’d take a conservative position on this. But I’m a liberal, and I think that forcing parent to make that kind of choice is something that we should have stopped in Dickens’ time.

[Update:Note that what I’m saying is very simple; for parents who don’t have the money to hire help or don’t have positions where they can create flexibility, the risk of job loss – not losing a day’s wages – needs to be socialized. yes, this means employers will have to overbudget for staff. But as this graph of profits in the last decade shows:

I think they can afford it.]

The One-Cow State Redux

I’ve written in the past (and have been slagged by Michael Hiltzik) about the insane instability built into California’s fiscal policies because of our overdependence on income taxes from a few high-earners.

Well, California got some good fiscal news this month – collections are projected at $7.5B higher than budgeted – and Virginia Postrel links to a SFGate article by Kathleen Pender:

California took in a record $11.3 billion in personal income tax receipts in April, $4.3 billion more than it collected last April. It’s almost certain that a significant chunk of April’s haul came from Google employees — perhaps one-eighth or more of the tax receipt gain.

Pender continues:

California’s tax structure is highly progressive, which makes it highly volatile. For the 2004 tax year, 38,000 California tax returns reported more than $1 million in income. They represented just 0.2 percent of all state-tax returns, yet they accounted for 14 percent of total adjusted gross income and about 30 percent of the total personal tax.

The top 3 percent of the returns, those with incomes exceeding $200,000, paid about 60 percent of all state taxes.

That’s all fun and games when times are good…