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By Brad Friedman on 5/10/2004 11:43am PT  

A letter writer cuts through the clutter, in this weekend's LA Times:

Bush logic: Saudis blow up the World Trade Center --- invade Iraq. Our troops abuse Iraqi prisoners - apologize to the king of Jordan.
Pat Mauer - Pasadena
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By Brad Friedman on 5/9/2004 8:49am PT  

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Irony Watch Flashback Edition
By Brad Friedman on 5/8/2004 7:17pm PT  

"As long as the Middle East remains a place of tyranny and despair and anger, it will continue to produce men and movements that threaten the safety of America and our friends."
- George W. Bush, State of the Union address, Jan 20, 2004

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Flip-Flop Flashback Edition
By Brad Friedman on 5/8/2004 7:15pm PT  

"It really depends upon how [our] nation conducts itself in foreign policy. If we're an arrogant nation, they'll resent us. If we're a humble nation, but strong, they'll welcome us."
-George W. Bush, Presidential Debate at Wake Forest University Oct 11, 2000

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If you believed they put a man on the moon...
By Brad Friedman on 5/8/2004 6:34pm PT  

Something fun to ponder from LA Weekly while the rest of the world crumbles...

Before Kaufman died (or “died”) on May 16, 1984, he told several friends that he was planning to fake his death, disappear and return in 20 years, precisely. So, on May 16, 2004, Comic Relief, the charity organization [best friend and writing partner, Bob] Zmuda founded in 1985, will present . . . something. Something secretive, something at House of Blues on Sunset Strip. Title: Andy Kaufman — Dead or Alive?

“So this May 16 isn't going to be exactly like [Andy's infamous show at] Carnegie Hall,” Zmuda concludes...“But it's gonna be in the ballpark.”

...

“Is this a Comic Relief fund-raiser?”

“No. It's a Comic Relief event, but it's not a fund-raiser. And there will be an important Comic Relief announcement made there.”

“What kind of announcement?”

“I can't tell you.”

“Thank you. What can you tell?”

“Well, it's going to take place at the House of Blues, which usually holds 1,200, with people standing on the main floor. But because of the nature of what we'll be doing that night, we're bringing in chairs. So there's only gonna be 350 seats available.”

“And what is the nature of what you're doing? Perhaps some form of . . . entertainment?”

“I can tell you some of it, some of it I can't. [Kaufman alter-ego, now supposedly embodied by Zmuda] Tony Clifton will perform — if he shows — with his band, the Cliftones, and his dancers, the Cliftonettes. And there's going to be the premiere of an Andy Kaufman film that's never been presented in public, and will never be shown again.”

“How do you know it won't be shown again?”

“It won't. I can't explain, but . . . it won't.. . . and I really can't tell you any more. But we really want the hardcore Kaufman fans to show up, because it is going to be a historical night, around one basic theme: Andy did say that if he was going to fake his death, he would return 20 years later, to the day. That's the day.”

“You know, in your book, it says 10 years.”

“Yeah, I know. When I wrote the book, that's what I thought he'd decided. But after [Andy's girlfriend] Lynne read it, she called and said, ‘You got that wrong.' I said, ‘Whaddya mean?' She said, ‘Don't you remember? Andy was always debating whether it should be 10 or 20 years,' and that he decided, as he put it, to ‘separate the men from the boys.' If he was going to be a boy about it, it'd be 10 years. If he was going to be a man, it'd be 20 years."

“Have you considered someone trying to fake it?”

“Yes. I'm sure there'll be some nuts showing up that night, claiming to be Andy Kaufman. And who knows how Andy'd look, 20 years later? But we will have there, that night, a foolproof way to determine if in fact they are.”

“And that foolproof way is . . .?”

“I can't tell you.”

The full article actually has some tantalizingly "credible" info on a return of Andy. Which --- of course --- may be the point. On the other hand, we live right around the corner from the House of Blues...should we pop $50 a piece for SRO tickets to be there? Just in case...? I'd bite! :-)

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By Brad Friedman on 5/8/2004 4:40pm PT  

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Even the NeoCons are trying to get the message to Bush
By Brad Friedman on 5/8/2004 3:13pm PT  

Neo-Cons Robert Kagan and William Kristol (one of the early principal architects and supporters of the whole Iraq Mess) are at least intellectually honest enough to recognize when things are going horribly wrong.

From their article in the latest Weekly Standard:

The Bush administration seems not to recognize how widespread, and how bipartisan, is the view that Iraq is already lost or on the verge of being lost. The administration therefore may not appreciate how close the whole nation is to tipping decisively against the war.

Bush's predictably sluggish reaction to what Americans already perceive (rightly or wrongly) as necessary in Iraq continues to damage his case. Witness the foot-dragging about increasing the troop numbers in Iraq --- called for now for over a year from both sides of the aisle --- which has lead directly or indirectly to the latest mess at Abu Ghraib (or Camp Hubris, as I like to call it) and Bush's painfully inadequate baby steps towards appropriate apology for the disaster, followed by his inability to recognize the good (for America, if not his own re-election chances) that would come from removing Rumsfeld immediately.

But George W. Bush has never been one to put America before his own political interests, so why should he start now?

Well, one answer is Bill Kristol! If Bush listens to nobody else in the press, he does (or at least his advisors seem to) listen to Kristol from time to time, as Kristol generally takes the lead in representing Neo-Con interests in the media. Lose them, and Bush has lost everything.

In their column, Kristol and Kagan go on to call for moving up the current January '05 election date to September '04 and they spell out a number of good reasons for it. Amongst them, the need to increase troop size:

The Pentagon continues to fiddle while Iraq burns. Everyone in Iraq with whom we talk bemoans the shortage of troops and equipment. It is now impossible to travel safely throughout most of Iraq. This is terrible news, and would be even if we weren't preparing for an election. But if elections are announced, the Pentagon could be forced to overcome its arrogant stubbornness and beef up the force.

Team Bush seems to have painted itself into a corner on the Elections issue. They want "free and fair elections", but they've been spending over a year now trying to figure out how to avoid the inevitable outcome of the Shi'ite Majority in the country turning the place into an Iranian-style Theocracy. Seems like they shoulda thought of that before they moved in.

There's a lot it seems like they shoulda thunk of first --- but that sort of common-sense look-more-than-one-move-ahead planning has never gotten in their way before. So --- again --- why should they start now? Answer: Bill Kristol is talking to you! I'd expect Bush may soon begin paying attention. Maybe.

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By Brad Friedman on 5/8/2004 2:03pm PT  


SEN. BAYH: Would it serve to demonstrate how seriously we take the situation --- and therefore help to undo some of the damage to our reputation --- if you were to step down?

SEC. RUMSFELD: That's possible.

SEN. BAYH: I appreciate your candor.

Me too.

On the Irony Watch, most impressive questioning of the day at yesterday's Senate Armed Services Committee hearings; Republicans Lindsey "House Impeachment Manager" Graham and John McCain. Least impressive: Joe "Missing the Point as Usual" Lieberman.

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By Brad Friedman on 5/7/2004 7:25pm PT  

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At least 3 deaths are now being investigated.
And now the CIA enters the picture. Of course.
By Brad Friedman on 5/6/2004 5:15pm PT  

So much for the "few bad apples" theory that I challenged last night.

Take a look at selections from this report in today's NY Times:

The Justice Department is examining the involvement of Central Intelligence Agency officers and contract employees in three suspicious deaths of detainees, two in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, federal law enforcement officials said Wednesday.

One of the victims of suspected abuse was an Iraqi major general in the Republican Guard, who died in November 2003, several days after he was questioned at an interrogation center in western Iraq by C.I.A. officers, according to a senior law enforcement official.

In November 2003, the official said, a detainee at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad died, apparently as he was being questioned by a C.I.A. officer and a linguist who was hired by the agency as a contractor...The agency official said the detainee was not touched, but "slumped over" during the interrogation. The C.I.A. officers who interviewed General Mohush also denied mistreating him.

In a third case, in June 2003, a detainee in Afghanistan died during questioning by an independent contractor working for the C.I.A., a case in which the agency official did not rule out mistreatment.

...

Another area of possible wrongdoing by the agency disclosed Wednesday relates to requests by C.I.A. personnel to military authorities at Abu Ghraib prison to hold suspects without listing them on the prison's rolls, according to newly available passages of an internal military report on abuses in Iraqi prisons.

The practice was routine, according to a passage in the report by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba...

Detainees kept off the prisoner roster at Abu Ghraib were referred to as "ghost detainees," the report said. In one instance, the report found, a group of six to eight prisoners "was moved around within the facility to hide them from a visiting International Committee of the Red Cross survey team."

Get the feeling we're still looking at just the tip of the iceberg?

And is it George Tenet's turn (finally? yet again?) to join Rumsfeld on the hot seat? Or does he get to skate as usual? Probably...As we know, a report is never enough, unless it includes pictures!

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The FAA Destroys 9/11 Evidence. By hand!
By Brad Friedman on 5/6/2004 2:17pm PT  

Much has been made amongst the Conspiracy Theory Set about what really went on the morning of September 11, and why, as per protocol, fighter jets weren't scrambled at the very least by the time the first plane hit the North Tower. The plane was known as hijacked by 8:20am that morning, and the other hijacked planes were already seen as having made sharp U-Turns and turning off that transponders by that point. It was almost twenty minutes before the second tower was hit after the first and a a full hour before the Pentagon was hit. But still no fighter jets anywhere in the vicinity. And that was in Washington D.C. of all places!

Now this from AP. From a letter to John McCain from the Inspector General looking into McCain's request for information on how the FAA is cooperating with the independent 9/11 Commission:

WASHINGTON --- Air traffic controllers who handled two of the hijacked flights on Sept. 11, 2001, recorded their experiences shortly after the planes crashed, but a supervisor destroyed the tape, the government said Thursday.

A report by Transportation Department Inspector General Kenneth Mead said the manager for the New York air traffic control center asked the controllers to record their experiences a few hours after the crashes, believing they would be important for law enforcement.

Sometime between December 2001 and February 2002, an unidentified Federal Aviation Administration quality assurance manager crushed the cassette case in his hand, cut the tape into small pieces and threw them away in multiple trash cans, the report said. [emphasis added]

The manager said he destroyed the tape because he felt it violated FAA policy calling for written statements from controllers who have handled a plane involved in an accident or other serious incident. He also said he felt the controllers weren't in the right frame of mind to have consented to the taping, the report said.

Umm...any idea what that's about?

Meanwhile, according to the latest poll on the matter, a full %72 of Americans think the Bush Administration is either "Hiding Something" (%56) or "Mostly Lying" (%16) about what went on leading up to 9/11. Only %24 believe they're "Telling the Truth". After that AP story, I can't imagine where Americans would get that idea!

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By Brad Friedman on 5/6/2004 1:26pm PT  

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He actually almost said it!
By Brad Friedman on 5/6/2004 1:18pm PT  

Remember when Fonzie just couldn't say the word "sorry"? "I'm...s-s-s-sss...I was wrrrr...."

No matter how useful it would have been to him, his ego was just so cartoonishly out of proportion he was simply unable to get the words out of his mouth. Well, apparently, The Fonz has become President now.

From AP:

A day after he stopped short of apologizing, Bush told Jordan's King Abdullah II: "I was sorry for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners and the humiliation suffered by their families.

"I told him I was as equally sorry that people seeing those pictures didn't understand the true nature and heart of America," Bush said, standing in the Rose Garden alongside Abdullah.

That was so close! He almost did it! Can you imagine?!

Instead of being "sorry" on behalf of the United States for what American Troops did at Abu Ghraib, or "sorry" for the lack of oversight for which he is ultimately accountable as Commander-in-Chief, or "sorry" that our poorly planned policies would allow such atrocities and criminal behavior to occur in the first place, he is, instead, "sorry for the humiliation suffered."

Kinda like, "Sorry it hurt you when I punched you in the face."

Of course, he's "equally sorry" that those who had to view the pictures don't understand how good we really are in actuality, despite what they see before their eyes. Sorry you just don't get it, folks!

Will Slick Georgie escape this mess too? It's remarkable how he's been able to get by so far with everything he has up until now, so we'll see...Forget tonight's Friends --- Friday morning's testimony by Rumsfeld before Congress, is the next MUST SEE TV. Sit on it, Rummy.

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(Originally published during the 9/11 Hearings, but appropriate now as ever.)
By Brad Friedman on 5/5/2004 10:36pm PT  

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Rumsfeld needs to go. NOW. Bush needs to show him the door. NOW.
(But that may require pictures showing a President firing someone.)
By Brad Friedman on 5/5/2004 10:27pm PT  

Reuters reports that Bush has "privately expressed annoyance to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld" over the issue.

"Privately expressed annoyance"?!! And the Understatement of the Year Award goes to...

Bush knew about these reports since at least Mid-January when the military released a statement which was reported briefly in the media --- BUT WITHOUT PICTURES.

"The president was not satisfied with the way he was informed with regard to the pictures, and he let Secretary Rumsfeld know about it too," a senior administration official said. "He believes it's better to make it known privately instead of pointing fingers."

So it was the pictures that disturbs the "President". Not the fact of what actually happened there? Perhaps if our "President" actually read news sources instead of relying on his pals to keep him informed, he would have seen this report from CNN on January 21st of this year, which speaks of:


"...new details from the Army's criminal investigation into reports of abuse of Iraqi detainees, including the location of the suspected crimes and evidence that is being sought."

...

U.S. soldiers reportedly posed for photographs with partially unclothed Iraqi prisoners, a Pentagon official told CNN on Tuesday.

Or this story from The Nation on March 11, which speaks of the Arab Journalist who was arrested and taken to Abu Ghraib:

...he was taken to the military base at Baghdad International Airport, held in a bathroom for two days, then flown hooded and bound to Tikrit. After two more days in another bathroom, he was loaded onto a five-truck convoy of de-tainees and shipped south to Abu Ghraib.

...

he was greeted by US soldiers who sang "Happy Birthday" to him through his tight plastic hood, stripped him naked and addressed him only as "Al Jazeera," "boy" or "bitch." He was forced to stand hooded, bound and naked for eleven hours in the bitter autumn night air; when he fell, soldiers kicked his legs to get him up again. In the morning, Hassan says, he was made to wear a dirty red jumpsuit that was covered with someone else's fresh vomit...

But it's best "not to point fingers" and to "express annoyance privately"?

The point here is not there were a few bad apples at Abu Ghraib. If you bother to read the Taguba Report or pay attention to what's actually being said by the people involved the point is that there are not enough resources, not enough personnel, no planning whatsoever at all for what's going on, and no training whatsoever to execute that non-plan!

It goes all the way up the food chain, folks. If you see this as just "an isolated few incidents" or a "few bad apples" you're kidding yourselves. The way the Bushies still seem to be. There is blame and systematic failure enough to go all the way up the food chain. Unless Bush learns how to take accountability for anything --- that means some of his buddies are gonna have to GO --- then this thing is only gonna get much much darker from here.

We all wondered if he learned his lesson after missing the FBI's impossible to decipher memo entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." on August 6th of 2001. I guess we can stop wondering.

If it don't come with pictures, in color, he ain't gonna get it.

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