Saturday, December 20, 2003

Mojowire for 12.20; vol. 1, no. 36

MUSIC: Intro/Hendrix, Star Spangled Banner
S9/ Supreme Beings of Leisure, Under the Gun
Exeunt/WildChild, Renegade Master

intro with hendrix star spangled banner

J. Good morning, and welcome to The Mojowire, Vol. 1, No. 36... I’m Mojo...

S. And I’m Sean, it’s Saturday, December 20, 2003, Day 993 of the Neocon Captivity, and here’s the news for the week gone-by...

J. Brought to you by Mojohaus-fine journalism, afflicting the comfortable since1988. Now headlines, from Mojohaus:

S. First this morning, we examine the Army’s stated intention of using sleep deprivation to crack the nut that *is* Saddam Hussein. But don’t worry though, we are being told that it is *not* torture...

J. Next, we pick up a thread reported by the redoubtable Joshua Marshall’s Talking Points Memo regarding the what the Bush people believe is an appropriate response to graft and fraud in our Iraqi administration.

S. Then we examine two recent federal appeals courts decisions regarding the Administration’s ability to disappear people and have a fearful look into the abyss should the Bush gang decide the law no longer applies to them.

J. Then Strychnine will again join us with terrifying tales of official government secrecy and again run the thread out to its obvious and horrifying conclusion.

S. Next, we take a quick and humorous pass at the new black market industry for forged Iraqi government documents and morons who are dumb enough to buy them then publish them as proof of Saddam’s involvement in 9/11 and various other evil-doin’s.

J. Finally, we give a glance at the strange momentum of the Dean campaign and the odd synergy that seems to be making it into a greater thing than the sum of its parts, as well as the eerie symetry of having Al Gore and Joe Lieberman end up on the opposite sides of this thing

…So stand by to stand by while we get ready to pull the pin on this thing...

fade in more hendrix star spangled banner for five or six count then back out again

J. Leave it to the Brits, those eternal arbiters of all that is civilized to come up with a decent rubric for evaluating society. It was Winston Churchill who said something to the effect of, if you want to judge a society, look at the way it treats its prisoners.

Well, it looks like we’re doing pretty good then. It is good to know that after all of Strychnine’s concerns about the U.S. engaging in torture of detainees, it has all been needless worry. We know this because the government assures us that as far as a bad guy like Saddam Hussein is concerned, we will get everything we need from him with the simple use of sleep deprivation.

And this is okay, because we are assured by our government that sleep deprivation is *not* really! Torture is something else entirely, we are just going to keep Saddam up past his bedtime for a while talking, according to Administration officials in the wake of the capture.

On NPR last week, Ruhel Gerecht, with the American Enterprise Insitutute and Mideast Specialist for the CIA argued that we were really talking about shades of gray when it came to torture. No, no, we use “aggressive tactics.”

You see, according to him, as well as many others in the current administration, the real root of the issue is in the United Nation’s use of the phrase “*severe* pain and suffering.” Let’s review the actual rules for a moment:

Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General Assembly resolution 39/46 of 10 December 1984, PART I, Article 1-- For the purposes of this Convention, the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity...

So what do you think; this doesn’t much sound like a big deal when it comes to sleep deprivation does it? Well, now that we know the rules, let’s take a quick look at the physical and mental effects of sleep deprivation.

What exactly does this charming little exercise do to the human body and mind? Well, for starters, at about 48 hours, someone without sleep is going to start experiencing a detirorating mental condition that will resemble delusional schizophrenia, replete with hallucinations. This condition will get worse as time goes on.

Physically, there are headaches, there is nausea, irritation of the eyes and a delightful little condition known as hyperalgesia, a condition where the subject becomes hyper sensitive to pain. In other words, what might have been innocuous contact before, becomes searing agony.

And just so we know what we are talking about here, when Army officials talk about sleep deprivation, they are not talking about having a guy in the room who gently shakes Saddam awake every time it looks like he’s nodding off.

S. Amensty International published a report last year that details the tactics used to keep people awake as part of “stress and duress” interrogation. This includes the practice of having the subject stay in a kneeling position while being blasted by strobe lights and loud, harsh music.

As an aside, another guaranteed effect of prolonged sleep deprivation is death. However, we are not sure of when exactly it occurs because human experiments in the extremes of sleep deprivation are considered to be inhumane and unethical.

It should also be noted that according to Amnesty International, Britain used to use sleep deprivation to coerce confessions from people in Northern Ireland. This was effective, because they didn’t care about getting to the truth of a particular subject’s innocence or guilt, they simply wanted their suspect to confess, and sleep deprivation was a good way to do it without leaving a lot of embarassing bruises or scars on the body.

Britain stopped after a European court in 1982 found they violated human rights law and Israel did likewise in 1999 when its supreme court banned the practice except in extreme situations.

You see, that’s the punch line... Sleep deprivation doesn’t produce good intel. Cognition suffers at an exponential rate, the memory becomes malleable and reality blurs as psycho-neurotic effects and hypnogogic halluciniations take over.

So it would appear that by using sleep deprivation on Saddam, we don’t really care about the Weapons of Mass Destruction, we just want him to be pliable, we want him to just confess.

And at the end of the day, our concern is that doing this to a Saddam Hussein is perhaps another way of making these sorts of things palatable for those who are *not* Saddam Hussein. If it’s not torture, then it why not use a proven technique for domestic law enforcement?

That is always the test for our nation. If we can refrain from torturing a Saddam Hussein, then it should be a walk in the park to make sure that standard applies to the rest of us. But if we, as a civil society and nation-state, give in to the temptation to use torture, an easy and effective method not only of interrogation but of maintaining a sense of fear and compliance in society at large, then we have betrayed everything this country was founded on. There would be no difference at that point between Saddam Hussein and George Bush, except that one of them looks better in funny hats.

What would Churchill say?

J. So just imagine... what would you do if you were President and found out that a contractor for the U.S. Government had beat you for at least $60 million. We imagine that you would want a) an accounting and b) a payback.

Well, what do you imagine the Bush Administration’s response was to discovering that Halliburton, the company that Vice President Dick -- May I call you *Dick*, Mr. Vice President? -- Cheney used to run, has potentially overcharged the U.S. more than $60 million for their Iraqi reconstruction work.

Now, of course we’re not talking abou the pious pronouncements of our Maximum Leader: “If Halliburton’s overcharged, they need to pay up. We’re going to watch, we’re going to make sure that as we spend the money in Iraq that it’s spent well and spent wisely.”

No, we are talking about the fact that making sure the money is being spent wisely is the one thing that, by*law* will *not* be happening. You see, when a Bush Administration officials learn of fraud in contractual dealings of the U.S. in Iraq, they simply make audits illegal -- problem solved!

The Congress wanted to prevent the kind of grifting that is apparently happening when they created an office of Inspector General at the Coalitiion Provisional Authority.

So, of course, the logical thing for the President to do would be to order Deputy Defense Secretary, and Neocon Centerfold Paul Wolfowitz, in enacting the Congressional intent to have an inspectorate, to gut the provision head to tail and prevent their nosey poking around in stuff what don’t have nothin’ to do with ‘em.

From Talking Points Memo: “In his statement, upon approving the act, the president directed that, in exercising these authorities and responsibilities, the IG/CPA shall refrain from initiating, carrying out, or completing an audit or investigation, or from issuing a subpoena, which requires access to sensitive operation plans, intelligence matters, counterintelligence matters, ongoing criminal investigations by other administration units of the [Defense Department] related to national security, or other matters the disclosure of which would constitute a serious threat to national security.”

Of course, it is all in the name of National Security. Because naturally, if the IG was poking around in matters of sensitive classified activity, they would naturally be refrained by pre-existing laws from publicizing their results and there would be a process in place for the audits results to find their secret little ways to those who would need to know in the Pentagon and Congress. But doing that would still provide eventual embarassment to someone, so instead, we will just do away with anything resembling accountability and transparency in government.

So let me get this straight... Tommy Chong is doing nine months in the Federal Penn for smoking dope, but Halliburton lifts $60 mil from the federal treasury and they are asked if they would like to go back for seconds because the government is now officially prohibited from interrupting their theft...

S. But you know, there is another troubling aspect to this, according to Marshall, and we agree with him. You know, it would take a minimum amount of effort on the part of a major news organization like a New York Times or a Washington Post to blow the lid off this sham.

All it would take would be for some enterprising young reporter who is on the beat to get out there and get a hold of the December 3 memo by Wolfowitz which set up the IG with the rules that prevent any actual inspecting by inspectors.

Come on, this isn’t that tough, that’s a public record, it’s out there, come on you guys, get that thing, do some freaking reporting, this is getting embarassing.

We know that not working for Mojohaus, your critical thinking and investigative prowess might not be completely up to speed, but this is really not that difficult. Why isn’t the national media shouting about this one from the rooftops, this is a no-freeking-brainer.

Part of the problem, we are sure, is that this kind of reporting takes more than just a phone call or two and recapitulation of some press-releases. This is not a ding on American journalists, it is a ding on their publishers and owners.

The fact is that this kind of reporting takes resources, even something as basic and simple as this, and it is not the kind of reporting that is in vogue with the bean-counters who run American newspapers these days, and as a result, a story that would have had a rogue chief executive and his winged monkeys in the Pentagon taken out for a walk 15 or 20 years ago, has become simply passe.

And because of that, it is not generating the kind of heat that is necessary to spark a Congressional chain reaction. Much like self-generating nuclear reactions, Congress needs an initial heat source to start splitting the political atoms that lead to impeachment hearings.

The worst part is that the enemies of the Republic, namely those who current infest our capital, know this, and are starting to act like they have nothing to fear from the press, the other branches of government and least of all the electorate, with the exception of those brave few who read blogs or huddle in their basement around the illegal shortwave radio to hear the Mojowire transmission.

So, if you are listening, it is up to you. Call or write your local newspaper and ask why they aren’t carrying stories about this, write your Congressional representative or Senator, and demand that the executive branch start actually governing, instead of merely dictating.

Is it time to vote yet?

J. The biggest, scariest red flag that the Bush Administration raised in the past three years has been their complete disregard for the fourth, fifth and sixth amendments to the U.S. Consititution. Remember, in the name of Fatherland Security, the administration can declare you an enemy combatant and whisk you away to the Island of Misfit Toys for an all expense paid, torture filled vacation at sunny Camp X-ray without any counsel, phone call, trial or nuthin’.

At first, they swore up and down that it would not happen to citizens, and then the first thing they did was apply it to a couple of citizens.

Now, things have turned both brighter and darker at the same time, when on the same day the Second and Ninth circuit courts of appeal ruled that detaining people without any recourse to law is an abuse of Presidential power and as such can not stand.

In the case of the Second Circuit, they ruled on the case of Jose Padilla, the Chicago-born Dirty Bomb suspect, who has been held incommunicado for the last 18 months. The Second, with a reputation for middle of the road conservatism, ruled in no uncertain terms that the only Congress has the authority to create those kinds of sweeping changes in our law.

According to the court: “Presidential authority does not exist in a vacuum and this case involves not whether those responsibilities should be aggressively pursued, but whether the President is obligated in the circumstances presented here to share them with Congress.”

This was made pretty clear in 1971, to prevent a recurrence of the Japanese Internment, Congress passed the Non-Detention Act. It says: “No citizen shall be imprisoned or otherwise detained by the United States except pursuant to an Act of Congress.” The appeals court said that law “prohibits all detentions of citizens … by the president during war and other times of national crisis.”

In the case of the Ninth Circuit, though, the court ruled on the general concept of widespread detentions of anyone by the government without so much as a by-your-leave from any court. The Ninth ruled that even though the people being held were in Cuba, they were on American property, and therefore subject to American rule of law. So now the Ninth has ruled that the detainees must be given access to legal counsel and a chance to make a case for their freedom through the courts.

Although the justices of the Ninth did not say when the detainees had to be given their days in court, the Second ordered Padilla to be remanded out of military custody within 30 days. In both of these cases, there was not much wiggle room, and the legal issues are sharp, well defined and of critical importance to the future of our country.

S. And therein lies one of the scary things about these decisions. These decisions *will* go to the Supreme Court. The writs of certiaori practically write themselves. These hit all the major points the Supremes look for in deciding to hear a case, a novel point of law, conflicting points of law and a sweeping socio-legal importance.

Moreover, it is likely that in at least one, if not both, the Supremes will be rule in favor of civil liberties, probably 5-4 or 6-3 with Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy being specific swing votes.

So imagine this little panic-laden scenario. The Supreme Court upholds the Second and/or the Ninth, and the administration tells them to go pound sand, no Al-Qaeda loving, anti-American, pansies are going to tell George Bush and the Superfriends how to protect a country.

It would be like the “you can’t handle the truth scene” from the end of “A Few Good Men” except in this case, Jack Nicholson then pimp-slaps Tom Cruise, seizes an M-16 from a Marine guard and declares himself King of the Navy Yard.

Now that would suck, Beavis...

And more than just sucking in a theatrical sense, it would clearly leave us in a horrible consitutional crisis. The executive branch decides it is no longer subject to the rulings of legitimate judicial authority.

And then?

...Just take a moment and look into the abyss... What happens then? Where are we? That’s when the abyss looks back, and we are truly humped!

Normally, this kind of morbid and creepifyin’ thinking usually catches up with us after a night of weird booze with names in foreign lanugages that taste like old socks. We have ourselves a good scare, like goin’ to a monster movie, and then wake up the next morning and in the full light of day tell ourselves that this could never happen.

But then there is the small problem that we are talking about the Bush Administration. These people are not exactly known for their law abidingness. It was just the other day that Richard Perle got his rhetorical ass handed to him by Joshua Marshall at a neocon panel discussion, but nevertheless made the astute observations that a) all who oppose them are anti-American, b) their politics know only expedience and pragmatism and c) they are just getting started.

And these are the people who are now running the show, so when something this momentus comes up, the temptation is to make the leap and look at where these things might go. And with our contemplations, we see that it could end up badly for all, and we mean *all* involved.

And now the music is telling me that we have an incoming transmission from the redoubtable Dr. S9…

J. That’s right. It is time once again for our regular contributor Dr. Strychnine; having come down the well on one of his rare visits planetside, he joins here in the venerable mojohaus luxury studios this morning…take it away S9…

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