A Regime of Systematic Torture in Iraq: Ours

Only the Jailers Are Safe – New York Times:

Ever since the world learned of the lawless state of American military prisons in Iraq, the administration has hidden behind the claim that only a few bad apples were brutalizing prisoners. President Bush also has dodged the full force of public outrage because the victims were foreigners, mostly Muslims, captured in what he has painted as a war against Islamic terrorists bent on destroying America.

This week, The Times published two articles that reminded us again that the American military prisons are profoundly and systemically broken and that no one is safe from the summary judgment and harsh treatment institutionalized by the White House and the Pentagon after 9/11.

On Monday, Michael Moss wrote about a U.S. contractor who was swept up in a military raid and dumped into a system where everyone is presumed guilty and denied any chance to prove otherwise.

Donald Vance, a 29-year-old Navy veteran from Chicago, was a whistle-blower who prompted the raid by tipping off the F.B.I. to suspicious activity at the company where he worked, including possible weapons trafficking. He was arrested and held for 97 days — shackled and blindfolded, prevented from sleeping by blaring music and round-the-clock lights. In other words, he was subjected to the same mistreatment that thousands of non-Americans have been subjected to since the 2003 invasion.

Even after the military learned who Mr. Vance was, they continued to hold him in these abusive conditions for weeks more. He was not allowed to defend himself at the Potemkin hearing held to justify his detention. And that was special treatment. As an American citizen, he was at least allowed to attend his hearing. An Iraqi, or an Afghani, or any other foreigner, would have been barred from the room.

This is not the handiwork of a few out-of-control sadists at Abu Ghraib. This is a system that was created and operated outside American law and American standards of decency. Except for the few low-ranking soldiers periodically punished for abusing prisoners, it is a system without any accountability.

Via Steve DeKorte.

If it were any other country which had invaded and committed these abuses, we would consider this a sufficient pretext to counter-invade and rescue someone from them.

Can anyone really believe Iraq is better off with our military occupying it than it would be without? That our military is better off involved in this than it would be at home? That we Americans are safer with this going on in our name abroad?

So much blood, so much torture, all in our name. We can’t fix this by perpetuating it. We must remove our troops immediately. Whatever happens afterward is very, very unlikely to be worse than what’s happening now. At least when we’re gone, someone whose credibility as a force for peace and democracy hasn’t been turned into a complete joke could perhaps come in to help.

“We can’t do this, we can’t do that, we can’t do that, and finally they stood up and said, ‘Well, what the hell can you do?’ And the answer is, ‘we can kill people and destroy things in the name of the United States.’ Well, my God, you can’t say that. But that’s what we do. And if you don’t want that done, don’t send in the military”

–an official sampled in “What’s My Mission Now” by Gary Clail’s Tackhead Sound System, almost certainly U.S. Army Colonel Harry Summers, based on similar statements he’s made in other context.

A Problem With Hierarchy (CPT Trav)

A problem with hierarchy is that there’s no particular guarantee that the people at the top of the hierarchy, the “Deciders,” if you will, are the ones that could make intelligent decisions. In fact they usually can’t because it is the nature of hierarchy to isolate them from the day to day realities faced by the people on the bottom. Often they can make decisions which are intelligent relative to the limited portion of the hierarchy’s reality which is directly relevant, perceptible, and manipulable to the guys at the top — such as in the case of a politician, the machinery of elections, or in the case of a CEO, the machinery of looking good to the board and stockholders and thereby keeping his job (or prepping for a jump to a new job when the company tanks shortly after he’s unloaded his stock options, you know the drill).

There have been many attempts to remedy this problem — W. Edwards Deming’s work on management, so I understand, attempts to address this issue comprehensively, but because actually putting his ideas thoroughly into practice deeply challenges the social hierarchy built into the American corporation, rather than actually putting Deming’s work into practice most corporations have just sort of blathered about the word “quality” and moved on to the next management fad.

What I’ve been leading up to in all this is the fact that the only coherent ideas about how we could, or perhaps could have, brought peace to Iraq, were put together not by some political snake holed up in the Green Zone making up propaganda about how well the war is going, but by a 32 year old Army captain on the ground in Al Anbar province, who was recently killed by an IED there. He put together a little powerpoint presentation on what changes might actually make a difference in that area.

The Washington Wire blog at the Wall Street Journal Online tells the sad story and links to the presentation.

(Disclaimer — I have no idea whether Capt. “CPT Trav” Patriquin’s plan is a good one or not, or whether any plan can rescue Iraq at this point. But it’s a plan that’s obviously been made out of a real person’s real knowledge of other real people, a person who cares, most of all, about the well being of everyone involved. That matters.)

Bitpim and My LG VX8300

This is sweet. The phone I ended up getting is a good old style LG VX8300. It looks and feels like a cell phone, not some kind of freaky ipod like machine, and you use it by pushing buttons, not tapping a piece of plastic in approximately the right place but always hitting the wrong thing (*cough* LG Chocolate *cough*).

The LG VX8300 does not come with mp3 support out of the box like the Chocolate does — it’s not sold as an mp3-capable phone — but it’s easy to enable it:

if you press ok (menu) then 0 it will bring you to a hidden menu screen, the pass code is all zeros. Scroll down to the bottom and you will see music settings, press ok and you can then enable MP3s to work on the phone instead of only WMA format songs.

Apparently you can also enable it just by going to a Verizon store and asking them to upgrade the firmware to the latest version (03 instead of 01).

As is usual for Verizon, the bluetooth is there but any advanced functions like file transfer are pretty crippled. But there is a neat technique to access a bunch of stuff you “shouldn’t” be able to over bluetooth.

There’s this glorious open source program called bitpim. With bitpim and a USB cable you can access a bunch of data on the phone that you otherwise couldn’t. On the LG VX8300 (and perhaps other phones; check out the docs) you can use bluetooth in lieu of the USB cable! Just enable it and pair the devices. The VX8300 list of “device services” in my mac’s bluetooth control panel is as follows:

Device Services: AV Remote Control Target, Voice Gateway, Voice Gateway, BT DIAG, Bluetooth Modem, OBEX Object Push, AV Audio Source

That BT DIAG is going to get us in. Download BitPim. (The Panther/PPC version provided works fine on my Tiger/intel machine.) Open up the Preferences. For the Phone Type you select LG8300. For Com Port, browse through the list and choose the one with BTDIAG in its cryptic name.

After that things should Just Work — at least they should Just Work the way described in the bitpim documentation. I appear to be able to send and retrieve pictures, synchronize calendar and phonebook entries with bitpim, all kinds of good stuff. MP3s at least at first appear not to be transferred; not sure if they’re supposed to be or not. But in any case, bitpim and a usb cable are a sine qua non if you’ve got a cellphone with a company like Verizon which limits what you can do with it, and your phone is supported.