Guest Post by Lawrence Wilkerson: Some Truths About Guantanamo Bay

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Lawrence B. Wilkerson was chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell and is chairman of the New America Foundation/U.S.-Cuba 21st Century Policy Initiative.
There are several dimensions to the debate over the U.S. prison facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba that the media have largely missed and, thus, of which the American people are almost completely unaware. For that matter, few within the government who were not directly involved are aware either.
The first of these is the utter incompetence of the battlefield vetting in Afghanistan during the early stages of the U.S. operations there. Simply stated, no meaningful attempt at discrimination was made in-country by competent officials, civilian or military, as to who we were transporting to Cuba for detention and interrogation.
This was a factor of having too few troops in the combat zone, of the troops and civilians who were there having too few people trained and skilled in such vetting, and of the incredible pressure coming down from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and others to “just get the bastards to the interrogators”.
It did not help that poor U.S. policies such as bounty-hunting, a weak understanding of cultural tendencies, and an utter disregard for the fundamentals of jurisprudence prevailed as well (no blame in the latter realm should accrue to combat soldiers as this it not their bailiwick anyway).
The second dimension that is largely unreported is that several in the U.S. leadership became aware of this lack of proper vetting very early on and, thus, of the reality that many of the detainees were innocent of any substantial wrongdoing, had little intelligence value, and should be immediately released.
But to have admitted this reality would have been a black mark on their leadership from virtually day one of the so-called Global War on Terror and these leaders already had black marks enough: the dead in a field in Pennsylvania, in the ashes of the Pentagon, and in the ruins of the World Trade Towers. They were not about to admit to their further errors at Guantanamo Bay. Better to claim that everyone there was a hardcore terrorist, was of enduring intelligence value, and would return to jihad if released. I am very sorry to say that I believe there were uniformed military who aided and abetted these falsehoods, even at the highest levels of our armed forces.
The third basically unknown dimension is how hard Secretary of State Colin Powell and his deputy Richard Armitage labored to ameliorate the GITMO situation from almost day one.
For example, Ambassador Pierre Prosper, the U.S. envoy for war crimes issues, was under a barrage of questions and directions almost daily from Powell or Armitage to repatriate every detainee who could be repatriated.
This was quite a few of them, including Uighurs from China and, incredulously, citizens of the United Kingdom (“incredulously” because few doubted the capacity of the UK to detain and manage terrorists). Standing resolutely in Ambassador Prosper’s path was Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld who would have none of it. Rumsfeld was staunchly backed by the Vice President of the United States, Richard Cheney. Moreover, the fact that among the detainees was a 13 year-old boy and a man over 90, did not seem to faze either man, initially at least.
The fourth unknown is the ad hoc intelligence philosophy that was developed to justify keeping many of these people, called the mosaic philosophy. Simply stated, this philosophy held that it did not matter if a detainee were innocent. Indeed, because he lived in Afghanistan and was captured on or near the battle area, he must know something of importance (this general philosophy, in an even cruder form, prevailed in Iraq as well, helping to produce the nightmare at Abu Ghraib). All that was necessary was to extract everything possible from him and others like him, assemble it all in a computer program, and then look for cross-connections and serendipitous incidentals–in short, to have sufficient information about a village, a region, or a group of individuals, that dots could be connected and terrorists or their plots could be identified.


Thus, as many people as possible had to be kept in detention for as long as possible to allow this philosophy of intelligence gathering to work. The detainees’ innocence was inconsequential. After all, they were ignorant peasants for the most part and mostly Muslim to boot.
Another unknown, a part of the fabric of the foregoing four, was the sheer incompetence involved in cataloging and maintaining the pertinent factors surrounding the detainees that might be relevant in any eventual legal proceedings, whether in an established court system or even in a kangaroo court that pretended to at least a few of the essentials, such as evidence.
Simply stated, even for those two dozen or so of the detainees who might well be hardcore terrorists, there was virtually no chain of custody, no disciplined handling of evidence, and no attention to the details that almost any court system would demand. Falling back on “sources and methods” and “intelligence secrets” became the Bush administration’s modus operandi to camouflage this grievous failing.
But their ultimate cover was that the struggle in which they were involved was war and in war those detained could be kept for the duration. And this war, by their own pronouncements, had no end. For political purposes, they knew it certainly had no end within their allotted four to eight years. Moreover, its not having an end, properly exploited, would help ensure their eight rather than four years in office.
In addition, it has never come to my attention in any persuasive way–from classified information or otherwise–that any intelligence of significance was gained from any of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay other than from the handful of undisputed ring leaders and their companions, clearly no more than a dozen or two of the detainees, and even their alleged contribution of hard, actionable intelligence is intensely disputed in the relevant communities such as intelligence and law enforcement.
This is perhaps the most astounding truth of all, carefully masked by men such as Donald Rumsfeld and Richard Cheney in their loud rhetoric–continuing even now in the case of Cheney–about future attacks thwarted, resurgent terrorists, the indisputable need for torture and harsh interrogation and for secret prisons and places such as GITMO.
Lastly, there is the now prevalent supposition, recently reinforced by the new team in the White House, that closing down our prison facilities at Guantanamo Bay would take some time and development of a highly complex plan. Because of the unfortunate political realities now involved–Cheney’s recent strident and almost unparalleled remarks about the dangers of pampering terrorists, and the vulnerability of the Democrats in general on any national security issue–this may have some truth to it.
But in terms of the physical and safe shutdown of the prison facilities it is nonsense. As early as 2004 and certainly in 2005, administration leaders such as Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England, and John Bellinger, Legal Advisor to National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and, later, to that same individual as Secretary of State, and others were calling for the facilities to be shut down. No one will ever convince me that as astute a man as Gordon England would have made such a call if he did not have a plan for answering it. And if there is not such a plan, is not its absence simply another reason to condemn this most incompetent of administrations? After all, President Bush himself said he would like to close GITMO.
Recently, in an attempt to mask some of these failings and to exacerbate and make even more difficult the challenge to the new Obama administration, former Vice President Cheney gave an interview from his home in McLean, Virginia. The interview was almost mystifying in its twisted logic and terrifying in its fear-mongering.
As to twisted logic: “Cheney said at least 61 of the inmates who were released from Guantanamo (sic) during the Bush administration…have gone back into the business of being terrorists.” So, the fact that the Bush administration was so incompetent that it released 61 terrorists, is a valid criticism of the Obama administration? Or was this supposed to be an indication of what percentage of the still-detained men would likely turn to terrorism if released in future? Or was this a revelation that men kept in detention such as those at GITMO–even innocent men–would become terrorists if released because of the harsh treatment meted out to them at GITMO? Seven years in jail as an innocent man might do that for me. Hard to tell.
As for the fear-mongering: “When we get people who are more interested in reading the rights to an Al Qaeda (sic) terrorist than they are with protecting the United States against people who are absolutely committed to do anything they can to kill Americans, then I worry,” Cheney said. Who in the Obama administration has insisted on reading any al-Qa’ida terrorist his rights? More to the point, who in that administration is not interested in protecting the United States–a clear implication of Cheney’s remarks.
But far worse is the unmistakable stoking of the 20 million listeners of Rush Limbaugh, half of whom we could label, judiciously, as half-baked nuts. Such remarks as those of the former vice president’s are like waving a red flag in front of an incensed bull. And Cheney of course knows that.
Cheney went on to say in his McLean interview that “Protecting the country’s security is a tough, mean, dirty, nasty business. These are evil people and we are not going to win this fight by turning the other cheek.” I have to agree but the other way around. Cheney and his like are the evil people and we certainly are not going to prevail in the struggle with radical religion if we listen to people such as he.
When–and if–the truths about the detainees at Guantanamo Bay will be revealed in the way they should be, or Congress will step up and shoulder some of the blame, or the new Obama administration will have the courage to follow through substantially on its campaign promises with respect to GITMO, torture and the like, remains indeed to be seen.
On that revelation and those actions rests much of the credibility of our nation’s return to sobriety and our truest values. In fact, on such positive developments may ultimately rest our entire future as a free people. For there shall inevitably be future terrorist attacks. Al-Qa’ida has been hurt, badly, largely by our military actions in Afghanistan and our careful and devastating moves to stymie its financial support networks.
But al-Qa’ida will be back. Iraq, GITMO, Abu Ghraib, heavily-biased U.S. support for Israel, and a host of other strategic errors have insured al-Qa’ida’s resilience, staying power and motivation. How we deal with the future attacks of this organization and its cohorts could well seal our fate, for good or bad. Osama bin Laden and his brain trust, Aman al-Zawahiri, are counting on us to produce the bad. With people such as Cheney assisting them, they are far more likely to succeed.
– Lawrence Wilkerson

Comments

95 comments on “Guest Post by Lawrence Wilkerson: Some Truths About Guantanamo Bay

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    Reply

  2. Abubakr says:

    you stupid Americans you listen to too much propoganda you must listen to the truth for once .never believe the news.only if you c it with your own eyes bilieve you cowards

    Reply

  3. Abubakr says:

    you see they take inocent children from the age of 12 and detaian no justice here.ask the russians how they lost to Afgahnistan.its ALLAH’s help is with us no one can harm us.ask them when they were fighting what they saw sum of them even fainted.they saw things similar to angles it was allahs hlp decending to the muslims.jews are worst busteds ever on this planet even im more intelegent then them

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  4. Abubakr says:

    im 16 and I even konw whts justice.obama you sick bustad including your crew.you stupid obamba ill get you

    Reply

  5. Soma says:

    I have to laugh at the liberals on this board who want them killed (like Larry M’s post at 10:17 AM). You’re the same liberal people who wouldn’t condone the death penalty for some of the worst terrorists, but you’ll gladly do it for the President (I have no doubt that were he a Democrat, most of you would think differently).

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  6. Carl Stover says:

    Many people fail to appreciate how huge the bounty for turning in an “enemy combatant” was relative to conditions in Afghanistan. Multiple sources say it was $500; some say it was $500 for a Taliban and $5000 for an Alqeda. $500 is nearly a year’s income for an Afghan peasant, thus equivalent to about $20,000 in the U>S>.
    That’s a huge temptation to kidnap men at random and turn them in. Even huger when few or no questions are asked.

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  7. Brian Jacobs says:

    When Bush was re-elected, I, along with most of the rest of the world, was simply astounded that the American people could make such an obvious error of judgement as to re-elect this walking disaster.
    It does no good now to point the finger at Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush or anyone else. America considers itself to be the epitome of democracy; ‘Government by the people, for the people’. The American people, with the plethora of means at their disposal, are empowered as no other people before them ever were to make their voice heard so that their leaders act appropriately. The fact that they chose not to do so in 2004 was a clear indication that the American people as a whole chose the path of ignorant self-interest over informed fairness. The blame for Guantanamo and for Abu Ghraib therefore rests with the American people themselves.
    There is a terrible irony in observing how President Obama, who won his presindency because he was able to discern, align himself with and inspire the best feelings of the American public in 2008, is now changing course to align himself with the pragmatic realities of realpolitic. It is almost as though President Obama is being brought to heel by the same forces that controlled ex-President Bush.

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  8. Mark says:

    PissedOffAmerican,I LOVE YOUR CRITIQUE.THESE BASTARDS BELONG IN PRISON.NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply

  9. dbdublin says:

    I just watched this clown on Chris Matthews. The two of them are quite a pair. So many conspiracy theories, so little time. One unfounded, unproven accusation after antother. What a couple of idiots.

    Reply

  10. Bear says:

    If this article is true why is Obama having trouble freeing the prisoners. As far as I know he has only released the detanee who is accused of bombing the USS Cole.

    Reply

  11. RealAmerican says:

    PissedOffAmerican
    Shout up you idiot from idiotsville these people
    would cut your head off in a NY minute and not
    blink an eye. I do not get Americans you defend
    terrorist as if you would do the same for you.
    Stop bing a lefts and begin to be an American.
    All wars have problems but you have been spared by
    President Bush from being killed by these people.
    Why not move there and help them fight America if
    you think they are so great and we are so bad.

    Reply

  12. NObama says:

    OK. For those of you liberals who bashed the Bush Administration instead of actually commenting on the article, You are the RETARD ( such as “the still guy” who commented above me)!! I understand Obama is our president now, but he has mad some really stupid decisions already during his presidency. One major example is TRYING TO CLOSE Guantanamo Bay!!! Prisoners who have been released are already back with their terrorist organizations back in the middle east. Somehow “left sided” articles fail to mention that because it would look horrible against there precious OBAMA. It’s absolutely ridiculous! Conservative articles tell the whole story. Although conservatives are extremely disappointed in Obama so far, they cease to bash him to no end like all the liberals did to Bush. Our government does not just torture people for their own pleasure. They torture criminals to save billions of lives. TO SAVE YOUR LIFE!! Keep that in mind.

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  13. The Still Guy says:

    This story reached the norwegian media today. We are appalled, even if we have known this, and read similar stories for a long time. You may say a lot about our leftist media, but at least we get to know these things.. Probably months and even years before the average americans do.. The whole Bush administration should be executed for crimes against humanity, God knows how many lives and how much blood they have on their hands… And all their voters should be castrated to avoid their genes from spreading further….

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  14. Isak says:

    Honestly, as a Norwegian I am embarrassed every time some idiot is calling the US “our allied”… What a pathetic nation.. I realize there are lots of good Americans, but the majority is a bunch of retards.. Just makes me sick.. Obama? I have no faith in him. Same shit, new wrapping… You really are the laughing stock of the world. However, we are crying at the same time. I could write a lot more here, but I have no words.. Just shame on you..

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  15. MedullaPancreasOblongata says:

    I found this news on page 29 of the Daily News. Seems the yellow news papers loves a sensational front page story, that alarms the public, but are unwilling to assure the public it’s fears were unfounded. It says in the same article that Cheney feels releasing Gitmo detainees would be dangerous, even though he knows these people were rounded up by Norther Alliance for cash hand-outs. The more people they rounded up – the more money was doled out. Seems Cheney has a vested interest in perpetuating this War On Terror in the media, even if it comes at the expense of innocent people. Cheney just doesn’t know when to shut his mouth and fade off into the sunset.

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  16. Kathleen G says:

    arthur decco…feckless does indeed make a solid point. Wilkerson should use his position and push even harder for accountability. Thanks for bringing our attention to what feckless had to say
    independent investigation prosecutions…follow the laws….follow the evidence to where ever it leads

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  17. John H Kennedy says:

    The Bush Administration lied to us about nearly everything for seven years.
    We as a people need to know that our leaders are answerable to our Federal Laws.
    If Bush and Cheney and law breaking appointee lawyers Are Not Subject to our Federal Laws prohibiting Torture, any notion by Obama
    that “no one is above the law”
    is a farce.
    Bush, Cheney, and appointees lied about WMD, aluminum tubes, and Niger Uranium to con Congress into approving an invasion of Iraq, a country that did not have anything to do with 9-11.
    In WW-II, in 4 years, FDR put 13,000,000 men in the fight, beat 3 dictatorships, their leaders dead at the end.
    After 7 years of War On Terror, neither Bush nor Cheney could find Osama Bin Laden, our US reputation is in the gutter, we’re still at war, over 4,200 US Soldiers are dead, over 30,000 maimed for the Bush-Cheney arrogance and lies. They ordered Torture, a violation of Federal Law.
    If we as a people hope to force our public officials to obey our laws and our Constitution,
    the time is Now
    and the way to do it is
    to prosecute members of the Bush administration
    who violated Federal Laws,
    including the law against Torturing prisoners.
    The reason that we continue to have unnecessary wars of choice is
    that our Congress makes excuses for lawbreaking officials instead of impeaching or prosecuting them.
    Unless Obama’s statement that “no one is above the law” is a lie,
    Obama must appoint a Special Prosecutor for Bush, Cheney and the appointee lawyers that advocated Torture, violated many Federal Laws, our Constitution & the Geneva Convention on Torture.
    Sign The Petition To Prosecute them
    at ANGRYVoters DOT Org
    http://ANGRYVoters.org
    Over 63,000 have signed
    Join Them!
    PLEASE Forward to everyone you know
    Thanks

    Reply

  18. Miles Stuart says:

    I agree with some of the criticisms above that Lawrence Wilkerson and others should have refused to serve in such a lawless administration. However, the task now is to re-establish the supremacy of the law over the whims of any future administration. In that cause Lawrence Wilkerson is a very welcome and powerful advocate.
    The idea that the anarchic and gratuitous abuse of detainees was not driven by Cheney, Rumsfeld and their ilk is risible. Officers such as Carolyn Wood who had developed and encouraged the regime of abuse were promoted. What happened to those who objected?
    The publication of incontrovertible evidence which finally compelled a grudging admission of abuse had been preceded by months of detailed complaint almost none of which was reported. These complaints were not properly investigated or acted upon by the authorities because they drew inconvenient and unwanted attention to what Cheney and Rumsfeld knew was happening anyway because that is what they wanted to happen.

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  19. Rishad Olpadwala says:

    A sidebar worth noting: Lawrence Wilkerson volunteered for military service (Vietnam) while a college student, rather then assiduously avoiding it as did Bush and Cheney.

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  20. S Franz says:

    Well done, Sir. Would it be terribly wrong to send a retired Colonel flowers? It is a horrific tragedy that we are still unable to undo the damage
    this so-called policy has done to the wives, parents, and children of the men held and the time
    it will take to heal the country from what could be our worst human rights failure since slavery.

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  21. Dave "knowbuddhau" Parker says:

    Col. Wilkerson offers compelling evidence of what I’ve been calling “myth-jacking.”
    “But to have admitted this reality would have been a black mark on their leadership from virtually day one of the so-called Global War on Terror and these leaders already had black marks enough: the dead in a field in Pennsylvania, in the ashes of the Pentagon, and in the ruins of the World Trade Towers. They were not about to admit to their further errors at Guantanamo Bay. Better to claim that everyone there was a hardcore terrorist, was of enduring intelligence value, and would return to jihad if released. I am very sorry to say that I believe there were uniformed military who aided and abetted these falsehoods, even at the highest levels of our armed forces.”
    Rather than uphold truth, democracy, and the yada yada yada, what did they do? Deployed snipers with high-powered microphones to strafe the airwaves with myths of terrorists with swarthy complexions oh my!
    The Pentagon’s Message Force Multipliers are no different than snipers with microphones. Have they all stood down?
    “The Associated Press’s special report on Pentagon “influence operations” can be read here. The Pentagon’s Public Affairs Office has been one of the last redoubts of the Neoconservatives. Burrowed Bush era figures remain in key positions in the office, which had responsibility for implementation of some of the Rumsfeld Pentagon’s most controversial strategies in which the American public was targeted with practices previously associated with battlefield psy-ops.”[1]
    In other words, we have weaponized psyche and, like the NSA’s capacity to spy, turned it upon ourselves.
    “Obama is no shrinking violet. Just the same, it may be useful to warn him not to succumb to the particular brand of “shock and awe” that can be induced by ostensibly sexy intelligence to color reactions of briefees, including presidents. I [Ray McGovern] have seen it happen.”[2]
    Myths, of course, aren’t simple lies, they are metaphors, they are vessels, into some of which we are more easily lured than others. Like kittens into burlap sacks. Or Roma and Jews into cattle cars en route to Dachau. And so on.
    Joseph Campbell began lecturing at State’s Foreign Service Institute in 1956. Look at the dramatic change in our foreign affairs after that, which just so happen to express his themes masterfully.
    Myth-jacking, a hybrid of comparative mythology, and radical behaviorism in a mechanical cosmos, is the state of the art in manuFRACTURing consent.
    In this, our Newtonian cosmos, in which the economy is god’s own justice-dispensing machine, if you want more money, what do you do? Grab the key and wind ‘er up, aka “economic stimuli.”
    On the advice of their high priests, Greenspan and Rand, bankers did with the world economy what 3-year olds do with a wind-up toy: grabbed the
    key and twisted like mad. Turns out, the key they were twisting is the neck of the goose who lays the golden eggs.
    Just as the Nazis jacked Germany with myths of the master race threatened by vermin; just as McCarthy jacked America with myths of Commies under every bed; so, too, have we been jacked to hell, by myths of terrorists with WMD, and are even now being stuck with the bill.
    [1] Scott Horton, February 7, 2009. “Pentagon targeted and mistreated journalists, AP head charges.” http://harpers.org/archive/2009/02/hbc-90004359
    [2] Ray McGovern, November 7, 2008. “President-elect’s Queries to Briefers.” http://www.consortiumnews.com/2008/110708c.html

    Reply

  22. johndoe says:

    What blows about all the indignation for the accomplices by silence to Bush and Cheney, is that it only serves to extend the practice.
    Scooter Libby remains the only prosecuted member of the cabal. He is held in high esteem by all that matter to him, he never served a day in jail.
    Contrast that to the probably thousands of people who had their careers upended by merely raising an eyebrow toward the Neo-con mob, and the stunning sucess of many jounalists, pundits and think tankers toting the neo-cons water and you will find your criticism of their lack of forthrightness isn’t based on their own interests, it’s based on fantasy.
    These bit players and order-following critics come lately are not due any punishment until the ring leaders are convicted, which anyone with any shred of pragmatism knows is not very likely to happen.
    Calling these folks big assholes for going along then with what they likely couldn’t prevent and then telling us the truth now proves that the public only cares about appearances, not truth.
    I’m not saying they weren’t jerks for going along and keeping quiet, I’m just saying the order of assholery by magnitude goes from A- willful perpetrators a- those who knew but kept silent and never spoke up to smallest a- those who knew and finally put guts with their principals and spoke out.
    Calling Wilkerson out will only comfort the continued silence of other in the know critics.

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  23. Mark Welkie says:

    Hey, Stop Sorros! His name is Soros! Hahaha! You folks over on the wacko right are living in a fantasy world.

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  24. Harry says:

    I think the characterization of Dick Cheney as evil is 100% correct. The man is a slacker, war monger, traitor (for his assulats on the Constitution) and criminal (torture etc…). I llok forwrd to the day he lands at a foreign airport and is arrestes and as he would say “brought to justice.”

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  25. Jayl says:

    I am really impressed. Let’s see. Powell, a born-again-liberal, couldn’t take responsibility for his own actions while in office, so he blamed everything on President Bush. now we have a deciple of Powell’s, who can’t take responsibility for his own “in-action” (if this was really the case); so he blames both Bush and Chaney. And, it’s being reported from a mouthpiece for (President tennis-match) Obama and his liberal cronies. What is really going on here? Don’t respond, I really don’t care to hear your liberal bull. We get enough of it on the evening news casts.

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  26. The View says:

    Larry Wilkerson displays no courage to finally speak up and tell the truth. Where has he been the past 8 years? Like his bosses, he sat and did nothing. Nothing at all. Now we are supposed to be amazed by his blog post? Give me a break. A true patriot who took an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States, wouldn’t just sit by as he did.
    It disgusts me hearing all of these stories about abuses and mistakes now. Where was the courage to speak up when it mattered?
    Go away Larry, you did not do your duty when the times needed it. It is too late now.

    Reply

  27. John Molina says:

    READ this, Michael Savage.

    Reply

  28. A Different View says:

    Man, the Bush Derangement Syndrome has really affected a lot of posters on this board.
    First, while I respect Colonel Wilkerson’s decades of service to our country, he has emerged as a guy with an ax to grind. He’s not wrong on everything, but boy is he bitter. He ought to know better than to tie Rumsfeld and Cheney directly to Abu Ghraib. Nobody has found that anybody higher up ordered or encouraged those rogue actions. They are guilty of having an incompetent in charge of the prison guard unit, that’s a crime of negligence, not intent. And yes, that matters.
    Did Bush and Cheney make a heckuva lot of mistakes? Sure. They were dealing with some bad actors, and it appears at times they overreacted, as did much of the country. But it also appears they were motivated by a determination to protect the country. Yet people on this board act as though they see Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld as worse than al Qaeda. I have to laugh at the liberals on this board who want them killed (like Larry M’s post at 10:17 AM). You’re the same liberal people who wouldn’t condone the death penalty for some of the worst terrorists, but you’ll gladly do it for the President (I have no doubt that were he a Democrat, most of you would think differently). He might have been dumb as a fencepost on some of his decisions, but you guys are saying he’s been treasonous. That’s beyond unjustified; it’s just stupid, and you sound stupid to normal people when you say it.
    I used to think the Republicans needed to get a grip regarding Clinton, but their reactions in the 90′s pale compared to the absolute unhinging that has gone on amongst the Bush-haters.
    Maybe my thoughts are a function of the fact that unlike most people on this board, I’ve actually been on the receiving end of attempts to kill Americans over in the Middle East. But it just seems to me that some of you have truly lost perspective.

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  29. arthurdecco says:

    feckless, at 4:07PM, made a powerful and convincing point.

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  30. Alienview says:

    We need to design a better form of government for our country. Many other governments in history have worked so much better than ours. I really don’t want to be one of those people who just wants to destroy our system without having a better solution.

    Reply

  31. Ron Roberts says:

    Where the hell is Colin Powell? Mr. Powell, it’s time to speak now or forever hold your peace.
    You decried the way that “the sons of the powerful and well placed…managed to wangle slots into Reserve and Guard Units”[1] and then you went on to serve one of these sons as his Secretary of State.
    You criticized the LBJ administrations prosecution of the Vietnam War with “Back home, the administration was trying to conduct the war with as little inconvenience to the country as possible…. Taxes to finance the war had not been raised. Better-off kids beat the draft with college deferments.”[2] And then you sat silently while the Bush administration did the same.
    You said of the downing of the KAL 007 flight: “Don’t be stampeded by first reports, Don’t let your judgments run ahead of your facts. And, even with supposed facts in hand, question them if they do not add up. Something deeper and wiser than bits of data inform our instincts. I also learned that it is best to get the facts out as soon as possible, even when new facts contradict the old. Untidy truth is better than smooth lies….”[3] But you told the world that we knew of WMD’s in Iraq. Perhaps you were misinformed by the intelligence briefings but you also wrote: “The lesson about experts had been reaffirmed. Don’t be afraid to challenge the pros, even in their backyard. Just as important, never neglect details, even to the point of being a pest.”[4]
    “If I never have to parachute again, that will be fine with me, yet there was never any doubt in my mind that I would do what had to be done.”[5]
    Well Mr. Powell, it’s time to do what has to be done. You have a chance to make a difference today, this week, “Stuff happens. And a leader’s just got to start all over again.”[6] So start over. If you have truth to speak, speak it now, so it can make a difference, so the truth can come out and the guilty can be punished. You’ve shown that you’ve had plenty to say, after the fact, about Vietnam and other world events, but saving the truth for My American Journey Part II isn’t good enough. You owe the soldiers, those you helped place in harms way, the untidy truth. Today.
    ——————————————————————————–
    [1] Colin Powell, My American Journey, Ballantine Books, 1995, p 144
    [2] Ibid, p 128
    [3] Ibid, p 274
    [4] Ibid, p 106
    [5] Ibid, p 42
    [6] Ibid, p 51

    Reply

  32. ... says:

    mike reynolds – americans were lied into a war in iraq… that is only the beginning of it… if you can’t see that, then you’re i would guess you’re unable to see much else either… what part of dotmafias post did you fail to understand???

    Reply

  33. mike reynolds says:

    I’d like to see the other side of this story. Everything is so enormously clear to Wilkerson and many of the others posting here. Yet by Wilkerson’s own admission, things weren’t clear at all. If we didn’t really know whom we were rounding up, then how can Wilk be so sure we were rounding up the wrong people? Also, what does it mean to be the “wrong people?” Wilk apparently wants me to think a 13-year-old boy and 90-year-old man are on their face ridiculous propositions as detainees. Am I missing something? Both can presumably pick up a gun, right? Both can do what passes for thinking on occasion. But it’s rhetoric like this that is meant to disarm the intelligent reader every bit as much as our military and intelligence. I suggest that the people so quick to use this article as an excuse to trash the US trade in a little bit of their so-called high-mindedness and just get a little bit of mindfulness. This article is telling a story, nothing more nothing less. It isn’t on its face any more persuasive a story than the one told by Bush and Cheney. Want to figure out what really happened? Go for it, but realize you can’t do that without telling your own story and to do that, you have to figure out what story you want to tell. If telling a story about the evils of the US is the story you want to tell, then I sure hope you never come into contact with someone who wants to harm you and your family in the name of a very different story.

    Reply

  34. John O'Grady says:

    Mr.Wilkerson, Very well written and thoughtful article.
    My worry is the millions of “Nut Cases” in this country would not believe their idols, Chaney, Bush et al would behave in this shocking way and destroy what this country really stands for.
    It appears to me that this Cabal Wilkerson talks about were so completely intoxicated over the past eight years and forgot about right and wrong. Chaney had the complete nerve to speak on CNN and show us all that he really should be in prison. Hubris is truly a terrible sickness.

    Reply

  35. feckless says:

    Mr. Wilkerson, I could maybe forgive your astounding case of cowardness when it counted and self absolving RETIREMENT BALLS when it doesn’t,
    IF
    You from this moment dedicate your life to seeing Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Bush PROSECUTED under our legal obligations to the UN Convention on Torture.
    The UN Convention on Torture was radified in 1994, it has been the law of the land for 15 years.
    You swore an oath to uphold the constitution, try to live up to that even when it is not to your personal benefit.
    STOP WRITING OP-EDS MR. WILKERSON AND START REQUESTING GRAND JURIES AND INDEPENDENT PROSECUTORS.
    Your testimony alone should be enough to put those responsible in jail.

    Reply

  36. Ed H. says:

    Nice that you say this now, douchebag. Where were you when the former administration was all hot and heavy, claiming that these guys were the worst of the worst? Now that the new administration is at least trying to fix the total cluster from the last, all of the former players are coming out and doing much soul-searching and hand-wringing. I hope that when you see your kids or grandkids, you’re newfound courage lets you admit to them, as you look in their eyes, “Daddy (or grandad) is an opportunistic coward of the highest degree.”

    Reply

  37. unclemike says:

    Wilkerson must be “right on”! He totally “PO’d” the “ditto heads” and their leader. Limbaugh and his followers are reacting totally as expected, try to fix the blame, don’t fix the problem.

    Reply

  38. ... says:

    dotmafia – excellent comments..please stick around and offer your views more regularly…

    Reply

  39. Mary says:

    Thank you, Dotmafia. Your comments go to the heart of the matter. However, not all Americans buy into the “inherently superior” theory and the resultant belief that we are “called” to impose our governmental structure on other nations. People (like me), who believe our Constitution that institutes a government of laws, equally applied and with a proper balance of powers is the basis of our countries greatness, have been appalled for a long time by the crimes against humanity and our Constitution committed by our previous administration. We fail monstrously if they do not end up in jail. They not only committed crimes in other countries, but they bankrupted our own financial markets and economy by dismantling regulatory structures and creating a situation where the ultra-rich flourished at the expense of the middle and lower economic classes. They have no loyalty to the basic American principles espoused in the Constitution, yet used cries of “traitor” against any who opposed their crimes. A small comment: One of the ways we were silenced was the all-volunteer military. Since the children of the upper middle-class were not threatened by a draft, those of us most likely to examine policy and protest an unjust war did not have our family members affected. Our silence is a shame we will have to live with.

    Reply

  40. Peter Principle says:

    “All that was necessary was to extract everything possible from him and others like him, assemble it all in a computer program, and then look for cross-connections and serendipitous incidentals–in short, to have sufficient information about a village, a region, or a group of individuals, that dots could be connected and terrorists or their plots could be identified.
    Thus, as many people as possible had to be kept in detention for as long as possible to allow this philosophy of intelligence gathering to work.”
    This, of course, was basically the same intelligence strategy followed by the KGB and the Stasi. Totalitarianism can be so damned seductive.

    Reply

  41. Eli Rabett says:

    An extremely revealing post. Typically, Steve Clemons, whose mission in life is to suck up to the nomenklatura is the conduit. So here he gets a headline, Wilkerson gets to feel good about himself and provide some cover for his bosses, the Obama administration which has a lot on its plate gets whacked for not moving faster and everyone is happy. But there is something missing, actually two things.
    The first is where is Wilkerson’s abject apology and the personal penalties he is imposing on himself for being a party to destroying the good name of his country
    The second is that truth and reconciliation has two parts. When is Wilkerson going to start trying to reconcile with those he has harmed, including Americans, but more importantly those who were swept up, tortured and imprisoned.

    Reply

  42. eric20008 says:

    Mr. Wilkerson speaks truth to power yet once again. Thanks to Cheney and his ilk, the US is now in a relatively weaker economic, diplomatic, and military position in the post-Cold War period than ever. That Cheney still commands a following is the truly depressing phenomenon.

    Reply

  43. DT says:

    To the person who wrote, “You libs are so worried about treating terrorists right. Did terrorists worry about treating us right on 9/11?” (1) You can’t have it both ways: We can’t claim to be better than the terrorists, while acting with the same disregard that terrorists do. (2) You are missing the point that the people about whom the article is concerned HAVEN’T BEEN SHOWN TO BE TERRORISTS–and many of them turned out definitely NOT to have been.

    Reply

  44. Frances Madeson says:

    Mr. Wilkerson,
    Would you and Messrs. Powell and Armitrage care to join me in a hunger strike outside the White House in support of, and in solidarity with, the innocent Guantanamo inmates? Let’s move beyond words, even excellent ones, sir, and end this terrible thing in which we have all been sullied and are forever implicated.

    Reply

  45. American Living Abroad says:

    Backing up further…dotmafia put it succinctly and spot on target with:
    “Patriotism is one of America’s greatest strengths, but it can also be it’s greatest weakness. I believe that the real strength of America has always been the foundation of truly noble laws and ideas set forth in its Constitution, and which I have always looked to with genuine interest and admiration. To continue to trample on and ignore those cherished laws now in the republic’s time of need, is a crime in itself, and indeed it may even be a greater one.”
    thanks…..

    Reply

  46. American Living Abroad says:

    Back up a bit gentlemen/ladies….a broader perspective may provide for a palliative explanation/understanding. It’s the “good ol’ boy bidness” interests of Bush/Cheney encouraged by Limbaugh brainless vulgarity and other neo-cons who knew little to nothing about the cultures and governments of those we invaded yet who very cleverly understood the impact of war and terrorism on stock market pricing and investments. Greed ruled the day. Gov. Dubya’s buddy, “Kenny boy” of ENRON fame, knew this. One of his other Texas buddies, Dickie, CEO of Halliburton and shooter par excellence knew this as well. Numerous other colleagues and “good ol’ boys” stood to profit immensely from these incursions…GITMO and the Eastern European “detention” facilities are but minor byproducts of the lunacy perpetrated upon the US public and the world populace by the ongoing and ever increasing threat of terrorism. Yes, 9/11 was horrendous…yes, an understatement and for that I apologize…yet, rather than take the time – and unbiased guts – to investigate and determine beyond a shadow of a doubt the cause and source of this act (and others), the opportunity this presented to our “management” for aggrandizement and ego stroking (pure and simple megalomania) was irresistible. I am guiltily glad I was holding Halliburton stock (amongst others) prior to and during the various incursions…(as much as I hate to say it, that investment will help me to weather the current economic climate caused by the previous administration. I’m sure it’s helping them as well too!). That aside, I would have gladly given it up to preclude the unconscionable, if not illegal, invasion of Iraq the second time around…as well as other questionable acts carried out by these “perps”. Pure and simple, again from the perspective of a (voting) American working abroad (30+ years), what has happened is criminal…pure and simple…they cannot use the excuse of insanity although that’s what we collectively call what the then US leadership has done in the eyes of the world. Iraqis, once eagerly waiting to immigrate to the US are now repatriating back to Iraq and the Middle East region…the American dream…? I love the United States of America…For the sake of much needed transparency, it would behoove the U.S. to fully mop up the mess made by the previous administration, and this very rightly includes “punish” or put on trial those who brought about this “moral depression”. I am deeply saddened – The U.S., and hence us as American citizens, no longer have bragging rights to being the omnipotent enforcer of human rights and guarantor of doing right against wrong at all costs. Talk about the “axis of evil”…Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush, …..????

    Reply

  47. Ed Szewczyk says:

    Lawrence Wilkerson is a genuinely heroic man. He is proof that not all Republicans are authoritarian, Constitution-hating lunatics.

    Reply

  48. dotmafia says:

    The supreme arrogance and ignorance of the United States of America is that it has erroneously led its people to believe that they should rightfully be the ones bringing freedom and democracy to the nations of this world.
    I think this natural ignorance comes from an inherent ultra-patriotism. This is the belief instilled in every American, from birth to death, that there is no greater citizen, no greater country, and no greater way of life than America.
    Thus, in such a way, the American public has been unconsciously conditioned to view the peoples of Third World countries with low regard, allowing for the terrible abuses such as torture seen in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.
    The criminal Bush “administration” deviously and immorally seized upon this inherent ultra-patriotism, and unified it with intense propaganda to manipulate the public’s perception into supporting its illegal aggressions. Anyone who spoke out against their policies was labeled unpatriotic, a dissident or even a domestic terrorist. This was textbook historical fascism at work, and it was once again a very subtle slide down into its abyss. There is virtually no difference between the objectives of the “The Patriot Act” and the Nazi’s “Enabling Act”.
    With regards to the Iraqi conflict, the U.S. leadership has effectively transported the public’s fear as an American form of state terrorism onto the innocent Iraqi civilians, to exploit anger and retribution for 9/11, while fueling the fires of inherent arrogance and ignorance. Most of the general public will not recognize or accept their exploitation as fact.
    The Iraqi people are most surely paying rivers of blood and oil for their freedom. They’ve been struggling for almost half a century to be liberated not only from the grip of Saddam Hussein, but also primarily the United States, and their long national nightmare is continuing with no forseeable or realistic end in sight. Any further claims by members of the previous Bush “administration” of a noble righteous cause in Iraq are shattered when viewed in contrast with the U.S. government’s attempt to exploit Iraqi oilfields through the use of extortion and brinksmanship. This is the freedom Bush and Cheney promised to America that they would give the people of Iraq. Its citizens cannot even leave their homes to buy the necessities of life for fear of death squads, both U.S. and Iraqi. How gracious of Bush and Cheney.
    You wanted to end this war? It should have started by consistently showing the American public the daily effects of it on the Iraqi people. Without censorship. Showing the blown-up bodies. Showing the dead and wounded children. Showing the grieving families, both U.S. and Iraqi. Anyone criticizing this as blatantly indecent, should question the decency of what America’s government under the Bush “administration” has forced upon Iraq.
    If the American public was truly exposed to the realities of what their government subjects the peoples of other nations to, they would not be so quick to send their children off to war, and they’d think twice about the decency of their own compassionate “Christian values”. The conflict in Iraq would have ended quite quickly. But this did not happen.
    Why?
    Because the U.S. mainstream news media has been complicit to the many crimes of the previous Bush “administration”. They anesthetized the public to the horror of Iraq. They turned it into entertainment and ratings. But more than that, they conspired to collectively manipulate U.S. public opinion instead of maintaining their journalistic code of objective neutrality. Ultra-patriotism is absolute, while ethics and morality are out of fashion. In this way, the media, the Congress, and the so-called Bush “administration” all failed the innocent citizens of America and Iraq, in whose blood their hands are soaked with.
    I believe the real truth of why the Democrats did not push for impeachment was because it threatened to reveal the full extent of their own complicity in the government’s abrogation of the Constitution, those set of laws which Bush called ‘just a goddamned piece of paper’.
    This is not just a conspiracy theory. The evidence of this complicity is there for all to see, but only those who choose not to look with their eyes wide shut will see it.
    Patriotism is one of America’s greatest strengths, but it can also be it’s greatest weakness. I believe that the real strength of America has always been the foundation of truly noble laws and ideas set forth in its Constitution, and which I have always looked to with genuine interest and admiration. To continue to trample on and ignore those cherished laws now in the republic’s time of need, is a crime in itself, and indeed it may even be a greater one.
    - dotmafia

    Reply

  49. JOhn Davis says:

    I have a feeling that unless you were THERE (on either end) you will probably never know what really went on there, or still goes on for that matter.
    RT
    http://www.online-privacy.pro.tc

    Reply

  50. Jack Repenning says:

    Like nearly all commenters, my first reaction to this article was “yeah, we already knew all that.”
    But I think that raises a new question, to which, quite frankly, I have no ghost of an answer: if we knew all that, in a democratic society, how is it that we were unable to stop it?

    Reply

  51. ellen says:

    goo for you. thanks a lot. ellen and jerry schnitzer

    Reply

  52. Karen says:

    It seems as if we are coming out of a fever that lasted eight years and we’re still convalescent. We have survived but we have a lot more healing to do.

    Reply

  53. PissedOffAmerican says:

    And here you have a little snippet from TPMuckraker. Ya gotta love this shit.
    Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t they saying “Fuck you, it ain’t classified, but we ain’t gonna show it to you anyway”.
    Anyone else sick of this shit? And Obama isn’t “changing” it, he’s abetting it.
    http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/
    “The Justice Department announced Monday that it would withhold a set of 100 unclassified documents containing government allegations and evidence against detainees held at a military prison in Cuba. Although the documents themselves are unclassified, prosecutors say that classified information which could be of value to enemies abroad slipped in. Attorneys of the detainees criticized this decision for significantly complicating their work as hearings approach. And three news organizations say that this is an inappropriate strategic move to keep information from the public. A federal judge will review the matter on March 26″ (Washington Post)

    Reply

  54. PissedOffAmerican says:

    The story that has remained out the public’s eyes, and may even spell misery for generations of Iraqis, is what occurred at Tuwaitha.
    It seems to me, that the great body of damning knowledge that Powell and Wilkerson undoubtedly possess renders their tepid and belated outrage as somewhat self-serving. Who can doubt that there is far more that both of these men could disclose, yet is held back because both are hopeful that the FULL truth will never be known. Its not as if the issues of rendition, torture, illegal detention and innocent prisoners held indefinitely has escaped the public eye. Both men, it can be assumed, have had an eye on the tides of public awareness, and through feeble and belated disclosures hope to minimize the scarring that history will leave on their legacies.
    It will be interesting to see if history holds their secrets close to the vest, or if it will simply reveal two complicit monsters that spent their golden years admitting to the bad to hide the horrendous.

    Reply

  55. JWalcott says:

    While there’s much of interest in Col. Wilkerson’s post–and while he was one of the earliest and most vociferous critics of the Bush administration’s “Global War on Terror”–it’s simply not true that the media and therefore most Americans are unaware of the utter incompetence of the battlefield vetting that landed so many low-level Taliban conscripts and complete innocents in Bagram, Kandahar and Guantanamo.
    That was the subject, last June, of an extensive series of articles by Tom Lasseter and Matthew Schofield of McClatchy Newspapers, http://www.mcclatchydc.com/staff/tom_lasseter/story/38773.html. An excerpt for those who missed it:
    “An eight-month McClatchy investigation in 11 countries on three continents has found that Akhtiar was one of dozens of men — and, according to several officials, perhaps hundreds — whom the U.S. has wrongfully imprisoned in Afghanistan, Cuba and elsewhere on the basis of flimsy or fabricated evidence, old personal scores or bounty payments.
    “McClatchy interviewed 66 released detainees, more than a dozen local officials — primarily in Afghanistan — and U.S. officials with intimate knowledge of the detention program. The investigation also reviewed thousands of pages of U.S. military tribunal documents and other records.
    “This unprecedented compilation shows that most of the 66 were low-level Taliban grunts, innocent Afghan villagers or ordinary criminals. At least seven had been working for the U.S.-backed Afghan government and had no ties to militants, according to Afghan local officials. In effect, many of the detainees posed no danger to the United States or its allies.
    “The investigation also found that despite the uncertainty about whom they were holding, U.S. soldiers beat and abused many prisoners.
    “Prisoner mistreatment became a regular feature in cellblocks and interrogation rooms at Bagram and Kandahar air bases, the two main way stations in Afghanistan en route to Guantanamo.”

    Reply

  56. KathleenG says:

    ot
    Juan Cole on the Colbert report tonight (wed)

    Reply

  57. Peter says:

    The current excuse from Washington is we should look forward, not backwards. And then it occurred to me that looking backwards is precisely what the courts and Judicial process are all about. If we don’t look backwards, it is in effect throwing away one whole co-equal branch of our government and saying it really isn’t that important.

    Reply

  58. angulimala says:

    “Simply stated, this philosophy held that it did not matter if a detainee were innocent. Indeed, because he lived in Afghanistan and was captured on or near the battle area, he must know something of importance (this general philosophy, in an even cruder form, prevailed in Iraq as well, helping to produce the nightmare at Abu Ghraib).” ….. “Thus, as many people as possible had to be kept in detention for as long as possible to allow this philosophy of intelligence gathering to work. The detainees’ innocence was inconsequential.”
    It sounds like you are saying that the architects of the GWOT intentionally adopted the policy of using coercive interrogation on anyone suspected of having intelligence value regardless of how “innocent” they were.
    Is that what you are saying?

    Reply

  59. Halcyon says:

    I posted a response to Col. Wilkerson’s article at Daily Kos:
    Is Co. Wilkerson Defending Cheney With a Limited Hangout?
    http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2009/3/18/710218/-Is-Col.-
    Wilkerson-Defending-Cheney-With-a-Limited-Hangout
    In that post I ask you some questions.

    Reply

  60. bubba says:

    Point #2 misses the point. When the likely innocence of many detainees came to light they did not continue to be held because of something so simple as sticking to the line. The officers involved were not just stubbornly adhering to the script already written. That attributes a wholly different psychology than what was actually in play. The reason for the continued detention of so many largely proven innocent was that no officer wanted to be the one to sign the release papers for someone and turn out to be wrong. They were deathly afraid that one of the guys they release might wind up in the headlines from the front and they didn’t want to risk that adversely impacting their OERs. It was commonly considered amongst these folks that if such a thing happened it would be a career killer. That is why innocents festered. It wasn’t until enough of a fury was created that it could plausibly shift blame from themselves, if enough people concurred that the detainee deserved release the brass could point to general consensus and public pressure.

    Reply

  61. ... says:

    these same bozos – cheney and rumsfield were behind homeland security too… – a friend sent me this in an e mail that some of you might find revealing.. your homeland security at work… what a sick joke…
    >>friends
    i recently mailed a disc of john bonham tracks to my pal in tennessee.
    here’s what happened over the hills and far away as the black dog sniffing team saw a bustle in their hedgerow and some sort of communication break down occurred wherein i was left like a fool in the rain having paid the piper to call on my pal. i guess it was what is and what should never be or maybe its been a long time since they rock n rolled? perhaps they heard the immigrant song knocking on the gates of mordor? maybe the strains of kashmir were too thick for them to comprehend?
    mike
    i mailed the bonzo tracks to you way back as they say.
    just received them back from the dept of us homeland security!
    obviously bonzo is the bomb even from the grave.
    the letter had been opened and taped closed with green homeland security tape stating it was under “order protection” ?
    i’ll resend asap.

    Reply

  62. JamesL says:

    Comments addressing Wilkerson’s “lateness” unfortunatly don’t say exactly when he did first speak up. To me, it seems like he’s been talking about this for some time.
    We have a top echelon of genuine war criminals who were the tip-top officials in the US–Bush, Cheney, Powell, and Tenet at the very least–who all would go down at a Nuremburg reprise using the same rationale that sent top Germans to the noose. There is simply no doubt about this given the complete record of Nuremburg. Tenet I recall as the guy who got a medal for excising the main caveats in the CIA’s report, caveats which did not get into Powell’s UN speech. Powell knew too much that he should have reported directly to the American people, and was too limp for too long. Boy George and Cheney would rather torture innocent people forever than admit they were less that totally right.
    Having this total moral degradation yoked around the necks of the American people is bad enough, but Obama’s refusal to bring all of this putrescence into the light of day to be fully aired and rectified for posterity, especially after his campaign that supposedly spoke for the average American and the highest ideals of America, is extremely discouraging. Obama cannot skate away from this one. If he doesn’t act (and it doesn’t look like he’s going to) to reaffirm the bedrock principles of American government, there is nothing–nothing– that will prevent his ultimate condemnation in history. The core is rotten. You can’t stop the smell by layering on more bullshit.

    Reply

  63. jeffry house says:

    Col. Wilkerson makes a very good point about the incompetence of initial detainee vetting in Afghanistan, one I do not often see in print.
    US soldiers present at Bagram Air Base when the first truckloads of detainees were brought in, have told me of the chaos combined with unnecessary violence imposed on the prisoners, most of whom had been picked up by Afghan “allies” who were paid a ransom for each human being produced as “presumed Taliban”.
    These trucks simply vacuumed up people walking along the road and brought them to Bagram, where they were counted, and ransom paid, without inquiry as to who they were and how it could be concluded that they had anything to do with the Taleban.

    Reply

  64. Carl Campos says:

    Commenters may be interested in this January, 2006 WaPo interview that tracked Wlikersons awakening to the neocon deceptions during his tenure and subsequent estrangement from Powell:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/18/AR2006011802607_pf.html

    Reply

  65. pf says:

    Rich:
    You are probably right about the timing, thanks for the correction. Point is Wilkerson was one of the earliest and most strident of the Bush critics, which some here don’t seem to know. I wish more had done the same.

    Reply

  66. ... says:

    mary – thanks for your comments and questions…
    it would be really rewarding if mr wilkerson would be so kind to answers your clear and direct questions… the mosaic philosophy is one very disturbing ideology that i had not heard of before either… how would these criminals at the top like it if it was applied to them??
    it is unbelievable this happened and that still no form of justice has taken place to date… obama seems just like any other politician protecting his fellow politicians, more then he is protecting the idea of what the usa represents… as a consequence the usa continues to spiral downwards…
    i also agree with richs view 12:17pm post on mr wilkerson… mr wilerson is to be commended..

    Reply

  67. rich says:

    pf @ Mar 18 2009, 11:41AM -
    “For the uninformed, Col. Wilkerson did speak out about the “neoconservative cabal” that took over the government and his opposition to the administration’s detention policies as far back as 2003, I believe.”
    I’m aware Mr. Wilkerson spoke out, noted it at the time, and respect him for doing so. However, 2003 is very early — Powell had barely given his UN speech, which Wilkerson ‘vetted’. Wilkerson didn’t come clean/ speak out, I believe, until long after that point.
    Worth noting that the veil of secrecy damaged officials and civil servants doing their best at the time, not just the country. The American public had enough real-time information to put the lie to Powell’s speech at the UN; enough to make his child-like visual aids not simply laughable, but a travesty. It was just sad.
    Point being, Wilkerson deserves credit; Powell and Armitage, not so much. Timing does matter. Fealty to a secrecy that trumps country, and undermines our interest, is no loyalty at all.

    Reply

  68. BWD says:

    And now it appears that the innocent Iraqis who were slaughtered by out-of-control U.S. troops in Haditha will get no justice. Read today’s Los Angeles Times story by Tony Perry, who apparently approves.

    Reply

  69. klevenstein says:

    Kudos to all for a great post and many excellent comments.
    Discussions like these give a glimmer of hope for humanity that I treasure.
    Can anything be more deplorable than state-sanctioned torture except for conspiracy to institute it? For me, this more than anything else qualifies the Bush administration as the worst.

    Reply

  70. pf says:

    For the uninformed, Col. Wilkerson did speak out about the “neoconservative cabal” that took over the government and his opposition to the administration’s detention policies as far back as 2003, I believe.
    I know because at a conference in 2004 in which Gen. Powell was the keynote speaker, I asked Powell about the critical remarks made by his former subordinate. Powell warmly praised Wilkerson and said (in a thoughtful 10-minute response) the administration was in danger of violating America’s values and interests, although he also said that he thought Bush was his own man and not controlled by Cheney (which I didn’t ask).
    I think Wilkerson was expressing Powell’s opinion as well as his own, but Powell didn’t want to say such things in public. If anyone was vacillating, it was him.
    If Democrats were as brave and prescient as Wilkerson in confronting the Bushies back in real time, a lot of bad would have been avoided.

    Reply

  71. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “I believe if Bush was guilty of war crimes, he would be the first to say so”
    Such stupidity is breathtaking! I am constantly in awe at the human condition.

    Reply

  72. Rafi says:

    It’s good to be reminded of this, but it was widely reported at the time, both in the press and on cable news shows, that once bounties were offered, enterprising Afghans swept up old clan and family enemies, people they didn’t like, or like the look of, and anyone unlucky enough to amble into view, and sold them to the Americans as fresh hot terrorists. It was a scandal then, and remains a scandal, with attachments, now.

    Reply

  73. CranialRectalLoopback says:

    With all do respect, Americans do know the travesty of Gitmo, it is the “patriots” who don’t, or won’t, know.

    Reply

  74. silver slipper says:

    Why could it not be assumed that there was not wrong doing, and that is why Powell didn’t speak out? – Wilkerson doesn’t even offer specifics in this article. I believe Powell is a person of integrity, and I believe if Bush was guilty of war crimes, he would be the first to say so. Also, if Bush was guilty of war crimes and broke international laws, wouldn’t our favorite foreign leaders be out calling for his trial? – Like…. Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong-il, Chavez, etc…. I wonder if the persons calling for Bush’s imprisonment or death will be able to acknowledge the truth if the facts of the truth and reconciliation commission show that he in fact follow the laws and protect us from grave threats?

    Reply

  75. Mary says:

    POA – some of the survivors of the shipping container are the plaintiffs in the Rasul case that Obama is trying to have kicked out of court.
    **
    Thank you, Mr. Wilkerson, for a very good piece. I also think the fact that the media completely glosses over the fact that so many held were completely innocent (and were rounded up using techniques like bounty payments for unspecified targets that were certain to generate “mistakes”) is a point that is buried and the American public doesn’t have a clue that this is and was the case.
    And despite the fact that we have now had rulings in several cases (Kurnaz, the Uighurs, etc.) demonstrating that those detainees were never “enemy combatants” the media coverage still never points that out – and for that matter, Obama reinforces the theme by reassuring that he is not going to “give Constitutional rights to terrorists” I don’t believe I have ever heard him or any spokesperson for his adminsitration acknowledge the openly known truth that extraordinary rendition to torture(Arar), black site(el-Masri), Bagram (Dilawar), GITMO (Kurnaz, Errachidi, etc .) all had and have a long list of innocent victims.
    We hear a lot about how we are going to “protect” the torturers, but not much about their victims and if anything is said, the poster boy for the torture trotted out is KSM, not Maher Arar or a cab driver named Dilawar. Or KSM’s children for that matter (anyone know what happened to them?)
    I’m sure that the fact that it is a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions to have transported a protected person out of country (without even proof of abuse at the destination, just basedon the shipment out of country) was a reason that no one wanted releases. The prima facie war crime was complete on shipment.
    In any event, thanks very much for the insight on the use of a “mosaic” model. I had only been aware of its use for situation of the intel community alleging that information that seemingly has not intelligence value whatsoever cannot be dissemeninated under a “mosaic theory, i.e. that evil doers can piece together classified info from being given access to tidbits of unclassified info.
    Your insight on the mosaic theory put in use as a collection model is pretty damn chilling – someone can be declared an “illegal enemy combatant” and abused in secret for years because they come from an area where terrorist might have family, or been born, or traveled through – and so they might have buried in them some tidbit of info that might prove worthwhile someday, someway, somehow. As a model for kidnap and torture and forever detention – it’s horrific.

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  76. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Luv ya, POA, even if you are embarrassed by my attention”
    I don’t know why you feel I am “embarrassed” by your attention, Arthur. Such a sentiment is not founded in fact.
    Now, if this idiot upthread, “StopSorros” was to compliment anything I said, now THAT would be embarrassing.
    As far as Wilkerson goes, I too have wondered at his belated outrage. But I in no way feel that his failure to come forward sooner rises to the level of unexcusable cowardice and complicity that Powell’s does. If it were not for Powell’s statements and lies before the UN, Iraq might never have happened. Moreover, considering that he had misgivings about the “intelligence”, and KNEW that some of it was fabricated, public disclosure of his “misgivings” undoubtedly would have stopped the war, or at least opened an avenue of public debate that was never presented to the American people.
    This piece of shit, Colin Powell, is soaked to the bone in the blood of over four thousand American troops, and millions of dead, maimed, orphaned, and displaced Iraqi citizens.

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  77. cervantes says:

    This is indeed outrageous.
    But you don’t know what “incredulously” means. You mean to say “incredibly.” “Incredulously” means “not believing,” and refers to the manner in which a person behaves or speaks. What you intend is “difficult or impossible to believe,” referring to the assertions.

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  78. SpaceCat says:

    Seeing as how Cheney and the rest of the Bush Administration’s at-large war criminals will never be tried for their crimes by the Obama administration, a truth and reconciliation commission is the best remaining option. If we can’t send them to jail, we can at least ensure the verdict of history judges these blackguards appropriately.

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  79. LarryM says:

    I’m appalled by the people calling for Cheney and Bush to be imprisoned. Clearly mere imprisonment would deprecate the seriousness of their crimes. We need some Nuremberg justice – the worst criminals, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and perhaps 4 dozen others, after trial and conviction, should be hanged by the neck until dead.
    For people like Colin Powell, on the other hand, who are criminals more by omission than commission, and for people much lower down on the chain of authority, mere life long imprisonment would be enough.

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  80. rich says:

    Just to clarify. I’ve applauded Mr. Wilkerson’s frankness, as well as the fact he spoke up at all. (And let’s stipulate that it’s important that responsible men who disagree with elected officials stick around, just for insurance. Which is why the Joint Chiefs basically took Przdntl prerogative to use the nuclear football away from Nixon when he was at his most unstable, by installing protocols that automatically brought them in if he had gone straight for the button.)
    So while I appreciate the fact that there was official pushback against the Rumsfeld/ Bush/ Cheney Guantanamo torture policies, it’s a little irritating that Wilkerson shows up late to the massive public bonfire ignited on this issue, flicking his Bic lighter and donning the mantle of Prometheus, all the while declaring ‘Oh yeah, we had our own bonfire! It was big and we did everything possible — everything! to free the ‘detainees’ in Guantanamo.’
    Let’s recognize what was done by Powell and Armitage. But let’s also acknowledge that the silence amounted to complicity, and nothing more. This is a line that cannot be straddled. You can’t finesse torture. Nor finesse the evisceration of basic Constitutional values. The complicity of Powell and Armitage ran counter to the best interests of the country. Hiding what they knew damaged our national security and destroyed the approach that won so much acclaim following WWII.
    Briefly, their silence wreaked untold havoc in four major ways. First, it meant the country could not face up to the issue when it mattered, not at the right levels, not forthrightly and publicly, nor fast enough to confront the practice. So plenty of people actually still believe Bush on this, just because appearances ‘must’ be kept up, rather than learning something important about the country they love. Second, it allowed Cheney and Bush to remain in denial: they were never forced to resolve the issue — one of their creation — with integrity and class, if not full accountability. So not only will they never get the credit for getting it right, Powell’s silence allowed them (third) to exploit it for maximum political gain. Fourth, dumping Guantanamo onto the incoming Obama administration damaged the country further and was incredibly irresponsible. It’s an attempt to make President Obama pay a political cost for shutting Guantanamo, and radical Republicans are alrady exploiting that with some visceral and irresponsible language. President Obama has got enough to do without being accused of ‘freeing terrorists’ when even the CIA says upwards of 70% of ‘detainees’ were plainly innocent.
    Where is the leadership? This is probaly the most important and most damning point. Where is Colin Powell’s leadership? Mr. Wilkerson asserts Powell and Armitage knew the facts and attempted to right the ship of state. I say their current silence totally contradicts that view. If the best interest of the country were foremost in Powell’s & Armitage’s minds, they’d be speaking out NOW. First to support their President (yes, Obama), second to cut down those Republican dead-enders who’re flinging epithets and mud at President Obama for shutting Guantanamo, but mostly speaking up now could help resolve the issue and help bring the nation together.
    The country would welcome Armitage and Powell weighing in now in a constructive & forthright way. Instead, we got nothing but silence and that really says it all. Now, there is no faux excuse of loyalty to lean on. Any sense of responsibility as employees to keep their counsel, that prevented them from speaking freely, has been removed. Yet they are not speaking up NOW, either.
    So let me say this: the accolades will have to come AFTER Colin Powell and Richard Armitage find common ground with fellow Americans across the aisle — Demo, liberal, progressive AND Left — that share their views. Because their silence was used for political purposes; and they are part of the machine that implemented the American gulag and torture system. I have yet to hear either of them speak up in a meaningful way. Average Americans from across the political spectrum were right on this issue, in real time, and Wilkerson knew it. Yet forging a path forward that involved common cause and a return to what this country stands for was, clearly, beyond their capacity to serve.
    Powell & Armitage’s silence/complicity allowed the issue to fester domestically and corrode our relations abroad. It was easier to shut up, work the inside and harvest the political gains, than it was to rise above and admit mistakes in order to return this country to its former glory.
    After all this, what would Powell and Armitage have said if American torture or the innocence of ‘detainees’ had NEVER come to light? Nothing. The pattern is unmistakable. They would have said nothing.
    It’s sad. But it’s the truth.
    Work the inside: harvesting the careerist gains of knowing who’s got dirty laundry and where the bodies are buried — literally — can come in handy when somebody steps out of line.
    You’ll forgive me, Mr. Wilkerson, but we cannot admire Mr. Powell or Mr. Armitage. We cannot afford to. You see, the torture, the abuse of power, the death squads — that is OUR business. Secrecy has no place in assessing or adjudicating those issues. This country was founded precisely because leaving such matters in the hands of one or two men (Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney) was unbelievably foolhardy. A tyrant is a tyrant. Institutionalizing such abuse in the machinery of state just compounds the crime.
    That is why such Constitutional tenets are inviolable; and not subject to whim of tyrant, nor vulnerable to rationalization by loyal Secretaries of State — (NOR made possible by quisling legislators openly voting for unConstitutional measures, nor excusable by injudicious and irresponsible SCOTUS ‘decisions’). Which is to say, where there is tension between the Executive and the Bill of Rights — or say, the Legislative obligation to Declare War rather than ‘resolve’ to capitulate their oaths — the decision by necessity must fall in favor of the clear principle, not Executive power.
    The whole point of those Constitutional provisions were to limit Executive power and prevent small men from acquiring or wielding dictatorial power. Where there’s tension, it’s the principle that wins out, not The Executive, who is by definition self-interested and by definition will sooner or later violate boundaries, eagerly. The American experience clearly bears out our Founders’ misgivings. Prznts have accrued illegal powers anyway; they have rationalized in error; in part because no one could stop them and the apparatus of state loves a good cheap rationalization more than the value of doing their homework and standing up for a core American principle and reaping all the resulting fruit.
    Two things: This is why those clear princples must remain clear princples and win out whenever ‘tensions’ arise between branches of govtg. And this is why Wilkerson’s and Powell’s and Armitage’s course of action was wrong, and should not be lauded: it enabled a President, who had the wrong idea no matter how well-meaning, to abuse his limited power and wreak untold damage to the country. Anyone can come up with excuses for not speaking out, for not doing what absolutely must be done. But it takes someone exceptional, someone of truly great courage and integrity to speak out when it matters and when there is no other course available. Someone whose loyalty to country outweighs any obligation to the mere person residing in the White House.

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  81. Nell says:

    The innocence of the overwhelming proportion of Guantanamo detainees with any connection with terror attacks against the U.S. is an important, simple truth that needs to get out — since the Obama administration is clearly not willing to do so, no doubt due to political fears. (Obama in his first national television interview, to the huge pre-Super-Bowl audience, made a point of saying that the current Guantanamo prisoners include “a couple of hundred hardcore militants that we don’t want to release”.)
    However, as other commenters have noted, Mr. Wilkinson, you’re not going to be able to wash your hands or those of your boss so easily. How many of the Principals meetings at which the torture of prisoners at the CIA sites was discussed in detail did Powell and/or Armitage attend? When did they speak out about it, if ever? (I’m leaving open the possibility one or both have been sources for some of the reporting on those meetings, but that doesn’t begin to make up for having participated and for not going on the record in protest.)

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  82. Scott Tribe says:

    This was written today in Maclean’s by Paul Wells, chief political columnist here:
    “The activity detailed in this 2007 report from the International Committee of the Red Cross, if confirmed – and much of it has already been corroborated by public comments by Bush administration officials – constitutes a clear violation of international law and of U.S. domestic law. The prescribed penalties are severe. If members of a previous administration were accused of, say, money laundering, or theft, or lying under oath about sex, today’s administration would have little choice but to prosecute. Similarly, I do not see how the current U.S. attorney general can ignore the mounting evidence of widespread state-sanctioned human rights abuses under his predecessors, and keep his job.
    I don’t often write about these sorts of things. I’m more a routine-day-at-Parliament-Hill kind of political writer. But this is monstrous.”

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  83. silver slipper says:

    Wow! Does this man have an ax to grind, or what? Let’s all remember who Mr. Wilkerson was…
    “Wilkerson was responsible for a review of information from the Central Intelligence Agency that was used to prepare Powell for his February 2003 presentation to the United Nations Security Council. His failure to realize that the evidence was faulty has been attributed on the limited time (only one week) that he had to review the data. The subsequent developments led Wilkerson to become disillusioned: “Combine the detainee abuse issue with the ineptitude of post-invasion planning for Iraq, wrap both in this blanket of secretive decision-making…and you get the overall reason for my speaking out.”[1]” This quote is from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Wilkerson .
    If he was so infuriated by the Bush administration, why did he even stay to help Powell with his UN presentation?

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  84. Stop Sorros says:

    You libs are so worried about treating terrorists right. Did terrorists worry about treating us right on 9/11? Steel will be gone soon and when Rush takes over the RNC (dems worst fear!) you osbama and pelosi lovers be on the run

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  85. bubba says:

    My question to you, Mr. Wilkerson, is exactly when did you know about all this stuff? Clearly Powell knew and did nothing that would/could bring this to light–simply resigning with a cryptic reason why would have been better than doing what he did, becoming an enabler. So, when did you first become aware, and what did you do to bring these things to light when it mattered most? If you knew and were not willing to resign in protest when it became clear that the actions of many in the administration went against the very principles and values, the very core, of what the USA stood for, and that it was impossible to stop those actions, then you (and Powell) are no better than them. Cowards.

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  86. rich says:

    Wilkerson, whom I admire, writes:
    “The third basically unknown dimension is how hard Secretary of State Colin Powell and his deputy Richard Armitage labored to ameliorate the GITMO situation from almost day one.
    For example, Ambassador Pierre Prosper, the U.S. envoy for war crimes issues, was under a barrage of questions and directions almost daily from Powell or Armitage to repatriate every detainee who could be repatriated.”
    And yet, Powell and Armitage accomplished exactly nothing to rectify the situation. The torture went on. Nothing changed.
    Their silence before the American People — i.e., to whom they were ultimately responsible — on these points, enabled Cheney & Bush and made them both deeply complicit. Detainees stayed ‘detained’, arbitrarily imprisoned — and openly tortured. Those photos with the earmuffs have them squatting in stress positions.
    I get it. You want to say they did what they could. But that is not true. They were not forthright with the American People. And the one — the only lesson — of Bush/Cheney years is that has to come first. They held back, and obedience won out over getting something done.
    We all knew most of the Guantanamo detainees were innocent, because published CIA and Red Cross statements reported that in detail. We knew their treatment amounted to torture, because some of us actually read some history in high school (and college). So their silence was pointless. We KNEW.
    Their silence is an artifact of a secrecy fetish that continues to damage our national security. How can we address the Phoenix Program or the Salvador Option or our winter soldiers in Vietnam and now Iraq — unless the people who are in a position to roll back an out-of-control Prznt do so publicly.
    While I can respect them as persons, I cannot admire or defend their choices. Their silence ill-served the country. Their only recourse — their only redeeming option — was to challenge Bush and Cheney openly. The Nation would’ve benefited greatly from that sort of integrity; we needed that desperately. Part of me wants to say that it seems you can’t send a military man to do a job that requires civilian spine — but that’d be unfair to the military men that have spoken out. Still, it speaks to our Founders’ insistence that a civilian act as commander-in-chief, not as autocrat. That necessarily mans his Cabinet do not act in lockstep or follow orders simply for the sake of following orders.
    They could have spoken out. Instead, we have lots of Americans still unwilling to face the grim reality — a reality that Wilkerson now says Powell and Armitage both recognized, in real-time.
    Now Wilkerson comes to the Washington Note like a college freshman with a late term paper, wanting his grade inflated. See, he knew, Powell knew, Armitage knew all along what the right answers were. But it’s too late, and they deserve no better than a C-.
    Had their knowledge and opinions been disussed in the open, by the Amerian People, we as a nation could’ve addressed the issue. Had they spoken up in 2004 or 2005, all this could’ve been avoided. Innocent men would not have been tortured. The enormous damage to American national security would’ve been prevented. It’s the secrecy that’s the problem. It makes us tactically ineffectual; it neuters the most powerful tools and tenets of our democracy; it enables torture and death squads to inflict harm to American interests, wasting lives abroad and resources at home. That silence has allowed us to put down the American methods that have proven to work and to adopt, literally, Gestapo methods. About which Powell and Armitage didn’t feel obligated to speak publicly. Something did go wrong, and it wasn’t just with Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney.
    I’ve admired Lawrence Wilkerson. He spoke out, finally. But that didn’t stop the damage being done. It do enough to confront the issue and push back the practice. It left us out in the cold and it allowed ongoing torture as a matter of policy. So ultimately, for the record, they earned at best a failing grade. No matter how hard they tried internally, they failed American citizens who needed more. And the Przdnt needed that from them as well, whether he knew it or not or would’ve been livid or not. Checks and balances is an obligation that extends to the Cabinet and all of us, as well. Use it — or lose our respect. Nothing, surely not a blog-post, can make up for that.

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  87. Mr.Murder says:

    It was never about terrorist or safety. It was about torturing the innocent to shape false narratives. This is Nuremberg worthy for certain journalists who covered it as well. There is a precedent.
    When the recent war crimes/genocide claims against a past African ruler are brought through, this may suddenly open a new door for civil compensation to follow that.
    Enjoy liability’s price, network enablers.

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  88. David says:

    I’m impressed at how Mark Danner’s writing on the ICRC detainee report has been met with averted eyes and silence.
    Dan Froomkin roll-up:
    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/white-house-watch/2009/03/call_it_torture/pf.html
    Mark Danner NYT editorial:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/15/opinion/15danner.html?_r=1&pagewanted=print
    Danner’s full article, NYRB:
    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/22530

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  89. arthurdecco says:

    Luv ya, POA, even if you are embarrassed by my attention.

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  90. ... says:

    thanks for this excellent article..
    can we apply this mosaic philosophy to all those in the previous bush admin who turned the usa into the laughing stock of the civilized world? cheney is terrorist # 1.. throw him and rumsfield in prison for their assumption of guilt towards all those in gitmo… that’s an international crime they are both guilty of…

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  91. PissedOffAmerican says:

    I would love to see Wilkerson comment on the Afghani prisoners that were allegedly stuffed into a metal storage container in stiffling heat, who subsequently died from the experience. The incident was given a short bit of media attention, then, not suprisingly, the story dissappeared from the planet earth. It was even scrubbed off of Google, much like the early media accounts of the Tuwaitha debacle were.
    Those of us out here in Idiotsville, targeted by the laughable Fourth Estate, did manage to glean enough unfiltered information to realize that many sent to Gitmo were undoubtedly innocent, turned in due to tribal grudges or rivalries, or just sheer greed (thanks to that ridiculous bounty system).
    But hey, King George swore we don’t torture. The satanic Prince Cheney says we made America safer. And, apparently Obama’s justice department is content to follow in Gonzales’ footsteps, protect Rumsfeld, continue Bush policies, and feed us just one more line of shit about how we treat people in our custody.
    Oh, for the good old days. Remember them? Like when Monkey Boy Bush was chiding the Chinese for “parading our aircrew in front of the cameras” in violation of the Geneva Conventions? Boy, did that get his dander up! Too bad the Chinese didn’t waterboard them, perhaps then Bush wouldn’t have been so indignant.
    Can’t we just put these monsters like Bush and Cheney in jail where they belong? We could give Lindy England a lifetime supply of leashes and broomsticks, and pay her five bucks a day to attend to Dick and George’s care.

    Reply

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