Friday, December 09, 2005

Extraordinary Rendition

If the moral case against torture isn't persuasive enough for you, here's strong evidence that it doesn't work, either. This particular case is apparently just coming to light, but we've known for months that our torture techniques are derived from techniques designed to extract false confessions. First, today's piece:

The Bush administration based a crucial prewar assertion about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda on detailed statements made by a prisoner while in Egyptian custody who later said he had fabricated them to escape harsh treatment, according to current and former government officials.

Jane Mayer has been reporting on this phenomenon in several outlets, especially the New Yorker. Here's a bit from her February expose on extraordinary rendition:

Ten hours after landing in Jordan, Arar said, he was driven to Syria, where interrogators, after a day of threats, “just began beating on me.” They whipped his hands repeatedly with two-inch-thick electrical cables, and kept him in a windowless underground cell that he likened to a grave. “Not even animals could withstand it,” he said. Although he initially tried to assert his innocence, he eventually confessed to anything his tormentors wanted him to say. “You just give up,” he said. “You become like an animal.”

There you have it. Our intelligence-gathering bodies are no longer in the business of gathering intelligence, but rather creating false intelligence. Not particularly useful for fighting a war on terror, but a handy way to skew information to support your pre-set agenda.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Privatisation and the Wider Good

I thought this was an interesting Newsweek interview with the head of Fred Hutch on the development of an AIDS vaccine - particularly this bit:

There are several aspects organizationally of how we make vaccines that have been very tough. Initially we left it to the private sector. In retrospect, that was not the best idea.


Society will benefit more from an HIV vaccine than any company will.

Conservatives may tend to believe that there isn't anything that couldn't be improved and streamlined via privatization, but this is a clear counter-example to that viewpoint.


I think pieces are starting to come together which help explain why the GOP went so quickly and intensely on the offensive in smearing John Murtha after he suggested that troops should begin withdrawing within 6 months. It seems that this is precisely what the GOP wants to propose themselves, and the last thing they want is to have it seem that they were bowing to Democratic pressure. Thus the House resolution that the GOP put forward in an attempt to embarrass Murtha (a resolution no Dem was suggesting, i.e. no one wanted immediate withdrawal). Thus Rep. Jean Schmidt calling Murtha a coward. And then Bush saying that he will only withdraw based on the advice of Iraqi leaders, and subsequently saying that withdrawal will be based solely on advice of US officers in the field. So expect Bush to report in the next few months that they have been given the go-ahead for the beginning of withdrawals (in time for midterms), and get ready for the GOP attempting to claim that this was their idea and that Dems had wanted immediate withdrawal regardless of the consequences (obviously not true).

Murtha was on All Things Considered today.