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5 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
08:47 am

About Damn Time

Joe Biden yesterday, while campaigning in Florida.

Speaking in Florida on Wednesday, as the political world focused on his Republican counterpart, vice presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin, Biden said a Democratic administration would use a “fine-toothed comb” to investigate — and potentially prosecute — crimes by the Bush administration

“If there has been a basis upon which you can pursue someone for a criminal violation,” Biden said, according to ABC News, “they will be pursued, not out of vengeance, not out of retribution — out of the need to preserve the notion that no one, no one — no attorney general, no president, no one — is above the law.” Despite widespread public opposition to torture, and intense concern about war crimes among the Democratic base, many Democratic politicians, including Sen. Barack Obama, the party’s presidential nominee, have largely avoided highlighting these issues on the campaign trail.

Put them all in jail.  All of them.  I’ll have more on what I mean by “all” soon.  It’s a long list and it’s taking a while to pull it all together.

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20 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
08:30 pm

McCain’s Story v. Bush’s Actions: I. Confinement

I took some time today to read John McCain’s 1973 account of his confinement in Vietnam, as published by U.S. News and World Report.  It is, as you can imagine, difficult to read:  McCain is unblinking in his portrayal of how he and others were treated (and unfiltered in his opinion of his captors).

I did this neither to question whether or not his account of the cross in the dirt is accurate, nor to question his courage or honor. I find no utility in pursuing the former (I think he deserves the benefit of the doubt) and very much believe that he and others deserve our respect and admiration for what they went through.

Rather, my purpose is to explore further the contrast between what happened to him in Vietnam and what the Bush Administration has done in the war on terror.  If you’re new to the blog, you can find more on this here and here.

I’d like to acknowledge up front that these passages are not a complete account of McCain’s captivity.  My intent is to highlight two elements of the North Vietnamese treatment of McCain:  confinement and torture, and then look at what the Bush Administration has said and done.

Let’s start with confinement.

McCain, describing conditions from March 1968 (the link in the story is to photos of the cell in which he was held):

I remained in solitary confinement from that time on for more than two years. I was not allowed to see or talk to or communicate with any of my fellow prisoners. My room was fairly decent-sized—I’d say it was about 10 by 10. The door was solid. There were no windows. The only ventilation came from two small holes at the top in the ceiling, about 6 inches by 4 inches. The roof was tin and it got hot as hell in there. The room was kind of dim—night and day—but they always kept on a small light bulb, so they could observe me. I was in that place for two years.

As far as this business of solitary confinement goes—the most important thing for survival is communication with someone, even if it’s only a wave or a wink, a tap on the wall, or to have a guy put his thumb up. It makes all the difference.

It’s vital to keep your mind occupied, and we all worked on that. Some guys were interested in mathematics, so they worked out complex formulas in their heads—we were never allowed to have writing materials. Others would build a whole house, from basement on up. I have more of a philosophical bent. I had read a lot of history. I spent days on end going back over those history books in my mind, figuring out where this country or that country went wrong, what the U. S. should do in the area of foreign affairs. I thought a lot about the meaning of life.

It was easy to lapse into fantasies. I used to write books and plays in my mind, but I doubt that any of them would have been above the level of the cheapest dime novel.

People have asked me how we could remember detailed things like the tap code, numbers, names, all sorts of things. The fact is, when you don’t have anything else to think about, no outside distractions, it’s easy. Since I’ve been back, it’s very hard for me to remember simple things, like the name of someone I’ve just met.

During one period while I was in solitary, I memorized the names of all 335 of the men who were then prisoners of war in North Vietnam. I can still remember them.

McCain, about events in June 1970:

The pressure continued on us to see antiwar delegations. By early in June I was moved away from Colonel Finley to a room that they called “Calcutta,” about 50 yards away from the nearest prisoners. It was 6 feet by 2 feet with no ventilation in it, and it was very, very hot. During the summer I suffered from heat prostration a couple or three times, and dysentery. I was very ill. Washing facilities were nonexistent. My food was cut down to about half rations. Sometimes I’d go for a day or so without eating.

McCain, about what happened in March 1971 after prisoners attempted to hold a church service:

Later in March they came in and took three or four of us out of every one of the seven rooms until they got 36 of us out. We were put in a camp we called “Skid Row,” a punishment camp. We stayed there from March until August, when we came back for about four weeks because of flooding conditions around Hanoi, and then we went back out again until November.

They didn’t treat us badly there. The guards had permission to knock us around if we were unruly. However, they did not have permission to start torturing us for propaganda statements. The rooms were very small, about 6 feet by 4 feet, and we were in solitary again.

Now let’s turn once more to Jane Mayer’s The Dark Side.  The following account is what Abu Zubayda, a self-professed member of Al Qaeda, told the International Committee of the Red Cross.  As Mayer herself notes, he “clearly had political and self-serving reasons to exaggerate his mistreatment.”  But also keep in mind that much of Zubayda’s story  — particularly the timetable he provided and the terminology he said his captors used — fits into the larger narrative Mayer contructs of events elsewhere, particularly decisions made back in Washington.

While the ICRC would neither confirm nor deny the details [of their report], other sources familiar with the report say that Abu Zubayda described being kept for prolonged spans of time in a cage that he called “a tiny coffin.” . . .[His] “hard time” began when he was locked into the “tiny coffy” for hours on end, which he described as excruciatingly painful.  It was too small for him to stand or stretch out, so small he said he had to double up his limbs in a fetal positoin. . .[which] caused his wounds to reopen.  he described the box as black, both inside and out, and said that it was covered in towels, which he thought was an effort to constrict the flow of air inside. . . .A source familiar with Zubayda’s account described the tiny coffin box as “unbearable, most terrible.”

. . .Zubayda told the ICRC that the cell in which he was isolated during this period looked out directly at the “tiny coffin” and another slightly larger cage.  These two boxes loomed large in his imagination, even when he was not confined in them, blocking his line of sight as an omnipresent threat.  One unconfirmed account desribed teh CIA interrogation team as building a coffin in which they reportedly threatened to bury Zubayda alive. . . .They reportedly took his clothing as punishment, and reduced his human interaction to a single daily visit in which they would say simply, “You know what I want,” and then leave.

This is only one of a number of such accounts.  And as Mayer and others have noted, this particular “treatment” was meted out to someone who was subsequently discovered not to be a major player in al Qaeda, and mentally ill.

Here’s what Article 21 of the Third Geneva Convention (to which the United States is a party) has to say about the question of “close confinement”:

The Detaining Power may subject prisoners of war to internment. It may impose on them the obligation of not leaving, beyond certain limits, the camp where they are interned, or if the said camp is fenced in, of not going outside its perimeter. Subject to the provisions of the present Convention relative to penal and disciplinary sanctions, prisoners of war may not be held in close confinement except where necessary to safeguard their health and then only during the continuation of the circumstances which make such confinement necessary.

Draw your own conclusions.

Two more questions for John McCain:

Are those detained by the United States in Guantanamo, Afghanistan and elsewhere — those whom President Bush has declared “unlawful combatants” — protected by the Geneva Conventions?  If not, why?

Given that Vietnam refused to abide by the Conventions, leading to their mistreatment and abuse of you and others, why should individuals detained by the United States not receive the very protections you were denied?

Part Two — McCain v. Bush on torture — will follow tomorrow.

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10 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
11:02 pm

Controlympics: Pollyanna George

From Bob Costas’s interview with President Bush during NBC’s Olympics coverage tonight:

COSTAS: This past week, you restated America’s fundamental differences with China. But given China’s growing strength, and America’s own problems, realistically, how much leverage does the U.S. have here?

DUBYA: First of all, I don’t see America having problems. I see America as a nation that is a world leader that has got great values.

I’m speechless (wordless?  what is the blogging version of speechless?).  I thought he stopped drinking.  Maybe he’s high on vollyball babes.  I mean, Dude, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN FOR THE LAST SEVEN FREAKING YEARS?????  Just off the top of my head:

  1. We’ve lost our lead in manufacturing to China.
  2. We’ve mortgaged our economy to the Chinese and others.
  3. We now torture, contrary to everything we supposedly stand for.
  4. We now detain people indefinitely.
  5. We haven’t captured Osama bin Laden or other al Qaeda leaders.
  6. We’re mired in two wars, one of which is going badly and while the other is going better, we are spending billions of dollars a month to try to find a way out.
  7. Our two largest mortgage lenders are in deep trouble, and the USG probably is going to have to bail them out.  And thousands upon thousands of Americans are losing their homes.
  8. As many as a dozen of our elected and appointed officials (Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Gonzales, Addington, Yoo, Cambone, Wolfowitz, Feith, Rice, Tenet just off the top of my head) may be indicted for war crimes after the Administration ends.
  9. The Katrina crisis demonstrated just how incompetent our government can be in the face of a massive human disaster.
  10. Guantanamo; Abu Ghraib; Bagram; secret sites in Eastern Europe.

Nope. No problems there.  I apologize Mr. President, you’re absolutely, completely, and irrevocably right insane.

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7 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
09:55 pm

Controlympics: A Perfect Choice

Big news today, via The Los Angeles Times and the Telegraph (UK).  Let’s start with the LAT:

Lopez Lomong: US Olympic team appoint Darfur refugee to carry flag

Another stunning chapter was added to the incredible story of Lopez Lomong when his U.S. Olympic teammates chose the Sudanese refugee as the flag bearer in Friday’s opening ceremony at the 2008 Olympics.

Lomong, who made the Olympic track team by finishing second in the 1,500 meters at the U.S. track trials, spent a decade in a refugee camp in Kenya as one of the “Lost Boys of the Sudan.” He resettled in the United States as a teenager with a family in Syracuse, N.Y.

“This is the most exciting day ever in my life,” Lomong said. “It’s a great honor for me that my teammates chose to vote for me. I’m here as an ambassador of my country, and I will do everything I can to represent my country well.”

Lomong, 23, was 6 when he was abducted from a Sudanese church by militiamen trying to turn children into boy soldiers. He and three other boys escaped and walked several days until they were arrested by Kenyan police because they had unknowingly crossed the border into Kenya.

And now the Telegraph:

His first taste of the Olympics was when he paid five Kenyan shillings to watch Michael Johnson winning gold at Sydney 2000 on a fuzzy black and white TV set, an experience which he says ignited his own Olympic dream.  “The American flag means everything in my life - everything that describes me, coming from another country and going through all of the stages that I have to become a US citizen,” Lomong added.

What an amazing story:  a Sudanese Lost Boy** becomes an Olympic athlete and is chosen over thousands of his new countrymen and -women to carry their country’s flag into the Olympic Opening Ceremonies — which is hosted by a government notorious for its disregard for human rights and its sponsorship of the government of Sudan.

It’s nothing less than a Jesse Owens moment.  In the face of tremendous pressure by everyone from the ChiComs themselves to their craven corporate toadies to IOC Chairman Jacque Rogge and other obsequious IOC pond scum, Americans have stood up to to an odious dictatorship.

I guess I don’t have to worry anymore about our flagbearer dipping the flag when he passes ChiCom-in-Chief Hu “Is Lying Now” Juntao.

And it happens the day after the ChiComs denied a visa to Joey Cheek, the Olympic athlete and head of Team Darfur.  I don’t think that that was a coincidence.  The Times of London gets the contrast about right:

There are two pictures here. One comes slightly distorted and airbrushed and will be squeezed into a frame by the IOC and its Chinese hosts in Beijing. The other is a portrait of Lomong. Which would you rather have on the wall?

This is why I continue to be proud of this country, no matter what the Bush Administration does or who gets elected this fall.  It’s further proof that average Americans (take my word for it, even in this day and age, that’s what the vast majority of our athletes in Beijing are) care deeply about basic human rights and fundamental principles of justice.

And isn’t it nice to feel good about this country again?  And have it be not because we won an athletic competition, but because we stood up for what is right and decent?

Hooray for us.

Photo:  Associated Press via the Telegraph (UK).

**If you don’t know the remarkable story of the Lost Boys, do yourself a favor and go out and buy Dave Eggers most recent novel, What is the What, which is a fictionalized account of one of the Boys’ experiences.

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7 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
10:00 am

Five to Watch: The Rest of the World

Between the U.S. Presidential election and the Beijing Olympics, there isn’t much space on the Intertubes or the cabletubes for other stories.  And I understand that The Washington Postdated is running a five-part series on McCain’s wacky aunt, so they’re not going to be much help either.

But that doesn’t mean the rest of the world has taken a break.  Here are five stories worth watching in the coming weeks:

1.  Bolivia.  This Sunday, voters will go to the polls to decide whether to recall Bolivian President Evo Morales (an ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez), the Vice President, and nine provincial governors — many of whom are Morales critics.  Originally envisioned as a way to end the political impasse between Morales and his opponents, the vote instead has exacerbated tensions, and could strengthen separatist sentiment in four provinces.  In the lead-up to the vote, Chavez and Argentinian President Cristina Kirchner had to cancel a planned meeting with Morales as a result of the unrest, and Morales had to relocate planned independence celebrations to La Paz from the opposition-controlled Sucre after opposition supporters blockaded the airport.

2.  Rwanda-France. On Tuesday, Rwanda issued a report formally accusing French government officials of complicity in the 1994 genocide.  Rwanda President Paul Kagame, who has steered Rwanda away from the francophone bloc and towards a closer relationship with the United States, cut ties with the French government back in 2006 as a result of a French judge’s efforts to have him charged for allegedly playing a role in the death of President Habyarimana — an event that either triggered the genocide or was used as an excuse for its genesis.  Two separate issues appear to be at play here:  questions about French complicity, which may have included training of and advice to the pre-genocide army, and the role of Kagame’s RPF movement, which human rights groups say is responsible for war crimes (albeit not genocide).

3.  Mauritania. On Wednesday, a group of Army officers seized power from the first-ever democratically elected government in Mauritania.  The coup took place after Mauritanian President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi attempted to fire four senior military officers — who instead led the coup.  The President and Prime Minister are both under house arrest, and while the new leaders have promised new elections, a history of coups and military rule make such an outcome unlikely.  The recent discovery of significant oil reserves further complicates matters.

4.  Iraq. Think everything in Iraq is peachy?  Think again.  The Parliament recessed on Wednesday without passing an essential provincial elections bill, hampering further efforts at reconciliation dependent on the vote’s outcome.  The sticking point is Kirkuk, which the Kurds want to annex but other factions want to keep separate.  Once again, oil is playing a role — Kirkuk has lots of it.  Perhaps the worst news is that the Iraqis decided the best course of action at this point is  to appoint yet another commission to study the matter while the rest of the Council of Representatives went on vacation.

5.  Pakistan. Perhaps the biggest mess in the world today, Pakistan continues to find new ways to destabilize itself.  As a result of the secret police’s (and perhaps the military’s) role in the bombing of India’s embassy in Kabul, U.S.-Pakistani relations are the worst they’ve ever been.  The military’s accomodation of the Taliban and al Qaeda in the Northwest Frontier Province hasn’t helped much either.  Meanwhile, Parliament is debating whether to impeach President Pervez Musharaf at the very moment that Musharaf has headed to Beijing for the Olympics.  With no one apparently in charge and the ISI and military facing increasing calls for reform, another coup is a real possibility.  This time, however, the generals are unlikely to continue to pursue policies favorable to American interests.

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6 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
01:42 pm

Kangaroos in Guantanamo, Pope Benedict on Trial

If you haven’t heard, the kangaroo court military tribunal in Guantanamo has found Salim Ahmed Hamdan guilty of providing material support for terrorism.  Because he was Osama’s driver. From The New York Times:

A panel of six military officers convicted a former driver for Osama bin Laden of a war crime Tuesday, completing the first military commission trial here and the first conducted by the United States since the end of World War II. . . .  The conviction of Mr. Hamdan, a Yemeni who was part of a select group of drivers and bodyguards for Mr. bin Laden until 2001, was a long-sought, if somewhat qualified, victory for the Bush administration, which has been working to begin military commission trials at the isolated naval base here for nearly seven years.

This is just nuts.  According to the theory of justice used in this trial, anybody who ever served under anybody committing war crimes or crimes against humanity is subject to prosecution, even if they never had anything to do with the crimes itself.

To put it another way, if the Bush Administration had run things at the end of the Second World War, Pope Benedict and the first three postwar Chancellors of West Germany all would have been convicted as war criminals.  That is a perversion of the Nuremberg principle, not its extension.

I’ve already blogged about how absurd this is. But I’d like to revisit the question of why the Bushies chose Hamdan as its first case rather than, oh, I don’t know, Kalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind behind 9/11.

I think there are two possible explanations.

First, the Bush Administration had so little confidence in this process, that it felt it had to get a win — any win — under its belt.  This means that they were so afraid of what might happen during the first trial, they felt a practice round was necessary before they got around to the serious prosecutions.

Second, this may be revenge.  After all, it was in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld that the Supremes ruled that the Administration’s original military commissions plan was utterly unconstitutional.  So in response, they’re taking their anger out on this poor schlub.  What a despicably Nixonian approach to justice.

There is both irony and tragedy in this verdict.  The irony is that they didn’t entirely succeed.  Hamdan was found guilty of material support for terrorism, but also found innocent of the more serious charge of conspiracy.  So despite the fact that the Administration used every trick in the book to secure Hamdan’s conviction, they were not able to convince a jury of six officers — people whose future careers will in part be determined by their actions in this trial — that Hamdan was part of bin Laden’s inner circle. Of course, that’s not much consolation to Hamdan or his family.

The tragedy, of course is that Hamdan, who by all accounts has a fourth-grade education and was never anything more than one of several drivers and errand boys for bin Laden, will now spend the rest of his life in jail.

I have no sympathy for al Qaeda; I want our government to throw the book thrown at bin Laden, Zawahiri, Mohammed, and the rest of these thugs.  But to suggest that this guy is anything other than a tiny cog in that machine is ridiculous.  Whoever wins the next election should give serious thought to commuting Hamdan’s sentence to time served.

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28 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
09:30 pm

Criminal Mastermind with a Fourth-Grade Education

No, I’m not talking about The Joker.

I’m not a big fan of what Rebecca McKinnon calls “parachute journalists” — reporters who spend a very limited time in a country and then write stories describing “ancient ethnic hatreds” and “the profound despair of local villagers,” as if they had spent the last thirty years living there.  It’s the war correspondent ethos run amok.

The latest is from Carol Rosenberg of The Miami Herald, who spent two whole days in Guantanamo covering the war crimes trial of Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s driver.

That said, I did find one item in Rosenberg’s story interesting:

In the al Qaeda world of driver Salim Hamdan, exhortations to martyrdom and railing at the infidels can become mind-numbing.  Or so claimed several FBI agents who testified last week at the trial of Osama bin Laden’s driver, the Yemeni with a fourth-grade education. ”Mr. Hamdan pretty much got tired of hearing the same thing over and over again,” said FBI Agent George Crouch Jr. And so, he “tuned out.”

I haven’t seen this reported anywhere else, and it certainly makes sense.  If you’ve ever been in a car with a bunch of metalheads listening to Motörhead at maximum volume, sooner or later you’re going to start tuning out Lemmy, no matter how awesome a rock god he may be.

What isn’t clear from Rosenberg’s account is whether the FBI agents were testifying for the prosecution or the defense.  You’d think that would be an important detail, one worthy of putting in the freaking story.

But perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Rosenberg’s story is its sheer banality.  She makes it sound no different from a visit to District Court — if a District Court sold “Got Freedom?” t-shirts** and kept bottled water in a portable mortuary.

This is the best the Bush Administration could do?  Set aside, just for a moment, the due process violations and the allegations of torture.  Assume, just for a moment, that the Bush Administration is right — that these guys deserve to have the book thrown at them.  I know that it’s hard to do without causing your brain to explode, but just for argument’s sake, go along with me for a minute.

So the trials start.  And who’s the first defendant?  Osama’s driver.  A guy with a fourth-grade education.  Do they think he’s Alfred to Osama’s Batman or something?  Or that he’s the criminal mastermind?  Seriously?  Maybe it would help if The Wall Street Murdoch Journal ran an op-ed called “What Hamdin and The Joker Have in Common.”

If the Allies had used the Bush Administration’s approach after World War II, they would have started with, I don’t know, Ezra Pound before they got around to prosecuting Goebbels, Speer, et. al.  That is if Pound was a retarded 19-year-old from West Virginia.

It just doesn’t make any sense.  But then again, you’d think I would have learned by now not to expect sanity, logic, or even consistency from the gang of thugs we call the Bush Administration.

**Shouldn’t the t-shirts read “Don’t Got Freedom”??  It is Guantanamo, after all.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia, used under a GNU Free Documentation License.

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27 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
11:15 am

Mbend It Like Mbeki

I bet that if Thabo Mbeki were to have a Facebook page, he would be one of those people who friends everybody, but who has almost everyone ignore the request.  Everyone except dictators, that is.

We already knew that the MBekster had a soft spot in his head heart for Zimbabwe President-for-Life-of-Misery Robert Mugabe.  It turns out, however that no dictator is safe from this guys warm embrace:

South Africa’s president has called on the International Criminal Court not to prosecute Sudan’s leader for war crimes in case it upsets Darfur’s peace talks.

Thabo Mbeki told South African TV that Omar al-Bashir’s continued presence as head of state was also needed to assist the country’s post-civil war security.

Maybe Radovan Karadzic can get Mbeki to put in a good word for him at his upcoming trial.  I understand that Mbeki feels he’s essential to peace and reconciliation in Bosnia.

UPDATE: So I just checked.  The MBekster does not have a Facebook page.  But here are some of the groups others have created to express their feelings about him:

  • South Africans Embarassed by Thabo Mbeki (233 members)
  • Leave Thabo Mbeki Aloooooooooone!! Alone He is the Best President Ever! (174 members)
  • Thabo Mbeki — Africa’s Newest Dictator (59 members)
  • Thabo Mbeki is on Mugabe’s Payroll (62 members)
  • I Hate Thabo Mbeki (43 members)
  • Thabo Mbeki Sucks…. (35 members)
  • Thabo Mbeki:  South Africa’s Downfall! (15 members)
  • Thabo Mbeki “I am Not Useless” (11 members)
  • Thabo Mbeki is a Coward and a Danger to South Africa (9 members)
  • Rein in Thabo Mbeki (7 members)
  • Remove Thabo Mbeki from Office Now! (7 members)
  • Thabo Mbeki Go to Hell (2 members)
  • Thabo Mbeki Is Spineless (2 members)

Come on, folks, how do you really feel?

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26 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
11:45 am

One of These Things Is Not Like the Others

Let’s play compare and contrast for a moment, boys and girls.  Today’s topic is U.S. Government support for international justice.  See if you can find which of these things is not like the others.

Read the rest of this entry »

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26 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
09:56 am

The Arrest Everybody Missed

It’s been a good week for international justice, with the arrest of Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb President indicted for genocide as a result of his actions during the seige of Sarajevo and the massacre in Srebrenica; the ICC’s indictment of Sudanese President Hassan al-Bashir for his role in Darfur; and the the UN Security Council’s decision to extend the mandate of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda through 2009.

Amidst these good tidings, another story got lost:  the arrest of Sylvere Ahorugeze, who is wanted in Rwanda for genocide.  From the AFP:

A Swedish court has ordered a Rwandan man suspected of taking part in the 1994 genocide remanded in custody pending a possible extradition request from Kigali, the judge said Friday. The man [was identified] as Sylvere Ahorugeze, aged 52.  According to public broadcaster Swedish Radio, Ahorugeze is suspected of murdering 25 Tutsis in a suburb of Kigali in April 1994.

Like Karadzic, he was hiding in plain sight.  He was arrested after going to the Rwandan embassy in Stockholm, where employees recognized him.

The number of people responsible for the genocide in Rwanda boggles the mind.  It runs to the tens of thousands, if not more.  How do you heal a society when so many are responsible for so much suffering?

I cannot help but think of Eleanor Roosevelt, who once said that human rights begin “in small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world.”

Sometimes, the same is also true of genocide.

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21 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
11:40 pm

White House Responds to Karadzic Arrest

For once we don’t need the diplospeak translator:

We congratulate the Government of Serbia, and thank the people who conducted this operation for their professionalism and courage. This operation is an important demonstration of the Serbian Government’s determination to honor its commitment to cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The timing of the arrest, only days after the commemoration of the massacre of over 7,000 Bosnians committed in Srebrenica, is particularly appropriate, as there is no better tribute to the victims of the war’s atrocities than bringing their perpetrators to justice.

Imagine the impact were the White House to say something similar about the ICC indictment of Bashir….

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21 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
09:59 pm

About Damn Time

Reuters is reporting that former Bosnian Serb Republic President Radovan Karadzic, was arrested today in Belgrade today. Reuters is also reporting joyous celebrations on the streets of Sarajevo.  I wish I could be there with them.

Karadzic , along with General Ratko Mladic, was responsible for authorizing and overseeing the murder of 8,000 Bosniak (Muslim) men at Srebrenica in 1995, among other crimes.  He faces two counts of genocide before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia — one for his role at Srebrenica and the other for authorizing the shooting of civilians during the 43-month siege of Sarajevo.

Kudos to Serbian President Boris Tadic for making this happen.  Now let’s hope he can finish the job and grab Mladic as well.

Photo:  Remains of some of the victims of the Srebrenica massacre, via Solidarity Srebrenica

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2 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
07:51 pm

The Manchurian President

We’ve all heard the whispers.  Every four years, the extreme right starts suggesting that the current Democratic candidate for President is a traitor.  He’s not a patriot, they say — he’s actually a Communist/athiest/internationalist/Muslim.

Every four years, they find a new variation on this theme:  Bill Clinton was recruited by the Soviets when he visited the USSR.  Al Gore will cede American sovereignty to the United Nations.   John Kerry was recruited by the Viet Cong during the war.  Barack Obama was recruited by a Muslim terror cell while attending an Indonesian madrasa. It’s just like that movie — you know – The Manchurian Candidate.

Today, we found out who the real Manchurian Candidate really was: George W. Bush.

No, I’m not suggesting that our President was kidnapped or brainwashed by anyone.  It’s actually much worse than that.  He’s not Laurence Harvey — he’s Angela Freaking Lansbury:

Here’s the story from today’s Times:

The military trainers who came to Guantánamo Bay in December 2002 based an entire interrogation class on a chart showing the effects of “coercive management techniques” for possible use on prisoners, including “sleep deprivation,” “prolonged constraint,” and “exposure.”

What the trainers did not say, and may not have known, was that their chart had been copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them false, from American prisoners.

The recycled chart is the latest and most vivid evidence of the way Communist interrogation methods that the United States long described as torture became the basis for interrogations both by the military at the base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and by the Central Intelligence Agency.

You read that correctly: our government authorized the use of techniques developed by the Chinese to torture American servicemen in Korea.  And as Andrew Sullivan points out today, the North Vietnamese adopted a similar approach in Vietnam — meaning that they were used on John McCain.

That’s awful enough.  But here’s the kicker.  As Matt Yglesias notes,

[T]he main purpose of these Chinese torture techniques was to elicit false confessions. That’s not very surprising as the main use of torture in interrogations has always been to elicit false confessions.

But still, to literally rip your techniques off from a study called “Communist Attempts to Elicit False Confessions from Air Force Prisoners of War” requires some level of obliviousness I wasn’t aware of. Or else maybe they were looking for false confessions?

There really are only two conclusions here.  Either the Bush Administration is mind-bendingly stupid, or they are unconscionably evil.  Then again, there is one more possibility:  they’re both.  But regardless of which of these equally distressing options is correct, one thing is crystal clear: they are a cancer on our values and our freedoms.

How can any conservative  support a regime whose policies represent the absolute antithesis of the values of those who fought and often died to defeat communism?

How could anyone with a conscience support a government that steals the methods of our former enemies — who used them against our own soldiers to force false conventions — and then applies them to “extract” the truth?

For a long time, I resisted those who called Bush, Cheney, and their cronies evil.  I criticized those who demanded their impeachment, arguing that it would only garner them sympathy.

Not anymore.  Impeach them.  Better yet, indict them. Prosecute them for war crimes and crimes against humanity.  And then toss them into jail and throw away the key.

For the first time in my life, I am deeply ashamed of my country.

| posted in foreign policy, politics, pop culture, world at home | 0 Comments

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