Molly Ivins died Wednesday at age 62 after a long battle with breast cancer. This is her final column, entitled “Stand Up Against The Surge“:
The purpose of this old-fashioned newspaper crusade to stop the war is not to make George W. Bush look like the dumbest president ever. People have done dumber things. What were they thinking when they bought into the Bay of Pigs fiasco? How dumb was the Egypt-Suez war? How massively stupid was the entire war in Vietnam? Even at that, the challenge with this misbegotten adventure is that WE simply cannot let it continue.It is not a matter of whether we will lose or we are losing. We have lost.Gen. John P. Abizaid, until recently the senior commander in the Middle East, insists that the answer to our problems there is not military. “You have to internationalize the problem. You have to attack it diplomatically, geo-strategically,” he said.His assessment is supported by Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the senior American commander in Iraq, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who only recommend releasing forces with a clear definition of the goals for the additional troops.Bush’s call for a “surge” or “escalation” also goes against the Iraq Study Group. Talk is that the White House has planned to do anything but what the group suggested after months of investigation and proposals based on much broader strategic implications. About the only politician out there besides Bush actively calling for a surge is Sen. John McCain. In a recent opinion piece, he wrote: “The presence of additional coalition forces would allow the Iraqi government to do what it cannot accomplish today on its own — impose its rule throughout the country. … By surging troops and bringing security to Baghdad and other areas, we will give the Iraqis the best possible chance to succeed.” But with all due respect to the senator from Arizona, that ship has long since sailed.
A surge is not acceptable to the people in this country — we have voted overwhelmingly against this war in polls (about 80 percent of the public is against escalation, and a recent Military Times poll shows only 38 percent of active military want more troops sent) and at the polls. We know this is wrong. The people understand, the people have the right to make this decision, and the people have the obligation to make sure our will is implemented.Congress must work for the people in the resolution of this fiasco. Ted Kennedy’s proposal to control the money and tighten oversight is a welcome first step. And if Republicans want to continue to rubber-stamp this administration’s idiotic “plans” and go against the will of the people, they should be thrown out as soon as possible, to join their recent colleagues.Anyone who wants to talk knowledgably about our Iraq misadventure should pick up Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s “Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone.” It?s like reading a horror novel. You just want to put your face down and moan: How could we have let this happen? How could we have been so stupid?As The Washington Post’s review notes, Chandrasekaran’s book “methodically documents the baffling ineptitude that dominated U.S. attempts to influence Iraq’s fiendish politics, rebuild the electrical grid, privatize the economy, run the oil industry, recruit expert staff or instill a modicum of normalcy to the lives of Iraqis.”We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we’re for them and trying to get them out of there. Hit the streets to protest Bush’s proposed surge. If you can, go to the peace march in Washington on Jan. 27. We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, “Stop it, now!”
MORE AFTER THE JUMP
HOW FASCISM STARTS
How Fascism Starts
By Molly Ivins
Thursday 20 May 2004
AUSTIN, Texas — It’s pretty easy to get to the point where you don’t want to hear any more about Abu Ghraib prison and what went on there. But there are some really good reasons why Americans should take a look at why this happened.
I suspect the division here is not between liberals and conservatives (except for a few inane comments made by some trying to be flippant), but between those who are following the story closely and those who are not. I particularly recommend both Sy Hersh’s follow-up piece in the current issue of The New Yorker and the investigative piece in the current issue of Newsweek. What seems to me more important than the “Oh ugh” factor is just how easy it is for standards of law and behavior to slip into bestiality.
The problems go all the way back to the administration’s refusal to abide by the Geneva Conventions. President Bush, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Attorney General John Ashcroft “signed off on a secret system of detention and interrogation that opened the door to such methods. It was an approach that they adopted in order to sidestep the historical safeguards of the Geneva Convention, which protect the rights of detainees and prisoners of war,” according to Newsweek.
Secretary of State Colin Powell and the military’s lawyers objected. You may recall the military’s objections (broadcast, as usual, by retired officers) were on the excellent grounds that if we didn’t observe the Geneva Conventions neither would our enemies — the very reason they were signed in the first place.
The Pentagon still insists that “suspected Al Qaeda followers” have no rights under Geneva III, as they are “enemy combatants” rather than POWs. Geneva III also has procedures for what to do if the status of a detainee is in doubt — full Geneva rights apply until “a competent tribunal” decides. We have been holding 595 prisoners at Guantanamo for two and half years, not counting those we have already let go, in conditions in violation of Geneva. Only now are a few of these prisoners being assigned lawyers, and the lawyers are raising hell about the whole process.
The legal rationale came from White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, including the line, “In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva’s strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions.”
According to Newsweek, Bush first signed a secret order granting new powers to the CIA, a directive authorizing it to set up secret detention facilities outside the United States and to question those held in them with unprecedented harshness. The agency also schlepped suspected terrorists off to other countries known to practice torture.
In addition to the fact that torture is morally repulsive, it also doesn’t work. Of course you can torture information out of people. What you can’t do is torture accurate information out of people who don’t have it. The Defense Department’s JAGs were so concerned they finally went to a New York lawyer who specializes in international human rights law and told him, “There is a calculated effort to create an atmosphere of legal ambiguity” about how Geneva should be applied.
These military lawyers named Assistant Secretary Douglas Feith and the Pentagon’s general counsel William Haynes, since nominated for an appeals court judgeship by Bush.
Meanwhile, Gitmo had been taken over by Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, under whose loving care the “72-point matrix for stress and duress” was developed, laying out as ugly a set of rules for of-course-it’s-torture-stupid as anyone could dream up.
You may recall Rumsfeld testifying before Congress that Miller had been sent to “inspect” Abu Ghraib in September 2003, as though that had been some step toward responsible oversight. In fact, Miller told the general then running the prison the place should be turned over to military intelligence.
Normally, something like Abu Ghraib can be blamed in part on the Downward Communication Exaggeration Spiral, which afflicts most organizations. Someone at the top makes a mild suggestion, and by the time it reaches the troops, it’s iron-clad law. This appears to be a rare case of a reverse spiral, with the orders coming from the very top and questions being raised about them all the way down, until finally Army Spc. Joseph Darby spoke out and set off the Taguba investigation.
In this case, there is more than sufficient evidence pointing to the culpability of those at the top. But at the same time, the Pentagon is putting out the word that it was “only a few bad apples,” six low-level soldiers who have already been charged, with no one else involved. This just stinks of cover-up. Damned if I think these six low-level soldiers should be hung out there to take the blame for a set of explicitly written and signed policies made by people wearing expensive suits, getting paid big bucks and bearing some of the highest titles in the land.
You can read all the memos and documents for yourself. It’s important to know how fascism starts. ##