Sunday, September 25, 2005


Juan Cole is off the fence; Frist covers up torture as McCain stands silent

Juan Cole draws our attention to a Think Progress piece that suggests that Senators John McCain and Bill Frist have attempted to coverup evidence of torture: The Captain revealed this abuse to Human Rights Watch in July 2005. He also reported his charges to “three senior Republican senators,” including Majority Leader Bill Frist and Sen. John McCain. ...On July 27, the same month the Captain came forward, Sen. Frist single-handedly derailed a bipartisan effort — led by Sen. McCain — to clarify rules for the treatment of enemy prisoners at U.S. prison camps. In what news reports at the time described as an “unusual move,” Frist “simply pulled the bill from consideration” before it could be debated. In a piece on ICH from which that is linked, Juan Cole states narrow reasons why we must withdraw ground troops (note the qualification): the conduct of the war is brutalizing our troops: The brutalization of the US military and of its prisoners is a brutalization of the entire American public. It is an undermining of the foundational values of the Republic. We cannot remain Americans and continue to behave this way routinely. Well, um, yes, sort of. Memories of Operation Phoenix, free fire zones, and the Strategic Hamlets program were an element in why many of us opposed the Iraq intervention. I would say that violence is very much one of the foundational values of America. Slavery, the genocidal conquest of the West.... don't get me started. Down a notch on Cole's list is this: The second reason is that the ground troops are not accomplishing the mission given them, and are making things worse rather than better. Actually, they are accomplishing the mission George Bush gave them-- Shock and Awe-- brilliantly. The problem is that shocked and awed people can still be Very, Very, Angry and Determined people. Why Cole does not see that "Chaos is the Plan" escapes me. Ironically, Cole presents a far better case for withdrawal by describing what has happened in Mosul, Fallujah, and Tal Afar. Three hundred thousand made homeless and two-thirds of the buildings damaged in Fallujah. Two hundred thousands made homeless in Tal Afar. Baghdad and Mosul increasingly in the hands of Sunni nationalists. Uncounted dead, maimed, wounded. If one is causing this much damage by trying to control a country, maybe the best thing is to stop trying. I remain in favor of using US troops to serve as an external defense (mostly to prevent the Turks and Kurds from going at one another) and to foil internal set-piece battles between massed troops. The real problem is that US troops are trying to do law enforcement, and that is not a mission they trained for. But militarily, one can't do that exclusively with the USAF. You need ground troops to guard bases. You may need ground troops to guard supply lines. I am sure Cole understands this, but the way it comes it is a little muddled. If I have twitted Cole above, it is because he is very much worth the energy: he's a brilliant and knowledgeable commentator on whom I frequently rely. He supplies the facts; here, I supply the attitude.
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