Thursday, February 7, 2008

Waterboarding Afghanis.

Bobby Gates.

Lede: Super Tuesday is a good day to drop news you want ignored. Fact: and what a good news day it was. Double Fact: Journalism is easy! Start with a lede like that and your story will practically write itself, and so here we are.

In the first bit of bad news, CIA director Michael Hayden acknowledged the US's use of waterboarding on al-Qaeda suspects since 9/11. Of course, Attorney General Mukasey quickly fired back with the time-honored argument that waterboarding is less than torture, in fact it's a bit like having a fresh shower (that's a bit unfair of me but humor is humor). According to Hayden's testimony before congress, the CIA is allowed to use waterboarding if it has the consent of the "of the President and legal approval of the Attorney-General."

What we're seeing here is a CIA director shifting blame to the Attorney General's office and using the "just following orders" defense while the Attorney General is saying yes, in extreme circumstances it can and should be legal and not be investigated. Only, perhaps that's not the only story we should be following. Any debate on the use of waterboarding hinges on the right of "enemy combatants" and whether they can and should be held by the US government, and whether the US can hold them indefinitely. Both waterboarding and holding "enemy combatants" are beyond the charter of the US Army, which congress is trying to get the CIA to follow on these two issues. I've gone and buried the lede.

The second bit comes from Afghanistan. In a completely dismissal of unilateralism, Condeleeza Rice is jetting around the world trying to gain combat support for our troops in Afghanistan. Currently in Kabul, Rice demanded that NATO partners support the US's crumbling venture in Afghanistan by sending in combat troops. Of course, the NATO response was basically "No fucking way." The pretext for all this was Robert Gates' quarterback sneak last week against NATO for not "providing troops prepared to 'fight and die' against the Taliban." Although the were asking for a relatively low number of troops, 7500 spread over many governments, it certainly seems that NATO is making the best call here; both in their own interests, and in the interest of the project in Afghanistan. What Afghanistan really needs, and by extension what Iraq really needs, is a force dedicated to building infrastructure in these war torn countries. The US can take care of rounding up the Taliban, hell, we've already done it twice. (Well once it was to give them weapons...)

And all of this in a week when an internet new money success story finally started acting like big slow old money....

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