In March 2002, detainee Abu Zubaydah, described as a “first test subject for harsh interrogation techniques,” underwent waterboarding while in U.S. custody. In a hearing today, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) noted that Zubaydah’s interrogation occurred months before the August 2002 “Bybee memo” approved the interrogation tactics. Salon reports:
But during questioning, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., pointed out that the abuse of Zubaydah had reportedly begun weeks, if not months, earlier. “Did you offer legal approval of interrogation methods used at that time … prior to August 2002?”
“I have no recollection of doing that at all,” Ashcroft responded. He added that he did not remember anyone else at the Justice Department doing so either. He said later in the hearing that Zubaydah’s interrogation “was done without the opinion that was issued on the first of August.”
“Ashcroft’s testimony at least raises the possibility that the CIA had started abusing Zubaydah before the agency received any legal cover. This might explain why the Bush administration pushed so hard for the torture memos — the torture had already begun,” Alex Koppelman notes.
Today on MSNBC, David Schuster challenged Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) policy adviser Nancy Pfotenhauer’s claim that “we withstood hurricanes Rita and Katrina and did not spill a drop” of oil.
Schuster pointed out that “the U.S. Mineral Management Service said that Katrina and Rita caused 124 offshore spills for a total of more than 743,000 gallons of oil and refined products spilled” and asked Pfotenhauer if she wanted to “take back” what she said:
SCHUSTER: So Nancy, do you want to take back what you said?
PFOTENHAUER: Well, I actually do. I was misinformed…the point is still that we had a remarkable performance, that you had about 16,000 barrels that were lost during two of the worst storms that have ever…keep in mind David that 1,700 barrels per day naturally seeps into the ocean floor, so 365 days a year you’re at about 620,000 barrels per day, pardon me per year, that naturally seep into the ocean floor. So this is a really remarkable performance of technology.
But Pfotenhauer, a right-wing energy lobbyist, is misinformed still. According to a report from the County of Santa Barbara, CA, “the effects of seeps and spills differ hugely.” As one planner put it, “if seeps and spills are the same, why aren’t all the beaches covered with mounds of fresh tar and dead birds?”:
The key difference has to do with release rates and spatial concentration of the oil. Seeps release large amounts of oil over large areas of the ocean gradually throughout the year. Spills release large amounts of oil from a point source in a short time.
During a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee today, former Attorney General John Ashcroft falsely claimed that waterboarding has “consistently” been defined as “not torture” and refused to agree that the use of enhanced interrogation techniques — including waterboarding — on captured U.S. soldiers is “unacceptable” or “criminal.”
REP. MAXINE WATERS: Do you think that if these techniques were used on American soldiers that they would be totally unacceptable and even criminal? [...]
ASHCROFT: My job, as Attorney General, was to try and elicit from the experts and the best people in the Department definitions that comported with the statues enacted by the Congress and the Constitution of the United States. And those statutes have consistently been interpreted so as to say, by the definitions that, waterboarding, as described in the CIA’s request, is not torture.
Further, Ashcroft’s non-answer with regard to the torture of captured American service men and women is reminiscent of State Department Legal Adviser John Bellinger’s refusal to condemn “the use of water boarding on an American national by a foreign intelligence service.” His comments are also in line with the sentiments of Guantanamo Bay’s legal adviser, Brigadier General Thomas W. Hartmann, who refused to answer whether or not the use of waterboarding by Iranians on U.S. service men and women would constitute torture.
Our guest blogger is Jon Soltz, chairman of VoteVets.org and veteran of the Iraq war.
Today, video was unearthed in which Senator John McCain in 2003 says we can just “muddle through in Afghanistan.” Watch it:
The video offers a glimpse into the true thinking of those, like McCain, who backed launching the war in Iraq and committing our forces there indefinitely. Particularly, they believed that Afghanistan wasn’t a concern and we didn’t need to take it seriously. In fact, just a year earlier, on CBS’ Face the Nation, McCain said capturing Osama bin Laden wasn’t “that important.”
Five years later, we now see where that poor judgment and lack of insight has gotten us. The Taliban has regained large swaths of Afghanistan, al Qaeda has reconstituted itself, Osama bin Laden still is free, and Afghanistan is in crisis. All of that lends itself to our nation being that much less secure, and in much greater danger of another terrorist attack from extremists from the Pakistan/Afghanistan region.
This is not the way to win the war on terror and keep America safe. That’s why it is so important that we get this strategy right now.
Think about it. Had we not gone into Iraq, as Senator McCain thought we should, our forces would have been concentrated in Afghanistan, we would have crushed al Qaeda, probably captured or killed Osama bin Laden, and secured the country all the way to the Pakistani border.
Had we sent the Iraq surge brigades to Afghanistan, instead of to Iraq, and shown a real commitment there, perhaps our NATO allies wouldn’t have pulled their troops from Afghanistan. And, again, we could have decimated al Qaeda, secured the border region, and maybe captured or killed Osama bin Laden.
And now, we’ve got a third chance to get this right. Unfortunately, while it’s laudable that Senator McCain has suddenly discovered there’s a war in Afghanistan, his hands are tied. A couple of days ago, he called for more combat brigades to be sent there. A few minutes later, the Washington Post reported he pulled back on that and said NATO would have to supply the troops, because we would have to keep our forces in Iraq. Well, the Administration’s commitment to endless war in Iraq and its political unpopularity throughout Europe is what caused our NATO allies to pull troops from Afghanistan in the first place. That’s unlikely to change if McCain continues the Bush policy.
That brings us back to the video. John McCain got it horribly wrong in 2002 and 2003 and showed poor judgment in the real war on terror that led us to where we are today. And now, he’s having a problem figuring out how to get it right. The knowledge of “how to win wars?” I just don’t see it.
It seems McCain’s economic concerns extend only as far as Wall Street. Today in the Politico, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, McCain’s senior policy adviser, admitted that “in McCain’s world…the Main Street guys are hanging in there“:
In McCain’s world, Holtz-Eakin said it seems ‘the Main Street guys are hanging in there. The Wall Street guys are in a world of hurt…The concern is how to keep the travails in the financial sector from spilling over and hurting Main Street,’ he concluded.
This is what the McCain campaign must consider “hanging in there.” Since 2000:
–The average family income is down $962, after inflation
–The cost of an average family health plan is up almost $6,000, from $6,300 to $12,100 a year
The American economy has lost 438,000 jobs so far this year alone. Today, there are 1.6 million people who have been unemployed for six months or longer.
Maybe his concern for “the Wall Street Guys” explains McCain’s $175 billion tax cut for corporations in which 59% of the benefits flow to the richest 1% of Americans and $44 billion goes directly to the Fortune 200. After all, they’re in “a world of hurt.”
Yesterday on his radio show, right wing talker Michael Savage said that autism is “a fraud” and “a racket” and that “in 99 percent of the cases, it’s a brat who hasn’t been told to cut the act out.” Savage then asserted that all these “brat[s]” need as a father to tell them to “stop acting like a putz“:
That’s what autism is. What do you mean they scream and they’re silent? They don’t have a father around to tell them, ‘Don’t act like a moron. You’ll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don’t sit there crying and screaming, idiot.’” Savage concluded, “[I]f I behaved like a fool, my father called me a fool. And he said to me, ‘Don’t behave like a fool.’ The worst thing he said — ‘Don’t behave like a fool. Don’t be anybody’s dummy. Don’t sound like an idiot. Don’t act like a girl. Don’t cry.’ That’s what I was raised with. That’s what you should raise your children with. Stop with the sensitivity training. You’re turning your son into a girl, and you’re turning your nation into a nation of losers and beaten men. That’s why we have the politicians we have.”
Savage later claimed that there was “an asthma epidemic amongst minority children” because “the children got extra welfare if they were disabled.” Media Matters has the audio.
]I repeat my statement that we have succeeded in Iraq, not we are succeeding we have succeeded in Iraq. The strategy has worked and we now have the Iraqi government and military in charge in the major cities in Iraq. Al Qaeda is on their heels and on the run, but the success that we have achieved is still fragile and could be reversed, and it’s still – if we do what Sen. Obama wants to do, then all of that could be reversed and we could face again the chaos, increased Iranian influence and American loss and defeat.
It’s an intriguing perspective, I guess.
It’s worth noting that minimizing Iranian influence in Iraq as a war aim is a pretty tough cookie. Iran, unlike the United States, is adjacent to Iraq. Unlike the United States, in other words, Iran doesn’t have any plausible way to be indifferent to what happens in Iraq. Iran can have a friendly relationship with the Iraqi government, or it can have a hostile relationship with the government of Iraq, but it can’t be indifferent — the Iranians don’t have any other continents to live on. So if we are determined to keep large forces in Iraq checking Iranian influence, then the Iranians are going to do their best to undermine that. And the only way to keep checking that influence over the long-run is going to be for us to be continually meddling in Iraqi affairs. But no need to worry about that since we’ve already succeeded.
Two years ago, I wrote a profile arguing that there were reasons to believe that McCain was more pragmatic than his support for the Iraq debacle suggested (“Neo-McCain,” October 16, 2006). In the interviews I conducted with him in 2006, he repeatedly distanced himself from neoconservatism, reminding me that he talked regularly to realists like Brent Scowcroft. I thought there was a good chance that there was a peacemaker lurking beneath McCain’s warrior exterior–that a President McCain might be able use his hawkish reputation to, say, bring Iraq’s warring parties together or to lure Iran to the bargaining table.
I wasn’t the only one. Since McCain secured the Republican nomination, I’ve heard echoes of my ambivalence from foreign policy experts, including some who plan to vote for Obama. “McCain has Nixon-goes-to-China credentials,” one told me. But, based on McCain’s actions over the last two years and conversations I’ve had with those close to him, I have concluded that this is wishful thinking. McCain continues to rely on the same neoconservative advisers; he still thinks U.S. foreign policy should focus on transforming rogue states and autocracies into democracies that live under the shadow of American power; and he no longer tells credulous reporters that he consults Scowcroft.
I’m generally sympathetic to policies aimed at opening up the teaching profession, because it seems clear that success in the classroom is a function of multiple factors (experience, subject matter knowledge, pedagogical skills, training, work ethic, verbal ability, general smartness, innate talent for teaching) some of which are given undue weight under the current system and some of which are basically ignored. The world’s greatest teacher would have all of these qualities in spades, but of course such people are few and far between and it’s apparent from the track record of initiatives like Teach for America and some of the better alt-cert programs that people can be reasonably successful with less of some things (experience, training) if they have enough of the others.
That said, I hate this sentence: “They don’t have all the proper credits in educational “theory” or “methodology” — all they have is learning and the desire and ability to share it.” Putting words like theory and methodology between contemptuous quotes (shouldn’t we invent a new punctuation mark to distinguish those from regular quotes?) is ridiculous. Teaching is an extremely complicated endeavor. A teacher’s ability to share knowledge (which is in itself an extremely reductive conception of what teaching actually means) is naturally going to be improved by a solid understanding of theory and methods. Of course some ed schools teach those things badly or over-emphasize them, but that’s no reason to dismiss them out of hand.
As Kevin says, this sort of ugly anti-intellectualism doesn’t give you a ton of confidence about McCain’s approach to formulating policy. Running against eggheads has been a longstanding conservative trope, but one gets the sense that in recent years it’s more and more come to play a corrosive role in preventing conservative politicians from engaging in any kind of serious thought.