Friday, December 08, 2006

Into the Abyss: Reporting Iraq 2003-2006: An Oral History

For this special forty-fifth anniversary issue of the Columbia Journalism Review we have constructed a different kind of history of the war, an oral history told through the voices of many of the journalists who have covered it.

Link here. I just started reading it, but it is pretty illuminating.

Via the TU Editors' blog.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Bush: "Yeah, I don't think people are -- at least the ones I run into -- look, I had a bunch of our buddies from Texas up here this weekend, and they're kind of -- they look at you, and go, man, how come you're still standing? It's not so much the presidency on the shoals because of difficult decisions I made; it's more, the weightiness of this thing must be impossible for anybody to bear. And I tell them it's just not the case, that I'm inspired by doing this job. . . .

"I also remind them, Brit, that Laura and I are sustained by the prayers of millions of people. That's hard for some to, you know, I guess, chew on."

Hume: "You sense that."

Bush: "Absolutely."

I guess those prayers that Bush senses are a louder voice in his head than the curses and the cries of anguish of those who have been killed, maimed, or lost loved ones in Bubble Boy's excellent Middle East adventure.

I find that hard to believe. But maybe I am just more capable of feeling guilt and regret than the Bubbled One is.
Could the Bubble Boy administration be any more childish and foolish?
Publicly, the White House has resisted the idea of widening its own diplomatic channels with Iran and Syria, saying that even opening a regular dialogue would be a concession to two governments suspected of fomenting violence in Iraq. But senior Bush administration officials now say they are working out ways to talk to those countries without the White House appearing to have conceded on its principle of giving them the diplomatic cold shoulder.

So, we will talk with these countries while maintaining that we will not talk.

That's sensible. And it's great that we are twisting ourselves in knots just to keep the anti-UN, anti-international relations crowd happy. Super.

Iraqi Premier Moves to Plan Regional Talks

Monday, December 04, 2006

Video Is a Window Into a Terror Suspect’s Isolation

One spring day during his three and a half years as an enemy combatant, Jose Padilla experienced a break from the monotony of his solitary confinement in a bare cell in the brig at the Naval Weapons Station in Charleston, S.C.

That day, Mr. Padilla, a Brooklyn-born Muslim convert whom the Bush administration had accused of plotting a dirty bomb attack and had detained without charges, got to go to the dentist.


Several guards in camouflage and riot gear approached cell No. 103. [...] Briefly, his expressionless eyes met the camera before he lowered his head submissively in expectation of what came next: noise-blocking headphones over his ears and blacked-out goggles over his eyes. Then the guards, whose faces were hidden behind plastic visors, marched their masked, clanking prisoner down the hall to his root canal.


In the brig, Mr. Padilla was denied access to counsel for 21 months. Andrew Patel, one of his lawyers, said his isolation was not only severe but compounded by material and sensory deprivations. In an affidavit filed Friday, he alleged that Mr. Padilla was held alone in a 10-cell wing of the brig; that he had little human contact other than with his interrogators; that his cell was electronically monitored and his meals were passed to him through a slot in the door; that windows were blackened, and there was no clock or calendar; and that he slept on a steel platform after a foam mattress was taken from him, along with his copy of the Koran, “as part of an interrogation plan.”

Mr. Padilla’s situation, as an American declared an enemy combatant and held without charges by his own government, was extraordinary and the conditions of his detention appear to have been unprecedented in the military justice system.

[...]Blackened goggles and earphones are rarely employed in internal prison transports in the United States, but riot gear is sometimes used for violent prisoners.


In his affidavit, Mr. Patel [One of Mr. Padilla’s lawyers] said, “I was told by members of the brig staff that Mr. Padilla’s temperament was so docile and inactive that his behavior was like that of ‘a piece of furniture.’ ”


Dr. Angela Hegarty, director of forensic psychiatry at the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens, N.Y., who examined Mr. Padilla for a total of 22 hours in June and September, said in an affidavit filed Friday that he “lacks the capacity to assist in his own defense.”

“It is my opinion that as the result of his experiences during his detention and interrogation, Mr. Padilla does not appreciate the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him, is unable to render assistance to counsel, and has impairments in reasoning as the result of a mental illness, i.e., post-traumatic stress disorder, complicated by the neuropsychiatric effects of prolonged isolation,” Dr. Hegarty said in an affidavit for the defense.


Mr. Padilla was added as a defendant in a terrorism conspiracy case already under way in Miami. The strong public accusations made during his military detention — about the dirty bomb, Al Qaeda connections and supposed plans to set off natural gas explosions in apartment buildings — appear nowhere in the indictment against him. The indictment does not allege any specific violent plot against America.


Mr. Padilla’s lawyers say they have had a difficult time persuading him that they are on his side.

From the time Mr. Padilla was allowed access to counsel, Mr. Patel visited him repeatedly in the brig and in the Miami detention center, and Mr. Padilla has observed Mr. Patel arguing on his behalf in Miami federal court.

But, Mr. Patel said in his affidavit, his client is nonetheless mistrustful. “Mr. Padilla remains unsure if I and the other attorneys working on his case are actually his attorneys or another component of the government’s interrogation scheme,” Mr. Patel said.

Mr. do Campo said that Mr. Padilla was not incommunicative, and that he expressed curiosity about what was going on in the world, liked to talk about sports and demonstrated particularly keen interest in the Chicago Bears.

But the defense lawyers’ questions often echo the questions interrogators have asked Mr. Padilla, and when that happens, he gets jumpy and shuts down, the lawyers said.

Dr. Hegarty said Mr. Padilla refuses to review the video recordings of his interrogations, which have been released to his lawyers but remain classified.

He is especially reluctant to discuss what happened in the brig, fearful that he will be returned there some day, Mr. Patel said in his affidavit.

“During questioning, he often exhibits facial tics, unusual eye movements and contortions of his body,” Mr. Patel said. “The contortions are particularly poignant since he is usually manacled and bound by a belly chain when he has meetings with counsel.”