Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

  Did you miss this story?

There are so many screaming headlines today--about the perjury conviction of the Vice President's former Chief of Staff; about the deaths today of so many more in Iraq, including 9 American servicemen; about the Congressional hearings into the firing of six US Attorneys and the threats they've endured from politicians; about the investigations into the Walter Reed scandal--that you might well have overlooked some pretty astounding stories.

For example, had you heard that George Bush's escalation in Iraq, announced in January, now has its own escalation? It didn't take him long, did it, to get the escalation-bug into his bloodstream? Just like LBJ and RMN before him, Bush is gripped by the urge to surge. So it escalation piled on top of another.

Here is an account in the Guardian:

The US could send an extra 7,000 troops to implement President George Bush's controversial Iraqi security plan, it emerged last night as the country suffered one of its worst recent days of bloodshed when at least 110 Shia Muslim pilgrims were killed and scores more injured. Most died in Hilla, south of Baghdad, in a twin suicide bombing blamed on Sunni extremists.

Gordon England, deputy secretary of defence, revealed that army commanders were requesting reinforcements beyond the 21,500 personnel already earmarked for the so-called "surge" into the capital.

"At this point, our expectation is the number of ... troops could go above 21,500 by about 4,000, maybe as many as 7,000," the official told the House of Representatives Budget committee in Washington.

More bad news about those congressional hearings from Reuters and from McClatchy.

As lawmakers sparred with military brass, defense analysts issued a new report that says the Iraq war is ravaging the Army and Marine Corps and leaving the country poorly equipped to respond to other crises. The report came a week after a congressionally mandated panel found the National Guard at its lowest state of readiness ever.

Lawrence Korb, an assistant defense secretary for manpower under President Ronald Reagan, said Bush's decision to send at least 21,500 more troops to Iraq will worsen the strain.

"Our Army, the nation's Army, is in bad shape, and the surge will only make it worse for the Army and the country," Korb told reporters. "We're about to undo 30 years of building the best all-volunteer Army we've had."

"The costs in casualties and lost and damaged equipment, as well as the dangers posed by hurried and abbreviated training of new recruits and repeated combat tours, clearly show that the Army is in crisis," the analysts wrote.

"Not since the end of the Vietnam War has the Army been so depleted," they said.

You'll be intrigued as well by this further information from the McClatchy piece: Deputy Defense Secretary England insisted that the military is not lowering its recruiting standards to meet that crisis. The opposite of course is true.

Anyhow, it appears that the Marines are relieved to know that they won't be contributing any more troops to the escalation's escalation. Given that Gen. Petraeus himself puts the chances of success for the operation at no more than 25%, you can see why the Marines don't care to be too closely tied to it.


But there's plenty more in the news than the debacle in Iraq. There's also the debacle in Guantanamo. The Pentagon chose today to announce that the first 14 hearings will be held for detainees there, under the new procedures established by the Military Commissions Act. I predicted when the new Manual was published to regulate these trials, that it left huge loopholes for the military to exploit to the gross disadvantage detainees. And right at the outset, the military appears intent on turning these into kangaroo courts.

The Defense Department said Tuesday that hearings for 14 "high-value detainees," including the alleged mastermind of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, will start Friday at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but that reporters would be barred from the procedures...

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said at a news briefing that the hearings will be closed "based on national security concerns." He promised to release censored transcripts "as expeditiously as we can," but said officials had decided not to provide the names of the suspects, even after the transcripts have been released.

The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, a detainee advocate group which represents one of the 14, Majid Khan, denounced the hearings.

"Any suggestion that Khan's CSRT proceedings would comport with our values and traditional notions of justice is demeaning to all Americans. ... We might expect this in Libya or China, but not America, " it said. The hearings "routinely" rely on information derived by torture or other coercion, the group said...

The hearings, which also exclude attorneys, are likely to be the prelude to a decision by President Bush to try the 14 men before military commissions that Congress established last year.

Defense officials said the hearings for the 14 must be closed and the transcripts reviewed because the detainees could reveal sensitive intelligence information.

"It is not a safe assumption that simply because detainees have been in detention for some time, their information is stale," said a senior defense official who could not be identified under Pentagon-imposed ground rules.

But administration critics charge that its real motivation for secrecy is to blot out claims by the men that they were mistreated, or information about the covert CIA sites where they were first held.

Pressed to promise that such information would not be redacted from transcripts of the sessions, the defense officials declined to do so - but said national security would be the only reason for censorship...

The officials also declined to say which detainee will appear at Friday's hearing.

This is even more restrictive and secretive than the rules for the Combat Status Review Tribunals had been; reporters were permitted to attend those. But these even exclude attorneys!

Someday, perhaps soon, I will write a long planned piece on the many and ludicrous obstacles that the US government has thrown in the path of attorneys representing the Guantanamo detainees. The main reason I have delayed writing it for months now, is that the stories are legion, the affronts to due process so great, that I fear no matter how much time I devote to the project I will not even begin to do justice to it.

But I will have to make an attempt, and soon. Because the Bush administration is not even beginning to give justice to these detainees.

From Unbossed

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