Monday, January 25, 2010

Muslim's Massacred In Nigeria

Horrors Of Religious Violence Found In Nigeria
After Religious Violence In Nigeria, Horrors Of Death Lurk In Sewers, Wells Of Village
AP News
Jan 22, 2010 15:11 EST
Courtesy Of Anti-War News Wire

Muslim volunteers discovered Friday that sectarian violence in central Nigeria this week extended beyond the long-restive city of Jos and into the burned shell of what used to be a small village near it.

Both Christians and Muslims died during the violence that began Sunday in the central Nigerian city once known as a prime tourist destination in West Africa. The nonprofit group Human Rights Watch puts the death toll among both religions at more than 200. More than 5,000 people have been displaced.

However, as Muslim volunteers arrived in the village of Kurujantar — about 18 miles (30 kilometers)south of Jos — they found corpses shoved three-at-a-time into sewer pits, pushed into communal wells and scattered in bushes. One volunteer held up the charred body of an infant that lay inside a cardboard box.

Nearly all the mud-walled homes in the one-time mining town suffered fire damage or had been destroyed. The central mosque, where residents say both the young and old sought refuge during an attack Tuesday, sat burned, ashes spread across the floor where the faithful once prayed.

Community leader Wardhead Umaru Baza, 58, said Friday that more than 300 were dead from the violence, which lasted seven hours. He said he hid in a hole as rioters armed with new and locally made firearms shot residents in the mostly Muslim village.

His causality figure could not be independently verified. Volunteers there said they had collected the bodies of about 100 people since the attack, though more likely remained.

Sectarian violence in this central region of Nigeria has left thousands dead over the past decade. The latest outbreak came despite the Nigerian government's efforts to quell religious extremism in the West African country.

Jos is located in Nigeria's "middle belt," where dozens of ethnic groups mingle in a band of fertile and hotly contested land separating the Muslim north from the predominantly Christian south.

There are conflicting accounts about what unleashed the recent bloodshed. According to the state police commissioner, skirmishes began after Muslim youths set a Christian church ablaze, but Muslim leaders denied that. Muslims say it began with an argument over the rebuilding of a Muslim home in a predominantly Christian neighborhood that had been destroyed in November 2008.

Baza said the police did not heed the community's call for help in the wake of violence in Jos, leaving the townspeople at risk.

Baza said he didn't know where his wife was. "Maybe she's dead," he said, wiping a single tear.

Even in Jos, volunteers discovered the charred body of one victim Friday in the Anglo Jos neighborhood. Resident Adamu Bala, 22, said rioters rampaged through the Muslim neighborhood Monday after police warned the residents to flee. Bala escaped, but attackers killed his 32-year-old brother and set his body on fire. Burning of corpses is considered desecration in Islam.

On Friday, graffiti written in burned charcoal left after the attack praised Jesus Christ as "the mighty man in battle" and declared the neighborhood "New Jerusalem." However, it couldn't be determined who wrote the slogans — or when.

During Friday prayers, Jos central mosque Imam Balarabe Daud told followers that the Quran forbade the killing of innocent people and warned "hell fire" awaited those who led the violence that has engulfed the city. He called on those praying to cooperate with the Army soldiers now manning makeshift road blocks throughout the city.

Maj. Gen. Saleh Maina, who is overseeing the security operation in Jos, warned that anyone violating the city's dusk-to-dawn curfew would be harshly dealt with. Maina also asked anyone with weapons to turn them over to authorities — something that could be unlikely in a city where gunshots still echo during the night.

As the sun began to set Friday in Kurujantar, volunteers carried bodies with a cheetah-print blanket to a large grave dug in front of a destroyed home. Abdullahi Wase, 52, watched as his wife's body tumbled into the hole. Two of his sons, ages 19 and 5, remain missing.

"I cannot even shed tears anymore," Wase said.

But as volunteers shoveled the clay-red dirt in the grave, he turned away and wept.


Associated Press Writer Ahmed Saka contributed to this report.

Faith-Based Wars

Good Will Hunting

By Richard Gamble
February 01, 2010 Issue
Courtesy Of The American Conservative

Faith-Based War: From 9/11 to Catastrophic Success in Iraq, T. Walter Herbert, Equinox, 224 pages

Barack Obama’s downplaying of American exceptionalism early in his presidency unleashed the wrath of right-wing bloggers everywhere. More than a few accused him of nothing less than betraying America’s identity as the “city on a hill.”

But it seems unlikely that these critics’ sudden references to the shining city in the past tense will in hindsight mark the beginning of a fundamental shift in America’s self-consciousness. Something more powerful than Obama’s foreign and domestic policy will have to shake the nation’s political and religious culture to dislodge so durable a metaphor. What we can be sure of, however, is that most Republican candidates in 2010 and 2012 will promise to reclaim and rebuild the lost city of America. Sarah Palin, keeping the message upbeat and in the present tense, reassured her Facebook friends this past Thanksgiving, “We truly remain the shining city upon a hill that the colonial leader John Winthrop implored us to be.”

Republicans may succeed in making the “city on a hill” an effective campaign strategy, but all the attention they give to this symbol masks a deeper political and cultural consensus about America’s calling. Most conservatives forget—if they ever knew—that it was a liberal Democrat, John F. Kennedy, who introduced the biblical and Puritan phrase into modern presidential rhetoric in 1961. More than that, they fail to notice that the political Left continues to reaffirm America’s hilltop preeminence. What looks like a critique of the Redeemer Nation often turns out, behind all the earnest hand-wringing, to be liberal frustration at the “wrong” transformationist agenda being implemented at home and abroad. Contrary to its claims, the Left doesn’t typically fear the mix of church and state or the blending of religion and war at all. It sounds like it does, but its real objective is to get the “right” theology fused with the “right” domestic and foreign policy.

A case in point is T. Walter Herbert’s Faith-Based War, the sixth in a new series of books on religion and violence from a small press in the UK. Herbert is Emeritus Professor of American Literature and Culture at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas. He approaches foreign affairs not as a historian, political theorist, or policy analyst. He writes instead as a modern literary theorist interested in the economic and political oppression of marginalized groups and in the “cultural politics” of novels, music, movies, TV shows, and the theater of presidential rhetoric and images. He also writes as a sincerely religious man who has exchanged his Christian upbringing for a vague but activist faith that operates in a twilight of theological uncertainty about a mysterious divinity he can only bring himself to call “G*d.” Certainty breeds violence, Herbert believes, and he directs his creedless, borderless, ecumenical religion toward “shared action for the sake of social justice.”

Herbert’s central concern is what he calls the “religious catastrophe” of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the “catastrophic success” U.S. forces encountered there. But his book is about much more than Iraq. Herbert’s quirky literary and theological exploration of American foreign policy takes him all the way back to the first colonial settlements in New England. The Puritans’ “city on a hill,” and its subsequent career as a cultural trope, dominates at least the first half of his book. But Herbert’s task is not to undermine America’s identity as that city. Rather, he sets out to unmask the alleged perversion of that identity—or, more accurately, to present an alternative city on a hill, one equally authentic to the American past but largely submerged throughout the nation’s history. Herbert doesn’t hesitate to call on his fellow citizens “to make our country a ‘city on a hill’ worthy of emulation, and worth fighting for ...” But performing that rehabilitation requires the rejection of a deeply embedded “Christian Americanism” in favor of a “counter-tradition” of tolerance and social justice. Herbert sees George W. Bush and his “faith-based” war in Iraq as the culmination of a progressively degenerate tradition that combines the worst of the chosen-nation “delusion” with all the swagger and violence of the frontier gunslinger.

What exactly are these opposing traditions that battle for America’s soul? It is hard not to think of Augustine’s City of God while reading Herbert’s retelling of American history. The Bishop of Hippo is certainly not one of his heroes, for reasons that become obvious by the book’s end. Nevertheless, Herbert’s account of America’s two cities on a hill becomes a wholly secularized version of Augustine’s theology of history. The heavenly and earthly cities become merely two earthly cities. The drama of salvation becomes a mundane event, a parody even of the spiritual warfare between the City of God and the City of Man. This doesn’t appear on the face of it to be Herbert’s intention, but such a template makes the core of his analysis much easier to see and explain.

Herbert begins his story conventionally with the Massachusetts Bay Colony —a parochial perspective that eclipses the rest of English North America but one that keeps his schematic treatment of American history tidy. The two cities descend from John Winthrop and Roger Williams. Winthrop heads the equivalent of Cain’s “ungodly” line and Williams the equivalent of Abel’s “godly” line (or “g*dly” line, I suppose). Winthrop’s city loves its chosen-ness, wages imperial wars against the not chosen, and is religiously authoritarian. Williams’s city, in contrast, loves “freedom of conscience,” cultivates goodwill with native tribes, and practices communitarian values. Winthrop’s city becomes predatory while Williams’s becomes exemplary.

From these two cities follow—in very straight lines—the tradition and counter-tradition that divide American history down to the present. Winthrop and his “theocrats” engendered Manifest Destiny, capitalist free enterprise, the frontier mentality, moral blindness, Ronald Reagan’s ethic of national self-indulgence, and ultimately Bush’s invasion of Iraq, including, yes, the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Williams, in contrast, launched a dissident tradition of tolerance, democracy, human rights, anti-imperialism, critical self-examination, moral acuity, and Jimmy Carter’s ethic of national self-discipline.

Conservatives may find themselves agreeing with more than a few of Herbert’s broader critiques of U.S. foreign policy. Indeed, he quotes approvingly from the work of Walter McDougall and Andrew Bacevich. But there is deep mischief at work in this book. By his last chapter, Herbert arrives at a theological grounding for the two cities that is sure to trouble orthodox Christians. He sees the U.S. Army’s resort to torture at Abu Ghraib as the natural outworking of Winthrop’s predatory theocracy, and more fundamentally as a result of a “perverted” Christian theology of original sin, divine wrath, and substitutionary atonement as taught by St. Augustine, Jonathan Edwards, and the modern Religious Right. Bluntly, America tortures its enemies because its pastors and politicians believe in a God who tortured his own Son on the Cross and tortures unrepentant man in Hell.

It comes as no surprise, then, that Herbert prefers the Jesus who died not to pay for man’s sins but who died at the hands of a brutal world power threatened by His revolutionary political message of social justice, liberation from oppression, and radical human equality. More broadly, “Jesus’s gospel posed a threat not only to the Romans but to all social arrangements in which stigmatized classes of G*d’s children are forced to accept a subservient place.” Clearly America is the new Rome in this 21st-century passion play. And a new type of Christ has appeared to rebuke the American regime and expose its injustice: the figure of the “hooded man” from the Abu Ghraib prison. Herbert describes this “haunting image” as a man “standing on a box with his arms outstretched, with electric wires hanging from his hands. The victim is compelled to maintain his balance on the narrow box, with his vision cut off. He cannot see that the wires on his hands are attached to nothing.”

A silhouette of the “hooded man” in the posture of the crucified Christ graces the front cover of Herbert’s book. Never mind that this is a prisoner of war. The author leaves no doubt about his meaning: this innocent “victim,” this modern Man of Sorrows, “is an icon that reproaches the religious perversion at stake in the invasion of Iraq, in particular the misconception of America as a ‘city on a hill’ that is entitled to seek limitless material abundance at the expense of others, and is exempt from judgment against any standard beyond itself.” “‘Hooded Man,’” he sums up, “represents the shame and disgrace that have accrued to the nation from following this version of America’s exemplary status, a model for other nations to abhor.”

In trying to expose the flawed political theology that may indeed animate too much of American foreign policy, Herbert simply exchanges one troubling political theology for another. Offended by the Right’s secularized “city on a hill” of imperialism and cultural and economic hegemony, he embraces the Left’s secularized “city on a hill” of international social justice. Disturbed by the Right’s politicized Jesus who endorses “Christian Americanism,” he embraces the Left’s politicized Jesus who advocates a new order of humanitarian sympathy. Lost in these false options is the possibility that the city on a hill has nothing whatsoever to do with the United States—not now and not ever—and that Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world.

Also lost on Herbert is just how much he and Bush might have in common—at least with Bush’s own self-understanding as portrayed by chief speechwriter Michael Gerson in his 2008 book, Heroic Conservatism. Bush’s idealistic domestic and foreign policy pursued an agenda consciously at odds with traditionalist and realist conservatives within the Republican Party. Bush set out on a course of Big Government intervention in public education, expanded social-welfare spending, and global democratic revolution in the name of social justice and humanitarian compassion. The troubling irony for those conservatives whom the Bush White House marginalized is how much of what passed for a conservative agenda between 2001 and 2009 fits Herbert’s depiction of the counter-tradition. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” tried awfully hard to sound like the modern version of the counter-tradition. Why that is and what that might mean for the future of conservatism ought to demand the attention of concerned scholars, voters, and traditional Christians.

Ultimately, Herbert’s framework, while venturing to explain so much about American history, helps only to account for what divides humanitarian transformationists among themselves and not for the larger theological and cultural fault lines that separate one American tradition from another.

Richard Gamble is author of The War for Righteousness and Associate Professor of History at Hillsdale College.

John Yoo Again Defends Torture & An All-Powerfull Presidency

"Crisis and Command"

Written by Thomas R. Eddlem
Monday, 18 January 2010 09:46
Courtesy Of The New American

John Yoo's Crisis and Command is a turgid, 524-page love letter to an all-powerful Presidency generally and to dictatorship specifically. His theme? More Caesar, less Senate.

Infamous for penning the “Torture Memos” under the Bush administration, where he justified torture under the Bush administration by virtually defining torture out of existence, Yoo's book contends presidential powers are unlimited: “The executive was, rather, the servant of necessity, bound to act in accordance with, in the absence of, or in extraordinary emergencies, in defense of the republic, even contrary to regularly constituted law.” Yes, you read that right. Yoo says the President is above the law.

Yoo criticizes Thomas Jefferson and all who say that the power of the presidency has limits under the U.S. Constitution. The “great” Presidents, Yoo contends, are those who recognize they possess unlimited power, use it, and get away with it politically. Thus he applauds all of the worst excesses of the “great” Presidents Lincoln and Roosevelt, from Roosevelt's court-packing scheme and internment of Japanese during World War II to Lincoln's arrest of Congressmen and newspaper editors who disagreed with him during the Civil War. Because a President's powers are unlimited, a “national emergency” of any kind justifies indefinite detention of Japanese, denial of trial rights to anyone (including American citizens), torture, and warrantless wiretapping. Does the President's power even extend to the execution of masses of minorities without trial — say, Japanese-Americans during World War II — if the President thinks it's needed? Yoo doesn't say. “This presidential power can be used for bad reasons too,” he told the Daily Show's Jon Stewart. “The Constitution doesn't prevent people from making poor decisions.” By “people,” he means the President.

Though this pretty much defines the concept of dictatorship, Yoo claims he's got Founding Fathers who will back him up. He doesn't, but it is a bit of fun to look a little further into his blatant dishonesty. Yoo repeated a quote (ad nauseum, actually) from Alexander Hamilton in Federalist #23 as justification for his unlimited presidential power theory. In Federalist #23, Hamilton says,

It is impossible to foresee or define the extent and variety of national exigencies, or the correspondent extent and variety of the means which may be necessary to satisfy them. The circumstances that endanger the safety of nations are infinite, and for this reason no constitutional shackles can wisely be imposed on the power to which the care of it is committed. This power ought to be coextensive with all the possible combinations of such circumstances; and ought to be under the direction of the same councils which are appointed to preside over the common defense.

To Yoo, this passage vindicates Presidents who assume unlimited power to command the nation in war, or whatever “emergency” he thinks the nation needs remedied. After all, the President is the “commander-in-chief.”

It sounds convincing until you notice that Federalist #23 doesn't even mention the President. The full context of the quote Yoo employs so liberally throughout the book is this:

The authorities essential to the common defense are these: to raise armies; to build and equip fleets; to prescribe rules for the government of both; to direct their operations; to provide for their support. These powers ought to exist without limitation, because it is impossible to foresee or define the extent and variety of national exigencies, or the correspondent extent and variety of the means which may be necessary to satisfy them. The circumstances that endanger the safety of nations are infinite, and for this reason no constitutional shackles can wisely be imposed on the power to which the care of it is committed.

All those powers “without limitation” listed in the first sentence of Hamilton's Federalist essay above are specifically and exclusively delegated to the Congress by Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, not the President. Hamilton was obviously talking about Congress' war powers, not those of the President. Tellingly, Yoo doesn't quote that first part. (Note: All of those powers "without limitation" were later limited by the Bill of Rights, the first 10 Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.)

This raises the question: Can Yoo really be that daft? Can he really read such straightforward declarative English language sentences and honestly come out with the exact opposite of their intent?

The only answer the reader can come to is “no.” Yoo can be credibly labeled a lot of things, but illiterate is not among them. And he can't even blame the college interns who helped him research the book. Yoo used the same incorrect reference in his 2002 torture memo, for which he was mercilessly pilloried by his critics. Blatant dishonesty is the only remaining possibility.

Yoo is a lawyer, and lawyers love to talk about “interpreting” English as if it were Sanskrit or Swahili that the average human wouldn't understand. Many lawyers and judges cling to a modern gnosticism that holds only black-robed magi can uncover the hidden meanings in the U.S. Constitution. And it is true that sometimes words can have multiple meanings, but Yoo's book doesn't highlight one of those times where we find a sincere difference of opinion over an ambiguous text. Yoo's quest in Crisis and Command is to obliterate all meaning. Lawyers are famous (or infamous, depending upon your point of view) for extracting meaning from words, sometimes even meanings that aren't there. Yoo may be the first lawyer to claim that English sentences have no meaning.

Yoo quotes the congressional war powers from the U.S. Constitution, so he's not unaware of them. They are:

  • “To declare war,”
  • “To raise and support Armies,”
  • “To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations,”
  • “To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces,”
  • “To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions,” and
  • “To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States.”

If that doesn't leave anything for the President, Yoo remains untroubled. He simply ignores the text of the Constitution. Comedy Central's Daily Show host Jon Stewart asked Yoo: “Can the President decide when [we] are at war?” Despite quoting the above clearly worded powers in the Constitution in his book, Yoo replied: “Well he can, although Congress can check him. And that's another thing I try to describe in the book.... All Congress has to do is do nothing. Because they have to fund and approve all of these activities.”

Ah, yes, the old “all Congress has to do is cut off funding to the troops fighting in the battlefield” check to provide balance between the execusitve and legislative branches. As '60s-era television secret agent Maxwell Smart might have said, “That's the second time I've fallen for it this week.” Cutting off supplies to our sons in the battlefield hardly constitutes a check at all. Cutting funds is political suicide and would only beget warmongering if that were the only check Congress had been given on war. Of course, that's why Congress was given the additional war powers under the Constitution. More importantly, Yoo's book actually undermines his own arguments that congressional control over military funding constitutes an effective check: Yoo praises Presidents who spent money for wars without congressional consent. After all, Yoo tediously reminds the reader, the President's powers are “without limitation.”

Even Alexander Hamilton — that great lover of executive power — explicitly acknowledged that only Congress could bring the nation to war. Hamilton states unequivocally “war is a question, under our Constitution, not of executive, but of legislative cognizance. It belongs to Congress to say — whether the nation shall of choice dismiss the olive branch and unfurl the banners of war.” Since Yoo quoted liberally from this same anonymous correspondence between Hamilton and James Madison over Washington's neutrality proclamation in Crisis and Command, he can't claim to be ignorant of Hamilton's views on the lack of presidential power to bring the nation to war. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison also each wrote explicitly that only Congress can bring the nation to war.

Yoo: Lesson of the Founders Is an Omnipotent Executive

But Yoo ignores men like Madison, who noted that the President is merely empowered to enforce the laws Congress makes. “The natural province of the executive magistrate is to execute laws, as that of the legislature is to make laws,” Yoo quotes Madison as writing, “All his acts therefore, properly executive, must presuppose the existence of the laws to be executed.” Yoo can't argue with Madison's logic there, can he? He doesn't bother. The plain meaning of the Constitution's text must be ignored, according to Yoo: “This view of the Presidency diminishes its constitutional authority and independence to that of a Clerk-in-Chief whose main duty is to execute Congress's laws. This interpretation profoundly misreads the political developments around the founding of America and the drafting of its Constitution.”

Yoo explains his view of what those “political developments” were at the time of the founding. The Natural Law? No, Yoo fails to mention it entirely. Inalienable rights of man as “endowed by their Creator”? Nah, the whole concept of individual rights is only discussed in the context of privileges that the President can suspend when he deems it necessary. And forget about any role God has on those rights. God makes no appearance in Crisis and Command, not even a cameo.

Enlightenment writers such as Locke, Montesquieu, and Blackstone are mentioned in Crisis and Command, but Yoo acts as if they had nothing to say about individual rights or God. After all, if you have an unlimited executive, you can't have inalienable rights. An all-powerful President can't tolerate an all-powerful God giving out inalienable rights to everyone willy-nilly. The all-powerful presidency is a jealous god. The real lesson of the Enlightenment era, Yoo implies, is a clarion call for the same old unlimited executive power that has existed in every dictatorship in most of the governments throughout world history.

A God who gives out rights to all people by nature of their births and which are inalienable — inseparable — from those people is anathema to Yoo. “It is naïve to say, as Obama did in his inaugural speech, that we can 'reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.' That high-flying rhetoric means that we must give al Qaeda — a hardened enemy committed to our destruction — the same rights as garden-variety criminals at the cost of losing critical intelligence about real, future threats.” Once again, Yoo claims that government gives out rights, though he implies that it ought not do so. Every freedom-loving American should have cheered Obama's statement quoted above, even if most experienced patriots had good cause to doubt Obama's follow-through.

Yoo's statements would be regarded as the rantings of a deranged post-communist apparatchik in a better time. But the sad truth is that much of the national Republican Party has bought into Yoo's argument that government, not God, gives out rights, and that government ought not to “give” rights to people we don't like. One recent example is Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown, who is running a close January 19 election to succeed Ted Kennedy in the U.S. Senate. Brown stated in a television commercial in the week before the election that “some people believe our Constitution exists to grant rights to terrorists who want to harm us. I disagree. Our laws are meant to protect this nation, not our enemies. As your Senator, I will never compromise our nation's security.” The clear implication of Brown's campaign ad is that government gives out rights — not God — and that government shouldn't give them out to people it doesn't like.

This anti-freedom phalanx within the Republican Party is today the dominant faction of the Party, if we judge it from recent GOP leadership statements or the votes of the congressional rank-and-file on the Military Commissions Act of 2006. Congressional Republican leaders are outraged that the Constitution's Sixth Amendment requirement for a jury trial may be followed. House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence whined to the press January 8: “I think most Hoosiers were appalled to see the Underwear Bomber in Detroit was immediately read his rights, provided an attorney at taxpayer expense, and is now being given access to the due process afforded to American citizens in our criminal courts.” Though Democrats propose to increase government spending and regulations slightly faster than the GOP, the Republican idea that the constitutionally protected right to a jury trial and guarantee against torture should be jettisoned makes economic questions seem a rather trivial matter by comparison. A party that openly defends the unchecked ability of a President to put anyone in a dungeon for torture without even a trial doesn't deserve support from any freedom-loving person just because that party favors lowering the top income tax rate of the imprisoned man to 33 percent from 38 percent. Some GOP leaders would repeal the entire message of American freedom all the way back to the Enlightenment period of the early 1700s, replacing it with an omnipotent presidency. Yoo is in many respects the founding father of this branch of the GOP.

Fox News Channel Commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano noted recently that “most modern Presidents have contended that their principal job is to keep us safe. They are wrong. The Constitution says that the President's first job is to keep us free. If he keeps us safe but not free, he is not doing his job.” Napolitano is precisely right. Presidents take an oath to defend the Constitution, not the people. But defending individual rights in the Constitution is — as Obama said in his inaugural address — more or less the same thing as protecting the people. That's a lesson that people who want smaller government need to learn, or they'll never get the smaller government they seek.

Crisis and Command, John Yoo, New York: Kaplan Publishing, 2009, 524 pages, hardcover, $29.95.

After Atom Bombs’ Shock, The Real Horrors Began Unfolding

Published: January 19, 2010
Courtesy Of The New York Times

United States Military

When Tsutomu Yamaguchi died two weeks ago, at 93, he was eulogized as a star-crossed rarity: a man who lived through two atomic blasts, at Hiroshima and then at Nagasaki. He was a man with very good luck, or very bad luck. It’s hard to decide.

Skip to next paragraph


The Survivors Look Back

By Charles Pellegrino

Illustrated. 367 pages. Henry Holt. $27.50.

United Nations, via Associated Press

A wristwatch found in the ruins.

Sarah Shatz

Charles Pellegrino

But Mr. Yamaguchi wasn’t alone. He was one of as many as 165 people who are believed to have survived Hiroshima only to wind up in Nagasaki when that bomb fell three days later. The stories of these double survivors make up part of Charles Pellegrino’s sober and authoritative new book, “The Last Train From Hiroshima.”

The term “ground zero” originated with Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those who survived up-close encounters with these new American bombs did so thanks to sheer, blind good fortune. They were in exactly the right place at the right time, sheltered from the gamma and infrared death rays, and then from the flattening blast, in spots that acted as natural shock cocoons.

The Hiroshima survivors learned invaluable lessons about surviving a nuclear detonation, but they were discouraged from disseminating this knowledge in the immediate aftermath. Japan’s military leaders did not want to spread “bad stories” and “rumors of defeat.” Some of these survivors talked anyway. They surely saved some lives.

The Japanese called the atom bomb the pika-don, the “flash-bang.” One lesson about it was this: If you see and survive the pika, you have a few seconds to duck. The don is on its way. Another lesson: wearing white helps. One doctor, Mr. Pellegrino writes, “reported numerous instances of women and children wearing patterned clothing, sometimes displaying flowers on white cloth. The dark flowers were now branded permanently onto their skin.”

Yet another lesson: the sound of a B-29 bomber diving and flying like hell, straining its engines to get out of the way, is a sound to take seriously.

Many, many other things were still to be learned about these bombs, each worse than the next. People who wore wristwatches were branded where the metal met their skin, and quickly developed radiation sickness. The bombs acted like a microwave oven, heating metal until it glowed.

Many people reported that the smell of burning human flesh was “quite similar to the scent of squid when it was grilled over hot coals,” Mr. Pellegrino writes, “with a few pieces of sweet pork thrown alongside.” And then of course were the lingering horrors of what the Japanese called “atomic bomb disease.”

“The Last Train From Hiroshima” is a clear-eyed catalog of every such horror, and not for the weak-stomached. Mr. Pellegrino follows his survivors as they trudge through wastelands that make “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy read like “Goodnight, Moon.” He describes the so-called “ant-walking alligators” that the survivors saw everywhere, men and women who “were now eyeless and faceless — with their heads transformed into blackened alligator hides displaying red holes, indicating mouths.”

The author continues: “The alligator people did not scream. Their mouths could not form the sounds. The noise they made was worse than screaming. They uttered a continuous murmur — like locusts on a midsummer night. One man, staggering on charred stumps of legs, was carrying a dead baby upside down.”

Mr. Pellegrino, whose many previous books include “Ghosts of the Titanic” (he also served as a scientific consultant to the director James Cameron on his Titanic expeditions and on “Avatar”), relates many stories in this book, not only those of wounded survivors but also of American and Japanese pilots and many others.

He pays particular attention to forensic detail, and provides a slow-motion, almost instant-by-instant explanation of how the atom bomb discharged its fury. There is not a lot that is new here, but “The Last Train From Hiroshima” is a firm, compelling synthesis of earlier memoirs and archival material, as well as of the author’s own interviews and research. This is gleaming, popular wartime history, John Hersey infused with Richard Preston and a fleck of Michael Crichton.

This isn’t a book that wrestles deeply with the moral calculus of the decision to drop the atomic bombs. Mr. Pellegrino doesn’t say whether he agrees with Paul Fussell, who wrote in “Thank God for the Atomic Bomb” that “the degree to which Americans register shock and extraordinary shame about the Hiroshima bomb correlates closely with lack of information about the Pacific war.”

But he certainly studies every kind of fallout and does not neglect the spiritual variety. He writes about one doctor who “recalled that those who survived the atomic bomb were, in general, the people who ignored others crying out in extremis or who stayed away from the flames, even when patients and colleagues shrieked from within them.”

This doctor confessed: “Those of us who stayed where we were, those of us who took refuge in the hills behind the hospital when the fires began to spread and close in, happened to escape alive. In short, those who survived the bomb were, if not merely lucky, in a greater or lesser degree selfish, self-centered — guided by instinct and not by civilization. And we know it, we who have survived.”

Mr. Yamaguchi, the double survivor, was among the advocates of a simple plan to end nuclear war, Mr. Pellegrino writes. That plan went like this: The only people who should be allowed to govern countries with nuclear weapons are mothers, those who are still breast-feeding their babies.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Israeli Drones Take Over Afghan Skies

By Yaakov Katz
Jan 21, 2010 20:51
Updated Jan 22, 2010 22:41
Courtesy of The Jerusalem Post

While Israeli soldiers can't fight in the war in Afghanistan, Israeli drones can. Starting next week, five NATO member countries will be operating unmanned aerial vehicles produced in the Jewish state in anti-Taliban operations in the Central Asian country.

The Heron unmanned aerial...

The Heron unmanned aerial vehicle.
Photo: IAI

Next week, officials from the German military will arrive to take delivery of an undisclosed number of Heron UAVs, made by Israel Aerospace Industries.

The Heron is a medium altitude long endurance UAV that can remain airborne for more than 30 hours with a cruising altitude of 30,000 feet, and can carry a payload of 250 kg. It has a wingspan of 16.6 meters, a takeoff weight of 1,200 kg. and an operational range of several hundred kilometers. It can carry a variety of sensors used for surveillance and target identification.

Germany is the fifth country to operate Israel Aerospace Industries UAVs in Afghanistan. In December, the Royal Australian Air Force took delivery of several Heron systems, joining Spain, France and Canada that already operate the platform.

Israel is a recognized world leader in the development of UAVs. In November, the Brazilian government announced that it was prepared to sign a $350 million deal to purchase Heron UAVs to patrol its cities and borders, and to provide security for the 2014 Soccer World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games.

Later this year, Israel Aerospace Industries will hold demonstrations of the Heron for Panamanian security forces in conjunction with the US military's Southern Command. The demonstration in Panama will focus on counter-drug operations, as well as border security.

Last May, the Heron underwent a month-long evaluation by the Southern Command and the Salvadoran military to judge its suitability for counter-drug missions in Latin America and the Pacific. It was the first time that the drone, designed for intelligence gathering and surveillance, was used in such operations.

The Age Of The Killer Robot

No Longer A Sci-Fi Fantasy
You can't appeal to robots for mercy or empathy - or punish them afterwards
By Johann Hari
Friday, 22 January 2010
Courtesy of The Independent

You can't appeal to robots for mercy or empathy - or punish them afterwards


The Return Of The NeoCons

By David Margolick | NEWSWEEK
Published Jan 22, 2010
From the magazine issue dated Feb 1, 2010
Courtesy of NewsWeek Magazine

Neoconservatism was once deemed dead—'Buried in the sands of Iraq.' But it persists, not just as the de facto foreign-policy plank of the Republican Party but, its proponents assert, in Obama's unapologetic embrace of American military might.

From top left: Kue Bui for Newsweek; Andrew Hetherington / Redux; James Keyser / Time Life Pictures-Getty Images; Richard A. Bloom / Corbis; Ahmad Al-Rubaye / AFP-Gettty Images; Brendan Hoffman / Getty Images

Clockwise from top left: Dick Cheney; William Kristol; Norman Podhoretz; George Will; Dan Senor; and Fred Kagan.

For all his eminence—or maybe because of it—the funeral for Irving Kristol this past September was an understated affair. Some thought Dick Cheney might show up, but neither he nor any other Republican leader did; it seemed almost ungrateful, given Kristol's extraordinary contribution to the GOP—how he'd brought intellectual legitimacy and heft to what he himself had once called "the stupid party." None of the Republican congressional leadership was there, nor any of the would-be candidates for 2012—not even Sarah Palin, whom Kristol's ubiquitous son, Bill, had helped turn into a political phenomenon.

The assemblage of about 200 people wasn't exactly small, but in the gargantuan sanctuary of Adas Israel Congregation, built at a time—1951—when American Jews of Irving Kristol's generation wanted to proclaim they'd finally arrived and planned to stick around awhile, it was dwarfed by its surroundings; the burgundy back benches were empty. Adas Israel is Washington's most powerful Conservative congregation, the one to which every Israeli ambassador to the United States in history has belonged. Instead of the usual parade of celebrity eulogists, though, only two people—the rabbi and Bill Kristol—spoke, and briefly at that. In 40 minutes or so it was over.

But the strength of neoconservatism, the intellectual and political "persuasion" (as he once called it) that Irving Kristol launched and led, has never been in its numbers but in its firepower and ferocity. And had the elder Kristol—whose shrouded coffin sat inconspicuously below the stage, nestled between the American and Israeli flags—been able to survey the crowd, he'd have been pleased. For filling the pews were his progeny, not just biological but intellectual, and they were an impressive lot.

They came from the publications that neoconservatives either run, like Bill Kristol's Weekly Standard, or work for, like The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. Others came from the think tanks where neocons congregate, particularly the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). There were faces from the Iraq War, with which the neocons are inextricably linked, like former deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz (making a rare public appearance) and the former civilian administrator of Iraq, Paul Bremer. Charles Krauthammer, the impassioned and highly influential neoconservative columnist at The Washington Post, and the political scientist Francis Fukuyama (a rare lapsed and repentant neocon) hadn't spoken to each other for several years—ever since Fukuyama had taken exception to the roseate view of the Iraq War Krauthammer had offered in the American Enterprise Institute's 2004 Irving Kristol Lecture—but Kristol's death had briefly brought them back together, albeit in different parts of the synagogue. The more traditional wing of the Republican Party, the one the neocons had arguably routed, also paid homage: George Will, who'd come to view the Iraq War as an enormous mistake, took his seat respectfully. In his uncharacteristically apolitical, even gentle, eulogy, Bill Kristol couldn't help but gloat over the proliferation of neocons: "scores, legions—hordes they must seem to those who disapprove of them," he said.

Like Bill Kristol, some of those on hand had inherited their right-wing beliefs rather than adopted them (as Irving Kristol, a longtime Democrat, once had). Technically, there is nothing "neo" about conservatives like Robert Kagan, the historian and another Washington Post columnist, or John Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary; each is a son of one of neoconservatism's founding fathers. Indeed, no strain in American politics is so dynastic. It is akin to the right-wing Likud Party in Israel, whose religion and politics, world view, and succession rituals the neocons often share. The definitions, and analogy, are inexact, but both groups have recent ties to Europe and are haunted by the Holocaust, which has left them feeling wounded, suspicious, and sometimes bellicose, determined never again to be naive or to trust the world's good intentions. Both spent decades in the po-litical wilderness before miraculously acquiring power; both begat "princes" who defied the normal generational tensions and allied themselves with their kingly fathers. When Bill Kristol rose to praise Irving that morning, he was really picking up his scepter.

Had you Googled "neoconservative" and "death" that day, four days after the 89-year-old Kristol expired, you'd have found lots on their long-rumored—and for some, much-anticipated and -savored—demise. On both the left and right, neoconservatism was deemed a spent force. Its ideas, Foreign Policy magazine had pronounced, "lie buried in the sands of Iraq."

But obituaries can be premature. At the moment, in fact, the neocons seem resurrected. One of their own, Frederick Kagan of AEI (Robert's younger brother), helped turn around the war in Iraq by devising and pushing for the surge there. More recent-ly, President Obama—whose foreign--policy pronouncements (nuanced, multi-lateral, interdependent) and style (low-key, self-critical, conciliatory, collegial) were a repudiation of neoconservative assertiveness—has swung their way, or so they believe. First, he's sending an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, nearly as many as leading neocons had sought. Then came his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, which, with its acknowledgment of the need for force, its nod to dissidents in Iran and elsewhere, and its talk about good and evil, was surprisingly congenial.

As if on cue, a Nigerian man with explosives in his crotch nearly brought down an American airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day, leaving the neocons feeling further vindicated and energized. Obama, who'd ratcheted up his rhetoric after an initial response that Bill Kristol and other neocons considered too tepid, had been "mugged by reality," Kristol declared. It was an obvious homage to his father, who'd long ago defined "neocon" as a liberal to whom just that had happened. "Whether they praise or denounce Obama, the neocons are winning," says Jacob Heilbrunn, a senior editor at The National Interest and author of They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons (2008). "They've got him embracing the surge in Afghanistan and on the run for being 'soft on terrorists.' Either way, he ends up catering to them." With Obama further weakened by an electoral repudiation in Massachusetts, that process might only intensify.

Such persistence is not surprising. For, as historians note, the impulses the neocons represent—the Manichaean world view, the missionary zeal, the near-jingoistic view of America, the can-do spirit and impatience with nuance—are as old as the country itself, dating back to John Winthrop and running through Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, and John F. Kennedy. Yes, their brand has been tainted, and they may now need to call themselves something else. (Some of the most prominent among them, like Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, have always rejected the designation.) But the one issue on which they and their harshest critics (who, it must be said, seem obsessively, even morbidly, fixated on them) agree is that they are not about to go away.

All those would-be obituaries recalled the life story of the movement: its origins in the alcoves of the cafeteria at City College of New York in the late 1930s, when young Jewish intellectuals split hairs over their various versions of Trotskyism; how, as fascism threatened the free world, they'd become New Deal Democrats; and how, as they grew disillusioned with Great Society policies on welfare and race in the 1960s, they moved rightward. Of them all, Irving Kristol was the one who kept on going, eventually reaching Reaganism. Around the same time, prodded largely by another neoconservative titan, Norman Podhoretz of Commentary, the movement came to concentrate largely on foreign affairs, opposing détente with the Soviet Union, championing Israel, targeting Arab despots and Islamic terrorists—taking on internationally, as George Will has noted, the very aggressive brand of interventionism it had disparaged domestically.

In this last iteration, neoconservatism touted "American exceptionalism": the idea—actually more liberal than classically conservative—that the United States occupies a higher moral plane than any other nation, and should act accordingly. It disdained what it deemed the amoral, cynical realpolitik of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, and promoted a muscular, aggressive foreign policy, anticipating and preempt-ing problems worldwide (by military means if necessary), unencumbered by corrupt or pusillanimous international organizations like the United Nations. "Delivering democracy out of the back of a -Humvee" is how Stefan Halper—a former Reagan administration State Department official and senior adviser to George H.W. Bush who now teaches at Cambridge—disdainfully defined it.

Perhaps the surest measure of the neocons' continued influence is the frustration and anger they generate within the Republican Party. Many of those they've targeted—like Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft—won't talk about them. (Some neocons gloat that Kissinger has even tried to become one of them.) One prominent activist on the libertarian end of the party—who hates what he sees as their costly foreign--policy adventurism and the GOP electoral losses (i.e., the presidency and both houses of Congress) he attributes to them—calls them "parasites": with little electoral power of their own, he claims, they have had to attach themselves to others, like George W. Bush. Comfortably ensconced behind a cloak of anonymity, he bristles, but also marvels, at their endurance and effectiveness, comparing them to "an infection that keeps coming back." "They've perfected this absolutely incredible thing: they announce who they are, how powerful they are, how influential they are, and get people to write articles about them," he says. "But when their policies are perceived to have caused mass chaos, they don't exist, they didn't have anything to do with it, they weren't there, and they get really snotty. And anyone who attacks them is anti-Semitic."

"Everybody in the true conservative movement talks privately about the neoconservatives, and most don't like them," says Patrick Buchanan. "They're vindictive; they're not collegial…One disagreement and you're at war to the death." As Buchanan depicts it, in the 1980s the neocons insinuated themselves into the world of right-wing foundations and, funding newly in hand, proceeded to hijack his party's intellectual establishment, building for themselves an elaborate institutional infrastructure that's better funded—and more militant and monochromatic—than anything comparable on the left. The epicenter is the American Enterprise Institute, but it fans out to other organizations, including the Hudson Institute (the refuge for two neocons bruised in the Bush administration, Douglas Feith and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby) and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, run by neocon Clifford May.

Even the old-line, establishment Council on Foreign Relations, the embodiment of those values—diplomacy, moderation, respectability—the neocons so abhor, now shelters two of them: the military historian Max Boot and Elliott Abrams, the former Reagan and George W. Bush administration official convicted of lying to Congress during the Iran-contra scandal. (Bill Kristol, then Vice President Dan -Quayle's chief of staff, helped secure Abrams a presidential pardon.) "They are effectively insulated from failure," says Stephen Walt of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, one of the neocons' most frequent antagonists. "Even if you've totally screwed up in office and things you've advocated in print have failed, there are no real consequences, either professionally or politically. You go back to AEI and Weekly Standard and continue to agitate or appear on talk shows as if nothing has gone wrong at all." But to Walt, too, their very durability is impressive. "You have to give them grudging admiration for sticking to their guns, to continuing to pound away no matter how discredited they've been," he says.

Several neoconservatives—Robert Kagan, Randy Scheunemann, Gary Schmitt—played important roles in John McCain's presidential campaign. A second and third generation of neoconservative commentators, including Bret Stephens of The Wall Street Journal, Frederick Kagan and Danielle Pletka of AEI, and Jamie Fly and Dan Senor of the Foreign Policy Initiative (another Bill Kristol production), are making themselves known and heard. Meantime, the Fox News watchers who form the Republican base are not exactly neocons but, in their support for pugnacious policies abroad, find their world view compatible. Neoconservatism re-mains, as former GOP congressman Vin Weber puts it, "the dominant intellectual force on -foreign-policy thinking in the Republican Party." Leaders of the alternative "realist" school—Kissinger, Scowcroft, Colin Powell, James Baker—are getting old, and with few exceptions, like Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations, seem, like some celibate religious sect, unable or disinclined to reproduce.

"Its idealistic and patriotic appeal may be better suited to young thinkers than the prudent and reasonable calculations of realism," says Justin Vaïsse, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of a forthcoming book on neoconservatism. "It's not very exciting to be a young realist, really."

In the meantime, Buchanan's isolationist, paleoconservative wing of Republicanism has withered. "A lot of them tend to be libertarian cranks: neo-Confederates, really insane, racist, xenophobic types," says Max Boot, who is also a contributing editor at The Weekly Standard. "Neocons are vilified as being barely human beasts who have to be kept chained in a cage somewhere, lest they start eating babies alive or something, but when you look at the spectrum of conservative thought, they are actually fairly centrist. The people who kind of speak to the rank and file of the Republican Party—the Newt Gingriches, the Rush Limbaughs, the Sean Hannitys…they're actually fairly supportive of an aggressive foreign policy."

No one has ever done a head count of neoconservatives; their critics, disposed to see them as furtive and conspiratorial, have pegged the number—facetiously, it's true—as low as 64, or 17, or six. Sometimes they seem even scarcer, and more incestuous: fully half of the eight featured speakers on Commentary's Alaskan cruise this summer, for example, are Podhoretzes (paterfamilias Norman; his wife, Midge Decter; his son, John; and Elliott Abrams, his son-in-law). John Podhoretz's ascension at the magazine is a subject of enormous amusement to neoconservatism's critics, who say it smacks of the nepotism and affirmative action neocons supposedly abhor.

Precisely who qualifies for the designation can be vexing, particularly as people recoil from the term, or claim it's meaningless or outdated, or dismiss it as an anti-Semitic slur. Though there have been and are many exceptions—Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Jeane Kirkpatrick, John Bolton—certainly the most prominent neoconservatives (or people to whom that label has been attached) are Jews, though it's definitely easier for a Jew (like me) to say so. In polite company the Jewishness of the neocons comes up awkwardly, if at all, but it is a staple of the Internet, with words like "dirty" or "warmonger" or "kike" often thrown into the conversation, along with talk of dark subterranean klatches, sort of a Protocols of the Descendants of Kristol.

"Neoconservative" is "not really a phrase that I embrace or that anyone I know embraces," says Boot, a Russian-born and Berkeley-educated Jew who lacks the embattled humorlessness of so many neocons. "If the question is 'Are you part of this nefarious Trotskyite cabal linked to the Mossad and Likud in Israel and Bilderberg Society and the Trilateral Commission and the Queen of England?' the answer is 'You're nuts.' " Many neocons do not agree with, or even know, one another, he stresses, let alone engage in anything remotely coordinated. "There's no Neocon Central Committee meetings where we talk about damage control and refurbish our image and hire PR firms to burnish the image of neoconery," he says.

Of course, there are deviations from the neocon norm. For instance, the former head of the Council on Foreign Relations, Leslie Gelb, says that in 35 years he's never heard a neocon admit to error, but some, like David Frum of AEI and Joshua Muravchik of Commentary, have come perilously close. "Whether somewhat wrong or disastrously wrong, we certainly weren't vindicated in Iraq," Muravchik says. Some to whom the label has been casually affixed, like Dick Cheney, seem ill suited to it religiously, intellectually, ideologically, stylistically, or culturally, although there is no doubt that he's become the most compelling spokesman for neocon points of view. (Cheney's daughter Elizabeth and Bill Kristol are cofounders of, yet another neoconservative tentacle calling for—what else?—an "unapologetic" approach to fighting terrorism.)

The neocons were clearly among the first to advocate war with Iraq. But neocons stress that they occupied only a few "second tier" positions in the Bush administration, hardly enough to have done anything by themselves. Only after September 11 did Bush really turn to them, they say, and then only because they offered the best explanation for what had just happened and the clearest blueprint for what to do about it. "It was a preposterous idea that Doug Feith and Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle—who wasn't even in the administration—were going to manipulate guys like Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney into doing something they didn't want to do," says Norman Podhoretz. (Perle was chairman of the Defense Department's civilian Defense Policy Board.) "It was only the fundamental anti-Semitism of the whole concept that made it seem plausible to people: you know, 'these smart Jews were manipulating these dumb goyim'…that's the paradigm. It was never put that crudely, but that was basically the idea." That it was all done for the Israelis was "doubly preposterous," Podhoretz says: Israel actually opposed the war. (In fact, says Stephen Walt, it's more complicated than that: Israel considered Iraq a distraction from the real problem—Iran—but went along with the war once Bush had promised to take on the ayatollahs next.)

When the Iraq War turned disastrous, the neocons left the Bush administration, nursed their wounds, wrote self--exculpatory memoirs. But from the beginning, several argued that the wars they supported in the Middle East remained a good idea; they'd just been terribly mishandled. One was Boot, who warned as early as November 2001 that Afghanistan could once again become a "den of terrorists" should Bush persist with a "push button" war there, and that Iraq too would require large numbers of troops. In 2006 Boot turned what Bush apparently expected to be a chummy chat at the White House with several neoconservatives—Krauthammer and Kristol among them—into a tense seminar on the failures in Iraq that left the president red-faced and agitated.

Another early critic was Frederick Kagan, a military analyst who has al-ways labored in the shadow of his father and older brother. In devising and advocating the Iraq surge, the younger Kagan helped reverse the faltering fortunes of both the war and neoconservatism. In so doing, he provides a case study in neoconservative intelligence, tenacity, methodology, and efficacy.

Late last year, when Foreign Policy issued its list of "Top 100 Global Thinkers," "The Kagan Family" appeared collectively as No. 66. Sometimes it seems there are nearly as many Kagans as neocons. In fact, there are only four: Donald (the father), Robert and Frederick (Donald's sons), and Kimberly (Frederick's wife). Donald Kagan, a professor of history and the classics at Yale, is an authority on the Peloponnesian War, but his interest extends to war itself, which he has come to view, as he once put it, as "the default state of the human species."

The wonkish, heavy-set Frederick, who grew up reenacting battles with cardboard cutouts, earned a doctorate at Yale in Russian and Soviet military history, then spent 10 years at West Point teaching about wars. Along the way, he married Kimberly Kessler, a fellow Yalie with interests almost eerily like his. (She now heads a small Washington think tank called the Institute for the Study of War.) From the outset, Frederick Kagan, who'd long been dubious about the kind of high-tech warfare Rumsfeld championed, also felt the war in Iraq had been mismanaged, and, with the help of retired Gen. Jack Keane, convinced Bush this was so. Enter the surge. One of those most impressed was Gen. David Petraeus, now head of Central Command. Petraeus (the recipient of the 2010 Irving Kristol Award, who will deliver the Irving Kristol Lecture at AEI in May) calls Fred Kagan "brilliant," "exceedingly hardworking," and "a true student of history."

At his invitation, Frederick and Kimberly Kagan, an odd sight in flak jackets, have taken seven inspection tours of Iraq since April 2007. "They don't have kids, so this is their child," Petraeus said in a phone interview. Twice last year they went to Afghanistan, the second time as one sixth of a 12-member civilian team advising Gen. Stanley McChrystal. The group's findings buttressed McChrystal's request for 40,000 additional troops.

According to his critics, Frederick Kagan sometimes shows excessive faith in purely military solutions—a charge to which the neocons, few of whom have ever actually done military service, have been particularly subject. "These are men for whom too much came too easily in life, so it was all too easy for them to view our troops as mere tools to implement their visions," says the military-affairs columnist Ralph Peters, a retired Army intelligence officer. (Peters is perplexed and irked when called a neocon himself. "I'm not qualified," he says. "I served in the military, didn't go to a prep school, didn't go to an Ivy League university, and didn't have a trust fund. And I'm physically fit.") For his part, Kagan insists he's not naive about the military's abilities, nor afraid to tell generals off. Though he is a registered Republican and a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard, he also says he is not a neocon.

Despite their remarkable endurance, there's little triumphalism among the neocons. Even those who remained safely on the sidelines during the Iraq War retain an instinctive, deep-seated defensiveness, and a near-pathological wariness of outsiders. "I don't want to talk to you if you're planning something nasty" was how John Podhoretz replied to a routine interview request. The generally affable Bill Kristol was similarly standoffish. Despite his disdain for everything Kissingerian, he played the familiar Kissinger card: he'd be on the road, he explained, and therefore unavailable. By the time I paid him an impromptu visit—in the neoconservative rookery of 1150 17th Street in northwest Washington, The Weekly Standard is five floors below AEI—he'd apparently returned from his travels, but nonetheless rebuffed me. In the three minutes or so I got, it became clear that talking about neoconservatism—legitimizing the notion that it exists, and that it has influence—is extremely disagreeable to him.

Those who heard Kristol's eulogy that morning last September agreed that he'd given his father a wonderful send-off, the kind you'd want your own kid to give for you. Still, even some of his admirers were surprised. The Bill Kristol they know and like is something of a wise guy, who usually uses his considerable intellect to score points. They'd never seen him so, well, sincere.

People who've known the Kristols, father and son, see similarities between them, notably the same witty, urbane detachment. But more striking are the contrasts. Irving was, as Rabbi Gil Steinlauf put it in his remarks at the funeral, the "perennial outsider," as it is, he said, the Jew's eternal lot to be, questioning and deconstructing, keeping everyone honest. Bill, by contrast, is the consummate insider, commenting and networking and empire-building. Even friends describe him as more operator than ideologue.

Irving was largely above politics; Bill is hyperpartisan, though his politics are capacious enough for him to have backed Colin Powell, Gary Bauer, Alan Keyes, and Palin. "He would rather take an interesting wrong position than a dull correct one," says a longtime neocon who did not want to be named because the two are friendly. Several people who know Kristol describe his Palin boosterism—his very public campaign to persuade John McCain to put her on the Republican ticket—as a schoolboy-like infatuation, sparked when a Weekly Standard cruise docked in Juneau. Boot puts it a bit differently. "It was kind of a whimsical notion, I think," he says. "I'm not sure Bill actually thought that it would happen. He was kind of saying, 'Hey, look at this shiny new face out there that people aren't focused on.' " "Bill's a very close friend of mine, but he does an awful lot of things just to get publicity," says one prominent Republican who also did not want to be named for fear of offending Kristol. That said, it is one of neoconservatism's tenets—generally attributed to one of its main gurus, Leo Strauss, a controversial political theorist at the University of Chicago in the late 1940s and 1950s—that the erudite elite must tutor untrained princes or, presumably, princesses. It's what Kristol had already done for Quayle.

And while Irving Kristol was wary of exporting democracy, it's become his son's great cause. Bill Kristol's detractors love to list his wrongheaded diagnoses: that Iraq's Sunnis and Shias got along just fine, for instance. "Bill Kristol, aren't you ever right?" Jon Stewart once asked him. Even his father had his qualms. "My poor son has got it wrong again," he sometimes lamented to an old family friend. But the elder Kristol's misgivings were buried beneath the nachas—that is, a Jewish parent's pride in his children. He read The New York Times, he once said, only to look for his son's name.

To the infinite frustration of Bill's critics, though, nothing ever seems to stick. His short and unhappy tenure as a New York Times columnist, for instance, was immediately followed by a new gig at The Washington Post. Indeed, among neocons, the fiasco at the Times only burnished his brand: unlike a supposed conservative like David Brooks, one told me, Bill Kristol had not "gone native," bending to the paper's prevailing liberal mores.

There's no doubt Bill Kristol is now the most visible and vocal neocon around, with a power and reach his father never had. And now he has backed Obama on Afghanistan. Clearly, it was not easy for him: he'd had to festoon his Washington Post posting with terms like "too cute by half," "foolish," "silly," and "pseudo" before reaching the "Still…" Critics might argue that Kristol and the neocons have positioned themselves perfectly—to claim credit if Obama's war efforts succeed, and to blame the Democrats' irresoluteness or faulty execution if everything goes wrong. But could it be, as Jacob Heilbrunn has suggested, that neoconservative thinking has not just taken over the Republicans but infiltrated the Democrats as well?

One Obama administration official scoffs at the idea that neocons had influenced its deliberations, especially on Afghanistan. "They may feel vindicated," he says, "but if they do, their vindication should acknowledge the fact that the administration they so religiously supported screwed it up." That's surely true. But as two wars grind on, as would-be bombers stuff explosives into their underwear, as suicidal double agents blow CIA officers to bits, as the ayatollahs' centrifuges and subterfuges keep spinning—in other words, as the problems in the Middle East and beyond come to appear ever more intractable—Americans could become still more impatient with diplomacy and engagement and nuance, just as they're becoming disenchanted with Obama domestically. Neoconservatism is alive and well, and with all of its resolve and certitude, its appeal—albeit, perhaps, under some new and more presentable name—will likely continue to grow.

© 2010

Terrorism Defined

Bill Clinton Lights Our Way to Truth

Written by Chris Floyd
Thursday, 21 January 2010 15:56

For years, the all-consuming international struggle against the scourge of terrorism has been hampered at times by the fact that no one has been able to provide us with a rock-solid, comprehensive definition of the term. What, exactly, is "terrorism?" Great minds have grappled with this question in learned journals, academic symposia, think-tank fora, government entmoots, and across the commanding heights of the media. The matter is of some moment, as any person or organization to whom this ill-defined label is applied automatically becomes a target for "the path of action," to borrow the stirring phraseology of former U.S. president George W. Bush.

Indeed, some cynics have advanced the notion that the definition of terrorism has been left vague deliberately, in order to retain the degree of elasticity necessary for the term's application where and when as needed to advance one's particular political or ideological agenda. Of course, those who lack the phrenological bump of cynicism would ascribe this confusion to the artless, inherent difficulties of semantic expression all too common to our human kind. In any case, there has been, as the saying goes, much throwing about of brains on the subject, and to little effect.

But now this intractable problem has been resolved at last. And as you might expect, the man who cut this Gordian knot is one of the towering and tireless intellects of our age: Bill Clinton. To my shame, I have only recently become acquainted with his breakthrough, which was published in the December 2009 issue of Foreign Policy magazine. The chagrin I feel at my ignorance is mitigated somewhat by the fact that Mr. Clinton's brilliant formulation seems to have been largely ignored. This is no doubt because it was embedded in the vast sea of verbal gems and dazzling aperçus that the former president poured forth in his charmingly voluble fashion.

(For instance, who could fail to be dazzled by this Clintonian insight: "Tom Friedman is our most gifted journalist at actually looking at what is happening in the world and figuring out its relevance to tomorrow and figuring out a clever way to say it that sticks in your mind -- like "real men raise the gas tax." You know what I mean?" For more on this gifted journalist and his remarkable turns of phrase, see here. Mr. Clinton also lauded "big thinkers on the question of identity" like "Samuel Huntingdon, who wrote the famous book, The Clash of Civilizations." Huntingdon's book has indeed been influential, perhaps decisive, in shaping the worldview of our leading statesmen and opinion-shapers – despite the petty quibbling from second-raters, like Nobelist Amartya Sen (author of Identity and Violence), who claim that Huntingdon's magisterial wisdom is in reality somewhat lacking in intellectual heft and moral substance; some go so far as to claim his work is actually shallow, reductive, highly toxic racist tripe. But of course Mr. Clinton and our great and good know better.)

Thus primed with these sprays and sprigs of genius from the emeritus statesman, it is no surprise when we stumble onto his definitive definition of terrorism, tossed off almost casually in the midst of a disquisition on just how long the clash of civilizations known as the War on Terror might last. Cutting to the chase, as is ever his wont, Clinton nails the truth about terrorism:

Terror mean[s] killing and robbery and coercion by people who do not have state authority and go beyond national borders.

Like a bolt of sunlight breaking through a lowering cloud, Clinton's formulation floods one's brain with sudden illumination. "Killing and robbery and coercion by people who do not have state authority" – that's terrorism. Killing and robbery and coercion by people who do have state authority is, obviously, something else altogether: humanitarian intervention, perhaps, or liberation, or preservation of national security, or maintaining great-power credibility, or restoring hope, or a pre-dawn vertical insertion.

In any case, and every case, if this border-transcending activity is done by people who have state authority, then it is legitimate, it is good, it is necessary, it is noble. And even if, sometimes, on rare occasions, mistakes are made during the killing, robbing and coercing done by people who have state authority, these mistakes are only ever the result of good intentions gone awry.

So there you have it: what terrorism is depends on who does it. Naturally, there are nuances and complexities that Mr. Clinton did not go into here; it was an interview, after all, not a scholarly monograph. Obviously, the legitimacy of killing, robbing and coercing by people who have state authority is entirely dependent on the state from which that authority derives. Only those states which by their cheerful acceptance of America's benevolent guidance and abiding friendship have proven themselves worthy can legitimately exercise their authority to kill, rob and coerce. All others must forbear – or else be branded "rogue states," purveyors of "state terror," which in turn makes them eligible for "the path of action."

We are all deeply indebted to former President Clinton for bringing his legendary acumen to bear on this perplexing problem. Not for the first time do we lament the passage of the 22nd Amendment, which has prevented this acolyte of Huntingdon and Friedman from continuing to guide the ship of state. We can, however, rejoice that his own acolytes, associates, aides and advisors – and even his marriage partner! – now gird the current administration with their wise counsel.

Why Pakistan Won't Mount New Attacks On Militants

Page last updated at 16:15 GMT,
Thursday, 21 January 2010
Courtesy Of The BBC News

With its announcement that it will launch no new offensives against the Taliban in 2010, Pakistan's army appears to have opened a new innings in its favourite game with the West, says the BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan in Islamabad.

For the United States, the statement by the Pakistan army could not have come at a worse time.

Its main intelligence agency, the CIA, is still coming to terms with the death of seven personnel in a suicide attack in Afghanistan by an al-Qaeda "double agent".

That attack, the worst suffered by the agency in four decades, was apparently planned and carried out by Taliban militants in Pakistan's tribal areas.

Under pressure from the US, the Pakistan army launched an operation there in the main Taliban stronghold of South Waziristan in November 2009.

The army has since been able to secure that territory and push out the militants.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton wants Pakistan to target militants in Baluchistan

While some have been captured, most senior Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders have fled the region.

Intelligence officials say they have now taken refuge either in other nearby tribal regions or the neighbouring Balochistan province.

Mission Impossible

Top US officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have been calling for the military to go after the militants in these regions.

All this comes at a time when Pakistan's government is already under a great deal of domestic criticism.

This is mainly due to increased missile strikes by the US targeting Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders in the tribal areas.

These have turned a sometimes ambivalent tribal population against the Pakistan military.

Analysts say the tribesmen see the strikes, which have claimed more lives of civilians than of militants, as contiguous with the military operation.

But US officials have continued to press for more action, painting doomsday scenarios for Pakistan.

The latest such warning comes from US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, who said in India that al-Qaeda was planning to carry out attacks to provoke war with Pakistan.

But the Pakistan military appears to have its own views on the subject, and their say is likely to count the most.

Pakistani troops hold their positions at a hilltop post in Shingwari, an area in the troubled Pakistani tribal region of South Waziristan (Oct 2009)
Pakistani troops hold their positions on a hill top in South Waziristan.

Their latest decision is likely to sends shivers through all Western capitals which have a stake in Afghanistan.

For Washington, in particular, the military's U-turn will have far-reaching consequences.

Without Pakistani soldiers pressurising the Taliban in the tribal areas, it will be mission impossible for US forces in Afghanistan.

Diplomatic Wrangling

Even with the additional 40,000 troops, it will not be possible to contain the insurgents.

With 2010 already being called a defining moment in the current conflict, the military has risked the all-out ire of the US with its decision.

But it appears to have thought out the move, given that it has gone public at a time when the US defence secretary is in Pakistan.

The military believes it has strong reasons not to move against the militants.

Many senior military officials have been angered by what they see are recent moves by the US and the UK to expand India's involvement in Afghanistan.

They see this as being specifically targeted against Pakistani interests.

There is also the matter of promised US aid to Pakistan, most of which has been delayed due to diplomatic wrangling.

US officials say much of the aid has been held up because of delays in processing visas for officials attached to the projects.

US army officer during exit a helicopter during an air assault operation on the town of Oshaky  in Afghanistan
Without Pakistani offensives, will it be mission impossible for US forces?

But Pakistani intelligence officials say that many of these officials actually end up involved in activities "beyond their charter of duties".

In common parlance, its means the officials are seen as spies.

Extremely Unhappy

The military's decision has also put the Pakistan government, with which it has been at odds of late, in an embarrassing position.

The military's unhappiness at the government stems from what it sees as its pandering to US demands at every turn.

One example which intelligence officials quote at liberty, is the manner in which US special forces personnel are allowed to enter and move around Pakistan without being documented by immigration.

Officials say the military is extremely unhappy with the interior ministry on this count.

The shaky PPP-led government, for its part, is too busy rolling from one political crisis to another to really take this matter in hand.

On a more direct note, Pakistan's military has also been demanding that the US give it more advanced helicopters and transfer its drone technology.

They say as the frontline state against the Taliban, such equipment is needed for greater success.

The US has, however, rejected these demands so far.

Muslim Police Blast Official Anti-Terror Strategy

Source: Agence France-Presse
Thu Jan 21, 3:08 am ET
Courtesy of Yahoo News

LONDON (AFP) – Muslim police have attacked the government's anti-terrorism strategy for triggering an upsurge in Islamophobia and deepening divisions in communities.

The National Association of Muslim Police (NAMP) warned that the Prevent programme, which aims to combat violent extremism, was "stigmatising" Muslims by focusing on "so-called Islamist extremism."

The group said the real threat came from the growing far-right movement.

"The hatred towards Muslims has grown to a level that defies all logic and is an affront to British values," said the association in a written submission to a parliamentary commission examining the anti-terror initiative.

"The climate is such that Muslims are subject to daily abuse in a manner that would be ridiculed by Britain, were this to occur anywhere else."

There may be a "connection in the rise of Islamophobia and our Prevent programme as it feeds on the stereotypes that the media and some rightwing parties promote," the group said.

These stereotypes were that "all Muslims are evil and non-trustworthy", added the officers.

Community cohesion may have suffered as a result of the strategy, said the association, which has more than 2,000 members and was founded in July 2007.

They also highlighted the growth of rightwing movements as a threat that needed greater attention.

"The impact and growth of the far-right and its ability to carry out terror acts cannot and should not be underestimated," said the association.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Dark Revelations In The Bagram Prisoner List

By: Andy Worthington
Tuesday 19 January 2010
Courtesy Of Truth Out

On Friday, the ACLU secured a significant victory in its campaign to secure information about the prisoners held in the US prison at Bagram airbase, Afghanistan (known as the Bagram Theater Internment Facility), when the Pentagon released a list of the names of the 645 prisoners who were held on September 22, 2009.

Even so, at first glance the document appears to be of little use. Names - spooling out like some randomly generated version of an Afghan census - are all that this heavily redacted list provided. When the FOIA request was first filed in April 2009, the ACLU asked the Obama administration "to make public records pertaining to the number of people currently detained at Bagram, their names, citizenship, place of capture and length of detention, as well as records pertaining to the process afforded those prisoners to challenge their detention and designation as 'enemy combatants.'" However, as Melissa Goodman, a staff attorney at the ACLU, explained in a statement accompanying the release of the list on Friday:

Releasing the names of those held at Bagram is an important step toward transparency and accountability at the secretive Bagram prison, but it is just a first step ... Full transparency and accountability about Bagram requires disclosing how long these people have been imprisoned, where they are from and whether they were captured far from any battlefield or in other countries far from Afghanistan.

Nevertheless, on close inspection, this apparently bland and uninformative list is rather useful. Although no dates or places of capture are provided, the list is clearly chronological, with the prisoners' numbers (beginning at 1201) following on from the numbers used for the last of the regular prisoners transferred to Guantánamo from Bagram in October 2003 (Mohammed Mussa, prisoner 1165). The first three names, it should be noted, refer to prisoners released from Guantánamo, who were subsequently recaptured, but in at least one of these cases - that of Hafizullah Shabaz Khiel - there are serious concerns that the US authorities have seized an innocent man for a second time.

This correspondence between the prisoners' numbers reinforces the comparison between the two prisons, but emphasizes the gulf that actually exists between Guantánamo, where the prisoners have had access to attorneys since 2004, and have, in 32 out of 41 habeas corpus petitions in the last 16 months, secured court victories ordering their release, and Bagram, where no civilian lawyer has set foot, and the reach of the courts has not yet been established, and is fiercely disputed.

In March 2009, after pioneering work by lawyers at the International Justice Network, Judge John D. Bates - a George W. Bush appointee - ruled on a habeas corpus petition submitted on behalf of four prisoners held at Bagram for between five and seven years: Redha al-Najar, a Tunisian seized in Karachi, Pakistan, in May 2002; Amin al-Bakri, a Yemeni gemstone dealer seized in Bangkok, Thailand, at the end of 2002; Fadi al-Maqaleh, a Yemeni seized in 2004; and Haji Wazir, an Afghan businessman seized in the United Arab Emirates in 2002.

In his ruling last March, Judge Bates concluded that the writ of habeas corpus, granted to the prisoners at Guantánamo by the Supreme Court in June 2008 (in Boumediene v. Bush), extended to foreign prisoners seized in other countries and rendered to Bagram, because "the detainees themselves as well as the rationale for detention are essentially the same."

As I explained at the time, Judge Bates was clearly correct, because "only an administrative accident - or some as yet unknown decision that involved keeping a handful of foreign prisoners in Bagram, instead of sending them all to Guantánamo - prevented them from joining the 779 men in the offshore prison in Cuba."

Judge Bates' ruling affected only the foreign prisoners rendered to Bagram. After deferring judgment in the case of Haji Wazir, he ruled in July that Boumediene did not extend to any Afghan in Bagram (even those, like Haji Wazir, who were rendered from other countries). Reprising doubts he had expressed in March, he essentially agreed with the government's claim that to do so would cause "friction" with the Afghan government, because of ongoing negotiations regarding the transfer of Afghan prisoners to the custody of their own government.

Despite the logic and clarity of Judge Bates' ruling about the rights of foreign prisoners rendered to Bagram, the government appealed, and, two weeks ago, the court of appeals convened to hear oral arguments for and against the ruling. As The Washington Post described it, the Justice Department argued that Bates' ruling was "flawed," because Bagram is in "a highly active war zone," and "dealing with federal court proceedings would hamper the war effort and complicate diplomatic relations with the Afghan government," but two of the judges were clearly interested in working out if Judge Bates' ruling could be applied within narrow parameters. As the Post explained, Judges David S. Tatel and Harry T. Edwards pushed Tina Foster, one of the men's lawyers, to "craft an argument that would limit the reach of habeas corpus to just her clients at Bagram," because of their concern that "granting such rights to the Bagram prisoners would extend habeas corpus to military bases across the globe."

The court of appeals' ruling is not expected for several months, but, in the meantime, the newly released prisoner list provides the first opportunity to try and work out the identities of the other foreign prisoners - thought to number around 30 in total, based on statements made by US officials to The New York Times in January 2008 - who have also been held at Bagram for many years. What makes this all the more pressing is the strong suspicion that a number of the foreign prisoners, including the three men mentioned above, were part of the CIA's "black sites" program, and were held in various secret prisons in Afghanistan - or elsewhere - before their eventual transfer to Bagram.

According to Abu Yahya al-Libi, an al-Qaeda member who escaped from Bagram in July 2005, two of the men were tortured in a number of secret prisons in Afghanistan, run by the CIA, before they were moved to Bagram, and the third was rendered to Iraq. In a report that is no longer available online, but which I discussed in my book "The Guantánamo Files," al-Libi wrote that al-Bakri was held in the notorious "Dark Prison" near Kabul, another prison in the Panjshir valley and another prison identified as "Rissat," before being moved to Bagram, that al-Najar was also held in the "Dark Prison," the Panjshir prison, "Rissat," and another prison identified as "Rissat 2," and that al-Maqaleh was sent to Abu Ghraib before Bagram.

Al-Libi identified 12 prisoners in total - all of whom, according to his account, passed through the secret prison network - and although four of these men ended up in Guantánamo, the whereabouts of the other five are unknown, and only two can be tentatively identified from the prisoner list:

Lutfi al-Arabi al-Gharisi may be Abou Hudeifa, a Tunisian identified as a "ghost prisoner" in "Off the Record," a report by various human rights groups that was published in June 2007. Al-Libi identified him as Abou Houdayfa, but noted that his real name was Lotfi. Captured in Peshawar, Pakistan, at the end of 2002, he was reportedly held in several CIA prisons in Afghanistan, including the "Dark Prison," before being moved to Bagram.

Salah Mohammad Ali may be Salah Din al-Bakistani (the Pakistani), who, according to al-Libi, lived in Doha, Qatar, was captured in Baghdad in 2004, and was held in Abu Ghraib and an unidentified "torture prison" before his transfer to Bagram.

Of the other three men mentioned by al-Libi, two - Issa (a Tunisian) and Abu Naseem (a Libyan) - were also mentioned in "Off the Record," while the third, Abdelhaq al-Jazairi, an Algerian picked up in Georgia, has not been mentioned outside of "The Guantánamo Files." Al-Libi wrote that he feared al-Jazairi had been sent to Algeria - and it may well be that he and dozens of other prisoners held by the CIA, whose current whereabouts are unknown, were sent back to their home countries.

These men were among the 94 prisoners mentioned by Assistant Attorney General Stephen Bradbury in one of the Office of Legal Counsel's notorious "torture memos," written in May 2005 and released by the Obama administration last April, and there are suspicions that a number of "ghost prisoners" were sent back to their home countries in 2006. A significant example of this process is Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, the CIA's most notorious ghost prisoner. Rendered to Egypt in 2002, al-Libi falsely confessed under torture that there were connections between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, which were subsequently used to justify the invasion of Iraq. After several further renditions, to "proxy" prisons and others run by the CIA, he was returned to Libya, where he died, allegedly by committing suicide, in May last year.

However, although it is probable that a number of former ghost prisoners have been repatriated to face death or further detention, it is not inconceivable that some prisoners were not included in the list because they are being held elsewhere - perhaps in a corner of Bagram to which the list does not extend.

One indication that this is so is the apparent omission from the list of Amanatullah Ali, a Pakistani who was seized by British forces in Iraq in 2004 and rendered to Bagram. His detention in Bagram has been confirmed through letters to his family, and his story, which was told by David Rose in Britain's Mail on Sunday on December 9, is significant not only because it sheds light on the British government's complicity in the Bagram rendition program, but also because it reveals the extent to which depriving the prisoners of the right to challenge the basis of their detention perpetuates the same mistakes that were made at Guantánamo.

A rice merchant, Amanatullah Ali, who had been on a business trip to Iran, was seized in Baghdad after deciding to visit some holy sites in Iraq. According to the British Defense Secretary John Hutton, who conceded in February 2009 that Ali and another Pakistani - Salahuddin, who is probably Salah Din, mentioned above - had been transferred to US custody in Bagram, both men were regarded as members of the Pakistani terrorist group Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT). In Ali's case, however, this is impossible, because he is a Shia Muslim, and, as his lawyers at Reprieve have explained, LeT is "a Sunni extremist group that views all Shia as heretics, and is currently conducting a violent campaign in Punjab to dispossess Shia Landlord lords such as Mr. Amanatullah."

This analysis of the prisoner list only begins to scratch the surface of Bagram's dark secrets, but I hope that it provides a useful starting point for further questions about the whereabouts of the 30 foreign prisoners mentioned in January 2008 and others held in the CIA's network of secret prisons, and that the case of Amanatullah Ali demonstrates why it is irresponsible to allow the Bush administration's detention policies to go unchallenged.

In a second article to follow, I'll look at what the list reveals about how prisoners at Bagram are still not held according to the Geneva Conventions, and what it doesn't reveal about other prisoners transferred from Bagram to Afghan custody, or to a US-refurbished block in Kabul's main prison, Pol-i-Charki. I'll also examine claims that the Obama administration has not fully abandoned the "rendition" program, and may be trying to avoid further litigation by handing Bagram over to the Afghan government.

Andy Worthington is a journalist and the author of "The Guantanamo Files" (Pluto Press), the first book to tell the stories of all the prisoners in Guantanamo. He maintains a blog here.