Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority

For the full report, see here.

SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE INQUIRY INTO THE TREATMENT OF DETAINEES IN U.S. CUSTODY

Executive Summary

What sets us apart from our enemies in this fight… is how we behave. In everything we do, we must observe the standards and values that dictate that we treat noncombatants and detainees with dignity and respect. While we are warriors, we are also all human beings
— General David Petraeus
May 10, 2007

  • The collection of timely and accurate intelligence is critical to the safety of U.S. personnel deployed abroad and to the security of the American people here at home. The methods by which we elicit intelligence information from detainees in our custody affect not only the reliability of that information, but our broader efforts to win hearts and minds and attract allies to our side.
  • Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists are taught to expect Americans to abuse them. They are recruited based on false propaganda that says the United States is out to destroy Islam. Treating detainees harshly only reinforces that distorted view, increases resistance to cooperation, and creates new enemies. In fact, the April 2006 National Intelligence Estimate “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States” cited “pervasive anti U.S. sentiment among most Muslims” as an underlying factor fueling the spread of the global jihadistmovement. Former Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee in June 2008 that “there are serving U.S. flag-rank officers who maintain that the first and second identifiable causes of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq – as judged by their effectiveness in recruiting insurgent fighters into combat – are, respectively the symbols of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.”
  • The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of “a few bad apples” acting on their own. The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees. Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate  intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority. This report is a product of the Committee’s inquiry into how those unfortunate results came about.

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To understand how we get there, we first need to understand how we got here.

President Obama’s remarks at Georgetown University on the economy, April 14, 2009.

It has now been twelve weeks since my administration began. And I think even our critics would agree that at the very least, we’ve been busy. In just under three months, we have responded to an extraordinary set of economic challenges with extraordinary action – action that has been unprecedented in both its scale and its speed.

I know that some have accused us of taking on too much at once. Others believe we haven’t done enough. And many Americans are simply wondering how all of our different programs and policies fit together in a single, overarching strategy that will move this economy from recession to recovery and ultimately to prosperity.

So today, I want to step back for a moment and explain our strategy as clearly as I can. I want to talk about what we’ve done, why we’ve done it, and what we have left to do. I want to update you on the progress we’ve made, and be honest about the pitfalls that may lie ahead.

And most of all, I want every American to know that each action we take and each policy we pursue is driven by a larger vision of America’s future – a future where sustained economic growth creates good jobs and rising incomes; a future where prosperity is fueled not by excessive debt, reckless speculation, and fleeing profit, but is instead built by skilled, productive workers; by sound investments that will spread opportunity at home and allow this nation to lead the world in the technologies, innovations, and discoveries that will shape the 21st century. That is the America I see. That is the future I know we can have.

To understand how we get there, we first need to understand how we got here.

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Avast! Ahead be windbags!

This is lifted from the Guardian Talk website. It made me laugh,and I hope it amuses you too.  These are parody responses attributed to various right wing and conservative pundits to the dramatic rescue of Captain Richard Phillips who was held hostage by pirates last week.  Arrr.

brooklyny – 03:40am Apr 13, 2009 GMT

shamelessly stolen from a poster at The New Republic: what Republican commentators have to say about the rescue of the captain —

Rush Limbaugh: Why did it take a Democrat days to accomplish what a Republican president would have accomplished in hours?

Sean Hannity: Piracy is a direct result of a liberal philosophy.

Ann Coulter: It’s obvious the whole thing was staged to bolster Obama’s abysmal poll numbers.

Michelle Malkin: At least 2 of the pirates were seen in the crowd at Obama’s inauguration.

Glenn Beck: Can pirates in Kansas be far behind!!!

Lou Dobbs: This never would have happened with a wall separating America from the rest of the world.

Bill O’Reilly: Secular progressive pirates are pinheads.

Tim LaHaye: This was all predicted in the Book of Revelations.

Sarah Palin: We can see pirates from Alaska.

Bobby Jindal:Pirate cells in America are all in the blue states.

Michael Steele: Rush and I both agree the Republican party platform should denounce pirates.

The creationist loonies have lost in Texas

Phil Plait reports that the creationist loonies trying to sabotage the science curriculum in Texas have only managed to scrape a 7-7 tie on a vote to incorporate a bogus “strengths and weaknesses” clause into the State’s science teaching standards.  Without a vote to carry the amendment, it fails.

Science has scored the narrowest of victories over the most blatant ignorance and stupidity.

They always lose, but they never give up.  The battle against this avoidable and self-inflicted damage goes on.

“The system is inherently defective”

Statement by Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico on signing into law an Act repealing the death penalty and substituting life imprisonment without parole for capital offenses:

“Regardless of my personal opinion about the death penalty, I do not have confidence in the criminal justice system as it currently operates to be the final arbiter when it comes to who lives and who dies for their crime. If the State is going to undertake this awesome responsibility, the system to impose this ultimate penalty must be perfect and can never be wrong. But the reality is the system is not perfect — far from it. The system is inherently defective. DNA testing has proved that. Innocent people have been put on death row all across the country. Even with advances in DNA and other forensic evidence technologies, we can’t be 100-per cent sure that only the truly guilty are convicted of capital crimes. Evidence, including DNA evidence, can be manipulated. Prosecutors can still abuse their powers. We cannot ensure competent defense counsel for all defendants”

Bill Richardson, a former advocate of capital punishment, was later interviewed at length by Rachel Maddow, and you can see the interview here. New Mexico is the first state to repeal the death penalty since New Jersey in 2007.

These are great days..

Church shooting is a warning to the extreme right hate-mongers. Will they heed it?

I want to say a word about the more extreme conservative American broadcasters and writers like Rush LimbaughAnn Coulter, Michael SavageBill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity.  I think they have done their country a disservice.
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US to lift federal embryonic stem cell funding ban?

Welcome news from Reuters: the White House has announced that the US President is to sign an executive order on Monday on the subject of stem cell research.

In view of Mr Obama’s stated opinions on the matter, most sources are speculating that he is to lift the federal ban on funding of embryonic stem cell research on new lines, which was imposed by President George W. Bush.

On this assumption, Bloomberg reports that scientists and health advocates are excited and predicting that the action will accelerate the pace of essential medical research.

I’d prefer to wait until Monday before I start celebrating, but the ban on funding is an international disgrace and it is imperative that it be lifted, and obviously the Obama administration is painfully aware of the years wasted by the previous science-hating administration.

Taking a punt

I’m going to take a great big punt on “Conservative” Republican ambitions:

  • go hell for leather on opposition to abortion
  • pretend that spending won’t end the depression
  • deny, deny, deny again, global warming

It isn’t going to work. An administration promised good times for eight year and delivered ashes.  Global warming is now universally recognised as a problem and only die-hards deny it.  Abortion is about the contents of your womb, not the opinion of some godbotherer.

The Republicans must find new ambitions.  These ones got old and died

Bobby Jindal, the face of the new GOP, demonstrates how isolated the party has become

One of the rising stars in the Republican Party, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal was tipped as a possible running mate of John McCain and is now seen as one of the main players in the party’s bid to rebuild for a congressional comeback in the mid-terms and to mount a challenge to President Obama in 2012.

On the face of it he’s a good candidate: Jindal is an able politician with a good record, who as governor in 2008 oversaw, with Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans, the huge evacuation and preparations that saved hundreds of lives during the landfall of Hurricane Gustav.

But underneath it all, Jindal is still in hock to the religious right.  He has opposed embryonic stem cell research, abortion, gay marriage, refused federal aid in hate crimes investigations, and promoted the teaching of creationism.  During his time as a student he attended an “exorcism”, a procedure in which a young woman was detained and assaulted by people professing religious motives.  Such characteristics, as Sarah Palin found to her cost, are only attractive to the Republicans’  base of religious extremists.  To everybody else, they raise serious questions about a politician’s fitness for office.

More recently, Jindal has made some more serious faux-pas, announcing that Louisiana would reject state unemployment relief provided by the federal stimulus package.  Thus in a state already hit hard by natural disaster, the most vulnerable families are placed needlessly in hardship by the stupidity of their own governor.  Governor Jindal was also chosen to make the official Republican response to Obama’s stimulus proposals.  He was severely criticised for his poorly chosen words, particularly in a clumsy aside, so mind-bogglingly stupid that it might have come from Senator McCain, about volcano monitoring.

This week Obama’s poll ratings improved, largely as a result of a rally among Republican voters. The GOP needs to get its act together.  Revisiting the follies of the old Republican party, in new clothing, will not work.

I am pleased that Binyam Mohamed has today returned to the UK following his release from Guantanamo Bay

Statement by David Milliband, Foreign Secretary, on the return of Binyam Mohamed to British soil:

I am pleased that Binyam Mohamed has today returned to the UK following his release from Guantanamo Bay. This is the direct result of our request for his release and return, and follows intensive negotations with the US Government. Mr Mohamed was accompanied by FCO officials, officers of the Metropolitan police and the doctor who visited him at Guantanamo Bay last week. We have been in touch with Mr Mohamed’s family and legal representatives to inform them of his return.

The UK Government requested the release and return of all former legal UK residents detained at Guantanamo Bay in August 2007. In reaching this decision we have paid full consideration to the need to maintain national security and the Government’s overriding responsibilities in this regard. (FCO Press Release, February 23, 2009)

See also FCO Press Release, February 20, 2009