Monday, January 08, 2007

On a Monday, which was bound to suck anyway

Okay, so I'm writing this, and outside, it's gorgeous. The unpleasant, unseasonable mugginess of the past week is gone, as is the torrential rain we had yesterday; the sky is clear, the sun is shining like crazy, the weather is appropriately crisp, and I'm about to ruin my own day. Such a me thing to do. But the fact is, I've been saving things up during the holiday crush of non-blog-related program activities, and I shot my proverbial wad of good news on Friday, so now it's back to reality.

- Justice was served to Saddam Hussein before New Year's, not solemnly and by uniformed government agents but by hooded executioners in front of a cheering crowd. As was to be expected, video was shot and leaked by a witness with a camera phone, but it was the official photo of Saddam with noose around neck shown by the major media that led a 10-year-old Houston boy and a 9-year-old Pakistani boy, in separate incidents, to hang themselves in imitation of the images seen on TV. This is our legacy; welcome to 2007. (H/T Eschaton.)

- In other Iraq news, right-wing bloggers who doubted the existence of Jamil Hussein, the Baghdad police officer who acted as a source to the AP following a November attack on a Sunni mosque, now have an answer. The Iraqi Interior Ministry has confirmed that, contrary to previous report, Jamil Hussein is, in fact, an active member of the police force in Baghdad. He also faces arrest for speaking to the press. To quote Guardian Middle East editor Brian Whitaker, "Congratulations, bloggers. He won't be talking to AP again now."

- Anyone trying to justify, rationalize, or excuse the treatment of "unlawful combatants" in US custody might want to read reports of suspected terrorist and confirmed American citizen Jose Padilla's condition after what amounts to four uninterrupted years of solitary confinement and abuse.
[...] Padilla's lawyers contend that as a result of his isolation and interrogation, their client is so mentally damaged that he is unable to assist in his own defense. He is so passive and fearful now, they maintain, that he is "like a piece of furniture."

Even at this late stage, after dozens of meetings with his lawyers, Padilla suspects that they are government agents, says Andrew Patel, who is on the legal team. Padilla may believe that the lawyers assigned to represent him are in fact "part of a continuing interrogation program."


The experts believe that Padilla suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his isolation and interrogation. [...] Padilla is so fearful that he will not discuss his interrogation, will not look at videotapes of it and will not even review a transcript. In their view, he is not able to understand the significance of legal proceedings against him.

Doctors Say He's Not Faking It

There is no indication that Padilla is faking it, Hegarty says. To the contrary, Padilla denies that he has any problems and tends to identify with the government's interests more than his own.


Both Hegarty and Zapf administered a variety of objective tests to evaluate Padilla. While they found that he is able to understand the basic charges against him, he is "unable to assist" his attorneys because of his mental condition and the "paranoia" resulting from his treatment during two years of total isolation, followed by an additional year and a half of similar treatment. Zapf also suggested that Padilla may have suffered "brain injury." Both doctors noted his tics and spasmodic body responses.

The government adamantly denies mistreating Padilla, though it does not dispute the particulars cited in Padilla's legal papers. Rather, the government says its treatment of Padilla was humane and notes that it provided medical treatment when necessary. The government agreed to the additional psychiatric evaluation that has now been ordered by the judge.

Indeed, there are even some within the government who think it might be best if Padilla were declared incompetent and sent to a psychiatric prison facility. As one high-ranking official put it, "the objective of the government always has been to incapacitate this person."

In cases such as this, there are always concerns that certain interrogation techniques might, in the end, weaken the government's ability to prosecute the war on terror or protect the homeland by making key witnesses and testimony inadmissable. In Padilla's case, however, his incapacity to stand trial is likely to have little effect on homeland security. After all,
[e]ven former Justice Department spokesman Corallo concedes that in hindsight, Padilla was a bit player.

(H/T Hullabaloo and Balkinization.)

- And in other "How was I supposed to know the car would blow up when I filled it with TNT and pushed it off a cliff?" news is the report that the Bush administration was fully prepared to resettle 500 Iraqi refugees in 2007. Reality? It's estimated that tens of thousands of Iraqis are fleeing the country. Every month.
Until recently, the administration did not appear to understand the gravity of the problem.

I'm sure we're all shocked.

In the grand tradition of Heckuvajob Brownie, Bush's appointee to make it all better is Ellen Sauerbrey, whose extensive experience with humanitarian efforts and refugee crises includes work as Bush's Maryland state campaign chairwoman in 2000. Iraqi refugees in need of aid may want to question whether or not Katrinaland is the best administration to help them anyway.

- And in domestic news, those who missed it the first time around might want to make note that, through the magic of signing statements, our fearless leader has declared his right to open your mail without a warrant. The statement, one of over 400 written during the course of his presidency, "is contrary to existing law and contradicted the bill he had just signed, say experts who have reviewed it." In light of his previously asserted warrantless wiretapping powers, Bush now has a matched set of blatant civil liberties violations, which I'm sure he can use to bookend his outdated and useless copy of the Constitution.

(H/T Pandagon.)

- Did someone say "civil liberties"? Slate brings us the "10 most outrageous civil liberties violations of 2006."

In other news, I saw Children of Men over the weekend, and I must agree with Josh at Martians Attacking Indianapolis (best blog name evah, btw) that it was ridiculously powerful, certainly the best movie I've seen in the past decade (or, very possibly, "ever"), and that everyone should run out and see it right away. And then come back and talk with me about it, because I'm still trying to figure it all out.

Happy New Year once again. I do believe I asked for a better one this year.

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