Monday, May 17, 2004

Seymour Hersh has yet another installment in his Abu Ghraib chronicle, this one reporting that the abuse at Abu Ghraib was seeded by an off-the-books program authorized by Rumsfeld personally, which subsequently ran amok. The Department of Defense was quick with a statement which apparently denied Hersh's allegations -- and more than one sharp-eyed observer was just as quick to note that if you actually read the DOD statement closely, it didn't directly deny much of anything.

Then again, actual denials may be a bit of a problem for our military of late, after they denied having ever had Nick Berg in custody, and then rather quickly had to backtrack. And the general confusion about that story has fed a rash of speculation, as my readers are presumably aware. I hesitate to embrace the more extreme theories that are floating around, because even at this late date, having seen all that I have seen and things I could never have imagined, I still and all can't make myself accept that they could possibly be this fucking dumb. But there are more strange things about the Berg "beheading" video than Berg himself being dressed in an American orange prison jumpsuit; some of these look like reasonable questions to me.

And, having gone totally tinfoil-hat for a minute there, a brief note on current events, my analyses, and credibility thereof. I've been worrying about the possibility of Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani declaring a general ban on U.S. troops in response to the fighting in Najaf. But Juan Cole says here that it looks to him like Sistani is actively colluding with the Americans to try to take down Muqtada al-Sadr, who has worn out his welcome with the rest of the Shiite establishment, particularly in Najaf. Which, if true, would certainly explain why Sistani's response to the fighting so far has been limited to fatwas urging all the belligerents to take the fight out of town -- a far more practical proposal for the Americans than for the Army of the Mahdi. (That's as opposed to the Iranian theocracy, whose condemnation of the fighting is quite one sided -- and rather worrisome). Adjust your opinion of my sources and analysis accordingly.

One last thing -- as you may notice, I'm playing with blogger comments. We'll see how this works out...

More: Billmon offers yet another dissection of the Pentagon's non-denial denial of Hersh...

Yet more: Colin Powell now says we'd be willing to swallow a theocracy in Iraq, apparently a reversal of our former stance. Lambert at Corrente thinks this, too, was part of Sistani's price for allowing us our frolic in Najaf. I'm not so sure -- Sistani personally is not nearly as inclined toward direct theocracy as the Iranian mullahs (or, for that matter, Muqtada al-Sadr). But it's certainly possible...

Another update: Finally a concrete denial on the Hersh story, but it took them a while, and was preceded by a new version of the original statement (which may, for all I know, change again by the time you read this), which said that there are false statements in the Hersh piece someplace, but was still not terribly specific about which of Hersh's particular claims are actually false...

links via Marshall and Froomkin.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm

12:14 AM  

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