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May 9, 2004

While you’re at it, don’t think of an elephant. Pentagon staff are being ordered not to read the Taguba report. Yes, that’s right, the same report that’s now been published all over the place.

As that left-wing peacenik publication Time Magazine observed, “it’s not exactly every day that the Pentagon warns military personnel to stay away from Fox News.”

Meanwhile, if you haven’t done so already, pour yourself a stiff drink and settle down to Seymour Hersh’s latest. [11:05 PM]

Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on While you're at it, don't think of an elephant.:

FranW ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2004, 11:16 PM:

Well, gosh. Just....gosh.

Okay, putting this together with the previous story-thread (while desperately searching for any kind of metallic lining to the very, very black cloud we are now living in):

If I want to create a character who is even stupider than he is despicable, and this character is going to communicate in text, I should model his writings on those of the Pentagon top-brass.

Bryan D. ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2004, 11:34 PM:

If they don't read the report, they can't comment on it which reduces sources. If they read it and comment they can be punished.

Of course I seem to remember this technique being addressed in the last Harry Potter book and the result was rather the opposite.

[sorry...had to take a break...the picture of Donald Rumsfeld as Dolores Umbridge...ah, puns]

This is another incompetent attempt to control what cannot be controlled. The barn is empty, not even the mice remain, shutting the door is pointless.

Nancy Hanger ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2004, 11:39 PM:

Does the Pentagon really not know that the report is online in numerous places, not just on that oh-so-dangerous Fox News site? (Or perhaps whoever penned it was that stupid and no one else checked before the memo was released. Ya gotta wonder.)

Ron In Portland ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 12:06 AM:

And now they are going to have a public trial for an enlisted man in the hope that will keep the wolves away from the real culprits at the top.
U.S. Sets Public Baghdad Court Martial in Abuse Case

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A 24-year-old military policeman will face a public court martial in Baghdad next week, the first of seven American soldiers to be tried on charges of abusing Iraqi prisoners, a U.S. military spokesman said Sunday

Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 12:09 AM:

Or whoever wrote it only pays attention to Fox News, and doesn't figure that there are any other media worth mentioning.

I'm not sure which is a scarier scenario.

mac ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 12:13 AM:

You sure you got that sourced right? Time Magazine? Sure it's not The Chestnut or The Onion?

Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 01:04 AM:

Don't do it at work looks like good advice to me.

I've seen some hassle when people mingle classified and unclassified like an attorney who doesn't know trust from firm money.

Nothing quite like flashing classified material on screen in a PowerPoint presentation for a large group and then saying I didn't think it mattered cause my actual source was already open.

Don't overlook the Hersh link
"the Joint Chiefs of Staff and civilian officials in the Pentagon continued to insist that future planning be based on the most optimistic scenario."

Do we have no capability to deal with realistic scenarios?

They know better - classic case Japanese war gaming of the Battle of Midway had umpires reversing outcomes, something they were unable to do in reality.

Is this an admission of defeat in which the best we do is to throw the dice and hope for a low probability event?

Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 02:11 AM:
They know better - classic case Japanese war gaming of the Battle of Midway had umpires reversing outcomes, something they were unable to do in reality.
Well, the Pentagon did that themselves when they were war gaming the actual invasion of Iraq. The General they had running the Iraqi side was something of a specialist in running the Red Team, and he kicked the invading forces' ass. So they stopped the simulation, un-sunk our fleet, and began again, at which point he hammered the "landed by fiat" forces. So they stopped it again, ordered him not to do the things he had just done, and started over. Repeat while necessary.

When we actually launched our invasion, we proceeded with a very risky plan of attack, not only starting a full division short of our order of battle, but running up the river valley so fast that our forces were deliberately cutting their own lines of supply into shreds (I remember hearing about fleeing refugees taking pity on our troops and giving them food and water, which has to set some kind of record in the "World Turned Upside-Down" sweepstakes). It was a plan which was heavily optimized for the assumption of immense stupidity and incompetence on the part of the Iraqi forces.

Of course, history had showed that it was a safe assumption, as the Iraqi army has been arguably the most incompetent large army on the planet for close to forty years now — and, indeed, it proved to be a correct assumption this time, as well — but it was still kind of scary to watch the invasion in progress and immediately recognize, just by watching CNN, that a halfway competent opponent could easily cause horrific damage to our army.

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 02:13 AM:

From the Hersh article:

A company captain in a military-police unit in Baghdad told me last week that he was approached by a junior intelligence officer who requested that his M.P.s keep a group of detainees awake around the clock until they began talking. “I said, ‘No, we will not do that,’” the captain said. “The M.I. commander comes to me and says, ‘What is the problem? We’re stressed, and all we are asking you to do is to keep them awake.’ I ask, ‘How? You’ve received training on that, but my soldiers don’t know how to do it. And when you ask an eighteen-year-old kid to keep someone awake, and he doesn’t know how to do it, he’s going to get creative.’”
Ah, that's what it was - creativity.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 02:50 AM:

Err. I'm not getting the Hersh article, just a big black box inside their nifty frame. I hit re-load. Went the the home page and tried from there. Emptied my cache and tried again. Nothing. Anybody got a suggestion?


Marrije ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 06:39 AM:

Mary Kay, I think The New Yorker was having some problems: earlier today I only got the big black box, too. It's back now, though.

bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 07:17 AM:

Folks, folks! Just saw this at Army Times: Not only do they have the Taguba report on their front page with specific directions to *READ IT*, they also have the Defense Counsel's rebuttal and counter recommendations as to why the dudes there did nothing wrong!

Prison abuse report
Read the report on the Article 15-6 investigation of prisoner abuse by the 800th Military Police Brigade at Abu Ghraib Prison, Iraq. Read the rebuttal by defense counsel.

This is *news* to me! They're both in pdf format. The rebuttal is 4 pages long and has gems like this:

Request that the findings and recommendations of the subject investigation relating to BG Janis L. Karpinski be set aside and no additional adverse action taken. The 800th Military Police (MP) Brigade (Bde) under the command of BG Karpinski successfully accomplished every mission assigned despite being under strenght and under-resourced.

2. I respectfully disagree with the findings and recommendations of the Investigating Officer. As will be shown below, the evidence contained in the report of investigation does not support the findings critical of BG Karpinski. Because the evidence does not support the findings the recommendations cannot be found to be consistent or supportable...

The lawyer is Fred P. Taylor, LTC, JA, Regional Defense Counsel. Anyone know the guy?

BTW, I went to check out Army Times again based on Democratic Veteran's remarks, and their poll on who is to blame is up to about 3500 respondants from about 1500 the other day. (Overwhelmingly *both* is the answer.) There's a lot of new stuff on that blog, including people saying they didn't have to obey Karpinski because she was a woman...

Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 08:29 AM:

Fred P. Taylor is identified as "defense counsel."

The argument he presents appears similar to the one put forward by the defense attorney for one of the grunts accused of being one of the Iraqi Seven: we didn't have enough people, we didn't have enough control ("no replacement mechanism, graf 3c--which is itself an indictment of the BG's policy if you believe that a general who allows a group to be "operating significantly below full strength, not getting replacements, and received [read: accepting] additional mission" is derelict in duty), and didn't know what we were doing ("non-doctrinal mission").

The quaintest part of it is graf 3f, which states in part "The finding of a lack of continuous Geneva Convention training...are without merit." I think I'll wait patiently for Rush Limbaugh to cite that sentence.

Considering Taylor's letter a rebuttal, instead of a searing indictment of the whole CF, is a difficult step. At least for those of us who do not get deeply into defence legalities.

Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 08:38 AM:

And, on a more humorous note, is anyone else disoriented slightly that the e-mail memo is from "Daniel [read: Danny] Dunn"?

Mike Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 10:27 AM:

There's a thought wandering through my head, looking for a place to settle down. Something about "horses" and "barn doors".

bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 11:11 AM:

Ken, yeah, exactly my thinking on why the Army Times put it up there in conjunction. They knew what message it would send to all the people who are saying "poor devils, it's not their fault the situation was so chaotic."

I wonder if by remote chance anyone here knows him personally - that could be interesting.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 12:37 PM:

I've now read the Hersh article. About halfway through I turned to Jordin and said, "I want to hurt Donald Rumsfeld. I want to remove his skin with a dull knife." About 2/3 of the way through I turned to him and said, "No, I want to strip him naked, take his glasses, and turn him over to the famlies of men tortured and abused in Abu Gharib."

Dammit, I'm no better than they are.


Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 01:05 PM:

I am reminded that a junior officer's revolt out of Portuguese Angola helped change Salazar's government and out of Algeria impacted the French Republic (both ways)

Some actions by junior officers build and some tail off pending later changes (Halsey drunk at Okinawa and officers comparing notes on the Kamikazes Halsey denied were a threat).

To what extent do we have an officer's revolt?

Janet Miles ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 02:54 PM:

Dammit, I'm no better than they are.

Mary Kay, I respectfully disagree. *Wanting* to do something awful is not the same as *doing* it, and your choice to not act on the evil impulse does make you better than them.

Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 04:31 PM:

Well of course folks might use a dull knife, even commonly reversing the knife and working with the handle to separate large chunks suitable for lampshades - the idea Zen butcher style is not to cut into separate pieces but to make apparent the existing separations. (see e.g. the golfball technique for pulling the hide off a deer)

I'd wager the image is more from Willow peeling her lover's killer than from any real desire to get bloody up to the elbows.

I'd say the focus on one of "the six morons who lost the war." - ["the folks in the Pentagon are talking about the wrong morons"] and not the nature of the act (Shades of Jimmy Carter - lusted in my heart) is more significant in determining morality.

John Ciardi who had some claim to being a civilized man, even reaching the heights of writer and editor both, tells of realizing his military unit was a mob and he a willing part of it.

Personally I figure Hobbes not Rousseau so I'm hardly shocked to hear savage not noble. I knew a long time ago most people are housebroken for civilized society but perfectly capable of any animal behavior you might imagine. Me too.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 11:12 PM:

Janet: Of course, he's not easily available to me. I'm not sure what I'd do if he were.

Clark: No, not from Willow. There is, in fact, one other person I've desired to skin with a dull knife, and that was in 1987. Well before Willow. And I might add, I also expressed the desire to add salt and vinegar as I go.

No, really. Sometimes I'm Not a Nice Person.


Michael ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 11:44 PM:

Mary Kay, you may be a civilized primate, but you're still a primate. The question isn't whether you have violent urges -- that comes with the genome -- but what you do with them. The worst of us act on them. The best of us don't. Simple as that. The only shame would be to fail to admit to them and thus eliminate the empathy they can provide. Evil people are human, too, and arguably need love more than good people. Christ dug that.

That said, Rumsfeld's a special case. It's interesting to try to understand what motivates him, if only to try to eliminate that deviation from humanity forever -- but love remains beyond me. If you need somebody to hold him down while you search the kitchen for a sufficiently dull knife, let me know.

NelC ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2004, 05:12 AM:

Mary Kay, even if you did it, you'd still be better than them. You only want to torture horribly one person (well, two including that one from 1987) who, I think we can agree, is guilty of all sorts of foulness. They've locked up and tortured hundreds (at least), a large proportion of whom were guilty of nothing more than being in a place raided by US Marines.

Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2004, 07:06 AM:

One part of one of Clive James' books of essays has stuck with me for quite a few years. He wrote that he couldn't be sure that if he had been brought up in a regime like the Nazis, he would not end up like a prison camp guard. This thought haunted him for some years. (Also mentioned elsewhere.)

Under different circumstances, we "know not what we may be". Luckily for MaryKay & most of us, we are seldom or never put in quite that bad a situation, but it is something to keep in mind when you are looking at different issues in your life.
There's a character in Babylon 5 called Zack Allen (a-z?) who represents the ordinary person, confused & caught in a difficult & dangerous time. Rewatching bits of this series on DVD release has been a rather spooky experience over the last few years.

Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2004, 08:10 AM:

Don't for a moment think that the contemplation of sin is the same as the committing of it. That's the way They think, rememember - the self-righteous fundamentalists, the ones with God on their side, who want the government so small it fits in your bedroom. (And then only if it's You Not Them doing the contemplating.)

In Marat/Sade, Peter Weiss has the Marquis say, "I am capable of anything, and everything fills me with horror." I've been thinking of that line a lot lately, both in light of the nasty wastes of oxygen who turned Abu Ghraib into their own little private Silling (and their loathsome masters back home), and my own feelings about what I'd like to do to people like them.

(Lynndie goat-f*cking England has brought shame on me twice, both for my country and for the state I want to be proud to have grown up in, and she did it with a gleeful smirk - the worst trash of both places. Given half an hour, a locked room, and no consequences, I can't vouch for what I wouldn't do. I'm not proud of that, but there you go.)

Of course, the real Citizen Sade got himself in trouble during the Terror for refusing to carry out the death penalty. Or own ancien regime just looks worse and worse by comparison. Congratulations, George, Dick, Rummy: the Divine Marquis, by fuck, was a better man than the lot of you.

Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2004, 01:27 PM:

I thought this was an interesting sidelight to the matter.

Yesterday, the GOVDOC-L list (for Federal Depository librarians, including yr hmbl correspondent) was reporting that the Government Printing Office had created formal, official links to the NPR site for the Taguba Report.
NCR's site:
GPO's sites: http://purl.access.gpo.gov/GPO/LPS48727 http://permanent.access.gpo.gov/lps48727/prison_abuse_report.pdf

Today it was reported on the list that "Both PURL and URL have been disabled for "security reasons". If you click on either you can see this message:
Reason for Change: this PURL has been disabled for security reasons; however it is still stored on .permanent server and can be relinked as needed. Taguba Report; sent to .permanent for cold storage jkd"

But when I tried them just now, I only got that message from the PURL. The other "permanent" URL just reported in a "not found" message.

Meanwhile, another site for the Red Cross report is

Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2004, 04:06 PM:

On the war games front we will be ready if we have to fight the last war next time:

CARLISLE BARRACKS, PA -- When the U.S. "blue" forces in a recent war game declared the end of major combat, commanders were surprised by how quickly the opponent adapted.

The opposing "red" team in the joint and multinational game called "Unified Quest" was able to redefine the war, employing "irregular" combat tactics, such as dispersing its troops into a mass of civilians and taking refuge in the anonymity of a mock Southwest Asian capital.

"That created an asymmetry of approach that the two teams opposing one another started to play out. Each side hasn't it figured it out," Maj. Gen. James Dubik, director for joint experimentation at U.S. Joint Forces Command, said May 5 -- four days into the game at the Army War College here."
emphasis added.

Of course kill them all remains a viable and appealing strategy. Worked with the Old Man of the Mountain and the cult of the assassins.

Marines have had good success with strikes at the leadership in other irregular conflicts (there's likely a better word?) other places.

Turn it over and get out may indeed be the best current strategy in Iraq but what is the best future global strategy?

Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 06:20 AM:

Can people think of examples in other times & places that throw light on the problem of 'irregular conflicts'?

All those wargamers out there, perhaps? Has there been a wargame that had guerilla &\or terror tactics? Or 'serious students'. Not my subject.

Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 09:56 AM:

Professional wargame, or the kind you can buy in a games store? (There's some overlap, but not very much, and of course none at all for the kind of live-action wargame referred to above.)

For the latter, there have certainly been games which cover guerilla warfare. How successfully they do so is hard to say (especially for me, as I haven't played any of them). For the former, I don't know. Most professional wargames I have heard about focused more on NATO vs. Warsaw Pact conflicts and the like, but then most of my information comes from the 1980s.

Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 01:39 PM:

Clark, I think you're confusing strategy and tactics. One question is on a tactical level, and concerns the military: if we get into an assymetrical conflict, what's the best way to deal with it? The other question is on a strategic level: given that we have not yet found a really good military answer to assymetrical conflict, should we perhaps look for other ways of dealing with such situations, and make a greater effort not to get dragged into military responses to them?

Bryan D. ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2004, 01:43 AM:

A clarification on what was going on which brings the matter into focus:

Someone apparently sent Fox News the entire report including the classified addenda, which are not in general distribution and do contain real information that actually needs to be classified as it deals with sources and methods.

There are slight differences between the Fox version and the officially released version indicating that it is probably an earlier draft and they are trying to track the source of the leak.

Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2004, 01:34 PM:

Point of Information: Army Times (and the other "service" Times) is not a publication of the US Army, it is a targetted publication of Gannett.

They know the audience they serve, and I am of a mixed mind as to the motive for the rebuttal. I would, if pressed, wager it's an attempt at fairness and balance.

If I were to hazard at ulterior motive, I guess they think most troops are not happy with the events, as related, and that they will see the Karpinski defense as shallow.

Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2004, 03:36 PM:

Back at you - strategy drives tactics but grand strategy as say Mr. Heinlein used the term drives strategy - here both strategy and tactics can be military while grand strategy moves beyond the military option. Actually I meant global in the sense of a solution beyond local without particular reference to this earth of ours. Not sure how to define the problem set.

There was a time technology was quickly dominant. Guatamala with the broadcast radio and a few P51s, Greece and a squadron of SB2C Helldivers. Similarly there was a time and place where a decapitation stroke could be delivered by a Marine with a 1911 and a bankroll. None of these is applicable today but they seem to be the only choices on the menu.