Saturday, February 23, 2008

Water Tortures, Then and Now

Karen J. Greenberg, the executive director of the NYU School of Law's Center on Law and Security and the editor of three books on torture and the war on terror, looks at the history of waterboarding as it is depicted in Prague's Torture Museum and finds that neither the practices nor the rationalizations have changed much from medieval Europe to modern America.

Monday, February 18, 2008

"Baseball Brings Smiles to Their Faces"

Today's Los Angeles Times brings the story of a Cambodian genocide survivor who is working to ensure that baseball will take root in his homeland.

Joe Cook, who was born Joeurt Puk in Cambodia just five years before the Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975, has raised over $300,000--much of it his own money--to take a sport he came to love as a young refugee in the United States back to his home. The Times' Kevin Baxter writes:

Cook . . . has spent the last five years trying to turn the former killing fields of his homeland into fields of dreams for a generation that has known little more than war, poverty and despair.

Along the way he's lost his life savings, his car and nearly his marriage. And, Cook insists, some people in Cambodia would like to see him dead.

"I want to walk away from this. I do. But these kids," he said, pointing to a photo of three shoeless children in torn clothes toting bats and gloves through a rice paddy, "baseball brings smiles to their faces."

In December, thanks to Cook, Cambodia fielded a national baseball team for the first time in the Southeast Asian Games in Thailand. It was a milestone as inauspicious as it was historic: Cambodia's first four hitters struck out without even touching the ball, and it took four games for the team to get its first hit.

But, as Cook noted, "winning is nothing. The biggest deal is we showed up."

Read the whole story here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Backtracking on Torture

John McCain squandered his reputation as a principled opponent of torture with his vote earlier today on the Intelligence Authorization bill. Kevin Drum tells us why he had to do it.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Waterboarding the Mentally Ill

Michael Hayden, director of the CIA, testified before Congress today that the United States waterboarded three terrorism suspects in 2002 and 2003: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks; Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the Al Qaeda operative who allegedly planned the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000, and Abu Zubaydah.

Who is Abu Zubaydah? On April 9, 2002, speaking to the Connecticut Republican Committee, President Bush had this to say about him:

The other day we hauled in a guy named Abu Zubaydah. He's one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States. He's not plotting and planning anymore. He's where he belongs. (Applause.)

Journalist Ron Suskind, however, found a different assessment of Abu Zubaydah among the experts. According to Suskind (in The One Percent Doctrine), the FBI's principal Al Qaeda expert, Dan Coleman, told one of his superiors, "This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality." And yet he was tortured--or waterboarded, for those who, unlike Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell, don't mind a little water up their noses--and his coerced testimony was thought to be trustworthy. In fact, Director Hayden told reporters today that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah provided a quarter of the CIA's information on Al Qaeda derived from human sources.

FBI Director Robert Mueller was also present at today's hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Someone should have asked him if his agency concurred with the CIA in its assessment of the utility of waterboarding the mentally ill.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Modern Genocides and Global Responsibility

Cal State University-Long Beach is hosting a conference February 11-13, on "Modern Genocides and Global Responsibility." Speakers will include Ishmael Beah, author of A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Child Soldier; Dr. Francis Deng, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities; Immaculee Ilibagiza, a Rwandan genocide survivor; filmmaker Socheata Poeuv; and film director (Screamers) Carla Garapedian. The conference will also include panel discussions, music performances, and film screenings. All event are free and open to the public.

For a complete schedule and other details, see the conference web site here.

Mann in Malabo

As expected, Simon Mann was extradited to Equatorial Guinea early Thursday morning shortly before his attorney filed a final appeal with Zimbabwe's Supreme Court. Mann is believed to be in the notorious Black Beach Prison in the capital city of Malabo.

Mann once told his attorney that if he were to be extradited to Equatorial Guinea, "I will be a dead man."

Friday, February 01, 2008

Missing Mann

A day after losing an appeal in his effort to avoid extradition to Equatorial Guinea, Simon Mann has disappeared from the maximum security prison in Zimbabwe where he was being held. There is concern that authorities in Zimbabwe may have flown Mann to Equatorial Guinea overnight without notifying his family or his attorney.