The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Monday, December 18, 2006

War on Terror progress report

As we all know, the GOP has been taking away civil liberties in order to more effectively prosecute the 'War on Terror.' Seems like a fair exchange, and I'm sure those expanded powers wouldn't be used irresponsibly. So let's check today's news and see how things are going...

Case Study 1: It pays to be a whistle-blower.

The fluorescent lights in his cell were never turned off, he said. At most hours, heavy metal or country music blared in the corridor. He said he was rousted at random times without explanation and made to stand in his cell. Even lying down, he said, he was kept from covering his face to block out the light, noise and cold. And when he was released after 97 days he was exhausted, depressed and scared. (. . .)

The detainee was Donald Vance, a 29-year-old Navy veteran from Chicago who went to Iraq as a security contractor. He wound up as a whistle-blower, passing information to the F.B.I. about suspicious activities at the Iraqi security firm where he worked, including what he said was possible illegal weapons trading.

Oops! Ha ha! Well, mistakes can happen. At least we're good at keeping 'em on ice.

Case Study 2: If at first you don't succeed....

An American who served as Iraq's electricity minister before being jailed on corruption charges escaped today, a senior Western diplomat said. (. . .)

The deputy head of the commission, Faris Kareem, told The Associated Press that this was Mr. Alsammarae’s second escape. By Mr. Kareem’s account, a few days after his conviction, Mr. Alsammarae was stopped at the Baghdad airport, where he was attempting to leave the country with a Chinese passport.

Well, live and learn, I guess. And what are the odds that he'd escape a third time? Not very likely. And once you get to actual trial phase, it's smooth sailing. Right?

Case Study 3: I can never look at a rubber hose again.

Padilla's defense attorneys are asking the presiding judge to dismiss the case on the grounds of "outrageous government conduct." The abuse Padilla has endured while in custody, they contend, has so scarred him that he can no longer even discuss the case against him. They believe he has been rendered incompetent to stand trial.

The logic of the federal government's response to the defense motion was stunningly cold. The U.S. Attorney's office agrees that Padilla needs his competency evaluated. We didn't torture him, argue the representatives of the U.S. government, but if we did, and it made him crazy -- well, then, no claims he makes about said torture can be trusted. He is, after all, mentally incompetent.

But isn't just like a liberal to focus only on the bad news? I'm proud to announce the successful prosecution of a would-be mad bomber. And I don't mean those goofballs in Florida who were briefly-- but very loudly-- billed by right-wingers as criminal masterminds.

Now that I think about it, it's kind of strange that we haven't been hearing much about this counter-terrorism success story from the right-- wouldn't they really crave the publicity with the Taliban re-emerging in Afghanistan and Iraq a more deadly place than ever? I guess it depends on the terrorist...

Case Study 4: Oh, no! A success!

On Nov. 28 -- six days before the Times ran its photos of Padilla -- Demetrius "Van" Crocker was sentenced to 30 years in prison. David Kustoff, the United States Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, where Crocker was prosecuted, tells Salon that "It was one of the preeminent anti-terrorism cases of 2006 nationwide." Whether or not that is true, few outside of the greater Memphis metropolitan area have ever heard of Crocker. Only one reporter, John Branston of the weekly Memphis Flyer, even covered his entire trial. What is certain is that in every particular his case is a study in contrasts with the prosecution of Jose Padilla.

According to court documents, the investigation of Demetrius Crocker began in early 2004, around the time he told a man named Lynn Adams that Timothy McVeigh "[did] things right." Adams, who had met the Mississippi-born farmhand through a mutual acquaintance, began to hear from Crocker about his plans for mass murder. A resident of rural Carroll County, Tenn., an hour northeast of Memphis, Crocker told Adams he wanted to kill the black population of nearby Jackson, Tenn., with mustard gas and explode a bomb outside a courthouse. (. . .)

[Crocker] had made a version of Zyklon B, the gas used in the gas chambers in Nazi concentration camps, and he accurately described its manufacture. He had made nitroglycerin. He had the ingredients for a rudimentary bomb in his home, where he also kept several guns he told Burroughs he would use to kill any government agent sent to capture him. (. . .)

The U.S. Attorney's office repeatedly described Crocker as the McVeigh of West Tennessee. "He was Timothy McVeigh," said Kustoff after Crocker's conviction, "and every bit as scary." The jury deliberated just 45 minutes. On April 13, they found Crocker guilty of all five charges filed against him.

Terrorist? Check. Chemical weapons? Check. Islamofascist? Errrr, no. Right-wing white supremacist.