Mental instability

This is a terrible thing, and not suitable for frivolous bloggery. But judge for yourself:

Sergeant Hasan Akbar attacked other soldiers in his unit, the 101st Airborne, in March 2003, just before the division was to be sent to Iraq. He killed two and wounded others, and has now been convicted of premeditated murder. These statements are undisputed.

There is dispute over the state of his sanity, and the correctness of the verdict. And here's what caught my attention. His defense attorney, Major Dan Brookhart, said that (quoting the news story here) "the prosecution's depiction of Akbar as a cold-blooded killer ignored the fact that the defendant was sufficiently mentally ill -- though not insane -- to be confused and fearful about the impending invasion of Iraq."

How crazy can you get?

Horse: I'm not dead yet

Feeling much better, are you? All right then, WHAP.

A couple of weeks ago a couple of commission reports came out, on intelligence gathering and Abu Ghraib and all that. At one point the advice was given, that if some emergency required exceptional methods of interrogation, such things should be undertaken only by decision of the highest authorities, not by local commanders.

Well and good, but the learned commissioners omitted one significant thing: Torture is illegal, here and now, under the law of the United States, under all circumstances.

It's understandable that hardly anyone picked up on this fact from my previous posting on the Presidential policy for these matters. ("Just say no to torture") After all, it was imbedded in a document that some might think facetious, insisting as it does on the President of the United States as an upholder of the law. Perhaps if I had been more straightforward, they might have picked up on this point of law. Well, no, I suppose not.

Despite the fact that there are only three people in the world who understand this (as Eddington said, Who's the other one?) it's not really difficult. As one-two-three may be a bit of an intellectual strain for the highest level of our goverment, here it is, as simple as One Two:

  1. "This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding." -- Constitution of the United States of America, Article VI, clause 2. The italics are all mine, but you may borrow them if you like.
  2. "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture." -- Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Article 2, paragraph 2; ratified October 21, 1994 by procedures specified in the United States Constitution.


Yesterday the California state legislature moved slightly forward with respect to a bill legalizing assisted suicide. But that's not the story.

(But I have to point out to Someone that it's no longer true that no one knows or cares about anything Oregon does. No doubt it's just because California has taken up the issue, but international newspapers now use the phrase "Netherlands and Oregon.")

The Chronicle mentions that a respectable poll showed 70% of the population supporting the bill; this is said to improve its chances.

It also notes that there is opposition to the bill within the Democratic Party (notoriously the home of Godless immorality). This opposition "signals that the measure may have a difficult time getting support from a broader bloc of moderate Democrats..."

And there you have it, folks. To be a moderate means to be prudently just on the edge of the 30%. If you stray too far, setting foot directly in the 70% majority, you are some kind of extremist.

A word from the enemy

Today there's a piece on the Op-Ed page of the San Francisco Chronicle by Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who was commander of the military police organization that was in charge of Abu Ghraib. She has been suspended from command duties, and is the only Important person to have suffered any kind of disciplinary action in that affair.

Evil, evil, evil.

Easier to say than Scapegoat, scapegoat, scapegoat. (Three spondees in a row will never make a good rallying cry.) Which is the more accurate? Maybe one should read her statement.

Definitely one should read her statement. Allow for the fact that this career military officer is, in effect, fighting for her life. Then see what she's saying.

One sample: "Army Reserve Spc. Charles Graner Jr., tagged as the likely ringleader, was not so astute or familiar with the Arab culture to devise the humiliating acts and techniques demonstrated in the photographs." Never thought of that, myself; nor can I recall anyone else saying it. She goes on, "It is unlikely any military person designed or directed these photographs, because soldiers are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice and can face prosecution." I can't say how true that is; she may be biased in favor of the military; on the other hand, she knows a lot more about the military than I do. But which is a likelier suspect: the military, which does have some kind of code and is run largely by people with great pride in traditions of Duty, Honor, Country; or private contractors who officially and explicitly are accountable to no one in the world except the unaccountable secret bureaucracy that hired them?

Duhh, you knew that last part. But when you've read the rest of what she said, you will have an idea of why she was selected as Lord High Substitute to suffer for the sins of the people who were responsible.