Truth and Consequences
Here’s some of what I learned from this week’s Newsweek.
The opening words of an item headlined Secret Memo: Send To Be Tortured…(find this story by searching the Periscope section)
“An FBI agent warned superiors in a memo three years ago that U.S. officials who discussed plans to ship terror suspects to foreign nations that practice torture could be prosecuted for conspiring to violate U.S. law, according to a copy of the memo obtained by NEWSWEEK.”
The closing words…
“officials have confirmed that 65 detainees have been transferred from Guantanamo for further detention or prosecution by foreign governments, including 29 to Pakistan, seven to Russia, five to Morocco and four to Saudi Arabia—countries the State Department criticizes for practicing torture.”
From the feature How to Fix School Lunch (find in the Society section) which brings the encouraging news of American schools districts finally working to make school lunches more healthy:
“Fast-food companies now spend $3 billion a year on television ads aimed at children.”
Inexplicably, inexcusably, this feature does not credit the movie Supersize Me with helping spur education boards into action – though it does reference superchef Jamie Oliver’s reality TV show set in a London primary school.
And from Anna Quindlen‘s Last Word column on the crisis America may face from returning War vets… (Find this story online by searching through Columnists)
More than a million men and women have served in war zones since the terrorist attacks of September 11. The percentage of those wounded on the battlefield who have survived is the highest in the history of combat.
While we dwell on the prospect of a million Vets returning home, many with serious injuries, the number of people dying senselessly in Iraq seems to increase by the day. Last Sunday, journalist and author Steven Vincent had an OpEd published in the New York Times which entitled Switched Off In Basra . In it, he questioned the laissez-faire attitudeof British forces in southern Iraq, where local police forces are becoming dominated by religious zealots.
Fearing to appear like colonial occupiers, [the British] avoid any hint of ideological indoctrination: in my time with them, not once did I see an instructor explain such basics of democracy as the politically neutral role of the police in a civil society. Nor did I see anyone question the alarming number of religious posters on the walls of Basran police stations. When I asked British troops if the security sector reform strategy included measures to encourage cadets to identify with the national government rather than their neighborhood mosque, I received polite shrugs: not our job, mate.
The result, Vincent stated, was the emergence of death squads.
An Iraqi police lieutenant, who for obvious reasons asked to remain anonymous, confirmed to me the widespread rumors that a few police officers are perpetrating many of the hundreds of assassinations – mostly of former Baath Party members – that take place in Basra each month. He told me that there is even a sort of “death car”: a white Toyota Mark II that glides through the city streets, carrying off-duty police officers in the pay of extremist religious groups to their next assignment.
The following story sadly appeared in yesterday’s New York Times , just three days after Vincent’s op-ed foretold his own death.
Mr. Vincent and his Iraqi interpreter were kidnapped on Tuesday evening in Basra, Iraqi and American authorities said yesterday. His body was found north of the city center hours later, and a hospital official said he had been shot three times in the chest. The interpreter, who was also shot, was hospitalized in serious condition.
That paragraph was preceded by these three. I can offer no further comment except sympathies to his family and admiration for a brave man.
For much of his career, Mr. Vincent, 49, a freelance writer, had covered the art world, including museums, auction houses and the antiquities trade. But in September 2001, when he scrambled to the roof of his apartment building in the East Village and saw the second airliner strike the World Trade Center, “I saw the face of evil in that moment,” he later told a friend.
Mr. Vincent resolved to go to Iraq, where he lived a hardscrabble life in a $15-a-day hotel and wrote articles about what he regarded as Islamic fascism. He compared his two trips to Iraq to the tours taken by journalists covering the rise of fascism in Europe during the Spanish Civil War.
Mr. Vincent wrote an account of his experience in Iraq after the American invasion titled “In the Red Zone: A Journey Into the Soul of Iraq” (Spence Publishing, 2004) and was at work on a contemporary history of the southern port city of Basra. He had planned to leave Iraq soon.