Russia's Novaya Gaeta newspaper has published the last article written by murdered journalist Anna Politkovskaya. It's a short, yet unsparing, look at the use of torture on Chechens accused of terrorism. Even if you haven't been following Russia's long, brutal anti-terrorist campaign in Chechnya, the piece rings some depressingly familiar themes. The New York Timeshas a translation. It's worth a read:
Before me everyday are dozens of filescopies of the criminal cases of people jailed for "terrorism" or of those still under investigation.
Why is the word "terrorism" in quotation marks? Because the overwhelming majority of these people are designated terrorists. The practice of "designating terrorists" did not simply supplant in 2006 some kind of earnest anti-terrorist war. It came to breed on its own potential terrorists and a desire for vengeance. When prosecutors and the courts work, not for the sake of the law, but on political commission and with the only goal of providing good reports for the Kremlin, then criminal cases are baked like pancakes.
An assembly line producing "open-hearted confessions" effectively guaranties good data on the war on terror in the North Caucasus. ...
The practice of designating terrorists is the area in the sphere of "counterterrorist operations in the North Caucasus" where, head to head, two ideological approaches clash: Are we, the lawful, fighting against the unlawful? Or, are we battling "their" lawlessness with "ours?" This clash of approaches is guaranteed to exist for the present and future. The result of this "designation of terrorists" is the increase in number of those who won't put up with it.
Via Secrecy News, we learn that the Bush administration just cranked out a new National Space Policy. Much of it's similar to Clinton-era policy, but there are some stellar exceptions. Like this one:
The previous policy prudently reserved judgment "on the feasibility
and desirability of conducting further human exploration
activities" beyond the International Space Station in Earth orbit.
But in a rhetorical flight of fancy, the new Bush policy purports
to adopt a new national "objective of extending human presence
across the solar system," no less.
Less fanciful, yet more predictable, is the insistence that "The United States will oppose the development of new legal regimes or other restrictions that seek to prohibit or limit U.S. access to or use of space." In other words, in space no one can hear you whine about international law.
In his current column, Wall Street Journal pundit Bret Stevens recounts this story of Condi Rice meeting with the paper's editors last year:
[...] she said that she had telephoned George W. Bush as she flew out of Baghdad on her (then) most recent visit: "Mr. President," she said (and I quote from memory) "this is going to be a great country."
Meanwhile, there's new evidence of just how far from greatness Iraq really is. A new study [PDF] in the Lancet finds that over 600,000 Iraqis may have died in the wake of the American invasion. This, as the Journal reports, is considerably higher than any previous figure, including the "30,000, more or less" that President Bush tossed out last December. That figure, as Adam Shemper wrote in the May/June issue of Mother Jones, came from Iraq Body Count, a website that has been diligently tallying reports of civilian deaths. But IBC uses a conservative, media-based approach, while the new report from Johns Hopkins uses a statistical model known as "cluster sampling." No doubt there will be plenty of academic and partisan sniping about what the real number is. Whatever the final figure, it's a stark reminder of the daily barrage of violence facing average Iraqis. Stephens notes that Rice did not repeat her "great country" story when he met with her recently. He chooses to remain optimistic. "Perhaps she feels that way still: It would be distressing indeed if she did not." But wouldn't it be just as distressing if she still thought Iraq is on the path to greatness?
Update: In this morning's press conference, Bush said he doesn't believe the report is credible and is "amazed that this is a society which so wants to be free that they're willing toyou know, that there's a level of violence that they tolerate."
John Kerry continues to put the finishing touches on his 2004 campaign strategy:
Kerry said he is concerned that Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is again resorting to "the politics of fear and smear." [...]
"We're not going to give them an ounce of daylight," said Kerry, who is considering another run at the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008.
The senator said his response to the commercials in 2004 was not strong enough.
"We thought the fact that the truth was out there was enough," he said. "Clearly it wasn't."
OK, so Kerry finally gets that his non-response to these attacks was pathetic. But does he think that if he runs again he'll get Swift Boated in the same way he did in 2004? And what exactly is his big plan for fighting back, besides actually paying attention next time? No doubt there will be a brilliant strategy unveiled by 2010.
This just in: Kerry thinks of snappy comeback to 5th-grade school-yard taunt.