Wednesday, July 16, 2008

US to Station Diplomats in Iran

By Farol

Well, this is a genuinely unexpected turn of events. From The Guardian:

The US plans to establish a diplomatic presence in Tehran for the first time in 30 years as part of a remarkable turnaround in policy by President George Bush.

The Guardian has learned that an announcement will be made in the next month to establish a US interests section - a halfway house to setting up a full embassy. The move will see US diplomats stationed in the country.

The news of the shift by Bush who has pursued a hawkish approach to Iran throughout his tenure comes at a critical time in US-Iranian relations. After weeks that have seen tensions rise with Israel conducting war games and Tehran carrying out long-range missile tests, a thaw appears to be under way.

The White House announced yesterday that William Burns, a senior state department official, is to be sent to Switzerland on Saturday to hear Tehran's response to a European offer aimed at resolving the nuclear standoff.

Futher, Ahmadinejad is not opposed to the idea of talking with the U.S.

It seems, on the surface at least, that the more "rational" factions of the administration and the military (Gates, Rice, Mullen, etc.) have won a significant victory over the bloodthirsty-deranged faction led by Cheney.

How will this play out? In one of two ways: either this is a genuine diplomatic overture that will lead to a "thaw" in relations with Iran in the near future, or it's a complete front designed to silence those critics who have called for more diplomacy with Iran (Iran will inevitably refuse to meet some kind of unattainable "demand" set by the U.S., Bush and company will say "I told you so", and then tell us that war is now the only option).

It's almost impossible not to be cynical about anything Bush does, but we can at least hope for the best. Actually, at this point, that's pretty much all we can do.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

U.S. Derived Torture Techniques From Communist China

By Farol

Torture is once again on the front page today, as the New York Times reveals that the "coercive methods" (including sleep deprivation, stress positions, and exposure to extreme temperatures) currently used on "terrorism suspects" at U.S.-controlled secret prisons around the world were "copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them false, from American prisoners."

(Note to the NYT: when the Chinese did these things, I'm pretty sure they were called "torture", not "coercive methods". And a significant number of U.S.-held detainees are not "terrorism suspects" at all. Many, in fact, have no credible evidence against them.)

There's sure to be a lot of hand-wringing about this (how low we've fallen!), but one important aspect that will probably be missed is that, according to the Air Force article, the Chinese torturers who first implemented these techniques were FULLY AWARE that they were eliciting false confessions. Therefore, it's fair to conclude that the higher-ups who initiated these techniques in U.S.-controlled prisons knew they were bound to produce, uh, bullshit.

Why would the U.S. government want to deliberately extract false confessions from its detainees? To create the impression of a vast horde of terrorists who are out to get us, thus justifying ongoing war and occupation all over the Middle East, perhaps?