No Comment — June 19, 2007, 8:07 am

No Blood, No Foul

Sy Hersh published a must-read story in the New Yorker over the weekend about the experience of Major General Antonio Taguba. The story prompts many questions, and in particular it supports a new analysis of the interrogation techniques approved by JSOC–the Special Operations joint command. Plenty of evidence has emerged to support the proposition that JSOC has its own brutal, illegal interrogation rules. I also suspect that JSOC has been engaged in a U.S.-media-targeted disinformation campaign, although that remains to be proved.

I’ve been studying these issues for some time, and found Spencer Ackerman’s ruminations particularly relevant. Ackerman is asking the correct questions and demonstrating that the situation is, at the moment, very uneasy. And Andrew Sullivan’s series of posts reviewing the Hersh piece examine what the Hersh-Taguba piece tells us about the roles played by Rumsfeld, Bush and Abizaid among others. It’s ugly stuff, but essential reading.

As usual, the Hersh story offers us a frightening look deep inside the Pentagon that Rumsfeld built. Taguba’s characterization of the new military culture as a “mafia” is very chilling, and matches descriptions we have heard from many other retiring senior officers. This is a coarsely politicized Pentagon, and exactly the sort of institution that James Madison described as an existential threat to democracy.

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Editor's Note

Many comedians consider stand-up the purest form of comedy; Doug Stanhope considers it the freest. “Once you do stand-up, it spoils you for everything else,” he says. “You’re the director, performer, and producer.” Unlike most of his peers, however, Stanhope has designed his career around exploring that freedom, which means choosing a life on the road. Perhaps this is why, although he is extremely ambitious, prolific, and one of the best stand-ups performing, so many Americans haven’t heard of him. Many comedians approach the road as a means to an end: a way to develop their skills, start booking bigger venues, and, if they’re lucky, get themselves airlifted to Hollywood. But life isn’t happening on a sit-com set or a sketch show — at least not the life that has interested Stanhope. He isn’t waiting to be invited to the party; indeed, he’s been hosting his own party for years.

Because of the present comedy boom, civilians are starting to hear about Doug Stanhope from other comedians like Ricky Gervais, Sarah Silverman, and Louis CK. But Stanhope has been building a devoted fan base for the past two decades, largely by word of mouth. On tour, he prefers the unencumbered arrival and the quick exit: cheap motels where you can pull the van up to the door of the room and park. He’s especially pleased if there’s an on-site bar, which increases the odds of hearing a good story from the sort of person who tends to drink away the afternoon in the depressed cities where he performs. Stanhope’s America isn’t the one still yammering on about its potential or struggling with losing hope. For the most part, hope is gone. On Word of Mouth, his 2002 album, he says, “America may be the best country, but that’s like being the prettiest Denny’s waitress. Just because you’re the best doesn’t make you good.”

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