No Comment — June 21, 2007, 8:15 am

Re-open the Abu Ghraib Investigation

The dean of the Pentagon press corps, Joe Galloway, says that in light of the disclosures this week of Secretary Rumsfeld’s lies about the Abu Ghraib investigation and how it was stopped short of the obvious conclusions, it’s time now to re-open the investigation and get to the bottom of things:

As the investigations unfolded, it was clear that the primary motivation of most of them was to protect Rumsfeld and the president from any blame or responsibility for what had transpired at Abu Ghraib. Blame, unlike cream, settles as close to the bottom of any bureaucracy as can be arranged. For his honesty in revealing what he uncovered in Iraq in his report and in testimony before Republican-controlled congressional committees, Tony Taguba found himself sidelined for a decent interval, then forced to retire. The president and the secretary of defense expressed their shock and surprise that a few rogue reserve military police soldiers – a few “bad apples” – had treated prisoners in their charge so badly.

That when it was obvious that President Bush and his White House counsel Alberto Gonzales had done everything they could to unleash military and CIA interrogators from the constraints of the Geneva Convention and common human decency. There are those who know that Rumsfeld himself ordered Maj. Gen. Geoff Miller, who ran things at the detention center at Guantanamo, Cuba, to take a “tiger team” of specialists in rough interrogation techniques to Abu Ghraib in the summer of 2003 and share their knowledge… The president and his men, and Rumsfeld and his, happily put Abu Ghraib behind them and went merrily along knowing that the network of secret CIA prisons where high-value prisoners were subjected to extreme interrogation techniques was still secret.

The examples made of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki and Gen. Taguba weren’t lost on military commanders in the field or at home: If you dare speak truth to power in this administration, your career is toast, and any hopes you have of landing a cushy job in one of the defense industry behemoths are finished. It’s long past time for Congress to reopen the matter of who’s really responsible for Abu Ghraib and let the chips fall where they may – even if that means they pile up around the retirement home of a former secretary of defense or the gates of the White House itself. How many more high crimes and misdemeanors will be revealed in the months to come? How long is it going to take to clean, polish and restore the White House and the Pentagon and all the other agencies of our government when this bunch moves out? Let’s begin right here by serving subpoenas on all the rats that are lining up to skitter down the hawsers of a sinking ship, and getting to the TOP of all the sorry scandals of this administration, one by one.

Donald Rumsfeld and Geoffrey Miller lied incessantly about the Abu Ghraib case almost from the start. And indeed, their lies hardly stopped there. Everyone who was following the case at the time was fully aware of this. However, Congress failed to exercise oversight and to press issues. At one point, Senator Warner, who was preparing for hearings on the subject, had a sudden meeting with Dick Cheney. When it was over, the plans for hearings with real witnesses and questions were over. You have to wonder: what exactly did Cheney say to Warner to produce that abrupt change? In any event, Galloway is right – this is all about serious crimes. There is no statute of limitations. But it’s time to get to the bottom of what went on.

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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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