Monday, April 24, 2017
Going on with the Abu Ghraib "abuse" photos at www.antiwar.com/news/?articleid=8560 --
When we move down to the next picture, #5, it begins to look familiar. To the right, in a corner formed by a spotty concrete floor, one apparently plastered wall and one wooden wall, kneels a man in an orange jumpsuit with his hands behind his back. He has a narrow, tanned face, close-cropped dark hair, and a somewhat dismayed expression that doesn't quite look natural. To the left, fairly close to the wooden wall, stands a medium-sized black dog, facing the kneeling man. The dog is standing with its legs straight, not pulling forward or back. Its ears are half-cocked back, its mouth is partly open with its tongue partly out, and it's panting. Its expression is calm and patient, and it has a pad of grayish callus on its visible elbow, showing that it spends a lot of time lying down on rough surfaces. It's wearing a narrow chain-link collar with nothing visible attached, and a wide leather collar with a leash attached. Holding the leash taut, standing beside and somewhat behind the dog, is a man in a desert-camouflage uniform, a thick flak-vest, black gloves and a tan knit cap. He has a grayish five-o'-clock shadow, and his face is slightly more pink and less tanned than the kneeling man. The focus and resolution are sharp and clear, and the coloration is natural. The lighting is strong and bright, and is coming from above and somewhat to the left. That's all we see.
Yet at least two of these figures are familiar; we saw that dog, and the man holding its leash, in the first photo -- in a similar pose, but with much worse lighting and resolution. In fact, the man in the orange jumpsuit in photo #5 looks very much like the supposedly-naked man in photo #1, but we can't be sure because the lighting and resolution are so poor.
The text accompanying the photo says (emphasis mine): "A US soldier in a flak jacket appears to be using both hands to restrain a dog facing an Iraqi detainee in the Abu Ghraib prison."
"Appears"? The dog is standing four-square, not pulling against the leash, calm and panting. There's nothing but his darker tan to indicate that the man in the orange jumpsuit is even Iraqi, and nothing to prove that he's actually a detainee. He doesn't look believably frightened, and -- despite that soldier's two-handed grip on the leash -- the dog doesn't look threatening. In short, this picture looks staged.
Now compare this with photo #1. Despite their position in the list, there's reason to think that photo #5 was taken first -- and that is its "stagey" look. Photo #1 appears more brutal and "abusive" precisely because the lighting, focus and resolution are so bad that we can't see any details clearly. Since all the other photos in the series are quite clear, so we can only assume that this mis-focus is deliberate, done to cover up the "detainee's" shortcomings as an actor -- not to mention the dog's.
Again, why? Consider the real story of Abu Ghraib as revealed by both the army's and the Red Cross' investigations as we venture further into the collection of photographs. Stay tuned!
Sunday, April 16, 2017
(I thought I'd best hurry up and publish this before the media comes up with more headlines about Trump.)
Moving on with the Abu Ghraib photos at www.antiwar.com/news/?articleid=8560 --
The third photo down shows an odd image: a naked man (we can assume from his muscular shoulders, despite his broad buttocks) with pale skin and dark hair, his back to the camera, standing with his arms outstretched and his legs crossed, in the middle of a bare corridor lined with barred doors. His legs are visible down to the ankles, which wear manacles, and we can see part of a chain between them. The man is splattered with brown stains, from the back of his head to his buttocks, with streaks on his legs down to his ankles and on his arms down to thick smears on his outspread hands. The smears are exactly where we would expect them to be if the man had fallen on his back, with his arms outstretched in front of him, into a large puddle of mud and then wiped off what he could reach with his hands before being stopped.
The corridor is clearly inside a prison unit; beyond the naked man we can see two men's hands and forearms, darkly tanned, wearing broad white wristbands, sticking out from between the bars. The arms are resting on the doors' crossbars, and the hands are relaxed. At roughly the same distance beyond the naked man stands another man, dressed in military boots, camo pants, medium-wide black belt, brown T-shirt, and apparently black gloves on what we can see of his partly-concealed hands. His skin is pale, but darker than that of the man in the foreground; his face and neck are slightly-sunburned pink, but his forearms are tanned -- though not so darkly tanned as the arms sticking out of the cells. He has dark hair and a mustache, and is holding an 18-inch long black tapering rod in his visible hand. There is no one else in the corridor, and he has no other visible weapons. The light is coming from apparently neon lamps above the doors, but primarily from somewhere near or behind the camera. The photo-resolution is crisp and clear, and the color is naturalistic.
This is what we see, and all that we see. Now, what does it mean?
The added caption (emphasis mine) claims, cautiously: "A baton-wielding US soldier, appears to be ordering a naked detainee covered in a 'brown substance' to walk a straight line with his ankles handcuffed."
But is it really? Note that lawsuit-evading "appears". Also note the coyly emphasized "brown substance", meant to imply manure rather than mud. In fact, the supposed detainee is not walking a straight line but crossing his left foot to the right of his right foot -- a dancing move -- and this may be a quibble, but his ankles are wearing manacles, not "handcuffs"; handcuffs will not fit around the average human ankle, and have little or no chain between them. The man further down the corridor may well be a US soldier, and the rod in his hand may well be a light expanding baton, but is the man in the foreground a "detainee"? Note the evidence of the suntanned forearms.
The soldier has a slightly-pink face and neck, showing that these usually avoid the hard sunlight of the region, but his forearms have clearly endured a lot of it. One gets this pattern by going out in the sun as little as possible, and then only to drive a vehicle; that's commonly known as a "truck-driver's tan". This could be expected of a prison guard. The forearms sticking out of those barred doors are much more darkly tanned, as if they belonged to people who had spent their whole lives -- and probably their ancestors for six generations had too -- living in that climate. Given what prisoners Abu Ghraib got, we can safely assume that these belong to real POWs -- and they're carefully watching what those two men in the corridor are doing. I think, given the fact that there's an unseen cameraman present, that this was planned. In other words, this is a show put on for the benefit -- and intimidation -- of the prisoners, whose culture has a fascinated horror of nudity.
Now let's look closer at that supposed "detainee" in the foreground. Note that despite the excellent musculature of his shoulders, arms, and legs, he still has that broad butt -- as if he'd been trained to very good physical condition, but then spent most of his working day sitting in an office chair. Also note that, out of everyone present, he's the only one with untanned forearms; they're as pale as the rest of him -- which is paler than anyone else. There's not even a trace of slight sunburn. What this spells is that he's not an Arab; he's part of the military, but an office-worker. We can't see the front of him, but I'd guess that it's likewise plastered with mud -- to disguise the fact that he's not really a "detainee". This scene was staged. Precisely because there was a cameraman present, I suspect that it was not planned only for the benefit of the prisoners.
So just why, and for whom, was this picture taken? For that matter, why were all the rest of them taken?
For that we'll have to reconsider the army's (and Red Cross') Abu Ghraib report -- and look at more of those photos, with an analytical eye. More to come. Patience!
Saturday, April 1, 2017
Since Rasty loves to listen to MSNBC, I've been obliged to spend much of the day listening to the bellwethers of the Liberal Media gloating over bits of rumors about possible transgressions of Trump and the Russians (and yes, they do make it sound like the name of a disreputable rock-band). Oooh, Trump concealed this, one of his staff avoided mentioning that, and Flynn's Asking For Immunity before he'll testify to one of the half-dozen or so Investigative Committees. You can almost see them drooling, over really no evidence, so sure that when they finally dig up the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth they'll be able to throw Trump out of office and put Hillary in.
*Sigh* You'd think they'd know better. For one thing, throw out Trump and what you'll get -- Constitutional law is quite clear about this -- is Mike Pence. Are you sure you want that, Rachel Maddow? For another, there's no solid evidence there -- just hints, innuendo, and a bunch of amateurs' procedural mistakes -- like Nunez going straight to the White House to tell Trump & Co. that yes, there is evidence that somebody really did some "electronic surveillance" inside Trump Tower sometime.
Now I'm sure that Obama never really called anybody from the FBI and told them "Go tap Trump's phones"; no, nothing so direct. But consider that historically the FBI has supported Democrat administrations (while the CIA has supported Republican ones), that there are plenty of federal, state, county and even municipal police departments with the capacity and legal permission to use "electronic surveillance" and the willingness to earn brownie points with the FBI. Also, in their eagerness to lambast Trump, various of these agencies have admitted that they were following "some of Trump's people" around, looking for a "Russian connection"; nothing would be easier than to walk somebody into the building wearing a wire.
For that matter, it wouldn't be necessary to walk anyone inside at all. 'Way back when I was a student war-protester and Hippie activist (never mind how many years ago that was!) the local police Red Squad spied on our apartment simply by parking an unmarked car out front and aiming a shotgun-microphone at our front room window; even in those days, they had microphones sensitive enough to pick up the vibrations of voices bouncing off window-glass. We had to conduct political business and grass-buys in writing while singing along with the radio. I leave it to your imagination how spy technology has advanced since then. Yes, I'm sure that somebody spied on Trump Tower. Just what they heard is another story.
Remember, whatever else Trump is (con-man, sloppy speaker, jockish horn-dog, and plenty more), he's not a fool. However close he skirts to the edge of the law, he's managed -- in all these years as a somewhat-shady businessman -- never to go provably over that edge, at least not far enough to ever get slapped with more than a bearable fine. Recall that the forensic bookkeepers who went over the books for his foundation were impressed at how every penny was accounted for, every time and date of every activity meticulously recorded, and verified. Also recall that he grew up during the days of the Cold War, and purely as a businessman he would have known about the dangers of dealing with the Russians.
Never mind where I picked up this information; let's just say that as a political activist, a Wobbly, and a filksinger, I've talked to a lot of interesting people, in interesting places, under interesting conditions. Also I've noticed that Russians, who can slug down Russian (or even Polish) vodka as if it were water, become surprisingly relaxed and merry after just a few shots of good golden whiskey. Anyway...
Anyone who's done any kind of business in Russia knows the following facts: culturally, politically, and economically, Russia is the world's largest Third-World Country. Economically, it's been staggering one step ahead of disaster for a century, and often enough it stumbles; then we see (as we often have!) Russia unable to even feed its own people, obliged to buy grain from its oft-proclaimed worst enemy. 28 years ago we saw it collapse completely, taking the USSR with it. Glasnost happened because Russia needed to make friends in a hell of a hurry, simply to keep its people from starving to death. For years afterward, the Russian government could not pay its army. Soldiers and officers had to moonlight at any jobs they could get, and sold their uniforms, insignias, various weapons, even furniture, anywhere they could -- even on the budding Internet. Half the country's economy ran on barter, and more than a quarter of it still does. The factories that are still running work at 50% capacity, on average. The farms work because the managers ignore political policy and let the working staff use as much of the communal land as they want for their own crops, often seeded from their own personal gardens (which have been the mainstay of Russian agriculture for more decades than any government official wants to admit). Worse, actual production quality is wretched, and not just because so many working stiffs show up hungover on Monday; they also commonly have vodka for lunch, and afternoon production drops off precipitously in quantity and quality. This is true of all mass manufacturing, including military. At any given time, at least 15% of Russia's weaponry, from nukes on down, doesn't work. The non-military production is worse. And that's just the economy.
The way the Russian government has kept up its facade as a super-power is by making a major industry out of constant propaganda, "showoffsky" posing, and generally lying like a rug. Managers lie about production, generals lie about the condition of their troops, medical administrators about the state of public health, and so on. They also sweeten the lies to their higher-ups with "gifts", as well as artful excuses -- quite often by blaming personal and political rivals. Bribery with anything as obvious as cash is fiercely forbidden and punished, precisely because corruption is so common, so one has to be subtle about the payoffs. Nonetheless, the truth about shortcomings of goods and labor eventually makes itself obvious. This means that nobody can trust the official news, the government's statements, their bosses' claims, or really anybody except very close and proven personal acquaintances. There is no "public trust". Think about what that implies.
Among other things, this means that the government's other major industry is spying -- on everyone it can afford to -- to see what they're really doing. This has led to a secondary industry of blackmail, which is successful often enough to encourage its continued use. And of course it means that nobody can rely on any government services. This has encouraged the growth of the Russian Mafia, which is often more reliable than the official system. When the economy collapsed, the only organization capable of maintaining any reliable flow of goods or services was the Russian Mafia; as a result, much of Russia's recovered economy -- such as it is -- is Mafia-run.
As a result, anyone with any experience doing business in Russia knows that to do any kind of business in Russia means dealing with the Russian government or the Russian Mafia, or both; the only way to tell them apart is that the Russian Mafia tends to be more honest and less interested in spying. But in any case, you cannot trust the Russians on anything; only the simplest of transactions can be in any way relied on. This is why not many companies want to do business in Russia.
Random peculiarities: 1) If you check into a better class of hotel in Russia, be assured that there are hidden cameras in the bedroom walls, and possibly microphones too, and be prepared to deal with them. 2) If you intend to construct anything, import the materials and machinery yourself, and arrange to have them guarded 24 hours a day, preferably by imported guards; otherwise as much as half of them will be stolen. Keep these in mind.
Now one resource which Russia had after the collapse was the immense untapped petroleum fields in Siberia, oil reserves greater than Saudi Arabia's, enough to rebuild its economy from the ground up. The problem was that nobody in Russia had the resources, or the skills, to develop that industry. In desperation, the Russian government quietly sent a delegation to talk to President Bush, an old oil-man himself, to negotiate a deal. Bush happily complied, because a notice appeared in the American media -- with no fanfare -- that the Bush administration had put together a consortium of international industrialists to develop vaguely-described "Russian oil-fields". The story wasn't followed up and soon faded from public awareness, but whoever wants to can track it down and get the details.
One of the companies involved in that consortium was owned by Donald Trump.
I think we can be sure that Trump was not naive about the peculiarities of dealing with Russia. Note that when that story circulated about Trump entertaining Russian whores in his hotel room, and getting them to pee on the bed, he did not react to it as defensively as he usually does to real threats or challenges; he simply laughed it off. This implies that some Russian agent or other had previously tried to blackmail him with that story, and Trump knew perfectly well that the tale wasn't true -- and he could prove it. Note this pattern.
What Trump primarily did for most of his life was to buy and sell and build large buildings. What was he doing as part of that development consortium? What else but building at least one large building? He would have been aware of those interesting problems with large-scale construction in Russia -- indeed, he may have been the person who made that information common in the business community. I think we can assume that Trump took care not to robbed, scammed, blackmailed, or otherwise ripped off by the Russians. He might even have brought an electronics expert with him who shorted out those hidden cameras and microphones. I would like to see a study on the building that Trump put up in Russia, and how much Trump got for it. In any case, I don't think Trump gave the Russians anything except the building. My guess would be that, when everything is finally revealed to the public, it will turn out that Trump royally screwed the Russians -- and he can prove it.
So why would he keep quiet about it, why be so evasive, why make it look as if he had something juicy to hide? Well, what I'm seeing here is a fine case of "Briar-Patching": teasing his all-too-eager political detractors into stampeding themselves over a cliff by pretending he doesn't want them to do something. This is a classic technique for manipulating excitable teenagers. Then again, the Liberal/Democrat media have been acting younger than that, even unto inventing blatant hoaxes, as I personally attested on my Facebook page. I'm waiting to see the result when Trump finally does reveal all his records, including his tax reports, and the over-eager media pundits are left with egg on their faces -- in public.
Now, who would think up such an elaborate red herring? Well, maybe a certain smart Jewish husband of a smart businesswoman who just happens to be the daughter of Donald Trump -- a canny political observer, much beloved by the family, who has been keeping a low profile since well before the election. I can see Trump laughing like hell when the idea was first presented to him. It would be such a fitting revenge on the arrogant left-wing bigots of the media! --Leslie <;)))><