WashPost: “Detainee Tortured, Says U.S. Official”

The Washington Post, January 14 2009, by Bob Woodward:

The top Bush administration official in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial has concluded that the U.S. military tortured a Saudi national who allegedly planned to participate in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, interrogating him with techniques that included sustained isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity and prolonged exposure to cold, leaving him in a “life-threatening condition.”

“We tortured [Mohammed al-]Qahtani,” said Susan J. Crawford, in her first interview since being named convening authority of military commissions by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in February 2007. “His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that’s why I did not refer the case” for prosecution.

And also in today’s Post:

A former military prosecutor said in a declaration filed in federal court yesterday that the system of handling evidence against detainees at Guantanamo Bay is so chaotic that it is impossible to prepare a fair and successful prosecution.

Darrel Vandeveld, a former lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, filed the declaration in support of a petition seeking the release of Mohammed Jawad, an Afghan who has been held at the military prison in Cuba for six years. Jawad was a juvenile when he was detained in Kabul in 2002 after a grenade attack that severely wounded two U.S. Special Forces soldiers and their interpreter.

Vandeveld, who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was the lead prosecutor against Jawad until he asked to be relieved of his duties last year, citing a crisis of conscience. He said the case has been riddled with problems, including alleged physical and psychological abuse of Jawad by Afghan police and the U.S. military, as well as reliance on evidence that was later found to be missing, false or unreliable.

Vandeveld said in a phone interview that the “complete lack of organization” has affected nearly all cases at Guantanamo Bay. The evidence is often so disorganized, he said, “it was like a stash of documents found in a village in a raid and just put on a plane to the U.S. Not even rudimentary organization by date or name.”

Georgia: WTF is going on?

These are the headlines that I’ve been reading this afternoon:

The New York Times: On Slog to Safety, Seething at West

One soldier, his face a mask of exhaustion, cradled a Kalashnikov.

“We killed as many of them as we could,” he said. “But where are our friends?”

It was the question of the day. As Russian forces massed Sunday on two fronts, Georgians were heading south with whatever they could carry. When they met Western journalists, they all said the same thing: Where is the United States? When is NATO coming?

Since the conflict began, Western leaders have worked frantically to broker a cease-fire. But for Georgians — so boisterously pro-American that Tbilisi, the capital, has a George W. Bush Street — diplomacy fell far short of what they expected.

BBC: Georgia move fails to halt raids

The Washington Post: Georgian Web Sites Under Attack

AP: Russia expands Georgia blitz, deploys ships

The New York Times: Russians Push Past Separatist Area to Assault Central Georgia

The Wall Street Journal: Russia Widens Attacks on Georgia

Le Monde: Le conflit en Ossétie du Sud, jour par jour [Also, check this sweet map]

Global Voices: South Ossetia Crisis 2008

Foreign Policy: Seven Questions: What Iran Wants

Big ups to my cousin Karim Sadjadpour for his latest interview in FP:

Foreign Policy: Last week, Iran sounded conciliatory notes when Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki hailed a “new trend” in negotiations with the West over the nuclear issue. But this week, Iranian officials vowed to strike back against any U.S. or Israeli attack and test-fired missiles that they claim can hit Tel Aviv. What explains this shift in tone?

Karim Sadjadpour: The last two weeks have been very representative of the worldview of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his modus operandi of neither confrontation nor accommodation with the West. Last week, we saw conciliatory signals from Tehran, saying: “We’re capable of being diplomatic.” And this week, Iran was sending signals to the Israelis and Americans saying, “If you want to escalate, we have the means to reciprocate.” Khamenei wants to send a clear signal: “Don’t think that pressure is going to moderate our behavior,” because he has always believed that if you give in to pressure, you only invite more of it.

WSJ: Stresses From Iraqi Father’s Disappearance Strike Family Hard

This is from my good friend and Columbia classmate, Sarmad Ali, who has written a follow-up piece to his story from last February.

I wasn’t there in Baghdad; I couldn’t be there. I am an Iraqi citizen caught between two worlds. I’m a guest in the U.S., where I have lived since 2004, studying and working for this newspaper. But I have no U.S. travel documents. And my Iraqi passport has been invalidated.

More unsettling, more disruptive than the possibility of my father’s death has been the uncertainty about his fate. I mourn close friends who have been killed in Baghdad’s violence, but sometimes I envy their families for being able to bury their loved ones.

My experience — the distance and uncertainty that corrupt my ability to grieve — isn’t unique. Many people have fled Baghdad and left family behind to survive in a war zone in which people go missing and casualties are often unidentifiable.

Over the past year, my relatives in Baghdad have continued to look for my father without me, his oldest son. I have grown more distant from them, and strains between us have deepened.