Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Passing faces

The power of private individuals to move around information is pretty amazing. Reader G. sends facsimiles of the death warrants Saddam Hussein is accused of signing in Iraq. In his enclosing letter, Reader G. adds "the executions of 148 people had been carried out and that some of the named people were mistakenly released instead of being executed, and that other prisoners not on the list were executed by mistake!" The facsimiles are shown below.

The reader says the documents ordering the execution of some 148 people were presented during today's trial of Saddam Hussein and introduced as evidence against him. As it happens, Iraq the Model (who is unrelated to the reader) writes in his latest post about the same subject:

The session began as usual and as expected with lots of exchanged yelling and whining from defendants, the judge and the defense team until the prosecutor turned the tide when he began presenting loads of documents that prove the guilt of Saddam and his gang, especially his half-brother Barzan and the chief of the infamous revolution court Awad al-Bandar. Barzan had been denying any connection for the intelligence service (Mukhabarat) he headed with the Dujail massacre claiming that the intelligence was solely responsible for watching non-Iraqis and had nothing to do with internal cases like Dujail where the suspects were Iraqis.

However, the documents uncovered today showed that Barzan was personally deeply involved in following up the case and "interrogating" the suspects and their families. The documents were presented in chronological order in a way that literally stunned Saddam and Barzan who barely uttered a few words during the more than an hour-long presentation. Dozens of documents that look authentic and carried the signatures of Saddam, Barzan and other criminals were displayed; the earliest ones go back to as early as 2 days after the assassination attempt with the latest dated 7 years after that showing all stages of the massacre from interrogation to sentencing the 148 resident of Dujail to signing and approving and executing the death sentence to finally following up a couple of prisoners who mistakenly were let out to be later recaptured and executed.

The documents revealed some unbelievably terrifying facts about the Dujail massacre; can you imagine that when orders were given to execute the 148 "convicts" the prison authorities executed only 96 of them. Why? Because the remaining 48 "convicts" had already passed away during "interrogation"!! What kind of interrogation was that killed one third of the suspects?!

From two synoptic sources, we get complementary information of the same subject. Now here's a link to a Reuters story describing the presentation of the very documents described above.

Chief prosecutor Jaafar al-Moussawi presented documents he said were death certificates of Shi'ites who were rounded up and executed following an assassination attempt on Saddam's life in 1982.

He also presented a document which he said contained Saddam's handwriting. The document, according to Moussawi, said four men had been executed by mistake and that two men had been released, also by mistake.

Looking more subdued than in previous rowdy proceedings, Saddam challenged the authenticity of the documents.

On Tuesday, after a two-week break during which the 68-year-old former president staged a hunger strike, prosecutors presented what they said was a death warrant signed by Saddam in 1984 for 148 men from the Shi'ite town of Dujail.

Prosecutors hope such documents can establish a direct link between Saddam and atrocities by proving a chain of command in connection with the execution of the 148 men.

The Reuters story actually has far less detail than Iraq the Model, but it confirms the readers account about some prisoners being executed or released "by mistake". Nowhere to be found in the Reuters report, however, is Iraq the Model's report that about 48 convicts had died under torture before they could be executed, and that's an historical mystery waiting to be solved.


It struck me that without Iraq the Model the fate of those 48 tortured men might never have been known to the non-Iraqi audience. Not that it  would bring them back, but "information warfare" in the sense of speaking the truth in the face of the lie or remembering what would otherwise have been forgotten is by definition a private act. It's an outcome of free speech.  In a fundamental way "the truth" is something no one can expect government to provide on our behalf. Once the public expected it of the newspapers. Here are the famous last lines between CIA badguy Higgins (Cliff Robertson) and CIA goodguy Turner (Robert Redford) as Turner takes his expose to the New York Times in the movie Three Days of the Condor.

Higgins: Turner! How do you know they'll print it? You can take a walk, but how far if they won't print it?

Turner: They'll print it!

Higgins: How do you know?

Roll credits.

But in those far-off days we knew, we knew they would print it. Or did we?


Blogger PeterBoston said...

One of the Great Confusions of our times is the realization that the major organs of the Western media are nothing more than the public relations branch of the New Socialists.

Islamic explode-a-dopes are certainly a life style downer but when you get to it PCria is probably no less invasive than Sharia.

3/01/2006 04:50:00 AM  
Blogger sam said...

It struck me that without Iraq the Model the fate of those 48 tortured men might never have been known to the non-Iraqi audience.

Thank goodness for you, Wretchard and thank goodness for the blogosphere.

3/01/2006 04:58:00 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

And the Sunnis may just need to be significantly "reduced" before Iraq can begin to recover from Hussein's and the Sunni tribes' depredations.

3/01/2006 05:25:00 AM  
Blogger Goesh said...

I see but two critical mistakes made in Iraq: 1.) the failure of the US to stop looters during the initial invasion, which caused immediate distrust by all Iraqis. Any view could be taken except one as Liberator when armed men in control allow open stealing of any kind. It is the most fundamental disruption of stability there is.
2.) the failure to have a quick trial and public execution of saddam hussein. He should have been coverd with maggots within 6 months of his capture.

3/01/2006 05:43:00 AM  
Blogger sirius_sir said...

"But in those far-off days we knew, we knew they would print it."

Even back then I had my doubts.

3/01/2006 06:34:00 AM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

The Cartoon Infitada is still in progress in Canada although it's better named the Cartoon Dhimmitada. The Western Standard announced it was going to do an article about the Cartoons and the various reactions they engendered. The article would include the cartoons themselves.

So what has happened? Air Canada and a host of retailers that sell the Western Standard announced they will not carry the paper although it's not clear if they meant only this edition or forever. The Canadian Islamic Conference is working hard to get the editors criminally prosecuted. Journalism professors across Canada are talking about cultural sensitivity.

We have a lot more to fear from our own politicians and the NYT than we do from the explode-a-dopes. Birthrates in most Western countries are below replacement level. Without radical change in Islamic immigration that means the extinction of Western civilization by default. Faced with this irreconcilable reality what societal values are our self-anointed elites parading to the front of the Conversation? Why the unrestricted right to exterminate your unborn children and to bugger your neighbor, of course.

Iran whats-his-name doesn't need to build a nuke that can reach Paris. He only has to talk about it and watch the Brussels sitzpinklers add more pages to the EUSSR constitution. The delusional mind that thinks it can manage an economy of human expectations has no trouble imagining it can also manage a few medieval ragheads, and history to the contrary be damned.

Buy land in Montana. The Euros who leave the seat up are gonna' be moving West.

3/01/2006 07:06:00 AM  
Blogger Tony said...

These days, unfortunately, we can expect the sitzpinklers in the MSM to NOT PRINT ANYTHING that may reflect favorably on the present Administration, ergo, almost anything good coming out of the US, period. Their treatment of the Katrina flood as the unmitigated personal failing of the POTUS is emblematic of their coverage. The fact that it was the largest, fastest rescue in American history, in response to the largest natural disaster will never see publication in the MSM. Accent on the negative!

3/01/2006 08:01:00 AM  
Blogger orlandoslug said...

I'm tired of everything being going through some Bozo that went to journalism school's filter...just give us the news, and more international news!

3/01/2006 08:22:00 AM  
Blogger Edwin said...

This is what we've come to: If a story has no possible angle that makes the Bush Administration look bad, then in the MSM's formulation it isn't news.

3/01/2006 08:39:00 AM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

Enough about Saddam. What about Abu Ghraib?

Really amazing though the details from Iraq the model if true. One out of three not surviving the interrogation. Not a standard to live up to but this is what we fought against and deserves as much consideration as the Abu Ghraib debacle. It harkens to the treatment of witches who would merely die absolved if they were deemed innocent by the creator. No citizen of Western democracy can be allowed to ignore such barbarism yet it is the very intent of Al Reuters to play the info. that fits their message. I hope that the Saddam trial and the sordid details receives the attention that it deserves but somehow expect that I will have to visit the BC in order to get it.

Thanks again.

3/01/2006 08:40:00 AM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...


The invading front was pushing in and taking sporadic fire when the IA had precipitously melted away. It doesn’t speak well for law and order when the locals are involved in looting, but as in the case of the aftermath of Katrina, such seems to be a universal reaction by a statistically small population. Unfortunately, in the modern US military, where love and understanding is an important part of waging peace, shooting at somebody running down the street with a TV under his arm is not a high priority. Rudy may have weighed differently on this issue. This may be a high standard for US combatants to live up-to, compared to, ‘if it moves I will kill it’, but the hearts and minds strategy demands it.

As far as whacking Saddam, the argument can be made that it is great national catharsis to put him on trial, to catalog the innumerable outrages committed in his bloody 30 year reign, and to cremate and discard the anonymous ashes in a place of dishonor.

Let’s hope.

3/01/2006 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger Eggplant said...

Yesterday, I discovered this article that argues the current information war and Moonbat phenomena are a residual effect of Soviet agitation and propaganda (Agitprop). Supposably the Soviets were following a strategy devised by the Marxist theoretician Antonio Gramsci who argued that by blighting the West's intellectual and esthetic life, the West would either self destruct or at least become an easier adversary for World War III. Of course their strategy proved futile because the Soviet Union imploded before their agitprop had a significant impact.

I really liked the following sentence:

"Knowing that suicidalist memes were launched at us as war weapons by the espionage apparatus of the most evil despotism in human history is in itself liberating. Liberating, too, it is to realize that the Noam Chomskys and Michael Moores and Robert Fisks of the world (and their thousands of lesser imitators in faculty lounges everywhere) are not brave transgressive forward-thinkers but pathetic memebots running the program of a dead tyrant."

In essence we were fighting a poisonous snake during the many decades of the Cold War and had the good fortune of breaking its neck. Unfortunately the snake bit us several times during the struggle.

3/01/2006 08:59:00 AM  
Blogger exhelodrvr said...

It would be interesting to look back at media reports over the past 200 years, to see how accurate they were. From what I have read, this is not really a recent trend. Look at the newspaper reports during the Civil War, and the anti-Lincoln, anti-Northern strategy slant they tended to take, as an example. They tended to make the NYT look "fair and balanced."

3/01/2006 09:01:00 AM  
Blogger TheRealSwede said...

"Three Days of the Condor" was emblematic of its time in its portrayal of villains - government, big-business, consumerism, and american imperialism. On the other hand one of the more popular heroes of that era was the press itself, and as such most viewers at the time could be forgiven for expecting that Condor's expose would indeed be printed by a press that represented all that was good in American life, at least at that time - courage, individualism, suspicion of authority, and a willingness to take action against that authority.

In fact, it was movies like "Three Days of The Condor" that helped to foment a feeling among Americans that our greatest enemy was our own government, and that it was the duty of the press to not only keep an out-of-control government in check, but to act on behalf of its victims.

I wonder how much of our present day press attitude of social engineering we can attribute to "Three Days of the Condor", and similar fare?

So, who were the good guys again?

3/01/2006 09:13:00 AM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

At least one former Soviet dissident thinks that the USSR hasn't really gone away but has morphed into the EUSSR. Probably overstated but what else can you say about a polity with a 485 page constitution?

3/01/2006 09:20:00 AM  
Blogger Red River said...

I read ITM last night and then listened to CBS news this morning. All CBS said about the trail was that "Saddam was accused of razing the homes of the people who tried to kill him"

NOTHING about torture, killing the "wrong" people, or signing death warrants on anyone. In fact, nothing about killing anyone was mentioned.

The people at CBS news are total, complete, pants around their ears MORONS!!!!

3/01/2006 10:03:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Three Days of the Condor and the Pentagon Papers, of course the Times will print it.

Six Days of the Condor and the NSA intercepts, of course the Times will print it.

Nine Days of the Condor and Abu Ghraib Photos redux, of course the Times will print them.

That Saddam signed mass Death Warrants for 148 people but could only execute 96, 'cause the others were already DEAD.
Not worthy of Note.

3/01/2006 10:26:00 AM  
Blogger Tony said...


Thank you for that excellent pointer! Now I understand why my liberal friends not only see the glass half empty, but as broken and as a temptation to slit their wrists! All the time!

“The first step to recovery is understanding the problem. Knowing that suicidalist memes were launched at us as war weapons by the espionage apparatus of the most evil despotism in human history is in itself liberating. Liberating, too, it is to realize that the Noam Chomskys and Michael Moores and Robert Fisks of the world (and their thousands of lesser imitators in faculty lounges everywhere) are not brave transgressive forward-thinkers but pathetic memebots running the program of a dead tyrant.”

3/01/2006 10:28:00 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Great blog - thanks for that EUSSR link.

3/01/2006 10:53:00 AM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...


Thanks for the catch. That list of disinformation objectives reads like the table of contents of any number of mid-late 20th century French philosophers. Ding dong, Derrida is dead!

The bad part is that no matter what you call it the table of contents has been and is the ideological foundation of the EUSSR, today's Democratic Party, and almost everybody who controls the Conversation outside our own little world of pixels. The explode-a-dopes can kill a few of us but the Left can still kill us all.

3/01/2006 11:24:00 AM  
Blogger J. Peden said...

Thanks, peterboston. Bukovsky [USSR link] adds a further level to my conception of the whats and whys of the drive to form an EU as a virtual Supernation of many countries.

Previously, I had only been able to wonder fruitlessly why the Europeans were appearing to try to do the impossible, since I didn't think so many established countries could possibly be homogenized. Maybe they can't, but the drive to do so seems to be occurring from a motive or impulse which is not simply economic. The latter just doesn't seem to make enough sense, imo.

Whether intentional or not, such a Socialist Supernation tends to select for an [evil or amoral] Dictator to head it, according to Hayek's explantion of why despots rise to the top from within socialist governments. Lack of qualms and charisma become valued since individualism and liberty are not. And someone must rule as the "State" in spite of socialist utopian fantasies to the contrary.

Anyway, it's worth thinking about.

3/01/2006 11:55:00 AM  
Blogger Eggplant said...

PeterBoston said:

"The bad part is that no matter what you call it the table of contents has been and is the ideological foundation of the EUSSR, today's Democratic Party, and almost everybody who controls the Conversation outside our own little world of pixels. The explode-a-dopes can kill a few of us but the Left can still kill us all."

A proposed corollary to Wretchard's Three Conjectures:

Despite the opportunity of the "Golden Hour", insufficient action will be taken to avoid a global nuclear war against Islamic fascism due to the Suicidalist Meme programmed into us by the Cold War.

After two or three of our cities gets nuked followed by our democratic society being flushed away by some reactionary fascist abomination, we'll have the consolation of our new overlords purging society of moonbats while genociding a signficant fraction of the human race. I hope I'm herding sheep in New Zealand or beachcombing in Australia when this new holocaust happens.

3/01/2006 12:34:00 PM  
Blogger opotho said...

I watched Three Days of the Condor about three weeks ago. I couldn't believe the contrast between then and now in the Redford character's closing line. Then it occurred to me that Redford the man, and so many like him, still believe in that line, (as in believe).

I read the Bukovsky yesterday and I think he's right on the money. His incredulousness about using currency for political ends, which he called "a crazy idea", reminded me of Milton Friedman's same warnings at least as early as 2001. The momentary appearance of peace and harmony would one day give way to resentments and possibly open conflict due to systemic unfairnesses caused by a centralized bank.

(I have that Friedman interview somewhere.)

3/01/2006 05:15:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Knerr said...


3/01/2006 06:24:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Peterboston said, "Faced with this irreconcilable reality what societal values are our self-anointed elites parading to the front of the Conversation? Why the unrestricted right to exterminate your unborn children and to bugger your neighbor, of course."

The latter capacity is hardly "unrestricted." I feel my strictures daily, though they're hardly those of the law, but rather of affection for my beautiful, young straight male acquaintances, most of whom would be upset if I so much as offered them the earnest compliments that come to me when I see them.

But you want to talk about raising the birthrate. I agree with you that the high-minded misplace their attention. But few even of those who see the problem are willing to count among the possible remedies the seizure of muslim countries, the destruction of their populaces, and the resettlement of them with your children. That's how my ancestors took Europe from the Neanderthal, took the British Isles from the Celts, and took North America from the Indians. I don't understand what makes us or our times so different that we can't even consider employing the same modes.

3/01/2006 10:59:00 PM  
Blogger Frank Warner said...

The Associated Press says about 50 of Saddam’s Dujail victims died during interrogation, and Agence France Presse says 46 died of torture.

3/02/2006 02:05:00 AM  
Blogger Christine said...

None so blind as those who will not see.

Could you imagine, if our rights to talk about AIDS back when it first started surfacing were taken away?

That everytime someone said anything about it’s dangers, how it was transmitted and how to prevent it, someone stood up and denied every word that person said. Then the government and all of the other institutions stopped allowing the information to be distributed.

One of the biggest reasons we have freedom of speech and want it for the world, is to protect people from danger, no matter where that danger lies.

We are not born with the instinct to hate. But we are born with the instinct to survive. We have not only the inate ability to pick up on danger, but to do what we need to do to fight it.

If our ability to fight against something that has threatened our very lives is taken away, we are finished as a human race.

3/02/2006 12:07:00 PM  
Blogger Verlaine said...

One of the wire service reporters inside the courthouse has mentioned several times, exhibiting considerable frustration, that no matter what he files from Baghdad, the stories come out the same. That is, the editors in NY or London or Paris (don't want to publicly out which wire) ensure a uniform, inaccurate, flow of info.

The disparity between what's happening in the courtroom and the reporting of it in the western press is actually narrowing. In the session just prior to Tuesday's, even though 98% of the time in court was quiet and orderly, and there was substantive progress, one wire account led with something along the lines of "amidst continuing disarray ....".

In some ways the courthouse coverage is the perfect exemplar of what's wrong with the press:

Lack of expertise: very few of the reporters covering the event understand the civil trial system, or perhaps criminal proceedings of any sort - this means that they hardly know what they're looking at, whether Saddam is ranting or sitting quietly.

Pronounced anti-US and anti-western bias: self-explanatory.

Sensationalism: focus on and gross exaggeration of the histrionics of defendants while ignoring or distorting the overall picture (the word "scuffle" was used by several outlets to describe an incident in an early session that involved a brief and entirely verbal exchange between one bailiff who had taken Saddam's arm to lead him to a bathroom break - sounds small but it was preposterous exaggeration, and illustrative of the lack of accuracy).

There are a handful of reporters covering the trial who try to get it right and even succeed - but they're the exceptions.

3/02/2006 11:38:00 PM  

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