Tuesday, June 20, 2006

I didn't think I could get angrier

But I was wrong. The Shadow War, In a Surprising New Light:
The book's opening anecdote tells of an unnamed CIA briefer who flew to Bush's Texas ranch during the scary summer of 2001, amid a flurry of reports of a pending al-Qaeda attack, to call the president's attention personally to the now-famous Aug. 6, 2001, memo titled "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US." Bush reportedly heard the briefer out and replied: "All right. You've covered your ass, now." ... One example out of many comes in Ron Suskind's gripping narrative of what the White House has celebrated as one of the war's major victories: the capture of Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan in March 2002. Described as al-Qaeda's chief of operations even after U.S. and Pakistani forces kicked down his door in Faisalabad, the Saudi-born jihadist was the first al-Qaeda detainee to be shipped to a secret prison abroad. Suskind shatters the official story line here. Abu Zubaydah, his captors discovered, turned out to be mentally ill and nothing like the pivotal figure they supposed him to be. CIA and FBI analysts, poring over a diary he kept for more than a decade, found entries "in the voice of three people: Hani 1, Hani 2, and Hani 3" -- a boy, a young man and a middle-aged alter ego. All three recorded in numbing detail "what people ate, or wore, or trifling things they said." Dan Coleman, then the FBI's top al-Qaeda analyst, told a senior bureau official, "This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality." Abu Zubaydah also appeared to know nothing about terrorist operations; rather, he was al-Qaeda's go-to guy for minor logistics -- travel for wives and children and the like. That judgment was "echoed at the top of CIA and was, of course, briefed to the President and Vice President," Suskind writes. And yet somehow, in a speech delivered two weeks later, President Bush portrayed Abu Zubaydah as "one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States." And over the months to come, under White House and Justice Department direction, the CIA would make him its first test subject for harsh interrogation techniques... ... back to the unbalanced Abu Zubaydah. "I said he was important," Bush reportedly told Tenet at one of their daily meetings. "You're not going to let me lose face on this, are you?" "No sir, Mr. President," Tenet replied. Bush "was fixated on how to get Zubaydah to tell us the truth," Suskind writes, and he asked one briefer, "Do some of these harsh methods really work?" Interrogators did their best to find out, Suskind reports. They strapped Abu Zubaydah to a water-board, which reproduces the agony of drowning. They threatened him with certain death. They withheld medication. They bombarded him with deafening noise and harsh lights, depriving him of sleep. Under that duress, he began to speak of plots of every variety -- against shopping malls, banks, supermarkets, water systems, nuclear plants, apartment buildings, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty. With each new tale, "thousands of uniformed men and women raced in a panic to each . . . target." And so, Suskind writes, "the United States would torture a mentally disturbed man and then leap, screaming, at every word he uttered."
And then there's this:
Shortly after 9 a.m., Captain Paul Hellmers, an 18-year veteran of the NOFD, said he saw something he wasn’t expecting: water rising in the back parking lot. “I would say about 10 minutes after we saw it rising, I was pretty certain that the levee had to be breached cause it was rising at such a rate,” Hellmers said. Hellmers grabbed his video camera and went up to a top floor stairwell. While the building swayed, he searched but couldn't see the breach until visibility cleared enough for him to zoom in a half a mile away. That’s when he found the water pouring in. “When I saw that, I'm sure my coworkers had the same reaction.. My heart just dropped, even though I knew the levees were breached before that,” Hellmers said. “Seeing it, and just knowing the fate of the city was sealed.” Captain Joe Fincher described the sight as “surreal.” “You took it in and you wondered how high the water was going to be in the city,” he said. “My first instinct when we saw the levee break was this is bigger than 9-11. I thought the fatalities would be in the thousands, if not the tens of thousands, you know; it was heavy.” “Heavy,” Fincher said, because it was their neighborhood; their homes. Just a couple of days before Katrina, he videotaped his Lakeview house for insurance purposes. But now it was filling up with 10 feet of water. The floodwaters also destroyed the Lakeview home of Captain Case. He didn't see it happen, but he had firefighters on his crew watch from above as the water swallowed their homes. “I guess it would have to be torture to know that you can see the water rising on your house and not being able to do anything about it,” Case said. But as the water kept rising, the firefighters knew what their role would be: rescuers. “Soon as we saw the water come into the parking lot I'm thinking, ‘people are going to be dying soon.’ That was my first thought,” Hellmers said. By early afternoon when the winds calmed enough, the firemen swam out to find a boat, which still sits along in the condo parking lot wall to this day. Capt. Case hotwired it and they made the first of many life saving trips into the neighborhood near the breach. “He was standing on his bathtub with water up to his chin when we got over there, and me and firefighter Pat Ball broke the window out and was able to rescue him,” Case said. “He wasn't saying much. He could barely stand when we got him in I don't think he would have made it much longer; the water was still rising at that point and I think he would have surely drowned in the next few minutes.” The rescues continued for four days; from sun up until it just too dark. “Far too many people needed help” First responders simply did their job. They do not consider themselves heroes. And nearly 10 months after the storm, they don't think about the people they saved; it’s the people they couldn't get to. “I try not to think about it too much; too many people suffering…far too many people needed help,” Hellmers said, pointing out thousands of homes they simply couldn’t get to. The firefighters said there’s a reason you haven't heard their story so many months after the storm. The video they shot of the levee breach was used in the recently completed Congressional investigation. And while they testified, they were told to stay quiet about what they saw until it was over. They said what they saw wasn't what was being reported in those first few months. These firefighters knew the levees didn't overtop, which was initially thought; and they knew the 9:45 a.m. timeframe of the levee breach was also off. “It certainly broke by 9 o’clock in the morning,” Hellmers said.
They were told? By whom? Via 2millionth. Link over yonder.

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