Did Bush’s Lawyers Enable the Abu Ghraib Torturers?

By Robert Rivkin.

The Abu Ghraib prison scandal involving torture of Iraqi detainees by American Army soldiers is back in the news.

The first and second of an expected cascade of investigative reports have been completed.  The Department of Defense  reports  point the finger of  blame for the crimes committed by American  soldiers up the chain of command – where it should be pointed.

Although some military intelligence officers, and others,  have been added to the list of  officials who bear at least some responsibility for what happened at Abu Ghraib,  we should not so quickly forget this past spring’s revelations of the role President Bush’s lawyers played in providing (supposedly) legal justifications for torture of suspected terrorists.

Probably the most shocking memo was dated August 1, 2002 and signed  by Jay S. Bybee, then the head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. That office has traditionally served as the so-called  “conscience”  of the Justice Department.

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Ceterus Paribus and the Pseudo Science of Economics

By Sean Monaghan Stevens

“Ceterus Paribus clauses are untestable, uninformative, unfalsifiable and lack empirical meaning. Because of this Economics is more like a religion than a science.”

The topic has two components. The first is a statement, the second is a consequence of that statement. To properly examine this position one must address the statement to ascertain its validity. If the statement is valid, then we accept the consequence of Economics being more like a religion than a science. It has to be under any scientific inquest that we know of. The only question that remains is what this means, and whether this is good or bad. If the first assertion is invalid, then Economics remains whatever it presently is, and that becomes the question – What is it?

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The Labor Identity Crisis

The thirteen years between 1983 and 1996, entailed the longest period of Labor government in federal parliamentary history. During this period, the ALP underwent unprecedented change not only in its structure, but also in its ethos and ideology. What these changes mean for the Labor party, as it heads into the 21st century, has been the source of much debate and conjecture amongst leading social and political commentators. It is clear from the literature that the Hawke Keating period saw a departure from traditional party practice in many areas and that this has been a source of controversy for the ALP rank and file, as well as habitual labor voters around Australia. So to answer this question, one must identify what the major changes have been under Keating and Hawke, and make a judgement, as to whether the ALP will benefit in the long term from these changes. Based on the evidence, it is doubtful that the ALP’s modern approach to politics will be healthy for the ALP’s long term political prospects. It is accepted that some change to the party was needed if it was to escape becoming the ‘naturalised opposition’, but the actual changes to party policy and direction were only of short term benefit and the ideological currency of “New Labor” under Hawke and Keating has become almost worthless to the Australian electorate.

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Democracy and its Unjustifiably Inflated Reputation

Social choice theory has amusingly and severely dented the theoretical virtue of democracy, (to the point where many supporters of democracy have resorted to sniping at the credibility of social choice theory altogether). Unfortunately however, what it cannot do is measure the intangible, consumptive and participatory value of democracy which enables proponents of democracy to breathe a sigh of relief, left with an avenue to declare the legitimacy of the political system which is spreading its eager tentacles throughout the world. However, implicit in this salvaging operation is an awareness and an acceptance that the virtue of democracy has long been vastly overrated by both philosopher and political theorist alike.

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The Children Overboard Incident: Why Would We Do It?

Why Would We Do It?:

Refugees / Asylum Seekers and their importance to nation building and identity politics, as seen through the child overboard incident

“I am incredulous as to why there is scepticism because people just don’t make these sorts of things up.  To imagine that there would be the navy and ministers in some sort of conspiracy to put something like this in the public arena – why would we do it?” – Philip Ruddock.[1]

“…it is an absolute fact, the children were thrown into the water.”[2] – Peter Reith, perhaps a little too contemptuous of what Elton would call ‘administrative technicalities’.

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The Children Overboard Incident: WHat the Fact Handlers did with the Facts

Part 1 detailed what it was that actually happened – the event that was used to create the rather extravagant tale about children being thrown overboard by malicious que-jumpers.  Part 2 looked at the reasons behind the Children Overboard Debacle, and Part 3 attempts to fill in the details of how this story came to be: the game of Chinese Whispers, the insatiable desire for fantastic stories about refugees, the absolute lack of responsibility throughout the Ministries and bureaucracies and military agencies involved in the formation and perpetuation of the child overboard claims.[1]

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The Children Overboard Incident: What Happened on the Sea

By Avan Stallard.

Following is a presentation of the maritime affair that has come to be known as the child overboard incident.  It is a construction of the incident formed from the many documents that were submitted and produced by the Senate Inquiry Into A Certain Maritime Incident.[1]

Mid-afternoon 6 October 2001, the intelligence from a P3-C Orion aircraft that had detected an illegal vessel (SIEV 04) approaching Christmas Island was passed to the Darwin HQ of the Joint Task Force.  Brigadier Silverstone assessed the information and dispatched Commander Banks of HMAS Adelaide to intercept the vessel.  The Adelaide sprinted to the reported co-ordinates, approximately 100nm off Christmas Island, to intercept the Indonesian boat.

The flag the Indonesian vessel had sported when the P3-C had made its fly-over was now stowed away, for this was not a vessel wishing to advertise its Indonesian sovereignty.  The sovereignty that mattered for this vessel’s cargo was Australian: it was a matter of life and death to the asylum seekers onboard that they reach Australian sovereign waters, which was why they were steering towards Christmas Island.  The Laws of the Sea and rules of international comity were no matter to be concerned with.  This was a humanitarian exchange and so the only flag this clapped-out old fishing boat would hoist was the international signal for distress: the white flag.

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Green Custers

The residue wrought

from a torrential night

now rests peacefully

like a tibetan soul in deep

tranquil meditation


the pulsating green foliage

cleansed and vibrant

ready for the inherent evil

and her yellow-grey legions.

Hanging My Rocks at a Picnic

An idyllic setting

Comfy grass

Picnic worthy

A cool blue lake

Amongst lazy reeds

The sun beating down

Warming my toes

And gives sparkle to the water,

Rippling from the thrusts of hungry

Ducks – a prism hanging from a thread


A sight without compare!

But what is this? Oh No!

Fearsome grey towers

Unmoving in the breeze

Cold and joined

Pensive birds cling to

The well ordered vines

Like trapeze clowns

Mocking the circus

Act we live


The only thing

These help grow

Is the deadly

Bloom on my

Bloodied mind


But I do cherish

The wonders they bring

Digital watches with alarms

Connections to Kyoto, Rome and Sanfrancisco

Instantaneous dialogue with distant

Loved ones

Long forgotten fish, still edible

In my fridge


Can I blank out these vicious towers

Compromise my vision

Or turn them into

Winter Solstice statues

All facing south

As a backdrop

Ringing the isle

Of my idyllic setting?