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Amygdala's endorsements are below my favorite quotations! Keep scrolling!
Amygdala will move to an entirely new and far better blog template ASAP, aka RSN, aka incrementally/badly punctuated evolution.
Tagging posts, posts by category, next/previous post indicators, and other post-2003 design innovations are incrementally being tweaked/kludged/melting.
Above email address currently deprecated! Use gary underscore farber at yahoodotcom, pliz! Sanely free of McCarthyite calling anyone a traitor since 2001!
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I've a long record in editorial work in book and magazine publishing, starting 1974, a variety of other work experience, but have been, since 2001, recurringly housebound with insanely painful sporadic and unpredictably variable gout and edema, and in the past, other ailments; the future? The Great Unknown: isn't it for all of us?
I'm currently house/cat-sitting, not on any government aid yet (or mostly ever), often in major chronic pain from gout and edema, which variably can leave me unable to walk, including just standing, but sometimes is better, and is freaking unpredictable at present; I also have major chronic depression and anxiety disorders; I'm currently supported mostly by your blog donations/subscriptions; you can help me. I prefer to spread out the load, and lessen it from the few who have been doing more than their fair share for too long.
Thanks for any understanding and support. I know it's difficult to understand. And things will change. They always change.
I'm sometimes available to some degree as a paid writer, editor, researcher, or proofreader. I'm sometimes available as a fill-in Guest Blogger at mid-to-high-traffic blogs that fit my knowledge set.
If you like my blog, and would like to help me continue to afford food and prescriptions, or simply enjoy my blogging and writing, and would like to support it --
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"The brain is wider than the sky, For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson
"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin
"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton
"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan
"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to
trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule --
and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt
"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley
"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss
"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire,
the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind;
and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise
the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his
expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were
respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon
"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify
the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority.
They show disrespect for elders and they
love to chatter instead of exercise.
Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They
no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents,
chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize
"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook
"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook
"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization.
We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect
disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest
and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr
"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the
land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion
"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him
an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this
or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages
to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also
to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing,
with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess
and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion
and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson
"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices,
intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to
improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation;
a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most
tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition --
to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand
"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri
"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the
poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke
"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology;
it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to
understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit
and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant
"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is
but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest
winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville
"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon,
but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without
being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant
"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand
"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should
make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.
"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible,
and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and
man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and
after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus
"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814
"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort,
are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true,
the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated.
This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944
"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News
"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas
"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."
-- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson
"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example."
-- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower
"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance."
-- H. W. Fowler
"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place."
-- Kate Wilhelm
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein
"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms
"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho
"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).
"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128
"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)
"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days
"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs
"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign
"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden
"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit.
He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.
The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cutepanda. Don't you lovepandas?
Current Total # of Donations Since 2002: 1181
Subscribers to date at $5/month: 100 sign-ups; 91 cancellations; Total= 9
Supporter subscribers to date at $25/month: 16 sign-ups; 10 cancellation; Total= 6
Patron subscribers to date at $50/month: 20 sign-ups; 13 cancellations; Total= 7
...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow
I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber
Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow
One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.
Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's
face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged
We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott
Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal
If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.
Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks
I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes
Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this? -- Natalie Solent
People I've known and still miss include Isaac Asimov, rich brown, Charles Burbee, F. M. "Buzz" Busby, Terry Carr, A. Vincent Clarke, Bob Doyle, George Alec Effinger, Abi Frost,
Bill & Sherry Fesselmeyer, George Flynn, John Milo "Mike" Ford. John Foyster, Mike Glicksohn, Jay Haldeman, Neith Hammond (Asenath Katrina Hammond)/DominEditrix , Chuch Harris, Mike Hinge, Lee Hoffman, Terry Hughes, Damon Knight, Ross Pavlac, Bruce Pelz, Elmer Perdue, Tom Perry,
Larry Propp, Bill Rotsler, Art Saha, Bob Shaw, Martin Smith, Harry Stubbs, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner, Jr., Jack Williamson, Walter A. Willis, Susan Wood, Kate Worley, and Roger Zelazny.
It's just a start, it only gets longer, many are unintentionally left out.
And She of whom I must write someday.
PRESENT TENSE. So many articles piled up, which can make it harder to get any out. Yet, please do not offer me a blogger laxative; I fear I tend too much in said direction already.
But, back to torture and death squads! Enough happy talk!
In recent days: Ayad Allawi, whom you'll recall was Our Pick (okay, probably third choice, but nonetheless, a man who formerly [only formerly?] worked with the CIA, and whom our government made major efforts fairly recently to put into office as the American-approved Prime Minister of Iraq):
'People are doing the same as [in] Saddam's time and worse,' Ayad Allawi told The Observer. 'It is an appropriate comparison. People are remembering the days of Saddam. These were the precise reasons that we fought Saddam and now we are seeing the same things.'
In a damning and wide-ranging indictment of Iraq's escalating human rights catastrophe, Allawi accused fellow Shias in the government of being responsible for death squads and secret torture centres. The brutality of elements in the new security forces rivals that of Saddam's secret police, he said.
Allawi, who was a strong ally of the US-led coalition forces and was prime minister until this April, made his remarks as further hints emerged yesterday that President George Bush is planning to withdraw up to 40,000 US troops from the country next year, when Iraqi forces will be capable of taking over.
Allawi's bleak assessment is likely to undermine any attempt to suggest that conditions in Iraq are markedly improving.
'We are hearing about secret police, secret bunkers where people are being interrogated,' he added. 'A lot of Iraqis are being tortured or killed in the course of interrogations. We are even witnessing Sharia courts based on Islamic law that are trying people and executing them.'
He said that immediate action was needed to dismantle militias that continue to operate with impunity. If nothing is done, 'the disease infecting [the Ministry of the Interior] will become contagious and spread to all ministries and structures of Iraq's government', he said.
In a chilling warning to the West over the danger of leaving behind a disintegrating Iraq, Allawi added: 'Iraq is the centrepiece of this region. If things go wrong, neither Europe nor the US will be safe.'
Allawi's scathing assessment of the collapse of human rights in Iraq under the country's first democratically elected government came amid an angry denunciation of the involvement of the Iraq government's institutions in widespread disappearances, torture and assassinations.
He added that he now had so little faith in the rule of law that he had instructed his own bodyguards to fire on any police car that attempted to approach his headquarters without prior notice, following the implication of police units in many of the abuses.
Allawi saved his strongest condemnation for the Ministry of the Interior, whose personnel have been accused of being behind much of the abuse: 'The Ministry of the Interior is at the heart of the matter. I am not blaming the minister [Bayan Jabr] himself, but the rank and file are behind the secret dungeons and some of the executions that are taking place.'
Shiite Muslim militia members have infiltrated Iraq's police force and are carrying out sectarian killings under the color of law, according to documents and scores of interviews.
The abuses raise the specter of organized retaliation to attacks by Sunni-led insurgents that have killed thousands of Shiites, who endured decades of subjugation under Saddam Hussein.
In recent months, hundreds of bodies have been discovered in rivers, garbage dumps, sewage treatment facilities and alongside roads and in desert ravines. Many of them are thought to be victims of Sunni insurgents, who are known to target Shiite civilians and Iraqi security forces, and even Sunni Arabs believed to be collaborating with U.S. forces or the Iraqi government. But increasingly, the Shiite militias operating within the national police force are also suspected of committing atrocities.
The Baghdad morgue reports that dozens of bodies arrive at the same time on a weekly basis, including scores of corpses with wrists bound by police handcuffs.
Over several months, the Muslim Scholars Assn., a Sunni organization, has compiled a library of grisly autopsy photos, lists of hundreds of missing and dead Sunnis and electronic recordings of testimonies by people who say they witnessed abuses by police officers affiliated with Shiite militias.
U.S. officials have long been concerned about extrajudicial killings in Iraq, but until recently they have refrained from calling violent elements within the police force "death squads" — a loaded term that conjures up the U.S.-backed paramilitaries that killed thousands of civilians during the Latin American civil wars of the 1970s and 1980s.
But U.S. military advisors in Iraq say the term is apt, and the Interior Ministry's inspector general concurs that extrajudicial killings are being carried out by ministry forces.
"There are such groups operating — yes, this is correct," said Interior Ministry Inspector General Nori Nori.
More than 40 people were interviewed for this report, including U.S. diplomats and generals in Iraq, Iraqi politicians, the Interior Ministry's intelligence chief and inspector general, the leader of the ministry's special commando unit, former and current police officers, morgue officials and human rights activists.
Although no one knows exactly how many militia members have been integrated into the national force, witnesses described undocumented arrests and torture by police. Two of the witnesses said they were present when detainees died. This month, U.S. forces raided a secret Interior Ministry detention facility in southern Baghdad operated by police intelligence officials linked to the Badr Brigade, a Shiite militia that has long-standing ties to Iran and to Iraq's leading Shiite political party. Inmates compiled a handwritten list of 18 detainees at the bunker who were allegedly tortured to death while in custody. The list was authenticated by a U.S. official and given to Justice Ministry authorities for investigation. It was later provided to The Times.
The U.S. military is investigating whether police officers who worked at the secret prison were trained by American interrogation experts.
An Aug. 18 police operations report addressed to Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, who has ties to the Badr militia, listed the names of 14 Sunni Arab men arrested during a predawn sweep in the Baghdad neighborhood of Iskaan.
Six weeks later, their bodies were discovered near the Iranian border, badly decomposed. All of the corpses showed signs of torture, and each still wore handcuffs and had been shot three times in the back of the head, Baghdad morgue officials said.
A Western diplomat in Baghdad who spoke on condition of anonymity said that "we hear repeated stories" of police raids on houses and indiscriminate arrests of Iraqi civilians — many of them Sunni Arab Muslims.
"And they disappear, but the bodies show up maybe two or three governorates away," the diplomat said.
The arrest report was authenticated by the Interior Ministry's intelligence chief, Ali Hussein Kamal, who said that Jabr had received the memo. He said ministry officials did not know who killed the men. He acknowledged police abuses but said the ministry did not officially condone torture or extrajudicial slayings.
Nori, the inspector general, said he was trying to investigate police abuses and make officers more accountable. He pointed out a new ministry initiative to require police units to report all raids and arrests to the ministry. "The Ministry of Interior and other ministries are all made up of various components. This is the main reason the government is not that powerful so far," Nori said.
"What I want to tell you is this: There are certain gaps within the Ministry of Interior where there are elements whose loyalties lay not with the nation, but to their political organizations."
In the ministry's haste to hire police officers, Nakib turned to men with questionable allegiances. For example, police officers who had worked under Saddam Hussein's regime were hired, and Nakib said that Sunni Arab insurgents had infiltrated the force. But he said the integration of Shiite militiamen into the police force has had the most damaging effect on Iraq's security situation.
Several U.S. military officials in Baghdad said they were increasingly frustrated with Jabr, whom they see as unwilling to share information about police operations with them. The military officials also complained that Jabr is beholden to paramilitary leaders, especially the Badr militia.
U.S. and Iraqi sources said the squads were being used in neighborhoods around Baghdad to consolidate political power and intimidate opponents.
The Al Mahdi army has a heavy presence in the regular police force, U.S. and Iraqi authorities said. One high-ranking U.S. military officer estimated that up to 90% of the 35,000 police officers working in northeast Baghdad were affiliated with Al Mahdi.
The U.S. officer said that "half of them are in a unit called 'the Punishment Committee,' " suspected of committing abuses against civilians believed to be flouting Islamic laws or the militia's authority. The officer said that Sunni Arab Muslims were frequently targeted by the committee.
Haider Albadi, spokesman for Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari, confirmed the existence of the secret police squad and its possible involvement in mass slayings.
"We are investigating that," Albadi said. "We know there is infiltration in our security forces — we know that for sure."
U.S. officials and residents in the Rusafa area in northeast Baghdad say Al Mahdi militiamen often operate alongside, and within, the police, setting up unsanctioned checkpoints and conducting unwarranted raids on houses.
Militia operations have reshaped whole neighborhoods, driving hundreds of Sunni Arab families out of mixed but predominantly Shiite areas in northeast Baghdad, said U.S. military sources and Sunni Arab leaders. They say the militias are intent on exacting revenge for Sunni Arab insurgent attacks against Shiites.
"You can spot them a mile away," said one U.S. officer, who asked for anonymity because he was not allowed to speak to journalists. "A lot of times they'll be in plainclothes or you ask them for police identification and they don't have any. And there are plenty of these guys who are just regular police."
U.S. military sources said Badr militia members in the ministry's Maghawir (Fearless Warrior) special commando brigades were carrying out illegal raids and extrajudicial killings.
The paramilitary brigades are known for their effectiveness at counterinsurgency operations and their brutality, having conducted large-scale counter-terrorism operations in Ramadi, Mosul, Fallouja and Baghdad. A 12,000-man commando force was widely deployed this year under the interim administration of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi as a response to insurgent bombings and assassinations of policemen and Shiite civilians.
Although some brigade commanders are Sunni Arabs, rank-and-file commandos are predominantly Shiite.
International human rights organizations have charged that the commando units often arrest and detain civilians without good cause. The brigades have also been accused of torture and extrajudicial killings.
U.S. and Iraqi officials believe that both militias have been responsible for scores of execution-style slayings this year.
"The Mahdi army's got the Iraqi police and Badr's got the commandos," the high-ranking U.S. military officer said. "Everybody's got their own death squads."
Morgue officials said they have received a record number of bodies this year: more than 7,553 corpses as of September, compared with 5,239 in the same period last year. Nearly all of this year's victims had been shot, although many may have been victims of crime or sectarian violence unrelated to the police forces.
The most troubling cases, said a Baghdad morgue official, are the mass homicides, a new development this year.
"Among them, we see many signs of torture," said the official, who requested anonymity for security reasons. "Most of them have blunt trauma, cigarette burns. They have been hit with sticks, cables, kicking. Some have had drill holes into them." He said that nearly all of the mass victims arrive bound by handcuffs — plastic flexicuffs, but also "stainless steel ones, good ones," he said. "Sometimes we keep them. Sometimes we unlock them and return them to the police."
But Sunni Arabs within the police force have complained that they have been singled out by the predominantly Shiite leadership of the Interior Ministry.
Brig. Gen. Mohammed Ezzawi Hussein Alwaan said that he and three of his brothers, all police officers, were among those caught up in the purge. Under Nakib, the former interior minister, Alwaan commanded the Farook Brigade, primarily made up of Sunni Arabs. They fought alongside U.S. forces in Ramadi and other areas in the western province of Al Anbar.
After Jabr's appointment, Alwaan said, the general's force was disbanded, and his brothers were arrested by Maghawir commandos.
Alwaan said that family members described how, on May 15, the commandos arrived at his family home in 20 cars in the middle of the night.
"They showed my brother's wife an intelligence office arrest warrant," said Alwaan, who was in Jordan at the time of the raid. His sister-in-law related the events of that night to him, he said. "They took away my brother's mobile phone and his gun and arrested him.
"About a week later, we heard from the forensic department," Alwaan said.
The body of Khalid Hussein Alwaan, 43, was discovered in a Baghdad garbage dump. His eyes had been gouged out and his corpse had wounds consistent with holes made by a power drill.
Three months later, two other brothers, Monieem Hussein Alwaan, 40, and Koudir Hussein Alwaan, 43, were listed in the August arrest report to Jabr's office. The list also included the names of 12 other men. The Times obtained copies of death certificates for 11 of the listed arrestees, including the two Alwaan brothers. The documents were issued by the Baghdad morgue and officially stamped by the Forensic Institute of the Ministry of Health on Oct. 3. Morgue officials authenticated the documents.
Alwaan said that he met with Jabr to ask about the deaths, but the interior minister denied knowing anything about them. Jabr also suggested that gangs posing as police officers might be responsible, Alwaan said.
"I said, it must be someone from the Interior Ministry," Alwaan recalled. "So many officers in 20 police cars, with guns — it cannot be some gang."
And this is a general who is considered to be on our side.
According to conservative estimates, more than 26,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq by violence since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
But the revelation of the ministry's secret prison confirmed the fears of some Iraqis who have for months complained about police abuses.
The low-slung bunker held 169 people in deplorable conditions. A reporter viewed pictures of inmates who appeared to have been badly beaten. One man had raw, red streaks across his back as if he had been whipped. Another man had been flogged so badly that he could not stand without assistance, according to sources who witnessed the evacuation of the prisoners last week.
Kamal, the intelligence official, confirmed that a police program called the Secret Investigative Unit was based at the bunker and that it was being run by two men, a brigadier and a colonel. The colonel is believed to be in charge of integrating Badr militiamen into the police forces, U.S. and Iraqi sources said.
The colonel is in charge of the bunker, said a U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "He is in intelligence, but he doesn't report to Kamal. He reports directly to Jabr." Kamal said the colonel would be punished if crimes were committed, but he brooked no further discussion of the men because of the sensitive nature of their jobs.
"The killings that are happening are on two sides," Kamal said. "There are Shiite and Sunni killings happening. These are not simple people committing these acts. Their methods, the weapons used — the criminals doing these killings are using in their operations cars and weapons used by the Iraqi government."
As the American military pushes the largely Shiite Iraqi security services into a larger role in combating the insurgency, evidence has begun to mount suggesting that the Iraqi forces are carrying out executions in predominantly Sunni neighborhoods.
Hundreds of accounts of killings and abductions have emerged in recent weeks, most of them brought forward by Sunni civilians, who claim that their relatives have been taken away by Iraqi men in uniform without warrant or explanation.
Some Sunni men have been found dead in ditches and fields, with bullet holes in their temples, acid burns on their skin, and holes in their bodies apparently made by electric drills. Many have simply vanished.
Bayan Jabr, the interior minister, and other government officials denied any government involvement, saying the killings were carried out by men driving stolen police cars and wearing police and army uniforms purchased at local markets. "Impossible! Impossible!" Mr. Jabr said. "That is totally wrong; it's only rumors; it is nonsense."
"There is no question that bodies are turning up," said the investigator, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity, citing safety concerns. "Quite a few have been handcuffed and shot in the back of the head."
As an example, the human rights investigator said that the group had been able to verify that a number of Sunni men taken from the Baghdad neighborhood of Huriya and shot to death last August. Relatives of the dead told the group that more than 30 men had been taken from their homes by the Iraqi police in what appeared to be a roundup of Sunni males.
In the Iskan neighborhood in Baghdad, the human rights group said it had confirmed that 36 Sunni men had been abducted and killed in the neighborhood in August. Sunni groups say the men were taken from their homes by men who identified themselves as intelligence agents from the Interior Ministry.
"The stories are pretty much consistent across the board, both in the manner that the men are being abducted and in who they say is taking them," the human rights investigator said.
More than 15 Sunni families interviewed for this article gave similar accounts of people identifying themselves as Iraqi security forces taking their relatives away without warrants. The families said that most of those said to have been abducted were later found dead.
And so on and so on and so on.
Of course, anyone reading Iraqi news and Iraqi blogs has been reading these accounts for well more than a year. Only someone either paying no attention, or only trusting delusional rightwing sources, doesn't know about the death squads.
And more than a few people pointed out what the consequences of appointing John Negroponte as Ambassador in these circumstances were surely going to be.
It's hard to say who is worse: those who will simply deny that the death squads are going on, those who will claim that such consequences are shocking and regrettable, but have little or nothing to do with American policy, or those who will explain that to make an omelette, a few eggs have to be broken, and after all, look how well off Argentina, Guatemala, and El Salvador, and Central America in general, are today. Which do you think is more deeply morally corrupt?
I would say that many in this adminstration manage to combine a total denial with a subjunctive clause abdicating responsibility. Rumsfeld's recent press conferences have been a stunningly amoral exhibit of this awful balancing act. A good moderate Republican screed on the latter here.
Gary: I owe you an apology for comments over at the group-blog of moderation. I was overtired, more than a little tipsy, and I read carelessly and reacted moreso. My comment was both borderline-offensive and offensively incomprehensible. Both are embarassing.
I wasn't sure where I wanted to make my mea culpa, so I hope you'll understand my posting this here, where I felt I could at least add an interesting link.
interior ministry goon death squads trained by Negroponte (in the great Latin America Tradition), posing as death squad gangs posing as interior ministry officers......
I always thought the purpose was to -facilitate internecine strife - to encourage the creation of constructive chaos.... so's we could keep our bases and embassy there until the end of the age of oil.....