Lindsey Graham and John McCain: Hypocrisy Tourists in Kabul

Today’s New York Times dutifully bleats to us that Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been “warned” over his plan to release 88 prisoners from the Detention Facility in Parwan over the objections of the US. The warning:

“If these releases go ahead, it will do irreparable damage to the relationship,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. “There will be a backlash in the U.S. Congress.”

Those doing the warning were hypocrisy tourists Lindsey Graham and John McCain. Missing their third amigo, Joe Lieberman, the duo settled for stand-in John Barrasso to join them on the trip. It appears, however, that Barrasso opted out of the opportunity to open his mouth, as he is not quoted in the Times piece and doesn’t appear in the video interview ToloNews conducted while they were in Kabul:

[youtuber youtube=’’]

The hypocrisy emanating from [Linsey, as he is identified in the ToloNews video] Graham and McCain is staggering. Back in December of 2011, Graham led the charge to put remarkably strong rights protection for the Parwan prisoners into the NDAA, as Marcy noted, but Obama then proceeded to gut that language with his signing statement.

The entire issue of the prison at Parwan and the “independence” of Afghanistan to make its own decisions on the fate of prisoners put into the facility by US forces has been a point of contention for years and has seen significant deception on the part of the US. For example, in September of 2012, the US pretended, as they had several times before, to hand over “complete” control of the prison to Afghans, but still claimed to have veto power over the release of any prisoners. The US pretended again in March, 2013 to do the handover of the prison.

The current controversy again seems to come down to whether this veto power still exists and to the underlying wish of the US for Afghanistan to practice indefinite detention without charges, which Afghanistan has resisted instituting.

The relevant section 1024 of the NDAA calls for review of Afghan prisoner status:

But the NDAA wasn’t all bad when it comes to U.S. military detention policy. In fact, section 1024 of the law, spearheaded by Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, provides detainees held indefinitely in Afghanistan with the right to a military defense lawyer and a neutral military judge to evaluate whether their detention is lawful and necessary. The provision was not particularly controversial and garnered little media attention; Congress apparently understood that for the U.S. to maintain any legitimacy while imprisoning some 3,000 Afghans in their own country it has to provide them basic rights to defend themselves.

As Marcy noted, though, Obama’s signing statement sought to undercut that authority for an Afghan review. Graham and McCain, on their hypocrisy tour, appear to be agitating for the US veto power that Afghanistan never seems to have agreed to. From the ToloNews article accompanying the video:

“I believe that the administrative review board, what Mr. Dadras is doing, is taking the rule of law backwards in Afghanistan, that the 88 people have Afghan blood on their hands,” Senator Graham said.

“What they are proposing is the violation of our agreement that we have with the Afghan government, and it undercuts an independent judiciary…these 88 should have their day in court, they should be judged by the Afghan legal system, and the Afghan people deserve to have their day in court, and to release these people by the actions of one man would be a giant step backwards,” he said.

“It would damage the relationship, it would; people in America would be very upset to hear that someone was released without trial and I think Afghans would be upset to know that 88 very dangerous criminals were released without going to trial.”

Never mind that it was Graham himself who put the provision into the NDAA granting reviews of prisoners to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to send them to trial. And his claim the prisoners “should be judged by the Afghan legal system” is bullshit. As noted in the quote of Daphne Eviatar’s analysis above, Graham’s NDAA language called for a neutral military judge, not a civilian judge from the legal system. Karzai’s independent review commission that made these decisions seems a somewhat better deal for prisoner rights than a military judge (which would seem to be Graham trying to replicate the Guantanamo military commission system in his NDAA language).

Two points cement the extreme hypocrisy of the US position espoused by Graham and McCain.

First, in the January 1 New York Times article on the controversy, there is a tidbit that makes me think what the US really wants for many of these prisoners is detention without charge:

But American and Afghan security officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of tensions between the countries, said they had already given the commission enough evidence to send all the detainees in question to trial, or at least to hold them pending further investigation.

When it gets down to fine points, the US admits that perhaps for these prisoners, there isn’t quite enough evidence to send them to trial. But the US claims there is enough “to hold them pending further investigation”. And of course, there are no charges filed yet while this investigation proceeds. Keep in mind that at least some of these prisoners have been held already for years. What prospect is there that any new evidence will be brought to bear? The US seems to me to be using this weasel language to call for indefinite detention without charges, once again.

The second point is in today’s Times article. In the third paragraph from the bottom, we have this:

The commission has also ordered more than 100 other detainees to stand trial, a fact that commission members have cited as evidence they are willing to keep people suspected of being killers in prison.

It is not that the commission is simply freeing all prisoners. The fact that they have ordered trial for over 100 of the prisoners while ordering the release of the 88 the US disputes suggests to me that they have decided that insufficient evidence exists or is likely to be developed within a reasonable time for the disputed prisoners.

Afghanistan has said that they will not hold prisoners for whom insufficient evidence exists to send them to trial. The US finds this unacceptable and is going so far as to send hypocrisy tourists to Kabul to deliver a warning to Karzai that he is putting billions of dollars of US aid at risk by following the legal process Afghanistan has developed.

Update: bmaz just reminded me of this terrific illustration by the incomparable @twolf10 prepared for the blog previously (just consider it a product of a previous hypocrisy tour…):

dos diqs

13 replies
  1. P J Evans says:

    Graham and McCain don’t seem to have gotten past their teen-age dreams of glory and heroism, and they seem to think everyone else should support their fantasies.
    Hand them rifles and airdrop them into Afghanistan.

  2. liberalrob says:

    “Afghanistan has said that they will not hold prisoners for whom insufficient evidence exists to send them to trial. The US finds this unacceptable […]”

    Just let that roll around in your head for a while.

    The US finds releasing prisoners for whom insufficient evidence exists to send to trial unacceptable.

    The sooner the Afghans kick us out of their country, the better.

  3. bloodypitchfork says:

    The framers would have hung these two insidious traitors. The mere fact they are authors of sections in the NDAA that authorize indefinite detention of US citizens with NO access to due process, gives living testimony these scumbags would execute General Warrants for King George the 111…while laughing.

    quote:”Afghanistan has said that they will not hold prisoners for whom insufficient evidence exists to send them to trial.The US finds this unacceptable and is going so far as to send hypocrisy tourists to Kabul to deliver a warning to Karzai that he is putting billions of dollars of US aid at risk by following the legal process Afghanistan has developed.”unquote

    Hahahahahaha! Kudo’s to Karzai for spitting in Empires face. I guess the USG doesn’t like it’s blackmail subjects demonstrating due process while the USG secretly burns it alive at home. Hypocrisy indeed.. Another Great Moment in Monumental USG Hubris on Steroids is more like it. Reminds me of a Bloomberg quote I read today…

    “Knocking off a bank or an armoured truck is merely crude. Knocking off an entire republic has, I feel, a certain style.”

  4. TarheelDem says:

    Well, well, well, Lindsey is running for re-election from Kabul putting on his best “I’m tough” act. And Hanoi Hilton John is trying to sacrifice any integrity on prisons he has left; it seems to be a pretty empty barrel, John. And Barasso’s silence is atypical and interesting. Watch for him to speak when he get back; he’s likely more refelective of the caucus at this point. The big question is whether Barasso will criticize the President for not leaving fast enough of for not getting a status of forces agreement that lets the US stay forever. Or just brand him with a generalized label of incompetent.

    Just more Congressional clowning.

  5. Don Bacon says:

    Here we have two US senators traveling to a nation on the other side of the planet, which is occupied by 87,000 US and allied troops, to object to the release from prison of 88 people. Of course this is silliness in the extreme. Don’t they have something better to do?

    Also the BSA which would allow 8,000 or so US troops in half a dozen isolated bases in a land-locked, isolated country of 30 million people is nothing but a severe danger to those troops who are “protecting our freedom.” No way would it “prevent another Iraq.” That point was passed, as in Iraq, when the US first destabilized the country twelve years ago.

    The over-the-top praise of President Karzai (who will soon be deposed), and the “democratic process” in Afghanistan, is the third major area of inanity by these senatorial stumble-bums. There was wide-spread corruption and ballot-stuffing in the last election, as recognized by prominent Americans, and why should this coming election be any different. Odds are that the flawed election will precipitate a civil war within six months which would constitute a primary danger to those US troops and their allies and their contractors still in country. That certainly would make the BSA and the 88 inconsequential.
    (Reminds me of a radio program years ago, Date With The 88, featuring instrumental music on a piano, which has 88 keys.)

  6. Michael Murry says:

    @Don Bacon:

    From 87,000 U.S. and allied troops to 8,000. If more can’t do the job, then less certainly can. Sounds to me like the precise opposite of the old “oil spot” military doctrine from Vietnam. This time, however, as the greasy oil slick of U.S. occupation evaporates, larger and larger areas of uncontaminated native land begin to appear until only a few greasy puddles — or “bases” — of U.S. and allied invaders remain. In other words:

    Another Catastrophic Success

    With their tails tucked proudly ‘tween their legs
    Advancing towards the exit march the dregs
    Of empire, whose retreat this question begs:
    No promised omelet, just the broken eggs?

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2011

  7. bevin says:

    “There was wide-spread corruption and ballot-stuffing in the last election,…”

    The Afghan elections were no better.

  8. Don Bacon says:

    @Michael Murry:
    And I’m afraid that the poor souls left in the greasy puddles would get greased themselves.

    Your poem reminds me of my attempt a few years ago, when the Brits (wisely) bugged out of Iraq, back when counterinsurgency was all the rage. –September 5, 2009

    The British are going!
    The British are going!

    By the rude pier that edged the Gulf,
    Union Jacks to Basra’s breezes unfurled,
    The victorious Brits boarded their ships
    and sailed from that part of the world.

    The COIN-meisters were apoplectic.
    They snarled and pushed the panic lever.
    “You can’t leave! You make us look bad!
    Occupations, like diamonds, are forever!”

    “With no occupations there is no COIN,
    no speeches, honorariums or traveling.”
    The Brits laughed. “Don’t you rotters read news?
    Iraq is clearly unraveling.”

  9. Don Bacon says:


    Right, I get a huge kick out of the MSM articles calling Afghanistan on corruption (full disclosure: I recently quoted such a ‘poll’ myself) when the US has taken corruption further than it’s ever been.

    Sep 18, 2013
    U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara Testifies at the Public Hearing of the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption

    “Fighting public corruption has been a top priority for my office for a long while, as it has been for my friends Loretta Lynch and Cy Vance.

    “The diversity of the officials caught up in our probes reflects not only the level of our commitment but also the depth of the problem in our state. Public corruption, based on all the evidence, appears rampant. And the ranks of those convicted in office have swelled to absolutely unacceptable levels.

    “We have had to prosecute State Senators as well as State Assemblymen; elected officials as well as party leaders; city council members as well as town mayors; Democrats as well as Republicans.

    “In an age often decried for increasingly bitter partisanship, we can say that public corruption in New York is truly a bipartisan affair.”

  10. Michael Murry says:

    @Don Bacon:

    Pretty good verse, Don. I particularly enjoyed your blast at the long-discredited military COIN doctrine. The best summary I ever heard of it came from a former Sri Lankan ambassador to France and the United States from whom I once took some graduate courses in Buddhism and Sanskrit. I had asked him why his country wisely turned down the U.S. military’s offer of assistance fighting the Tamil insurgency in his country. Said he, simply: “If the Americans come, they will just draw an arbitrary line through a temporary problem and make it permanent.” There you have COIN — or Colonial Occupation of the Indigenous Natives — in a nutshell. I liked this concise formulation so much that I found myself restating it in a verse stanza:

    If offered help you’d best refuse
    For if you should relent
    They’ll draw an arbitrary line
    Through problems transient
    And complicate them all so as
    To make them permanent

    Once I got started, I just kept going until I had finished Boobie Counter Insurgency, yet another verse episode of Fernando Po, U.S.A., America’s Post Linguistic Retreat to Plato’s Cave, which I will probably never finish, since reading just about any news headline about life in the U.S.A. sets me off on another exploration of sub-literate mindlessness that apparently has no cure.

  11. Don Bacon says:

    anti-war dot com has a piece up:
    Afghan Panel Backs Down: Won’t Release 88 Detainees
    But of course that’s wrong.


    No Delay in Bagram Prisoner Releases: Officials
    After concerns regarding the release of Bagram prisoners were voiced earlier this week, rumors circulated that the releases had been delayed. However, officials involved in the decision making process have said the release of 88 Bagram prisoners is in fact moving forward as planned.

  12. Don Bacon says:

    @Michael Murry:

    Yes, except the US does more than draw lines, it actively promotes instability under the divide-and-conquer strategy. The most egregious example is the US complicity in the Samarra mosque bombing on Feb 22, 2006 which greatly exacerbated the Shia-Sunni divide and laid the groundwork for present events in Syria and Iraq.

    Reacting to this attack, on 22 and 23 February 2006, throughout Iraq, assailants attacked at least 184 Sunni mosques with grenades, small arms, mortars, and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), killing 12 Sunni imams and seven Sunni civilian worshippers, kidnapping 14 Sunni imams, and causing substantial damage to many of the mosques. Subsequently hundreds of Sunni mosques came under attack and a full-fledged civil war was initiated.

    In February 2006 Samarra was under total US military control. The curfew in Samarra started at 8pm. On February 21st, at 8:30pm, according to a witness, joint forces of the Iraq National Guard and the American Army appeared, then left at 9, then reappeared at 11pm. At 6am on the morning of the 22nd the ING left the area, and at 6:30 the Americans left. The first explosion occurred at 6:40, the second at

    The bombing of the Al-Askaria Mosque and its violent aftermath ratcheted the numbers of displaced persons up to a staggering 2.7 million. In a period of about a year, five percent of Iraq’s total population fled their homes and settled elsewhere in Iraq while an additional 2 million or so fled the country entirely. It is important to underscore that this displacement was not just a by-product of the conflict, but rather the result of deliberate policies of sectarian cleansing by armed militias.

    Samarra was also intended to prolong the US military occupation, and it did.
    SEC. GATES: “Well, what I’m saying to you is, though, you had one strategy under way until attack on the Samarra mosque. After that and the development of the sectarian violence that was being stoked by extremists — this wasn’t spontaneous — there was a shift in strategy, and instead of sending troops home, the troops that were supposed to be sent home were kept — or the troop level was kept.”

    Samarra was the principle event which turned Sunni and Shia actively against each other, more than ever.

  13. Don Bacon says:

    New York Times:
    Afghans’ Plan to Release Prisoners Angers U.S.

    And who is “U.S.”?
    It’s anonymous American military officials, plus a named colonel.
    That’s the “U.S.” to the New York Times — journalism at its worst.

    “These are guys that are tied directly to killing and trying to kill our forces and Afghan forces,” an American military official said. “This is an issue of deep concern. It is serious.”

    American and Afghan security officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of tensions between the countries, said they had already given the commission enough evidence to send all the detainees in question to trial, or at least to hold them pending further investigation.

    The commission “has exceeded its mandate and ordered the release of a number of dangerous individuals who are legitimate threats and for whom there is strong evidence supporting prosecution or further investigation,” said Col. David Lapan, a spokesman for American forces in Afghanistan.

    “It does raise concerns — if they are not willing to adhere to agreements we made, then there is a real trust issue,” the American military official said. “It raises questions about any deal we would enter into.”

    “There is a real trust issue” — who knew.

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