Iraqi Prisoners Get Religion From U.S.

Brigadier General Douglas Stone, Twentynine Palms, California, April 4, 2006. AP

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"The battlefield of the mind."

That's where Marine Maj. Gen. Douglas Stone, commander of U.S. detention facilities in Iraq, says he's waging his Iraq war these days, according to the Washington Post. And if the weapons in such a war are words, Stone's got quite the arsenal.

The story's ostensibly about the introduction of "religious enlightenment" and other education program for Iraqi detainees, some of whom are as young as 11. The religious courses are led by moderate Muslim clerics whose teaching "tears apart" the arguments of al Qaeda, such as "Let's kill innocents," Stone said.

The program has been growing, as the surge has swelled the population of Iraqis in U.S. detention from 10,000 last year to 25,000 this year. More than 800 are juveniles.

But what really emerges from the article - a summary of a conference call Stone held from Baghdad with a group of defense bloggers - is a portrait of Stone as a formidable character who's almost as fun to quote as Donald Rumsfeld was.

Stone, who reads Arabic and says he reads the Koran daily, said the new religious training helps U.S. forces pinpoint the hard-core extremists. "I want to know who they are," he said. "They're like rotten eggs, you know, hiding in the Easter basket."

He wants to identify "irreconcilables" and "put them away" in permanent detention facilities. Psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors and interrogators help distinguish just who the extremists are, he said. And when that doesn't work, there's always the polygraph test, which he uses on detainees who promise they will change to "figure out if they're messing with us ... You're not talking about radicals going to choirboys."

The re-education has been working, in some ways better than the military even hoped. On Sept. 2, there was a religious uprising where some detainees turned on others. "We had a compound of moderates for the first time overtake ... extremists," he said. "Found them, identified them, threw them up against the fence and shaved their frickin' beards off of them ... I mean, that is historic."

Vast Internal Migration In Iraq

The New York Times has gotten an advance peek at migration data, expected to be released this week by the Iraqi Red Crescent Organization, indicating that in Baghdad alone, there are now nearly 170,000 families that have fled their homes in search of security.

The data shows families move twice, three times or more, first fleeing immediate danger and then making more considered calculations. Finding neighbors of their own sect in just one consideration among many, though, suggesting that desite sectarian strife, at least some Iraqis would rather continue to live in mixed communities.

The data also suggests that any plans to partition the country into semiautonomous Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish enclaves would not be easy.

A Tale Of Two Lawyers: Giuliani And Mukasey Go Way Back

The New York Times traces the long friendship of presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani and attorney general nominee Michal Mukasey, which began when the two young federal prosecutors worked together on corruption cases.

They were good enough friends that Mukasey was invited to Giuliani's private swearing-in ceremony as mayor. A few days after the new mayor's 1994 inauguration, Mukasey wrote Giuliani a letter that spoke for his wife, and referred to Giuliani's wife at the time, Donna Hanover. "Please also know that my admiration and love, and Susan's, for both of you and your family is without limit."

If Mukasey is confirmed he stands to lead the Justice Department at a time when prosecutors in the Southern District of New York are investigating one of Giuliani's biggest political headaches: whether to seek an indictment of Giuliani's former police commissioner, Bernard Kerik. (The Times chatted with some anonymous sources who suggest the case could get really ugly.)

Most times in the past, Mukasey has recused himself when cases went before him that had to do with Giuliani. But not always. When he was a federal district judge in Manhattan in 2000, he upheld a Giuliani administration policy allowing the police to seize the cars of people charged with drunken driving, dismissing a suit brought by the Legal Aid Society. The decision was appealed and the policy was later ruled unlawful.

Iran's Hidden Cache Of ... Picassos?

Yep, and not just Picassos. Kandinskys, Miros, Warhols, a Monet, a Pissaro, a Toulouse-Lautrec, and a Van Gogh. Oh, and "possibly the best Jackson Pollock outside the U.S."

The Los Angeles Times reports these and other artistic treasures are stashed in the basement of the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, but for some reason the museum director didn't want their reporter to see them. She had to bully him for over a week before he acquiesced to her requests for a tour.

The collection, by many assessments the most extensive gathering of late 19th and 20th century Western art outside the West, was assembled during the waning years of the shah's regime, when the oil boom of the 1970s rendered the country flush with cash.

But with the exception of occasional international loans, a pair of small-scale shows and "a daring exhibition" two years ago during the administration of reform-minded President Mohammad Khatami, it disappeared from view thereafter.

That last exhibition was actually "an act of artistic suicide" for the museum director's predecessor, committed just as the militantly anti-Western Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power. Ahmadinejad's election meant the end of the former director's career and the return of the paintings to the basement.

The current director denies the paintings are out of view for political reasons, saying there just isn't any room for them in the upstairs galleries. The reporter notes that the exhibition currently on view in the museum, "a stylish if bland collection of Iranian textile and costume design for the fashion-conscious and appropriately modest Iranian woman," was "largely undisturbed by vistors."


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