Dear Somalia, more details please. Love, Donors

The pledged $213 million for Somalia from Donors at a Brussels conference yesterday is a little short on details. Actually, it's devoid of details. The $213 million are meant to improve the country's flailing security apparatus, and boost a beleaguered African Union peacekeeping mission, AMISOM, from its current 4,300 personnel to a larger 8,000.

But all this raises some questions in my mind: 

1) How much of the money will actually come? Donors conferences are notorious for over-pledging and under-delivering. Already, $213 million is... peanuts in the scheme of things. For some perspective,  the Iraq war was estimated to cost about that much every DAY back in 2006.

2) Who gets the money? Presumably, the pledges will go through the new government, headed by President Sheikh Sharif. Presumably, tracing money through the bare-bones government created just months ago will be something of a challenge.

3) The money is set to be used to build up the existing Somali security force. But does a Somali Security service even exist? Many soldiers abandoned their posts after Ethiopian troops had trained them (but later failed to pay them) last year. So... how many soldiers are left? And will security -- rather than street-power by gun -- be their priority?

4) The money is also meant to boost an African Union peacekeeping force by another 4,000 or so troops. Sounds great, but where do they plan on finding those personnel? Countries in the region have been understandably loathe about sending their soldiers into a situation that carries a death wish. 

5) And finally, do the donors really care about anything other than pirates? Off the record of the formal conference conversations, it was piracy on the lips of the diplomats. If that's the case, the Somali government will find it hard to do much else with the money. Even something arguably useful like, say, paying their civil servants.

If we're serious about combatting pirates on land, this package looks a bit ridiculous. Unless, of course, there's something I'm missing. Dear Somalia, please help me out and send details.


Torture timeline: when did we know it?

Torture: it's a byzantine tale that unraveled over the course of eight years, and is only reaching its denouement this week. There are two strands, both vitally important, to follow. One's the story of what happened and when (for that, see FP's torture timeline). The other is the story of when we knew it.

Indeed, this week, it seems like the torture story's just breaking through. But, allegations of abuse and even prisoner death started emerging as soon as the United States had prisoners in custody. And reporters have doggedly covered it since then.

One of the first Washington Post stories on the treatment of detainees from the War on Terror arrived in January 2002, just months after 9/11 and the subsequent U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Already, there were 158 detainees from 25 different countries held in Guantanamo Bay, and two congressional delegations had traveled there to review conditions. The detainees were getting 2,400 calories a day, the Post story reported. "Some of them are getting medical attention for the first time in their lives," Senator Bill Nelson proudly noted.

There were also already allegations of prisoner abuse. Photos showing bound, blindfolded, and shackled detainees on their knees appeared as soon as prisoners arrived in Gitmo -- the International Committee of the Red Cross censured the U.S. for the photos, which violated the Geneva Conventions.

The following month, in February, President George W. Bush issued an executive order denying detainees the privileges and protections of the Geneva Conventions. The United States started down the road that culminated in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Bagram, and the black sites -- secret overseas prisons, in countries like Egypt, where prisoners were sent via "extraordinary rendition" and the worst detainee abuse may have happened.

Reports of U.S. soldiers abusing persons they detained in Afghanistan emerged that winter as well -- kicking and beating them after they'd already been shackled. The military went on the defensive. "I don't believe that any of the detainees...were subject to beatings or rough treatment after they were taken into custody," General  Richard B. Myers told the New York Times. "All 27 detainees were medically screened upon arrival in Kandahar, and there were no issues of beatings or kickings or anything of that sort."

Over the next year, the trickle became a stream. The military admitted using harsh techniques on Abu Zubayda and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, high-ranking al Qaeda operatives we now know were repeatedly waterboarded.

At the time, officials told the New York Times "physical torture would not be used against Mr. Mohammed...They said his interrogation would rely on what they consider acceptable techniques like sleep and light deprivation and the temporary withholding of food, water, access to sunlight and medical attention."

It took the prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib, broken by veteran reporter Seymour Hersh and CBS News, to blow the door open -- that happened in April 2004.

It spawned a glut of media attention, as well as congressional hearings and a series of governmental reports: the Taguba report (on the Abu Ghraib scandal), the Schlesinger report (which described how harsh techniques from Afghanistan crept into Iraq), the Fay Jones report (on the Army personnel responsible for prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib), the Church report (71 cases of abuse, six deaths). Over the next years came the Schmidt report (which said treatment at Guantanamo was humane, in 2005, after the waterboarding of Abu Zubayda and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed), as well as the Senate Armed Services Committee Report released this week. 

So, most of the foundational reporting on torture happened in late 2003, 2004, and 2005 -- by reporters like Dana Priest of the Washington Post and Jane Mayer of the New Yorker, describing extraordinary rendition and the black site prisons.

But it's crucial to remember that a small group of reporters -- at the New York Times, McClatchy, the Washington Post, Time magazine, Newsweek magazine, and the New Yorker -- had the story before it was a story. They worked with a slight and growing handful of congressional, White House, military, Justice Department, legal, and other sources. They used a list-serv started by lawyers working on detainee cases to learn information. And they opened the door for Abu Ghraib to open the door further.  

Spencer Platt/Getty Images