HiFlyer AKA A.J. Franklin
As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.
The Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) held its annual convention in Columbus, Ohio, last weekend, outlining its program for the upcoming 2006 mid-term elections and the presidential election in 2008. Speeches at the meeting and documents published in advance indicate that the Democratic Party plans to run an extremely right-wing campaign, particularly on the issues of “national security” and the war in Iraq.
Formed in the mid-1980s, the DLC is a dominant influence within the Democratic Party. It has been the main source of the “new Democrat” movement that has pushed the party to the right over the past two decades.
The main speaker at the convention was New York senator and former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. Clinton accepted a post to head the council’s new “American Dream Initiative,” in which capacity she will travel the country promoting the DLC’s views. This positions her as the frontrunner for the party’s nomination in 2008. In courting the DLC, Clinton is following in the footsteps of her husband, who chaired the council from 1990 to 1991, before running for office.
Amid speculation that she could seek the same path to the White House, Hillary Clinton used her speech at the convention to dispel any notion that she would ever run as a “liberal” candidate. In using the DLC platform to call for a “cease fire” among the Democratic Party’s different factions, Clinton was sending a clear signal to left forces within the party, such as Moveon.org: Even the slightest nod to anti-war sentiment will be opposed by the party leadership.
Also speaking were several others considered to be potential presidential candidates, including Senator Evan Bayh from Indiana, Governor Tom Vilsack from Iowa and Virginia Governor Mark Warner. Bayh is the DLC’s former chairman, and Vilsack is its current chairman.
Clinton emphasized her commitment to creating “a unified, coherent strategy focused on eliminating terrorists wherever we find them” and “improving homeland defense.” She envisioned a future society in which “we’ve put more troops in uniform, we’ve equipped them better, and we’ve trained them to face today’s stress, not yesterday’s.” In calling for more troops, she repeated the main criticism that Democrats have directed against Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq—that not enough forces were committed to guarantee victory.
Clinton also endorsed DLC ideas such as welfare reform, implemented by her husband, which has deprived millions of people of government assistance. She called for fiscal responsibility and repeated certain “cultural” themes designed to neutralize opposition from the extreme right. She urged passage of an “enforceable international ban on human cloning” and sounded notes from her recent campaign attacking violent video games. She called for all Americans to come together on the basis of “our faith in God and our shared values,” while pledging to “reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions by promoting family planning and by strengthening our systems of adoption and foster care.”
For Clinton, the speech is the continuation of an attempt to promote her right-wing credentials. In recent months, she has teamed up with former House speaker Newt Gingrich and current Senate majority leader Bill Frist on health legislation that would be amenable to big business. She has taken a post on the Senate Arms Committee to allow her to voice strong support for the war in Iraq and an increase in the number of troops in the military. In January, she made a speech calling for Democrats and Republicans to find “common ground” on the abortion issue.
The proposals advanced by Clinton and the other speakers at the convention were developed in several articles published in the most recent issue of the DLC’s magazine, Blueprint.
In the lead article, “How America Can Win Again,” Al From, the DLC’s founder and CEO, and Bruce Reed, its president, voiced full support for the Bush administration’s escalation of militarism under the pretext of a “war on terror.” After September 11, the pair wrote, “for a brief, shining moment, country—not party—was all that mattered.... Four years later, we have won some important victories against terror and tyranny, in Afghanistan and Iraq. But the duty we owe to the victims of Sept. 11—and to the cause of freedom—has not been fulfilled.”
In the event of a Democratic electoral victory, the war would not merely continue; it would escalate. The authors criticized the administration for having “failed to arm us economically and militarily for a war that could go on for decades.... Iraq isn’t the last war we’ll have to fight, and we need a bigger army.” They called for 100,000 additional troops in the US military—a demand that was repeated at the convention itself. This echoes a recent bill introduced by Senate Democrats, including Clinton and former vice-presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman, for an additional 80,000 troops.
From and Reed sought to underscore the fact that on questions of foreign policy, they have no differences with the Republican Party. “Winning the war on terror,” they wrote, “is too important for either side to spend all its time pointing fingers at each other. We’re Americans first, and we should approach this war the way the American people do: They don’t care which party wins, as long as America wins.”
In an accompanying article, “Valuing Patriotism,” Will Marshall, president of the Progressive Policy Institute, a DLC affiliate, wrote that the Democratic Party’s essential task is to forge closer ties to the military. “More than anything else,” he wrote, Democrats “need to show the country a party unified behind a new patriotism—a progressive patriotism determined to succeed in Iraq and win the war on terror, to close a yawning cultural gap between Democrats and the military, and to summon a new spirit of national service and shared sacrifice to counter the politics of polarization.”
While Democrats should criticize the Republicans for mistakes in waging the war—such as not having enough troops—Marshall declared that they should “also attend to the other side of the balance sheet. That side shows that our forces and their allies have toppled one of the world’s most odious tyrants; upheld the principle of collective security; liberated a nation of 24 million; made possible Iraq’s hopeful experiment in representative self-government; and changed the strategic equation in the Arab-Israeli conflict.”
In a section on “Democrats and the military,” Marshall noted with great displeasure that a disproportionate number of officers in the military identify themselves as Republicans. “How can Democrats start healing this breach? For starters, they can speak out against colleges that ban military recruiters or the Reserved Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) from their campuses.”
Marshall also elaborated on the DLC’s conception of a program of “national service,” begun under President Clinton and his AmeriCorps program. “One way to put service on more young people’s radar screens is to replace the Selective Service System [which registers American youth for any future military draft] with a new National Service System. Such a system would sign up women, as well as men, and encourage them to volunteer for military or civilian service. Another way to enlarge AmeriCorps would be to link federal student aid to national service. Under such an arrangement, only those who agree to serve would be eligible to receive Pell Grants or to apply for subsidized student loans.”
There have been some calls from within the DLC to make this “service system” mandatory, essentially forcing all youth to engage in some form of military or “homeland defense” activity.
Various left-Democrat blogs have denounced Clinton’s speech before the DLC as a capitulation before the right wing of the party and urged a return to the party’s “roots.” However, the views expressed by Clinton and the DLC are merely a continuation of the policy pursued by the party leadership. The Democrats have offered crucial support to the Bush administration in prosecuting the war, carrying out an assault on democratic rights, and pursuing right-wing economic policies.
John Kerry ran for president on the grounds that, unlike Bush, he would be able to win the war in Iraq. Kerry’s loss stemmed from his inability to make any appeal to opposition sentiment. The conclusion that the party drew from this loss, however, was the necessity for moving even further to the right, seeking to intensify its collaboration with the Bush administration.
As anti-war sentiment grows—with recent polls indicating that 60 percent of Americans favor an immediate partial or complete pullout from Iraq—the Democratic Party responds by calling for an intensification of the war effort.
This divergence has deep social roots. The Democratic Party represents a section of the American ruling elite that, whatever its tactical differences with the Bush administration, agrees with the Republicans on all essential questions. This includes the use of military force to establish US global hegemony and the slashing of working class living standards and curtailment of democratic rights at home.
Jean Charles de Menezes, the 27-year-old Brazilian slain by police last week in a London subway carriage, was shot eight times at point blank range—seven times in the head and once in the neck.
This information was revealed at a coroners’ inquiry into de Menezes’ death, which opened and adjourned on Monday. The Financial Times reported one police source as stating de Menezes “was shot so many times he was beyond recognition.”
That the young electrician was the victim of an officially-sanctioned policy of state execution is beyond doubt. It is now known that two years ago, under the guise of the war against terror, police secretly adopted the shoot-to-kill policy carried out to such deadly effect in the capital last week.
Lord Stevens, who was the Metropolitan Police Commissioner at the time, said the policy was in line with the practices of security forces in Israel and Sri Lanka. Experience in these countries showed, Stevens said, “There is only one sure way to stop a suicide bomber determined to fulfill his mission: destroy his brain instantly, utterly.”
But de Menezes was not a suicide bomber, and police had no grounds to conclude that he was. When he left for work last Friday morning, the young man had no way of knowing plain clothes police were staking out the communal entrance to the block of flats where he lived. Nor could he know that during his half-hour journey to the Stockwell subway station he was being covertly followed by an armed police unit, dressed in civilian garb, because his clothing had aroused their “suspicions.”
De Menezes would only have become aware his life was threatened when, as he entered the subway, a group of heavily armed males suddenly began shouting and chasing him. Eyewitnesses to his shooting have said that the men did not identify themselves as police. Small wonder that the young worker looked like a “cornered rabbit” as he sought refuge in a train carriage. As he was wrestled to the ground and pinned down by at least two men, whilst another placed a gun to his temple, one can only imagine his final terrified thoughts.
De Menezes’ padded jacket, considered “inappropriate” for this time of year, was apparently all it took for police to “destroy his brain instantly.”
All the more chilling is Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair’s warning that more innocent people could be gunned down. “Somebody else could be shot,” he said, “but everything is done to make it right.”
Prime Minister Tony Blair defended the shooting, insisting that the “police are doing their job in very, very difficult circumstances, and I think it is important that we give them every support.”
De Menezes’ cold-blooded slaying has shocked millions who rightly sense that it marks the beginning of a dark and disturbing chapter in British history—one in which armed death squads can operate with impunity across the UK.
Their concerns find no echo in the British media, however, which has rushed to defend the new “realities” of modern-day policing.
Writing in Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper, night editor David Dinsmore opined that whilst sympathy for de Menezes’ family was understandable, “I feel sorry for the cop who pulled trigger.” Everyone makes “mistakes” in the course of their work, he continued, “but while most of us can walk away from our mistakes relatively unscathed, those [police officers] involved [in de Menezes’ shooting] can now expect to be charged, face losing their jobs and even going to jail.”
“It is exactly this kind of nonsense that cannot be allowed to happen,” Dinsmore continued. “Bin Laden must be rubbing his hands in glee as the liberal lawyers begin sharpening their pens ready to dash off the writs...Every politician in the country needs to have the conviction to get behind our policemen at this crucial time or we may as well surrender to the terrorists now.”
In truth, the officer involved in de Menezes’ death has not even been suspended pending further investigation, but simply moved to other duties, and an inquiry by the Independent Police Complaints Commission is expected to take months to report. The IPCC has already stated that its investigation will not “start from the assumption” that any crime has been committed.
To date, most human rights organisations have remained silent. The civil rights organisation Liberty, for example, has said it will not “rush to judgement”—a courtesy that was tragically not afforded to de Menezes.
What Dinsmore is really arguing is that at no time and on no account should the state be held to account for de Menezes’ death, nor any other action taken in the name of the “war against terror.” Those who demand otherwise are giving in to the terrorists.
Contempt for civil liberties is not confined to the right-wing press. Writing in the Guardian on July 25, Peter Preston insisted, “Stockwell is not the place for a soapbox.”
Making mistakes was not a crime, he wrote regarding the police shooting. “Simple, inevitable fallibility” was a “basic law of the human condition.”
“Stuff happens,” he declared, implying that the state execution of an innocent man is no big deal. “We’re crazy to rush on to soapboxes when it does,” he added.
According to Preston, there can be no discussion of de Menezes’ death and its implications. Instead, people must accept such horrors as a fact of life and move on.
An editorial in the Independent expressed the desire that the police officers involved in the shooting not be “scapegoated.” Dismissing concerns that the young electrician’s death “showed that we now have a trigger-happy police force,” it argued, “All the evidence points in the opposite direction.” Eight bullets pumped into the head of an innocent man is not evidence enough for the Independent.
Whilst all the newspapers agreed there should be no questioning of the police, no such restrictions apply to the victim. Independent columnist Bruce Anderson was perhaps the most insistent in this regard.
“Anyone who behaves as Mr. de Menezes did can not have been keeping abreast of current affairs,” Anderson wrote. “His conduct invited the police to draw the conclusions which they did and to act as they did. He was the author of his own misfortune.”
According to Anderson, de Menezes was asking for it. He should have realized that the war on terror had granted police a license to target anyone with brown skin dressed in a warm coat.
Just when one thought Anderson had plumbed the depths of political depravity, there was the Guardian. In its leader of July 25, “Death of an Innocent Man,” the Guardian commented, “[T]he biggest mistake the police made was not the most obvious one of shooting the wrong man ...
“The biggest mistake was not to properly prepare the public for the sustained campaign of violence facing the country. Even when Mr. Menezes was thought to be a bomber, witnesses were shocked by the ferocity with which he was killed. More should have been done to prepare the public for the forceful response needed to protect them.”
In other words, revulsion at de Menezes’ murder showed that the public had not been sufficiently “bloodied” beforehand to accept extra-judicial executions, and more efforts needed to be made towards this end.
Whatever the particulars surrounding de Menezes’ shooting, his death is being used retroactively precisely to condition public opinion to accept the militarisation and brutalisation of daily life.
No other conclusion can be drawn from the fact that the government and the security forces have surreptitiously remodeled law-and-order policies along the lines of Israel and Sri Lanka—two countries whose ruling elites have prosecuted a savage, decades-long civil war against Palestinians and Tamils respectively.
This points to another reality of Blair’s Britain: the huge social polarization that now exists. In recent decades, successive governments have carried out policies aimed at benefiting a tiny privileged elite at the expense of the broad mass of working people.
In Britain, private capital has been given the go-ahead to loot the vital resources—health, education, housing—on which millions depend. Social benefits have been all but eradicated and wage rates slashed to amongst the lowest in Western Europe. Social inequality is now the greatest on record as a consequence.
This has been accompanied by a turn to imperialist war and neo-colonialism. From the Balkans, to Africa, to the Middle East, Britain’s ruling class seek once again to subjugate the former colonies, so as to more effectively exploit their peoples and resources.
The Guardian and the Independent speak for a narrow segment of the upper-middle-class that has materially benefited from these policies and is reconciled to their consequences.
Nothing progressive can be expected from such quarters. Opposition to the creeping imposition of a police state depends on the active and independent intervention of working people and all those committed to the defence of democratic rights, through the organisation of protests, demonstrations and meetings to demand an end to state terror and the holding to account of all those responsible for preparing and commissioning the policy that led to de Menezes’ shooting.See Also:
Blair imported Mideast violence to Britain.
by Eric Margolis
Murdering civilians in London, New York or Tel Aviv is a heinous crime.
But to many people around the globe, so was the trumped-up invasion of
Iraq that violated every norm of international law, the ongoing U.S.
occupation of Afghanistan, and the agony of Palestine. Deporting or
jailing loudmouth radical Muslim clerics and closing madrassas won't stop
the dangerous jihadist movement. Neither will blaming Islam or Pakistan.
Terrorist violence is the effect, not the cause.
The bombings in London have been accompanied by a campaign on the part of the political and media establishment to deny the obvious—that these attacks are the inexorable consequences of American and British foreign policy, above all the war in Iraq. A particularly provocative example of this campaign is Thomas Friedman’s column in the July 22 New York Times, entitled “Giving the Hatemonger No Place to Hide.”
Friedman levels against critics of the war policies of the Bush administration the vile charge that they are moral and political accomplices of those who carry out terrorist acts. “After every major terrorist incident,” he writes, “the excuse makers come out to tell us why imperialism, Zionism, colonialism or Iraq explains why the terrorists acted. These excuse makers are just one notch less despicable than the terrorists and deserve to be exposed.”
This smear comes from a man who has the benefit of a politically influential pulpit at the Times. In constructing this amalgam—grouping together those who would seek to explain the historical and political origins of terrorist acts with the terrorists themselves—Friedman provides an ideological justification for legal sanctions and even violence against opponents of government policies.What does Friedman mean by “excuse makers?” Does Friedman expect anyone who is in any way familiar with the history of the Middle East to believe that the bombings in London and other terrorist attacks are unrelated to the policies of the American government and its allies, above all the British government of Tony Blair?
Whenever a major crisis emerges in political life, it is necessary to distinguish between the often peculiar forms in which the crisis makes its initial appearance and the more fundamental underlying issues. So it is with the uproar touched off by the reports that Karl Rove, Bush’s top political aide, leaked the identity of a CIA undercover operative to the press, as part of an effort to punish critics of the Iraq war.
The facts of the Rove affair are no longer in question. In July 2003, after former ambassador Joseph Wilson published an op-ed column in the New York Times criticizing the administration for making bogus claims that Saddam Hussein had sought to purchase uranium in Africa, the White House moved swiftly to retaliate. Wilson explained in his article his own role in going to Niger at the behest of the CIA to investigate the issue in 2002, and related how he found the charges to be unfounded.
Only a day after the column appeared, top White House aides were reading a secret State Department memorandum on the Wilson trip which included the information—denoted as top secret—that Wilson’s wife Valerie was a CIA operative specializing in the field of weapons of mass destruction. Within three days, Rove and other officials were circulating that information to the press, suggesting that Mrs. Wilson had engineered her husband’s trip and presenting this as a case of nepotism that cast doubt on Wilson’s findings.
A week after Wilson’s column appeared, right-wing columnist Robert Novak, a longtime recipient of leaks from Karl Rove, became the first journalist to identify Mrs. Wilson publicly as a CIA agent, under her maiden name, Valerie Plame. This was accompanied by the White House-inspired smear about her alleged role in sending her husband to Niger.
Over the past year, a number of US government audits have documented the mismanagement, lack of accounting, corruption and likely theft of billions of dollars during the 13 months that the US-controlled Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) governed Iraq. Legal actions have been initiated against US contracting companies such as Haliburton and calls for further investigations were made in June in the US House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform.
However, one aspect of the audit findings that raises many issues has received little media coverage. In the eight weeks before the June 28, 2004 handover of sovereignty to the so-called Iraqi interim government, the CPA ordered $5 billion to be shipped to Iraq in $100 notes and other US currency bills. The large sums of cash that were disbursed to Iraqi government ministries, provincial governors and American military field commanders in the final months of the CPA’s existence are simply unaccounted for.
After a $1 billion shipment in May 2004, two more cash shipments in June 2004 were by far the largest the Federal Reserve has ever carried out in its history. A Fed official commented in an email on June 11: “Just when you think you’ve seen it all... the CPA is ordering $2,401,600,000 in currency to be shipped out on Friday, June 18.” On June 22, 2004, C-130 cargo planes arrived in Baghdad containing the $2.4 billion in $100 notes. Three days later, on June 25, another shipment of $1.6 billion touched down.
The cash that flooded into Iraq in the lead-up to the formation of the interim government leaves questions about the manner in which the regime was assembled. At the time, the WSWS characterised the process leading to the formation of the puppet regime as “a carefully contrived political balancing act aimed at paying off the various rival ethnic and political organisations that backed the US invasion” (see “Washington installs new puppet regime in Baghdad”).
The findings of the audits give grounds to suspect that the “paying off” involved far more than just the allocation of ministerial positions and political posts. The willingness of various Iraqi factions to participate may well have been facilitated by a share in the large amounts of US dollars.
Plane-loads of $100 bills arrived in Iraq amid a severe military and political crisis facing US-led forces. In April 2004, the resentment and discontent among the Iraqi people against the occupation erupted. Thousands of young working class Shiites took up arms in Baghdad, Najaf, Karbala and numerous other southern Iraqi cities after the US military attempted to suppress the anti-occupation movement led by cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. After the killing of four mercenaries in Fallujah, the citizens of the Sunni city defied ultimatums that they allow American troops to enter and withstood a three-week assault by marines.
As well as shoring up pro-US political figures in the face of a popular uprising against the occupation, a portion of the unaccounted-for cash is likely to have been used to pay for what can only be described as Iraqi mercenaries.
In late April 2004, the marine commanders directing the assault on Fallujah recruited former Baathist generals to form a 5,000-strong brigade made up of former Iraqi military personnel and convince the local fighters to allow it to enter the city. While the so-called “Fallujah Brigade” collapsed shortly after, its creation enabled the US military to make a tactical retreat and re-deploy forces to crush Sadr’s rebellion in the south.
During June and July 2004, it is also known that the US military and the US-installed interim prime minister Iyad Allawi recruited large numbers of Saddam Hussein’s secret police and elite security forces. In particular, ex-Baathist generals and thousands of former Iraqi Republican Guard enlisted with the occupation to form the interior ministry “special police commandos”—the main local force that has since fought alongside the US military against the insurgency.
The impact of the orgy of CPA outlays in May and June 2004 was that the incoming interim government inherited a vastly depleted treasury and was left dependent upon financial injections from Washington. All of the funds spent by the CPA were Iraqi assets that had been handed over to or confiscated by the US occupation forces. Between May 2003 and July 2004, the CPA took possession of over $23.3 billion of Iraqi funds and spent or contractually obligated some $19.6 billion. Just $3.7 billion was left when sovereignty was transferred.
The Iraqi assets handed over to and liquidated by the CPA came from three sources: $1.9 billion from assets frozen in US banks since the 1991 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait; $926 million in US currency that the occupation forces seized from Iraqi banks; and $20.7 billion from the so-called “Development Fund for Iraq” (DFI).
The DFI was established in May 2003 by UN Security Council Resolution 1483, which recognised the US-led occupation as the sovereign authority in Iraq. The first money deposited in the fund consisted of $8.1 billion from the UN-run Oil-for-Food program, which had taken in the revenues from official Iraq oil sales since 1991. It was added to by Iraqi assets frozen in banks outside the US, and, over the following months, the proceeds of Iraqi oil sales. Haliburton alone was paid $1.6 billion from the DFI for various CPA contracts.
Of the $19.6 billion in Iraqi funds that was spent or obligated by the CPA, an incredible $12.7 billion was disbursed in the form of US currency. During its existence, the CPA converted close to $12 billion of Iraqi assets into US currency and ordered it to be shipped to Iraq by the Federal Reserve. In all, 281 million US currency bills, including 107 million $100 notes, were sent to the occupied country from the US during the existence of the CPA. It was shipped in by cargo planes on 484 pallets weighing a total of 363 tonnes.
Where the money went is shrouded in mystery. A June 2005 report prepared for Democrat congressman Henry A. Waxman of the House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform, which brought together the findings of various audits, stated the following in its executive summary:
“The report has three principal findings: (1) unprecedented sums of cash were withdrawn from Iraqi accounts at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York and transferred to US officials at the CPA; (2) CPA officials used virtually no financial controls to account for these enormous cash withdrawals once they arrived in Iraq; and (3) there is evidence of substantial waste, fraud and abuse in the actual spending and disbursement of the Iraqi funds”(see “Rebuilding Iraq: US Mismanagement of Iraqi Funds”, June 2005).
Iraqi provincial governments were given close to $1 billion by the CPA—most of it in cash. An audit into these payments noted that “numerous disbursements to and from the provincial treasuries and their divisions were not recorded or incorrectly recorded by either party”.
The CPA handed over more than $637 million in cash to US military commanders and civilian officials under the Commanders Emergency Response Program (CERP) and the Rapid Regional Response Program (RRRP). The Special Inspector General found that “there was no assurance that fraud, waste and abuse did not occur in the management and administration of cash assets”.
The CPA was unable to account for 80 percent of the $119.9 million in cash spent in the south-central region of Iraq. According to one audit, a US official responsible for disbursements in Iraq’s south-central region was given $6.75 million in cash on June 21, 2004 and instructions to liquidate it before the handover of power.
The most questions surround the transfer of some $10.9 billion by the CPA to the Iraqi ministries it had set up. At least $8.8 billion was handed over to these bodies in the form of US currency. As far more than half the cash sent to Iraq by the Federal Reserve—over $7.3 billion—arrived between February 2004 and June 28, 2004, the largest disbursements must have taken place in the months and weeks before the formation of the interim government.
The Special Inspector General reported that the CPA “did not establish or implement sufficient managerial, financial and contractual controls to ensure DFI funds were used in a transparent manner” by Iraqi ministries and disbursed funds “without assurance the monies were properly used or accounted for”.
The audit found, for example, that “approximately $1.5 billion in cash allocations were made to Iraqi banks between January and April 2004 for ministry operating expenses, yet spending plans supported only approximately $498 million in operating expenses”. At one Iraqi ministry, 8,206 security guards were on the payroll but auditors could only validate the employment of 602.
A former CPA official, Frank Willis, told researchers for Waxman that there was “leakage of assets all over the place”. What the audit did not stress, however, is that the Iraqi ministries operated completely under the control of hundreds of US officials who were installed by the Bush administration. They could easily have functioned as a convenient conduit for the appropriation of Iraqi assets for any number of purposes—from bribery to covert operations to outright theft.
The evidence of corruption and the unanswered questions that surround the CPA’s spending of Iraqi assets serves to underscore the criminality of the entire US invasion and occupation of Iraq. Behind the propaganda of bringing “liberation” and “democracy”, the real agenda of the US ruling class in Iraq was and remains the looting of its assets and its energy resources, at the expense of the Iraqi masses.
The British Labour government is advancing new repressive measures in the aftermath of the July 7 London bombings.
In a speech to the National Police Forum on July 16, Prime Minister Tony Blair called for a “battle of ideas and hearts and minds” to defeat what he called the fanatical beliefs and distortion of Islam that lay behind the London suicide bombings.
“In the end, it is by the power of argument, debate, true religious faith and true legitimate politics that we will defeat this threat,” he concluded.
This was all that was in evidence of a political or ideological struggle, however. As always, Blair’s flowery rhetoric is only window dressing for further attacks on civil rights in the name of pursuing the “war on terror.”
In recent years, Supreme Court justices, politicians and religious figures have advanced the argument that the Founding Fathers based the US Constitution on God’s word. Some have asserted that the Founding Fathers meant for the Constitution to be understood as a Christian document of governance for a Christian nation.
The attack on the principle of separation of church and state has not come only from the Republicans. In the 2000 presidential election, the Democratic ticket was vocal in advancing a religious foundation for American politics. Speaking in Detroit on August 27, 2000, Democratic vice presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman said of the First Amendment: “[T]he Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.” His presidential running mate, Al Gore, promised, if elected, to “precede every major executive decision with the question, ‘What would Jesus do?’ ” George W. Bush has “out-faithed” Gore by beginning each cabinet meeting with a prayer.
In a 2002 speech before the University of Chicago Divinity School, Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia cited Romans 13:1-4 to support the death penalty and establish God’s authority in affairs of state: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God.”
"I am saying that if anyone was involved in that type of activity which I referred to, they would not be working here."- Ron Ziegler, press secretary to Richard Nixon, defending the presidential aide Dwight Chapin on Oct. 18, 1972. Chapin was convicted in April 1974 of perjury in connection with his relationship to the political saboteur Donald Segretti.
"Any individual who works here at the White House has the confidence of the president. They wouldn't be working here at the White House if they didn't have the president's confidence."- Scott McClellan, press secretary to George W. Bush, defending Karl Rove on Tuesday.
WELL, of course, Karl Rove did it. He may not have violated the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, with its high threshold of criminality for outing a covert agent, but there's no doubt he trashed Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame. We know this not only because of Matt Cooper's e-mail, but also because of Mr. Rove's own history. Trashing is in his nature, and bad things happen, usually through under-the-radar whispers, to decent people (and their wives) who get in his way. In the 2000 South Carolina primary, John McCain's wife, Cindy, was rumored to be a drug addict (and Senator McCain was rumored to be mentally unstable). In the 1994 Texas governor's race, Ann Richards found herself rumored to be a lesbian. The implication that Mr. Wilson was a John Kerry-ish girlie man beholden to his wife for his meal ticket is of a thematic piece with previous mud splattered on Rove political adversaries. The difference is that this time Mr. Rove got caught.
Even so, we shouldn't get hung up on him - or on most of the other supposed leading figures in this scandal thus far. Not Matt Cooper or Judy Miller or the Wilsons or the bad guy everyone loves to hate, the former CNN star Robert Novak. This scandal is not about them in the end, any more than Watergate was about Dwight Chapin and Donald Segretti or Woodward and Bernstein. It is about the president of the United States. It is about a plot that was hatched at the top of the administration and in which everyone else, Mr. Rove included, are at most secondary players.
To see the main plot, you must sweep away the subplots, starting with the Cooper e-mail. It has been brandished as a smoking gun by Bush bashers and as exculpatory evidence by Bush backers (Mr. Rove, you see, was just trying to ensure that Time had its facts straight). But no one knows what this e-mail means unless it's set against the avalanche of other evidence, most of it secret, including what Mr. Rove said in three appearances before the grand jury. Therein lies the rub, or at least whatever case might be made for perjury.
Another bogus subplot, long popular on the left, has it that Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor, gave Mr. Novak a free pass out of ideological comradeship. But Mr. Fitzgerald, both young (44) and ambitious, has no record of Starr- or Ashcroft-style partisanship (his contempt for the press notwithstanding) or known proclivity for committing career suicide. What's most likely is that Mr. Novak, more of a common coward than the prince of darkness he fashions himself to be, found a way to spill some beans and avoid Judy Miller's fate. That the investigation has dragged on so long anyway is another indication of the expanded reach of the prosecutorial web.
Apparently this is finally beginning to dawn on Mr. Bush's fiercest defenders and on Mr. Bush himself. Hence, last week's erection of the stonewall manned by the almost poignantly clownish Mr. McClellan, who abruptly rendered inoperative his previous statements that any suspicions about Mr. Rove are "totally ridiculous." The morning after Mr. McClellan went mano a mano with his tormentors in the White House press room - "We've secretly replaced the White House press corps with actual reporters," observed Jon Stewart - the ardently pro-Bush New York Post ran only five paragraphs of a wire-service story on Page 12. That conspicuous burial of what was front-page news beyond Murdochland speaks loudly about the rising anxiety on the right. Since then, White House surrogates have been desperately babbling talking points attacking Joseph Wilson as a partisan and a liar.
These attacks, too, are red herrings. Let me reiterate: This case is not about Joseph Wilson. He is, in Alfred Hitchcock's parlance, a MacGuffin, which, to quote the Oxford English Dictionary, is "a particular event, object, factor, etc., initially presented as being of great significance to the story, but often having little actual importance for the plot as it develops." Mr. Wilson, his mission to Niger to check out Saddam's supposed attempts to secure uranium that might be used in nuclear weapons and even his wife's outing have as much to do with the real story here as Janet Leigh's theft of office cash has to do with the mayhem that ensues at the Bates Motel in "Psycho."
This case is about Iraq, not Niger. The real victims are the American people, not the Wilsons. The real culprit - the big enchilada, to borrow a 1973 John Ehrlichman phrase from the Nixon tapes - is not Mr. Rove but the gang that sent American sons and daughters to war on trumped-up grounds and in so doing diverted finite resources, human and otherwise, from fighting the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. That's why the stakes are so high: this scandal is about the unmasking of an ill-conceived war, not the unmasking of a C.I.A. operative who posed for Vanity Fair.
So put aside Mr. Wilson's February 2002 trip to Africa. The plot that matters starts a month later, in March, and its omniscient author is Dick Cheney. It was Mr. Cheney (on CNN) who planted the idea that Saddam was "actively pursuing nuclear weapons at this time." The vice president went on to repeat this charge in May on "Meet the Press," in three speeches in August and on "Meet the Press" yet again in September. Along the way the frightening word "uranium" was thrown into the mix.
By September the president was bandying about the u-word too at the United Nations and elsewhere, speaking of how Saddam needed only a softball-size helping of uranium to wreak Armageddon on America. But hardly had Mr. Bush done so than, offstage, out of view of us civilian spectators, the whole premise of this propaganda campaign was being challenged by forces with more official weight than Joseph Wilson. In October, the National Intelligence Estimate, distributed to Congress as it deliberated authorizing war, included the State Department's caveat that "claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa," made public in a British dossier, were "highly dubious." A C.I.A. assessment, sent to the White House that month, determined that "the evidence is weak" and "the Africa story is overblown."
AS if this weren't enough, a State Department intelligence analyst questioned the legitimacy of some mysterious documents that had surfaced in Italy that fall and were supposed proof of the Iraq-Niger uranium transaction. In fact, they were blatant forgeries. When Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said as much publicly in the days just before "shock and awe," his announcement made none of the three evening newscasts. The administration's apocalyptic uranium rhetoric, sprinkled with mushroom clouds, had been hammered incessantly for more than five months by then - not merely in the State of the Union address - and could not be dislodged. As scenarios go, this one was about as subtle as "Independence Day" and just as unstoppable a crowd-pleaser.
Once we were locked into the war, and no W.M.D.'s could be found, the original plot line was dropped with an alacrity that recalled the "Never mind!" with which Gilda Radner's Emily Litella used to end her misinformed Weekend Update commentaries on "Saturday Night Live." The administration began its dog-ate-my-homework cover-up, asserting that the various warning signs about the uranium claims were lost "in the bowels" of the bureaucracy or that it was all the C.I.A.'s fault or that it didn't matter anyway, because there were new, retroactive rationales to justify the war. But the administration knows how guilty it is. That's why it has so quickly trashed any insider who contradicts its story line about how we got to Iraq, starting with the former Treasury secretary Paul O'Neill and the former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke.
Next to White House courtiers of their rank, Mr. Wilson is at most a Rosencrantz or Guildenstern. The brief against the administration's drumbeat for war would be just as damning if he'd never gone to Africa. But by overreacting in panic to his single Op-Ed piece of two years ago, the White House has opened a Pandora's box it can't slam shut. Seasoned audiences of presidential scandal know that there's only one certainty ahead: the timing of a Karl Rove resignation. As always in this genre, the knight takes the fall at exactly that moment when it's essential to protect the king.
According to a report released by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Center for Health Policy Research in June, the pains of poverty are sharpening in California with hunger and food insecurity on the rise in the state. In the cruelest of ironies, the study found that some of the worst conditions in the state prevail among the poor and working poor in the Central Valley region of San Joaquin County—one of the nation’s centers of agricultural production.
Based on data from the 2003 California Health Interview Survey, the UCLA researchers determined that more than 2.9 million adults in low-income California households feared not being able to feed themselves or their families in the past year. The report notes that if each of the adults suffering from food insecurity had just one child—a modest guess—the total number of people affected by this condition in California would be approximately 6 million. Of those deemed food insecure, almost 900,000 have experienced periods of hunger and the remaining 2 million are at continual risk of being hungry.
In a case of what amounts to modern day slavery, a US federal judge in Hawaii late last month sentenced Kil Soo Lee, the former owner of a garment factory in American Samoa, to 40 years jail. The court also ordered the South Korean businessman to pay $US1.8 million in restitution to about 300 immigrant workers, who were lured to the South Pacific islands with the promise of three years’ employment and wages of $US400 per month.
Originally charged in 2001, Lee was convicted in February 2003 of a number of federal criminal violations, including involuntary servitude, extortion and money laundering. He owned the Daewoosa garment factory, which operated in the US territory from 1998 to 2001 using immigrant workers recruited from China and Vietnam and forced to labour in atrocious conditions.
Even as new information emerged about US military torture of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the Pentagon gave a clean bill of health to the individual who presided over the abuses.
Against the recommendations of the military’s own investigators, who urged that Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller be reprimanded, Gen. Bantz Craddock, head of the US Southern Command, rejected any disciplinary action. There could hardly be a clearer signal that, despite the Bush administration’s official disavowals, torture of prisoners is and will remain American policy.
Has the Turd Blossom Express Reached the End of the Line?
Posted July 12, 2005 at 6:56 p.m. EDT
The Rove Scandal Train is picking up momentum (even here in Nice). Just ask Scottie McClellan, who is starting to look more and more like Ron Ziegler with every passing press briefing.
Actually, two separate Rove trains have left the station (and, no, this isn't going to be one of those old algebra problems they used to give us). The legal train and the political train -- heading along two very separate tracks. But it's now clear that the White House damage control team has decided to try and link the two. (Maybe this is one of those algebra problems: "If two trains leave the White House heading in opposite directions, one leading to a federal courthouse and the other to political Siberia, can even a Boy Genius keep both of them from going off track?")
The White House strategy is actually a very smart one. As Lawrence O'Donnell has explained in detail , the bar is set very high on proving Rove broke the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. As Victoria Toensing, who was chief counsel to the Senate intelligence committee when the law was enacted, put it, "We made it exceedingly difficult to violate." (Wonder if she passed this tidbit on to her good pal Bob Novak before he outed Plame?)
Indeed, according to the New York Times, only one person has been prosecuted under the relevant statute -- a CIA clerk in Ghana who ID'd two CIA agents to a boyfriend. (Some kind of strange pillow talk? "Yeah, tell me who's covert, baby!")
By linking the potential political fallout to the legal issue at hand, the White House can then hem, haw, and stall -- claiming that we need to let the legal system run its course -- and then hope that if special prosecutor Fitzgerald can't clear the high legal bar and indict Rove, it'll be able to claim that he's somehow been exonerated for his political sins as well.
Which, of course, is utter nonsense. Because while the legal jury may be out, the political jury is definitely in... Whether someone in a position of power and authority has acted inappropriately is not a matter of narrow legal definitions and fine semantic distinctions. Given what we already know about Rove's conversations, we can, right now, without even a single new revelation, and without reservation, say this: he is guilty of behavior that dishonored the White House and that placed the dirty politics of vindictive retribution over national security.
Ethics isn't just about what is legal or illegal. It's about what is right and what is wrong. And what Rove did was wrong -- no amount of legalistic hair-splitting will change that.
So the question is: will the press buy into the White House's attempt to put the two Rove trains on the same track? Perhaps... but after ignoring the story for weeks (hell, years!), it looks like the MSM are smelling blood in the water. ABC's Terry Moran, CBS's John Roberts, and NBC's David Gregory were all aggressive in their questioning of McClellan at today's press briefing, and even Tim Russert weighed in on the Today show (wearing what Crooks and Liars called "his super double secret serious face"), saying, "One Republican said to me last night, 'If this was a Democratic White House, we'd have Congressional hearings in a second.'" (Don't you just love it when Tim slips on his ultimate insider status and models it like a sexy negligee?)
Here's the bottom line: let's imagine for a moment that Fitzgerald does not indict Rove. Does this in any way mitigate, excuse, or erase what Rove did? Does it take the onus off President Bush's promise to fire the White House leaker? Of course not. Rove leaked -- and he should be fired. The Turd Blossom Express has reached the end of the line.