Monday, October 31, 2005
Paul Krugman: Ending the Fraudulence Part 1
Paul Krugman: Ending the Fraudulence Part 2
Ending the Fraudulence
Let me be frank: it has been a long political nightmare. For some of us, daily life has remained safe and comfortable, so the nightmare has merely been intellectual: we realized early on that this administration was cynical, dishonest and incompetent, but spent a long time unable to get others to see the obvious. For others - above all, of course, those Americans risking their lives in a war whose real rationale has never been explained - the nightmare has been all too concrete.
So is the nightmare finally coming to an end? Yes, I think so. I have no idea whether Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor, will bring more indictments in the Plame affair. In any case, I don't share fantasies that Dick Cheney will be forced to resign; even Karl Rove may keep his post. One way or another, the Bush administration will stagger on for three more years. But its essential fraudulence stands exposed, and it's hard to see how that exposure can be undone.
What do I mean by essential fraudulence? Basically, I mean the way an administration with an almost unbroken record of policy failure has nonetheless achieved political dominance through a carefully cultivated set of myths.
The record of policy failure is truly remarkable. It sometimes seems as if President Bush and Mr. Cheney are Midases in reverse: everything they touch - from Iraq reconstruction to hurricane relief, from prescription drug coverage to the pursuit of Osama - turns to crud. Even the few apparent successes turn out to contain failures at their core: for example, real G.D.P. may be up, but real wages are down.
The point is that this administration's political triumphs have never been based on its real-world achievements, which are few and far between. The administration has, instead, built its power on myths: the myth of presidential leadership, the ugly myth that the administration is patriotic while its critics are not. Take away those myths, and the administration has nothing left.
Well, Katrina ended the leadership myth, which was already fading as the war dragged on. There was a time when a photo of Mr. Bush looking out the window of Air Force One on 9/11 became an iconic image of leadership. Now, a similar image of Mr. Bush looking out at a flooded New Orleans has become an iconic image of his lack of connection. Pundits may try to resurrect Mr. Bush's reputation, but his cult of personality is dead - and the inscription on the tombstone reads, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."
Meanwhile, the Plame inquiry, however it winds up, has ended the myth of the administration's monopoly on patriotism, which was also fading in the face of the war.
Apologists can shout all they like that no laws were broken, that hardball politics is nothing new, or whatever. The fact remains that officials close to both Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush leaked the identity of an undercover operative for political reasons. Whether or not that act was illegal, it was clearly unpatriotic.
And the Plame affair has also solidified the public's growing doubts about the administration's morals. By a three-to-one margin, according to a Washington Post poll, the public now believes that the level of ethics and honesty in the government has declined rather than risen under Mr. Bush.
So the Bush administration has lost the myths that sustained its mojo, and with them much of its power to do harm. But the nightmare won't be fully over until two things happen.
First, politicians will have to admit that they were misled. Second, the news media will have to face up to their role in allowing incompetents to pose as leaders and political apparatchiks to pose as patriots.
It's a sad commentary on the timidity of most Democrats that even now, with Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former chief of staff, telling us how policy was "hijacked" by the Cheney-Rumsfeld "cabal," it's hard to get leading figures to admit that they were misled into supporting the Iraq war. Kudos to John Kerry for finally saying just that last week.
And as for the media: these days, there is much harsh, justified criticism of the failure of major news organizations, this one included, to exert due diligence on rationales for the war. But the failures that made the long nightmare possible began much earlier, during the weeks after 9/11, when the media eagerly helped our political leaders build up a completely false picture of who they were.
So the long nightmare won't really be over until journalists ask themselves: what did we know, when did we know it, and why didn't we tell the public?
Sunday, October 30, 2005
Part 2 Frank Rich
Iraq war is the real “underlying crime” in the Libby indictment
By Bill Van Auken
29 October 2005
The indictment in the CIA leak investigation of Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, has deepened the political crisis of the Bush administration, while further exposing the methods of criminality and conspiracy that extend from the White House on down.
Libby was charged Friday with obstruction of justice, perjury and making false statements, felony offenses that together are punishable by up to 30 years in prison. After being told of the charges, he resigned from the government.
Justice Department Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald made it clear that the investigation into the deliberate leaking of the identity of CIA covert operative Valerie Plame Wilson had not concluded. President Bush’s chief political adviser, Karl Rove, remains a subject of this probe, having for the moment avoided an indictment. Rove’s lawyer said prosecutors told him they had “made no decision about whether or not to bring charges.”
The exposure of the CIA agent was part of a “dirty tricks” campaign aimed at discrediting and punishing her husband, Joseph Wilson, a former ambassador who had publicly exposed the administration for lying to the American public about the supposed threat posed by Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction.” These non-existent weapons were the principal pretext given by Washington for launching an unprovoked war against Iraq in March 2003.
Energy companies announce record profits amidst soaring prices for US consumers
By Joseph Kay and Naomi Spencer
29 October 2005
This week, the major international energy companies announced sharp increases in profits for the third quarter. The energy giants are benefiting from a prolonged period of rising energy costs, exacerbated in September by the effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The record profits are being paid directly from the pockets of millions of Americans, who face increased gasoline prices and the prospect of sharply higher home heating bills during the winter.
Leading the pack was ExxonMobil, the world’s largest oil company. Exxon reported third-quarter profits of $9.92 billion, 75 percent higher than its third-quarter earnings last year and the largest quarterly profit ever reported by a US company. The company also boasted revenues of more than $100 billion, another US record and a 32 percent increase over the company’s revenues in the second-quarter.
The Wall Street Journal on Friday noted that Exxon’s profits amounted to nearly $75,000 a minute, every minute, for the entire three months of the quarter (July, August and September). Exxon’s profit for the first nine months of the year, more than $25 billion, already exceeds its annual profit last year. The company made more money in the third quarter than all but eight companies in the S&P 500 made in all of 2004.
One Step Closer to the Big Enchilada
TO believe that the Bush-Cheney scandals will be behind us anytime soon you'd have to believe that the Nixon-Agnew scandals peaked when G. Gordon Liddy and his bumbling band were nailed for the Watergate break-in. But Watergate played out for nearly two years after the gang that burglarized Democratic headquarters was indicted by a federal grand jury; it even dragged on for more than a year after Nixon took "responsibility" for the scandal, sacrificed his two top aides and weathered the indictments of two first-term cabinet members. In those ensuing months, America would come to see that the original petty crime was merely the leading edge of thematically related but wildly disparate abuses of power that Nixon's attorney general, John Mitchell, would name "the White House horrors."
In our current imperial presidency, as in its antecedent, what may look like a narrow case involving a second banana with a child's name contains the DNA of the White House, and that DNA offers a road map to the duplicitous culture of the whole. The coming prosecution of Lewis (Scooter) Libby in the Wilson affair is hardly the end of the story. That "Cheney's Cheney," as Mr. Libby is known, would allegedly go to such lengths to obscure his role in punishing a man who challenged the administration's W.M.D. propaganda is just one very big window into the genesis of the smoke screen (or, more accurately, mushroom cloud) that the White House used to sell the war in Iraq.
After the heat of last week's drama, we can forget just how effective the administration's cover-up of that con job had been until very recently. Before Patrick Fitzgerald's leak investigation, there were two separate official investigations into the failure of prewar intelligence. With great fanfare and to great acclaim, both found that our information about Saddam's W.M.D.'s was dead wrong. But wittingly or unwittingly, both of these supposedly thorough inquiries actually protected the White House by avoiding, in Watergate lingo, "the big enchilada."
The 601-page report from the special presidential commission led by Laurence Silberman and Charles Robb, hailed at its March release as a "sharp critique" by Mr. Bush, contains only a passing mention of Dick Cheney. It has no mention whatsoever of Mr. Libby or Karl Rove or their semicovert propaganda operation (the White House Iraq Group, or WHIG) created to push all that dead-wrong intel. Nor does it mention Douglas Feith, the first-term under secretary of defense for policy, whose rogue intelligence operation in the Pentagon supplied the vice president with the disinformation that bamboozled the nation.
The other investigation into prewar intelligence, by the Senate Intelligence Committee, is a scandal in its own right. After the release of its initial findings in July 2004, the committee's Republican chairman, Pat Roberts, promised that a Phase 2 to determine whether the White House had misled the public would arrive after the presidential election. It still hasn't, and no wonder: Murray Waas reported Thursday in The National Journal that Mr. Cheney and Mr. Libby had refused to provide the committee with "crucial documents," including the Libby-written passages in early drafts of Colin Powell's notorious presentation of W.M.D. "evidence" to the U.N. on the eve of war.
Along the way, Mr. Fitzgerald's investigation has prompted the revelation of much of what these previous investigations left out. But even so, the trigger for the Wilson affair - the administration's fierce effort to protect its hype of Saddam's uranium - is only one piece of the larger puzzle of post- and pre-9/11 White House subterfuge. We're a long way from putting together the full history of a self-described "war presidency" that bungled the war in Iraq and, in doing so, may be losing the war against radical Islamic terrorism as well.
There are many other mysteries to be cracked, from the catastrophic, almost willful failure of the Pentagon to plan for the occupation of Iraq to the utter ineptitude of the huge and costly Department of Homeland Security that was revealed in all its bankruptcy by Katrina. There are countless riddles, large and small. Why have the official reports on detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo spared all but a single officer in the chain of command? Why does Halliburton continue to receive lucrative government contracts even after it's been the focus of multiple federal inquiries into accusations of bid-rigging, overcharging and fraud? Why did it take five weeks for Pat Tillman's parents to be told that their son had been killed by friendly fire, and who ordered up the fake story of his death that was sold relentlessly on TV before then?
These questions are just a representative sampling. It won't be easy to get honest answers because this administration, like Nixon's, practices obsessive secrecy even as it erects an alternative reality built on spin and outright lies.
Mr. Cheney is a particularly shameless master of these black arts. Long before he played semantics on "Meet the Press" with his knowledge of Joseph Wilson in the leak case, he repeatedly fictionalized crucial matters of national security. As far back as May 8, 2001, he appeared on CNN to promote his new assignment, announced that day by Mr. Bush, to direct a governmentwide review of U.S. "consequence management" in the event of a terrorist attack. As we would learn only in the recriminatory aftermath of 9/11 (from Barton Gellman of The Washington Post), Mr. Cheney never did so.
That stunt was a preview of Mr. Cheney's unreliable pronouncements about the war, from his early prediction that American troops would be "greeted as liberators" in Iraq to this summer's declaration that the insurgency was in its "last throes." Even before he began inflating Saddam's nuclear capabilities, he went on "Meet the Press" in December 2001 to peddle the notion that "it's been pretty well confirmed" that there was a direct pre-9/11 link between Mohammed Atta and Iraqi intelligence. When the Atta-Saddam link was disproved later, Gloria Borger, interviewing the vice president on CNBC, confronted him about his earlier claim, and Mr. Cheney told her three times that he had never said it had been "pretty well confirmed." When a man thinks he can get away with denying his own words even though there are millions of witnesses and a video record, he clearly believes he can get away with murder.
Mr. Bush is only slightly less brazen. His own false claims about Iraq's W.M.D.'s ("We found the weapons of mass destruction," he said in May 2003) are, if anything, exceeded by his repeated boasts of capturing various bin Laden and Zarqawi deputies and beating back Al Qaeda. His speech this month announcing the foiling of 10 Qaeda plots is typical; as USA Today reported last week, at least 6 of the 10 on the president's list "involved preliminary ideas about potential attacks, not terrorist operations that were about to be carried out." In June, Mr. Bush stood beside his attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, and similarly claimed that "federal terrorism investigations have resulted in charges against more than 400 suspects" and that "more than half" of those had been convicted. A Washington Post investigation found that only 39 of those convictions had involved terrorism or national security (as opposed to, say, immigration violations). That sum could yet be exceeded by the combined number of convictions in the Jack Abramoff-Tom DeLay scandals.
The hyping of post-9/11 threats indeed reflects the same DNA as the hyping of Saddam's uranium: in both cases, national security scares are trumpeted to advance the White House's political goals. Keith Olbermann of MSNBC recently compiled 13 "coincidences" in which "a political downturn for the administration," from revelations of ignored pre-9/11 terror warnings to fresh news of detainee abuses, is "followed by a 'terror event' - a change in alert status, an arrest, a warning." To switch the national subject from the fallout of the televised testimony of the F.B.I. whistle-blower Coleen Rowley in 2002, John Ashcroft went so far as to broadcast a frantic announcement, via satellite from Russia, that the government had "disrupted an unfolding terrorist plot" to explode a dirty bomb. What he was actually referring to was the arrest of a single suspect, Jose Padilla, for allegedly exploring such a plan - an arrest that had taken place a month earlier.
For now, it's conventional wisdom in Washington that the Bush White House's infractions are nowhere near those of the Nixon administration, as David Gergen put it on MSNBC on Friday morning. But Watergate's dirty tricks were mainly prompted by the ruthless desire to crush the political competition at any cost. That's a powerful element in the Bush scandals, too, but this administration has upped the ante by playing dirty tricks with war. Back on July 6, 2003, when the American casualty toll in Iraq stood at 169 and Mr. Wilson had just published his fateful Op-Ed, Robert Novak, yet to write his column outing Mr. Wilson's wife, declared that "weapons of mass destruction or uranium from Niger" were "little elitist issues that don't bother most of the people." That's what Nixon administration defenders first said about the "third-rate burglary" at Watergate, too.
monkey on ur back II 102905
The Democrats Blow It On Iraq... Again!
Posted October 26, 2005 at 8:20 p.m. EDT
With Plamegate dominating the day, the table is set for the Democratic Party to seize the moment. The scandal has reignited a national debate about the White House lies and deceptions that led us to war in Iraq, public support for the president's handling of the war has hit an all-time low, and the 2,000th soldier killed in action has put the human cost of the war back on page one.
So how have the Democrats reacted?
You be the grand jury (Warning: have some Zoloft or other suitable anti-depressant handy):
Exhibit A is the story NPR ran on Tuesday in which Senate Dems were asked if they regretted their votes to authorize the war in Iraq. Ben Nelson was among those who defended his vote, saying, "You just don't look back." Really? Why not? Afraid you might actually learn something from your mistakes, Senator?
Hillary Clinton refused to even address the question, telling reporter David Welna, "I really can't talk about this on the fly, it's too important." As with everything Hillary says and does these days, you could hear her and her consultants doing the math: Expressing regret = too soft for the Oval Office. Continuing to express support of the administration's Iraq policy = risking being overtaken by the post-Plamegate reassessment of the war. (So would offering a glowing assessment of progress in Iraq, as Clinton did during her visit there in February when she explained that suicide bombers are "an indication" of the "failure" of the insurgency, and that much of Iraq was "functioning quite well").
Clinton and Nelson should get a copy of the NPR segment and listen to the responses of Sens. Dodd, Feinstein, Rockefeller, and Harkin who all said they would not have voted the way they did. They should also listen to the speech John Kerry gave today in which he said that "knowing what we know now" he would not have voted to give the administration the authority to go to war.
Exhibit B was Chuck Schumer's disheartening appearance on Meet the Press last Sunday. When Tim Russert asked him if he regretted having voted for the war, Schumer replied: "No, Tim, because my vote was seen -- and I still see it -- as a need to say we must fight a strong and active war on terror" (a ludicrous response he echoed on NPR). The senior senator from New York really ought to have gotten the memo by now that the Iraq-al Qaeda connection was just a Bush fantasy. Until we invaded Iraq, that is. And far from leading to "a strong and active war on terror," his vote has helped turned Iraq into a breeding ground for terrorists while making us far less safe here at home.
Exhibit C was the report I got from the intimate Democratic strategy session held at Ron Burkle's house in Los Angeles to discuss the Dems' need for a united message. Those present included Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid's chief of staff, Susan McCue, pollster Doug Shoen, Haim Saban, Rob Reiner, Steve Bing, and Warren Beatty. Among the highlights was the Hollywood unveiling of the Dems' new slogan -- "America Can Do Better" -- a soulless and vacuous phrase that sums up a party that's become pathologically risk-averse. The discussion also included the latest report from Democracy Corps, run by James Carville and Stan Greenberg, which is calling for an agenda focused on "heath care, education and energy, followed by a top end tax cut repeal and homeland security." In other words, let's party like it's 2004!
Have Democratic leaders completely forgotten that we are at war? A war that's going very badly? A war Plamegate has brought to the forefront of national consciousness? A war the majority of Americans now feel was a mistake?
Cindy Sheehan hasn't.
She's making it clear that "any candidate who supports the war should not receive our support." Including Hillary Clinton, about whom she blogged: "I would love to support Hillary for president if she would come out against the travesty in Iraq. But I don't think she can speak out against the occupation because she supports it."
Sheehan and Clinton met last month to discuss the war. "She said she has to make sure our sons didn't die in vain," Sheehan said this week. "That is a totally Republican talking point."
Indeed it is. During his speech at Bolling Air Force Base on Tuesday, President Bush said, "The best way to honor the sacrifice of our fallen troops is to complete the mission."
So George Bush and the Democrats' leading contender for 2008 are reading from the same script. Tells you all you need to know about why the Democrats continue to flounder.
Maybe the Dems' message team is on to something after all. When it comes to having an opposition party willing to actually be in opposition, "America Can Do Better."
Saturday, October 29, 2005
Maureen Dowd Part 1
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Who's on First?
It was bracing to see the son of a New York doorman open the door on the mendacious Washington lair of the Lord of the Underground.
But this Irish priest of the law, Patrick Fitzgerald, neither Democrat nor Republican, was very strict, very precise. He wasn't totally gratifying in clearing up the murkiness of the case, yet strangely comforting in his quaint black-and-white notions of truth and honor (except when his wacky baseball metaphor seemed to veer toward a "Who's on first?" tangle).
"This indictment's not about the propriety of the war," he told reporters yesterday in his big Eliot Ness moment at the Justice Department. The indictment was simply about whether the son of an investment banker perjured himself before a grand jury and the F.B.I.
Scooter does seem like a big fat liar in the indictment. And not a clever one, since his deception hinged on, of all people, the popular monsignor of the trusted Sunday Church of Russert. Does Scooter hope to persuade a jury to believe him instead of Little Russ?
There is something grotesque about Scooter's hiding behind the press with his little conspiracy, given that he's part of an administration that despises the press and tried to make its work almost impossible.
Mr. Fitzgerald claims that Mr. Libby hurt national security by revealing the classified name of a C.I.A. officer. "Valerie Wilson's friends, neighbors, college classmates had no idea she had another life," he said.
He was not buying the arguments on the right that Mrs. Wilson was not really undercover or was under "light" cover, or that blowing her cover did not hurt the C.I.A.
"I can say that for the people who work at the C.I.A. and work at other places, they have to expect that when they do their jobs that classified information will be protected," he said, adding: "They run a risk when they work for the C.I.A. that something bad could happen to them, but they have to make sure that they don't run the risk that something bad is going to happen to them from something done by their own fellow government employees."
To protect a war spun from fantasy, the Bush team played dirty. Unfortunately for them, this time they Swift-boated an American whose job gave her legal protection from the business-as-usual smear campaign.
The back story of this indictment is about the ongoing Tong wars of the C.I.A., the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon: the fight over who lied us into war. The C.I.A., after all, is the agency that asked for a special prosecutor to be appointed to investigate how one of its own was outed by the White House.
The question Mr. Fitzgerald repeatedly declined to answer yesterday - Dick Cheney's poker face has finally met its match - was whether this stops at Scooter.
No one expects him to "flip," unless he finally gets the sort of fancy white-collar criminal lawyer that The Washington Post said he is searching for - like the ones who succeeded in getting Karl Rove off the hook, at least for now - and the lawyer tells Scooter to nail his boss to save himself.
But what we really want to know, now that we have the bare bones of who said what to whom in the indictment, is what they were all thinking there in that bunker and how that hothouse bred the idea that the way out of their Iraq problems was to slime their critics instead of addressing the criticism. What we really want to know, if Scooter testifies in the trial, and especially if he doesn't, is what Vice did to create the spidery atmosphere that led Scooter, who seemed like an interesting and decent guy, to let his zeal get the better of him.
Mr. Cheney, eager to be rid of the meddlesome Joe Wilson, got Valerie Wilson's name from the C.I.A. and passed it on to Scooter. He forced the C.I.A. to compromise one of its own, a sacrifice on the altar of faith-based intelligence.
Vice spent so much time lurking over at the C.I.A., trying to intimidate the analysts at Langley into twisting the intelligence about weapons, that he should have had one of his undisclosed locations there.
This administration's grand schemes always end up as the opposite. Officials say they're promoting national security when they're hurting it; they say they're squelching terrorists when they're breeding them; they say they're bringing stability to Iraq when the country's imploding. (The U.S. announced five more military deaths yesterday.)
And the most dangerous opposite of all: W. was listening to a surrogate father he shouldn't have been listening to, and not listening to his real father, who deserved to be listened to.
Friday, October 28, 2005
2000 dead in Iraq
Bernanke and the Bubble
By Bush administration standards, the choice of Ben Bernanke to succeed Alan Greenspan as chairman of the Federal Reserve was just weird.
For one thing, Mr. Bernanke is actually an expert in monetary policy, as opposed to, say, Arabian horses.
Beyond that, Mr. Bernanke's partisanship, if it exists, is so low-key that his co-author on a textbook didn't know he was a registered Republican. The academic work on which his professional reputation rests is apolitical. Moreover, that work is all about how the Fed can influence demand - there's not a hint in his work of support for the right-wing supply-side doctrine.
Nor is he a laissez-faire purist who believes that government governs best when it governs least. On the contrary, he's a policy activist who advocates aggressive government moves to jump-start stalled economies.
For example, a few years back Mr. Bernanke called on Japan to show "Rooseveltian resolve" in fighting its long slump. He even supported a proposal by yours truly that the Bank of Japan try to get Japan's economy moving by, among other things, announcing its intention to push inflation up to 3 or 4 percent per year.
Last but not least, Mr. Bernanke has no personal ties to the Bush family. It's hard to imagine him doing something indictable to support his masters. It's even hard to imagine him doing what Mr. Greenspan did: throwing his prestige as Fed chairman behind irresponsible tax cuts.
All of this raises a frightening prospect. Has President Bush been so damaged by scandals and public disapproval that he has no choice but to appoint qualified, principled people to important positions?
O.K., seriously, many economists and investors feared that Mr. Bush would try to place a highly partisan figure in charge of the Fed. And even before the revelations surfaced about cronyism at FEMA and elsewhere, there was widespread concern that Mr. Bush would try to select a John Snow type - a businessman whose only qualification is loyalty - to run monetary policy. The naming of Mr. Bernanke was a sign of Mr. Bush's weakness, and it brought a collective sigh of relief.
Obviously I'm pleased, too. Full disclosure: Mr. Bernanke was chairman of the Princeton economics department before moving to Washington, and he made the job offer that brought me to Princeton.
So should we all feel confident about the economic future, assuming that Mr. Bernanke is confirmed? Alas, no.
This isn't a comment on Mr. Bernanke's qualifications, although there is one talent, important in a Fed chairman, that Mr. Bernanke has yet to demonstrate (though he may have it). Mr. Greenspan, for all his flaws, has repeatedly shown his ability to divine from fragmentary and sometimes contradictory data which way the economic wind is blowing. As an academic, Mr. Bernanke never had the occasion to make that kind of judgment. We'll just have to see whether he can develop an economic weather sense on the job.
No, my main concern is that the economy may well face a day of reckoning soon after Mr. Bernanke takes office. And while he is surely the best politically possible man for the job (all the other candidates I would have been happy with are independents or Democrats), coping with that day of reckoning without some nasty shocks may be beyond anyone's talents.
The fact is that the U.S. economy's growth over the past few years has depended on two unsustainable trends: a huge surge in house prices and a vast inflow of funds from Asia. Sooner or later, both trends will end, possibly abruptly.
It's true that Mr. Bernanke has given speeches suggesting both that a "global savings glut" will continue to provide the United States with lots of capital inflows, and that housing prices don't reflect a bubble. Well, soothing words are expected from a Fed chairman. He must know that he may be wrong.
If he is, the U.S. economy will find itself in need of the "Rooseveltian resolve" Mr. Bernanke advocated for Japan. We can safely predict that Mr. Bernanke will show that resolve. In fact, Bill Gross of the giant bond fund Pimco has already predicted that next year Mr. Bernanke will start cutting interest rates.
But that may not be enough. When all is said and done, the Fed controls only one thing: the short-term interest rate. And it will be a long time before we have competent, public-spirited people controlling taxes, spending and other instruments of economic policy.
Thursday, October 27, 2005
Can we allow Chimp & Co to continue the slaughter?
By BOB HERBERT
Much of the nation is mourning the more than 2,000 American G.I.'s lost to the war in Iraq. But some of the mindless Washington weasels who sent those brave and healthy warriors to their unnecessary doom have other things on their minds. They're scrambling about the capital, huddling frantically with lawyers, hoping that their habits of deception, which are a way of life with them, don't finally land them in a federal penitentiary.
See them sweat. The most powerful of the powerful, the men who gave the president his talking points and his marching orders, are suddenly sending out distress signals: Don't let them send me to prison on a technicality.
This is not, however, about technicalities. You can spin it any way you want, but Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation of Karl Rove, Scooter Libby et al. is ultimately about the monumentally conceived and relentlessly disseminated deceit that gave us the war that never should have happened.
Oh, it was heady stuff for a while - nerds and naïfs swapping fantasies of world domination and giddily manipulating the levers of American power. They were oh so arrogant and glib: Weapons of mass destruction. Yellowcake from Niger. The smoking gun morphing into a mushroom cloud.
Now look at what they've wrought. James Dao of The Times began his long article on the 2,000 American dead with a story that was as typical as it was tragic:
"Sgt. Anthony G. Jones, fresh off the plane from Iraq and an impish grin on his face, sauntered unannounced into his wife's hospital room in Georgia just hours after she had given birth to their second son."
The article described how Sergeant Jones, over a blissful two-week period last May, "cooed over their baby and showered attention on his wife."
"Three weeks later, on June 14," wrote Mr. Dao, "Sergeant Jones was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad on his third tour in a war that is not yet three years old. He was 25."
Three times Sergeant Jones was sent to Iraq, which tells you all you need to know about the fairness and shared sacrifices of this war. If you roll the dice enough times, they're guaranteed to come up snake eyes.
Sergeant Jones told his wife, Kelly, that he had "a bad feeling" about heading back to Iraq for a third combat tour. After his death, his wife found a message that he had left for her among his letters and journal entries.
"Grieve little and move on," he wrote. "I shall be looking over you. And you will hear me from time to time on the gentle breeze that sounds at night, and in the rustle of leaves."
In addition to the more than 2,000 dead, an additional 15,000 Americans have been wounded. Some of these men and women have sacrificed one, two and even three limbs. Some have been permanently blinded and others permanently paralyzed - some both. Some have been horribly burned.
For the Iraqis, the toll is beyond hideous. Perhaps 30,000 dead, of which an estimated 10 percent have been children. The number of Iraqi wounded is anybody's guess.
This is what happens in war, which is why wars should only be fought when there is utterly and absolutely no alternative.
So what's ahead, now that the giddiness in Washington has been replaced by anxiety and the public is turning against the war?
Even Richard Nixon's cronies are crawling out of the woodwork to urge the Bush gang to stop the madness. In an article for Foreign Affairs magazine, former Defense Secretary Melvin Laird, now 83, says the administration needs to come up with a clearly defined exit strategy, and fast.
Said Mr. Laird: "Getting out of a war is still dicier than getting into one, as George W. Bush can attest."
But President Bush, who never gave the country a legitimate reason for going to war, and has never offered a coherent strategy for winning the war, seems in no hurry to figure out a way to exit the war.
Soon after the Pentagon confirmed on Tuesday that the American death toll in Iraq had reached 2,000, the president gave a speech in which he said: "This war will require more sacrifice, more time and more resolve. No one should underestimate the difficulties ahead, nor should they overlook the advantages we bring to this fight."
Thousands upon thousands are suffering and dying in Iraq while, in Washington, incompetence continues its macabre marathon dance with incoherence.
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
Bush has so thoroughly destroyed the Republican establishment that no one, not even his dad, can rescue him now.
By Sidney Blumenthal
Oct. 27, 2005 | There is no one left to rescue the Republican Party from George W. Bush. He is home alone. The Republican-establishment wise men whose words were once quiet commands are shouting unheeded warnings. The Republican leaders of Congress are distracted and obsessed with their own crises of corruption.
Suspended House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is under indictment for criminal campaign practices while Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for insider stock trading in his family-owned Hospital Corporation of America. The only revolt brewing in the Senate is on the right against President Bush's nomination of his White House legal counsel, Harriet Miers, to the Supreme Court; some Republican senators fear her potential for secret liberal heresy despite the president's protestations of her conservative purity.
From Salon.com--free daily pass available
Waiting on Fitzgerald -- and wondering why he might need office space
As War Room began its day this morning, we flipped on the television that's usually tuned to CNN and saw a pack of police officers frog-marching a bare-chested man out of his house in the middle of the night. "Could it be," we began to think, then just as quickly remembered that we'd been watching the World Series on Fox the night before.
This was a reality TV rerun, not reality itself.
In the real world, we wait.
When will we hear? The Washington Post says that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald summarized his case for the grand jury Wednesday and is expected to announce his decision Friday.
Has anyone been indicted yet? Some "lawyers close to the case" tell the Los Angeles Times that it's possible that Fitzgerald has obtained one or more indictments but is holding them under seal. The New York Times says that Fitzgerald's three-hour meeting with the grand jury, coupled with a private session with Chief Judge Thomas Hogan, has "ratcheted up" exactly that fear at the White House. On the other hand, the Times says that maybe Fitzgerald was just requesting an extension from Hogan -- something CBS News says he didn't do and a prospect the L.A. Times calls doubtful.So what's really happening? Link...
Bush administration seeks legal sanction for torture
By Joseph Kay and Tom Carter
27 October 2005
On Tuesday, the Washington Post published a front-page article revealing that Vice President Dick Cheney and CIA Director Porter Goss met with Arizona Senator John McCain last week to urge the modification of a Senate provision banning the US government from carrying out “cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment” of prisoners in its custody.
Cheney’s secret visit, which was revealed only after it was leaked to the Post, came in response to an amendment attached to a military appropriations bill, approved by a 90-9 Senate vote on October 5. The amendment states, “No individual in the custody or under the physical control of the United States Government, regardless of nationality or physical location, shall be subject to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.”
This amendment, sponsored by McCain, was approved despite statements from the Bush administration that the president would veto the entire appropriations bill if it contained any language restricting the treatment of detainees. The response of the Bush administration to the passage of the amendment has been not simply to attempt tohave it removed, but to alter it to include language explicitly sanctioning abusive methods.
Citing two unnamed sources, one of whom spoke “without authorization and on the condition of anonymity,” the Washington Post reported that Cheney’s proposed change “states that the measure barring inhumane treatment shall not apply to counterterrorism operations conducted abroad or to operations conducted by ‘an element of the United States government’ other than the Defense Department.”
The latter provision is meant primarily to exempt the CIA from any prohibition on torture. However, the proposed change appears to be broad enough to exempt any agencies engaged in what the government declares to be “counterterrorism operations.”
Indicating that the administration wants to ensure that the military, as well as the CIA, is given broad latitude, the Post reports, “Other sources said the vice president is also still fighting a second provision of the Senate-passed legislation, which requires that detainees in Defense Department custody anywhere in the world may be subjected only to interrogation techniques approved and listed in the Army’s Field Manual.”
The newspaper reported that McCain rejected Cheney’s demands. The Senate amendment is not included in a House version of the appropriations bill, and it is still uncertain whether it will end up in the final version to be sent to the president. White House officials have denounced the Senate amendment for “undermining presidential authority,” and the administration continues to threaten to veto the bill if the amendment is included in the final version.
The exposure of the Bush administration’s attempts to secure explicit authorization for torture comes amidst further revelations of torture and killing by US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) this week released a report investigating the deaths of 44 individuals taken prisoner in Iraq and Afghanistan. Of those 44, which may constitute only a fraction of the total number of individuals who have died while in American concentration camps and prisons, 21 were found to be definite homicides. Most of these prisoners died either of asphyxiation or blunt force trauma, or both. In other words, they were beaten and strangled to death.
Commenting on the report, Anthony Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU, said, “There is no question that US interrogations have resulted in deaths. High-ranking officials who knew about the torture and sat on their hands and those who created and endorsed these policies must be held accountable.”
The implications of the language proposed by Cheney are far-reaching, and the proposal has provoked intense opposition within the political and media establishment. In an editorial published in the New York Times on Wednesday, the newspaper stated that Cheney’s proposals would give the CIA the power “to mistreat and torture prisoners as long as that behavior was part of ‘counterterrorism operations conducted abroad’ and they were not American citizens. That would neatly legalize the illegal prisons the CIA is said to be operating around the world and obviate the need for the torture outsourcing known as extraordinary rendition.” The Times added, “It also raises disturbing questions about Iraq, which the Bush administration has falsely labeled a counterterrorism operation.”
The very appearance of the original Post article, as well as the broad support that the original amendment received within the Senate, is indicative of opposition within ruling circles to the Bush administration’s open embrace of torture as a matter of state policy.
An editorial appearing Wednesday in the Washington Post did not mince words in denouncing Cheney’s intervention. His actions, the newspaper declared, demonstrated that “this vice president has become an open advocate of torture.”
The editorial went on to note that Cheney’s role in demanding that the Senate resolution be modified is not surprising. “The vice president has been a prime mover behind the Bush administration’s decision to violate the Geneva Conventions and the UN Convention Against Torture and to break with decades of past practice by the US military,” the newspaper wrote. “These decisions at the top have led to hundreds of documented cases of abuse, torture and homicide in Iraq and Afghanistan.” While the Post does not say so explicitly, these statements brand the second highest executive official in the country as a war criminal.
The conflict between the administration and the Senate over the amendment does not reflect differences over the basic aims of the White House. All the parties involved—including McCain and the editorial boards of the Times and the Post—support the war in Iraq and the general drive for American global hegemony. The amendment itself has received public support from many retired military officials, including Bush’s former secretary of state, Colin Powell.
However, there are intense divisions over the means for obtaining these ends. What has brought them to the fore is the disastrous result for American imperialism of the military adventure in Iraq.
There is growing concern within broad sections of the ruling establishment that the open use of abusive interrogation methods is doing severe damage to the long-term interests of American imperialism. One of the main concerns of McCain, the Post, and the broader sections of the political establishment for whom they speak is that the Bush administration has undermined the ability of the US to present itself as a protector of human rights.
The citation of “human rights abuses” committed by other governments has long been a tool of American policy, and the Post editorial points out that “The State Department annually issues a report criticizing other governments for violating” an international treaty banning “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment of prisoners. The war in Iraq itself was, in part, justified on the grounds that Saddam Hussein tortured and killed his own people.
Without the moral trappings of “human rights,” in which American imperialism has long sought to clothe its predatory actions, US foreign policy would be hampered—it would no longer have a plausible pretext to impose economic sanctions, carry out military actions on foreign territory, or launch full-scale invasions and occupations.
The administration’s open contempt for international law has undercut the pretext which the US ruling elite has used to pursue its interests for decades. It is difficult for the US to use alleged violations of international law—by Iran, for example—as a justification for military intervention when the US itself so brazenly violates fundamental components of international law, including the Geneva Conventions.
Those within the military, the intelligence agencies and the foreign policy establishment who have come into conflict with the White House fear that the actions of the administration, in particular its prosecution of the war in Iraq and its treatment of detainees, have severely undermined the international image of the American government. The US is rightly reviled by the majority of the world’s population, which sees it as the principal source of war and barbarism.
Opposition to the administration also reflects worries within the US military that the same methods employed by the US in torturing, humiliating, and killing prisoners will be used by insurgents on American prisoners.
Finally, there is growing concern over the growth of antiwar sentiment within the United States, fueled by the worsening quagmire in Iraq. This oppositional sentiment has been intensified by the abhorrent images of American brutality, revealed most starkly in the photos from Abu Ghraib. Under the Bush administration, the ugly face of American imperialism has been revealed more fully than ever before, and in the eyes of broad sections of the American population the legitimacy of the political system is increasingly being called into question.
McCain and the rest of the Senate know full well that the US has used abusive methods, both directly and by proxy, for decades and will continue to do so whether or not the amendment passes. However, they would like to restore at least some credibility to the democratic façade.
On the other hand, the moves by the Bush administration to undercut the Senate amendment reflect the degree to which it and the sections of the ruling elite it represents are wedded to the use of torture in the pursuit of US imperialist aims.
Cheney’s visit to McCain comes at a point of deep crisis within the administration, which is beset from all sides. It is facing mounting opposition from within the Republican Party to Bush’s latest Supreme Court nominee, plummeting poll ratings, the effects of the administration’s disastrous handling of Hurricane Katrina, the worsening situation in Iraq and the ever-rising toll of military casualties and deaths, and a grand jury investigation that could result in indictments against top administration officials, including Cheney’s chief of staff and even the vice president himself.
That Cheney would nevertheless personally intervene to try to change the amendment is an indication of how deeply committed the administration is to a policy that employs abuse and torture.
“Bush White House declares torture vital to US security policy”
[7 October 2005]
“Torture scandal becomes focus of political warfare within US government circles”
[26 June 2004]
Dahr Jamail's column
Mr. “Bring ‘em on”
Yesterday while speaking to a group of military wives in Washington, Mr.
Bush said, “This war will require more sacrifice, more time and more
Of course this speech of pre-emptive consolation to the news of the
2,000th death was not in vain, as the announcement came but a few hours
after his speech at the air force base.
I wonder how many of those military wives recall what Mr. Bush said
1,794 dead US soldiers ago when he proudly announced, “Bring ‘em on”
back on July 2, 2003?
Of course Mr. Bush went off yesterday about spreading freedom and laying
foundations for peace as the bombs continue to drop in Iraq. He even
went so far as to claim that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is the head of the
“Each loss of life is heartbreaking,” he told the wives. But how would
he know? A person who was a deserter during Vietnam and who would never
allow his daughters to serve in Iraq, how could he know?
So now we continue the death march towards the 3,000 mark, with the
announcement of another dead US soldier bringing the official tally to
2,001. With 159,000 US soldiers in Iraq now (remember when it was
138,000?) the tally will only continue to grow.
Yet the number of dead US soldiers still pales in comparison to the
number of Iraqis dying, including Iraqi police and soldiers.
Even today two Iraqi policemen (IP) were killed in Ramadi when their
police station was attacked, while in the “model city” of Fallujah,
three IP’s were killed by a roadside bomb.
Also today, four gagged and bound bodies of three Iraqis wearing army
uniforms and one of a contractor working with a US company were found
with gunshots in their heads and chests.
Mr. Bush uses one of his favorite words, “resolve,” despite the fact
that two days ago one of the largest suicide bombings to occur in
Baghdad detonated between the Palestine and Sheraton hotels. The bomb,
transported inside a cement truck, was carefully driven through a hole
in the perimeter concrete barrier which was created by a car bomb just
Reported in most major media outlets as an attack against journalists,
what wasn’t reported is that there is a large number of security
contractors (read-mercenaries) who use these hotels, and it is well
known in Baghdad that the penthouse of the Sheraton is used by
contractors and CIA operatives. That very room has been the target of
rocket attacks as far back as December, 2003.
Thus, aside from targeting the US government-funded Al-Hurra TV station
and the Fox propaganda outlet in the 18-story Palestine Hotel,
journalists were exploited by the attack which generated massive media
Killing at least 17 people, the attack sent a very clear message to the
occupiers of Iraq-nowhere is safe; even in one of the most heavily
guarded hotel complexes in Baghdad they are completely vulnerable.
The idea of political stability seems more of a pipe dream in Iraq now
than it did before the recent vote on the constitution, which has been
rejected by Arab Sunni leaders who called the process “fraudulent”
Hinting at things to come in December, Sunni leader Saleh Mutlaq told
reporters; “Violence is not the only solution, if politics offers
solutions so that we can move in that direction. But there is very
little hope that we can make any gains in the elections.”
Hussein al-Falluji, another prominent Sunni politician said the
referendum was manipulated by Washington and added, “We all know that
this referendum was fraud conducted by an electoral commission that is
not independent. It is controlled by the occupying Americans and it
should step down before elections in December.”
He and other Sunnis have called for a truly independent election
commission (the head of Iraq’s current electoral commission was
appointed by the US) for the December election, but added, “Politics is
linked directly to security on the ground. The situation can only get
worse now. I have just prayed to God to expose the truth about what is
happening in Iraq.”
What will it take for a US withdrawal? Because with this
“administration” in power, there is a guaranteed three more years of
occupation in Iraq; and by then, 2,000 dead US soldiers will not seem
like such a large number.
(c)2004, 2005 Dahr Jamail.
** Visit the Dahr Jamail Iraq website http://dahrjamailiraq.com **
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
US death toll hits 2,000—grim milestone in a criminal war
By the WSWS Editorial Board
26 October 2005
The number of US military personnel killed in the Iraq war passed 2,000 Tuesday with the Pentagon’s announcement of three more combat fatalities. This grim milestone is all the more tragic because the lives of these soldiers have been sacrificed in a war based upon lies.
They have been killed 7,000 miles from their homes fighting in a war launched for reasons that have never been publicly stated. The soldiers have died not to put an end to “terrorism” or secure “weapons of mass destruction”, but to seize control of Iraq’s strategic oil reserves and ensure the global dominance of the financial and corporate interests that determine the foreign policy of the United States.
In addition to the 2,000 killed, more than 15,000 have been wounded, many of them seriously. Thousands have lost limbs and many have suffered severe brain injuries. And many thousands more have returned mentally and emotionally traumatized from the carnage that they have both witnessed and inflicted.
The 2,000th fatality came with the death of 34-year-old Staff Sgt. George T. Alexander Jr., who had been sent to the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas with severe wounds suffered after a roadside bomb detonated near his Bradley Fighting Vehicle in Samarra on October 17.
Also on Tuesday, the Pentagon announced that two unidentified military personnel—a sailor and a Marine—were killed in fighting last week in a village 25 miles west of Baghdad. They were among the 67 US troops killed so far this month.
The response of the Bush administration and the military brass to the US death toll reaching 2,000 was predictably callous. Knowing that the milestone would be marked Tuesday—and fearing its impact on his already crisis-ridden presidency—Bush chose the day to address a safe audience of officers’ wives at Washington’s Bolling Air Force Base.
Making no mention of the death toll, Bush only warned that even more will have to die. “This war will require more sacrifice, more time and more resolve,” he said. “The best way to honor the sacrifice of our fallen heroes is to complete the mission.”
This is truly the last refuge of the militarist scoundrel: the war must continue and thousands more must die to validate the sacrifices that have already been made.
The Pentagon’s spokesman Lt. Col. Steven A. Boylan sent an email to reporters in Baghdad warning them not to make too much of the death toll. He called reaching the 2,000th US military fatality in Iraq “an artificial mark on the wall set by individuals or groups with specific agendas and ulterior motives. In some cases, this could be the creating [of] news where none really exists.”
Within this odious statement there is an unintended kernel of truth. The human toll exacted by the war has not really been news. The White House and the Pentagon have worked diligently to prevent it from becoming so—barring cameras from Dover Air Force Base, where the coffins come home from the war, and sending the president to no funerals or memorial services for the slain soldiers.
The images of the dead—both American and Iraqi—are largely self-censored by the American media.
But this “mark on the wall” is an indicator of the price that the American people have paid because of a war that they were dragged into on false pretenses. Of those in uniform who have died, 357 of them had yet to reach their 21st birthday.
Among the latest fatalities announced by the Pentagon were Kenneth J. Butler, a 19-year-old Marine from North Carolina; Sgt. Jacob D. Dones, 21, from Texas; and Cpl. Seamus Davey, 25, from New York.
The carnage inflicted on the Iraqis is not even counted—outside of the half-hearted efforts of the Pentagon to offer “body counts” for its recent counterinsurgency operations. The civilian death toll since the March 2003 invasion is estimated at over 100,000. Hundreds more die every week. In a country where six out of ten people are under the age of 18, a shocking percentage of those left dead and maimed by the US occupation are children.
The announcement of the new milestone in the US death toll came amidst mounting recriminations within the US ruling establishment over the deepening debacle in Iraq.
“The case that I saw for four-plus years was a case I have never seen in my studies of aberrations, bastardizations, perturbations, changes to the national security decision-making process,” Lawrence B. Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to then secretary of state Colin Powell during the war’s buildup and launching, said in a recent speech. “What I saw was a cabal between the vice president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made.”
Even more damning were the statements of former ambassador Robin Raphel, a veteran US diplomat who played a prominent role in the Coalition Provisional Authority, the US colonial apparatus that ruled Iraq in the wake of the invasion. The Bush administration, she said in an oral history interview posted on the web site of the US Institute of Peace, was “not prepared” when it invaded Iraq, but launched the war anyway because of “clear political pressure, election driven and calendar driven.”
Then there is the interview given to the New Yorker magazine by Brent Scowcroft, the national security advisor to Bush senior, attacking the premises given for the invasion and occupation of Iraq and referring to Cheney, with whom he worked for years, as a man “I don’t know anymore.”
These critiques—arising from the failure of the administration’s war plans—expose that the invasion was from the outset a “war of choice,” a criminal venture aimed at imposing Washington’s neo-colonialist domination over Iraq and the region as a whole. It is for this crime that 2,000 soldiers’ lives have been needlessly sacrificed.
The 2,000 milestone will quickly fade into history as the war grinds on, producing more and more deaths, both Iraqi and American. In just over one year, 1,000 US soldiers have been killed. The death toll will continue to grow apace, reaching 5,000, 10,000 and more, unless Washington is forced to withdraw all US troops from Iraq.
Despite the divisions and crisis within the American ruling elite over the Iraqi quagmire, there is no indication that the administration has any intention of withdrawing, and, indeed, there is no demand from the leadership of its ostensible political opposition, the Democratic Party, for it to do so. The two major parties remain convinced that securing US hegemony over Iraq and its oil reserves is in the vital interests of the corporations, banks and wealthy individuals that they both represent.
A halt to the mounting toll of deaths in Iraq will come only through the development of an independent mass movement of political opposition from below, from the masses of American working people who oppose the war and want to see no more American youth in uniform sacrificed for the interests of a tiny, predatory elite.See Also: Bush video conference with troops in Iraq: poorly scripted, poorly performed
[15 October 2005]
In August of 2004---
Will this seem like only a few by next year? How many more have to die? What will be the number that the war criminals in the White House decide is enough is enough?
I think we have passed that number. Bring our troops home. Support them--let them live.
Click on image to see full size.
By E. J. Dionne Jr.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005; A25
We are on the verge of an extraordinary moment in American politics. The people running our government are about to face their day -- or days -- in court.
Those who thought investigations were a wonderful thing when Bill Clinton was president are suddenly facing prosecutors, and they don't like it. It seems like a hundred years ago when Clinton's defenders were accusing his opponents of using special prosecutors, lawsuits, criminal charges and, ultimately, impeachment to overturn the will of the voters.
Clinton's conservative enemies would have none of this. No, they said over and over, the Clinton mess was not about sex but about "perjury and the obstruction of justice" and "the rule of law."
The old conservative talking points are now inoperative.
It's especially amusing to see former House majority leader Tom DeLay complain about the politicization of justice. The man who spoke of the Clinton impeachment as "a debate about relativism versus absolute truth" now insists that the Democratic prosecutor in Texas who indicted him on charges of violating campaign finance law is engaged in a partisan war. That's precisely what Clinton's defenders accused DeLay of championing in the impeachment battle seven years ago.
DeLay's supporters say charges that he transferred corporate money illegally to local Texas campaigns should be discounted because "everybody does it" when it comes to playing fast and loose with political cash. That's another defense the champions of impeachment derided in the Clinton imbroglio.
The most explosive legal case -- if special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald brings charges, and lawyers I've spoken with will be surprised if he doesn't -- involves Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, and President Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove. A lot of evidence has emerged that they leaked information about Valerie Plame, a CIA employee married to Joseph Wilson, a former ambassador who had the nerve to question aspects of the administration's case for waging war on Saddam Hussein. Even if these administration heavies are not charged with improperly unmasking Plame, they could be in legal jeopardy if they are found to have made false statements to investigators about their role in the Plame affair.
This case goes to the heart of how Republicans recaptured power after the Clinton presidency and how they have held on to it since. The strategy involved attacking their adversaries without pity. In the Clinton years, the attacks married a legal strategy to a political strategy.
Since Bush took office, many of those who raised their voices in opposition to the president or his policies have found themselves under assault, although the president himself has maintained a careful distance from the bloodletting.
In Wilson's case, the administration suggested that his hiring by the CIA to investigate claims that Hussein was trying to acquire nuclear material was an act of nepotism, courtesy of his wife. But administration figures wanted to wipe their fingerprints off any smoking gun that would link them to the anti-Wilson campaign. Judith Miller, a New York Times reporter who went to jail to protect Libby until she got what she took to be a release from a confidentiality agreement, offered a revealing fact in an account of her saga in Sunday's Times.
Before he trashed Wilson to Miller in a July 8, 2003, meeting, Libby asked that his comments not be attributed to a "senior administration official," the standard anonymous reference to, well, senior administration officials. Instead, he wanted his statements attributed to a "former Hill staffer," a reference to Libby's earlier work in Congress. Why would Libby want his comments ascribed to such a vague source? Miller says she told the special prosecutor that she "assumed Mr. Libby did not want the White House to be seen as attacking Mr. Wilson."
These cases portray an administration and a movement that can dish it out, but want to evade responsibility for doing so and can't take it when they are subjected to the same rule book that inconvenienced an earlier president. An editorial in the latest issue of the conservative Weekly Standard is a sign of arguments to come. The editorial complains about the various accusations being leveled against DeLay, Libby, Rove and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, and it says that "a comprehensive strategy of criminalization had been implemented to inflict defeat on conservatives who seek to govern as conservatives."
I have great respect for my friends at the Weekly Standard, so I think they'll understand my surprise and wonder over this new conservative concern for the criminalization of politics. A process that was about "the rule of law" when Democrats were in power is suddenly an outrage now that it's Republicans who are being held accountable.
Let's treat Bush to rendition--in secret!
Legalized Torture, Reloaded
Amid all the natural and political disasters it faces, the White House is certainly tireless in its effort to legalize torture. This week, Vice President Dick Cheney proposed a novel solution for the moral and legal problems raised by the use of American soldiers to abuse prisoners and the practice of turning captives over to governments willing to act as proxies in doing the torturing. Mr. Cheney wants to make it legal for the Central Intelligence Agency to do this wet work.
Mr. Cheney's proposal was made in secret to Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who won the votes of 89 other senators this month to require the civilized treatment of prisoners at camps run by America's military and intelligence agencies. Mr. McCain's legislation, an amendment to the Defense Department budget bill, would ban the "cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment of prisoners. In other words, it would impose age-old standards of democracy and decency on the new prisons.
President Bush's threat to veto the entire military budget over this issue was bizarre enough by itself, considering that the amendment has the support of more than two dozen former military leaders, including Colin Powell. They know that torture doesn't produce reliable intelligence and endangers Americans' lives.
But Mr. Cheney's proposal was even more ludicrous. It would give the president the power to allow government agencies outside the Defense Department (the administration has in mind the C.I.A.) to mistreat and torture prisoners as long as that behavior was part of "counterterrorism operations conducted abroad" and they were not American citizens. That would neatly legalize the illegal prisons the C.I.A. is said to be operating around the world and obviate the need for the torture outsourcing known as extraordinary rendition. It also raises disturbing questions about Iraq, which the Bush administration has falsely labeled a counterterrorism operation.
Mr. McCain was right to reject this absurd proposal. The House should reject it as well.
Mr. Dilbert goes to Washington
Posted on Wednesday, October 26, 2005
So now they tell us. With the Bush administration spiraling into
political free fall, conservative elder statesmen have suddenly begun
speaking publicly about the regime’s manifest failures. Meanwhile,
aides whisper to reporters that the president’s losing it, pitching temper
tantrums, lashing out at junior staffers and blaming everybody in the
White House for his problems except himself. “This is not some manager
at Mc-Donald’s chewing out the help,” a source close to George W. Bush
told the New York Daily News. “This is the president of the United
States, and it’s not a pleasant sight.” No, I don’t reckon it is.
Naturally, Bush, like Richard Nixon before him, also gives the press a
“big share “ of the blame. Backstairs gossip aside, however, the most
powerful indictment of the administration’s malign incompetence is
coming from former insiders. Col. Larry Wilkerson was Secretary of
State Colin Powell’s chief of staff throughout Bush’s first term. A career
soldier, he’s also served as director of the U. S. Marine Corps War
College. In short, he’s anything but a fuzzyminded pacifist.
Last week, Wilkerson gave a speech at the New American Foundation in
Washington blaming a secretive “ cabal between the vice president of
the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald
Rumsfeld,” for seizing power from an ignorant, intellectually lazy
president. They were aided, he said, by “an extremely weak national
security adviser” (Condoleezza Rice ), who told Bush whatever he wanted
to hear “to build her intimacy with the president.”
It sounds like a comic strip : President Dilbert.
Except it ain’t funny. To Wilkerson, the results have been
catastrophic, dragging the U. S. into an ill-conceived war in Iraq,
and making policy in so secretive and slapdash a manner that those
charged with executing it had no clear idea what they were supposed
to do, much less how. In a Los Angeles Times commentary this week,
Wilkerson called it the kind of “decision-making one would associate
more with a dictatorship than a democracy,” hence a military and
In his speech last week, Wilkerson stressed that his former boss,
Powell, evidently clinging to the shards of his own reputation,
disagreed with his going public.
“If something comes along that is truly serious... like a nuclear
weapon going off in a major American city, or something like a
major pandemic,” Wilkerson warned, “you are going to see the
ineptitude of this government in a way that will take you back to
the Declaration of Independence.... Read in there what
[the founders ] say about the necessity of the people to throw off
tyranny or to throw off ineptitude....”
Less stark but even more telling were the words of Gen. Brent
Scowcroft, the first President Bush’s national security adviser.
In an extended interview recently with the New Yorker, Scowcroft
basically described George W. Bush’s foreign policy as a bellicose,
bloody failure. As one of former President George H. W. Bush’s
closest personal friends and long-time political allies, Scowcroft
finds himself completely on the outs with the son’s administration.
Apparently because of a strongly worded Wall Street Journal column
Scowcroft wrote back in August 2002 warning that “an attack on Iraq at
this time would seriously jeopardize, if not destroy, the global
counterterrorist campaign we have undertaken,” long-term friends
Rumsfeld and Cheney literally quit talking to him. His one-time
personal protégé, Condi Rice, also stopped seeking his counsel.
Scowcroft sees in Iraq the realization of his worst fears. Now as then,
he’s assumed to be speaking with the elder Bush’s tacit consent. He
reiterated to The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Goldberg why they decided not to
invade Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War. Goldberg wrote : “It would have
been easy to reach Baghdad, Scowcroft said, but what then? At the
minimum, we’d be an occupier in a hostile land. Our forces would be
sniped at by guerrillas, and once we were there, how would we get out?
What would be the rationale for leaving? I don’t like the term ‘exit
strategy’ —but what do you do with Iraq once you own it?... This is
exactly where we are now. We own it. And we can’t let go. We’re getting
sniped at. Now, will we win? I think there’s a fair chance we’ll win.
But look at the cost. ’” Above all, Scowcroft emphasized, the current
administration’s policies are anything but “conservative,” in the
classical sense of the term. Instead, White House neo-cons are devotees
of a particularly heedless brand of radical utopianism. “This was said
to be part of the war on terror, but Iraq feeds terrorism,” he said. So
now what? In part because both men, like many genuine conservatives,
chose not to speak plainly in October 2004 when it might have made a
difference, we’re stuck with these foolhardy incompetents for the
foreseeable future. Except that, as Wilkerson implies, functioning
democracies usually find ways to change policies and rid themselves of
politicians they no longer trust.
•–––––—Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and
recipient of the National Magazine Award.
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