Archive for the ‘George W. Bush’ Category

Bugliosi Wants Bush Charged with Murder

May 29, 2008

Bugliosi Wants Bush Charged with Murder

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Former California prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi wants President Bush charged with murder.

Bugliosi – who in the early 1970s successfully prosecuted Charles Manson for the murder of Sharon Tate and six others – lays out his case against Bush in The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder (Perseus Books, 2008).

The book will hit book stores today – Tuesday May 27, 2008.

“My motivation for writing this book is simple – to bring about justice,” Bugliosi says in a video posted on the book’s web site (prosecutionofbush.com).

“George Bush has gotten away with murder – thousands of murders,” Bugliosi says. “And no one is doing anything about it. The American people can’t let him do this.”

Bugliosi wants one or more of the fifty state attorneys general or one of the nation’s hundreds of district attorneys to step up and prosecute Bush for murder.

“I have set forth in my book the jurisdictional basis for the Attorney General in each of the fifty states – plus the hundreds upon hundreds of district attorneys in counties within the states – to prosecute George Bush for the murders of any soldier or soldiers from their state or county who were killed in Iraq fighting George Bush’s war,” Bugliosi says in the video on his web site.

“I don’t think it is too unreasonable to believe that at least one prosecutor out there in America – maybe many more – will be courageous enough to say – this is the United States of America. And in America no one is above the law. George Bush has gotten away with murder. No one is doing anything about it. And maybe this book will change that.”

Bugliosi argues that Bush misled the nation into a war that has killed more than 4,000 Americans.

At the center of Bugliosi’s indictment of Bush is a October 7, 2002 speech to the nation in which Bush claims that Saddam Hussein was a great danger to this nation either by attacking us with his weapons of mass destruction, or giving these weapons to some terrorist group.

“And he said – the attack could happen on any given day – meaning the threat was imminent,” Bugliosi says.

“The only problem for George Bush – and if he were prosecuted, there is no way he could get around this – is that on October 1, 2002, six days earlier, the CIA sent George Bush its 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, a classified top secret report. Page eight clearly and unequivocally says that Saddam Hussein was not an imminent threat to the security of this country. In fact, the report says that Hussein would only use whatever weapons of mass destruction he had against us if he feared that America was about to attack him.”

“We know that Bush was telling millions upon millions of unsuspecting Americans exactly the opposite of what his own CIA was telling him,” Bugliosi said. “We know that George Bush took this nation to war on a lie. Who is going to pay for all of this? Someone has to pay. And the person who has to pay obviously is directly responsible for all of the death horror and suffering. And that person is George W. Bush.”

“The majority of the American people probably are going to find it difficult to accept that the President of the United States, the most powerful man on earth, would engage in conduct that smacks of such great criminality. You just don’t expect something like this from an American president. However, I’m very confident that once they read the book, they will be overwhelmed by the evidence against Bush. They will be convinced that he is guilty of murder and should be prosecuted. In the book, I lay out the legal architecture for the case against Bush, all of the evidence of the guilt against Bush and the jurisdiction to prosecute him. I even set forth proposed cross-examination questions of him if he takes the witness stand at trial.”

As a state prosecutor in Los Angeles, Bugliosi prosecuted Charles Manson and members of his “family” for the 1969 murders of Sharon Tate and six others.

Bugliosi says he lost only one of the 106 felony cases he tried as a prosecutor. He says he won 21 out of 21 murder cases.

He is the author of Helter Skelter – the best-selling book on the Manson trial.

Ellen Mariani: ‘Bush knew and let it happen’

February 23, 2008

Ellen Mariani: ‘Bush knew and let it happen’

by Joyce Lynn
Prisonplanet
Thursday, Feb 5, 2004
http://www.prisonplanet.com/020504bushknew.html

On September 10, 2001, Ellen Mariani and her husband Louis “spent their last day together as husband and wife on this earth.”

At about 8 a.m. the next day, September 11, George W. Bush sat down for his daily briefing, which included references to the heightened terrorist risk reported throughout the summer but “contained nothing serious enough to call National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.” The briefing ended about 8:20 a.m.

At 9:05 a.m., Chief of Staff Andrew Card walked up to Bush, who was with a classroom of second graders at Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, and reportedly whispered in his ear: “A second plane has hit the World Trade Center. America is under attack.”

For the next 7 to 18 minutes, Bush continued to talk with the children about a goat story as Mariani’s husband, who was a passenger on United Airlines Flight 175, crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

Mariani’s husband was murdered as the commander-in-chief dallied in a second grade classroom reading a story about a pet goat.

This is Ellen Mariani’s description of her personal nightmare in the daring suit she filed last month against Bush; his father, George H. W. Bush, and top administration officials, calling them “aiders and abettors and conspirators” who “intentionally and deliberately failed to prevent the 9/11 attacks.”

Mariani alleges the defendants “let the attacks happen for one chilling reason: to profit personally or politically from the so-called ‘International War on Terror.'”

“The reasons why 9/11 occurred are no longer a national security risk, but a national security disgrace and tragedy,” Mariani declares.

Mariani believes Bush “allowed the attacks to take place to compel public anger and outcry to engage our nation and our military men and women in a preventable international war on terror for personal gains and agenda.”

Challenging the official version of 9/11, Mariani claims in her 62-page filing that Bush and his father “hold the answers” to why 9/11 occurred.

In the April 2002 article, “Misguided White Guy,” this publication pointed out the possibly corrupt financing cycle of policy and profit by G.H.W. Bush and cronies from his tenure in government. Some of these people are high officials in the current administration or executives in Bush’s private business ventures.

This publication put forth the argument in the article “Law of Conspiracy; Conspiracy of Silence” in October 2002 that Bush and other top administration officials were guilty of the same conspiracy to commit murder of which they accused John Walker Lindh, the American found with the Taliban in Afghanistan, because they remained silent before, during, and after the events of 9/11. The article argued that if Bush administration officials deliberately withheld information for political or financial gain they could be charged under the law of conspiracy.

A range of theories about what happened on 9/11 has emerged. The Bush administration’s story is that a guy with a long grizzled beard living in a cave in Afghanistan surprised the $40 billion a year U.S. intelligence community by hijacking domestic airplanes and crashing them into symbols of U.S. economic dominance and war. Independent journalists, researchers, and activists have put forth evidence to support scenarios that Bush knew about 9/11 and let it happen (Mariani’s suit) and/or that 9/11 was an inside job-an operation of shadow elements of the U.S. government.

In a personal letter to Bush released with the filing, Mariani writes, “On the morning of the attack, you and members of your staff were fully aware of the unfolding events, yet you chose to continue on to the Emma E. Booker Elementary School to proceed with a scheduled event and ‘photo op.'” (Excerpts of the letter follows this article.)

In addition to Bush, other defendants include George H.W. Bush, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, vice president, and president of the U.S.; Vice President Richard Cheney; Attorney General John Ashcroft; Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld; CIA Director George Tenet; Department of Transportation secretary Norman Y. Mineta; chairman of the board of the Council on Foreign Relations Peter G. Peterson; National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, and special master of the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund of 2001 Kenneth R. Feinberg.

Since Mariani filed a civil action last September 12, she says a ‘firestorm” has erupted around Bush’s refusal to comply with the commission investigating 9/11. As a result, on November 26, Mariani filed an amended complaint that includes obstruction of justice.

Mariani charges the defendants violated the U.S. Constitution and provisions of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. Mariani, who lives in New Hampshire, filed her suit (case no. 03-5273) in the Federal District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were signed in Philadelphia, which is in the Eastern District.

Philip Berg, Mariani’s lawyer, was a former deputy attorney general of Pennsylvania and candidate for governor of Pennsylvania. He has woven information from independent 9/11 researchers, activists, and his own investigation into a spellbinding tale that alleges decades of Bush family malfeasance. (Philip J. Berg, Esquire, 9/11 For The Truth, 706 Ridge Pike, Lafayette Hill, PA 19444-1711, 610-825-3134, PJBLAW@aol.com)

Kyle F. Hence, co-founder of the activist organization 9/11 CitizensWatch, has worked closely with Mariani and other victim families. He said about Mariani’s case, “We feel that it is a very important legal action that could, if nothing else, bring more focus on the issues the media continue to largely ignore.” (kylehence@earthlink.net)

Edward Hurley of the Sarah McClendon Study Group, which sponsored a press conference with Mariani and Berg at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, last month, said Mariani’s suit presented “a richly documented case for criminal negligence if not complicity at the highest reaches of our government.”

The Mariani complaint is online at http://www.911forthetruth.com

Mariani asserts Bush, Cheney, and Rice have engaged in a “pattern of criminal activity and obstruction of justice” in violation of the public trust and laws of the United States to achieve their personal goals and agendas.”

Mariani claims that by influencing national security policy as public officials or private citizens the Bush family has profited in arms and oil. She says the pattern dates back to their dealings with Nazi Germany during World War II.

“This historical context will shock Americans who depend on the mainstream media for their political information,” Mariani states.

Mariani says the key to the charges is George H. W. Bush and his government involvement as CIA director (1976-1977), vice president (1980-1988), and president (1989-1992), as well as his subsequent business relationships. The latter includes his association with the Carlyle group, an equity fund that deals with weapons manufacturing.

Information about the Bush family history is beginning to surface in the media, including the book, American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush by Nixon White House aide Kevin Phillips (January 2004) and Republican John Buchanan’s challenge to Bush in the New Hampshire primary which has 9/11 and war profiteering at its core.

According to Mariani’s filing, just as Adolph Hitler played “the anti-communist card to win over skeptical German industrialists,” the Bush family melds political and business interests. “As history and evidence proves, the Bushes got their start as key Hitler supporters,” the suit claims.

Mariani says Prescott Bush, George H.W. Bush’s father, was Hitler’s “propaganda manager” in New York until Franklin D. Roosevelt confiscated his holdings under the Trading With the Enemy Act.

She asserts George H. W. Bush’s long government involvement and his business relations with the bin Laden family yield “a deadly and evil mixture of the Bush and bin Laden regimes.” She says Bush also conducted *personal business and national security deals” with another alleged terrorist, Saddam Hussein.

Mariani asserts that in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, “Defendants were allies with Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein during the former Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan and Iran-Iraq war respectively.” She says during these times “personal and political deals were made and it is believed upon discovery, these dealings hold the truth” about 9/11.

The complaint says Cheney still holds Halliburton stock options totaling more than $26 million. Halliburton passed the Standard & Poor’s Index by nearly 40 percent during the past year because of millions of dollars in Department of Defense contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

She maintains G.H.W. Bush’s share in the Carlyle Group’s defense-related profits will show similar appreciation since Bush launched the so-called “War on Terror. ”

Mariani reserves blistering anger for Kenneth Feinberg, administer of the compensation fund of the Air Transportation Safety and System Stabilization Act. Mariani calls the fund “a ploy” to silence lawsuits that could expose Bush’s failure to prevent the 9/11 attacks.

She said Feinberg allowed the Red Cross to stall donations to victim families to increase the families’ financial difficulties. “Many just decided to give up and submit to Feinberg’s fund in return for absolving the government of future accountability,” Mariani charges.

The deadline for 9/11 families to file claims with the fund has passed. Of the official 2,976 deaths, 2,851 families filed claims, forsaking future litigation against the government, airlines, airports, or security firms.

Mariani asserts if G.W. Bush, the Department of Defense, and NORAD had responded “expeditiously” and according to protocol, her husband and “thousands of other innocent people might still be alive today.”

She said as president [sic], G.W. Bush is “solely responsible” for “lapses” in intelligence leading to 9/11. A joint House and Senate Intelligence Committee last July attributed these “lapses” to the CIA and FBI.

Mariani asserts 9/11 has served as “a pretext for a never-ending war against the world, including preemptive strikes against defenseless, but resource rich countries.” It also has served as a pretext for “draconian measures of repression” in the U.S., including the Department of Homeland Security and USA PATRIOT Act.

The suit outlines historical roots of war-provoking deception such as Operation Northwoods, which the Joint Chiefs of Staff proposed in 1962. It included a plan for the U.S. to shoot down civilian airplanes and blame the act on Fidel Castro as a pretext for launching a war against Cuba. The Kennedy administration nixed the plan.

Other war-propelling hoaxes include the sinking of the Maine; the bombardment of Pearl Harbor, which evidence indicates President Roosevelt knew about, and the Gulf of Tonkin “provocation,” which led to escalation of the Vietnam conflict.

Less than a month after the February 27, 1933, Reichstag fire, which the Nazis blamed on the Communists, Hitler became Supreme Commander of Germany setting the stage for the repression and horror that followed.

To substantiate the foreknowledge claim, the suit says on August 6, 2001, one month before the 9/11 attacks, Condoleezza Rice provided a written brief to Bush at his Texas ranch that warned Osama bin Laden might hijack U.S. aircraft.

The suit claims “the single most damning indictment” was the failure of the Department of Defense/NORAD to follow normal military protocol as standard procedure. “It is a matter of routine procedure for fighter-jets to intercept commercial airliners to regain contact with the pilot.

“Flights 175, 77, and 93 had the same pattern of delays in notification and in scrambling fighter jets, delays that are unimaginable considering a plane had, by this time, already hit the World Trade Center.”

Mariani also charges Peter G. Peterson, chairman of the board of the Council on Foreign Relations, provided Bush and other officials “with critical national security advice contrary to the best interests of the American Public.”

Mariani said she hopes “revealing the truth of 9/11” will mean no longer can “so few control so many for self-gain and personal agendas.”

Waterboarding for God and Country By Ray McGovern

February 11, 2008

Waterboarding for God and Country By Ray McGovern

Dandelion Salad

By Ray McGovern
10/02/08 “ICH

After one spends 45 years in Washington, high farce does not normally throw one off balance. I found the past few days, however, an acid test of my equilibrium.

I missed the National Prayer Breakfast—for the 45th time in a row. But, as I drove to work I listened with rapt attention as President George W. Bush gave his insights on prayer:

“When we lift our hearts to God, we’re all equal in his sight. We’re all equally precious…In prayer we grow in mercy and compassion…. When we answer God’s call to love a neighbor as ourselves, we enter into a deeper friendship with our fellow man — and a deeper relationship with our eternal Father.”

Vice President Dick Cheney skipped Thursday’s prayer breakfast in order to put the final touches on the speech he gave later that morning to the Conservative Political Action Conference. Perhaps he felt he needed some extra time to devise careful words to extol “the interrogation program run by the CIA…a tougher program for tougher customers, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11,” without conceding that the program has involved torture.

But there was a touch of defensiveness in Cheney’s remarks, as he saw fit repeatedly to reassure his audience yesterday that America is a “decent” country.

After all, CIA Director Michael Hayden had confirmed publicly on Tuesday that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and two other “high-value” detainees had been waterboarded in 2002-2003, though Hayden added that the technique has since been discontinued.

An extreme form of interrogation going back at least as far as the Spanish Inquisition, waterboarding has been condemned as torture by just about everyone—except the hired legal hands of the Bush administration.

On Wednesday President Bush’s spokesman Tony Fratto revealed that the White House reserves the right to approve waterboarding again, “depending on the circumstances.” Fratto matter-of-factly described the process still followed by the Bush administration to approve torture—er; I mean, “enhanced interrogation techniques” like waterboarding:

“The process includes the director of the Central Intelligence Agency bringing the proposal to the attorney general, where the review would be conducted to determine if the plan would be legal and effective. At that point, the proposal would go to the president. The president would listen to the determination of his advisers and make a decision.”


Dissing Congress

Cheney’s task of reassuring us about our “decency” was made no easier Thursday, when Attorney General Michael Mukasey stonewalled questions from the hapless John Conyers, titular chair of the House Judiciary Committee. Conyers tried, and failed, to get straight answers from Mukasey on torture.

Conyers referred to Hayden’s admission about waterboarding and branded the practice “odious.” But Mukasey seemed to take perverse delight in “dissing” Conyers, as the expression goes in inner city Washington. Sadly, the tired chairman took the disrespect stoically.

He did summon the courage to ask Attorney General Mukasey directly, “Are you ready to start a criminal investigation into whether this confirmed use of waterboarding by U.S. agents was illegal?”

“No, I am not,” Mukasey answered.

Mukasey claimed “waterboarding was found to be permissible under the law as it existed” in the years immediately after 9/11; thus, the Justice Department could not investigate someone for doing something the department had declared legal. Got that?

Mukasey explained:

“That would mean the same department that authorized the program would now consider prosecuting somebody who followed that advice.”

Oddly, Mukasey himself is on record saying waterboarding would be torture if applied to him. And Michael McConnell, Director of National Intelligence, was even more explicit in taking the same line in an interview with Lawrence Wright of New Yorker magazine. McConnell told Wright that, for him:

“Waterboarding would be excruciating. If I had water draining into my nose, oh God, I just can’t imagine how painful! Whether it’s torture by anybody else’s definition, for me it would be torture.”

Okay, it would be torture if done to you, Mike; how about if done to others? Sadly, McConnell, too, missed the prayer breakfast and the president’s moving reminder that we are called “to love a neighbor as ourselves.” Is there an exception, perhaps, for detainees?

Cat Out of Bag

When torture first came up during his interview with the New Yorker, McConnell was more circumspect, repeating the obligatory bromide “We don’t torture,” as former CIA Director George Tenet did in five consecutive sentences while hawking his memoir on 60 Minutes on April 29, 2007. As McConnell grew more relaxed, however, he let slip the rationale for Mukasey’s effrontery and the administration’s refusal to admit that waterboarding is torture. For anyone paying attention, that rationale has long been a no-brainer. But here is McConnell inadvertently articulating it:

“If it is ever determined to be torture, there will be a huge penalty to be paid for anyone engaging in it.”

Like death. Even Alberto Gonzales could grasp this at the outset. That explains the overly clever, lawyerly wording in the Jan. 25, 2002 memorandum for the president drafted by the vice president’s lawyer, David Addington, but signed by Gonzales. Addington/Gonzales argued that the president’s determination that the Geneva agreements on prisoners of war do not apply to al-Qaeda and the Taliban:

“Substantially reduces the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act (18 U.S.C. 2441)…enacted in 1996…

“Punishments for violations of Section 2441include the death penalty…

“[I]t is difficult to predict the motives of prosecutors and independent counsels who may in the future decide to pursue unwarranted charges based on Section 2441. Your determination would create a reasonable basis in law that Section 2441 does not apply, which would provide a solid defense to any future prosecution.”
MEMORANDUM FOR THE PRESIDENT, January 25, 2002, p. 2

Mike McConnell needs to get his own lawyers to bring him up to date on all this. For that memorandum was quickly followed by an action memorandum signed by George W. Bush on Feb. 7, 2002. The president’s memo incorporated the exact wording of Addington/Gonzales’ bottom line; to wit, the U.S. would “treat the detainees humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of [Geneva]. (emphasis added)

That provided the loophole through which then-defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and then-CIA director George Tenet and their subordinates drove the Mack truck of torture. Even the Bush-administration-friendly editorial page of the Washington Post saw fit on Friday to declare torture “illegal in all instances,” adding that “waterboarding is, and always has been, torture.”

Waterboarding has been condemned as torture for a very long time. After WW-II Japanese soldiers were hanged for the “war crime” of waterboarding American soldiers.

Patriots and Prophets

Patriots and prophets have made it clear from our earliest days that such abuse has no place in America.

Virginia’s Patrick Henry insisted passionately that “the rack and the screw,” as he put it, were barbaric practices that had to be left behind in the Old World, or we are “lost and undone.” Attorney General Mukasey, for his part, recently refused to say whether he considers the rack and the screw forms of torture, dismissing the question as hypothetical.

As for prophets, George Hunzinger of Princeton Theological Seminary has awakened enough religious folks to form the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, a coalition of 130 religious organizations from left to right on the political spectrum. Hunzinger puts it succinctly: “To acknowledge that waterboarding is torture is like conceding that the sun rises in the east,” adding:

“All the dissembling in high places that makes these shocking abuses possible must be brought to an end. But they will undoubtedly continue unless those responsible for them are held accountable…. A special counsel is an essential first step.”

Sadly, Hunzinger and his associates have been unable to overcome the pious complacency of the vast majority of institutional churches, synagogues, and mosques in this country and their reluctance to exercise moral leadership.

How It Looks From Outside

Sometimes it takes a truth-telling outsider to throw light on our moral failures.

South African Methodist Bishop Peter Storey, erstwhile chaplain to Nelson Madela in prison and longtime outspoken opponent of apartheid, has this to say to those clergy who might be moved to preach more than platitudes:

“We had obvious evils to engage; you have to unwrap your culture from years of red, white, and blue myth. You have to expose and confront the great disconnect between the kindness, compassion, and caring of most American people and the ruthless way American power is experienced, directly or indirectly, by the poor of the earth. You have to help good people see how they have let their institutions do their sinning for them.

“All around the world there are those who long to see your human goodness translated into a different, more compassionate way of relating with the rest of this bleeding planet.”

Mukasey’s thumbing his nose at Conyers’ committee yesterday was simply the most recent display of contempt for Congress on the part of the Bush administration. The Founders expected our representatives in Congress to be taken seriously by the executive branch, and expected that Members of Congress would hold senior executives accountable—to the point of impeaching them, when necessary, for high crimes and misdemeanors.

That used to worry those officials and put a brake on more outlandish behavior. Not any more.

No Worries, George

One reads George Tenet’s memoirs with some nostalgia for the days of a modicum of congressional oversight, and with a strong sense of irony—as he confesses concern that Congress might one day hold him and others accountable for taking liberties with national and international law.

It seems likely that then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and David Addington counseled Tenet that his concerns were quaint and obsolete and, alas, they may have been right, the way things have been going. But Tenet apparently entertained lingering misgivings—perhaps even qualms of conscience.

In the immediate post-9/11 period, Tenet says he told the president “our only real ally” on the Afghan border was Uzbekistan, “where we had established important intelligence-collection capabilities.” We now know from UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray that those “collection capabilities” included the most primitive methods of torture, including boiling alleged “terrorists” alive.

Tenet adds that he stressed the importance of being able to detain unilaterally al-Qaeda operatives around the world. His worries shine through the rather telling sentences that follow:

“We were asking for and we would be given as many authorities as CIA ever had. Things could blow up. People, me among them, could end up spending some of the worst days of our lives justifying before congressional overseers our new freedom to act.” At the Center of the Storm, p. 177-178

Tenet need not have worried. He would be shielded from accountability by a timid Congress as well as an arrogant White House able to arrogate unprecedented power to itself and to shield those it wished to protect.

Setting the Tone

It was President George W. Bush who set the tone from the outset. After his address to the nation on the evening of 9/11, he assembled his top national security aides in the White House bunker—the easier, perhaps, to foster a bunker mentality. Among them was counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke, who quoted the president in his memoir:

“I want you to understand that we are at war and we will stay at war until this is done. Nothing else matters. Everything is available for the pursuit of this war. Any barriers in your way, they’re gone. Any money you need, you have it. This is our only agenda…

“I don’t care what the international lawyers say, we are going to kick some ass.” Against All Enemies, Free Press, 2004

Clarke, of course, took his book’s title from the oath of office we all swore as military officers and/or senior government officials: “To defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

John Ashcroft, head of the Department of Justice at the time, fell in lockstep with the thrust of the president’s comment dismissing any concern with international law—or, as would quickly be seen, domestic law, as well. With the enthusiastic assistance of David Addington, the affable Ashcroft assembled a cabal of Mafia-like lawyers whose imaginative legal opinions on torture, warrantless eavesdropping, and other abuses mark them forever as “domestic enemies” of the Constitution.

Add Mukasey to this distinguished roster.

Torture: the Hallmark

What is not widely known is that Justice Department-approved torture was first applied on an American citizen, John Walker Lindh, who was captured in Afghanistan in late November 2001. The White House and corporate press immediately sensationalized Lindh as “the American Taliban.”

Jesselyn Radack, a conscientious legal advisor in the Justice Department’s Professional Responsibility Advisory Office, which gives ethics advice to Department attorneys, insisted that Lindh be advised of his rights before any interrogation. Instead, he was tortured mercilessly during the first few days of his internment and denied medical care.

Lindh had had the foolishness and bad luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time; i. e., in a large group of prisoners rounded up by CIA and Army paramilitary forces—too large a group, it turned out.

A spontaneous uprising took place, and CIA paramilitary officer Johnny “Mike” Spann, who had questioned Lindh just minutes before, was shot dead. Outraged, Spann’s colleagues applied “frontier justice,” totally ignoring the Constitutional cautions of Ms. Radack.

The Department of Justice moved quickly to fire Radack for her principled stand. But she had the presence of mind to save emails providing chapter and verse of the difficult exchanges in which she had insisted on respect for Lindh’s rights as an American citizen. Newsweek carried the story briefly, but neither Congress nor anyone else in the media showed much interest.

Radack’s book recounting this experience, The Canary in the Coalmine: Blowing the Whistle in the Case of “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh, is available on line at: http://www.patriotictruthteller.net/.

Against this backdrop, together with Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and prisons in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere, Patrick Henry’s warning remains a challenge for our time: Are we “lost and undone?” I think not; but we had better get it together soon, for, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., cautioned, “There is such a thing as too late.”

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. He was an Army intelligence officer before joining the CIA where he had a 27-year career as an analyst. He is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

A shorter version of this article appeared on Consortiumnews.com.

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One Bush Left Behind by Greg Palast

January 29, 2008

One Bush Left Behind by Greg Palast

Dandelion Salad

by Greg Palast
January 29th, 2008

Here’s your question, class:

In his State of the Union, the President asked Congress for $300 million for poor kids in the inner city. As there are, officially, 15 million children in America living in poverty, how much is that per child? Correct! $20.

Here’s your second question. The President also demanded that Congress extend his tax cuts. The cost: $4.3 trillion over ten years. The big recipients are millionaires. And the number of millionaires happens, not coincidentally, to equal the number of poor kids, roughly 15 million of them. OK class: what is the cost of the tax cut per millionaire? That’s right, Richie, $287,000 apiece.

Mr. Bush said, “In neighborhoods across our country, there are boys and girls with dreams. And a decent education is their only hope of achieving them.”

So how much educational dreaming will $20 buy?

-George Bush’s alma mater, Phillips Andover Academy, tells us their annual tuition is $37,200. The $20 “Pell Grant for Kids,” as the White House calls it, will buy a poor kid about 35 minutes of this educational dream. So they’ll have to wake up quickly.

-$20 won’t cover the cost of the final book in the Harry Potter series.

If you can’t buy a book nor pay tuition with a sawbuck, what exactly can a poor kid buy with $20 in urban America? The Palast Investigative Team donned baseball caps and big pants and discovered we could obtain what local citizens call a “rock” of crack cocaine. For $20, we were guaranteed we could fulfill any kid’s dream for at least 15 minutes.

Now we could see the incontrovertible logic in what appeared to be quixotic ravings by the President about free trade with Colombia, Pell Grant for Kids and the surge in Iraq. In Iraq, General Petraeus tells us we must continue to feed in troops for another ten years. There is no way the military can recruit these freedom fighters unless our lower income youth are high, hooked and desperate. Don’t say, ‘crack vials,’ they’re, ‘Democracy Rocks’!

The plan would have been clearer if Mr. Bush had kept in his speech the line from his original draft which read, “I have ordered 30,000 additional troops to Iraq this year – and I am proud to say my military-age kids are not among them.”

Of course, there’s an effective alternative to Mr. Bush’s plan – which won’t cost a penny more. Simply turn it upside down. Let’s give each millionaire in America a $20 bill, and every poor child $287,000.

And, there’s an added benefit to this alternative. Had we turned Mr. Bush and his plan upside down, he could have spoken to Congress from his heart.

-For more on Bush and education read “No Child’s Behind Left” in Armed Madhouse excerpted here.

-Also read Palast’s take on the 2007 State of the Union here.

***
Greg Palast is the author of the NY Times best-sellers, Armed Madhouse and The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. View Palast’s investigative reports for BBC Television on our YouTube Channel.

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December 6, 2007

GREAT THANKS TO THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR WHO COMPILED THIS INFORMATIVE LIST…WHICH REALLY ONLY HITS THE HIGH POINTS…THE TRUE SCOPE OF WHAT LIBERTIES WE’VE BEEN SILENTLY ROBBED OF WILL PROBABLY NEVER BE KNOWN.

-JEREMIAS X

2001

January

Presidential directive delays indefinitely the scheduled release of presidential documents (authorized by the Presidential Records Act of 1978) pertaining to the Reagan-Bush administration. Link

Bush and Cheney begin process of radically broadening scope of documents and information which can be deemed classified. Link

February

The National Security Agency (NSA) sets up Project Groundbreaker, a domestic call monitoring program infrastructure. Link

Spring

Bush administration order authorizes NSA monitoring of domestic phone and internet traffic. Link

May

US Supreme Court rules that medical necessity is not a permissible defense against federal marijuana statutes. Link

September

In immediate aftermath of 9-11 terror attacks, Department of Justice authorizes detention without charge for any terror suspects. Over one thousand suspects are brought into detention over the next several months. Link (pdf)

October

Attorney General John Ashcroft announces change in Department of Justice (DOJ) policy. According to the new policy DOJ will impose far more stringent criteria for the granting of Freedom of Information Act requests. Link

September-October

NSA launches massive new database of information on US phone calls. Link

October

The USA Patriot Act becomes law. Among other things the law: makes it a crime for anyone to contribute money or material support for any group on the State Department’s Terror Watch List, allows the FBI to monitor and tape conversations between attorneys and clients, allows the FBI to order librarians to turn over information about patron’s reading habits, allows the government to conduct surveillance on internet and email use of US citizens without notice. The act also calls for expanded use of National Security Letters (NSLs), which allow the FBI to search telephone, email and financial records of US citizens without a court order, exempts the government from needing to reveal how evidence against suspected terrorists was obtained and authorizes indefinite detention of immigrants at the discretion of law enforcement and immigration authorities.

NJ Superior court judge and civil liberties scholar Anthony Napolitano, author of A Nation of Sheep, has described the law’s assault on first and fourth amendment principles as follows, “The Patriot Act’s two most principle constitutional errors are an assault on the Fourth Amendment, and on the First. It permits federal agents to write their own search warrants [under the name “national security letters”] with no judge having examined evidence and agreed that it’s likely that the person or thing the government wants to search will reveal evidence of a crime… Not only that, but the Patriot Act makes it a felony for the recipient of a self-written search warrant to reveal it to anyone. The Patriot Act allows [agents] to serve self-written search warrants on financial institutions, and the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2004 in Orwellian language defines that to include in addition to banks, also delis, bodegas, restaurants, hotels, doctors’ offices, lawyers’ offices, telecoms, HMOs, hospitals, casinos, jewelry dealers, automobile dealers, boat dealers, and that great financial institution to which we all would repose our fortunes, the post office. Link 1 | Link 2

November

Executive order limits release of presidential documents. The order gives incumbent presidents the right to veto requests to open any past presidential records and supercedes the congressionally passed law of 1978 mandating release of all presidential records not explicitly deemed classified. Link

2002

Winter

FBI and Department of Defense (DOD), forbidden by law from compiling databases on US citizens, begin contracting with private database firm ChoicePoint to collect, store, search and maintain data. Link

Spring

Secret executive order issued authorizing NSA to wiretap the phones and read emails of US citizens. Link

Spring

Transportation Security Adminstration (TSA) acknowledges it has created both a “No Fly” and a separate “Watch” list of US travelers. Link

May

Department of Justice authorizes the FBI to monitor political and religious groups. The new rules permit the FBI to broadly search or monitor the internet for evidence of criminal activity without having any tips or leads that a specific criminal act has been committed. Link

June

Supreme Court upholds the right of school administrators to conduct mandatory drug testing of students without probable cause. Link

November

Homeland Security Act of 2002 establishes separate Department of Homeland Security. Among other things the department will federally coordinate for the first time all local and state law enforcement nationwide and run a Directorate of Information and Analysis with authority to compile comprehensive data on US citizens using public and commercial records including credit card, phone, bank, and travel. The department also will be exempt form Freedom of Information Act disclosure requirements. The Homeland Security department’s jurisdiction has been widely criticized for being nebulously defined and has extended beyond terrorism into areas including immigration, pornography and drug enforcement. Link 1 | Link 2

2003

February

Draft of Domestic Security Enhancement Act (aka Patriot Act 2), a secret document prepared by the Department of Justice is leaked by the Center for Public Integrity. Provisions of the February 7th draft version included:

Removal of court-ordered prohibitions against police agencies spying on domestic groups.

The FBI would be granted powers to conduct searches and surveillance based on intelligence gathered in foreign countries without first obtaining a court order.

Creation of a DNA database of suspected terrorists.

Prohibition of any public disclosure of the names of alleged terrorists including those who have been arrested.

Exemptions from civil liability for people and businesses who voluntarily turn private information over to the government.

Criminalization of the use of encryption to conceal incriminating communications.

Automatic denial of bail for persons accused of terrorism-related crimes, reversing the ordinary common law burden of proof principle. All alleged terrorists would be required to demonstrate why they should be released on bail rather than the government being required to demonstrate why they should be held.

Expansion of the list of crimes eligible for the death penalty.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency would be prevented from releasing “worst case scenario” information to the public about chemical plants.

United States citizens whom the government finds to be either members of, or providing material support to, terrorist groups could have their US citizenship revoked and be deported to foreign countries.

Although the bill itself has never (yet) been advanced in congress due to public exposure, some of its provisions have become law as parts of other bills. For example The Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 grants the FBI unprecedented power to obtain records from financial institutions without requiring permission from a judge. Under the law, the FBI does not need to seek a court order to access such records, nor does it need to prove just cause. Link 1 | Link 2

March

Executive order issued which radically tightens the declassification process of classified government documents, as well as making it far easier for government agencies to make and keep information classified. The order delayed by three years the release of declassified government documents dating from 1978 or earlier. It also allowed the government to treat all material sent to American officials from foreign governments — no matter how routine — as subject to classification, and expanded the ability of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to shield documents from declassification. Finally it gave the vice president the power to classify information. Link 1 | Link 2

March

In a ruling seen as a victory for the concentration of ownership of intellectual property and an erosion of the public domain, the Supreme Court in Eldred v. Ashcroft held that a 20-year extension of the copyright period (from 50 years after the death of the author to 70 years) called for by the Sonny Bono copyright Extension not violate either the Copyright Clause or the First Amendment. Link

April

In Demore v. Kim, the Supreme Court ruled that even permanent residents could be subject to mandatory detention when facing deportation based on a prior criminal conviction, without any right to an individualized hearing to determine whether they were dangerous or a flight risk. Link

Fall

The FBI changes its traditional policy of destroying all data and documents collected on innocent citizens in the course of criminal investigations. This information would, according to the bureau, now be permanently stored. Two years later in late 2005 Executive Order 13388, expanded access to those files for “state, local and tribal” governments and for “appropriate private sector entities,” which are not defined. Link 1 | Link 2

Fall

As authorized by the Patriot Act, the FBI expands the practice of national security letters. NSLs, originally introduced in the 1970s for espionage and terrorism investigations, enabled the FBI to review in secret the customer records of suspected foreign agents. This was extended by the Patriot Act to include permitting clandestine scrutiny of all U.S. residents and visitors whether suspected of terrorism or not. Link

2004

January

The FBI begins keeping a database of US citizens based on information obtained via NSLs. Link

Spring

John Ashcroft invokes State Secrets privilege to forbid former FBI translator Sibel Edmunds from testifying in a case brought by families of victims of the 9-11 attacks. Litigation by 9-11 families is subsequently halted. Link 1 | Link 2

June

Supreme Court upholds Nevada state law allowing police to arrest suspects who refuse to provide identification based on police discretion of “reasonable suspicion.” Link

2005

January

Supreme court rules that police do not need to have probable cause to have drug sniffing dogs examine cars stopped for routine traffic violations. Link 1 | Link 2

June

Supreme Court rules that the federal government can prosecute medical marijuana users even in states which have laws permitting medical marijuana. Link

Summer

The Patriot Act, due to expire at the end of 2005, is reauthorized by Congress. Link

Winter 2005

Senate blocks reauthorization of certain clauses in Patriot Act. Link

2006

March

Senate passes amended version of Patriot Act, reauthorization, with three basic changes from the original including: recipients of secret court orders to turn over sensitive information on individuals linked to terrorism investigations are not allowed to disclose those orders but can challenge the gag order after a year, libraries would not be required to turn over information without the approval of a judge, recipients of an FBI “national security letter” — an investigator’s demand for access to personal or business information — would not have to tell the FBI if they consult a lawyer. New bill also said to extend Congressional oversight over executive department usage guidelines. Shortly after bill is signed George Bush declares oversight rules are not binding. Link 1 | Link 2

June

Supreme court rules that evidence obtained in violation of the “knock and announce” rules can still be permitted in court. Link

September

US Congress and Senate approve the Military Commissions Act, which authorizes torture and strips non- US citizen detainees suspected of terrorist ties of the right of habeas corpus (which includes formal charges, counsel and hearings). It also empowers US presidents at their discretion to declare US citizens as enemy combatants and subject to detention without charge or due process. Link 1 | Link 2 | Link 3

October

John Warner Defense Authorization Act is passed. The act allows a president to declare a public emergency and station US military troops anywhere in America as well as take control of state based national guard units without consent of the governor or other local authorities. The law authorizes presidential deployment of US troops to round-up and detain “potential terrorists”, “illegal aliens” and “disorderly” citizenry. Link 1 | Link 2

2007

May

National Security Presidential Directive 51 (NSPD-51) establishes a new post-disaster plan (with disaster defined as any incident, natural or man-made, resulting in extraordinary mass casualties, damage or disruption) which places the president in charge of all three branches of government. The directive overrides the National Emergencies Act which gives Congress power to determine the duration of a national emergency. Link 1 | Link 2

June

In “Bong Hits for Jesus” case Supreme court rules that student free speech rights do not extend to promotion of drug use. Link

July

Executive Order 13438: “Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq, issued. The order asserts the government’s power to confiscate the property “of persons determined to have committed, or to pose a significant risk of committing, an act or acts of violence that have the purpose or effect of threatening the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq or undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq or to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people.”

October

The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Act passes the House of Representatives 400 to 6 (to be voted on in the Senate in 2008). The act proposes the establishment of a commission composed of members of the House and Senate, Homeland Security and others, to “examine and report upon the facts and causes of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence in the United States” and specifically the role of the internet in fostering and disseminating extremism. According to the bill the term ..violent radicalization’ means the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change, while the term ‘ideologically-based violence’ means the use, planned use, or threatened use of force or violence by a group or individual to promote the group or individual’s political, religious, or social beliefs.” Link 1 | Link 2 | Link 3

The Bush Family Gets Away with Crimes That Would Land Anyone Else in Jail by Robert Parry

November 30, 2007

The Bush Family Gets Away with Crimes That Would Land Anyone Else in Jail by Robert Parry

Dandelion Salad

by Robert Parry

Global Research, November 28, 2007

Consortium News – 2007-11-26

In the history of the American Republic, perhaps no political family has been more protected from scandal than the Bushes.

When the Bushes are involved in dirty deals or even criminal activity, standards of evidence change. Instead of proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” that would lock up an average citizen, the evidence must be perfect.

If there’s any doubt at all, the Bushes must be presumed innocent. Even when their guilt is obvious to anyone with an ounce of common sense, it’s their accusers and those who dare investigate who get the worst of it. Their motives are challenged and their own shortcomings are cast in the harshest possible light.

For decades — arguably going back generations — the Bushes have been protected by their unique position straddling two centers of national power, the family’s blueblood Eastern Establishment ties and the Texas oil crowd with strong links to the Republican Right. [For details on this family phenomenon, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]

This reality was underscored again by how major news outlets and the right-wing press reacted to a new piece of evidence implicating George W. Bush in a criminal cover-up in the “Plame-gate” scandal.

Though the evidence is now overwhelming that President Bush was part of a White House cabal that leaked Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity as a covert CIA officer and then covered up the facts, major newspapers, such as the New York Times and the Washington Post, continue to pooh-pooh this extraordinary scandal.

The latest piece of evidence was the statement from former White House press secretary Scott McClellan that Bush was one of five senior officials who had him clear Karl Rove and I. Lewis Libby in the leak when, in fact, they were two of the leakers.

“The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore the credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq,” McClellan said in a snippet released by the publisher of his upcoming memoir.

“So I stood at the White House briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby,” McClellan said. “There was one problem. It was not true.”

After McClellan’s statement touched off a brief furor on the Internet and cable TV shows, his publisher Peter Osnos tried to soften the blow. Osnos told Bloomberg News that McClellan didn’t mean that Bush deliberately ordered his press secretary to lie.

“He told him something that wasn’t true, but the President didn’t know it wasn’t true,” Osnos said.

What Bush Knew

But neither McClennan nor Osnos knows what Bush really knew.

The revelatory point in McClellan’s statement was that Bush was a direct participant in the campaign to protect Rove and Libby as they lied about their roles in the leak. Previously that was an inference one could draw from the facts, but it had not been confirmed by a White House official.

Indeed, looking at the available evidence, it would defy credulity that Bush wasn’t implicated in the Plame-gate leak and the subsequent cover-up, which led to Libby’s conviction earlier this year on four counts of perjury and obstruction of justice.

For Bush not to have been involved would have required him to be oblivious to the inner workings of the White House and the actions of his closest advisers on an issue of great importance to him.

From the evidence at Libby’s trial, it was already clear that Bush had a direct hand in the effort to discredit Plame’s husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, after he had gone public in July 2003 with his role in a CIA investigation of what turned out to be bogus claims that Iraq had sought yellowcake uranium from Niger.

Bush, who had cited those bogus claims in his 2003 State of the Union Address in making his case for invading Iraq, was worried about his credibility when U.S. forces failed to find WMD evidence and when Wilson became the first Washington insider to start questioning Bush’s case for war.

So, Bush collaborated with Vice President Dick Cheney in mounting a counter-attack against Wilson. Bush decided to selectively declassify portions of a National Intelligence Estimate in order to undercut Wilson’s credibility and agreed to have that information leaked to friendly reporters.

It was in that context that Libby, Rove and other administration officials went forth to brief reporters, contacts that ended up disclosing that Wilson’s CIA wife, Plame, played a role in arranging his work on the CIA investigation. The suggestion was that Wilson’s unpaid fact-finding trip to Niger was a case of nepotism or a junket.

Following these press contacts, Plame’s identity surfaced in a July 14, 2003, article by right-wing columnist Robert Novak, who had gotten his information from two sources, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and his friend, the president’s chief political adviser Karl Rove.

But Rove’s work on the Plame leak didn’t stop with Novak’s article; he continued to peddle the information to other journalists, such as MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, who told Wilson a week after Novak’s column, “I just got off the phone with Karl Rove. He says and I quote, ‘Wilson’s wife is fair game.’”

Rove has since disputed the precise “fair game” quote, but he doesn’t deny talking to Matthews about Plame’s identity. So, we know that a week after the original leaks had blown Plame’s undercover status, Bush had not called off the dogs. His closest political adviser still was using the information to undermine Wilson.

Hardball Politics

This pattern of hardball politics, of course, fits with how George W. Bush and others in his family play the game.

His father, George H.W. Bush, would talk about how rough he could be when in “campaign mode.” The younger George Bush just extended that pugnacious approach to full-time, aided and abetted by a powerful right-wing media that has carried water for him consistently over the past eight years.

Even American citizens who get in Bush’s way feel the lash. Just ask the likes of former weapons inspector Scott Ritter, who challenged Bush’s pre-Iraq War claims about WMD, or the Dixie Chicks, who dared to diss the Commander in Chief at one of their concerts.

So, the treatment of Wilson/Plame was part of the standard fare for what happened to Americans who dissented on Bush’s war policies. However, this one was a little different because the leak destroyed the career of a covert CIA officer and endangered her network of foreign agents who had been supplying information about WMD in the Middle East.

In September 2003, upset about this collateral damage, the CIA forwarded a criminal complaint to the Justice Department seeking an investigation into the outing of Plame. As far as the CIA was concerned, her classified identity was covered by a 1982 law barring willful exposure of CIA officers who had “served” abroad in the preceding five years.

But Bush and his inner circle could still breathe easily since the probe was under the control of Attorney General John Ashcroft, considered to be a right-wing Bush ally. The White House responded to press inquiries disingenuously, claiming Bush took the leak very seriously and would punish anyone involved.

“The President has set high standards, the highest of standards, for people in his administration,” McClellan said on Sept. 29, 2003. “If anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration.”

Bush personally announced his determination to get to the bottom of the matter.

“If there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is,” Bush said on Sept. 30, 2003. “I want to know the truth. If anybody has got any information inside our administration or outside our administration, it would be helpful if they came forward with the information so we can find out whether or not these allegations are true.”

Yet, even as Bush was professing his curiosity and calling for anyone with information to step forward, he was withholding the fact that he had authorized the declassification of some secrets about the Niger uranium issue and had ordered Cheney to arrange for those secrets to be given to reporters.

In other words, though Bush knew a great deal about how the anti-Wilson scheme got started — since he was involved in starting it — he uttered misleading public statements to conceal the White House role.

Spreading Lies

Also, since the other conspirators knew that Bush already was in the know, they would have read his comments as a signal to lie, which is what they did. In early October, press secretary McClellan said he could report that political adviser Karl Rove and National Security Council aide Elliott Abrams were not involved in the Plame leak.

That comment riled Libby, who feared that he was being hung out to dry. Libby went to his boss, Dick Cheney, and complained that “they’re trying to set me up; they want me to be the sacrificial lamb,” Libby’s lawyer Theodore Wells later said.

Cheney scribbled down his feelings in a note to press secretary McClellan: “Not going to protect one staffer + sacrifice the guy the Pres that was asked to stick his head in the meat grinder because of incompetence of others.”

Cheney initially ascribed Libby’s role in going after Wilson to Bush’s orders, but the Vice President apparently thought better of it, crossing out “the Pres” and putting the clause in a passive tense.

Cheney has never explained publicly the meaning of his note, but it suggests that it was Bush who sent Libby out on the get-Wilson mission to limit damage from Wilson’s criticism of Bush’s false Niger-yellowcake claim in the State of the Union Address.

Cheney’s reference to the “incompetence of others” may refer to those who cleared the false Niger claim in the first place.

Bush’s subsequent behavior in the latter half of 2003 adds to the evidence of his guilt.

Assuming Bush was sincere in his desire to get to the bottom of who leaked Plame’s identity — or just wanted to make sure there was no security risk in his inner circle — he presumably would have ordered an internal White House security probe. But he didn’t.

James Knodell, director of the White House security office, conceded before a congressional committee in March 2007 that no internal security investigation was performed; no security clearances were suspended or revoked; no punishment of any kind was meted out to White House political adviser Rove, even after his role in leaking Plame’s classified identity was determined.

Knodell, whose job included assessing Executive Branch security breaches, said that what he knew about the Plame case was “through the press.” A logical inference from Knodell’s inaction was that Bush already knew who had leaked Plame’s identity because he was involved in the leak.

In fall 2003, with no White House security review underway and the criminal probe presumably bottled up in the Justice Department, the cover-up broadened. On Oct. 4, 2003, McClellan added Libby to the list of officials who have “assured me that they were not involved in this.”

So, Libby had a motive to lie to the FBI when he was first interviewed about the case. He had gone to the mat with his boss to get his name cleared in the press, meaning it would make little sense to then admit involvement to FBI investigators, especially when it looked as if the cover-up would hold.

“The White House had staked its credibility on there being no White House involvement in the leaking of information about Ms. Wilson,” a federal court filing later noted. For his part, Libby began claiming that he had first learned about Plame’s CIA identity from NBC’s Washington bureau chief Tim Russert after Wilson had gone public.

Reversal of Fortune

This White House cover-up might have worked, except in late 2003, Ashcroft decided he wouldn’t be the loyal foot soldier and recused himself because of a conflict of interest. Deputy Attorney General James Comey then picked Patrick Fitzgerald — the U.S. Attorney in Chicago — to serve as special prosecutor.

Fitzgerald pursued the investigation far more aggressively. Bush’s White House countered with a combination of public stonewalling and a continued PR campaign to further discredit Wilson.

Bush’s political and media allies dissected every nuance of the Wilson/Plame case to highlight supposed inconsistencies and contradictions.

The Republican National Committee put out nasty anti-Wilson talking points; senior Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee called Wilson a liar; the right-wing media — aided and abetted by the Washington Post’s neoconservative editorial page — amplified these ugly attacks to the public.

Right-wing lawyer Victoria Toensing received widespread media coverage when she claimed that Plame was not a “covert” officer under the definition of the 1982 law protecting the identities of intelligence agents because it only applied to CIA personnel who had “resided” or were “stationed” abroad in the previous five years.

Toensing argued that since Plame, the mother of young twins, was stationed at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, and resided in the Washington area, she wasn’t “covert” even if that was her official CIA status. But Toensing was misrepresenting the law that she said she had helped draft while a congressional staffer in the early 1980s.

The actual wording of the law as it pertained to CIA and other clandestine officers was “served” abroad, which is not synonymous with “stationed” or “resided,” the words that Toensing had substituted.

One can be stationed or reside inside the United States and still “serve” abroad by undertaking secret missions overseas, which Plame had done.

But many in the right-wing news media and even at prestige newspapers like the Washington Post adopted Toensing’s word games as reality. It became an article of faith in some political circles that Plame was not a “covert” officer and that therefore there was “no underlying crime” in the leaking of her identity.

Bush’s Guilt?

But what does this ongoing pattern of deception and character assassination against Wilson and Plame suggest about Bush’s innocence or guilt?

If Bush were the innocent party that we are supposed to believe, wouldn’t he have acted differently? Wouldn’t he have called for an end to these attacks on two American citizens who had served their country?

But Bush never tried to halt these cruel diversionary tactics. The White House goal, it appears, was to stir up enough confusion so that the public wouldn’t focus on the logical conclusion that Bush was responsible for damaging a CIA operation intended to protect national security.

In October 2005, Fitzgerald indicted Libby on five counts of lying to federal investigators and obstructing justice. Libby was convicted on four of five counts in March 2007 and sentenced to 30 months in jail.

But Bush’s role in the cover-up wasn’t finished. On July 2, 2007, Bush commuted Libby’s sentence to spare him any jail time. The President also left open the possibility that Libby might receive a full pardon before Bush left the White House.

The combination of taking away the stick of jail time and dangling the carrot of a full pardon eliminated any incentive for Libby to turn state’s evidence against Bush, Cheney and other senior officials.

In a different era, one might expect major newspapers, like the New York Times and the Washington Post, to erupt in fury over such an obvious case of presidential wrongdoing. One also might have anticipated serious hearings by a Democratic-controlled Congress to get to the bottom of this sorry affair.

But not in this era. Even when former press secretary McClellan became the first White House insider to acknowledge that senior officials, including Bush and Cheney, put him up to spreading lies about the Plame-gate scandal (whatever they knew at the time), there was almost no reaction, except on the Internet and some cable TV shows.

The Post and Times essentially ignored McClellan’s statement, apparently buying into the later spin that Bush might not have known then that Libby and Rove were lying. Bush’s right-wing apologists already are back on the attack, claiming that McClellan’s back-tracking supports Bush’s innocence.

The Democrats also don’t seem to have the stomach to hold Bush accountable. One presidential hopeful, Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Connecticut, called for the Justice Department to investigate whether Bush had intentionally misled the public.

But the Democrats control both houses of Congress and presumably could compel testimony from many of the principals. They might even be able to force an explanation from special prosecutor Fitzgerald about why he didn’t pursue a broader case and what Bush and Cheney told him during their interviews about the Plame leak.

Instead the Democrats appear frightened of the counter-attack that the right-wing media could unleash, especially when major mainstream publications like the Times show little interest in the story and others like the Post actually are helping Bush in his cover-up.

But the broader picture appears to be that George W. Bush is just the latest member of the Bush family who can skate away from nearly any wrongdoing without paying a price.

Robert Parry’s new book is Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq.”


Global Research Articles by Robert Parry

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The Global Impact of Bush’s War Crimes in Iraq: King Midas in Reverse by Walter C. Uhler

November 28, 2007

The Global Impact of Bush’s War Crimes in Iraq: King Midas in Reverse by Walter C. Uhler

by Walter C. Uhler
The Smirking Chimp
Nov 26 2007

Journalist Robert Fisk recently explained the Bush/Cheney abomination in the Middle East quite succinctly, when he asserted: “The world in the Middle East is growing darker and darker by the hour. Pakistan. Afghanistan. Iraq. “Palestine”. Lebanon. From the borders of Hindu Kush to the Mediterranean, we – we Westerners that is – are creating (as I have said before) a hell disaster. Next week, we are supposed to believe in peace in Annapolis, between the colorless American apparatchik and Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister who has no more interest in a Palestinian state than his predecessor Ariel Sharon.” [Robert Fisk, “Darkness falls on the Middle East,” Independent.co.uk, 24 Nov. 2007]

On Friday, November 23rd, a bomb exploded in a pet market in central Baghdad. It followed a “brazen attack against U.S.-backed Sunni fighters on the southern belt of Baghdad” and a mortar and rocket attack on the Green Zone a day earlier that constituted “the biggest attack against the U.S.-protected area in weeks.” [Bushra Juhi, “Twin bombings Kill at Least 26 in Iraq,” Associated Press, 23 Nov. 2007]

You might keep such information in mind whenever you hear dishonest Republicans and feckless Democrats shy away from the awful truth about the “hell disaster” in Iraq and the Middle East.

And the awful truth is this: During the seven months preceding the Bush administration’s reckless, immoral, illegal and incompetent invasion of Iraq, the architects of that criminal war — Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell, Wolfowitz, Feith and Perle — lied repeatedly about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and links to al Qaeda, grossly exaggerated both the welcome American troops would receive and the ease with which democracy could be established in Iraq, while fraudulently understating the projected costs of their evil venture. In a word, our “MBA President” and his cronies failed to exercise due diligence with the American people.

Yet, while these criminals were preparing to commit their crime, critics of the proposed invasion were struggling to be heard, struggling to penetrate the herd mentality of the mainstream news media – which, except for some reporters at Knight Ridder, found itself shocked and awed by the administration’s war mongering propaganda. As we now know, post-invasion facts on the ground vindicated the critics, not only for doubting the Bush administration’s bogus claims about Iraq’s WMD and links to al Qaeda, but also for questioning the very need for preemptive (actually preventive) war and the very feasibility of forcing democracy at gunpoint.

Unfortunately, more than 31,000 American soldiers have been killed or wounded in the course of executing Bush’s criminal plans. Add to that figure “at least 20,000 U.S. troops who were not classified as wounded during combat in Iraq and Afghanistan…[now] found with signs of brain injuries.” [Gregg Zoroya, “Combat Brain Injuries Multiply,” USA Today, Nov. 23, 2007]

Moreover, although some 3,875 soldiers have died in Iraq since March 2003, 6,256 US veterans committed suicide in 2005 alone. According to CBS News, the suicide rate among veterans is double that of the civilian population and veterans aged 20 through 24 – those caught up in Bush’s war – had the highest suicide rates among all veterans. Finally, consider that almost 8,000 soldiers deserted the US Army during fiscal years 2006 and 2007.

Beyond such casualties, Bush’s war has strained the U.S. Army to the breaking point. As Army Chief of Staff, Gen. George Casey recently observed, “The current demand for our forces exceeds the sustainable supply.” According to Senator Jack Reed and security analyst Michele A. Flournoy, “Roughly half of the 2000 and 2001 West Point classes have already decided to leave the Army” citing multiple, back-to-back combat tours as the primary reason. Moreover, “roughly half of the U.S. Army’s equipment is in Iraq or Afghanistan, where the harsh environment and the high tempo of operations are wearing out equipment at up to 9 times the normal rate.”

Then, there’s the exorbitant cost of Bush’s war of choice. According to Democrats on the Joint Economic Committee, when the hidden costs of Bush’s war are considered, the total economic cost has exceeded $1.5 trillion. The surge in the price of oil, from approximately $37 per barrel at the beginning of the war to over $90 in recent weeks, constitutes a major portion of those hidden, but very real costs.

Finally, citizens of the United States have seen their liberties subverted by the Bush administration in the name of national security. Through the abuse of signing statements, the use of torture and the embrace of illegal wiretapping the Bush administration has moved America creepily closer to those horrid dictatorships its citizens once derided.

Yet, the costs to the United States constitute mere chump change when compared with the price paid by Iraqis. Life in Iraq during Bush’s reign of terror has been far worse than life was during the last years of Saddam’s brutal regime. Consider the national humiliation associated with America’s successful invasion, its brutal occupation and its degrading torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

According to Robert Dreyfuss and Tom Engelhardt, “There are, by now, perhaps a million dead Iraqis, give or take a few hundred thousand. If a typical wounded-to-dead ratio of 3:1 holds, then you’re talking about up to 4 million war, occupation, and civil-war casualties. Now, add in the estimated 2-2.5 million who went into exile, fleeing the country, and another estimated 2.3 million who have had to leave their homes and go into internal exile as Iraqi communities hand neighborhoods were ‘cleansed.’”

As columnist Cesar Chelala recently wrote in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, “One child dies every five minutes because of the war, and many more are left with severe injuries. Of the estimated 4 million Iraqis who have been displaced in Iraq or lest the country, 1.5 million are children.” Quoting from an assessment by 100 British and Iraqi doctors, Chelala adds: “sick or injured children, who could otherwise be treated by simple means, are left to die in the hundreds because they don’t have access to basic medicines and other resources. Children who have lost hands, feet and limb are left without prostheses. Children with grave psychological distress are left untreated.”

Chronic shortages in electricity persist. And, as Bobby Cain Calvan of McClatchy Newspapers reported on November 18th, “the percentage of Iraqis without access to decent water supplies has risen from 50 percent to 70 percent since the start of the U.S.-led war…The portion of Iraqis lacking decent sanitation…[has been] even worse – 80 percent.” Yet, the horrors in Iraq have been grossly underreported by America’s mainstream news media. As Dahr Jamail concludes in his new book, Beyond the Green Zone, “If the people of the United States had the real story about what their government has done in Iraq, the occupation would already have ended.” [p. 291]

One might ask how Bush and his co-conspirators are able to sleep at night, given all this blood and carnage on their hands. Why do they remain in office? Why haven’t they been impeached? Why haven’t they been thrown in prison?

But, then, one also might ask why the many conservative scholars and pundits who got everything so wrong — especially those despicable neo-cons – still fill opinion pages and the airwaves with their vile excuses for yet more war. Their latest con is to argue that the surge is working. Some dishonest clowns even mention the word “victory.”

Of course, they spew yet more propaganda designed to maintain or bolster the 70 percent of Republicans who still support Bush’s criminal war. (How different are they from Hitler’s die-hard supporters during World War II?) For example, one of the more obnoxious and consistently wrong neo-cons, Charles Krauthammer, waxed euphoric in his November 23rd column about just how well the surge was going in Iraq.

Yet, the 23rd was the day of the pet market blast, which had followed the previous day’s “brazen attack” in the southern belt of Baghdad and the rocket attack on the Green Zone. Those attacks prompted two reporters from the Los Angeles Times to suggest that “insurgents appeared intent on sending a message to U.S. and Iraqi officials that their recent expressions of optimism on the nation’s security were premature.”

But, then, consider the source. This is the very same Krauthammer who wrote in November 2001: [T]he way to tame the Arab street is not with appeasement and sweet sensitivity but with raw power and victory….The elementary truth that seems to elude the experts again and again…is that power is its own reward. Victory changes everything, psychology above all. The psychology in the [Middle East] is now one of fear and deep respect for American power. Now is the time to use it.” [Andrew J. Bacevich, The New American Militarism, p 93]

Tell me, Mr. Krauthammer, how’s the “fear and deep respect” playing out in the Middle East and the world in November 2007? How stupid could you be? And why are you still employed by the Washington Post?

The Post’s Thomas Ricks provides a more honest assessment. “I just got back from Baghdad last week, and it was clear that violence has decreased. But it hasn’t gone away. It is only back down to the 2005 level – which to my mind is kind of like moving from the eighth circle of hell to the fifth….I’ve interviewed dozens of officers and none were willing to say we are winning. What they were saying is that at least now, we are not losing.” [Editor & Publisher, Nov. 24, 2007] Yet, if you recall that, on May 12, 2004, General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, told a Senate committee, “There is no way to militarily lose in Iraq. There’s also no way to militarily win in Iraq,” you might want to question why we’re still there.

Anthony Cordesman recently published a more realistic appraisal of the surge. Titled, “Violence versus Political Accommodation: The True Elements of Victory in Iraq,” Cordesman credits the surge for playing a secondary role in reducing violence in Iraq. But he cautions: “It is still far from clear that US success against al Qaeda in the rest of central Iraq has brought stability and security to any mixed area where there is serious tension and violence. If anything, the fact that the ’surge’ has not halted the pace of Iraqi displacements and has often created a patchwork of Arab Shiite versus Arab Sunni divisions in towns and areas that extend far beyond Baghdad, has laid the ground for further struggles once the US is gone.” [p. 11]

Cordesman adds: “Most of Southern Iraq is now under the control of competing local and regional Shiite gangs,” which have become the “equivalent of rival mafias.” [p. 13]

More significantly, Cordesman concludes: “The US cannot win the war; it can only give Iraq’s central government and those leaders interested in national unity and political accommodation the opportunity to do so.” [p. 10] [N]o amount of American military success can – by itself – have strategic meaning.” [p. 13]

Finally, those who propagandize that the “surge” is working are advised to contemplate the work of MIT economist Michael Greenstone. As summarized in the December issue of The Atlantic, Greenstone has examined the financial markets in Iraq, especially the market for Iraqi state bonds. He found that “from the start of the surge earlier this year until September, there was a ’sharp decline’ in the price of Iraqi state bonds, signaling a ‘40% increase in the market’s expectation that Iraq will default’ on its obligations.”

The Atlantic article goes on to note: “Since the bonds are sold on international markets (hedge funds hold a large portion), where the profit motive eliminates personal and political bias, the trajectory of bond prices may be the most accurate indicator available for assessing America’s military strategy. And the data suggest that ‘the surge is failing to pave the way toward a stable Iraq and may in fact be undermining it.” [The Atlantic Dec. 2007, p. 26]

Consequently, were we merely limiting ourselves to the catastrophes that has bedeviled both the United States and Iraq as a consequence of Bush’s war, we’d be forced to conclude that Bush’s national security policy has the touch of King Midas in reverse. Everything Bush touches turns to shit!

Unfortunately, as serious pre-war scholars and critics feared and predicted, Bush’s King Midas touch in reverse has extended far beyond Iraq and the United States. Simply recall their warnings about the war’s impact on the price of oil, their fears that such a war might undermine US efforts against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, their concern that Bush’s invasion might inflame hatred of America throughout the Muslim world, their suspicions that Iran might be the principal beneficiary of a US-led invasion that placed Iraqi Shiites in power and their worries about how a destabilized Iraq might provoke intervention by it neighbors, Iran, Syria and Turkey, and thus embroil the entire region.

Thanks to the perverse King Midas touch of the Bush administration, Iran has indeed emerged as the most influential player in Iraq and Turkey is poised to invade Iraqi Kurdistan. Moreover, as Anne Applebaum has written in the Washington Post: [T] he collateral damage inflicted by the war on America’s relationships with the rest of the world is a lot deeper and broader than most Americans have realized.”

In support of Ms. Applebaum’s assertion, simply recall the words uttered to Condoleezza Rice in October 2007 by Tanya Lokshina, chairwoman of the Demos Center for Information and Research, a Russian human rights organization: The United States had “lost the high moral ground.” “The American voice alone doesn’t work anymore…The Russians are not influenced by it.” [Steven Lee Myers, New York Times Oct. 15, 2007]

Finally, mention also must be made of another catastrophe feared and predicted by the pre-war critics of Bush’s invasion, one which now looms on the horizon: the destabilization of nuclear armed Pakistan. As Robert Parry wrote in September 2002, “One reason a war with Iraq might increase, rather than decrease, the danger to the American people is that the invasion could spread instability across the Middle East and throughout the Muslim world…[impacting] most notably the dictatorship of Gen. Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan.”

As Parry observed: “Today, even as Musharraf cooperates with the U.S. war on terror, his regime is confronted by pro-al Qaeda factions both inside and outside his government. Many past and present Pakistani military officers continue to sympathize with the fundamentalists.” [Robert Parry, “Bush’s Nuclear Gamble,” [consortiumnews.com, September 30, 2002]

As if describing Bush’s reverse Midas touch in Pakistan, Juan Cole has observed: “The pressure the Bush administration put on the Pakistani military government to combat Muslim militants in that country weakened the legitimacy of [military dictator Pervez] Musharraf, whom the Pakistani public increasingly viewed as an oppressive American puppet.” Not content with such long-term undermining of its client dictator, the Bush administration then “brokered a deal whereby [Benazir] Bhutto was allowed to return to Pakistan.” But, “the huge explosion that greeted Bhutto in her home turf of Karachi…suggests that her arrival is hardly the remedy for Pakistan’s instability.” [Cole, Salon.com Oct. 24, 2007]

Thus, given its profoundly devastating King Midas touch that has rippled around the world, one can confidently predict that the Bush administration will further embolden militant Muslims and secure its legacy as the worst presidency in U.S. history by attacking Iran, thereby bringing America’s staggering and tottering empire crashing to the ground. Like Lenin, during the pre-revolutionary period in Tsarist Russia, it would be tempting to say, “the worse, the better” for America. Except: (1) I don’t believe the loss of empire will prompt Americans to wake up and (2) America’s fervent Bush-supporting crackpot Christians, seeing evidence for their long awaited Rapture and End Times in the calamities actually wrought by Bush, already have a stranglehold on Lenin’s dictum.

(More about such crackpot Christians in a future article).

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Loving the Bomb for Seven Decades: Are You With Us … or Against Us?

November 19, 2007

Loving the Bomb for Seven Decades: Are You With Us … or Against Us?
The road from Washington to Karachi to nuclear anarchy. Jonathan Schell
November 14 , 2007

[Introduction by Tom Engelhardt]

Before I met Jonathan Schell, I already knew him in the best way possible: on the page. Even in his days as a neophyte journalist in Vietnam, he committed a writer’s greatest act of generosity. First in the pages of The New Yorker, and then in his books, he took readers to places most of us never could have gone on our own—to The Village of Ben Suc, for instance, as American troops cleared it of its 3,500 peasant inhabitants and destroyed it in what was, in 1967, the largest military operation of the Vietnam War to date; and, not so long after, in The Military Half—from the back seats of tiny Forward Air Control planes—to two South Vietnamese provinces where Americans were wreaking utter havoc. (In that book, he offered a still-unmatched journalistic vision of what war looks like, up close and personal, from the air.) In the 1970s, in The Time of Illusion, he would seat us all front-row center at the great Constitutional crisis that preceded our present one, the Nixonian near coup d’état that we now call “Watergate.”

In The Unconquerable World (for which I was the editor), looking back from a new century, he considered several hundred years of growing state violence that culminated in a single weapon capable of destroying all before it—and the various paths, violent and nonviolent, by which the people of this planet refused to heed the wishes of a seemingly endless series of putative imperial masters. I needed to know no more to feel sure, in March 2003, that the shock-and-awe fantasies of the Bush administration would be just that. In other words, he made me seem prophetic at Tomdispatch.

But if one subject has been his, it’s been the nuclear issue. Like me, he came into this world more or less with the Bomb (a word which, back when it represented the only world-destroying thing around, we tended to capitalize) and its exterminatory possibilities have never left his thoughts. In his bestselling The Fate of the Earth, as the 1980s began (and an antinuclear movement grew), he approached the subject in print, beginning famously: “Since July 16, 1945, when the first atomic bomb was detonated, at the Trinity test site, near Alamogordo, New Mexico, mankind has lived with nuclear weapons in its midst.” And so, sadly, we continue to do, despite his best efforts. He returned to the subject (when critics claimed he had no “solution” to the nuclear conundrum he had so vividly laid out) in The Abolition in 1984, and again in the post-Cold War 1990s, in The Gift of Time, The Case for Abolishing Nuclear Weapons, when the vast arsenals of the two superpowers were still sitting there like great unmentionable embarrassments, mission-less and yet going nowhere fast. (It was, of course, a time when people largely preferred to pretend that the nuclear danger was a thing of the past.)

Now 62 years old, the bomb (which, long ago, lost its capital B) is no longer an embarrassment, no longer mission-less. The old Cold War arsenals are being updated; possession of the weaponry has spread; and the Bush administration, which drove the American people to war partly with nuclear fantasies, has made such weapons, whether real or imagined, the heart and soul of its imperial policies—and again, there is a Jonathan Schell book to guide us. Think of The Seventh Decade: The New Shape of Nuclear Danger as a brilliant intervention, an essential guidebook to a world gone mad in a new way.

It begins: “The nuclear age has entered its seventh decade. If it were a person, it would be thinking about retirement—reckoning up its pension funds, weighing different medical plans. But historical periods, unlike human lives, have no fixed limit, and the nuclear age is in fact displaying youthful vigor.” From there on, short as it is, it never slows down. So consider Jonathan Schell’s latest on nuclear Pakistan below and then pick up The Seventh Decade, which is officially published today. Tom Engelhardt

Loving the Bomb for Seven Decades: Are You With Us … or Against Us?
The road from Washington to Karachi to nuclear anarchy.
By Jonathan Schell

The journey to the martial law just imposed on Pakistan by its self-appointed president, the dictator Pervez Musharraf, began in Washington on September 11, 2001. On that day, it so happened, Pakistan’s intelligence chief, Lt. General Mahmood Ahmed, was in town. He was summoned forthwith to meet with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who gave him perhaps the earliest preview of the global Bush doctrine then in its formative stages, telling him, “You are either one hundred percent with us or one hundred percent against us.”

The next day, the administration, dictating to the dictator, presented seven demands that a Pakistan that wished to be “with us” must meet. These concentrated on gaining its cooperation in assailing Afghanistan’s Taliban regime, which had long been nurtured by the Pakistani intelligence services in Afghanistan and had, of course, harbored Osama Bin Laden and his al-Qaeda training camps. Conspicuously missing was any requirement to rein in the activities of Mr. A.Q. Khan, the “father” of Pakistan’s nuclear arms, who, with the knowledge of Washington, had been clandestinely hawking the country’s nuclear-bomb technology around the Middle East and North Asia for some years.

Musharraf decided to be “with us”; but, as in so many countries, being with the United States in its Global War on Terror turned out to mean not being with one’s own people. Although Musharraf, who came to power in a coup in 1999, was already a dictator, he had now taken the politically fateful additional step of very visibly subordinating his dictatorship to the will of a foreign master. In many countries, people will endure a homegrown dictator but rebel against one who seems to be imposed from without, and Musharraf was now courting this danger.

A public opinion poll in September ranking certain leaders according to their popularity suggests what the results have been. Osama bin Laden, at 46% approval, was more popular than Musharraf, at 38%, who in turn was far better liked than President Bush, at a bottom-scraping 7%. There is every reason to believe that, with the imposition of martial law, Musharraf’s and Bush’s popularity have sunk even further. Wars, whether on terror or anything else, don’t tend to go well when the enemy is more popular than those supposedly on one’s own side.

Are You with Us?

Even before the Bush administration decided to invade Iraq, the immediate decision to bully Musharraf into compliance defined the shape of the policies that the President would adopt toward a far larger peril that had seemed to wane after the Cold War, but now was clearly on the rise: the gathering nuclear danger. President Bush proposed what was, in fact if not in name, an imperial solution to it. In the new dispensation, nuclear weapons were not to be considered good or bad in themselves; that judgment was to be based solely on whether the nation possessing them was itself judged good or bad (with us, that is, or against us). Iraq, obviously, was judged to be “against us” and suffered the consequences. Pakistan, soon honored by the administration with the somehow ridiculous, newly coined status of “major non-NATO ally,” was clearly classified as with us, and so, notwithstanding its nuclear arsenal and abysmal record on proliferation, given the highest rating.

That doctrine constituted a remarkable shift. Previously, the United States had joined with almost the entire world to achieve nonproliferation solely by peaceful, diplomatic means. The great triumph of this effort had been the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, under which 183 nations, dozens quite capable of producing nuclear weapons, eventually agreed to remain without them. In this dispensation, all nuclear weapons were considered bad, and so all proliferation was bad as well. Even existing arsenals, including those of the two superpowers of the Cold War, were supposed to be liquidated over time. Conceptually, at least, one united world had faced one common danger: nuclear arms.

In the new, quickly developing, post-9/11 dispensation, however, the world was to be divided into two camps. The first, led by the United States, consisted of good, democratic countries, many possessing the bomb; the second consisted of bad, repressive countries trying to get the bomb and, of course, their terrorist allies. Nuclear peril, once understood as a problem of supreme importance in its own right, posed by those who already possessed nuclear weapons as well as by potential proliferators, was thus subordinated to the polarizing “war on terror,” of which it became a mere sub-category, albeit the most important one. This peril could be found at “the crossroads of radicalism and technology,” otherwise called the “nexus of terror and weapons of mass destruction,” in the words of the master document of the Bush Doctrine, the 2002 National Security Strategy of the United States of America.

The good camp was assigned the job not of rolling back all nuclear weapons but simply of stopping any members of the bad camp from getting their hands on the bomb. The means would no longer be diplomacy, but “preventive war” (to be waged by the United States). The global Cold War of the late twentieth century was to be replaced by global wars against proliferation—disarmament wars—in the twenty-first. These wars, breaking out wherever in the world proliferation might threaten, would not be cold, but hot indeed, as the invasion of Iraq soon revealed—and as an attack on Iran, now under consideration in Washington, may soon further show.

…Or Against Us?

Vetting and sorting countries into the good and the bad, the with-us and the against-us, proved, however, a far more troublesome business than those in the Bush administration ever imagined. Iraq famously was not as “bad” as alleged, for it turned out to lack the key feature that supposedly warranted attack—weapons of mass destruction. Neither was Pakistan, muscled into the with-us camp so quickly after 9/11, as “good” as alleged. Indeed, these distinctions were entirely artificial, for by any factual and rational reckoning, Pakistan was by far the more dangerous country.

Indeed, the Pakistan of Pervez Musharraf has, by now, become a one-country inventory of all the major forms of the nuclear danger.

*Iraq did not have nuclear weapons; Pakistan did. In 1998, it had conducted a series of five nuclear tests in response to five tests by India, with whom it had fought three conventional wars since its independence in 1947. The danger of interstate nuclear war between the two nations is perhaps higher than anywhere else in the world.

*Both Iraq and Pakistan were dictatorships (though the Iraqi government was incomparably more brutal).

*Iraq did not harbor terrorists; Pakistan did, and does so even more today.

*Iraq, lacking the bomb, could not of course be a nuclear proliferator. Pakistan was, with a vengeance. The arch-proliferator A.Q. Khan, a metallurgist, first purloined nuclear technology from Europe, where he was employed at the uranium enrichment company EURENCO. He then used the fruits of his theft to successfully establish an enrichment program for Pakistan’s bomb. After that, the thief turned salesman. Drawing on a globe-spanning network of producers and middlemen—in Turkey, Dubai, and Malaysia, among other countries—he peddled his nuclear wares to Iran, Iraq (which apparently turned down his offer of help), North Korea, Libya, and perhaps others. Seen from without, he had established a clandestine multinational corporation dedicated to nuclear proliferation for a profit.

Seen from within Pakistan, he had managed to create a sort of independent nuclear city-state—a state within a state—in effect privatizing Pakistan’s nuclear technology. The extent of the government’s connivance in this enterprise is still unknown, but few observers believe Khan’s far-flung operations would have been possible without at least the knowledge of officials at the highest levels of that government. Yet all this activity emanating from the “major non-NATO ally” of the Bush administration was overlooked until late 2003, when American and German intelligence intercepted a shipload of nuclear materials bound for Libya, and forced Musharraf to place Khan, a national hero owing to his work on the Pakistani bomb, under house arrest. (Even today, the Pakistani government refuses to make Khan available for interviews with representatives of the International Atomic Energy Agency.)

*Iraqi apparatchiks could not, of course, peddle to terrorists, al-Qaedan or otherwise, technology they did not have, as Bush suggested they would do in seeking to justify his war. The Pakistani apparatchiks, on the other hand, could—and they did. Shortly before September 11, 2001, two leading scientists from Pakistan’s nuclear program, Dr. Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, the former Director General of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, and Chaudry Abdul Majeed, paid a visit to Osama bin Laden around a campfire in Afghanistan to advise him on how to make or acquire nuclear arms. They, too, are under house arrest.

If, however, the beleaguered Pakistani state, already a balkanized enterprise (as the A.Q. Khan story shows) is overthrown, or if the country starts to fall apart, the danger of insider defections from the nuclear establishment will certainly rise. The problem is not so much that the locks on the doors of nuclear installations—Pakistan’s approximately 50 bombs are reportedly spread at sites around the country—will be broken or picked as that those with the keys to the locks will simply switch allegiances and put the materials they guard to new uses. The “nexus” of terrorism and the bomb, the catastrophe the Bush Doctrine was specifically framed to head off, might then be achieved—and in a country that was “for us.”

What has failed in Pakistan, as in smashed Iraq, is not just a regional American policy, but the pillars and crossbeams of the entire global Bush doctrine, as announced in late 2001. In both countries, the bullying has failed; popular passions within each have gained the upper hand; and Washington has lost much of its influence. In its application to Pakistan, the doctrine was framed to stop terrorism, but in that country’s northern provinces, terrorists have, in fact, entrenched themselves to a degree unimaginable even when the Taliban protected Al-Qaeda’s camps before September 11th.

If the Bush Doctrine laid claim to the values of democracy, its man Musharraf now has the distinction, rare even among dictators, of mounting a second military coup to maintain the results of his first one. In a crowning irony, his present crackdown is on democracy activists, not the Taliban, armed Islamic extremists, or al-Qaeda supporters who have established positions in the Swat valley only 150 miles from Islamabad.

Most important, the collapsed doctrine has stoked the nuclear fires it was meant to quench. The dangers of nuclear terrorism, of proliferation, and even of nuclear war (with India, which is dismayed by developments in Pakistan as well as the weak Bush administration response to them) are all on the rise. The imperial solution to these perils has failed. Something new is needed, not just for Pakistan or Iraq, but for the world. Perhaps now someone should try to invent a solution based on imperialism’s opposite, democracy, which is to say respect for other countries and the wills of the people who live in them.

Jonathan Schell is the author of The Fate of the Earth, among other books, and the just-published The Seventh Decade: The New Shape of Nuclear Danger. He is the Harold Willens Peace Fellow at The Nation Institute, and a visiting lecturer at Yale University.

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© 2007 The Foundation for National Progress

Mushy: Handsome in Uniform

November 8, 2007

November 7, 2007

Op-Ed Columnist

Mushy: Handsome in Uniform

WASHINGTON

President Bush came to the steps of the Capitol yesterday for a Second Inaugural do-over. Here is the text of his revised speech:

ON this day, when we celebrate the durable wisdom of our Constitution, we must remember: Constitutions don’t work for everyone. It’s not a one-size-fits-all type deal.

We are led, by recent events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the repression of liberty in other lands.

Once I thought my daddy was a wimp for cuddlin’ up real close with dictators, tradin’ stability for freedom. But now I gotta admit, that’s a darn fair trade. As I told Mushy last night on that cool, high-tech videophone I got in the Sit Room, the best hope for expanding peace is expanding dictators.

In America’s ideal of freedom, we are ennobled by a heart for the weak. But we must also have a heart for the strongmen.

Sometimes when the soul of a nation speaks, we must listen. But if that soul is housed in a bunch of trial lawyers wearing identical dark suits and calling my man Mushy a “dog,” I say, bring on the batons. Police tear-gassing lawyers is really just a foreign version of tort reform, which I support.

Those lawyers should be in jail. Mushy told me they were reckonin’ to represent Osama when General-General catches him. Which will be any day now. He’s a man of his word.

I don’t blame Mushy for dissolving that disloyal Supreme Court. When I needed to subvert the democratic process during the 2000 recount, my Supreme Court was totally supportive.

House arrest for that fired chief justice sounds very relaxin’, especially if he’s got a feather pillow.

I think Mushy should put Benazir Bhutto under house arrest in Karachi. They call her “a kleptocrat in an Hermès scarf.” I call her a chaos magnet.

She’s slippery. One minute she’s overlooking Mushy’s flaws, the next she’s appalled by them. I’m not even sure what nickname to use. Her friends called her Pinky at Harvard and Bibi later. I think I like Pinky. From the day of our foundin’, we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave.

But I looked into Mushy’s eyes and saw a master, a man committed to helping us fight terror. And sometimes we must fight terror with tyranny. He promised me he’d be a more low-key autocrat, stop wearing that scary uniform — at least when he’s playing tennis.

From now on, it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of tyrannical movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending democracy in our world so liberty can thrive.

We will persistently clarify the moral choice before every ruler and nation: Choose oppression, which can work, as we see with our Arab allies, or freedom, which — O.K., I admit it this once — we can’t make work in Iraq.

America’s influence is not unlimited. And unfortunately for the oppressed, Mushy’s open defiance is helping to further undermine America’s influence. But we will use what influence we have left to pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains and that human beings aspire to live at the mercy of bullies.

I’m gonna have to sweet-talk Laura on coming around on Burma. I might even have to kiss her hand, like Sarko.

Condi was very worried about Mushy suspending the Constitution, but Vice says Constitutions are for sissies. He doesn’t see anything wrong with Mushy’s press blackout. He thinks we can learn a few lessons from him.

Vice says if we had someone decisive like Mushy in Iraq instead of those floppy Iranian puppets we put in power, we’d be a lot better off.

All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will ignore your oppression and excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will not stand with you.

The leaders of governments with long habits of control need to know: To serve your people you must learn to mistrust them. Stop your journey of progress and justice, and America will not only walk at your side, we’ll give you billions of dollars and lots of big-ticket stuff, like F-16s — no strings attached. And we’ll take you at your word that you have no intention of using them against India.

In the long run, there is justice without freedom, and there can be human rights once the human rights activists have been thrown in the pokey.

Three years ago, I believed that the most important question history would ask us was: Did our generation advance the cause of freedom?

But now I am older and wiser. I know that the most important question history will ask us is: What’s a little martial law between friends?

Tomgram: Chalmers Johnson, 12 Books in Search of a Policy By Tom Engelhardt

October 23, 2007

Tomgram: Chalmers Johnson, 12 Books in Search of a Policy By Tom Engelhardt

By Tom Engelhardt
October 22, 2007

They came in as unreformed Cold Warriors, only lacking a cold war — and looking for an enemy: a Russia to roll back even further; rogue states like Saddam’s rickety dictatorship to smash. They were still in the old fight, eager to make sure that the “Evil Empire,” already long down for the count, would remain prostrate forever; eager to ensure that any new evil empire like, say, China’s would never be able to stand tall enough to be a challenge. They saw opportunities to move into areas previously beyond the reach of American imperial power like the former SSRs of the Soviet Union in Central Asia, which just happened to be sitting on potentially fabulous undeveloped energy fields; or farther into the even more fabulously energy-rich Middle East, where Saddam’s Iraq, planted atop the planet’s third largest reserves of petroleum, seemed so ready for a fall — with other states in the region visibly not far behind.

It looked like it would be a coming-out party for one — the debutante ball of the season. It would be, in fact, like the Cold War without the Soviet Union. What a blast! And they could still put their energies into their fabulously expensive, ever-misfiring anti-missile system, a subject they regularly focused on from January 2000 until September 10, 2001.

They were Cold Warriors in search of an enemy — just not the one they got. When the Clintonistas, on their way out of the White House, warned them about al Qaeda, they paid next to no attention. Non-state actors were for wusses. When the CIA carefully presented the President with a one-page, knock-your-socks-off warning on August 6, 2001 that had the screaming headline, “Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.,” they ignored it. Bush and his top officials were, as it happened, strangely adrift until September 11, 2001; then, they were panicked and terrified — until they realized that their moment had come to hijack the plane of state; so they clambered aboard, and like the Cold Warriors they were, went after Saddam.

Chalmers Johnson was himself once a Cold Warrior. Unlike the top officials of the Bush administration, however, he retained a remarkably flexible mind. He also had a striking ability to see the world as it actually was — and a prescient vision of what was to come. He wrote the near-prophetic and now-classic book, Blowback, published well before the attacks of 9/11, and then followed it up with an anatomy of the U.S. military’s empire of bases, The Sorrows of Empire, and finally, to end his Blowback Trilogy, a vivid recipe for American catastrophe, Nemesis: The Fall of the American Republic. All three are simply indispensable volumes in any reasonable post-9/11 library. Here is his latest consideration of that disastrous moment and its consequences as part of a series of book reviews he is periodically writing for Tomdispatch. Tom

A Guide for the Perplexed

Intellectual Fallacies of the War on Terror

By Chalmers Johnson

[This essay is a review of The Matador’s Cape, America’s Reckless Response to Terror by Stephen Holmes (Cambridge University Press, 367 pp., $30).]

There are many books entitled “A Guide for the Perplexed,” including Moses Maimonides’ 12th century treatise on Jewish law and E. F. Schumacher’s 1977 book on how to think about science. Book titles cannot be copyrighted. A Guide for the Perplexed might therefore be a better title for Stephen Holmes’ new book than the one he chose, The Matador’s Cape: America’s Reckless Response to Terror. In his perhaps overly clever conception, the matador is the terrorist leadership of al Qaeda, taunting a maddened United States into an ultimately fatal reaction. But do not let the title stop you from reading the book. Holmes has written a powerful and philosophically erudite survey of what we think we understand about the 9/11 attacks — and how and why the United States has magnified many times over the initial damage caused by the terrorists.

Stephen Holmes is a law professor at New York University. In The Matador’s Cape, he sets out to forge an understanding — in an intellectual and historical sense, not as a matter of journalism or of partisan politics — of the Iraq war, which he calls “one of the worst (and least comprehensible) blunders in the history of American foreign policy” (p. 230). His modus operandi is to survey in depth approximately a dozen influential books on post-Cold War international politics to see what light they shed on America’s missteps. I will touch briefly on the books he chooses for dissection, highlighting his essential thoughts on each of them.

Holmes’ choice of books is interesting. Many of the authors he focuses on are American conservatives or neoconservatives, which is reasonable since they are the ones who caused the debacle. He avoids progressive or left wing writers, and none of his choices are from Metropolitan Books’ American Empire Project. (Disclosure: This review was written before I read Holmes’ review of my own book Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic in the October 29 issue of The Nation.)

He concludes: “Despite a slew of carefully researched and insightful books on the subject, the reason why the United States responded to the al Qaeda attack by invading Iraq remains to some extent an enigma” (p. 3). Nonetheless, his critiques of the books he has chosen are so well done and fair that they constitute one of the best introductions to the subject. They also have the advantage in several cases of making it unnecessary to read the original.

Holmes interrogates his subjects cleverly. His main questions and the key books he dissects for each of them are:

* Did Islamic religious extremism cause 9/11? Here he supplies his own independent analysis and conclusion (to which I turn below).

* Why did American military preeminence breed delusions of omnipotence, as exemplified in Robert Kagan’s Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order (Knopf, 2003)? While not persuaded by Kagan’s portrayal of the United States as “Mars” and Europe as “Venus,” Holmes takes Kagan’s book as illustrative of neoconservative thought on the use of force in international politics: “Far from guaranteeing an unbiased and clear-eyed view of the terrorist threat, as Kagan contends, American military superiority has irredeemably skewed the country’s view of the enemy on the horizon, drawing the United States, with appalling consequences, into a gratuitous, cruel, and unwinnable conflict in the Middle East” (p. 72).

* How was the war lost, as analyzed in Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq by Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor (Pantheon, 2006)? Holmes regards this book by Gordon, the military correspondent of the New York Times, and Trainor, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant general, as the best treatment of the military aspects of the disaster, down to and including U.S. envoy L. Paul Bremer’s disbanding of the Iraqi military. I would argue that Fiasco (Penguin 2006) by the Washington Post’s Thomas Ricks is more comprehensive, clearer-eyed, and more critical.

• How did a tiny group of individuals, with eccentric theories and reflexes, recklessly compound the country’s post-9/11 security nightmare? Here Holmes considers James Mann’s Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet (Viking, 2004). One of Mann’s more original insights is that the neocons in the Bush administration were so bewitched by Cold War thinking that they were simply incapable of grasping the new realities of the post-Cold War world. “In Iraq, alas, the lack of a major military rival excited some aging hard-liners into toppling a regime that they did not have the slightest clue how to replace…. We have only begun to witness the long-term consequences of their ghastly misuse of unaccountable power” (p. 106).

* What roles did Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld play in the Bush administration, as captured in Michael Mann’s Incoherent Empire (Verso, 2003)? According to Holmes, Mann’s work “repays close study, even by readers who will not find its perspective altogether congenial or convincing.” He argues that perhaps Mann’s most important contribution, even if somewhat mechanically put, is to stress the element of bureaucratic politics in Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s manipulation of the neophyte Bush: “The outcome of inter- and intra-agency battles in Washington, D.C., allotted disproportionate influence to the fatally blurred understanding of the terrorist threat shared by a few highly placed and shrewd bureaucratic infighters. Rumsfeld and Cheney controlled the military; and when they were given the opportunity to rank the country’s priorities in the war on terror, they assigned paramount importance to those specific threats that could be countered effectively only by the government agency over which they happened to preside” (p. 107).

* Why did the U.S. decide to search for a new enemy after the Cold War, as argued by an old cold warrior, Samuel Huntington, in The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (Simon and Schuster, 1996)? It is not clear why Holmes included Huntington’s eleven-year-old treatise on “Allah made them do it” in his collection of books on post-Cold War international politics except as an act of obeisance to establishmentarian — and especially Council-on-Foreign-Relations — thinking. Holmes regards Huntington’s work as a “false template” and calls it misleading. Well before 9/11, many critics of Huntington’s concept of “civilization” had pointed out that there is insufficient homogeneity in Christianity, Islam, or the other great religions for any of them to replace the position vacated by the Soviet Union. As Holmes remarks, Huntington “finds homogeneity because he is looking for homogeneity” (p. 136).

* What role did left-wing ideology play in legitimating the war on terror, as seen by Samantha Power in “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide (Basic, 2002). As Holmes acknowledges, “The humanitarian interventionists rose to a superficial prominence in the 1990s largely because of a vacuum in U.S. foreign-policy thinking after the end of the Cold War…. Their influence was small, however, and after 9/11, that influence vanished altogether.” He nonetheless takes up the anti-genocide activists because he suspects that, by making a rhetorically powerful case for casting aside existing decision-making rules and protocols, they may have emboldened the Bush administration to follow suit and fight the “evil” of terrorism outside the Constitution and the law. The idea that Power was an influence on Cheney and Rumsfeld may seem a stretch — they were, after all, doing what they had always wanted to do — but Holmes’ argument that “a savvy prowar party may successfully employ humanitarian talk both to gull the wider public and to silence potential critics on the liberal side” (p. 157) is worth considering.

* How did pro-war liberals help stifle national debate on the wisdom of the Iraq war, as illustrated by Paul Berman in Power and the Idealists (Soft Skull Press, 2005)? Wildly overstating his influence, Holmes writes, Berman, a regular columnist for The New Republic, “first tried to convince us that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, far from being a tribal war over scarce land and water, is part of the wider spiritual war between liberalism and apocalyptic irrationalism, not worth distinguishing too sharply from the conflict between America and al Qaeda. He then attempted to show that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden represented two ‘branches’ of an essentially homogeneous extremism” (p. 181). Berman, Holmes points out, conflated anti-terrorism with anti-fascism in order to provide a foundation for the neologism “Islamo-fascism.” His chief reason for including Berman is that Holmes wants to address the views of religious fundamentalists in their support of the war on terrorism.

* How did democratization at the point of an assault rifle become America’s mission in the world, as seen by the apostate neoconservative Francis Fukuyama in America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy (Yale University Press, 2006)? Holmes is interested in Fukuyama, the neoconservatives’ perennial sophomore, because he offers an insider’s insights into the chimerical neocon “democratization” project for the Middle East.

Fukuyama argues that democracy is the most effective antidote to the kind of Islamic radicalism that hit the United States on September 11, 2001. He contends that the root of Islamic rebellion is to be found in the savage and effective repression of protestors — many of whom have been driven into exile — in places like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. Terrorism is not the enemy, merely a tactic Islamic radicals have found exceptionally effective. Holmes writes of Fukuyama’s argument, “[T]o recognize that America’s fundamental problem is Islamic radicalism, and that terrorism is only a symptom, is to invite a political solution. Promoting democracy is just such a political solution” (p. 209).

The problem, of course, is that not even the neocons are united on promoting democracy; and, even if they were, they do not know how to go about it. Fukuyama himself pleads for “a dramatic demilitarization of American foreign policy and a re-emphasis on other types of policy instruments.” The Pentagon, in addition to its other deficiencies, is poorly positioned and incorrectly staffed to foster democratic transitions.

* Why is the contemporary American antiwar movement so anemic, as seen through the lens of history by Geoffrey Stone in Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism (W. W. Norton, 2004)? Holmes has nothing but praise for Stone’s history of expanded executive discretion in wartime. A key question raised by Stone is why the American public has not been more concerned with what happened in Iraq at Abu Ghraib prison and in the wholesale destruction of the Sunni city of Fallujah. As Holmes sees it, the Bush administration, at least in this one area, was adept at subverting public protest. Among the more important lessons George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Karl Rove, and others learned from the Vietnam conflict, he writes, was that if you want to suppress domestic questioning of foreign military adventures, then eliminate the draft, create an all-volunteer force, reduce domestic taxes, and maintain a false prosperity based on foreign borrowing.

* How did the embracing of American unilateralism elevate the Office of the Secretary of Defense over the Department of State, as put into perspective by John Ikenberry in After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order After Major Wars (Princeton University Press, 2001)? This book is Holmes’ oddest choice — a dated history from an establishmentarian point of view of the international institutions created by the United States after World War II, including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and NATO, all of which Ikenberry, a prominent academic specialist in international relations, applauds. Holmes agrees that, during the Cold War, the United States ruled largely through indirection, using seemingly impartial international institutions, and eliciting the cooperation of other nations. He laments the failure to follow this proven formula in the post-9/11 era, which led to the eclipse of the State Department by the Defense Department, an institution hopelessly ill-suited for diplomatic and nation-building missions.

* Why do we battle lawlessness with lawlessness (for example, by torturing prisoners) and concentrate extra-Constitutional authority in the hands of the president, as expounded by John Yoo in The Powers of War and Peace: The Constitution and Foreign Affairs After 9/11 (University of Chicago Press, 2005)? In this final section, Holmes puts on his hat as the law professor he is and takes on George Bush’s and Alberto Gonzales’ in-house legal counsel, the University of California, Berkeley law professor John Yoo, who authored the “torture memos” for them, denied the legality of the Geneva Conventions, and elaborated a grandiose view of the President’s war-making power. Holmes wonders, “Why would an aspiring legal scholar labor for years to develop and defend a historical thesis that is manifestly untrue? What is the point and what is the payoff? That is the principal mystery of Yoo’s singular book. Characteristic of The Powers of War and Peace is the anemic relations between the evidence adduced and the inferences drawn” (p. 291).

Holmes then points out that Yoo is a prominent member of the Federalist Society, an association of conservative Republican lawyers who claim to be committed to recovering the original understanding of the Constitution and which includes several Republican appointees to the current Supreme Court. His conclusion on Yoo and his fellow neocons is devastating: “[I]f the misbegotten Iraq war proves anything, it is the foolhardiness of allowing an autistic clique that reads its own newspapers and watches its own cable news channel to decide, without outsider input, where to expend American blood and treasure — that is, to decide which looming threats to stress and which to downplay or ignore” (p. 301).

Is Islam the Culprit or Merely a Distraction?

In addition to these broad themes, Holmes investigates hidden agendas and their distorting effects on rational policy-making. Some of these are: Cheney’s desire to expand executive power and weaken Congressional oversight; Rumsfeld’s schemes to field-test his theory that in modern warfare speed is more important than mass; the plans by some of Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s advisers to improve the security situation of Israel; the administration’s desire to create a new set of permanent U.S. military bases in the Middle East to protect the U.S. oil supply in case of a collapse of the Saudi monarchy; and the desire to invade Iraq and thereby avoid putting all the blame for 9/11 on al Qaeda — because to do so would have involved admitting administration negligence and incompetence during the first nine months of 2001 and, even worse, that Clinton was right in warning Bush and his top officials that the main security threat to the United States was a potential al Qaeda attack or attacks.

This is not the place to attempt a comprehensive review of Holmes’ detailed critiques. For that, one should buy and read his book. Let me instead dwell on three themes that I think illustrate his insight and originality.

Holmes rejects any direct connection between Islamic religious extremism and the 9/11 attacks, although he recognizes that Islamic vilification of the United States and other Western powers is often expressed in apocalyptically religious language. “Emphasizing religious extremism as the motivation for the [9/11] plot, whatever it reveals,” he argues, “…terminates inquiry prematurely, encouraging us to view the attack ahistorically as an expression of ‘radical Salafism,’ a fundamentalist movement within Islam that allegedly drives its adherents to homicidal violence against infidels” (p. 2). This approach, he points out, is distinctly tautological: “Appeals to social norms or a culture of martyrdom are not very helpful…. They are tantamount to saying that suicidal terrorism is caused by a proclivity to suicidal terrorism” (p. 20).

Instead, he suggests, “The mobilizing ideology behind 9/11 was not Islam, or even Islamic fundamentalism, but rather a specific narrative of blame” (p. 63). He insists on putting the focus on the actual perpetrators, the 19 men who executed the attacks in New York and Washington — 15 Saudi Arabians, two citizens of the United Arab Emirates, one Egyptian, and one Lebanese. None of them was particularly religious. Three were living together in Hamburg, Germany, where they did appear to have become more interested in Islam than they had been in their home countries. Mohamed Atta, the leader of the group, age 33 on 9/11, had Egyptian and German degrees in architecture and city planning and became highly politicized in favor of the Palestinian cause against Zionism only after he went abroad.

Holmes notes, “According to the classic study of resentment, [Friedrich Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals (1887)] ‘every sufferer instinctively seeks a cause for his suffering; more specifically, an agent, a “guilty” agent who is susceptible of pain — in short, some living being or other on whom he can vent his feelings directly or in effigy, under some pretext or other.’ If suffering is seen as natural or uncaused it will be coded as misfortune instead of injustice, and it will produce resignation rather than rebellion. The most efficient way to incite, therefore, is to indict” (p. 64).

The role of bin Laden was, and remains, to provide such a hyperbolic indictment — one that men like Atta would never have heard back in authoritarian Egypt but that came through loud and clear in their German exile. Bin Laden demonized the United States, accusing it of genocide against Muslims and repeatedly contending that the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia ever since the first Gulf War in 1991 was a far graver offense than the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, even though that had led to the death of one million Afghans and had sent five million more into exile.

The fact that the 9/11 plot involved the attackers’ own self-destruction suggests possible irrationality on their part, but Holmes argues that this was actually part of the specific narrative of blame. Americans feel contempt for Muslims and ascribe little or no value to Muslim lives. Therefore, to be captured after a terrorist attack involved a high likelihood that the Americans would torture the perpetrator. Suicide took care of that worry (and provided several other advantages discussed below).

The United States as “Sole Remaining Superpower”

Another subject about which Holmes is strikingly original is the subtle way in which the collapse of the former Soviet Union and the United States’ self-promotion as the sole remaining superpower clouded our vision and virtually guaranteed the catastrophe that ensued in Iraq. “Because Americans…. have sunk so much of their national treasure into a military establishment fit to deter and perhaps fight an enemy that has now disappeared,” he argues, “they have an almost irresistible inclination to exaggerate the centrality of rogue states, excellent targets for military destruction, [above] the overall terrorist threat. They overestimate war (which never unfolds as expected) and underestimate diplomacy and persuasion as instruments of American power” (pp. 71-72).

Holmes draws several interesting implications from this American overinvestment in Cold-War-type military power. One is that the very nature of the 9/11 attacks undermined crucial axioms of American national security doctrine. In a much more significant way than in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, a non-state actor on the international stage successfully attacked the United States, contrary to a well-established belief in Pentagon circles that only states have the capability of menacing us militarily. Equally alarming, by employing a strategy requiring their own deaths, the terrorists ensured that deterrence no longer held sway. Overwhelming military might cannot deter non-state actors who accept that they will die in their attacks on others. The day after 9/11, American leaders in Washington D.C. suddenly felt unprotected and defenseless against a new threat they only imperfectly understood. They responded in various ways.

One was to recast what had happened in terms of Cold-War thinking. “To repress feelings of defenselessness associated with an unfamiliar threat, the decision makers’ gaze slid uncontrollably away from al Qaeda and fixated on a recognizable threat that was unquestionably susceptible to being broken into bits” (p.312). Holmes calls this fusion of bin Laden and Saddam Hussein a “mental alchemy, the ‘reconceiving’ of an impalpable enemy as a palpable enemy.” He endorses James Mann’s thesis that Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and others did not change the underlying principles guiding American foreign policy in response to the 9/11 attacks; that, in fact, they did the exact opposite: “[T]he Bush administration has managed foreign affairs so ineptly because it has been reflexively implementing out-of-date formulas in a radically changed security environment” (p. 106).

Unintended consequences also played a role, Holmes argues: “If conservative Congressmen had not blocked [Pennsylvania Governor] Tom Ridge’s nomination as Defense Secretary [in 2000] for the ludicrously immaterial reason that he was wobbly on abortion, then the Cheney-Rumsfeld group, including Wolfowitz and [Douglas] Feith, would have been in no position to hijack the administration’s reaction to 9/11″ (pp. 93-94). Rumsfeld enthusiastically endorsed Bush’s description of his “new” policies as a “war” because the Office of the Secretary of Defense then became the lead agency in designing and carrying out America’s response.

There was little or no countervailing influence. “By sheer chance,” Holmes writes, “Rice and Powell — no doubt orderly managers — have pedestrian minds and perhaps deferential personalities. Neither provided a gripping and persuasive vision of the United States’ role in the world that might have counteracted the megalomania of the neoconservatives, and neither was capable of outfoxing the hard-liners in an interagency power struggle” (p. 94).

The costs of equating al Qaeda with Iraq and of concentrating on a military response were high. “It meant that some of the troops sent to Iraq in the first wave believed, disgracefully, that they were avenging the 3,000 dead from September 11…. Cruel and arbitrary behavior by some U.S. forces helped stoke the violent insurgency that followed” (p. 307).

American confusion about the nature of the enemy — rogue state vs. non-state terrorist organization — produced two different counterstrategies, both of which almost certainly made the situation worse. First, by focusing on a rogue state (Iraq), rather than on a non-state actor (al Qaeda), the Pentagon drew attention to what it came to call the “hand-off scenario” in which a nuclear-armed rogue state might hand over weapons of mass destruction to terrorists who would use them against the U.S. To counter this threat, the Pentagon developed a strategy of preventive war against rogue states with the objective of bringing about regime change in them. The only way to prevent nuclear proliferation to terrorist groups — so the argument went — was to forcibly democratize Middle Eastern authoritarian regimes, some of which had long been allied with the United States.

The other strategy was a return to what seemed like a form of deterrence: a “scare the Muslims” campaign. This involved a resort to massive “shock and awe” bombing raids on Baghdad with the intent of demonstrating the futility of defying the United States.

By reacting to the threat of modern terrorism with an attack on a substitute target — without even bothering to calculate the enormous potential costs involved — the Pentagon greatly overestimated what military force could achieve. Both the regime-change and overawe-the-Muslims approaches carried with them potentially devastating unintended consequences — particularly if any of the premises, such as about who possessed WMD, were wrong. Overly abstract ideas were substituted for empirical knowledge of, and logical responses to, an enemy’s capabilities. Thus, insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, two devastated, poor countries, have managed to fight one of the most powerful American expeditionary forces in history to a virtual standstill. In short, “America’s bellicose response to the 9/11 provocation was not only dishonorable and unethical, given the cruel suffering it has inflicted on thousands of innocents, but also imprudent in the extreme because it was bound to produce as much hatred as fear, as much burning desire for reprisal as quaking paralysis and docility. Some of the sickening effects are unfolding before our eyes. That even more malevolent consequences remain in store is a grim possibility not to be wished away” (p. 10).

Complicity of the Left in American Imperialism

Holmes is also interesting on why the American Left has been so ineffectual in countering the efforts of Washington’s pro-war party. Deeply guilt-ridden over the Clinton administration’s failure to stop the genocide in Rwanda and frustrated by the constraints of international law and United Nations procedures, some influential progressives in America had already advocated a preemptive and unilateralist turn in American foreign policy that the Bush administration hijacked. Human rights activists had heavily promoted intervention in Bosnia and Kosovo to halt ethnic cleansing — and doing so without any international sanction whatsoever. Some of them became as enthusiastic about using the American armed forces to achieve limited foreign policy goals as many neocons. Even U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Madeleine Albright made herself notorious with her 1993 wisecrack to then Joint Chiefs Chairman Colin Powell: “What’s the point of having this superb military that you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?”

Although Holmes tries not to overstate his case, he suspects that the humanitarian interventionism of the 1990s — at one point he speaks of “human rights as imperial ideology” (p. 190) — may have played at least a small role in the public’s acceptance of Bush’s intervention in Iraq. If so, it is hard to imagine a better example of the disasters that good intentions can sometimes produce. The result in Iraq, in turn, has more or less silenced calls from the Left for further campaigns of military intervention for humanitarian purposes. The U.S. is conspicuously not participating in the U.N. intervention in the Darfur region of Sudan.

The Rule of Law

As a legal scholar, Holmes is committed to the rule of law. “[L]aw is best understood,” he writes, “not as a set of rigid rules but rather as a set of institutional mechanisms and procedures designed to correct the mistakes that even exceptionally talented executive officials are bound to make and to facilitate midstream readjustments and course corrections. If we understand law, constitutionalism, and due process in this way, then it becomes obvious why the war on terrorism is bound to fail when conducted, as it has been so far, against the rule of law and outside the constitutional system of checks and balances” (p. 5).

This short-circuiting of normal constitutional procedures he sees as probably the most consequential post-9/11 blunder of the Bush administration. The President’s repeated claims that he needs high levels of secrecy and the ability to arbitrarily cancel established law in order to move decisively against terrorists draw his utter contempt. “By dismantling checks and balances, along the lines idealized and celebrated by [John] Yoo, the administration has certainly gained flexibility in the ‘war on terror.’ It has gained the flexibility, in particular, to shoot first and aim afterward” (p. 301). Although such an assumption of dictatorial powers has happened before during periods of national emergency in the United States, Holmes is convinced that the humanitarian interventionism of the 1990s helped anesthetize many Americans to the implications of what the government was doing after 9/11.

Even now, with the Iraq War all but lost and public opinion having turned decisively against the President, there is still a flabbiness in mainstream criticism that reveals a major weakness in the conduct of American foreign policy. For example, while many hawks and doves today recognize that Rumsfeld mobilized too few forces to achieve his military objectives in Iraq, they tend to concentrate on his rejection of former Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki’s advice that he needed a larger army of occupation. They almost totally ignore the true national policy implications of Rumsfeld’s failed leadership. Holmes writes, “If Saddam Hussein had actually possessed the tons of chemical and biological weapons that, in the president’s talking points, constituted the casus belli for the invasion, Rumsfeld’s slimmed-down force would have abetted the greatest proliferation disaster in world history” (p. 82). He quotes Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor: “Securing the WMD required sealing the country’s borders and quickly seizing control of the many suspected sites before they were raided by profiteers, terrorists, and regime officials determined to carry on the fight. The force that Rumsfeld eventually assembled, by contrast, was too small to do any of this” (pp. 84-85). As a matter of fact, looters did ransack the Iraqi nuclear research center at al Tuwaitha. No one pointed out these flaws in the strategy until well after the invasion had revealed that, luckily, Saddam had no WMD.

With this book, Stephen Holmes largely succeeds in elevating criticism of contemporary American imperialism in the Middle East to a new level. In my opinion, however, he underplays the roles of American imperialism and militarism in exploiting the 9/11 crisis to serve vested interests in the military-industrial complex, the petroleum industry, and the military establishment. Holmes leaves the false impression that the political system of the United States is capable of a successful course correction. But, as Andrew Bacevich, author of The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War, puts it: “None of the Democrats vying to replace President Bush is doing so with the promise of reviving the system of checks and balances…. The aim of the party out of power is not to cut the presidency down to size but to seize it, not to reduce the prerogatives of the executive branch but to regain them.”

There is, I believe, only one solution to the crisis we face. The American people must make the decision to dismantle both the empire that has been created in their name and the huge, still growing military establishment that undergirds it. It is a task at least comparable to that undertaken by the British government when, after World War II, it liquidated the British Empire. By doing so, Britain avoided the fate of the Roman Republic — becoming a domestic tyranny and losing its democracy, as would have been required if it had continued to try to dominate much of the world by force. To take up these subjects, however, moves the discussion into largely unexplored territory. For now, Holmes has done a wonderful job of clearing the underbrush and preparing the way for the public to address this more or less taboo subject.

Chalmers Johnson is the author of the bestselling Blowback TrilogyBlowback (2000), The Sorrows of Empire (2004), and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (2007).

Copyright 2007 Chalmers Johnson