The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Saturday, November 05, 2005

The Fallen Legion: Casualties of the Bush Administration

The Fallen Legion: Casualties of the Bush Administration
By Nick Turse

Friday 14 October 2005

In late August 2005, after twenty years of service in the field of military procurement, Bunnatine ("Bunny") Greenhouse, the top official at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in charge of awarding government contracts for the reconstruction of Iraq, was demoted. For years, Greenhouse received stellar evaluations from superiors - until she raised objections about secret, no-bid contracts awarded to Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR) - a subsidiary of Halliburton, the mega-corporation Vice President Dick Cheney once presided over. After telling congress that one Halliburton deal was "was the most blatant and improper contract abuse I have witnessed during the course of my professional career," she was reassigned from "the elite Senior Executive Service... to a lesser job in the civil works division of the corps."

When Greenhouse was busted down, she became just another of the casualties of the Bush administration - not the countless (or rather uncounted) Iraqis, or the ever-growing list of American troops, killed, maimed, or mutilated in the administration's war of convenience- but the seemingly endless and ever-growing list of beleaguered administrators, managers, and career civil servants who quit their posts in protest or were defamed, threatened, fired, forced out, demoted, or driven to retire by Bush administration strong-arming. Often, this has been due to revulsion at the President's policies - from the invasion of Iraq and negotiations with North Korea to the flattening of FEMA and the slashing of environmental standards - which these women and men found to be beyond the pale.

Since almost the day he assumed power, George W. Bush has left a trail of broken careers in his wake. Below is a listing of but a handful of the most familiar names on the rolls of the fallen:

Richard Clarke: Perhaps the most well-known of the Bush administration's casualties, Clarke spent thirty years in the government, serving under every president from Ronald Reagan on. He was the second-ranking intelligence officer in the State Department under Reagan and then served in the administration of George H.W. Bush. Under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, he held the position of the president's chief adviser on terrorism on the National Security Council - a Cabinet-level post. Clarke became disillusioned with the "terrible job" of fighting terrorism exhibited by the second president Bush - namely, ignoring evidence of an impending al-Qaeda attack and putting the pressure on to produce a non-existent link between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. (His memo explaining that there was no connection, said Clarke, "got bounced and sent back saying, 'Wrong answer. Do it again.'") After 9/11, Clarke asked for a transfer from his job to a National Security Council office concerned with cyber-terrorism. (The administration later claimed it was a demotion). Quit, January 2003.

Paul O'Neill: A top official at the Office of Management and Budget under Presidents Nixon and Ford (and later chairman of aluminum-giant Alcoa), O'Neill served nearly two years in George W. Bush's cabinet as Secretary of the Treasury before being asked to resign after opposing the president's tax cuts. He, like Clarke, recalled Bush's Iraq fixation. "From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go," said O'Neill, a permanent member of the National Security Council. "It was all about finding a way to do it. That was the tone of it. The president saying 'Go find me a way to do this.'" Fired, December 6, 2002.

Flynt Leverett, Ben Miller and Hillary Mann: A Senior Director for Middle East Affairs on President Bush's National Security Council (NSC), a CIA staffer and Iraq expert with the NSC, and a foreign service officer on detail to the NSC as the Director for Iran and Persian Gulf Affairs, respectively, they were all reportedly forced out by Elliott Abrams, Bush's NSC Advisor on Middle East Affairs, when they disagreed with policy toward Israel. Said Leverett, "There was a decision made… basically to renege on the commitments we had made to various European and Arab partners of the United States. I personally disagreed with that decision." He also noted, "[Richard] Clarke's critique of administration decision-making and how it did not balance the imperative of finishing the job against al Qaeda versus what they wanted to do in Iraq is absolutely on the money… We took the people out [of Afghanistan in 2002 to begin preparing for the war in Iraq] who could have caught" al Qaeda leaders like Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri. According to Josef Bodansky, the director of the Congressional Task Force on Terror and Unconventional Warfare, Abrams "led Miller to an open window and told him to jump." He also stated that Mann and Leverett had been told to leave. Resigned/Fired, 2003.

Larry Lindsey: A "top economic adviser" to Bush who was ousted when he revealed to a newspaper that a war with Iraq could cost $200 billion. Fired, December 2002.

Ann Wright: A career diplomat in the Foreign Service and a colonel in the Army Reserves resigned on the day the U.S. launched the Iraq War. In her letter of resignation, Wright told then-Secretary of State Colin Powell: "I believe the Administration's policies are making the world a more dangerous, not a safer, place. I feel obligated morally and professionally to set out my very deep and firm concerns on these policies and to resign from government service as I cannot defend or implement them." Resigned, March 19, 2003.

John Brady Kiesling: A career diplomat who served four presidents over a twenty year span, he tendered his letter of resignation from his post as Political Counselor in the U.S. Embassy in Athens, Greece on the eve of the invasion of Iraq. He wrote:

"…until this Administration it had been possible to believe that by upholding the policies of my president I was also upholding the interests of the American people and the world. I believe it no longer. The policies we are now asked to advance are incompatible not only with American values but also with American interests. Our fervent pursuit of war with Iraq is driving us to squander the international legitimacy that has been America's most potent weapon of both offense and defense since the days of Woodrow Wilson. We have begun to dismantle the largest and most effective web of international relationships the world has ever known. Our current course will bring instability and danger, not security."

Resigned, February 27, 2003.

John Brown: After nearly 25-years, this veteran of the Foreign Service, who served in London, Prague, Krakow, Kiev and Belgrade, resigned from his post. In his letter of resignation, he wrote: "I cannot in good conscience support President Bush's war plans against Iraq. The president has failed to: explain clearly why our brave men and women in uniform should be ready to sacrifice their lives in a war on Iraq at this time; to lay out the full ramifications of this war, including the extent of innocent civilian casualties; to specify the economic costs of the war for the ordinary Americans; to clarify how the war would help rid the world of terror; [and] to take international public opinion against the war into serious consideration." Resigned, March 10, 2003.

Rand Beers: When Beers, the National Security Council's senior director for combating terrorism, resigned he declined to comment, but one former intelligence official noted, "Hardly a surprise. We have sacrificed a war on terror for a war with Iraq. I don't blame Randy at all. This just reflects the widespread thought that the war on terror is being set aside for the war with Iraq at the expense of our military and intel[ligence] resources and the relationships with our allies." Beers later admitted, "The administration wasn't matching its deeds to its words in the war on terrorism. They're making us less secure, not more secure… As an insider, I saw the things that weren't being done. And the longer I sat and watched, the more concerned I became, until I got up and walked out." Resigned, March 2003.

Anthony Zinni: A soldier and diplomat for 40 years, Zinni served from 1997 to 2000 as commander-in-chief of the United States Central Command in the Middle East. The retired Marine Corps general was then called back to service by the Bush administration to assume one of the highest diplomatic posts, special envoy to the Middle East (from November 2002 to March 2003), but his disagreement with Bush's plans to go to war and public comments that foretold of a a prolonged and problematical aftermath to such a war led to his ouster. "In the lead up to the Iraq war and its later conduct, I saw at a minimum, true dereliction, negligence and irresponsibility, at worse, lying, incompetence and corruption," said Zinni. Failed to be reappointed, March 2003.

Eric Shinseki: After General Shinseki, the Army's chief of staff, told Congress that the occupation of Iraq could require "several hundred thousand troops," he was derided by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. Then, wrote the Houston Chronicle, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld "took the unusual step of announcing that Gen. Eric Shinseki would be leaving when his term as Army chief of staff end[ed]." Retired, June 2003.

Karen Kwiatkowski: A Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force who served in the Department of Defense's Near East and South Asia (NESA) Bureau in the year before the invasion of Iraq, she wrote in her letter of resignation:

"…[W]hile working from May 2002 through February 2003 in the office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Near East South Asia and Special Plans (USDP/NESA and SP) in the Pentagon, I observed the environment in which decisions about post-war Iraq were made… What I saw was aberrant, pervasive and contrary to good order and discipline. If one is seeking the answers to why peculiar bits of 'intelligence' found sanctity in a presidential speech, or why the post-Hussein occupation has been distinguished by confusion and false steps, one need look no further than the process inside the Office of the Secretary of Defense."

Retired, July 2003.

Charles "Jack" Pritchard: A retired U.S. Army colonel and a 28-year veteran of the military, the State Department, and the National Security Council, who served as the State Department's senior expert on North Korea and as the special envoy for negotiations with that country, resigned (according to the Los Angeles Times) because the "administration's refusal to engage directly with the country made it almost impossible to stop Pyongyang from going ahead with its plans to build, test and deploy nuclear weapons." Resigned, August 2003.

Major (then Captain) John Carr and Major Robert Preston: Air Force prosecutors, they quit their posts in 2004 rather than take part in trials under the military commission system President Bush created in 2001 which they considered "rigged against alleged terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba." Requested and granted reassignment, 2004.

Captain Carrie Wolf: A U.S. Air Force officer, she also asked to leave the Office of Military Commissions due to concerns that the Bush-created commissions for trying prisoners at Guantanamo Bay were unjust. Requested and granted reassignment, 2004.

Colonel Douglas Macgregor: He retired from the U.S. Army and stated: "I love the army and I was sorry to leave it. But I saw no possibility of fundamentally positive reform and reorgani[z]ation of the force for the current strategic environment or the future… It's a very sycophantic culture. The biggest problem we have inside the… Department of Defense at the senior level, but also within the officer corps - is that there are no arguments. Arguments are [seen as] a sign of dissent. Dissent equates to disloyalty." Retired, June 2004.

Paul Redmond: After a long career at the CIA, Redmond became the Assistant Secretary for Information Analysis at the Department of Homeland Security. When, according to Notra Trulock of Accuracy in Media, he reported, at a congressional hearing in June 2003, "that he didn't have enough analysts to do the job… [and] his office still lacked the secure communications capability to receive classified reports from the intelligence community… [t]hat kind of candor was not appreciated by his bosses and, consequently, he had to go." Resigned, June 2003.

John W. Carlin: According to the Washington Post, Carlin, the "Archivist of the United States was pushed by the White House… to submit his resignation without being given any reason, Senate Democrats disclosed… at a hearing to consider President Bush's nomination of his successor." "I asked why, and there was no reason given," said Carlin, but the Post reported that some had "suggested Bush may have wanted a new archivist to help keep his or his father's sensitive presidential records under wraps." Although he had stated his wish to serve until the end of his 10-year term, and 65th birthday in 2005, Carlin surrendered to Bush administration pressure. Resigned, December 19, 2003.

Susan Wood and Frank Davidoff: Wood was the Food and Drug Administration's Assistant Commissioner for Women's Health and Director of the Office of Women's Health; Davidoff was the editor emeritus of the journal Annals of Internal Medicine and an internal medicine specialist on the FDA's Nonprescription Drugs Advisory Committee. Wood resigned in protest over the FDA's decision to delay yet again, due to pressure from the Bush administration, a final ruling on whether the "morning-after pill" should be made more easily accessible - despite a 23-4 vote, back in December 2003, by a panel of experts to recommend non-prescription sale of the contraceptive, called Plan B. In an email to colleagues, Wood, the top FDA official in charge of women's health issues, wrote, "I can no longer serve as staff when scientific and clinical evidence, fully evaluated and recommended for approval by the professional staff here, has been overruled." Days later, Davidoff quit over the same issue and wrote in his resignation letter, "I can no longer associate myself with an organization that is capable of making such an important decision so flagrantly on the basis of political influence, rather than the scientific and clinical evidence." Wood: Resigned, August 31, 2005. Davidoff: Resigned, September, 2005.

Thomas E. Novotny: A deputy assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services and the chief official working on an international treaty to reduce cigarette smoking around the world, Novotny "stepped down," claimed Bush administration officials, "for personal reasons unrelated to the negotiations"; but the Washington Post reported that "three people who ha[d] spoken with Novotny… said he had privately expressed frustration over the administration's decision to soften the U.S. positions on key issues, including restrictions on secondhand smoke and the advertising and marketing of cigarettes." Resigned, August 1, 2001.

Joanne Wilson: The commissioner of the Department of Education's Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), she quit, according to the Washington Post, "in protest of what she said were the administration's largely unnoticed efforts to gut the office's funding and staffing" and attempts to dismantle programs "critical to helping the blind, deaf and otherwise disabled find jobs." On February 7, 2005 the Bush administration announced that it would close all RSA regional offices and cut personnel in half. Quit, February 8, 2005.

James Zahn: According to an article by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. in the Nation magazine, Zahn, a "nationally respected microbiologist with the Agriculture Department's research service" stated that "his supervisor at the USDA, under pressure from the hog industry, had ordered him not to publish his study," which "identified bacteria that can make people sick - and that are resistant to antibiotics - in the air surrounding industrial-style hog farms"; and that "he had been forced to cancel more than a dozen public appearances at local planning boards and county health commissions seeking information about health impacts of industry mega-farms." As a result, "Zahn resigned from the government in disgust." Resigned, May 2002.

Tony Oppegard and Jack Spadaro: Oppegard and Spadaro were members of a "team of federal geodesic engineers selected to investigate the collapse of barriers that held back a coal slurry pond in Kentucky containing toxic wastes from mountaintop strip-mining." According to the Environmental Protection Agency, this had been "the greatest environmental catastrophe in the history of the Eastern United States." Oppegard, who the headed the team, "was fired on the day Bush was inaugurated… All eight members of the team except Spadaro signed off on a whitewashed investigation report. Spadaro, like the others, was harassed but flat-out refused to sign. In April of 2001 Spadaro resigned from the team and filed a complaint with the Inspector General of the Labor Department… he was placed on administrative leave-a prelude to getting fired." Two months before his 28th anniversary as a federal employee, and after years of harassment due to his stance, Spadaro resigned. "I'm just very tired of fighting," he said. "I've been fighting this administration since early 2001. I want a little peace for a while." Oppegrad: Fired, January 20, 2001. Spaddaro: Resigned, October 1, 2003.

Teresa Chambers: After speaking with reporters and congressional staffers about budget problems in her organization, the U.S. Park Police Chief was placed on administrative leave. Then, according to CNN, just "two and half hours after her attorneys filed a demand for immediate reinstatement through the Merit Systems Protection Board, an independent agency that ensures federal employees are protected from management abuses," Chambers was fired. "The American people should be afraid of this kind of silencing of professionals in any field," said Chambers. "We should be very concerned as American citizens that people who are experts in their field either can't speak up, or, as we're seeing now in the parks service, won't speak up." Fired, July 2004.

Martha Hahn: The state director for the Bureau of Land Management, "responsible for 12 million acres in Idaho, almost one-quarter of the state" for seven years, Hahn found her authority drastically curtailed after the Bush administration took office. She watched as the administration blocked public comment on mining initiatives and opened up previously protected areas to environmental degradation. After she locked horns with cattle interests over grazing rights, she received a letter stating she was being transferred from her beloved Rocky Mountain West to "a previously nonexistent job in New York City." "It's been a shock," she said. "I'm going through mental anguish right now. I felt like I was at the prime of my career." Hahn was told to accept the involuntary reassignment or resign. Resigned, March 6, 2002.

Andrew Eller: Eller "spent many of his 17 years with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protecting the [Florida] panther. But when his research didn't jibe with a huge airport project slated for the cat's habitat - and Eller refused to play along-he was given the boot," wrote the Tucson Weekly. "I was fired three days after President Bush was re-elected," said Eller. "It was obviously reprisal for holding different views than [U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service] management on whether or not the panther was in jeopardy, and pointing out that they were using flawed science to support their view." Fired, November 2004.

Mike Dombeck: The chief of the Forest Service resigned after a 23-year government career. In his resignation letter, the pro-conservation Dombeck stated, "It was made clear in no uncertain terms that the [Bush] administration wants to take the Forest Service in another direction ...." Resigned, March 27, 2001.

James Furnish: A political conservative, evangelical Christian, and Republican who voted for George W. Bush in 2000 as well as the former Deputy Chief of the U.S. Forest Service (who spent 30 years, across 8 presidential administrations working for that agency), Furnish resigned in 2002 due to policy differences with the Bush administration. "I just viewed [the administration's] actions as being regressive," said Furnish. In acting according to his conscience, instead of waiting a year longer to maximize retirement benefits, Furnish lost out on about $10,000 a year for the rest of his life. Resigned, 2002.

Mike Parker: In early 2002, Parker, the director of the Army Corps of Engineers testified before Congress that Bush-mandated budget cuts would have a "negative impact" on the Corps. He also admitted to holding no "warm and fuzzy" feelings toward the Bush administration. "Soon after," reported the Christian Science Monitor, "he was given 30 minutes to resign or be fired." In the wake of the devastation caused by hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Parker's clashes with Mitch Daniels, former director of the Office of Management and Budget, can be seen as prophetic. Parker remembered one such incident in which he brought Daniels, the Bush administration's budget guru, a piece of steel from a Mississippi canal lock that "was completely corroded and falling apart because of a lack of funding," and said, "Mitch, it doesn't matter if a terrorist blows the lock up or if it falls down because it disintegrates - either way it's the same effect, and if we let it fall down, we have only ourselves to blame." He recalled of the incident, "It made no impact on him whatsoever." Resigned, March 6, 2002.

Sylvia K. Lowrance: A top Environmental Protection Agency official who served the agency for over 20 years, including as Assistant Administrator of its Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance for the first 18 months of the Bush administration, Lowrance retired, stating, "We will see more resignations in the future as the administration fails to enforce environmental laws." she said, "This Administration has pulled cases and put investigations on ice. They sent every signal they can to staff to back off." Retired, August 2002.

Bruce Boler: An EPA scientist who resigned from his post because, he said, "Wetlands are often referred to as nature's kidneys. Most self-respecting scientists will tell you that, and yet [private] developers and officials [at the Army Corps of Engineers] wanted me to support their position that wetlands are, literally, a pollution source." Resigned, October 23, 2003.

Eric Schaeffer: After twelve years of service, including the last five as Director of the Office of Regulatory Enforcement, at the Environmental Protection Agency, Schaeffer submitted a letter of resignation over the Bush administration's non-enforcement of the Clean Air Act. He later explained:

"In a matter of weeks, the Bush administration was able to undo the environmental progress we had worked years to secure. Millions of tons of unnecessary pollution continue to pour from these power plants each year as a result. Adding insult to injury, the White House sought to slash the EPA's enforcement budget, making it harder for us to pursue cases we'd already launched against other polluters that had run afoul of the law, from auto manufacturers to refineries, large industrial hog feedlots, and paper companies. It became clear that Bush had little regard for the environment-and even less for enforcing the laws that protect it. So last spring, after 12 years at the agency, I resigned, stating my reasons in a very public letter to Administrator [Christine Todd] Whitman."

Resigned, February 27, 2002.

Bruce Buckheit: A 30-year veteran of government service, Buckheit retired in frustration over Bush administration efforts to weaken environmental regulations. When asked by NBC reporter Stone Phillips, "What's the biggest enforcement challenge right now when it comes to air pollution?," the former Senior Counsel with the Environmental Enforcement Section of the U.S. Department of Justice, and then Director of EPA's Air Enforcement Division, was unequivocal: "The Bush Administration." He went on to note that "this administration has decided to put the economic interests of the coal fired power plants ahead of the public interests in reducing air pollution." Resigned, November 2003.

Rich Biondi: A 32-year EPA employee, Biondi retired from his post as Associate Director of the Air Enforcement Division of the Environmental Protection Agency. He stated, "We weren't given the latitude we had been, and the Bush administration was interfering more and more with the ability to get the job done. There were indications things were going to be reviewed a lot more carefully, and we needed a lot more justification to bring lawsuits." Retired, December 2004.

Martin E. Sullivan, Richard S. Lanier and Gary Vikan: Three members of the White House Cultural Property Advisory Committee, they all resigned from their posts to protest the looting of Baghdad's National Museum of Antiquities. In his letter of resignation, Sullivan, the Committee's chairman, wrote, "The tragedy was not prevented, due to our nation's inaction," while Lanier castigated "the administration's total lack of sensitivity and forethought regarding the Iraq invasion and the loss of cultural treasures." Resigned, April 14, 2003.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, eyes began to focus on the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the political appointees running it. What had happened to the professionals who once staffed FEMA? In 2004, Pleasant Mann, a 17-year FEMA veteran who heads the agency's government employee union told Indyweek:

"Since last year, so many people have left who had developed most of our basic programs. A lot of the institutional knowledge is gone. Everyone who was able to retire has left, and then a lot of people have moved to other agencies."

Disillusionment with the current state of affairs at FEMA was cited as the major cause for the mass defections. In fact, a February 2004 survey by the American Federation of Government Employees found that 80% of a sample of remaining employees said FEMA had become "a poorer agency" since being shifted into the Bush-created Department of Homeland Security. What happened to FEMA has happened, in ways large and small, to many other federal agencies. In an article by Amanda Griscom in Grist magazine, Jeff Ruch, the executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, made reference to the "unusually high" rate of replacement of scientists in government agencies during the Bush administration. "If the scientist gives the inconvenient answer they commit career suicide," he said.

However defined, the casualties of the Bush administration are legion. The numbers of government careers wrecked, disrupted, adversely affected, or tossed into turmoil as a result of this administration's wars, budgets, policies, and programs is impossible to determine. Although every administration leaves bodies strewn in its wake, none in recent memory has come close to the Bush administration in producing so many public statements of resignation, dissatisfaction, or anger over treatment or policies. The aforementioned list of casualties includes among the best known of those who have resigned or left the administration under pressure (although not necessarily those who have suffered most from their acts). Perhaps no one knows exactly how many government workers, at all levels, have fallen in the face of the Bush administration. Those mentioned above are just a few of the highest profile members of this as yet uncounted legion, just a few of the names we know.

NOTE: If you know of others, or are one of the "fallen legion" yourself, please send the information (and whatever supporting material you would care to supply) to with the subject heading: "fallen legion" to add another name to the "wall." This is a subject TomDispatch would like to return to in the future.

Special thanks to Rebecca Solnit for providing the idea for this piece, and so "commissioning" it.


Nick Turse works in the Department of Epidemiology at Columbia University and as the Associate Editor and Research Director at He writes for the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Village Voice, and regularly for Tomdispatch on the military-corporate complex, the homeland security state, and various other topics.


Thursday, November 03, 2005

Eric Alterman - First Casualty of War

First Casualty of War
by Eric Alterman

It is just a coincidence, but fortuitous nevertheless, that the Democrats forced the Senate into a special secret session to discuss how we got into the war in Iraq during the same week that we finally learned the nation was deliberately misled about the famous "Tonkin intercepts" that helped lead us into Vietnam more than 40 years ago.

What worried the Democrats about Iraq turns out to be exactly what happened in Vietnam. We know now, thanks to one brave and dogged historian at the National Security Agency, that after the famed Gulf of Tonkin "incident" on Aug. 4, 1964 — in which North Vietnam allegedly attacked two American destroyers — National Security Council officials doctored the evidence to support President Johnson's false charge in a speech to the nation that night of "open aggression on the high seas against the United States of America."

In fact, no real evidence for those attacks has ever been found. The entire case rested on the alleged visual sightings of an inexperienced 23-year-old sonar operator. Nevertheless, Johnson took the opportunity to order the bombing of North Vietnam that night and set the nation inexorably on a path toward the "wider war" he promised he did not seek. And administration bigwigs never admitted publicly that they might have acted in haste and without giving contradictory signals their proper weight.

On the contrary, military and national security officials scrambled wildly to support the story. The media cooperated, with lurid reports of the phony battle inspired by fictional updates like the one Johnson gave to congressional leaders: "Some of our boys are floating around in the water."

The new study apparently solves a mystery that has long bedeviled historians of the war: What was in those famous (but classified) North Vietnamese "intercepts" that Defense Secretary Robert McNamara was always touting to Congress, which allegedly proved the attack took place? Until recently, most assumed that McNamara and others had simply misread the date on the communications and attributed conversations between the North Vietnamese about an earlier Tonkin incident on Aug. 2, 1964, (when the destroyer Maddox was briefly and superficially under fire) to Aug. 4, the day of the phony attack. But, according to the New York Times, NSA historian Robert J. Hanyok has concluded that the evidence was deliberately falsified: there were translation mistakes that were not corrected, intelligence that was selectively cited and intercept times that were altered.

In revealing the story Monday, the Times reported that Hanyok's efforts to have his classified findings made public had been rejected by higher-level agency policymakers who, beginning in 2003, "were fearful that it might prompt uncomfortable comparisons with the flawed intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq."

And rightly so. The parallels between the Tonkin episode and the war in Iraq are far too powerful for political comfort. In both cases, top U.S. national security officials frequently asserted a degree of certainty about the alleged actions and capabilities of an adversary that could not possibly be supported by the available evidence. In both cases, it's possible that the president might have been honestly misguided rather than deliberately deceptive — at least at first. But in neither case would anyone admit the possibility of an honest mistake.

Johnson does not appear to have known that he was retaliating for an imaginary attack when he ordered U.S. planes to take off on the evening of Aug. 4. But, according to Alexander Haig, who was at work at the Pentagon that night, "Everyone on duty wanted to make it possible for the president to do what he wanted to do." The director of the U.S. Information Agency, Carl Rowan, wondered: "Do we know for a fact that the North Vietnamese provocation took place? Can we nail down exactly what happened? We must be prepared to be accused of fabricating the incident." McNamara said they would know for sure the next morning. But the speech couldn't hold.

The phony Tonkin incident alone did not cause the Vietnam War. But the fact that the war was initially inspired by an attack that was, in fact, fabricated after the fact made the experience far more bitter for its victims. Doubts about the incident arose almost immediately. A 1966 article in the magazine Ramparts on Tonkin and the war caught the flavor of the times with its title, "The Whole Damn Thing Was a Lie."

The Bush administration's desire to keep secret the story of a 40-year-old deception — a set of official lies, phony documents and trumped-up data that led the country into a debilitating, counterproductive and deceptive war — simply to protect its own misdeeds is despicable, however typical. But thanks to Hanyok's willingness to go public against the administration's wishes, we know who was lying vis-à-vis Vietnam.

One day we may learn the truth about Iraq. Let's hope for the sake of a future president who finds himself similarly tempted to mislead the nation into conflict that the warnings of history will be viewed with humility rather than hubris, and that the nation will be spared yet another war based on official lies.

Eric Alterman is a senior fellow of the Center for American Progress. His "When Presidents Lie: A History of Official Deception and its Consequences" is just out in paperback from Penguin.

© 2005 Los Angeles Times

FEMA e-mails provide window on ex-director's response

FEMA e-mails provide window on ex-director's response

By Andrea Stone, USA TODAY

E-mails sent as Hurricane Katrina raged reveal that FEMA's then-director, Michael Brown, discussed his clothing and his need for a dog sitter but left unanswered urgent messages.

A House committee investigating the response to Katrina released about 1,000 e-mails as members complained that the Bush administration had failed to provide copies of communications among high-level officials, including White House chief of staff Andy Card and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

Deputy White House press secretary Trent Duffy said, "The White House staff is working on that information collection."

The newly released e-mails depict an official who "made few decisions and seemed out of touch," said Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-La.

Last month at a Senate hearing, Marty Bahamonde, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's only employee in New Orleans when Katrina struck Aug. 29, said he e-mailed Brown on Aug. 31, "Sir, I know that you know the situation is past critical ... many will die." Brown replied, "Thanks for the update. Anything specific I need to do or tweak?"

An e-mail offering critical medical equipment got no response for four days.

Brown resigned two weeks after Katrina hit. E-mail excerpts:

-- Aug. 29, 7:19 a.m., Cindy Taylor, FEMA deputy director of public affairs to Brown, about his shirt as he appeared on NBC's Today: "My eyes must certainly be deceiving me. You look fabulous - and I'm not talking the makeup."

Brown, 7:52 a.m.: "I got it at Nordsstroms ... Are you proud of me? Can I quit now? Can I go home?"

-- Aug. 30, 10:52 p.m. Brown to assistant Tillie James: "Do you know of anyone who dog-sits?"

-- Sept. 2, 8:37 a.m. Brown to acquaintance Betty Guhman, on his pre-Katrina plans to leave FEMA: "Last hurrah was supposed to have been Labor Day. I'm trapped now, please rescue me."

Andy Lester, Brown's lawyer, said the committee "ought to focus" on FEMA's budget and other issues and not on e-mails that he characterized as efforts to boost morale among stressed staff and deal with family matters.

David Orr - The Imminent Demise of the Republican Party

The Imminent Demise of the Republican Party
by David W. Orr

Following the election of 2004, much has been made of the weaknesses of the Democratic Party, even its possible end. But it has escaped the notice of our blow-dry television pundits and political observers alike that the Republican Party, in the full blush of triumph in control of all the branches of government and large sections of the media, stands on the edge of certain extinction. The reasons grow daily more evident. Over the past three decades, the moderate, business-oriented party of Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower was captured by its extreme right-wing thereby becoming a party dominated by ideologues, increasingly divorced from unmovable facts. But no organization, political party, or nation can long survive by ignoring realities of ecology, social justice, law, economics, and true security. Sooner or later, it will step off the proverbial curb into onrushing traffic of events, forces, and trends that it refused to see.

The Republican Party has already stepped into the road. The question is not whether it will survive as presently constituted, but what else will be destroyed as it collapses in ruin and ignominy, sooner than later. Beneath the noisy spin of its media echo chamber, the true platform of the Republican Party, its future epitaph, is founded on denial. The rules of the Republican Party of George Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Tom Delay, and their brethren are these:

* Deny science when its findings are not agreeable to your base. Republicans, notably, are on the wrong side of the largest issue in human history: human driven, rapid climate change. They’ve chosen instead to live in a Crichton-esque science fiction fantasy in which real science has no standing and human actions have no tragic, irreversible, and global ecological consequences. This is not just boneheaded, it is a form of criminality for which we have, as yet, no adequate words.
* Deny the looming approach of peak oil extraction thereby advancing the potential of economic, political, and social chaos when global oil supply and demand diverge as soon they will.
* Deny the proven potential of superior technologies, design strategies, and policies that would move the country toward energy efficiency and a secure energy base of solar and wind power as well as the reasons of self-interest and economic advantage for doing so.
* Deny the true costs of air and water pollution thereby undermining the health of Americans.
* Deny the human and economic effects of pandering to the wealthy, thereby undermining social cohesion and the sense of fairness?historically, often a prelude to societal breakdown and revolution.
* Deny any and all mistakes, bad judgment, and corruption, relying on spin not truth and thereby building a solid reputation for mendacity and incompetence.
* Deny the limitations of military power to impose order on a recalcitrant world and thereby condemn the U.S. to a future of international isolation, conflict, and endless terrorism.
* Deny the great vulnerability of the American infrastructure to malice, malfeasance, and acts of God, thereby laying the groundwork for a future of recurring disasters.
* Deny the necessity for civil discourse, honesty, and transparency in the conduct of public life, thereby holding the citizenry in contempt and promoting a spirit of meanness.
* Deny without admitting it the democratic values of the country enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, the Gettysburg Address, and the Four Freedoms of Franklin Roosevelt, thereby undermining democracy at home while purportedly fighting for it in Iraq.

The Republican Party has chosen to deny social, ecological, cultural, religious, and economic realities which are unavoidably complicated, complex, diverse, ironic, and paradoxical. Instead they have chosen to make their own simplistic, ideological, and chauvinistic fantasy world that has little affinity for law, science, a free and independent press, fairness, true security, ecological sustainability, and the accountability that is requisite for genuine democracy.

That fantasy is on the cusp of becoming a real life nightmare. Having made the United States a large bulls’ eye for terrorists and malcontents, it may implode catastrophically taking much else with it. It may come undone more gradually, but no less catastrophically, as the economy sinks under the weight of war debt and foolish tax cuts. It may be overthrown if and when thoughtful conservatives disturbed by fiscal recklessness and imperial pretensions, all honest persons offended by mendacity, bombast, criminality, conniving, and diversion, and all Christians sufficiently alert to notice the discrepancy between the words and life of the “Prince of Peace” and our foreign and domestic policies finally shift alignments. It may take longer as the die of climate change and ecological deterioration is finally cast and we trigger adverse global changes of which we have been often warned. Unlikely as it seems, in a different scenario the Republican nightmare still could be averted by an effective, committed, agile, and strategic opposition smart enough to recognize the historic convergence of opportunity, patriotic duty, sheer necessity.

In truth the moderate Republican Party of Dwight Eisenhower died several decades ago, to be reborn in the 1990's as the extreme right-wing and highly disciplined party of Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove, George Bush, Dick Cheney, Tom Delay, and Grover Norquist. Those and a few others orchestrated the nightmare that James Madison described in /Federalist/ #10-in which executive, legislative, and judicial power was concentrated in the hands of a single faction. But it is worse than Madison feared because the power of that faction includes control over a mostly compliant and increasingly centralized media, a vast military establishment, and the intelligence agencies.

The nightmare, however, is nearing its end and the reasons are daily coming clearer. But the Democratic Party, lacking grit, direction, and ideas, will have played little role in the end of the radical Republican Party, nor can it be assumed that Democrats will be the beneficiary. The self-induced coming collapse of the Republican Party will most likely leave a power vacuum in American politics and perhaps a time of national drift and decline.

The Republican Party has always been the party of business and it was once the party of law, fiscal conservatism, probity, and small government as well. But things have changed and it bears no resemblance to the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Robert Taft, Dwight Eisenhower, and even Richard Nixon. After Watergate, the Iran-Contra scandal, and the Impeachment of Bill Clinton, the Party was effectively taken over by radicals determined to win at all cost. They forged an alliance between Southern racists, the extreme Christian right, big business, neo-conservatives, and a group of right-wing financiers willing to invest billions over several decades to build ideologically driven think tanks and a nation-wide media echo chamber to mislead the public and return the country to the world of the Robber Barons of the 19^th century. They played the public for fools, covering their tracks with patriotic and religious rhetoric and devising ruinous policies too complex to be widely understood. But, driven by an extremist ideology and directed by ruthless leadership, radical Republicans will fall victim to overreach and its own particular kind of blindness. The recent legal difficulties of Lewis Libby, Tom Delay, Bill Frist, and Jack Abramoff are only the tip of the iceberg. Other revelations are coming about the fabrication of the reasons for the mistaken war in Iraq. Still others will show a pattern of corruption and fraud at a scale for which we have no national precedent. Perhaps it is only a sign of hubris, but more likely it is growing evidence that the national Republican Party, having marginalized its wiser leaders and tossed good judgment overboard became a criminal enterprise given to deception and mendacity in order to cover grand theft at a national scale, all on behalf of something called their "base." But its mounting legal difficulties and decline in recent polls are evidence of deeper causes that will soon bring the entire enterprise to ruin.

Events surrounding hurricane Katrina are symptomatic of the kinds of forces that will terminate the Republican Party. Its leadership chose to ignore scientific warnings about the links between climate change and the use of fossil fuels that is amplifying the number and severity of storms to say nothing of the warnings about inadequate levies in New Orleans. As a result they have no plans to avert the worst of climate driven planetary disruption coming in the years ahead which, beyond some unknown point, will be catastrophic for everyone.

The war in Iraq is symptomatic of deeper flaws and self-delusion as well. Reliable witnesses report that the reasons given for the war were conjured, which is to say that they were a lie. We know as well that the level of understanding about the Middle East was astonishingly low and preparation for the post-war reconstruction of Iraq utterly incompetent. This debacle was decidedly not primarily a failure of the CIA, but rather a matter of deliberate deception by the administration for which the appropriate words are "high crimes" and the appropriate course of action is impeachment.

The list of malfeasances and bad judgment could go on, but the point is clear: the present leadership of the Republican Party has chosen to lead by deception, ignore economic reality, refute science when its findings are inconvenient, foster class divisions, snub the poor, vitiate laws and regulations that protect the environment and public health by stealth, destroy venerable alliances, flaunt international law, undermine the foundations of democracy at home, and destroy the capacity of government, painstakingly created over many decades by Republicans and Democrats alike, to solve serious public problems. The Party of Lincoln has become a gang of thieves given to cutting taxes for the wealthy and willing to "do whatever it takes" to stay in power as Karl Rove once put it. The results include a cascading national debt, a federal government unwilling and increasingly unable to act on the most important issues of the 21^st century, and growing isolation from the world community. Not the least, the combined effect of the radical conservative blunder in Iraq is that the United States is more vulnerable to terrorism than before 2001 and is highly dependent on the willingness of the Chinese and others to prop up an increasingly vulnerable economy.

When their reign collapses and the full extent of the wreckage assessed, there will be no time for gloating. There will be, at best, a small window of opportunity to set the country on course again and restore a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, not one for the wealthy few. Equality before the law, transparency, accountability, competence, and foresight are the standards for good governance. The first order of business will be to restore a truer democracy and greater participation in public life now more characteristic of European countries than our own. That will require, in one way or another, reducing the power of money in U.S. politics and rebuilding a fair tax system. We will need to quickly regain public control over the public airwaves beginning with the restoration of the fairness doctrine, tossed out by the Reagan administration in 1987. We will need to take immediate steps to implement energy efficiency and solar power, long known to be technically feasible, economically advantageous, and the antidote for adverse climate change. We must get America on track again, rebuilding a national rail system that will reduce our dependence on imported oil while reversing urban sprawl. We will need policies to rebuild blighted urban areas and restore widespread prosperity to rural areas-flip sides of the same coin. We will need to rebuild federal, state, and private capacity to protect our common air, water, lands, and natural heritage. And we will need a foreign policy once again grounded in international law and a decent respect for the opinions of humankind.

Most important, however, we will need to be summoned back to greatness and away from fear, division, culture wars, and greed. We need a renewed sense of an inclusive America and what it means to be an American. At our best we are a democratic people governed by law. We are a pragmatic people, adept at solving problems. And if wisely led, we can be a compassionate people capable of acting on behalf of the less fortunate and for posterity. It was once said that America is the last best hope of humankind, and perhaps one day we will live up to that standard.

David Orr is a Paul Sears Distinguished Professor at Oberlin College and author of The Last Refuge:Politics, and the Environment in an Age of Terror (Island Press, 2005).

Sidney Blumenthal - Inside the Bunker

Inside the Bunker
By Sidney Blumenthal
The Guardian UK

Thursday 03 November 2005

His administration has become its own republic of fear, and Bush is a prisoner to the right.

One year after his re-election President Bush governs from a bunker. "We go forward with complete confidence," he proclaimed in his second inaugural address. He urged "our youngest citizens" to see the future "in the determined faces of our soldiers", to choose between "evil" and "courage". But as he listened that day, Vice-President Dick Cheney knew the election had been secured by a cover-up.

"I would have wished nothing better," declared Patrick Fitzgerald in his press conference of October 28 announcing the indictment of I Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the vice-president's chief of staff, "that, when the subpoenas were issued in August 2004, witnesses testified then, and we would have been here in October 2004 instead of October 2005. No one would have went to jail."

The indictment documents that Cheney confirmed the identity of Valerie Plame to him. The indictment also describes a figure called "Official A", subsequently disclosed to be Karl Rove, the president's chief political adviser, who informed Libby that he had told the conservative columnist Robert Novak of Plame's status. The next day Libby conferred with Cheney on how to handle the matter; that very day, Libby revealed Plame's identity to two reporters. Then Libby falsely testified that he had learned Plame's name from reporters.

On September 30 2003 President Bush emphatically stated that he wanted anyone in his administration with information about the Plame leak to "come forward". On June 10 2004 he pledged that anyone on his staff who leaked Plame's name would be fired.

When the Libby indictment was announced, Bush and Cheney praised him as a fine public servant. Still under investigation, Rove remains in the West Wing. But Cheney knew during the presidential campaign that he had discussed with Libby how to deal with Plame. Now Bush knows that Rove had enabled Robert Novak to publish her identity. But the president's promise to fire officials is suddenly inoperative.

Libby's alleged cover-up was undertaken in the spirit of neoconservative Leninism. Any tactic is rationalised by the vanguard, which sets all policy and uses the party as its instrument. If he had testified truthfully in October 2004 the result would have consumed the final days of the campaign. His Leninist logic permitted him to protect the Republican cause, but he has tainted Bush's victory in history.

Bush took his 2004 win as a resounding mandate for a rightwing agenda. With each right turn, however, his popularity declined. Iraq acted as an accelerator of his fall. His nomination of Harriet Miers for the supreme court was an acknowledgement of his sharply narrowed political space. While the Republican masses supported him, the Leninist right staged a revolt. In Bush's cronyism and opportunism they saw his deviation. With the prosecutor's indictment imminent, Bush withdrew Miers. Broadly unpopular, he could not suffer a split right. His new nominee, federal judge Samuel Alito, a reliable sectarian, is a tribute to his bunker strategy.

Hostage to his failed fortune, Bush is a prisoner of the right. His administration has become its own republic of fear. Libby's trial will reveal the administration's political methods. Cheney, along with a host of others, will be called to testify. Whatever other calamities may befall Bush, their spectre harries him to the right. "Disunity, dissolution and vacillation" are hallmarks of "the path of conciliation", as Lenin wrote in What is to be Done. The vanguard on "the path of struggle" criticised for being "an exclusive group," must oppose any retreat proposed by the "opportunist rearguard". "We are surrounded on all sides by enemies, and we have to advance almost constantly under their fire."

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Maureen Dowd -- Chain, Chain, Chain of Cheney Fools

hain, Chain, Chain of Cheney Fools
By Maureen Dowd
The New York Times | Editorial

Wednesday 02 November 2005

Scooter used to be Cheney's Cheney.

Now we've got Cheney's Cheney's Cheney.

This is not an improvement.

Once Scooter left, many people, including a lot of alarmed conservatives and moderate Republicans, were hoping that W. and Vice would throw open some White House windows to let the air and sun in, and climb out of that incestuous, secretive, vindictive, hallucinatory dark hole they've been bunkered in for five years.

But they like it in their paranoid paradise. One of the most confounding aspects of W.'s exceedingly confounding presidency is his apparent unwillingness to consider that anyone who ever worked for him - and was in any way responsible for any of the disasters now afflicting his administration - should be jettisoned.

This is not loyalty. This is myopia. Where is a meddling, power-intoxicated first lady when we need one? Maybe the clever Nancy Reagan should have a little talk with Laura Bush tonight at the dinner for Prince Charles and Camilla, and explain to her how to step in and fire overweening officials who are hurting your man.

Vice thumbed his nose yesterday at the notion that he should clean up his creepy laboratory when he promoted two Renfields who are part of the gang that got us into this mess.

Dick Cheney has appointed David Addington as his new chief of staff, an ideologue who is so fanatically secretive, so in love with the shadows, so belligerent and unyielding that he's known around town as the Keyser Soze of the usual suspects. At 48, Mr. Addington is a legend: he's worked his way up the G.O.P. scandal ladder from Iran-contra to Abu Ghraib.

Unlike Scooter, this lone-wolf lawyer doesn't reach out to journalists, even to use them as conduits or covers; he makes his boss look gregarious. He routinely declines to be interviewed or photographed.

Vice also appointed John Hannah as his national security adviser, a title also held by Scooter. Mr. Addington and Mr. Hannah often battled with the C.I.A. and State as the cabal pushed the case that Saddam was a direct threat to America, sabotaging Colin Powell's reputation when it "helped" with his U.N. speech. Mr. Hannah was the contact for Ahmad Chalabi, who went around the C.I.A. to feed Vice's office the baloney intel and rosy scenarios that suckered the U.S. into war.

Mr. Addington has done his best to crown King Cheney. As Dana Milbank wrote in The Washington Post, Mr. Addington pushed an obscure philosophy called the unitary executive theory that "favors an extraordinarily powerful president." He would go "through every page of the federal budget in search of riders that could restrict executive authority."

"He was a principal author of the White House memo justifying torture of terrorism suspects," Mr. Milbank wrote. "He was a prime advocate of arguments supporting the holding of terrorism suspects without access to courts. Addington also led the fight with Congress and environmentalists over access to information about corporations that advised the White House on energy policy." And he helped stonewall the 9/11 commission.

The National Journal pointed out that Scooter had talked to Mr. Addington and Mr. Hannah about Joseph Wilson and his C.I.A. wife when he was seeking more information to discredit them in the press. Mr. Addington, the story said, "was deeply immersed" in the White House damage-control campaign to deflect criticism about warped W.M.D. intelligence, and attended strategy sessions in 2003 on how to discredit Mr. Wilson.

"Further," the magazine said, "Addington played a leading role in 2004 on behalf of the Bush administration when it refused to give the Senate Intelligence Committee documents from Libby's office on the alleged misuse of intelligence information regarding Iraq."

Mr. Addington may as well have turned the documents over for safekeeping to Pat Roberts, because, as it turned out, the Republican chairman of the Intelligence Committee didn't want to investigate anything.

Angry at the Scooter scandal, the Addington appointment and the Roberts stonewalling, Senate Democrats did something remarkable yesterday: they dimmed the lights, stamped their feet and shut down the Senate.

Tired of being in the dark, the Democrats put the Republicans in the dark. Childish, perhaps, but effective. Republicans screamed but grudgingly agreed to take a look at where the investigation stands. But even if the Senate starts investigating again, Mr. Addington, now promoted, will have even more authority not to cooperate.

It's the Cheney chain of command.

CIA accused of running secret jails in Europe for terrorists

CIA accused of running secret jails in Europe for terrorists
By Daniel McGrory and Tim Reid

THE Bush Administration all but acknowledged last night that it runs a network of secret and unaccountable prisons in foreign countries where it hides and interrogates terror suspects.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that the US has a global network of “black sites” with the co-operation of countries such as Jordan, Egypt, Morocco and Afghanistan, and at least one Eastern European nation. Stephen Hadley, Mr Bush’s National Security Adviser, refused to deny the accusation.

Instead, he said: “The fact they are secret — assuming there are such sites — some people say that the test of your principles are what you do when no one’s looking. The President has insisted that whether it is in the public or in private, the same principles will apply.”

He added: “The President has been very clear . . . that the United States will not torture, the United States will conduct its activities in compliance with law and international obligations. While we have to do what is necessary to defend the country against terrorist attacks, the President has been very clear that we have to do that in way that is consistent with our values.”

The Washington Post said one of the sites was a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe, but agreed not to identify the country involved.

Hungary, Slovakia and Bulgaria rushed to issue denials of their involvement. But Frantisek Bublan, Interior Minister of the Czech Republic, said last night that the US had approached his Government a month ago about holding suspects on its territory, but Prague had refused.

Human rights groups point at Poland and Romania as two eastern European countries that have taken in America’s “ghost detainees”. They also claimed that the US was running out of countries willing to host its terror suspects.

The secret facilities depend on the co-operation of foreign intelligence services, and on their existence being kept completely secret from all but a tiny handful of top officials.

Tom Malinowski, the director of Human Rights Watch, told The Times that his investigators had tracked CIA aircraft transferring detainees from Afghanistan to airfields in Eastern Europe that are closed to the public and press, including two in Poland and Romania.

Mr Malinowski said that Human Rights Watch was “90 per cent certain” the CIA used Szymany airport in Poland.

“This is an obscure, rural airport which is very close to a Polish intelligence facility,” Mr Malinowski said.

He said the second major eastern European site was the Mihail-Kogalniceanu military airbase in Romania.

The Post’s report came at a time of growing concern on Capitol Hill and within factions of the Pentagon over the CIA’s highly secret anti-terror operations and the way it interrogates prisoners. There have been growing calls for more transparency after the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal and evidence of abuse in other prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Jimmy Carter, the former Democrat President, accused the Bush Administration of degrading moral standards underpinning decades of US foreign policy. “In the last five years there has been a profound and radical change in the basic policies or moral values of our country,” he said.

In a remarkably strong rebuff to the White House last month, the Senate voted 90-9, in favour of legislation introduced by the Republican senator John McCain to ban “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” of any detainee. Dick Cheney, the Vice-President, is insisting that the CIA be exempted from the legislation.


Abu Zubaydah
Palestinian-born al-Qaeda operational commander, mastermind of the September 11 attacks. Arrested in Pakistan, 2002, interrogated in Afghanistan and is said to have given information that foiled big terror attacks

Mustafa al-Hawsawi
36-year-old Saudi-born computer expert known as Osama bin Laden’s banker. Arrested in Pakistan, 2003. Said to have told agents about al-Qaeda funding and betrayed terrorists sent to the West. Moved from a secret camp in Afghanistan to Diego Garcia and is believed to have been held on a US warship for a time

Ibn al-Shaikh al-Libi
Ran al-Qaeda’s biggest training camp in Afghanistan. Arrested fleeing the Tora Bora cave complex as bin Laden made his escape in 2001

Ramzi Binalshibh
A link man for September 11 hijackers. Arrested in Karachi on September 11,,11069-1855381,00.html

a "New Globalized Aristocracy"

The Question of the Emergence of a "New Globalized Aristocracy"
By Eric Le Boucher
Le Monde

Saturday 29 October 2005

Was Lionel Jospin correct to denounce "a new dominant caste," "an aristocracy" that "emerges from an implicit alliance between the heads of large companies, financiers, senior industrial and service sector executives, certain senior bureaucrats and privileged media personalities?"

This group, he writes in his last book (Le monde comme je le vois [The World as I See it], Gallimard) "enjoins other social categories to make sacrifices in the name of global competition or of economic equilibrium, but does not itself consent to any effort or renunciation and doesn't even conceive that such a thing could be possible." The former bourgeoisie was patriotic, sometimes nationalistic and, in France at any rate, protectionist. The new caste considers itself international, even transnational. The national economic space is not its natural reference. On the contrary, it marries the universe and ideology of capitalist globalization since that is what provides the justification for its existence and its demands."

Scandalous Privileges

Lionel Jospin adds that "returning [this caste] to a better idea of its own social utility and national duties is an urgent necessity for the equilibrium of our society, so great is the anger in our country that its behavior and scandalous privileges have begun to provoke." The former Prime Minister does not say how he intends to bring this about.

The accusation is creating controversy. For some, it smells of populism and, had Mr. Jospin not gone on in the next chapter to reject opposing the people and the elites, one could easily believe he had given in to that facile temptation. For others, it seems obvious that Mr. Jospin is correct and that the globalized elite has divorced its native lands.

What should we think about all this? Let's first note that Lionel Jospin uses words (aristocracy, caste) to please the most traditional Socialist electorate. I don't know whether he's aiming for the 2007 election, but the political maneuver is obvious. This chapter, moreover, is related to a book in which the former Prime Minister denounces the by-products of Liberalism and rejects "any social-Liberal synthesis." Lionel Jospin, like other leaders of his party, plays the hard Socialist; he flirts with the Socialist Party's militant base, the very left ideas of which are familiar. Therefore: down with the new aristos!

A Half-Million Euros

But is his analysis correct? Yes. Yes, some leaders and senior executives have divorced their nations. Yes, their future is in globalization. Yes, business lawyers, bankers, senior executives of multinational groups - it's not only the CEOs of CAC 40 [the French Fortune 500] who earn a half million Euros a year. To talk about the emergence of this group is, in fact, a banality: the "nomads" presaged by Jacques Attali have interests that diverge from those of the less well-trained, less mobile people whom capitalism no longer needs, but who remain stuck in the national clay. The gifted are in demand, the others abandoned. Skill, will, and ability are better and even much better paid than before. We are living through a great victory of meritocracy over equalitarianism.

Then one would counter Lionel Jospin with the argument that intelligence or gifts are not transmitted to one's children and therefore we cannot talk about an aristocracy.

Yet the former Prime Minister sees things as they are. For one of the strong characteristics of modern capitalism is that "the winner takes all." We see it in all domains and at all levels: only the "good" - those the system judges good - succeed, and they are few. They are, moreover, immediately replaceable, which increases their desire to get rich quickly. Hence the straight line increase in CEO salaries, like those of football stars.

Inequalities that had stabilized during the "glorious thirties" are increasing very rapidly in the United States. The richest 5% acquire the major share of family income growth. Here's the radical novelty: redistribution, which was the transmission mechanism of Fordian capitalism, has lost much of its importance in today's capitalism. "Integrating the lower classes is no longer necessary; the elites function all on their own," economist Daniel Cohen summarizes.

Now - and that's another novelty - the power of money is beginning to create a dynastic effect. "Education has become a relatively rare resource, cheap labor an ever more abundant resource. Access to education is becoming a fundamental determinant of inequalities," explains Harvard professor Jacques Mistral. He continues: in the United States "the rate of university attendance by students from low income families remains low and does not correct the inequalities of the initial situation." Selection by money begins to replace selection by talent and we may fear the birth of a true aristocracy.

France does not escape this issue: parents from the upper classes send, or dream of having the means to send, their children to English or American universities because French universities have become hallways of the unemployment office.


A new elite then, with aristocratic tendencies. But for all that, is it antipatriotic, as Mr. Jospin says, or clearly anti-French? No doubt that's where his analysis gets lost in demagoguery. Is Bill Gates anti-American? Richard Branson anti-British? No. And the CEOs of the CAC 40 are not anti-French either.

Only, here's the thing: the French among this global elite fulminate against the political class and its immobility. They're not against the government, they're more inclined to favor it, but they are against its ineffectiveness. When a country declines, the rich have the reflexes of the bourgeois comprador (to place their interests elsewhere). It's not very moral. But it is, as Lionel Jospin admits, economically rational. Keeping them will no longer depend on taxes or sabre-rattling (to which Dominique de Villepin - who essentially thinks like his predecessor - has resorted). It begins by the re-establishment of a useful government and by a university that must be able to keep its "best" students.

Translation: t r u t h o u t French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher.

Paul Krugman - Ending the Fraudulence

Ending the Fraudulence
By Paul Krugman
The New York Times

Monday 31 October 2005

Let me be frank: it has been a long political nightmare. For some of us, daily life has remained safe and comfortable, so the nightmare has merely been intellectual: we realized early on that this administration was cynical, dishonest and incompetent, but spent a long time unable to get others to see the obvious. For others - above all, of course, those Americans risking their lives in a war whose real rationale has never been explained - the nightmare has been all too concrete.

So is the nightmare finally coming to an end? Yes, I think so. I have no idea whether Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor, will bring more indictments in the Plame affair. In any case, I don't share fantasies that Dick Cheney will be forced to resign; even Karl Rove may keep his post. One way or another, the Bush administration will stagger on for three more years. But its essential fraudulence stands exposed, and it's hard to see how that exposure can be undone.

What do I mean by essential fraudulence? Basically, I mean the way an administration with an almost unbroken record of policy failure has nonetheless achieved political dominance through a carefully cultivated set of myths.

The record of policy failure is truly remarkable. It sometimes seems as if President Bush and Mr. Cheney are Midases in reverse: everything they touch - from Iraq reconstruction to hurricane relief, from prescription drug coverage to the pursuit of Osama - turns to crud. Even the few apparent successes turn out to contain failures at their core: for example, real G.D.P. may be up, but real wages are down.

The point is that this administration's political triumphs have never been based on its real-world achievements, which are few and far between. The administration has, instead, built its power on myths: the myth of presidential leadership, the ugly myth that the administration is patriotic while its critics are not. Take away those myths, and the administration has nothing left.

Well, Katrina ended the leadership myth, which was already fading as the war dragged on. There was a time when a photo of Mr. Bush looking out the window of Air Force One on 9/11 became an iconic image of leadership. Now, a similar image of Mr. Bush looking out at a flooded New Orleans has become an iconic image of his lack of connection. Pundits may try to resurrect Mr. Bush's reputation, but his cult of personality is dead - and the inscription on the tombstone reads, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

Meanwhile, the Plame inquiry, however it winds up, has ended the myth of the administration's monopoly on patriotism, which was also fading in the face of the war.

Apologists can shout all they like that no laws were broken, that hardball politics is nothing new, or whatever. The fact remains that officials close to both Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush leaked the identity of an undercover operative for political reasons. Whether or not that act was illegal, it was clearly unpatriotic.

And the Plame affair has also solidified the public's growing doubts about the administration's morals. By a three-to-one margin, according to a Washington Post poll, the public now believes that the level of ethics and honesty in the government has declined rather than risen under Mr. Bush.

So the Bush administration has lost the myths that sustained its mojo, and with them much of its power to do harm. But the nightmare won't be fully over until two things happen.

First, politicians will have to admit that they were misled. Second, the news media will have to face up to their role in allowing incompetents to pose as leaders and political apparatchiks to pose as patriots.

It's a sad commentary on the timidity of most Democrats that even now, with Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former chief of staff, telling us how policy was "hijacked" by the Cheney-Rumsfeld "cabal," it's hard to get leading figures to admit that they were misled into supporting the Iraq war. Kudos to John Kerry for finally saying just that last week.

And as for the media: these days, there is much harsh, justified criticism of the failure of major news organizations, this one included, to exert due diligence on rationales for the war. But the failures that made the long nightmare possible began much earlier, during the weeks after 9/11, when the media eagerly helped our political leaders build up a completely false picture of who they were.

So the long nightmare won't really be over until journalists ask themselves: what did we know, when did we know it, and why didn't we tell the public?

Dick and Don's Cabal Mapped Out

In "The White House Cabal" Colin Powell's former Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson wrote the following:

In President Bush's first term, some of the most important decisions about U.S. national security - including vital decisions about postwar Iraq - were made by a secretive, little-known cabal. It was made up of a very small group of people led by Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. . . . I believe that the decisions of this cabal were sometimes made with the full and witting support of the president and sometimes with something less. More often than not, then-national security advisor Condoleezza Rice was simply steamrolled by this cabal.

Its insular and secret workings were efficient and swift - not unlike the decision-making one would associate more with a dictatorship than a democracy. This furtive process was camouflaged neatly by the dysfunction and inefficiency of the formal decision-making process, where decisions, if they were reached at all, had to wend their way through the bureaucracy, with its dissenters, obstructionists and "guardians of the turf."

Now has put together the definitive schematic guide to this cabal. View it here or download it as a PDF file here.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Another Lost Opportunity - New York Times

Another Lost Opportunity
New York Times Editorial

Published: November 1, 2005

The nomination of Samuel Alito Jr. to the Supreme Court raises a lot of questions about the judge's attitudes toward federalism, privacy and civil rights. But it has already answered one big question about President Bush. Anyone wondering whether the almost endless setbacks and embarrassments the White House has suffered over the last year would cause Mr. Bush to fix his style of governing should realize that the answer is: no.

As a political candidate, Mr. Bush had an extremely useful ability to repeat the same few simple themes over and over. As president, he has been cramped by the same habit. The solution to almost every problem seems to be either to rely on a close personal associate or to pander to his right wing. When the first tactic failed to work with the Harriet Miers nomination, Mr. Bush resorted to the second. The Alito nomination has thrilled social conservatives, who regard the judge to be a surefire vote against abortion rights.

Judge Alito is clearly a smart and experienced jurist, with 15 years on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The nominee should be given a serious hearing. The need for a close and careful review of Judge Alito's record is all the more crucial because he will be replacing Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who has been the swing vote of moderation on so many issues.

The concerns about this particular nominee go beyond his apparent hostility to abortion, which was most graphically demonstrated in 1992 when his court ruled on what became known in the Supreme Court as the Casey decision. Judge Alito was the sole judge on his court who took the extreme position that all of Pennsylvania's limitations on abortion were constitutional, including the outrageous requirement that a woman show that she had notified her spouse.

Judge Alito has favored an inflated standard of evidence for racial- and sex-discrimination cases that would make it very hard even to bring them to court, much less win. In an employment case, he said that just for a plaintiff to have the right to a trial, she needed to prove that her employers did not really think they had chosen the best candidate for a job. When lawyers for a black death-row inmate sought to demonstrate bias in jury selection by using statistics, Judge Alito dismissed that as akin to arguing that Americans were biased toward left-handers because left-handed men had won five out of six of the preceding presidential elections.

At least as worrisome are Judge Alito's frequent rulings to undermine the federal government's authority to address momentous national problems. Dissenting in a 1996 gun control case, he declared that Washington could not regulate the sale of fully automatic machine guns. In 2000, Judge Alito said Washington could not compel state governments to abide by the Family and Medical Leave Act, a position repudiated by the Supreme Court in a decision written by Justice William Rehnquist.

When a judge is more radical on states' power than Justice Rehnquist, the spiritual leader of the modern states' rights movement, we should pay attention.

There are more moderate rulings in Judge Alito's record as well, and it will be up to the Senate to sort this out. Does he show merely a conservative bent, or a zealotry outside the mainstream that poses a threat to basic rights and protections?

Whatever the answer, this nomination is yet another occasion to bemoan lost opportunities. Mr. Bush could have signaled that he was prepared to move on to a more expansive presidency by nominating a qualified moderate who could have garnered a nearly unanimous Senate vote rather than another party-line standoff. He could have sent a signal about his commitment to inclusiveness by demonstrating that he understood his error with Harriet Miers had been in picking the wrong woman, and that the answer did not have to be the seventh white man on the court. But he didn't, any more than he saw Sept. 11 as an opportunity to build a new, inclusive world order of civilized nations aligned against terrorism.

Anyone who imagines that the indictment of Lewis Libby and the legal troubles of Karl Rove will be a cue to bring fresh ideas to the White House should read the signs. With more than three years to go in this term, the bottom line is becoming inescapable. Mr. Bush does not want to change, and perhaps is not capable of changing. The final word on the Supreme Court is yet to come, but the message about the presidency could not be more disheartening.

What the 'Shield' Covered Up

What the 'Shield' Covered Up

By E. J. Dionne Jr.
Tuesday, November 1, 2005; A25

Has anyone noticed that the coverup worked?

In his impressive presentation of the indictment of Lewis "Scooter" Libby last week, Patrick Fitzgerald expressed the wish that witnesses had testified when subpoenas were issued in August 2004, and "we would have been here in October 2004 instead of October 2005."

Note the significance of the two dates: October 2004, before President Bush was reelected, and October 2005, after the president was reelected. Those dates make clear why Libby threw sand in the eyes of prosecutors, in the special counsel's apt metaphor, and helped drag out the investigation.

As long as Bush still faced the voters, the White House wanted Americans to think that officials such as Libby, Karl Rove and Vice President Cheney had nothing to do with the leak campaign to discredit its arch-critic on Iraq, former ambassador Joseph Wilson.

And Libby, the good soldier, pursued a brilliant strategy to slow the inquiry down. As long as he was claiming that journalists were responsible for spreading around the name and past CIA employment of Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, Libby knew that at least some news organizations would resist having reporters testify. The journalistic "shield" was converted into a shield for the Bush administration's coverup.

Bush and his disciples would like everyone to assume that Libby was some kind of lone operator who, for this one time in his life, abandoned his usual caution. They pray that Libby will be the only official facing legal charges and that political interest in the case will dissipate.

You can tell the president worries that this won't work, because yesterday he did what he usually does when he's in trouble: He sought to divide the country and set up a bruising ideological fight. He did so by nominating a staunchly conservative judge to the Supreme Court.

Judge Samuel Alito is a red flag for liberals and red meat for Bush's socially conservative base. Alito has a long paper trail as a 15-year veteran of a court of appeals and a strong right-wing reputation. This guarantees a huge battle that will serve the president even if Alito's nomination fails: Anything that "unites the base" and distracts attention from the Fitzgerald investigation is good news for Bush.

That is why Senate Democrats -- and one hopes they might be joined by some brave Republicans -- should insist that before Alito's nomination is voted on, Bush and Cheney have some work to do.

The Fitzgerald indictment makes perfectly clear that the White House misled the public as to its involvement in sliming Wilson and talking about Plame.

Bush needs to tell the public -- yes, the old phrase still applies -- what he knew about the operation to discredit Wilson and when he knew it. And he shouldn't hide behind those "legalisms" that Republicans were so eager to condemn in the Clinton years.

The obligation to come clean applies, big-time, to Cheney, who appears at several critical points in the saga detailed in the Fitzgerald indictment. What exactly transpired in the meetings between Libby and Cheney on the Wilson case? It is inconceivable that an aide as careful and loyal as Libby was a rogue official. Did Cheney set these events in motion? This is a question about good government at least as much as it is a legal matter.

Fitzgerald has made clear that he wants to keep this case going if doing so will bring us closer to the truth. Lawyers not involved in the case suggest that the indictment was written in a way that could encourage Libby, facing up to 30 years in prison, to cooperate in that effort.

But there is a catch. If Libby, through nods and winks, knows that at the end of Bush's term, the president will issue an unconditional pardon, he will have no interest in helping Fitzgerald, and every interest in shutting up. If Bush truly wants the public to know all the facts in the leak case, as he has claimed in the past, he will announce now that he will not pardon Libby. That would let Fitzgerald finish his work unimpeded, and we would all have a chance, at last, to learn how and why this sad affair came to pass.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Frank Rich - One Step Closer to the Big Enchilada

One Step Closer to the Big Enchilada
By Frank Rich
The New York Times

Sunday 30 October 2005

To believe that the Bush-Cheney scandals will be behind us anytime soon you'd have to believe that the Nixon-Agnew scandals peaked when G. Gordon Liddy and his bumbling band were nailed for the Watergate break-in. But Watergate played out for nearly two years after the gang that burglarized Democratic headquarters was indicted by a federal grand jury; it even dragged on for more than a year after Nixon took "responsibility" for the scandal, sacrificed his two top aides and weathered the indictments of two first-term cabinet members. In those ensuing months, America would come to see that the original petty crime was merely the leading edge of thematically related but wildly disparate abuses of power that Nixon's attorney general, John Mitchell, would name "the White House horrors."

In our current imperial presidency, as in its antecedent, what may look like a narrow case involving a second banana with a child's name contains the DNA of the White House, and that DNA offers a road map to the duplicitous culture of the whole. The coming prosecution of Lewis (Scooter) Libby in the Wilson affair is hardly the end of the story. That "Cheney's Cheney," as Mr. Libby is known, would allegedly go to such lengths to obscure his role in punishing a man who challenged the administration's W.M.D. propaganda is just one very big window into the genesis of the smoke screen (or, more accurately, mushroom cloud) that the White House used to sell the war in Iraq.

After the heat of last week's drama, we can forget just how effective the administration's cover-up of that con job had been until very recently. Before Patrick Fitzgerald's leak investigation, there were two separate official investigations into the failure of prewar intelligence. With great fanfare and to great acclaim, both found that our information about Saddam's W.M.D.'s was dead wrong. But wittingly or unwittingly, both of these supposedly thorough inquiries actually protected the White House by avoiding, in Watergate lingo, "the big enchilada."

The 601-page report from the special presidential commission led by Laurence Silberman and Charles Robb, hailed at its March release as a "sharp critique" by Mr. Bush, contains only a passing mention of Dick Cheney. It has no mention whatsoever of Mr. Libby or Karl Rove or their semicovert propaganda operation (the White House Iraq Group, or WHIG) created to push all that dead-wrong intel. Nor does it mention Douglas Feith, the first-term under secretary of defense for policy, whose rogue intelligence operation in the Pentagon supplied the vice president with the disinformation that bamboozled the nation.

The other investigation into prewar intelligence, by the Senate Intelligence Committee, is a scandal in its own right. After the release of its initial findings in July 2004, the committee's Republican chairman, Pat Roberts, promised that a Phase 2 to determine whether the White House had misled the public would arrive after the presidential election. It still hasn't, and no wonder: Murray Waas reported Thursday in The National Journal that Mr. Cheney and Mr. Libby had refused to provide the committee with "crucial documents," including the Libby-written passages in early drafts of Colin Powell's notorious presentation of W.M.D. "evidence" to the U.N. on the eve of war.

Along the way, Mr. Fitzgerald's investigation has prompted the revelation of much of what these previous investigations left out. But even so, the trigger for the Wilson affair - the administration's fierce effort to protect its hype of Saddam's uranium - is only one piece of the larger puzzle of post- and pre-9/11 White House subterfuge. We're a long way from putting together the full history of a self-described "war presidency" that bungled the war in Iraq and, in doing so, may be losing the war against radical Islamic terrorism as well.

There are many other mysteries to be cracked, from the catastrophic, almost willful failure of the Pentagon to plan for the occupation of Iraq to the utter ineptitude of the huge and costly Department of Homeland Security that was revealed in all its bankruptcy by Katrina. There are countless riddles, large and small. Why have the official reports on detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo spared all but a single officer in the chain of command? Why does Halliburton continue to receive lucrative government contracts even after it's been the focus of multiple federal inquiries into accusations of bid-rigging, overcharging and fraud? Why did it take five weeks for Pat Tillman's parents to be told that their son had been killed by friendly fire, and who ordered up the fake story of his death that was sold relentlessly on TV before then?

These questions are just a representative sampling. It won't be easy to get honest answers because this administration, like Nixon's, practices obsessive secrecy even as it erects an alternative reality built on spin and outright lies.

Mr. Cheney is a particularly shameless master of these black arts. Long before he played semantics on "Meet the Press" with his knowledge of Joseph Wilson in the leak case, he repeatedly fictionalized crucial matters of national security. As far back as May 8, 2001, he appeared on CNN to promote his new assignment, announced that day by Mr. Bush, to direct a governmentwide review of U.S. "consequence management" in the event of a terrorist attack. As we would learn only in the recriminatory aftermath of 9/11 (from Barton Gellman of The Washington Post), Mr. Cheney never did so.

That stunt was a preview of Mr. Cheney's unreliable pronouncements about the war, from his early prediction that American troops would be "greeted as liberators" in Iraq to this summer's declaration that the insurgency was in its "last throes." Even before he began inflating Saddam's nuclear capabilities, he went on "Meet the Press" in December 2001 to peddle the notion that "it's been pretty well confirmed" that there was a direct pre-9/11 link between Mohammed Atta and Iraqi intelligence. When the Atta-Saddam link was disproved later, Gloria Borger, interviewing the vice president on CNBC, confronted him about his earlier claim, and Mr. Cheney told her three times that he had never said it had been "pretty well confirmed." When a man thinks he can get away with denying his own words even though there are millions of witnesses and a video record, he clearly believes he can get away with murder.

Mr. Bush is only slightly less brazen. His own false claims about Iraq's W.M.D.'s ("We found the weapons of mass destruction," he said in May 2003) are, if anything, exceeded by his repeated boasts of capturing various bin Laden and Zarqawi deputies and beating back Al Qaeda. His speech this month announcing the foiling of 10 Qaeda plots is typical; as USA Today reported last week, at least 6 of the 10 on the president's list "involved preliminary ideas about potential attacks, not terrorist operations that were about to be carried out." In June, Mr. Bush stood beside his attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, and similarly claimed that "federal terrorism investigations have resulted in charges against more than 400 suspects" and that "more than half" of those had been convicted. A Washington Post investigation found that only 39 of those convictions had involved terrorism or national security (as opposed to, say, immigration violations). That sum could yet be exceeded by the combined number of convictions in the Jack Abramoff-Tom DeLay scandals.

The hyping of post-9/11 threats indeed reflects the same DNA as the hyping of Saddam's uranium: in both cases, national security scares are trumpeted to advance the White House's political goals. Keith Olbermann of MSNBC recently compiled 13 "coincidences" in which "a political downturn for the administration," from revelations of ignored pre-9/11 terror warnings to fresh news of detainee abuses, is "followed by a 'terror event' - a change in alert status, an arrest, a warning." To switch the national subject from the fallout of the televised testimony of the F.B.I. whistle-blower Coleen Rowley in 2002, John Ashcroft went so far as to broadcast a frantic announcement, via satellite from Russia, that the government had "disrupted an unfolding terrorist plot" to explode a dirty bomb. What he was actually referring to was the arrest of a single suspect, Jose Padilla, for allegedly exploring such a plan - an arrest that had taken place a month earlier.

For now, it's conventional wisdom in Washington that the Bush White House's infractions are nowhere near those of the Nixon administration, as David Gergen put it on MSNBC on Friday morning. But Watergate's dirty tricks were mainly prompted by the ruthless desire to crush the political competition at any cost. That's a powerful element in the Bush scandals, too, but this administration has upped the ante by playing dirty tricks with war. Back on July 6, 2003, when the American casualty toll in Iraq stood at 169 and Mr. Wilson had just published his fateful Op-Ed, Robert Novak, yet to write his column outing Mr. Wilson's wife, declared that "weapons of mass destruction or uranium from Niger" were "little elitist issues that don't bother most of the people." That's what Nixon administration defenders first said about the "third-rate burglary" at Watergate, too.


Left-Lane Driver: The Romance of Republicans

Left-Lane Driver: The Romance of Republicans
Block Blind Love for America Doesn't Make for Genuine Patriotism
Neil Visalvanich - Columnist
Monday, February 14, 2005

Valentine's Day is a day dedicated to celebrating the love between a man and a woman -- or a man and a man, a woman and a woman, whichever your poison. But after spending the past weekend gouging out my wallet in the pursuit of material representations of love for my girlfriend, I think I've just about had enough of that kind of love. So instead, I'm going to dedicate this column space to the often-neglected love between a citizen and his country. This is better known as patriotism.

What we often associate with patriotism now is the sort of blind patriotism that has infected this country since 9/11. This is the kind of patriotism that leads you to believe that if you put an American flag decal on your SUV, you're somehow absolved from making your country a better place. If you can sing the national anthem, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, shop at Wal-Mart, hate the terrorists and eat an entire bucket of fried chicken while watching the Super Bowl, then doggone it, you've done your part. This sort of blind patriotism puts the unconditional love into the relationship but none of the responsibility.

Al Franken said it best: "Conservatives love America like a child loves his mommy, and mommy can do no wrong. Whereas [liberals] love America like an adult loves someone... always working to appreciate what's there, being critical of what's wrong and trying to help and make it better." Of course, Franken is generalizing. But within Franken's sweeping partisan generalization lies a more poignant point - what ever happened to trying to help make America better? What happened to loving - and I mean really loving - America?

Some people seem to think making America better means turning back the clock some 50-odd years, back to the day when it was thought that giving someone a hand job would not only get you pregnant but would probably cause your head to explode. Others want to rewind even further, back to when corporations could treat workers like indentured servants and get away with it, all in the name of the almighty buck.

While the right loves to wax nostalgic on what a great country America was before the supposed excesses of the 1960s, I say that if we want to know real and genuine patriotism, we should look even further back, back to the era before the Civil War, back to the idea of civic republicanism. Civic republicanism was the crazy idea that it was a citizen's duty to set aside personal interest for the common good - the good of the nation. Needless to say, today's Republican Party is hardly loyal to the concept that is their namesake. Our relationship with our country has regressed into a relationship of neglect and abuse. Instead of "what you can do for your country," it has become "what you can do for yourself."

If you want examples, all you need to do is look around. While war rages on in the Middle East, this is the first time in American history that the American people have not been asked to make sacrifices. The Bush administration has chosen not to pay for the wars it starts. Instead, it puts it on a credit card, and not only that, it cuts taxes for the richest of us. The message is clear: We don't need to pay for this war; our children can. In addition to that, families of dead veterans of the war in Iraq are paid a paltry $11,000, barely a subsistence annual living, and attempts to raise these benefits are routinely blocked by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and his cronies.

Only in America could you pretend to wear a flag on your lapel in "solidarity" with the troops all the while working against their interests. Every Hummer you see represents more oil money being funneled to Middle Eastern regimes that hate us, all because some jackass thinks it's cool to drive a car that gets seven miles to the gallon. We live in a society where it's OK to give multinational corporations welfare but not provide basic health care necessities to our very own citizens.

Citizenship means more than the obligation to spend and consume. It's time to ask ourselves what we can do for our country after we're done waving the flag.

Neil Visalvanich is a Daily Nexus columnist.