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 12, 2005 - With friends like these: E-mail in Abramoff probe reveals lobbyists' contempt for Christian conservatives they wooed as allies

Nov. 11, 2005, 7:39PM

E-mail unearthed in Abramoff investigation reveals the contempt in which lobbyists held the Christian conservatives they wooed as allies

Two federal investigations of the activities of Washington, D.C., lobbyist Jack Abram-off provide a window into the mindset of the cynical group of influence peddlers that received $45 million from Indian tribes to further their gambling interests.

Judging by the sentiments of Mike Scanlon, a former spokesman for U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, and Abramoff's secret partner, conservative Christians provided an essential and unwitting tool in the lobbyists' fight in Louisiana on behalf of the Coushatta tribe against rival gambling operations. Scanlon composed a memo in October 2001 that he sent to Coushatta lawyer Kathy VanHoof and Abramoff describing the role religious radio could play in the effort:

"Simply put," Scanlon wrote, "we want to bring out the wackos to vote against something and make sure the rest of the public lets the whole thing slip past them. The wackos get their information from the Christian right, Christian radio, mail, the Internet and telephone trees."

Scanlon detailed a strategy to advertise on Christian radio against proposed casinos at Delta Downs and Pinnacle. "We will produce and air at least two radio ads that give biblical reasons why [the casinos] should be blocked and the tracks shut down." Scanlon recommended providing $575,000 for "solidifying the support of the Christian conservatives and the minority religious outlets of SW Louisiana."

The Coushatta tribe also paid former Christian Coalition director and Bush presidential campaign strategist Ralph Reed $1.2 million to work against competing gambling operations. Scanlon pegged the cost of the entire operation to defeat the casinos at a little more than $3 million. The ultimate objective was "to control both houses of the state legislature and the governor's mansion." Scanlon grandly boasted the program could make his clients the dominant political force in every district in the state.

The irony of Scanlon's strategy was that he used covert money contributed by one gambling interest to mobilize religious voters to vote against other gambling operations. This manipulation was politics at its ugliest and most deceitful and was laced with the lobbyist's contempt for the very people he was wooing.

Responsible religious leaders should look closely at the FBI and Senate investigations of Abramoff as they unfold. It will help them to keep from becoming the pawns of cynical political operators. Meanwhile, congressional leaders who have put the machinations of such lobbyists above the public interest should feel their shame. -- | Section: Editorial
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GOP memo touts new terror attack as way to reverse party's decline

From Capitol Hill Blue

GOP memo touts new terror attack as way to reverse party's decline
Publisher, Capitol Hill Blue
Nov 10, 2005, 06:19

A confidential memo circulating among senior Republican leaders suggests that a new attack by terrorists on U.S. soil could reverse the sagging fortunes of President George W. Bush as well as the GOP and "restore his image as a leader of the American people."

The closely-guarded memo lays out a list of scenarios to bring the Republican party back from the political brink, including a devastating attack by terrorists that could “validate” the President’s war on terror and allow Bush to “unite the country” in a “time of national shock and sorrow.”

The memo says such a reversal in the President's fortunes could keep the party from losing control of Congress in the 2006 midterm elections.

GOP insiders who have seen the memo admit it’s a risky strategy and point out that such scenarios are “blue sky thinking” that often occurs in political planning sessions.

“The President’s popularity was at an all-time high following the 9/11 attacks,” admits one aide. “Americans band together at a time of crisis.”

Other Republicans, however, worry that such a scenario carries high risk, pointing out that an attack might suggest the President has not done enough to protect the country.

“We also have to face the fact that many Americans no longer trust the President,” says a longtime GOP strategist. “That makes it harder for him to become a rallying point.”

The memo outlines other scenarios, including:

--Capture of Osama bin Laden (or proof that he is dead);

--A drastic turnaround in the economy;

--A "successful resolution" of the Iraq war.

GOP memos no longer talk of “victory” in Iraq but use the term “successful resolution.”

“A successful resolution would be us getting out intact and civil war not breaking out until after the midterm elections,” says one insider.

The memo circulates as Tuesday’s disastrous election defeats have left an already dysfunctional White House in chaos, West Wing insiders say, with shouting matches commonplace and the blame game escalating into open warfare.

“This place is like a high-school football locker room after the team lost the big game,” grumbles one Bush administration aide. “Everybody’s pissed and pointing the finger at blame at everybody else.”

Republican gubernatorial losses in Virginia and New Jersey deepened rifts between the Bush administration and Republicans who find the President radioactive. Arguments over whether or not the President should make a last-minute appearance in Virginia to try and help the sagging campaign fortunes of GOP candidate Jerry Kilgore raged until the minute Bush arrived at the rally in Richmond Monday night.

“Cooler heads tried to prevail,” one aide says. “Most knew an appearance by the President would hurt Kilgore rather than help him but (Karl) Rove rammed it through, convincing Bush that he had enough popularity left to make a difference.”

Bush didn’t have any popularity left. Overnight tracking polls showed Kilgore dropped three percentage points after the President’s appearance and Democrat Tim Kaine won on Tuesday.

Conservative Pennsylvania Republican Senator Rick Santorum told radio talk show host Don Imus Wednesday that he does not want the President's help and will stay away from a Bush rally in his state on Friday.

The losses in Virginia and New Jersey, coupled with a resounding defeat of ballot initiatives backed by GOP governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in California have set off alarm klaxons throughout the demoralized Republican party. Pollsters privately tell GOP leaders that unless they stop the slide they could easily lose control of the House in the 2006 midterm elections and may lose the Senate as well.

“In 30 years of sampling public opinion, I’ve never seen such a freefall in public support,” admits one GOP pollster.

Democratic pollster Geoffrey Garin says the usual tricks tried by Republicans no longer work.

"None of their old tricks worked," he says.

Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) admits the GOP is a party mired in its rural base in a country that's becoming less and less rural.

"You play to your rural base, you pay a price," he says. "Our issues blew up in our face."

As Republican political strategists scramble to find a message – any message – that will ring true with voters, GOP leaders in Congress admit privately that control of their party by right-wing extremists makes their recovery all but impossible.

“We’ve made our bed with these people,” admits an aide to House Speaker Denny Hastert. “Now it’s the morning after and the hangover hurts like hell.”

Asterisks Dot White House's Iraq Argument

Asterisks Dot White House's Iraq Argument

Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, November 12, 2005; A01

President Bush and his national security adviser have answered critics of the Iraq war in recent days with a two-pronged argument: that Congress saw the same intelligence the administration did before the war, and that independent commissions have determined that the administration did not misrepresent the intelligence.

Neither assertion is wholly accurate.

The administration's overarching point is true: Intelligence agencies overwhelmingly believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and very few members of Congress from either party were skeptical about this belief before the war began in 2003. Indeed, top lawmakers in both parties were emphatic and certain in their public statements.

But Bush and his aides had access to much more voluminous intelligence information than did lawmakers, who were dependent on the administration to provide the material. And the commissions cited by officials, though concluding that the administration did not pressure intelligence analysts to change their conclusions, were not authorized to determine whether the administration exaggerated or distorted those conclusions.

National security adviser Stephen J. Hadley, briefing reporters Thursday, countered "the notion that somehow this administration manipulated the intelligence." He said that "those people who have looked at that issue, some committees on the Hill in Congress, and also the Silberman-Robb Commission, have concluded it did not happen."

But the only committee investigating the matter in Congress, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has not yet done its inquiry into whether officials mischaracterized intelligence by omitting caveats and dissenting opinions. And Judge Laurence H. Silberman, chairman of Bush's commission on weapons of mass destruction, said in releasing his report on March 31, 2005: "Our executive order did not direct us to deal with the use of intelligence by policymakers, and all of us were agreed that that was not part of our inquiry."

Bush, in Pennsylvania yesterday, was more precise, but he still implied that it had been proved that the administration did not manipulate intelligence, saying that those who suggest the administration "manipulated the intelligence" are "fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments."

In the same speech, Bush asserted that "more than 100 Democrats in the House and the Senate, who had access to the same intelligence, voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power." Giving a preview of Bush's speech, Hadley had said that "we all looked at the same intelligence."

But Bush does not share his most sensitive intelligence, such as the President's Daily Brief, with lawmakers. Also, the National Intelligence Estimate summarizing the intelligence community's views about the threat from Iraq was given to Congress just days before the vote to authorize the use of force in that country.

In addition, there were doubts within the intelligence community not included in the NIE. And even the doubts expressed in the NIE could not be used publicly by members of Congress because the classified information had not been cleared for release. For example, the NIE view that Hussein would not use weapons of mass destruction against the United States or turn them over to terrorists unless backed into a corner was cleared for public use only a day before the Senate vote.

The lawmakers are partly to blame for their ignorance. Congress was entitled to view the 92-page National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq before the October 2002 vote. But, as The Washington Post reported last year, no more than six senators and a handful of House members read beyond the five-page executive summary.

Even within the Bush administration, not everybody consistently viewed Iraq as what Hadley called "an enormous threat." In a news conference in February 2001 in Egypt, then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said of the economic sanctions against Hussein's Iraq: "Frankly, they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction."

Bush, in his speech Friday, said that "it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began." But in trying to set the record straight, he asserted: "When I made the decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, Congress approved it with strong bipartisan support."

The October 2002 joint resolution authorized the use of force in Iraq, but it did not directly mention the removal of Hussein from power.

The resolution voiced support for diplomatic efforts to enforce "all relevant Security Council resolutions," and for using the armed forces to enforce the resolutions and defend "against the continuing threat posed by Iraq."

Hadley, in his remarks, went further. "Congress, in 1998, authorized, in fact, the use of force based on that intelligence," he said. "And, as you know, the Clinton administration took some action."

But the 1998 legislation gave the president authority "to support efforts to remove the regime of Saddam Hussein" by providing assistance to Iraqi opposition groups, including arms, humanitarian aid and broadcasting facilities.

President Bill Clinton ordered four days of bombing of Iraqi weapons facilities in 1998, under the 1991 resolution authorizing military force in response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. Describing that event in an interview with CBS News yesterday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said: "We went to war in 1998 because of concerns about his weapons of mass destruction."

Friday, November 11, 2005

Robert Novak: Bush is Radioactive

Even ROBERT NOVAK is now calling the Emperor naked!!!!!

Dem's win in Va. gov race gives GOP a scare

November 10, 2005


House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and the House Republican campaign chairman, Rep. Tom Reynolds, were given a sobering warning last week by senior GOP political operatives. They were told that on Tuesday, Nov. 8, the Democrats were sure to win the governorship of Virginia. After that, the warning continued, the watchword within the House majority would be: Every man for himself!

The victory of Democrat Tim Kaine over Republican Jerry Kilgore was the only contest in scattered off-year elections that was carefully monitored on Capitol Hill. For a liberal Virginian to win a Southern red state signaled that cherished Republican majorities in both House and Senate, plus all the perquisites they entail, could be lost in 2006. Eyeing the Democratic landslide in suburban northern Virginia just over the Potomac from Washington that gave Lt. Gov. Kaine the governorship, Republicans in Congress envision their own doom.

The antidote to avoid that fate is to keep as far away from President Bush as possible, a lesson underlined by the president's failed election rescue mission for former Virginia state Attorney General Kilgore. The consequences may be profound. As his approval rating dipped, Bush increasingly has been treated in Congress as a lame duck. Tuesday's Virginia outcome increases the propensity of Republican senators and House members not only to avoid their president on the campaign trail but also to ignore his legislative proposals.

Tuesday's off-year election outcomes do not approximate the clear warning signal given Democrats 12 years ago when the 1993 flip from Democrat to Republican for governor of Virginia and New Jersey and mayor of New York presaged the 1994 GOP landslide. This year's expected Democratic win in New Jersey and retention of a nominal Republican in New York's City Hall did not constitute a national sea change.

The political message read on Capitol Hill came strictly from the Virginia governor's race. How to explain that Democratic victory in a red state where both U.S. senators, eight out of 11 House members and comfortable margins in both houses of the legislature are Republican, and a Republican won for lieutenant governor Tuesday?

They blame Kilgore's defeat on Bush's popularity dipping below 50 percent in Virginia. After avoiding the president on Bush's recent visit to Norfolk, a desperate Kilgore asked for eleventh-hour help. The Monday night appearance in Richmond by a dispirited and exhausted Bush, returning from his difficult Latin America trip, was a dud.

But reasons for the second straight Democratic triumph for governor of Virginia go beyond Bush fatigue. ''I'm not going to blame the president,'' Jim Gilmore, the last Republican elected to the governorship and former national party chairman, told me on election night after Kaine's victory was apparent. He added: ''We have to stand up for the taxpayer to present a firm and consistent message.''

Gilmore was elected in 1997 when Democrats opposed his promised repeal of the hated car tax. Eight years later, Democrats transmuted Gov. Mark Warner's tax increase by claiming the mantle of fiscal responsibility thanks to Republican waffling on taxes. Kilgore epitomized what was wrong with the Virginia Republicans by sounding an uncertain trumpet on taxes and abortion.

There was no reason for Republican joy elsewhere Tuesday. The party's big win was the re-election landslide in New York City of Michael Bloomberg, who governs largely as a Democrat. The easy victory for governor of New Jersey of a flawed candidate, Sen. Jon Corzine, represented the futility of relying on self-financed candidate Douglas Forrester, who was despised by social conservatives. In California, the defeat of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's ballot issues represented a lost opportunity nationally to curb labor union political power.

Bush gets the blame. In the days immediately preceding Tuesday's elections, Republican committee chairmen in Congress grew increasingly contemptuous of their president. Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, dismissed Bush's Social Security plan as something to be shelved until after the 2008 presidential election. Rep. Joe Barton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, opposed Bush's requested $7 billion to fight bird flu. Thanks to Virginia, Bush can expect more of the same.

MO-Gov: Nixon to challenge Blunt

MO-Gov: Nixon to challenge Blunt
by kos (dailykos)
Fri Nov 11, 2005

Democratic MO AG Jay Nixon is getting an early start for 2008:

Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon filed the paperwork Thursday to launch a 2008 campaign for governor, resolving any doubts about his desire to replace Gov. Matt Blunt.

"In this step, my focus is on the people of Missouri and our incumbent governor," Nixon said in an interview with Post-Dispatch editorial writers and reporters. "I just think that the time is right."

Nixon, a Democrat, offered a scathing assessment about Blunt, a Republican who has been in office less than a year.

"It's a harder and more difficult question for me to answer about what they've done right than what they've done wrong," Nixon said, referring to Blunt's administration.

Blunt has the third lowest approval of any governor in the US, bringing up the rear with fellow Republicans Taft (OH), One-Term-Inator (CA), Fletcher (KY), and Murkowski (AK).

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Tom Oliphant - As Virginia goes

The Boston Globe
As Virginia goes

By Thomas Oliphant, Globe Columnist | November 10, 2005

FOR A FULL generation, the very conservative state of Virginia has been attempting to instruct the rest of the country on the perils of grand political and ideological theory.

With Ronald Reagan's stunning victory in 1980, all the rage in politics was over a supposedly looming realignment in American politics, a fundamental shift to the right every bit as momentous as the lurch during the New Deal and for a spell after Lyndon Johnson's landslide in 1964.

The very next year, however, Chuck Robb was elected governor, the first of three consecutive moderately conservative Democrats who hoisted a large caution flag in the face of this alleged movement. The next year, conservatives lost working control of the House of Representatives, and in 1986 they lost the Senate.

When Democrats foolishly speculated that they had rediscovered electoral magic with Bill Clinton's election in 1992, it was Virginia that said not so fast the next year with the election of conservative Republican George Allen as governor, foreshadowing the 1994 GOP earthquake that lasted the decade, as did Republican control of the Virginia state house.

And when the post-9/11 politics of fear and war -- mixed with the venomous elixir of so-called social issues served up by the religious right -- both ensconced George W. Bush in the White House for two terms and solidified Republican control of Congress, it was chic to theorize that conservative voters in rapidly growing outer suburbs were again producing the long-awaited realignment.

But in Virginia, this week's election in fact pointed toward moderation and Democratic competitiveness in those very suburbs. First Mark Warner in 2001 and then Tim Kaine even more dramatically this week proved that a red state is not always what it seems. Instead of being increasingly populated havens for megachurch social conservatism and low-tax conservatism, these suburbs demonstrated that they are also places where middle-income adults flock in a desperate search for affordable housing and where they show a deep concern about threats to open space and wetlands, gridlocked traffic, and quality public education.

In Loudon County (Leesburg) and Prince William County (Haymarket and Quantico) and the city of Manassas, places where Bush trounced John Kerry a year ago, Lieutenant Governor Timothy Kaine beat superconservative Republican Jerry Kilgore on his way to an impressive 6-point margin statewide.

Virginia also holds an important lesson about governance in this hyperpartisan era. The uncomfortable truth for those who worship ideologies is that common sense is a more useful tool in facing this country's serious problems than rigid tenets. Back in 1997, the GOP candidate for governor, Jim Gilmore, swept to victory on a promise to eliminate the state's onerous personal property tax on cars. It was great politics, but poor planning left a gigantic hole in Virginia's public finances as a result.

With the state facing a true crisis, Mark Warner and the Democrats got a mandate four years ago to fix the mess. With the Legislature in Republican hands, there was no option but a long campaign to build a coalition across party lines for a solution that mixed some reform with a serious increase in the state tax burden. It worked, but many Republicans could not come to terms with it; Kaine in effect ran for governor to keep the momentum going and was joined to Warner's hip throughout.

As attention properly focuses on Warner as a potential presidential candidate in 2008, the lesson of his tenure is clear for national Democrats. Success at the polls still leaves a stark political reality that demands bipartisan governance if huge budget messes are to be cleaned up and other major challenges are to be confronted.

It is a lesson still completely lost on President Bush, whose last-minute appearance in Richmond last Sunday was irrelevant. For the record, the latest opinion survey -- by the Pew Center -- put his job approval rating at a new low, 36 percent. His support among independent voters is an abysmal 29 percent, and even his Republican rating has shed 12 points this year to 77 percent. At this rate, in the 2006 campaign, he will be the Flying Dutchman.

The only other major pol with numbers that horrendous is egomaniac Arnold Schwarzenegger, who lost on all four referendum questions he used to force California to go through another special election. What began with such promise two years ago has become just another special-interest-coddling administration that is developing many of the features of the Bush presidency.

Like opinion polls, off-year elections are just a snapshot, not necessarily a harbinger. However, they do have a tendency to deflate the expectations of the previous year's victors. In politics, the pendulum is always moving, and once again, Virginia is the primary reality check.

Thomas Oliphant's e-mail address is
© Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Bob Herbert -- An Army Ready to Snap

An Army Ready to Snap
By Bob Herbert
The New York Times

Thursday 10 November 2005

Have you heard what's been happening to the military?

Most people have heard that more than 2,000 American G.I.'s have been killed in the nonstop meat grinder of Iraq. There was a flurry of stories about that grim milestone in the last week of October. (Since then the official number of American deaths has jumped to at least 2,055, and it continues to climb steadily.)

More than 15,000 have been wounded in action.

But the problems of the military go far beyond the casualty figures coming out of the war zone. The Army, for example, has been stretched so taut since the Sept. 11 attacks, especially by the fiasco in Iraq, that it's become like a rubber band that may snap at any moment.

President Bush and Donald Rumsfeld convinced themselves that they could win the war in Iraq on the cheap. They never sent enough troops to do the job. Now the burden of trying to fight a long and bitter war with too few troops is taking a terrible toll on the men and women in uniform.

Last December, the top general in the Army Reserve warned that his organization was "rapidly degenerating into a 'broken' force" because of the Pentagon's "dysfunctional" policies and demands placed on the Reserve by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

As one of my colleagues at The Times, David Unger of the editorial board, wrote, "The Army's commitments have dangerously and rapidly expanded, while recruitment has plunged."

Soldiers are being sent into the crucible of Iraq for three and even four tours, a form of Russian roulette that is unconscionable.

"They feel like they're the only ones sacrificing," said Paul Rieckhoff, a former Army lieutenant who served in Iraq and is now the executive director of Operation Truth, an advocacy group for service members and veterans.

"They're starting to look around and say, 'You know, it's me and my buddies over and over again, and everybody else is living life uninterrupted.' "

When I asked Mr. Rieckhoff what he thought was happening with the Army, he replied, "The wheels are coming off."

The Washington Post, in a lengthy article last week, noted:

"As sustained combat in Iraq makes it harder than ever to fill the ranks of the all-volunteer force, newly released Pentagon demographic data show that the military is leaning heavily for recruits on economically depressed, rural areas where youths' need for jobs may outweigh the risks of going to war."

For those already in the Army, the price being paid - apart from the physical toll of the killed and wounded - is high indeed.

Divorce rates have gone way up, nearly doubling over the past four years. Long deployments - and, especially, repeated deployments - can take a vicious toll on personal relationships.

Chaplains, psychologists and others have long been aware of the many dangerous factors that accompany wartime deployment: loneliness, financial problems, drug or alcohol abuse, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, the problems faced by the parent left at home to care for children, the enormous problem of adjusting to the devastation of wartime injuries, and so on.

The Army is not just fighting a ruthless insurgency in Iraq. It's fighting a rear-guard action against these noncombat, guerrilla-like conditions that threaten its own viability.

There are reasons why parents all across America are telling their children to run the other way when military recruiters come to call. There are reasons why so many lieutenants and captains, fine young men and women, are heading toward the exit doors at the first opportunity.

A captain who is on active duty, and therefore asked not to be identified by name, told me yesterday:

"The only reason I stayed in the Army was because one colonel convinced me to do it. Other than that, I would have walked. Basically, these guys who are leaving have their high-powered educations. Some are from West Point. They've done their five years. Why should they stay and go back to Iraq and die in a war that's just going to keep on going?"

Beyond that, he said, "Guys are not going to stay in the Army when their wives are leaving them."

From the perspective of the troops, he said, the situation in Iraq is perverse.

He could find no upside. "You go to war," he said, "and you could lose your heart, your mind, your arms, your legs - but you cannot win. The soldiers don't win."

Let’s Be Blunt: Congressional Leadership Is In Disarray


Let’s Be Blunt: Congressional Leadership Is In Disarray

On Wednesday, Majority Leader Roy Blunt (R-MO) was “convinced” that the budget would get to the House floor today and pass:

Eventually we’re going to take something to the floor that is a test of the members more than we intended to test the members, because that’s just going to happen. I’m convinced that we’re going to be fine when we take this to the floor on Thursday.

Things change quickly:

House Republican leaders scuttled a vote Thursday on a $51 billion budget-cut package in the face of a revolt by lawmakers over scaling back Medicaid, food stamp and student loan programs. The development was a major setback for the GOP on Capitol Hill and for President Bush, who has made cuts to benefit programs a central pillar in his budget plan.

Ray McGovern - CIA v. Cheney

CIA v. Cheney
By Ray McGovern
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Wednesday 09 November 2005

Allegations keep cropping up in the press that CIA professionals are undermining the administration. In at least one sense, I suppose, this is true. For when an administration embarks on a war justified by little or no intelligence, speaking truth can be regarded as treachery. The country could use more of that kind of "treachery."

Vice President Cheney in Trouble

Cheney's current situation has the makings of a Greek tragedy in the way he is about to self-destruct. The tragic flaw of overweening arrogance - the Greeks called it hubris - did not begin with Euripides. Nor will it end with the inexorably approaching demise of the vice president and other leaders of the current US administration.

Richard Nixon's first vice president, Spiro Agnew, aside from his fulsome rhetoric, was hardly a heroic figure. So when his petty crimes were brought to light, he left the White House quietly by the side door. This is not Dick Cheney's style. And it is probably too late now for that kind of denouement. He is far more likely to press the self-destruct button, and perhaps even bring President George W. Bush down with him. Absolute power does indeed corrupt absolutely. Small wonder that Republican stalwart, and national security adviser to George H.W. Bush, Gen. Brent Scowcroft, who has worked closely with Cheney over the years, now says "I do not know Dick Cheney."

Patriotic truth-tellers are coming out of the woodwork. For example, Larry Wilkerson, who was former Secretary of State Colin Powell's chief of staff, has made public his conclusion that Cheney was the main author of this administration's policy of torturing detainees "as appropriate and as consistent with military necessity." Leaks in the dike are proliferating. Perhaps worst of all, from the president's point of view, is the fact that Karl Rove has pulled his finger out of the dike - preoccupied as he is in avoiding indictment and jail. Katrina-type flooding is threatening the White House.

For Cheney, the disclosures regarding the network of overseas prisons run by the CIA, together with his dogged opposition to Congressional restraints on interrogation techniques, may prove the last straw. There are signs he might be foolish enough to pull the strings on genuine-investigation-averse Pat Roberts (R, Kan.), chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, to gather a posse to "bring to justice" the administration sources who gave chapter and verse to the Washington Post's Dana Priest for her detailed article on the prisons last week. If Roberts launches an investigation, he is likely to round up first the usual suspects in the CIA, for which Cheney has such deep distrust. But none of this would help.

Cheney, Wilson, Plame

L'Affaire Cheney-and-the-Wilsons would never sell as a novel. It is nonetheless fascinating as a "now-running" tragic drama in which the main player is once again done in by hubris. The affair is most important, though, as a harbinger of things to come. It provides a case study of how Cheney, in a self-destructive way, lashed out at the CIA when he became convinced that Agency officials were deliberately undermining his attempts to conjure up "intelligence" to justify war on Iraq. It is a telling lesson - and worth a short review, starting with a query that has troubled more than one questioner.

"It just doesn't parse," they complain, "if Vice President Dick Cheney was aware from the start of the very fragile nature, regarding both provenance and substance, of the report on Iraq seeking uranium in Niger, what was he thinking when he asked the CIA to look into it?" The Agency rank and file and Cheney were no friends. He was already having a very hard time muscle-wrestling CIA analysts into seeing "evidence" of a relationship between al-Qaeda and Iraq, to enable the administration to provide "evidence" for the campaign to associate Saddam Hussein with the attacks of 9/11.

There is ample evidence that the vice president saw the reluctance of CIA analysts to jump on that bandwagon as recalcitrance - indeed, as sabotage. They continued, for example, to pour cold water on a report that one of the 9/11 hijackers, Mohammed Atta, had met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague, even though the Cheney-Rumsfeld "cabal" (Wilkerson's word) kept citing that spurious report as evidence of Iraqi ties to 9/11. The CIA ombudsman testified to Congress that, in 32 years of experience in Agency's analytical ranks, he had never before witnessed such "hammering" on intelligence analysts to hold their noses and give their blessing to dubious evidence. On this issue, at least - as opposed to the issue of (non-existent) "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq, Agency analysts refused to allow themselves to be corrupted - until their director, George Tenet, caved in for Colin Powell's (in)famous UN speech of February 5, 2003.

It is worth recalling that, before Tenet caved, CIA analysts were receiving outside encouragement from the likes of Gen. Brent Scowcroft, who saw the whole game for what it was and gratuitously told the press that the evidence of Iraq-al-Qaeda ties was "scant," while "cabalist" Rumsfeld was saying the evidence was "bulletproof." Scowcroft was fired almost a year ago from his position as chairman of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Being right does not help.

So, Again, the Question

In the face of such recalcitrance, why would the vice president ask CIA officials, of all people, to investigate other dubious "evidence" of nefarious activity by Iraq?

Answer: He did not anticipate what they would do. Nothing was further from his mind. He set in train something he never intended. Cheney was hoisted on his own petard.

When the cockamamie story of Iraq seeking yellowcake uranium in Niger first came to the attention of CIA analysts in Washington, they threw it into the circular file for very good substantive reasons. First and foremost, with an international consortium led by the French tightly controlling the export of uranium mined in Niger, the chances were virtually nil that the Iraqis could bring this off. As the Silberman-Robb Commission makes clear, it was the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency, not the CIA, that wrote up the analytical report that found its way onto Cheney's desk.

Why did Cheney ask his CIA briefer what he thought of the DIA analysis?

Answer: He was in the habit of "hammering" on CIA analysts - during his "multiple visits" to CIA headquarters, for example - to beat them into submission so they would serve up the politically correct answer on such matters.

In sum, in my opinion, it probably did not occur to the vice president that the CIA would take his query so seriously as to send a highly qualified person down to Niger who, in turn, would be able to give the lie to the report. I can vouch from personal experience that, when the vice president of the United States expresses interest in more information on a specific report, the Agency will hop to and pursue the matter aggressively, as it should. A mite too aggressively, in this case, for Cheney's objectives.

Enter the Nonproliferation Division

The Nonproliferation Division of the Directorate of Operations, in which Valerie Wilson was working, was told of Cheney's query and asked former ambassador Joseph Wilson, who during his earlier service in Africa became intimately familiar with the mining industry in Niger, to travel to Niger to check out the report. Wilson's findings were duly reported and disseminated. (When the vice president asks the bureaucracy a question, you can count on it being answered one way or another.) At the time, Wilson did not know that the Iraq-Niger canard had been woven out of whole cloth by forgerers. Still, his account should have put the last nail in the coffin into which that dead duck should have been thrown.

It is a safe assumption that Cheney was not pleased, to put it mildly, when he learned that the CIA had responded quickly by sending Wilson to Niger.

It was not pure paranoia. In Cheney's mind, Wilson had three main things against him.

* Rather than following the customary ex-ambassador routine of grousing privately over cocktails in Georgetown parlors, Wilson had been drawing on his considerable substantive expertise in speaking out strongly - often publicly - against the planning for and execution of the war with Iraq;

* As the diplomat who faced down Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War (for which former president George H.W. Bush had called him "an American hero"), Wilson enjoyed particularly wide respect and credibility; and

* Baffled by President George W. Bush's citing of the worn-out and discredited Iraq-Africa-uranium fairytale in his State of the Union address in January 2003, Wilson had been making not-so-discreet inquiries as to why the president chose to repeat the fable. Did he perhaps have better evidence? The answer was no.

Wilson concluded, correctly in my opinion, that the administration had shown itself prepared to twist intelligence to "justify" attacking Iraq and that it had little else upon which to base the conjuring up of the "mushroom cloud" that deceived Congress into voting for war. Several months into the war, no evidence of weapons of mass destruction (much less of the "reconstituted" nuclear weapons development program repeatedly advertised by Cheney) had been found. And the "explanation" offered by the Cheney/Rumsfeld "cabal," namely, that patience was needed because Iraq is the size of California, was wearing thin. The Iraq-Niger story was about all they had left.

Then, a Double Whammy

It was bad enough for the administration when Wilson's op-ed, "What I Didn't Find in Africa," appeared in the New York Times on July 6, 2003; and worse still when this consummate ambassador permitted himself to tell Washington Post reporters that the Iraq-Niger affair "begs the question regarding what else they are lying about." But when Cheney learned that the former ambassador's wife, Valerie Wilson née Plame, worked in the Nonproliferation Division that sent Wilson off on the mission to Niger, the vice president would almost certainly have seen deliberate sabotage by the CIA

I believe Cheney smelled a rat, the rat of deliberate defiance - in Cheney's eyes a mutinous attempt to deny him the kind of "intelligence" he knew would be required to deceive Congress. Mrs. Wilson is a veteran CIA operative trained to spot a spurious report a mile away. Cheney could only assume that she would have recognized the Iraq-Niger canard for what it was, and sent her husband to Niger to give the lie to the report. Policymakers immersed in the world of politics often have difficulty distinguishing between honest efforts by intelligence professionals to pursue the truth on the one hand and insubordination/sabotage on the other.

The Iraq-Niger fish story had already begun to stink. Tenet had insisted on deleting it from the president's "mushroom-cloud" speech on October 7, 2002, just three days before Congress voted to approve war. Yet the White House was acutely embarrassed when it had to retract the story after it had found its way into the president's State of the Union address the following January. As for then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, although he used a plethora of spurious material in his UN speech of February 5, 2003, the Niger story smelled so bad that it did not meet even that low threshold. And it did not help a bit when Powell was asked why the president had repeated the story in late January, while he (Powell) chose not to use it just a week later; Powell damned the president's words with very faint praise, saying they were "not completely outrageous."

Ray McGovern, co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), was a CIA analyst for 27 years. His responsibilities included daily briefings of the vice president and other senior officials. Ray now works for Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

NY Daily News - Dubya-Cheney Ties Frayed by Scandal

Dubya-Cheney Ties Frayed by Scandal
By Thomas M. DeFrank
The New York Daily News

Tuesday 08 November 2005

'There has been some distance for some time.'

Washington - The CIA leak scandal has peeled back the veil on the most closely held White House secret of all: the subtle but unmistakable erosion in the bond between President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

Multiple sources close to Bush told the Daily News that while the vice president remains his boss' valued political partner and counselor, his clout has lessened - primarily as a result of issues arising from the Iraq war.

"The relationship is not what it was," a presidential counselor said. "There has been some distance for some time."

A senior administration official termed any such suggestion "categorically false."

Several sources said the distance is certain to accelerate with the Oct. 28 indictment of Lewis (Scooter) Libby, Cheney's former chief of staff and geopolitical soul mate.

"Cheney is wounded by this," a longtime Bush associate said.

Outwardly, there is little to suggest anything is amiss. Cheney, wife Lynne and their two daughters were guests, for example, at last week's A-list Bush dinner for the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall.

Earlier this year, Bush praised Cheney at a GOP campaign dinner as a "steady adviser, the solid rock - and what a decent man he is. I'm proud to be serving with him for four more years."

"The public side of the relationship hasn't changed," a close presidential loyalist said. "The private side of the relationship is not to the degree it used to be. Cheney has been his gray-haired senior adviser. That's the void that needs to be filled."

Other sources familiar with Bush's thinking say Cheney's zealous advocacy for what has become a troubled Iraq policy has taken a toll - especially since Cheney's predictions about how Iraq would play out have proven optimistic.

These sources also said Libby's indictment was a wakeup call for White House aides who have long believed the Cheney national security operation has enjoyed too much of a free hand in administration policymaking.

"The vice president's office will never be quite as independent from the White House as it has been," said a key Bush associate. "That will end.

"Cheney never operated without a degree of [presidential] license, but there are people around who cannot believe some of the advice [Bush] has been given."

The source declined to offer any specifics, citing the extraordinary sensitivity surrounding the Bush-Cheney relationship.

The News reported on Oct. 24 that Bush has told associates Cheney was overly immersed in intelligence issues in the runup to the 2003 Iraq war.

A highly placed source said the President believes Cheney "got too deeply concerned with being portrayed as the source of the Wilson trip."

"It's not clear if Cheney was trying to protect Bush or trying to protect Cheney," the source added.

After Cheney expressed interest in reports Saddam Hussein tried to buy weapons-grade uranium in Africa, the CIA sent ex-Ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger to check out the claims. Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was later exposed as a CIA operative after Wilson criticized the Bush administration's rationale for going to war with Iraq.

Digby - This is Not a Good Man [Dick Cheney]

This is Not A Good Man
By Digby

Kevin Drum says:

As a wise man said back in January 2003 regarding Cheney and his curiously enduring reputation for competence even in the face of mountains of contrary evidence, "his terrible judgment will, at some point, become impossible even for the Beltway crowd not to see." Looking back, perhaps historians will say that November 2005 was when they finally saw it.

I agree. It's finally coming into focus that every single one of this administration's so-called grown-ups are idiots. There were people who knew that the avuncular Dick Cheney was something of a nut, but nobody believed them. He just seemed so darned competent compared to the callow Junior, there was no need to look any further.

Frances Fitzgerald pointed out back in 2002 that Cheney was a bit of freak, in her fascinating article in the New York review of Books called "Bush and the World:"

In “A World Transformed,” the memoir that he and Bush senior published in 1998, [Brent] Scowcroft makes it clear that while all Bush senior's top advisers had different perspectives, the fundamental division lay between Defense Secretary Richard Cheney and everyone else. By his account, and by those of others in the administration, Cheney never trusted Gorbachev. In 1989 Cheney maintained that Gorbachev's reforms were largely cosmetic and that, rather than engage with the Soviet leader, the US should stand firm and keep up cold war pressures. In September 1991 Cheney argued that the administration should take measures to speed the breakup of the Soviet Union—even at the risk of encouraging violence and incurring long-term Russian hostility. He opposed the idea, which originated with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Colin Powell, that the US should withdraw its tactical nuclear weapons from Europe and South Korea. As a part of the preparations for the Gulf War he asked Powell for a study on how small nuclear weapons might be used against Iraqi troops in the desert.

The man is clearly a fool and always has been. Larry Johnson wrote about Cheney and torture today over on TPM cafe and mentions that the real CIA guys aren't all that into torture because it doesn't work. He suggests that Cheney and his minions got their ideas about all this from the movies.

That certainly does ring true to me. Here's an old favorite, that's amazingly illustrative of the incredible shallowness of Big Time, the man who was supposed to help little Junior get over his lack of foreign policy sophistication:

Following one White House meeting at which he'd asked for more time and more troops, Stormin' Norman reports; Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell called to warn the Desert Storm commander that he was being loudly compared, by a top administration official, to George McClellan. "My God," the official supposedly complained. "He's got all the force he needs. Why won't he just attack?" Schwarzkopf notes that the unnamed official who'd made the comment "was a civilian who knew next to nothing about military affairs, but he'd been watching the Civil War documentary on public television and was now an expert."

And then, twenty pages later, Schwarzkopf casually drops the information that he got an inspirational gift from Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney right before the air war finally got under way. Cheney was presenting a gift to a military man, and he chose something with an appropriate theme: "(A) complete set of videotapes of Ken Burns's PBS series, The Civil War."

But that wasn't the only gift that Dick Cheney had for Norman Schwarzkopf. Having figured out that the general was being too cautious with his fourth combat command in three decades of soldiering, Cheney got his staff busy and began presenting Schwarzkopf with his own ideas about how to fight the Iraqis: What if we parachute the 82nd Airborne into the far western part of Iraq, hundreds of miles from Kuwait and totally cut off from any kind of support, and seize a couple of missile sites, then line up along the highway and drive for Baghdad? Schwarzkopf charitably describes the plan as being "as bad as it could possibly be... But despite our criticism, the western excursion wouldn't die: three times in that week alone Powell called with new variations from Cheney's staff. The most bizarre involved capturing a town in western Iraq and offering it to Saddam in exchange for Kuwait." (Throw in a Pete Rose rookie card?) None of this Walter Mitty posturing especially surprised Schwarzkopf, who points out that he'd already known Cheney as "one of the fiercest cold warriors in Congress.

Remember the adoring crowds and nearly hysterical screaming for this kook during last years election? What in gawd's name were those people drinking?

New York Times Editorial - President Bush's Walkabout

November 8, 2005
President Bush's Walkabout

After President Bush's disastrous visit to Latin America, it's unnerving to realize that his presidency still has more than three years to run. An administration with no agenda and no competence would be hard enough to live with on the domestic front. But the rest of the world simply can't afford an American government this bad for that long.

In Argentina, Mr. Bush, who prides himself on his ability to relate to world leaders face to face, could barely summon the energy to chat with the 33 other leaders there, almost all of whom would be considered friendly to the United States under normal circumstances. He and his delegation failed to get even a minimally face-saving outcome at the collapsed trade talks and allowed a loudmouthed opportunist like the president of Venezuela to steal the show.

It's amazing to remember that when Mr. Bush first ran for president, he bragged about his understanding of Latin America, his ability to speak Spanish and his friendship with Mexico. But he also made fun of Al Gore for believing that nation-building was a job for the United States military.

The White House is in an uproar over the future of Karl Rove, the president's political adviser, and spinning off rumors that some top cabinet members may be asked to walk the plank. Mr. Bush could certainly afford to replace some of his top advisers. But the central problem is not Karl Rove or Treasury Secretary John Snow or even Donald Rumsfeld, the defense secretary. It is President Bush himself.

Second terms may be difficult, but the chief executive still has the power to shape what happens. Ronald Reagan managed to turn his messy second term around and deliver - in great part through his own powers of leadership - a historic series of agreements with Mikhail Gorbachev that led to the peaceful dismantling of the Soviet empire. Mr. Bush has never demonstrated the capacity for such a comeback. Nevertheless, every American has a stake in hoping that he can surprise us.

The place to begin is with Dick Cheney, the dark force behind many of the administration's most disastrous policies, like the Iraq invasion and the stubborn resistance to energy conservation. Right now, the vice president is devoting himself to beating back Congressional legislation that would prohibit the torture of prisoners. This is truly a remarkable set of priorities: his former chief aide was indicted, Mr. Cheney's back is against the wall, and he's declared war on the Geneva Conventions.

Mr. Bush cannot fire Mr. Cheney, but he could do what other presidents have done to vice presidents: keep him too busy attending funerals and acting as the chairman of studies to do more harm. Mr. Bush would still have to turn his administration around, but it would at least send a signal to the nation and the world that he was in charge, and the next three years might not be as dreadful as they threaten to be right now.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Frank Rich: The Mysterious Death of Pat Tillman

The Mysterious Death of Pat Tillman
By Frank Rich
The New York Times

Sunday 06 November 2005

It would be a compelling story," Patrick Fitzgerald said of the narrative Scooter Libby used to allegedly mislead investigators in the Valerie Wilson leak case, "if only it were true."

"Compelling" is higher praise than any Mr. Libby received for his one work of published fiction, a 1996 novel of "murder, passion and heart-stopping chases through the snow" called "The Apprentice." If you read the indictment, you'll see why he merits the critical upgrade. The intricate tale he told the F.B.I. and the grand jury - with its endlessly clever contradictions of his White House colleagues' testimony - is compelling even without the sex and the snow.

The medium is the message. This administration just loves to beguile us with a rollicking good story, truth be damned. The propagandistic fable exposed by the leak case - the apocalyptic imminence of Saddam's mushroom clouds - was only the first of its genre. Given that potboiler's huge success at selling the war, its authors couldn't resist providing sequels once we were in Iraq. As the American casualty toll surges past 2,000 and Veterans Day approaches, we need to remember and unmask those scenarios as well. Our troops and their families have too often made the ultimate sacrifice for the official fictions that have corrupted every stage of this war.

If there's a tragic example that can serve as representative of the rest, it is surely that of Pat Tillman, the Arizona Cardinals defensive back who famously volunteered for the Army in the spring after 9/11, giving up a $3.6 million N.F.L. contract extension. Tillman wanted to pay something back to his country by pursuing the enemy that actually attacked it, Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Instead he was sent to fight a war in Iraq that he didn't see coming when he enlisted because the administration was still hatching it in secret. Only on a second tour of duty was he finally sent into Taliban strongholds in Afghanistan, where, on April 22, 2004, he was killed. On April 30, an official Army press release announcing his Silver Star citation filled in vivid details of his last battle. Tillman, it said, was storming a hill to take out the enemy, even as he "personally provided suppressive fire with an M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon machine gun."

It would be a compelling story, if only it were true. Five weeks after Tillman's death, the Army acknowledged abruptly, without providing details, that he had "probably" died from friendly fire. Many months after that, investigative journalists at The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times reported that the Army's initial portrayal of his death had been not only bogus but also possibly a cover-up of something darker. "The records show that Tillman fought bravely and honorably until his last breath," Steve Coll wrote in The Post in December 2004. "They also show that his superiors exaggerated his actions and invented details as they burnished his legend in public, at the same time suppressing details that might tarnish Tillman's commanders."

This fall The San Francisco Chronicle uncovered still more details with the help of Tillman's divorced parents, who have each reluctantly gone public after receiving conflicting and heavily censored official reports on three Army investigations that only added to the mysteries surrounding their son's death. (Yet another inquiry is under way.) "The administration clearly was using this case for its own political reasons," said Patrick Tillman, Pat Tillman's father, who discovered that crucial evidence in the case, including his son's uniform and gear, had been destroyed almost immediately. "This cover-up started within minutes of Pat's death, and it started at high levels."

His accusations are far from wild. The Chronicle found that Gen. John Abizaid, the top American officer in Iraq, and others in his command had learned by April 29, 2004, that friendly fire had killed their star recruit. That was the day before the Army released its fictitious press release of Tillman's hillside firefight and four days before a nationally televised memorial service back home enshrined the fake account of his death. Yet Tillman's parents, his widow, his brother (who served in the same platoon) and politicians like John McCain (who spoke at Tillman's memorial) were not told the truth for another month.

Why? It's here where we find a repeat of the same pattern that drove the Valerie Wilson leak a year earlier. Faced with unwelcome news - from the front, from whistle-blowers, from scandal - this administration will always push back with change-the-subject stunts (like specious terror alerts), fake news or, as with Joseph Wilson, smear campaigns. Much as the White House was out to bring down Mr. Wilson because he threatened to expose its prewar hype of Saddam's supposed nuclear prowess, so the Pentagon might have been out to delay or rewrite a story that could be trouble when public opinion on the war itself was just starting to plummet.

It was an election year besides. Tillman's death came after a month of solid bad news for America and the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign alike: the publication of Richard Clarke's book about pre-9/11 administration counterterrorism fecklessness, the savage stringing up of the remains of American contractors in Falluja, the eruption of Sunni and Shiite insurgencies in six Iraqi cities, the first publication of illicit photos of flag-draped coffins. In the days just after Tillman's death, "60 Minutes II" first broadcast the Abu Ghraib photos, Ted Koppel read the names of the war's fallen on "Nightline," and the Pentagon's No. 2, the Iraqi war architect Paul Wolfowitz, understated by more than 200 the number of American casualties to date (722) in an embarrassing televised appearance before Congress.

Against this backdrop, it would not do to have it known that the most famous volunteer of the war might have been a victim of gross negligence or fratricide. Though Tillman himself was so idealistic that he refused publicity of any kind when in the Army, he was exploited by the war's cheerleaders as a recruitment lure and was needed to continue in that role after his death. (Even though he was adamantly against the Iraq war, according to friends and relatives interviewed by The Chronicle.)

"They blew up their poster boy," Patrick Tillman told The Post; he is convinced that "all the people in positions of authority went out of their way to script" the fake narrative (or, as he puts it, "outright lies") that followed. Pat Tillman's mother, Mary Tillman, was offended to discover that even President Bush wanted a cameo role in this screenplay: she told The Post that he had offered to tape a memorial to her son for a Cardinals game that would be televised shortly before Election Day. (She said no.)

In an interview with The Arizona Republic, Mary Tillman added: "They could have told us upfront that they were suspicious that it was a fratricide but they didn't. They wanted to use him for their purposes. It was good for the administration. It was before the elections. It was during the prison scandal. They needed something that looked good, and it was appalling that they would use him like that."

Appalling but consistent. The Pentagon has often failed to give the troops what they need to fight the war in Iraq, from proper support in manpower and planning at the invasion's outset to effective armor for battle to adequately financed health care for those who make it home. But when it comes to using troops in the duplicitous manner that Mary Tillman describes, the sky's the limit.

Pat Tillman's case is itself a replay of the fake "Rambo" escapades ascribed to Pfc. Jessica Lynch a year earlier, just when Operation Iraqi Freedom showed the first tentative signs of trouble and the Pentagon needed a feel-good distraction. As if to echo Mary Tillman, Ms. Lynch told Time magazine this year, "I was used as a symbol." But the troops aren't just used as symbols for the commander in chief's political purposes. They are also drafted to serve as photo-op props and extras, whether in an extravaganza like "Mission Accomplished" or a throwaway dog-and-pony show like the recent teleconference in which the president held a "conversation" with soldiers who sounded as spontaneous as the brainwashed G.I.'s in "The Manchurian Candidate."

As Mr. Bush's approval rating crashes into the 30's, he and the vice president are so desperate to wrap themselves in khaki that on the day of the Libby indictment, they took separate day trips to mouth the usual stay-the-course platitudes before military audiences. If this was a ploy to split the focus of cable news networks and the public, it failed. Perhaps Scooter Libby is hoping that a so-called faulty-memory defense will save him from jail, but too many other Americans are now refreshing their memories of what went down in the plotting and execution of the war in Iraq. What they find are harsh truths and buried secrets that even the most compelling administration scenarios can no longer disguise.

MSNBC - Cheney in the Bunker

Cheney in the Bunker
Bloodied but unbowed, the veep has a new number two. Game on.
By Daniel Klaidman and Michael Isikoff

Nov. 14, 2005 issue - As usual, Dick Cheney insisted on doing business behind closed doors. Last Tuesday, Senate Republicans were winding up their weekly luncheon in the Capitol when the vice president rose to speak. Staffers were quickly ordered out of the room—what Cheney had to say was for senators only. Normally taciturn, Cheney was uncharacteristically impassioned, according to two GOP senators who did not want to be on the record about a private meeting. He was very upset over the Senate's overwhelming passage of an amendment that prohibits inhumane treatment of terrorist detainees. Cheney said the law would tie the president's hands and end up costing "thousands of lives." He dramatized the point, conjuring up a scenario in which a captured Qaeda operative, another Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, refuses to give his interrogators details about an imminent attack. "We have to be able to do what is necessary," the vice president said, according to one of the senators who was present. The lawmakers listened, but they weren't moved to act. Sen. John McCain, who authored the anti-torture amendment, spoke up. "This is killing us around the world," he said. The House, which will likely vote on the measure soon, is also expected to pass it by a large margin.

These are tough times for Cheney. He has always been the administration's most "forward-leaning" force when it came to carrying out the war on terror and the Iraq invasion. Until recently Cheney's own authority was largely unchallenged in Republican Washington. But Congress, mindful of the public's turn against the war, is now openly defying his hard-line policies. Powerful figures—within the West Wing, at the State Department and Pentagon—who once deferred to him are now peeling away, worried that Cheney may have gone too far. His credibility has also been damaged by the CIA-leak investigation, which nabbed his trusted No. 2, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, who pleaded not guilty last week to charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.

The vice president could be forgiven for retreating to his undisclosed location and waiting out the worst of it. Instead, his response has been pure Cheney. He's not budging. If anything—as the Senate meeting shows—the veep has become more convinced that he's right and his opponents are wrong.

In his time of need, he has counted on the help of at least one unswervingly faithful aide. With Libby sidelined, the vice president has elevated David Addington, a loyal acolyte, to be his new chief of staff. Addington has been at the vice president's side since the 1980s, when Cheney was a congressman and Addington a lawyer for the House intelligence committee. When Cheney became secretary of Defense during the first Bush presidency, Addington went with him. A skilled bureaucratic infighter who uses his temper strategically to stun foes into submission, Addington, now 48, has matured into a classic Washington type: the most powerful man you've never heard of. As Cheney's counsel, Addington—a private workaholic who, unlike Libby, shuns reporters—was one of the most forceful voices for tough treatment of terror suspects. It was Addington who drafted the January 2002 Alberto Gonzales memo which argued that captured Taliban and Qaeda fighters shouldn't be covered by the Geneva Conventions. He was behind the presidential order establishing military tribunals. And he passionately argued that in wartime the president has almost unlimited power—a point of view that was spelled out in the "torture memo" that the administration was eventually forced to rescind under public pressure.

Now those policies have become a burden for the White House. When Bush began his second term in 2004, a group of top administration officials, led by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, began a quiet campaign to back off some controversial detention and interrogation methods that were damaging U.S. credibility around the world. At White House meetings, Rice openly worried that in the aftermath of Abu Ghraib "these policies threatened to be the president's legacy," says an administration official who was present but asked for anonymity about the private sessions. Among the proposals seriously considered inside the bureaucracy: shutting down the prison at Guan-tanamo Bay, allowing U.N. inspectors to tour Gitmo and pledging to follow Article III of the Geneva Conventions, which bars "cruel, degrading and inhumane" treatment of prisoners. Among Rice's supporters were two staunch defenders of the war on terror: national-security adviser Stephen Hadley, and Gordon England, Donald Rumsfeld's new deputy—an important shift that suggested Rumsfeld had qualms of his own.

Staffers were dispatched to write up the new policies. But in the end, nothing came of them. Cheney and Addington, who usually stayed silent at meetings, used their influence afterward to kill the ideas, according to three administration officials who asked for anonymity to avoid crossing the vice president. "Each time, [we] hit a brick wall—the vice president's office and Addington," says one of the officials. The vice president's office declined to comment for this story beyond saying that Cheney "is motivated first and foremost in support of policies that will save American lives from a brutal enemy that has declared war on us."

Cheney relied on Addington to help him wrestle with the bureaucracy. "He knows it inside and out," says Juleanna Glover Weiss, Cheney's former press secretary. "He's a master of the Rube Goldberg-esque workings of the executive branch." Friends marvel at his ability to wade through hundreds of pages of turgid government reports to seize upon the one fact he needs to win an argument. "If you threw the entire U.S. budget into the air, David Addington could read it and mark it up before it ever hit the ground," says David Gribbin, a former Pentagon colleague. He could also be unforgiving. When a young Justice Department lawyer named Pat Philbin crossed Addington in a policy dispute, Addington made it his mission to block Philbin's promotion to a top Justice job. Addington let it be known that Philbin was a "marked man," says a colleague who spoke anonymously to avoid clashing with Addington. (Addington and Philbin declined to comment.)

Cheney and Addington's single-minded devotion to the idea of a powerful wartime presidency has, at times, led them to ignore important political realities. In 2002, administration lawyers tried to persuade Cheney and Addington to back off from the policy of denying U.S. "enemy combatants" access to legal counsel. But Cheney and Addington refused. But by 2004, the case had reached the Supreme Court and the administration wound up abandoning the position anyway, before the Justices could knock it down as unconstitutional. "David could be principled to a fault," says Bradford Berenson, a former White House colleague. It's a quality the vice president and his loyal aide admire most about one another—and one that will help define the battles to come.
© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.

© 2005


Mark Engler - An unsafe world for US companies

An unsafe world for US companies
By Mark Engler

The Bush administration has a reputation for creating an unusually business-friendly White House. Put Vice President Dick Cheney's secretive Energy Task Force and massive tax cuts together with corporate lobbyists writing regulations for their own industries, and you've made an argument that seems pretty persuasive.

There are reasons, however, to consider a contrary notion: Maybe President George W Bush and Cheney aren't very good capitalists at all.

Bush's history as a failed businessman is well known. Cheney, portrayed by conservatives as a brilliant ex-chief executive officer
and by progressives as a Halliburton shill, also has a suspect past. While he certainly increased Halliburton's profile in four-and-a-half years as its chief, his foremost accomplishment was the US$7.7 billion acquisition in 1998 of Dresser Industries, a rival that turned out to be plagued with staggering asbestos-related liabilities.

In the wake of Cheney's reign, multiple Halliburton divisions sought bankruptcy protection and the company's stock price plunged. Rolling Stone magazine reported in August 2004, "Even with the bounce Halliburton stock has received from the war, an investor who put $100,000 into the company just before Cheney became vice president would have less than $60,000 today."

Many analysts hold the vice president accountable for the downturn, arguing that Dresser's asbestos problems, which cost Halliburton billions, were predictable. Less harsh critics nonetheless question his success as a business leader. For instance, Jason E Putman, an energy analyst at Victory Capital Management, argues that, as Halliburton chief, "Overall, Cheney did maybe at best an average job." Newsweek's Wall Street editor, Allan Sloan, is less complimentary, suggesting Cheney was a "CEO who messed up big-time".

When it comes to Iraq, we hear a lot about the government largesse flowing toward Halliburton, Bechtel and a handful of other favored firms. Less often do we consider the possibility that the administration's "war on terrorism" has been a major business blunder. If you start, though, with the lackluster corporate records of Bush and Cheney, the administration's foreign policy comes into quite a different focus. Even if you believe that the White House is designing its overseas crusade to benefit US corporations, there's no reason to assume that it has been doing so successfully.

Increasingly, the business media is suggesting that corporate leaders, who once hoped the current administration would push the corporate globalization of the Bill Clinton years to new heights, now fear another fate from the international order Bush has created. Tax cuts and deregulation on the domestic front have been obvious bonuses, but otherwise many US multinationals face a troubling scene. The White House's failed CEOs have pursued a global agenda that, at best, benefits a narrow slice of the American business community and leaves the rest exposed to a world of popular resentment and economic uncertainty.

When it comes to the interventions of Bush, Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the neo-conservatives in the global economy, "at best an average job" might be a charitable judgment, and "messed up big-time" could be closer to reality. Those business people who have yet to join the majority that opposes the president's handling of his war in Iraq - or the increasing chorus of conservative critics who have begun questioning the administration's foreign policy - may soon have a long list of reasons to get on the bandwagon, starting with the bottom line.

Not KFC's war
In recent years, KFC has had some trying moments in the Muslim world. In early September, a bomb exploded inside one of the company's fried-chicken outlets in Karachi, Pakistan. It was not the first time the chain had been targeted. In May, a Shi'ite mob, angered by US backing for President General Pervez Musharraf and by reported abuses at Guantanamo Bay, set fire to another KFC outlet - one decked out with large images of Colonel Sanders set atop fields of stars and stripes. Two other branches were destroyed shortly after the US attack on Afghanistan in 2001.

The woes affecting KFC go well beyond one fast-food chain - McDonald's, too, has been attacked in Pakistan and Indonesia - and the torching of fast-food outlets is only the most dramatic sign of the new business climate being fostered by a changing American foreign policy. If Clinton's diplomatic affairs could be described as a sustained effort to make the world safe for Mickey Mouse, Microsoft and popcorn chicken, the Bush/Cheney agenda represents something altogether more dangerous for business.

The Clinton administration served as a steady advocate for building a cooperative, "rules-based" international economy - a multilateral order known to critics as "corporate globalization". The Bush administration, while purporting to be interested in issues such as "free trade", has offered up a very different set of policies.

Aggressive and unilateralist, it has fashioned a new model of "imperial globalization", which has even put multilateral institutions such as the World Trade Organization, decried by globalization activists, in jeopardy. Rather than working through such bodies, the current administration has regularly shown intransigence in international negotiations around trade and development; it has focused on tying its aid for other countries directly to its militarist prerogatives; and it has tried to deny war-weary "Old Europe" its traditional role as a junior partner in the globalization endeavor. In the process, it has begun dismantling an international order that served multinational corporations very well in the booming 1990s, and facilitated their rise over the past 30 years.

In short: if Bush is an oil president, he's not a Disney president, nor a Coca-Cola one. If Cheney is working diligently to help Halliburton rebound, the war he helped lead hasn't worked out nearly so well for Starbucks.

A bungled-brand America
Whether the administration's bold gamble for US global dominance will prove profitable either in the near future or in the long run, the business costs of this approach are already becoming evident. For starters, the new wave of anti-Americanism sweeping the planet goes far beyond KFC bombings in South Asia or widespread hostility in the Middle East.

In Asia, the South China Morning Post has noted that a "strong, growing hostility" toward the United States has complicated Disney's expansion plans in the area. The Bush imperial foreign policy, moreover, is inspiring consumer backlash even among traditional allies.

In December 2004, Jim Lobe of Inter Press Service reported on a survey of 8,000 international consumers released by the Seattle-based Global Market Insite (GMI) Inc. The survey noted:

One-third of all consumers in Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, Russia and the United Kingdom said that US foreign policy, particularly the "war on terror" and the occupation of Iraq, constituted their strongest impression of the United States ... "Unfortunately, current American foreign policy is viewed by international consumers as a significant negative, when it used to be a positive," comments Dr Mitchell Eggers, GMI's chief operating officer and chief pollster.

Brands the survey identified as particularly at risk at the time included Marlboro cigarettes, America Online (AOL), McDonald's, American Airlines, ExxonMobil, Chevron Texaco, United Airlines, Budweiser, Chrysler, Barbie Doll, Starbucks and General Motors.

More recent assessments have verified these trends. Indeed, in past months, a litany of stories in the financial media featured unnerving questions for business. Typical were the British Financial Times in August (World Turning Its Back on Brand America) and Forbes in September (Is Brand America In Trouble?).

A US Banker magazine article from August relaying the results of an Edelman Trust Barometer survey of global elites found that "41% of Canadian elites were less likely to purchase American products because of Bush administration policies, compared to 56% in the UK, 61% in France, 49% in Germany and 42% in Brazil".

It's not just snooty foreigners who are negative, either. American business leaders themselves have been starting to link economic woes to imperial policy. The previously mentioned US Banker article warned, "The majority of American CEOs, whose firms employ eight million overseas, are now acknowledging that anti-American sentiment is a problem."

And a 2004 Boston Herald story, headlined "Mass. Execs: Iraqi War Hurting; US competitiveness becoming a casualty", pointed to the "sixty-two percent of executives surveyed by Opinion Dynamics Corp [who] said the war is hurting America's global competitiveness".

Regularly featured in stories about America's image problems is a group of corporate executives who have come together as Business for Diplomatic Action (BDA).While avoiding an explicit stance on the Iraq war, the BDA argues:

The costs associated with rising anti-American sentiment are exponential. From security and economic costs to an erosion in our ability to engender trust around the world and recruit the best and brightest, the US stands to lose its competitive edge if steps are not made toward reversing the negativity associated with America.

Compared to the adverse impacts of Bush's imperial globalization, the administration's efforts at (Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs) Karen Hughes-style brand rehabilitation are laughable - and the BDA knows it. Taking diplomatic matters into their own hands, BDA spokespeople flatly state, "Right now the US government is not a credible messenger."

A quagmire for corporations
Is the problem just one of perception, or have the wages of war cut into business profits? In June 2004, USA Today reporter James Cox wrote about how financially ailing companies are pointing to the war as the culprit:

Hundreds of companies blame the Iraq war for poor financial results in 2003, many warning that continued US military involvement there could harm this year's performance. In recent regulatory filings at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), airlines, home builders, broadcasters, mortgage providers, mutual funds and others directly blame the war for lower revenues and profits last year.

Among those complaining, Hewlett-Packard claimed that the occupation of Iraq has created uncertainty and hurt its stock price; meanwhile, media companies Hearst-Argyle Television, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Journal Communications bemoaned the number of TV and radio ads preempted by war news.

While fingering the war might be just a convenient excuse for some underperforming executives, the level of grumbling is noteworthy, as are the comments of outspoken fund managers profiled by Cox:

"The war in Iraq created a quagmire for corporations." - David J Galvan, a portfolio manager for Wayne Hummer Income Fund in his letter to shareholders.

Vintage Mutual Funds concludes that "the price of these commitments [in Iraq and Afghanistan] may be more than the American public had expected or is willing to tolerate".

"In an SEC filing, Domenic Colasacco, manager of the Boston Balanced Fund, calls the ongoing US occupation 'sad and increasingly risky'."

Of course, we know that reconstruction companies are posting profits. Sales of gas masks and armored Humvees are also up. But such war-supported companies are a small minority. On the other hand, the diverse businesses in the tourism industry have taken a huge blow. Delta Air Lines, JetBlue, Orbitz,, Morton's steakhouses, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts and Host Marriott, to name just a few, have blamed disappointing returns on the war. Travel industry leaders have warned:

The US is losing billions of dollars as international tourists are deterred from visiting the US because of a tarnished image overseas and more bureaucratic visa policies ... "It's an economic imperative to address these problems," said Roger Dow, chief executive of the Travel Industry Association of America, tourism's main trade body ... Mr Dow stressed that tourism contributed to a positive perception of the US ... "If we don't address these issues in tourism, the long-term impact for American brands Coca-Cola, General Motors, McDonald's could be very damaging."

Economic nightmares foretold
Every year, the global business elite gathers at a resort in Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum. In the high-flying Clinton years, a feeling of exuberance pervaded the globalists' gathering - protests outside their meetings notwithstanding. By January 2003, however, the mood in Davos had already darkened perceptibly. Economic optimism was waning. The coming war in Iraq, in particular, was causing concern. Corporate leaders showed little more enthusiasm than the protestors outside for the impending unilateralist invasion. Analysts fed their misgivings, citing "the threat of war as the biggest question mark hanging over global growth prospects".

Around the same time, progressive economists Dean Baker and Mark Weisbrot detailed a possible worst-case scenario in a policy report entitled "The Economic Costs of a War in Iraq. Beyond the costs of anti-Americanism abroad", they focused on three additional areas of concern: A war-related oil shock that might cost the American economy hundreds of thousands of jobs over a seven-year period; a heightened risk of terrorist attacks in the US, which might result in increased security costs, slowing the growth of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP); and a likelihood that increased oil prices would drag the developing world into a deep recession.

I asked Baker how relevant the report's concerns have proven. Though he emphasizes that the worst did not come to pass, he notes worrying signs. Oil prices have indeed skyrocketed, owing largely to increased demand from China and India, but exacerbated by Iraq's absent oil. Moreover, as each new intelligence estimate predicts that we are less, not more, secure because of the Iraqi occupation, the risk of an economy-crippling attack grows. Already, Baker points out, the hours we spend waiting in security lines at the airport or delayed in city subways represent costly economic losses.

Then, of course, there is the as yet unrealized possibility that spreading guerilla warfare and terrorism will include escalating sabotage against vast and largely indefensible stretches of oil pipeline in the Middle East. It is this scenario among others that caused professor of Middle Eastern history and Informed Comment blogger Juan Cole to liken Bush's Iraq debacle to "throwing grenades around in the cockpit of the world economy".

Such costs, foretold before the invasion, suggest that the pre-war pessimism in Davos was well justified. And such a modest list hardly exhausts the possible economic "downsides" to Bush administration policies in Iraq and beyond.

The debate about Congressional spending, for one, deserves at least passing mention. Whether fiscal conservatives are right that Iraq and tax-cut-bloated deficits are necessarily bad for business, or whether Military Keynesianism has actually been helping to soften a periodic economic downturn, the idea of war without sacrifice should sound fishy to any account-minded executive.

Take direct war costs running in the hundreds of billions, add in medical bills for disabled veterans, then throw in the costs of National Guard reservists being pulled from small businesses, and pretty soon you're talking real money. At some point the overvalued dollar, which our creditors in the central banks of China and Japan have decided to let ride for the time being, will have to come down and is likely to bring the economy with it. When that happens, Colonel Sanders won't be the only one to feel the pain.

Will business turn?
In the August of the 2004 election cycle, the Kerry campaign distributed a list of 204 business executives who supported the candidate's policies. It was a nice try, but, as Bloomberg News reported, the Democrat trailed Bush badly in corporate support. Fifty-two chief executives from major companies had by then donated to Kerry; 280 to the president's reelection campaign. (Business being business, "at least three executives on Kerry's list also gave the maximum $2,000 to Bush's reelection campaign.")

A year has passed since the elections. Approval ratings for the victorious president continue to sink to all-time lows, and "staying the course" remains official Washington policy for Iraq. In this context, it's not surprising that Republican "realists" such as Brent Scowcroft (who warned in a Wall Street Journal op-ed before the war that "it undoubtedly would be very expensive - with serious consequences for the US and global economy") are making noise again.

And it would make perfect sense if an increasing number of those Bush CEOs were by now pining for a return to Clinton-style multilateral globalization of a sort still held out by the defeated senator from Massachusetts and many other Democrats.

Neither of these alternative camps will seem particularly appealing to progressives, but they pose a genuine threat to the imperial globalists who seem incapable of extracting themselves from Iraq. Indeed, intra-party rivalry among the Republicans - which is likely to increase as we enter an election year - could play a vital role in turning White House hawks into dead ducks. All the better if this avian transformation is sped by dissatisfaction from corporate leaders reevaluating the costs of Bush foreign policy and deciding that empire just doesn't pay.

Mark Engler, a writer based in New York City, is an analyst with Foreign Policy In Focus and a contributor to, Newsday and In These Times. He can be reached via the web site Research assistance for this article was provided by Kate Griffiths.

(Copyright 2005 Mark Engler)

(Used by permission Tomdispatch )

James Carroll -- Deconstructing Cheney

Deconstructing Cheney

By James Carroll | November 7, 2005

THE INDICTMENT of the vice president's chief of staff for perjury and obstruction of justice is an occasion to consider just how damaging the long public career of Richard Cheney has been to the United States. He began as a political scientist devoted to caring for the elbow of Donald Rumsfeld. As a congressman, Rumsfeld had reliably voted against programs to help the nation's poor, so (as I recalled in reading James Mann's ''Rise of the Vulcans") it was with more than usual cynicism that Richard Nixon appointed him head of the Office of Economic Opportunity, the antipoverty agency. Rumsfeld named Cheney as his deputy, and the two set out to gut the program-- the beginning of the Republican rollback of the Great Society, what we saw in New Orleans this fall.

When Rumsfeld became Gerald Ford's White House chief of staff, he again tapped Cheney as his deputy. Now they set out to destroy detente, the fragile new relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union. Dismissing detente as moral relativism, Cheney so believed in Cold War bipolarity that when it began to melt in the late 1980s, he tried to refreeze it. As George H.W. Bush's secretary of defense, Cheney was key to America's refusal to accommodate the hopeful new spirit of the age. Violence was in retreat, with peace breaking out across the globe, from the Philippines to South Africa, Ireland, the Middle East, and Central America. When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, Cheney forged America's response -- which was, little over a month later, to wage an illegal war against Panama.

As Mikhail Gorbachev presided over the nonviolent dismantling of the Soviet Union, Cheney warned Bush not to trust it. When the justification for the huge military machine over which Cheney presided disappeared, he leapt on the next casus belli -- Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. Hussein, a former ally, was now Hitler.

Against Cheney's own uniformed advisers (notably including Joint Chiefs Chairman Colin Powell), he forged Washington's choice of violence over diplomacy. The first Gulf War, remembered by Americans as justified, was in fact an unnecessary affirmation of military might as the ground of international order, just as an historic alternative was opening up. US responses in that period, mainly shaped by Cheney, stand in stark contrast to Gorbachev's, who, refusing to call on military might even to save the Soviet Union, was ordering his soldiers back to their barracks. The unsentimental Cheney, eschewing human rights rhetoric, was explicit in defining America's Gulf War interest as all about oil. (The oil industry having made Cheney rich.) Cheney's initiatives, more than any other's, defined the insult to the Arab world that spawned Al Qaeda.

With all of this as prelude, it seems as tragic as it was inevitable that Cheney was behind the wheel again when the next fork in the road appeared before the nation. When the World Trade Center towers were hit in New York, it was Cheney who told a shaken President Bush to flee. The true nature of their relationship (Cheney, not Bush, having shaped the national security team; Cheney, not Bush, having appointed himself as vice president) showed itself for a moment.

The 9/11 Commission found that, from the White House situation room, Cheney warned the president that a ''specific threat" had targeted Air Force One, prompting Bush to spend the day hiding in the bunker at Offut Air Force Base in Nebraska. There was no specific threat. In Bush's absence, Cheney, implying an authorizing telephone call from the president, took command of the nation's response to the crisis. There was no authorizing telephone call. The 9/11 Commission declined to make an issue of Cheney's usurpation of powers, but the record shows it.

At world-shaping moments across a generation, Cheney reacted with an instinctive, This is war! He helped turn the War on Poverty into a war on the poor. He helped keep the Cold War going longer than it had to, and when it ended (because of initiatives taken by the other side), Cheney refused to believe it. To keep the US war machine up and running, he found a new justification just in time. With Gulf War I, Cheney ignited Osama bin Laden's burning purpose. Responding to 9/11, Cheney fulfilled bin Laden's purpose by joining him in the war-of-civilizations. Iraq, therefore (including the prewar deceit for which Scooter Libby takes the fall), is simply the last link in the chain of disaster which is the public career of Richard Cheney.

James Carroll's column appears regularly in the Globe.
© Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Chomsky on "The Corporation"

"A Martian biologist observing humans would ponder with amazement the fact that among their other modes of self-destruction, the species has also engineered a lethal mutation that has joined the race to bring their civilizations to an end: the corporation, an abstract legal entity, granted the rights of persons by court decisions a century ago, and rights vastly beyond persons of flesh and blood by mislabelled 'free trade agreements.' It is a special kind of 'person' in other ways: with immense power, immortal, unaccountable, dedicated to expansion and transferring costs to others, and required by law to be pathological and destructive, with no commitments other than those that would send a real person to therapy or mental institutions."

This is Chomsky's comment on the film "The Corporation" by Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott, and Joel Bakan. You can read all about it here.

The Joplin Public library has the deluxe 2-disc DVD available for free rental. I urge all to see it.