Saturday, June 12, 2004
While the United States public is "Remembering Ronald Reagan" and attesting to his greatness this week, millions of people in Central America, particularly in El Salvador and Nicaragua, will not share our fond memories of "the great communicator." Ronald Reagan's presidency oversaw one of the most violent and shameful eras in the history of the Western hemisphere.
Under Reagan's watch, the United States government provided money, weapons and moral support to right wing death squads who tortured, murdered and "disappeared" thousands of innocent, mostly poor, rural peasant civilians in the name of "fighting communism." Declassified government documents attest to our country's role in the atrocities that still scar the collective psyche of those two countries. Survivors of the U.S.-supported massacres are still striving to recover, both individually and as a country, from the years when the United States lost its moral compass in its obsession with communism and with its determination to ensure that Latin American governments remain favorable toward U.S. corporate ambitions in "our back yard."
And this is just one of the areas in which Reagan's policies hurt people. Now the obsession is "terrorism", and we're still hurting people. God bless America.
Friday, June 11, 2004
Opens nationwide Friday, June 25.
This is going to be good.
Imagine a foreign leader deciding the torture of captured American soldiers or civilians - so long as it stopped short of causing "organ failure" - was justified to protect his country's security.
Americans would be outraged. Yet lawyers in the Justice Department claimed in secret memoranda that President Bush's role as commander in chief allows him to order any action to defend the nation, including torture. "Torture may be justified," the lawyers wrote in an August 2002 memo.
That immoral stance sends a terrible message to the rest of the world.
The Bush administration insists the memos amount to nothing more than a theoretical legal discussion about torture and the limits on interrogation tactics. Attorney General John Ashcroft told a Senate committee Tuesday the administration rejects torture and has abided by all international conventions barring the practice.
Yet the memos, coming to light right after photographs showing sadistic treatment of prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, will feed an image of a United States as a brutal superpower that feels entitled to ignore the rule of law.
America has become an outlaw nation and a major threat to world peace and stability. Get used to it, because there's more on the way, unless we can stop these criminals somehow.
When, in future, you find yourself wondering, "Whatever happened to the Constitution?" you will want to go back and look at June 8, 2004. That was the day the attorney general of the United States -- a.k.a. "the nation's top law enforcement officer" -- refused to provide the Senate Judiciary Committee with his department's memos concerning torture.
In order to justify torture, these memos declare that the president is bound by neither U.S. law nor international treaties. We have put ourselves on the same moral level as Saddam Hussein, the only difference being quantity. Quite literally, the president may as well wear a crown -- forget that "no man is above the law" jazz. We used to talk about "the imperial presidency" under Nixon, but this is the real thing.
The Pentagon's legal staff concurred in this incredible conclusion. In a report printed by The Wall Street Journal, "Bush administration lawyers contended last year that the president wasn't bound by laws prohibiting torture and that government agents who might torture prisoners at his direction couldn't be prosecuted by the Justice Department."
And I think it is time for citizens to take some responsibility, as well. Is this what we have come to? Is this what we want our government to do for us? Oh and by way, to my fellow political reporters who keep repeating that Bush is having a wonderful week: Why don't you think about what you stand for?
I am saddened to see how far our once-great nation has fallen, and how fast.
The State Department acknowledged Thursday that it was wrong in reporting that terrorism declined worldwide last year, a finding the Bush administration had pointed to as evidence of its success in countering terror.
Instead, the number of incidents and the toll in victims increased sharply, the department said. Statements by senior administration officials claiming success were based "on the facts as we had them at the time; the facts that we had were wrong," Richard A. Boucher, the State Department spokesman, said.
When the report was issued April 29, senior administration officials used it as evidence that the war was being won. J. Cofer Black, coordinator of the State Department's Counterterrorism Office, cited the 190 acts of terrorism in 2003, down from 198 in 2002, as "good news" and predicted the trend would continue. Richard L. Armitage, the deputy secretary of state, said at the time, "You will find in these pages clear evidence that we are prevailing in the fight." His office did not respond Thursday to a request for a statement on disclosures that some of the findings were inaccurate. The erroneous report, titled "Patterns of Global Terrorism," said that attacks declined last year to the lowest level in 34 years and dropped 45 percent since 2001, Mr. Bush's first year as president, when 346 attacks occurred.
Among the mistakes, Mr. Boucher said, was that only part of 2003 was taken into account.
Why is it that these "honest mistakes" always make Bush look better? If the mistakes were "honest" (an odd word to apply to the Bush administration), wouldn't about half of them work in his favor and about half against?
After the 2000 census, Colorado redrew its Congressional lines in a way that produced some real contests. One district was divided so evenly that Bob Beauprez, a Republican, won by only 121 votes. But when Republicans won the State Senate last year, they drew new lines that were more favorable to their party. The state's attorney general, a Democrat, challenged them in court.
The Colorado Supreme Court, in a well-reasoned decision, held that the redistricting violated the Colorado Constitution. It said the constitution required that redistricting be done every 10 years, after the census, but no more. The United States Supreme Court has long held that when a state supreme court resolves a case based on the state's constitution, respect for the state's judiciary requires the federal courts to stay out of the matter. A majority did just that this week, when it let the Colorado Supreme Court's ruling stand.
But Chief Justice Rehnquist's dissent, joined by Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, is bluntly dismissive of the Colorado Supreme Court. In the dissenters' view, the court was merely "purporting" to decide the case exclusively according to state law. They would have accepted the case so the United States Supreme Court could have considered reversing the Colorado Supreme Court and reinstating the pro-Republican redistricting plan.
It's almost spooky the way Thomas and Scalia come down on the wrong side of virtually every issue. It's as if they decide what would be fair, just, and American, and then vote for its exact opposite. Disgusting.
Wednesday, June 09, 2004
Why did George Tenet suddenly resign [as CIA director] on June 3rd, only to be followed a day later by James Pavitt, the CIA's Deputy Director of Operations (DDO)?
The real reasons, contrary to the saturation spin being put out by major news outlets, have nothing to do with Tenet's role as taking the fall for alleged 9/11 and Iraqi intelligence "failures" before the upcoming presidential election.
Both resignations, perhaps soon to be followed by resignations from Colin Powell and his deputy Richard Armitage, are about the imminent and extremely messy demise of George W. Bush and his Neocon administration in a coup d'etat being executed by the Central Intelligence Agency. The coup, in the planning for at least two years, has apparently become an urgent priority as a number of deepening crises threaten a global meltdown.
Based upon recent developments, it appears that long-standing plans and preparations leading to indictments and impeachment of Bush, Cheney and even some senior cabinet members have been accelerated, possibly with the intent of removing or replacing the entire Bush regime prior to the Republican National Convention this August.
Could this be true? Read the full article before you say "no".
Tuesday, June 08, 2004
Just before Memorial Day, Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi said, "Our active military respond better to Republicans" because of "the tremendous support that President Bush has provided for our military and our veterans." The same day, the White House announced plans for massive cuts in veterans' health care for 2006.
Last January, Bush praised veterans during a visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The same day, 164,000 veterans were told the White House was "immediately cutting off their access to the VA health care system."
My favorite in this category was the short-lived plan to charge soldiers wounded in Iraq for their meals when they got to American military hospitals. The plan mercifully died a-borning after it hit the newspapers.
In January 2003, just before the war, Bush said, "I want to make sure that our soldiers have the best possible pay." A few months later, the White House announced it would roll back increases in "imminent danger" pay (from $225 to $150) and family separation allowance (from $250 to $100).
In October 2003, the president told troops, "I want to thank you for your willingness to heed the important call, and I want to thank your families." Two weeks later, the White House announced it opposed a proposal to give National Guard and Reserve members access to the Pentagon's health insurance system, even though a recent General Accounting Office report estimated that one out of every five Guard members has no health insurance. What a nice thank you note.
Incredibly, the article goes on to describe even more such disconnects. Does he expect to get the military vote this way?
A team of administration lawyers concluded in a March 2003 legal memorandum that President Bush was not bound by either an international treaty prohibiting torture or by a federal antitorture law because he had the authority as commander in chief to approve any technique needed to protect the nation's security.
The memo, prepared for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, also said that any executive branch officials, including those in the military, could be immune from domestic and international prohibitions against torture for a variety of reasons.
A Jan. 22, 2002, memorandum from the Justice Department that provided arguments to keep American officials from being charged with war crimes for the way prisoners were detained and interrogated was used extensively as a basis for the March memorandum on avoiding proscriptions against torture.
The previously disclosed Justice Department memorandum concluded that administration officials were justified in asserting that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to detainees from the Afghanistan war.
When exactly did it become a function of government to develop complex, self-justifying arguments in order to circumvent all legal restrictions, including international treaties and laws? Wouldn't that be the act of an outlaw nation? What on earth are we turning into here?
After the 1961 Bay of Pigs fiasco in which the CIA clumsily failed to topple the Castro regime in Cuba, President Kennedy personally took "sole responsibility" for the event: "There's an old saying that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan. I am the responsible officer of the government, and that is quite obvious." President Reagan demonstrated similar political courage after the 1983 terrorist attack that killed 241 Marines in Lebanon: "If there is to be blame, it properly rests here in this office and with this president. And I accept responsibility for the bad as well as the good."
In contrast to Kennedy's and Reagan's refusal to pass the buck, even in the face of grave and embarrassing events, consider President Bush's nonanswer when asked by a reporter whether he has made any mistakes:
"Hmmm. I wish you'd have given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it. I hope, I don't want to sound like I've made no mistakes. I'm confident I have. I just haven't -- you just put me under the spot here and maybe I'm not quick -- as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one."
In refusing to acknowledge a single mistake committed by himself or anyone else in his administration, Bush has ignored the very principle of leadership he declared in the wake of the Enron collapse: "The burden of leadership rightly belongs to the chief executive officer. CEOs set the ethical direction for their companies. They set a moral tone . . . their willingness to be held accountable for their actions."
In keeping with this principle, it is time for the president to follow Tenet's precedent and take a page from Harry Truman: "The buck stops here."
Bush should follow Tenet's precedent and step down.
A majority of the Senate asked President Bush to change policy and allow stem cell research to better combat Alzheimer's in a letter mailed the day before former President Ronald Reagan died from complications of the disease.
In a bipartisan letter signed by 58 of the 100 senators and mailed Friday, lawmakers told Bush his policy provided ''difficult challenges" to those seeking a cure for Alzheimer's and other illnesses. The letter, released publicly yesterday, echoed one sent last month by 206 members of the House.
There was no immediate response from the White House, which has placed restrictions on embryonic stem cell research and opposes using stem cells from most embryos.
"Science has presented us with a hope called stem cell research, which may provide our scientists with many answers," she told the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. "I just don't see how we can turn our backs on this."
Nancy, Nancy. George W. has repeatedly turned his back on America. Why not this?
Sunday, June 06, 2004
Bush-Cheney team likes to say president is "steadfast." And John Kerry is "flip-flopper." But Senator Kerry is bolted to floor compared to Bush. President Bush is no more steadfast than Tony Soprano is faithful.
Never burdened by reality, Bush says departing CIA chief George Tenet did "superb job." That assumes Tenet's job was to fail miserably to anticipate 9/11 and to goad Bush into going to war under false pretenses. Bush doublespeak is matched only by his amazing flip-flops, which are underreported. Armchair Strategist aims to fix this, with help from Center for American Progress, liberal (There, I said it!) think tank.
[At this point, the author details numerous examples of Bush doing the old out-and-back.]
Flip-flops, ad nauseam. Against nation-building, then for it. Found WMD, then lost them. Against McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform, then signed it into law. Tariffs? Not gonna have 'em; puts 'em on steel, then lifts 'em. Mocks Al Gore's idea for hybrid fuel car; calls for $1.3 billion to develop one. For extending ban on assault weapons in 2001; now against it.
Fashion idea for DNC conventioneers: Bush flip-flop shoes. If it flips, wear it.
I commend Robert Kuttner for forthrightly arguing that catastrophic as the Iraq war has been, the greater and transcendent tragedy in American political life has been the Bush administration's sheer incompetence ("Bush the war leader: losing key battles," op-ed, June 2). This is in refreshing contrast to the line taken by many columnists who argue that, with our having gone into Iraq, whether wisely or not, priority must now be given to our getting out in some decent fashion.
Certainly this should be an objective, but in the total scheme of things, the defeat of President Bush must be seen to be more important. He has demonstrated incompetence not only in dealing with foreign policy and international security affairs but also in economic matters and in consideration of many of the treasured values of American and other civil societies. Particularly frightening is his incapacity to admit error and his apparent belief that God has ordained his presidency.
Considering the damage he has caused for this country, for Iraq, and for world order in the last 3 1/2 years and the strong basis for predicting more of the same for the next 4 1/2 should he be re-elected, we should tremble, whether or not we believe, as Thomas Jefferson suggested, in a just God, at the thought of continuing the uninformed and megalomanical leadership of Bush.
[The writer is professor emeritus of political science at MIT.]
The White House's Iraq fib factory went into overdrive last week, ballyhooing claims that the new "caretaker government" the UN had supposedly just installed in Baghdad was "fully sovereign" and "totally independent."
We would like to believe American president George Bush. But this latest claim comes from the same truth-deficient people who concocted Iraq's imminent threat to destroy the U.S. with nuclear and germ weapons, Saddam Hussein's vans and drones of death, Saddam's tryst with Osama bin Laden, and a slew of other preposterous whoppers that would have made the Nazis' propagandist, Dr. Joseph Goebbels, blush deep crimson.
The latest U.S.-authored regime change in Iraq was a political charade designed to soothe uneasy American voters who are increasingly alarmed by the aimlessness, mounting casualties and $186-billion US cost - as much as the Vietnam War at its height - of the Iraq misadventure.
The White House dreads the oncoming national uproar when the number of American soldiers killed in Iraq hits 1,000. It desperately needs to show some light at the end of the Iraq tunnel before November's elections.
I've been wondering about that 1,000-death threshold myself.