Archive for the ‘Cheney’ Category

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Libby’s scapegoat card

July 6, 2007

US Map national GDPs

In the midst of the many lines of pure nonsense spouted by defenders of the Libby commutation and pardon-to-be, I’d like to focus on one which has the widest cachet, even though once examined it is the most nonsensical. Namely, the idea that whatever I. Lewis did to Valerie Plame, there were plenty of others who did the same thing, and it’s not fair for him to be punished while Rove and Cheney and Armitage get off scot free. Truly, for Libby to play this scapegoat card is the precise equivalent of the classic definition of chutzpah: the matricide/parricide who throws himself on the mercy of the court on the grounds that he’s an orphan.

I want to address it, because of all the pro-Libby arguments, this is the only one that I’ve found resonates with ordinary people not already wrapped up in Bush worship. I’ve heard the sentiment expressed by a number of friends who are good liberals. Libby’s lawyers, knowing that on the merits they had no case at all, planned to make the trial into an appeal for jury nullification, based on just this supposed injustice. It was the centerpiece of their opening argument, and it appears that they only backed off from that plan after the White House, alarmed at the defense team’s threat that they would make Cheney testify, sent along assurances that Libby would get his pardon. And we learned that the jurors, most of them opposed to the war and opposed to Libby politically, expressed to reporters a good deal of sympathy for Libby personally because they felt he was indeed being made into a scapegoat.

This whole line of thinking is exactly upside down. For one thing, this isn’t a case of some low-level underling being thrown to the wolves. Scooter wasn’t some sad-sack private or corporal like the scapegoats in the Abu Ghraib affair. He was Cheney’s second in command, the four-star general to Ticky Dick’s five-star. Arguably he was the second most powerful individual in the country, certainly among the top four.

But more important, Rove wasn’t making Libby into a scapegoat. Cheney wasn’t making him into a scapegoat. Fitzgerald wasn’t making him into a scapegoat. Libby volunteered to be the one to take the rap. In fact, the crime of which he was convicted – the lies and the obstruction of justice – were acts he undertook with the aim and for the purpose of assigning himself the scapegoat role so that Cheney (and incidentally Rove) would be protected.

It would not be far wrong to say that the crime for which Irving Lewis Libby was charged and convicted was shielding Cheney by scapegoating himself.

Accordingly, anyone who is offended at the injustice of Scooter’s scapegoating should, exactly for that reason, be demanding an extension of the man’s prison term, not its revocation.

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Two easy pieces

April 4, 2007

Two instances in which the Administration has made the truth easy to discern:

(1) On Monday night, ABC aired an exclusive “report” that Iran has ramped up its nuclear program, and now has 1,000 operative centrifuges at Natansk. As Glenn Greenwald accurately lamented the next day (Salon ad click-through at link), no evidence of any kind was offered, and the single source was not only unnamed, but not characterized in any way.

When I. Lewis Libby tried to get the NYT’s Judy Miller to out Valerie Plame, he got her to agree that, if she used the story, she would deceptively describe him as “a former congressional staffer.” Now ABC News, acting presumably on another anonymous tip from within Cheney’s shop, has gone that deception one better. Rather than the bland “senior administration official”, we get just “a source”.

So, okay, ABC’s story was deeply suspect. Is there any way we can be assured that it was completely bogus?

There is. At his press conference next day, Chancellor Bush entered into this exchange:

Q: Back to Iran, sir. ABC has been reporting that Iran will be capable of building a nuclear bomb within two years. Have you seen evidence that Iran is accelerating its nuclear program?THE PRESIDENT: I haven’t seen the report that you just referred to. I do share concerns about Iranian intention to have a nuclear weapon. I firmly believe that if Iran were to have a nuclear weapon, it would be a seriously destablizing influence in the Middle East. . . .

When the Niger yellowcake story had been (behind the scenes) exploded to smithereens, the White House bent heaven and earth to get the sixteen words into the State of the Union address.

If the ABC story has any authentic basis, then Bush has certainly been briefed on the evidence for the accelerated centrifuge program. Bush has every motivation in the world to hype even the most vague, most equivocal evidence of Iranian ill doing. Yet, when asked the direct question, “Have you seen evidence that Iran is accelerating?”, the Great Equivocator ducked the question, responding with platitudes of general concern.

Thus we are apprised that the C.I.A. has passed stern word that , to adopt George Tenet’s phrase, they don’t want the President to be “a fact witness on this”. If there were any facts – heck, if there were any quasi-facts, hemidemisemifacts, or pseudofacts – behind the ABC story, Bush would have gratefully seized on the presser question rather than ducking it.

(2) I am delighted and relieved to learn that the 15 British sailors will cease being pawns in the Great Game, and return home. It has been impossible to tell, as the modern Iranian hostage crisis unfolded, whether the sailors had been plying their trade in Iraqi waters, as the British claimed, or in Iranian waters, as the Iranis asserted. Neither assertion – and certainly not the Geneva-defying “confessions” of the captives themselves – was evidentiary, to say nothing of probative.

Now, however, Dick Cheney has given an exclusive interview to ABC radio, and delivered his usual ex cathedra pronouncement on the question. This is a guy who understands his role: it has been to be the “fact witness” on every misdirection and flat-out lie which is felt to be imprudent to place in the President’s mouth.

I don’t know all the details, obviously, but I’m glad to know that the British sailors will be released,” quickly adding that it was “unfortunate they were ever taken in the first place” and pointing out “there’s considerable evidence that they were, in fact, in Iraqi territorial waters when this happened.”

Comparing this to Bush’s dodge above, we find that each of these things are like the other. Suppose Cheney had the smallest scrap of actual evidence that the sailors were in Iraqi territorial waters. Can anyone doubt he would have said “we have conclusive evidence”? Calibrating his level of certainty in the way we have come to learn is required for Cheney-statements, we can readily infer that

    •the White House begged for such evidence from the British
    •none was forthcoming
    •the sailors were more likely than not poking around where they had no business to be.

It will be interesting to see what the navvies’ uncoerced story is once they return home. Based solely on my Cheney-meter reading, I am predicting a politic silence.

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Cheney’s pre-4/19 mindset

March 6, 2007

I will be out of Internet range until Sunday. Boston seems to have interchanged January with March this year, and some downtime with pelicans, flamingos, Madame Bovary, and Lie algebras will be welcome.

Before soaring trustingly off (Jet Blue can’t be that bad, can it?), I do want to record links to a couple radio interviews with Seymour Hersh about his Redirection article. The first was with Christopher Leyden, and I link it here because I haven’t listened yet, and want to. The second was with Terry Gross, and well worth the listen.

What particularly struck me about the TG interview, definitely not present in the New Yorker article, was Sy’s assertion (paraphrasing here from memory) that, according to several people who knew Cheney well, the Veep is profoundly convinced that the moment Iran gets a few nuclear weapons, it is going to hand off a couple to Hamas, who already have cells in the USA, and they will explode them in major American cities.

That’s a crazily paranoid misreading of the Iranian government’s nature and intent; and Hamas has never historically shown any interest in attacking the US, only Israel. But it fits in with Cheney/Bush’s most central disconnect with the realities of terrorism: they are mired not only in a pre-9/11 mindset, but in a pre-4/19 mindset. For them, nothing whatsoever changed the day the towers went down, except for their sudden ability to use the terror card to get away with anything.

The lesson of September 11th is the same as the lesson of Oklahoma City on April 19: modern technology is an amplifier. It permits individuals to wreak the kind of havoc that once was the province of marauding bands of warriors; and hands to small groups the destructive powers once peculiar to nation states. And the amplifier displays ever greater gain. The day will come – within decades – when biotechnology will permit one bright high school kid to wipe out millions.

But the neocons see all events in the world as state-driven. Richard Clarke told us in Against All Enemies that he was confidently informed (IIRC by Wolfowitz) on September 12 that the previous day’s attack could not possibly have been carried out except under the aegis of a rogue government. The Administration was happy to let bin Laden slip away, because they believed it was only his connection to the “government” of Afghanistan that had made him dangerous. With the Taliban state dismantled, Al Qaeda, which the neocon cabal had never taken seriously, became the merest nuisance. Changing regimes was where the action was.

The new, unique threat comes from small, fanatical actors, who cannot be deterred because they care nothing for self preservation. In the history of the world, I know of no government that has not been deeply committed to its self preservation, and consequently subject to deterrence. With its near-suicidal refusal to grasp any of the realities America is actually facing, the Bush administration may come closest to matching that description.