Archive for the ‘George Bush’ Category

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Bush and the Prime Directive

July 4, 2007

For three solid years, Bush, Cheney, Rove, McClellan, Snow have recited one mantra every single time there was a question about the Plame affair: “It would be inappropriate to comment on an ongoing investigation.” The thought that even the most feather-light touch by anyone in the Administration might weigh down the scales of justice and skew the outcome horrified them into a state of permanent lockjaw. The courts were sacrosanct, to be approached, if at all, on the same eggshell tiptoe with which the crew of the Starship Enterprise approached each vulnerable culture when they made planetfall.

Now we find that, all along, if things didn’t go their way, they were planning to throw away the scales altogether, bypass their own appointed prosecutors and judges, and determine the outcome of the case by fiat. That feather-light touch transforms in a wink into an elephant’s foot.

Next time they trot out their “ongoing investigation” line, the Washington Press Corps had better not stand for it. When these jokers build a wall of silence around the sanctity of the legal process, it always stands just where they need a stonewall to ward off the prying eyes of the press, the Congress, and the voters.

Can the press please stop pretending that’s a coincidence? If it suits his purposes, this Kowboy Kirk is always happy to blow up the planet on his way out the door.

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Quis pardonet ipses pardonies?

July 2, 2007

It’s been a disappointment to hear mealy-mouthed claims from the Democratic establishment – including Barack Obama, whom I otherwise admire – that the malfeasance of the Bush administration doesn’t rise to the level of impeachable “high crimes and misdemeanors”. To the contrary: Bush and Cheney looked over Nixon’s menu of high crimes, smacked their lips, ordered up several of everything, then cooked up a groaning board of their own new recipes. If Bush and Cheney aren’t impeachable, there might as well be no impeachment clause in the Constitution.

But if Congress cared to take notice, the Resident today added one more felony to his long list. As long as Irving Libby faced some penalty, any penalty, for his crimes, he had some incentive to offer truthful testimony to the court about the Plame affair. (Every day of his continued silence constitutes a repetition of the obstruction of justice for which Scooter has already been convicted.) By removing that incentive, Bush has directly interfered in the investigation of a criminal case in which his own aides, and potentially he himself, were directly implicated. The House may add an overt and provable act of “obstruction of justice” to the many covert obstructions already on the Administration’s tab.

The media are of course just being silly to treat this as a “middle way” between accepting Libby’s sentence and issuing a pardon. Disbarment is the only practical difference between this commutation and pardon outright. Probation is hardly an onerous thing; the only restrictions it will entail are very occasional meetings with the probation officer. That $250,000 fine? It’s a joke. In the first three months of the little defense fund that Fred Thompson set up for Libby, it took in a cool two mill. Scooter won’t pay a nickel of that fine; the Vast Right Wing Kitty will cover it all for him.

Oh, but there’s the shame, the terrible shame! So great a shame that virtually everyone who might have the ear of any of the unrepentant felon’s future employers has already praised his patriotism, his honesty, his self-sacrifice, in a stream of letters and columns reproduced everywhere in the sympathetic “liberal” media. I hear Scalia and Thomas are at this very instant drafting a letter to the Pope urging Scooter’s beatification.

Besides, the day is not far off when our Little Emperor will wipe away all tears, and with them whatever scraps of shame might linger. His statement today read, in part:

I respect the jury’s verdict. But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby’s sentence that required him to spend thirty months in prison.

My decision to commute his prison sentence leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby. The reputation he gained through his years of public service and professional work in the legal community is forever damaged. His wife and young children have also suffered immensely. He will remain on probation.The significant fines imposed by the judge will remain in effect. The consequences of his felony conviction on his former life as a lawyer, public servant, and private citizen will be long-lasting.

His “respect for the jury’s verdict” is based on the fact that, should he grant a pardon, Libby would lose all fifth amendment rights not to testify further. When Libby’s appeals are exhausted, Bush’s “respect for the jury’s verdict” will be exhausted too. Then a decent respect for the pre-election opinions of mankind will postpone the Wiping Away Of Tears a little further, until Republican candidates are beyond the reach of the voters. And the commutation will itself be commuted to the pardon.

Observe that Bush speaks of the consequences on “his former life” will be long-lasting. He does not envision any consequences on Libby’s future life. None of the disqualifications associated with a felony record will hamper I. Lewis Libby past November of 2008, and Bush comes as close as he possibly can to promising it, with this carefully worded statement.

The finality of a Presidential pardon is and ought to remain unassailable. What we need is a Constitutional amendment forbidding the issuance of a pardon to anyone who has served as a political appointee of the pardoning President, or his immediate predecessor. The founders designed the pardon power as a final court of appeal for ordinary citizens caught up in the toils of the law, not as a painless way for the powerful to erase their own felonious footprints.

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King George’s denial of habeas

June 6, 2007

One of the recurrent themes of Glenn Greenwald, as well as of the handful of honest conservatives who have spoken out against Chancellor Bush’s headlong assault on America’s civil liberties, is that the assault is not in the least conservative under any previously known meaning of that word. From its embrace of torture, its normalization of secret and indefinite detention, to its revocation of <em>habeas corpus</em>, all upon the unreviewable assertion of “unlawful enemy combatant” status by a single monarch, the program has rather been radical.

The intellectual godfather of all conservatism was Edmund Burke. As Harper’s reminds us, Burke had his own view of whether habeas should apply to “unlawful enemy combatants”, who in his day were called “pirates”. It stood in stark contrast to the view of the pseudo-conservatives who seized power in December of 2000.

At the behest of an English King George, by the parliamentary mediation of one Lord North, an Act had been passed providing for the elimination of habeas corpus for those whom, at the sole discretion of the chief executive, had been declared unlawful enemy combatants pirates. These hapless individuals were held under inhumane conditions outside the normal jurisdiction of courts (in the holds of ships rather than in a Cuban stockade.) Far from the reach and norms of English law, they were to be tried and executed by summary informal military courts.

His position required Burke to transmit copies of these acts to sheriffs in his district. He did so with an accompanying letter urging them to disregard the King’s lawless law.

I therefore could never reconcile myself to the bill I send you, which is expressly provided to remove all inconveniences from the establishment of a mode of trial which has ever appeared to me most unjust and most unconstitutional. Far from removing the difficulties which impede the execution of so mischievous a project, I would heap new difficulties upon it, if it were in my power. All the ancient, honest, juridical principles and institutions of England are so many clogs to check and retard the headlong course of violence and oppression. They were invented for this one good purpose, that what was not just should not be convenient. Convinced of this, I would leave things as I found them. The old, cool-headed, general law is as good as any deviation dictated by present heat.

No one can miss the exquisitely conservative tone of Burke’s appeal to honored tradition, against the hot-headed emotionalism of the moment. The contrast with the anti-liberal, anti-conservative tone set by Bush, and echoed by nearly all the Republican candidates at this week’s presidential debate, could scarcely be sharper.

Harpers’ Scott Horton goes on to observe:

And today, in the Military Commissions Act, what has Bush and his crew done that can be distinguished from Lord North’s measures? Very little, in fact. The past echoes in tyrannical excess. The Bush program is indeed more ruthless, more comprehensive in its drive to extirpate the great principles of our nation and its constitution.

Oh yes. Exactly who were those vermin insurgents who by Lord North’s design were to be stripped of habeas corpus, subjected to military trials with no rights and held in the crudest and most abusive conditions? They were the Americans, and the conflict was our Revolution.

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The Decider as The Fixer?

May 16, 2007

The source here, Arnaud de Borchgrave of UPI, is a George W. booster and not particularly trustworthy. (This throwaway tidbit appears in an article which makes the patently silly claim that Bush outdid Karl Rove in a book-reading contest, in which he polished off more than two books a week for a year.) But he certainly does have sources close to the White House so for what it’s worth:

When a recent visitor asked him what assurance he could give about his successor in 2009, President Bush replied, “we’ll fix it so he’ll be locked in.” The visitor left perplexed and wondered whether that might mean the United States would be in a wider war in the region by then. In any event, it didn’t sound like twilight time for Bush.

In the last few months, there have been more and more signs that, however dearly President Shooter and Junior would like to pull a McCain and Bomb-bomb-Iran, it is growing steadily less likely. Condi, the Secretary of Defense, and a large phalanx of top generals appear lined up against it. But over the same period that cocky I’m-getting-away-with-it grin has been virtually welded onto Junior’s face. So I dunno.

It’s disconcerting when the only way to find out what your own government is up to is to hire Kremlinologists thrust out of work in the early nineties. Last fall the electorate finally hired Congress to find out for them. But in the six years since Congress last attempted any such effrontery, a Great Wall of Shinola has been erected around the entire executive branch, and to date, no polite request for information nor brassy subpoena has been able to scale it.

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War wasn’t the most important thing, it was the only thing

April 30, 2007

For Bushco, the only option which is always off the table is peace.

(1) George Tenet’s tell-all book is not the first, but the fourth reliable inside source saying that George W. was hell-bent on invading Iraq from the moment he set foot in the Oval Office. Actually, from some while before that. Juan Cole assembled the references for us yesterday. We’ve heard the same from Paul O’Neill, from Michigan journalist Osama Siblani, and from Mickey Herskowitz, Dubya’s original pick to ghostwrite his campaign biography.

Equally telling is the dog that hasn’t barked. There has never been a single circumstantial account from any insider of any discussion that ever took place in the Badministration of alternative ways to deal with Iraq. Which is to say: his endless lies on the question notwithstanding, Bush’s War never had anything to do with 9/11. The “liberal” media may be expected to obscure the fact, but with Tenet’s testimony it has now become a matter of public record.

(2) As we knew from the PNAC (Project for a New American Century) documents, and from the neocon dictum that “Anyone can go to Baghdad, real men go to Tehran,” Syria and Iran were intended to be the immediate follow-on projects to the smashing success of Rumsfeld’s picnic in Mesopotamia. Negotiations, concessions from the mullahs, moderations of the regime – in short, peace in any form – were not to be tolerated. In his NYT column Sunday, Kristoff spelled out the details of the massive Iranian peace initiative in 2003 which was rejected out of hand by warmongers certain that they would be disposing of the Islamic state (and presumably of a few insignificant tens of thousands of its civilians) soon enough.

Encouraged, Iran transmitted its “grand bargain” proposals to the U.S. One version was apparently a paraphrase by the Swiss ambassador in Tehran; that was published this year in The Washington Post. But Iran also sent its own master text of the proposal to the State Department and, through an intermediary, to the White House. I’ve also posted that document, which Iran regards as the definitive one.
In the master document, Iran talks about ensuring “full transparency” and other measures to assure the U.S. that it will not develop nuclear weapons. Iran offers “active Iranian support for Iraqi stabilization.” Iran also contemplates an end to “any material support to Palestinian opposition groups” while pressuring Hamas “to stop violent actions against civilians within” Israel (though not the occupied territories). Iran would support the transition of Hezbollah to be a “mere political organization within Lebanon” and endorse the Saudi initiative calling for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Iran also demanded a lot, including “mutual respect,” abolition of sanctions, access to peaceful nuclear technology and a U.S. statement that Iran did not belong in the “axis of evil.” Many crucial issues, including verification of Iran’s nuclear program, needed to be hammered out. It’s not clear to me that a grand bargain was reachable, but it was definitely worth pursuing — and still is today.

Instead, Bush administration hard-liners aborted the process. Another round of talks had been scheduled for Geneva, and Ambassador Zarif showed up — but not the U.S. side. That undermined Iranian moderates.

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Barney’s incipient medical problem

April 12, 2007

Glenn Greenwald notes a recurring pattern, in which exactly the Bush Administration records most interesting to investigators tend to be accidentally lost, erased, misplaced, or shuttled off to Venus on UFOs.

All the DoJ emails about the US Attorney firings, for just the two weeks before they got fired. All Rove’s emails about, well, everything. The videotape of the interrogation session in which Jose Padilla “confessed”. The transcript of the daily FEMA conference for just the day when Katrina happened to hit. And on and on.

The SPCA needs to perform an intervention on the White House pooch. The poor beast must be choking to death on all that homework.

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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.