West Hawaii Today
By GENE JOHNSON
the Associated Press
SEATTLE — The Justice
Department is dropping its
attempt to retry the first
commissioned officer to be
court-martialed for refusing
to go to Iraq.
Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada
of Hawaii contended that
the war is illegal and that
he would be a party to war
crimes if he served in Iraq.
His first court-martial
ended in a mistrial in
A federal judge ruled last
fall that the Army could not
try him again on key charges,
including missing troop
movement, because it would
violate his constitutional
right to be free from double
The Justice Department
initially appealed to the
9th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals, but later asked the
court to dismiss the matter.
The court did so
Watada’s attorney, James
Lobsenz, said in a news
release that his client anticipates
he will soon be released
from active duty and “plans
to return to civilian life and
to attend law school.”
But Fort Lewis leadership
is still mulling how to handle
two remaining allegations
of conduct unbecoming an
officer against Watada that
the federal judge had kicked
back to the military trial
court for further consideration.
Options include courtmartial,
such as docking his pay
or giving him extra work, or
kicking him out of the Army
with either an honorable or
“What is most troubling to
us here is that the most serious
charge of missing movement
will not be decided
upon by a jury of the lieutenant’s
peers,” said Army
spokesman Joe Piek. “We’re
troubled by that on that on
behalf of the hundreds of
thousands of soldiers who
It is hard to believe, but the military still wants to prosecute Lt. Ehren Watada for refusing to deploy to Iraq because he knows that to do so would violate his oath to defend the Constitution from enemies foreign as well as DOMESTIC. In his trial in 2007, the army’s own witnesses testified favorably for Ehren, so the army prosecutors moved for a mistrial, which was granted. In an attempt to prosecute Ehren for a second time, a new judge declared that to try Ehren a second time would be double jeopardy. The army is now appealing that judgment to the Department of Justice. The Solicitor General, Elena Kagan will decide the appeal. Also, the army wants to prosecute Ehren for speaking out about why he refused to deploy to Iraq making freedom of speech for military officers a crime.
Below is a letter to Ms. Kagan from Barbara Moore, a friend, asking her to please do the right thing and deny that appeal. Ehren was supposed to be out of the army in 2006, he has been held three years past his enlistment a virtual prisoner with no route for him to take to be discharged.
I want to ask you to help in a effort to bring justice for Ehren, he has “served” his time and should be allowed to go on with his life not prosecuted for refusing to validate an illegal and immoral war and commit war crimes. Using the AskDOJ@usdoj.gov email address for Solicitor General, Elena Kagan, please send a note in support of Ehren for his release from the charges and from captivity.
—– Original Message —–
From: Barbara Moore <mailto:email@example.com>
Sent: Monday, May 04, 2009 11:31 PM
Subject: Re: Lt. Ehren Watada
Aloha Solicitor General, Elena Kagan,
I understand that you are in a key position at the Justice Department to recommend that the army drop its appeal of the mistrial and resulting double jeopardy judgment in favor of freeing Lt. Ehren Watada. I am impressed that you are a woman because I feel I can speak to you honestly from my heart and you will hear me. I am writing to beg you to use your authority to dismiss the immoral prosecution of this honorable lieutenant.
I am proud to say that Ehren is a personal friend of mine. I don’t know if you are aware of the fact that his name, Ehren, means ”honorable.” Honorable describes Ehren Watada precisely. After discovering the facts and realizing that the Iraq war was (and still is) unconstitutional, Ehren courageously spoke the truth and defended his precious Constitution. This was not an easy stand and it has already cost him huge legal expenses, death threats, and humiliation, as well as emotional and physical stress for not only him but for his supportive and loving family-not to mention wasting three precious years of his young life.
Ehren will go down in history books as a hero, being the first officer in the United States Army who used his intelligence, had the courage of his convictions, listened to and then acted upon his conscience to say NO to this grotesque war. He obeyed his oath to defend the constitution-performing that oath precisely as he agreed to do, while humbly alerting others. (Have you seen his moving and eloquent 2006 speech in Seattle? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wj0hI4OyF3A) Questioning this man’s honor is obvioualy inappropriate. Forcing him to face prosecution again or even requiring another day of “service” would be unconscionable.
Ehren once said:
When you are looking your children in the eye in the future, or when you are at the end of your life, you want to look back on your life and know that at a very important moment, when I had the opportunity to make the right decisions, I did so, even knowing there were negative consequences.
As I am sure you know, according to international law, those who follow immoral and illegal orders, like the Nazis who murdered the Jews, are responsible for their actions and should be punished. At a price of well over a million Iraqi lives, an immense number of American lives of soldiers who have died or who are destined to a life of living hell with debilitating DU in their systems and horrible memories in their psyches, along with over a trillion dollars of tax payers money, we all now know that this war has been a tremendous FIASCO. Ehren investigated and knew it before others were willing to admit it. No one questions anymore that this war was and still is, a mistake. So why would we not honor a man for recognizing the wrongness of this immoral and illegal war, refusing to mindlessly take orders in violation of our War Power Act of the Constitution as well as the UN Charter, the Geneva Convention and the Nuremberg Principles?
I humbly beseech you, as a woman with a very intelligent and well educated brain, a kind heart (judging by your looks), and a refined sense of conscience–please make the right decision by encouraging the release of this noble man, Lt. Ehren Watada–with an HONORABLE discharge. It is the just thing for a person in your position in the Justice Department to do. I realize that such a decision will take courage on your part. I appreciate the unique position you are in and sincerely pray that you have the moral fiber it takes to deliberate carefully and make this judgment correctly.
Honaunau, HI 96726
PS After you tell the army that this man deserves an honorable discharge immediately, please come to the Dragonfly Ranch for R&R!
“In the Sweetness of Friendship,
let there be Laughter
and the Sharing of Pleasures ”
Barbara Ann Kenonilani Moore
President of Hawaii Island Wellness Travel Association (HIWTA.org)
soul proprietor of Dragonfly Ranch: HEALING ARTS CENTER
Voted #1 B&B in West Hawaii by readers of West Hawaii Today daily paper
where Aloha abounds
72 degrees and sunny on Big Island’s Kona Coast
Uncategorized | Tags: Elena Kagan, Geneva Convention, Iraq, Iraq War, Justice Department, United States, United States Army, Warfare and Conflict | Comment (0)
“Dear Solicitor General: Tell the Army to drop the appeal against Lt. Watada”
By the Ad Hoc Campaign to Free Ehren Watada. April 27, 2009 In June 2006, U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada refused orders to Iraq on the grounds that the war was illegal and immoral. His court martial in February 2007 ended in an Army-contrived mistrial. In October 2007, the Army attempt to have a second court martial was stopped by a Federal judge who ruled that a second court martial would be double jeopardy. But the Army has not allowed Lt. Watada to leave military service. Instead, they have notified the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit of their plans to appeal the double jeopardy ruling. The Army has also threatened to revive old charges stemming from Lt. Watada’s speech in Seattle to the 2006 convention of Veterans For Peace. Justice Department to decide if Army will appeal double jeopardy ruling
The U.S. Solicitor General’s office in the Department of Justice will soon decide whether the Army can go ahead with its plans to appeal Federal Court rulings in Lt. Watada’s favor. An campaign of public pressure is being called by Lt. Watada’s supporters in the peace movement. The ad hoc campaign is being spearheaded by two Vietnam War resisters, Mike Wong and Gerry Condon, who are active members of Veterans for Peace in San Francisco and Seattle. The Call to Action is being issued in the name of Asian Americans for Peace and Justice, formerly the Watada Support Committee, in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Project Safe Haven, a war resister support group. We are sending out this email alert to all our contacts and organizations – including Veterans for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, United For Peace and Justice, ANSWER, Code Pink, American Friends Service Committee and others.
We ask you all to phone, write, and email Solicitor General Elena Kagan and Deputy Attorney General Neal Katyal immediately.
1. Ask the Solicitor General: Tell the Army to drop the appeal and any other charges against Lt. Watada, and to release him from the Army with an honorable discharge. If we all act quickly, we can flood the Solicitor General’s office with hundreds of phone calls, letters and emails, which could tip the balance in Ehren Watada’s favor.
Solicitor General Elena Kagan, 202-514-2201 Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal, 202-514-2206 Send letters to: U.S. Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20530.
A sample letter is included below. Feel free to edit as you wish, or to write your own. It is possible that both the Solicitor General and her Deputy may be open to our plea. Please be respectful and polite in all your communications with these Obama appointees.
2. Please forward this alert to all activists, friends, and organizations you know that would be supportive. If you are involved in an organization, please ask that it forward this alert to its entire membership.
4. Various groups may also wish to mount demonstrations, press conferences, lobby, or use other means of peaceful political pressure. You may also call for an end to the persecution of all war resisters. Mike Wong, Vice President, SF Bay Area Veterans For Peace; Asian Americans for Social Justice Gerry Condon, Greater Seattle Veterans For Peace; Project Safe Haven Sample letter:
Solicitor General Elena Kagan Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal U.S. Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20530-0001
Dear Solicitor General Kagan and Deputy Solicitor General Katyal, I am writing to urge you to direct the U.S. Army to drop its appeal and any other charges in the case of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, and to release him from the Army with an Honorable Discharge.
Lt. Watada was the first Army officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq, because he believes the U.S. war in Iraq is illegal and immoral, and that orders to participate in it are therefore also illegal and immoral. Lt. Watada’s Army court martial in February 2007 ended in a mistrial that was illegally construed by the Army judge, Lt. Col. John Head. When the Army then attempted a second court martial in October 2007, U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle halted the proceedings on double jeopardy grounds. Judge Settle had just been appointed to his position by George W. Bush and was a former Army JAG lawyer.
I urge you to uphold U.S. and international law by directing the Army to end its prolonged prosecution of Lt. Ehren Watada. Thank you very much.
Uncategorized | Tags: Ehren Watada, George W. Bush, Iraq, San Francisco Bay Area, U.S. Court of Appeals, U.S. Department of Justice, United States, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit | Comment (0)
MONDAY 19 JANUARY 2009 Signup for updates * * * * * * * * * * * * Opinion Olbermann | Bush Years: 8 in 8 Minutes Friday 16 January 2009 » by: Keith Olbermann,
George Walker Bush. 43rd president of the United States. first ever with a criminal record. our third story tonight, his presidency: eight years in eight minutes. early in 2001 the U.S. fingered Al Qaeda for the bombing of the USS Cole Bush counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke had a plan to take down Al Qaeda. instead by February the NSC had already discussed invading Iraq, and had a plan for post-Saddam Iraq. by March 5 Bush had a map ready for Iraqi oil exploration and a list of companies. Al Qaeda? Rice told Clarke not to give Bush a lot of long memos. not a big reader. August 6, 2001 a CIA analyst briefs Bush on vacation: “Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.” Bush takes no action tells the briefer – quote all right, you’ve covered your ass now. next month Clarke requests using new predator drones to kill Bin Laden the Pentagon and CIA say no. September 11th Bush remains seated for several minutes to avoid scaring school children by getting up and leaving. he then flies around the country and promises quote a full scale investigation to find those folks who did it Rumsfeld says Afghanistan does not have enough targets we’ve got to do Iraq. when the CIA traps Bin Laden at Tora Bora it asks for 800 rangers to cut off his escape Bush outsources the job to Pakistanis sympathetic to the Taliban Bin Laden gets away in February General Tommy Franks tells a visiting Senator Bush is moving equipment out of Afghanistan so he can invade Iraq. one of the men who prepped Rice for her testimony that Bush did not ignore pre 9-11 warnings later explains quote we cherry picked things to make it look like the president had been actually concerned about Al Qaeda they didn’t give a bleep about Al Qaeda July and Britain‘s intel chief says Bush is fixing intelligence and facts around the policy to take out Saddam January 03 Bush and Blair agree to invade in March Mr. Bush still telling us he has not decided telling Blair they should paint an airplane in UN colors fly it over Iraq and provoke a response a pretext for invasion the man who said it would take several hundred thousand troops fired the man who said it would cost more than a hundred billion fired the man who revealed Bush’s yellowcake lie smeared his wife’s covert status exposed the White House liars who did it and covered it up not fired one convicted Bush commutes his sentence then in Iraq, stuff happens: Iraq’s army, disbanded the government de-Baathified 200,000 weapons, billions of dollars just lost foreign mercenaries immunized from justice political hacks run the Green Zone religious cleansing forcing one out of six Iraqis from their homes Abu Ghraib the insurgency Al Qaeda in Iraq other stuff does not happen: WMD post-war planning body armor vehicular armor the payoff? oil and billions for Halliburton, Blackwater and other companies while Mr. Bush denies VA healthcare to 450,000 veterans tries to raise their healthcare fees blocks the new G.I. Bill and increases his own power with the USA PATRIOT Act with the Military Commissions Act public orders exempting himself from a thousand laws and secretly from the Presidential Records Act The Geneva Conventions FISA sparking a mass rebellion at the Justice Department secret star chambers for terrorism suspects, overturned by Hamdan v Rumsfeld. denying habeas corpus, overturned by Boumediene v Bush. 200 renditionings sleep deprivation abuse Rumsfeld warned in 2002 that he was torturing that it would jeopardize convictions out of 550 at Gitmo hundreds ultimately go free with no charges dozens are tortured eight fatally three are convicted on U.S. soil twelve hundred immigrants rounded up without due process without bail without court dates without a single charge of terrorism it wasn’t just Mr. Bush no longer subject to the rule of law he slashed regulations on everyone from banks to mining companies appointed 98 lobbyists to oversee their own industries weakening emission standards for mercury and 650 different toxic chemicals regulators shared drugs and their beds with industry reps the Crandall Canyon mine owner told inspectors to back up because his buddy, Republican Mitch McConnell was sleeping with their boss McConnell’s wife is Bush Labor Secretary Elaine Chao her agency overruled engineer concerns about Crandall Canyon and was found negligent after nine miners died in the collapse there Mr. Bush’s hands off as Enron blacks out California doubling electric bills after months of rejecting price caps Mr. Bush bows to pressure the blackouts end Mr. Bush further deregulates commodity futures midwifing the birth of unregulated oil markets which just like Enron jack up prices to an all time high until Congress and both presidential candidates call for regulations and the prices fall deregulating financial services and lax enforcement of remaining rules created a housing bubble creating the mortgage crisis creating then a credit crisis devastating industries that rely on credit from student loans to car dealers firms that had survived the Great Depression could not survive Bush those that did got seven hundred billion dollars no strings, no transparency no idea whether it worked unlike the auto bailout which cut workers’ salaries. a GOP memo called it a chance to punish unions but Bush failed even when his party and his patrons did not stand to profit investigators blamed management cost cutting communication for missed warnings about Columbia Bush administration convicts include sex offenders at Homeland Security convicted liars every kind of thief in the calendar and if you count things that were not prosecuted the vice president of the United States actually shot a man in the face the man apologized. Mr. Bush faked the truth with paid propaganda in Iraq on his education policy tried to silence the truth about global warming rocket fuel in our water industry influence on energy policy politicized the truth of science at NASA, the EPA, the National Cancer Institute, Fish and Wildlife and the FDA his lies exposed by whistleblowers from the cabinet down “complete BS” the treasury secretary said of Mr. Bush on his tax cuts. Rice’s mushroom cloud Powell’s mobile labs Iraq and 9-11 Jack Abramoff Jessica Lynch Pat Tillman Pat Tillman again Pat Tillman, again. the air at Ground Zero most responders still suffering respiratory problems. global warming carbon emissions a Clear Skies initiative lowering air quality standards the Healthy Forests initiative increasing logging faith based initiatives the cost of medicare reform fired US attorneys politically synchronized terror alerts the surge causing insurgents to switch sides that abortion causes breast cancer that his first recession began under Clinton that he did not wiretap without warrants that we do not torture. that American citizen John Walker Lindh’s rights were not violated that he refused the right to counsel heckuva job Brownie some survivors still in trailers New Orleans still at just two-thirds its usual population the lie that no one could have predicted the economic crisis except the economists who did no one could have predicted 9-11 except one ass-covering CIA analyst or thirty no one could have predicted the levee breach except literally Mr. Bill in a PSA that aired on TV a year before Katrina Bush actually admitted that he lied about not firing Rumsfeld because he did not want to tell the truth. look it up. all of it all of it and more leaving us with ten trillion in debt to pay for 31% more in discretionary spending the Iraq War a 1.3 trillion dollar tax cut median income down two thousand dollars three-quarters of all income gains under Bush going to the richest one percent unemployment up from 4.2 to 7.2 percent the Dow, down from ten thousand five hundred eighty seven to eighty two hundred seventy seven six million now more in poverty seven million more now without health care buying toxic goods from China deadly cribs outsourcing security to Dubai still unsecure in our ports and at our nuclear plants more dependent on foreign oil out of the international criminal court off the anti ballistic missle treaty military readiness and standards down with two unfinished wars a nuclear North Korea disengaged from the Palestinian problem destabilizing eastern european diplomacy with anti missile plans and unable to keep Russia out of Georgia 2000 miles of Appalachian streams destroyed by rubble from mountaintop mining at his last G-8 summit, he actually bid farewell to other world leaders saying quote – goodbye from the world’s greatest polluter consistently undermining historic American reverence for the institutions that empower us education, now “academic elites” and the law, “activist judges” capping jury awards and Bin Laden? living today unmolested in a Pakistani safe haven created by a truce endorsed and defended by George W. Bush and among all the gifts he gave to Bin Laden the most awful, the most damaging not just to America but to the American ideal was to further Bin Laden’s goal by making us act out of fear rather than fortitude leaving us with precious little to cling to tonight save the one thing that might yet suffice: hope.Politics | Tags: Al-Qaeda, George W. Bush, George Walker Bush, Iraq, Iraq War, United States, US, USA PATRIOT Act | Comment (0)
Obama is already under the thumb of the American Enterprise Institute, AEI, with his choice of Dennis Ross as his senior advisor on middle east policies. The American Enterprise Institute is the Zionist Israeli (located in the US) “think tank” whose members made up the majority of the Bush administration, and who hatched the Iraq war under Cheney, Rumsfeld, Feith, Cambone, Bolton, Wolfowitz, Libby, Ross, all AEI “fellows/scholars” all Zionist Jews who control this country, and apparently newly elected Barack Obama as well. In their now famous document a “Project for a New American Century (PNAC)” initiated in the late 1990s, they mapped out the course of action to attack Iraq, inflame the middle east, and be able to fight at least 2 minor and 1 major war at the same time with Israel using the US government and military to do its’ work in taking over the world. Although the “project” has not gone as smoothly as anticipated, that has not deterred them, they press on now having co-opted the new administration by installing their members already and their agenda going forward. Their next project is for the US to attack Iran.
My dear brother, Jim, who passed over last year, was particularly outraged by US use of torture. He turned me on to the biggest source of truthful news possible: Truth Out
Thursday 11 December 2008
Former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other top Bush administration officials are directly responsible for abuses of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, says a bipartisan Senate report released Thursday. (Photo: AFP / Getty Images)
Senate Committee finds officials made decisions that led to offenses against prisoners.
A bipartisan Senate report released today says that former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other top Bush administration officials are directly responsible for abuses of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and charges that decisions by those officials led to serious offenses against prisoners in Iraq and elsewhere.
The Senate Armed Services Committee report accuses Rumsfeld and his deputies of being the principal architects of the plan to use harsh interrogation techniques on captured fighters and terrorism suspects, rejecting the Bush administration’s contention that the policies originated lower down the command chain.
“The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of ‘a few bad apples’ acting on their own,” the panel concludes. “The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees.”
The report, released by Sens. Carl Levin (D-Michigan) and John McCain (R-Arizona) and based on a nearly two-year investigation, said that both the policies and resulting controversies tarnished the reputation of the United States and undermined national security. “Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority,” it said.
The panel’s investigation focused on the Defense Department’s use of controversial interrogation practices, including forced nudity, painful stress positions, sleep deprivation, extreme temperatures and use of dogs. The practices, some of which had already been adopted by the CIA at its secret prisons, were adapted for interrogations at Guantanamo Bay and later migrated to U.S. detention camps in Afghanistan and Iraq, including the infamous Abu Ghraib prison.
“The Committee’s report details the inexcusable link between abusive interrogation techniques used by our enemies who ignored the Geneva Conventions and interrogation policy for detainees in U.S. custody,” McCain, himself a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, said in a statement. “These policies are wrong and must never be repeated.”
White House officials have maintained the measures were approved in response to demands from field officers who complained that traditional interrogation methods weren’t working on some of the more hardened captives. But Senate investigators, relying on documents and hours of hearing testimony, arrived at a different conclusion.
The true genesis of the decision to use coercive techniques, the report said, was a memo signed by President Bush on Feb. 7, 2002, declaring that the Geneva Convention’s standards for humane treatment did not apply to captured al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters. As early as that spring, the panel said, top administration officials, including National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, participated in meetings in which the use of coercive measures was discussed. The panel drew on a written statement by Rice, released earlier this year, to support that conclusion.
In July 2002, Rumseld’s senior staff began compiling information about techniques used in military survival schools to simulate conditions that U.S. airmen might face if captured by an enemy that did not follow the Geneva conditions. Those techniques – borrowed from a training program known as Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, or SERE – included waterboarding, or simulated drowning, and were loosely based on methods adopted by Chinese communists to coerce propaganda confessions from captured U.S. soldiers during the Korean war.
The SERE program became the template for interrogation methods that were ultimately approved by Rumsfeld himself, the report says. In the field, U.S. military interrogators used the techniques with little oversight and frequently abusive results, the panel found.
“It is particularly troubling that senior officials approved the use of interrogation techniques that were originally designed to simulate abusive tactics used by our enemies against our own soldiers and that were modeled, in part, on tactics used by the Communist Chinese to elicit false confessions from U.S. military personnel,” the report said.
Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement that “SERE training techniques were designed to give our troops a taste of what they might be subjected to if captured by a ruthless, lawless enemy so that they would be better prepared to resist. The techniques were never intended to be used against detainees in U.S. custody.”
Defenders of the techniques have argued that such measures were justified because of al-Qaeda’s demonstrated disregard for human life. But the panel members cited the views of Gen. David H. Petraeus, now the head of U.S. Central Command, who in a May 2007 letter to his troops said humane treatment of prisoners allows Americans to occupy the moral high ground.
“Our values and the laws governing warfare teach us to respect human dignity, maintain our integrity, and do what is right,” wrote Petraeus, who at the time was the top U.S. commander in Iraq. “Adherence to our values distinguishes us from our enemy.”
Robert Gates Wants to Keep His Pentagon Gig, so He’s Pandering to Obama’s Bad Ideas for Afghanistan
By Ray McGovern, Consortium News
Posted on November 24, 2008
It may become a biennial ritual. Every two years, if the commander-in-chief (or the commander-in-chief-elect) says he wants to throw more troops into an unwinnable war for no clear reason other than his political advantage, panderer-in-chief Robert Gates will shout “Outstanding!”
Never mind what the commanders in the field are saying — much less the troops who do the dying.
After meeting in Canada on Friday with counterparts from countries with troops in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Gates emphasized to reporters there is a shared interest in “surging as many forces as we can” <http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-afghan24-2008nov24,0,5733953.story> into Afghanistan before the elections there in late September 2009.
At the concluding news conference, Gates again drove home the point: “It’s important that we have a surge of forces.”
Basking in the alleged success of the Iraq “surge,” Gates knows a winning word when he hears one — whether the facts are with him or not. Although the conventional wisdom in Washington credits the “surge” with reducing violence in Iraq, military analysts point to other reasons — including Sunni tribes repudiating al-Qaeda extremists before the “surge” and the de facto ethnic cleansing of Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods.
In Washington political circles, there’s also little concern about the 1,000 additional U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq since President George W. Bush started the “surge” early in 2007. The Americans killed during the “surge” represent roughly one-quarter of the total war dead whose numbers passed the 4,200 mark last week.
Nor is there much Washington commentary about what Bush’s grotesque expenditure in blood and treasure will mean in the long term, even as the Iraqis put the finishing touches on a security pact that sets a firm deadline for a complete U.S. military withdrawal by the end of 2011, wording that may be Arabic for “thanks, but no thanks.”
And most Americans do not know from reading the reports from their Fawning Corporate Media that the “surge” was such a “success” that the United States now has about 8,000 more troops in Iraq than were there before the “surge” rose and fell.
The real “success” of the Iraq “surge” is proving to be that it will let President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney leave office on Jan. 20, 2009, without having to admit that they were responsible for a strategic disaster. They can lay the blame for failure on their successors.
Gates a Winner?
Gates stands to be another beneficiary of the Iraq “surge.”
Already, he has the defense secretary job. In November 2006, he was plucked from the relative obscurity of his Texas A&M presidency and put back into the international spotlight that he has always craved, because he was willing to front for the “surge” when even Donald Rumsfeld was urging Bush to start a troop drawdown.
Now, the perceived “success” of the “surge” is giving hawkish Washington Democrats an excuse to rally around Gates and urge President-elect Barack Obama to keep him on.
Ever an accomplished bureaucrat, Gates is doing what he can to strengthen his case.
On Friday, Gates seemed at pains to demonstrate that his approach to Afghanistan is identical to the one publicly espoused by his prospective new employer who is currently reviewing Gates’ job renewal application. And, as he did with the Iraq “surge” over the past two years, Gates now is talking up the prospects for an Afghan “surge.”
“The notion that things are out of control in Afghanistan or that we’re sliding toward a disaster, I think, is far too pessimistic,” Gates said. Yet the argument that Gates used to support his relative optimism makes us veteran intelligence officers gag — at least those who remember the U.S. in Vietnam in the 1960s, the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and other failed counterinsurgencies.
“The Taliban holds no land in Afghanistan and loses every time it comes into contact with coalition forces,” Gates explained.
Our secretary of defense is insisting that U.S. troops have not lost one pitched battle with the Taliban or al-Qaeda. Engagements like the one on July 13, 2008, in which “insurgents” attacked an outpost in Konar province, killing nine U.S. soldiers and wounding 15 others, apparently do not qualify as “contact,” but are merely “incidents.”
Gates ought to read up on Vietnam, for his words evoke a similarly benighted comment by U.S. Army Col. Harry Summers after that war had been lost. In 1974, Summers was sent to Hanoi to try to resolve the status of Americans still listed as missing. To his North Vietnamese counterpart, Col. Tu, Summers made the mistake of bragging, “You know, you never beat us on the battlefield.” Colonel Tu responded, “That may be so, but it is also irrelevant.”
As Vietnamese Communist forces converged on Saigon in April 1975, the U.S. withdrew all remaining personnel. Summers was on the last Marine helicopter to fly off the roof of the American Embassy at 5:30 a.m. on April 30. As he later recalled, “I was the second-to-the-last Army guy out of Vietnam — quite a searing experience.”
Why is this relevant? Because if Obama repeats the mistakes of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford, U.S. Marine choppers may be plucking folks not only off the U.S. embassy roof in Baghdad, but also from the mountains and valleys of Afghanistan. No ignoramus, Gates knows that his comments about the Taliban losing “every time” that there is contact with coalition forces is as irrelevant as those of Col. Summers 34 years ago.
Yet, it would be folly to expect Gates to give advice to a superior that challenges the policies that Gates thinks his superior favors. Gates has been the consummate career careerist, going back to his days as head of analysis at CIA in the 1980s when he fashioned intelligence reports that gave the policymakers what they wanted to hear. Instead of the old-fashioned “bark-on” intelligence, the Gates variety was “apple-polished” intelligence.
Time running out for Gates
He wants to stay on as Defense Secretary and apparently thinks that his lifelong strategy of telling his superiors what they want to hear will now work with Barack Obama. Gates is nearing the end of a highly sophisticated campaign to convince Obama and his advisers that the current defense secretary is just who they need at the Pentagon to execute Obama’s policies — and look really bipartisan to boot.
The president-elect’s position has long been that we need to send “at least two additional brigades” (about 7,000 troops) to Afghanistan. So the defense secretary would have us believe, as he said Friday, that “surging as many forces as we can” is an outstanding idea. And with troops having to leave Iraqi cities by next June, in the first stage of the U.S. withdrawal demanded by the draft status-of-forces agreement, there will be more soldiers available to send into the mountains of Afghanistan. Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?
Ironically, this resembles closely the proposed policy of Sen. John McCain, who argued during the debate with Obama on Sept. 26 that “the same [surge] strategy” that Gen. David Petraeus implemented in Iraq is “going to have to be employed in Afghanistan.” For good measure, Gov. Sarah Palin told Katie Couric “a surge in Afghanistan also will lead us to victory there, as it has proven to have done in Iraq.”
Oops! Within a week, Gen. David McKiernan, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, undercut McCain and Palin, insisting emphatically that no Iraq-style “surge” of forces will end the conflict in Afghanistan. Speaking in Washington on Oct. 1, McKiernan employed unusual candor in describing Afghanistan as “a far more complex environment than I ever found in Iraq.” The country’s mountainous terrain, rural population, poverty, illiteracy, 400 major tribal networks, and history of civil war make it a unique challenge, he said.
“The word I don’t use for Afghanistan is ‘surge,’” McKiernan continued, adding that what is required is a “sustained commitment” to a counterinsurgency effort that could last many years and would ultimately require a political, not military, solution. McKiernan added that he doubts that “another facet of the Iraq strategy” — the U.S. military’s programs to recruit tribes to oppose insurgents — can be duplicated in Afghanistan. “I don’t want the military to be engaging the tribes,” said McKiernan.
Recently, President-elect Obama has been relatively quiet on Afghanistan, and one lives in hope that, before he actually commits to sending more brigades to Afghanistan, he will assemble a group of people who know something about that country, the forces at play in the region, and insurgency. If he gathers the right people, and if he listens, it seems a good bet that his campaign rhetoric about Afghanistan being the good war will remain just that, rhetoric.
In any event, press reports suggest that Gates has only another week or so left to pretend to the president-elect that he thinks the ideas reflected in Obama’s rhetoric are outstanding. And, as Gates’ predecessor Rumsfeld might have put it, you have to go with the rhetoric you’ve got. Right now, the word “surge” brings nods of approval at influential dinner parties in Washington.
What does Gen. McKiernan know, anyway? Gates’ Pentagon says that McKiernan now has requested three additional brigade combat teams and additional aviation assets. And yet, he says he’s allergic to a “surge”?
If past is precedent, Gen. McKiernan already realizes he has little choice but to salute smartly, do what he is told, and not diverge from what inexperienced civilians like Gates are promoting. After all, didn’t McNamara know best in the early days of Vietnam and didn’t Rumsfeld know best at the start of the Iraq war?
As the saying goes, if you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail. If you are a general assigned a mission — though it appear to be Mission Impossible — you salute smartly and use those troops entrusted to you to do what armies do. At least that has been the tradition since Vietnam. Such behavior is a disgrace when generals know better.
Ambitious but empty suits
I’m all for civilian control of the military. But I see much more harm than good in political generals — like the anointed David Petraeus — who give ample evidence of being interested, first and foremost, in their own advancement. Why do I say that? Because Petraeus, like McKiernan, knows Afghanistan is another quagmire. But he won’t say it.
Rather than do the right thing and brief his superiors on the realities of Afghanistan, Petraeus and the generals he has promoted seem likely to follow the time-honored practice of going along to get along. After all, none of them get killed or wounded. Rather the vast majority get promoted, so long as they keep any dissenting thoughts to themselves.
It is the same pattern we witnessed regarding Vietnam. Although the most senior military brass knew, as the French learned before them, that the war/occupation could not be successful, no senior officer had the integrity and courage to speak out and try to halt the lunacy.
Are there Army generals with guts?
It will be interesting to see what McKiernan actually does if and when more troops are surged down his throat. If he has the courage of his convictions, maybe he’ll quit and perhaps even say something.
As a former Army officer, I would love to see an Army general display the courage that one saw in Admiral William Fallon, former commander of CENTCOM, who openly refused to “do Iran” on his watch, and got cashiered for it. Two years ago, Army Generals John Abizaid and George Casey, speaking on behalf of their senior commanders in the field, pushed back strongly against the idea of adding more U.S. troops to those already in Iraq. They finally succeeded in persuading former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld of the merits of their argument.
It was when Rumsfeld himself started to challenge the advice Bush was getting (to “surge” and thus not “lose” Iraq on his watch) that Robert Gates was brought in to replace Rumsfeld, relieve Abizaid and Casey from command, and help anoint Gen. Petraeus as surge-savior. (For details on Rumsfeld’s break with Bush, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Robert Gates: As Bad as Rumsfeld?”)
But rather than speak out, Abizaid folded his tent like an Arab and silently stole away. Casey accepted the sinecure of Army chief of staff as hush money. And a thousand more U.S. troops died. The temporary respite provided by the 29,000 troops who survived the surge helped achieve the administration’s main purpose — deferring the inevitable U.S. troop withdrawal (not in “victory” as Bush liked to say, but by demand of the Iraqi government) until Bush and Cheney were safely out of office.
As for Gates, what he does not know about Afghanistan and insurgency could fill a medium-sized library. So could what Gates does know about how to ingratiate himself with the next level up.
If it is true that serious consideration is being given to keeping Gates on past January, it will be interesting to see if the pandering padding of his resume eventually wins the day with the president-elect.
Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.Politics | Tags: Afghanistan, Barack Obama, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Iraq, Richard Nixon, Robert Gates, United States | Comment (0)
Report: 1-in-4 Gulf War veterans still suffer from toxin exposure
Now Hear This: Seattle’s Military Blog
militaryarmed servicesarmynavyair forcemarinesiraqafghanistanpentagonSeattle
Report: 1-in-4 Gulf War veterans still suffer from toxin exposure
Seventeen years after the decisive but relatively quick Persian Gulf War invasion of Iraq to liberate Kuwait, a landmark 450-page report released Monday by a federal panel of scientific experts and veterans concludes what many veterans already knew about Gulf War illness:
At least one-fourth of the nearly 700,000 military personnel who served in that war and its aftermath have complex but real health problems that the report now scientifically links to a poisonous stew to which they were exposed.
“Veterans of the 1990-1991 Gulf War had the distinction of serving their country in a military operation that was a tremendous success, achieved in short order. But many had the misfortune of developing lasting health consequences that were poorly understood and, for too long, denied or trivialized,” the report said.
The Congressionally-mandated report, titled “Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses” was handed over Monday to Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Peake at the department’s headquarters in the nation’s capital. The Boston University School of Public Health scientific staff assisted with research.
Anthony Hardie, national secretary and legislative chair for Veterans of Modern Warfare Inc., a non-profit veterans group representing those who served during and since the 1991 Persian Gulf War, said the report is “huge.”
“It really closes one of the darker chapters of the legacy of the Gulf War, and that is Gulf War illness,” Hardie said.
“The report clearly lays out that Gulf War illness was caused by unique exposures; it lays out clearly that Gulf war illness is not a stress-related or trauma condition, that is is not the same as in wars before or since. It is unique,” Hardie said by phone Monday.
According to the report, “The extensive body of scientific research now available consistently indicates that Gulf War illness is real, that it is the result of neurotoxic exposures during Gulf War deployment, and that few veterans have recovered or substantially improved with time.
“Scientific evidence leaves no question that Gulf War illness is a real condition with real causes and serious consequences for affected veterans. Research has also shown that his pattern of illness does not occur after every war and cannot be attributed to psychological stressors during the Gulf War,” the report says.
Gulf War veterans applaud the report, lamenting that it has been a long-time coming, noting the years in which fellow veterans suffered and died.
Hardie said the report conjures “mixed feelings.”
On the one hand, “It is certainly a victory for Gulf War veterans. Gulf War veterans were right all along that their illnesses are related to unique exposures during the 1991 Gulf War. This is a government report based on science that clearly lays out the nature and scope and effects of Gulf War illness,” he said.
On the other hand, “it is bittersweet in that two decades after the war’s end we still don’t have treatments for Gulf War illness; they are sporadic,” Hardie said. Some veterans illnesses remain unrecognized.
The long ordeal over Gulf War illness for veterans of the 1991 war parallels the long fight of Vietnam veterans over post-war illnesses linked to Agent Orange, a chemical defoliant, many veterans say. The report notes those difficulties.
“Some observers have suggested that these complexities pose too difficult a challenge, and that it is unlikely that the nature and causes of Gulf War illness can ever be known. On the contrary, the Committee has found that the extensive scientific research and other diverse sources of information related to the health of Gulf War veterans paint a cohesive picture that yields important answers to basic questions about both the nature and causes of Gulf War illness. These, in turn, provide direction for future research that is urgently needed to improve the health of Gulf War veterans,” the report says.
Many Gulf War veterans have voiced frustration that their problems were written off as stress-related. The report flatly says that “studies consistently indicate that Gulf War illness is not the result of combat or other stressors, and that Gulf War veterans have lower rates of posttraumatic stress disorder than veterans of other wars.”
A variety of factors were examined, ranging from sychological stress, vaccines, oil fires, depleted uranium. nerve agents, infectious disease and many more.
Two immediately jumped out at Hardie, pesticides and pyrodstigmine.
The latter, called simply “PB,” was a pill taken by at least half of all troops in the 1991 war for purported protection against nerve gas.
Troops in the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan don’t have to take the pills, Hardie noted.
“That was one lesson we learned from the Gulf War. PB was not approved by the FDA, which gave a waiver to the Defense Department that waived the necessity for informed consent,” Hardie said.
The report says of pyridostigmine bromide (PB):
“Widespread use of PB as a protective measure in the event of nerve gas exposure was unique to the 1990-1991 Gulf War. Pyridostigmine bromide is one of only two exposures consistently identified by Gulf War epidemiologic studies to be significantly associated with Gulf War illness. About half of Gulf War personnel are believed to have taken PB tablets during deployment, with greatest use among ground troops and those in forward locations. Several studies have identified dose-response effects, indicating that veterans who took PB for longer periods of time have higher illness rates than veterans who took less PB. In addition, clinical studies have identified significant associations between PB use during the Gulf War and neurocognitive and neuroendocrine alterations identified many years after the war. Taken together, these diverse types and sources of evidence provide a consistent and persuasive case that use of PB during the Gulf War is causally associated with Gulf War illness.”
Depleted uranium, meanwhile, a much-considered potential source of illness over the years, was not likely a culprit in Gulf War illness, although the report leaves open a door by noting that DU very likely has effects of its own.
“Exposure to depleted uranium munitions is not likely a primary cause of Gulf War illness. Questions remain about long-term health effects of higher dose exposures to DU, however, particularly in relation to other health outcomes,” the report said.
Committee members said the report offers a “blueprint” for the incoming Obama Administration to focus on Gulf War veterans. It also could help those from other countries, including troops allied with the U.S. during Desert Storm, who have reported similar health problems.
“A renewed federal research commitment is needed,” the committee report says, “to achieve the critical objectives of improving the health of Gulf War veterans and preventing similar problems in future deployments. This is a national obligation, made especially urgent by the many years that Gulf War veterans have waited for answers and assistance.”
Posted by Mike Barber Mike Barber at November 17, 2008 3:53 p.m.
Categories: Army, Department of Veterans Affairs, Iraq, Marines, Veterans
Posted by unregistered user at 11/17/08 5:48 p.m.
Why is it that so many soldiers and probably civilians can get exposed to such hazards at the whim of their own government and why are there so little accountability? Why must these people battle beaurocracy in the land they fought for to get recognition of the maladies they were left with? It is almost like a case of the enemy within. Governments must own up when there has been a stuff-up.
Posted by unregistered user at 11/17/08 6:11 p.m.
To help servicemembers and Veterans with their immunity from bio-toxins one should insist that Veteran’s for Peace change the name and scope of their Agent Orange campaign. It deals extensively with reparations for Agent Orange in Vietnam but is insensitive to the continuing hazard of bio-terrorism by or against Veterans. With their documented weak grasp on arms control and non violence, in general, as well as their fearless registration with the armed forces, government and health care, Veterans are particularly vulnerable to use as soldiers of fortune against their own friends and families. Granted the Veteran conference goer who earned this scorn was a former lawyer who was up to his elbows in wills before he went insane, and now seems to have killed both his parents, much like all the other lawyers I know. Veterans must stop torturing their spouse and killing their spouse’s family. At least Veterans have succeeded in stopping the medical billing. They have also succeeded in laying down their arms. Perhaps this skill in disarmament can extend to the invisible biological and chemical weapons, used at home so much they are overlooked at the majority of “natural” deaths, because they are prohibited under international and national law.
Health | Tags: 2003 invasion of Iraq, Agent Orange, Boston University School of Public Health, Gulf War, Gulf War syndrome, Iraq, Iraq War, United States | Comment (0)
The legacy of the “War President”………….
Tom Engelhardt: The End of a Subprime Administration
Source: TomDispatch.com (11-2-08)
[Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute's TomDispatch.com. He is the author of The End of Victory Culture, a history of the American Age of Denial. The World According to TomDispatch: America in the New Age of Empire (Verso, 2008), a collection of some of the best pieces from his site and an alternative history of the mad Bush years, has recently been published. To listen to a podcast in which he discusses Bush's record abroad, click here. ]
They may have been the most disastrous dreamers, the most reckless gamblers, and the most vigorous imperial hucksters and grifters in our history. Selling was their passion. And they were classic American salesmen — if you’re talking about underwater land in Florida, or the Brooklyn Bridge, or three-card monte, or bizarre visions of Iraqi unmanned aerial vehicles armed with chemical and biological weaponry let loose over the U.S., or Saddam Hussein‘s mushroom clouds rising over American cities, or a full-scale reordering of the Middle East to our taste, or simply eternal global dominance.
When historians look back, it will be far clearer that the “commander-in-chief” of a “wartime” country and his top officials were focused, first and foremost, not on the shifting “central theaters” of the Global War on Terror, but on the theater that mattered most to them — the “home front” where they spent inordinate amounts of time selling the American people a bill of goods. Of his timing in ramping up a campaign to invade Iraq in September 2002, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card infamously explained: “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.”
From a White House where “victory strategies” meant purely for domestic consumption poured out, to the Pentagon where bevies of generals, admirals, and other high officers were constantly being mustered, not to lead armies but to lead public opinion, their selling focus was total. They were always releasing “new product.”
And don’t forget their own set of soaring inside-the-Beltway fantasies. After all, if a salesman is going to sell you some defective product, it always helps if he can sell himself on it first. And on this score, they were world champs.
Because events made it look so foolish, the phrase “shock and awe” that went with the initial attack on Iraq in March 2003 has now passed out of official language and (together with “mission accomplished”) into the annals of irony. Back then, though, as bombs and missiles blew up parts of Baghdad — to fabulous visual effect in that other “theater” of war, television — the phrase was constantly on official lips and in media reports everywhere. It went hand-in-glove with another curious political phrase: regime change.
Given the supposed unique technological proficiency of the U.S. military and its array of “precision” weapons, the warriors of Bushworld convinced themselves that a new era in military affairs had truly dawned. An enemy “regime” could now be taken out — quite literally and with surgical precision, in its bedrooms, conference rooms, and offices, thanks to those precision weapons delivered long-distance from ship or plane — without taking out a country. Poof! You only had to say the word and an oppressive regime would be, as it was termed, “decapitated.” Its people would then welcome with open arms relatively small numbers of American troops as liberators.
It all sounded so good, and high tech, and relatively simple, and casualty averse, and clean as a whistle. Even better, once there had been such a demonstration, a guaranteed “cakewalk” — as, say, in Iraq — who would ever dare stand up to American power again? Not only would one hated enemy dictator be dispatched to the dustbin of history, but evildoers everywhere, fearing the Bush equivalent of the wrath of Khan, would be shock-and-awed into submission or quickly dispatched in their own right.
In reality (ah, “reality” — what a nasty word!), the shock-and-awe attacks used on Iraq got not a single leader of the Saddamist regime, not one of that pack of 52 cards (including of course the ace of spades, Saddam Hussein, found in his “spiderhole” so many months later). Iraqi civilians were the ones killed in that precise and shocking moment, while Iraqi society was set on the road to destruction, and the world was not awed.
Strangely enough, though, the phrase, once reversed, proved applicable to the Bush administration’s seven-year post-9/11 history. They were, in a sense, the awe-and-shock administration. Initially, they were awed by the supposedly singular power of the American military to dominate and transform the planet; then, they were continually shocked and disbelieving when that same military, despite its massive destructive power, turned out to be incapable of doing so, or even of handling two ragtag insurgencies in two weakened countries, one of which, Afghanistan, was among the poorest and least technologically advanced on the planet.
The Theater of War
In remarkably short order, historically speaking, the administration’s soaring imperial fantasies turned into planetary nightmares. After 9/11, of course, George W. and crew promised Americans the global equivalent — and Republicans the domestic equivalent — of a 36,000 stock market and we know just where the stock market is today: only about 27,000 points short of that irreality.
Once upon a time, they really did think that, via the U.S. Armed Forces, or, as George W. Bush once so breathlessly put it, “the greatest force for human liberation the world has ever known,” they could dominate the planet without significant help from allies or international institutions of any sort. Who else had a shot at it? In the post-Soviet world, who but a leadership backed by the full force of the U.S. military could possibly be a contender for the leading role in this epic movie? Who else could even turn out for a casting call? Impoverished Russia? China, still rebuilding its military and back then considered to have a host of potential problems? A bunch of terrorists? I mean… come on!
As they saw it, the situation was pretty basic. In fact, it gave the phrase “power politics” real meaning. After all, they had in their hands the reins attached to the sole superpower on this small orb. And wasn’t everyone — at least, everyone they cared to listen to, at least Charles Krauthammer and the editorial page of the Washington Post — saying no less?
I mean, what else would you do, if you suddenly, almost miraculously (after an election improbably settled by the Supreme Court), found yourself in sole command of the globe’s only “hyperpower,” the only sheriff on planet Earth, the New Rome. To make matters more delicious, in terms of getting just what you wanted, those hands were on those reins right after “the Pearl Harbor of the twenty-first century,” when Americans were shocked and awed and terrified enough that anything-goes seemed a reasonable response?
It might have gone to anyone’s head in imperial Washington at that moment, but it went to their heads in such a striking way. After all, theirs was a plan — labeled in 2002 the Bush Doctrine — of global domination conceptually so un-American that, in my childhood, the only place you would have heard it was in the mouths of the most evil, snickering imperial Japanese, Nazi, or Soviet on-screen villains. And yet, in their moment of moments, it just rolled right out of their heads and off their tongues — and they were proud of it.
Here’s a question for 2009 you don’t have to answer: What should the former “new Rome” be called now? That will, of course, be someone else’s problem.
The Cast of Characters
And what a debacle the Bush Doctrine proved to be. What a legacy the legacy President and his pals are leaving behind. A wrecked economy, deflated global stock markets, collapsing banks and financial institutions, soaring unemployment, a smashed Republican Party, a bloated Pentagon overseeing a strained, overstretched military, enmired in an incoherent set of still-expanding wars gone sour, a network of secret prisons, as well as Guantanamo, that “jewel in the crown” of Bush’s Bermuda Triangle of injustice, and all the grim practices that went with those offshore prisons, including widespread torture and abuse, kidnapping, assassination, and the disappearing of prisoners (once associated only with South America dictatorships and military juntas).
They headed a government that couldn’t shoot straight or plan ahead or do anything halfway effectively, an administration that emphasized “defense” — or “homeland security” as it came to be called in their years — above all else; yet they were always readying themselves for the last battle, and so were caught utterly, embarrassingly unready for 19 terrorists with box cutters, a hurricane named Katrina, and an arcane set of Wall Street derivatives heading south.
As the supposed party of small government, they succeeded mainly in strangling civilian services, privatizing government operations into the hands of crony corporations, and bulking up state power in a massive way — making an already vast intelligence apparatus yet larger and more labyrinthine, expanding spying and surveillance of every kind, raising secrecy to a first principle, establishing a new U.S. military command for North America, endorsing a massive Pentagon build-up, establishing a second Defense Department labeled the Department of Homeland Security with its own mini-homeland-security-industrial complex, evading checks and powers in the Constitution whenever possible, and claiming new powers for a “unitary executive” commander-in-chief presidency.
No summary can quite do justice to what the administration “accomplished” in these years. If there was, however, a single quote from the world of George W. Bush that caught the deepest nature of the president and his core followers, it was offered by an “unnamed administration official” — often assumed to be Karl Rove — to journalist Ron Suskind back in October 2004:
“He] said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…. and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.’”
“We create our own reality… We’re history’s actors.”
It must for years have seemed that way and everything about the lives they lived only reinforced that impression. After all, the President himself, as so many wrote, lived in a literal bubble world. Those who met him were carefully vetted; audiences were screened so that no one who didn’t fawn over him got near him; and when he traveled through foreign cities, they were cleared of life, turned into the equivalent of Potemkin villages, while he and his many armored cars and Blackhawk helicopters, his huge contingent of Secret Service agents and White House aides, his sniffer dogs and military sharpshooters, his chefs and who knows what else passed through.
Of course, the President had been in a close race with the reality principle (which, in his case, was the principle of failure) all his life — and whenever reality nipped at his heels, his father’s boys stepped in and whisked him off stage. He got by at his prep school, Andover, and then at Yale, a c-level legacy student and, appropriately enough when it came to sports, a cheerleader and, at Yale, a party animal as well as the president of the hardest drinking fraternity on campus. He was there in the first place only because of who he wasn’t (or rather who his relations were).
Faced with the crises of the Vietnam era, he joined the Texas Air National Guard and more or less went missing in action. Faced with life, he became a drunk. Faced with business, he failed repeatedly and yet, thanks to his dad’s friends, became a multi-millionaire in the process. He was supported, cosseted, encouraged, and finally — to use an omnipresent word of our moment — bailed out. The first MBA president was a business bust. A certain well-honed, homey congeniality got him to the governorship and then to the presidency of the United States without real accomplishments. If there ever was a case for not voting for the guy you’d most like to “have a beer with,” this was it.
On that pile of rubble at Ground Zero on September 14, 2001, with a bullhorn in his hands and various rescuers shouting, “USA! USA!” he genuinely found his “calling” as the country’s cheerleader-in-chief (as he had evidently found his religious calling earlier in life). He not only took the job seriously, he visibly loved it. He took a childlike pleasure in being in the “theater” of war. He was thrilled when some of the soldiers who captured Saddam Hussein in that “spiderhole” later presented him with the dictator’s pistol. (“‘He really liked showing it off,’ says a… visitor to the White House who has seen the gun. ‘He was really proud of it.’”) He was similarly thrilled, on a trip to Baghdad in 2007, to meet the American pilot “whose plane’s missiles killed Iraq’s Al Qaeda leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi” and “returned to Washington in a buoyant mood.”
While transforming himself into the national cheerleader-in-chief, he even kept “his own personal scorecard for the war” in a desk drawer in the Oval Office — photos with brief biographies and personality sketches of leading al-Qaeda figures, whose faces could be satisfyingly crossed out when killed or captured. He clearly adored it when he got to dress up, whether in a flight suit landing on the deck of an aircraft carrier in May 2003, or in front of hoo-aahing crowds of soldiers wearing a specially tailored military-style jacket with “George W. Bush, Commander In Chief” hand-stitched across the heart. As earlier in life, he was supported (Karl Rove), enabled (Condoleezza Rice), cosseted (various officials), and so became “the decider,” a willing figurehead (as he had been, for instance, when he was an “owner” of the Texas Rangers), manipulated by his co-president Dick Cheney. In these surroundings, he was able to take war play to an imperial level. In the end, however, this act of his life, too, could lead nowhere but to failure.
As it happened, reality possessed its own set of shock-and-awe weaponry. Above all, reality was unimpressed with history’s self-proclaimed “actors,” working so hard on the global stage to create their own reality. When it came to who really owned what, it turned out that reality owned the works and that possession was indeed nine-tenths of one law that even George Bush’s handlers and his fervent neocon followers couldn’t suspend.
Exit Stage Right
The results were sadly predictable. The bubble world of George W. Bush was bound to be burst. Based on fantasies, false promises, lies, and bait-and-switch tactics, it was destined for foreclosure. At home and abroad, after all, it had been created using the equivalent of subprime mortgages and the result, unsurprisingly, was a dismally subprime administration.
Now, of course, the bill collector is at the door and the property — the USA — is worth a good deal less than on November 4, 2000. George W. Bush is a discredited president; his job approval ratings could hardly be lower; his bubble world gone bust.
Nonetheless, let’s remember one other theme of his previous life. Whatever his failures, Bush always walked away from disastrous dealings enriched, while others were left holding the bag. Don’t imagine for a second that the equivalent isn’t about to repeat itself. He will leave a country functionally under the gun of foreclosure, a world far more aflame and dangerous than the one he faced on entering the Oval Office. But he won’t suffer.
He will have his new house in Dallas (not to speak of the “ranch” in Crawford) and his more than $200 million presidential “library” and “freedom institute” at Southern Methodist University; and then there’s always that 20% of America — they know who they are — who think his presidency was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Believe me, 20% of America is more than enough to pony up spectacular sums, once Bush takes to the talk circuit. As the president himself put it enthusiastically,”‘I’ll give some speeches, just to replenish the ol’ coffers.’ With assets that have been estimated as high as nearly $21 million, Mr. Bush added, ‘I don’t know what my dad gets — it’s more than 50-75′ thousand dollars a speech, and ‘Clinton’s making a lot of money.’”
This is how a legacy-student-turned-president fails upward. Every disaster leaves him better off.
The same can’t be said for the country or the world, saddled with his “legacy.”
Still, his administration has been foreclosed. Perhaps there’s ignominy in that. Now, the rest of us need to get out the brooms and start sweeping the stables.
Netscape. Just the Net You Need.
Politics | Tags: 2003 invasion of Iraq, Bush administration, George W. Bush, Iraq, Iraq War, Military of the United States, Saddam Hussein, United States | Comment (0)