Monday, May 18, 2009

Crime Against Democracy in HIgh Places and in Low

I am following the national torture discussion. When Paul Krugman, NYT columnist, wrote a piece saying we needed to prosecute the higher-ups who advocated torture to "save the nation's soul." I sent it to Ms. Michelle Obama and asked that she persuade her husband to take seriously the Krugman advice. Don't underestimate the persuasive power of wives. I have been throwing my weight around in the kitchen for the same guy for almost 53 years. Ms. Obama is her husband's intellectual equal, so he should listen to her. He obviously does. He is the only president whom I have seen sit quietly and listen intently when his wife talks.

Thank God, Frank Rich's column yesterday says that even though the president wants to let the issue go (Obama's one fault is that he does not want to fight for any reason--he is a chronically pacific man) and "move on," events are catching up with the culprits. It looks like a groundswell of national revulsion will force the President not to "move on" and ignore the torture issue but to allow Justice Department prosecutions to go forward. My lord, I hope so.

The "we need to move on" phrase is the favorite mantra of those who did dirty deeds and don't want to be held accountable. The "moving on" mantra reminds me of the "move-on" chorus that emerged from members of the Hillsborough County School Board after the Doug Erwin case's verdict went against them. Their crucifixion of Erwin for trying to out crime in the schools---leaking buildings that developers got top tax dollars for from the board, rigged bids, and outright theft of both school property and money--backfired. The jury didn't believe the administration and board lies. It cleaned the board and administration's clock in the Court House and vindicated Mr. Erwin. The board fired not one person after this crime spree reviewed in Erwin's Whistleblower case. They should have begun by firing Erwin's torture trio, Lennard, Hamilton, and Davis. Mr. Gonzalez should have gotten the sack as well.

However, today developers' names adorn incumbents' donor lists in the Supervisor of Elections site. They know a bribable official when the see one. People who took bribes before will do it again reason these fellows.

Dr. Lennard and his two main thugs, Hamilton and Davis, tried to shut Mr. Erwin up by portraying him as crazy. These tax-paid villains schemed to fire him and deprive him of his pension. Attorney Gonzalez supported this effort with duplicitous lawyer verbiage as did the whole administrative structure plus the school board--the latter's support mainly was pretending that its members did not know what was going on.

If the higher ups were the ones trying to squelch Erwin's story, then logic says they were reaping the benefits of the crime. The vicious treatment of Erwin by Lennard et al has no other answer for me.

I believe I have written before that all of us citizens want to believe in our public officials. It is the intense wish of citizens in the world's putatively best democracy that its elected public officials be honest and work for the good of the country, state, or city we elect them to represent.

We are naive if we think most public officials have the good of citizenry in mind. They most often have their own good in mind, and when we learn what is going on, we are sickened by the revelations, not jubilant. Crooks and narcissists in public office mean our democracy has failed us. It is not the information we want to know about. We want to believe in the tooth fairy and in honest public officials who work for the good of the people who elected them.

Frank Rich (my favorite columnist because he writes so well and is so on-target in his criticism of government) shows in Sunday's piece below that the Bush administration was knee-deep in the torture outrage.

The torture idea didn't originate with a few marginally literate soldiers from the impoverished hills and hollows of the country who joined the army because it was the only job they could get. The rap from the Pentagon on them was that these country bumpkins thought torture up on night duty at Abu Gharib. That's what the cover story from the Pentagon and White House alleged. Instead, information is slowly leaking out that, as our suspicions suggested, torture orders came from the top, including waterboarding. That is the story that is now unfolding.

Moreover, the torture was not, as Cheney is claiming, to save American lives but to save the Bush administration's reputation by waterboarding a confession from a detainee that that a conspiracy by Iraq existed to attack the United States. That would justify the war the Bush team lied us into and remove the stigma of its members' lying us into the Iraq war that has killed and mutilated thousands of our service people and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians.

This cover-up sounds like the routine laundering of reality that goes on in the Public Affairs office to sanitize the actions of the board and administration.

If the White House and Pentagon can engage in dirty deeds and cover-up, then the Hillsborough School Board and ROSSAC can as well---and do. That was the barely hidden message behind Steve Heggarty's comment on the yearbook picture of the girl which exposed her pudendum for all the world to see that will look on and laugh at that yearbook picture of the poor girl for years to come.

Le Heggarty said, "We are not going to cooperate with your story" when asked about the exposure of the girl's private parts. The parents wanted the distributed issues of the yearbook recalled from the few students who received them, the books reprinted, and then reissued to the students.

But the board and administration care nothing for the psyche of a student. Students and teachers are mere serfs in a system of administration and board power and parochial grandeur. The teachers and students are necessary to suck money from the state that the board and administration then spend with a hey nonny nonny.

The administration and board won't take the trouble to rectify their error for a mere student or teacher. If it were an administrator's being embarrassed, that would be different. No measure is too hard or too costly to rescue an administrator--even the guilty ones like Principal Smith at Alafai.

Translated, Mr. Heggarty's response means, "We are going to stick by our cover-up lies and repeat them until they displace reality with our redacted version of the event to pretty up the board's and administration's "reputation."

It's well to remind ourselves that Heggarty used to be a reporter for the SPT and was expected to write text that was honest, not twisted, as his job now requires. Heggarty's job for the school board and administrtion is to write lies so that the bad behavior of these clients can come out looking OK for public consumption. That's essentially what the Pentagon and the Bush administration were trying to do with the waterboarding torture issue.

The point that I make is that if outrages against the truth can happen in the White House and Pentagon, they can happen in ROSSAC and the School Board of Hillsborough County. And we citizens do democracy no favor by letting these offenses against truth pass by without protest.

I have always hated Rumsfeld and considered Cheney in the throes of some major psycho-pathology. I also would like to smack Paul Wolfowitz silly.

I believe pathology of the School-Board members and Ms. Elia is far gone, far gone. They exist in some mental cul-de-sac of a world where they are all powerful and the teachers and students are serfs. I fear their illness may be past curing.

Op-Ed Columnist
Obama Can’t Turn the Page on Bush

Published: May 16, 2009

TO paraphrase Al Pacino in “Godfather III,” just when we thought we were out, the Bush mob keeps pulling us back in. And will keep doing so. No matter how hard President Obama tries to turn the page on the previous administration, he can’t. Until there is true transparency and true accountability, revelations of that unresolved eight-year nightmare will keep raining down drip by drip, disrupting the new administration’s high ambitions.

That’s why the president’s flip-flop on the release of detainee abuse photos — whatever his motivation — is a fool’s errand. The pictures will eventually emerge anyway, either because of leaks (if they haven’t started already) or because the federal appeals court decision upholding their release remains in force. And here’s a bet: These images will not prove the most shocking evidence of Bush administration sins still to come.

There are many dots yet to be connected, and not just on torture. This Sunday, GQ magazine is posting on its Web site an article adding new details to the ample dossier on how Donald Rumsfeld’s corrupt and incompetent Defense Department cost American lives and compromised national security. The piece is not the work of a partisan but the Texan journalist Robert Draper, author of “Dead Certain,” the 2007 Bush biography that had the blessing (and cooperation) of the former president and his top brass. It draws on interviews with more than a dozen high-level Bush loyalists.

Draper reports that Rumsfeld’s monomaniacal determination to protect his Pentagon turf led him to hobble and antagonize America’s most willing allies in Iraq, Britain and Australia, and even to undermine his own soldiers. But Draper’s biggest find is a collection of daily cover sheets that Rumsfeld approved for the Secretary of Defense Worldwide Intelligence Update, a highly classified digest prepared for a tiny audience, including the president, and often delivered by hand to the White House by the defense secretary himself. These cover sheets greeted Bush each day with triumphal color photos of the war headlined by biblical quotations. GQ is posting 11 of them, and they are seriously creepy.

Take the one dated April 3, 2003, two weeks into the invasion, just as Shock and Awe hit its first potholes. Two days earlier, on April 1, a panicky Pentagon had begun spreading its hyped, fictional account of the rescue of Pvt. Jessica Lynch to distract from troubling news of setbacks. On April 2, Gen. Joseph Hoar, the commander in chief of the United States Central Command from 1991-94, had declared on the Times Op-Ed page that Rumsfeld had sent too few troops to Iraq. And so the Worldwide Intelligence Update for April 3 bullied Bush with Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Including, as it happened, into a quagmire.)

What’s up with that? As Draper writes, Rumsfeld is not known for ostentatious displays of piety. He was cynically playing the religious angle to seduce and manipulate a president who frequently quoted the Bible. But the secretary’s actions were not just oily; he was also taking a risk with national security. If these official daily collages of Crusade-like messaging and war imagery had been leaked, they would have reinforced the Muslim world’s apocalyptic fear that America was waging a religious war. As one alarmed Pentagon hand told Draper, the fallout “would be as bad as Abu Ghraib.”

The GQ article isn’t the only revelation of previously unknown Bush Defense Department misbehavior to emerge this month. Just two weeks ago, the Obama Pentagon revealed that a major cover-up of corruption had taken place at the Bush Pentagon on Jan. 14 of this year — just six days before Bush left office. This strange incident — reported in The Times but largely ignored by Washington correspondents preparing for their annual dinner — deserves far more attention and follow-up.

What happened on Jan. 14 was the release of a report from the Pentagon’s internal watchdog, the inspector general. It had been ordered up in response to a scandal uncovered last year by David Barstow, an investigative reporter for The Times. Barstow had found that the Bush Pentagon fielded a clandestine network of retired military officers and defense officials to spread administration talking points on television, radio and in print while posing as objective “military analysts.” Many of these propagandists worked for military contractors with billions of dollars of business at stake in Pentagon procurement. Many were recipients of junkets and high-level special briefings unavailable to the legitimate press. Yet the public was never told of these conflicts of interest when these “analysts” appeared on the evening news to provide rosy assessments of what they tended to call “the real situation on the ground in Iraq.”

When Barstow’s story broke, more than 45 members of Congress demanded an inquiry. The Pentagon’s inspector general went to work, and its Jan. 14 report was the result. It found no wrongdoing by the Pentagon. Indeed, when Barstow won the Pulitzer Prize last month, Rumsfeld’s current spokesman cited the inspector general’s “exoneration” to attack the Times articles as fiction.

But the Pentagon took another look at this exoneration, and announced on May 5 that the inspector general’s report, not The Times’s reporting, was fiction. The report, it turns out, was riddled with factual errors and included little actual investigation of Barstow’s charges. The inspector general’s office had barely glanced at the 8,000 pages of e-mail that Barstow had used as evidence, and interviewed only seven of the 70 disputed analysts. In other words, the report was a whitewash. The Obama Pentagon officially rescinded it — an almost unprecedented step — and even removed it from its Web site.

Network news operations ignored the unmasking of this last-minute Bush Pentagon cover-up, as they had the original Barstow articles — surely not because they had been patsies for the Bush P.R. machine. But the story is actually far larger than this one particular incident. If the Pentagon inspector general’s office could whitewash this scandal, what else did it whitewash?

In 2005, to take just one example, the same office released a report on how Boeing colluded with low-level Pentagon bad apples on an inflated (and ultimately canceled) $30 billion air-tanker deal. At the time, even John Warner, then the go-to Republican senator on military affairs, didn’t buy the heavily redacted report’s claim that Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, were ignorant of what Warner called “the most significant defense procurement mismanagement in contemporary history.” The Pentagon inspector general who presided over that exoneration soon fled to become an executive at the parent company of another Pentagon contractor, Blackwater.

But the new administration doesn’t want to revisit this history any more than it wants to dwell on torture. Once the inspector general’s report on the military analysts was rescinded, the Obama Pentagon declared the matter closed. The White House seems to be taking its cues from the Reagan-Bush 41 speechwriter Peggy Noonan. “Sometimes I think just keep walking,” she said on ABC’s “This Week” as the torture memos surfaced. “Some of life has to be mysterious.” Imagine if she’d been at Nuremberg!

The administration can’t “just keep walking” because it is losing control of the story. The Beltway punditocracy keeps repeating the cliché that only the A.C.L.U. and the president’s “left-wing base” want accountability, but that’s not the case. Americans know that the Iraq war is not over. A key revelation in last month’s Senate Armed Services Committee report on detainees — that torture was used to try to coerce prisoners into “confirming” a bogus Al Qaeda-Saddam Hussein link to sell that war — is finally attracting attention. The more we learn piecemeal of this history, the more bipartisan and voluble the call for full transparency has become.

And I do mean bipartisan. Both Dick Cheney, hoping to prove that torture “worked,” and Nancy Pelosi, fending off accusations of hypocrisy on torture, have now asked for classified C.I.A. documents to be made public. When a duo this unlikely, however inadvertently, is on the same side of an issue, the wave is rising too fast for any White House to control. Court cases, including appeals by the “bad apples” made scapegoats for Abu Ghraib, will yank more secrets into the daylight and enlist more anxious past and present officials into the Cheney-Pelosi demands for disclosure.

It will soon be every man for himself. “Did President Bush know everything you knew?” Bob Schieffer asked Cheney on “Face the Nation” last Sunday. The former vice president’s uncharacteristically stumbling and qualified answer — “I certainly, yeah, have every reason to believe he knew...” — suggests that the Bush White House’s once-united front is starting to crack under pressure.

I’m not a fan of Washington’s blue-ribbon commissions, where political compromises can trump the truth. But the 9/11 investigation did illuminate how, a month after Bush received an intelligence brief titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.,” 3,000 Americans were slaughtered on his and Cheney’s watch. If the Obama administration really wants to move on from the dark Bush era, it will need a new commission, backed up by serious law enforcement, to shed light on where every body is buried.

1 comment:

Vox Populi said...

Lee, one human being to another ... quite simply: I LOVE YOU.

Please publish this comment.

I am quite amazed that I have even been lucky enough to happen upon your words.

You are truly, REALLY something else.

Something light and wonderful.

Now publish this and be done with it.

One of your fawning fans. (TRULY)