Bush's Burgeoning Body Count
Bush's Burgeoning Body Count
About six weeks ago, at the urging of fellow TomDispatch author Rebecca Solnit, I undertook the beginnings of an on-line memorial to the Fallen Legion of the Bush administration. It was, in effect, a proposal for a virtual "wall" made up of the seemingly endless and ever-growing list of top officials as well as beleaguered administrators, managers, and career civil servants who had quit their government posts in protest or were defamed, threatened, fired, forced out, demoted, or driven to retire by administration strong-arm tactics, cronyism, and disastrous policies. As a start, I offered 42 prospective names for a Fallen Legion (and brief descriptions of their fates). These ranged from well-known figures like the President's former chief adviser on terrorism on the National Security Council, Richard Clarke, former Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki, and former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill to the archivist of the United States, the state director of the Bureau of Land Management in Idaho, and three members of the White House Cultural Property Advisory Committee (who resigned over the looting of Iraq after Baghdad fell to U.S. troops). I also called upon readers to aid my future efforts and to send suggestions to: firstname.lastname@example.org. (And I renew that call in this piece.)
The response has been, in a word, overwhelming. Hundreds of letters poured in -- from readers who took me to task for the omission of their own personal picks for such a "Wall" to notes of encouragement from courageous former officials already included in my listing (like Teresa Chambers, the U.S. Park Police Chief who was fired for speaking out and now has a website documenting her long struggle). Some of the fallen whose stories, sad to say, I hadn't even heard of, wrote in as well.
Here, then, is the second installment in what is by now an ongoing series at Tomdispatch dedicated to continuing to build the Fallen Legion Wall, "brick" by "brick." Included in this installment is one honorary legionnaire, former NFL football player Pat Tillman, and a consideration of some officials picked by readers for spots of honor whose departure from government service was less than clear cut. This new installment adds approximately 175 additional casualties to the rolls of "the Fallen." But bear in mind that this list is not yet close to being finished. Many suggested Fallen Legionnaires (even some who wrote in personally) do not appear below, but will take their bows in future follow-ups.
Jesselyn Radack: An attorney in the Justice Department's Professional Responsibility Advisory Office who worked on the case of John Walker Lindh, the so-called American Taliban, Radack warned federal prosecutors that interrogating him without his attorney present would be unethical. When the FBI interviewed Lindh anyway, Raddack told Tomdispatch, she "then recommended that [the transcript] be sealed and only used for intelligence-gathering purposes, not for criminal prosecution." Again, her advice was ignored. Later, when Lindh was on trial, Radack learned that the judge in the case had requested copies of all internal correspondence concerning Lindh's interrogation. Although Radack had written more than a dozen e-mails on the subject, she discovered that only two of them had been turned over and neither reflected her contention that the FBI had committed an ethics violation.
Checking the hard-copy office file, she discovered that the rest of her e-mail messages were missing. With the help of technical support, she "resurrected the e-mails from her computer archives, documented them, provided them to her boss, and took home a copy for safekeeping in case they 'disappeared' again." She would later turn over copies of the e-mails to Newsweek magazine in compliance with the Whistleblower Protection Act. She has paid a heavy price for her stand against the government. As she told TomDispatch:
"I was forced out of my job at the Justice Department, fired from my subsequent private sector job [with the law firm of Hawkins, Delafield & Wood] at the government's behest, placed under criminal investigations, referred to the state bars in which I'm licensed as an attorney, and put on the "no-fly" list. I have spent $100,000 defending against a criminal investigation that was dropped and a bar charge that was dismissed. The D.C. Bar Complaint is still pending after two years and despite the fact that I was elected to the D.C. Bar's Legal Ethics Committee."
Resigned, April 2002.
Sibel Edmonds: Hired shortly after the 9/11 attacks as an FBI translator of documents related to the war on terror (due to her knowledge of Turkish, Farsi, and Azerbaijani), Edmonds alleged security breaches, mismanagement, and possible espionage within the FBI in late 2001 and early 2002, and was fired. She then sued the Justice Department, alleging "that her rights under the Privacy Act and her First and Fifth amendment rights had been violated by the government," but her case was dismissed by a U.S. District Court judge after then-Attorney General John Ashcroft invoked the state-secrets privilege, which allows the government to withhold information to safeguard national security. A summary of a report by the Justice Department's Inspector General, released in January 2005, however "conclude[d] that Edmonds was fired for reporting serious security breaches and misconduct in the agency's translation program." Fired, March 2002
Stephen R. Kappes: deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency's clandestine services resigned, according to the Washington Post, after a confrontation with Patrick Murray, chief of staff to the new CIA director and Bush administration enforcer, former Congressman Porter Goss, who was said to be "treating senior officials disrespectfully." According to the Baltimore Sun, a "former senior CIA official said that the White House 'doesn't want Steve Kappes to reconsider his resignation.'" Resigned, November 2004.
Robert Richer: After less than a year on the job, Stephen Kappes' replacement as the number two official in the Central Intelligence Agency's Directorate of Operations "quit" the agency as well. In a highly unusual move, the former CIA station chief in Amman, Jordan, and head of the Near East division, attended "a closed session of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence... to answer questions about how his concern over a lack of leadership at the agency triggered his retirement." But before meeting with the Senate committee, he first went right to Goss and, according to a CIA agent whose identity (wrote the Washington Post), is protected by law, "Rob laid at his doorstep, in a collegial way, that Goss is out of touch... It fell on deaf ears." As a result, "Richer left the meeting angry and walked out of the Langley headquarters for perhaps the last time, several officers said." Retired, September, 2005.
Central Intelligence Agency (30-90 personnel): Kappes and Richer were not alone. The Washington Post recently reported that under Porter Goss -- a Bush appointee who is "close to the White House"-- "[a]t least a dozen senior officials -- several of whom were promoted under Goss-- have resigned, retired early or requested reassignment." The Post also noted that in "the clandestine service alone... Goss has lost one director, two deputy directors, and at least a dozen department heads, station chiefs and division directors -- many with the key language skills and experience he has said the agency needs." Since Goss took over, according to Robert Dreyfuss in the American Prospect, "between 30 and 90 senior CIA officials have made their exit, some fleeing into retirement, others taking refuge as consultants. Others, unable to retire, have stayed, but only to mark time at the agency." Resigned/Retired/Reassigned, 2004-2005.
The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division (dozens of employees): According to a recent report in the Washington Post, the agency responsible for enforcing "the nation's anti-discrimination laws for nearly half a century, is in the midst of an upheaval that has driven away dozens of veteran lawyers and has damaged morale for many of those who remain, according to former and current career employees." The Post notes that -- in addition to a 40% drop in "prosecutions for the kinds of racial and gender discrimination crimes traditionally handled by the division" over the last five years, "[n]early 20 percent of the division's lawyers left in fiscal 2005, in part because of a buyout program that some lawyers believe was aimed at pushing out those who did not share the administration's conservative views on civil rights laws." Additionally, it was reported that "dozens" of those who remained with the agency were reassigned "to handle immigration cases instead of civil rights litigation." According to Richard Ugelow, a law professor at American University who left the Civil Rights Division in 2004,"Most everyone in the Civil Rights Division realized that with the change of administration, there would be some cutting back of some cases. But I don't think people anticipated that it would go this far, that enforcement would be cut back to the point that people felt like they were spinning their wheels." Retired/Resigned, 2005.
The Office of Special Counsel (7 employees): After Elaine Kaplan, a Clinton-appointee who headed the U.S. Office of Special Counsel -- the agency that investigates federal whistleblowers' allegations -- failed to be reappointed to a second term by President Bush, she tendered her resignation stating, "in these times of heightened concern about national security, it is very important that OSC be viewed as a credible, non-partisan advocate on behalf of whistleblowers." She was replaced by Scott Bloch, a Bush appointee who has been called "a gay-hating, secretive, partisan, political hack" and previously served as deputy director of the Task Force for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Bloch, reports the Project On Government Oversight, went on to order "more than 20 percent of his headquarters legal and investigative staff to relocate or be fired. According to a letter of protest filed... by three national whistleblower watchdog groups, those targeted for forced moves [were] all career employees hired before Scott Bloch became Special Counsel, as part of a purge to stifle dissent and re-staff the agency with handpicked loyalists." Most refused to uproot their lives and, within a mandatory 60-day time limit, moved from Washington, D.C. to Dallas, Oakland, or Detroit and were dismissed as a result. Fired, 2005.
Individual Ready Reserve (73 soldiers): Members of a special reserve program of "inactive troops" who are still under contract to the armed forces and were called back to service due to the Bush administration's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they "defied orders to appear for wartime duty, some for more than a year, yet the Army has quietly chosen not to act against them." Refused service, 2005.
Brent Scowcroft: A retired Lieutenant General, national security adviser to President Gerald Ford, and longtime friend and former national security adviser to George H.W. Bush, Scowcroft served as the chairman of President George W. Bush's President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB). This group advises the chief executive on "the quality and adequacy of intelligence collection, of analysis and estimates, of counterintelligence, and of other intelligence activities" and is composed, says the White House, of "distinguished citizens outside the government who are qualified on the basis of achievement, experience, independence, and integrity." In August 2002, Scowcroft wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal whose title made its point abundantly clear: "Don't Attack Saddam." As a result, "his old friends in high office -- Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice, and so forth -- stopped speaking to him" and his appointment to the PFIAB was not renewed when his term expired in 2004. Failed to be reappointed, 2004.
John J. DiIulio Jr.: The first director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, he quit his post after only seven months on the job. In an interview with Esquire magazine DiIulio disclosed, "There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus. What you've got is everything -- and I mean everything -- being run by the political arm. It's the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis." He also decried "a virtual absence as yet of any policy accomplishments that might, to a fair-minded nonpartisan, count as the flesh on the bones of so-called compassionate conservatism." Resigned, August 2001.
David Kuo: After serving in the White House for two-and-a-half years as a Special Assistant to the President and deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, he left his post in 2003. Kuo wrote, "I have deep respect, appreciation, and affection for the president," but went on to say that "[t]here was minimal senior White House commitment to the faith-based agenda" and that there never really was great concern over what he called "the 'poor people stuff.'" Resigned, December 2003.
Marlene Braun: A 13-year veteran of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), she was appointed manager of Carrizo Plain National Monument -- 250,000 acres of native grasses and Native American sacred sites, located about 120 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Once the Bush administration came to power, the BLM, under Interior Secretary Gale Norton, "began crafting a grazing policy that lifted protections for wildlife and habitat across 161 million acres of public lands in the West, including the Carrizo." In an August 2005 article, the Los Angeles Times wrote that Braun "was torn between the demands of a new boss who she felt favored the region's ranchers, and conservation policies adopted nearly a decade ago to protecting the austere swath of prairie she shared with pronghorn antelope and peregrine falcons, the California condor and the California jewelflower." That boss, said Braun, stripped her of "almost all my influence on the Plain," transferring it to those she deemed to be "pro-grazing." She repeatedly clashed with him and wrote to colleagues, "I ... can't keep fighting indefinitely, I don't think... [but m]aybe fighting is better than capitulating.... The Carrizo could lose a lot if I give up.... But hell, you only live, and die, once!!!!" When Braun contacted other officials at the Department of Fish and Game as well as the Nature Conservancy about "several public misstatements she believed [her boss] had made about federal grazing law," he found out and suspended her. Braun appealed the suspension, but on February 15, 2005, her appeal was denied. Braun remained in touch with Bureau of Land Management officials concerning issues related to management of the Carrizo Plain and was repeatedly reprimanded for it. As a result, she told friends, she was certain she would be fired from the Bureau. Braun forwarded the disciplinary memos she continued to receive to officials at the Department of Fish and Game and the Nature Conservancy. She wrote, "I will no longer be participating in this mess.... I will not take being treated like a whipping girl..." The next day she put a .38 caliber pistol to her head and pulled the trigger. Committed Suicide, May 2, 2005.
The Used: An Honorary Fallen Legionnaire
Pat Tillman: A defensive back in the National Football League who turned down a $3.6 million contract to join the military after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he died in a hail of bullets in Afghanistan. Tillman, following in the tradition of the long-ago cast aside Jessica Lynch, was embraced by the administration as a poster-boy for the American war effort. His name was invoked by the White House as well as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as a "symbo[l] of our country's courage and determination." But even in death, Tillman proved too tough for the administration to tame. Steve Coll of the Washington Post revealed that, while "records show Tillman fought bravely and honorably until his last breath," they also revealed "that his superiors exaggerated his actions and invented details as they burnished his legend in public, at the same time suppressing details that might tarnish Tillman's commanders." In fact,"the Army kept the soldiers on the ground quiet and told Tillman's family and the public that he was killed by enemy fire while storming a hill," reporting that "Tillman was part of a coalition combat patrol that was ambushed" by enemy forces. It turned out, however, that he had been gunned down by U.S. troops and that fact was simply covered up by military officials. Soon his family spoke up. Said his mother, Mary Tillman:
"Pat had high ideals about the country; that's why he did what he did. The military let him down. The administration let him down. It was a sign of disrespect. The fact that he was the ultimate team player and he watched his own men kill him is absolutely heartbreaking and tragic. The fact that they lied about it afterward is disgusting."
His father, Patrick Tillman Sr., was equally furious, stating:
"After it happened, all the people in positions of authority went out of their way to script this. They purposely interfered with the investigation, they covered it up. I think they thought they could control it, and they realized that their recruiting efforts were going to go to hell in a hand basket if the truth about his death got out. They blew up their poster boy."
And from beyond the grave, the administration's would-be propaganda puppet (who, it turns out was a major Noam Chomsky fan) had the last word -- via the recollections of his close friend, Army Specialist Russell Baer, who served with Tillman in Iraq:
"We were outside of [a city in southern Iraq] watching as bombs were dropping on the town. We were at an old air base, me, Kevin [Tillman, Pat's brother] and Pat, we weren't in the fight right then. We were talking. And Pat said, 'You know, this war is so f____ illegal.' And we all said, 'Yeah.' That's who he was. He totally was against Bush."
Numerous readers sent in possible additions to the list of "the Fallen." Among them were cases of high officials who left government service under somewhat ambiguous circumstances. Did they or didn't they resign in protest? Were they forced out? Was it cover-your-ass infused political self-preservation or total revulsion with administration policies? You make the call:
Christine Todd Whitman: A favorite of readers who want to believe the best about humanity, Whitman was appointed by Bush in 2001 as chief of the Environmental Protection Agency and served two-and-a-half years before resigning. Her tenure was plagued by scandal over an alleged cover-up concerning the air quality in lower Manhattan following the 9/11 attacks and, according to Jeff Ruch, the executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), she also "presided over the greatest rollback in environmental enforcement in history... [and] pushed pollution control policies that put corporations rather than public health considerations in the driver's seat." Whitman noted that she sometimes had arguments with the White House that were "a little awkward" -- and, after leaving office, she authored a book, It's My Party, Too: The Battle for the Heart of the GOP and the Future of America in which she mildly criticized the current state of the Republican party. It didn't stop her, however, from becoming co-chair of Bush's 2004 reelection campaign in New Jersey and one of the campaign's "Rangers" -- an elite group of fundraisers, each of whom was responsible for gathering up more than $200,000 for the president.
Colin Powell: A professional soldier for 35 years, including service as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Powell was appointed Secretary of State by Bush and served in that capacity for the President's entire first term in office. During his tenure, Powell was said to have been a lone voice advocating diplomacy in the rush to war with Iraq. Despite this, it was Powell who appeared before the United Nations Security Council and made the case for war on the basis of supposed weapons of mass destruction that were later proved to be non-existent. In his letter of resignation, Powell stated that he was "pleased to have been part of a team that launched the Global War Against Terror, liberated the Afghan and Iraqi people, brought the attention of the world to the problem of proliferation, [and] reaffirmed our alliances..." In the time since, Powell has admitted that making the case for war will remain a "blot" on his record. "I'm the one who presented it on behalf of the United States to the world, and [it] will always be a part of my record. It was painful. It's painful now," he said. But as former CIA analyst Melvin Goodman said recently on a Democracy Now segment devoted to discussing "The Fallen Legion":
"The sad thing about the list... is the resignation that didn't take place. And that's Colin Powell. So, you have the great American story. And Colin Powell is that. But he's always going to have to live with the fact that he used the phony intelligence that the C.I.A. prepared for him, and he had to know that some of this was really bogus, that he was really stretching a point. And he had John Negroponte, the U.N. ambassador, sitting behind him, along with [CIA Director] George Tenet, while these lies were told to an international community, therefore jeopardizing American credibility."
Charlotte Beers: A top advertising executive who was, in the immediate wake of 9/11, tasked with "spearhead[ing] a public diplomacy campaign aimed at winning the hearts and minds of the Muslim world," she submitted her resignation in March 2003, claiming "health reasons" as the cause of her departure. CNN, however, reported that an unnamed "U.S. official" said the real reasons were due to "problems she encountered in the job."
General Kevin P. Byrnes: A Vietnam veteran, he ranked third in seniority among the Army's 11 four-star generals and headed the Army's Training and Doctrine Command (TRACDOC). While Byrnes was said to have "a previously unblemished record [and] was set to retire... after 36 years of service," he was sacked -- the first case, said Army officials, of a "four-star general being relieved of duty in modern times." The official reasons for this, wrote the Washington Post, were "allegations that he had an extramarital affair with a civilian." But the newspaper also noted, "Relieving a general of his command amid such allegations is extremely unusual, especially given that he was about to retire" and some commentators raised the possibility that the "White House's need to block anti-torture legislation on detainees" figured into the general's firing. A number of others similarly called attention to the odd fact that, as Ariana Huffington wrote, at the Pentagon, "Torture is Rewarded While Sex is a Firing Offense."
The Mounting Toll
Over the years, presidents who have launched illegitimate military actions and pursued ruinous policies have often left a trail of wrecked careers in their wake. While he publicly defended Lyndon Johnson's policies, Undersecretary of State George Ball privately argued against military escalation in Vietnam, eventually resigning his post in 1966. Jimmy Carter's secretary of state, Cyrus Vance, resigned in protest over the failed military operation to rescue U.S. hostages in Iran, which he had opposed. In all, "eight of Jimmy Carter's cabinet members eventually resigned during his one term in office," while "[o]ther top administration officials, including Carter's Ambassador to the United Nations, Andrew Young, were forced out... because of unauthorized meetings with PLO leaders." Analysis of their archives by Lexis-Nexis researchers found that Ronald Reagan "saw all but one of his cabinet positions change hands during his two terms in office from 1981-1989" and that he had a total of "four chiefs of staff and six national security advisors." Lexis-Nexis also determined that "[b]efore he finished his second term in office, [Bill Clinton] had 10 of his original cabinet members resign and several of their replacements also resign." Further, resignations on moral and ethical grounds during the Clinton Administration included "top Department of Health and Human Services officials Peter Edelman, Mary Jo Bane and Wendell Primus." They resigned in protest "over President Clinton's decision to sign a welfare bill that the officials thought would be a disaster for the poor and the country." Meanwhile, in a 1998 article in the New York Times, a then-less-known Judith Miller reported that a then-less-known United Nations weapons inspector, Scott Ritter, had resigned...[from his UN post] charging that the U.N. secretary-general, the Security Council and the Clinton administration had stymied the inspectors...." Not exactly one of Clinton's "Fallen," but, in light of revelations since, worth mentioning nonetheless.
Over the years, many public servants from many administrations have been fired, forced out, or have quit their posts in protest. Unfortunately no one, to my knowledge, has bothered to catalogue them all. Despite a lack of precise figures, it also seems that no administration in recent memory has come close to the Bush presidency in producing so many high-profile public statements of resignation, dissatisfaction, or anger over administration policies, actions or inaction. Even discounting an entire class of ambiguously "fallen" officials and appointees, from Whitman and Powell to Valerie Plame (who is, apparently, still a CIA employee) and her husband ex-ambassador Joseph Wilson (the one-mission man), there are a seemingly endless number of legionnaires whose names have yet to be inscribed next to the approximately 217 already on "the Fallen Legion Wall." When added to the rolls of the real "Fallen" -- Iraqis and Afghans; Americans and other coalition forces; civilians, guerillas, mercenaries, and soldiers -- the human cost of the Bush administration's actions and policies will prove staggering.
[NOTE: If you know of others, or are one of the "Fallen Legion" yourself, please send the information (and whatever supporting material you would care to supply) to email@example.com with the subject heading: "fallen legion" to add another name to the "wall." This is a subject TomDispatch will definitely return to in the future.]
Nick Turse works in the Department of Epidemiology at Columbia University and is the Associate Editor and Research Director of TomDispatch.com. He has written for the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Village Voice, and regularly for Tomdispatch on the military-corporate complex, the homeland security state, and various other topics. In addition to sending in suggestions of possible fallen legionnaires, if you have whistles to blow or muck you think Nick should rake, send your insider information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
[This article first appeared on Tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news, and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, long time editor in publishing, co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The End of Victory Culture.]