Does Anyone Give a Damn?
"We gave him [Saddam Hussein] a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in."
Bush Press Conference, 7/14/2003
Fact: On September 21, 2002, Saddam said the UN inspectors could return to Iraq to search for possible weapons violations. They searched from December 2002 to March 2003 and found nothing.
"Any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires --a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so." President Bush, April 20, 2004
Fact: Bush authorized wiretaps without court orders.
So Bush lied! But only about making war and invading citizens' privacy, not about truly important themes. Bush would never have claimed he didn't have "sex with that woman," like his predecessor did. Shame on Bill Clinton for prevaricating on the most important subject in the world!
The Bushies only lie about issues concerning public policy and the extension of executive power. On February 6, as he verbally tried to fib his way out of unseemly behavior he claimed necessary to fight terrorism, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez looked a tad uncomfortable. On the C-Span camera, before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gonzalez dissembled with soft spoken language and a smile about Bush's electronic eavesdropping program. Gonzalez made it sound as if nothing serious had happened because of what he portrayed as a very limited wiretapping operation that focused only on international calls involving people with known links to Al Qaeda. He refused to answer Senator Patrick Leahy [D-VT], who asked if Bush had also authorized the opening of citizens' mail.
Gonzalez also did not explain why the Administration circumvented the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), since the court established by this act would have automatically granted warrants to listen in on anyone even vaguely linked to Al Qaeda.
Indeed, the court has historically granted some 99% of the warrants the government has asked for. Some Senators strongly hinted that the Bush Administration didn't ask for warrants because their targets for snooping involved people with no links to terrorism and whose phone calls were inside the country, if not inside a single city or office building: the personal and political enemies of George W. Bush, family and friends. Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) stopped just short of such an accusation.
Other Senators referred to a New York Times story that quoted FBI Agents complaining that they had spent endless days investigating NSA intercepts of tens of thousands of calls. These so-called "leads" had led nowhere.
Most serious political analysts would not show surprise that the Bush efforts amounted to massive wheel spinning. The intercepts yielded no warnings about the Madrid or London bombings, for example. They have not helped solve the 2001 anthrax episodes when the lethal powder showed up in Congress and other places and killed US citizens.
The Bush record shows failure and incompetence. Nevertheless, for five plus years, Bush has maintained an aggressive and audacious style that has with some success covered up his failure to forge viable policies.
Incompetence and lack of planning have led to Bush's most devastating failure, the ongoing killing and escalating horror in Iraq. For 2007, Bush proposed $439.3 billion for defense (not counting Iraq and Afghanistan costs), while cutting Medicare and other vital programs. Thus far, we have not heard wild and angry protests from the Democrats.
The US dead count climbs slowly toward 3000; wounded to 20,000. The number of Iraqi dead and wounded, according to reputable journals, has surpassed 100,000. Iraqis have no security, little electricity or water, and not even gasoline for their cars. The daily bomb attacks, kidnappings and firefights amidst shortages of necessities have made life in that "liberated" country a living hell. Those appointed by Bush to manage Iraq had one thing in common: incompetence and loyalty to the President.
No one but a hermit could have failed to see the feeble attempts of the Bush Administration to provide help for those devastated by last year's hurricanes.
After failing to fulfill his promise to privatize social security, Bush did continue to deliver immense tax breaks for those who least needed them. This success for the few helped to skew further the income gap in the country and bring more hardship for the many. The US savings rate has dropped to its lowest point in nearly 13 years.
Early February polls showed that finally the message had filtered through the distracting nets of "I'm protecting you from terrorism" rhetoric and the mesmerizing messages to shop eternally to gain tranquility.
The public now acknowledges that Bush has failed them. Indeed, most Americans would be hard put to identify one successful policy that the Administration has implemented. No child left behind has led many behind. Cheap drugs for seniors has meant confusion for most seniors and the refusal of the FDA to license reduced price generic drugs. Indeed, the FDA bosses represent the pharmaceutical companies far more effectively than they do older America. Rebuilding New Orleans? Bush doesn't believe in nation-building, even at home. Bush has made enemies among people around the world, depleted the Treasury, furthered the worsening of the environment and alienated even governments that traditionally backed the United States--right or wrong.
Thanks to free trade flummery, Bush's clinging to the notion that US-backed trade policies will deliver prosperity, Latin America's poor have become ever more anti-Yankee. In November 2005, Bush suffered a humiliating rejection at the Mar del Plata Argentina Hemispheric meting where he clung to the very policies that had destroyed the Argentine economy. Indeed, Latin Americans elected several governments on platforms that defy US hegemony in the region (Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia as some examples).
After five years of waging aggressive audacity instead of policy at home and abroad, Bush still faced the nation during his late January speech with not only a look of confidence but claims that had no relation to fact or truth. He wanted to cure the nation's addiction to oil while cutting funds to investigate alternative energy.
Indeed, no viable energy plan has emerged from the Administration, despite Vice President Cheney's adamant refusal to let Congress see documents about his energy discussions with ENRON executives in 2001 that related to forging such a policy.
The Bushies' substitution of chutzpah for policy, however, has its own logic--albeit the logic of banality. As with most Administrations, Bush has gathered various factions, all of whom benefit from his "war on terror." The Karl Rove gang wants to concentrate "power in the executive and pack[ing] the Supreme Court to this effect," wrote former Reagan Assistant Treasury Secretary Paul Craig Roberts. "The neocons are using the war to achieve their agenda of Israeli hegemony in the Middle East.
Police agencies are using the war to remove constraints on their powers and to make themselves less accountable. Republicans are using the war to achieve one-party rule--theirs. The Bush administration is using the war to avoid accountability and evade constraints on executive powers. Arms industries, or what President Eisenhower called the "military-industrial complex," are using the war to fatten profitsThe lack of debate gives carte blanche to these agendas. One certainty prevails. Bush is committing America to a path of violence and coercion, and he is getting away with it." (Counterpunch.org Feb. 6)
While Senate Democrats inexplicably stopped short of confronting Gonzalez as they had shied away from Judge Samuel Alito two weeks before, the Bush Administration continued to pursue its ruthless power game.
Who really felt the invasion of privacy?
Albert Kuydher's phone has not worked properly for four plus years, he has noticed personal letters opened and not carefully resealed and, while vacuuming, he noticed the presence of strange looking metallic objects placed under his furniture.
Mr. Kuydher even noticed people wearing raincoats and dark glasses sitting in parked cars outside of his apartment. Other individuals routinely followed him to work and back and to other places.
Say Al Kuyhder quickly and, well, you know the rest. You can imagine what happened when a police equivalent of former FEMA head Michael Brown got an NSA report on this man.
Yes, it's a joke, but not as cruel a prank as the one Bush has played on the people for five years--one the Democrats don't seem to have the will and stamina to stop. But I keep hoping...
Saul Landau is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.