Shock and Sham
Shock and Sham
Life in Bush's America, or more dead ducks: "Vice President Dick Cheney and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia spent part of last week duck hunting together at a private camp in southern Louisiana just three weeks after the court agreed to take up the vice president's appeal in lawsuits over his handling of the administration's energy task force.
"While Scalia and Cheney are avid hunters and longtime friends, several experts in legal ethics questioned the timing of their trip and said it raised doubts about Scalia's ability to judge the case impartially. But Scalia rejected that concern Friday, saying, 'I do not think my impartiality could reasonably be questioned.'â€¦ The pair arrived Jan. 5 on Gulfstream jets and were guests of Wallace Carline, the owner of Diamond Services Corp., an oil services company in
Life in Bush's
Shock and sham
Let's start with former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, or rather the administration's reactions to his revelations in the Ron Suskind book, The Price of Loyalty, and on "60 Minutes." Along with a classic description of the President in meetings as "a blind man in a room full of deaf people," there were at least two major revelations here -- that war with Iraq was at the top of the Bush administration agenda in its very first National Security Council meetings after taking office in January 2001 ("From the very beginning, there was a conviction that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go"); and that, as Clintonista Sidney Blumenthal put it in a recent piece in the British Guardian (1/15/04), Vice President Cheney is indeed "the power behind the throne." (Recounts Blumenthal: "When O'Neill argues that out-of-control deficits will cause a 'fiscal crisis,' Cheney 'cut him off. 'Reagan proved deficits don't matter,' he said ... 'This is our due.' In the end, Cheney fires O'Neill, the first vice-president to dismiss a cabinet member.").
Cheney, by the way, offered a strange little backhanded acknowledgement of this state of affairs via a "joke" he made in a hair-raising speech he gave to the World Affairs Council in
"This is not my first meeting with the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, but it has been a while. I was last here in April of 1990, when I was Secretary of Defense, back in the days when I had a position of real power and influence in
As for those accusations about the planning to "take out" Saddam way back in February 2001:
"Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld spoke at the second [National Security Council] meeting [in February 2001] about how removing Mr. Hussein would 'demonstrate what
"'From the start, we were building the case against Hussein and looking at how we could take him out and change Iraq into a new country,' the book quotes Mr. O'Neill as saying. 'And if we did that, it would solve everything. It was all about finding a way to do it. That was the tone of it. The president saying, `Fine. Go find me a way to do this.'" (
There were other "revelations" as well, but I'd like to focus here on how the Bush administration dealt with all this. The initial reaction -- before the Sunday of O'Neill's "60 Minutes" interview -- was clearly to ride out the mini-storm, just as they had so many others. They assumed perhaps that it would stay inside a distinctly no-boil media teapot. Give Press Secretary Scott McClellan credit, then, for the best non-O'Neill line of the whole imbroglio: "We're not in the business of doing book reviews."
"Q: Scott, on the O'Neill book, did the former Treasury Secretary make false claims or accusations? And if so, what were they?
"Mr McClellan: David, you've heard me say repeatedly that we're not in the business of doing book reviews. I don't get in the business of selling or promoting or critiquing books. I would say that you all are well aware of a lot of these facts on issues that have been raised over -- that some of you raised over the weekend.
"But this -- I think it appears to be more about trying to justify personal views and opinions than it does about looking at the results that we are achieving on behalf of the American people. And the President is someone who is always forward looking, and he's going to continue to be forward looking. He's going to continue to focus on the results that we are achieving and building upon those results, to strengthen our economy even more and to make our world -- continue to make our world a safer and better place."
As a former book reviewer I can admire that one. Wouldn't want to "sell or promote" Suskind's book, would we? 60 Minutes later -- or by Sunday to be exact -- they had already pivoted on a dime and sent Commerce Secretary Donald Evans, among others, out to talk about the President's decisiveness in cabinet meetings. ("He drives the meeting, asks tough questions. He likes dissent."). No blind man talking to the deaf there, no sirree. On day three of damage control, they turned to the charge that the administration came into office spoiling for war in
George's explanation was simple: Forget the book review,
"'The stated policy of my administration towards Saddam Hussein was very clear,' Bush told reporters during an appearance with Mexican President Vicente Fox in Monterrey, Mexico. 'Like the previous administration, we were for regime change.'
"During the early months of his presidency, Bush said the administration's
Folks, here's the truth, so help me Bill:
"President Bush ordered the Pentagon to explore the possibility of a ground invasion of Iraq well before the United States was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, an official told ABCNEWS, confirming the account former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill gives in a book written by former Wall Street Journal reporter Ron Suskind. The official, who asked not to be identified, was present in the same National Security Council meetings as O'Neill immediately after Bush's inauguration in January and February of 2001.
"'The president told his Pentagon officials to explore the military options, including use of ground forces,' the official told ABCNEWS. 'That went beyond the
Given what's happened to O'Neill, I wouldn't want my name used either. (In fact, don't use my name.)
On the same day, a mere 75 days faster than the Justice Department launched an investigation of who in this administration outed Valerie Plame as a CIA agent to Robert Novak (in retribution for a New York Times op-ed by her husband, ex-ambassador Joseph Wilson, embarrassing the administration over those 16 Niger-Yellowcake words in the State of the Union address), the Treasury Department, O'Neill's former bailiwick, launched an investigation "into why a document stamped 'secret' was used to illustrate an O'Neill interview Sunday night."
And then it was pure guns-of-August time and so Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld arrived on the scene to deny everything and accuse O'Neill of "sour grapes." ("The idea that [the president] came into office with a predisposition to invade
Now let's reconsider the major revelation in all this. I don't want to denigrate the importance of the Suskind book or the "60 Minutes" interview. It's always fascinating when someone formerly high-up in an administration that prides itself on close-mouthedness breaks ranks and blabs. But the "shock" of all this reminds me of those wonderful close-to-final lines in the film
In all this "shock," if you think about it for a minute, there's so much sham. Our world of mainstream news is so closed, so blinkered, that the O'Neill description of Bush -- a blind man talking to a roomful of the deaf -- seems to me to catch something of our media as well. Sometimes, I suspect, the "news" should be the very opposite of what we call news. In this case, for instance, the truly shocking headline would have been: "Bush administration revealed not to have any intention of making war on
No one who bothers to read the various documents that came out of neocon think-tanks like PNAC (Project for the New American Century) in the 1990s could believe that, when these characters and their allies made it into office, they wouldn't be thinking about what our vice president ever so politely calls "pursuing a forward strategy for freedom in the greater Middle East." The problem wasn't wanting that "forward strategy," or even planning for war in
In the meantime, despite the fact that the Supreme Court recently accepted the Cheney energy-task-force case, there has been next to no writing in the mainstream about how, from the beginning, this administration emphasized global energy flows, the redirection of those flows our way, and the "protection" of them. Mike Klare wrote a piece on the subject back in 2002 that was recently posted at www.commondreams.org, barely updated (it didn't need it). After an analysis of the early energy moments of this administration back in 2001 and a discussion of its global energy/military policies, Klare concludes in a way that fits all too well with O'Neill's
"As a result, a two-pronged strategy governs
One small detail of the initial occupation of
Klare is about as sensible as you can get on a subject that should be basic to any news analysis of the world as seen by this administration. But it's not a view that we see much of, do we?
I can't help thinking that there's a charade-like aspect to the news everywhere. On
But let's back up a minute and start with a vivid description I ran across recently -- thanks to the always interesting suggestions at www.cursor.org -- of the CPA, our "brain center" in
"Most of the people in the Green Zone never leave, or only leave with massive army escort and then only to go directly to meetings in ministries. They call the area outside of the Green Zone, the Red Zone. In other words: all of
"On top of it, living conditions in the Green Zone are unbearable. Since the Rashid bombing, many live in massive dorm rooms--200 or more to a room--with senior officials and soldiers crashing out on bunk beds. There aren't enough toilets or showers. Everyone is sick of the KBR cafeterias that offer a constant array of college cafeteria food: sloppy joes, burgers, limp salads. Nobody can eat in Iraqi restaurants. Most have never eaten Iraqi food. My friends in the CPA tell me they are truly depressed, truly miserable. People are leaving. People are forgetting
At this point, I think the question is simply whether this administration can bumble through in
But that turns out to be the least of it this week. There were those rumors -- floated perhaps by alienated OPEC diplomats -- that the oil organization might consider pegging crude oil prices to the Euro, not the dollar (Patrick Brethour, Globe & Mail update, 1/12/04), which would be a more than symbolic slap in the face. Just mentioning the possibility probably puts added pressure on the dollar in the very week when, as Immanuel Wallerstein points out in his latest column, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued a report treating "the