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Entries tagged "Bush administration"

Malice Versus Nobility: Scooter Libby and Bradley Manning

March 11, 2012 ·

Scooter Libby and Bradley Manning.After 9/11, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, a Yale graduate with a law degree from Columbia, and fellow neo cons plotted to twist and invent "intelligence" data to convince the public that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, so as to build a case for invading Iraq.

From 2001 to 2005, Libby served as Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs, Chief of Staff to the Vice President of the United States and Assistant to President George W. Bush.

Libby and fellow neo cons stressed Bush’s dubious 2003 State of the Union Address claim that "the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." Cheney repeated that Saddam Hussein was "trying once again to produce nuclear weapons" in March of that year.

The CIA was asked to investigate. Joe Wilson, a former U.S. Ambassador and expert on Africa, got chosen for the mission. His wife, Valery Plame, worked as a covert CIA operator.

Wilson dismissed the “yellow-cake tale”. His July 2003 New York Times op-ed, What I Didn't Find In Africa, suggested the Bushies had invented pretexts for the Iraq war.

Libby and fellow war plotters Karl Rove and Richard Armitage, not satisfied by their success in making war, wanted to punish their Washington enemies. They leaked Plame’s name to the mischievous columnist Robert Novak — to punish her husband, Wilson. Novak’s story ended her CIA career, and exposed her agents and contacts.

A jury later convicted Libby of obstruction of justice and perjury around the case. A judge sentenced him to 30 months in prison, and fined him $250,000. Bush, months later, commuted his term.  But no one got charged with plotting to distribute false information to lure the public to war. The New York Times had even helped the campaign by publishing the lies as news stories on its front page.

Count the Bush cabal’s accomplishments: thousands of dead US military personnel and contractors, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis; hundreds of thousands wounded, physically and mentally – here and there. Iraq remains broken. 13,000 Iraqis died violently last year. Bush destroyed Iraq’s integrity. His profligate war spending vastly increased the national debt. His definitive biography might be called: “Lying The Nation Into War.”

Libby served some months in prison. But the neo con gang should be called simply "cons" – as in convicts. Most of them got great jobs instead.

In November 2005, a Marine Corps unit killed 24 unarmed Iraqi men, women and children in Haditha, Iraq. Investigators determined all died from multiple gun shot wounds at close range  — apparently as payback for an Iraqi rebel attack on a US convoy in which a Marine Corporal died – the mini My Lai of Iraq.

This past January 24, a U.S. military judge handed down harsh sentences. Squad leader, Staff Sgt. Frank G. Wuterich, pleaded guilty of war crimes and received a maximum of 90 days in prison and a reduction in pay and rank. He served no time in the brig. One Marine was acquitted; six others had their cases dropped

No U.S. official has been charged for the massive number of civilian deaths in Iraq, or for lying as a pretext for war. Who remembers the Nuremberg laws?

Now look at Private Bradley Manning’s ordeal. He had access to and allegedly released — to Julian Assange of Wikileaks — hundreds of thousands of secret documents. These documents did not expose secrets vital to our enemy, but lies, corruption and crimes by U.S. officials and those of other countries. Manning’s defense team stresses that what Wikileaks published wasn’t or shouldn’t have been secret.

Manning did however embarrass U.S. officials by exposing their illegal, stupid, selfish and downright inane activities. If he illegally distributed those documents, why doesn't the Justice Department charge the New York Times and other newspapers that gleefully distributed this supposedly classified (mortifying) material? One video Manning allegedly released spread virally. U.S. helicopter gunship members get orders to fire on Iraqis because one (a Reuters cameraman) might have a weapon (a video camera). We witness from the camera mounted on the gun the massacre of a group of men near the cameraman, and then of others who subsequently arrive to help the wounded, including a child in a van. Humanitarian behavior in Iraq? Who invited us there?

Was this classified because Iraqis didn’t know our troops did such things – or because it disgraces our military?

With vindictiveness aforethought the military held Manning for months in solitary confinement – often naked with the light on all night — in the Quantico Virginia Marine Base. Solitary confinement “crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance more effectively than any other form of mistreatment,” as John McCain described his two years of solitary confinement in Vietnam.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, The Center for Constitutional Rights, the ACLU and the New York Times concluded that solitary confinement constitutes torture, designed to break a person. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture tried to investigate Manning’s prison conditions. The military refused his request for an unmonitored visit.

The 24 year-old Manning faces 22 charges, including "aiding the enemy." If convicted, the government will call for life imprisonment, unless Manning implicates Julian Assange in the "conspiracy" to expose the "secret" sins of U.S. national security. Members of the Icelandic Parliament have nominated Manning for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Let's help him win it – as a free man.

The Sick Man of North America

January 31, 2012 ·

A century ago, the Ottoman Empire was falling apart as a result of disastrous wars and economic decline. Dubbed “the sick man of Europe,” the Ottoman Empire was not ultimately able to pull itself together. It expired in the flames of World War I, but not before pulling down a good chunk of the world order with it.

Sick Uncle SamToday, the United States faces considerable economic challenges and has suffered numerous setbacks because of our own disastrous wars. Our reputation in the international community remains quite low. We are coming dangerously close to earning the epithet of “the sick man of North America.” And our decline in health also threatens global stability and security.

Every week for the last six years, I’ve written a column called World Beat about the health of U.S. foreign policy. With a few exceptions – the recent overture to Burma, the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq – the diagnosis has been dismal. For the first couple years, I chronicled the insanities of the Bush administration. For the last three years, I’ve dissected the policies of the Obama administration. There has been, alas, more continuity between the two administrations than anyone predicted when Barack Obama took office.

I had low expectations for Obama from the beginning – not because I doubt his talents as an individual, but because I fear for the health of our political institutions and I recognize the power of our economic elite. Obama lacks the leadership skills, the political intention, and the congressional backing to transform institutions and challenge entrenched economic power. U.S. foreign policy remains on the same perilous trajectory that Bush and his cronies launched it on. And so we are still the sick man of North America, dangerous in our relative decline.

Cover art by Adwoa Masozi.In All Over the Map: the Best of World Beat, I’ve brought together a collection of the best of these columns. This modestly priced ebook covers the worsening health of U.S. foreign policy and the efforts to revive the patient. It looks at movements around the world that champion peace, democracy, and economic sustainability. It profiles the people and the ideas that can guide us out of our perilous predicament. The book includes essays on the death of Osama bin Laden, the continuing U.S. drone wars, graphic novels that cover global affairs, the use of dance therapy with child soldiers, the dissident art of Ai Weiwei, the politics of the Muslim Brotherhood, the politics of overseas adoption, eyewitness reports from Korea and Albania, and much much more.

Hope was the watchword of the 2008 elections, and it propelled Obama into office. We must still hope. Quoting a famous African proverb, Hillary Clinton is fond of saying that “it takes a village to raise a child.” Similarly, it takes an electorate to raise a president. We can still push Obama – and subsequent presidents – in the direction of democracy, equitable prosperity, and environmental sustainability. We can still push the international community toward these goals. All Over the Map is a guide to the vital signs of the United States and the world as well as the methods to improve our chances of recovery.