Category Archives: Cheney

Against Naivete

naivete_is_not_the_answer_bumper_sticker-p128095221857341748tmn6_210Also known as “innocence” or “prolonged ignorance”, it is often encased in infantilism.

Shortly after the First World War, John Dos Passos declared in his seminal novel 1919 “the death of  innocence in America”. It became a catchphrase, the summation of America’s sudden blasted knowledge of a world – Europe – from which it had always considered itself safely distant. The world had shrunk, Dos Passos was saying, and the USA had finally been drawn into it. We were part of a global reality whether we liked it or not. American men, after all, had died fighting a war that had started in Europe over European beligerences.

Needless to say, Dos Passos’ declaration of the death was premature and greatly exaggerated. It may have been clear to him and to the rest of that post-war generation of writers and political thinkers that the nation could no longer afford the luxury of the isolationism we had practiced with relief since the War of 1812, but as a people it turned out we had no intention of religuishing the useless but comforting ignorance that allowed us to escape responsibility for anything that happened on the world stage.

“Innocence”, either the loss of or the retaining of, became a major theme of the Roaring 20’s. Rather than embrace our new knowledge, we turned our backs on it and…played. From the self-involved if indistinct longing of Daisy Buchanan and Jay Gatsby for easy pickings and no regrets to the open admiration of Capone and the Wild West he made of the Chicago streets as if the consequences could be shrugged off as easily as a viewing of a Hollywood gangster film, we clung to our native “innocence” as if it were armor plating against adulthood. We shrugged off responsibility, if anything, much more casually than our attachment to films and their stars. We shut our eyes and turned up our noses whenever “serious people” warned that Wall Street was having us on and the whole thing was going to come crashing down. When it finally did, we felt hurt, betrayed, as if a parental promise of an endless playtime had been reneged on without reason. We pouted.

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David Horsey Explains Cheney’s Torture Jones

horsey

Why didn’t we think of this? It’s so simple.

Bush Lobbyist Caught Selling Access to VP Cheney in Return for Donations to Bush Library/Propaganda Center (Updated)

Well, I’m not surprised.

The Sunday London Times is reporting that big-time Bush lobbyist Stephen Payne is busy these days selling access to Dick Cheney in return for (sizable) donations to the Bush Library and Propaganda Center.

The images on the tiny screen of Stephen Payne’s personal organiser told a clear story: this was a man with connections at the highest level.

One showed Payne uprooting dead trees side by side with George W Bush on the US president’s Texas ranch. Another depicted him skeet shooting next to Dick Cheney, the vice-president, and a third grinning for the camera alongside Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state.

The man on the other side of the table from Payne at the Lanesborough hotel in central London last week appeared impressed by the contents of the BlackBerry. He was a familiar figure, a Kazakh politician Payne knew as Eric Dos.

 Dos, whose full name is Yerzhan Dosmukhamedov, told Payne that he was representing another foreign political figure who was looking to meet the top people in the US government.

 Dos had good reason for believing that Payne could make it happen. Payne has accompanied Bush and Cheney on foreign trips to the Middle East and Asia, and he sits on the influential advisory council to the Department of Homeland Security. Payne is also president of a lobbying company, Worldwide Strategic Partners (WSP), which specialises in connecting business and political interests with the US government.

Dos told Payne that the politician needing help was Askar Akayev, the former president of the central Asian state of Kyrgyzstan.

Akayev, who is in exile in Moscow after being ousted from power three years ago in a people’s revolt, was seeking an endorsement from senior US figures in order to help rehabilitate himself in the eyes of the world, Dos told Payne.

“Who does he want to meet with in Washington?” asked the American. Dos replied: “Well of course, maybe the president of the United States, vice-president Cheney, to speak maybe directly to explain the situation in central Asia . . . To give his side of the story. These kind of things.”

“I think that some things could be done,” said Payne, adding that seeing Bush himself might be more difficult. With barely a pause, he continued:

“I think that the family, children, whatever [of Akayev], should probably look at making a contribution to the Bush library.

“It would be like, maybe a couple of hundred thousand dollars, or something like that, not a huge amount but enough to show that they’re serious.”

(emphasis added) 

Whew! That’s a relief. For a minute there I thought we were talking about real money. $200K for a visit with L’il Dick so a deposed dictator could have a sympathetic audience listen to “his side of the story”? Cheap at twice the price. And who knows? L’il Dick can understand the pain of autocrats slung out of their country for torture, theft (isn’t Akayev the one who boiled his political opponents in oil?). He might be looking at something similar himself one of these days. Maybe he’ll invade Kyrgyzstan and give the guy back his country if he promises to join the worldwide WOT and turn Kyrgyzstan’s oil fields over to Halliburton and Chevron for management/sale.

Hey, it’s doable. Disgusting but doable.

I wish I could say this means the Bushies have struck rock bottom but selling access for $$$ is what they do. what they’ve been doing for years. 

The scandal isn’t that a BushBaby is breaking the law. This is minor for these guys. The scandal is that I have to read about it in the foreign press. The reporter was undercover – a concept the US press abandoned after the Food Lion fiasco because it wasn’t fair to corporate pirates and their willingness to poison us for a buck or two – and he recorded the conversation (legal, despite conservative howling to the contrary). Who these days in the US could imagine such a thing happening? Not me.

Dos said that in the autumn of 2005 he had been asked by the Kazakh government, via Kulibayev, to arrange a visit by Cheney. The intention was to improve the country’s international standing.

Dos had spent several days negotiating with Payne. A deal was eventually agreed, he said, and he understood that a payment of $2m was passed, via a Kazakh oil and gas company, to Payne’s firm.

The following May, Cheney made a brief trip to Kazakhstan. His visit was remarked upon in the media at the time, both for the lavish praise which he publicly heaped on Nazarbayev and for the stark contrast between this and a speech he had made just a day earlier at a conference in Lithuania in which he had lambasted Russia for being insufficiently democratic. Now he was lauding Nazarbayev, who has effectively made himself president for life and in whose country it is an offence to criticise him.

“Why did Cheney castigate Russia’s imperfect democracy while saying not a word about Kazakhstan’s shameless travesty of the democratic system?” said one newspaper following the visit. “Cheney’s flattery of the Kazakh regime was sickening,” said another.

Hey! Cheney is an honorable man. If he takes money to fluff a country, bigod, he fluffs that country! No matter what kind of hellish conditions he has to ignore. He lives up to his contracts.

Some of them…

I don’t imagine this is serious enough to get much attention as a scandal. It’s pretty small potatoes for the Bushies. So maybe SMU doesn’t really have to worry very much about the soiling of its reputation that bribery on behalf of the school will inevitably bring about. Maybe they don’t think it’s any big deal considering they’re willing to look past torture. Maybe they think John Wesley would take a laissez-faire approach to White House corruption, spying, theft, and contempt for the law. Maybe that’s all OK with Methodists now.

Apparently it must be, because the Bishops have been perfectly willing to bow to Bush pressure and overlook all of it. What’s one more crime more or less? Bribery? Fagh. Who cares?

Clearly the Methodist bishops don’t.

UPDATE: (7/15/08) Lindsay Beyerstein has dug up a lot more at Majikthese.

Bremer and De-Ba’athification

In examining the little contretemps between a Bush trying to slide out from under direct responsibility for the single worst decision in the whole Iraq mess and a Bremer determined not to play fall-guy for a president who didn’t think twice about throwing him under the bus to save his own precious neck, Fred Kaplan at Slate isn’t as forgetful about Chalabi’s early role as Blumenthal, but he does miss Chalabi’s later role and, for some reason, comes over all coy about assigning the decision to Cheney even though the evidence is right under his nose.

Bremer is right about one thing: It wasn’t him. Though he wouldn’t be so self-demeaning as to admit it, he was a mere errand boy on this point. He arrived in Baghdad on May 14, 2003. The next day, he released CPA Order No. 1, barring members of the Baath Party from all but the lowliest government posts. The next day, he issued CPA Order No. 2, disbanding the Iraqi army.

In his memoir, published last year, Bremer wrote that he was handed the orders—and told to announce them as soon as possible—by Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy. “We’ve got to show all the Iraqis that we’re serious about building a new Iraq,” Feith reportedly told him. “And that means that Saddam’s instruments of repression have no role in that new nation.”

Bremer’s version rings true, and if it is then the orders came from Cheney. Period. Feith was L’il Dick’s boy and wouldn’t have dared make a move like that without the Veep told him to. Maybe Kaplan has some doubts about Bremer’s tale, but he doesn’t say what they are.

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Bush and WMDs

Memories in America, trained by tv, are remarkably short even when they belong to otherwise intelligent reporters. Two recent articles – one by Sidney Blumenthal in Salon, the other by Fred Kaplan in Slate, both usually reliable – made it clear to me that we need to go back over some fundamental history of the Second Gulf War, key elements of which both seem to have forgotten or lost track of. We’ve covered this ground already but it was several years ago, so it bears repeating.

If you ask, “Why is it important to go through all this again? And why are these picayune details significant anyway?” The answer is, “Because we need to get it into our heads once and for all that conservatives are naive, gullible children, easily led over cliffs by anyone who feeds them what they want to hear.” The real story of the twisted intelligence that led to the SGW and idiotic decisions like de-Ba’athification isn’t just about arrogance, incompetence, and ignorance. It’s also – and crucially – about misplaced trust and a dangerously juvenile credulity that allows conservatives to believe demonstrably false ideas and foist them on the rest of us just because those ideas are appealingly melodramatic.

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Authoritarian Democrats 3: Questions and Excuses

Evidence of Democratic skullduggery continues to pile up. In Category 1 is a raft of folks wondering why their safe-seat Dem Rep voted for the FISA bill, and in Category 2 is a different raft unimpressed by Democratic explanations of how they were conned by McConnell.

Two quick examples of the former:

New Rep Tim Walz, D-MN, just elected, disappointed some of his staunchest supporters by voting for FISA. Mark Gisleson, Minneapolis blogger of Norwegianity, isn’t happy.

Walz’s vote hurt, and hurt a lot. For the life of me I don’t know how a high school teacher can forget the Constitution so quickly. I think his former students should form a posse and kick his ass the next time he comes home to remind him why they sent him to D.C. The FISA renewal was a huge mistake and without a doubt the most dickheaded vote Walz has cast since going to Washington.

Maryland Democratic activist Stephanie Dray is baffled and “appalled” by Rep Barbara Mikulski’s vote.

I’ve come to this conclusion because she didn’t have to vote this way. Maryand is in no danger of turning into a Red State any time soon. We just came off an election and there’s plenty of time before the next one, even if this would have been a controversial vote. Senator Barb is an institution in this state–there’s really no chance that she’s going to lose her job. So one can only conclude that she voted this way because she believed it was the right thing to do.

And as a Democrat who cares more about civil liberties than welfare checks, this has me appalled.

If Mikulski felt comfortable throwing the Constitution aside in the genuine belief “it was the right thing to do”, we’ve already got a problem. But let’s take it at face value. The next question is: What on earth would make her think that? The answer to that question brings us to the second raft.

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Maybe the Dems Want Authoritarian Powers

Digby is befuddled by the Democrats’ race to authorize more wiretapping power to a patently untrustworthy administration.

Let’s set aside the idea that “trusting” the Bush administration with warrantless wiretaps is like trusting your four year old with a zippo lighter, what kind of bucket-of-lukewarm-spit kind of politics is this? What are they afraid of, that the Bush administration will blame them if a terrorist attack occurs and they didn’t approve another blank check? Guess what? It wouldn’t matter if the Democrats named Bush king with the power to draw and quarter hippies and Muslims on the white house lawn, they will still blame the Democrats if there is another terrorist attack.

I do not know what this latest program is, but whatever it is, it needs to be approved by somebody other than the White House. I’m sorry, but that should be non-negotiable. Dick Cheney has delegated to himself virtually limitless power and he is borderline insane. The executive branch cannot be trusted with additional power of any kind. They have quite enough, thank you.

(emphasis in the original)

Avedon Carol writes at Eschaton (where she was sitting in for Atrios) wondering about lambert’s question at corrente: why aren’t the Dems explicitly condemning the Bush Admin’s anti-Constitutionality and promising to restore the rights Bushies have stolen from us?

The Democrats are under tremendous pressure from the right-wing spinnners on The Hill and their media handmaidens to ignore these important issues. They’re going to ask them about haircuts and cleavage.
So, when we have a chance to get them to talk about important questions, we’d damn well better take it.
We have to push back. That’s what democracy is all about: We have to tell them what we want – and when they are running for office, we have to ask them how they plan to give us what we want.

eRobin at Fact-esque, who was, as usual, ahead of everybody, wrote last week:

I want all the presidential candidates  to, at every opportunity, condemn specific steps this president has taken to undermine the Constitution and to pledge to reverse them ALL on his/her first day in office. I am vastly more concerned with their reluctance to do that than I am even with BushCo’s persistence on his unconstitutional path. (from BushCo I worry that we’ll get another 9/11) The damage he’s done can be contained not only by impeachment (which would be my first choice in a reasonable world but is not in this one) but also by immediate repudiation of what he’s done over the last two terms by whoever gets elected to succeed him.

Putting these two concerns together raises a disturbing question, and since it seems to be my function to think the unthinkable and verbalize the thoughts no one else wants to admit having, I will do my duty and turn over the rock.

The Democrats, like everyone else in the known world, are assuming that the White House will belong to them in ’09. Given the Pubs’ apparent determination to self-destruct by strenuously opposing a withdrawal from Iraq and obstructing legislation everybody wants, like the SCHIP expansion, even as they demand more debt-borrowing to finance energy companies, it’s entirely possible that for once they’re right. So:

Is it conceivable that Democrats are reluctant to explicitly condemn the unConstitutional powers assumed by our imperial president because at some level they themselves wants access to at least some of those powers when they gain control again?

The answer, I’m afraid, is Yes.

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DNI McConnell Wants Expansion of Overseas Eavesdropping Program

Some days one wonders if these people have any sense at all – if they ever did.

Despite serious questions about the Bush Administration’s routine violations of FISA and the legality of their wiretapping programs in general, Adm Mike McConnell, who took over as Bush’s Director of National Intelligence just this past February, has, incredibly, sent a letter to Democratic Bush-Buddy Sylvester Reyes, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee asking for permission to intercept overseas messages between “terrorists”.

Citing a “period of heightened threat” to the U.S. homeland, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell asked Congress to “act immediately” to make changes in current law to permit the interception of messages between terrorist targets overseas, which he said now requires burdensome court orders.

In a July 25 letter made public yesterday, McConnell told the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex.), that he hopes Congress “will be able to act immediately . . . to provide the legislative changes needed to protect the nation in this period of heightened threat.”

At issue is a package of changes that the Bush administration wants in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to facilitate the continuation of its terrorist surveillance program. Congress has delayed amending the program pending further study.

Stepping up the pressure on lawmakers after the recently released terrorist threat assessment, McConnell said that “clarifications are urgently needed” in the law to enable the use of “our capabilities to collect foreign intelligence about foreign targets overseas without requirements imposed by an out-of-date FISA statute.”

He added, “As the head of our nation’s intelligence community, I am obligated to provide warning of threats of terrorist activity, and I have deep concern about the current threat situation.”

The underlying question hinges on modern technology: When communications between one foreign-located source and another foreign-located source travel through a U.S.-located terminal or switch, can they be intercepted without a warrant?

For those of you not intelligence experts, a little background:

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Directive 51-2: Member of House Committee on Homeland Security Denied Access to Annexes

Remember those secret Annexes attached to Directive 51? Newhouse’s Jeff Kosseff reports that when Oregon Rep Peter DeFazio, a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security with classified clearance, requested a look at the secret Annexes attached to Directive 51, he ran into a problem.

Constituents called Rep. Peter DeFazio’s office, worried there was a conspiracy buried in the classified portion of a White House plan for operating the government after a terrorist attack.

As a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, DeFazio, D-Ore., is permitted to enter a secure “bubbleroom” in the Capitol and examine classified material. So he asked the White House to see the secret documents.

On Wednesday, DeFazio got his answer: DENIED.

“I just can’t believe they’re going to deny a member of Congress the right of reviewing how they plan to conduct the government of the United States after a significant terrorist attack,” DeFazio said.

Actually, D51 doesn’t just cover a terrorist attack but any “national emergency” and any emergency that threatens the ability of the national govt to function. Still, it’s clearly HS business and DeFazio has every right to see the whole thing. That is, he would if this was any administration other than Cheney/Bush.  As Mark G would say, we’re in Red Queen territory here.

Homeland Security Committee staffers told his office that the White House initially approved his request, but it was later quashed. DeFazio doesn’t know who did it or why.

“We’re talking about the continuity of the government of the United States of America,” DeFazio said. “I would think that would be relevant to any member of Congress, let alone a member of the Homeland Security Committee.’

So detainees aren’t allowed to see the supposed evidence against them or even the charges under which they’re being held, and a Congressman with classified clearance on the HS Committee can’t see documents relevant to his committee’s work because they’re classified.

Uh-huh.

Here’s the explanation:

  • DeFazio is a Democrat.
  • Democrats are traitors.
  • Therefore DeFazio is a traitor and must not be allowed to see secrets because he’ll turn them over to his friends in Al Qaeda.

That really is the way these people think. DeFazio’s conclusion is therefore justified, not paranoid:

“Maybe the people who think there’s a conspiracy out there are right,” DeFazio said.

(Link via nash at Categorical Aperitif)

How Congress Could Jail Rove & Miers TOMORROW and Why They Should

Cheney’s absurd notion of unlimited executive power – which is what the so-called “Unitary Executive Theory” amounts to, as Bush’s latest power grab makes inarguable – is forcing a Constitutional crisis. The central notion of what I will call the “Cheney Doctrine” that executive privilege, as Scott Horton put it, “trumps” the Constitution seems to have left the Congress with no alternatives to forcing accountability from the Administration except for criminal contempt citations.

We know what will happen if Miers & Rove et al are served with them: they’ll be ignored on the grounds of executive privilege and the Congress will have to go to court in a system packed with irresponsible Republican judges to enforce both the citations and the original subpoenas Bush has declared invalid. Either that or he’ll pardon them, making the issue moot. Meanwhile, the witnesses whose testimony is crucial to discovering the truth about this Administration hide safely behind the walls of presidential protection like Mafia hitters hiding behind the Code of Omerta.

It looks like a Mexican standoff, but Rutgers law professor Frank Askin says in a WaPo op-ed today that there’s another option to the contempt dance that at once asserts Congressional power and puts the Administration into a PR bind it won’t be easy for them to get out of: either branch of the Congress can have its sergeant-at-arms arrest those who refuse to answer a Congressional subpoena and throw them in the DC jail.

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Our Three Presidents and Who Does What

Back in the dim, dark days of 2000 when Dick Cheney chose himself to be Bush’s running mate out of a field of thousands, you may remember that there was some relief expressed in both the press and the blogosphere that the inexperienced lout would have a Vice President with experience and “gravitas” (remember that word?). Those of us aware of Cheney’s past and Halliburton’s present were appalled. Our counter was – “Who are we electing, exactly? Who’s going to run the show, Bush or Cheney?” We suspected that the inept Texas Gov would get run over top of by the hard-right machine of a man who’d cut his teeth in the Nixon White House and learned where the ropes-and-pulleys of power were under Reagan.

We sort of forgot that question over the next few years as Bush became the public face of every decision and Cheney hid out in his bunker, emerging only occasionally to make the rounds of the propaganda networks, Fox and CNN, to insist, in that flat, gray, voice that brooked no questions let alone dissension or argument, on the certainty of WMD’s in Iraq before retreating behind a wall of secrecy and rumors of ill health that bubbled into the public sphere through layers of leaks in a process eerily reminiscent of the last few Soviet Premiers before Gorbachev.

It seems we were right to be concerned and wrong to let Cheney escape the spotlight for so long. More than that, we underestimated the extent to which an inexperienced, not very bright president who, like a lazy middle manager in a branch bank, saw his role primarily as one of delegating responsibility to other people, was willing to turn power over to others with stronger presences and less malleable opinions.

As a result, we wound up, it seems, not with one president but with three co-presidents: Bush, Cheney, and Karl Rove.

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Cheney Claims VP’s Office Not in Executive Branch (2 Updates)

You read right. Where dies he think it is, Constitutionally speaking? He doesn’t say.

Vice President Dick Cheney’s office refused to cooperate with an agency that oversees classified documents, then tried to abolish the office when it challenged the actions, House oversight committee Chairman Henry Waxman said.

The National Archives’ Information Security Oversight Office is charged by presidential order with ensuring that classified information and documents are properly handled by executive branch agencies.

According to a letter from William Leonard, director of the oversight office, Cheney’s office argued it did not meet the definition of an executive branch agency and therefore was exempt.

When Leonard unsurprisingly refused to accept this absurd interpretation, Cheney threatened to abolish the ISOO altogether, claiming there’s a “presidential order under consideration” right now that would do just that.

It’s all about making sure nobody can see – ever – Bush Administration documents that Cheney wants only loyal Bushies who can be trusted to a) keep their mouths shut, or b) twist whatever they find in the presidential papers to reflect the party line. In the background is the Bush Library to be built at SMU.

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Our Other President

Drew Sheneman

Tony Auth

Ben Sargent

The CIA’s Secret Prison System Uses NATO as Cover

I haven’t read his book but I’m going to take a wild guess here that George Tenet didn’t mention anywhere in it that he had his agency, the CIA, use NATO cover to set up the secret prison system in Europe that Cheney wanted in order to circumvent US laws against torture.

The CIA exploited NATO military agreements to help it run secret prisons in Poland and Romania where alleged terrorists were held in solitary confinement for months, shackled and subjected to other mental and physical torture, according to a European investigative report released here Friday.

Some of the United States’ highest-profile terrorism suspects, including Khalid Sheik Mohammed, considered the prime organizer of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, were detained and interrogated at the facility in Poland, according to the 72-page report completed for the Council of Europe, the continent’s human rights agency.

Dick Marty, a Swiss lawyer hired by the council, said the CIA conducted “clandestine operations under the NATO framework,” providing military intelligence agencies in member countries — including Poland and Romania — the cover to assist the agency in disguising the use of secret flights, operations and detention facilities from the days immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks until the fall of last year.

The report was released yesterday and within hours the Denial Machine was in full swing.

Officials speaking on behalf of the CIA, NATO, Poland and Romania on Friday criticized the report’s findings. Both Poland and Romania have denied that the CIA established secret prisons on their soil.

“The CIA’s counter-terror operations have been lawful, effective, closely reviewed, and of benefit to many people — including Europeans — by disrupting plots and saving lives,” CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said. “Our counter-terror partnerships in Europe are very strong.” He described the report as “biased and distorted.”

Of course it is. Whenever Bush Administration spokesmen use words like that, it’s practically a guarantee that whatever it is they’re attacking is not only accurate, it’s the tip of a much larger iceberg. The only truthful statement in Gimigliano’s response is “Our counter-terror partnerships in Europe are very strong.” Everything else he said is a demonstrable lie. Continue reading

Do As We Say, Not As We Do

Tom Toles

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