Another bulletin from the front in George W. Bush's ongoing -- and highly succesful -- War on the Poor (and on all those labor and are heavy-laden: the weak, the sick, the old, the damaged, the children, the working folk). This time, it's Fightin' Joe Conason coming out smoking in the NY Observer with a battlefield round-up of the latest triumphs in the Bush Blitzkrieg. There has never been such a sustained, deliberate and relentless assault on the well-being of ordinary Americans in the nation's history. And it is here -- in the gutted ruins of once-good lives, once-strong communities and a once-thriving republic -- that Bush will leave his true legacy. For make no mistake: even if this little yapping twerp, this corporate pimp, this slack-jawed, drink-addled dullard posing as a president were to be impeached tomorrow, it will take at least a generation -- and probably longer -- to repair even some of the social, political, spiritual and financial destruction he will leave behind.
Here are some excerpts from Conason's excellent compendium:
...Unmoved by the plight of the poor—who are growing poorer and hungrier, according to the latest government data—Congressional leaders last week decided that the best way to pare spending is to reduce the number of families that qualify for food stamps. A bill passed by the House Agriculture Committee on Oct. 28 would make roughly 300,000 Americans ineligible to receive food stamps and cut the program by about $850 million over the next five years.
The fiscal impact of all those cuts will be negligible, especially compared with the subsidies that these same Christian gentlemen insist on providing to energy, agribusiness and other major interests. But these gratuitous acts of unkindness will surely harm the unfortunate children who have less to eat as a result...
Of course, these “compassionate conservatives” did not content themselves with cutting food stamps. They are also contemplating cutbacks in Medicaid, the health-insurance program that serves the poor, specifically targeting millions of low-income children for reduced services and co-payments. Kids living in poverty are going to be deprived of eyeglasses, hearing aids and other crucial care.
School lunches are also going to be cut for some of those little losers whose families need food stamps, incidentally. And kids who need child support will also be out of luck, because the powerful House Ways and Means Committee has determined to cut back enforcement efforts against deadbeat parents. The Republicans, who deem themselves “pro-family,” are determined to squeeze a few more bucks from low-income foster families and student-loan recipients as well.
What these politicians will not consider, as they ponder legislation between fund-raising banquets and golf outings, is any measure that might demand sacrifice from those who can well afford it.....Consider the energy industry, which has just reported record profits while gouging the public with the highest gasoline and heating-oil prices ever seen in this country. Three months ago, President Bush signed legislation passed by the Congressional Republicans that awards $14.5 billion in subsidies to the oil and gas industry. But that wasn’t enough, because in early October the House passed still another round of oil subsidies...
But oilmen aren’t the only beneficiaries of this Congress of the absurd. While households with annual incomes above $1 million have reaped an average benefit of more than $100,000 from the Republican tax cuts, the Congressional leaders, in their wisdom, want to award still more breaks to that tiny aristocracy of wealth. According to the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities, the plan is to strip out a pair of obscure tax laws signed by the President’s father in 1990. Repealing those provisions would lavish another $20,000 a year on households with incomes over $1 million—at a cost to the Treasury of nearly $150 billion over the next 10 years.
Last week, a legal thunderbolt struck at the heart of the grubby conspiracy that led the United States and Britain into an illegal war of aggression against Iraq. But this searing blow didn't fall in Washington, where a media frenzy raged over a White House indictment, but in the deeps of southern England, in a military courtroom, where a lone soldier stood against the full force of the great war-crime enterprise, armed only with a single, rusty, obsolete weapon: the law.
While Potomac courtiers and town criers were reading the entrails of the cooked goose of Scooter Libby -- the first Bushist honcho caught in the slow-grinding gears of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's continuing investigation -- in Wiltshire, Flight Lieutenant Malcolm Kendall-Smith faced a court martial after declaring that the Iraq war was illegal and refusing to return for his third tour of duty there, the Guardian reports.
He has been charged with four counts of "disobeying a lawful command." But Kendall-Smith, a decorated medical officer in the Royal Air Force, says that his study of the recently-emerged evidence about the lies, distortions and manipulations used to "justify" the invasion has convinced him that both the war and the occupation are "manifestly illegal." Thus any order arising from this criminal action is itself an "unlawful command," the Sunday Times reports. In fact, the RAF's own manual of law compels him to refuse such illegal orders, Kendall-Smith insists.
The flight lieutenant is no ordinary war protestor, and no shirker of combat - unlike, say, the pair of prissy cowards at the head of the Anglo-American "coalition." Kendall-Smith, who has dual New Zealand-British citizenship -- and dual university degrees in medicine and Kantian moral philosophy -- has served three tours at the front in Afghanistan and Iraq. He is not claiming any conscientious objections against war in general, nor do religious scruples play any part in his stance. It is based solely on the law.
Central to his case are the sinister backroom legal dealings between Washington and London in the last days before the invasion. Less than two weeks before the initial "Shock and Awe" bombings began slaughtering civilians across Iraq, Lord Goldsmith, the UK's attorney general, gave Prime Minister Tony Blair a detailed briefing full of doubts and equivocations about the legality of the coming war, adding that Britain's participation in an attack unsanctioned by the UN would "likely" lead to "close scrutiny" by the International Criminal Court for potential war crimes charges, the Observer reports.
But Blair and Goldsmith withheld this report from Parliament, the Cabinet and British military brass, who were demanding a clear-cut legal sanction for the impending action. Then, just three days before the bloodletting began, Goldsmith suddenly produced another paper, this time for public consumption: a brief, clear, unequivocal statement that the invasion would be legal. This statement was almost certainly crafted in Washington, where Goldsmith had recently been "tutored" by the Bush gang's consiglieres, including the legal advisers to Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice.
Leading this pack of war-baying legal beagles was George W. Bush's top counsel, Alberto Gonzales, who had overseen the White House's own efforts to weasel out of potential war crimes charges by declaring -- without any basis in Anglo-American jurisprudence or the U.S. Constitution -- that Bush was not bound by any law whatsoever in any military action he undertook: a blank check for aggression, murder and torture that Bush has gleefully cashed over and over. Alberto and the boys leaned hard on Goldsmith, who finally caved in and replicated the Americans' contorted and specious legal arguments for launching the attack.
Of course, Kendall-Smith knew none of this during his first two tours in Iraq: Goldsmith's Bush-induced backflip was only divulged in April 2005. Nor did he know then of the "Downing Street Memos," the "smoking gun" minutes that record Blair's inner circle dutifully lining up behind Bush's hellbent drive for war - as far back as 2002 - and their conspiracy with the Bush gang to manipulate their countries into war. The memos -- which emerged in May 2005 and have never been denied or repudiated by the UK government -- show Blair's slavish acquiescence in Bush's criminal scheme to "fix the facts and the intelligence around the policy" of unprovoked military aggression. Confronted with this newly revealed evidence -- and the revelations about the mountain of doubts and caveats expressed by American intelligence before the invasion but deliberately ignored by the Bushist war party -- Kendall-Smith took the only honorable course for a soldier who has been duped into serving an evil cause.
The moral rigor of his defiance has sent tremors through the British military establishment, already shaken by the strange, unexplained shooting deaths of two military inspectors investigating atrocity allegations in Iraq, the Guardian reports. British brass are panicky about the Goldsmith revelations; indeed, the leader of the UK invasion force, Admiral Michael Boyce, said he now believes the British military does not have "the legal cover necessary to avoid prosecution for war crimes," the Observer reports. Boyce added that if he and his officers are eventually put on trial for such crimes, he'll make sure that Blair and Goldsmith are in the dock beside them.
Bush, Blair and their minions have committed a monstrous crime, and they know it -- hence all the convolutions, before the war and after, to inoculate themselves from prosecution. But with Kendall-Smith and Patrick Fitzgerald, the long-moribund figure of the law is re-awakening. It's weak, it's bleary, it certainly might fail. But now the conspirators will have to live cowering in its shadow for the rest of their days. Add a comment
Not that it matters or anything, but it turns out that the 58,000 Americans and millions of Southeast Asians killed in the Vietnam War died for a lie. And Bush has tried to bury the latest official confirmation of this bloody falsehood for years. Why? Because the deliberate manipulation of intelligence involved in sucking the United States into the Vietnam hellstorm was too close to the deliberate manipulation of intelligence that Bush employed to suck the United States into the Iraqi hellstorm.
We've said it before and we will keep on saying it, again and again and again: What quadrant of hell is hot enough for such men?
The NYT reports (with typically demure headline): Vietnam Study, Casting Doubts, Remains Secret. Excerpts: The National Security Agency has kept secret since 2001 a finding by an agency historian that during the Tonkin Gulf episode, which helped precipitate the Vietnam War, N.S.A. officers deliberately distorted critical intelligence to cover up their mistakes, two people familiar with the historian's work say.
The historian's conclusion is the first serious accusation that communications intercepted by the N.S.A., the secretive eavesdropping and code-breaking agency, were falsified so that they made it look as if North Vietnam had attacked American destroyers on Aug. 4, 1964, two days after a previous clash. President Lyndon B. Johnson cited the supposed attack to persuade Congress to authorize broad military action in Vietnam, but most historians have concluded in recent years that there was no second attack.
The N.S.A. historian, Robert J. Hanyok, found a pattern of translation mistakes that went uncorrected, altered intercept times and selective citation of intelligence that persuaded him that midlevel agency officers had deliberately skewed the evidence….
Mr. Hanyok's findings were published nearly five years ago in a classified in-house journal, and starting in 2002 he and other government historians argued that it should be made public. But their effort was rebuffed by higher-level agency policymakers, who by the next year were fearful that it might prompt uncomfortable comparisons with the flawed intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq, according to an intelligence official familiar with some internal discussions of the matter.Add a comment
Here's "news" that should not be news but will obviously come as news to most Americans who never hear news like this: Muslims don't like terrorism or Islamic extremists. From the Daily Telegraph (you didn't think it would be in a US paper, did you?): Anti-terror Ramadan TV drama stirs the Arab world.
Excerpts: A blockbuster Ramadan television drama broadcast across the Arab world has broken new ground by daring to question the motives of terrorism committed in the name of Allah. The plotline of al-Hur al-Ayn (Beautiful Maidens), has…been hugely popular with an Arabic-speaking public fed up with the cliched portrayal of all Muslims as gun-toting fanatics….
The title of the programme is taken from the widely held belief that Islamic terrorists willing to become martyrs do so because the Koran promises them 72 virgins in heaven. In fact, the Koran makes no mention of 72 virgins and does not encourage suicide bombing or self-martyrdom.Add a comment
Wise man Juan Cole points us to this story, which is not just a smoking gun but a veritable MOAB which utterly destroys the big Bush lie that his war of aggression has brought "democracy" to Iraq. Jalal Talabani, the president of the supposedly "sovereign" nation of Iraq, has admitted – in front of the United Nations – that he has no power to stop the United States from using his "sovereign" nation as a launching pad for attacks on other countries – even though Talabani adamantly opposes such actions.
Middle East On-Line reports: [Excerpt] Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said he opposed military action against neighbouring Syria but lacked the power to prevent US troops from using his country as a launchpad if it chose to do so.
"I categorically refuse the use of Iraqi soil to launch a military strike against Syria or any other Arab country," Talabani told the London-based Arabic daily Asharq Al-Awsat in an interview published Tuesday. "But at the end of the day my ability to confront the US military is limited and I cannot impose on them my will." [End]
Professor Cole sums up the harsh reality of the situation: "So let's get this straight. The president of Iraq elected six months after the US 'turned over sovereignty' on June 28, 2004 is saying before the United Nations that George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld decide whether his country can be used as a base to attack other countries, and he is unable to influence such decisions-- even though he categorically rejects any such action.
"For all those 'Bush's Iraq' boosters who laud the 'democratic' elections of January 30 and the recent constitutional referendum, this clear admission that Iraq remains under American military occupation, and that its government is helpless before American decisions about the fate of Iraq, is a rather strong refutation. After all, no country is a "democracy" where the military calls the shots, overruling the civilian president-- how much less so if it is a foreign military! Talabani is saying that Iraq is more like Burma, Pakistan or the Sudan than it is like democracies such as India or Brazil."Add a comment
We hold no brief at all for Harriet Miers: she is a simpering factotum and cheerleader for the worst president in American history (whom she idiotically refers to as "the most brilliant man I know") and her appointment to the Supreme Court would have been a sickening travesty. It's good thing that she's out of the running – but the manner of her leaving is almost as disturbing as her nomination itself. She was basically run out of town on a rail by Bush's own "base" (or "al Qaeda," in the more apt Arabic) of partisan, pseudo-religious cranks.
Dennis Roddy has an excellent column on the matter in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Roddy goes to the source, interviewing the Rev. (sic) Rob Schenck, one of the tinpot generals leading the pseudo-Christian soldiers that have bolstered, even worshipped the corrupt and bloodstained twerp from Texas for so long. As Roddy notes, Schenk, head of the National Clergy Council, is one of the many fringe extremists "with surprising access to power players" in Bush's Washington. (continued)Add a comment
We here at Empire Burlesque pledge to redouble our efforts to bring President Bush's masterful leadership in the War on the Poor to the general public, breaking through the liberal media "filter" that won't tell the truth about the Leader's devastating prowess. So below are a few bulletins from the front-line (all courtesy of the indispensible Buzzflash), where you can see the Great Commander tearing through the rabble like a column of crack German Panzers.
Texas Leads Nation in Household Hunger (AP)
Congress Weighs Big Cuts to Medicaid and Medicare (NYT)
Rich Senators Defeat Minimum-Wage Hike (Helen Thomas/Hearst)
House Panel Votes $844 Million Cut in Food Stamps (Reuters)
(Excerpt) On a party-line vote, a Republican-run U.S. House of Representatives committee voted to cut food stamps by $844 million on Friday, just hours after a new government report showed more Americans are struggling to put food on the table.
About 300,000 Americans would lose benefits due to tighter eligibility rules for food stamps, the major U.S. antihunger program, under the House plan. The cuts would be part of $3.7 billion pared from Agriculture Department programs over five years as part of government-wide spending reductions...
"This is not a giveaway program that results in windfall profits," said North Carolina Democrat G.K. Butterfield in opposing the cuts. "That is not moral. That is not American." Antihunger activists said hunger rates were up for the fifth year in a row, so the cuts were a mistake. "It is hard to imagine any congressional action that is more detached from reality," said James Weill of the Food Research and Action Center. (end)
Who cares about Valerie Plame, 2000 dead, Katrina, Harriet and all that jazz? The juggernaut rolls on! Add a comment
Here is some eminent good sense from Norm Stamper, former police chief of Seattle on how to vastly reduce crime – and America's scandalously high prison population – and, not incidentally, stanch the relentless spread of corruption throughout government and the business world, while helping to heal some of the nation's most greivous racial and class divides. What's the secret? It's simple: legalize drugs.
The Los Angeles Times is to be applauded for publishing such a provocative piece, which flies in the face of deeply entrenched (and deeply profitable) conventional wisdom – and to be condemned for trying to undercut it at the same time with a headline designed to set middle-class teeth on edge: "Let Those Dopers Be." As Stamper makes clear, you don't have to be a "doper" to see the incalcuable damage being done to American society and politics by the horrendously stupid and counterproductive "war on drugs."
Then feel free to take a hit of the piece below. This is the first installment of several excerpts from the book, "Empire Burlesque: High Crimes and Low Comedy in the Bush Imperium, 2001-2005," that we will be running in the week ahead, while your correspondent trots the globe. This is from November 2001, and shows the connection between the 30-year-old "war on drugs" and the "war on terror," then in the first bloody bloom of youth.
Gainspotting: Terror War Meets Drug War
November 30, 2001
Among the isolated, out-of-step losers who dare open their mouths to mutter "doubts" about America's military campaign in Afghanistan, you will sometimes hear the traitorous comment: "This war is just about oil."
We take stern exception to such cynical tommyrot. No one who has made a clear and dispassionate assessment of the situation in the region could possibly say the new Afghan war is "just about oil."
It's also about drugs.
For, although we must now hail the warlords of the Northern Alliance as noble defenders of civilization, the fact is that for some time they have also functioned as one of the world's biggest drug-dealing operations. Indeed, one of the main sticking points between the holy warriors of the alliance and their ideological brethren in the Taliban has been control of the profitable poppy, which by God's grace grows so plentifully in a land otherwise bereft of natural resources. (Always excepting the production of corpses.) ....Add a comment
Having railed at the wanton criminality of the Bush Faction for so long, this site naturally partakes of the general glee arising from the looming possibility of genuine, grade-A grand jury indictments for some of the gang's top thugs.
Of course, we all know that the fix is in: if anyone in the White House is actually indicted and convicted for the high crime of exposing the identity of an undercover agent – in wartime, no less – they will certainly be pardoned when George W. Bush finally limps away from the steaming, stinking, blood-soaked ruin of his presidency. As we noted here the other day, nobody will do any hard time; in the end, the whole sick crew will simply pass through the golden revolving door into the lifetime gravy train of corporate grease and rightwing lecture-circuit glory.
Still, it is heartening to see the fever-sweat of fear popping out on the brows of these swaggering world-shakers, these third-rate goons and half-wit cranks posing as great statesmen, if only for a little while. Fear has always been their weapon of choice: they've used it to foment aggressive war, to subjugate the conquered, to crush political opposition, to manipulate the electorate, and to mask their own incompetence, corruption and greed. Now they're getting a taste of it themselves – and they can't take it.
You can see it in their darting eyes, their twitches and fidgets, you can smell it on them: the fear, the nagging worry that perhaps – just perhaps – they haven't got it all nailed down this time; that perhaps – just perhaps – the law is something more than a fancy cane to beat the poor with; that it might – just might – apply to them as well. The sight of Bush's porky puppetmaster, Karl Rove, tottering out of his fourth grand jury appearance last week, with the shadow of manacles dangling before his pinched, bloated face, was an image to warm the cockles of every American patriot's heart.
But this schadenfruede, however tasty and effervescent, is no substitute for the strong meat of justice. And even in the unlikely – not to say inconceivable – event that the entire pack of jackals gets herded into the hoosegow for the agent-outing conspiracy, it will not bring back the innocent dead murdered at their command. It will not restore the shattered families writhing in the pits of grief and loss, from Baghdad to Burbank. It will not be recompense for the pointless sacrifice of soldiers and reservists sent on a criminal errand, plunged into a brutal and brutalizing hell – for nothing, for a chimera, for ideological lunacy, for the enrichment of cats already so fat they can barely stand up and waddle to the dish for another slurp of cream.
Not unless every one of the war conspirators and their chief minions – George W. Bush, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Paul Wolfowitz, Condi Rice, Scooter Libby, George Tenet, Andrew Card, Douglas Feith, John Bolton, Karen Hughes, John Yoo, Zalmay Khalilzad, Alberto Gonzales, Jay Bybee, Stephen Hadley, Jerry Bremer, Nicholas Calio, Richard Perle, Tony Blair and all the rest – were lined up in the public square with the entrails of their victims draped around their necks would anything approaching justice be done. But as Shakespeare told us long ago, "in the corrupted currents of this world, offence's gilded hand may shove by justice."
For while official Washington strains to read the special prosecutor's tea leaves, Bush's war crime grinds on. Last weekend saw the "passage" of the much-ballyhooed Iraqi constitution – a desperately thrown-together rigamarole that quietly preserves the special privileges for Bush's business cronies imposed by the former satrap, Bremer, while also exacerbating the violent ethnic rivalries that Bush has unleashed across the tortured land.
This "victory for democracy" – achieved, in typical Bushist fashion, through outrageously rigged vote counts, as the New York Times reports – is in fact a blueprint for disaster. The victorious Kurds will accelerate their U.S.-backed "ethnic cleansing" of the oil-rich north, while the Iranian-backed Shiite militias in the oil-rich south will accelerate their already murderous imposition of Talibanic religious rule. The once-dominant Sunni Arab minority, now marginalized and impoverished, will swell the ranks of the growing insurgency, as Baghdad and the nation's central provinces plunge further into Somali-style anarchy. Terrorist freebooters, set loose in the one of the world's most strategic locations by Bush's destruction of the Iraqi state, will continue to thrive in the chaos.
With no chance for the deliberately enfeebled central Iraqi government to take responsibility for the nation's security, American forces will remain knee-deep in the quagmire, killing and being killed without rhyme or reason – or hope of escape. Indeed, Bush is already signaling "a longer, broader conflict" in his speeches on the war, the NY Times reports. There is no "exit strategy" because Bush has never intended to leave. The installation of a permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq has been the war conspirators' loudly proclaimed goal for many years, long before Bush was shoehorned into power – as we have noted here incessantly since 2002, citing chapter and verse from their own publications.
This is why they lied their way into war, this is why they outed a CIA agent whose husband exposed one of their lies: to pursue their dream of "global dominance," of endless war profiteering and oil baksheesh. The prosecutor might give them a pinch, but the damage is already done: the dead will stay dead, the maimed will stay maimed, the tortured will never escape their nightmares. And the killing, the wounding and torment will go on.
A version of this column will appear in the Oct. 21 edition of the Moscow Times.Add a comment