Belaboring the Obvious

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Pussies. And Dumb Ones, to Boot.

That's right. Every Democrat voting for this execrable piece of shit bill on torture, detainment and denial of habeas corpus is a pussy. A skeerdy-cat. A wimp. Not to mention stupid. Jack Balkin at Balkinization puts it this way:

The Democrats may think that if they let this pass, they are guaranteed to pick up more seats in the House and Senate. But they will actually win less seats this way. For they will have proved to the American people that they are spineless and opportunistic-- that, when faced with a genuine choice and a genuine challenge, they can keep neither our country nor our values safe.

Moreover, the Democrats are being hustled, in what, by now, should be a very apparent and shopworn manner. Over and over again, the Dems let some "compromise" be hammered out by the so-called authorities on national security (Warner? a clueless cold-war hawk with a third-rate intellect, Graham? a first-class conniver and Bush-enabling weasel, McCain? well, let's just say that he'll do anything to be President). Then, they sit on the sidelines and watch as the White House legal flacks go about amending the draft to get what they wanted, anyway. Jack Balkin, again:

The current bill, if passed, will give the Executive far more dictatorial powers to detain, prosecute, judge and punish than it ever enjoyed before. Over the last 48 hours, it has been modified in a hundred different ways to increase executive power at the expense of judicial review, due process, and oversight. And what is more, the bill's most outrageous provisions on torture, definition of enemy combatants, secret procedures, and habeas stripping, are completely unnecessary to keep Americans safe. Rather, they are the work of an Executive branch that has proven itself as untrustworthy as it is greedy: always pushing the legal and constitutional envelope, always seeking more power and less accountability.

Not a soul in the Democratic leadership (apart from Nancy Pelosi today declaring that the bill "does violence to the Constitution"), and virtually none of the rank-and-file, has even suggested the obvious--that the bill is intended to protect the current occupants of the White House from prosecution (retroactive provisions back to 1997), that the bill is intended to end-run judicial interpretation on Constitutional grounds (denial of judicial review), that it will endorse and protect physical and psychological torture (leaving the interpretation of GC Common Article III to the President), and finally, that it is entirely unnecessary on the very national security grounds on which it is being promoted.

But, the real under-the-radar provision is that the proposed legislation leaves the determination of an unlawful combatant to the President or the Secretary of Defense, and the latitude of definition is so broad and vague that it could include almost anyone, citizen or not. If restrictions on judicial review make it impossible for the courts to strike down the law on that basis, then we are all well and truly fucked, because an arbitrary decision by an Executive branch official can strip rights of habeas corpus from anyone, in arbitrary fashion. For an indication of what that might mean, Glenn Greenwald might be offering a clue:

It really is odd and disturbing, as well as potentially quite dangerous, that the declassified NIE on the "Trends on Global Terrorism" focuses exclusively on Islamic terrorists -- except for the last section which conspicuously identifies "leftist" groups which use the Internet as a serious terrorist threat. Odder still, it makes no mention at all of right-wing, anti-government movements (such as, say, the one that spawned Timothy McVeigh, an actual terrorist).

Let's say that Rummy, Military Commissions Act of 2006 in hand, decides that anti-war groups are providing material aid and comfort to terrorists (a stretch, but not an impossible one under the language of the bill). Under the provisions of the Act, members of such groups could be arrested, detained incommunicado for an indeterminate length of time in military custody--and could not avail themselves of the Constitutional right to appear in civil court to hear charges and evidence against them, and would be subject to military tribunals in which evidence can be withheld on some very tenuous grounds and appeal can be ignored in summary fashion. (I'm not the only one worried by those provisions and the imprecision of definitions.)

So, why aren't Democrats--every last one of them--fighting this tooth and nail? Showing the public that they are different from authoritarian Republicans bent on providing the Executive Branch with almost unlimited power? That they stand for our rights? Why aren't they all making it plain, every day, in every possible way, that giving an idiot like Bush these powers is a prescription for further disaster, rather than a solution to a problem?

Beats me. It gets harder and harder to defend Democrats against charges these days that they're just mirror images of Republicans. But, one thing, for sure: Democrats aren't standing on principle here. They're weighing this bill on its political and electoral implications. That's why I say they've been hustled, that they're stupid. The Repugs have done this to them time and time again--on the Iraq AUMF vote, in the 2004 election, on the USA PATRIOT Act, on the 2004 Intelligence Reform Act--and they're behaving like hicks on their first day in the city who've never seen this game of three-card monte before.

Here's a hint, guys and girls--if the Administration is pushing for this bill to be passed in a matter of days, and you haven't read the bill and haven't subjected it to intense legal staff scrutiny, it means you are being hustled. Don't play the game, because it's rigged. Don't vote for a bill of which you know little to nothing.

Because if you think acting like a rube gets you electoral points, think again. It just makes you look stupid and gullible. The voters will think that if a mean-spirited, unpopular and devious idiot like Bush can outwit you, you're waaaay too goddamned stupid to represent them. You can take that to the bank.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

If'n the Hellfire Don't Getcha....

News accounts abound regarding a secret French intelligence memo leaked to a Paris newspaper saying that Saudi sources feel pretty certain that Osama bin Laden is dead, of typhus. Equally, the blogosphere is now wondering if advance news of this has come to one Karl Rove in the White House, and that he is simply going to spring it on the public at an opportune time, as part of an "October Surprise" strategy to steer the elections toward Republicans.

Now, this begs the obvious question. If bin Laden dies of typhoid fever in some less-than-elegant surroundings in the mountains of Pakistan, what exactly does that have to do with the Republicans? Or Bush's "successes" in the "long war?" Or anything.

We don't get to bring him to justice. We don't get the opportunity to find out anything more about his organization, his sources of funding, his general rationale for wanting Americans dead.

Perhaps Republicans will take this as some great triumph of their own, perhaps giving tiny little Medals of Freedom to freedom-loving bacteria, but, I don't see how they can, logically. That bin Laden is dead may give them some satisfaction of revenge, but, it's a far, far cry from actively searching for him and succeeding in capturing him and bringing him to trial.

There's one more consideration in all this. The easiest way to get people to stop looking for you is to convince them, once and for all, that you're dead. This is not the first time we've heard rumors of his demise (e.g., how long can he last dragging around a dialysis machine in the unsterile conditions of Tora Bora--that dialysis machine may have been the equivalent of Abu al-Zarqawi's disappearing and reappearing leg).

Even if bin Laden has ceased to consume the planet's oxygen, there's probably enough accumulated videotape of a general nature that Ayman al-Zawahiri could keep the faithful (or the Americans) believing in his existence for years to come. That bin Laden is dead means that we're one terrorist down on the total count. It's not an end to terrorism, and it certainly doesn't mean the Republicans or the Bushies have won a great battle in that war. It most likely means, instead, that there will be someone to replace bin Laden in the not-too-distant future about whom nothing will be known. It will take six months to a year to figure out who he is, and several years to get a sense of his style and his movements. In the meantime, the debacle in Iraq will continue to provide more and more footsoldiers for the Islamists' cause.

If bin Laden is gone, his secrets have gone with him. That should be no cause for joy in the White House or on the Republican campaign trail.

In the meantime, there's every possibility that Osama bin Laden will become the Elvis Presley of the Muslim world for the next several decades. Or, its Jimmy Hoffa.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Scenic Route...

... on the road to hell. The latest "compromise" on torture, habeas corpus and Executive rights is that, in spades:

A senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said in an interview that Bush essentially got what he asked for in a different formulation that allows both sides to maintain their concerns were addressed. 'We kind of take the scenic route, but we get there,' the official said.

This kabuki is all about legitimizing what was previously illegal behavior, behavior which was defined as such in Supreme Court rulings and in the 1996 War Crimes Act. An essential element in this new law is that it is retroactively applied for nine years--far enough back to erase any culpability of any CIA official--or White House occupant--for actions which, in 2004 when Abu Ghraib shocked the sensibilities of the world, revulsed the nation's citizens (with the possible exception of Rush Limbaugh, who described torture as "blowing off some steam").

We've heard a lot of gas about the three senators, Graham, Warner and McCain, all power-heavy with connections to defense and intelligence, saying that they're simply reacting to concerns from the military and the CIA about torture. If, indeed, the CIA and the military are the ones resisting the use of torture, why are both heavily implicated in it prior to Hamdan v. Rumsfeld?

The Army has issued new guidelines on interrogation through its revised field manual. That makes sense, because it was out of control previously, and the changes were the result of official Army investigations--but, most importantly, Hamdan came first. That means the brass themselves could be held accountable not just for giving orders for torture (as has certainly occurred previously, though not reported or admitted), but for not actively preventing it, as well.

The CIA has probably instigated much of the torture, on its own and in the military, based on some pretty queer legal findings coming out of the White House. And now, post-Hamdan, there's a backlash within the CIA against torture.

I'd say, looking at the order of events, that this sudden change of heart is not about either the rectitude of torture or the reassessment of its efficacy in obtaining truthful information. It's about being punished for doing it. Prior to Hamdan, the torturer-in-chief's Executive Order backed up by the OLC's famous memo was enough of a fig leaf. Now, it's not.

Much of this impetus toward torture, in the first place, was driven by top people in the White House--particularly those in and around Cheney's office (Cheney of the original 1991 plans to privatize many defense functions--a privatization which has now engulfed even the CIA). Much of the actual torture was done by private contractors. They are the ones within the CIA who likely put up a squawk--not about doing it, but being punished for it. Torture's very easy to do when you can hire people without scruples to do it for you. The ugly little secret inside the larger secret is, I would guess, that contractors are doing much of the torture, and after Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, no corporation providing such people could avoid prosecution itself. Previously, CIA and military contractors could hide behind Bush's executive order issued at the beginning of the invasion holding civilians harmless and protecting them from Iraqi law.

This urge toward legal justification for--rather than repudiation of--the practice of torture, I think, on one level, is essentially corporate.

But, all that's just the desperate search for legal protection of the powerful by a feckless and dishonest Congress. What is amazing is that the press continues to either describe this "compromise" as a significant reining in of Presidential power (which it most certainly is not, but, rather, is an expansion of it) or as a play-by-play of the analytical details of government in action.

Even more amazing is that the one person in the Senate who's been on the receiving end of torture is now negotiating with a President about what the fuck it is, and then using the lame--and essentially amoral--excuse that if we torture, our captured soldiers might be tortured, too, and still ends up agreeing to allow the President to decide for himself what constitutes torture.

The issue isn't what others might do. It's what we, as a people, stand for, what we will or will not do, and this new amendment of the War Crimes Act says we stand for torture. It says, on behalf of all of us, that we're okay with letting a criminally incompetent President continue to torture detainees and selectively deny us our rights, for when the Executive can selectively deny detainees the right to counsel, fair trial and open and full evidence against them, those rights can be denied us. It then becomes a matter of deciding who to detain.

It says, on behalf of all of us, that we are a nation of sheep, that we will do anything to numb a fear which the Bush administration, most of all, has tried to instill in us, for their own deeply cynical reasons.

It's not law yet, but the attempt to push its passage in the next days has already begun. Legislators will not probe their consciences on this; any "yes" vote will be for an amoral and vicious policy and for a further seizure of power by a corrupt Executive. A "yes" vote will be an acknowledgement of--and praise for--a nation without moral compass, without leadership, and without mind or heart.

There will be many "yes" votes for this bloody miscarriage of a bill. All those voting "yes" will say one of several things: "it wasn't the best bill we could get, but was better than nothing," or "this will strengthen our nation's security," or "this will provide the President with the tools he needs to fight terrorism," or "I'm proud to defend our fighting boys... and, uh, girls."

It will be nothing of the sort. It will be a defense of the indefensible. It will be a vote to protect criminals--the ones who now occupy the White House.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


The general buzz about the White House's attempts to coerce Congress to do its bidding with regard to warrantless surveillance, acceptance of torture and kangaroo court military tribunals is that, while it's not likely to see definitive legislation before the elections, the general trend is that legislation (in the Senate, Specter's bill, in the House, Heather Wilson's bill) will give the White House some or most of what it wanted, in exchange for increased Congressional oversight.

Now, the first thing to be said about this is that the Bush White House has studiously ignored all demands by Congress in the past for access to information necessary for oversight. From that, one could reasonably expect that the Bushies won't honor any such agreements now.

The second thing about this kabuki performance is that it will release the Bushies from previous wrongdoing and, basically, legitimize illegality.

In the name of what, no one will say for the record. Democrats have pretty much left this up to the Repugs with supposed national security creds--Warner, Graham and McCain in the Senate, and Wilson in the House.

What no one--and especially any Democrat very loudly--wants to say is that there should be no bills justifying show trials, warrantless eavesdropping or acquiescence to legalized torture.

Unfortunately, this is a reflection of a longstanding tendency of Congress to never say no, absolutely no. In this case, I'm sure some in Congress will say they are averting a Constitutional crisis (something they should have encouraged a long time before Bush's power had become consolidated), or that they have the obligation to serve the President in wartime.

Neither of those arguments hold any water, for manifold reasons. The very first, of course, is that Congress has not declared war--Bush did, unilaterally. The second, less obvious, is that Bush is seizing power, not sharing it, and that has been his and Cheney's modus operandi even before the attacks of 9/11, something that those in Congress should have resisted--as an institutional imperative--right from the start, but did not out of purely partisan loyalties.

Bush has already far exceeded the excesses of Richard Nixon, and yet, he is still, in effect, ordering Congress and the courts to give in to his demands for yet more power. He's getting that cooperation because his program of instilling fear in the public has been most effective with members of Congress. Confoundingly, individual members of that body are fearful of the political consequences in an election year of defying a corrupt, unpopular, aggressively authoritarian and possibly delusional President bent on the acquisition of more and more Executive power at the expense of the Constitution.

Does that make sense? Only to a Congress which is collectively unable or unwilling to say: "no, absolutely not, beyond this point, for the good of the country, we will not tread." When both the Executive and Congress are in defiance of the Constitution, and the courts do not, out of ideological and partisan prejudice, demand redress and remand those exulting in Executive excess for trial, the nation is lost. The Constitution--the basis for the country itself--then truly becomes, as George Bush is reputed to have said, "just a piece of paper."

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The George Orwell Guide to Bush English

Billmon's reminder of George Orwell's dictum that modern political speech is intended to obscure, that "In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible . . . Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.... Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them" is more true today than ever, which is why so many choose to call the Bushies' political speech "Orwellian," without necessarily recalling the underlying reasons for doing so.

The genuinely Orwellian aspect (in the sense the word is used contemporaneously, as an invocation of Animal Farm and 1984) is that the press in the United States use and pass on and institutionalize the phraseology of the Bush cabal, rather than translating its euphemisms into standard English. It is one thing to quote accurately. It is quite another to leave the quote to stand as its own explanation of itself, and the press, particularly the television press, is very frequently guilty of the latter.

To that end, an abbreviated Bush administration-to-English translation guide:

  • rendition = state-sponsored kidnapping by agents of the United States for the purpose of torture and imprisonment of suspects, innocent and guilty alike, without consideration of human rights and due process.
  • shock and awe = 1. mass bombing of civilian areas and civilian infrasture. 2. A pyrotechnic show employing explosives to demonstrate miitary might without the use of nuclear weapons, which ultimately kills civilians. Its intent is to impress domestic audiences, rather than foreign ones.
  • Islamic fascism = a wholly imaginary construct intended to conflate current Bush wars of opportunity and marginalized Islamist movements with WWII and Hitler in self-aggrandizing fashion.
  • precision-guided weapons = bombs, rockets and missiles for use in combat against military targets, typically using laser or satellite guidance, which still kill many civilians. Evocation of precision of targetting is now the current defense for the incidental use of bombs on civilians, since the phrase "collateral damage" has mostly fallen into disuse among the military due to widespread snickering at their use of it.
  • democracy = Orwell's definition remains true: "It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way." But, for Bush, it is safe to say that--with regard to the Middle East--that it does not include countries with democratically-elected leaders of movements antithetical to the interests of the United States (e.g. Hamas in the occupied territories and Hizbollah in Lebanon), but does include monarchies and virtual dictatorships where ordinary citizens have little to no influence on their national leadership (e.g. Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt).
  • freedom = For Bush, particularly at home and in the Middle East, this is a state of being in which citizens and leaders alike act in ways desired by Bush, exemplified by the mindless consumption of tawdry, cheaply-made goods offered by American corporations, expressions of fealty to Bush and to the "free market," and by the willingness to be dictated to by Bush and his government.
  • terrorist surveillance program = indiscriminate spying on anyone without warrant, through a conscious and deliberate process of ignoring Constitutional due process.
  • free market = syn. with "free trade." The utopian belief, driven by the avarice of the wealthy and powerful, that American multinational corporations, unfettered by rules and regulations and taxation, at home and abroad, are good for everyone and will always act responsibly, i.e., a fiction.
  • alternative methods of interrogation = torture.
  • peace = war at Bush's will and convenience, or the continued threat of same, with the intent of achieving "freedom" and "democracy" (see above).
  • unlawful combatant = an individual denied status as either a criminal suspect or as a prisoner of war, and thus denied the rights of either. Anyone, U.S. citizen or foreigner, under suspicion, whom the government desires to deny habeas corpus and basic human rights.
  • war on terror = this is not an actual war, but rather one declared by Bush himself, in order to convince himself and others that he has special wartime powers as if Congress itself had Constitutionally declared war on another nation-state. Moreover, use of the phrase is an attempt to shield from adverse public opinion the extra-legal activities of his administration by claiming wartime powers.
  • long war = see "war on terror."
  • terrorist = (in order of general rhetorical usage) 1. anyone interfering with Cheney's desire for U.S. multinationals and U.S. military forces to control the world's oil production points and routes of transport. 2. anyone using violence to oppose Israel's occupation of lands not its own, to include parts of Palestine, Lebanon and Syria. 3. Muslims, generally. 4. anyone violently opposing the U.S. military and economic occupation of Iraq. 5. anyone in the United States opposed to Bush's foreign or domestic policies. 6. those individuals responsible for the planning and execution of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, on the United States.
  • terra = terror.
  • fear = a desirable national state of being, for narrow political purposes.
  • meaningful strategic dialogue = 1. conspiracy. 2. no truly productive results.
  • birth pangs = death rattle.
  • moral authority = a figment of the U.S. imagination, appearing in times of greatest U.S.-induced world strife.
  • extremist = any non-Judeo-Christian religious fanatic.
  • voting rights = the God-given right to Republican one-party rule.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Pirate's Day....

All the talk lately is about the money the RNC plans to spend digging up dirt on Democrats in critical races and then running negative campaign ads about it all. Democrats, on the other hand, are sitting on their hands, waiting for the FBI's public corruption units to take care of their ads for them. Video of one's opponent being frogmarched out of the Capitol Building doesn't even require snide narration, but I don't think time is on the side of Democrats, not with seven weeks left.

James Moore, co-author of a new book on Karl Rove, speaks to Rove's abilities and disabilities in an interview, and to the curious effect George W. Bush has on Republicans:

BuzzFlash: It’s the kind of physical detail that you just don’t normally see if a person doesn’t have an emotional attraction to somebody.

James Moore: Right. He said, I saw him walking up, and he was wearing boots and blue jeans, and a brown leather bomber jacket, and he had these steely blue eyes, and he was smacking gum. He had this thick curly hair, and you could see the tobacco circle pouch in his back pocket. And Rove said, I thought he was just the coolest guy in the world. I wanted to be like him. The context, of course, is that George Bush was sort of the antithesis of what Karl was at that -- the glasses-wearing guy, a geek, and W. is cool. That’s why I’ve said their political union is also sort of a physical and spiritual union as well, because they’re two different kinds of characters.

But bear in mind, Karl isn’t the only one who’s offered up that sort of description. As you’ll recall, Mark McKinnon once described, I think in an interview with Tucker Carlson, how he got involved with Bush. McKinnon said, well I’m not a Republican. I’m a Bush guy. I was at a party, and I saw Bush across the room. I sort of felt the same way that a guy does when he goes to a party with his wife, and he sees a beautiful woman across the room, and he’s compelled to go talk to that person, even though he knows he shouldn’t. So this is a theme that has run throughout the Republican Party, in terms of its admiration for George W. Bush. What they had fundamentally managed to do is fall for the dumb blonde, from what I can tell.

This is definitely a "walk on the wild side" modern expression of the Warren G. Harding Syndrome. Harding's wife insisted that he run because "he looked presidential." It seems Bush ran because every Republican secretly lusted after him like he was a 42nd Street cowboy slut. And they had another shared problem--slapstick speechifying. Of Harding's verbal assaults on the mind and ear, H.L. Mencken said: "It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of a dark abysm... of pish, and crawls insanely up the topmost pinnacle of posh. It is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash... but I grow lyrical." Sound familiar?

Dick Cheney has donned his tights and cape. Now let's see the "leaps tall buildings in a single bound" routine--that should be good for an honorable mention on The Daily Show. And we all thought that it was the height of arrogance that he wanted to secretly run the country.

Bush visits the UN, and extols the virtues of democracy by singling out three non-democratic countries for praise--Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt. I would hate to think this was due to an organic condition. Better to blame Quaaludes, or something. It really has been a day to make Orwell forlornly proud of his observations.

Speaking of pirates, they were also called, once upon a time, privateers. Sort of the privatization crowd of colonial days. Only now they fly in private jets and drive black SUVs... and do thing their thing through war contracts. For these folks, every day is pirate's day.

(graphic from the inimitable darkblack)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Who Will Be the New CEO of Iraq?

Billmon points out a budding trend among those of the power elite that at least realize that the situation in Iraq is steadily deteriorating.

He might well be right that even Saddam wouldn't want to start from scratch with the general ambience there as bloody as it is.

The great mistake in this thinking is that it's our Plan B, not Iraq's. The so-called "realists" are still looking for a way to control the country's leaders--that was the intent from the beginning, and it still is. This musing about a fallback position abandoning democracy in favor of a (hopefully) benevolent dictator is little more than an extension of the original policy. There never was any comprehensive plan to build a democracy there (it was the Ayatollah Sistani's demand for representative democracy that upset the U.S. Chalabi/Allawi applecart to begin with).

It's all about keeping control, however tenuous, until a stable government emerges that is compliant with U.S. wishes. While this may not be the only reason for Bush's insistence that U.S. troops won't leave Iraq while he's president, it's one of them. A U.S.-compliant Iraqi government is essential to the neo-cons' plans, if only because one hostile to the U.S. isn't going to sign status of forces agreements allowing U.S. bases and troops to remain on Iraqi soil.

Thanks to George H.W. Bush's subterfuge, there has been an American military presence on the ground, in the air and in the Persian Gulf ever since 1990, and ever since 1990, the Saudi clerics have been asking, "when are they leaving?"* One of the side benefits of starting a war with Iraq was that those ground and air troops in Saudi Arabia could be moved to Iraq and Qatar, respectively, finally pulling a long-embedded thorn out of the Saudi clerics' paw (and, whether or not George Bush has figured it out yet, taking away bin Laden's primary complaint regarding the United States). But, without a status of forces agreement, a crucial part of the neo-cons' plans turns to dust. Without the U.S. military there, that $700 million concrete-monstrosity-walled-fortress-of-an-embassy becomes a Great Satan theme park for the Shiite fundamentalists, and goodbye to those Republican corporate wet dreams of fatcat oil PSAs and a string of malls up and down the Tigris full of Footlockers, McDonalds, WalMarts, Old Navy stores, Levis, Blockbusters and Pizza Huts and multiplexes.

We only export the worst of our culture, because that's what makes money for corporations. Nobody in the Green Zone gives a fuck about Whitman or Melville or Jefferson or Rachel Carson or Thomas Wolfe, Martin Luther King or George Washington Carver, for that matter. The America that the average Iraqi knows is composed of blind military force ruining their lives and destroying their families, and crass commercialism and cronyism trying to pickpocket them and their country at every opportunity. No wonder they're suspicious of us. If we determine, to protect our investment, that it's better for Iraq to have another dictator--as opposed to true self-determination that, first and foremost, doesn't involve our commercial interests, even after a bloody interregnum of their own making--by god, that's what we'll delegate our military to fight for. We keep telling ourselves, while patting ourselves on the back, that that's not the American way, but, in point of fact, it is, and it has been for a long, long time.

* A quote from a Saudi cleric from 1990 in Robert Fisk's The Great War for Civilisation, evoking the complaints of many others.

Forest, Trees....

In the early 1981, neo-conservatives such as Michael Ledeen were talking up Claire Sterling's The Terror Network as the definitive explication of the Soviet Union's grip on all world terrorism. The implication was that all terror emanated from the Kremlin. So taken with this notion was William Casey that he ordered the CIA, newly under his command, to investigate.

The CIA did, and came to the conclusion that the book was entirely mistaken, in large part because it was based upon black propaganda inserted in the European press by the CIA itself. The CIA had made it up, and told Casey so. He didn't believe the people who had done it. So, Mel Goodwin (then the head of the Soviet political affairs desk at the CIA) thought it best to use the old operational people, people with ties to the OSS, of which Casey had been a member, to tell him the same thing. It didn't work. Casey didn't believe them, either.

Then, a curious thing happened. The Soviet Union, likely pushed along that path by Gorbachev's glasnost and perestroika campaigns, fell apart. Just like the house of cards everyone said it was. The first crack in its wall was the crack in the Berlin Wall. When that came down in 1989, the other cracks in the Kremlin facade showed up, too. The Soviet Union was no more.

So, what happened to all the terrorism supposedly being directed from Moscow? Did it, as one might expect, without political influence and cash behind it, disappear, too? Nope.

According to yet another writer with an idea and no solid evidence, Laurie Mylroie, the seat of all world terror magically transferred to Baghdad, with Saddam Hussein pulling the strings. Mylroie had academic credentials, teaching at Harvard as she did, but by the time of her publication of Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein's Unfinished War Against America, in which she posits that Hussein was directing most terrorism worldwide through al Qaeda as the only retaliation Hussein could make in the wake of the U.S. thwarting his invasion of Kuwait, she was on her way to becoming a darling of the neo-cons, eventually taking up residence as a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute. (Paul Wolfowitz's then-wife was "instrumental" in the production of the book, and Mylroie's acknowledgements read like the neo-con Hall of Shame--John Bolton, John Hannah, Richard Perle, 'Scooter' Libby, David Wurmser, Paul Wolfowitz, Francis Brooke.) Her premise:

Newsweek reports that at the heart of Mylroie's theory is the belief that Pakistani Ramzi Yousef, who was convicted of the WTC bombing, and Abdul Basit, a Pakistani man who in 1990 was living in Kuwait, are two different people [indicating, to Mylroie, that Yousef was an Iraqi intelligence agent which Hussein had inserted into al Qaeda while Iraq controlled Kuwait and had access to Basit's records]. The FBI has maintained that they are one and the same. Wolfowitz believed in Mylroie's "switched identities" theory enough that he persuaded the "Justice Department shortly after September 11 to provide a government jet and FBI staff support for a secret mission to England by former CIA director James Woolsey. The idea behind the mission was to check fingerprints on file in Swansea, Wales, where Basit had once gone to school, and compare them to the fingerprints of the Ramzi Yousef in prison. ... Justice Department officials tell NEWSWEEK that the results of the Woolsey mission were exactly what the FBI had predicted: that the fingerprints were in fact identical. After the match was made, FBI officials assumed at the time that it had put the Mylroie theory to rest."

Even Richard Clarke laments the effects of this delusion on Wolfowitz, and its effects on pursuit of bin Laden and his cohort.

The neo-cons had once again taken up a book with a dubious premise and without good evidence as proof of the rectitude of their plans. First, the Soviet Union is responsible for all terror. Then, with the Soviet Union defanged, Iraq is responsible for all terror. The problem was that both premises were based on faulty evidence, and both were disproved and in dispute by the intelligence services and/or law enforcement investigations.

The point in saying all this is that there is a theme developing. Terrorism has been at the root of these claims, and terrorism is being used as a wedge issue to promote expansionist policies of the neo-conservatives--even at a time when terrorism was not at all a domestic issue for the U.S. Research tells us that terrorism is at the very visceral root of basic fears--the fear of sudden death, death occurring by events over which one has no control. And, with the right sort of propaganda, that is a fear which can be manipulated.

At the same time, this fear of terrorism is being used to promote military interests. In the `80s, the effort was to further enable the Reagan administration's huge increase in military spending. In the `90s, the effort was to justify military action against countries of interest, such as Iraq. Does it matter in this scheme that terrorism around the world has actually increased since the invasion of Iraq and the deposing of Hussein?

Not a bit. The object, it appears, is not to eradicate terrorism, but to use it politically for other purposes. The odd thing about the books mentioned is that they did not have a huge popular impact, in part because their theses were not advanced on good evidence. What they did, however, was resonate among the neo-cons. Here was all the evidence they needed to advance their agenda. As one sees from the Newsweek excerpt above and with Richard Clarke's recollections, even the refutation of evidence central to her arguments wasn't sufficient to deter the neo-cons from continuing to use Mylroie's arguments as justification for attacking Iraq.

In a way, this explains the persistence of weak minds such as Cheney's repeating falsehoods already demonstrated to be so. The arguments themselves were persuasive to the people who needed them to accomplish a foreordained end, precisely because the facts pointed to a course of action in direct opposition to their aims, and having those arguments in published book form encouraged in them the mental gymnastics necessary to believe the unbelievable.

With all this in mind, it's probably wise to put Bush's latest conflation of all terror as having one common Islamic source ("Islamic fascism"), and then juxtaposing that assertion with the description of Iran as a state sponsor of terror, into the context of past neo-con planning. Why? Because the right wing is all atwitter over a recent book of Richard Miniter's, The Shadow War, the central assertion of which is that the ayatollahs of Iran are secretly providing sanctuary to bin Laden and his group, even though more recent stories cite intelligence sources that bin Laden's trail has been "stone cold" for at least two years. Miniter himself has appeared on Fox News recently to provide color commentary for Ayman al-Zawahiri's most recent videotape, even saying that Zawahiri is "using a lot of the same rhetoric as the [U.S.] antiwar crowd."

Sure, this plays into Bush's Manichean world view of Christo-corporate America as good and "Islamic fascism" as evil, but that simply makes it easier for the neo-cons around him to convince him that their arguments, rather than the facts, should determine the actions to be taken. That, indeed, may be the central theme of Ron Suskind's recent book, The One Percent Doctrine.

There's no way of knowing, right now, if The Shadow War has been passed around from neo-con to neo-con in Bush's administration, but, given their past modus operandi, it will not be surprising if, one day, after an attack on Iran, we find that the book, rather than rigorous intelligence assessments, formed the basis for the excuse to attack yet another oil-rich country.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Lessee, Where Did I Put Those Pieces of Stovepipe?

It's a sad goddamned day when the President stands up, in front of reporters, and gets annoyed with questions about his proposals to enshrine torture in law.

With the detention without trial of several hundred people in the prisons of Guantanamo now approaching five years, a time during which the President has repeatedly ignored existing law on torture and military tribunals, he now expresses the opinion that there's very much urgency that Congress pass a law giving him everything that he wants along those lines.

It's a transparently political ploy, but what's underneath the surface of it is the realization that if he cannot coerce Congress--and particularly a few dissidents in the Senate--before it adjourns for the November elections, it's almost certain that he'll never get what he wants out of Congress again. This sudden need for urgency is his alone--the situation itself does not demand urgency--Bush has always had the option to follow existing law with regard to detentions and military trials--he opted not to do so. It's also doubtful that Bush would have felt such pressing regard for the problem without this past summer's Supreme Court decision against the government in Hamden v. Rumsfeld.

One possibility for this purported need for speed is that Bush intended to use that law to very quickly convene show trials he could then use to convince the public of Republicans' attention to their safety. Another is that Bush does read the polls (or, more likely, have them read to him), and he knows that the Republican House is going down the tubes. Getting such a law passed gives him both a political tool and a legal tool which can then be used for political purposes in any last-ditch effort to salvage a Congress which has been doing his bidding for years.

The truly weird part about this is that Bush threatened today to stop all interrogations if he couldn't get Congressional support for CIA torture. (Now, hmm, where does that signing statement on the McCain torture bill fit into all this? After all, he's already said that he could interpret that section of the law in any way he saw fit as the prerogative of the "unitary executive." Not long ago, he was saying, in essence, "fuck you all" and now? Oh, yeah, Hamdan.)

This presidential feet-stamping doesn't come up to the level of one of Charles Krauthammer's hissy fits, but it's getting close, so, I wonder if this is about something else (even if the law tries to make all bad--and actionable--conduct retroactively not bad--and not actionable--there's no guarantee that courts would uphold that provision post-Hamdan, so there has to be a reason for giving it the old college try).

So, is Bush hoping to use torture to obtain information--truthful or otherwise--that he needs to justify an attack against Iran? Has the U.S. kidnapped a few people from inside Iran, and he's hoping they'll tell him what he most wants to hear, but the CIA won't set their scrotal hair on fire or give them tune-ups with telephone generators or beat them within an inch of their lives until Congress gives them that okay? Is Bush having a quiet, behind-the-scenes standoff with the Ops side of the CIA? (No law? Well, Prez, no torture, and, therefore, no compelling statements from Iranian insiders saying that Iran funds all worldwide terror, that Iran is at this moment installing the last of the chrome trim on its first atomic bomb, that Iran's got cooties?)

Because, at this moment, all Bush has is yet more drivel from Manucher Ghorbanifar (who has about as much credibility as Richard Bruce Cheney, and vice versa) and the MeK (an organization which is severely compromised and has most of the same intelligence problems in the context of Iran as Chalabi and his INC had regarding Iraq). We've known for a long time that Bush seized, and then clung to, every figleaf he could find to justify an invasion of Iraq, and that Rummy's buddies in DoD were passing them to him and BigTime through the Office of Special Plans as fast as they were blown away by the evidence. If the CIA won't produce those figleafs for him on Iran because there's no legal foundation for the torture required to produce it, is that yet another explanation for the sense of urgency now prowling around in the Oval Office?

What one can safely say about this is that Lord Pissypants' threat has nothing to do with finding al-Qaeda's top management. Nothing to do with Iraq (Iraq is, so, three years ago). Nothing to do with "protecting the people." Simple Rovian politics could explain it, but, the Bushies don't need this torture bill to sell fear to the public. It might have been a great way to pin the soft-on-terrorism tail on the Dem donkey for purposes of electoral propaganda--if a few Republican senators hadn't expressed some self-serving outrage over it--and I can't believe that the White House would have been caught off-guard by something like that. After all, they talk to people like McCain and Graham and Warner practically every other day. This resistance from a few Republican senators didn't suddenly occur in an information vacuum.

No, there's something else going on. And Bush and Cheney and Rummy know what it is. (h/t DK at TPM) Of course, the kindly, grandfatherly Mr. Shulsky isn't saying, either. But, I'll bet we could find out if we could put Mr. Hayden's men on the job....

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


It's quite incredible, actually, that we've sunk this far, this fast. After living through both the McCarthy and the Nixon years, I never expected these almost six years to be a combination of both--although, in retrospect, I suppose I should have.

Lately, I've been thinking of Bush and Cheney as the malignant equivalent of Wilbur and Eliza in Vonnegut's Slapstick, the twins who, like the halves of the brain, don't function too well without each other, but come up with all sorts of ideas when they put their heads together. Separate and apart, Bush and Cheney would just be their usual fuck-up selves. Together, in close daily contact, they're able to dream up all kinds of bad shit and then validate and reinforce each other's world view.

Maybe the clearer image is that of Perry and Dick of In Cold Blood infamy. Capote's thesis is that separate and apart, neither one would have done what they did, but together, they fed off of each other's worst inclinations and created, in effect, a third personality that was capable of killing people in cold blood.

I'm not sure how far the analogy can be stretched, but I'm less enamored, lately, of the view that Cheney is the deeply calculating Svengali behind the wars, the torture and the executive power grab. Cheney is pretty stupid, too, in his own way (lying about the evidence after the evidence shows otherwise is an indication of a deeply-flawed intellect--don't let anyone convince you otherwise). These are things with which Bush, too, is comfortable. Bush and Cheney, as children, probably would have both found delight in blowing up frogs, and they would have pooled their pocket change for a package of Black Cats. Rove is just the evil little bastard egging them on, and then finding a way to weasel out of responsibility for the bad acts.

Cheney and Bush have shared lies about motives for war, have both been complicit in making torture and kidnapping tools of state policy, believed (or wanted to believe) the same bullshit intelligence, have the same appearance of being emotionally and morally disconnected from the effects of their actions. There's a real Tweedledum and Tweedledee ambience to them.

What's gone on in the five years since 9/11/01 is fairly classic conspiratorial thinking, except on a large scale. Cheney has surrounded himself with people who believe as he does--he doesn't have to convince people--including Bush--of his point of view. Bush himself has said he doesn't have to explain himself to anyone (well, of course not--except perhaps to the people of the country, an electoral relationship which doesn't interest him in the slightest). What's unique about the current situation is that the top two guys, without each other, couldn't pull off the con. Bush is the publicly visible front man, while Cheney is the guy in the background, steering the marks to the game.

Nah, who they really resemble are Beavis and Butt-head in late middle age, stuck in the warp and woof of their own reality. Try to imagine Beavis with nuclear weapons and Butt-head with control of the NSA and the CIA, and you've got the picture. Give `em guns and what happens? Bush shoots endangered species and Cheney shoots his lawyer friend. Beavis and Butthead in the flesh.

There's probably no more sensible explanation for what's created the precipitous decline in American life than the country being run by a couple of aging headbangers. Bush and Cheney, like Beavis and Butt-head, spread brainless destruction and wanton vandalism wherever they go, whatever they do.

I think, many years from now, historians will probably come to a similar conclusion. They're going to look at clips of Beavis and Butthead, clips of Bush and Cheney, and think the same thing. The only thing they'll be confused about is who inspired who.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Airbushing History...

... which means, I suppose, airbrushing history to the liking of Bush's supporters. What's amazing about the Disney-ABC brouhaha is that, after a week of getting pounded for, apparently, an intentional rewriting of history in order to condemn Clinton and absolve Bush, Disney and ABC are likely going to go ahead with the showing, and without commercials.

This business of rewriting history goes on all the time, and not just in this country. The Turkish government has been trying, for ninety years, to airbrush the Armenian genocide from history books. Stalinist apologists in this country and in Great Britain tried, for the sake of the international movement, to ignore or to mitigate Stalin's purges of the `30s. Even Kurt Waldheim, the former UN Secretary-General, tried to bury his Nazi past during WWII. Books still appear, with some regularity, denying the Holocaust--just as books still appear denying Israeli purges of Palestinian Arabs from the new Israel in 1948.

These attempts to change the direction of history in retrograde fashion, to undo in people's minds what was done in fact, is aided by time. The further that events recede in time, the easier it is to convince people of later generations of what is not true, as they do not have a contemporary sense of events. The words in one book of history may have as much weight as the words of another. In those instances, it is only the volume and quality of research which can corroborate a particular thesis.

What makes the Disney-ABC 9/11 imbroglio so different is its proximity to current events--the subject of the series is very recent history, history to which large numbers of the population have been observers. The series' falsehoods depend upon the population forgetting what they have seen, and believing what one President has said over what another had done in the past. With one of the participants in the drama, George Bush, still in power, still able to exert the power of his office on the writing of history, and with a determined publicity campaign directed toward Bush supporters, Disney's "The Path to 9/11" cannot make claims to be expositing history and is, instead, participating in the production of propaganda. Its producers tried to borrow credibility for historical accuracy by saying the series was "based on the independent 9/11 commission report," but many have already shown that not to be true. (As importantly, the credibility of the commission itself and its conclusions are still in question. To suggest that the commission's report is a definitive and wholly accurate depiction of the history of the events surrounding the attacks of 9/11 ignores the political environment in which the report was produced, the system of secrecy employed in the classification of critical evidence and some of the facts, as well.)

Disney may also have noticed--given the very clear slant of the "docudrama"--that it could create some free buzz for the television network through its radio division. Anyone who believes that media consolidation has no political penalty might want to reconsider that opinion in light of the mess surrounding Disney-ABC right now.

We're getting the media we've allowed the past several administrations to provide us. There probably would not have been a Disney-ABC joint venture slanted to the right had Disney been prevented from purchasing ABC in the first place (on some once firmly-held grounds concerning monopolistic practices), nor might there have been this so-called docudrama if the network had to give equal time (five whole hours' worth) to those who would detail the program's inaccuracies--as it once would have had to do prior to 1987, when the FCC fairness doctrine was canned. It's doubtful that we would have to endure a slow-pitch softball queen like Katie Couric at the top of the CBS news organization if Sumner Redstone had not been able to turn news into entertainment through Viacom's purchase of CBS.

We might not even have had to endure George W. Bush if there had been just a few more independent voices reporting on his campaigns instead of the few media conglomerates eager to support him because of what he was going to do for their bottom lines.

We've seen twenty years of attempts to alter the facts in Ronald Reagan's favor. The right wing is still trying to destroy Bill Clinton via the media--a process which began before the 1992 election--and is still evident in "The Path to 9/11." It's the perfect media strategy in the age of information overload and conservative control of the media megaphone to now use entertainment as a conservative political tool.

But, it's still not factual and for that reason alone does not belong under the rubric of history... except as an example of just how far the nation's news sources were willing to prostitute themselves in a time of the country's political occupation by the right wing.

Just a Thought....

If professional sports, television news, advertising, oil procurement, politics and defense industries were all non-profit (or money-losing) enterprises, we, as a country, wouldn't be quite so fucked up and wouldn't be quite so willing to be the assholes of the world, would we?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Do They Never Learn?

As reported by TPM Muckraker, the Democratic leadership is leaning on lobbyists to ante up more money in the Democrats' attempt to retake the House, the Senate, or both:

"With control of the House within reach for the first time in more than a decade, Democratic lobbyists say they’re feeling unusually intense pressure from House Democratic leaders to open their wallets and help their party close the deal.

"But Democratic lobbyists are rising to the challenge, a dozen Democratic consultants said, upping their personal contributions and making the case to their corporate clients that they need to pony up as well.

"Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) 'has been pretty blunt with people,' one Democratic lobbyist said. “Now, people downtown are finally paying attention and believing.”

"“There’s been a significant increase in House Democratic fundraising activity. Folks are really working it hard,” said another well-placed Democratic lobbyist." (Roll Call, sub. req.)

Now, maybe I'm just too pre-television, but, fer chrissakes, repeating the mistakes of the Repugs is a sure sign that a) the voters will have their opinions confirmed that there's no difference in the two major parties, and b) there will be enough squirmy deals made in the course of this power play that the Repugs will c) use them against Democrats in 2008, and d) will require Democrats to kiss the asses of the Dem lobbyists' corporate clients via helpful legislation, so much so that the voters' opinions as in a) deserve confirmation.

The Dems can't say they're a different breed of political dog if they're always following the Repugs around looking to scarf up the odd lobbyist vomit.

What this does is confirm the view that politics today has nothing to do with the little guy and his vote, and everything to do with big money. You'd think, after the last couple of years of watching (sometimes, admittedly, with great schadenfreude) the Repugs' little shell game come apart at the seams, the Dems would be much less inclined to give even the appearance of improper influence and be all for more openness in government.

But, you'd be wrong.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Same As You Ever Was....

Virtually nothing that Bush does any more can surprise me. His new lows are just marginally, incrementally worse than his usual. Same with his campaign to equate WWII with his already overblown "war on terra." It's showing both his low-C grades in history and his outsized need to appear heroic against all odds (a tendency of his which becomes much more apparent as elections approach).

One of the great myths generated by his White House was that the attacks of 9/11 "changed everything." The press told us, with the helpful assistance of Bush's PR flacks, that the day had transformed Bush from an easily bored, pitiably self-absorbed man-child borne of wealth and possessed of a gargantuan sense of entitlement into a great leader of his people.


Bush is exactly the same as he has always been. From the moment of his inauguration, the PR people, inside the White House, andin and out of the mainstream press, sought to create new standards for him that were immediately and noticeably lower than in previous years. He was an even worse extemporaneous public speaker than his father (whose own skills in that regard left much to be desired). He and his White House, in compensation, staged elaborate photo-ops for which Bush invariably dressed the part, built expensive sets, always with a repeating message intended to outline Bush's empty policies better than he could do in person. The stage sets were intended to speak for him because he could not.

What the catch-phrases revealed, instead of policy, was that Bush's policy cupboard was just as empty as his head. There was no policy--there was only politics. He had a few idle notions gathered over the years from rich friends and family who hated the legacies of FDR's time, such as Social Security, the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and the independent government agencies which limited the rapaciousness of American capitalism--the FCC, FERC, the FDA and, most especially, the Securities and Exchange Commission, which he once described as "an enemy of capitalism."

Through September 10, 2001, the public had already become inured to Bush's verbal bumbling, and thought little of his proposed programs. Despite the extended honeymoon afforded him by the press, Bush's performance ratings after eight months in office were hovering around 50%. He'd already reneged on his campaign promise to pursue American participation in the Kyoto Protocol, and his desires to unilaterally void treaties in order to see completion of an anti-ballistic missile system were not popular with the public. His staff and cabinet choices were seen as highly ideological and far more right-wing than Bush protrayed himself when campaigning, and apart from Colin Powell, were viewed as political hacks, people who were more interested in dismantling agencies than running them competently (indeed, Spencer Abraham was picked to run the Dept. of Energy, an agency Abraham had wanted to eliminate during his term in Congress). George W. Bush was fast shaping up to be a much hollower imitation of his not-so-hot father.

Then, along came nineteen hijackers with the brilliantly simple idea to turn fuel-laden planes into flying bombs, and, so we're repeatedly told, everything changed, the world was suddenly different. And, so we're still told today, so was George W. Bush changed by the experience.

Except he wasn't. He was still the same person. Had all his advisors and his speechwriters been killed on that day, the nation would have seen that to be true. George Bush didn't change, but the PR strategy certainly did. Bush didn't get to New York until four days later because that strategy was being worked out, along with a way to include Iraq and Saddam Hussein in a criminal act for which he was not accountable.

As a result, we've had two wars, both of which have gone badly, and have yet to accomplish Bush's aims expressed during his "bullhorn moment" in New York City. Bush, his voice artificially amplified, said, "I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked down these buildings will hear all of us soon."

What Bush wasn't admitting to anyone, then or later, was that most of the people who knocked those buildings down and the people who funded them were Saudis. By not doing so, Bush was showing himself to be the same as he always had been. His failing businesses had been bailed out by wealthy Saudis. His father's fortunes had depended upon friendly relations with wealthy Saudis and the Saudi royal family, and it was his father's determination to put U.S. troops on Saudi soil in 1990 and keep them there permanently that created the religious motive for the September, 2001, attacks on New York and the Pentagon, as well as previous attacks on the USS Cole in 2000, American embassies in eastern Africa in 1998 and on the World Trade Center in 1993. When Congress finally produced its seriously flawed report on the events surrounding the 9/11 attacks, after much stalling and stonewalling from Bush's staff, twenty-eight pages detailing Saudi involvement in and financing of the attacks were redacted in their entirety by the Bush White House. Seven months after the attacks, Bush was busy with plans to shape-shift Saudis into Iraqis. Asked about bin Laden in March, 2002, Bush averred that he didn't "think about him that much."

What Bush was doing, however, was fucking things up again, something, when left to his own devices, he is quite good at. Bush wasn't interested in chasing down Saudi criminals responsible for the deaths of thousands--but he was consumed with starting a war with Iraq that he and the neo-conservatives in his administration had been planning for years.

That war--precisely because Bush is not bright nor well-educated nor inclined to take advice from his betters, the same exact qualities he possessed prior to 9/11--has steadily gone from bad to worse to downright awful. In governance and in affairs of state, he is still the low-C student that he was at Yale, still the same petulant and self-indulgent frat boy with no interest in ideas other than those small, resentful few that have been rattling around in the wide-open spaces of his cranium these many decades (recent propaganda about his reading habits notwithstanding--"I read three Shakespeares").

As that war has deteriorated, as his methods have become progressively and institutionally more corrupt and brutal, it has been a reflex action for his White House to create new PR campaigns around him in the attempt to remake his image. In the last couple of years, he's been variously compared to Churchill, Truman--even the despised FDR--in attempts to salvage his hopelessly-mired reputation through association. None of those comparisons have stuck, though, and their latest attempt to dredge up "good war" memories that can be glommed onto the detritus of Bush's wars of aggression is to equate a few hundred terrorists world-wide to Hitler and Lenin, all the while portraying Bush's increasing number of detractors as "appeasers" akin to Neville Chamberlain. (One must ask, why not Stalin, too? Perhaps they're saving him for the days closer to the November elections. Or, perhaps it's because Stalin was an ally in that WWII Bush's handlers are desperately trying to evoke.)

What's left for Bush's PR people and speechwriters to snatch from the historical costume trunk to drape on the emaciated frame of Bush's legacy? They're running out of WWII icons with which to embellish his declining popularity (even among his erstwhile supporters).

Given that Bush's post-9/11 aura is a thing of fiction, a contrivance (as has been his pre-Presidential personal history), perhaps fictional characters are all that are left. Is Karl Rove, in his occasional pensive moment, imagining himself as Bush's Dr. Reinstein?