Category Archives: Essays and Opinion

“I Told Them To Cut It Out”

Hillary Clinton’s self-congratulatory pronouncement at the first Democratic debate that when she represented Wall Street–giving the most benign interpretation to that phrase–she went down there, being aware of the behavior in which they were engaging, and told them to cut it out, provokes a question or two.  They are:

 

  1. What precisely was the behavior that led to her admonition?

  2. Upon what information was she relying to conclude that the admonition was appropriate or necessary?

  3. Where did she say what she said and who was present?

  4. Is there a record of what was said?

  5. What was the reaction to her statement?

  6. Was the conduct of which she was complaining criminal or just risky and stupid?

  7. When she returned to the Senate, what steps did she take to confront the problem which impelled her to go to the headquarters of the mis- or malfeasance and admonish its practitioners?

  8. Did she conduct hearings, make a referral to the Justice Department, or inform her colleagues, or the other citizens that she represented, of the dangers that she foresaw?

  9. How precisely would she describe those dangers, did she memorialize her fears at the time in any manner whatsoever?
  10. Maybe most importantly of all, what did she want us voters to think about her?  Are we supposed to be impressed that she had the gumption to speak harshly to the financial world, her most powerful backers?  Are we supposed to be impressed that she knew bad things were happening?  Or are we supposed to be too stupid to realize how useless an act she was committing.  Did she know what a useless act it was, if act it was?

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Jon Stewart and Judith Miller

 

There are moments in history that draw commentary out of the most reticent and taciturn.  I am neither, just unusually provoked by Jon Stewart’s efforts with former New York Times reporter, Judith Miller, for whom people like me have immeasurable disdain.  The partially encouraging news is that Stewart apparently feels a similar regard.  I write because this missed moment was so unusual and so important that it required substantial preparation which, if it took place, was ill-directed or unproductive.

 

Jon Stewart is capable of greatness.  He is also capable of failure and self-criticism; his chagrin at his own performance with one of the modern era’s most famous mass murderers, Donald Rumsfeld, seemed heartfelt but was absolutely well-founded.  With what was he presented in the person of Judith Miller?  There before him trying to sell a book containing her defense of her own iniquity, was a reporter for the most influential newspaper in the world who apparently admits that she was used by the forces of war and aggression and who admits that she got the story wrong based on faulty intelligence.  Can anyone remember another similar occasion?

 

Mr. Stewart, why could you not have said something like this?:

 

Ms. Miller, I am going to admit that it is quite easy to be critical in hindsight, but as I understand it, you do not at this time suggest that you did not perform a vital function in enabling the Bush Administration to commit the war crime of aggression and involve itself in one of the worst foreign policy blunders of any living person’s memory.

 

You acknowledge that it was essential for the Bush Administration to get the people of the United States behind any military action in Iraq.  And you do not distance yourself from the role you played in that strategy.

 

There are a range of possibilities for why you did such a thing.  The first, historically very far from an outrageous accusation, is that you are a compensated or uncompensated agent of the CIA which had a job for you to do that you agreed to perform.  Under such an arrangement, one hopes you would know whatever intelligence you were being fed was unreliable, whether or not you cared in the slightest if it was true.

 

The second possibility is that you are an entirely honest journalist who was seduced by her proximity to power and whose analytical powers were compromised by the loss of objectivity which comes from such a position.  In that case, you may have cared whether what you were saying was true, but been unable to make the determination.

 

Another explanation for your performance hinges on your ideological worldview; your ideas are so in line with those of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and the rest of the neocon stalwarts, that you, deep down, would feel just fine considering yourself a warrior in alliance with their objectives.  You have in fact known Saddam Hussein to be evil for a very long time, and any steps taken in the direction of his erasure from the world stage are worthy and right, the considerations of law, or morality, or the long-term consequences of any action aimed at his end being someone else’s business; you are just a reporter.

 

The question which the world needs an answer to, since your path was trod by almost all of what passes for journalism in this country, is, since you ended up doing the very worst thing you were capable of, paving the way for a heinous war crime whose devastation it will take generations to reckon, was there ever a moment when you, your co-writer, and/or your editors gathered together to consider whether or not you might be on your way to doing precisely that, the very worst thing a journalist can do?

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Chuck Todd v. Dick Cheney

Immunity for Dick Cheney?  Now there is an odd idea.  He is one of the most despised men on the planet, and therefore beloved by probably close to one half of Americans, but why precisely is he entitled to immunity?  You haven’t heard about his being granted immunity?  Okay, so he hasn’t been granted immunity in the traditional sense, as a testifying or cooperating witness.  He has been granted immunity from being questioned about the subject that he apparently thinks absolves him of any responsibility to act as decency and humanity ordinarily dictate—–9/11.

 

I do not begrudge him in the slightest for being the guy that says the oft-thought but unsayable, that he isn’t concerned about the rights or comforts of suspected terrorists, or even the ones who turn out to be innocent.  His support of the use of torture is not a particularly enlightened position now that its uselessness has been established.  And even if no one is entitled to their own facts, there will always be partisans impervious to reason.  Chuck Todd is as good as anyone, I suppose, at demonstrating those people are wrong.  But Cheney’s answer to the question, “what is torture?” was a recounting of the horrors of 9/11.  Twice.  And of all of the human beings in the world, the most painfully prominent who should not be allowed that refuge is Dick Cheney.  Why?  Because whether it knows it or not, the world has the goods on him.  He was complicit in the attacks in a more demonstrable way, based on far more powerful evidence, than any other soul alive,… or dead; Osama bin Laden comes to mind.  The U.S. never even tried to prove Bin Laden’s guilt to the Taliban, which was all they were asking for as a prerequisite to turning him over, thereby alleviating the necessity of a 10-year war in Afghanistan.

 

How bad is it exactly? Does Chuck Todd know the truth but hasn’t the stones to inquire?  Is he uncertain, possibly, or has he found Cheney innocent after exhaustive investigation?  Does he know that Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta testified to the 9/11 Commission that he was in the PEOC with Cheney before the Pentagon was hit on the morning of 9/11?  Does he know that Mineta gave a detailed account of Cheney confirming orders which either allowed the attack to succeed–we call that treason–or were not followed, leaving the building undefended?  If it were the latter, military history and military law and military standard operating procedure dictate that there would have been a Board of Inquiry, courts-martial, demotions, reprimands, or prosecutions for failure to obey orders.  Instead, there were, in the wake of this nation’s worst single event, promotions across the board.  Whatever Todd’s state of mind, aren’t Meet The Press’s viewers entitled to their own conclusions?

Is this Mr. Todd’s ignorance at work, his failure to raise the obvious questions?  Or is this just the grandest display of intimidation by a truly evil man in the history of journalism, surpassing Rather’s quailing at the scour of Bush in the dark episode known as Iran-Contra?.

David Brooks and the Iraq War

David Brooks has responded non-confrontationally, without using Krugman’s name, to Krugman’s op-ed of May 18 where Krugman asserts that the Bush Administration lied us into the Iraq War.  Brooks refers to that notion as a fable and says it doesn’t gibe with the facts, and he cites the Robb-Silverman report which found a major intelligence failure, Brooks apparently taking great comfort in the bi-partisan nature of the commission that rendered the report.

 

Some of us who have been paying some attention over the past several decades don’t feel comfort because there are an equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans on some commission or other.  The amount of money given to the Defense Establishment by Democrats is more than enough to require some other criteria for comfort than bi-partisanship.  And Brooks should probably spend some time considering the statements of Michael Morell, CIA briefer to Bush, that make it quite clear that there was a whole lot more than failure on the part of the Bush Administration as this country lurched towards its greatest foreign policy disaster, maybe ever.  But can there be some sort of debate here?

 

I would ask Mr. Brooks if he agrees that Donald Rumsfeld wrote a note to an aide on the morning of 9/11 with the words:  “good enough, hit SH,(Saddam Hussein)…sweep it all up things related and not.”  I think it is a question, but knowing the character of the character doing the writing, and considering the use of the word “good” under the circumstances, almost all of human conceptions must be allowed for.  What exactly does Mr. Brooks make of this moment in history?  Does he concede that one not implausible reading of the facts is that the thought had crossed DR’s mind before 9/11 that if there were sufficient excuse, military action might be taken against SH?

 

Does he acknowledge that at least one of his beloved Generals, Wesley Clark in this instance, has reported that military action all across the region was being contemplated before 9/11?  Does he acknowledge that this sort of planning would require a certain preparation of the populace since most people look askance at military action without provocation?  It seems there may be a way of conducting business that is being exposed here.  If there were sufficient lack of scruple, the concocting of the right kind of intelligence might well be part of some playbook somewhere.  And in fact, we know now that the facts were not what the Administration claimed at the time.  So there was either misinterpretation or fraud.

Does Mr. Brooks even acknowledge that fraud is a theoretical possibility?  Or has it been stricken from consideration because its possible existence might require Mr. Brooks to reevaluate a whole range of historical events which, haven’t, in his mind, been considered blemishes upon the Administration record to date?  He might be compelled to think: if they, Cheney and Rumsfeld, were capable of considering the benefits of the 9/11 catastrophe so quickly and so blithely, and had been planning for war in the region for some time, is it plausible to consider that they may have had a hand in the catastrophe’s final form? Or, perish the thought, played a role in its facilitation, possibly? And that might lead this fine upstanding man, moral to his core, we presume, to do some research and find the continent of evidence denied admittance by all authority into any court of law, which happens to give wretched substance to suspicion.  In fact, proves complicity in the 9/11 nightmare beyond the slightest question..

Krugman, So Near and yet…

New York Times, Monday, May 18, 2015, Op-Ed page. Paul Krugman rails against the manufacturers of our reasonably recent history, 2001 and onward,, decrying the actions of the Bush Administration in “lying the United States into war.”  Calling it a crime, he appears confused by what might have driven the perpetrators to do such a thing; a mistaken belief that “shock and awe in Iraq would enhance American power and influence around the world,” the instituting of a “a pilot project, preparation for a series of regime changes,” or dog-wagging to “strengthen the Republican brand at home?”

 

And all of these musings come after reference to Rumsfeld’s 9/11-the day-of memo to staff about whether the event would be “good enough,” –imagine, for Jesus’s mother’s sake, the use of the words– “hit SH,(Saddam Hussein)…sweep it all up things related and not.”  And I think Krugman has to think even more deeply about the use of the words, “good enough.”  I don’t mean to suggest that their use ends any inquiry or is irrefutable proof of Rumsfeld’s conspiratorial intent with regard to the “inside job” aspect of the attacks.  And, I am not suggesting that there aren’t quite close to a thousand other evidentiary reasons for Krugman to rethink his understanding of 9/11 in toto, to the extent he has allowed himself to think about it at all.  What I want to call attention to is the vanishingly short distance one needs to trod between the frame of mind that is part and parcel of Krugman’s current understanding of the causes of the Iraq War, and the right-next-door mindset which conspires to create from, in all likelihood but not indisputably, someone else’s plan of a terrorist attack, that devastation which we now refer to as 9/11.

 

9/11 was probably the piggy-backing of a Cheney-Rumsfeld plan on top of a Khalid Sheik Mohammed plan, creating a false flag event of such scope and breadth that wholly decent American citizens would be defanged of their democratic teeth of thought, not to mention power of speech.  It is a fact, now repeated so many times in so many of those citizens, often with honest acknowledgement of the horror sought to be avoided, that it is cliche to suggest that this nation “can’t handle the truth.”  It is certainly no grave accusation to suggest that Krugman is in this class.  Virtually everyone is in this class.  The exceptions are simply mutant outliers whose relevant synapses were cut or frayed or rubbed raw idiosyncratically at some point in the last 14 years or before, through no fault or design of their own, but are now left to try to manage in the world with a corrupted epistemology as I think Sunstein called it.

 

Such corruption will not, however, let one be.  It cries for attention and constantly seeks for a loose brick in the wall.  Mr. Krugman, could you please take a careful look at the criminal intent, the mind behind that most heinous of war crimes, aggression.  I say that its impulses ranged from the political to the base financial, the passage of the Patriot Act, the projection of American power across the globe with the inestimable economic benefits to war contractors, suppliers, and operators, and of course the benefits to the political party in control of a nation at war, …and yes, oil and other resources in the affected regions and others where the power of example will prove helpful in later negotiations that some shorthanders refer to as, “the lead or the gold” conversations.  World domination is not all that hard to figure out once its theoretical possibility is allowed into the room.

 

So I am asking Mr. Krugman to consider that mind.  It is capable of the clear focus it takes to achieve a grand but deplorable accomplishment.  It is bereft of conscience that would ordinarily consider the even smallish body counts our finest wishes for their humanity would have to have envisioned, serious impediments to concerted action.  It is capable of manipulations of vast resources on the largest of stages, able to “see the whole board,” albeit with some genuinely perverted eyesight.  It is able to lie, again in the biggest way, understanding the essential need to mislead virtually an entire population.  And it is capable of the rankest desire for the achievement of financial gain.  Whatever I have left out, I will argue, can be found within the folds of what I have listed, even if there must be some fumbling around at first to find it there.

Denny Chin, then US District Court judge, now judge of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, whose panel agreed with him in every particular, said “it is simply not plausible that the Vice President of the United States, the Secretary of Defense, and other high-ranking officials conspired to facilitate terrorist attacks that would result in the deaths of thousands of Americans.  If anything, the allegations are the product of cynical delusion and fantasy.”  Probably most Americans could have had the thought, if they couldn’t have written the words.  Krugman as well.  But take a look at the mind we have sought to peer into, the one that lied us into war.  Look at the benefits of doubt with which it is bestowed in the face of the worst things you can say about a human being, or group of them.  Yes, they are capable of war criminality, depravity, conscienceless, intricate, merciless imaginings for their own sick ends, and necessarily the ignoring of the probability of substantial if not enormous loss of American troops’ lives–one doesn’t mention Iraqi casualties in a serious conversation.  What in all that blushes at the idea of false flag.  What in all of that stops at the killing of someone with an American passport?   In what fanciful dimension are such parsings meaningful?  And the robe bleats about “fantasy.”.

Chris Matthews and Michael Morell

According to some commentators, Chris Matthews got former deputy director and former acting director of the CIA to admit that Cheney and Bush lied to the American people in order to go to war in Iraq.  I am not sure Matthews deserves that much credit for the moment; after all Michael Morell was on the show trying to sell a book.  Could he not have been prepared to make the disclosure; what exactly did he think Matthews was going to ask him about?

 

But let’s go ahead and give Matthews the credit.  Is there more that might have been done?  When Morell suggested it was not his job to watch TV and determine what lies the president was telling supposedly based on information he(Morell) was providing in his briefings, it would have been important to know when and how he learned that lies were in fact being told.  It would have been important to know what concerns about those lies were expressed to whom in the CIA and the rest of government.  It would have been important to learn what action or inaction took place within Morell’s knowledge.  How big a deal was the inaction, to the extent it existed?  If there were lies told, there can only have been one purpose and that was to create the necessary political conditions preparatory to an invasion, or other military action against Iraq.

 

Apparently, Bush and Cheney falsely said that Saddam Hussein was building a bomb when Morrell told them he was not.  And apparently, they falsely said there was some connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11, when Morell had told them there was none.  It is therefore clear that there was no adequate legal or moral reason to make war against Iraq.  That means that the taking of military action under the circumstances amounted to the war crime of aggression, the most heinous of them all.

It would have been helpful to know if Morell ever considered that what he was countenancing with his silence was a war crime.  For those of us concerned with the character of our governance, Matthews had an opportunity to shed an important bit of light on what sort of people govern us and how they do it, even if it is many years too late for the people of the Middle East.  The same people who gave us the disaster that is still killing people in Iraq are apparently Jeb Bush’s current advisers.  Perhaps a little less hardball and a little more preparation and concern for the question of moral purpose would have served us better..

Death of OBL and Zero Dark Thirty

There is a great, really great, story out there.  Is it the one we are being told at our local movie theatre in ZERO DARK THIRTY, great as that one is?  When the event being depicted is as seminal, as landscape-changing, as the gunning down of the entire globe’s most infamous terrorist, and reputed orchestrator of the earth-defining attacks of 9/11, is it acceptable that serious, and entirely reasonable scholars and observers of world events cannot agree about, or at least express sincere uncertainty concerning, the facts? Continue reading

Review of Kurt Eichenwald’s 500 Days

Kurt Eichenwald has written a book and made all the talk shows, Cooper to Stewart. It is fine and mildly helpful in terms of understanding what those disastrous years of the last decade in part comprised. But he begins with 9/11, so he has walked into my kitchen. I have a number of thoughts, but am still unable to say if what he and many others have done, was done honorably. Continue reading

Robert Caro and American Histroy

Robert Caro is a dinosaur, and we should be thankful.  So we have it from no lesser than Charles McGrath on the cover of the New York Times Magazine.  Caro’s work is brilliant.  So we have it from former President William Jefferson Clinton in the cover article of the New York Times Book Review.  In appearances all across America’s media, Robert Caro is praised and saluted for his most recent installment, the fourth, of his proposed five volume work on Lyndon Baines Johnson, who, according to Caro and most of the rest of the world, brought us as a nation so much good, though he may not have been.
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Two Cents on The State of the Union

At what point should a president realize that it just hasn’t worked out as he had planned; that he is going to be incapable of delivering what he told himself he wanted?  Did Barack Obama not understand, before he took the oath that there were powerful forces at play in this land and that their interests are not those of the people, and, giving him every benefit of the doubt, not those of Barack Obama?  Where was Barack in 1994 when the insurance lobby spent $300 million dollars, by one account, to defeat Clinton’s mess of a healthcare bill which was in its essence a series of gifts to the very companies that paid that money?  What explains the administration’s utter lack of preparedness for the fight that has been going on for the first year of his presidency over healthcare? Continue reading