Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Words of Power #16: Lt. Gen. Newbold Bears Witness, Sy Hersh Sounds the Alarm & Patrick Fitzgerald Raises the Stakes

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With the encouragement of some still in positions of military leadership, I offer a challenge to those still in uniform: a leader's responsibility is to give voice to those who can't—or don't have the opportunity to—speak. Enlisted members of the armed forces swear their oath to those appointed over them; an officer swears an oath not to a person but to the Constitution. The distinction is important.
LEUT. GENERAL GREG NEWBOLD (RET.), "Why I Think Rumsfeld Must Go,” TIME, 4-9-06

One former defense official, who still deals with sensitive issues for the Bush Administration, told me that the military planning was premised on a belief that “a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government.” He added, “I was shocked when I heard it, and asked myself, ‘What are they smoking?’ ”
The Pentagon adviser on the war on terror confirmed that some in the Administration were looking seriously at this option, which he linked to a resurgence of interest in tactical nuclear weapons among Pentagon civilians and in policy circles. He called it “a juggernaut that has to be stopped.” He also confirmed that some senior officers and officials were considering resigning over the issue.
Seymour Hersh, The Iran Plans, New Yorker, 4-10-06

Is a President, on the eve of his reelection campaign, legally entitled to ward off political embarrassment and conceal past failures in the exercise of his office by unilaterally and informally declassifying selected - as well as false and misleading - portions of a classified National Intelligence Estimate that he has previously refused to declassify, in order to cause such information to be secretly disclosed under false pretenses in the name of a "former Hill staffer" to a single reporter, intending that reporter to publish such false and misleading information in a prominent national newspaper? The answer is obvious: No. Such a misuse of authority is the very essence of a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States. It is also precisely the abuse of executive power that led to the impeachment of Richard M. Nixon.
Elizabeth de le Vega, Final Jeopardy, TomDispatch, 4-10-06

While the US body politic distracts itself, over the airwaves, and in the corridors of power, with a futile and falsely premised debate over illegal immigration, serious questions about the life and death of the republic go largely ignored. Recent revelations from US DoJ special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, retired US Marine Corp Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold and investigative journalist Seymour Hersh (encapsulated above) have converged to create a watershed moment.
But who will seize it? Will Bush-Cheney get to Iran before special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald gets to the truth about Bush-Cheney? Will the US military officer corps heed Lt. Gen Newbold’s call to speak out about the debacle in Iraq before it results in an American Den Bien Phu? Will members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff resign, as Sy Hersh suggests, in protest over Bush-Cheney’s eagerness to nuke Iran? Will mid-term US elections bring the return of oversight and accountability before the extension of Bush-Cheney’s folly precipitates WWIII?
Will some aggregate of power and influence within Beltwayistan force Bush to jettison Cheney and Rumsfeld, and replace them with Colin Powell and others, and then allow the lame duck to live out the rest of his term under some de facto White House arrest? Will a new Congress be sworn in, through some miracle of democracy worthy of Kiev or Bishkek, and take up the issues of censure and impeachment? Will Bush-Cheney pull a “Saturday Night Massacre” and order Gonzalez to fire Fitzgerald? Of course, they wouldn’t have to worry about Gonzalez pulling an Elliot Richardson or a Bill Ruckleshaus and refusing to carry out their outrageous demand. (Indeed, Gonzalez would probably render Fitzgerald to Syria if the “Unitary Executive” so decreed.) Will we lose an American city to an Al Qaeda WMD attack, and succumb to martial law before a new Congress can be sworn in?
The sands in the hourglass are dwindling. No one knows the exact number of grains, but it is finite. And when they have all fallen, the republic will be gone.
How could anyone on Capitol Hill or in the US mainstream news media pretend that the Bush-Cheney national insecurity team has either the credibility to confront Iran on its nuclear weapons program, or the competence to determine how to wage war even if the situation demanded it? And yet, the follies of Bush-Cheney continue unchallenged in any real way either by the Congress, as a co-equal branch of government, or by the network and cable news organizations, as guardians of the people's right to know.
In an Buzzflash exclusive, Greg Palast puts it succinctly:
Now the pundits are arguing over whether our war-a-holic President had the legal right to leak this national security information. But, that's a fake debate meant to distract you. OK, let's accept the White House alibi that releasing Plame's identity was no crime. But if that's true, they've committed a bigger crime: Bush and Cheney knowingly withheld vital information from a grand jury investigation, a multimillion dollar inquiry the perps themselves authorized.
Today, in the US, we are witnessing the inverse of the process that worked to preserve the rule of constitutional law during the era of Watergate scandal and the Pentagon Papers. In the early 1970s, a strong, independent news media drove the process, and jump-started the system of checks and balances. But today’s Daniel Ellsbergs and Marc Felts (a.k.a. “Deep Throat”) have nowhere to turn in the US mainstream news media. (Remember the NYT sat on the NSA scandal for a year, indeed an election year.)  And apparently, there are no Howard Bakers in the 21st Century Republican Party.
In the Bush-Cheney era, accountability is being driven from below, and at great peril.
Consider Sidney Blumenthal’s recent expose (“The Tethered Goat Strategy” Guardian, 4-6-06) on the fate of US foreign service officers:
“Since the Iraqi elections in January, US foreign service officers at the Baghdad embassy have been writing a steady stream of disturbing cables describing drastically worsening conditions….The insurgency, according to the reports, also continues to mutate...State department officials in the field are reporting that Shia militias use training as cover to infiltrate key positions. Thus the strategy to create institutions of order and security is fuelling civil war. Rather than being received as invaluable intelligence, the messages are discarded or, worse, considered signs of disloyalty. Rejecting the facts on the ground apparently requires blaming the messengers. So far, two top attaches at the embassy have been reassigned elsewhere for producing factual reports that are too upsetting.”
Furthermore, Blumenthal reports, “under the pretence that Iraq is being pacified, the military is partially withdrawing from hostile towns in the countryside and parts of Baghdad,” and “the jobs the military doesn't want to perform are being sloughed off on state department ‘provisional reconstruction teams’ (PRTs) led by foreign service officers.” Chillingly, Blumenthal adds, “the Pentagon has informed the state department it will not provide security for these officials and that mercenaries should be hired for protection instead.”
“Amid this internal crisis of credibility,” Blumenthal concludes, Condoleezza Rice “has washed her hands of her department.”
With this atmosphere of fear and repression inside the goverment, the exhortation of Lt. Gen. Newbold (“a leader's responsibility is to give voice to those who can't—or don't have the opportunity to—speak”) takes on even greater poignancy and urgency.
And for those of you who have not sworn an oath to protect and defend the US Constitution, but consider yourselves just concerned citizens, you are free to spend as much time as you want talking about health care, education and, of course, illegal immigration. But if you do, you are spending your time re-arranging deck chairs on a constitutional (i.e. Bill of Rights), geopolitical (i.e., Western Alliance) economic (national debt and deficits) and environmental (global warming) Titanic.
Meanwhile, the Bush cabal is running out the clock on the republic.
You can’t have a republic at home, and an empire abroad. Not for long, anyway. Eventually, you must choose one or the other. And if you chose empire, you will not be able to change your mind without great upheaval, if at all, and if you don’t change your mind, you will inevitably fail -- because the age of empires has past.

Richard Power is the founder of GS(3) Intelligence and http://www.wordsofpower.net. His work focuses on the inter-related issues of security, sustainability and spirit, and how to overcome the challenges of terrorism, cyber crime, global warming, health emergencies, natural disasters, etc. You can reach him via e-mail: richardpower@wordsofpower.net. For more information, go to http://www.wordsofpower.net/