Monday, September 13, 2004

No Shame, No Honor, No Resignations 

Via Cursor, an illuminating chunk of text from Seymour Hersh's Chain of Command, which goes on sale today. Why don't you run out and buy a copy right now? We'll still be here when you get back:
In May 2004, at the height of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, a senior political Republican Party operative was given the reassuring word that Vice President Dick Cheney had taken charge, with his usual directness. The operative learned that Cheney had telephoned Donald Rumsfeld with a simple message: No resignations. We’re going to hunker down and tough it out.

Cheney’s concern was not national security. This was a political call—a reminder that the White House would seize control of every crisis that could affect the re-election of George Bush. The Abu Ghraib revelations, if left unchecked, could provoke more public doubt about the wisdom of the war in Iraq, and about the sometimes brutal intelligence operations that were used to wage it. The White House and Pentagon also would have to work together to prevent Congress and the press from unraveling an incendiary secret—that undercover members of an intelligence unit that operated in secret in the name of every American had been at Abu Ghraib . . . .

But Cheney’s involvement in trying to conceal the import of Abu Ghraib was not unusual; it was a sign of the teamwork at the top. George Bush talked about “smoking them out of their holes” and wanting them “dead or alive,” and Rumsfeld was the one who set up the mechanism to get it done. The defense secretary would hold the difficult news conferences and take the heat in public, as he did about Abu Ghraib, but the President and Vice President had been in it, and with him, all the way. Rumsfeld handled the dirty work and kept the secrets, but he and the two White House leaders were a team.

There is so much about this presidency that we don’t know, and may never learn. Some of the most important questions are not even being asked. How did they do it? How did eight or nine neoconservatives who believed that a war in Iraq was the answer to international terrorism get their way? How did they redirect the government and rearrange long-standing American priorities and policies with so much ease? How did they overcome the bureaucracy, intimidate the press, mislead the Congress, and dominate the military? Is our democracy that fragile?
UPDATE (via Corrente): From a Guardian report on the Hersh book:
Hersh reports that a secret document signed by Mr Bush in February 2002 stated: "I determine that none of the provisions of Geneva apply to our conflict with al-Qaida in Afghanistan or elsewhere throughout the world."
From another government document, which Mr. Bush has yet to sign off on:
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwith-standing.

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