The North Coast times-eagle. (Wheeler, Oregon) 1971-2007, May 01, 2007, Page 12, Image 12

Below is the OCR text representation for this newspapers page. It is also available as plain text as well as XML.

    PAGE 12
“The people o f England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be
hard to escape with dignity and honor. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of
information. The Baghdad communiqués are belated, insincere, and incomplete. Things have
been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the
public knows. It is a disgrace to our imperial record and may soon be enflamed for any ordinary
cure. We are today not far from disaster. Our unfortunate troops, Indian and British, under hard
conditions o f climate and supply are policing an immense area, paying dearly every day in lives
for the willfully wrong policy of the civil administration in Baghdad but the responsibility, in this
case, is not on the army which has acted only upon the request of the civil authorities.
5 0 3 /3 2 5 -2 5 2 3
f tf>h ¿T C h ip i
I MptYrtetC fle w o n 7 cip
2 m t S tre e t
 A ta ru r * 3 2 5 - 0 0 3 3
Anyone who wants to write about the constitutional crisis
unfolding in the United States today faces a peculiar problem at
the outset. There is large body of observations that at one and
the same time have been made too often and yet not enough
— too often because they have been repeated to the point
of tedium for a minority ready to listen but not often enough
because the general public nas yet to consider them seriously
enough. The problem for a self-respecting writer is that that
the act of writing almost in its nature promises something new.
Repetition is not really writing but propaganda — not illumination
for the mind but a mental beating. Here are some examples of
the sort of observations I have in mind, at once over-familiar and
President George W. Bush sent American troops into
Iraq to find weapons of mass destruction, but they weren't there.
He said that Saddam Hussein’s regime had given help
to Al Qaeda, but it had not.
He therefore took the nation to war on the basis of false­
His administration says that the torture at Abu Graib and
elsewhere has been the work of a few bad apples in the military,
whereas in fact abuses were sanctioned at the highest levels of
the executive branch in secret memos
His administration lambastes leakers, but its own offic­
ials leaked the name of a CIA operative, Valerie Plame, in order
to politically discredit her husband.
He flatly stated to the public that all wiretaps of Ameri­
cans were ordered pursuant to court warrants, whereas in fact
he was authorizing and repeatedly reauthorizing warrantless
These wiretaps violated a specific law of Congress
forbidding them.
His administration has asserted a right to imprison
Americans as well as foreigners indefinitely without the habeus
corpus hearings required by law.
Wars of aggression, torture, domestic spying and arbi­
trary arrest are the hallmarks of dictatorship, yet Congress, run
by the President's party, refused to conduct full investigations
into either the false WMD claims, or the abuses and torture, or
the warrantless wiretaps, or the imprisonment without habeas
When Congress passed a bill forbidding torture and the
President signed it, he added a “signing statement” implying a
right to disregard its provisions when they conflicted with his
interpretation of his powers.
The President’s secret legal memos justifying abuses
and torture are based on a conception of powers of the executive
that gives him carte blanche to disregard specific statutes as well
as international law in the exercise of self-granted powers to the
Commander in Chief nowhere mentioned in the Constitution.
If accepted, these claims would fundamentally alter
the structure of the American government, upsetting the system
of checks and balances and nullifying fundamental liberties,
including 4th Amendment guarantees against unreasonable
searches and seizures and guarantees of due process. As such,
they embody apparent failures of the President to carry out his
oath to “preserve, protect' and defend the Constitution of the
United States.”
The need to repeat these familiar points, as I have just
done (while also begging the indulgence of the reader, as I do),
is itself a symptom of the crisis. The same governmental and
other power in the hands of a single party that led to the abuses
stands in the way of action to address them. The result is a
problem of political sanitation. The garbage heaps up in the
public square, visible to all and stinking to high heaven, but
no garbage truck arrives to take it away. The lawbreaking is
exposed, but no legislative body responds. The damning facts
pour out, and protests are made, but little is done. Then comes
the urge to repeat.
The dilemma is reflected in microcosm in the news
media, especially television — a process particularly on display
in the failure to challenge the administration’s deceptive rationale
for the Iraq War. The reasons for severe doubt were, at the very
least, available before the war, and they were expounded in
many places. More truthful, contrary voices could and did speak
up, especially on the Internet, the freest of today’s media. But
they were not widely heard. They were drowned out by the
dominant voices in the mainstream, acceding to the deceptions
of power and their variations and derivatives. All over the world,
autocratic-minded rulers, from Italy’s former Prime Minister
Silvio Berlusconi to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, have
learned that defacto control of the political content of 'elevision
is perhaps the most important lever of power in our day. They
have learned that it does matter politically if 15% or even 25%
of the public is well informed as long as the majority remains
in the dark. The problem has not been censorship but some­
thing very nearly censorship’s opposite: the deafening noise
of the official megaphone and its echoes — not the suppression
of truth, still spoken and heard in a narrow circle, but a profusion
of lies and half lies; not too little speech but too much. If you
whisper something to your friend in the front row of a rock
concert, you have not been censored, but neither will you be
The one major breach in the monopoly was made by
the Supreme Court in its decision in Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld
requiring application of the Geneva Code of Military Justice to
detainees. The decision's reasoning would have rolled back
many of the usurpations by the executive, which claimed it would
apply the Geneva Conventions to prisoners in U.S. custody and
seek a constitutional opinion by the Foreign Intelligence Surveil­
lance Act court on its wiretapping. It’s notable that reaction to
Hamden vs. Rumsfeld by one Republican Congressional leader
was to accuse Democrats who applauded the decision of want­
ing “special privileges for terrorists." (Hamden vs. Rumsfeld was
repealed by the Republican-dominated Congress in October,
which got rid of habeas corpus as well as Posse Comitatus, the
law that prohibits military intervention in civil law)
One-party monopoly of power is not the only inhibiting
factor. Any oppositionist who is honest will keep in mind that a
majority, however narrow, of Americans voted that one party
into power in a series of elections. Especially important was the
Presidential election of 2004, when many, though not all, of the
abuses were already known. (And then the election itself was
subject to grave abuses, especially in Ohio.) The weight and
meaning of that majority does not disappear because it was
demonstrably misinformed about key matters of war and peace.
It’s one thing to oppose an illegitimate concentration of power
in the name of a repressed majority, another to oppose power
backed and legitimated by a majority. In the first case, it will be
enough to speak truth to power; in the second, the main need