1. Should a special prosecutor investigate charges of racketeering by members of the Bush administration who personally profited from the war on Iraq? -- Gerald Kleiner, Middletown, New York, USA
I'm not a lawyer--I'm a defendant --so I consulted movement lawyers, one of whom helped me look up the RICO Act. Another lawyer who is familiar with that act confirmed my layman's sense, as I read it, that it would be quite a stretch, legally, to apply that particular statute to the war-profiteering of this administration's favorite firms. If you happen on an adventurous prosecutor who wants to take it on, good luck! But it doesn't really look like a promising approach.
Your mention of racketeering in this context, though, sent me onto the web to recapture a staggering quotation by the Marine hero Major General Smedley Butler, summing up his thirty-years of service largely in U.S. colonial wars from Nicaragua and Cuba to China: "During that time I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism...The best (Al Capone) could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents." Look up the whole quote, which would have been an eye-opener for me if I had read it when I was in the Marines: www.fas.org/man/smedley.htm . Butler doesn't mention there that in colonial operations in Mexico (Vera Cruz) and Haiti he was awarded two Congressional Medals of Honor. How many medals will be won, some posthumously, by pre-enlightened American officers and troops in Iraq and elsewhere, now that we've extended our protection rackets from the Caribbean to the Persian Gulf?
My lawyer friend points out that it will be hard to find that businessmen broke any laws in their current profiteering, since it was effectively businessmen who wrote the laws. The secret, no-bid contracts awarded to Cheney's Halliburton and George Shultz's Bechtel (and WorldCom! As Molly Ivins exposes in her column Friday on the Iraq Gold Rush) certainly deserve congressional examination. Fat chance. But take the effort to thank journalists like Ivins and Arianna Huffington who bring sunlight onto these scavengers and use their information in letters to the editor and call-in shows, to reopen the discussion of corporate scandals and influence that was interrupted, not by coincidence, by war on Iraq.
2. There is mounting evidence that the war in Iraq was not based on truth. Based on your experience, and on your reading of history, is there enough of a ³smoking gun² here to generate an impeachment process?? -- Susan Petry, Durham, North Carolina, USA
The familiar metaphor seems painfully apt here. As the world can see, Uncle Sam is holding a smoking gun, above a stricken nation in the Middle East; and despite his claim of self-defense--the need to beat an aggressor to the draw--no weapons of mass destruction are to be found on the victim.
Thanks to an unprecedented flood of leaks from the intelligence community, it is increasingly clear that whatever the personal beliefs of the officials claiming to "know," to be "absolutely convinced" that Saddam Hussein "possessed weapons" that were an intolerable threat to us and his neighbors--from Bush and Powell and Rumsfeld to Wolowitz--their statements about the secret evidential basis for these confident assertions were wildly misleading.
Those assurances -- which were critical to justifying, on grounds of "necessity," a "preemptive" war that would otherwise appear blatantly criminal--look like lies. (See an excellent discussion in this week's New Republic, by John Judis and Spencer Ackerman: "The Selling of the War: The First Casualty." http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20030630&s=ackermanjudis063003.
Exactly so, their claims of "bullet-proof" evidence of significant links of Iraq to 9-11. If so, we were lied into war. Tens of thousands of Iraqis --including more innocent civilians than were murdered (not by Saddam Hussein) on 9-11--were lied to death, along with American KIA in numbers that are increasing week by week (and will continue to increase, I believe, every week that George W. Bush and Richard Cheney remain in office).
That's a serious charge. But I'm prepared to believe it on the basis of my own experience, not only in Vietnam--which is looking painfully relevant to our prospects in the occupation of Iraq--but in Washington under Robert McNamara and President Lyndon Johnson. I watched--and, I'm sorry to say, kept my mouth shut outside the Pentagon--as they lied Congress into a delegation of war powers by claiming certainty about an unprovoked attack on our warships (See http://www.ellsberg.net/sample.htm). I knew at the time that the evidence for that attack was highly ambiguous: just like, it appears, evidence before the war that Saddam still possessed and had deployed WMD's. In fact, there had been no attack at all, but Congress scarcely suspected that for years: I didn't tell them, nor did anyone else in the Executive branch who had reached that conclusion. Suspicions of the total absence of WMD's have emerged, this time, within months of the exaggerated claims.
Was that manipulation in 1964 an impeachable offense? I would say flatly yes: of the most serious kind. Likewise if President Bush and his vice president and cabinet officers (all, by the way, subject to impeachment) are guilty of the same misrepresentation of the secret intelligence available to them in their justification for a war unauthorized by the UN Charter and Security Council. I personally suspect that's true. That doesn't mean that I see any prospect whatever that this Republican Congress (or the majority of these Democrats!) would actually impeach or convict this President for this war, no matter what evidence is produced. Yet I think it's important for our democracy, and our security, to argue forcefully right now that lying us into war--as has happened before--was and would be now a high crime, an impeachable offense.
So far our evidence that this has happened is almost entirely from leaks (as was true in 1971, with the Pentagon Papers). Not enough has been disclosed yet to call credibly for impeachment, which amounts to indictment. To raise the issue of Executive accountability, yes. To investigate, certainly.
The current MoveOn petition drive has it exactly right: only citizen pressure on Congress to establish an independent bipartisan commission will provide a basis for Executive accountability. The currently-planned "review" in secret sessions of the Senate Intelligence Committee (the Republican chairman will not even let it be called an "investigation"!), confined to the performance of the intelligence agencies, will not do that job. Republicans, under White House pressure, will resist our calls for an independent commission, or even for open hearings in other relevant committees. But our own citizens' pressure, which should start now to investigate how we got into this quagmire and whether there was official betrayal of the public trust will get harder to resist as weeks and months go by of continued bloodletting and growing opposition in Iraq to our occupation.
3. What do we, as a nation, have to do to stop this type of abuse of power, corruption, conflict of interest, lying, cheating, powermongering, and fraudulent behavior? -- N. Webster, Pasadena, California, USA
The founders of our nation, the drafters of our Constitution and Bill of Rights, had better answers to these age-old problems of Executive abuse of power than the world had ever seen before, and better than we've been taught to accept in the last sixty years of Cold War and hot wars. Their distrust of mortals in power, their insights on the need for checks and balances, separation of powers, impeachment, constitutional guarantees of citizens' rights as against legislative or executive authority, have been steadily obscured and repressed on spurious grounds of national security. The effect has been to make the president just what the founders meant to prevent: an elected monarch. Or, as it turns out this year, a nearly-elected monarch.
If monarchy is corrupting--and it is--wait till you see what overt empire does to us. It's time to read Tom Paine again and wake up from our dreams of kingship and lording it over others, to reconstruct a republic. The Constitution, as written and amended, really deserves our loyalty and our defense, against all enemies foreign and domestic: and this administration has within it more domestic enemies of the Constitution and Bill of Rights than any we've seen before. They've got to go; but that's just a start, for our recovery from an addiction to arms-building and (till just now, covert) empire.
Only we, the public, can force our representatives to reverse their abdication of the war powers that the Constitution gives exclusively to the Congress. (See Abraham Lincoln--before he became president himself--writing from Congress in 1848: "The provision of the Constitution giving the war-making power to Congress was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons: Kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This our convention understood to be the most oppressive of all kingly oppressions, and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us." http://www.watchpost.org/lincoln.htm.
Except for 123 House members and 23 Senators, the members of Congress, Republican and Democratic (including several presidential candidates) covered themselves with shame by giving the president, with no hearings and scant deliberation or debate, an undated, unconstitutional, declaration of war. This was some improvement over 1964--when only two Senators voted against the equivalent Tonkin Gulf Resolution--and considerably better than their own performance one year earlier in September, 2001, when exactly one lawmaker, Barbara Lee of Oakland, had the conscience and courage to vote against giving the president, without prior hearings or debate, almost-unlimited power to go to war (in Afghanistan, or wherever he might claim a link to 9-11: Rumsfeld, we now know, wanted invade Iraq right away, but was put off).
But in 2001 and 2002 the majority didn't even have the excuse that the president had lied to them, like Lyndon Johnson in 1964, about his intent to cash this blank check for war. (Bush appears to have lied only about his reasons). The Vietnam quagmire got Congress to enact (over Nixon's veto) the War Powers Act, which remained an abdication of the constitutional responsibilities of Congress and which subsequently elected kings all ignored. With the Iraq fiasco (as I believe it will soon appear) let's educate our fellow citizens to demand a return to the Constitution.
4. When fear and patriotism is used to keep people from questioning the government, how do you break through that barrier to show Americans the importance of questioning and demanding truth and accurate information? -- April Cartright, Lake Worth, Florida, USA
Why did not one of Barbara Lee's Congressional colleagues -- many of whom had districts as safe as hers -- join her in voting against an unconstitutional delegation of their war powers, without deliberation? Many of them, she told me, had assured her they would vote with her up till the moment of the vote; she was startled to find herself alone. Her guess was that they were afraid, at the moment of truth, to be accused, however unjustly, of lack of patriotism, of disloyalty to the president, even of treason. (She got all those charges. They were nearly all from outside her own district. But those words aren't easy for any American, or anyone, to hear: as I can testify). But she did what she knew was right. And courage is contagious. A year later, against the next Tonkin Gulf-like Resolution for Iraq, she and Dennis Kucinich organized 123 votes in favor of the Constitution.
Lincoln's comment above related to what he saw as President Polk's illegal and deceptive provocation of war with Mexico, which he opposed as a Congressman. His later Commander of the Union Army, Ulysses S. Grant, saw that war the same way, when he participated in it as a second lieutenant. In his memoirs he described that war as "one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation. It was an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory."
He describes the process of getting into a war of aggression against Mexico in terms very familiar to me from our "reprisal" against the supposed Tonkin Gulf attack and later "retaliation" for attacks at Pleiku and Qui Nhon, and their effects on Congressional opposition. "We were sent to provoke a fight, but it was essential that Mexico should commence it. It was very doubtful whether Congress would declare war; but if Mexico should attack our troops, the executive could announce, ÔWhereas, war exists by the acts of, etc.," and prosecute the contest with vigor. Once initiated there were but few public men who would have the courage to oppose it. Experience proves that the man who obstructs a war in which his nation is engaged, no matter whether right or wrong, occupied no enviable place in life or history. Better for him, individually, to advocate Owar, pestilence, and famine,ı than to act as obstructionist to a war already begun.² http://home.nycap.rr.com/history/grant1.html#Ch-4.
A quote on the subject by Hermann Goering, Hitlerıs deputy in the Nazi regime, has been going around the Internet over the last six months, but usually in a truncated form that leaves out its direct reference to U.S. democracy. Hereıs the whole quote, from Nuremberg Diary (pp. 278-279) by G. M. Gilbert, an Army intelligence officer who interviewed Goering in prison during his trial at Nuremberg in 1946 www.wnopes.com/quotes/goering.htm:
"We got around to the subject of war again and I said that, contrary to his attitude, I did not think that the common people are very thankful for leaders who bring them war and destruction.
"'Why, of course, the people don't want war,' Goering shrugged. 'Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.
"'There is one difference,' I pointed out. 'In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.
"'Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.
At this moment, many of us firmly believe, it is the policies of our president and his advisors, not our own skepticism and protest, that are exposing this country to increased danger: danger of initiating unnecessary, illegal and stalemated or escalating wars; danger of vengeful terrorist attacks (exploiting U.S. vulnerabilities he has neglected to mend and a flow of recruits his wars will swell); and increased danger of nuclear proliferation, eventually to such terrorist groups.
There is a personal and national price to be paid by silence and passive obedience, in the face of such folly, that is greater than the pain of being called names, greater even than the loss of a job or career. It is the price of participating in and failing to expose and resist national disasters, unnecessary and wrongful wars. That was the price<-of accepting a definition of patriotism as unquestioning support of national Executive leadership- Emperor Hirohitoıs Japan, in the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the U.S. invasion of Vietnam: and now Iraq.
Granted, it took a very high degree of courage to act otherwise in the police states that existed in all these examples at the time of their aggressions (except for those of the U.S.) Thatıs all the more reason why itıs up to us, itıs time for us- ³work that way² in our country.
5. How can we best convince the public that theyıre being deceived?---Rosemarie Pilkington
By spreading the word in every way, in email to our friends, letters to the editor, call-ins to talk radio, in every discussion and argument that they can inform themselves on matters of public policy far better on the Internet than on American TV, mainstream radio (including NPR) or any individual newspaper. The last six months of an extended book tour and political lecturing and activism all over the country has revealed to me that the large minority of Americans opposed to the Iraq war, largely Internet users I strongly suspect live in an entirely different world of information from those who actively or passively supported the war, who rely almost entirely on presidential declarations and sources strikingly shaped by official spin.
Daily on the websites like antiwar.com, commondreams.org, buzzflash.com, I find a compilation of critical, relevant, informative news stories and editorial comment from all over the country and abroad which adds up, over time, to something closer to an adequate understanding of current policies and events than was ever available to any public in the past. Ironically, most of the items on these sites do come, after all, from mainstream newspapers in America; but the impact of access to a broad collection of probing or critical stories on a daily basis is very different from reading one or two such analyses or stories in a given hometown newspaper, even a relatively good one. Moreover, through these sites and through direct links to the British Guardian, the Independent, the BBC and CBC (far better than American public radio or TV), and other international news sources in English, Americans can have access not only to other points of view but to news and commentary that is often better informed than we can get in mainstream sources at home.
So the answer to the question (and a number of others like it) is: We should do what we can to expand the daily readership of these sites, and others like them, enormously. Our ability to publicize and expand these sources of information is the informational and educational equivalent of the organizational tactics of MoveOn, United for Peace, and other activist sites.
Still, itıs very hard to get the majority of people in this country, like any other, to believe that their elected leaders are dangerously deceiving them (routine as that actually is: a secret well-kept by insiders who want to remain or come back as insiders). To get them to accept that, to believe it to the point that they will take up the burdens and risks of opposing that leadership in committed and effective ways takes unusual evidence. It takes more than news stories citing unidentified or unofficial sources, even from those who were recently insiders. It takes documents: large amounts of them. And in the ³national security² realm, such documents (above all, those demonstrating deception of the public, or major errors, or possible crimes) will be classified. Congressional hearings can get at some of those, but only up to a point; any administration will strive, usually successfully, to keep such documents (or testimony relating to them) away from Congress altogether, or to postpone their release to the public till they are no longer dramatically pertinent.
MoveOn member Andy Ayers has asked me: ³Are we dependent on another whistle-blower insider this administration² to act as I did with the Pentagon Papers in 1971? My answer is yes, but with a difference. I would say, as I have been saying since last September to every audience Iıve addressed, in hopes my message may reach their friends and relatives in the federal government, we need someone to act as I should have done, but did not, long before 1971, when the documents in my safe were current. As Senator Wayne Morse, one of the two senators who voted against the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, told me in 1971: ³If you had given me [on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee] those cables in 1964, the Tonkin Gulf Resolution would never have gotten out of the committee; and if it did, it would have been voted down on the floor.²
³Donıt do what I did; donıt wait till the bombs are falling,² I was saying to potential hearers in government from October through mid-March. ³If you know that your bosses and the President are lying about their reasons for this war, or about what they are being told about its prospects and danger and costs, and if you possess documents that demonstrate that, I urge you to consider doing what I wish I had done in 1964 or 1965 instead of six years later: go to Congress and the press, with those documents, and tell the truth.²
We are hearing now important leaks, mostly anonymous, complaining of undue administration pressure on intelligence estimates and of misrepresentation and misuse of intelligence. It would have been helpful to hear more of those earlier, but Iım in no position to criticize; as my memoir spells out, it took me years of war to reach that point or go beyond it, and when I did I no longer had access to documents that bore on current White House decision-making. (If I had, I would have released those instead of the history in the Pentagon Papers).
Itıs possible for others in the government now to do better than that. To kick-start a stalled process of Congressional investigation, and the public campaign of pressure to pursue those investigations, someone with official access must take the responsibility for releasing, without higher authorization, hundreds or thousands of pages of documents they believe, on their experienced judgment, would demonstrate official deception or wrongdoing, without harming national security. Iım confident there are men and women in this administration with access to documents of that nature and with the personal courage and sense of conscience and patriotism to do that, if they reflect on that possibility and the stakes involved. It would mean risking or sacrificing their clearances and careers, perhaps going to prison. It could save several warsı worth of lives, and democracy in this country.
To subscribe to the Ellsberg.Net email list, send a blank email with the word "list" in the subject heading to firstname.lastname@example.org
Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 652
Brunswick, ME 04011
(352) 871-7554 (Cell Phone)