by Linda O'Brien
There are so many of us who know, in spite of the skewed polls, the fear mongering, the slanted reports, the lack of support from Congress, and the refusal of the media to question.
All of it is meant to deny us the power of knowing. But the amazing thing is, we know anyway.
It's been greatly helped by the Internet, but that doesn't entirely explain it.
Ask a tentative, "What do you think about what's going on in the country," and you'll probably find you're surrounded by people who are outraged.
For many the knowing started on September 11 itself, where it sat in the gut like a stone and could serve no purpose, since it couldn't be shared or verified, but could only raise nausea and make us feel isolated and despairing.
The power we have, unspoken, not even needing words to share it with each other, is evident. The implications are enormous.
So why, why, are we letting Bush prepare to do the unthinkable and unnecessary in Iraq?
Camps for Citizens: Ashcroft's Hellish Vision
From all sides, experts say that there are better ways to deal with the potential danger of Hussein.
There's a total absence of present threat from him, far less from his people. But many thousands of them will die in any form of this war Bush is pushing, whether it involves "precision" bombing or 200,000 troops.
For the first time, the only rationale we'll have for their deaths is our fear of a possibility. Blind yourself, the seduction goes, and I'll save you from your greatest fears. Surely there's a sickening dissonance inside us at the distance between the facts and this relentless push for war.
But many appear willing to wait and see, the fear of another deadly assault just edging out the knowledge that this war is desperately immoral.
If we continue, the trade-off will be that thousands more innocents will die.
Then perhaps the sickness will rise to our throats, and we'll have to own what we're now refusing to know.
We've placed a lot of sacrifices on the altar to fear lately.
Over two centuries of freedom from snooping and paranoia. The lives of hundreds of immigrants locked up in secret for months.
The privacy and peace of mind of thousands of others rounded up and questioned by authorities with initials for names who don't have to give a reason. The deaths of hundreds of Afghan civilians. This particular god is very hungry, insatiable.
It's been said that Bush is acting as if he doesn't need the approval of Congress, or our allies, or of us.
And it's true, he doesn't, as long as we keep giving our power to him. It's a classic setup: a frightening event, power handed to one who seems able to save us, and the possibility of other frightening events are held continually over our heads until power becomes abuse of power.
The abuser seems much more powerful than he is, all out of proportion to reality, and we come to believe we're powerless, feeding the cycle of increasing abuse, until, desperate and exhausted, we face the worst fear: that no one's going to save us but us.
The worst of what has been done since 9/11 has been to try to deny us knowledge, and it has failed miserably.
If, as some fear, something devastating happens to provide an convincing rationale for war on Iraq this fall, many, perhaps most of us are going to be looking past the great and terrifying face on the screen to the man frantically pulling levers behind a curtain. It would be good to make that clear right now.
We were thrust into the mythical hero's journey on September 11.
The way out, the hero discovers, is always in rediscovering the power that was always there.
This may be the knowledge we must turn and look upon: that we've become too afraid of our own government to challenge what it is doing. We know now. We do.
It is done and will be done in our name. We must own it now, and say no.
Linda O'Brien is a freelance writer who lives in Bethesda, Maryland.
Attorney general shows himself as a menace to liberty.
Published on Wednesday, August 14, 2002 in the Los Angeles Times
by Jonathan Turley
Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft's announced desire for camps for U.S. citizens he deems to be "enemy combatants" has moved him from merely being a political embarrassment to being a constitutional menace.
Ashcroft's plan, disclosed last week but little publicized, would allow him to order the indefinite incarceration of U.S. citizens and summarily strip them of their constitutional rights and access to the courts by declaring them enemy combatants.
The proposed camp plan should trigger immediate congressional hearings and reconsideration of Ashcroft's fitness for this important office. Whereas Al Qaeda is a threat to the lives of our citizens, Ashcroft has become a clear and present threat to our liberties.
The camp plan was forged at an optimistic time for Ashcroft's small inner circle, which has been carefully watching two test cases to see whether this vision could become a reality.
The cases of Jose Padilla and Yaser Esam Hamdi will determine whether U.S. citizens can be held without charges and subject to the arbitrary and unchecked authority of the government.
Hamdi has been held without charge even though the facts of his case are virtually identical to those in the case of John Walker Lindh. Both Hamdi and Lindh were captured in Afghanistan as foot soldiers in Taliban units. Yet Lindh was given a lawyer and a trial, while Hamdi rots in a floating Navy brig in Norfolk, Va.
This week, the government refused to comply with a federal judge who ordered that he be given the underlying evidence justifying Hamdi's treatment. The Justice Department has insisted that the judge must simply accept its declaration and cannot interfere with the president's absolute authority in "a time of war."
In Padilla's case, Ashcroft initially claimed that the arrest stopped a plan to detonate a radioactive bomb in New York or Washington, D.C. The administration later issued an embarrassing correction that there was no evidence Padilla was on such a mission. What is clear is that Padilla is an American citizen and was arrested in the United States--two facts that should trigger the full application of constitutional rights.
Ashcroft hopes to use his self-made "enemy combatant" stamp for any citizen whom he deems to be part of a wider terrorist conspiracy.
Perhaps because of his discredited claims of preventing radiological terrorism, aides have indicated that a "high-level committee" will recommend which citizens are to be stripped of their constitutional rights and sent to Ashcroft's new camps.
Few would have imagined any attorney general seeking to reestablish such camps for citizens. Of course, Ashcroft is not considering camps on the order of the internment camps used to incarcerate Japanese American citizens in World War II. But he can be credited only with thinking smaller; we have learned from painful experience that unchecked authority, once tasted, easily becomes insatiable.
We are only now getting a full vision of Ashcroft's America. Some of his predecessors dreamed of creating a great society or a nation unfettered by racism. Ashcroft seems to dream of a country secured from itself, neatly contained and controlled by his judgment of loyalty.
For more than 200 years, security and liberty have been viewed as coexistent values. Ashcroft and his aides appear to view this relationship as lineal, where security must precede liberty.
Since the nation will never be entirely safe from terrorism, liberty has become a mere rhetorical justification for increased security.
Ashcroft is a catalyst for constitutional devolution, encouraging citizens to accept autocratic rule as their only way of avoiding massive terrorist attacks.
His greatest problem has been preserving a level of panic and fear that would induce a free people to surrender the rights so dearly won by their ancestors.
In "A Man for All Seasons," Sir Thomas More was confronted by a young lawyer, Will Roper, who sought his daughter's hand. Roper proclaimed that he would cut down every law in England to get after the devil.
More's response seems almost tailored for Ashcroft: "And when the last law was down and the devil turned round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? ... This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast ... and if you cut them down--and you are just the man to do it--do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?"
Every generation has had Ropers and Ashcrofts who view our laws and traditions as mere obstructions rather than protections in times of peril. But before we allow Ashcroft to denude our own constitutional landscape, we must take a stand and have the courage to say, "Enough."
Every generation has its test of principle in which people of good faith can no longer remain silent in the face of authoritarian ambition. If we cannot join together to fight the abomination of American camps, we have already lost what we are defending.
Jonathan Turley is a professor of constitutional law at George Washington University.
US adviser warns of Armageddon
Julian Borger in Washington and Richard Norton-Taylor
Friday August 16, 2002
One of the Republican party's most respected foreign policy gurus yesterday appealed for President Bush to halt his plans to invade Iraq, warning of "an Armageddon in the Middle East".
The outspoken remarks from Brent Scowcroft, who advised a string of Republican presidents, including Mr Bush's father, represented an embarrassment for the administration on a day it was attempting to rally British public support for an eventual war.
The US national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, yesterday spelled out what she called the "very powerful moral case" for toppling Saddam Hussein. "We certainly do not have the luxury of doing nothing," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. She said the Iraqi leader was "an evil man who, left to his own devices, will wreak havoc again on his own population, his neighbours and, if he gets weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them, all of us".
But while Ms Rice was making the case for a pre-emptive strike, the rumble of anxiety in the US was growing louder. A string of leading Republicans have expressed unease at the administration's determination to take on President Saddam, but the most damning critique of Mr Bush's plans to date came yesterday from Mr Scowcroft.
The retired general, who also advised Presidents Nixon and Ford, predicted that an attack on Iraq could lead to catastrophe.
"Israel would have to expect to be the first casualty, as in 1991 when Saddam sought to bring Israel into the Gulf conflict. This time, using weapons of mass destruction, he might succeed, provoking Israel to respond, perhaps with nuclear weapons, unleashing an Armageddon in the Middle East," Mr Scowcroft wrote in the Wall Street Journal.
The Israeli government has vowed it would not stand by in the face of attacks as it did in 1991, when Iraqi Scud missiles landed on Israeli cities. It claims it has Washington's backing for retaliation.
Mr Scowcroft is the elder statesman of the Republican foreign policy establishment, and his views are widely regarded as reflecting those of the first President Bush. The fierceness of his attack on current administration policy illustrates the gulf between the elder Bush and his son, who has surrounded himself with far more radical ideologues on domestic and foreign policy.
In yesterday's article, Mr Scowcroft argued that by alienating much of the Arab world, an assault on Baghdad, would halt much of the cooperation Washington is receiving in its current battle against the al-Qaida organisation.
"An attack on Iraq at this time would seriously jeopardise, if not destroy, the global counterterrorist campaign we have undertaken," Mr Scowcroft wrote.
Both the American and British governments are expected to time a public relations effort to rebuff the critics and build public support in the immediate run-up to an invasion.
Senior Whitehall figures say that crucial in that effort will be evidence that President Saddam is building up Iraq's chemical biological warfare capability and planning to develop nuclear weapons.
The US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, confirmed yesterday that the Pentagon was considering a change in the status of a navy pilot shot down over Iraq 11 years ago. He is currently classified as "missing in action".
There have been reports that Lieutenant-Commander Michael Speicher was still being held by Iraq.
If he was reclassified as a prisoner of war, it would represent an additional source of conflict between Washington and Baghdad.
Who's on Piffiab? Anyone concerned with spying, clandestine actions, and the war on terrorism should care about the answer.
But is the Bush Administration, in a break with the past, attempting to keep this important information secret? If so, the administration is doing a rather bad job.
The President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board--usually referred to by its acronym--is a group of prominent citizens who offer advice to the President on sensitive intelligence matters.
It was established in 1956 by President Eisenhower, and past chairmen have included former Senator Warren Rudman, former House Speaker Thomas Foley, and former Defense Secretary Les Aspin. In recent years, PFIAB has conducted investigations (often through its Intelligence Oversight Board) of spy-community controversies.
It examined lax security at Department of Energy nuclear weapons facilities, CIA involvement with Guatemalan military officials who committed human rights abuses, US intelligence failures in Somalia, and the CIA's cover-its-ass investigation of CIA director John Deutch, who compromised classified information. PFIAB challenged the charge--popular in rightwing circles--that China had stolen nuclear weapons secrets from the United States.
("Possible damage has been minted as probable disaster; workaday delay and bureaucratic confusion has been cast as diabolical conspiracies," a PFIAB report concluded. "Enough is enough.")
Last year, President George W. Bush selected Brent Scowcroft to lead PFIAB. Scowcroft, who was national security adviser to President Bush I, possessed appropriate credentials for the post. But the choice posed problems. Scowcroft, a onetime consultant for the oil industry, a board member of Qualcomm, and a past director of Global and Power Pipelines (an Enron subsidiary involved in projects in China, Guatemala, the Philippines, Argentina and Colombia), runs his own business, the Scowcroft Group, which sells intelligence and other services to globe-trotting corporations in the telecom, aerospace, insurance, energy, financial, electronics and food industries.
As head of PFIAB, Scowcroft has access to secret information that could be valuable to his clients and his own business endeavors. Can the public be certain that Scowcroft's business links do not unduly influence his actions as PFIAB chairman or that he does not exploit his PFIAB position to help his clients and his own company?
And his close personal relationship to the Bush family could undermine his ability to appear as an independent reviewer of intelligence activities mounted by the Bush administration. Scowcroft, though, recently proved he could take issue with the President by questioning the need to go to war against Iraq.
But Scowcroft does share a dominant trait of the Bush crowd: secrecy. On August 13, I called the PFIAB office and asked for a list of current board members. "That information is provided only on a need-to-know basis," said Roosevelt Roy, PFIAB's administrative assistant. And he meant, of course, that a reporter had no need to know.
I was surprised. As far as I could recall, PFIAB membership has always been public information.
In fact, the Clinton Administration posted the names of the members on a PFIAB web page. (Clinton board members included Zoe Baird, the failed attorney general nominee; Sidney Drell, a renowned scientist; Ann Caracristis, former deputy director of the National Security Agency; Robert J. Hermann, a United Technologies executive; and Maurice Sonnenberg, an international businessman.)
The Bush White House web page for PFIAB notes the board now has sixteen members and reveals nothing about the identities of any except Scowcroft.
Who determined this information should be secret? I asked Roy. "The chairman has made this need-to-know," he replied. "But it won't be permanent." When should I call back? Within six months, he said.
I took Roy at his word, and I contacted secrecy-in-government experts who expressed their outrage. I called Scowcroft's office and was told he was unavailable. I did a computer search and found that one member's appointment--that of former California Governor Pete Wilson--had been routinely reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune.
I checked back with Roy at PFIAB, and he said that, in response to my original request for information, PFIAB might in the near-future consider releasing the identities of the board members. But, he added, "I can't make that final call." I wrote up a story and posted it. (You can read it by clicking on the link below.)
Now here comes the mystery (or joke): after the article hit the website, someone forwarded to me a White House press release, dated October 5, 2001, announcing Bush's intention to appoint fifteen individuals to PFIAB.
They were Scowcroft; Pete Wilson; Cresencio Arcos, an AT&T executive and former US ambassador; Jim Barksdale, former head of Netscape; Robert Addison Day, chairman of the TWC Group, a money management firm; Stephen Friedman, past chairman of Goldman Sachs; Alfred Lerner, chief executive of MBNA; Ray Lee Hunt, scion of the Texas oil fortune; Rita Hauser, a prominent lawyer and longtime advocate of Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation; David Jeremiah, a retired admiral; Arnold Kanter, a Bush I national security official and a founding member of the Scowcroft Group; James Calhoun Langdon, Jr., a power-lawyer in Texas; Elisabeth Pate-Cornell, head of industrial engineering and engineering management at Stanford University; John Harrison Streicker, a real estate magnate; and Philip Zelikow, a National Security Council staffer during Bush I. (Two members of this group--Day and Langdon--were Bush campaign "pioneers," meaning they collected at least $100,000 for W.'s presidential bid.
Barksdale raised money for Bush in Silicon Valley. Lerner's MBNA was the single biggest source of contributions for Bush in 2000, and he and his wife each donated $250,000 to the GOP. Hunt, too, rounded up bucks for Bush. Friedman gave $50,000 to the Republican Party in 2000. Streicher is a Democratic contributor.)
So why the secrecy now? Has something changed in the membership of PFIAB? Or is Scowcroft trying to cloak information already released by the White House? If that is the case, this episode suggests PFIAB still has much to learn about operational security.
Scowcroft should confirm whether the individuals named in the White House press release are indeed serving as board members. PFIAB is little-known, but important. After 9/11, the performance and the practices of US intelligence agencies have drawn more attention, and PFIAB can play a key role in overseeing the intelligence bureaucracies.
The question remains for Scowcroft: does the public have a need to know who is watching the spies?
Published on Wednesday, July 24, 2002 by CommonDreams.org
Liberty is a Most precious gift