Saturday, October 6, 2007

Blackwater In The Quagmire....

...and is it all intentional?

October 6, 2007

Does USA's Most Powerful Private Militia Fuel Iraq's Insurgency?

By Anthony Barnes

The accounts, chronicled in a congressional Oversight Committee memo, are nothing short of disturbing.

  • In November, 2005, in an act even Blackwater officials acknowledged as outright, "random negligence," a Blackwater-guarded motorcade on its way to an Iraqi Oil Ministry basically demolished 18 civilian vehicles -- six on its way to the ministry, and another dozen during the return trip.
  • In December, 2006, a deeply intoxicated Blackwater contractor, apparently without provocation, gunned down a guard for Iraqi Vice President, Adil Abd-al-Mahdi and was quickly spirited out of the country by Blackwater.
  • On September 9 of this year, Batoul Mohammed Ali Hussein, a clerk in the Iraqi customs office in Diyala province, was killed when Blackwater security contractors responded to rocks throwing with a barrage of automatic weapons fire into a crowded intersection. Witnesses reported a Blackwater guard shot Hussein repeatedly after she had struggled to her feet. Four other Iraqi civilians were killed in the incident.
  • In other incidents, each cited in State Department documents, Blackwater forces shot a civilian bystander in the head; sought to cover up a shooting that killed an apparently innocent bystander; and provided no assistance after a traffic accident caused by its "counter-flow" driving protocol left an Iraqi vehicle in "a ball of flames."
  • Then there was the recent widely publicized incident of September 16 this year, when a Blackwater contingent fired indiscriminately into a crowd killing anywhere between 11 and 17 Iraqi civilians, and wounding an additional 24.

These acts, brutish, savage, indeed violently deviant though they may be, are nevertheless among war's inevitable realities, we're often told. Indeed, it's also been argued that such acts are perhaps more likely to be expected in wars waged against a guerilla-style insurgency which -- at least among many Iraqi insurgents -- transcends the material vestiges of the here and now. In these "unconventional" wars, the shadowy enemy one faces sees his effort as one of not just ridding his country of its invaders, but also as a means of attaining martyrdom.

Nevertheless, though well aware that the casualties of war accrue in a variety of manifestations, for more than a few Americans, the skittish and malevolent, trigger-happy attitude these incidents depict, come, like the Abu Ghraib scandal, as a complete shock.

Meanwhile, to anyone acquainted with the outré, turgidly cocksure, over-the-top personality type of the former Navy Seals, Special Ops-types, and other gung-ho para-militarists embodying the ranks of private militias wherever found, none of the extremes come as a surprise.

In fact, precisely because war is hell, one such type, Blackwater Worldwide founder and former Navy Seal Erik Prince, would like us to believe that his private, for-profit heavily-armed and equipped adjunct to the U.S. military, serves as a bulwark shielding the "civilized" of Iraq, namely: diplomats; Iraqi or foreign government officials; U.S. politicians; and, of course, well-heeled disaster capitalists, from the unfettered mayhem and the senses numbing carnage reported in places like Baghdad and Fallujah.

Prince insists that we view the role of his Blackwater contingent in Iraq -- none of whom are constrained in their actions by the Uniform Code of Military Justice; and each of whom enjoys complete immunity from Iraqi courts -- as a detachment designed to enable the 160,000 member U.S. force in Iraq to more adroitly damper down the insurgency and stabilize a nation of 27 million packed in an area roughly the size of California.

In its own way, Prince would further insist, Blackwater Worldwide is doing its part to help bring "freedom and democracy" (author's quotes) to the volatile Middle East. He'd love us to believe that, by accepting dangerous security assignments -- protecting construction projects, ministries and oil fields; escorting diplomatic convoys; and serving in a wide range of additional life-threatening capacities in the harrowing mise en scene which is Bush-era Iraq, -- Blackwater, rather than a feckless siphon of more than a billion U.S. taxpayer dollars, is in fact, an invaluable commodity that prevents the siphoning of needed U.S. soldiers from Iraq's urban war zones.

In his early October appearance before the congressional Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Prince, once an intern for George H.W. Bush, asserted that Blackwater's contributions have had a positive impact on the war effort.

"Our professionals work to keep American officials and dignitaries safe, including visiting members of congress," Prince insisted. "In doing so, more American service people are available to fight the enemy."

Defense Secretary Robert Gates' September testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee seemed to imply that he sees it a bit differently. Gates' testimony included expressions of concern over the practice by Blackwater and other for-profit militias of offering high salaries to entice soldiers into leaving the military. Gates said he'd like to see legal barriers imposed against the practice.

But beyond that issue, it would seem that through its ongoing lethally-reckless behavior, Blackwater continues to pollute any pool of goodwill that ensue U.S. military efforts to win Iraqi hearts and minds, all but ensuring the improbability that the need for U.S. soldiers in Iraq can be abridged anytime soon. Additionally, among private for-profit militias like Blackwater, for which continued social and political instability clearly translates into a stable profit flow, having the added bonus of immunity from criminal liability is yet another corporate perk.

The impression that instability serves as the obvious lifeblood of Blackwater is evident not only in the steady growth it has enjoyed as a company since attaining its original no-bid assignment from the State Department to work in Baghdad and Al-Hillah. Blackwater's use-of-force record, which, according to the State Department is "frequent and extensive," could be seen as another indicator of this for-profit, private militia's relish for mayhem.

According to the Oversight Committee report, though legally bound to engage only in defensive use of force, " practice, the vast majority of Blackwater weapons discharges are preemptive, with Blackwater forces firing first ... prior to receiving any fire."

It seems clear that as long as for-profit private militias like Blackwater are permitted to operate with such indiscriminate and deadly impunity with immunity from local prosecution, it seems assured that the continued presence of U.S. soldiers will remain vital to offset the wave after wave of new "enemy" spawned by blowback from Blackwater's lurid standard operating procedures, an operating procedure that, again, tends to produce a very profitable bottom line for Blackwater.

In the social services arena, there's a popular, if not utopian notion that in the best case scenario, social workers will do their jobs so well that they will succeed in ending poverty, illness and all forms of social malaise. The ironic endgame to that success is that the social workers would basically put themselves out of a job.

In essence, Blackwater's apparent business plan would seem to take this approach and, with a perverse and deadly twist, turn it on its head. But obviously, despite any characteristics of social engineering inherit to the work of "building a democracy," Blackwater is no social services agency.

That notion has been amplified by critics including P.W. Singer, of the Brookings Institution, who takes a dim view of affiliations between Blackwater-type private security contractors and the U.S. military. In an article posted on last month, Singer, noted that after close to a decade of studying such arrangements, the available data indicates: "...the use of private military contractors appears to have harmed, rather than helped counterinsurgency efforts of the U.S. mission in Iraq, going against our best doctrine and undermining critical efforts of our troops." In other words, Blackwater and other for-profit private militias basically help sustain the insurgency.

Indeed, as noted by Rep. Jan Schakowsky, (D-Ill) in a recent Blackwater related article in the Washington Post: "It's really affecting attitudes toward the United States when you have these cowboy guys out there. These guys represent the U.S. to (the Iraqis) and there are no rules of the game for them."

That sentiment runs throughout the Oversight Committee memo which includes an assertion by a senior U.S. military official that the impact on Iraqi attitudes toward U.S. forces resulting from Blackwater's behavior "may be worse than Abu Ghraib."

Thus, to extrapolate to some degree, one could assume that for-profit private militia's like Blackwater, whose revenues are generated largely through American tax dollars, have a vested interest in undermining any goodwill efforts of American forces in Iraq. Since it generates the bulk of its revenues through providing its services in dangerous or heavily militarized environments, by fomenting and maintaining -- whether knowingly or unknowingly -- a violent, anarchistic environment by way of its behavior in Iraq, Blackwater contributes to conditions which justify the need for its presence there. Indeed Rep. Waxman pointed out that, "For every taxpayer dollar spent on federal programs, over 40 cents now goes to private contractors."

Thus, it's fairly easy to envision an incentive to generate a steady stream of new insurgents by inciting "local nationals" -- the Blackwater term for Iraqi citizens -- into the insurgency through a cacophony of dehumanizing treatment and indiscriminate killings. It's worth noting that since 2005, according to State Department and Blackwater documents, in over 80 percent of the nearly 200 shooting incidents in Iraq involving Blackwater, the Blackwater personnel shot first.

Yet another disturbing report which raises questions about the role America's most powerful private militia plays in maintaining regional instability, is the charge, stemming from a federal investigation announced in September, that Blackwater has been engaging in arms smuggling. The charges allege that Prince's spirited crew of "loyal Americans" have been illegally smuggling into Iraq, weaponry to be funneled to the Kurdistan Workers Party, considered a terrorist group.

Longstanding issues between Iraq and the Kurds during Saddam's reign aside, it's difficult to comprehend how providing arms to factional movements can result in anything other than a continuation of the regional instability which is Blackwater's economic bread and butter.

Knowing this, it becomes exceedingly difficult to escape the dreadful conclusion that for U.S. forces, Blackwater has a sort of al Qaeda effect. Each moment our nation's most powerful for-profit, private militia spends in Iraq, extends further the period during which rank and file U.S. soldiers will remain in harm's way.

Each moment adds to the list of U.S. casualties; of flag-draped coffins secretly whisked out of Iraq to be flown into Dover Air Force Base in the dead of night.

Each moment increases the frequency of the dreaded solemn visits from military chaplains and fellow soldiers to homes of deceased service men and women. Visitors who are accompanied not by a family member in uniform, fortunate to have made it back alive, but instead, by a carefully folded American flag, and perhaps, a bible.

For Blackwater however, these are moments that register like a taxicab's fare meter as the for-profit militia's deep pockets grow flush with over one billion American tax dollars and counting. In an example of skewed priorities, U.S. service men and women earn a mere fraction of what Blackwater pays its personnel -- as much as $180,000 yearly, all U.S. taxpayer dollars -- while Blackwater personnel experience a mere fraction of the dying (30 Blackwater casualties thus far, according to Prince).

Just the ugly side of capitalism? Or, the stark representation of the old adage that all's fair in love and war?

Whichever, the reality is that while the Iraq war will continue to deepen the pockets of Blackwater, America's most powerful for-profit private militia, the prolonging of that war, to a considerable degree a result of Blackwater's unconscionable, perhaps suspiciously reckless behavior, can only serve to deepen the divide that the ill-fated post-911 decision to initiate a war with Iraq has created within the American people.

As such, in the case of Blackwater, we have seen the enemy; and it is us.

Authors Website:

Authors Bio: Anthony Barnes, of Boston, Massachusetts, is a free-lance writer

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

Israeli Lobby Fear Factor, Non-Partisan

So Who's Afraid of the Israel Lobby?

by Ray McGovern

Who's afraid of the Israel Lobby? Virtually everyone: Republican, Democrat – Conservative, Liberal. The fear factor is non-partisan, you might say, and palpable. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) brags that it is the most influential foreign policy lobbying organization on Capitol Hill, and has demonstrated that time and again – and not only on Capitol Hill.

Seldom has the Lobby's power been as clearly demonstrated as in its ability to suppress the awful truth that on June 8, 1967, during the Six Day War:

* Israel deliberately attacked the intelligence collection ship USS Liberty, in full awareness it was a U.S. Navy ship, and did its best to sink it and leave no survivors;

* The Israelis would have succeeded had they not broken off the attack upon learning, from an intercepted message, that the commander of the U.S. 6th Fleet had launched carrier fighters to the scene; and

* By that time 34 of the Liberty's crew had been killed and over 170 wounded.

Scores of intelligence analysts and senior officials have known this for years. That virtually all of them have kept a forty-year frightened silence is testament to the widespread fear of touching this live wire. Even more telling is the fact that the National Security Agency apparently has destroyed voice tapes and transcripts heard and seen by many intelligence analysts, material that shows beyond doubt that the Israelis knew exactly what they were doing.

The Ugly Truth

But the truth will come out – eventually. All it took in this case was for a courageous journalist (an endangered species) to listen to the surviving crew and do a little basic research, not shrinking from naming war crimes and not letting senior U.S. officials, from the president on down, off the hook for suppressing – even destroying – damning evidence from intercepted Israeli communications.

The mainstream media have now published an exposé based largely on interviews with those most intimately involved. A lengthy article by Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter John Crewdson appeared in the Chicago Tribune and Baltimore Sun on Oct. 2 titled "New revelations in attack on American spy ship." To the subtitle goes the prize for understatement of the year: "Veterans, documents suggest U.S., Israel didn't tell full story of deadly 1967 incident."

Better 40 years late than never, I suppose. Many of us have known of the incident and cover-up for a very long time and have tried to expose and discuss it for the lessons it holds for today. It has proved far easier, though, to get a very pedestrian Dog-Bites-Man article published than an article with the importance and explosiveness of this sensitive story.

A Marine Stands Up

On the evening of Sept. 26, 2006, I gave a talk on Iraq to an overflow crowd of 400 at National Avenue Church in Springfield, Missouri. A questioner asked what I thought of the study by John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard titled The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. The study had originally been commissioned by The Atlantic Monthly. When the draft arrived, however, shouts of "Leper!" were heard at the Atlantic. The monthly wasted no time in saying thanks-but-no-thanks, and the leper-study then wandered in search of a home, finding none among American publishers. Eventually the London Review of Books published it in March 2006.

I had read that piece carefully and found it an unusual act of courage as well as scholarship. That's what I told the questioner, adding that I did have two problems with the study:

First, it seemed to me the authors erred in attributing virtually all the motivation for the U.S. attack on Iraq to the Israel Lobby and the so-called "neoconservatives" running our policy and armed forces. Was Israel an important factor? Indeed. But of equal importance, in my view, was the oil factor and what the Pentagon now calls the "enduring" military bases in Iraq, which the White House and Pentagon decided were needed for the U.S. to dominate that part of the Middle East.

Second, I was intrigued by the fact that Mearsheimer and Walt made no mention of what I believe to be, if not the most telling, then perhaps the most sensational proof of the power the Lobby knows it can exert over our government and Congress. In sum, in June 1967, after deliberately using fighter-bombers and torpedo boats to attack the USS Liberty for over two hours in an attempt to sink it and kill its entire crew, and then getting the U.S. government, the Navy, and the Congress to cover up what happened, the Israeli government learned that it could – literally – get away with murder.

I found myself looking out at 400 blank stares. The USS Liberty? And so I asked how many in the audience had heard of the attack on the Liberty on June 8, 1967. Three hands went up; I called on the gentleman nearest me.

Ramrod straight he stood:

"Sir, Sergeant Bryce Lockwood, United States Marine Corps, retired. I am a member of the USS Liberty crew, Sir."

Catching my breath, I asked him if he would be willing to tell us what happened.

"Sir, I have not been able to do that. It is hard. But it has been almost 40 years, and I would like to try this evening, Sir."

You could hear a pin drop for the next 15 minutes, as Lockwood gave us his personal account of what happened to him, his colleagues, and his ship on the afternoon of June 8, 1967. He was a linguist assigned to collect communications intelligence from the USS Liberty, which was among the ugliest – and most easily identifiable – ships in the fleet with antennae springing out in all directions.

Lockwood told of the events of that fateful day, beginning with the six-hour naval and air surveillance of the Liberty by the Israeli navy and air force on the morning of June 8. After the air attacks including thousand-pound bombs and napalm, three sixty-ton torpedo boats lined up like a firing squad, pointing their torpedo tubes at the Liberty's starboard hull. Lockwood had been ordered to throw the extremely sensitive cryptological equipment overboard and had just walked beyond the bulwark separating the NSA intelligence unit from the rest of the ship when, he recalled, he sensed a large black object, a tremendous explosion, and sheet of flame. The torpedo had struck dead center in the NSA space.

The cold, oily water brought Lockwood back to consciousness. Around him were 25 dead colleagues; but he heard moaning. Three were still alive; one of Lockwood's shipmates dragged one survivor up the hatch. Lockwood was able to lift the two others, one-by-one, onto his shoulder and carry them up through the hatch. This meant alternatively banging on the hatch for someone to open it and swimming back to fish his shipmate out of the water lest he float out to sea through the 39-foot hole made by the torpedo.

At that Lockwood stopped speaking. It was enough. Hard, very hard – even after almost 40 years.

What Else We Know

John Crewdson's meticulously documented article, together with the 57 pages that James Bamford devotes to the incident in his book Body of Secrets and recent confessions by those who played a role in the cover-up, paint a picture that the surviving crew of the USS Liberty can only find infuriating. The evidence, from intercepted communications as well as testimony, of Israeli deliberate intent is unimpeachable, even though the Israelis continue to portray the incident as merely a terrible mistake.

Crewdson refers to U.S. Navy Captain Ward Boston, who was the Navy lawyer appointed as senior counsel to Admiral Isaac C. Kidd, named by Admiral John S. McCain (Sen. John McCain's father) to "inquire into all the facts and circumstances." The fact that they were given only one week to gather evidence and were forbidden to contact the Israelis screams out "cover-up."

Captain Boston, now 84, signed a formal declaration on Jan. 8, 2004 in which he described himself as "outraged at the efforts of the apologists for Israel in this country to claim that this attack was a case of ‘mistaken identity.'" Boston continued:

"The evidence was clear. Both Admiral Kidd and I believed with certainty that this attack...was a deliberate effort to sink an American ship and murder its entire crew...Not only did the Israelis attack the ship with napalm, gunfire, and missiles, Israeli torpedo boats machine-gunned three lifeboats that had been launched in an attempt by the crew to save the most seriously wounded – a war crime...I know from personal conversations I had with Admiral Kidd that President Lyndon Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara ordered him to conclude that the attack was a case of 'mistaken identity' despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary."

Why the Israelis decided to take the draconian measure of sinking a ship of the U.S. Navy is open to speculation. One view is that the Israelis did not want the U.S. to find out they were massing troops to seize the Golan Heights from Syria, and wanted to deprive the U.S. of the opportunity to argue against such a move. Another theory: James Bamford, in Body of Secrets," adduces evidence, including reporting from an Israeli journalist eyewitness and an Israeli military historian, of wholesale killing of Egyptian prisoners of war at the coastal town of El Arish in the Sinai. The Liberty was patrolling directly opposite El Arish in international waters but within easy range to pick up intelligence on what was going on there. And the Israelis were well aware.

As for the why, well, someone could at least approach the Israelis involved and ask, no? The important thing here is not to confuse what is known (the deliberate nature of the Israeli attack) with the purpose behind it, which remains a matter of speculation.

Other Indignities

Bowing to intense pressure from the Navy, the White House agreed to award the Liberty's skipper, Captain William McGonagle, the Medal of Honor....but not at the White House, and not by the president (as is the custom). Rather, the Secretary of the Navy gave the award at the Washington Navy Yard on the banks of the acrid Anacostia River. A naval officer involved in the awards ceremony told one of the Liberty crew, "The government is pretty jumpy about Israel...the State Department even asked the Israeli ambassador if his government had any objections to McGonagle getting the medal."

Adding insult to injury, those of the Liberty crew who survived well enough to call for an independent investigation have been hit with charges of, you guessed it, anti-Semitism.

Now that some of the truth is emerging more and more, others are showing more courage in speaking out. In a recent email, an associate of mine who has followed Middle East affairs for almost 60 years, shared the following:

"The chief of the intelligence analysts studying the Arab/Israeli region at the time told me about the intercepted messages and said very flatly and firmly that the pilots reported seeing the American flag and repeated their requests for confirmation of the attack order. Whole platoons of Americans saw those intercepts. If NSA now says they do not exist, then someone ordered them destroyed."

Leaving the destruction of evidence without investigation is an open invitation to repetition in the future.

As for the larger picture, visiting Israel this past summer I was constantly told that Egypt forced Israel into war in June 1967. This does not square with the unguarded words of Menachem Begin in 1982, when he was Israel's prime minister. Rather he admitted publicly:

"In June 1967, we had a choice. The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that [Egyptian President] Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him."

Israel had, in fact, prepared well militarily and mounted provocations against its neighbors, in order to provoke a response that could be used to justify an expansion of its borders. Israel's illegal 40-year control over and confiscation of land in the occupied territories and U.S. enabling support (particularly the one-sided support by the current U.S. administration) go a long way toward explaining why it is that 1.3 billion Muslims "hate us."

This article was first posted on

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

Six Years Later....Why?

As another British soldier is killed in Afghanistan, Patrick Cockburn asks what is the point of the mission

Published: 06 October 2007

Six years after a war was launched to overthrow the Taliban, British solders are still being killed in bloody skirmishing in a conflict in which no final victory is possible. Tomorrow is the sixth anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan by the US, Britain and allies, an operation codenamed Enduring Freedom. But six years on, Britain is once again, as in Iraq, the most junior of partners, spending the lives of its soldiers with little real influence over the war.

The outcome of the conflict in Afghanistan will be decided in Washington and Islamabad. There is no chance of defeating the Taliban so long as they can retreat, retrain and recoup in the mountain fastnesses of Pakistan.

Yesterday, we learned of the death of another British soldier. Although his identity has not been released, it is believed that the dead man acted as a mentor to Prince William. Two others were injured when their vehicle was caught by an explosion west of Kandahar, bringing the number of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan to 82 since 2001.

The drip-drip of British losses underlines how little has been achieved in the past six years, and how quickly any gains can be lost. Most of southern Afghanistan was safer in the spring of 2002 than it is now and at no moment during the years that have elapsed is there any evidence from the speeches of successive British ministers that they have much idea what we are doing there and what we hope to achieve.

This week, the Conservative leader David Cameron told supporters that he would restore Afghanistan to the "number one priority in foreign policy" . The remark highlighted how this conflict has all but slipped from the political agenda.

Yet, Afghanistan is filled with the bones of British soldiers who died in futile campaigns in the 19th century and beyond. The lesson of these long forgotten wars is that military success on the ground in Afghanistan is always elusive and, even when achieved, seldom turns into lasting political success.

The Taliban came to power in Afghanistan through Pakistani support and it was when this support was withdrawn in 2001 that the Taliban abandoned Kabul and Kandahar in the days and weeks after 7 October without a fight. But six years later, the Taliban are back.

The violence shows no sign of ending. Suicide bombings, gun battles, airstrikes and roadside bombs have killed 5,100 people in the first nine months of this year, a 55 per cent increase over the same period in 2006.

I went to Afghanistan in September 2001 a few days after 9/11 when it became obvious the US was going to retaliate by overthrowing the Taliban because they had been the hosts of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida.

It was a very peculiar war that followed, distinguished, above all, by a lack of real fighting. When Pakistani support and Saudi money were withdrawn, the Taliban's regime unravelled at extraordinary speed. By early 2002, I was able to drive from Kabul to Kandahar without feeling that I was taking my life in my hands.

But, for all the talk of progress and democracy and the presence of thousands of British, American and other Nato troops on the ground, it is impossible to undertake such journeys across the country safely.

Yet, back in 2001, from the moment I saw the first American bombs falling on Kabul and the sparks of light from the feeble Taliban anti-aircraft guns, it was obvious the two sides were completely mismatched.

Taliban fighters who expected to be targeted, simply fled before they were annihilated. The victory came too easily. The Taliban never made a last stand even in their bastions of support in the Pashtun heartlands in south. It was a very Afghan affair in keeping with the traditions of the previous 25 years when sudden betrayals and changes of alliance, not battles, had decided the winner.

Driving from Kabul towards Kandahar in the footsteps of the Taliban, I visited the fortress city of Ghazni on the roads south where the Taliban had suddenly dematerialised and received a de facto amnesty in return for giving up power without a fight.

Qari Baba, the ponderous looking governor of Ghazni province, who had been appointed the day before, said: "I don't see any Taliban here", which was surprising since the courtyard in front of his office was crowded with tough-looking men in black turbans carrying sub machine-guns.

"Every one of them was Taliban until 24 hours ago," whispered a Northern Alliance officer.

One fact that should have made the presence of British, American and other foreign troops easier in Afghanistan was that the Taliban were deeply hated for their cruelty, mindless religious fanaticism (leading to the banning of chess and kite flying) and the belief that they are puppets of Pakistani military intelligence. And unlike Iraq, the foreign presence in Afghanistan has had majority support, though that is slipping.

Drawing parallels between Iraq and Afghanistan is misleading because Saddam Hussein had sought to run a highly centralised state. In Afghanistan power had always been fragmented. But Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 were mired in poverty. One reason why both the Taliban and Saddam Hussein went down so quickly is that Afghans, like the Iraqis, hoped for a better life.

They did not get it. Lack of jobs and services like electricity, clean water, hospitals and food continued or got worse.

Iraq is potentially a rich country because of its oil wealth. In Afghanistan the only equivalent to oil money is the money from the poppy fields on which impoverished farmers increasingly depend. One of the reasons the Taliban lost the support of Pashtun farmers in 2001 – though this was hardly highlighted by the victors – is that they enforced a ban on poppy growing which was highly effective. If the US adopts a policy of killing the poppy plants by spraying them with chemicals from the air, then they will also be engulfed by the same wave of unpopularity. The opium trade is fuelling lawlessness, warlordism and an unstable state.

Both Afghanistan and Iraq are notoriously difficult countries to conquer. They have for centuries, been frontier zones where powerful neighbours have fought each other by proxy.

Victory in Afghanistan six years after the start of the war to overthrow the Taliban is not likely. Even massively expanding troop levels would just mean more targets, and more losses. Armies of occupation, or perceived occupation, always provoke a reaction.

Ultimately what happens in Afghanistan will be far more determined not by skirmishes in Helmand province, but by developments in Pakistan, the Taliban's great supporter, which are wholly beyond British control. And the agenda in both the Afghan and Iraqi wars is ultimately determined by US domestic political needs Successes in faraway wars have to be manufactured or exaggerated. Necessary compromises are ruled out, leaving Iraqis and Afghans alike with the dismal outlook of war without end.

Six years in Afghanistan

* October, 2001 – British-backed US-led air strikes against Taliban strongholds. Taliban leader Mullah Omar flees to Pakistan border as his forces forced to withdraw.

* December, 2001 – The Bonn deal on the future of Afghanistan sees the creation of an interim government, headed by the US-backed President Hamid Karzai. .

* January, 2002 – Nato peacekeepers arrive with a year-long mandate.

* June, 2002 – The "grand assembly" selects Hamid Karzai as interim president.

* July, 2002 – Attacks increase throughout country and a vice-president, Haji Abdul Qadir, is shot dead with his son-in-law in Kabul.

* September, 2002 – Assassination attempt on President Karzai.

* January, 2004 – The Assembly backs a new national constitution

paving way for elections.

* September, 2004 – Another attempt on life of Karzai who is confirmed as President with 55 per cent of vote in elections - first for a generation.

* Spring/summer, 2006 – Taliban regroup in the south and carry out a series of fierce attacks there and elsewhere.

* July-October, 2006 – Nato peacekeeping forces, 18,500 and rising, take over full control.

* Spring, 2007 – Renewed efforts made by British-led coalition troops to force Taliban out of south.

* October, 2007 – Violent incidents, especially suicide bombings, are up 30 per cent on last year, with an average of 550 a month.

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Patrick Cockburn

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

War Crimes Prosecutor Quits Over Pentagon Clash

October 6, 2007

In the latest disruption of the Bush administration’s plan to try detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for war crimes, the chief military prosecutor on the project stepped down yesterday after a dispute with a Pentagon official.

It was not clear what effect the departure would have on the problem-plagued effort to charge and try detainees.

The prosecutor, Col. Morris D. Davis of the Air Force, was to leave his position immediately, a Defense Department spokeswoman said. But the spokeswoman, Cynthia O. Smith, said officials were working to minimize interruption in the work of the prosecution office, which includes military lawyers supplemented by civilian federal prosecutors.

“The department is taking measures to ensure a prompt and orderly transition to another chief prosecutor without interrupting the key mission of prosecuting war crimes via military commissions,” Ms. Smith said.

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Colonel Davis would resign.

The Pentagon’s system of prosecuting suspects has been beset by practical problems and legal disputes that have reached the Supreme Court. As a result, more than five years after the first terror suspects arrived at Guantánamo Bay, only one detainee’s war-crimes case has been completed, and that was through a plea agreement.

Prosecutors have said they might eventually file charges against as many as 80 of the 330 detainees being held at Guantánamo. Those include so-called high value detainees, 14 men the administration has said include dangerous terrorists who had previously been held in secret C.I.A. prisons.

Officials have said the prosecutors are working on charges against some of those men, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who has said he was the mastermind of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Colonel Davis, a career military lawyer, had been in a bitter dispute with Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Hartmann, who was appointed this summer to a top post in the Pentagon Office of Military Commissions, which supervises the war crimes trial system.

General Hartmann, an Air Force reserve officer who worked as a corporate lawyer until recently, was appointed this summer as the legal adviser to Susan J. Crawford, a former military appeals judge who is the convening authority, a military official who has extensive powers under the military commission law passed by Congress in 2006.

Among other powers, under the law, the convening authority can approve or reject war-crimes charges, make plea deals with detainees and reduce sentences.

People involved in the prosecutions, who spoke on condition of anonymity, have said that General Hartmann challenged Colonel Davis’s authority in August and pressed the prosecutors who worked for Colonel Davis to produce new charges against detainees quickly.

They said he also pushed the prosecutors to frame cases with bold terrorism accusations that would draw public attention to the military commission process, which has been one of the central legal strategies of the Bush administration. In some cases the prosecutors are expected to seek the death penalty.

Through a spokeswoman, General Hartmann declined comment yesterday.

Colonel Davis filed a complaint against General Hartmann with Pentagon officials this fall saying that the general had exceeded his authority and created a conflict of interest by asserting control over the prosecutor’s office. Colonel Davis said it would be improper for General Hartmann to assess the adequacy of cases filed by prosecutors if the general had been involved in the decision to file those cases.

In a statement last week, Colonel Davis said the issue posed a threat to the integrity of the war-crimes process. “For the greater good, Brigadier General Hartmann and I should both resign and walk away or higher authority should relieve us of our duties,” the statement said.

A military official said yesterday that Pentagon officials had sided with General Hartmann in the dispute.

Yesterday, Colonel Davis said he could not discuss the developments. “I’m under direct orders,” he said, “not to comment with the media about the reasons for my resignation or military commissions.”

Gregory S. McNeal, an assistant professor at the Dickinson School of Law at Pennsylvania State University, said the effort to begin war-crimes trials would probably continue. But Mr. McNeal, who has been a consultant to the military prosecutors, said the questions Colonel Davis raised would be exploited by defense lawyers.

“The last thing the prosecution needs is officials influencing the prosecutions,” he said.

Critics of the administration have argued that the effort to design a military commission system for foreign terror suspects is intended to circumvent the legal protections that detainees would receive if they were charged in civilian courts. Some of those critics said yesterday that the dispute underscored their concerns.

“This is further evidence that the military commission process is completely unraveling,” said J. Wells Dixon, a detainees’ lawyer at the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York.

“That is endemic,” Mr. Dixon added, “to any system that is made up as you go along.”

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

Bush's Personal Army

September 18, 2007 - 9:07am.

In April I wrote one of the most read Capitol Hill Blue columns, "Bush's Blackwater, an armed and deadly mercenary Christian army". Here's the staff report to the House Oversight Cttee., just released. I keep thinking I should take this column off the front page but as a story this is more like a wound that just won't stop bleeding...

Readers are still finding the column on search engines, so I'll keep it here awhile longer. Plus, I have a hunch folks at Blackwater may not like the exclusive C.H.B. high resolution aerial photo of their training site.

First the Iraqi government tried to ban Blackwater after they shot and killed between 11 and 20 innocents citizens. Then, after who knows what pressure from the U.S. the powers-that-pretend-to-be in Iraq's government winked and blinked and next thing we know Blackwater is back with their itchy trigger fingers. Next thing we read is that some Blackwater hired guns may have been selling weapons to terrorists. And then we hear that there's hard evidence coming to light about other killings of innocents. Read on here, and stay tuned to the news. Hopefuly the public will wake up with outrage to the role that Blackwater and other contractors play in Iraq.

Exclusive high resolution aerial picture my friend took of the N. Carolina training site. .

chb-blackwater-100.jpgWhen I wrote my original column in April like most of you I knew Blackwater was a military contractor with personnel in Iraq. I knew they also sent armed personnel to police the street of New Orleans after Katrina. But I did some research after a private pilot friend sent me a series of photographs he took flying over their 6,000 acre North Carolina training site ((See enlarged high resolution picture by clicking HERE), my friend took them not knowing whether there might be dire consequenses flying so close to their facility. "Accidents" happen.

The Geneva Conventions be damned

Once I did a little reading I was horrified at the secret virtually unregulated army Bush has at his beck and call.

This mercenary army is arguably composed of conscienceless assassins who are among the best of the best, or worst of the worst, depending on your point of view about being highly skilled at "stability solutions" utilizing assault rifles.

They pride themselves on "providing solutions that are practical, economical, timely and effective". One of their mottos. Amazingly, they sound like an IT consulting firm with body armor and AK-47s.

You bet they provide solutions, because when another motto is "when failure is not an option and hope is not enough" who is going to quible about killing a few innocent civilians?

When all the truth comes out about Blackwater's activities I think we'll find that what they got away with since they've been in Iraq makes Abu Ghraib's torture look like fraternity hazing.

Read the original column and comments here, and then click back to add new comments.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

Clinton Aide Also Works For Blackwater's PR Company

October 6, 2007 - 8:11am.

Top campaign advisor also helped mercenaries

Sen. Hillary Clinton likes her corporate cronies (AP Photo)

Senator Hillary Clinton’s top consultant in her campaign for President is also head of the giant public relations company that helped Blackwater USA CEO Erik Prince prepare his lies-filled testimony to Congress this week.

Mark Penn, in addition to advising Clinton in her bid to become President, is the President and CEO of Burson-Marsteller, the giant worldwide public relations firm that helps companies in trouble with the law. Burson-Marsteller worked for Prince in preparing rationalizations for the murder of 17 Iraqi civilians by Blackwater mercenaries in a massacre in Iraq.

Prince’s testimony before Congress this week has been largely discredited by reports prepared for both Congress and the Pentagon.

Clinton rival John Edwards calls Penn’s involvement with Blackwater just the kind of “cronyism” that has marked the scandal-plagued Presidency of George W. Bush.

"Bush has been a perfect example of cronyism because Blackwater has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republicans and to President Bush," Edwards says. "I also saw this morning that Sen. Clinton's primary adviser, Mark Penn, who is like her Karl Rove -- his firm is representing Blackwater."

Senator Clinton appears to be following in the footsteps of her husband, former President Bill Clinton, who often used advisors with strong ties to corporate interests while claiming independence from special interest groups.

Neither Clinton nor Penn would return phone calls seeking comment but Burson Marsteller spokesman Paul Cordasco issued a prepared statement admitting Burson "helped Blackwater prepare for their recent hearing before Congress” but added “With the hearing over, BKSH's temporary engagement has ended."

Congressional sources, however, say Burson has long worked for Blackwater and the company is still registered in Washington as a lobbyist for the firm.

Edwards says Clinton’s use of corporate flaks like Penn proves she is no different than Bush.

“We don't want to replace a group of corporate Republicans with a group of corporate Democrats. I think it is important for caucus-goers to see this choice," he says.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

Blackwater: Follow The Money

Blackwater's chairman and the GOP

You saw a lot of Erik Prince on TV the last couple of days, spending considerable time calmly fending off inquiries from agitated Democratic congressmen about his security company's suddenly controversial activities in Iraq. One explanation may be that Prince, the head of Blackwater, U.S.A., has a lengthy political pedigree as a Republican.

Members of the House Oversight Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills), accused Blackwater employees of being "cowboys" who acted recklessly during their contracted security duties for the State Department in Iraq. It also came out that Blackwater, which has lost some three dozen employees in Iraq hostilities, has a 100% success rate in protecting VIPs under its contract.

This may shock some, but it also turns out that the target of the committee's angry questions was a 38-year-old former Navy SEAL who has donated $230,000 to federal campaigns and causes in the last decade. Almost all of that money has gone to Republicans, according to a check of Federal Election Commission records by The Times' campaign finance expert, Dan Morain.

Prince's latest donation was in July, when he gave $20,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee. California recipients of Prince’s $1,000 checks include Reps. Jerry Lewis and Duncan Hunter, a current GOP presidential candidate, and former Rep. Richard Pombo.

The former serviceman has given almost all of his donations to Republicans. There was, however, an exception in 2006, when he donated $5,000 to the Green Party of Lucerne County, Pa.

That was a Republican ploy to ensure the Green Party's U.S. senate candidate got on the ballot in an effort to peel votes away from Democrat Bob Casey and help Republican Rick Santorum. The effort failed and Casey won.

So far, Prince has stayed out of presidential campaign donations. However, his family members have given to former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Prince’s lineage includes his late father, Edgar, who owned a large auto parts company in Michigan and was a major donor and advisor to Christian conservative Gary Bauer, a past GOP presidential candidate.

Prince’s mother, Elsa Prince, has donated $140,000 to federal Republican causes and candidates in the last decade. His sister, Betsy, is a former chair of the Michigan Republican Party who has given at least $61,000 to Republican campaigns on the federal level since 1997.

Betsy’s husband is Richard DeVos, who hails from the family that founded Amway. He ran unsuccessfully for Michigan governor in 2006. The Republican stalwart has given more than $2 million to federal causes and candidates in the last 10 years, FEC records show.

The Times Josh Meyer and Julian Barnes have the full story on the day's Blackwater developments in Congress here on this website and in Thursday's print editions.

--Andrew Malcolm

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

Do We Have Another Saddam In Iraq?

Ex-Investigator Details Iraqi Corruption

He Tells House Panel That Maliki's Government Thwarted Probes

By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 5, 2007; A16

The Iraqi government led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has thwarted investigations into corruption at the top levels of his administration, including probes of his relatives, while nearly four dozen anti-corruption employees or their family members have been brutally murdered, the former top Iraqi corruption investigator told a House panel yesterday.

Judge Radhi Hamza al-Radhi, the former commissioner of the Iraqi Commission on Public Integrity, has sought asylum in the United States, according to Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Radhi said his investigators had uncovered "rampant" corruption in Iraqi ministries that had cost the country as much as $18 billion, but only 241 cases, out of 3,000 forwarded to the courts, had been adjudicated.

"We have learned the hard way that the corrupt will stop at nothing," Radhi said. "They are so corrupt that they will attack their accusers and their families with guns and meat hooks, as well as countercharges of corruption." Radhi recounted how one staff member "was gunned down with his seven-month-pregnant wife," his security chief's father was found dead on a meat hook and how the body of the father of another staff member was riddled with holes from a power drill.

Radhi's grim account was buttressed by documents released by the committee showing how Maliki's office blocked investigations, by similar assessments from a new report by the Government Accountability Office, and by testimony from Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraqi reconstruction. Comptroller General David M. Walker said the GAO found that the Bush administration lacks direction and has no clearly defined strategy to improve the performance of Iraqi ministries.

But unsuccessful efforts by lawmakers to elicit at the hearing a response from the State Department on the extent of Iraqi corruption resulted in a series of increasingly testy exchanges. Waxman, angered because the State Department had retroactively classified internal memos that had begun to appear on the Internet, charged that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is facing a confrontation with Congress because "these efforts to silence debate are an absolute embarrassment."

Waxman asked Larry Butler, a deputy assistant secretary of state and the State Department witness: "Do you believe that the government of Iraq currently has the political will or the capability to root out corruption within its government?"

"Mr. Chairman, questions which go to the broad nature of our bilateral relationship with Iraq are best answered in a classified setting," Butler responded.

Waxman tried several more times, but Butler calmly insisted that such a discussion could take place only in a classified briefing.

Waxman asked: "Why can you talk about the positive things and not the negative things? Shouldn't we have the whole picture?"

"Mr. Chairman, I would be very pleased to answer those questions in an appropriate setting," Butler responded, eliciting laughter in the hearing room.

"An appropriate setting for positive things is a congressional hearing, but to say anything negative has to be behind closed doors?" Waxman asked.

"This goes to the very heart of diplomatic relations and national security," Butler said. "This is our ability to . . ." Waxman cut Butler off in mid-sentence. "It goes to the heart of propaganda," he said.

Waxman said that State's position was "absolutely absurd," but Republicans sprang to Butler's defense. "I'm not disappointed in your testimony," Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) said. "In my judgment, you're being asked to say that individuals in Iraq are corrupt and then we have to work with those individuals."

Radhi delivered his opening statement in English, then took questions through an interpreter. He said Maliki had refused to recognize the independence of the Commission on Public Integrity, set up in 2004, though that independence is enshrined in the Iraqi constitution. Giving one example, he said that a legal provision dating from 1971 had been invoked to prevent the transmission of cases to court "unless we received permission from the minister of the agency we were investigating."

As for corrupt ministers, cases could not proceed without permission from Maliki. In particular, Radhi pointed to an inability to investigate corruption involving oil, which he said "resulted in the Ministry of Oil effectively financing terrorism through these militias," which control the transport and distribution of oil.

Some Republican lawmakers tried to cast doubt on Radhi's credibility. Rep. Dan Burton (Ind.) accused Radhi of working for "the Saddam Hussein regime" from 1979 to 1992 as public prosecutor. "How did you get those jobs?" he asked.

Radhi, speaking through an interpreter, said that he received them through "my hard work, my studying and my work at the judicial institute," but that he was jailed and "they broke the bones of my head" because "under Saddam Hussein, I refused to do what he was asking."

Butler, the State Department official, lauded Radhi. "I can only offer tribute to the courage and the tenacity of the judge, and his departure from the scene is a blow," he said. "It may be a while before somebody with his capacity and willingness steps in to replace him."

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Hey, It Really Is Clnton's Fault

If there is a Democratic president and congress in 2009, they had better damn well clean this mess up for good. We've seen too much, know too much and we are sick and tired of it.

Editor’s Note: Given Hillary Clinton’s emergence as the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, a reader asked that we post the entire first chapter of Robert Parry’s 2004 book, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq.

The book opens with a scene early in the second year of Bill Clinton’s presidency with him explaining to White House guests why he didn’t pursue geopolitical scandals that had implicated George H.W. Bush in gross abuses of power and arguably criminal acts.

President Clinton made clear he saw historical truth as less important than his hopes for Republican cooperation on his domestic agenda. But this willingness to sweep major scandals under the rug left the White House back door ajar for a restoration of the Bush Family dynasty a half dozen years later – with disastrous consequences for the American Republic.

The relevance of this story today is that Bill Clinton’s misguided “pragmatism” seems to a characteristic of Hillary Clinton’s political persona, too, as she hedges her positions on the Iraq War and signals a willingness to support a dangerous confrontation with Iran.

The Secrecy & Privilege chapter was entitled, “The Wedding”:

Despite the formality of the surroundings, the event had a relaxed air. Earlier, President Bill Clinton had given a gracious toast in honor of the wedding couple – Tony Rodham and Nicole Boxer – and played the saxophone to entertain their families and friends.

The groom was Clinton’s brother-in-law; the bride was the daughter of his political ally, Senator Barbara Boxer of California. Many other guests had supported his campaign for the White House two years earlier.
Clinton, a tall man renowned for his personal magnetism and ability to focus on each individual he meets at least for a few fleeting seconds, was moving among the guests like a host at the latter stages of a house party. Unlike many of the guests sipping from crystal or drinking from coffee cups, Clinton carried in his large hands a mug with the presidential seal.

As he came upon one knot of guests, Clinton started talking like one might chat with neighbors about troubles at work. He complained about how rancorous Washington had become, how beleaguered he felt, how horribly the press was treating him.

“He was unburdening himself,” recalled Stuart Sender, a Los Angeles-based documentary filmmaker who was one of the guests.

Sixteen months into his Presidency, Clinton was learning about the hard-knuckled realities of the new Washington where campaigns never stop, where there is no respite for governance between elections.

Clinton was getting clobbered by the Republicans and by the news media over an old real-estate deal in Arkansas, known as Whitewater. The political heat had gotten so searing that Clinton had consented to the appointment of a special prosecutor.


There had been a firestorm, too, over allegations from Arkansas state troopers about Clinton’s philandering as governor. A woman named Paula Jones had emerged from that controversy with claims that Clinton had crudely propositioned her.

He also was taking flak over the firing of employees in the White House Travel Office, and there were bizarre suspicions circulating about the suicide of White House deputy counsel Vincent Foster, who had come with the Clintons from Arkansas.

Foster shot himself in the head after growing despondent over the harsh press criticism he had received for his role in the Travel Office affair, but some conservatives were spreading rumors of a deeper mystery.

Clinton felt besieged not only by aggressive Republicans but by the national press corps. Since the last Democratic President, Jimmy Carter, left office in 1981, a powerful conservative media had come into its own. Every day, radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh regaled his millions of listeners with three hours of ridicule directed at Clinton and his wife, Hillary.

Besides Limbaugh, there were scores of imitators and wannabes all over talk radio, such as Watergate convict G. Gordon Liddy and Iran-Contra figure, retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North.

Right-wing print outlets also were growing in number and in influence, the likes of the American Spectator and The Washington Times, not to mention The Wall Street Journal’s editorial pages and conservative columnists in newspapers across the country. Many of the commentators also appeared on TV political chat shows to reprise their opinions for millions of more Americans nationwide.

Anti-Clinton books and videos were selling fast, too. The annual Conservative Political Action Conference in February 1994 looked like a trade show for “I-hate-Clinton” paraphernalia.

Many mainstream journalists at outlets such as NBC News and The New York Times also joined in the Clinton bashing, seemingly eager to prove that they could be tougher on a Democrat than any Republican. They were determined to show they weren’t the “liberal media” that the conservatives had railed against since the U.S. defeat in Vietnam and the Watergate scandal that sank Richard Nixon’s presidency in 1974.

Indeed, it was The Washington Post, the newspaper credited with unraveling the Watergate mystery, which had led the charge on the Whitewater case with front-page stories that put Clinton in a public relations corner, forcing him to acquiesce to a special prosecutor.

Spring Day

So, on that warm spring day of May 28, 1994, Clinton hosted the Rodham-Boxer wedding – the first at the White House since Nixon hosted the nuptials of his daughter Tricia and Edward Cox in 1971.

The Boxer-Rodham wedding had started 90 minutes behind schedule because Clinton returned late from a golf game. The anxious bride and groom learned that nothing happens at the White House until the President is ready.

But the nervousness was put into historical perspective by Clinton’s toast. He recalled that the last time a wedding reception was planned for the East Room was 1814, when the event was interrupted by the British attack on Washington and the burning of the White House.

Almost 180 years later, the White House was under siege again – or so it felt to Clinton – only this time the guys with the torches were the Republicans and the target of their flames was the first Democratic President in 12 years.

As the spring sun was setting and the wedding event was winding down, Clinton’s mind was gearing back up. He was thinking about the nasty political battles all around him. Making the rounds at the party at his White House home, he was looking for a sympathetic hearing.

Stuart Sender and his wife Julie Bergman Sender were admiring the glorious scene in the ornate East Room. “All of a sudden we looked up and there was President Clinton,” Stuart Sender said.

The chitchat soon turned to Clinton’s complaints about his ill treatment at the hands of the news media.

“He started the conversation by saying how horrible the press is being to him,” said Julie Bergman Sender, a Hollywood producer, political activist and daughter of songwriters Alan and Marilyn Bergman. “I was looking around at the planters. I was thinking, ‘you’re not standing in your living room, really.’”

Questions for Clinton

Stuart Sender, who had worked as a journalist on the Reagan-Bush-era Iran-Contra and Iraqgate scandals, had a different reaction. He wondered why Clinton had never pursued those investigations of Republican wrongdoing when he became President in January 1993.

After all, Sender thought, those were real scandals, involving secret dealings with unsavory regimes. Top Republicans allegedly had helped arm Iraq’s Saddam Hussein as well as the radical Islamic mullahs of Iran, violations both of law and constitutional principles.

Those actions had then been surrounded by stout defenses by Republicans and their media allies. The protection had taken on the look of systematic cover-ups, sometimes even obstruction of justice, to spare the top echelons of the Reagan-Bush administrations from accountability. These weren’t like the trivial allegations besetting Clinton’s Presidency.

Indeed, as Clinton was heading into office at the start of 1993, four investigations were underway that implicated senior Republicans in potential criminal wrongdoing.

The Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages case was still alive, with special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh furious over new evidence that President George H.W. Bush may have obstructed justice by withholding his own notes from investigators and then ducking an interview that Walsh had put off until after the 1992 elections.

Bush also had sabotaged the investigation by pardoning six Iran-Contra defendants on Christmas Eve 1992, possibly the first presidential pardon ever issued to protect the same President from criminal liability. In granting the pardons, Bush had denigrated the Iran-Contra charges as the “criminalization of policy differences.”

In late 1992, Congress also was investigating Bush’s alleged role in secretly aiding Iraq’s Saddam Hussein during and after Hussein’s eight-year-long war with Iran.

Representative Henry Gonzalez, a Democrat from Texas who had served three decades in Congress, led the charge in exposing intricate financial schemes that the Reagan-Bush administrations had employed to assist Hussein.

There also were allegations of indirect U.S. military aid through third countries, claims that Bush and other Republican leaders emphatically denied.

Lesser known investigations were examining two other sets of alleged wrongdoing: the so-called October Surprise issue (allegations that Bush and other Republicans had interfered with Jimmy Carter’s hostage negotiations with Iran during the 1980 campaign) and the Passportgate affair (evidence that Bush operatives had improperly searched Clinton’s passport file in 1992, looking for dirt that could be used to discredit his patriotism and secure reelection for Bush).

All told, the four sets of allegations, if true, would paint an unflattering portrait of the 12-year Republican rule, with two illegal dirty tricks (October Surprise and Passportgate) book-ending ill-considered national security schemes in the Middle East (Iran-Contra and Iraqgate).

Had the full stories been told, the American people might have perceived the legacies of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush quite differently than they do today.

Dropped Investigations

But the Clinton administration and congressional Democrats dropped all four investigations beginning in early 1993, either through benign neglect – by failing to hold hearings and keeping the issues alive in the news media – or by actively closing the door on investigative leads.

Clinton’s disinterest in these scandals had mystified some activists in the Democratic base and some investigators who, like Stuart Sender, had watched as the rug was pulled from under these historic inquiries.

After the investigations died, some Democrats in Congress, who had participated in the aborted probes, came under nasty Republican attacks as did journalists who had pursued the stories.

Gonzalez had raised the ire of George H.W. Bush’s administration by revealing that Bush and other senior Republicans had followed an ill-fated covert policy of coddling Saddam Hussein, disclosures that had rained on Bush’s parade after the U.S. military victory over Iraq in the first Persian Gulf War in 1991.

Now, Gonzalez was left looking like a foolish old man, a kind of modern-day Don Quixote tilting at windmills.

The same could be said of Lawrence Walsh, a lifelong Republican who crossed his own party by challenging the cover stories that had shielded top Republicans caught up in the Iran-Contra Affair.

In pressing investigations into alleged obstructions of justice, Walsh had found his reputation under ad hominem attacks from The Washington Times and other parts of the conservative news media for petty matters such as ordering room-service meals and flying first-class.

Walsh was so stunned by the ferocity of the Republican defensive strategy that he entitled his memoirs Firewall in recognition of the impenetrable barrier that was built to keep the Iran-Contra scandal away from Reagan and Bush.

Walsh, too, was dismissed by many Washington insiders as a foolish old man, though the literary metaphor for Walsh was Moby Dick’s Captain Ahab, obsessively pursuing the white whale.

But letting the outgoing Reagan-Bush team off the hook hadn’t earned the Democrats any measure of bipartisan reciprocity.

In spring 1994, in the weeks before the Rodham-Boxer wedding, Clinton had begun to sense the rising tide of political danger that the non-stop attacks against him represented.

By damaging Clinton’s public image, the Republicans were also undercutting his legislative plans on economic, budget and health-care policies. He was looking for allies and some sympathy.

Clinton’s Thinking

As waiters poured coffee at the wedding reception and Clinton voiced his complaints about the media hostility, Stuart Sender saw his chance to ask Clinton why he hadn’t pursued leads about the Reagan-Bush secret initiatives in the Middle East.

“I had this moment to say to him, ‘What are you going to do about this? Why aren’t you going after them about Iran-Contra and Iraqgate?’” Sender said. “If the shoe were on the other foot, they’d sure be going after our side. … Why don’t you go back after them, their high crimes and misdemeanors?”

But Clinton brushed aside the suggestion.

“It was very clear that that wasn’t what he had in mind at all,” Sender said. “He said he felt that Judge Walsh had been too strident and had probably been a bit too extreme in how he had pursued Iran-Contra. Clinton didn’t feel that it was a good idea to pursue these investigations because he was going to have to work with these people.

“To me what was amazingly telling was his dig at Walsh, this patrician Republican jurist who had been put in charge of this but even the Democratic President had decided that this was somewhere that he couldn’t go. He was going to try to work with these guys, compromise, build working relationships.”

Sender, like others who had been in the trenches of the national security scandals of the 1980s, thought the retreat on the investigations by Clinton and the Democrats after they won the 1992 elections was wrong for a host of reasons.

Most importantly, it allowed an incomplete, even false history to be written about the Reagan-Bush era, glossing over many of the worst mistakes.

The bogus history denied the American people the knowledge needed to assess how relationships had evolved between the United States and Middle East leaders, including Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, the Saudi royal family and the Iranian mullahs. The corruption was left to fester.

Though the Middle East crises had receded by the time Clinton took office in 1993, the troubles had not gone away and were sure to worsen again. When that time came, the American people would have only a sanitized version of how the country got where it was.

Even government officials responsible for the policies would have only a partial history of how these entangling alliances crisscrossed through the deals and betrayals of the prior two decades.

Dynastic Revival

The Democratic retreat from the investigative battles in 1993 would have another profound effect on the future of American politics. By letting George H.W. Bush leave the White House with his reputation intact – and even helping Bush fend off accusations of serious wrongdoing – the Democrats unwittingly cleared the way for a restoration of the Bush political dynasty eight years later.

If investigators had dug out the full truth about alleged secret operations involving George H.W. Bush, the family’s reputation would have been badly tarnished, if not destroyed.

Since that reputation served as the foundation for George W. Bush’s political career, it’s unlikely that he ever would have gained the momentum to propel him to the Republican presidential nomination, let alone to the White House.

The political future of the Bush family was at a crossroads as Bill Clinton was taking office in January 1993. The Bushes’ fate also was largely in the hands of Democrats who controlled both houses of Congress, the White House and the Justice Department.

Beyond that, the Democrats had a potential Republican ally in Iran-Contra special prosecutor Walsh.

A different set of decisions by the Democrats in those months could have set the nation on a very different course. The Democratic control of the Executive Branch might not have ended after eight years. Conceivably, the calamities of the last four years, including a renewed war in Iraq, might have been averted.

But, in 1993, Clinton and the Democratic congressional leadership concluded that pursuit of these “old” scandals would only embitter the Republicans, make the Democratic Party look vindictive and endanger the bipartisanship that Clinton saw as essential for his domestic policy agenda.

The scandals also were complicated affairs, requiring detailed understanding of the underlying facts. Much of what happened had occurred in secret and involved foreign witnesses spread over several continents. The events covered more than a decade in time.

Washington Outsider

An outsider to Washington, Clinton also didn’t comprehend how the nation’s capital had changed, how nasty the partisan conflict had become, and how effectively the Republicans were building a media machine that could churn out a coordinated message day-in, day-out, 365 days a year.

Besides serving Republican political interests, this machine had taken on a life of its own. With 24-hour news cycles and endless hours to fill on talk radio shows, it needed controversy to survive.

When no longer playing defense for the Republicans, the conservative media machine was freed up to go on the offensive. Clinton and his wife would become its primary targets.

Rather than his hoped-for bipartisan cooperation on domestic issues, Clinton soon encountered a solid wall of Republican opposition. In a break with tradition, every Republican in the House and Senate voted against Clinton’s budget plan, which included tax increases aimed mostly at the wealthy.

Backed with only Democratic votes, Clinton managed to push through his plan by the narrowest of margins. Some Democrats sacrificed their political careers in the House by supporting the tax provisions and Vice President Al Gore was needed to break a tie vote in the Senate.

By spring 1994, Clinton’s health care plan also was under fierce Republican attack.

“He really did have this idea that he’d be able to work with these guys,” Sender recalled about his White House encounter with Clinton. “It seemed even at the time terribly naïve that these same Republicans were going to work with him if he backed off on congressional hearings or possible independent prosecutor investigations.

“How ironic that he decides he’s not going to pursue this when later on they impeach him for the Monica Lewinsky scandal.”

Attack Machine

Though the Bush family wasn’t intimately associated with the building of the Republican attack machine that so bedeviled Clinton in the 1990s, the rise of the Bush Dynasty paralleled the growth of what some observers have called the conservative Counter-Establishment.

Pieces of this Counter-Establishment date back to the 1950s and 1960s, but it gained powerful motivation from the political disasters of the 1970s.

By the middle of that decade, embattled conservatives were cursing the fates that had plagued them through the Watergate scandal, the U.S. defeat in Vietnam and the exposure of intelligence abuses inside the CIA.

Those reversals, particularly the forced resignation of Richard Nixon over Watergate, had devastated the Republican Party. By 1977, Republicans were shut out of the White House and both houses of Congress.

Conservatives also viewed the federal courts and the national news media as bastions of liberalism that had aided and abetted the Republican reversals of the mid-1970s.

Watergate also was where George H.W. Bush entered this picture, as Republican National Committee chairman during the latter half of the scandal.

A clean-cut former Texas congressman with ties both to Texas oil money and Wall Street financiers, Bush was given the task of containing the spreading political cancer of Watergate after the initial cover-up of the White House role in the break-in had bought Nixon enough time to secure his reelection in 1972.

In his RNC post, Bush tested out some of the tactics that would recur throughout his career.

He used counter-disclosures to throw Democratic investigators on the defensive. He pushed Nixon’s argument that there was nothing new about the covert political espionage at the heart of the Watergate scandal. Bush also tried to cajole members of the Washington Establishment into agreeing that the disorder from Nixon’s impeachment would hurt the nation.

But eventually the evidence of Nixon’s guilt grew too overwhelming even for the cleverest of tricks to overcome. Bush was one of Nixon’s last loyalists to conclude that the President had no choice but to resign and hand over the White House to Vice President Gerald Ford on August 9, 1974.

CIA Scandals

A little more than a year later, as another flood of scandals lapped around the foundations of the Central Intelligence Agency, Bush got the call again to perform damage control.

This time, to keep the dikes around the CIA’s most sensitive secrets from giving way, Bush alternately cooperated with Congress in limited oversight and attacked the spy agency’s critics for jeopardizing the nation’s security.

When new scandals emerged on his watch, such as the Chilean junta’s assassination of political opponent Orlando Letelier on the streets of Washington in September 1976, Bush again demonstrated his skills, stonewalling investigators and diverting the worst of the damage away from the CIA.

His performance during the year made Bush something of a hero to the beleaguered intelligence officers at Langley, Virginia.

With the election of Democrat Jimmy Carter in 1976, conservatives surveyed a bleak landscape left by the rubble of the Nixon resignation and the Vietnam defeat. Some felt desperation that – like a hangman’s noose – concentrated their minds. Others saw opportunities.

Whatever the motivations, the next four years marked the start of a historic comeback for American conservatism, both in the construction of a new political infrastructure and the emergence of a fighting style that would transform the tone of the nation’s political discourse.

Led by former Treasury Secretary William Simon, conservative foundations banded together to direct tens of millions of dollars into strategic investments in a network of think tanks, media outlets and pressure groups that went after perceived enemies in the news media, academia and politics.

Though this network would eventually become famous for taking the fight to its adversaries, particularly Bill and Hillary Clinton, its original purpose was essentially defensive. It was built to ensure that the Republican Party would never suffer another catastrophe like Watergate.

By 1980, the Republicans were fighting fiercely to regain the White House that many conservatives felt was unjustly taken from them in 1976.

President Carter struggled with a slumping economy, rising inflation and energy shortages. His reelection campaign also played out against the backdrop of an international crisis with Islamic fundamentalists in Iran holding 52 Americans hostage.

This early experience with Islamic extremism captivated the interest of the American people – and incited their anger.

Every day, CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite reported the number of days that America had been “held hostage.” ABC’s Ted Koppel launched a nightly news show about the hostage crisis that would later turn into Nightline.

Many world leaders, including Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and the Saudi royal family, felt that Carter was making a mess of policy in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Angry Agency

Carter was unpopular at the CIA, too, where his CIA Director Stansfield Turner had cashiered scores of covert operatives. Longtime CIA officers, such as associate deputy director for operations Ted Shackley, saw their careers abruptly come to an end.

Shackley and other former CIA officers saw a hope for redemption in Election 1980 as their ex-boss, George H.W. Bush, sought the Republican presidential nomination.

Though Bush lost to Ronald Reagan in the Republican primaries, Bush accepted the second spot on the ticket at the GOP convention in Detroit. In merging the two campaigns, Bush brought into the Reagan-Bush team many retired CIA officers who had been part of Bush’s political operation.

They began putting to use their intelligence skills against Carter. Former CIA officers took on the job of monitoring Carter’s attempts to gain the release of the hostages before Election Day. Some of their intelligence reports went through Bush.

In the months before the 1980 election, Carter failed to gain the hostages’ freedom. The public’s frustration over the humiliating standoff helped turn a close race in October into a Reagan landslide in November.

The hostages were finally released just as Reagan was sworn in as the nation’s 40th President on January 20, 1981. Bush became Vice President and served as the administration’s chief national security expert.

Over the next decade, a mixed bag of intelligence operatives, arms dealers and Iranian officials began to allege that the Republicans had gone beyond monitoring Carter’s hostage negotiations and had engaged in parallel negotiations behind Carter’s back.

Some witnesses claimed that Bush had personally participated in these so-called “October Surprise” contacts. Those clandestine Republican-Iranian relationships allegedly merged by the mid-1980s with the secret Iran-Contra deals.

When those Iran-Contra arms-for-hostage swaps surfaced in late 1986, the Reagan-Bush team suffered its worst scandal of its 12-year reign. Some investigators viewed Bush as the well-protected eminence grise behind the secret operations.

Saddam Suspicions

New suspicions about Bush arose in 1991 as other allegations bubbled to the surface about secret dealings with Iraq’s Saddam Hussein during the 1980s. Faced with these investigative threats to continued Republican rule, conservatives mounted powerful rearguard defenses, made possible by the new infrastructure that had been built in the years since Watergate.

Soon, it was the investigators who found themselves on the defensive, often labeled “conspiracy theorists” or worse.

The other Bush-related scandal pending at the start of the Clinton Presidency came directly from Campaign 1992. It had the look of a classic dirty trick out of Richard Nixon’s playbook.

Desperate for a “silver bullet” to kill Clinton’s electoral viability, State Department political appointees pawed through the passport files of Clinton and his mother, looking for information that could be used to challenge Clinton’s patriotism.

The goal of the search was a rumored letter in which Clinton supposedly sought to renounce his citizenship during the Vietnam War.

The search failed to find such a letter but administration officials noticed a torn corner of Clinton’s passport application and cited that to fashion a criminal referral to the FBI, suggesting that someone may have tampered with the file to remove the supposed letter.

The existence of the criminal referral was then leaked to the press allowing President Bush to question Clinton’s loyalty. However, when the weakness of Bush’s case was revealed, the passport search boomeranged on Bush, creating political embarrassment and leading to appointment of a special prosecutor.

Failed Strategy

If President Clinton’s motive for turning his back on those four investigations – October Surprise, Iran-Contra, Iraqgate and Passportgate – was to curry favor with the Republicans, it didn’t work.

Senator Bob Dole and other Republicans even cited a lack of incriminating findings against Reagan and Bush as justification for aggressively investigating the Clinton administration.

The reasoning went that since the Democrats had investigated “bogus” scandals and found no wrongdoing, Republican probes of seemingly minor infractions by the Clinton administration were only a fair turnabout.

The conservative news media, which had lambasted investigations of the Republicans as excessive, also flipped sides, arguing that it was the duty of journalists to explore every suspicion raised about the Clintons.

Those investigations of Clinton would consume the next eight years, although ultimately the Whitewater probe would be closed with no charges against either Bill or Hillary Clinton.

The suspicions about Vincent Foster’s death also would come to nothing. But the confluence of Clinton scandals eventually led to Clinton’s deceptive testimony in a civil lawsuit that delved into his dalliance with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

The House Republican leadership then pushed through an impeachment resolution against Clinton in December 1998, making him the first U.S. President to be impeached since Andrew Johnson after the Civil War. Like Johnson, Clinton prevailed in a trial before the U.S. Senate. But the impeachment will forever stain his legacy.

The so-called “Clinton fatigue” that the nation felt from the eight years of “scandal” also would take a toll on the candidacy of Vice President Al Gore, who stood behind Clinton during the impeachment but tried to distance himself from the tainted President during Campaign 2000.

Dynastic Comeback

The Clinton “scandals” – and the damage they inflicted on the Democratic Party – set the stage for the most remarkable dynastic comeback in American history, the ascension of George W. Bush, the eldest son of the 41st President.

During his early adulthood, the younger George Bush epitomized the wastrel son of a successful father. Given every opportunity at elite schools and spared a tour in Vietnam by latching onto a prized spot in the Texas Air National Guard, Bush was better known for his partying than for any accomplishments.

He drank heavily though he denied he was an alcoholic. In business, as an oil man, Bush squandered the financial backing of his patrons but always failed up, with new investors – including some from Saudi Arabia – arriving to bail him out of one foundering business after another.

Bush also dabbled in politics, losing a congressional race and working on some of his father’s campaigns.

When Bush did set his sights on his own political career after his father’s 1992 defeat, the younger Bush’s principal qualification for office – one might say his only qualification – was his family pedigree.

When people had doubts about the younger George Bush, they would comfort themselves with the knowledge that his father was a decent man who could give his son guidance as needed.

George W. Bush’s rise also tracked with the arc of the Clinton “scandals.”

By November 1994, after months of sordid allegations about Clinton’s personal life, there was already a public longing for the good old days of the first Bush administration, a kind of buyer’s regret for making the switch to the Democrat.

That attitude helped Republicans across the country score major victories in the mid-term elections. Bush won the Texas governorship in a surprise landslide over the popular Democratic Governor Ann Richards. National Republicans also gained control of the House and Senate.

In 1998, Governor Bush won a resounding reelection amid the congressional Republican drive to impeach Clinton. Bush soon was aiming at the Presidency with a promise that he would restore “honor and dignity” to the White House.

Everyone understood that the pledge was a coded reference to Clinton’s sexual shenanigans with Monica Lewinsky.

Goring Gore

In Campaign 2000, the increasingly powerful conservative news media – now bolstered by Rupert Murdoch’s highly rated Fox News cable network – would again play a decisive role, often aided and abetted by mainstream journalists who intuitively understood that their careers could be helped by slapping around Democrats.

The news media’s hostility toward Vice President Al Gore also may have reflected a residual frustration over Clinton somehow surviving all the scandal reporting of the prior eight years.

The press corps’ tilt toward Bush continued through the disputed Florida election even though Gore built a lead in the national popular vote of more than 500,000.

Little media outrage was expressed when national Republicans dispatched to Florida demonstrators who staged a minor riot in Miami that apparently intimidated voting officials into scrapping their recount plans.

Led by Bush family lawyer James Baker III, the Bush-Cheney campaign also took its hardball strategies into the federal courts to stop Florida state courts from ordering a recount to determine who actually got the most legally cast ballots.

Five conservative Republicans on the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to stop the vote counting, effectively handing Florida’s 25 electoral votes and the Presidency to George W. Bush.

Upon taking office, one of Bush’s first acts was to clamp down on release of historic records from the 12 years when his father was Vice President and then President.

Lack of Competence

The second Bush administration didn’t work out with the smoothness and competence that many Washington commentators had expected.

On Sept. 11, 2001, just short of nine months into the second Bush Presidency, 19 terrorists working with Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda organization hijacked four commercial jets.

The terrorists then crashed two jetliners into the World Trade Center towers, one into the Pentagon and one into a field in Pennsylvania, after passengers apparently battled the hijackers for control.

The attacks, which killed about 3,000 people, again turned the nation’s attention to the Middle East, but Americans had only a limited understanding of the cross-currents of secret history that connected the new President’s family to the region’s dangerous intrigue.

Few citizens had more than an inkling about the Bush family ties to Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia – even to Osama bin Laden’s family.

By 2001, many chapters of that history had been lost in a haze of conflicting claims, withheld documents and failed investigations.

Out of that confusion, it wasn’t hard for George W. Bush and his administration to persuade large numbers of Americans to merge the images of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden into a composite enemy, even though the two men were themselves bitter adversaries in the Arab world.

After attacking al-Qaeda base of operation in Afghanistan, the Bush administration turned its attention to Saddam Hussein and Iraq with Bush ordering a U.S.-led invasion on March 19, 2003.

Lingering Questions

Today, as U.S. and Iraqi casualties from the Iraq War continue to mount, the historical questions still hang in the air:

Did the Reagan-Bush administration help Hussein get the chemical weapons that George W. Bush would later cite to justify an invasion?

Were secret Republican-Iranian negotiations in 1980 the start of entangling relationships that drew the United States deeper into the Middle East violence?

Did the subterranean financial tunnels connecting the Bush family and the Saudi royal family contribute to al-Qaeda’s determination to strike at the United States in 2001?

Would American history have taken a very different course if the investigations of the Reagan-Bush era had gone forward and the archives of secret documents been thrown open?

Did the pattern of suppressing fair-minded inquiry in the 1980s and 1990s contribute to the shallowness of the Iraq War debate in 2002 and 2003?

In a May 23, 2004, article, Washington Post associate editor Robert Kaiser observed that the catastrophic developments in the Iraq War, including the international opprobrium from photographs of U.S. soldiers humiliating Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, had finally brought unease to the Washington Establishment.

“We have come to a delicate moment in an absorbing drama,” Kaiser wrote. “The actors seem unsure of their roles. The audience is becoming restless with the confusion on stage. But the scriptwriters keep trying to convince the crowd that the ending they imagined can still, somehow, come to pass.

“The authors stick to their plotline even as its plausibility melts away, and why not? For months the audience kept applauding, many of the reviewers were admiring, while many others kept still.”

A goal of this book is to explain why so many of Kaiser’s reviewers swooned over the second Bush administration’s policies for so long while so many other Americans who should have joined a critical debate about war and peace stayed silent.

Those reasons can only be understood if viewed in the sweep of events over the past three decades and by examining the secret history of the Bush family dynasty.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there. Or go to

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The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.