Saturday, January 27, 2007

Dale Noyd, Vietnam Objector, Dies at 73


Dale E. Noyd, who as a decorated Air Force captain and fighter pilot attracted worldwide attention in the 1960s as a conscientious objector who objected to only one war, the one in Vietnam, died Jan. 11 in Seattle. He was 73.

The cause was complications of emphysema, his son, Erik, said.

Captain Noyd seemed the model serviceman. He was the only member of the 1955 Reserve Officers Training Corps class at Washington State University to be offered a regular, not a reserve, commission. He received a medal for successfully landing a badly damaged nuclear-armed F-100 fighter at an English airfield. He taught at the Air Force Academy.

But after 11 years in the Air Force, he became deeply disturbed by the Vietnam War, which he regarded as immoral and illegal. In 1966, he wrote an eight-page single-spaced letter to the Air Force asking that he either be allowed to resign his commission or be classified a conscientious objector. Denied on both counts, Captain Noyd took his case to federal court in Denver in March 1967, saying he was motivated by humanist beliefs. The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented him, said it was the first lawsuit claiming conscientious objector status based on opposition to a specific war. In December 1967, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, saying it belonged in military jurisdiction.

At roughly the same time, the Air Force ordered Captain Noyd to train a pilot who was likely to be assigned to Vietnam. Captain Noyd refused and was court-martialed for disobeying orders.

His military trial, before a panel of 10 officers, was significant in part for what it did not address: the captain’s assertions that the war was immoral and illegal as well as the basis of his professed humanism. The central issue of whether his objecting to a particular war, rather than all wars, was valid was also ruled out as a matter for the court.

The panel did allow discussion of how Captain Noyd’s humanist beliefs affected his character. In the sentencing phase of the trial, a theologian told the judges, all Vietnam veterans, that risking one’s life for a core belief, as the officers had all done in battle, constituted a religious act. That was persuasive. The prosecutor summarized this view as “two religions butting heads against each other.” As a result, Captain Noyd was sentenced March 9, 1968, to a year in prison instead of the five years he could have received. He was given a dishonorable discharge and stripped of his pension and benefits.

Dale Edwin Noyd was born in Wenatchee, Wash., on May 1, 1933. His superior R.O.T.C. record gave him the privilege of choosing his first base, at Woodbridge, England.

In the resignation letter preceding his suit, he wrote, “My three-year assignment in an operational fighter squadron — with the attendant capacity for inflicting terrible killing and destruction — was based on the personal premise that I was serving a useful deterrent purpose and that I would never be used as an instrument of aggression.”

What changed Captain Noyd’s world view were three years he spent at the University of Michigan doing graduate work in psychology. The Air Force paid his tuition in return for six more years of service.

Charlotte Doyle, a fellow graduate student who is now a psychology professor at Sarah Lawrence, said in an interview that Captain Noyd arrived in class in a crisp blue uniform and rose whenever a woman entered the room. Quickly, though, he was swept up in intellectual conversations with other students.

“His whole intellectual framework changed,” Ms. Doyle said in an interview.

The Air Force sent him to teach psychology at the Air Force Academy. He assigned readings of French existentialists and tried to encourage a liberal arts atmosphere.

Captain Noyd served his sentence at Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis, N.M., and was released in December 1968. A month later, the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of his case but noted that under a recently passed law, Captain Noyd should not have been imprisoned during his appeal.

Mr. Noyd was twice divorced. In addition to his son, of Kirkland, Wash., he is survived by his daughter, Heather Taylor, of Vancouver, Wash.; his brother, Gus, of Wenatchee; and five grandchildren.

He went on to teach at Earlham College in Indiana for two decades, then built a boat and sailed it to Tahiti. He lived in Hawaii before coming home to Washington State when his health began to fail.

Mr. Noyd kept two certificates on the wall of his study, his son said. One was his commendation for heroism, the other his dishonorable discharge.

Hillary Clinton’s Mission Unaccomplished

The New York Times
January 28, 2007

HILLARY CLINTON has an answer to those who suspect that her “I’m in to win” Webcast last weekend was forced by Barack Obama’s Webcast of just four days earlier. “I wanted to do it before the president’s State of the Union,” she explained to Brian Williams on NBC, “because I wanted to draw the contrast between what we’ve seen over the last six years, and the kind of leadership and experience that I would bring to the office.”

She couldn’t have set the bar any lower. President Bush’s speech was less compelling than the Monty Python sketch playing out behind it: the unacknowledged race between Nancy Pelosi and Dick Cheney to be the first to stand up for each bipartisan ovation. (Winner: Pelosi.)

As we’ve been much reminded, the most recent presidents to face Congress in such low estate were Harry Truman in 1952 and Richard Nixon in 1974, both in the last ebbs of their administrations, both mired in unpopular wars that their successors would soon end, and both eager to change the subject just as Mr. Bush did. In his ’52 State of the Union address, Truman vowed “to bring the cost of modern medical care within the reach of all the people” while Nixon, 22 years later, promised “a new system that makes high-quality health care available to every American.” Not to be outdone, Mr. Bush offered a dead-on-arrival proposal that “all our citizens have affordable and available health care.” The empty promise of a free intravenous lunch, it seems, is the last refuge of desperate war presidents.

Few Americans know more than Senator Clinton about health care, as it happens, and if 27 Americans hadn’t been killed in Iraq last weekend, voters might be in the mood to listen to her about it. But polls continue to show Iraq dwarfing every other issue as the nation’s No. 1 concern. The Democrats’ pre-eminent presidential candidate can’t escape the war any more than the president can. And so she was blindsided Tuesday night, just as Mr. Bush was, by an unexpected gate crasher, the rookie senator from Virginia, Jim Webb. Though he’s not a candidate for national office, Mr. Webb’s nine-minute Democratic response not only upstaged the president but also, in an unintended political drive-by shooting, gave Mrs. Clinton a more pointed State of the Union “contrast” than she had bargained for.

To the political consultants favored by both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Bush, Mr. Webb is an amateur. More than a few Washington insiders initially wrote him off in last year’s race to unseat a star presidential prospect, the incumbent Senator George Allen. Mr. Webb is standoffish. He doesn’t care whom he offends, including in his own base. He gives the impression — as he did Tuesday night — that he just might punch out his opponent. When he had his famously testy exchange with Mr. Bush over the war at a White House reception after his victory, Beltway pooh-bahs labeled him a boor, much as they had that other interloper who refused to censor himself before the president last year, Stephen Colbert.

But this country is at a grave crossroads. It craves leadership. When Mr. Webb spoke on Tuesday, he stepped into that vacuum and, for a few minutes anyway, filled it. It’s not merely his military credentials as a Vietnam veteran and a former Navy secretary for Ronald Reagan that gave him authority, or the fact that his son, also a marine, is serving in Iraq. It was the simplicity and honesty of Mr. Webb’s message. Like Senator Obama, he was a talented professional writer before entering politics, so he could discard whatever risk-averse speech his party handed him and write his own. His exquisitely calibrated threat of Democratic pushback should Mr. Bush fail to change course on the war — “If he does not, we will be showing him the way” — continued to charge the air even as Mrs. Clinton made the post-speech rounds on the networks.

Mrs. Clinton cannot rewrite her own history on Iraq to match Mr. Obama’s early opposition to the war, or Mr. Webb’s. She was not prescient enough to see, as Mr. Webb wrote in The Washington Post back in September 2002, that “unilateral wars designed to bring about regime change and a long-term occupation should be undertaken only when a nation’s existence is clearly at stake.” But she’s hardly alone in this failing, and the point now is not that she mimic John Edwards with a prostrate apology for her vote to authorize the war. (“You don’t get do-overs in life or in politics,” she has said.) What matters to the country is what happens next. What matters is the leadership that will take us out of the fiasco.

Mr. Webb made his own proposals for ending the war, some of them anticipating those of the Iraq Study Group, while running against a popular incumbent in a reddish state. Mrs. Clinton, running for re-election in a safe seat in blue New York, settled for ratcheting up her old complaints about the war’s execution and for endorsing other senators’ calls for vaguely defined “phased redeployments.” Even now, after the Nov. 7 results confirmed that two-thirds of voters nationwide want out, she struggles to parse formulations about Iraq.

This is how she explains her vote to authorize the war: “I would never have expected any president, if we knew then what we know now, to come to ask for a vote. There would not have been a vote, and I certainly would not have voted for it.” John Kerry could not have said it worse himself. No wonder last weekend’s “Saturday Night Live” gave us a “Hillary” who said, “Knowing what we know now, that you could vote against the war and still be elected president, I would never have pretended to support it.”

Compounding this problem for Mrs. Clinton is that the theatrics of her fledgling campaign are already echoing the content: they are so overscripted and focus-group bland that they underline rather than combat the perennial criticism that she is a cautious triangulator too willing to trim convictions for political gain. Last week she conducted three online Web chats that she billed as opportunities for voters to see her “in an unfiltered way.” Surely she was kidding. Everything was filtered, from the phony living-room set to the appearance of a “campaign blogger” who wasn’t blogging to the softball questions and canned responses. Even the rare query touching on a nominally controversial topic, gay civil rights, avoided any mention of the word marriage, let alone Bill Clinton’s enactment of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

When a 14-year-old boy from Armonk, N.Y., asked Mrs. Clinton what made her “so inspirational,” it was a telltale flashback to those well-rehearsed “town-hall meetings” Mr. Bush billed as unfiltered exchanges with voters during the 2004 campaign. One of those “Ask President Bush” sessions yielded the memorable question, “Mr. President, as a child, how can I help you get votes?”

After six years of “Ask President Bush,” “Mission Accomplished” and stage sets plastered with “Plan for Victory,” Americans hunger for a presidency with some authenticity. Patently synthetic play-acting and carefully manicured sound bites like Mrs. Clinton’s look out of touch. (Mr. Obama’s bare-bones Webcast and Web site shrewdly play Google to Mrs. Clinton’s AOL.) Besides, the belief that an image can be tightly controlled in the viral media era is pure fantasy. Just ask the former Virginia senator, Mr. Allen, whose past prowess as a disciplined, image-conscious politician proved worthless once the Webb campaign posted on YouTube a grainy but authentic video capturing him in an embarrassing off-script public moment.

The image that Mrs. Clinton wants to sell is summed up by her frequent invocation of the word middle, as in “I grew up in a middle-class family in the middle of America.” She’s not left or right, you see, but exactly in the center where everyone feels safe. But as the fierce war critic Chuck Hagel, the Republican senator from Nebraska, argues in a must-read interview at, the war is “starting to redefine the political landscape” and scramble the old party labels. Like Mrs. Clinton, the middle-American Mr. Hagel voted to authorize the Iraq war, but that has not impeded his leadership in questioning it ever since.

The issue raised by the tragedy of Iraq is not who’s on the left or the right, but who is in front and who is behind. Mrs. Clinton has always been a follower of public opinion on the war, not a leader. Now events are outrunning her. Support for the war both in the polls and among Republicans in Congress is plummeting faster than she can recalibrate her rhetoric; unreliable Iraqi troops are already proving no-shows in the new Iraqi-American “joint patrols” of Baghdad; the Congressional showdown over fresh appropriations for Iraq is just weeks away.

This, in other words, is a moment of crisis in our history and there will be no do-overs. Should Mrs. Clinton actually seek unfiltered exposure to voters, she will learn that they are anxiously waiting to see just who in Washington is brave enough to act.

A Choice for Darfur

The New York Times
January 28, 2007

DAVOS, Switzerland

Over the next two days, African leaders will convene in Ethiopia and choose a new head of the African Union. Incredibly, that job may go to Sudan’s blood-drenched president, Omar al-Bashir, architect of the genocide in Darfur.

The outcome is still uncertain, with Sudan campaigning furiously for the job, but it’s mind-boggling that African countries would even consider selecting as their leader a man who has systematically dispatched militias that pick out babies on the basis of tribe and skin color and throw them into bonfires.

At a time when Africa is enjoying solid economic growth and improved leadership, this self-inflicted wound would sully Africa’s image and make it far more difficult for African Union peacekeepers to save lives in Darfur.

Mr. Bashir hasn’t confined himself to killing his own people, but has also sent his janjaweed militias to invade Chad and the Central African Republic. The janjaweed have beaten mothers with their own babies, until the infants are dead, and lately they have diversified into gouging out people’s eyes with bayonets. For anyone who wants the best for Africa, it is repulsive to think of President Bashir as the duly elected spokesman for the continent.

One reason Mr. Bashir has continued to engage in such behavior is that the world doesn’t seriously object. Almost all North African countries are backing his bid to chair the African Union. China, which supplies nearly all the AK-47s that are used to kill children in Darfur, has underwritten the genocide. Lately, it has encouraged Sudan to be more responsible, but President Hu Jintao is visiting Sudan shortly — let’s see whether he publicly expresses concern about Chinese-supported atrocities in Africa that far exceed the Rape of Nanjing.

Sudan promised a cease-fire, but instead it has been attacking aid workers. As Newsweek reported, at least four female aid workers have been beaten and sexually abused recently — raped in the case of two French women.

In addition, an aid worker in Sudan tells me that on Jan. 22 the police raided a party in the city of Nyala and arrested 22 employees of aid groups. Several were beaten and one woman was sexually abused but managed to fend off an attempted rape.

Broader security is also collapsing. On a road near Bulbul that used to be safe, gunmen stopped a public bus in the middle of the day and brutally beat the men and gang-raped the women for hours. In the face of all this, aid workers are jittery and some are pulling out.

Yet Europe is oblivious (the Davos conference here has great sessions on Africa but nothing on Darfur). President Bush has been better than most world leaders, but still pathetic: he mustered half a sentence in his State of the Union address. Perhaps this is because Mr. Bush regards the situation as tragic but hopeless, but in fact there is plenty he could do.

He could speak out forcefully about Darfur. He could bring victims to the White House for a photo op. He could help the U.N. send a force to protect Chad and the Central African Republic — while continuing to push for U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur itself. He could visit Darfur or Chad and invite European or Chinese officials to join him. He could invite African leaders to Washington for a summit meeting that would include discussion of Darfur. He could impose a no-fly zone. He could develop targeted sanctions against Sudanese leaders. He could begin forensic accounting to find assets of those leaders in Western countries. He could call on NATO and the Pentagon to prepare contingency plans in case the janjaweed start massacring the hundreds of thousands of Darfuris in camps.

And this weekend he could telephone a few African presidents to tell them what a catastrophe it would be if Africa chose Mr. Bashir as its leader.

Serious negotiations between the government and Darfur’s rebels are crucial for a lasting peace deal in Darfur, and new discussions are expected soon (that may be why President Hu dares visit Khartoum). But Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, a Sudanese human rights leader, says the new talks will fail unless the Darfur rebels have a chance to consult first. And when they try to meet, the Sudanese government bombs them.

There are countless other practical ideas for Darfur, and I’d like to hear yours. Send your suggestions to me at I’ll post some on my blog at and discuss them in a future column.

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Parting Ways in Iraq

The New York Times
January 28, 2007

During the summer of 1995, Edward Joseph was serving as a U.N. peacekeeper in Bosnia. He was asked to help Muslim women and children flee from an area near Srebrenica, where 7,000 Muslims had already been slaughtered by Serb forces.

It was a controversial mission. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees refused to participate, believing the evacuation would just complete the ethnic cleansing. But the high commissioner didn’t see the crowds of Muslim women shrieking in terror as Serb jeeps rolled by. Joseph did. It might seem high-minded to preach ethnic reconciliation from afar, Joseph now says, but in a civil war, when you can’t protect people, it’s immoral to leave them to be killed.

Gradually, leaders on all sides of the Bosnian fight came to see it was in their interest to separate their peoples. And once the ethnic groups were given sanctuary, it became possible to negotiate a peace that was imperfect, but which was better than the reverberating splashes of blood.

Today, many of the people active in Bosnia believe they have a model that could help stabilize Iraq. They acknowledge the many differences between the two places, but Iraq, they note, is a disintegrating nation. Ethnic cleansing is dividing Baghdad, millions are moving, thousands are dying and the future looks horrific.

The best answer, then, is soft partition: create a central government with a few key powers; reinforce strong regional governments; separate the sectarian groups as much as possible.

In practice, that means, first, modifying the Iraqi Constitution.

As Joe Biden points out, the Constitution already goes a long way toward decentralizing power. It gives the provinces the power to have their own security services, to send ambassadors to foreign countries, to join together to form regions. Decentralization is not an American imposition, it’s an Iraqi idea.

But, he adds, so far the Constitution doesn’t yet have legislation that would do things like equitably share oil and gas revenue. The Sunnis will never be content with a strip of sand unless they’re constitutionally guaranteed 20 percent of the nation’s wealth.

The second step is getting implicit consent from all sects that separation and federalism are in their interest. The Shiites would have to accept that there never will be a stable Iraq if the Sunnis are reduced to helot status. The Kurds would have to accept that peace and stability are worth territorial compromise in Kirkuk. The Sunnis would have to accept that they’re never going to run Iraq again, and having a strong Sunni region is better than living under a Shiite jackboot.

As Les Gelb says, unless the thirst for vengeance has driven the leaders in Iraq beyond the realm of reason, it should be possible to persuade them to see where their best interests lie.

The third step in a soft partition would be the relocation of peoples. This would mean using U.S. or Iraqi troops to shepherd people who want to flee toward areas where they feel safe. It would mean providing humanitarian assistance so they can get back on their feet.

As Edward Joseph and Michael O’Hanlon note, in this kind of operation, timing is everything. Move people in a certain neighborhood too early, and militias could perceive a vacuum and accelerate the violence. Move too late and you could be moving corpses.

The fourth step is getting Iraq’s neighbors to buy into the arrangement. Presumably neither Iran nor Saudi Arabia really relishes complete chaos in Iraq and a proxy war with each other after the U.S. withdraws. The Turks would have to be reassured that this plan means no independent Kurdistan will ever come into being.

The most serious objection to soft partition is that the Sunni and Shiite populations are too intermingled in Baghdad and elsewhere to really separate. This objection, sadly, becomes less of a problem every day. But it would still be necessary to maintain peacekeepers in the mixed neighborhoods, be open to creative sovereignty structures, and hope that the detoxification of the situation nationally might reduce violence where diverse groups touch.

In short, logic, circumstances and politics are leading inexorably toward soft partition. The Bush administration has been slow to recognize its virtues because it is too dependent on the Green Zone Iraqis. The Iraqis talk about national unity but their behavior suggests they want decentralization. Sooner or later, everybody will settle on this sensible policy, having exhausted all the alternatives.

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Tens of thousands march against Iraq war

By CALVIN WOODWARD and LARRY MARGASAK, Associated Press Writers

Convinced this is their moment, tens of thousands marched Saturday in an anti-war demonstration linking military families, ordinary people and an icon of the Vietnam protest movement in a spirited call to get out of Iraq.

Celebrities, a half-dozen lawmakers and protesters from distant states rallied in the capital under a sunny sky, seizing an opportunity to press their cause with a Congress restive on the war and a country that has turned against the conflict.

Marching with them was Jane Fonda, in what she said was her first anti-war demonstration in 34 years.

"Silence is no longer an option," Fonda said to cheers from the stage on the National Mall. The actress once derided as "Hanoi Jane" by conservatives for her stance on Vietnam said she had held back from activism so as not to be a distraction for the Iraq anti-war movement, but needed to speak out now.

The rally on the Mall unfolded peacefully, although about 300 protesters tried to rush the Capitol, running up the grassy lawn to the front of the building. Police on motorcycles tried to stop them, scuffling with some and barricading entrances.

Protesters chanted "Our Congress" as their numbers grew and police faced off against them. Demonstrators later joined the masses marching from the Mall, around Capitol Hill and back.

About 50 demonstrators blocked a street near the Capitol for about 30 minutes, but they were dispersed without arrests.

United for Peace and Justice, a coalition group sponsoring the protest, had hoped 100,000 would come. They claimed even more afterward, but police, who no longer give official estimates, said privately the crowd was smaller than 100,000.

At the rally, 12-year-old Moriah Arnold stood on her toes to reach the microphone and tell the crowd: "Now we know our leaders either lied to us or hid the truth. Because of our actions, the rest of the world sees us as a bully and a liar."

The sixth-grader from Harvard, Mass., organized a petition drive at her school against the war that has killed more than 3,000 U.S. service-members, including seven whose deaths were reported Saturday.

More Hollywood celebrities showed up at the demonstration than buttoned-down Washington typically sees in a month.

Actor Sean Penn said lawmakers will pay a price in the 2008 elections if they do not take firmer action than to pass a nonbinding resolution against the war, the course Congress is now taking.

"If they don't stand up and make a resolution as binding as the death toll, we're not going to be behind those politicians," he said. Actors Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins also spoke.

Fonda was a lightning rod in the Vietnam era for her outspoken opposition to that war and her advocacy from Hanoi at the height of that conflict. Sensitive to the old wounds, she made it a point to thank the active-duty service-members, veterans and Gold Star mothers who attended the rally.

She drew parallels to the Vietnam War, citing "blindness to realities on the ground, hubris ... thoughtlessness in our approach to rebuilding a country we've destroyed." But she noted that this time, veterans, soldiers and their families increasingly and vocally are against the Iraq war.

The House Judiciary Committee chairman, Rep. John Conyers (news, bio, voting record), threatened to use congressional spending power to try to stop the war. "George Bush has a habit of firing military leaders who tell him the Iraq war is failing," he said, looking out at the masses. "He can't fire you." Referring to Congress, the Michigan Democrat added: "He can't fire us.

"The founders of our country gave our Congress the power of the purse because they envisioned a scenario exactly like we find ourselves in today. Now only is it in our power, it is our obligation to stop Bush."

On the stage rested a coffin covered with a U.S. flag and a pair of military boots, symbolizing American war dead. On the Mall stood a large bin filled with tags bearing the names of Iraqis who have died.

A small contingent of active-duty service members attended the rally, wearing civilian clothes because military rules forbid them from protesting in uniform.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Tassi McKee, 26, an intelligence specialist at Fort Meade, Md., said she joined the Air Force because of patriotism, travel and money for college. "After we went to Iraq, I began to see through the lies," she said.

In the crowd, signs recalled the November elections that defeated the Republican congressional majority in part because of President Bush's Iraq policy. "I voted for peace," one said.

"I've just gotten tired of seeing widows, tired of seeing dead Marines," said Vincent DiMezza, 32, wearing a dress Marine uniform from his years as a sergeant. A Marine aircraft mechanic from 1997 to 2002, he did not serve in Iraq or Afghanistan.

About 40 people staged a counter-protest, including Army Cpl. Joshua Sparling, 25, who lost his leg to a bomb in Iraq.

He said the anti-war protesters, especially those who are veterans or who are on active duty, "need to remember the sacrifice we have made and what our fallen comrades would say if they are alive."

Bush reaffirmed his commitment to his planned troop increase in a phone conversation Saturday with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The president was in Washington for the weekend. He is often is out of town during big protest days.

"He understands that Americans want to see a conclusion to the war in Iraq and the new strategy is designed to do just that," said Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council.

Protest organizers said the crowd included people who came on 300 buses from 40 states.


Associated Press writers Stephen Manning and Kasie Hunt contributed to this report.

On the Net:

United for Peace and Justice

Thousands of anti-war protesters march past the U.S. Capitol building during a large peace protest in Washington, January 27, 2007. REUTERS/Jim Bourg (UNITED STATES)

“I’m so mad at those young whippersnapper peace-mongers… I could shit!”

Actor Sean Penn, center, joins fellow anti-war activists as they march past the U.S. Supreme Court during a march to protest the war in Iraq, Saturday Jan. 27, 2007, in Washington. (AP Photo/Chris Greenberg)

An anti-war demonstrator protests the war in Iraq as thousands of protesters march around the U.S. Capitol in Washington, January 27, 2007. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts (UNITED STATES)

Alice, an anarchist from North Carolina, tries to shake hands with Capitol Police officers as they guard the Capitol during a protest against the war in Iraq Saturday, Jan. 27, 2007 in Washington. Alice did not give her last name. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

"I wanna see every one of those darn pesky peaceniks held as POWs by those rascally radical Islamists…"

“And furthermore…Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers…”

Demonstrators stand near the U.S. Capitol during a protest against the war in Iraq Saturday, Jan. 27, 2007 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

“And now, you’ll have to please excuse me while I go outside & hang myself from the nearest lamppost…”

McCain TV performance dings candidacy

Democratic strategists who had feared Sen. John McCain as the potentially unbeatable Republican candidate for President in 2008 were surprised and delighted by his dour appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" last Sunday.

One Democratic leader referred to McCain's performance, in suggesting President Bush's additional 21,000 troops may be inadequate, as "comatose." A Republican adviser to McCain said it was one of the worst performances ever on "Meet the Press." [ MORE ]

“Hey, Junior? Can you please remember…I’m the family vampire. You’re the family cannibal. Now…go back to sleep…”


Bush's father complains of news media "hostility"

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush's father accused the news media of "personal animosity" toward his son and said he found the criticism so unrelenting he sometimes talked back to his television set.

"It's one thing to have an adversarial ... relationship -- hard-hitting journalism -- it's another when the journalists' rhetoric goes beyond skepticism and goes over the line into overt, unrelenting hostility and personal animosity," former President George Bush said. [ MORE ]

COMMENT: Dubya is just trying to preserve & protect his country. (And the city too--or at least the upscale have-more parts-- I guess…) While at the same time preserving protecting & increasing Bush Crime Family (& corrupt crapitalist cronies’) coffers.

GOP dis us, every one…

Friday, January 26, 2007


Tim Russert always asks the “tough” questions & when Republicans lie &/or refuse to answer, that's good enough for him. He’s especially accommodating to the BFEE (Bush Family Evil Empire). Even moreso than FOX News (Fairly Unbalanced…), which is why they always sniff out Russert first.

There's really only one thing that can turn Old Timmy into a pit-bull. "Go get 'em, boy!"

[Acknowledgements in part to ]


(The Confederacy rose again. So it's just going to have to be put down again. And hard!)

Republicans have once more blocked a minimum wage increase. They've been doing this for ten years now.

Bob Geiger has a great video of Ted Kennedy blasting Republican Senators for blocking the increase, and I mean blasting:

"What is it about it that drives you Republicans crazy? What is it? Something. Something! What is the price that the workers have to pay to get an increase? What is it about working men and women that you find so offensive?"

"240 billion dollars in tax breaks for corporations. 36 billion dollars in tax breaks for small businesses. Increase in productivity -- 42 percent over the last 10 years," yelled Kennedy emotionally. "But do you think there's any increase in the minimum wage? No."

Think Progress addresses the pitiful excuses for the Republican greed.

(How many more days do we have to wait for that election…?)

[Acknowledgements in part to the Tennessee Guerilla Women.]


At Ease, Mr. President

Op-Ed Contributor
The New York Times
January 27, 2007

Evanston, Ill.

WE hear constantly now about “our commander in chief.” The word has become a synonym for “president.” It is said that we “elect a commander in chief.” It is asked whether this or that candidate is “worthy to be our commander in chief.”

But the president is not our commander in chief. He certainly is not mine. I am not in the Army.

I first cringed at the misuse in 1973, during the “Saturday Night Massacre” (as it was called). President Richard Nixon, angered at the Watergate inquiry being conducted by the special prosecutor Archibald Cox, dispatched his chief of staff, Al Haig, to arrange for Mr. Cox’s firing. Mr. Haig told the attorney general, Elliot Richardson, to dismiss Mr. Cox. Mr. Richardson refused, and resigned. Then Mr. Haig told the second in line at the Justice Department, William Ruckelshaus, to fire Cox. Mr. Ruckelshaus refused, and accepted his dismissal. The third in line, Robert Bork, finally did the deed.

What struck me was what Mr. Haig told Mr. Ruckelshaus, “You know what it means when an order comes down from the commander in chief and a member of his team cannot execute it.” This was as great a constitutional faux pas as Mr. Haig’s later claim, when President Reagan was wounded, that “Constitutionally ... I’m in control.”

President Nixon was not Mr. Ruckelshaus’s commander in chief. The president is not the commander in chief of civilians. He is not even commander in chief of National Guard troops unless and until they are federalized. The Constitution is clear on this: “The president shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States.”

When Abraham Lincoln took actions based on military considerations, he gave himself the proper title, “commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States.” That title is rarely — more like never — heard today. It is just “commander in chief,” or even “commander in chief of the United States.” This reflects the increasing militarization of our politics. The citizenry at large is now thought of as under military discipline. In wartime, it is true, people submit to the national leadership more than in peacetime. The executive branch takes actions in secret, unaccountable to the electorate, to hide its moves from the enemy and protect national secrets. Constitutional shortcuts are taken “for the duration.” But those impositions are removed when normal life returns.

But we have not seen normal life in 66 years. The wartime discipline imposed in 1941 has never been lifted, and “the duration” has become the norm. World War II melded into the cold war, with greater secrecy than ever — more classified information, tougher security clearances. And now the cold war has modulated into the war on terrorism.

There has never been an executive branch more fetishistic about secrecy than the Bush-Cheney one. The secrecy has been used to throw a veil over detentions, “renditions,” suspension of the Geneva Conventions and of habeas corpus, torture and warrantless wiretaps. We hear again the refrain so common in the other wars — If you knew what we know, you would see how justified all our actions are.

But we can never know what they know. We do not have sufficient clearance.

When Adm. William Crowe, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, criticized the gulf war under the first President Bush, Secretary of State James Baker said that the admiral was not qualified to speak on the matter since he no longer had the clearance to read classified reports. If he is not qualified, then no ordinary citizen is. We must simply trust our lords and obey the commander in chief.

The glorification of the president as a war leader is registered in numerous and substantial executive aggrandizements; but it is symbolized in other ways that, while small in themselves, dispose the citizenry to accept those aggrandizements. We are reminded, for instance, of the expanded commander in chief status every time a modern president gets off the White House helicopter and returns the salute of marines.

That is an innovation that was begun by Ronald Reagan. Dwight Eisenhower, a real general, knew that the salute is for the uniform, and as president he was not wearing one. An exchange of salutes was out of order. (George Bush came as close as he could to wearing a uniform while president when he landed on the telegenic aircraft carrier in an Air Force flight jacket).

We used to take pride in civilian leadership of the military under the Constitution, a principle that George Washington embraced when he avoided military symbols at Mount Vernon. We are not led — or were not in the past — by caudillos.

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s prescient last book, “Secrecy,” traced the ever-faster-growing secrecy of our government and said that it strikes at the very essence of democracy — accountability of representatives to the people. How can the people hold their representatives to account if they are denied knowledge of what they are doing? Wartime and war analogies are embraced because these justify the secrecy. The representative is accountable to citizens. Soldiers are accountable to their officer. The dynamics are different, and to blend them is to undermine the basic principles of our Constitution.

Garry Wills, a professor emeritus of history at Northwestern, is the author, most recently, of “What Paul Meant.”

Daffy Does Doom

The New York Times
January 27, 2007


Dick Durbin went to the floor of the Senate on Thursday night to denounce the vice president as “delusional.”

It was shocking, and Senator Durbin should be ashamed of himself.

Delusional is far too mild a word to describe Dick Cheney. Delusional doesn’t begin to capture the profound, transcendental one-flew-over daftness of the man.

Has anyone in the history of the United States ever been so singularly wrong and misguided about such phenomenally important events and continued to insist he’s right in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary?

It requires an exquisite kind of lunacy to spend hundreds of billions destroying America’s reputation in the world, exhausting the U.S. military, failing to catch Osama, enhancing Iran’s power in the Middle East and sending American kids to train and arm Iraqi forces so they can work against American interests.

Only someone with an inspired alienation from reality could, under the guise of exorcising the trauma of Vietnam, replicate the trauma of Vietnam.

You must have a real talent for derangement to stay wrong every step of the way, to remain in complete denial about Iraq’s civil war, to have a total misunderstanding of Arab culture, to be completely oblivious to the American mood and to be absolutely blind to how democracy works.

In a democracy, when you run a campaign that panders to homophobia by attacking gay marriage and then your lesbian daughter writes a book about politics and decides to have a baby with her partner, you cannot tell Wolf Blitzer he’s “out of line” when he gingerly raises the hypocrisy of your position.

Mr. Cheney acts more like a member of the James gang than the Jefferson gang. Asked by Wolf what would happen if the Senate passed a resolution critical of The Surge, Scary Cheney rumbled, “It won’t stop us.”

Such an exercise in democracy, he noted, would be “detrimental from the standpoint of the troops.”

Americans learned an important lesson from Vietnam about supporting the troops even when they did not support the war. From media organizations to Hollywood celebrities and lawmakers on both sides, everyone backs our troops.

It is W. and Vice who learned no lessons from Vietnam, probably because they worked so hard to avoid going. They rush into a war halfway around the world for no reason and with no foresight about the culture or the inevitable insurgency, and then assert that any criticism of their fumbling management of Iraq and Afghanistan is tantamount to criticizing the troops. Quel demagoguery.

“Bottom line,” Vice told Wolf, “is that we’ve had enormous successes, and we will continue to have enormous successes.” The biggest threat, he said, is that Americans may not “have the stomach for the fight.”

He should stop casting aspersions on the American stomach. We’ve had the stomach for more than 3,000 American deaths in a war sold as a cakewalk.

If W. were not so obsessed with being seen as tough, Mr. Cheney could not influence him with such tripe.

They are perpetually guided by the wrong part of the body. They are consumed by the fear of looking as if they don’t have guts, when they should be compelled by the desire to look as if they have brains.

After offering Congress an olive branch in the State of the Union, the president resumed mindless swaggering. Asked yesterday why he was ratcheting up despite the resolutions, W. replied, “In that I’m the decision maker, I had to come up with a way forward that precluded disaster.” (Or preordained it.)

The reality of Iraq, as The Times’s brilliant John Burns described it to Charlie Rose this week, is that a messy endgame could be far worse than Vietnam, leading to “a civil war on a scale with bloodshed that will absolutely dwarf what we’re seeing now,” and a “wider conflagration, with all kinds of implications for the world’s flow of oil, for the state of Israel. What happens to King Abdullah in Jordan if there’s complete chaos in the region?”

Mr. Cheney has turned his perversity into foreign policy.

He assumes that the more people think he’s crazy, the saner he must be. In Dr. No’s nutty world-view, anti-Americanism is a compliment. The proof that America is right is that everyone thinks it isn’t.

He sees himself as a prophet in the wilderness because he thinks anyone in the wilderness must be a prophet.

To borrow one of his many dismissive words, it’s hogwash.

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Blackwater, Inc. and the Privatization of the Bush War Machine

Our Mercenaries in Iraq

January 25, 2007

As President Bush took the podium to deliver his State of the Union address Tuesday, there were five American families receiving news that has become all too common: Their loved ones had been killed in Iraq. But in this case, the slain were neither "civilians," as the news reports proclaimed, nor were they U.S. soldiers. They were highly trained mercenaries deployed to Iraq by a secretive private military company based in North Carolina - Blackwater USA.

The company made headlines in early 2004 when four of its troops were ambushed and burned in the Sunni hotbed of Fallouja - two charred, lifeless bodies left to dangle for hours from a bridge. That incident marked a turning point in the war, sparked multiple U.S. sieges of Fallouja and helped fuel the Iraqi resistance that haunts the occupation to this day.

Now, Blackwater is back in the news, providing a reminder of just how privatized the war has become. On Tuesday, one of the company's helicopters was brought down in one of Baghdad's most violent areas. The men who were killed were providing diplomatic security under Blackwater's $300-million State Department contract, which dates to 2003 and the company's initial no-bid contract to guard administrator L. Paul Bremer III in Iraq. Current U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who is also protected by Blackwater, said he had gone to the morgue to view the men's bodies, asserting the circumstances of their deaths were unclear because of "the fog of war."

Bush made no mention of the downing of the helicopter during his State of the Union speech. But he did address the very issue that has made the war's privatization a linchpin of his Iraq policy - the need for more troops. The president called on Congress to authorize an increase of about 92,000 active-duty troops over the next five years. He then slipped in a mention of a major initiative that would represent a significant development in the U.S. disaster response/reconstruction/war machine: a Civilian Reserve Corps.

"Such a corps would function much like our military Reserve. It would ease the burden on the armed forces by allowing us to hire civilians with critical skills to serve on missions abroad when America needs them," Bush declared. This is precisely what the administration has already done, largely behind the backs of the American people and with little congressional input, with its revolution in military affairs. Bush and his political allies are using taxpayer dollars to run an outsourcing laboratory. Iraq is its Frankenstein monster.

Already, private contractors constitute the second-largest "force" in Iraq. At last count, there were about 100,000 contractors in Iraq, of which 48,000 work as private soldiers, according to a Government Accountability Office report. These soldiers have operated with almost no oversight or effective legal constraints and are an undeclared expansion of the scope of the occupation. Many of these contractors make up to $1,000 a day, far more than active-duty soldiers. What's more, these forces are politically expedient, as contractor deaths go uncounted in the official toll.

The president's proposed Civilian Reserve Corps was not his idea alone. A privatized version of it was floated two years ago by Erik Prince, the secretive, mega-millionaire, conservative owner of Blackwater USA and a man who for years has served as the Pied Piper of a campaign to repackage mercenaries as legitimate forces. In early 2005, Prince - a major bankroller of the president and his allies - pitched the idea at a military conference of a "contractor brigade" to supplement the official military. "There's consternation in the [Pentagon] about increasing the permanent size of the Army," Prince declared. Officials "want to add 30,000 people, and they talked about costs of anywhere from $3.6 billion to $4 billion to do that. Well, by my math, that comes out to about $135,000 per soldier." He added: "We could do it certainly cheaper."

And Prince is not just a man with an idea; he is a man with his own army. Blackwater began in 1996 with a private military training camp "to fulfill the anticipated demand for government outsourcing." Today, its contacts run from deep inside the military and intelligence agencies to the upper echelons of the White House. It has secured a status as the elite Praetorian Guard for the global war on terror, with the largest private military base in the world, a fleet of 20 aircraft and 20,000 soldiers at the ready.

From Iraq and Afghanistan to the hurricane-ravaged streets of New Orleans to meetings with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger about responding to disasters in California, Blackwater now envisions itself as the FedEx of defense and homeland security operations. Such power in the hands of one company, run by a neo-crusader bankroller of the president, embodies the "military-industrial complex" President Eisenhower warned against in 1961.

Further privatizing the country's war machine - or inventing new back doors for military expansion with fancy names like the Civilian Reserve Corps - will represent a devastating blow to the future of American democracy.


Jeremy Scahill is a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute and the author of the forthcoming " Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army ." He can be reached at .

Presidents Ford (as in Harrison) and Freeman Show the Way

The New York Times
January 26, 2007

Hollywood and national politics scrambled for our attention this week. They drew special interest from some in this city, graced as it now is with almost as many potential presidential candidates as Naomi Campbell has tantrums.

Normally, New York is ignored in presidential elections (except when candidates need cash), but it is in the thick of things this time.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has entered the race. Former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani seems ready to follow. Former Gov. George E. Pataki entertains the fanciful notion that he could be the chosen one. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg hears advice that he and his billions should go for it. And the ever-running Rev. Al Sharpton used the royal “we” to hint that he still has game. “We clearly have a reason to run,” he said two weeks ago.

While presidential politics swirled in the winter air, the Academy Awards people reminded everyone what is truly important by announcing this year’s nominations. People had movies on the brain, Mrs. Clinton among them. Letting the conversation begin on her Web site, she took a question about her screen favorites.

She had three, she said, from different stages of her life: “The Wizard of Oz,” “Casablanca” and “Out of Africa.”

Let’s see. “The Wizard of Oz” is about a girl trying to get back home — to a white house, wasn’t it? The hero in “Casablanca” warns, “Either lay off politics or get out.” And, at the risk of squeezing a long-wrung-out subject, “Out of Africa” is about a woman with a husband described in a 1985 review as “an ebullient, unashamed philanderer.”

We’re guessing that Mrs. Clinton chose those splendid films for different reasons.

Presumably, the other politicians have their own favorites. A spokeswoman for Mr. Giuliani said she did not know what his were. But the former mayor said years ago that “The Godfather” topped his list, and one of his shticks was to do a raspy Don Corleone imitation. (If Mr. Giuliani does announce his candidacy, he could stay true to form by saying, “Just when I thought that I was out, they pull me back in.”)

Mr. Bloomberg allowed to a couple of scribblers one night that his cinematic tastes run along the lines of “National Lampoon’s Animal House.” As for the others, “The Man Who Would Be King” is a suitable title for Mr. Sharpton, and Mr. Pataki could make do with a 1970s British film called “Who?”

To the degree that movies shape perceptions of the world, the New Yorkers who are goggle-eyed about the White House could do worse than to study presidents in film. Forget biopics. We’re talking about fictional characters worthy of emulation — and in movies only. So, “West Wing” fans, that rules out the estimable Josiah Bartlet.

There is no shortage of films with presidents, nearly all of them men. Brothers have held the office: Dennis Quaid in “American Dreamz” and Randy Quaid in “Mail to the Chief.” We also had a son and his father: Jeff Bridges in “The Contender” and Lloyd Bridges in “Hot Shots! Part Deux.”

Some film presidents can safely be eliminated as role models. None of our New York contenders are likely to take cues from the corrupt Dan Aykroyd in “My Fellow Americans,” the morally deficient Donald Moffat in “Clear and Present Danger,” the murderous Gene Hackman in “Absolute Power,” the bullying and lecherous Billy Bob Thornton in “Love Actually,” or the wimpy Ronny Cox in “Murder at 1600.”

But they might want to think about the guts that Charles Durning showed in “Twilight’s Last Gleaming” (even though he does end up dead). Wouldn’t every president want to snarl something like “Get off my plane” to a terrorist, as Harrison Ford did in “Air Force One”? Jeff Bridges showed in “The Contender” that a president can have both a cast-iron stomach and a steely backbone.

Best film president of all time? Some are partial to Henry Fonda in “Fail-Safe.” But we don’t see the New Yorkers modeling themselves on someone who nuked our city because of a teeny mistake like an American plane’s dropping the bomb on Moscow.

Our vote, for what it’s worth, goes to Morgan Freeman in “Deep Impact.” It’s not a great film, but he is a most admirable president — thoughtful and reassuring, but tough when the hardest of decisions must be made.

It’s something for the contenders from New York to consider. Or would you rather that they draw inspiration from mobsters, frat house louts and characters in search of brains, heart and courage?


from the MORE OF BU$H'S UTTER FOLLY files

NYT Editorial: The President’s Risky Health Plan

January 26, 2007

The new health care proposals announced by President Bush this week purport to tackle the two toughest problems confronting the American health care system: the rising number of uninsured Americans and the escalating costs of medical care.

But on both counts, they fall miles short of what is needed to fix a system where — scandalously — 47 million Americans go without health insurance.

The financial sinkhole in Iraq and huge tax cuts for wealthy Americans have left the administration with no money to really address the problem. To keep the program “revenue neutral,” Mr. Bush would instead use tax subsidies to encourage more people to buy their own health insurance, while imposing additional taxes on people who have what Mr. Bush deems “gold plated” insurance.

It is a formula that would do little to reduce the number of uninsured Americans and would have a high risk of producing pernicious results. Even White House officials acknowledged earlier this week that they expected the number of uninsured to drop by only three million to five million people as a result of Mr. Bush’s proposals. They expect the states to take on most of the burden.

One enlightened element is that the plan would provide equal tax treatment to those who bought their insurance policies on the individual market and those who got coverage through group policies at work, thus ending a longstanding inequity that favors employer-based policies. To level the playing field, the administration proposes to grant everyone who gets qualifying health insurance a standard deduction — $15,000 for family coverage or $7,500 for single coverage — off their income subject to taxation. Those with family policies exceeding $15,000 in value would have to pay taxes on the excess amount.

After the proposed starting date in 2009, the administration estimates, about 80 percent of workers with employer-provided policies would pay lower taxes and 20 percent would pay higher taxes, unless they reduced the value of their health coverage to fit within the standard deduction.

The new standard deduction would almost certainly entice some people to buy health insurance who had previously elected not to. But a tax deduction is of little value to people so poor that they pay little or no income tax. And unfortunately, it is those people who account for the vast majority of the nation’s uninsured.

Instead of trying to fix that fundamental flaw, the administration has decided instead to buck it to the states. The White House has offered few details. But its idea is to allow states to redirect federal money that now helps to finance hospitals that provide charity care and use it instead to subsidize health insurance for the poor.

In an ideal world, it would make good sense to insure people in advance rather than wait for them to show up in a high-cost emergency room. But this plan could quickly cripple the safety-net hospitals. Fortunately, no governor would have to accept the offer to redirect funds. The scheme is mostly a reflection of how the administration is unwilling to accept true responsibility for the uninsured.

If the administration really wanted to help low-income people, it would have proposed a refundable tax credit that would have the same dollar value for everyone — instead of a tax deduction, which primarily helps people in high tax brackets. Even those who do not pay taxes would get a check for the dollar value of the credit, providing them at least some money to help pay for health insurance. Congress ought to recognize that credits are the better approach for even such a limited plan.

As for the tax increases on those “gold plated” health policies, the White House is hoping to discourage people from using high-priced comprehensive health policies that cover everything from routine office visits to costly diagnostic procedures that are not always necessary.

The administration’s goal is to instead encourage people to take out policies that might reduce the use of medical services, like policies with high deductibles or co-payments, or managed care plans. But even “copper plated” policies can exceed $15,000 in cost if they are issued in areas where medical prices are high or to groups with high numbers of older or chronically ill workers.

The whole approach rests on the premise that comprehensive prepaid health policies are a major factor in driving up costs; the theory is that people will tend to use services if they are covered. There is probably some truth in that.

But the main drivers in rising health costs are the costly services, high-priced drugs and hospitalizations for people who are seriously ill with catastrophic diseases or multiple chronic illnesses. Making their health coverage less generous would simply make it harder for them to get the care they need.

The greatest risk in the president’s proposal is that it would seem likely to lead many small- and medium-size employers to stop offering health benefits altogether on the theory that their workers could buy affordable insurance on their own. That would leave many more Americans at the mercy of the dysfunctional individual policy market, where administrative costs are high and insurers strive to avoid covering people who are apt to become sick and need costly care.

For all its fanfare, Mr. Bush’s plan would be unlikely to reduce the ranks of the uninsured very much. And if things went badly, it could actually increase their numbers. That’s not the answer Americans are waiting for and not what they deserve.


Ohio poll workers convicted

Associated Press
January 25, 2007

CLEVELAND — Two election workers were convicted Wednesday of rigging a recount of the 2004 presidential election to avoid a more thorough review in Ohio's most populous county.

Jacqueline Maiden, elections coordinator of the Cuyahoga County Elections Board, and ballot manager Kathleen Dreamer each were convicted of a felony count of negligent misconduct by an elections employee. They also were convicted of one misdemeanor count each of failure to perform their duty as elections employees.

Prosecutors accused Maiden and Dreamer of secretly reviewing preselected ballots before a public recount on Dec. 16, 2004. They worked behind closed doors for three days to pick ballots they knew would not cause discrepancies when checked by hand, prosecutors said.

Ohio gave President Bush the electoral votes he needed to defeat Democratic Sen. John F. Kerry in the close election and hold on to the White House in 2004.

Maiden and Dreamer will be sentenced Feb. 26.


E. Howard Hunt, Agent Who Organized Botched Watergate Break-In, Dies at 88

The New York Times
January 24, 2007

E. Howard Hunt, a cold warrior for the Central Intelligence Agency who left the spy service in disillusionment, joined the Nixon White House as a secret agent and bungled the break-in at the Watergate that brought the president down in disgrace, died Tuesday in Miami. He was 88.

His death, at North Shore Medical Center, was caused by pneumonia, said his wife, Laura.

“This fellow Hunt,” President Richard M. Nixon muttered a few days after the June 1972 break-in, “he knows too damn much.”

That was Howard Hunt’s burden: he was entrusted with too many secret missions. His career at the C.I.A. was destroyed by the disastrous invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in 1961, and his time as Nixon’s master of dirty tricks ended with his arrest in the Watergate case. He served 33 months in prison for burglary, conspiracy and wiretapping and emerged a broken man.

“I am crushed by the failure of my government to protect me and my family as in the past it has always done for its clandestine agents,” Mr. Hunt told the Senate committee investigating the Watergate affair in 1973, when he faced a provisional prison sentence of 35 years. “I cannot escape feeling that the country I have served for my entire life and which directed me to carry out the Watergate entry is punishing me for doing the very things it trained and directed me to do.”

He was a high-spirited 30-year-old novelist who aspired to wealth and power when he joined the C.I.A. in 1949. He set out to live the life he had imagined for himself, a glamorous career as a spy. But Mr. Hunt was never much of a spy. He did not conduct classic espionage operations in order to gather information. His field was political warfare: dirty tricks, sabotage and propaganda.

When he left the C.I.A. in 1970 after a decidedly checkered career, he had become a world-weary cynic. Trading on the thin veneer of a reputation in the clandestine service, he won a job as a $100-a-day “security consultant” at the Nixon White House in 1971.

In that role, he conducted break-ins and burglaries in the name of national security. He drew no distinction between orchestrating a black-bag job at a foreign embassy in Mexico City and wiretapping the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters at the Watergate complex. He recognized no lawful limit on presidential power, convinced that “when the president does it,” as Nixon once said, “that means it is not illegal.” Mr. Hunt and the nation found out otherwise.

Mr. Hunt was intelligent, erudite, suave and loyal to his friends. But the record shows that he mishandled many of the tasks he received from the C.I.A. and the White House. He was “totally self-absorbed, totally amoral and a danger to himself and anybody around him,” Samuel F. Hart, a retired United States ambassador who first met him in Uruguay in the 1950s, said in a State Department oral history.

“As far as I could tell, Howard went from one disaster to another,” Mr. Hart said, “until he hit Watergate.”

Everette Howard Hunt Jr. was born in Hamburg, N.Y., on Oct. 9, 1918, the son of a lawyer and a classically trained pianist who played church organ. He graduated from Brown University in June 1940 and entered the United States Naval Academy as a midshipman in February 1941.

He worked as a wartime intelligence officer in China, a postwar spokesman for the Marshall Plan in Paris and a screenwriter in Hollywood. Warner Brothers had just bought his fourth novel, “Bimini Run,” a thriller set in the Caribbean, when he joined the fledgling C.I.A. in April 1949.

Mr. Hunt was immediately assigned to train C.I.A. recruits in political and psychological warfare, fields in which he was a rank amateur, like most of his colleagues. He moved to Mexico City, where he became chief of station in 1950. He brought along another rookie C.I.A. officer, William F. Buckley Jr., later a prominent conservative author and publisher, who became godfather and guardian to the four children of Mr. Hunt and his wife, the former Dorothy L. Wetzel.

In 1954, Mr. Hunt helped plan the covert operation that overthrew the elected president of Guatemala, Jacobo Arbenz. “What we wanted to do was to have a terror campaign,” Mr. Hunt said in a CNN documentary on the cold war, “to terrify Arbenz particularly, to terrify his troops.” Though the operation succeeded, it ushered in 40 years of military repression in Guatemala.

By the time of the coup, Mr. Hunt had been removed from responsibility. He moved on to uneventful stints in Japan and Uruguay. Not until 1960 was Mr. Hunt involved in an operation that changed history.

The C.I.A. had received orders from both President Dwight D. Eisenhower and his successor, President John F. Kennedy, to alter or abolish the revolutionary government of Fidel Castro in Cuba. Mr. Hunt’s assignment was to create a provisional Cuban government that would be ready to take power once the C.I.A.’s cadre of Cuban shock troops invaded the island. He fared no better than the paramilitary planners who had vowed to defeat Mr. Castro’s 60,000-man army with a 1,500-strong brigade.

The careers of the American intelligence officers who planned and executed the Bay of Pigs debacle in April 1961 were damaged or destroyed, as was the C.I.A.’s reputation for derring-do. Mr. Hunt spent most of the 1960s carrying out desultory propaganda tasks at the agency, among them running news services and subsidizing books that fell stillborn from the press.

He funneled his talent into writing paperback spy novels. His works followed a formula of sex and intrigue but offered flashes of insight. “We become lawless in a struggle for the rule of law — semi-outlaws who risk their lives to put down the savagery of others,” says the author’s alter ego, Peter Ward, in the novel “Hazardous Duty.”

He retired from the C.I.A. in 1970 and secured a job with an agency-connected public relations firm in Washington. Then, a year later, came a call from the White House. A fellow Brown alumnus, Charles W. Colson, special counsel to President Nixon, hired Mr. Hunt to carry out acts of political warfare. Within weeks, Mr. Hunt was in charge of a subterranean department of dirty tricks.

He went back to C.I.A. headquarters, requesting false identification, a red wig, a voice-altering device and a tiny camera. He then burglarized the Beverly Hills office of a psychiatrist treating Dr. Daniel J. Ellsberg, a former national-security aide who had leaked a copy of the Pentagon Papers, a classified history of the Vietnam War, to The New York Times. Mr. Hunt was looking for information to discredit Mr. Ellsberg. When the break-in became public knowledge two years later, the federal case against Mr. Ellsberg on charges of leaking classified information was dismissed.

Mr. Hunt, in league with another recently retired C.I.A. officer and four Cuban Bay of Pigs veterans, then led a break-in at the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate complex to bug the telephone lines. The job was botched, and the team went in again to remove the taps. The burglars were arrested on the night of June 17, 1972. One had Mr. Hunt’s name and a White House telephone number in his address book, a classic failure of espionage tradecraft that proved the first thread of the web that ensnarled the president.

The final blow that drove Nixon from office was one of the secret White House recordings he made — the “smoking gun” tape — in which he vowed to order the C.I.A. to shut down the federal investigation of the Watergate break-in on spurious national-security grounds. By the time Nixon resigned in August 1974, Mr. Hunt was a federal prisoner.

His life was in ruins: his wife had been killed in a plane crash in 1972, his legal fees approached $1 million, he had suffered a stroke, and whatever illusions he once had that his government would protect him were shattered. Standing before the judge who imprisoned him, he said he was “alone, nearly friendless, ridiculed, disgraced, destroyed as a man.”

Freed from prison just before his 60th birthday, Mr. Hunt moved to Miami, where he met and married his second wife, Laura, a schoolteacher, and started a second family. Besides his wife, he is survived by the two daughters and two sons from his first marriage: Lisa Hunt of Las Vegas, Kevan Hunt Spence of Pioneer, Calif., Howard St. John Hunt of Eureka, Calif., and David Hunt of Los Angeles; two children from his second marriage, Austin and Hollis, both of Miami; seven grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Mr. Hunt’s last book, “American Spy: My Secret History in the C.I.A., Watergate and Beyond,” written with Greg Aunapu, is to be published on March 16 with a foreword by his old friend William F. Buckley Jr.

Late in life, he said he had no regrets, beyond the Bay of Pigs.


See also: article on Mark Lane who represented the right-wing group Liberty Lobby as an attorney when the group was sued over an article in The Spotlight newspaper implicating E. Howard Hunt in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Hunt sued for defamation and won a substantial settlement. Lane successfully got this judgement reversed on appeal. This became the basis for Lane's book Plausible Denial. In the book, Lane claimed that he convinced the jury that Hunt was involved in the JFK assassination.

The 1973 movie Executive Action is largely based on Lane's writings concerning the Kennedy assassination.

Crimes & Misdemeanors: Reflections on The Death of Howard Hunt

by Dan Kovalik
Love, Struggle & Resistance blog
January 24, 2007

Most telling about the AP story this morning regarding the death of E. Howard Hunt is what is glossed over in this story. Thus, while the AP Story notes in passing that Hunt “helped orchestrate a coup in Guatemala,” the story goes on to talk in detail about what, as the article notes, Hunt is most famous for: the Watergate burglary. However, the Watergate burglary, which Hunt ended up serving time for, was merely the act of a small-time prankster compared to coup in Guatemala which the article tells us nothing about and for which Hunt was never punished.

Of course, the coup in Guatemala which Hunt was intimately involved in as a CIA officer at the time, was the overthrow of President Arbenz in 1954. Arbenz was a democratically-elected president who the U.S. unseated, with Hunt’s leadership, at the behest of the United Fruit Company which opposed Arbenz’s land reform program. While the Arbenz overthrow may be a mere footnote in the minds of U.S. newspaper publishers, the event was much more significant for the people of Guatemala.

First, thousands of people lost their lives during and in the immediate aftermath of the coup. In addition, the U.S. installed a military dictatorship in the place of President Arbenz which would rule Guatemala, with support and funding from the U.S., for almost 40 years. This military dictatorship was the responsible for the murder of approximately 200,000 civilians, many of whom were “disappeared” by the regime. The vast majority of those killed were Mayan Indians who were targeted by the military which suspected the Mayans of sympathizing with left-wing insurgents who began to challenge the dictatorship in 1962. The targeting and murder of the Mayans is now universally considered as an act of genocide which Guatemala continues to feel the effects of to this day.

Despite the terror and genocide which Hunt helped to unleash upon Guatemala, Hunt was never punished for this high crime. Rather, after a short sentence for his role in the Watergate burglary, he lived a tranquil life, dying peacefully at the ripe age of 88 in Miami. The fact that Hunt, and his co-conspirators, escaped punishment for this crime, and the fact that the U.S. press to this day views this crime as a mere footnote in the life of Mr. Hunt, and indeed in the history of the U.S., speaks volumes about how our nation has become inured to such violence and imperial aggression.

* * *

One thing more on Mr. Hunt and his foray into Guatemala. Years ago, when I travelled to Nicaragua on a peace delegation, I was told this story by a member of the delegation (sadly, I do not remember his name) who had been in the CIA and had left in disgust at the CIA’s role in subverting democracy worldwide. He told me that Hunt, years after the coup in Guatemala, had called a young aide into his office to tell him of a lesson he had learned in Guatemala during the coup. Hunt explained to the aide that, when he was about to board a plane to leave Guatemala after his job was done, he was tasked to have approximately 15 individuals who were lined up on the runway killed as subversives. Hunt, out of what he claimed to the aide was an over-abundance of compassion, decided not to carry through with these killings, and instead let those individuals go. One of those individuals, it turned out, was none other than Ernesto Guevara, who would soon thereafter become known to the world simply as “Che.” Guevara would then leave Guatemala for Mexico where he would meet a young Fidel Castro, and the two would go on together to lead the overthrow of Batista in Cuba. Hunt would have to confront Che again (at least indirectly) when tasked to organize the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. Of course, Che and his comrades triumphed over that invasion. Hunt told his aide that he learned from that experience never to show mercy again. Ironically, Hunt’s life, in actuality, suffered from a great lack of mercy on his part. And yet, much mercy has been shown to him for his crimes.

On Being Partisan

The New York Times
January 26, 2007

American politics is ugly these days, and many people wish things were different. For example, Barack Obama recently lamented the fact that “politics has become so bitter and partisan” — which it certainly has.

But he then went on to say that partisanship is why “we can’t tackle the big problems that demand solutions. And that’s what we have to change first.” Um, no. If history is any guide, what we need are political leaders willing to tackle the big problems despite bitter partisan opposition. If all goes well, we’ll eventually have a new era of bipartisanship — but that will be the end of the story, not the beginning.

Or to put it another way: what we need now is another F.D.R., not another Dwight Eisenhower.

You see, the nastiness of modern American politics isn’t the result of a random outbreak of bad manners. It’s a symptom of deeper factors — mainly the growing polarization of our economy. And history says that we’ll see a return to bipartisanship only if and when that economic polarization is reversed.

After all, American politics has been nasty in the past. Before the New Deal, America was a nation with a vast gap between the rich and everyone else, and this gap was reflected in a sharp political divide. The Republican Party, in effect, represented the interests of the economic elite, and the Democratic Party, in an often confused way, represented the populist alternative.

In that divided political system, the Democrats probably came much closer to representing the interests of the typical American. But the G.O.P.’s advantage in money, and the superior organization that money bought, usually allowed it to dominate national politics. “I am not a member of any organized party,” Will Rogers said. “I am a Democrat.”

Then came the New Deal. I urge Mr. Obama — and everyone else who thinks that good will alone is enough to change the tone of our politics — to read the speeches of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the quintessential example of a president who tackled big problems that demanded solutions.

For the fact is that F.D.R. faced fierce opposition as he created the institutions — Social Security, unemployment insurance, more progressive taxation and beyond — that helped alleviate inequality. And he didn’t shy away from confrontation.

“We had to struggle,” he declared in 1936, “with the old enemies of peace — business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. ... Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me — and I welcome their hatred.”

It was only after F.D.R. had created a more equal society, and the old class warriors of the G.O.P. were replaced by “modern Republicans” who accepted the New Deal, that bipartisanship began to prevail.

The history of the last few decades has basically been the story of the New Deal in reverse. Income inequality has returned to levels not seen since the pre-New Deal era, and so have political divisions in Congress as the Republicans have moved right, once again becoming the party of the economic elite. The signature domestic policy initiatives of the Bush administration have been attempts to undo F.D.R.’s legacy, from slashing taxes on the rich to privatizing Social Security. And a bitter partisan gap has opened up between the G.O.P. and Democrats, who have tried to defend that legacy.

What about the smear campaigns, like Karl Rove’s 2005 declaration that after 9/11 liberals wanted to “offer therapy and understanding for our attackers”? Well, they’re reminiscent of the vicious anti-Catholic propaganda used to defeat Al Smith in 1928: smear tactics are what a well-organized, well-financed party with a fundamentally unpopular domestic agenda uses to change the subject.

So am I calling for partisanship for its own sake? Certainly not. By all means pass legislation, if you can, with plenty of votes from the other party: the Social Security Act of 1935 received 77 Republican votes in the House, about the same as the number of Republicans who recently voted for a minimum wage increase.

But politicians who try to push forward the elements of a new New Deal, especially universal health care, are sure to face the hatred of a large bloc on the right — and they should welcome that hatred, not fear it.

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Running on Empty

The New York Times
January 26, 2007

Sorry to repeat myself, but I have the same reaction to this year’s energy proposals in the State of the Union that I had to last year’s. President Bush had the opportunity to launch America on a transformative new path for clean, efficient power. He had a chance for a “Nixon to China” moment — as the Texas oilman who leads us into a greener future. Instead, he gave us “Nixon to New Mexico” — right direction, but not nearly far enough.

As I read the president’s remarks, listened to the tepid public reaction and looked at his latest polls, which show Mr. Bush to be wildly unpopular, it seemed to me that the American people basically fired George Bush in the last election. We’re now just watching him clean out his desk. Both his energy proposals and his recent Iraq surge were about the best he could muster, given his pink slip.

The problem is that he is going to be cleaning out his desk for another two years, and Americans deserve better. I would love to see Democrats put that something better on Mr. Bush’s desk — regarding both energy and Iraq.

“The stakes on Iraq and on climate change are way too large for us all to be just couch potatoes waiting for the messiah to come in 2009,” said Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense. “That is not an option. Yes, it would be entertaining, but we need leadership on these issues, and we need it now.”

On energy — no, the president’s proposals were not just beanbag. His call to reform CAFE mileage standards for U.S. cars “shifts the debate from whether to compel U.S. automakers to build more fuel-efficient vehicles to how much they should do so,” notes a strategy consultant, Peter Schwartz. And his call for a nearly fivefold mandatory increase in the production of ethanol and other alternative fuels for cars and trucks also changes the debate from whether to how much, and which fuels.

But the devil will be in the details. Will liquefied coal be one of those alternatives — which could add to global warming — or only non-fossil-fuel alternatives? On mileage standards, U.S. automakers will lobby the White House very hard for the smallest possible change. Will they get their way? If so, there isn’t much here.

The really bold, transformative — and popular — initiative Mr. Bush should have offered would either be a national cap-and-trade system for controlling CO2 emissions by utilities, manufacturers and autos, or a carbon tax. Both would create economic incentives for us to get rid of appliances, buildings and cars that emit a lot of CO2 and to invent and purchase those that don’t.

But there is no reason that the Democrats could not right now put a cap-and-trade bill on Mr. Bush’s desk themselves by spring, Mr. Krupp said, “and I think Bush would sign it.”

It is not enough for Democrats to just hold hearings on climate change. They need to use their new power to change the climate. Not only would the public be with them, but so would big business. A coalition of America’s best companies — like General Electric, DuPont, Duke Energy, Alcoa, Caterpillar — and environmentalists just issued a “call to action” for a national cap-and-trade program to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

On Iraq: talking to some of our senior military lately, I’ve been struck by how concerned they are about the new Bush buildup against Iran. Before we have even won one war in Iraq, the Bush team seems to be courting another with Iran. I am all for brandishing the stick with Iran, but it should be for the purpose of gaining leverage for a diplomatic dialogue with Iran and Syria about Iraq.

“When your house is burning, you don’t go looking to start a fire in the next house,” said Vali Nasr, author of the “The Shia Revival.” Right now, he adds, everything should be subordinated to trying to salvage Iraq.

Let the troop surge be accompanied and reinforced by what the Baker-Hamilton commission proposed: a regional conference that puts Syria, Iran, Jordan and Saudi Arabia around a table with Iraqis to try to stabilize the place. And that requires that America brandish carrots and sticks with all the parties. If a real regional conference doesn’t work, then Democrats who want to just set a date to withdraw will have an even stronger case because we will truly have tried everything. But let’s try everything: a surge of diplomacy, not just troops.

Let the Democrats put that on the president’s desk. Just as the business community would support a real climate initiative, I think the U.S. military would support a real diplomatic conference. Bush gave America’s voters the reasons to fire him. Democrats need to give voters the reasons to hire them — for the long haul.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Affluenza: Rampant consumerism erodes us

By Paul Majendie
Thu Jan 25

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Beware the Affluenza Virus. An epidemic of mindless consumerism is sweeping the world with the compulsive pursuit of money and possessions making people richer but sadder.

That is the stark warning issued by best-selling British psychologist Oliver James after a "mind tour" of seven countries chronicling how depression envelopes the affluent.

"We have become addicted to having rather than being and confusing our needs with our wants," he told Reuters in an interview to mark publication on Thursday of "Affluenza."

Globe-trotting from New York to Sydney, Singapore and Shanghai via Copenhagen, Moscow and Auckland, he concluded after interviewing 240 people that "selfish capitalism" has run riot.

Bigger houses, more cars, larger televisions, younger faces -- these goals are frenetically pursued by middle-class workaholics afflicted by "Affluenza."

"Studies in lots of different nations show that if you place high value on those things, you are more likely to suffer depression, anxiety, addictions and personality disorders," he said.

James concluded, "People in English-speaking nations are twice as likely to be mentally ill as people living in mainland western European nations."

Always wanting bigger and better is an emotional cul de sac, argues the 53-year-old psychologist, broadcaster and author.

What makes "Affluenza" so readable and differentiates his eloquent polemic from the legion of self-help books that offer trite short-cuts to happiness are the potted biographies of the subjects he interviews.

Take New York.

Compare and contrast Sam, the miserable millionaire and sex-addicted atheist who treats women as commodities for fleeting satisfaction, with Chet the Nigerian taxi driver who is contented, optimistic, sexually faithful and religious.

James freely admits that interviewing the affluent in Sydney was a depressing job, calling it "the Dolly Parton of cities in Australia, the most vacuous."

Singapore, where he found shopping to be the national obsession, suffered from "sad, unplayful deadness." Denmark was commendable, worthy but not exactly "a barrel of laughs."

But not all was doom and gloom for the peripatetic psychologist.

He admired the Chinese for their "best is good enough" stoicism and said "I most liked the Muscovites as they still have an interest in the life of the mind."

James the optimistic believes the backlash has begun.

"We are at a turning point. My argument dovetails with the ecological argument -- we cannot carry on consuming in this manner and feel confident our great grandchildren have any future. This inevitably leads us to question consumerism."

"People are sick to the back teeth of this stuff. They don't want any more selfish capitalism."

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