[Please keep the comments section on topic with discussion of today's featured book. Any off-topic discussions should be taken to the prior thread. Please be polite to our guest — and please join me in welcoming Elizabeth de la Vega. — CHS]
For our readers who have been following the Traitorgate investigation, a discussion of the machinations of the Bush Administration and all of its neocon allies often comes with few surprises. But even for me, having followed the day to day details of this investigation for so long a time, the sheer scope of the long term, well-planned, malicious mendacity detailed by Elizabeth de la Vega in U.S. v. Bush is shocking.
Betsy begins her book with three goals in mind: (1) To ask whether the President and his team defrauded the country; (2) To examine the facts in a courtroom context, based on facts to be considered outside the usual political spin; and (3) To show just exactly how well-considered and far-reaching in scope and personnel this was within the Bush Administration, to ask the questions that need asking with regard to achieving some measure of accountability. To do this, she uses the vehicle of a presentation of evidence to a grand jury through witness testimony and citations to evidentiary materials — government documents, public statements, and other publicly available materials.
And the information provided, when it is compiled all in one place and detailed in page after page after page, by a prosecutor with twenty years of experience in laying out a case in a detailed and logical fashion for a jury? Well, it's very effective. And chilling.
As Betsy explains in her introduction, the cost of such fraud is substantial — in lives, in national reputation, in loss of trust and integrity — and that there ought to be a steep price paid by persons who would attempt to perpetrate such a fraud on the American public.
Thus far, however, in the case of the vastly broader and more devastating Iraq war fraud orchestrated by the CEO of the United States and his management team, the system has failed. And we are all victims of this fraud. George W. Bush exploited the vulnerability of an entire populace reeling from the September 11, 2001, attacks to manipulate them into supporting a war based on false pretenses. If the cost of the President's fraud is astronomical — $340 billion in direct war costs alone as of August 2006 — the human cost is incalculable, and far more profound…
…I'm calling on Democrats and Republicans to do the right thing. And I'm calling on everyone else to do whatever you can to convince Congress to do the right thing. I am not talking about bringing people to justice in the vengeful sense that President Bush employs. I am talking about effecting justice. I am talking, finally, about holding our highest government officials accountable for a complex and calculated program of false pretense, misleading statements and material omissions — a criminal betrayal of trust that is strikingly similar to, yet far worse than, the fraud committed by Enron's top officials.
On of the most compelling segments of U.S. v. Bush is the compilation of research that Betsy has done on the membership of the White House Iraq Group (more commonly known as the WHIG), and its integral role in "selling" the Iraq invasion to the American public like a new and improved jar of peanut butter for the supermarket shelves. Except, in this particular case, what was sold was a war based on lies and hollow promises, and without any real plan beyond invasion, and the cost of such a sales job in lives and limbs and minds and hearts has been devastating.
For those who are not familiar with the WHIG, it's members included: Karen Hughes and Karl Rove, who were it's co-chairs; Andrew Card, Mary Matalin, James R. Wilkinson (a GOP political operative and Bush election advisor), Nicholas Calio (the Bush Congressional liaison), Condoleeze Rice, Stephen Hadley, and Scooter Libby. It was formed in July of 2002, and met weekly in the White House Situation Room, convening to plan a strategy for he sale of the Administration's Iraq war plans to the American public.
On pages 184-186 of U.S. v. Bush, there is a discussion of an Elizabeth Bumiller article that sticks in my mind still today from that summer of 2002:
A. Yes. The article also says that the President, Hughes, Card and Rove had begun planning the strategy in July, and "a centerpiece" of it was to use Bush's upcoming speech commemorating the 9/11 attacks to "help Americans toward support of action against Iraq, which could come early next year."
Q. In other words, they intended to tie the marketing of the war against Iraq to 9/11, even though they knew the two were unconnected?
Q. What else does the article reveal about the defendants' intent?
A. It says, "the White House wants a resolution approving the use of force in Iraq to be approved in the next four to five weeks." So despite Bush's earlier promise of "open dialogue," his aides were admitting that they had already decided what they wanted to do about Iraq — and when they wanted to do it.
It was also clear that Bush and his advisors intended to do whatever they had to do to ram their plan through. The article notes that congressional leaders were skeptical about whether Iraq posed an "imminent threat," but White House officials told the Times they would reveal "higher levels of intelligence" to make their case and, according to an unnamed official, "In the end it will be difficult for someone to vote against it." In other words, the Bush-Cheney administration's deliberate strategy was not just to persuade Congress directly, but to pressure Congress by manipulating the opinions of their constituents.
In U.S. v, Bush, Betsy lays out the entire malignant production, bit by bit, including such interesting pieces of information as the usefulness of knowing the White House website calendar's euphimisms (Did you know that "Welcome" was a stand-in for publicly funded campaign stop that we can fob off as a public appearance?), along with the false premises that members of the WHIG and their principles were vouching on the airwaves and in print, despite knowing that the factual basis for such claims was far from solid and, in some cases, altogether false and misleading to the public:
— The alleged connection between Saddam Hussein and the attacks of September 11, 2001;
— The alleged connection between Iraq and al Qaeda;
— The alleged connection between Saddam Hussein and any terrorists whose primary animus was directed toward the United States;
— Saddam Hussein's alleged intent to attack the United States in any way;
— Saddam Hussein's possessionof nuclear weapons and the status of any alleged ongoing nuclear weapons programs;
— The lack of any reasonable basis for asserting with any certainty that Saddam Hussein was actively manufacturing chemical and biological weapons; and
— The alleged urgency of any threat posed to the United States by Sadam Hussein.
All of which, as detailed in U.S. v. Bush, was false and was known to be false, and yet was used for a con job on the American public nonetheless.
This entire sorry spectacle, from the ramping up to the mess in Iraq by the WHIG public relations machinations, through to the failure to plan for the occupation of Iraq — the looting of public buildings on forward to the still-as-yet-barely-functioning power grid in Baghdad, from the Traitorgate investigation borne out of payback for criticizing the lack of integrity of the Vice President through to the more recent revelations of even more information on the Doug Feith-led Intel Chop Shop at the Pentagon. It is all in U.S. v. Bush, in a very readable — very infuriatingly readable — format.
The question is, once one has all of this information at hand — the PNAC involvement, the WHIG con job, the hands on participation of the President and Vice President, the use of war for political purposes — what exactly does one do with this? Perhaps we should all start by reading the draft indictment that is so conveniently provided in U.S. v. Bush. And then take a moment to contemplate the true meaning of the words in the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
We hold these truths to be self-evident: a President who does not uphold his oath of office, and who fails to respect and follow the rule of law, is no President — he is a tyrant and an attempted King. And it is well past time for accountability to be demanded for these wrongs to the Constitution and to the laws of this great land.
And with that, I open the discussion, and welcome Elizabeth de la Vega to Firedoglake. Welcome, Betsy!