Sunday, August 20, 2006


Assuming you can get past the all-JonBenet, all-the-time coverage this past week, you may have read that Judge Anna Diggs Taylor struck down the Bush Administration's warrantless, illegal, and unconstitutional wiretap program. The administration and their right-wing lackeys have predictably fired back with both personal (Taylor is a "Democrat-appointed judge," she's an activist judge, she's an appointee of that weak and evil Jimmy Carter) and generally jingoistic (supporters of this decision are supporting the terrorists, they're anti-American, they're traitors) responses. This decision, they say, weakens the country in its ongoing war on terror; it prevents us from wiretapping the terrorists.

But this decision has nothing to do about wiretapping the terrorists. Hell, I'm all for wiretapping terrorists; most people are. In spite of the hue and cry from the right-wingnuts, this decision doesn't prevent the government from doing that.

The administration claims that this decision would stop us from finding out about and stopping terrorist plots, like the one recently defused in England. That's a blatant lie. Here's the truth:
  • The U.K. plot was foiled by the British, not by Americans; our ability to wiretap (or not) was irrelevant in that case.
  • The CIA can wiretap any communications it wants to outside the U.S.; this decision has nothing to do with that.
  • The government can wiretap communications within the U.S. by simply asking for permission and receiving a warrant from a special FISA (Foreign International Surveillance Act) court. The FISA court almost always says yes; it's pretty much a blank check (much to the chagrin of civil libertarians).

The fact that the government has to go through warrant-friendly channels to do a wiretap is no great restraint; it doesn't hinder our anti-terrorist efforts in any way, shape, or form. The Bush Administration saying otherwise is simply untrue.

So what's the deal, then? If it's not about stopping the terrorists, what's all the fuss about?

It's about power.

You see, Bush and Cheney and their cohorts want no limits whatsoever on presidential power. Forget the Constitution, forget the two other branches of government, forget checks and balances. The executive branch must have the power to do whatever it wants, with no oversight from either Congress or the courts. It's the Imperial Presidency, one short step from dictatorship, that Bush and Cheney want.

And why do they want this? It's the unholy alliance between Bush, the rich fratboy who's used to always getting what he wants, and Cheney, the evil spawn of the Nixon Administration who wants to recoup the powers that Congress unjustly (in his view) stripped from the presidency after the Watergate scandal. It's about having no one to answer to; it's about unfettered, uncontrolled, unheard-of power.

The thing is, the current administration should be careful of what they ask for. If they succeed in creating an Imperial Presidency, what's to stop the next Democratic president from using those same powers against them? Short of a coup, this administration ends in two years, and the next guy gets to use all the power that these guys have massed -- and the next guy could use that power in ways unimagined. It won't always be you in charge; think of the future, guys.

And the future is just what Judge Taylor, the ACLU, and all other responsible Americans are thinking of. The country and the Constitution must endure, despite the efforts of the current despots.

But that's just my opinion; reasonable minds may disagree.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Conspiracy theories

It is, perhaps, human nature that conspiracy theories abound. Simple explanations for earth-shattering events never seem quite enough; there has to be something bigger behind the scenes to give the big events their proper weight.

I'm reminded of the story that FDR knew about Pearl Harbor before the Japanese attacked and did nothing to stop it, calculating that America needed a shock like that to push the then-isolationist country into the war. (Read more here.) Or the various theories that claim the Bush administration was either aware of or behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks. (Read more here.)

In the latest issue of The New Yorker, journalist Seymour Hersh reports a story that some will no doubt include in these same ranks of conspiracy theories. But Hersh isn't a wild-eyed whack-job; he has a long and respected history of publishing truths that other reporters are either incapable of or unwilling to report. It's unlikely that this alleged conspiracy is fictional.

What Hersh reports is astonishing. According to his sources, the Israeli government plotted with higher-ups at the White House and the U.S. State Department to invade Lebanon and make war on Hezbollah, months before the recent military action. With these plans in hand, the Israelis only had to wait for the right pretext to go to war. It's FDR and Pearl Harbor all over again, except this really happened.

What did the U.S. get out of this? For Condi Rice and the State Department, the pending attack was "a way to strengthen the Lebanese government." For the White House (re: VP Cheney and his neocon cohorts; the President is apparently a non-factor when it comes to most international business), this was a test for their planned upcoming attack on Iran -- "the mirror image of what the United States has been planning for Iran," as stated in the article.

And here's the thing. Despite the cries and uproar from the right-wing media, Hersh isn't a conspiracy theorist. He's a solid, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, responsible for exposing the My Lai massacre, the Abu Ghraib scandal, and other important stories. If Hersh says something is true, it probably is.

The fact that you probably haven't heard much about Hersh's report says something about the timidity of our country's mainstream media. This is an important story, global manipulation on a grand scale, and it deserves to be heard. Why isn't The New York Times reporting this story? Why do you have to go overseas (to the BBC and similar media) to find out about this? Our media ignoring this story is a conspiracy in and of itself.

Let's also not gloss over the most important part of this story: Cheney's White House is already planning an attack on Iran -- just as they planned an attack on Iraq long before 9/11 and the non-existent weapons of mass destruction. The 9/11 attacks were just the pretext that Cheney and his pals needed to give the green light to their Iraq invasion plans, just as the Israelis used the pretext of the kidnapping of two soldiers as justification to invade Lebanon. It's probably just a matter of time before some minor event serves as the trigger for the Bush administration's next war.

Makes you wonder about all those other conspiracy theories, doesn't it?

But that's just my opinion; reasonable minds may disagree.