The Squeeze Is On

Increasing pressure on the Bush regime and pals not only from the left but from the right


Get a grip: You've got to use whatever tools are available, like this nice new handi-clamp (above). A C-clamp also works well.

It's one thing for lefties and centrist Democrats to attack the Bush regime. Now even right-wingers and other known torturers are putting on the squeeze.

We're past the turning point anyway. There are still 1,147 days before George W. Bush's term officially expires, according to my handy-dandy Backwards Bush keychain. But the rapidly rotting regime and its corrupted cronies on Capitol Hill have turned so sour that even their natural allies here and abroad can't stand the odor.

I mean, who really cares what House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi says when she holds up the scalp of GOP colleague Randy "Duke" Cunningham and declares, according to this morning's New York Times:

    "This offense is just the latest example of the culture of corruption that pervades the Republican-controlled Congress, which ignores the needs of the American people to serve wealthy special interests and their cronies."

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Gee, you think so?

It's far more significant when one of the grandfathers of the far right, Paul Weyrich, calls his fellow Republicans hypocrites and warns of electoral disaster for a Republican Party that has suckled the right wing for the past quarter of a century.

This morning's Los Angeles Times carries this Weyrich quote about the fall of Cunningham:

    "Frankly, Republicans are held to a higher standard, mainly because they are the ones who always preach morality. I think voters are going to punish them over this."

That's not as ominous as a growing rebellion by some at the American Enterprise Institute, one of Dick Cheney's favorite venues. Scholars who helped agitprop up the Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal are increasingly pissed off about the much bigger scandal: the one revolving around lobbyist Jack Abramoff that I call Wampumgate.

The Philadelphia Inquirer's Jeff Shields pointed out the AEI's pissiness in his November 7 story about a Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing in late October on this big daddy of all influence-peddling schemes:

    The hearing was a sharp reminder that while White House aides Karl Rove and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby dominate the headlines, Abramoff remains — according to some observers — the Republican Party's most dangerous problem.

Shields rightly noted:

    Abramoff and his friends are some of the biggest players in the conservative revolution that took over Congress, the White House, and the lobbying industry.

More significantly, Shields quoted from an explosive October 19 article by conservative scholar Norman J. Ornstein, who's housed at the AEI. The think tank is a veritable safe house for the vise president's major policy pronouncements, like his November 21 speech in which Cheney repeated his charge that his war critics were "dishonest" and "reprehensible." I wrote about that AEI talk in "Cheney's High Dive into Shallow Waters." (Note: I originally screwed up the date of the speech in that item, but it's now corrected. Sorry.)

Even before Cheney's speech, the AEI was becoming less and less of a cuddly place for the rapidly devolving Bush regime. You can watch the propaganda on Fox News or the bland crap of CNN and other networks, but then you go to the AEI's own website to read Ornstein's piece and you see this headline:

    The Abramoff Saga: The Worst Hill Scandal in Our Lifetime?

Ornstein, reportedly a jaded veteran of the lawmaking scene, answers his own question this way:

    [E]ven to a jaded veteran of the lawmaking scene, the Abramoff Chronicles is over the top. Every new story I read makes me want to take a long shower to get rid of the grime.

    I don’t think we have had something of this scope, arrogance and sheer venality in our lifetimes.

    It is building to an explosion, one that could create immense collateral damage within Congress and in coming elections.

He has some advice for those pols whom he and fellow conservatives have installed as our rulers:

    If I were a Member of Congress who knew Abramoff and played footsie with him, a staffer who worked with him and then for him, or a prominent outside activist who did business with him, I would be afraid — very afraid. And if I were a Member of Congress who staunchly defended other Members of Congress who played footsie with Abramoff, I would be pretty nervous as well.

Even overseas, the Bush regime has lost and is losing its natural allies. Cheney and Rumsfeld are such screwups they couldn't even keep a grip on one of their main pals in Central Asia, Uzbekistan dictator Islam Karimov, whose prison guards have been known to boil people to death.

Human Rights Watch now reports from Tashkent that Karimov's government is blocking international observers from monitoring trials that arose from last spring's Andijan massacre.

These are trials, by the way, not of the shooters but of the protesters who survived the government slaughter of hundreds of their fellow citizens. In early summer, when it still had hopes of keeping Karimov as a buddy, the Bush regime was helping block international probes of that sorry incident.

What makes me think of just who's putting the squeeze on Dick Cheney these days is that Uzbekistan's government is flouting its own laws about open trials.

That sounds like the kind of thing that the likes of Cheney and Lindsey Graham are doing as they play fast and loose with our Constitution. (Read my colleague Nat Hentoff's recent riffs on Cheney and Graham.)

After all the butt-kissing we've lavished on Karimov — George W. Bush buttered up the buffoon on behalf of Enron's Ken Lay, New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg has posed with the poseur, and New York's finest protected Karimov for an outrageous photo-op at Ground Zero — the guy still wound up kicking our soldiers out of his country. That was an embarrassing defeat in the Great Game.

By all rights — or lack thereof — Karimov should be a friend. He thinks like the un-American Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal. As Human Rights Watch's report today from Tashkent notes:

    "The Uzbek government’s attempt to cover up the truth about Andijan now extends into the courtroom itself," said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The government says it is conducting fair and open trials, but in fact is withholding all information about the proceedings and denying access to observers."

    At least two trials related to the Andijan events are underway in cities near Tashkent, with unconfirmed reports that others are also taking place. The police guarding the courthouses denied Human Rights Watch access to both of the known trials. …

    The Supreme Court and the police outside the courthouses refused to reveal the names of the defendants, lawyers and judges as well as any information regarding the charges against these defendants or information about other trials related to Andijan that may be underway.

    According to Uzbek legislation, every trial is considered open unless declared closed by the judge for reasons such as the protection of national security or the interests of minors.

The results from previous trials of protesters should explain why these are being held in secret. HRW notes:

    On November 14, the Uzbek Supreme Court handed down a guilty verdict for all 15 defendants in the first Andijan-related trial. Human Rights Watch had serious concerns. that the trial did not comply with international fair-trial standards. According to official reports, more than 100 people were detained and charged in relation to the Andijan events and are currently awaiting trial.

Meanwhile, in the muck of the Iraq debacle, the Bush regime has already lost its grip on the war-ravaged country's most powerful Shiite pols and their militias.

But you can understand Iraqis' discontent. Despite the ballyhooed trial of Saddam Hussein, many of the billion or so Arabs on the planet won't soon forget such atrocities as those at Camp Mercury, where U.S. soldiers calling themselves the "Murderous Maniacs" have routinely beat and tortured Iraqis — the psycho and sexualized soldiers refer to it as "fucking" them. Remarkable how little play that story has gotten since Human Rights Watch broke it in September. But those tales will live on in other countries.

Longer than the Bush regime and its Capitol Hill pals will be able to keep the lid on their domestic scandals.

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