Unintelligent life discovered on an angry planet
Even the Cheney–Rumsfeld cabal and its chief spokespeople are coming back to Earth. It appears to be a forced landing.
Pressured in Europe for explanations of the CIA rendition flights, Condi Rice has been retreating from the Bush regime’s tortured logic. The honeymoon flights of fancy, carrying prisoners around the world to be tortured, are finally showing up on other countries’ radar, and Rice is saying, in effect, “Hamana, hamana, hamana.”
As NASA’s wonderful pictures from Mars are beamed back to Earth, it’s clear that there’s a red planet in the cosmos. But where the Bush regime is concerned, that planet is Earth, and it’s red because it’s angry. Maybe the administration’s flight from reality is nearing an end.
Yesterday, the U.K.’s law lords dealt a severe blow to the cause of international kidnapping and extra-legal torture, both of which the Bush regime has ardently defended. As the BBC notes:
Secret evidence which might have been obtained by torture cannot be used against terror suspects in UK courts, the law lords have ruled.
The ruling means the home secretary will have to review all cases where evidence from other countries might have been obtained in this way.
And with 30 more people blown up on a bus, chaotic Iraq is still chaotic Iraq, a more inhospitable place than the Mars that NASA’s scientists are showing off.
Even chief spokesman George W. Bush is backpedaling, acknowledging in a speech yesterday that everything in Iraq is indeed not rosy. Referring to the Shiite holy city of Najaf — where I specifically noted on September 19 that the U.S. has poured in money that should have spent in New Orleans — the POTUS told the Council on Foreign Relations:
Like most of Iraq, the reconstruction in Najaf has proceeded with fits and starts since liberation — it’s been uneven.
The New York Times pounced on the speech to argue that Bush was being candid about problems and that the regime was shifting its reconstruction “focus”:
President Bush said Wednesday that the strategy for rebuilding Iraq was shifting to smaller, more visible projects, while he conceded that the American effort to rebuild Iraq had been ridden with early mistakes. …
Mr. Bush’s words were tinged with caution, and an acknowledgment of how much remained to be done. “Corruption is a problem at both the national and local levels of the Iraqi government,” he said, an issue he had rarely discussed. He also spoke of how militia groups had infiltrated security forces, “especially the Iraqi police.”
He should talk about corruption. Here’s what Bush said, and the Times overlooked:
And so in consultation with the Iraqi government, we started using more resources to fund smaller, local projects that could deliver rapid, noticeable improvements, and offer an alternative to the destructive vision of the terrorists. We increased the amount of money our military commanders had at their disposal for flexible use. We worked with Iraqi leaders to provide more contracts directly to Iraqi firms. And by adapting our reconstruction efforts to meet needs on the ground, we’re helping Iraqi leaders serve their people, and Iraqis are beginning to see that a free life will be a better life.
Whoa! They’re not all the way back down to Earth. That “amount of money our military commanders had at their disposal for flexible use”? That’s the Commanders Emergency Response Program, an unaudited slush fund of hundreds of millions of dollars, as I pointed out on February 8.
Doug Struck of the Washington Post detailed in July 2004 this sowing of cash. As I wrote this past April, various whistleblowers complained that, under pasha Jerry Bremer, U.S. officials and soldiers tossed bundles of cash around Iraq “like footballs.”
Leaving aside the fact that Bush had the gall to point to this program as a good thing, it truly is progress that he appears to be backpedaling on bluster.
In their long trip back down to Earth, the men of the Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal (and the secretary of their state) may finally be accepting the idea that they’ve made a mess of their Messianic vision, that their reality is not, in fact, reality.
I’m talking about this passage in Ron Suskind‘s memorable October 17, 2004 New York Times Magazine story, “Without a Doubt”:
In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn’t like about Bush’s former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House’s displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn’t fully comprehend — but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.
The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about Enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
Who besides guys like me are part of the reality-based community? Many of the other elected officials in Washington, it would seem. A group of Democratic and Republican members of Congress were called in to discuss Iraq sometime before the October 2002 vote authorizing Bush to move forward. A Republican senator recently told Time magazine that the president walked in and said: “Look, I want your vote. I’m not going to debate it with you.” When one of the senators began to ask a question, Bush snapped, “Look, I’m not going to debate it with you.”
But three years later, the wheels have fallen off the imperial chariot, and the calls for debate are growing louder.
It’s clear that the cabal and Bush are up to their necks in the torture controversy. It’s also clear that they’re backpedaling. Where they’re going is another matter.
A smart story in this morning’s Washington Post by Glenn Kessler and John White parses Rice’s European adventure, mixes it with news about John McCain‘s anti-torture amendment and notes:
The administration is “accepting reality” that Congress supports a broad ban on mistreatment of prisoners, one aide said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Members of Congress in both parties have come to fear that opposing McCain’s language could be seen as supporting torture, the aide said.
Critics of the administration have charged that it has played deceptive word games with descriptions of its interrogation policy. Rice’s statement appeared to narrow the ambiguity and bar interrogation techniques that the CIA has been permitted to use in select cases, such as sexual humiliation and “waterboarding,” in which the prisoner is made to believe he or she is drowning.
Still, analysts were trying to sort out its practical meaning Wednesday. “The administration has shown itself a number of times capable of changing course and speed in response to actual or feared legal developments, be it in the courts or in Congress,” said Eugene Fidell, a Washington specialist on military law. “This may be another illustration of that tendency.”
Meanwhile, in the reality-based world, we continue to throw words back at Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Bush. Here are some, regarding “reality,” from the September 2005 Human Rights Watch report on the “Murderous Maniacs” of Camp Mercury:
The abuses alleged in this report can be traced to the Bush administration’s decision to disregard the Geneva Conventions in the armed conflict in Afghanistan.
On February 7, 2002, President George W. Bush announced that the Geneva Conventions concerning the treatment of prisoners did not apply at all to al-Qaeda members or to Taliban soldiers because they did not qualify as members of the armed forces. He insisted that detainees would nonetheless be treated “humanely.”
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told journalists that day: “The reality is the set of facts that exist today with the al-Qaeda and the Taliban were not necessarily the set of facts that were considered when the Geneva Conventions was fashioned.”
That was then. Maybe now, Don Rumsfeld no longer has the ability to define our “reality.”
Reality bites. And it’s finally biting back at the Bush regime.