Friday, July 27, 2007

Iraq & the Non-Withdrawal Withdrawal

By Norman Solomon
July 27, 2007

Last week, a media advisory from “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” announced a new series of interviews on the PBS show that will address “what Iraq might look like when the U.S. military leaves.”

A few days later, Time magazine published a cover story titled “Iraq: What will happen when we leave.”

But it turns out, what will happen when we leave is that we won’t leave.

Read on.

A Gathering Storm

With Congress issuing subpoenas relating to its investigation of the Bush administration's firing of nine U.S. attorneys, the latest target being Bush's top political aide Karl Rove, the ominous question that hangs in the air is whether the authoritarian foundations that George Bush has laid over the past several years have overwhelmed America's system of government to the point that it should properly be called a dictatorship rather than a republic. With the administration boldly refusing to cooperate in any way with the congressional investigation, it appears that Bush's strategy may be to simply stonewall and wait until the matter makes its way through the Federal courts, which have been stacked with conservative allies who generally embrace a broad view of presidential power. With this in mind, there seems to be a real possibility that the president's unprecedented assertion of executive privilege may become the standard by which all future presidents operate.

Not only is the administration asserting a claim of executive privilege that is so sweeping that it lacks historical precedent, it also cites this executive privilege in arguing that Congress has no power to compel a U.S. attorney to pursue contempt charges in cases relating to the prosecutor firings.

Mark J. Rozell, a professor of public policy at George Mason University who has written a book on executive-privilege issues, called the administration's stance "astonishing."

"That's a breathtakingly broad view of the president's role in this system of separation of powers," Rozell said.

What he left unsaid though is whether the United States still actually has a system of separation of powers, with three co-equal branches of government that serve as checks and balances on each other. Depending on the outcome of the current showdown, we will find out whether the rule of law still applies to those at the highest levels of government. Indeed, depending on the outcome of this showdown, high school civics textbooks that claim that "no man is above the law" in America may have to be amended to read, "no man is above the law, except in the Executive Branch."

With Senate Judiciary chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) now warning that there is a "cloud over this White House and a gathering storm," it should be pointed out that had Congress put up a bigger fight in the past regarding confirming Bush appointees to both Cabinet-level positions and the Federal courts, it's possible that the nation wouldn't be facing this potential constitutional crisis. Although Democrats did not have control of the Senate -- which is responsible for confirming presidential appointees -- from 2003 until 2007, there were numerous chances to put significant challenges to Bush's authoritarian view of Executive power. For instance, even with officials such as Alberto Gonzales on record as supporting policies of torture and the inapplicability of the Geneva Conventions in the "war on terror," the Senate easily confirmed the former White House lawyer to the position of Attorney General, the highest law enforcement official in the land. Four Democrats broke ranks to vote to confirm Gonzales, with three abstaining.

Congress again deferred to Bush's broad view of executive power when the president nominated a key architect of the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program – former NSA director Michael Hayden – to become CIA director. Hayden was waved through after a polite round of hearings and a resounding 78-15 confirmation vote in the U.S. Senate. Bush Supreme Court nominations have also received similar deference in the Senate. Samuel Alito, for example, was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court despite his unorthodox views on the “unitary executive.”

At a Federalist Society symposium in 2001, Judge Alito recalled that when he was in the Office of Legal Counsel in Ronald Reagan’s White House, “we were strong proponents of the theory of the unitary executive, that all federal executive power is vested by the Constitution in the President.”

In 1986, Alito advanced this theory by proposing “interpretive signing statements” from presidents to counter the court’s traditional reliance on congressional intent in assessing the meaning of federal law. Bush has issued more than 750 “signing statements” since 2001, effectively rejecting legal restrictions especially as they bear on presidential powers. [See’s “Alito & the Point of No Return.”]

These views were well-known at the time of Alito's nomination, yet, he was confirmed by a party-line vote of 58-42. While Democrats held firm in their opposition to Alito, they nevertheless refused to exercise the filibuster option, which may have prevented Alito from making his way onto the court. Now, with this "gathering storm" that Sen. Leahy warns about, these past concessions to the White House may prove to be the unravelling of America's system of checks and balances. Congress can issue as many subpoenas to the White House as it likes, but if the courts come to endorse Bush's sweeping assertion of executive privilege, the constitutional separation of powers may in effect be permanently revoked. For these reasons and others, some critics are arguing that going after officials like Gonzales and Rove is not nearly enough.

For instance, as attorney Shahid Buttar observes at Commondreams, "the Administration’s policy failures need not serve as the only basis for impeachment proceedings, because the threat to the Republic posed by Executive self-aggrandizement is far more dangerous and worthy of congressional rebuke. Despite all the recent attention on the Attorney General, the nation seems to casually overlook the White House’s ongoing assault on the Separation of Powers. ...

"Congress should absolutely demand - and if necessary, bring to effect - the Attorney General’s departure from office. But it should not stop there. Only the impeachment of the Vice President and President can restore the Rule of Law to the United States."

Dangers of a Cornered George Bush

By Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity and Dr. Justin Frank
July 27, 2007

Recent events have put a great deal more pressure on President George W. Bush, who has shown little regard for the constitutional system bequeathed to us by the Founders. Having bragged about being commander in chief of the “first war of the 21st century,” one he began under false pretenses, success in Iraq is now a pipedream.

The “new” strategy of surging troops in Baghdad has simply wasted more lives and bought some time for the president. His strategy boils down to keeping as many of our soldiers engaged as possible, in order to stave off definitive defeat in Iraq before January 2009.

Read on.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

John Conyers Is No Martin Luther King

By Ray McGovern
July 24, 2007

What do Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan, chair of the House Committee on the Judiciary, and President George W. Bush have in common? They both think they can dis Cindy Sheehan and count on gossip columnists like the Washington Post’s David Milbank to trivialize a historic moment.

I’ll give this to President Bush. He makes no pretence when he disses. He would not meet with Sheehan to define for her the “noble cause” for which her son Casey died or tell her why he had said it was “worth it.”

Read on.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Neck Deep's 'Flap' Language

By Robert Parry
July 23, 2007

Often, before buying a book, I like to read the “flap” language, what’s written on the dust jacket that folds inside the front and back covers. So, below you will find the “flap” language for our new book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush:

“The rain pelted down in icy-cold droplets, chilling both the protesters in soaked parkas and the well-dressed celebrants bent behind umbrellas to shield their furs and cashmere overcoats. Drawn to this historic moment – a time of triumph for some and fury for others – the two opposing groups jostled and pushed their way through security checkpoints, joining the tens of thousands pressing against rows of riot police lining Pennsylvania Avenue.

Read on.