Thursday, May 27, 2004

Prior Questions About Iraq. Plus, Is Bush Dumb?

Dear Colleagues:

I. Previous Questions About Iraq, And New Information About Them

In the first two weeks of May, before much that is now known about the prison abuse scandal had become known, a number of specific questions were raised in this blog, as was the more general suggestion that the media should investigate and discuss them. Here, for example, are some of the questions, and some of the additional information uncovered by the press since the posting earlier in May.

• The question was raised as to whether the abuses at Abu Ghraib were “imported” from Guantanamo. It is now known that abusive practices were used not just at Guantanamo, but in Afghanistan and at still secret places all over the world, some of which even consist, apparently, of big shipping containers sited abroad. Even the heads of the Congressional intelligence committees are not told where these places are. Also, though it was somewhat known then, it is now know to a greater extent that prisoners are given to Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco to be tortured.

• It was suggested that the Pentagon’s chief Rummy, plus some generals, plus Bush, did not care about torture or where people were sent, because their goal was to get information in order to ward off terrorist attacks and save soldiers’ lives, and how the information was extracted from prisoners was not a matter of concern to any of these people. At this point, it is ever more clear that all of this is true (albeit the full extent of Bush’s precise knowledge, assuming he is capable of precise knowledge, is still not entirely clear).

• The legal memoranda of CIA lawyers and of the once August but now dishonorable Department of Justice, supposedly justifying the use of torture, were called corrupt. This has been increasingly established, as information and informed opinion increasingly make clear that the memos pandered to the desire of Bush, the chief Rummy, Wolfo and generals not to have to adhere to the Geneva Conventions.

• It was suggested that the military was hiding more pictures and videos, lest the Government’s political situation become even worse because one picture is worth scores of thousands of words. (Also, faces could be blocked out in still pictures and videos to avoid humiliation to individuals). That this is true has become ever more obvious. (One curious and, one would think, unlikely fact about the corrupt DOJ memos, incidentally, is that one or some of them were written by a fellow whose permanent position is as a law professor at Berkeley, one of the most politically correct universities in the country.)

It is obviously necessary for the press to continue investigating and discussing these matters (about which The Washington Post, as with Watergate, seems to largely be beating the competition). But there were other suggestions made here in the first part of May that still have not received much discussion in the media, yet should be inquired into and discussed. Here are some examples:

• The Government has insisted to the Supreme court that it must be allowed to try the Guantanamo prisoners by military tribunal and that federal courts cannot properly handle these cases. Is one of the reasons for this insistence the fact that the Government knows that the evidence from and against defendants was obtained by torture, and therefore would be thrown out in federal courts, so that convictions cannot be obtained there?

• George Bush certainly knew enough (both through Albert Gonzalez and otherwise) to be aware that methods of interrogation were being used that violated the Geneva rules. Yet he did nothing to stop it. Rather, he quite obviously desired it because he wanted information to be extracted. Isn’t he therefore guilty of participating in a criminal conspiracy (along with the chief Rummy, Wolfo, various generals, etc.) to violate the laws of war, not to mention being involved in a conspiracy to commit possible war crimes or crimes against humanity? Why isn’t the media investigating and discussing this obvious and important question?

Bush, of course, would rely on the corrupt legal memos from the DOJ and the CIA to justify his actions or at least to “immunize” him from prosecution. But these pandering pieces of paper are no better than the legal opinions relied on by tax cheats and securities law violators. (Bush apparently has some personal experience with possible securities law violations.) Increasingly those pimped - up opinions do not protect these people, and the corruptly pandering memos that Bush would rely on should stand no better. This is only the more true because the pimped-up memos relied on by Bush apparently use transparent dodges such as that, regardless of the truth, the Geneva Conventions do not apply if we simply say they don’t, or people are not prisoners of war if we simply say they aren’t -- all of which is like you or I taking the position that our cold blooded killing of someone we don’t like is not murder, and the law against murder does not apply to us, if we simply say it is not murder to kill someone you don’t like.

So I ask again: Why isn’t the media investigating the question of whether Bush was involved in a conspiracy to violate the Geneva Conventions and the laws of war? In this regard, it is interesting, is it not, that there apparently were some high military lawyers who opposed what was being done? Not everyone was deliberately blind, deaf and dumb.

New Question: Is Bush Simply Dumb?

It sounds badly to the ear, and reads badly to the eye, to say in person or in writing that a President is dumb. The media avoids this, so for a long time The New York Times has used the euphemism “incurious” when speaking of George W. Bush. Lately, however, some members of the media have begun to use the word “incompetent” when speaking of the Administration generally. Incompetence often, if not usually, starts at the top and, of course, is often the result of being dumb. Therefore, I should think that the time is long past due to give up our verbal politeness and politesse -- which every day, as we learn more and more, is more and more out of sync with obvious reality -- and to say or at least ask questions about what might be the awful truth: the American people elected, or, more accurately, the Supreme Court appointed, a dumb person as President.

There is much that could cause one to ask how anyone could doubt this lack of acumen. The media (and books?) are filled with stories of how the man sits at meetings without saying anything. How many corporate board chairmen or university presidents or others in a like position sit at meetings and say nothing? -- they wouldn’t be board chairmen or university presidents if they did this. He apparently thought he could fool Americans indefinitely with falsehoods about the real reason(s) why we were going to war. Would anyone but a dumb person think this -- especially after living through Viet Nam? He indulged the most bizarre assumptions about what would happen in Iraq, and neither he nor the Chief Rummy nor Wolfo would listen to anyone who thought differently (e.g., Lindsey, Shinseki). He is in charge of an Administration that lacked anything that could properly be called planning for post war Iraq and now finds itself having to try to enlist its international opponents (France and Germany) and the enemies it fought in Iraq itself (Baathists, militias). Is this dumb or what? Before becoming President he was a serious alcoholic and a serial failure in business who had to repeatedly be bailed out by Daddy’s friends or wannabe friends -- serial failure in business equipped him to be President? (Not to mention the possible SEC violations that Daddy’s SEC was not about to prosecute). Despite being educated at Andover, Yale and Harvard, he was (and is?) tongue tied to the point of inarticulateness when not reading prepared remarks. Though he is a national and international leader who needs to know things in order to try to avoid terrible mistakes, he apparently eschews reading, although, as Harry Truman so sagely said, there is nothing new under the sun except the history that you don’t know, and apparently also said, or at least believed, that not all readers can be leaders, but all leaders must be readers. He is a fundamentalist and, like so many fundamentalists of any and all religions, arrogantly thinks that his way is the only way and that all people who think differently are immoral or evil (such as people who want to use stem cell research to save lives?).

How could any half-way objective person think that this background and this combination of traits do not raise the question of whether the President is a dumb person? Yet the media has from the start given George W. Bush a free pass on the question of his basic intelligence, or lack thereof, just as it gave Bill Clinton a free pass on Gennifer Flowers and on serial immorality when he ran for President. A free pass! Considering the awful trouble which has arisen under Bush’s “stewardship,” and considering that lack of basic competence, foresight and acumen are so heavily responsible for this trouble, isn’t it long past time that the media began to raise the fundamental question of Bush’s intelligence or lack thereof? Are we supposed to possibly get four more years of someone who gives sign after sign of possibly being quite a dumb person who creates disasters and whose decisions have led to evil, without anyone raising the question of his basic intelligence because, in American society, politeness and politesse demand that it not be raised?

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