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Tomgram: Bush's War, and Presidential Fraud? 

A former federal prosecutor's take on Fitzmas and the White House Criminal Conspiracy

Thursday, Nov 3 2005
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Tomdispatch.com is a news and analysis site run by Tom Englehardt at the Nation Institute. The following is an excerpt of a recent introduction and article from Tomdispatch about last Friday's indictments.

Introduction

It's the aftermath. I. Lewis ("Scooter") Libby, immediately praised by the President ("Scooter has worked tirelessly on behalf of the American people and sacrificed much in the service to this country."), his resignation accepted with "deep regret" by the Vice President ("He has given many years of his life to public service and has served our nation tirelessly and with great distinction."), is gone. David Addington, Cheney's counsel and an extreme believer in unfettered presidential power, is evidently at the top of the list to succeed him as vice-presidential chief of staff. Addington, who was involved in Cheney's Plame discussions, has a Cheneyesque pedigree. As the Washington Post's Dana Milbank described him in October 2004, "Where there has been controversy over the past four years, there has often been Addington. He was a principal author of the White House memo justifying torture of terrorism suspects. He was a prime advocate of arguments supporting the holding of terrorism suspects without access to courts. Addington also led the fight with Congress and environmentalists over access to information about corporations that advised the White House on energy policy… Colleagues say Addington stands out for his devotion to secrecy in an administration noted for its confidentiality." (For the larger administration picture, as it relates to the Plame case, check out the latest graphic at Tompaine.com, Dick and Don's Cabal.)

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Meanwhile, Special Counsel Fitzgerald's case remains "open," as he indicated rather quietly in his news conference yesterday. On the significance of this, oddly enough, James Moore, author of Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential, and Ann Coulter seem to agree. As Moore puts it:

"Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald must surely just be at the beginning of rendering justice. An indictment or two will hardly serve to answer the critical questions. The leak and any lies to the grand jury were most likely motivated by a deep and abiding fear that a much greater crime was at risk of being uncovered. Karl Rove is vindictive, yes. But he is not stupid. Rove would never risk treason unless he thought it served a political purpose. And this was the most important political purpose of all: protecting his most precious asset, George W. Bush."

And here's Coulter:

"O'BRIEN: So there you have it, Karl Rove apparently escaping indictment, but that's the good news. The bad news is, on goes the investigation. What are your thoughts on that one?

COULTER: That is like the worse possible outcome… Let's just get it done one way or the other this Friday. Either they get indicted and they leave, or they're not indicted and it's over. To stay under investigation — that is not the best possible outcome."

So we all continue with "the worse possible outcome." What remains with us — and the administration — as well is the ongoing, devolving catastrophe in Iraq where, in just the last three days, 8 more American soldiers have died during a month, not yet at an end, in which 79 American servicemen and countless Iraqis were killed. At the heart of the case that brought us into this war were a series of deliberate lies and forgeries. And I'm not just referring to Scooter Libby's series of ridiculous, ad-lib whoppers to the grand jury. (Was he throwing himself on his sword to protect his boss or was this just the typical we-can-get-away-with-it hubris of the Bush White House?)

Former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega in the cover story of this week's Nation magazine, a piece being shared with and released on line by Tomdispatch, turns to the question of how to make the Bush administration accountable for having defrauded the American people into a war. Her striking exploration offers a potential new legal avenue that could force Bush & Co. to take responsibility for their actions. It's an ingenious approach, the equivalent of getting Al Capone for evading his taxes and it should be followed up. — Tom

The White House Criminal Conspiracy

By Elizabeth de la Vega

Legally, there are no significant differences between the investor fraud perpetrated by Enron CEO Ken Lay and the prewar intelligence fraud perpetrated by George W. Bush. Both involved persons in authority who used half-truths and recklessly false statements to manipulate people who trusted them. There is, however, a practical difference: The presidential fraud is wider in scope and far graver in its consequences than the Enron fraud. Yet thus far the public seems paralyzed.

In response to the outcry raised by Enron and other scandals, Congress passed the Corporate Corruption Bill, which President Bush signed on July 30, 2002, amid great fanfare. Bush declared that he was signing the bill because of his strong belief that corporate officers must be straightforward and honest. If they were not, he said, they would be held accountable.

Ironically, the day Bush signed the Corporate Corruption Bill, he and his aides were enmeshed in an orchestrated campaign to trick the country into taking the biggest risk imaginable — a war. Indeed, plans to attack Iraq were already in motion. In June, Bush announced his "new" pre-emptive strike strategy. On July 23, 2002, the head of British intelligence advised Prime Minister Tony Blair, in the then-secret Downing Street Memo, that "military action was now seen as inevitable" and that "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." Bush had also authorized the transfer of $700 million from Afghanistan war funds to prepare for an invasion of Iraq. Yet all the while, with the sincerity of Marc Antony protesting that "Brutus is an honorable man," Bush insisted he wanted peace.

Americans may have been unaware of this deceit then, but they have since learned the truth. According to a Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted in June, 52% of Americans now believe the President deliberately distorted intelligence to make a case for war. In an Ipsos Public Affairs poll, commissioned by AfterDowningStreet.org and completed October 9, 50% said that if Bush lied about his reasons for going to war Congress should consider impeaching him. The President's deceit is not only an abuse of power; it is a federal crime. Specifically, it is a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, which prohibits conspiracies to defraud the United States.

So what do citizens do? First, they must insist that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence complete Phase II of its investigation, which was to be an analysis of whether the administration manipulated or misrepresented prewar intelligence. The focus of Phase II was to determine whether the administration misrepresented the information it received about Iraq from intelligence agencies. Second, we need to convince Congress to demand that the Justice Department appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the administration's deceptions about the war, using the same mechanism that led to the appointment of Patrick Fitzgerald to investigate the outing of Valerie Plame. (As it happens, Congressman Jerrold Nadler and others have recently written to Acting Deputy Attorney General Robert McCallum Jr. pointing out that the Plame leak is just the "tip of the iceberg" and asking that Fitzgerald's authority be expanded to include an investigation into whether the White House conspired to mislead the country into war.)

To read the rest of this article on Tomdispatch, click here.

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