Friday, November 04, 2005

The Emporer's No Clothes....Paul Krugman

Defending Imperial Nudity
By Paul Krugman
The New York Times

Friday 04 November 2005

Hans Christian Andersen understood bad rulers. "The Emperor's New Suit" doesn't end with everyone acclaiming the little boy for telling the truth. It ends with the emperor and his officials refusing to admit their mistake.

I've laid my hands on additional material, which Andersen failed to publish, describing what happened after the imperial procession was over.

The talk-show host Bill O'Reilly yelled, "Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!" at the little boy. Calling the boy a nut, he threatened to go to the boy's house and "surprise" him.

Fox News repeatedly played up possible finds of imperial clothing, then buried reports discrediting these stories. Months after the naked procession, a poll found that many of those getting most of their news from Fox believed that the emperor had in fact been clothed.

Imperial officials eventually admitted that they couldn't find any evidence that the suit ever existed, or that there had even been an effort to produce a suit. They insisted, however, that they had found evidence of wardrobe-manufacturing-and-distribution-related program activities.

After the naked procession, pro-wardrobe pundits denied that the emperor was at fault. The blame, they said, rested with the C.I.A., which had provided the emperor with bad intelligence about the potential for a suit.

Even a quick Web search shows that before the procession, those same pundits had written articles attacking C.I.A. analysts because those analysts had refused to support strong administration assertions about the invisible suit.

Although the imperial administration was conservative, its wardrobe plans drew crucial support from a group of liberal pundits. After the emperor's nakedness was revealed, the online magazine Slate held a symposium in which eight of these pundits were asked whether the fact that there was no suit had led them to reconsider their views. Only one admitted that he had been wrong - and he had changed his mind about the suit before the procession.

Helen Thomas, the veteran palace correspondent, opposed the suit project from the beginning. When she pointed out that the emperor's clothes had turned out not to exist, the imperial press secretary accused her of being "opposed to the broader war on nakedness."

Even though skeptics about the emperor's suit had been vindicated, TV news programs continued to portray those skeptics as crazy people. For example, the news networks showed, over and over, a clip of the little boy shouting at a party. The clip was deeply misleading: he had been shouting to be heard over background noise, which the ambient microphone didn't pick up. Nonetheless, "the scream" became a staple of political discourse.

The emperor gave many speeches in which he declared that his wardrobe was the "central front" in the war on nakedness.

The editor of one liberal but pro-wardrobe magazine admitted that he had known from the beginning that there were good reasons to doubt the emperor's trustworthiness. But he said that he had put those doubts aside because doing so made him "feel superior to the Democrats." Unabashed, he continued to denounce those who had opposed the suit as soft on sartorial security.

At the Radio and Television Correspondents' annual dinner, the emperor entertained the assembled journalists with a bit of humor: he showed slides of himself looking under furniture in his office, searching for the nonexistent suit. Some of the guests were aghast, but most of the audience roared with laughter.

The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee oversaw an inquiry into how the government had come to believe in a nonexistent suit. The first part focused on the mistakes made by career government tailors. But the second part of the inquiry, on the role of the imperial administration in promoting faulty tailoring, appeared to vanish from the agenda.

Two and a half years after the emperor's naked procession, a majority of citizens believed that the imperial administration had deliberately misled the country. Several former officials had gone public with tales of an administration obsessed with its wardrobe from Day 1.

But apologists for the emperor continued to dismiss any suggestion that officials had lied to the nation. It was, they said, a crazy conspiracy theory. After all, back in 1998 Bill Clinton thought there was a suit.

And they all lived happily ever after - in the story. Here in reality, a large and growing number are being killed by roadside bombs.

Time to Cancel your NY Times Subscription? Atcheson Speaks

A thoughtful essay....but lately I realize that most of Truthout is based on the superb reporting of the NY Times. I love my Times, hate the in-fighting that goes on. Judith Miller, Jason Blair, all the folk have their problems, but the measure of the paper is its funding of quality reporting. We have to go to the Guardian to find substantial facts....look at any small "local" paper and compare it to the Times....there's no there there.

Published on Thursday, November 3, 2005 by
Why I Canceled The New York Times
by John Atcheson

Dear Mr. Sulzberger:

There's been a lot of moaning and gnashing of teeth about the fall in circulation among major newspapers, including yours. I regret to inform you, you just lost another customer. Allow me to explain why.

The Times' 11/2 coverage of the Senate private session forced by Rule 21 was among the most biased I've encountered by a major newspaper and I'm 56 and read several papers a day, so that's a large sample over a very long time.

"Partisan Quarrel Forces Senators to Bar the Doors" doesn't even approximate the nature of the issue being raised.

Placing the story in the lower left hand corner doesn't assign it the importance it deserves.

"Democrats Force Reckoning of Pre-War Intelligence" would describe the content and its import far more accurately.

And for the record, the lead is not Bill Frist's anger -- it's what you chose to split in half, burying the important part on Page 14. To wit: Pat Roberts has slow-walked an examination of whether and how the administration skewed intelligence in the run-up to the Iraqi War.

Lying the nation into a war is a big deal. A very big deal. The soon to be indicted Mr. Frist's anger is not.

This paper now has the dubious distinction of being an accomplice to the selling of a war entered into under false pretenses; enabling the election of the war mongers who prosecuted this war by delaying the investigation of Plamegate until after the 2004 election by pandering to an out of control reporter who spearheaded your paper's role in spreading faked intelligence; all but ignoring the Downing Street Memos which proved the administration lied; and now, downplaying the importance of a crucial -- and heroic -- action to get Americans the truth.

Truth, by the way, used to be the pole star which guided the New York Times. Under your reign it no longer is. And that is why I, along with hundreds of thousands of others, are canceling our subscriptions, and why the younger generation considers your paper irrelevant.

He-said, she-said reporting is neither interesting, nor informative. Biased reporting such as your paper has been exhibiting lately, is worse -- it's boringly predictable, and it misinforms.

The press was granted special status in the First Amendment because the founding fathers believed an informed citizenry was vital to a functioning democracy. That special status came with a codicil -- the duty to report the truth (not, as the Times seems to think, the duty to protect reporters who assist in spreading lies).

Truth. That's what's at issue here. And that's what you've once again all but ignored in this latest example of being a mouthpiece for Republicans.

Wednesday's paper, my last, raised biased reporting to an art form -- a very dark art.

The Soviet-era Pravda would be proud of your recent record, and your role as government mouthpiece in the Iraqi debacle.

You should be ashamed. And you should seek to right this sad chapter in our nation's history -- a history that the Times helped author -- at every opportunity. Instead, you compound it.

When you are replaced, Mr. Sulzberger, I will consider reading the Times again.

Until then, Good night and good luck.

John Atcheson's writing has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the San Jose Mercury News, the Memphis Commercial Appeal, as well as in several policy journals.


McGovern on Torture

Torture in Our Name
By Ray McGovern
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Friday 04 November 2005

Wednesday's article by the Washington Post's Dana Priest regarding CIA-run secret prisons abroad and the intense maneuvering this week in Congress over whether to legislate another ban on torture have again brought the issue of torture front and center. The next several days will show whether Congress has slipped its moral mooring.

Seldom have moral lines been so clearly drawn as they are on the issue of torture - the morality of which, until recently, was not controversial. I thought we knew, as a country, where we stood on torture.

The immediate issue is whether American armed forces and intelligence personnel should be permitted or forbidden to torture detainees. Very shortly, lawmakers on Capitol Hill will have to decide whether to approve a blanket ban on torture that applies to all US personnel, to limit the ban to the Defense Department (thus exempting the CIA), or to duck the issue entirely by dropping an amendment offered by Senator John McCain to the defense appropriations bill that would ban "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment of persons under the custody or control of the United States government."

That amendment passed the Senate on October 5 by a 90-9 vote. But immediately Vice President Dick Cheney, with CIA Director Porter Goss in tow, descended on McCain pleading for an exemption for the CIA. The proposed exemptions stated that the measure:

Shall not apply to clandestine counterterrorism operations conducted abroad, with respect to terrorists who are not citizens of the United States, that are carried out by an element of the United States government other than the Department of Defense ... if the president determines that such operations are vital to the protection of the United States or its citizens from terrorist attack.
You Mean Cheney/Bush Seek Authority to Torture?

It's not that they seek such authority. They believe they already have it - and do not want Congress messing with what they see as the president's authority as commander in chief. The context for the White House position is key. The words are stuck in a quagmire of gobbledygook, but what the administration has already authorized is clear.

After the publication in spring 2004 of the photos of detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib, the administration released a raft of documents with a rhetorical flourish claiming the documents showed that there was no policy allowing the abuse of prisoners. The whole thing was rather surreal; the documents showed just the opposite. It was as though the White House thought we couldn't read.

Most striking was a memorandum of February 7, 2002, signed by President George W. Bush, on the treatment of al-Qaeda and Taliban detainees. That memorandum records the president's unilateral determination that the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war "does not apply to either al-Qaeda or Taliban detainees." The determination was of dubious validity because there is no provision in the Geneva Conventions that would countenance a unilateral decision to exempt prisoners from Geneva protections.

I will spare you most of the torturous language offered by the president's lawyers. Suffice it to say that paragraph 3 of his February 7 memorandum contains a gaping loophole that, in effect, authorizes torture:

As a matter of policy, the United States Armed Forces shall continue to treat detainees humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of Geneva. (Emphasis added.)
How Did We Stoop So Low?

President Bush and Vice President Cheney set the tone. According to counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke, it began on the evening of 9/11. Immediately after the president's 8:30 p.m. TV address to the nation, he met with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Clarke in a bunker under the East Wing of the White House. In his book, Against All Enemies, Clarke describes the president as "confident, determined, and forceful:"

I want you all to understand that we are at war ... any barriers in your way, they're gone. Any money you need, you have it ... I don't care what the international lawyers say, we are going to kick some ass.
The vice president tipped his hand to Tim Russert during an interview on NBC's Meet the Press on September 16, 2001. The conversation centered on the US response to 9/11. After discussing military capabilities, Cheney shifted focus:

We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side ... A lot of what needs to be done will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies ... it's going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal ...
Alluding to restrictions on US intelligence gathering, Russert asked, "Will we lift some of those restrictions?"

Oh, I think so ... It is a mean, nasty, dangerous dirty business out there ... we need to make certain that we have not tied the hands of our intelligence communities in terms of accomplishing their mission.
... and Interrogations?

At a joint hearing of the House and Senate intelligence committees on September 26, 2002, Cofer Black, then the head of the Counterterrorism Center at CIA, emphasized the need for "operational flexibility," adding that intelligence operatives cannot be held to the "old" standards. Addressing interrogation, Black said:

This is a highly classified area, but I have to say that all you need to know: there was a before-9/11 and an after-9/11. After 9/11 the gloves came off.
There is fresh evidence that within days of 9/11, Bush and Cheney told then-CIA director George Tenet to set CIA interrogators free from the customary restrictions. In her November 2 article on the mini-gulag system of secret CIA-operated prisons overseas, Dana Priest reported that on September 17 - that is, the day after Cheney's comment on NBC about working "the dark-side" - Bush signed a secret "finding" giving the CIA broad authorization to disrupt terrorist activity, including permission to kill, capture, and detain al-Qaeda members anywhere in the world.

Authorization for "rendering" detainees to other countries for interrogation, as well as the establishment of secret prisons abroad, were probably subsumed under that broad presidential finding. Still, one can assume that Tenet and, indeed, the president himself would seek reassurance that they would be legally protected from prosecution in the future. And this would account for the flurry of lawyerly activity in early 2002.

Why were then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and David Addington, then counsel to Vice President Cheney (and recently appointed to replace I. Lewis Libby as chief of staff) and their counterpart attorneys at Justice and Defense at such pains to square the circle to make torture "legal?" Addington reportedly took the lead in drafting the famous memorandum sent by Gonzales to the president on January 25, 2002, which described as "quaint" and "obsolete" some of the Geneva provisions, and reassured the president that there was "a reasonable basis in law" that, if he exempted Taliban and al-Qaeda detainees from Geneva protections, he could still avoid possible future prosecution for war crimes. And so, Bush signed the February 7 memorandum, and Tenet's hired thugs could feel more at ease employing so-called "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" - including "water-boarding," during which a detainee is repeatedly brought to the point of drowning.

In her report, Dana Priest made it clear that only the chair and ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence committees were briefed on the secret prisons, and this is probably what happened with respect to other quasi-legal activities as well. But there is a problem. Members of Congress, however much they may enjoy being privy to real secrets and as prone as many are to give intelligence activities a wink and a nod, cannot make illegal activities legal. And that's the rub.

Enter the Straight Man

When John McCain, who knows torture up-close and personal, decided to force the issue by offering an amendment to the $453 billion defense appropriation bill, he and the 89 other Senators who voted for the amendment threw down the gauntlet. That bill includes about $50 billion for operations in Iraq. The issue is now joined.

If you have read down this far, it will come as no surprise that Cheney is leading the fight against the amendment. It is an unseemly spectacle. Here we have a novice on things military - with multiple draft deferments to escape the war in Vietnam - importuning McCain, a highly decorated officer and torture victim, to allow torture to continue in Iraq and elsewhere. No matter. Cheney had already descended on McCain and other Senators last July and tried to twist their arms to put the amendment aside. They rebuffed him, and did so again last week when he and CIA chief Porter Goss made a quixotic attempt to amend the McCain amendment.

This was too much for a handful of CIA professionals. When they protested, they were reminded by Goss's staff that he is "on record" forbidding the use of torture by CIA officers. More gobbledygook. This disingenuous reply came even as the Goss/Cheney duo lobbied the Hill to modify the McCain amendment so there would be no legal problems for CIA personnel engaging in torture - or for the CIA director who condoned it.

Lawmakers have been meeting this week to seek ways to reconcile the two versions of the defense bill. The fate of the McCain amendment, which is only in the Senate version, hangs in the balance. Recent maneuvering among House Republicans suggests a newfound squeamishness regarding torture. On the McCain amendment they appear reluctant to march in lockstep with the Cheney/Bush administration and bear the opprobrium of, in effect, voting for torture.

Following the example of Senate majority leader Bill Frist, who pulled the defense authorization bill off the floor last July rather than force Senators to choose between McCain and torture, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert has bought time by delaying a vote. He has been warned by many of his Republican colleagues that they will side with McCain. So Hastert needs time to try to find some way to avoid black eyes for Cheney and the president - blacker still, if the administration follows through on its threat to veto any bill that includes a blanket ban on torture. Hastert may, in fact, find some face-saving solution. Three of the nine Republican Senators who voted against the McCain amendment reportedly are on the Senate/House conference committee. What emerges will be a moral barometer. It will be interesting to see if the barometer keeps falling.

Shepherds Awake!

... and speaking of moral barometers: one hopeful sign came Wednesday with word that the president's own United Methodist Church's Board of Church and Society, in an almost unanimous vote, issued a strong statement against torture, urging Congress to create an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate detention and interrogation practices at Guantanamo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. There are reports that Methodist bishops may issue a similarly strong statement next week.

Until now, the lukewarm mainstream churches have not been able to find their voice - a throwback to the unconscionably passive stance adopted by the Catholic and Lutheran churches co-opted by Hitler in the 1930s. Let us hope that other churches, synagogues, and mosques start tuning in to what is going on and bite the bullet, like the Methodists.

Otherwise, our government's view will prevail. As described by one former CIA lawyer, that view is:

The law of the jungle; and right now we happen to be the strongest animal.
On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld turned down a request by UN human rights investigators to meet with detainees at Guantanamo, where at least 24 hunger strikers are being force-fed. Rumsfeld said the US would grant such access only to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Last year the ICRC accused the US military of using tactics "tantamount to torture" at Guantanamo.

Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst, is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). He now works for Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC.
A shorter version of this article has appeared on

Molly Ivans Takes on The Bush Pickle Factory!

Molly Ivans Takes on the Bush Pickle Factory!

AUSTIN, Texas -- Leap I lightly, with the grace of a gazelle, over such mundane news items as indictments at the White House and Supreme Court nominations. All the better to continue my crusade to focus attention not on what's wrong, but on how to fix it.

Forget, for a carefree and frivolous moment, the manifold failings of the only president we've got. Instead, let's see if we can figure out how to get out of this pickle. More than one pickle, I grant you -- this administration is a pickle factory. Thinking helmets on, team.

Before we even begin with some useful lists of "Let's stop doing this and try doing that, instead," we should salute the Values Crowd with the sincerest form of flattery. I suppose we could have a giant Values Debate, with Bill Bennett on one side and Bill Moyers on the other, but even values have fallen into the partisan pit these days. We need to go at our problems in some way that doesn't immediately set hackles up so that the only point of the exercise becomes to beat the other side.

How about, instead of a Contract With America, we see if we can get some agreement on what kind of country we would like to see America become.

Here's a starter: I would like America to be a country where we spend more money on educating people than we do on the military.

On a panel in New Haven, Conn., the other night, Ray Suarez of PBS answered the "How do we fix it?" question with the proposal that we make K-12 our top priority. He suggests this would have so many unexpected side effects -- ranging from science to race relations -- it would effectively be a revolution.

I'm not asking you to endorse that idea, but do consider the astonishing magnitude of such a shift. It's difficult to get a compete grasp on how much we spend on the military, since not all of it is under the Department of Defense. The Department of Homeland Security, for example, pays for much of the "war on terror." But basically, the Pentagon is now getting about $500 billion a year, or 52 percent of the discretionary federal budget -- according to the Center for Budget Priorities.

("Discretionary" basically means what Congress and the president have any say over. The rest of the budget goes to stuff we have already committed to and can't get out of, like paying interest on the national debt.)

Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities, whose purpose is to educate the public on how the federal government spends our money and what priorities are, suggests cutting 15 percent from the military budget and redirecting it. The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation says we now spend more on our military than the rest of the world combined spends on theirs. There is no country that could conceivably defeat us militarily, though we certainly do manage to get ourselves stuck in some unpleasant places. Anyone who has watched the poor National Guard getting called back to Iraq again and again can figure out quite a bit of this money is not being well spent.

Just for starters, is there anyone -- anyone -- who thinks we need more than 1,000 nuclear warheads in order to have a credible nuclear deterrent at this time? By cutting back to 1,000, we can save $13 billion right there.

Another $26 billion would be saved by scaling back or stopping the research, development and construction of weapons that are useless to deal with modern threats. Many of the weapons involved, like the F/A-22 fighter jet and the Virginia Class submarine, were designed to fight the defunct Soviet Union. All of this is according to Lawrence Korb, whose credentials are endless -- senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, senior adviser to the Center for Defense Information, former vice president of Raytheon, etc. The $26 billion does not include the old Star Wars program, now called missile defense, which could be cut back to basic research for a savings of $7 billion.

I'm trying to give you some sense of scale here. According to Korb's research, we could take $60 billion out of the defense budget, 15 percent of the total, without remotely affecting military readiness. Any think tank, left or right, can come up with a similar scenario for cutting military spending without harm to security -- the details may differ, but you will find a surprising degree of overlap, as well.

OK, so we could shift $60 billion into education without even breathing hard. Then, how would we continue toward of a goal of putting more into education than on stuff to kill people? For starters, we could try having fewer enemies in the world. Then we wouldn't need so many ways to kill them, eh? And how do we get there?

Nothing simple about this effort -- anyone who thinks international relations and diplomacy are simple, straightforward subjects has not been paying attention. This how-do-we-fix-it series is a conversation, not a lecture, and all suggestions are welcome. You can e-mail your suggestions to me at

To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at

Originally Published on Tuesday November 1, 2005


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