Peter B Collins talks with Robert Parry
Peter B Collins Show | January 16, 2009
Consortium News’ Robert Parry discusses his book, Neck Deep, and how he hopes that President Obama will not simply “turn the page” on the crimes of the Bush presidency
Neck Deep Secret: Gore Was Right
By Robert Parry
Consortium News | August 27, 2007
Having written several books that span periods of years, I’m often surprised how patterns emerge that aren’t apparent to me in day-to-day news coverage. In Neck Deep, our new book about George W. Bush’s presidency, one of those surprises was how often former Vice President Al Gore turned up making tragically prescient comments.
Gore, whose admirers sometimes call him “the Goracle,” comes across more as a Cassandra, warning the nation of looming disasters and finding himself either ignored or mocked by the dominant politicians and media pundits.
Time and again – from Campaign 2000 to the post-9/11 “war on terror” to the invasion of Iraq to Bush’s expansion of presidential powers – Gore pointed to grave dangers when nearly all other national political leaders and media bigwigs were either running with the herd or keeping silent.
In our daily coverage of those political developments at Consortiumnews.com, we’d run stories citing Gore’s speeches, but it wasn’t until we pulled together the book that Gore’s extraordinary role jumped out.
Though there were a few other political leaders who made prophetic comments, such as Sen. Robert Byrd in his pre-Iraq War speeches on the Senate floor, none was as consistently on target as Al Gore.
Indeed, a poignant aspect of Neck Deep is the recognition that a less hostile press treatment of Gore during Campaign 2000 or a full-and-fair recount of votes in Florida after Election 2000 might have put the United States on a very different track.
Hearing Gore’s nuanced advice about how to proceed after the 9/11 attacks, why invading Iraq made little sense or what are the proper limits of presidential power, you can’t help but wonder where the United States would be now if the popular will of the American voters had been respected in November-December 2000.
There’s a good chance that more than 3,700 American soldiers would be alive today, along with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. The United States also might not be faced with the horrible choice of either continuing an open-ended occupation of Iraq or withdrawing troops with the prospect of a sectarian war engulfing the Middle East.
Even if Gore and his national security team could not have prevented the 9/11 attacks – and there’s a case to be made that they might have – President Gore surely would have focused American retaliation on Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, not left the job half done and gone after Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11.
Gore didn’t buy into the neoconservative agenda of invading Muslim countries to impose regime change designed to bring those governments in line with Israel’s goals for the region. Though a supporter of Israel who picked Sen. Joe Lieberman as his vice presidential running mate, Gore kept the neocon agenda at arm’s length.
Gore also didn’t share Dick Cheney’s agenda of establishing an imperial presidency that could ride roughshod over the rule of law, the constitutional checks and balances, and the inalienable rights of American citizens.
Like no other American politician, Gore perceived the challenges and the opportunities of the 21st century. He recognized the potential of the technological revolution and understood the threat of uncontrolled climate change.
Despite some weaknesses as a politician – he certainly lacked Bill Clinton’s glibness and George W. Bush’s swagger – Gore might have been a near ideal leader for the start of the new Millennium. And one could argue that the American people made that judgment by giving Gore a narrow plurality in the popular vote.
But, as Neck Deep explores, deep-seated problems in the U.S. political process and the U.S. news media kept Campaign 2000 close enough so Bush could exploit irregularities in Florida’s balloting to snake away with its electoral votes and thus the White House.
Now, as the nation is poised at the starting line for another presidential race, the same failings are still there. The tragic lessons of recent American history remain little understood by either the broad public or the political elite.
One of the chief reasons for writing Neck Deep was to place the troubling events of the George W. Bush era in the fullest historical context possible, a perspective informed by original investigative journalism that explodes some popular myths and spotlights many crucial facts that will change how people understand these extraordinary years.
Our hope is that an American public, armed with enough information, will not tolerate the kind of distorted political process that overturned the popular will in Election 2000 and launched the nation on a disastrous course.
(Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush is available both at the publisher’s Web site, http://www.neckdeepbook.com, and at Amazon.com. If you buy the book through the publisher’s Web site, $5 will be rebated to Consortiumnews.com to help defray the costs of the site’s original news articles and investigative journalism.)
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there.
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Keith Olbermann – 8 years in 8 minutes
Forgive and Forget?
By PAUL KRUGMAN
New York Times | January 15, 2009
Last Sunday President-elect Barack Obama was asked whether he would seek an investigation of possible crimes by the Bush administration. “I don’t believe that anybody is above the law,” he responded, but “we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.”
I’m sorry, but if we don’t have an inquest into what happened during the Bush years — and nearly everyone has taken Mr. Obama’s remarks to mean that we won’t — this means that those who hold power are indeed above the law because they don’t face any consequences if they abuse their power.
Let’s be clear what we’re talking about here. It’s not just torture and illegal wiretapping, whose perpetrators claim, however implausibly, that they were patriots acting to defend the nation’s security. The fact is that the Bush administration’s abuses extended from environmental policy to voting rights. And most of the abuses involved using the power of government to reward political friends and punish political enemies.
At the Justice Department, for example, political appointees illegally reserved nonpolitical positions for “right-thinking Americans” — their term, not mine — and there’s strong evidence that officials used their positions both to undermine the protection of minority voting rights and to persecute Democratic politicians.
The hiring process at Justice echoed the hiring process during the occupation of Iraq — an occupation whose success was supposedly essential to national security — in which applicants were judged by their politics, their personal loyalty to President Bush and, according to some reports, by their views on Roe v. Wade, rather than by their ability to do the job.
Speaking of Iraq, let’s also not forget that country’s failed reconstruction: the Bush administration handed billions of dollars in no-bid contracts to politically connected companies, companies that then failed to deliver. And why should they have bothered to do their jobs? Any government official who tried to enforce accountability on, say, Halliburton quickly found his or her career derailed.
There’s much, much more. By my count, at least six important government agencies experienced major scandals over the past eight years — in most cases, scandals that were never properly investigated. And then there was the biggest scandal of all: Does anyone seriously doubt that the Bush administration deliberately misled the nation into invading Iraq?
Why, then, shouldn’t we have an official inquiry into abuses during the Bush years?
One answer you hear is that pursuing the truth would be divisive, that it would exacerbate partisanship. But if partisanship is so terrible, shouldn’t there be some penalty for the Bush administration’s politicization of every aspect of government?
Alternatively, we’re told that we don’t have to dwell on past abuses, because we won’t repeat them. But no important figure in the Bush administration, or among that administration’s political allies, has expressed remorse for breaking the law. What makes anyone think that they or their political heirs won’t do it all over again, given the chance?
In fact, we’ve already seen this movie. During the Reagan years, the Iran-contra conspirators violated the Constitution in the name of national security. But the first President Bush pardoned the major malefactors, and when the White House finally changed hands the political and media establishment gave Bill Clinton the same advice it’s giving Mr. Obama: let sleeping scandals lie. Sure enough, the second Bush administration picked up right where the Iran-contra conspirators left off — which isn’t too surprising when you bear in mind that Mr. Bush actually hired some of those conspirators.
Now, it’s true that a serious investigation of Bush-era abuses would make Washington an uncomfortable place, both for those who abused power and those who acted as their enablers or apologists. And these people have a lot of friends. But the price of protecting their comfort would be high: If we whitewash the abuses of the past eight years, we’ll guarantee that they will happen again.
Meanwhile, about Mr. Obama: while it’s probably in his short-term political interests to forgive and forget, next week he’s going to swear to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” That’s not a conditional oath to be honored only when it’s convenient.
And to protect and defend the Constitution, a president must do more than obey the Constitution himself; he must hold those who violate the Constitution accountable. So Mr. Obama should reconsider his apparent decision to let the previous administration get away with crime. Consequences aside, that’s not a decision he has the right to make.