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Don't Start Without Me

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While we may never know the contents of President Bush's personal letter, last week, to North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il,"reportedly, it had something to do with disarmament and odds are that the words "don't start without me" were nowhere to be found.

Apart from its remarkable propensity for converting the State Department into its very own Federal Express, the White House has moved closer to handing a veiled ultimatum. to Pyongyang, to "disable its key nuclear complex," as well as "disclose all its nuclear activities," by the end of this month, as part of a deal aimed at disarmament (Reuters).

The deal is not noteworthy, in itself, any more than is the irony that a military which has been hell-bent on building bigger and better weapons, for the past forty years, is now making noises about the need to "disarm." What is notable is all the finger-pointing not only towards North Korea, and Iran, but towards Pakistan, whose government is thriving thanks to billions of dollars of support from the Bush administration.

That said, this administration doesn't seem to be the least bit concerned about its partnership with India, and support of India's nuclear ambitions. Instead, Washington looks to Pakistan as a catalyst for nonproliferation in Iran and North Korea despite the fact that the atom bomb was sired in Pakistan.

Increasingly, however, the president's principal concern has not been defending his country, but his credibility, not merely around the world, where it has frequently been questioned, but here at home. Whether it be from what defense secretary, Robert Gates, calls the "awkward" release of a National Intelligence Estimate that disputes the White House claim that Iran is enriching uranium, and developing weapons of mass destruction, the renunciation of torture as an interrogation technique, or that it has had anything to do with leaking the identity of an undercover CIA agent, every day brings another revelation that incriminating evidence is being destroyed to protect and preserve---no, not national security, but the president's rear end.

Clearly, too, in his missive to Kim Jong, the president didn't mention conclusive evidence from his own cache of intelligence agencies that Iran is not building a nuclear weapon, and that he refuses to rule out a pre-emptive strike against Tehran. Indeed, the White House talks about squeezing Iran as if it were a stubborn pimple rather than a sovereign state.

Some, in Congress, have the temerity to suggest that the president fibs when he says that he didn't know about the intelligence until the report was released, and that he was briefed well in advance of his now infamous "World War III" speech. Some of our elected officials are audacious enough to acknowledge that the commander-in-chief was aware that weapons of mass destruction are no more to be found in Tehran than Baghdad, and was only hoping that we wouldn't find out.

Just as he was hoping, too, that we'd never learn about the disappearance of ten million White House emails, including internal ones,which have disappeared in violation of the Presidential Records Act; emails that may have exposed his own handiwork in the illegal outing of CIA operative, Valerie Plame, and which may also document what the exact commands were with respect to suspect interrogation methods, as well as the decimation of videos that corroborate assertions of CIA torture of detainees. After all, it doesn't take a million emails to out an undercover agent, not even for this president, now, does it?

It seems that 2005 was a banner year for the destruction of incriminating evidence as that was the year that millions of White House emails were deleted, and it was also the year that a command was given to destroy interrogation tapes of two detainees made back in 2002. What may be lost in the news that the CIA deliberately destroyed tapes, two years ago, under the spurious claim that it was only protecting its operatives from being identified by Al Qaeda, is the admission of CIA director, Michael Hayden, that the White House itself authorized the tactics used to interrogate these two detainees.

And, talk about credibility gaps, how is anyone to believe that an executive branch which, at best, cooperated with jeopardizing the cover of one of its covert agents, is now concerned about protecting the identity of other agents from Al Qaeda, no less? How about from the Justice Department! More importantly, we are asked to believe that the CIA has a mind of its own, and took it upon itself to "destroy hundreds of hours of videotape" (NYT) against the wishes of both the president and the attorney-general.

We are asked to accept that the decision was one made by the CIA itself, and without the knowledge, or cooperation, of the executive branch. What an insult to the intelligence of the American people. Can we also be expected to buy the story that the executive branch had no knowledge of, and no hand in, the destruction of millions of White House emails, some of which, no doubt, had to do with this administration's definition of "enhanced alternative" interrogation methods?

The egregious, and endless, redactions, and erasures made by this chief executive are not only in violation of the Presidential Records Act, they speak to the credibility of the commander-in-chief, and are an effront to Congress, the Constitution, and international law. Oh, and, how convenient that the person, in "clandestine service," who allegedly orchestrated the chorus of ruined videos has retired, and is unavailable for comment.

Now that Justice is pursuing this, can we expect Michael Hayden to follow Rumsfeld, and others who have stepped down so that those in the highest echelons of power can save face? If so, it may be time to put an expiration date on saving face.

The perfect person to ask about videogate, and a flagrant attempt to obstruct justice, is Secretary of Defense Robert Gates given his tenure as head of the CIA, as well as his nearly three decades working as an intelligence agent. One might begin by asking Mr. Gates how he can suggest that it's Iran that seeks to "foment instability" when his own government is conducting covert operations against itself.

Whatever pretentions he may have had, at the outset, of being independent, and his own man, have quickly been dispelled by the defense secretary's mimicry of Mr. Bush's absurd statement that even though Iran has been found to be nuke-free, it can always "restart" its enrichment program. Using that same logic, every inmate should get a life sentence--after all, they can always commit another crime. We shall soon find out how independent Michael Mukasey, the new attorney-general, is, too.

Oh, and as for Gates' assertion that Iran is supplying weapons to terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan, he might also be asked to explain who has been funneling funds to Musharraf, for more than a decade, which Musharraf himself boasts about using to train, and arm, the Taliban.

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http://ladyjaynestahl.blogspot.com

Widely published, poet, playwright, essayist, and screenwriter; member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA. Jayne Lyn Stahl is a Huffington Post blogger.

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