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The Silence of Henry Waxman

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And so it was, that in November, 2006, the American people cried for change and reform, an end to the quagmire in Iraq, as well as to the open and crass corruption of Dennis Hastert, Tom Delay and their fellow Congressional Republicans.   The Democrats were swept into power on a wave of disgust at the decadence and decay that had enveloped D.C., taking back both Houses of Congress in one fell swoop.   A revolution, it seemed, had begun.  The good guys were in charge now.  Thus, one could not blame prominent FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds, who served as a Turkish language specialist from 2001-2002, for feeling a surge of optimism after the Democratic sweep.   After all, it was the Bush Administration and Republicans in Congress who had done everything in their power to suppress her case, which revealed high-level U.S. Neoconservatives acting as Turkish spies (amongst other illegal activities.)   And it was the Democrats that assured Ms. Edmonds behind the scenes from 2002 to 2005 that once they took over, she would have the full, open hearings she had been pushing for.   Furthermore, the buzz on the Democratic blogs was that, since Henry Waxman was going to be in charge of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, all the buried scandals of the Bush years would now finally be uncovered.   Surely Ms. Edmonds had reasons to feel the tide was turning. Alas: The bad news is that the sweeping changes the people voted for last November have been severely watered down.   The war in Iraq wages on, and Waxman is confining his 'oversight' to very safe scandals that reflect badly only on Republicans. He appears unwilling to take on messy scandals like the Edmonds case, which reflects well on neither Party.    Edmonds and a coalition of civil liberties and good government groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), presented Waxman with a petition containing over 15,000 signatures in March asking Waxman to hold hearings.    But Waxman has to date refused to give any response. Henry Waxman knows very well who Sibel Edmonds is; he can't plead ignorance.  He has heard her testimony behind closed doors and has worked with her and her organization, the National Security Whistleblower's Coalition, in drafting whistleblower legislation.  But despite the shock and outrage that Waxman apparently expressed when he heard the full classified version of Edmonds' allegations, his answer to the former translator and her grassroots supporters has been silence.   Absolute silence.  For the record, the whistleblower's sources in Congress told her Waxman was initially disposed to hold hearings on the Edmonds case, but they were not going to be hearings that dug into the heart of the matter.   They would not have exposed the darker machinations of the Turkish and Israeli lobbies, nor exposed an underground network of arms and drugs dealers with its tentacles reaching into U.S. agencies.  Indeed, such hearings probably would not have allowed the words "Turkey" or "Israel" to be mentioned at all, much less named some of the U.S officials allegedly involved in passing classified information to these foreign powers.   The hearings Waxman had planned, according to the grapevine, would have been the type of hearings to put even the most ardent Constitutional legal scholar to sleep for the night: they would have been sham discussions on the more arcane details of the 'state secrets privilege', with testimony limited to boring Bush hacks like FBI Director Robert Mueller.  Edmonds, a very strong-willed individual with a low tolerance for weak-kneed politicos, sent a clear message through her own channels: ‘no hearings’ were better than trumped up ones.   Ms. Edmonds was not willing to let Waxman or any other politician grab the limelight and become "hero of the blogs for a day" unless they were really prepared to go to bat on this issue and defy John Ashcroft’s illegal retroactive classification.   In the face of her principled stand, Waxman appears to have caved to the will of corrupt interests.  His choice is logical from a political perspective, especially considering the Turkish lobby has now hired former Democratic House Minority leader Richard Gephardt.  Waxman won't investigate these allegations because his current colleagues in the House and ex-colleagues like Dick Gephardt and Stephen Solarz do not want him to.   He has everything to lose, and nothing to gain, from a political perspective: by digging up this can of worms, he risks exposing that corruption and bad foreign policy is not limited to the Bush Administration. Should the grassroots be surprised that Waxman made a choice to snub Edmonds, the ACLU and CREW?  Sure, Edmonds was declared 'credible' by conservative Senator Charles Grassley, and was largely backed up in her core allegations by the Department of Justice's own Inspector General Report.   And, yes, Edmonds’ translations of Turkish counterintelligence wiretaps do not look good for hated conservatives like Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and Dennis Hastert.  But these same wiretaps also do not look great for at least one Clinton appointee, former Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman, or for at least two as of yet unnamed Democrats in Congress.   Nor would they look good for the Turkish Lobby, the Israeli Lobby or defense contractors like Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin, the beneficiaries of apparent corruption run out of the American Turkish Council.   In Washington D.C., the only scandal that gets exposed is the scandal that implicates the other party and stays away from hurting vested groups that fund both Democrats and Republicans alike. As former DEA agent and radio host Michael Levine noted in a recent interview with Australian Luke Ryland, a blogger who has written the most extensive investigative reports on the Edmonds case, the U.S. Congress has rarely tackled thorny issues like this Turkish corruption case.   Not only do the Democrats have no backbone, but many of their own are bought off by the same special interest groups as the GOP, especially in the areas that touch on the military industrial complex and foreign policy.  Most of the progressive community have not yet caught on to this harsh reality, and instead is focused on the 2008 elections.  More sound advice would be to forget about 2008 and start holding the Democratic Party to its campaign promises.  Otherwise, the illegal Bush wars will grind on and the corruption will continue unabated- albeit the Democrats will be getting a greater share of the lobbyist largesse. 

 

 

Mike Mejia is a freelance writer specializing in foreign policy and national security.

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I followed the Edmonds case when it broke, and I t... by John R Moffett on Friday, Jun 15, 2007 at 1:10:36 PM
"But on a scale of 1-10, this rates about a 3... by Mike Mejia on Friday, Jun 15, 2007 at 1:25:05 PM
"But on a scale of 1-10, this rates about a 3... by Mike Mejia on Friday, Jun 15, 2007 at 1:25:12 PM
This is still a detail, and a detail that might co... by John R Moffett on Friday, Jun 15, 2007 at 1:34:44 PM