Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Tyrannus Bush: Can Anyone Stop Him?

Also at DKos.

Young Mr. Bush appears intent to remain a law unto himself.

Last week a senior Department of Defense official and certain media outlets launched a campaign to discourage attorneys with major law firms from representing detainees at the U.S. prison facility at Guantanamo Bay. For years, the administration and its supporters in Congress and the media have fought to deprive these detainees from protections and rights to due process guaranteed by international and U.S. law. Yet, as civil rights lawyer Joseph Margulies points out in the Chicago Tribune, it's uncertain whether any of the 400 "unlawful combatants" still at Guantanamo did anything to warrant their imprisonment.
Bush administration officials have assured the American people that Guantanamo keeps us safe because it keeps dangerous Al Qaeda terrorists off the street.

But the Pentagon's data show that only 8 percent of the prisoners at the base are even alleged to have been Al Qaeda fighters--assuming the allegations against them are true.

Bait and Switch

Jose Padilla, the U.S. citizen arrested as a "combatant" in 2002, was accused of being part of a plot to explode radioactive "dirty bombs" in U.S. cities. In 2005, in order to avoid a showdown in the Supreme Court over the legality of Padilla's detention, the government pressed formal charges against Padilla in federal court. But the charges did not include involvement in the "dirty bomb" plot. Padilla was charged instead as a conspirator in a number of Islamic extremist plots to commit terror in Bosnia, Chechnya and elsewhere during the 1990s.

The judge in the Padilla case has postponed the trial for three months to allow the prosecution time to assess Padilla's mental condition. Padilla's attorneys claim that the interrogation techniques used on him for over three years of isolated incarceration have left him unable to assist in his own defense.

On Tap

In December 2005, we discovered that Mr. Bush had authorized the National Security Agency to conduct wiretaps on U.S. citizens without court orders. At the time, Mr. Bush said that he would continue to authorize the warrantless wiretaps.

In August 2006, a federal district court ruled the NSA program's warrantless wiretapping and e-mail monitoring was unconstitutional. Mr. Bush disagreed with the ruling, and ordered the Justice Department to appeal the decision. The warrantless electronic monitoring program is still in operation.

Mr. Bush has said that "If Al Qaeda is calling into the United States, we want to know why they are calling." On the surface, that sounds like a reasonable statement. But neither Mr. Bush nor any of his echo chamberlains have bothered to explain why they need to monitor communications without warrants which the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act allows to be obtained 72 hours after the fact.

The Bush administration also insists it has authority to open first class mail without a warrant.

Libby, Libby, Libby on the Table, Table, Table

The trial of former Dick Cheney chief of staff Lewis Libby has finally commenced. At the Huffington Post, Timothy Naftali says that "Whether I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby is found guilty or not, his trial will finally allow the public to see how the Office of the Vice President led the Bush Administration's domestic agitprop campaign to get us into Iraq."

I'm not so sure about that. Yes, the Valerie Plame/Nigergate/traitorgate scandal was always about much, much more than whether someone in the administration purposely revealed the identity of a covert CIA operative. It was about the lengths to which the administration went to protect the intelligence hoax it pulled to sell America on its now discredited Iraq policy. But don't get too het up about the prospect that Libby's trial will bring all that to light.

Libby is on trial for perjuring himself before the grand jury. I strongly suspect that any attempt by the prosecution to push the scope of the trial beyond the perjury charge will get swatted down by the prosecution and the judge like a geriatric fly.

Dick Cheney will be called as a witness in the trial, and many in the info-sphere are abuzz that Cheney will be revealed as the mastermind behind the big Iraq intelligence cook-off, but again, don't count on it. Big Dick's not the one on trial, and any attorney who tries to make him the defendant will get, figuratively or literally, shot in the face.

Cheney will live to continue pulling the same kind of canard on Iran that he pulled with Iraq.

You and Whose Army?

Mr. Bush has made it quite clear that he'll move forward with this plan to escalate the Iraq war whether Congress likes it or not. Some in Congress have threatened to withhold funding for the troop "surge," but Bush claims that Congress has already approved sufficient appropriations to fund it. He's probably right.

At Senate hearings last week, Joe Biden (D-Delaware) warned Condoleezza Rice that Mr. Bush would need congressional authority to initiate military actions against Iran. He's probably wrong. Whether they know it or not, Congress has probably also appropriated enough money for an air and maritime operation against Iran, or at least enough to start such an operation.

The power of the purse, it appears, has been circumvented, and the power of Congress to stop Mr. Bush from expanding his "war" on terror, extremism, Islamo-fabulism or whatever his Rovewellians are calling it these days is otherwise extremely limited. The War Powers Act of 1973 gives a U.S. president a free hand to initiate and conduct combat operations before he needs to ask permission from anybody.

Irony, tossing and turning in its grave, is still asking why nobody has questioned under what authority the recent U.S. air strikes and other offensive operations in Somalia were executed. That makes irony a darn sight more curious about the Bush agenda than Joe Biden or anyone else in Congress seem to be.

America has become a mirror image of Julius Caesar's Rome: we're a militaristic dictatorship disguised under a cheap beard and plastic eyeglasses as a republic.

The courts have spoken. The congress has spoken. The people have spoken. None of that makes no never-mind to our present day tyrant.

The only real difference between Julius Caesar and George W. Bush is that Caesar knew how to use his military successfully.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.


  1. Anonymous3:04 PM

    It seems odd to me that current administration would have such a fascination with Iran. What's so important? All they need to do is bomb the nuclear production facilities or have the Israelis do it for them and the nuclear threat would be over. If it is over oil why don't they just have a repeat of when they brought the Shah to power, seems less costly both financially and politically to me.

  2. Caesar also knew how to write and was said to speak coherently.

  3. Bacon's Rebellion6:02 PM

    While I enjoyed your piece comparing Bush with Julius Caesar I don't think it is a very apt comparison.

    Caesar was a soldier and a tyrant whereas POTUS Bush is simply a rather inept sock-puppet of a front man for very wealthy special interests, the Neo-cons (I don't know who coined that name but suspect it really meant "new con artists" rather than "new Conservatives")and the various think tanks and lobbies operating in behalf of Israel's Likud Party. Mr. Bush is just another rich boy, who has inherited the family business and has no real ideas or beliefs of his own. He is much more an empty vessel than someone who really seeks to be a despot (benevolent or otherwise). For those qualities you need to look for the puppet-master. That would be dear old devious Dick Cheney --- the man who would be king.

    I've never quite figured out exactly how Cheney makes "Dubya's" lips move but I suspect it involves rubber gloves and a lot of surgical lubricant.

  4. It's difficult to find the proper tyrant to compare Bush with.

    Caesar and Hitler, for example, were excellent public speakers, and both actually served in wars.

  5. Bacon's Rebellion11:42 PM


    I certainly agree with you that it is difficult to find a good parallel between Bush and one of the many classic tyrants of history. Bush's actions are not really those of a true tyrant since he doesn't seem to be acting in the interests of his own agenda but is merely complicit in the designs of others.

    Perhaps a better comparison would be someone like the Chinese Emperor Chih, who inherited the throne as boy and was dominated by the Dowager Empress Tzu-Hsi (a female version of Dick Cheney). Although at "Dubya's" age one would hope for a greater degree of independence but that is undoubtedly the very same reason why Cheney and the other's responsible for his selection picked him. They needed someone well coordinated enough to get on and off Air Force One without falling on his face but not so intelligent that he couldn't be easily handled and manipulated. All that remained was to develop a staff that could keep him in the bubble and feed him the necessary superficial talking points and bumper sticker slogans. Then deliver him on time to whatever political dog and pony show was on the schedule and allow him to regurgitate those same slogans and buzz words endlessly. The rest is history.

    The problem, of course, is when Mr. Bush has to depart from time worn scripted answers and actually has to think for himself and articulate (or defend) his positions and decisions. His interview with Jim Lehrer on PBS this evening was a good example of that particular weakness. It had to be evident to even the most charitable observer that Bush had no real grasp or understanding of either the seriousness or the complexity of the current debacle in Iraq. I assume that the White House physician must have a cardiac team on standby with Dick Cheney on those occasions when necessity requires that Bush be allowed off his leash.

  6. BR,

    Good points. I've come to believe that anyone who talks almost exclusively in buzz words and talking points almost exclusively thinks that way. Or should I say, doesn't think, but rather, adopts opinions others have fed him.

  7. Anonymous10:35 AM

    W wasn't always so vacant. During campaign 2004, PBS ran an old debate between him and Ann Richards for Gov. of TX (1994?). The difference is like night and day.

    I think it's the mileage, not the years.

    Either way, Cheney's a lifetime advocate of totally unrestricted POTUS power.

  8. Another difference is that Caesar seized power and ruled for life, while Bush seized power (via his buds in Ohio, Florida, and U.S. Supreme Court) but is gone in two years. Right?