Bush and Cheney being fingered in the Plamegate scandal by former White House press secretary Scott McClellan is not news. More than a year ago, Americans learned about Cheney Bush's complicity in the outing of Valerie Plame as a covert CIA operative — a treasonous act that put America's national-security at risk — and about the coverup that followed.
We learned all this partially from good journalistic reporting and partially from Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald in his 2005 indictment of Cheney's then-Chief of Staff Scooter Libby for perjury and obstruction, and from Fitzgerald's May 2007 comments about Cheney after Libby's conviction. No, the news now is that the political situation is far different than it was in 2005.
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Now, Bush and Cheney are much more politically vulnerable to impeachment and criminal prosecution. Also newsworthy is that the mainstream media this time around, at least currently, is mostly treating all this as a non-story, with barely a follow-up mention of McClellan's bombshell and its implications. And I've seen no story in the corporate media that mentions Bush's granting of clemency to Libby as a possible obstruction of justice by someone who stands to benefit by his aide's continued silence.
If a scandal falls in the forest, and nobody hears it, did it happen? WE KNOW THEIR THUGGISHNESS Here's the encouraging truth: The American public, despite all attempts by the rightwing media to distract and distort, long ago became aware of the worst crimes, and incompetencies, of the Cheney Bush Administration.
How could one not be aware of the following high crimes and misdemeanors?
* lying and deceiving to get America into Iraq.
* ordering violations of citizens' privacy without any court approval (warrantless wiretapping, secretly rifling through our computers, our emails).
* "disappearing" U.S. citizens and throwing them into jails on military bases with no access to lawyers.
* encouraging torture of prisoners in U.S. care.
* skirting international law and war-crimes treaties by "rendering" suspects to countries that specialize in extreme torture.
* canceling the 800-year-old legal tradition of habeas corpus where a judge must decide whether the arrest of a person is justified.
* enabling corruption by U.S. corporations in Iraq and Afghanistan that amounts to grand larceny of billions from U.S. taxpayers.
* responding cluelessly to the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans whereupon more than a thousand citizens died.
And on and on.
In short, the American public has been aware for some time that the country is being run by a bunch of crooks and liars and dangerous bunglers in the White House, so how does McClellan's revelation of likely criminal misconduct add anything new to the mix? The Democrats in Congress, the ostensible "opposition p arty," know all about these Administration transgressions, and much more. But there is no accountability. Nothing gets done. There are no hearings into possible impeachment, no enforcement of "contempt of Congress" charges against key Administration figures who refuse to turn over subpoenaed documents and to testify under oath.
Just suppose Congress decided to call McClellan and Cheney and Bush and Card and Libby and Rove to testify about the Plame-outing coverup. Assuming that the Democrats would ask them probing questions and catch Bush and Cheney in lies, what do you suppose would happen? Can you imagine Pelosi and Conyers changing their minds and putting impeachment back "on the table"? Not likely. But it's still a cause worth fighting for. "IT'S THEM THAT'S TO BLAME"
We're in the midst of the two parties trying to run out the clock, for their own ends. The Republicans support CheneyBush's staying-the-course plan in Iraq and aim to run out the clock until November 2008 so that it will be the next President (even better if that person is a Democrat) who will be blamed for "losing" the war. The Democrats, eager to pin "Bush's War" disaster on the Republicans, are playing run-out-the-clock by not forcing an end to the catastrophe. The Dems regard impeachment as something of an uncertain gamble as well as a grand distraction that keeps the public from focusing on the endless screw-ups of Cheney Bush.
The upshot of both sides playing their long-range political chess-game is that major, complex problems, foreign and domestic, are not being properly addressed. In terms of the Iraq war, it also means that hundreds or maybe even tens of thousands of additional U.S. troops will die or come back home physically or mentally maimed, and that hundreds of thousands of more innocent Iraqis may well be slaughtered or wounded as well. Two Iraq news item of note: 1) Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who was the commanding general in Iraq 2003-2004, now says it's time to bring the U.S. troops home and out from that hellhole quagmire. 2) We've only now learned that the Pentagon has not been counting 20,000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq who've suffered traumatic brain injuries as part of the wounded figures reported each month. Indeed, if one wanted a more accurate figure for combined American dead and wounded since 2003, it's probably closer to 75,000-100,000 than it is to the lowballing figures Cheney Bush admit too.
ANY POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS?
So, is there any hope on the horizon? I can see two possible avenues worth exploring:
1. After indicting Cheney's Chief of Staff, Scooter Libby, Special Counsel Fitzgerald never fully closed down his probe into the Plamegate affair. Basically, he left the case open just a crack in the event new evidence surfaced. McClellan's published excerpt from his book would suggest that the Special Counsel might find such evidence if he put the five principals under oath before a new grand jury and delved further into the matter. Here is McClellan's excerpt from the soon-to-be published book, as reported in Editor & Publisher:
"The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So I stood at the White house briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.After that statement about the Big Five was released, the publisher, Public Affairs Press, backed off a bit. In the above excerpt, McClellan clearly seems to be aware that a possible obstruction of justice had taken place, with Cheney and Bush "involved" at the heart of the coverup. Now, the publisher's quick rollback suggests that there may be more to this subject than meets the eye. Was McClellan or his publisher threatened with harm or warned to back down? (The book is due for publication in April, time enough for some prudent "massaging" of the text.) It would seem that the only way to find out is to put the author and publisher under oath before a newly-impaneled grand jury, along with each of the Big Five.
"There was one problem. It was not true.
"I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice President, the President's chief of staff, and the president himself." (emphasis supplied).
A POSSIBLE FITZMAS PRESENT?
Will Fitzgerald rise to the occasion, or will he find some convenient, legalistic excuse to do nothing?
At one time, I thought Fitzgerald was a fearless prosecutor who would go where the facts suggested and delve deep. He had Rove in his sights and let him slip away. He excoriated Cheney in his trial summary but went no further. So I don't know what to think of Fitzgerald now, and whether he has the cajones to try to re-open the Plame probe in the service of truth and justice.
2. The Democrats, should they choose to do so, could get McClellan, the publisher, and the Big Five under oath as well. Let Henry Waxman and his bulldog staff have a go at them and see if they can discover who's telling lies and who's closer to the truth. If perjury is committed under oath before Congress, cite the lies and enforce any contempt citations. If it's Bush and/or Cheney who are involved and lying, impeach at once. Pelosi and Conyers and Reid do not want to go there. That's why it's up to rank-and-file Democrats — that's us, folks — to demand, with creativity and tenacity, an investigation of McClellan's admission in such numbers that the media and the relevant Congressional committees (or perhaps a special joint panel) would feel obliged to hold such public hearings.
All of this activist momentum could eventuate in nothing being done, of course — the Republicans could remain in their delay-and-obstruct mode, and the Democrats could say a few nasty words and then go back to their state of moral-hibernation.
But if we defenders of democracy truly believe that Cheney Bush are doing great damage to the fabric of American society, and that lives are on the line, then we really have no choice but to take them on yet again. Each time we do so, we add a bit more weight and momentum to those favoring cleansing and reforming our polity, and, who knows?, that may just provide just what is needed for the "tipping point," for "critical mass," to be achieved on the impeachment issue.
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at universities in California and Washington, worked as a writer/editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org). To comment: firstname.lastname@example.org .
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