While the indictment and resignation of Lewis 'Scooter' Libby is a welcome development, the responsibility for lying to the American people and targeting critics and dissidents needs to go all the way up the chain of command. Scooter Libby was clearly one of the administration's attack dogs unleashed on opponents of this fraudulent war, but he serves higher masters. This administration continues to wage a war based on lies, a war that has taken the lives of 2,000 Americans, including my son, and the lives of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis. This indictment reinforces the growing calls in this country and around the world to end the occupation, bring our troops home and hold those responsible accountable for their crimes. Let this serve as a springboard to put the war on trial and bring our troops home now.
-- Cindy Sheehan
When the history of this neocon enterprise is finally written, the outing of Valerie Plame will appear to be nothing more than a minor tangential detail in a much larger conspiracy. Libby was by no means a lone wolf and, in the final analysis, the betrayal of a CIA agent was merely a crime to cover up another crime -- the systematic corruption of intelligence to make a case for an illegal war.
So far, the legal process has snared only one member of the cabal that engineered this unnecessary and very costly venture. If this is still America, the law will eventually catch up with Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, George Bush and the assorted neo-con wizards responsible for this quagmire. Without minimizing the importance of the Plame case, allow me to suggest that we now have enough evidence available to prosecute a series of other crimes.
In a recent issue of The Nation, Elizabeth de la Vega makes a compelling case that the pre-war deception by the Bush administration amounted to a conspiracy to defraud the United States. The former federal prosecutor believes that she has sufficient evidence to prove that Bush and company are in violation of Title 18, United States Code (Section 371). According to de la Vega, conviction under this statute only requires proof that the illegal war in Iraq was orchestrated by “persons in authority who used half-truths and recklessly false statements to manipulate people who trusted them.” Her article, “The White House Criminal Conspiracy,” is a must read for those interested in making the war party criminally liable for the carnage in Iraq. Read her article and you will walk away convinced that today is a good day to sue the neocon cabal and impeach the president.
It has taken two years to convince a vast majority of Americans that Iraq had no WMD stockpiles. Many of us, perhaps a critical mass, are now aware that there was an “intelligence fix” -- not an “intelligence failure”. Now that we are certain that the non-existent WMD stockpiles were a hoax -- we can infer that there was no “intelligence failure.” That means all the subsequent investigations of “faulty intelligence” were very expensive diversionary tactics.
Billions of dollars were wasted on congressional investigations, independent commissions and the post-invasion WMD searches conducted by David Kay and Charles Duelfer. If you add it all up, you come up with a very hefty price tag for what amounts to a cover-up for the individual acts of a few deceptive and delusional neo-con policy makers. In essence, public funds were spent to protect the individual reputations and political viability of chicken hawk civil servants who -- at the very minimum -- were already guilty of total incompetence, gross negligence, ideological fanaticism and conspiracy to defraud the United States.
Now, there is nothing explicitly illegal about a president getting the country into a quagmire or making a bad call on issues of war and peace. While the House of Representatives saw fit to impeach one president on account of a stain on a blue dress and another one on account of conspiracy to cover-up a third degree burglary at a posh hotel, no American president has ever paid a price for rotten foreign policy decisions that result in the slaughter of innocents abroad. Such “executive misjudgments” don’t even qualify as misdemeanors.
Fortunately, George Bush can still be held to account if he lays his paws on public funds to cover up the tracks of arrogant, ignorant and delusional policy makers. Consider the fact that the billion-dollar search for non-existent WMD stockpiles took place while Bush was running for re-election. Even after David Kay assured the administration that “we were all wrong” -- Bush dispatched Charles Duelfer to continue the hunt for the phantom WMDs. Was Duelfer’s assignment really a mission to “sex up” Bush’s image as a “war president” and dodge the administration’s WMD credibility problems? If so, a reasonable case can be made that Bush illegally used public funds to finance his re-election campaign.
One thing we should have learned from the “yellow cake uranium” scam is to stop accepting the urban myth that Chalabi and his goofy defectors duped Judith Miller, the mainstream intelligence community, the Office of Special Plans and senior administration officials. The war party -- including the Democratic leadership -- continues to claim that Chalabi and the INC were entirely responsible for the dodgy intelligence that was used to justify the invasion of Iraq. But it is now perfectly evident that the Iraqi National Congress, The Office of Special Plans, The White House Iraq Group and a few select media operatives jointly collaborated in manufacturing and propagating WMD fiction.
The reason the neo-cons were enraged by Ambassador Joseph Wilson is that the Niger uranium scam was cooked up without Chalabi’s participation. Although Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress were more than willing to fall on their swords for the entire WMD hoax -- they were in no position to credibly take the blame for the Niger scam because it originated in Italy. If the war had gone according to the neo-con’s delusional expectations, who would have noticed the missing nuclear and chemical arsenals? But just in case, the neocons had an emergency fall back position -- they would claim an intelligence failure and pin all their troubles on the CIA and Chalabi’s clowns. Wilson’s revelations sabotaged their path of retreat. The panic that ensued among the WMD fabricators caused them to make the fatal mistake of outing Valerie Plame. And the rest is history in the making.
Keep in mind that Chalabi’s INC was a Pentagon financed operation that ran up a tab of $39 million dollars over the course of five years. As for the Office of Special Plans, that was also a Pentagon intelligence operation set up by Douglas Feith and Paul Wolfowitz with an explicit mandate to circumvent the CIA and DIA and produce more “actionable” findings. To their credit, both the CIA and DIA found Chalabi and his defectors to be unreliable and the State Department considered the INC a group of fraudulent hucksters.
In any case, if the OSP was deliberately manufacturing and funneling propaganda to Judith Miller and her mass media clones, they stand accused of using intelligence assets to wage a campaign of misinformation on the soil of the United States of America. To be specific, that puts the OSP in violation of Title 50, Chapter 15, Section 413b (f) of the US CODE, which prohibits covert actions intended to influence the American political process. One doesn’t have to be a lawyer to understand this law which reads “no covert action may be conducted which is intended to influence United States political processes, public opinion, policies, or media.” Translation: intelligence operatives cannot treat America like Chile.
Even the shrinking number of Americans who still believe that this Iraqi venture is a “good war” should be up in arms and demand an investigation. It would be a dangerous precedent to allow a taxpayer financed intelligence unit to wage a propaganda campaign to skew a vital domestic debate on the wisdom of launching a “preemptive” war of choice. Incidentally, the President and other members of the executive branch are obliged by law to report such illegal intelligence operations to Congress. There are certainly sufficient grounds for Congress to initiate an investigation to determine if this specific law was violated by the staff of the Office of Special Plans. To my mind this is the most serious of the many charges leveled against the administration. If we ever allow government intelligence operatives to disseminate propaganda on American shores -- you can kiss democracy goodbye and say hello to an unaccountable national security state.
The American families who lost loved ones in this war or who will spend a lifetime caring for a wounded soldier should be paying close attention as these cases develops. If the New York Times is found guilty of participating in this OSP conspiracy, individual and class action civil lawsuits might very well be possible against both the government and Sulzberger’s media monopoly. By joining hands with the felons at the OSP, the Times stands accused in a criminal conspiracy that resulted in the wrongful death and injury of thousands of Americans and Iraqis.
We should also note that unlike the Jayson Blair affair, other major media monopolies have refrained from piling on the wagon to condemn the New York Times. There is an obvious explanation for their eager aversion to attacking a corporate competitor that bills itself as America’s “paper of record.” The administration’s misinformation campaign extended to key neo-con operatives at CNN, FOX, The Washington Post, MSNBC and the Wall Street Journal. A partial list of suspects includes Charles Krauthammer at the Post, Wolf “war room” Blitzer and Aaron “Arson” Brown at CNN. They too should pay a price for the willful deception of the American people.
For too long, the mass media barons have gotten away with selling us media products that are faulty by design. Their yellow journalism has launched more than one war -- Iraq being just the latest fruit of the poison they use to pollute our minds. A case can be made that the government illegally subsidizes these major media outlets by giving them almost exclusive entitlement to interviews, leaks and other benefits that enhance their economic viability. The Bush administration has taken this trend one step further by including reporters like Judith Miller in the plot to orchestrate the WMD hoax and by putting other reporters on the public payroll. If we can sue tobacco companies for selling us products that hurt our bodies, we should find a way to hold reporters and publishers accountable for deliberately defrauding the public by promising us information and delivering government propaganda. We should also find a way to give journalists who don’t toil in the MSM propaganda mills equal access to government officials.
In 1946, Julius Streicher, the Editor of Der Stürmer, an anti-Semitic paper, was sentenced to hang by the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal for Nazi War Crimes. In sentencing him, the tribunal gave as cause the evidence that “with knowledge of the extermination of the Jews in the Occupied Eastern Territory, this defendant continued to write and publish his propaganda of death.” Streicher was convicted of conspiracy to commit crimes against peace and crimes against humanity. His partner in media crimes, Joseph Goebbels, managed to avoid a similar sentence by committing suicide after first killing his wife and children.
Half a century later, the Streicher case was cited as a precedent for convicting three Hutus of using the media to incite genocide against Tutsis. The three judges presiding over the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda set another precedent by declaring: “those who control the media are accountable for its consequences”. According to the BBC, the chief prosecutor, Hassan Bubacar Jallow, said, “The tribunal has established an international precedent that those who use media to target a racial or ethnic group for destruction will face justice." He also stated: “the verdict would serve as a warning for journalists and editors in other conflicts.”
The Nuremberg Tribunal sent Streicher to the hangman’s noose, even though it found that “there is no evidence that he was ever within Hitler’s inner circle of advisers, nor during his career was he closely connected with the formulation of policies that led to war.” One of the Hutus convicted by the Rwanda Tribunal was Hassan Ngeze, the editor of Kangura, an extremist magazine. He was convicted based on articles that were written several years prior to the onset of the Rwanda genocide. The court found that he had participated in creating a psychological environment that made the genocide possible.
It is time to hold publishers like Rupert Murdoch, Conrad Black, Arthur Sulzberger and Donald Graham accountable for marketing an illegal war and glossing over the war crimes in Fallujah and Abu Ghraib. Granted, both the Nuremberg and Rwanda tribunals had limited jurisdiction to only prosecute atrocities committed by Hutus and Nazis. As the law evolves over the next decade or two, it might very well extend the extra-territorial jurisdiction of international courts.
The media cabal that controls much of the corporate press in America and the English-speaking world need to have their day in court. We need to recognize that we live in a world where media controlled states give journalist and publishers like Judith Miller and Sulzberger the power to instigate war and applaud war crimes. At the very minimum, the course to take at this time is to compile the body of evidence that will be needed to conduct successful prosecution when international laws evolve to the point where journalists and publishers become liable for their crimes against humanity. International and National Associations of concerned journalists need to be encouraged to join the fray by conducting mock trials of these culprits. Even without the jurisdiction of handing down enforceable sentences, the results of such proceedings, if properly circulated through alternative media outlets, will have the salutary effect of damaging their media monopoly franchise and pouring red ink on their bottom line.
Last June, The World Tribunal on Iraq condemned the corporate media for “disseminating the deliberate falsehoods spread by the governments of the US and the UK and failing to adequately investigate this misinformation, even in the face of abundant evidence to the contrary. Among the corporate media houses that bear special responsibility for promoting the lies about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, we name the New York Times, in particular their reporter Judith Miller, whose main source was on the payroll of the CIA. We also name Fox News, CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC, the BBC and ITN. This list also includes but is not limited to, The Express, The Sun, The Observer and Washington Post.”
Before dismissing the findings of a tribunal that had no authority to enforce sanctions against these war mongering media operatives, one need only review the history of the environmental movement. What started out as a fringe “flower children” enterprise three decades ago has now become gospel even in developing countries. Journalists and publishers can pollute our minds to the point where ordinary people are driven to extraordinary bloodshed. Our only defense is to sue the bastards -- starting with civil law suits against Judith Miller, Sulzberger and The New York Times.
Perhaps no other American War has seen such avaricious war profiteering by a sitting Vice President and other senior government officials. The no-bid contracts awarded to Halliburton by Douglas Feith scream for public scrutiny. Feith also steered Iraqi construction business to his former law partner and the Chalabi clan.
The time has come to clarify how American officials can be held accountable for the willful and premeditated violation of international treaties governing the conduct of war and the treatment of prisoners of war. From Abu Ghraib to Fallujah to Guantanamo -- this administration has systematically dismissed the Geneva Convention as a “quaint” document.
Seven strikes and you’re out. This administration initially violated our domestic laws to gain public support for invading Iraq and then scrapped international law during the subsequent invasion and occupation of a country that posed no threat to our national security. Neither Bush nor his merry band of neocons will reverse course in response to public demonstrations, bad poll numbers, critical editorials, international pressures, rising American and Iraqi casualties or looming fiscal disaster. These neo-con freaks are too pumped up on hubris to give a damn. We can either drag the war party to court or wait to see how much additional damage they can inflict in the next one thousand days. To silence their guns, send prosecutors, subpoenas and take their money.
Notes in the Margin: This article is based on a number of previously published articles. Not being a lawyer, the original articles were written on the assumption that the president and his administration could not be held liable for merely twisting the truth -- unless they lied under oath. After reading Elizabeth de la Vega’s article in The Nation, I now realize that the pre-war WMD hype amounts to a conspiracy to defraud the United States.
This article mainly deals with the crimes committed in the process of marketing the war to an unsuspecting public. I have also written of the crimes associated with the illegal conduct of the war in Iraq. The reader might find these related articles worth reading.
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