Case in Point: By Chris Honoré
And just when it seemed that W. would end his calamitous eight years in relative quiet, we are being subjected to the Bush-Cheney legacy lap — both men giving interviews to major networks, with Bush making an unannounced trip to Iraq and Afghanistan to bask in what he insists is the nascent glow of victory.
In Iraq, however, things did not quite go as planned. By now the images of President Bush, at a Baghdad press conference, weaving and dodging as two shoes, thrown by an Iraqi journalist, became viral news, spanning the globe instantly. The two-shoe volley went far beyond a YouTube moment, taking on a far wider meaning. Of course, banging or throwing a shoe in the Middle East is a cultural symbol of disrespect in the extreme. But this quickly became a metaphor, capturing not only the collective mood of the international community but of so many Americans as well.
And yet, the White House carries on, bunkered in denial while busy rewriting history. Shoes or no. And this new history, shovel ready, is being offered up during these final days with conviction and a straight face. Meanwhile, ensuring that the Bush administration will be the gift that keeps on giving, the president is busy signing midnight regulations that may take years to undo if they can be undone at all.
First history as spin: redacted, reframed, restructured and re-rationalized. In an interview with ABC's Jonathan Karl, Vice President Cheney was asked if he agreed with Karl Rove's recent statement that the U.S. would probably not have gone to war if intelligence had revealed that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction. "I disagree with that," said Cheney. "I think — as I look at the intelligence with respect to Iraq — what they got wrong was that there weren't any stockpiles ... What they found was that Saddam Hussein still had the capability to produce weapons of mass destruction. He had the technology, he had the people, he had the basic feed stocks." He concluded by saying, "This was a bad actor, and the country's better off, the world's better off with Saddam gone, and I think we made the right decision in spite of the fact that the NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) was off in some of its major judgments." In other words, this is the newly burnished Bush-Cheney Bad Actor Preemptive Doctrine for going to war. An Axis of Evil shopping list.
A week earlier, in an interview with ABC's Charlie Gibson, W. said, regarding Iraq, "I wish the intelligence had been different, I guess." Imagine commenting on a war of choice, with some 35,000 wounded and killed, costing $1 trillion and counting, not to mention the staggering number of Iraqis killed or maimed, and using the two words "I guess" as a qualifier.
Of the two statements, Cheney's is the most egregious and utterly immoral. Essentially he is admitting that the Iraqi-mushroom-cloud, smoking-gun, missiles-tipped-with-nuclear-warheads drumbeat that Rice and Cheney and Bush took on the road was a sham. A fraud. The intention to invade had long before been crafted (e.g., the Downing Street Memo) and the rationale came later. America was duped, lied to, and the tragedy of 9/11, then so vivid and wounding, was used by the White House with stunning cynicism and calculation. What has never been answered by this administration is: Why Iraq? Why not North Korea? A place filled with "bad actors" and an extensive gulag of political prisoners, untold oppression and misery, and weapons of mass destruction. Or Iran? If "basic feed stocks" is the criterion, well, let's look at Finland.
In the same ABC interview, Cheney went on to discuss torture and again his comments were jaw-dropping. He acknowledged that he was directly involved in greenlighting enhanced interrogation methods used by the CIA, specifically waterboarding. What Cheney was admitting to is considered an international war crime and violates our treaty agreements and our Constitution. Waterboarding is a technique that dates back to the Inquisition, and one for which America prosecuted offenders at the close of World War II. His casual defense of torture is stunning and begs the question: What will the Obama Justice Department do post Jan. 20? We are a nation of laws and not of men, and no written justification for torture as a means to an end by in-house lawyers can obviate that fact.
So, while Bush-Cheney enter the stadium for their legacy lap, listening hard for the crowd's roar of approbation, Team Bush is busy putting into place what are known as "midnight regulations." Or deregulations. Example: The Bush crew has just issued a final rule change to the Endangered Species Act, removing a provision requiring Fish and Wildlife Service scientists to verify that endangered species will not be harmed by federally approved logging, mining or road-building. Regulations regarding rail transportation of hazardous material have been weakened, as has the mining of uranium near the Grand Canyon National Park. Truck drivers are now allowed to drive longer consecutive hours; medical workers (even secretaries and cashiers) can withhold treatment from patients based on conscience (aimed at abortion and birth control prescriptions); and greenhouse gases can no longer be linked to endangered species (the polar bear). As Yogi Berra once said, it's not over until it's over. Soon.