May 01, 2005

John P. O’Neill Wall of Heroes

John P. O’Neill Wall of Heroes

Published on Saturday, April 2, 2005 by the Billings Gazette (Montana)

House Condemns Patriot Act
by Jennifer McKee
Gazette State Bureau

HELENA - Montana lawmakers overwhelmingly passed what its sponsor called the nation's most strongly worded criticism of the federal Patriot Act on Friday, uniting politicians of all stripes.
The resolution, which already galloped through the Senate and passed the House 88-12 Friday, must survive a final vote before it officially passes.
Senate Joint Resolution 19, sponsored by Sen. Jim Elliott, D-Trout Creek, says that while the 2005 Legislature supports the federal government's fight against terrorism, the so-called Patriot Act of 2001 granted authorities sweeping powers that violate citizens' rights enshrined in both the U.S. and Montanan constitutions.
The resolution, which does not carry the weight of a law but expresses the Legislature's opinion, encourages Montana law enforcement agencies not to participate in investigations authorized under the Patriot Act that violate Montanans' constitutional rights. It requests all libraries in the state to post a sign warning citizens that under the Patriot Act, federal agents may force librarians to turn over a record of books a person has checked out and never inform that citizen of the request.
The resolution asks Montana's attorney general to review any state intelligence information and destroy it if is not tied directly to suspected criminals. It also asks the attorney general to find out how many Montanans have been arrested under the Patriot Act and how many people have been subject to so-called "sneak and peaks," or government searches of a person's property without the person's knowledge.
Elliott, a Democrat and rancher from northwestern Montana, sponsored the resolution, but it garnered support from Republicans on the far right of the political spectrum.
"Sometimes we just take liberty for granted in the country," said Rep. Roger Koopman, R-Bozeman, who keeps a plant called "the Liberty Tree" on his legislative desk.
Koopman said his Liberty Tree was "blooming for this bill."
"Frankly, what it says to me is that civil liberties are a bipartisan issue in Montana," said Rep. Rick Maejde, R-Trout Creek, who led the House debate for the resolution.
Elliott said he was "very, very pleased" the resolution had such support.
"Montana isn't the first state that passed a resolution, but this resolution is the strongest statement against the constitutional violations of the Patriot Act of any state and almost every city or county," he said.
Twelve representatives - all Republicans - voted against the measure, including Rep. Bob Lake, R-Hamilton.
"I don't like resolutions because they do absolutely nothing," he said in an interview after the vote. He also said the resolution was too vague. Is it a sacrifice of personal liberty to not be able to take a gun on an airplane? he asked. Is that the kind of thing this resolution objects to?
"So, they're going to get this thing back in D.C. and say, 'O.K., Montana doesn't like what we're doing. So what?,' " he said. "It has no meaning to it."
On the Net: Bill of Rights Defense Committee
© Copyright 2005 The Billings Gazette, a division of Lee Enterprises.

The Silencing of Sibel Edmonds
By James Ridgeway
The Village Voice
Thursday 21 April 2005
Court won't let public hear what FBI whistleblower has to say.
Washington, DC - The unsettling story of whistleblower Sibel Edmonds took another twist on Thursday, as the government continued its seemingly endless machinations to shut her up. The US Court of Appeals here denied pleas to open the former FBI translator's First Amendment case to the public, a day after taking the extraordinary step of ordering a secret hearing.
Edmonds was hired after 9-11 to help the woefully staffed FBI's translation department with documents and wiretaps in such languages as Farsi and Turkish. She soon cried foul, saying the agency's was far from acceptable and perhaps even dangerous to national security. She was fired in 2002.
Ever since, the government has been trying to silence her, even classifying an interview she did with 60 Minutes.
Oral arguments in her suit against the federal government were scheduled for this morning, but yesterday the clerk of the appeals court unexpectedly and suddenly announced the hearing would be closed. Only attorneys and Edmonds were allowed in.
No one thought the three-judge appeals court panel would be especially sympathetic to the Edmonds case. It consists of Douglas Ginsburg, who was once nominated for the US Supreme Court by President Reagan. He withdrew after it was revealed he had smoked pot as a college student; he later joined the appeals court. Another member, David Sentelle, was chair of the three-judge panel that appointed Ken Starr to be the special prosecutor investigating Clinton. Karen LeCraft Henderson was appointed a federal judge during the Reagan period, then put on the appeals court by the elder President Bush.
In making a plea to open the Edmonds hearing, the ACLU noted appellate arguments normally are accessible to the public.
Taking her protests to Congress, she won support from the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who exchanged letters with the Justice Department’s Inspector General's office, which said it was making an investigation. In the midst of all this, then attorney general John Ashcroft stepped in and threw down a gag order by invoking the arcane states secrets privilege, under which the government can classify whatever materials it wishes in the interests of national security. Last year, the Edmonds case was dismissed by a federal district court judge. The government had never even bothered to file an answer to her complaint.
The case that was argued this morning concerned a complaint by Edmonds that the government was denying her First Amendment rights. Only after she was fired did Edmonds go to the Congress. She is saying she played by the rules and was squashed by the government without cause or explanation. And when she went outside the official channel to reveal what was going on within the bureau, the government responded by classifying her previous attempts to speak out, including press accounts written before the classification came down. One of them was a 60 Minutes segment.
"The federal government is routinely retaliating against government employees who uncover weaknesses in our ability to prevent terrorist attacks or protect public safety," said Ann Beeson, associate legal director of the ACLU. "From firing whistleblowers to using special privileges to cover up mistakes, the government is taking extreme steps to shield itself from political embarrassment while gambling with our safety."

Seymour Hersh: Bush is "Unreachable"
by Gloria R. Lalumia, BuzzFlash Columnist
Seymour Hersh visited New Mexico State University (Las Cruces) on Tuesday, March 29 as part of his speaking tour for his newest book, “Chain of Command: the Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib.” He opened his presentation by announcing that he intended to discuss “what’s on my mind” and “where we think we are.” The first thing on his mind was a chilling assessment of George W. Bush.
“The President,” Hersh sighed. “Bush is as absolutely convinced he’s doing the right thing,” just as journalists are who think of themselves as white knights think they are doing the right thing. “Even if we have another thousand body bags, it won’t deter him.”
“This is where he is. He believes he won’t be measured by today, but in 5 or 10 years” in terms of the Mideast. With regard to Iraq, “he thinks it’s going well.” Iran, according to Hersh’s contacts, is “teed up.” “This is his mission,” he continued. “What does it mean?”
And then he delivered the most chilling comments of the evening. “Nothing I write” is likely to influence Bush, he said. “He is unreachable. I can’t reach him. He’s got his own world. This is really unusual and frankly, it scares the hell out of me.”
From this point on, Hersh offered a compendium of the Bush policy failures, misjudgments, and out-of-touch convictions that have fueled his fears.
First, Hersh brought the audience of nearly 2,000 up to date on conditions in Iraq. He torpedoed Bush’s rosy assessment of the recent elections. “Everything came to a stop for this election. Satellites were moved over the country. All assets were dragged over. In Afghanistan, where we really have a war going on…those guys stood down for three weeks because the drones which pick up signals were all dragged to Iraq. Nobody knew who they were voting for. If this had happened in Russia during the Cold War, it would have been laughed at.”
Assessing the current situation, Hersh remarked that the Iraqis “can’t agree on what language to speak--it’s zoo time. We’re nowhere, we’re probably not going to win the war; probably, it will be a Balkanized country. The Turks want Kirkuk, the city with oil, and they may invade, they may not. Here it’s spin city. In the European and Mideastern press, there’s a reality that you don’t get over here.”
Hersh described how he thought Bush treats Americans by retelling an old Richard Pryor story in which a man comes home to find his wife in bed with another man. “What you’re seeing isn’t happening,” the husband is told. “Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?”
Hersh charged that the American people are not getting a true picture of the status of the war. He reflected on the fact that “there are no embedded reporters now and the bombing continues” even though there are no air defenses. “We don’t know how many sorties are being flown or the tonnage involved because there are no reporters. We do know that Navy pilots are doing most of the flying.” Hersh made a point of saying that many in the military, FBI, and CIA have as much integrity as most academics, and within these institutions “there are people who respect the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights as much as anybody.” The Marine Corps personnel are the most skeptical even as they continue to do most of the heavy lifting. Hersh reports that many are very bitter, but they are loyal to the principle of civilian control and are continuing to do their job, but “they are going through hard times now.”
The bombing of Fallujah, according to Hersh, marked a major escalation of the “very careful urban bombing” campaign. Fallujah is “an incredibly important city in Iraq. It led the resistance against the British, it has mosques, it is a fabled place.” When Fallujah was bombed, an urban bombing planner told Hersh, “Welcome to Stalingrad, we took it block by block.” Hersh said that it was amazing that Fallujah was largely not on the table in America for discussion.”
“The Thinness of the Fabric of Democracy”
How have we as a nation gotten to where we are today? Since the ‘80’s Wolfowitz, Feith, Gingrich and others have been pushing the neo-con idea that by spreading democracy, we can make the world safer for US interests. “It’s as if we’ve been taken over by a cult of 8 or 9 people who decided the road to stop international terrorism led to Baghdad,” according to Hersh. Hersh recalled how General Shinseki, who testified in February 2003 that we would need upwards of 250,000 troops to control Iraq, was denounced by Wolfowitz, because Shinseki’s answers didn’t conform to the neo-con mantra.
“That 8 or 9 people can change so much...Where was the military, the Congress, the press? What has happened raises the question about the thinness of the fabric of democracy.”
These days, said Hersh, we hear about the “insurgency” when in truth, “we’re fighting the Ba’athists, the Sunni, the tribal people. They decided to let us have Baghdad and fight the war on their terms. It’s not an insurgency—that implies that we’ve put in a government and they’re fighting against that government. We haven’t accomplished our objective on that score,” according to Hersh.
The US is fighting cells of 10-15 people and can’t find them because it has no intelligence. So the goal now is to make the people who protect the resistance more afraid of US/Iraqi forces than they are of the resistance so they will turn and provide information. Fallujah had too much press coverage, so now everything is being done “off camera.” Hersh describes the situation once one leaves Baghdad as “cowboys and Indians” since “we control very little.” Hersh noted that Shia cleric Sistani did nothing as Shia Iraqi Guards and Americans took down the Sunni in Fallujah. The same thing is now going on in Ramadi. This long-standing enmity between Shia and Sunni is why, Hersh believes, civil war is probably in Iraq’s future.
“The Chronology”
Hersh then launched into his chronology of how we went from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib. Post-9/11, there were voices in the U.S. government that were not pushing the policy of “payback” since some Taliban had been dealing with U.S. oil companies, were largely mercantile and many were not happy with bin Laden. These voices in the government wanted a more nuanced approach. There was also disagreement with Bush’s plans to go into Iraq, but these people were deemed “traitors.” He described how the Bush Administration pressured people to come around to their view. Basically, they exploited human nature. People with experience who disagreed noticed that junior officials supporting the White House got the face time with the President, the meetings, and the big end of the year bonuses. So it was only a matter of time before those who did not favor Bush’s policies, people with kids and mortgages, decided they had to “join the team” to survive. (See the section on the Q & A below for more insights on what people in the government and military have been thinking.)
Bush elected to rout the Taliban, but pulled out the most elite units in early 2002 for redeployment to the Mideast for the coming war in Iraq. Although Bush says we’ve “won” in Afghanistan, “the ‘bad guys’ are still there, the elections have been delayed for a second time, crime is up, they are the largest producers of heroin in the world, and at one point, 700 kids were dying of hypothermia and malnutrition every day” during the hard winter.
Following Bush’s victory show on the carrier in May 2003, the reality of Iraq became clearer. During the invasion, “6,000-12,000 people disappeared overnight. Most elite units had been ready to fight; sandbags and armed soldiers were on every corner.” All the people who ran the bureaucracy of running the country were gone...the people who ran the water, oil ministry and hospitals. Some of the looting was done randomly by Shiites, but most of the government records—real estate, marriage licenses, etc.—were looted and burned systematically. Saddam’s plan was to dismantle the operating units of government and to fight later. To this day, according to Hersh, the “people who didn’t fight are now fighting.”
The August 2003 bombing of the U.N. headquarters and the subsequent attack on the Jordanian Embassy, which Hersh describes as the psyops center for CIA and other espionage, sent a key message: “that the resistance was hitting facilities that would take out other facilities”—in other words, the hitting of key facilities would create a ripple effect, undermining other functions down the line.
At this point, about a year before the Presidential election, Karl Rove got involved. With a desperate need for intelligence, the push was on to squeeze prisoners for information. Hersh said that most of the prisoners “had nothing to do with anything.” Most were caught at roadblocks or any male under 30 was grabbed if he was in the area after an ambush.
At Abu Ghraib, many of the guards were simply traffic police who had been give two weeks of training before being sent to the prison. In September 2003 the abuse of prisoners had begun. The attempts to gain intelligence were based on what Hersh called a “most acute form of torture,” the shaming of prisoners by using pictures of frontal nudity of males and posing prisoners as if they were performing homosexual acts, knowing that if photographs were shown in their communities, this would be death for them. This threat of distribution didn’t get very far because the situation we have today is that we still have no intelligence from inside the resistance or as Hersh puts it, “We don’t know jack.”
From September to December 2003, torture was going on at night and all the top generals were coming in and out of Abu Ghraib. With the release of the Darby CD in January 2004, Rumsfeld appeared before Congress admitting things were “bad” but the extent of the abuse was still secret until Hersh and CBS broke the story open.
“How does Abu Ghraib play out in the real world?”
For the first and only time during his talk, Hersh raised his voice and boomed this question into the mike: “The President, what did he do between January and May? They prosecuted a few low-level kids when these pictures came out. These pictures were a shock to their (Arab) culture, they viewed America as being sexually perverse. When it hits the paper, Bush says ‘I’m against torture.’” But instead of a real investigation, Hersh says all we got were hearings and inquiries about “rules and regulations.” Hersh, in talking to a lot of GIs involved in the abuse, has concluded that soldiers were told “Just don’t kill ‘em, do what you want.”
Hersh recalled how after the My Lai incident in Viet Nam, the mother of a soldier who took part in the massacre told him that “I gave them a good boy, they sent me back a murderer.” Hersh believes the military has a responsibility to the young people they send off to war. He is concerned about the psychic damage of our troops and told one story about a woman back from Iraq who is getting big black tattoos everywhere on her body. Her mother believes that she wants to be in someone else’s skin. Hersh believes that when this is all over, we’ll be hearing things about the war that we won’t want to hear.
Touching on the situation at Guantanamo Bay, Hersh said that of the 600 people there, about half have had nothing to do with terrorism. But, he warns, if they aren’t Al-Qaeda already, they will be. And the government now faces the difficulty that many detainees can’t even be released because they’ve now become more of a threat as a result of their imprisonment than they were before they were sent to Gitmo.
According to his contacts in military/intelligence circles, the debate over whether 9/11 was part of a deep-seated Al-Qaeda presence in the US or was the equivalent of a “pick-up team” has been largely resolved. Most experts have come down on the side of the latter. So, the US will have to come to terms with what we’ve done eventually, and in Hersh’s view, “there’s no good news in this, folks.”
Q & A: Oil and How Our Military/Government Feels about Bush’s Policies
Most of the Q & A was spent on oil and what people in our military and government are thinking about Bush’s policies.
1) A question about oil as Bush’s real reason for the Iraq war was raised:
Hersh said that his best guess is that oil was not “the real thing he wanted to do.” The neo-con mantra, ‘all roads lead to Baghdad’ and ‘democratization,’ the latter concept which goes all the way back to Jean Kirkpatrick, were the major ideas behind the war. Bush couldn’t have sold “democratization” on it’s own, so WMD’s were used as the reason. “If we had known there was no WMD, there would have been no vote.”
Hersh warned that when the price of oil reaches $68-$69 a barrel, this will be the crunch point in terms of real economic decline. If Bush wants to move against Iran, which is pumping about 3.9 barrels a day, he’s heading for trouble. According to Hersh, Iran will scuttle every ship in the Straights of Hormuz and the Malaca Straits in Indonesia. It will take months of dredging and salvaging to approach normalcy.
If oil is Bush’s top priority, “Bush is just not behaving as someone who is managing an oil crisis” and has already been “mismanaging oil in Iraq.”
Hersh passed along a comment he had picked up that illustrates the level of Bush’s awareness. “You could call Wolfowitz a ‘Trotskyite,’ a permanent revolutionary. Wolfowitz would know what you are talking about. But Bush wouldn’t.”
2) A couple of questions touched on opinions in the military/government toward Bush’s policies:
According to Hersh, elite intel groups are troubled by the missions they are being ordered to carry out and they are questioning what they are doing. Hersh said that he is not a “pacifist” because there are people want to hurt us and we need to be able to protect ourselves. But, in Afghanistan, things could have been done differently. Hersh said he wants us to know that those who know the Constitution are very concerned. In particular, Navy Seals are suffering “massive resignations over disillusionment” over Bush’s policies. “Our President chose not to do things in ways that could have avoided this...he had other options available.” Hersh concluded by reiterating that “vast parts of government didn’t believe there were WMD’s” and that Bush’s neo-con policies are “a product of paranoid thinking and the Cold War.”
Copyright 2005, Gloria R. Lalumia
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Published 4/7/05

Jeffords' Theory
U.S. Sen. Jim Jeffords, the Vermont Independent, may face a clear field right now in a 2006 re-election bid, but his March 22 performance on Vermont Public Radio's Switchboard program raised a few eyebrows.
For starters, Jeffords, who opposes the war in Iraq, predicted the Bush administration would start a war in Iran to help elect a third member of the Bush clan to the White House.
“I think it was all done to get oil,” Jeffords said of invading Iraq. “And the loss of life that we had, and the cost of it, was to me just a re-election move, and they're going to try to live off it. Probably start another war, wouldn't be surprised, next year. Probably in Iran.”
“Do you think that's likely?” VPR host Bob Kinzel asked.
“I probably shouldn't even talk on it, I just feel so bitter about the thinking that's gone on behind them, and the reasons they go to war and went to war,” Jeffords replied. “But I feel very strongly that they are looking ahead, and that there will be an opportunity to go into Iran and try to get their son elected president. I don't know, but you do it each time they (are) going to have a new president. I’m very, very (Jeffords chuckles). Oh, well, I better be quiet.”
In an interview this week, Jeffords spokesman Erik Smulson didn't back away from his boss's comments (which can be heard at and noted that Florida Gov. Jeb Bush -- the brother of the sitting president and son of former President George H.W. Bush -- is considered a possible 2008 GOP candidate for president.
“Certainly, this is a theory that has been pretty well discussed in numerous circles, that Iran potentially will be the next battleground, and that Jeb Bush is certainly considered a possibility in '08,” Smulson said.
There's been bad blood between Jeffords and the White House since at least 2001, of course, when the three-term incumbent left the Republican Party after a falling out with the Bush administration. But his statements on Bush's motivation in going to war drew the ire of Vermont Republican Party Chairman Jim Barnett.
“That is the highest level of irresponsibility to suggest that the president has taken the nation to war and put thousands of lives at risk for political purposes,” Barnett said. “It's really outrageous, and reason enough that we ought to question Sen. Jeffords' ability to serve Vermonters in a way that makes us proud.”
Meanwhile, Jeffords told several callers on the Switchboard program that he would talk about the issues they raised with his staff, rather than offering specific answers, re-igniting chatter from Republicans and Democrats alike that the veteran Vermont lawmaker, who turns 71 next month, has slowed down.
Randolph resident James Dwinell, a former executive director of the Vermont Republican State Committee and the author of a political newsletter spiced with Republican red meat, wrote that Jeffords' health is the “elephant in the corner” and predicted he won't run again. (Dwinell, a distant cousin of former New Hampshire Gov. Lane Dwinell, also worked for Democrat Gary Hart’s 1984 presidential campaign and ran for state auditor as a Republican in 1998).
But two local officials who met with Jeffords in his statewide swing last month said he seemed fine to them.
“I think that he's certainly getting older. Other than that, he appeared to have a good handle on everything,” said Brattleboro Town Manager Jerry Remillard. “As always, he's very interested in what's going on in Brattleboro.” And Mark Redmond of Spectrum Youth and Family Services in Burlington said Jeffords, whom he was meeting for the first time, seemed “robust” and was “great with the kids.”
Smulson dismissed Dwinell's prediction and said efforts to question Jeffords' health are motivated by Republicans still bitter over Jeffords' decision to leave the party.
“‘Turncoat Jeffords' clearly did not work for them. Now they've sunk even lower,” Smulson said. “Sen. Jeffords is in excellent health, and he's looking forward to waging a spirited campaign.”

Rushdie Says Bush Policies Help Islamic Terrorism

By Mark Egan
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Bush administration helps the cause of Islamic terrorism by failing to engage in serious dialogue with the international community, author Salman Rushdie said on Tuesday.

Reuters Photo

Rushdie -- who lived for years under threat of death after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's 1989 pronouncement that his novel "The Satanic Verses" was blasphemous -- said he believes U.S. isolationism has turned not just its enemies against America, but its allies too.
"What I think plays into Islamic terrorism is ... the curious ability of the current administration to unite people against it," Rushdie told Reuters in an interview.
Rushdie said he found it striking how the "colossal sympathy" the world felt for the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has been squandered so quickly.
"It seems really remarkable that the moment you leave America ... you find not just America's natural enemies, but America's natural allies talking in language more critical than I, in my life, have ever heard about the United States," he said.
The novelist, born in India and raised in Britain, attributed the shift in sentiment toward the United States to the Bush administration's "unilateralist policies" and its "unwillingness to engage with the rest of the world in a serious way."
"This go-it-alone attitude gets people's backs up," he said of President Bush's foreign policy.
As president of the PEN American Center, a writers group, Rushdie helped organize an international literary festival this week in New York -- an event he hopes will help restore global dialogue.
"There seems to have been a breach in our ability to listen to each other," he said.
"It's really important at this particular moment in the history of the world that ordinary American people should get as broad a sense of how the world is thinking."
Such dialogue, he said, is "crucial, especially if at the political level there is a relative uninterest in maintaining that global dialogue."
The PEN World Voices festival, from April 16-22, is set to bring more than 100 international authors to New York to participate in more than 40 events, including readings and discussions on topics from politics and literature to erotica.
The event is the first international gathering organized by PEN since 1986, when Norman Mailer headed the group.
Rushdie, who wrote an op-ed in March syndicated by The New York Times calling for less religion in politics, took Bush to task on that issue too.
"It worries me more when religious discourse becomes the language of politics," he said. "I think it is happening a lot more here than it used to."
Rushdie said his latest novel, "Shalimar the Clown," will be published in September.
"I decided to murder an American ambassador," he said of its plot, in which a U.S. envoy to India is killed after he retires to America. "It seems to be a political murder, but actually it turns out to be completely personal."
The Pope pleaded, we didn't listen
Robert Scheer - Creators Syndicate
04.12.05 - OK, I get it, the pope was a really important guy. So why, during weeks of fawning coverage of his humanity and the elaborate Vatican funeral rituals, did American journalists and politicians ignore the pontiff's passionate opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq?
Pope John Paul II's critique of the Bush doctrine of unilateral preemptive war couldn't have been clearer, more heartfelt or more vigorously argued.
He once showed anger on the topic in a private audience with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and firmly rejected the direct appeals of Catholic neoconservatives to support the invasion. He used not just his bully pulpit but the full political machinery of the Vatican to try to stop what he saw as an act that did not meet the Christian definition of "just war" -- and was rather "a defeat for humanity."
"War cannot be decided upon, even when it is a matter of ensuring the common good, except as the very last option and in accordance with very strict conditions, without ignoring the consequences for the civilian population both during and after the military operations," John Paul proclaimed on Jan. 13, 2003, even as he was sending his emissaries to Iraq, the U.S. and the United Nations to lobby for peaceful negotiations. "War is never just another means that one can choose to employ for settling differences between nations."
It hardly honors the man to ignore his impassioned statements on what he considered to be a great moral crisis. And whether through divine inspiration or his own formidable instincts honed through a long life in a troubled and violent century, the pope got it right on Iraq when he said, "No to war!"
President Bush has sloughed off the issue of the pope's anti-war stance as what you'd expect from a religious leader: "Of course he was a man of peace and he didn't like war," he said after the pope's death.
But John Paul's assertion that the peaceful alternatives to a U.S.-British invasion of Iraq had not been exhausted went far beyond bland denunciations of violence. Like the millions of anti-war protesters around the world, he knew what the U.S. media and Congress refused to see: that Bush was rushing to war based on convenient distortions about weapons of mass destruction and the war on terrorism.
The Bush administration was concerned enough with the pope's stance that a crack team of Catholic neoconservative ideologues was sent to lobby his holiness. In February 2003, hawkish columnist Michael Novak and self-appointed morals czar William J. Bennett were dispatched to a Rome meeting with Vatican officials arranged by the State Department to explain why the invasion of Iraq would be a "just war" of self-defense. Novak warned Vatican officials that there was no time for peaceful initiatives because Saddam Hussein had empowered Iraqi scientists "to breed huge destruction in the United States and Europe."
The pope pointedly rejected such alarmist arguments and instead, on the eve of the invasion, endorsed the European proposal to rely on U.N. inspectors in Iraq and to provide a greater role for U.N. peacekeepers as an alternative to U.S. occupation of a crucial Muslim nation. "At this hour of international worry, we all feel the need to look to God and beg him to grant us the great gift of peace," he said, rejecting a rush to war.
After he was ignored, the pope continued to strongly oppose what he saw as a dangerous escalation in tension between the Islamic and Christian worlds. "War must never be allowed to divide the religions of the world," he said.
John Paul was particularly scathing after the revelations of torture at the Abu Ghraib prison, telling Bush on a visit to the Vatican that those "deplorable events" had "troubled the civic and religious conscience of all." And remember: This was not a man raised in the confines of the Holy See, but rather a tough old bird who had witnessed the Holocaust and struggled against Soviet tyranny and communist oppression for decades. He did not come to his anti-war views lightly.
Various bipartisan investigations have shown us the truth behind the Iraq war: Its rationales were fabricated by a Western intelligence community under enormous pressure to provide the Bush and Blair administrations with support for a decision they already had made. That makes it all but impossible to question the wisdom of John Paul's positions on the war and on American arrogance. Instead, the Bush administration and an acquiescent media have found it best to simply ignore them.
(c) 2005 Creators Syndicate

Posted by richard at May 1, 2005 11:01 AM