White House of Evil (Part Two)

by Michael I. Niman – Reprinted With Permission from ArtVoice ( March 5th 2002 )

No doubt there are things that go on in the White House that no president would ever want made public. But this is America . And that’s our White House and our history. Hence, after Richard Nixon’s disgraceful stint on Pennsylvania Avenue , one marked with a loathsome disdain for democracy, Congress passed the Presidential Records Act, making all presidential papers public 12 years after a president leaves office.

Keepings Secrets Secret

Now, fast forward to the present. It’s been over 12 years since Ronald Reagan left the White House. Journalists, historians, political scientists and other scholars have been patiently waiting for this day. With all the subsurface scandals dogging the Reagan legacy—accusations ranging from involvement in the White House-backed Nicaraguan Contras’ cocaine dealings, right on through to the Iran-Contra affair, CIA support for terrorists, and an endless gaggle of corporate shenanigans and conflicts of interest—these Reagan-era documents promised to shed important light on a criminal administration. There’s only one hitch. Former CIA Director George Herbert Walker Bush was the Vice President under Reagan, and many people believe he was the man pulling the strings on the daft Gipper. His son is now the president, and the White House is now restocked with an aging crew of reanimated Reaganites—the same folks allegedly involved in criminal activities under the Reagan/Bush administration. This is one reason why the stakes were so high in Florida . This information had to be suppressed at all costs to protect the elder Bush and many members of the current administration from both embarrassment and possible criminal prosecution.

The younger Bush immediately took to this, his most important task. In the spring of 2001, when the records were due to be disseminated, he, on numerous occasions, postponed their release. Finally, on November 1, 2001 , he issued an executive order effectively overturning the Presidential Records Act of 1978 and sealing the Reagan and Bush I White House records. The same order seals his own White House records for perpetuity. Of course, a president does not have the authority to overturn a law passed by the Senate and House, and signed by a President. But an ensuing court battle would take years. And since congressional Democrats caved in and approved a host of Reagan, Bush I, and now Bush II judicial appointments while Republicans in Congress managed to block most of Clinton’s judicial appointments, by the end of George W’s administration, People for the American Way reports that all 13 of the Federal Appeals Courts will likely be under the control of Reagan/Bush/Bush conservative Republicans. Yow.

The upshot is, don’t expect to see any Reagan White House documents anytime soon, if ever. Oh yeah, this suppression of information is somehow part of our War on Terror. I guess you can’t credibly run such a war while at the same time releasing documents linking half of your cabinet to terrorist activities.

Assassination Nation

The atrocities of September 11 gave George W. Bush carte blanche for reinventing America as he saw fit. On the 16th of September, as New Yorkers grieved their dead, Bush handed terrorists a victory by beginning his continuing assault on American liberties and values. He began by arguing to lift a 25-year-old ban on assassinating foreigners, in effect calling for summary executions of accused criminals without trials, tribunals, or even charges. In a throwback to medieval rule, the imperial president can simply order enemies killed—the only limit being that he couldn’t order U.S. citizens killed without trial. A Columbian Coca Cola union organizer, however, once tarred as a “terrorist,” can be snuffed by secret presidential decree—with the evidence sealed for perpetuity. On the same day, he asked for expanded powers to spy on Americans and detain foreigners without charges. Over 360 such foreigners are currently in custody, having been held since September on “immigration charges.”

By the end of the year, Bush asked congress to lift sanctions against selling arms to countries that violate human rights or support terrorism, thus opening up the door for arms sales to our new and unsavory allies in the War on Terror. He nullified the 1972 Anti Ballistic Missile treaty with Russia and announced that we’ll spend billions on a new missile defense shield, even though our new threats come from Ryder trucks and civilian airliners.

On the subject of nuclear weapons, remember those extraneous warheads we promised to destroy, the ones we’d only need if we decided to vaporize the planet umpteen times? Well, it turns out we’re not really destroying them. Bush announced that we’re actually storing them—perhaps for a very rainy day. Let’s not forget how we decided to “store” anthrax as well, with some of our own spores mysteriously winding up throughout our postal system.

Needless to say, the Russians are pissed off about us going back on our word and proposing to violate the ABM treaty. But they’re not the only ones we’ve dissed lately. There’s the “Axis of Evil,” Bush’s infantile characterization of Iran , Iraq and North Korea . His ill-conceived babble has derailed the pro-western democracy movement in Iran while reviving the long-dead possibility of a nuclear war in Korea .

On the human rights front, Bush recently called for ending the international War Crimes Tribunals, which prosecuted Slobodan Milosevic and those responsible for the Yugoslavian slaughter and the attempted Rwandan genocide. Bush says the tribunals are too costly to run. His opponents say he fears eventual indictment of himself and his father by the tribunals—which would have been a real possibility, had the Reagan presidential papers become public.

Dismantling Due Process

Due process of law is also taking a historically unprecedented trampling under Bush’s jackboots. First, there’s Bush’s decree that terrorism suspects will lose their right to a jury trial, and in its place face a secret military tribunal, complete with secret evidence and no right of appeal. The tribunals will be empowered to order that subjects be executed. Currently, only non-U.S. citizens will face tribunals. Depriving foreigners of due judicial process in the U.S. will no doubt make it harder for the U.S. to argue for due process for American citizens like Lori Berenson, who are rotting away in foreign jails. Bush’s creation of extra-judiciary tribunals also shows a disdain for the rule of civil law and the effectiveness of the court system—even under Republican domination. Ironically, it’s the same court system that elevated Bush to the presidency after what we now know to be his loss at the Florida polls.

Bush’s assault on the due process of law has also taken attorney-client privilege as its victim. Long a stalwart of the American justice system, attorney-client privilege recognizes the right of an accused criminal to speak privately with an attorney in order to map out a defense strategy. No more. Bush announced last November that the government would monitor communication between detainees and their attorneys—with this violation of the 6th Amendment currently limited to suspects accused of an array of crimes that fall under the rubric of terrorism.

Communications between attorneys and clients aren’t the only conversations to be monitored in George W. Bush’s new America . In the wake of September 11, his Justice Department is seeking expanded powers to use a secret court to order wiretaps, surveillance and other forms of snooping against both citizens and non-citizens. Oddly, however, the court already had the right to order surveillance in intelligence and terrorism cases. This new edict would expand the ability to easily snoop to a wide host of non-terror related criminal investigations. Such is the War on Terrorism.

A month later, Bush sought to revive the J. Edgar Hoover–Richard Nixon era Counter-Intelligence Program (Cointelpro). The original Cointelpro spied on civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, while authoring misinformation designed to discredit and cause internal dissent in the anti-war and civil rights movements. Cointelpro operatives pressured landlords to evict anti-war organizations and newspapers and magazines such as this one from their offices and even went as far as to spray ersatz body odor stink on Black Panther Party newspapers as they passed through the postal system. Political activists today are concerned that Bush’s new Cointelpro would use similar tactics against anti-corporate and global democracy activists. Welcome to the ‘50s! We might as well issue a three dollar bill bearing Nixon’s mug shot.

War on the Environment

While there is no possible rationale to explain why terrorism should justify a war on environmental safeguards, it provides both a smokescreen and a distraction for an administration that harbors a psychotic disdain for the natural world. Hence the current Bush assault on the environment. First there was the easing of restrictions for corporations seeking to mine federal land; they can now go ahead and pillage our publicly owned resources even at the cost of irreparably causing serious environmental degradation.

This might seem incongruous from a president who, as a candidate, campaigned under the mantra of reducing industrial pollution and protecting natural resources. Perhaps candidate Bush was fibbing. As President, he now wants to reverse major provisions of the Clean Air Act, particularly those relating to dirty, coal-fired power plants, a move that scientists estimate will result in more acid rain damage and tens of thousands of human deaths from respiratory ailments. Friends of the Earth argue that Bush has the worst environmental record in the history of the American presidency. The coal industry, by contrast, calls Bush a friend. Along with the oil and petrochemical industries, they were among Bush’s major campaign contributors.

In early 2002, Bush eliminated federal programs to develop high mileage vehicles. A week later, he laid out plans for drilling for oil off of California ’s environmentally sensitive coastline, a move opposed by the vast majority of Californians. Like President Reagan, who, as one of his first acts in office, ordered the White House’s solar panels removed and scrapped, Bush just ain’t about energy conservation. By contrast, he seems hell-bent on using up all of the world’s oil resources during our lifetimes. Natural gas, too. Hence, he’s also called for gas drilling at National Monuments.

None of our national environmental treasures are safe from this pillage. As Tora Bora dominated our national discourse in January, Bush quietly eased federal rules protecting fragile wetlands from development and destruction. The result will be fewer estuaries and more strip malls, a big boon for the real estate industries as undevelopable wetlands are transformed into Wal Marts.

Environmental Rogue State

As for global warming, such talk is bad for short-term oil industry profits. And until the smart money makes a timely escape from the oil industry like it did from Enron, we just won’t hear about such things. In “White House of Evil: Part One,” I described how Bush pulled the U.S. out of the Kyoto treaty on global warming, whining that despite 3,000 plus academic studies, there was no evidence of such a phenomenon. Now Bush has introduced his own wacky plan for controlling greenhouse gases. No, it doesn’t call for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It calls for reducing the growth of greenhouse gas emissions – tagging the allowable growth to the actual growth of the U.S. economy. Hence, while the rest of the world is reducing greenhouse gasses, this environmental rouge state will be increasing emissions one percent for every three percent that the economy grows. Oh yeah, if a corporation wants to exceed their cap, they can. Compliance is voluntary.

More War on the Poor

George W. Bush has come under a lot of fire lately for defunding or eviscerating damn near every program designed to help pull poor people out of poverty or keep middle class folks from slipping into poverty. Hence, it’s rare to see Bush actually create economic opportunities for the poor. But he has. Poor folks can now get temporary work ingesting pesticides as test subjects for clinical human pesticide exposure trials. Banned as too dangerous under the Clinton administration, the pesticide industry, prominent among Bush’s sponsors, has argued to allow human experimentation in order to get pesticides (the ones that don’t kill their subjects) to the market quicker.

We should expect to see a lot more poor folks around the world during the coming decade, as Bush just cut the United States ’ $34 million contribution to the United Nations Population Fund. As more women around the world become pregnant with children they can’t afford to feed, we can expect a slew of quick, dirty and dangerous abortions in the developing world. On the subject of abortion, Bush laid the legal foundation for future battles to outlaw abortion by ordering his Health and Human Services Secretary to legally designate zygotes and fetuses as children. The stated purpose was to allow pregnant women access to pre-natal healthcare, masking the shameful reality that non-pregnant working poor women don’t have such access. But then, elevating the status of women, poor or otherwise, just ain’t on the President’s agenda. In December of 2001, he ordered the Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau closed, a move that follows on the heels of his abolishing the Labor Department’s “Equal Pay Matters” initiative.

In summation, Bush has taken upon himself the task of destroying two generations worth of social programs—programs designed to protect our collective health, well being and environment. Programs that aspired to allow all Americans the opportunity for class mobility. This is the very foundation of what makes us Americans. We can dream. We can dream of healthy stimulating lives in a clan thriving environment. We can dream about secure future in a peaceful cohesive world. George W. Bush is all about killing our dreams. As any child with a set of blocks knows, it’s easier to destroy things than to build things. In a relatively short period of time, a man we never elected to the presidency has set about destroying the best of what makes us Americans. It may take generations to repair the social damage. The environmental damage might be forever.


Dr. Michael I. Niman’s articles are archived at http://mediastudy.com.articles

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