Presidents Will Break Laws To Achieve Goals




T

he
recent revelation that W. Mark Felt, the former number two person
at the FBI, was the anonymous source known as Deep Throat who helped
Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein unravel the Watergate scandal in
the pages of the


Washington
Post

30 years ago, should be seen as an important reminder that
the leader of the “free world” can be devious, corrupt,
and dishonest. 


The
parallels between the Bush and Nixon administrations are eerily
familiar. Both bullied the press, were highly secretive, obsessed
over leaks, engaged in massive cover-ups, and quickly brand- ed
aides as disloyal if they dared to raise questions about the president’s
policies. 


The

Washington Post

, the paper  credited with forcing Nixon’s
resignation, summed it up in a November 25, 2003 story on the similarities
between the two Administrations: “Bush…structures his
White House much as Nixon did. Nixon governed largely with four
other men: Henry A. Kissinger, H.R. Haldeman, John D. Ehrlichman,
and Charles Colson. This is not unlike the ‘iron triangle’
of aides who led Bush’s campaign and the handful of underlings
now—Cheney, chief of staff Andrew H. Card Jr., National Security
Adviser Condo- leezza Rice, and communications director Dan Bartlett—who
are in on most top decisions. Nixon essentially ended the tradition
of powerful Cabinets in favor of a few powerful White House aides—a
model Bush has followed. 


“The
most striking similarity is in the area of secrecy and what Nixon
staffers called ‘managing the news.’ Nixon created the
White House Office of Communications, the office that has become
the center of Bush’s vaunted ‘message discipline.’” 


Unfortunately,
neither the

Washington Post

nor any other mainstream newspaper
or magazine in this country will likely ever be credited with exposing
another Watergate. For one, mainstream reporters don’t want
to put their careers on the line to sniff around, ask tough questions,
and, perhaps, find sources like W. Mark Felt. Worse, editors at
large papers don’t encourage reporters to practice that kind
of reporting anymore because they don’t want to rock the boat
or risk losing their jobs or be seen as liberal.  


The
sad reality these days is that it takes a scandal such as a president
receiving oral sex in the Oval Office by an intern to qualify for
above-the-fold headlines and impeachment. Leading the country into
a war under false pretenses? Sorry, not juicy enough. 


The
Downing Street memo unearthed by the

Times

of London this
May should have been the smoking gun that resulted in Bush being
brought up on High Crimes and Misdemeanor charges under the United
States Constitution’s impeachment clause. The memo— written
eight months before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq by Matthew Rycroft,
a British national security official—was based on notes he
took during a July 2002 meeting of British Prime Minister Tony Blair
and his advisers, including Richard Dearlove, the head of Britain’s
MI-6, who had recently visited the White House to meet with Bush
administration officials. 


Among
other things, the memo said:  


  • “Bush wanted
    to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction
    of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being
    fixed around the policy. The [National Security Council] had no
    patience with the UN route…. There was little discussion in
    Washington of the aftermath after military action.” 

  • “It seemed
    clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action,
    even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin.
    Saddam was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capability
    was less than that of Libya, North Korea, or Iran.” 


These
are some of the public statements that President Bush made after
the memo: 


  • “We have
    sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi
    field commanders to use chemical weapons—the very weapons
    the dictator tells us he does not have” (radio address, October
    5, 2002). 

  • “The evidence
    indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program.
    Saddam Hussein has held numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists,
    a group he calls his ‘nuclear mujahideen’ —his
    nuclear holy warriors. Satellite photographs reveal that Iraq
    is rebuilding facilities at sites that have been part of its nuclear
    program in the past. Iraq has attempted to purchase high- strength
    aluminum tubes and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges,
    which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons” (Cincinnati,
    Ohio speech, October 7, 2002). 

  • “Our intelligence
    officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce
    as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard, and VX nerve agent”
    (State of the Union address, January 28, 2003). 




The
memo’s authenticity has never been called into question by
either the Bush administration or Tony Blair’s office. “But
the potentially explosive revelation has proven to be something
of a dud in the United States,” the

Chicago Tribune

said in a May 17 story. “The White House has denied the premise
of the memo, the American media have reacted slowly to it and the
public generally seems indifferent to the issue or unwilling to
rehash the bitter prewar debate over the reasons for the war,”
the

Tribune

said. “All of this has contributed to something
less than a robust discussion of a memo that would seem to bolster
the strongest assertions of the war’s critics.” 



How sad for the more than 1,400 soldiers and the tens of thousands
of innocent civilians who died in the Iraq war and the thousands
more who will no doubt perish as this unjust war rages on. How much
more evidence do we need in order for Democrats and Republicans
in Congress and the Senate to hold this president accountable for
either war crimes or defrauding the people of the United States? 



One of the key figures during Watergate made a compelling case a
couple of years ago for impeachment if President Bush intentionally
misled Congress and the public into backing a war against Iraq.
“To put it bluntly, if Bush has taken Congress and the nation
into war based on bogus information, he is cooked,” wrote John
Dean, President Richard Nixon’s former counsel, in a June 6,
2003 column for findlaw.com. “Manipulation or deliberate misuse
of national security intelligence data, if proven, could be ‘a
high crime’ under the Constitution’s impeachment clause.
It would also be a violation of federal criminal law, including
the broad federal anti-conspiracy statute, which renders it a felony
‘to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any
manner or for any purpose.’” 



Dean said that statements made by presidents that pertain to national
security issues are supposed to be held to a higher standard of
truthfulness. “A president cannot stretch, twist or distort
facts and get away with it. President Lyndon Johnson’s distortions
of the truth about Vietnam forced him to stand down from reelection.
President Richard Nixon’s false statements about Watergate
forced his resignation.” 





Jason Leopold
is the author of a memoir,



News Junkie



, to be
released in early 2006 by Process/Feral House Books.