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Sunday, September 19, 2004

Oil's Slippery Slope

By Pepe Escobar
Asia Times

Originally published
Tue 24 August 2004

BRUSSELS and DUBAI - As the neo-conservative dream of a "liberated" Iraq came true in April 2003, who would have predicted that 16 months later oil would become the ultimate time bomb for the Bush administration?

And the Saudi royal/oil family cavalry is not exactly coming to the rescue.

Many factors explain the current rise in the price of oil toward US$50 a barrel - and counting: incapacity - or unwillingness - of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to respond to growing global demand; maximum terrorist risk in Saudi Arabia; the Yukos saga in Russia; the recent referendum in Venezuela; ethnic trouble in Nigeria; China's unquenchable oil thirst; widespread speculation frenzy propelled by pension funds; and serial pipeline bombing in Iraq.

Average prices for last week stood at $47.02 a barrel in the United States, $44.44 a barrel for North Sea Brent and $41.64 a barrel for the OPEC basket - a more than 4% overall rise on the previous week. Crude futures for October were trading at $46.87 a barrel on Monday.

OPEC, in its latest report, insists the world economy is coping: "On current trends OPEC production will be more than adequate to meet demand in the remainder of 2004 and 2005." A survey by with 55 economists concluded that oil would have to top $60 a barrel to compromise the US economy seriously. But in the real world, the fact is that high oil prices are already set to shave as much as 1% off Asia's gross domestic product in 2004, according to the United Nations' Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

Cheap oil is the Holy Grail of the Bush administration's global strategy. According to the sanitized version of US Vice President Dick Cheney's secret energy report published in May 2001 - the work sessions and the people involved remain classified information - the US in 2020 will be importing 66% of its oil, against 55% in 2001. So, the report says, oil is "the priority of America's foreign and trade policy", and "Russia, Central Asia, the Caspian, the Gulf countries and Western Africa" need "special attention".

This, in the long term, represents one of the explanations for the invasion of Iraq. In the short term, the administration of President George W Bush is in for a lot of trouble when oil-guzzling SUV (sport-utility vehicle) armadas of voters start making the connection between the unmitigated disaster in Iraq and oil at $50 a barrel and beyond. Analysts in Dubai estimate that the Iraqi premium - fueling uncertainty and speculation - adds at least $10 to each barrel of oil.

Welcome to Peak Oil

According to HSBC, oil is now 136% - and counting - more expensive than before September 11, 2001.?The United States?- with 5% of the world's population - gobbles up no less than 26% of the world's oil production.

The world currently consumes 81.2 million barrels of oil a day (1 barrel = 159 liters), according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the energy forum for 26 industrialized consumer nations. But the really alarming figure is 84 million barrels of oil a day: according to the IEA, this will be the global demand by 2005.

A few months ago, the same IEA was saying that demand in 2005 would be of only 82.6 million barrels a day. And more than a year ago, the IEA said we would reach 84 million barrels a day only by 2007 or 2008. This is leading analysts in Dubai to predict that demand - on a very optimistic scenario - will reach 120 million barrels a day in 2020. Additionally, this should mean that if demand continues to grow at the current frenetic level, all proven oil reserves in the world - at the best-estimate level - will be extinguished by 2054.

Way before that happens, of course, we will reach what experts define as "peak oil". The oil-supply bell curve inexorably will be going down - with no return in sight - while the price curve will be going up, toward $100 a barrel and beyond.

Colin Campbell makes no bones about it: for him, peak oil is already here, or around the corner in 2005. For years, Campbell - a PhD in geology at Oxford University in England and former chief executive for BP, Texaco, Amoco and Fina - has been a lonely voice contradicting the supremely powerful oil lobby, according to whom high technology and the invisible hand of the market must guarantee discovery and exploitation of reserves virtually forever.

Already in 2000, Campbell was charging that "oil giants are fooling the planet" and that everybody was myopic - especially producing countries. He was saying that "we only find a new barrel of oil for each four we produce". He is sure that the world has already consumed half of its proven oil reserves, and he is sure that the Middle East will again manipulate oil prices. It turns out that Campbell might have been wrong by a margin of only a few months: he was betting on a new oil shock by 2005, "when production will start to fall and reserves will begin to dwindle at a rate of 3% a year".

In Europe, experts from the IEA, echoed by diplomats, acknowledge that the market is tense and production facilities are extended to the limit, but they insist the current hysteria is a question of "irrational exuberance". One expert says that "there is plenty of oil in the market, and offer is superior to demand". The consensus is to blame traders and speculators who are pushing the price of the barrel higher and higher by brandishing the specter of scarcity.

But things are not so clear cut. Especially because of China, global demand this year will increase by a staggering 2.5 million barrels a day compared with 2003. In terms of offer, analysts in Dubai say that OPEC as of July had an excess production capacity of a maximum 1.2 million barrels a day. OPEC is currently producing 29.1 million barrels a day. This means non-OPEC members such as Russia or Norway must also increase their production to push prices down. But North Sea oilfields have already peaked; and Yukos in Russia, pumping 2% of the daily global demand for oil - 1.7 million barrels - even as it's about to go bankrupt, is also stretched to the limit.

The Chavez Factor

They certainly prefer neo-liberalism to Hugo Chavez' "Bolivarian Revolution". But the 50 multinationals involved in the oil-and-gas business in Venezuela – including US majors ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco and ConocoPhillips - as well as world markets, all badly wanted a Chavez victory in the latest referendum in that country. Chavez could not possibly beat the markets' bete noire: uncertainty. Venezuela is the fifth-largest oil exporter and eighth-largest oil producer, the only Latin American member of OPEC and the supplier of 15% of the United States' oil needs. Chavez played like a master his role of guaranteeing Venezuela's constitutional stability. And markets - when it suits them - do have memory: everybody remembered the December 2002-February 2003 general strike provoked by Chavez' opposition, which led to production falling to 150,000 barrels a day (against 2.5 million to 2.6 million nowadays) and exports to the US being interrupted for the first time in 80 years.

So Venezuela as part of the fear factor may be out of the equation - at least for now. As well as global oil majors and major oil producers, Venezuela is profiting handsomely from high oil prices: the country is scheduled to grow no less than 10% in 2004.

Saudi Trouble

Ali al-Naimi, the Saudi energy minister, is the Alan Greenspan of black gold. In early July, Naimi said on the record that oil at about $35 a barrel was a "fair" price. That was the formal burial of the old OPEC selling price range of $22-$28 a barrel. This extremely important statement in fact meant two things. The first is that there will be no October surprise - or the Saudis coming to President George Bush's rescue. The second is that Saudi Arabia is not able to increase oil production (although they have promised an increase to almost 10 million barrels a day in September: not many in the industry are counting on it). The whole thing leads us back - once again - to peak oil.

When oil reached $45 a barrel, Naimi said again on the record that Saudi Arabia would be ready "immediately" to increase its production by 1.3 million barrels a day. Once again, not many in the industry took him seriously.

Besides, there's the all-important bickering over Saudi oil reserves. According to Saudi Aramco, the kingdom's proven reserves are estimated at 257.5 billion barrels. But analysts in Dubai prefer to cling to Aramco's former executive vice president Sadad al-Hussayni who, in articles appearing in the Oil & Gas Journal, insists proven reserves amount to only 130 billion barrels.

In Dubai, it is estimated that the recent al-Qaeda activities inside Saudi Arabia - via attacks on expats working in the oil business - have increased the geopolitical risk of a barrel of oil by something from $8-$12. Analysts comment that crucial Saudi installations such as Ras Tanura and Abqaiq - the world's largest oil-processing complex - can be extremely vulnerable to an al-Qaeda attack. The ultimate nightmare scenario doing the rounds in the oil business is of Osama bin Laden as a new caliph in a non-Saudi Arabia - before the Americans decide to invade and take over the oilfields. "Five hundred dollars for a barrel of oil, anyone?" scoffs a Dubai analyst.

Investing in Iraq, Anyone?

It's fascinating to compare the current situation with the situation in the Middle East prior to the invasion of Iraq.

Back in February 2003, people in Dubai were saying an oil shock was inevitable: the price of a barrel would climb to as much as $50, and in the event of a civil war in Iraq, it would reach $100. They agreed that in the short term this would be a windfall for the Saudis, the Kuwaitis and the United Arab Emirates. Dubai at the time was confident that Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE - with a combined spare capacity of an alleged 5 million barrels a day - would be able to cover Iraq's production and Venezuela's shortfall caused by the general strike.

Now there's not so much optimism as far as spare capacity is concerned - although oil experts in the Persian Gulf region keep saying that production costs in Iraq are a blessing: only $1.50 per barrel, compared to $2.50 for Saudi Arabia and $4 for the US or North Sea oil. Iraqi oil could be extracted for as little as 97 cents a barrel. But Iraqi equipment is more than 20 years old. Sanctions have devastated the economy and nothing has been upgraded. Water is getting into the pipelines. And 16 months after the Americans took over, the oil
industry is still rusting.

Walid Khadduri, editor-in-chief of the Middle East Economic Survey (MEES), believes at least $3 billion is needed to raise Iraqi oil exports to the pre-sanctions level of 3.5 million barrels a day. In his view, this would take at least two or three years of investment after peace has been established - and Iraq is still at war. Others in Dubai believe it would take $10 billion and no less than six years to get to 5 million barrels a day. And to realize Iraq's potential fully, an investment of up to $50 billion in more than a decade will be necessary. This leads the MEES to conclude that Iraq's oil sector will not produce large returns in the next 10 years.

Ahmed el-Sayed el-Naggar, of the al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, remembers how "Iraq had always been among the hawks in OPEC. As a matter of historical record, Iraq has always presented an obstacle to the US's oil-market strategy. This explains why the US administration's behavior towards that country was so implacably vindictive, and why, in the process of occupying Iraq to drive oil prices down to the cheapest possible levels, it wanted to drive a lesson home to all nations opposed to the US and use the fate of Iraq as an example to intimidate all developing nations."

Whatever the spin from the White House and the Pentagon, the fact is one of the key objectives in the whole Iraqi adventure - completely in line with Dick Cheney's 2001 energy report - was to take over the world's second-largest oil reserves, extirpate Iraq from the much-hated OPEC and maybe kill the cartel for good. Last May in Houston, Asia Times Online confirmed that even the oil business didn't think this was a good idea.

The crumbling Iraq oil infrastructure - on the most optimistic of days - currently cannot produce more than 1.8 million barrels, and much less export it. The Iraqi resistance knows how formidable a weapon is the regular bombing of either the northern pipeline from Kirkuk to Ceyhan, Turkey, or the southern pipeline from Basra. Whenever there is a bombing – or an interruption in pumping because of workers condemning the offensive against Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Najaf - production in Basra falls to less than 1 million barrels a day. It's always important to remember that even under United Nations sanctions, Iraq exported at least 2.5 million barrels a day.


Officially, not many in the oil business seem prepared to admit that the real big problem today is unprecedented demand by the US, China and India - which production simply cannot match. But if people in the oil business know that consumption is growing at its fastest in more than 20 years, they also know that OPEC - controlling about half of the world's oil export supply - is already pumping at the highest levels since 1979.

China - the second-largest oil consumer in the world, way behind the US - grew 9.7% in the first semester of 2004, and is importing 40% more oil this year than in 2003. Its own production grows very slowly: for example, as its consumption rises feverishly, the production of its main oilfield, Daqing, is declining, according to official Chinese data, by 7% a year (it may be more). Daqing used to be responsible for 50% of China's oil. This leaves China scrambling for all sorts of deals with Gulf countries, Central Asia (especially Kazakhstan), Russia and Africa. China's ultimate nightmare is its "petro-dependency". Energy-saving is now part of the official language, the nuclear program is back, and research for alternative forms of energy is definitely on.

China devoured 6 million bpd in 2003, of which it imported 2.6 million bpd. Oil imports in India, which consumed 2.4 million bpd last year, 1.6 million of which were imported, will increase 11% this year, the state-owned Indian Oil Corp reported.

Some diplomats in Brussels admit that the whole system may face a major structural problem. Huge oilfields are on their way down; there's been no major oil discovery for the past 18 months - despite huge technological progress; and producer countries are operating at their limits.

The key indication of a crisis has been the now famous line by Indonesian Oil Minister and current OPEC president Purnomo Yusgiantoro. "We cannot increase the supply." And this only a few weeks after OPEC guaranteed supply was not a problem. In June, Indonesia admitted it was in the unenviable position of being the first OPEC country to actually become a net importer of oil. Russia has already announced its production will fall in 2005.

In Euros, Please

From an American perspective, the need to control Iraq's oil is deeply intertwined with the defense of the dollar. The strength of the dollar is guaranteed above all by a secret agreement signed between the US and Saudi Arabia in the 1970s that all OPEC oil sales be denominated in dollars. Saddam Hussein started selling Iraqi oil in euros (and making a handsome profit) in November 2000 - and that's another crucial reason for the Iraqi invasion. Many OPEC countries, not to mention Russia (President Vladimir Putin already referred to it on the record), flirt with the idea of trading their oil in euros. (OPEC is made up of Algeria, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela.)

A recent analysis published by Goldmoney states that OPEC has already switched, in fact, to trading oil in euros - as oil-exporting countries fight to offset the weak dollar, "It seems clear that OPEC and the other oil exporters are already pricing crude oil in terms of euros, at least tacitly. Whether they start invoicing their crude oil sales in terms of euros remains to be seen."

So what is Cheney doing in the middle of this crisis? He's blaming the Democrats. The failure of Cheney's Russia strategy will be examined in a separate article. But as far as Iraq is concerned, the blowback is obvious. The neo-cons dreamed of exporting "democracy". Instead, they imported geopolitical instability - reflected in the rising price of oil. The Bush administration has not been rewarded with cheap oil: it is now facing a new, slow, mutating oil shock.

The oil business knows that with its oil infrastructure repaired, Iraq could rival or might even surpass Saudi Arabia as the world's largest oil producer. But the neo-con dream of a US military protectorate with US oil companies running the oil business is a more distant prospect by the day. There's no credible evidence that Iraq may become, sooner or even later, a source of spare capacity to world oil production, or be able to stop the migration of OPEC and non-OPEC countries from the petro-dollar to the petro-euro.

Oil at $50 a barrel, and on its way to $60, is an absolute disaster for oil-importing countries (and this means most of the world). Business costs are automatically higher - leading in many cases to job cuts, which means higher unemployment. The days of cheap oil may be over - as most analysts agree. But beyond the current hysteria over oil at $50 and the failure of Cheney's US energy policy, the world seems to be failing to address at least four extremely important questions on which the common future depends: how much oil - proven reserves - is left in the Middle East? How much oil does Russia have? What is the real amount of proven reserves in the Caspian Sea? How long will all this oil last?



No pleasant surprises in the new oil order

By Marshall Auerback

"The Saudis are out of capacity. That's my opinion ... They have no infrastructure or extra pipes or gas, oil, and water separators [very expensive large globes used to separate what comes out of a water injection well]. They have very heavy oil which, through a conventional refinery, produces asphalt. We don't need asphalt. We need gasoline. It takes a complex refinery to make gasoline and it only takes seven to 10 years to build one." - Matt Simmons, Simmons & Co, a leading independent oil analyst (from Michael C Ruppert, Peak Oil Revisited)

As July began, Saudi officials announced that they were satisfied with the current level of world oil prices, around US$35 a barrel - the clearest indication yet that the kingdom has abandoned support for the old Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) price range of $22-$28 per barrel. Saudi Arabia's oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, indicated that, at current levels, oil prices were "fair". Two implications flow from this.

The Saudis have now lined up with the rest of the OPEC cartel in implicitly suggesting that the old reference benchmark of $22-$28 was less than fair. From this flows a simple but dramatic conclusion: It is highly unlikely that we shall see an "October surprise" in which the Saudis flood the crude-oil market to bring prices down sharply and thereby help ensure re-election for President George W Bush. Faced with rising welfare costs and escalating political tensions, the kingdom has a corresponding need for additional capital expenditure for increased oil capacity. Goldman Sachs estimates that the Saudis require an average price of at least $30 a barrel over the next five years just to maintain real per capita expenditure.

Perhaps more significant, the Saudi statement speaks volumes about the true state of supply/demand in the oil market. The kingdom's actions may in fact constitute an implicit fait accompli, an acceptance of their inability to increase production substantially beyond current levels, bringing the days of peak oil production ominously closer.

The latter point is especially germane to those who continue to harbor thoughts of a return to cheap oil. It remains the consensus among investors on Wall Street and among a number of policymakers in the West that current high prices are a temporary aberration. Such misplaced optimism mirrors the stated (inflated) production targets of oil companies and oil-producing nations. Oil companies themselves appear to be consistently overly optimistic because of their desire to convey to investors that they still have attractive growth prospects. This was certainly the case with Shell, which only recently sacked its chief executive officer and director of exploration for persistently overstating the company's reserves.

The oil-producing nations of OPEC also continue to set forth ambitious production targets in an attempt to negotiate more favorable OPEC quotas. So far, careful analysis of these optimistic forecasts has revealed that they are based on questionable assumptions regarding investment and technology, as well as unrealistic timetables. They all assume quite low depletion rates on existing output. Last, the historical record shows that this sort of optimistic bias has prevailed for some time, while actual production growth has consistently fallen short of optimistic forecasts.

It is striking that the vast majority of Wall Street oil analysts, indeed, the oil companies themselves, have continued to base their forecasts on the old OPEC targeted price range of $22-$28 per barrel in spite of increasing evidence of looming supply shortages. But the comments by Saudi Arabia last week, coupled with concerns raised by Nigeria, Iran and Venezuela, suggest that OPEC may finally be acknowledging the new reality: depletion dynamics - a technical term that simply refers to declines in production of existing fields regardless of demand or increased capital expenditure to improve them - have now come to the fore. Investment aimed at newer, smaller reservoirs and improving existing fields will not be enough to overcome these depletion dynamics. Therefore, even with higher prices and higher levels of investment, growth in global oil output will slow.

Which does call into question the efficacy of the planned production increase OPEC announced with some fanfare last month in Beirut. OPEC officials assured the world that the organization would increase production by 2 million barrels per day to 25.3 million barrels per day in an attempt to cool down global oil prices. There is some question, however, about the sustainability of such production hikes, given that the cartel has not pumped out such volumes of crude since the second oil shock produced by the Iranian revolution over a quarter-century ago.

"After the Oil Runs Out", an article by James Jordan and James R Powell in the Washington Post last month, addressed just this point:

If you're wondering about the direction of gasoline prices over the long term, forget for a moment about OPEC quotas and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and consider instead the matter of Hubbert's Peak. That's not a place, it's a concept developed a half-century ago by a geologist named M King Hubbert, and it explains a lot about what's going on today at the gas pump. Hubbert argued that at a certain point oil production peaks, and thereafter it steadily declines regardless of demand. In 1956 he predicted that US oil production would peak about 1970 and decline thereafter. Skeptics scoffed, but he was right.

It now appears that world oil production, about 80 million barrels a day, will soon peak. In fact, conventional oil production has already peaked and is declining. For every 10 barrels of conventional oil consumed, only four new barrels are discovered. Without the unconventional oil from tar sands, liquefied natural gas and other deposits, world production would have peaked several years ago.

Lost in the debate are three much bigger issues: the impact of declining oil production on society, the ways to minimize its effects and when we should act. Unfortunately, politicians and policymakers have ignored Hubbert's Peak and have no plans to deal with it: If it's beyond the next election, forget it.

The reference to "Hubbert's peak" - after the geologist who first made the case for depletion dynamics in the oil patch - omits to note that the prediction was highly controversial inside and outside of the oil business until the 1980s, when it was proved correct. The basic reasons for a bell curve in any plot of production over time are that exploration is not a random process and that oil and gas are depleting assets. When exploration of an area begins, the largest reservoirs are the easiest to find. Total production rises as they are brought into production, while exploration for smaller reservoirs continues. Eventually enough smaller reservoirs cannot be found to offset the declines in production from the depleting large reservoirs. Prices and technology affect the area under the curve - the total amount of oil and gas recovered over time - but not the shape of the curve. Think of it as a process similar to aging and death in living organisms, as Hubbert himself rightly surmised.

Indeed, since 1970, the three largest non-OPEC oil discoveries have all been in offshore areas and are expected to achieve peak production of only one-and-a-quarter million barrels a day - far less than the peak production of the major discoveries of the past in the United States, Russia, the Middle East, Mexico, Venezuela and Nigeria. However much one trumpets these new discoveries, it is important to note that they will only offset declines in production on existing fields, and not increase the overall aggregate supply of global crude oil. Indeed, the disappointing exploration "successes" of the past 30 years have occurred despite huge investments engendered by dramatically higher oil prices in the 1970s and much of the 1980s. The record of the last two decades suggests that no more mega-fields may be discovered to replace the depletion of today's largest oil reserves and provide the growth in oil output that most market participants today take for granted.

Unfortunately, the Washington Post story relied on generalities about peak and decline to the exclusion of the hard data that have surfaced over the past two years, all of which points to an imminent acceleration in global depletion dynamics, notably in Saudi Arabia. There, Ghawar, the largest field in the world, and all of Saudi Arabia's other large fields are old and tired. In recent years, the Saudis have resorted to both water injection and so-called "bottle-brush" drilling to maintain production - techniques that tend to accelerate decline and damage reservoirs.

For a country with an allegedly huge marginal surplus of oil production, turning to such extraction techniques is likely to prove an unwise move. With bottle-brush drilling, a shaft is drilled horizontally over long distances with a number of brush-like openings. Water is then forced under pressure into the reservoir, forcing the oil up toward the wellheads. Extraction is thereby increased. However, when the water table hits the horizontal shaft, often without warning, the whole field may go virtually dead and production will immediately drop off to virtually nothing.

Examples of what has happened in other oil-producing countries when "bottle-brush" drilling was employed abound. Syria's oil production is now in terminal decline. Yemen is following, according to Ali Samsam Bakhtiari, vice president of the National Iranian Oil Co, who has long suggested that Saudi oil production might have peaked in the spring of 2003. Adds analyst William Kennedy, "For the record, Ghawar's ultimate recoverable reserves in 1975 were estimated at 60 billion barrels - by Exxon, Mobil, Texaco and Chevron. It had produced 55 billion barrels up to the end of 2003 and is still producing at 1.8 billion per annum. That shows you how close it might be to the end. When Ghawar dies, the world is officially in decline."

In the short term, speculation in futures markets has contributed significantly to the fall in the oil price over the past month, although even with oil traders liquidating these futures positions on commodities exchanges, prices have stubbornly remained above $35 a barrel, well in excess of the old reference benchmarks. And while such speculative positions may influence the level of oil prices by several dollars a barrel over the short run, in the medium to longer term, supply/demand considerations will trump all else. Strong growth in global energy demand, a loss of capacity in some OPEC states, and rising depletion rates will all continue to contribute to a much tighter market. Moreover, as the Financial Times notes, "A buildup of inventories is now needed ahead of peak seasonal demand in the fourth quarter. But higher crude inventories do not address the problem of insufficient refining capacity in the US."

It is beside the point to maintain that current prevailing high oil prices are the result of a "political instability" premium, when the Saudis have set themselves up for additional terrorist attacks on their oil installations through repeated pledges to boost oil production and drive down prices. Saudi Arabia was the only OPEC member to come out of the Amsterdam meeting three weeks ago with planned production hikes. This isolated position has likely earned it the ire of terrorists and given it a further vested interest in disrupting oil production, as has already been occurring with increasing frequency in Iraq over the past 12 months. Some security experts believe that key Saudi installations such as Ras Tanoura and Abqaiq, the world's largest oil-processing complex, are vulnerable to attack. Questions about the competence and loyalty of elements within the Saudi security forces remain, as their ranks are said to be infiltrated by Islamic extremists. Recent attacks on foreign oil personnel in the kingdom seem to have revealed intricate personal and tribal links between the security forces and the alleged al-Qaeda operatives in the country.

Then there is the worst-case scenario - a complete collapse of the House of Saud. Were a collapse of the Saudi regime to remove the country's oil supply from world markets, even temporarily, the impact on prices would be far greater than those sustained during the two OPEC oil shocks of the 1970s. This would up the tab for a debt-ridden, cheap-oil-driven US economy currently importing almost 60% of its crude from abroad.

"Whither oil prices?" is not simply an academic question. Future US economic growth is largely dependent on reliable, accessible and affordable supplies of energy. Hints of an impending oil-production peak are already beginning to impact seriously on economic growth against a backdrop of unprecedented financial fragility. The inexorable tightening of supply is destabilizing oil markets, which now manifest extreme price behavior in response to the smallest potential disturbance. Higher oil prices continue to increase the strain on consumption, particularly in the US, while simultaneously reducing disposable income. How well equipped are we to deal with substantially higher energy prices? This is a question that no policymaker has honestly confronted yet. The markets remain in denial, but high energy prices are the new economic reality.

If there is indeed an "October oil surprise", the resultant shock is likely to be one which neither consumers, nor Western policymakers will appreciate, since it could entail prices sharply higher than those currently prevailing. The days of cheap oil prices are over; the only question is, how high and how fast from here?

Marshall Auerback is an international portfolio strategist for David W Tice & Associates, LLC, a USVI-based money management firm. He is also a contributor to the Japan Policy Research Institute. His weekly work can be viewed at .

(Copyright 2004 Marshall Auerback.)



Tuesday, September 07, 2004

How Tyranny Came to America

One of the great goals of education is to initiate the young into the conversation of their ancestors; to enable them to understand the language of that conversation, in all its subtlety, and maybe even, in their maturity, to add to it some wisdom of their own.

The modern American educational system no longer teaches us the political language of our ancestors. In fact our schooling helps widen the gulf of time between our ancestors and ourselves, because much of what we are taught in the name of civics, political science, or American history is really modern liberal propaganda. Sometimes this is deliberate. Worse yet, sometimes it isn’t. Our ancestral voices have come to sound alien to us, and therefore our own moral and political language is impoverished. It’s as if the people of England could no longer understand Shakespeare, or Germans couldn’t comprehend Mozart and Beethoven.

So to most Americans, even those who feel oppressed by what they call big government, it must sound strange to hear it said, in the past tense, that tyranny “came” to America. After all, we have a constitution, don’t we? We’ve abolished slavery and segregation. We won two world wars and the Cold War. We still congratulate ourselves before every ballgame on being the Land of the Free. And we aren’t ruled by some fanatic with a funny mustache who likes big parades with thousands of soldiers goose-stepping past huge pictures of himself.

For all that, we no longer fully have what our ancestors, who framed and ratified our Constitution, thought of as freedom — a careful division of power that prevents power from becoming concentrated and unlimited. The word they usually used for concentrated power was consolidated — a rough synonym for fascist. And the words they used for any excessive powers claimed or exercised by the state were usurped and tyrannical. They would consider the modern “liberal” state tyrannical in principle; they would see in it not the opposite of the fascist, communist, and socialist states, but their sister.

If Washington and Jefferson, Madison, and Hamilton could come back, the first thing they’d notice would be that the federal government now routinely assumes thousands of powers never assigned to it — powers never granted, never delegated, never enumerated. These were the words they used, and it’s a good idea for us to learn their language. They would say that we no longer live under the Constitution they wrote. And the Americans of a much later era — the period from Cleveland to Coolidge, for example — would say we no longer live even under the Constitution they inherited and amended.

I call the present system “Post–Constitutional America.” As I sometimes put it, the U.S. Constitution poses no serious threat to our form of government.

What’s worse is that our constitutional illiteracy cuts us off from our own national heritage. And so our politics degenerates into increasingly bitter and unprincipled quarrels about who is going to bear the burdens of war and welfare.

I don’t want to sound like an oracle on this subject. As a typical victim of modern public education and a disinformed citizen of this media-ridden country, I took a long time — an embarrassingly long time — to learn what I’m passing on. It was like studying geometry in old age, and discovering how simple the basic principles of space really are. It was the old story: In order to learn, first I had to unlearn. Most of what I’d been taught and told about the Constitution was misguided or even false. And I’d never been told some of the most elementary things, which would have saved me a tremendous amount of confusion.

The Constitution does two things. First, it delegates certain enumerated powers to the federal government. Second, it separates those powers among the three branches. Most people understand the secondary principle of the separation of powers. But they don’t grasp the primary idea of delegated and enumerated powers.

Consider this. We have recently had a big national debate over national health care. Advocates and opponents argued long and loud over whether it could work, what was fair, how to pay for it, and so forth. But almost nobody raised the basic issue: Where does the federal government get the power to legislate in this area? The answer is: Nowhere. The Constitution lists 18 specific legislative powers of Congress, and not a one of them covers national health care.

As a matter of fact, none of the delegated powers of Congress — and delegated is always the key word — covers Social Security, or Medicaid, or Medicare, or federal aid to education, or most of what are now miscalled “civil rights,” or countless public works projects, or equally countless regulations of business, large and small, or the space program, or farm subsidies, or research grants, or subsidies to the arts and humanities, or ... well, you name it, chances are it’s unconstitutional. Even the most cynical opponents of the Constitution would be dumbfounded to learn that the federal government now tells us where we can smoke. We are less free, more heavily taxed, and worse governed than our ancestors under British rule. Sometimes this government makes me wonder: Was George III really all that bad?

Let’s be clear about one thing. Constitutional and unconstitutional aren’t just simple terms of approval and disapproval. A bad law may be perfectly constitutional. A wise and humane law may be unconstitutional. But what is almost certainly bad is a constant disposition to thwart or disregard the Constitution.

It’s not just a matter of what is sometimes called the “original intent” of the authors of the Constitution. What really matters is the common, explicit, unchallenged understanding of the Constitution, on all sides, over several generations. There was no mystery about it.

The logic of the Constitution was so elegantly simple that a foreign observer could explain it to his countrymen in two sentences. Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that “the attributes of the federal government were carefully defined [in the Constitution], and all that was not included among them was declared to remain to the governments of the individual states. Thus the government of the states remained the rule, and that of the federal government the exception.”

The Declaration of Independence, which underlies the Constitution, holds that the rights of the people come from God, and that the powers of the government come from the people. Let me repeat that: According to the Declaration of Independence, the rights of the people come from God, and the powers of the government come from the people. Unless you grasp this basic order of things, you’ll have a hard time understanding the Constitution.

The Constitution was the instrument by which the American people granted, or delegated, certain specific powers to the federal government. Any power not delegated was withheld, or “reserved.” As we’ll see later, these principles are expressed particularly in the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, two crucial but neglected provisions of the Constitution.

Let me say it yet again: The rights of the people come from God. The powers of government come from the people. The American people delegated the specific powers they wanted the federal government to have through the Constitution. And any additional powers they wanted to grant were supposed to be added by amendment.

It’s largely because we’ve forgotten these simple principles that the country is in so much trouble. The powers of the federal government have multiplied madly, with only the vaguest justifications and on the most slippery pretexts. Its chief business now is not defending our rights but taking and redistributing our wealth. It has even created its own economy, the tax economy, which is parasitical on the basic and productive voluntary economy. Even much of what passes for “national defense” is a kind of hidden entitlement program, as was illustrated when President George Bush warned some states during the 1992 campaign that Bill Clinton would destroy jobs by closing down military bases. Well, if those bases aren’t necessary for our defense, they should be closed down.

Now of course nobody in American politics, not even the most fanatical liberal, will admit openly that he doesn’t care what the Constitution says and isn’t going to let it interfere with his agenda. Everyone professes to respect it — even the Supreme Court. That’s the problem. The U.S. Constitution serves the same function as the British royal family: it offers a comforting symbol of tradition and continuity, thereby masking a radical change in the actual system of power.

So the people who mean to do without the Constitution have come up with a slogan to keep up appearances: they say the Constitution is a “living document,” which sounds like a compliment. They say it has “evolved” in response to “changing circumstances,” etc. They sneer at the idea that such a mystic document could still have the same meanings it had two centuries ago, or even, I guess, sixty years ago, just before the evolutionary process started accelerating with fantastic velocity. These people, who tend with suspicious consistency to be liberals, have discovered that the Constitution, whatever it may have meant in the past, now means — again, with suspicious consistency — whatever suits their present convenience.

Do liberals want big federal entitlement programs? Lo, the Interstate Commerce Clause turns out to mean that the big federal programs are constitutional! Do liberals oppose capital punishment? Lo, the ban on “cruel and unusual punishment” turns out to mean that capital punishment is unconstitutional! Do liberals want abortion on demand? Lo, the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments, plus their emanations and penumbras, turn out to mean that abortion is nothing less than a woman’s constitutional right!

Can all this be blind evolution? If liberals were more religious, they might suspect the hand of Providence behind it! This marvelous “living document” never seems to impede the liberal agenda in any way. On the contrary: it always seems to demand, by a wonderful coincidence, just what liberals are prescribing on other grounds.

Take abortion. Set aside your own views and feelings about it. Is it really possible that, as the Supreme Court in effect said, all the abortion laws of all 50 states — no matter how restrictive, no matter how permissive — had always been unconstitutional? Not only that, but no previous Court, no justice on any Court in all our history — not Marshall, not Story, not Taney, not Holmes, not Hughes, not Frankfurter, not even Warren — had ever been recorded as doubting the constitutionality of those laws. Everyone had always taken it for granted that the states had every right to enact them.

Are we supposed to believe, in all seriousness, that the Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade was a response to the text of the Constitution, the discernment of a meaning that had eluded all its predecessors, rather than an enactment of the current liberal agenda? Come now.

And notice that the parts of this “living document” don’t develop equally or consistently. The Court has expanded the meaning of some of liberalism’s pet rights, such as freedom of speech, to absurd lengths; but it has neglected or even contracted other rights, such as property rights, which liberalism is hostile to.

In order to appreciate what has happened, you have to stand back from all the details and look at the outline. What follows is a thumbnail history of the Constitution.

In the beginning the states were independent and sovereign. That is why they were called “states”: a state was not yet thought of as a mere subdivision of a larger unit, as is the case now. The universal understanding was that in ratifying the Constitution, the 13 states yielded a very little of their sovereignty, but kept most of it.

Those who were reluctant to ratify generally didn’t object to the powers the Constitution delegated to the federal government. But they were suspicious: they wanted assurance that if those few powers were granted, other powers, never granted, wouldn’t be seized too. In The Federalist, Hamilton and Madison argued at some length that under the proposed distribution of power the federal government would never be able to “usurp,” as they put it, those other powers. Madison wrote soothingly in Federalist No. 45 that the powers of the federal government would be “few and defined,” relating mostly to war and foreign policy, while those remaining with the states would be “numerous and indefinite,” and would have to do with the everyday domestic life of the country. The word usurpation occurs numberless times in the ratification debates, reflecting the chief anxiety the champions of the Constitution had to allay. And as a final assurance, the Tenth Amendment stipulated that the powers not “delegated” to the federal government were “reserved” to the separate states and to the people.

But this wasn’t enough to satisfy everyone. Well-grounded fears persisted. And during the first half of the nineteenth century, nearly every president, in his inaugural message, felt it appropriate to renew the promise that the powers of the federal government would not be exceeded, nor the reserved powers of the states transgressed. The federal government was to remain truly federal, with only a few specified powers, rather than “consolidated,” with unlimited powers.

The Civil War, or the War Between the States if you like, resulted from the suspicion that the North meant to use the power of the Union to destroy the sovereignty of the Southern states. Whether or not that suspicion was justified, the war itself produced that very result. The South was subjugated and occupied like a conquered country. Its institutions were profoundly remade by the federal government; the United States of America was taking on the character of an extensive, and highly centralized, empire. Similar processes were under way in Europe, as small states were consolidated into large ones, setting the stage for the tyrannies and gigantic wars of the twentieth century.

Even so, the three constitutional amendment ratified after the war contain a significant clause: “Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” Why is this significant? Because it shows that even the conquerors still understood that a new power of Congress required a constitutional amendment. It couldn’t just be taken by majority vote, as it would be today. If the Congress then had wanted a national health plan, it would have begun by asking the people for an amendment to the Constitution authorizing it to legislate in the area of health care. The immediate purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment was to provide a constitutional basis for a proposed civil rights act.

But the Supreme Court soon found other uses for the Fourteenth Amendment. It began striking down state laws as unconstitutional. This was an important new twist in American constitutional law. Hamilton, in arguing for judicial review in Federalist No. 78, had envisioned the Court as a check on Congress, resisting the illicit consolidation or centralization of power. And our civics books still describe the function of checks and balances in terms of the three branches of the federal government mutually controlling each other. But in fact, the Court was now countermanding the state legislatures, where the principle of checks and balances had no meaning, since those state legislatures had no reciprocal control on the Court. This development eventually set the stage for the convulsive Supreme Court rulings of the late twentieth century, from Brown v. Board of Education to Roe v. Wade.

The big thing to recognize here is that the Court had become the very opposite of the institution Hamilton and others had had in mind. Instead of blocking the centralization of power in the federal government, the Court was assisting it.

The original point of the federal system was that the federal government would have very little to say about the internal affairs of the states. But the result of the Civil War was that the federal government had a great deal to say about those affairs — in Northern as well as Southern states.

Note that this trend toward centralization was occurring largely under Republican presidents. The Democrat Grover Cleveland was one of the last great spokesmen for federalism. He once vetoed a modest $10,000 federal grant for drought relief on grounds that there was no constitutional power to do it. If that sounds archaic, remember that the federal principle remained strong long enough that during the 1950s, the federal highway program had to be called a “defense” measure in order to win approval, and federal loans to college students in the 1960s were absurdly called “defense” loans for the same reason. The Tenth Amendment is a refined taste, but it has always had a few devotees.

But federalism suffered some serious wounds during the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. First came the income tax, its constitutionality established by the Sixteenth Amendment; this meant that every U.S. citizen was now, for the first time, directly accountable to the federal government. Then the Seventeenth Amendment required that senators be elected by popular vote rather than chosen by state legislators; this meant that the states no longer had their own representation in Congress, so that they now lost their remaining control over the federal government. The Eighteenth Amendment, establishing Prohibition, gave the federal government even greater powers over the country’s internal affairs. All these amendments were ominous signs that federalism was losing its traditional place in the hearts, and perhaps the minds, of Americans.

But again, notice that these expansions of federal power were at least achieved by amending the Constitution, as the Constitution itself requires. The Constitution doesn’t claim to be a “living document.” It is written on paper, not rubber.

In fact the radicals of the early twentieth century despaired of achieving socialism or communism as long as the Constitution remained. They regarded it as the critical obstacle to their plans, and thought a revolution would be necessary to remove it. As The New Republic wrote: “To have a socialist society we must have a new Constitution.” That’s laying it on the line!

Unfortunately, the next generation of collectivists would be less candid in their contempt for the federal system. Once they learned to feign devotion to the Constitution they secretly regarded as obsolete, the laborious formality of amendment would no longer be necessary. They could merely pretend that the Constitution was on their side. After Franklin Roosevelt restaffed the Supreme Court with his compliant cronies, the federal government would be free to make up its own powers as it went along, thanks to the notion that the Constitution was a malleable “living document,” whose central meaning could be changed, and even reversed, by ingenious interpretation.

Roosevelt’s New Deal brought fascist-style central planning to America — what some call the “mixed economy” but Hilaire Belloc called the Servile State — and his highhanded approach to governance soon led to conflict with the Court, which found several of his chief measures unconstitutional. Early in his second term, as you know, Roosevelt retaliated by trying to “pack” the Court by increasing the number of seats. This power play alienated even many of his allies, but it turned out not to be necessary. After 1937 the Court began seeing things Roosevelt’s way. It voted as he wished; several members obligingly retired; and soon he had appointed a majority of the justices. The country virtually got a new Constitution.

Roosevelt’s Court soon decided that the Tenth Amendment was a “truism,” of no real force. This meant that almost any federal act was ipso facto constitutional, and the powers “reserved” to the states and the people were just leftovers the federal government didn’t want, like the meal left for the jackals by the satisfied lion. There was almost no limit, now, on what the federal government could do. In effect, the powers of the federal government no longer had to come from the people by constitutional delegation: they could be created by simple political power.

Roosevelt also set the baneful precedent of using entitlement programs, such as Social Security, to buy some people’s votes with other people’s money. It was both a fatal corruption of democracy and the realization of the Servile State in America. The class of voting parasites has been swelling ever since.

So the New Deal didn’t just expand the power of the federal government; that had been done before. The New Deal did much deeper mischief: it struck at the whole principle of constitutional resistance to federal expansion. Congress didn’t need any constitutional amendment to increase its powers; it could increase its own powers ad hoc, at any time, by simple majority vote.

All this, of course, would have seemed monstrous to our ancestors. Even Alexander Hamilton, who favored a relatively strong central government in his time, never dreamed of a government so powerful.

The Court suffered a bloody defeat at Roosevelt’s hands, and since his time it has never found a major act of Congress unconstitutional. This has allowed the power of the federal government to grow without restraint. At the federal level, “checks and balances” has ceased to include judicial review.

This is a startling fact, flying as it does in the face of the familiar conservative complaints about the Court’s “activism.” When it comes to Congress, the Court has been absolutely passive. As if to compensate for its habit of capitulation to Congress, the Court’s post–World War II “activism” has been directed entirely against the states, whose laws it has struck down in areas that used to be considered their settled and exclusive provinces. Time after time, it has found “unconstitutional” laws whose legitimacy had stood unquestioned throughout the history of the Republic.

Notice how total the reversal of the Court’s role has been. It began with the duty, according to Hamilton, of striking down new seizures of power by Congress. Now it finds constitutional virtually everything Congress chooses to do. The federal government has assumed myriads of new powers nowhere mentioned or implied in the Constitution, yet the Court has never seriously impeded this expansion, or rather explosion, of novel claims of power. What it finds unconstitutional are the traditional powers of the states.

The postwar Court has done pioneering work in one notable area: the separation of church and state. I said “pioneering,” not praiseworthy. The Court has consistently imposed an understanding of the First Amendment that is not only exaggerated but unprecedented — most notoriously in its 1962 ruling that prayer in public schools amounts to an “establishment of religion.” This interpretation of the Establishment Clause has always been to the disadvantage of Christianity and of any law with roots in Christian morality. And it’s impossible to doubt that the justices who voted for this interpretation were voting their predilections.

Maybe that’s the point. I’ve never heard it put quite this way, but the Court’s boldest rulings showed something less innocent than a series of honest mistakes. Studying these cases and others of the Court’s liberal heyday, one never gets the sense that the majority was suppressing its own preferences; it was clearly enacting them. Those rulings can be described as wishful thinking run amok, and touched with more than a little arrogance. All in all, the Court displayed the opposite of the restrained and impartial temperament one expects even of a traffic-court judge, let alone a Supreme Court.

It’s ironic to recall Hamilton’s assurance that the Supreme Court would be “the least dangerous” of the three branches of the federal government. But Hamilton did give us a shrewd warning about what would happen if the Court were ever corrupted: in Federalist No. 78 he wrote that “liberty can have nothing to fear from the judiciary alone, but would have everything to fear from its union with either of the other [branches].” Since Franklin Roosevelt, as I’ve said, the judiciary has in effect formed a union with the other two branches to aggrandize the power of the federal government at the expense of the states and the people.

This, in outline, is the constitutional history of the United States. You won’t find it in the textbooks, which are required to be optimistic, to present degeneration as development, and to treat the successive pronouncements of the Supreme Court as so many oracular revelations of constitutional meaning. A leading liberal scholar, Leonard Levy, has gone so far as to say that what matters is not what the Constitution says, but what the Court has said about the Constitution in more than 400 volumes of commentary.

This can only mean that the commentary has displaced the original text, and that “We the People” have been supplanted by “We the Lawyers.” We the People can’t read and understand our own Constitution. We have to have it explained to us by the professionals. Moreover, if the Court enjoys oracular status, it can’t really be criticized, because it can do no wrong. We may dislike its results, but future rulings will have to be derived from them as precedents, rather than from the text and logic of the Constitution. And notice that the “conservative” justices appointed by Republican presidents have by and large upheld not the original Constitution, but the most liberal interpretations of the Court itself — notably on the subject of abortion, which I’ll return to in a minute.

To sum up this little constitutional history. The history of the Constitution is the story of its inversion. The original understanding of the Constitution has been reversed. The Constitution creates a presumption against any power not plainly delegated to the federal government and a corresponding presumption in favor of the rights and powers of the states and the people. But we now have a sloppy presumption in favor of federal power. Most people assume the federal government can do anything it isn’t plainly forbidden to do.

The Ninth and Tenth Amendments were adopted to make the principle of the Constitution as clear as possible. Hamilton, you know, argued against adding a Bill of Rights, on grounds that it would be redundant and confusing. He thought it would seem to imply that the federal government had more powers than it had been given. Why say, he asked, that the freedom of the press shall not be infringed, when the federal government would have no power by which it could be infringed? And you can even make the case that he was exactly right. He understood, at any rate, that our freedom is safer if we think of the Constitution as a list of powers rather than as a list of rights.

Be that as it may, the Bill of Rights was adopted, but it was designed to meet his objection. The Ninth Amendment says: “The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” The Tenth says: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Now what these two provisions mean is pretty simple. The Ninth means that the list of the people’s rights in the Constitution is not meant to be complete — that they still have many other rights, like the right to travel or to marry, which may deserve just as much respect as the right not to have soldiers quartered in one’s home in peacetime. The Tenth, on the other hand, means that the list of powers “delegated” to the federal government is complete — and that any other powers the government assumed would be, in the Framers’ habitual word, “usurped.”

As I said earlier, the Founders believed that our rights come from God, and the government’s powers come from us. So the Constitution can’t list all our rights, but it can and does list all the federal government’s powers.

You can think of the Constitution as a sort of antitrust act for government, with the Ninth and Tenth Amendments at its core. It’s remarkable that the same liberals who think business monopolies are sinister think monopolies of political power are progressive. When they can’t pass their programs because of the constitutional safeguards, they complain about “gridlock” — a cliché that shows they miss the whole point of the enumeration and separation of powers.

Well, I don’t have to tell you that this way of thinking is absolutely alien to that of today’s politicians and pundits. Can you imagine Al Gore, Dan Rostenkowski, or Tom Brokaw having a conversation about political principles with any of the Founding Fathers? If you can, you must have a vivid fantasy life.

And the result of the loss of our original political idiom has been, as I say, to invert the original presumptions. The average American, whether he has had high-school civics or a degree in political science, is apt to assume that the Constitution somehow empowers the government to do nearly anything, while implicitly limiting our rights by listing them. Not that anyone would say it this way. But it’s as if the Bill of Rights had said that the enumeration of the federal government’s powers in the Constitution is not meant to deny or disparage any other powers it may choose to claim, while the rights not given to the people in the Constitution are reserved to the federal government to give or withhold, and the states may be progressively stripped of their original powers.

What it comes to is that we don’t really have an operative Constitution anymore. The federal government defines its own powers day by day. It’s limited not by the list of its powers in the Constitution, but by whatever it can get away with politically. Just as the president can now send troops abroad to fight without a declaration of war, Congress can pass a national health care program without a constitutional delegation of power. The only restraint left is political opposition.

If you suspect I’m overstating the change from our original principles, I give you the late Justice Hugo Black. In a 1965 case called Griswold v. Connecticut, the Court struck down a law forbidding the sale of contraceptives on grounds that it violated a right of “privacy.” (This supposed right, of course, became the basis for the Court’s even more radical 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, but that’s another story.) Justice Black dissented in the Griswold case on the following ground: “I like my privacy as well as the next [man],” he wrote, “but I am nevertheless compelled to admit that government has a right to invade it unless prohibited by some specific constitutional provision.” What a hopelessly muddled — and really sinister — misconception of the relation between the individual and the state: government has a right to invade our privacy, unless prohibited by the Constitution. You don’t have to share the Court’s twisted view of the right of privacy in order to be shocked that one of its members takes this view of the “right” of government to invade privacy.

It gets crazier. In 1993 the Court handed down one of the most bizarre decisions of all time. For two decades, enemies of legal abortion had been supporting Republican candidates in the hope of filling the Court with appointees who would review Roe v. Wade. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Court finally did so. But even with eight Republican appointees on the Court, the result was not what the conservatives had hoped for. The Court reaffirmed Roe.

Its reasoning was amazing. A plurality opinion — a majority of the five-justice majority in the case — admitted that the Court’s previous ruling in Roe might be logically and historically vulnerable. But it held that the paramount consideration was that the Court be consistent, and not appear to be yielding to public pressure, lest it lose the respect of the public. Therefore the Court allowed Roe to stand.

Among many things that might be said about this ruling, the most basic is this: The Court in effect declared itself a third party to the controversy, and then, setting aside the merits of the two principals’ claims, ruled in its own interest! It was as if the referee in a prizefight had declared himself the winner. Cynics had always suspected that the Court did not forget its self-interest in its decisions, but they never expected to hear it say so.

The three justices who signed that opinion evidently didn’t realize what they were saying. A distinguished veteran Court-watcher (who approved of Roe, by the way) told me he had never seen anything like it. The Court was actually telling us that it put its own welfare ahead of the merits of the arguments before it. In its confusion, it was blurting out the truth.

But by then very few Americans could even remember the original constitutional plan. The original plan was as Madison and Tocqueville described it: State government was to be the rule, federal government the exception. The states’ powers were to be “numerous and indefinite,” federal powers “few and defined.” This is a matter not only of history, but of iron logic: the Constitution doesn’t make sense when read any other way. As Madison asked, why bother listing particular federal powers unless unlisted powers are withheld?

The unchecked federal government has not only overflowed its banks; it has even created its own economy. Thanks to its exercise of myriad unwarranted powers, it can claim tens of millions of dependents, at least part of whose income is due to the abuse of the taxing and spending powers for their benefit: government employees, retirees, farmers, contractors, teachers, artists, even soldiers. Large numbers of these people are paid much more than their market value because the taxpayer is forced to subsidize them. By the same token, most taxpayers would instantly be better off if the federal government simply ceased to exist — or if it suddenly returned to its constitutional functions.

Can we restore the Constitution and recover our freedom? I have no doubt that we can. Like all great reforms, it will take an intelligent, determined effort by many people. I don’t want to sow false optimism.

But the time is ripe for a constitutional counterrevolution. Discontent with the ruling system, as the 1992 Perot vote showed, is deep and widespread among several classes of people: Christians, conservatives, gun owners, taxpayers, and simple believers in honest government all have their reasons. The rulers lack legitimacy and don’t believe in their own power strongly enough to defend it.

The beauty of it is that the people don’t have to invent a new system of government in order to get rid of this one. They only have to restore the one described in the Constitution — the system our government already professes to be upholding. Taken seriously, the Constitution would pose a serious threat to our form of government.

And for just that reason, the ruling parties will be finished as soon as the American people rediscover and awaken their dormant Constitution.



Wednesday, September 01, 2004

High Plains Grifter

The Life and Crimes of George W. Bush
Read Parts One Thru Five

Part One: The Ties That Blind

August 31, 2004

The mad cowboys are on the loose. Pack only what you can carry. Liberate the animals. Leave the rest behind. The looters are hot on the trail. Only ruin stands in their wake. Not even women and children are safe. Especially not them. Run for the hills and don't look back. Don't ever look back.

So the story goes, anyway.

We find ourselves living out a scene in a bad Western. A movie filmed long after all the old plot lines have been exhausted, the grizzled character actors put out to pasture, the Indians slaughtered and confined to desert prisons, the cattle slotted into stinking feed lots, the scenic montane backdrops pulverized by strip mines. All that remains are the guns, bulked up beyond all comprehension, and the hangman and his gibbet. We've seen it all before. But there's no escape now. Someone's locked the exits. The film rolls on to the bitter end. Cue music: Toby Keith.

Perhaps only the Pasolini of Salo: 120 Days of Sodom could have done this celluloid scenario justice. Or the impish Mel Brooks, who gave us Blazing Saddles (one of the greatest films on the true nature of American politics), if you understand the narrative as comedy, which is probably the most emetic way to embrace it. Both Pasolini and Brooks are masters of scatological cinema. And there's mounds of bullshit to dig through to get at the core of George W. Bush.

Because it's all an act, of course, a put on, a dress game. And not a very convincing one at that. Start from the beginning. George W. Bush wasn't born a cowboy. He entered the world in New Haven, Connecticut, hallowed hamlet of Yale. His bloodlines include two presidents and a US senator. The cowboy act came later, when he was famously re-birthed, with spurs on his boots, tea in his cup and the philosophical tracts of Jesus of Nazareth on his night table. Bush is a pure-blooded WASP, sired by a man who would later become the nation's chief spook, a man frequently called upon to clean up the messes left by apex crooks in his own political party, including his own entanglements (and those of his sons) with the more noirish aspects of life. His grandfather was a US senator and Wall Street lawyer, who shamelessly represented American corporations as they did business with the Nazi death machine. Old Prescott narrowly escaped charges of treason. But those were different times, when trading with the enemy was viewed as, at the very least, unseemly.

His mother, Barbara, is a bitter and grouchy gorgon, who must have frightened her own offspring as they first focused their filmy eyes onto her stern visage. She is a Pierce, a descendent of Franklin, the famously incompetent president, patron of Nathaniel Hawthorne and avowed racist, who joined in a bizarre cabal to overthrow Abraham Lincoln. (For more on this long neglected episode in American history check out Charles Higham's excellent new book Murdering Mr. Lincoln.)

Understandably, George Sr. spent much of his time far away from Barbara Bush's icy boudoir, indulging in a discreet fling or two while earning his stripes as a master of the empire, leaving juvenile George to cower under the unstinting commands of his cruel mother, who his younger brother Jeb dubbed "the Enforcer." This woman's veins pulse with glacial melt. According to Neil Bush, his mother was devoted to corporal punishment and would "slap around" the Bush children. She was known in the family as "the one who instills fear." She still does...with a global reach.

How wicked is Barbara Bush? Well, she refused to attend her own mother's funeral. And the day after her five-year old daughter Robin died of leukemia Barbara Bush was in a jolly enough mood to spend the afternoon on the golf course. Revealingly, Mrs. Bush kept Robin's terminal illness a secret from young George, a stupid and cruel move which provided one of the early warps to his psyche.

Her loathsome demeanor hasn't lightened much over the years. Refresh you memory with this quote on Good Morning America, dismissing the escalating body count of American soldiers in Iraq. "Why should we hear about body bags and deaths and how many," the Presidential Mother snapped. "It's not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?"

Even Freud might have struggled with this case study. Imagine young George the Hysteric on Siggy's couch in the curtained room on Berggasse 19. The analysand doesn't enunciate; he mumbles and sputters in non-sequential sentence fragments. His quavering voice a whiny singsong. The fantasy has to be teased out. It's grueling work. But finally Freud puts it all together. This lad doesn't want to fuck his mother. Not this harridan. Not this boy. He wants to kill her and chuckle in triumph over the corpse. Oh, dear. This doesn't fit the Oedipal Complex, per se. But it explains so much of George the Younger's subsequent behavior. (See his cold-blooded chuckling over the state murder of Karla Faye Tucker.)

Perhaps, Freud isn't the right shrink for Bush, after all. Maybe the president's pathology is better understood through the lens of Freud's most gifted and troubled protégé, Wilhelm Reich. (I commend to your attention Dr. Reich's neglected masterpiece Listen, Little Man.) Sadly, we cannot avail ourselves of psychological exegises of either Freud or Reich. So Justin Frank, the disciple of Melanie Klein, will have to substitute. In the spirit of his mentor, Frank, author of Bush on the Couch, zeroes in on the crucial first five years of W's existence, where three factors loom over all others: an early trauma, an absent father and an abusive mother. It is a recipe for the making of a dissociated megalomaniac. Add in a learning disability (dyslexia) and a brain bruised by booze and coke and you have a pretty vivid portrait of the Bush psyche.

With this stern upbringing, is it really surprising that Bush evidenced early signs of sadism? As a teenager he jammed firecrackers in the orifices of frogs and snickered as he blew them to bits. A few years later, as president of the DKE frathouse at Yale, Bush instituted a branding on the ass-crack as an initiation ritual. Young pledges were seared with a red-hot wire clothes hanger. One victim complained to the New Haven police, who raided the frathouse. The story was covered-up for several decades until it surfaced in Bush's first run for governor of Texas. He laughed at the allegations, writing the torture off as little more than "a cigarette burn." From Andover to Abu Ghraib.

In his teens, this man child was shoved into a distant boarding school. It must have been a relief for him. The squirrely adolescent with the pointy ears did just enough to get by. At Andover they called him "Bushtail." Ambition wasn't his thing. And he didn't have the athletic talent or thespian skills to do much more than play the role of class goof. So he went on to an undistinguished academic career, highlighted only by his ebullient performances as a cheerleader and a reputation for selling fake IDs. Even in his youth he was adept at forgery.

George the Younger snuck into Yale on a legacy admission, a courtesy to his father and grandfather. He was a remedial student at best, awarded a bevy of Cs, the lowest score possible for the legacy cohort. Repositories like Andover and Yale know what to do with the dim children of the elite. George nestled in his niche. No demands were made of him. He spent much his time acquainting himself with a menu of designer inebrients. He was arrested twice. Once for petty theft. Once for public drunkenness. No one cared.

When Vietnam loomed, Lil' George fled to New Haven for Houston and the safe harbor of the Texas Air National Guard, then jokingly known as Air Canada--a domestic safe-haven for the combat-averse children of the political elite. It was a deftly executed dodge. His father pulled some strings. Escape hatches opened. The scions of the ruling class, even the half-wits, weren't meant to be eviscerated in the rice paddies of the Mekong--that's why they freed the slaves.

But soon George grew bored of the weekend warrior routine. And who among us wouldn't? He slunk off to Alabama, and promptly went AWOL for a year and a half. Nobody seemed to miss him. He wasn't a crucial cog in anyone's machine. George? George Bush??

How did the president-in-training fritter away those idle days? Supposedly he was lending his expertise to the congressional campaign of Winton "Red" Blount. But he apparently soon went AWOL from this assignment as well. Other campaign staffers recall young George ambling into the campaign office in the late afternoon, propping his cowboy booted heals on a desk and recounting his nocturnal revels in the bars, strip joints and waterbeds of Montgomery. The other staffers took to calling him the "Texas Soufflé.". As one recalled, "Bush was all puffed up and full of hot air."

Precisely, how did he wile away those humid nights on the Gulf Coast? According to the intrepid Larry Flynt, he spent part of his time impregnating his girlfriend and, like a true southern gentleman, then escorting her to an abortion clinic. Checkbook birth control, the tried and true method of the ruling classes. A year later, according to Bush biographer J.H. Hatfield, George W. got popped in Texas on cocaine possession charges. The old man intervened once again; George diverted for six months of community service a Project PULL in a black area of Houston and the incident was scrubbed from the police blotter and court records. Today, Bush denies all knowledge of those squalid indiscretions. Just two more lost weekends in George's blurry book of days.

Speaking of cocaine, Bush, by many accounts, had more than a passing familiarity with the powder. Several acquaintances from his days at Yale tell us that Bush not only snorted cocaine, but sold it. Not by the spoonful, but by the ounce bag, a quantity that would land any black or Latino dealer in the pen for at least a decade. Young Bushtail had become the Snow Bird of New Haven.

Even the Bush family, so smugly self-conscious of its public image, didn't seem to care much. Jr wasn't the star child. They just wanted him alive and out of jail. (The habitual drunk driving was already a nagging problem. On a December night in 1973, George came up from Houston to visit his family in DC. He took his younger brother Marvin out drinking in the bars of Georgetown. Returning home after midnight, Bush, drunk at the wheel, careened down the road, toppling garbage cans. When he pulled into the driveway, he was confronted by his father. Young Bush threatened to pummel his old man, mano-a-mano. Jeb intervened before young George could be humilated by his father. A couple of years later, the drunk driving would later land him in the drunk tank of a Maine jail-his fourth arrest.) No need to plump up his resumé with medals or valedictory speeches. Anyway back then, the inside money was riding on Neil, who they said had a head for figures, or perhaps young Jeb, whose gregarious looks hid a real mean streak. (Neil, of course, came to ruin in the looting of the Silvarado Savings and Loan (though he deftly avoided jail time), while Jeb proved his utility in Florida and amplified his presidential ambitions.)

By all accounts, the family elders saw George as a pathetic case, as goofy as a black lab. They got him out of the National Guard eight months early (or 20 months, if you insist on counting the Lost Year) and sent him off to Harvard Business School. He didn't have the grades to merit admission, but bloodlines are so much more important than GPA when it comes to prowling the halls at the Ivy League. The original affirmative action, immune from any judicial meddling. In Cambridge, he strutted around in his flight jacket and chewed tobacco in class. The sound of Bushtail spitting the sour juice into a cup punctuated many a lecture on the surplus value theory. At Harvard, one colleague quipped that Bush majored in advanced party planning and the arcana of money laundering. George met every expectation.

Then came the dark years. Booze, drugs, cavorting and bankruptcy in dreary west Texas. There he also met Laura Welch, the steamy librarian who had slain her own ex-boyfriend, by speeding through a stop sign and plowing broadside into his car with a lethal fury. (Rep. Bill Janklow got 100 days in the pen for a similar crime; Laura wasn't even charged.) They mated, married, raised fun-loving twins. In 1978, George decided to run for congress. His opponent cast him as carpetbagger with an Ivy League education. It worked. And it didn't help his chances much that Bush apparently was drunk much of time. After one drunken stump speech, Laura gave him a tongue lashing on the ride home. Bush got so irate that he drove the car through the garage door. He lost big.

Eventually, Laura got George to quit the booze--though the librarian never got him to read. It wasn't a moral thing for her. Laura still imbibes herself, even around her husband. She smokes, too. Refreshingly, so do the Bush Twins, who have both been popped for underage drinking.

George was Laura's ticket out of the dusty doldrums of west Texas. She sobered him up and rode him hard all the way to Dallas, Austin and beyond. "Oh, that Welch girl," recalled a retired librarian in Midland. "She got around." Wink, wink.

If the son of a millionaire political powerbroker can't make it in Midland, Texas, he can't make it anywhere. George was set up in his own oil company in the heart of the Permian Basin. His two starter companies, Bush Exploration and Arbusto, promptly went bust, hemorraghing millions of dollars. His father's cronies in a group called Spectrum 7 picked up the pieces. It flatlined too. A new group of savoirs in the form of Harken Oil swooped in. Ditto. Yet in the end, George walked away from the wreckage of Harkin Oil with a few million in his pocket. One of the investors in Harken was George Soros, who explained the bail out of Bush in frank terms. "We were buying political influence. That was it. Bush wasn't much of a businessman."

Among the retinue of rescuers in his hours of crisis was a Saudi construction conglomerate, headed by Mohammad bin Laden, sire of Osama. The ties that blind.

Flush with unearned cash, George and Laura hightailed it to Arlington, the Dallas suburb, soon to be the new home of the Texas Rangers, perennial also rans in the American League. Bush served as front man for a flotilla of investors, backed by the Bass brothers and other oil and real estate luminaries, who bought the Rangers and then bullied the city of Arlington into building a posh new stadium for the team with $200 million in public money, raised through a tax hike, for which Bush, the apostle of tax-cuts for the rich, sedulously lobbied. Here's a lesson in the art of political larceny. The super-rich always get their way. When taxes are raised, public money is sluiced upward to the politically connected. When taxes are cut, the money ends up in the same accounts. As William Burrough's hero Jack Black (the hobo writer, not the rotund actor) prophesied, you can't win.

The Rangers deal was never about building a competitive baseball team for the people of Dallas/Ft. Worth. No. The Bush group seduced the city into building a stadium with nearly all the proceeds going straight into their pockets. It was a high level grifter's game, right out of a novel by Jim Thompson, the grand master of Texas noir. Bush played his bit part as affable con man ably enough. Even though he only plunked down $600,000 of his own cash, he walked away from the deal with $14.7 million-a staggering swindle that made Hillary Clintons's windfalls in the cattle future's market look like chump change.

As team president, Bush printed up baseball cards with his photo on them in Ranger attire, endulging his life-long fetish for dress-up fantasies. He would hand out the Bush cards during home game. Invariably, the cards would be found littering the floors of the latrines, soaked in beer and piss.

Tomorrow: Mark His Words.

Jeffrey St. Clair is the author of Been Brown So Long It Looked Like Green to Me: the Politics of Nature and, with Alexander Cockburn, Dime's Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils.



Part Two: Mark His Words

The Life and Crimes of George W. Bush

Sept. 1, 2004

Sex and politics often seem to conflate in George W. Bush's mind. In 1975, young George, fresh out of Harvard Business School, followed his father to China, where he was keen testing the receptiveness of the Chinese to infusions of Texas capital. Soon bored by detailed discussions of international finance, Bush began hitting on his translators and other Chinese women. One Yale coed who came into Bush's orbit recalled: "He was always one of the fastest guys on campus in trying to get his hands in your pants." This friskiness didn't set well with the decorous crowd then running China and he was discreetly directed to evacuate the country in order to save his father, the new ambassador to Peking, further embarrassment.

During the 1988 Republican convention, David Fink, a reporter with the Hartford Courant, asked Bush what he talked about with his father when they weren't jawing about politics. "Pussy," George W. quipped. Take that mom.

In 1992, W. famously offered his services to his father's moribund re-election campaign. The younger Bush counseled the president to hire private investigators to rummage through the bedtrails of Clinton's sex life, hoping to ignite "bimbo eruptions." This advice coming from a man who, according to one of his friends, spent the 1970s "sleeping with every bimbo in West Texas, married or not." George Sr. (who was himself desperately trying to suppress talk of an affair with a State Department employee) demurred, patted Jr. on the head and followed the more tactful advice of Robert Teeter, with fatal results.

George W. vowed not to make the same political miscalculations as his father in his own 1994 run for governor of Texas. With the sepulchural Karl Rove as his political Svengali, Bush set his sights on Ann Richards, the gruff Democrat who ridiculed Bush's sense of privilege, "Little George was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple." It was a campaign marked by unbridled viciousness, backroom slanders and outright lies. Bush didn't attack frontally; he sent surrogates to hurl the mud for him. Naturally, he won in a romp.

Bush's six-year tenure as governor of Texas was unremarkable by almost any standard. He was kept on a short leash by his handlers, Rove and Karen Hughes, and generally turned over policy-making to the yahoos in the Texas legislature. His resume of those days is familiar by now: he slashed taxes for the rich, injected religion into public schools and social welfare programs, signed a law permitting the carrying of concealed weapons in public buildings and churches, privatized public parks, turned Texas into the nation's most toxic state, sent children to adult prisons and supervised the execution of 152 death row inmates. During an interview with Larry King, Bush chortled about sending Karla Faye Tucker to her fatal encounter with death's needle, saying he had no regrets. Later he joked about the execution with his CNN doppleganger Tucker Carlson. Bush mimiced Karla Faye's pleas for mercy, whining in a shrill falsetto: "Oh please don't kill me." Somebody give Bushtail a shot of Jack Daniels before he kills again.

The big change in Bush was his dramatic conversion to a messianic form of Christian fundamentalism. The happy-go-lucky cad of the 60s and 70s had withered away, replaced by a doltish and vindictive votary. His rebirth as a Christian zealot was famously midwifed by Billy Graham, who considered young George "almost like a son." According to Bush during a walk on the beach at Kinnebunkport, "Billy planted a mustard seed in my soul." The man has a felicity with metaphor.

The seed sprouted a few months later. In the notorious scene in the bathroom of a Colorado resort, Bush, head pounding from a night of drinking in celebration of his 40th birthday, plunged to his knees before the mirror and pleaded with the Almighty for a heavenly intervention. Lightning struck that morning. Bush, so the family legend goes, kicked the bottle and emerged as a fanatical believer in what he called "the intercessory power of prayer."

A few years later Bush, by then governor of Texas, offered readers of the Houston Chronicle a peek into the stern nature of his faith. "Only those who have accepted Jesus as their personal savoir will be permitted entry into heaven," Bush prophesied. Ten years down the road, Bush would do his best to send thousands of heathens to eternal damnation. Of course, Bush, having been granted the moral amnesty of being born-again, rarely attends formal church services.

* * *

Bush wasn't the early favorite of the Texas king makers to retake the presidency for the Republicans. That role fell to the newt-faced senator Phil Gramm, who had amassed a majestic campaign warchest. But no amount of money could soften Gramm's grotesque image and foul tongue. He was the hissing personification of the Republican ultras, an unrepentant whore for industry who seemed to take delight in savaging the poor, blacks and gays. Here's a taste of the Gramm technique: "Has anyone ever noticed that we live in a country where all of the poor people are fat?"

Gramm's dismal showing in 1996 told the Republican powerbrokers that they needed an image makeover, a candidate with Christian sex appeal coating a hard core philosophy. John McCain was too grouchy, carried the whiff of scandal and might prove uncontrollable. Jack Kemp was perceived as soft on blacks and perhaps even was a real libertarian at heart. So they settled on Bush, the smirking governor with the lofty Q-rating among white middle-aged women who'd been devoted watchers of Dallas and Knots Landing.

As for Bush, he didn't recall being coaxed to run by the RNC power elite. Instead, the green light fell upon him from a celestial source. "I feel like God wants me to run for president," Bush confided to James Robison, the Texas evangelist. "I can't explain it, but I sense my country is going to need me. I know it won't be easy on me or my family, but God wants me to do it."

In a flashy feat of political transvestitism, Bush marketed himself as a "compassionate conservative," a feathery reprise of his father's kinder and gentler Reaganism. It was a ploy to distance himself from the foamy rhetoric of the Republican pit bulls who had nearly self-destructed in their manic pursuit of Clinton. Bush was tight with Tom DeLay, Trent Lott and Phil Gramm, but he didn't want to be tarred with their radioactive baggage while he courted soccer moms. During the 2000 campaign, this grand hoax was rivaled only by Al Gore's outlandish masquerade as an economic populist.

Still Bush, under the lash of Karl Rove, didn't shirk from playing mean, particularly in the bruising inter-squad battle for the Republican nomination. During the crucial South Carolina primary, Bush's campaign goons intimated that his chief rival, John McCain, had fathered an illegitimate child with a black woman. Of course, a more dexterous politician than McCain could have turned this slur to his advantage. After all, Strom Thurmond ruled the Palmetto State for decades and he was widely known to have sired at least one child with his black mistress. The Bush attack dogs also made ungentlemanly whispers about McCain's wife, Cindy, suggesting that she might be a neurotic and a drug addict. Of course, it was McCain himself who was slightly unhinged and he wilted under the fire of the Bush sniper teams, which also included an attack on McCain's war record by the same by claque of mad dog vets who would later fling mud at Max Cleland and John Kerry.

The 2000 campaign itself was unremittingly dull until the final debate, when Gore sealed his fate as he stalked Bush across the stage like he had overdosed on testosterone. As Gore glowered over the governor badgering him with the names of obscure pieces of legislation, Bush merely turned his head to the camera and shrugged his shoulders, as if to say, "What's this guy's problem?" It was the first real moment of the campaign and probably kept Bush close enough so that the Supremes could hand him the presidency.

Bush's 534-vote triumph in Florida is an old and tiresome story by now, but it's worth recalling some of the low points. The stolen election was an inside job, although greatly abetted by Gore's incompetence. The state may very well have been secured before a single vote was cast. That's because Jeb, the Bush who always wanted to be president, ordered Katherine Harris to purge the voter rolls of more than 90,000 registered voters, mostly in Democratic precincts.

Then, with the recount underway, the Bush junta sprang into action. Using $13.8 million in campaign funds, they recuited an A-list of Republican fixers, tough guys and lawyers. Roger Stone, the former Republican fixer and body builder of Reagan time who fled to Florida following a DC sex scandal, was summoned to orchestrate gangs of rightwing Cubans to harass election officials in Dade and Palm Beach counties. Marc Racicot, later to be elevated by Bush to chair of the RNC, staged similar white-collar riots, all designed to impede the counting of ballots. Jeb and the haughty Harris did their parts as institutional monkeywrenchers.

Meanwhile, the legal strategy designed by Theodore Olson to fast track the case to the Supreme Court. When Scalia and Thomas refused to recuse themselves from the case despite glaring conflicts of interest (family members worked for the Bush campaign), the electoral theft was legitimized.

The ringmaster of this affair was Bush Sr.'s old hand, James Baker. Baker later boasted to a group of Russian tycoons mustered in London, "I fixed the election in Florida for George Bush." And Gore laid down and took it like a dazed Sonny Liston. He didn't raise a peep about the disenfranchisement of thousands of black voters, as if to say, "If have to be elected by blacks, I don't want the job."

Bush, the Selected One, was anxious to consolidate his power. "If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier-- just so long as I'm the dictator," Bush snickered on December 18, 2000, as the Supreme Court prepared to deliver the presidency to his sweaty hands.

Mark those words.

* * *

The contours of the Bush agenda were established by his transition team. This shadowy group picked the cabinet, outlined the budget, sketched the foreign policy, dreamed up the size of the tax cuts and scouted across the sprawl of the bureaucracy for opportunities for self-dealing contracts.

None had a sharper nose for scenting opportunities to cash in on federal contracts than Dick Cheney, the man who recruited himself as Bush's running mate. Although Cheney flunked out of Yale (he was a working class kid without the academic passes afforded the legacy admittees), he shares several other traits with Bush. Twice Cheney has been arrested for drunk driving. And, although he fervantly supported the war, he had no desire to actually go to Vietnam and do battle. Saying he "had other priorities," Cheney sought and received five draft deferments. See Dick run. And so it came to pass: others died so that he might prosper. Don't tell Cheney he doesn't understand the meaning of sacrifice.

As a congressman from Wyoming, Cheney established himself as a hardcore rightwinger, gnashing away at everything from abortion to Head Start. Bush Sr. picked this top-flight chickenhawk as Defense Secretary in 1989. He managed the first Gulf War, amassing through bribery and bullying international support like a CEO on a consolidation binge, and later rationalized the decision not to depose Saddam or support uprisings by Iraqi and Kurdish rebels, predicting that the fall of the Ba'athists would destabilize the entire region. How right you were, Dick.

After Clinton steamrolled Bush, Cheney cashed in, landing a top executive position at Halliburton, the Houston-based oil services and military construction giant. Cheney knew all about Halliburton and they knew Dick. In fact, as Defense Secretary, Cheney had devised the privatization scheme which turned over much of the Pentagon's logistical programs (base construction, food and fuel services, infrastructure, mortuaries) to corporations. He also steered some of the biggest early contracts to Halliburton, including lucrative deals for reconstructing Kuwait's oil fields and logistical support for the doomed venture into Somalia.

At Halliburton, Cheney exploited his government and international contacts to boost Halliburton's government-guaranteed loans from $100 million to $1.5 billion in less than five years. He also created 35 off-shore tax free subsidiaries, a feat of accounting prestitigidation that would soon be aped by Kenny Boy Lay and the corporate highwaymen at Enron. The grateful board of Halliburton soon rewarded Cheney by making him CEO and compensating him to the tune of $25 million a year in salary and lavish stock options. By the time he left Halliburton for the White House, he owned $45 million in the company's stock.

Of course, the question presents itself as to whether Cheney ever really left Halliburton. The company had been bruised a bit in Clinton. In 1997, it lost a multi-billion dollar logistics contract with the Army. Yet, soon after Cheney ascended to the Veep's office Halliburton seized the contract back and stood poised to become the prime provisioner for the Pentagon as it embarked on operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Uzbekistan, Qatar, Korea, and the Philippines. Within two short years under Cheney, Halliburton cashed in on $1.7 billion in Pentagon contracts. Then, naturally, Halliburton decided to gouge the government, overcharging for everything from gas deliveries to food services.

Then came the big reward: a two-year contract worth $7 billion for rebulding Iraq's oil infrastructure, bombed to smithereens by the Pentagon. The no bid contract was awarded by the Army Corps of Engineers, who apparently never even considered another company. No surprise here. Halliburton had drafted the Corps' reconstruction plan for Iraq. "They were the company best positioned to execute the oil field work because of their involvement in the planning," explained Lt. Col. Gene Pawlick, a PR flack for the Army.

All the while, Cheney continues to personally benefit from Halliburton's government contracts. He still holds options for 400,000 shares of Halliburton stock and continues to receive $150,000 a year in deferred compensation from his former company.

* * *

Cheney was not a lone emissary from crude cartel. Of the 41 members of that Bush transition team, 34 came from the oil industry. The mask had slipped off the beast. Not since the days of Warren Harding has big oil enjoyed a firmer stranglehold on the controls of the federal government. Bush's inner circle is dominated by oil men, starting with Bush and Cheney and including 6 cabinet members and 28 top political appointees. Recall that Condoleezza Rice has an oil tanker named after her and that Stephen Griles, the number two man at the Interior Department, was the oil industry's top lobbyist and continued to be paid $285,000 a year by his former firm as he handed out oil leases to his former clients. Griles is the Albert Fall of our time. Fall, the architect of the Teapot Dome scandal, where his crony's oil company was quitely handed the rights to drill in on federal lands in Wyoming, pronounced: "All natural resources should be made as easy of access as possible to the present generation . Man cannot exhaust the resources of nature and never will." More than 80 years later, this wreckless nonsense could serve as a motto for the Bush administration. But see how times have change. Fall went to jail for his self-dealing; Griles got a bonus.

Then came the neo-cons: Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Scooter Libby, Douglas Feith, Donald Wurmser, Stephen Cambone and John Bolton. This coterie of hawks, many of them veterans of Reagan/Bush I, were deeply marinated in the writings of the darkly iconic Leo Strauss and schooled in the art of political terror by Henry "Scoop" Jackson, the Democratic senator from Boeing. After eight years on the outside, they came in febrile for war from the get-go and charged with an implacable loyalty to Israel, nation of the apartheid wall and the 82 nukes. The neo-cons's devotion to Israel was so profound that several of them hired themselves out as consultants to the Israeli government. At the close of Bush's first term, this same nest of neo-cons finds itself under investigation for leaking top secret documents to Israel.

To complete the starting lineup, Bush and Cheney also dredged up from the obscurity of far right think tanks some of the most malodorous scoundrels of the Iran/contra era: Eliot Abrams, John Poindexter, Otto Reich and John Negroponte. Soon enough this merry band of brigands were up to their old tricks. Poindexter, from his den at DARPA, devised a big brother program under the name Total Information Awareness, branded with an Illuminati logo, which sought to keep track of the movements and credit card purchases of all Americans. Later Poindexter, convicted of lying to congress in the 1980s, opened up a futures market for terrorist attacks, where traders would be financially rewarded by the Pentagon for accurately predicting suicide bombings. Meanwhile, Abrams, another Iran/contra felon, was put in charge of human rights in the Middle East-a curious brief for the man who backed the butchers of Guatemala and El Salvador. Even Hunter S. Thompson blazing away on blotter acid couldn't dream this stuff up.

Tomorrow: More Pricks Than Kicks



Part Three: More Pricks Than Kicks

The Life and Crimes of George W. Bush

Sept. 2, 2004

Relations inside the Bush cabinet have not always collegial and harmonious. Take Richard Armitage, the longtime diplomatic fixer. Armitage had originally been slated by the Bush transition team for installation as the number two man at the Pentagon. But Armitage despised Donald Rumsfeld's megalomaniacal style and reportedly denounced openly him as "a prick." Armitage ended up back at State and Paul Wolfowitz, the crafty neo-con, became Rumsfeld's slavishly devoted deputy.

Rumsfeld had good reason to fear Armitage and some of the other old hands at State. Not because Armitage and Powell weren't itching for war with Iraq. Oh, no. It was a tussle over who would call the shots and how it would be launched: Powell's office wanted a reprise of the 1990 coalition; Rummy wanted war on his own terms. The men and women at Foggy Bottom knew some unsavory tidbits about Rumsfeld's past relations with two pillars in Bush's Axis of Evil: Iraq and North Korea.

In the early 1980s, Rummy was grazing in the corporate pastures as a top executive fixer at G.D. Searle, the drug giant involved in the aspartame scandal. Then Reagan called. The Gipper summoned Rumsfeld to serve as his special emissary for the Middle East, assigned with the delicate mission of delivering back channel communications from the White House to Baghdad. This was the beginning of the so-called Iraq Tilt, the subtle backing of Saddam during the gruesome Iran/Iraq war.

December 20, 1983 found Rumsfeld in Baghdad supping with Saddam and Iraq's foreign minister Tariq Aziz. By all accounts the day long session was amiable and cordial. Rumsfeld chose not to issue a remonstrance about Iraq's lethal use of chemical weapons against Iran. Rumsfeld, known as the Prince of Darkness by some of his staffers, was well acquainted with the slaughter. He was in possession of a State Department memo dated November 1, 1983 by Middle East specialist Jonathan Howe who warned the administration of "almost daily use of CW by Iraq against Iranian forces."

Rumsfeld blew off the reports of atrocities and instead encouraged Saddam to press his war on Iran. By February 1984, a UN investigation publicly confirmed the gassings, but that didn't deter Rumsfeld from meeting with Tariq Aziz again on March 26, 1984, where he again failed to reprimand the Iraqis (now essentially pursuing a proxy war for the US) for the war crimes. Two decades later, Rumsfeld, without cracking a grin, repeatedly invoked Saddam's use of poison gas in the 1980s as a justification for Bush's pre-emptive war.

Cut to 1994. Now Rumsfeld plying his craft back in the corporate milieu, this time for the Swiss engineering giant ABB, which specializes in the construction of nuclear power plants. In the fall of that year, ABB received a $200 million contract to construct two light-water reactors for the Pyongyang government, under a deal sanctioned by the State Department during the Clinton years. Oddly, Rumsfeld was later to cite the reactors as evidence of North Korea's malign intention to pursue the development of nuclear weapons and used the reactors as justification for sinking billions in Bush's Star Wars scheme. When confronted by the fact that the reactors under scrutiny had been sold to North Korea by his very own company, Rumsfeld feigned ignorance, just has he had done when presented with a videotape of him greeting Saddam. But the boys at the State Department knew the score on both counts and Rummy didn't like it.

Indeed, Rumsfeld, the Polonius of the Bush team, so distrusted the ecumenicalists in the State Department that he set up an off-the-shelf operation sequestered firmly under his control called the Office for Special Plans, headed by Douglas Feith. Sound familiar? It should. The OSP is not all that different from the William Casey/Oliver North operation that had its stealthy hands in illegal meddlings from Iran and Afghanistan to Honduras and Nicaragua. But see how far we've matured as a nation in 20 years. Rumsfeld's group was an open secret, shedding even the pretense of covertness.

The OSP operates as kind of cut-and-paste intelligence shop that served up as fact any gothic tale peddled by Ahmed Chalabi or the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Feith made a pest of himself, meddling in the affairs of the war planners. He was reviled by Gen. Tommy Franks, who called him "the dumbest motherfucker on the face of the Earth."

This didn't deter Feith in the least. He recruited a roster of pliant neo-cons into his office, who generated the phantasmagorical briefs for the war to topple Saddam, which he had hungered for since at least 1994. Feith's OSP office was known by State Department hands as the Fantasy Factory. Among Feith's pack of underlings, two have received special attention, Harold Rhode and Larry Franklin, for their intimate relationship with the state of Israel. Franklin, perhaps the scapegoat for a larger scandal, finds himself the target an FBI investigation into Israeli espionage ring in the Pentagon and National Security Council.

Feith himself is no stranger to such inquiries into leaking classified information to the Israeli. In 1982, Feith was fired from his position as an analyst on Middle East issues in the Reagan administration's National Security Council on suspicion of leaking material to the an official with the Israeli embassy in Washington. Don't cry for Feith. He simply moved out of the White House and over to the Pentagon as a "special assistant" to Richard Perle, then assistant secretary of Defense for International Security Policy.

When the Republicans were driven from office in 1992, Feith settled into a comfortable niche as a DC lawyer/lobbyist with the firm Feith and Zell, where he represented the interests of many Israeli firms hot to see the demise of Saddam. After Feith joined the Bush 2 administration, his former law partner, Marc Zell, moved the firm to Tel Aviv.

During the war on Iraq, Feith was given the responsibility's planning for the occupation of Iraq and its reconstruction. Obviously, Feith spent little of his attention on the troublesome details of the occupation, swallowing the line that Iraqis would welcome their conquistadors. Instead, Feith devoted himself to the lucrative task of awarding many of the Coalition Provisional Authority's reconstruction contracts. He steered many of the most lucrative deals, often on a no-bid basis, to clients associated with his former law firm, including Diligence, New Bridge Strategies and the Iraqi International Law Group, headed by Salem Chalabi-the nephew of Ahmed Chalabi. No sooner had Salem Chalabi, whose Law Group billed itself as "your professional gateway to the new Iraq," been appointed chief prosecutor in war crime trial of Saddam Hussein than he found himself indicted by an Iraqi prosecutor for involvement in a strange political murder plot. Now Salem Chalabi is on the lam in London.

Feith is one of those Washington creatures who seems to live his political life on the ropes, always saved by the paranoid solidarity of the neo-con claque, which suspects, rightly, that if one of their number topples he may take the rest down with him. Of course, even if Feith is forced to walk the plank at the Pentagon, he will almost certainly make a soft landing in the private sector, embraced by the firms he abetted while in office.

Sometimes even the stupidest motherfucker on the face of the earth can make out like a bandit.

* * *

Even Bush Sr. stood in line to profit handsomely from his son's war-making. The former president on retainer with the Carlyle Group, the largest privately held defense contractor in the nation. Carlyle is run by Frank Carlucci, who served as the National Security advisor and Secretary of Defense under Ronald Reagan. Carlucci was also Donald Rumsfeld's college roommate at Princeton.

Bush Sr. serves as a kind of global emissary for Carlyle. The ex-president doesn't negotiate arms deals; he simply opens the door for them, a kind of high level meet-and-greet. His special area of influence is the Middle East, primarily Saudi Arabia, where the Bush family has extensive business and political ties. According to an account in the Washington Post, Bush Sr. earns at least $100,000 for each speech he makes on Carlyle's behalf.

One of the Saudi investors lured to Carlyle by Bush was the BinLaden Group, the construction conglomerate owned by the family of Osama bin Laden. According to an investigation by the Wall Street Journal, Bush convinced Shafiq Bin Laden, Osama's half brother, to sink $2 million of BinLaden Group money into Carlyle's accounts. In a pr move, the Carlyle group cut its ties to the BinLaden Group in October 2001.

One of Bush Sr.'s top sidekicks, James Baker, is also a key player at Carlyle. Baker joined the weapons firm in 1993, fresh from his stint as Bush's secretary of state and chief of staff. Packing a briefcase of global contacts, Baker parlayed his connections with heads of state, generals and international tycoons into a bonanza for Carlyle. After Baker joined the company, Carlyle's revenues more than tripled.

Like Bush Sr., Baker's main function was to manage Carlyle's lucrative relationship with Saudi potentates, who had invested tens of millions of dollars in the company. Baker helped secure one of Carlyle's most lucrative deals: the contract to run the Saudi offset program, a multi-billion dollar scheme wherein international companies winning Saudi contracts are required under terms of the contracts to invest a percentage of the profits in Saudi companies.

Baker not only greases the way for investment deals and arms sales, but he also plays the role of seasoned troubleshooter, protecting the interests of key clients and regimes. A case in point: when the Justice Department launched an investigation into the financial dealings of Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, the Saudi prince sought out Baker's help. Baker is currently defending the prince in a law suit brought by the families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks that he used Islamic charities as a pass-through for sending millions of dollars to al-Qaeda linked operations.

Baker and Carlyle enjoy another ace in the hole when it comes to looking out for their Saudi friends. Baker prevailed on Bush Jr. to appoint his former law partner, Bob Jordan, as the administration's ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

Carlyle and its network of investors is well-positioned to cash in on Bush Jr.'s expansion of the defense and Homeland Security department budgets. Two Carlyle companies, Federal Data Systems and US Investigations Services, hold multi-billion dollar contracts to provide background checks for commercial airlines, the Pentagon, the CIA and the Department of Homeland Security. USIS was once a federal agency called the Office Federal Investigations, but it was privatized in 1996 at the urging of Baker and others and was soon gobbled up by Carlyle. The company is now housed in "high-security, state-of-the-art, underground complex" in Annandale, Pennsylvania. USIS now does 2.4 million background checks a year, largely for the federal government.

* * *

Thanks to Paul O'Neill, Bush's former treasury secretary, we now know what we'd suspected all along: that the Iraq war was plotted long before al-Qaeda struck New York and Washington. Bush himself is depicted as entering office seething with vindictive rage like a character in a Jacobean revenge play. After all, he believed that Saddam had tried to kill his daddy in a bungled bomb plot during Bush Sr.'s triumphal entry into Kuwait City in 1993. Here we have one of the colorful features of the new dynastic politics of America: familial retribution as foreign policy.

O'Neill's version is backed up by Richard Clarke, the former NSC terrorism staffer. Clarke charges that Iraq was an idée fixe with the Bush team since their entry into Washington. In his book, Clarke describes a meeting with the president a few days after the 9/11 attacks when it was clear to nearly everyone that they had been orchestrated by Bin Laden. Bush needled Clarke about finding a link to Saddam. Clarke said there was none. But his answer seemed to bounce off Bush's brain like a handball off the back wall.

A few months later the invasion on Iraq seemed set in stone. "Fuck Saddam," Bush fumed at a meeting of the National Security Council in March of 2002. "We're taking him out." Call it a case of pre-meditated pre-emption.

The game plan for deposing Saddam, seizing his oil fields and installing a puppet regime headed by a compliant thug such as Ahmed Chalabi or, as it turned out, the CIA favorite Ahmed Allawi, was drafted and tweaked by the National Security Council within weeks of taking office. Cheney's shadowy energy task force even produced maps allocating Iraqi reserves to different oil companies. Of course, they didn't offer an exit strategy. Perhaps, they didn't plan on leaving?

On the remote chance that impeachment charges are ever leveled against this coven of pre-emptive warriors, Bush may have a minor case for plausible deniability here. According to O'Neill, the president drifts off during the excruciating tedium of these sessions. Bush only perks up during cabinet meetings when Condi Rice strolls into the room, whereupon he cleaves to each sanguinary phrase, nodding excitedly like his very own bobblehead doll.

Not that Bush seems to care all that much about the veracity of his briefings, but Rice's information is not always noted for its reliability. For example, Rice, who got her start in politics working on the 1988 presidential campaign of Gary Hart, persisted for months in pushing the the preposterous notion that Iran was working with Pakistan to inflame anti-American sentiments across Southwest Asia. Of course, the rulers of Iran are Shiites and the elites of Pakistan are Sunni Muslim and, thus, as bitter rivals as Iran and Iraq-that is, until, the Bush administration succeeded in congealing their desperation and rage.

Tomorrow: Jesus Told Me Where to Bomb



The Life and Crimes of George W. Bush


Part Four: Jesus Told Him Where to Bomb

Get George Bush in front of a bunch of preachers and his tongue tends to loosen up a bit and occasionally some luminous black pearls spill out. Shortly after the Supremes invested him with the presidency, Bush confided to the Reverend Jim Wallis, head of the Call of Renewal coven of churches, the following: "I don't understand how poor people think."

This presidential gem, worthy of Antoinette herself, neatly mirrors a statement made during the darkest trench of the recession by Bush's director of Housing and Urban Development, Alphonso Jackson, who deflected criticism of the Bush economic disaster by pronouncing that "being poor is a state of mind, not a condition."

Jackson's coarse declaration reflects a kind of economic phenomenology that might even give Milton Friedman the willies. Naturally, Bush doesn't know the difference between phenomenology and proctology, but he keenly intuits its essential meaning: The suffering of the poor is entirely self-inflicted. They simply lack faith. And the circle of blow-dried Cotton Mathers the president surrounds himself with sanction his cold sense of compassion. Blaming the victim is not only a political device; it's infused with ecclesiastical authority. The downtrodden must be blamed for their own good.

Bush presided over the loss of more than 2 million jobs, the cruelest blow to working people since the Great Depression. Not his fault. Homeless and poverty rates have soared as a result and thanks to Clinton when this recession hit the social safety net of welfare and food stamps had already been sheared away. Not Bush's responsibility. The mounting piles of corpses in Afghanistan and Iraq. Others are to blame.

Here you have the prime virtue of being a born-again politician: automatic absolution from responsibility for inflicting even more deprivations on the weakest in society. (For more on Bush and the fundamentalists I highly recommend David Domke's excellent new book, God Willing: Political Fundamentalism in the White House, the 'War on Terror' and the Echoing Press.)

All of this feeds Bush's stunted capacity for human empathy. His joking about executions. His refusal to comfort the families of the slain in Iraq and Afghanistan. His imperviousness to the plight of the poor. How else can you explain his bizarre remarks at a White House Christmas party in 2001 made in front of Billy Graham and other guardians of the faith. "All in all, 2001 has been a fabulous year for Laura and me," Bush gushed, even though the ruins of the Twin Towers were still warm to the touch and cruise missiles were cratering hovels in Kandahar.

In the spring of 2001, Bush invited a flock of religious leaders to the White House for tea and a prayer session. The president soon strayed from his prepared script. "I had a drinking problem," he confessed during the gathering. "Right now, I should be in a bar. Not the Oval Office." There's no record of any objection being lodged.

Of course, perhaps the pastors of doom and damnation sensed that the cure had not entirely taken hold. There's plenty of anecdotal evidence that Bush continues to nip at the bottle every once in a while-and it's almost certainly good for the country and the world that he does imbibe. An Austin musician told us of a night in the mid-1990s, a decade after Bush went on the wagon, when he hustled into the bathroom of a bar between sets only to find the Governor face down on the less than spic-and-span floor, mumbling inanities. It was an episode of foreshadowing worthy of O. Henry, for years later Bush would be similarly felled on the floor of the Oval Office by a renegade pretzel.

Some presidents need a blowjob to unwind; others just crave some blow. Save an Iraqi child; get George high.

* * *

Some leaders of state have a hotline to other bigwigs. Like an Old Testament king, George Bush gets operational faxes straight from the Supreme Deity. "God told me to strike at al Qaeda and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East," he told Abu Abbas, the former Palestinian Prime Minister. "If you can help me, I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them."

He is surrounded by Christian soldiers, the real coalition of the willing. One of them, Gen. Jerry Boykin, proclaimed that God put Bush in office --apparently Jim Baker was merely an unwitting instrument of the Supreme Deity. Boykin also fumed that God had told him that followers of Islam where heathens and it was his duty to smite them. This is the same brand of bracing biblical exegesis that marked the Fifth Monarchists of puritan England, who believed they could hasten the Apocalypse by firing off their blunderbusses in unison inside the Houses of Parliament. Praise the lord and program the cruise missiles.

Bush's wash-and-wear fundamentalism has revved up liberals into a frenzied panic. But aside from Boykin and Ashcroft, Bush hasn't surrounded himself with that many more religious fanatics than Reagan or even Carter embedded into their ranks. After all, who is Bush's guide to God? None other than, good old Billy Graham, the sky pilot for nearly every president since LBJ, who has absolved official villainy for more than 40 years. Is there a more stable fixture of the federal government than Graham? Alan Greenspan is a mere piker compared to Billy G.

When Bush talks religion, it's a surefire sign that's he's in trouble. His public utterances of piety serve as a distress call to the stalwarts, the base that never wavers. Hence the fervid imprecations against gay marriage issued in Bush's darkest hour.

Bush's stop-and-go pursuit of a religious agenda has been perfunctory at best, backfiring deliriously more often than not. Indeed, John DiIulio, the arch zealot in the Bush inner circle, quit in a huff and denounced the administration as sellouts and frauds, more interested in Moab bombs and tax cuts than state-coerced conversions to Christ.

"There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus," DiIulio told Ron Suskind, writing for Esquire. "What you've got is everything-and I mean everything-being run by the political arm. It's the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis."

One of those Mayberry Machiavellians is John Ashcroft, the Savonarola of the Potomac. Ashcroft, the singing senator who lost his reelection to a dead man, is an unapologetic bigot, who launches weekly sorties against the Bill of Rights. (Apparently, no one informed Ashcroft that his raids on the Constitution are the equivilent of a saturation bombing strike on a Potemkin village-- Madison's carta of liberty having been hollowed out by more fiendish minds, long, long ago.) But the censorious Missourian, who sought and received three draft deferrments during the Vietnam war, rumbles on, rummaging through the private corners of our lives, like one of Moliere's pious buffoons, draping the breasts of Lady Justice one day and condemning homosexuality as "a sin" the next. In The Bush Betrayal, the libertarian writer James Bovard's pitiless dismantling of the Bush era, Bovard quips that the Persecutor General wants to "repeal 1776."

Whether or not anyone has briefed the president to this fact remains unclear, but Ashcroft has become an oozing liability to the Bush crowd, ridiculed even by Republican ultras such as Bob Barr and Dick Armey and repudiated by federal judges in nearly every circuit. Ashcroft has overreached so far that he begins to make Ed Meese seem like Ramsey Clark.

There's nothing spiritual about Ashcroft's jihad and that's why, ultimately, his vindictive crusade will flounder on its own rectitude and rigidity; he offers only persecution and purges, no transcendence. Frail Billy Graham could teach the Reverend Prosecutor a thing or two about how to con a congregation into compliance.

That's not to say that the Patriot Act (and its odious offspring) doesn't qualify as one of the spookiest legislative incursions on civil liberties since the McCarran Act. But Ashcroft can't be saddled with all the blame for that inquisitorial bill. After all, he didn't write it. He merely plucked it fully-formed from one of Janet Reno's shelves, dusted it off and dumped it on a complicit Congress, which passed it nearly unanimously. Only Russ Feingold, the Wisconsin progressive, and Ron Paul, the Texas libertarian, spoke out as prophetic voices of dissent, warning that we were slipping into a culture of official suspicion and interrogation. And so it came to pass: warrantless searches and wiretaps, governments snoops in libraries, infiltration of dissident groups, immigrants rounded up and sent to detention camps without legal redress, prosecution of lawyers who work too sedulously in the defense their clients, and on and on. Paranoia as federal policy.

The maintenance of this creepy state of affairs depends on the mainlining of anxiety, inculcating an ever-tender sense of trauma in the psyche of the populace. Thus, the color-coded terror alerts, issued with the precision of a metronome. But here Bush faces his most puzzling problem: keeping the whole thing knotted up tight. Unless he, by some miraculous heresy, legalizes pot, there's no way this condition of perpetual paranoia can be sustained. The republic is too diverse, too innately averse to prosecutorial probings (memo to K. Starr), too unwieldy and restless to be kept sedate under the looking glass for long before minor rebellions begin to erupt, sending out little fuck-yous to the system.

Bush began to lose ground in the winter of 2004: from Janet Jackson flashing her right tit at a scandalized Michael Powell to US soldiers refusing to serve in Iraq to John Dean calling for the impeachment of the president to the exposure of the Sadean circus at Abu Ghraib to the punch-drunk economy, seemingly face-down for the count. It had begun to unravel. By early summer, the once unsinkable Bush was listing, desperate for any life-ring in the sucking maelstrom.

Of course, that's where the Democrats come in.

Part Five: The House Rules




Sen. Kerry's Convention Speech

By The Associated Press
July 29, 2004, 10:54 PM EDT

We are here tonight because we love our country.

We are proud of what America is and what it can become.

My fellow Americans, we are here tonight united in one simple purpose: to make America stronger at home and respected in the world.

A great American novelist wrote that you can't go home again. He could not have imagined this evening. Tonight, I am home. Home where my public life began and those who made it possible live. Home where our nation's history was written in blood, idealism, and hope. Home where my parents showed me the values of family, faith, and country.

Thank you, all of you, for a welcome home I will never forget.

I wish my parents could share this moment. They went to their rest in the last few years, but their example, their inspiration, their gift of open eyes, open mind, and endless world are bigger and more lasting than any words.

I was born in Colorado, in Fitzsimmons Army Hospital, when my dad was a pilot in World War II. Now, I'm not one to read into things, but guess which wing of the hospital the maternity ward was in? I'm not making this up. I was born in the West Wing!

My mother was the rock of our family, as so many mothers are. She stayed up late to help me do my homework. She sat by my bed when I was sick, and she answered the questions of a child who, like all children, found the world full of wonders and mysteries.

She was my den mother when I was a Cub Scout and she was so proud of her 50-year pin as a Girl Scout leader. She gave me her passion for the environment. She taught me to see trees as the cathedrals of nature. And by the power of her example, she showed me that we can and must finish the march toward full equality for all women in our country.

My dad did the things that a boy remembers. He gave me my first model airplane, my first baseball mitt and my first bicycle. He also taught me that we are here for something bigger than ourselves; he lived out the responsibilities and sacrifices of the greatest generation, to whom we owe so much.

When I was a young man, he was in the State Department, stationed in Berlin when it and the world were divided between democracy and communism. I have unforgettable memories of being a kid mesmerized by the British, French, and American troops, each of them guarding their own part of the city, and Russians standing guard on the stark line separating East from West. On one occasion, I rode my bike into Soviet East Berlin. And when I proudly told my dad, he promptly grounded me.

But what I learned has stayed with me for a lifetime. I saw how different life was on different sides of the same city. I saw the fear in the eyes of people who were not free. I saw the gratitude of people toward the United States for all that we had done. I felt goose bumps as I got off a military train and heard the Army band strike up "Stars and Stripes Forever." I learned what it meant to be America at our best. I learned the pride of our freedom. And I am determined now to restore that pride to all who look to America.

Mine were greatest generation parents. And as I thank them, we all join together to thank that whole generation for making America strong, for winning World War II, winning the Cold War, and for the great gift of service which brought America fifty years of peace and prosperity.

My parents inspired me to serve, and when I was a junior in high school, John Kennedy called my generation to service. It was the beginning of a great journey, a time to march for civil rights, for voting rights, for the environment, for women, and for peace. We believed we could change the world. And you know what? We did.

But we're not finished. The journey isn't complete. The march isn't over. The promise isn't perfected. Tonight, we're setting out again. And together, we're going to write the next great chapter of America's story.

We have it in our power to change the world again. But only if we're true to our ideals and that starts by telling the truth to the American people. That is my first pledge to you tonight. As President, I will restore trust and credibility to the White House.

I ask you to judge me by my record: As a young prosecutor, I fought for victims' rights and made prosecuting violence against women a priority. When I came to the Senate, I broke with many in my own party to vote for a balanced budget, because I thought it was the right thing to do. I fought to put a 100,000 cops on the street.

And then I reached across the aisle to work with John McCain, to find the truth about our POWs and missing in action, and to finally make peace with Vietnam.

I will be a commander in chief who will never mislead us into war. I will have a vice president who will not conduct secret meetings with polluters to rewrite our environmental laws. I will have a secretary of Defense who will listen to the best advice of our military leaders. And I will appoint an Attorney General who actually upholds the Constitution of the United States.

My fellow Americans, this is the most important election of our lifetime. The stakes are high. We are a nation at war, a global war on terror against an enemy unlike any we have ever known before. And here at home, wages are falling, health care costs are rising, and our great middle class is shrinking. People are working weekends; they're working two jobs, three jobs, and they're still not getting ahead.

We're told that outsourcing jobs is good for America. We're told that new jobs that pay $9,000 less than the jobs that have been lost is the best we can do. They say this is the best economy we've ever had. And they say that anyone who thinks otherwise is a pessimist. Well, here is our answer: There is nothing more pessimistic than saying America can't do better.

We can do better and we will. We're the optimists. For us, this is a country of the future. We're the can do people. And let's not forget what we did in the 1990s. We balanced the budget. We paid down the debt. We created 23 million new jobs. We lifted millions out of poverty and we lifted the standard of living for the middle class. We just need to believe in ourselves and we can do it again.

So tonight, in the city where America's freedom began, only a few blocks from where the sons and daughters of liberty gave birth to our nation, here tonight, on behalf of a new birth of freedom, on behalf of the middle class who deserve a champion, and those struggling to join it who deserve a fair shot, for the brave men and women in uniform who risk their lives every day and the families who pray for their return, for all those who believe our best days are ahead of us, for all of you with great faith in the American people, I accept your nomination for President of the United States.

I am proud that at my side will be a running mate whose life is the story of the American dream and who's worked every day to make that dream real for all Americans: Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, and his wonderful wife Elizabeth and their family. This son of a mill worker is ready to lead and next January, Americans will be proud to have a fighter for the middle class to succeed Dick Cheney as Vice President of the United States.

And what can I say about Teresa? She has the strongest moral compass of anyone I know. She's down to earth, nurturing, courageous, wise and smart. She speaks her mind and she speaks the truth, and I love her for that, too. And that's why America will embrace her as the next First Lady of the United States.

For Teresa and me, no matter what the future holds or the past has given us, nothing will ever mean as much as our children. We love them not just for who they are and what they've become, but for being themselves, making us laugh, holding our feet to the fire, and never letting me get away with anything. Thank you, Andre, Alex, Chris, Vanessa, and John.

And in this journey, I am accompanied by an extraordinary band of brothers led by that American hero, a patriot named Max Cleland. Our band of brothers doesn't march together because of who we are as veterans, but because of what we learned as soldiers. We fought for this nation because we loved it and we came back with the deep belief that every day is extra. We may be a little older now, we may be a little grayer, but we still know how to fight for our country.

And standing with us in that fight are those who shared with me the long season of the primary campaign: Carol Moseley Braun, General Wesley Clark, Howard Dean, Dick Gephardt, Bob Graham, Dennis Kucinich, Joe Lieberman and Al Sharpton.

To all of you, I say thank you for teaching me and testing me but mostly, we say thank you for standing up for our country and giving us the unity to move America forward.

My fellow Americans, the world tonight is very different from the world of four years ago. But I believe the American people are more than equal to the challenge.

Remember the hours after Sept. 11, when we came together as one to answer the attack against our homeland. We drew strength when our firefighters ran up the stairs and risked their lives, so that others might live. When rescuers rushed into smoke and fire at the Pentagon. When the men and women of Flight 93 sacrificed themselves to save our nation's Capitol. When flags were hanging from front porches all across America, and strangers became friends. It was the worst day we have ever seen, but it brought out the best in all of us.

I am proud that after Sept. 11 all our people rallied to President Bush's call for unity to meet the danger. There were no Democrats. There were no Republicans. There were only Americans. How we wish it had stayed that way.

Now I know there are those who criticize me for seeing complexities and I do because some issues just aren't all that simple. Saying there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq doesn't make it so. Saying we can fight a war on the cheap doesn't make it so. And proclaiming mission accomplished certainly doesn't make it so.

As President, I will ask hard questions and demand hard evidence. I will immediately reform the intelligence system so policy is guided by facts, and facts are never distorted by politics. And as President, I will bring back this nation's time-honored tradition: the United States of America never goes to war because we want to, we only go to war because we have to.

I know what kids go through when they are carrying an M-16 in a dangerous place and they can't tell friend from foe. I know what they go through when they're out on patrol at night and they don't know what's coming around the next bend. I know what it's like to write letters home telling your family that everything's all right when you're not sure that's true.

As President, I will wage this war with the lessons I learned in war. Before you go to battle, you have to be able to look a parent in the eye and truthfully say: "I tried everything possible to avoid sending your son or daughter into harm's way. But we had no choice. We had to protect the American people, fundamental American values from a threat that was real and imminent." So lesson one, this is the only justification for going to war.

And on my first day in office, I will send a message to every man and woman in our armed forces: You will never be asked to fight a war without a plan to win the peace.

I know what we have to do in Iraq. We need a president who has the credibility to bring our allies to our side and share the burden, reduce the cost to American taxpayers, and reduce the risk to American soldiers. That's the right way to get the job done and bring our troops home.

Here is the reality: that won't happen until we have a president who restores America's respect and leadership -- so we don't have to go it alone in the world.

And we need to rebuild our alliances, so we can get the terrorists before they get us.

I defended this country as a young man and I will defend it as President. Let there be no mistake: I will never hesitate to use force when it is required. Any attack will be met with a swift and certain response. I will never give any nation or international institution a veto over our national security. And I will build a stronger American military.

We will add 40,000 active duty troops, not in Iraq, but to strengthen American forces that are now overstretched, overextended, and under pressure. We will double our special forces to conduct anti-terrorist operations. We will provide our troops with the newest weapons and technology to save their lives and win the battle. And we will end the backdoor draft of National Guard and reservists.

To all who serve in our armed forces today, I say, help is on the way.

As President, I will fight a smarter, more effective war on terror. We will deploy every tool in our arsenal: our economic as well as our military might; our principles as well as our firepower.

In these dangerous days there is a right way and a wrong way to be strong. Strength is more than tough words. After decades of experience in national security, I know the reach of our power and I know the power of our ideals.

We need to make America once again a beacon in the world. We need to be looked up to and not just feared.

We need to lead a global effort against nuclear proliferation to keep the most dangerous weapons in the world out of the most dangerous hands in the world.

We need a strong military and we need to lead strong alliances. And then, with confidence and determination, we will be able to tell the terrorists: You will lose and we will win. The future doesn't belong to fear; it belongs to freedom.

And the front lines of this battle are not just far away they're right here on our shores, at our airports, and potentially in any town or city. Today, our national security begins with homeland security. The 9/11 Commission has given us a path to follow, endorsed by Democrats, Republicans, and the 9/11 families. As president, I will not evade or equivocate; I will immediately implement the recommendations of that commission. We shouldn't be letting 95 percent of container ships come into our ports without ever being physically inspected. We shouldn't be leaving our nuclear and chemical plants without enough protection. And we shouldn't be opening firehouses in Baghdad and closing them down in the United States of America.

And tonight, we have an important message for those who question the patriotism of Americans who offer a better direction for our country. Before wrapping themselves in the flag and shutting their eyes and ears to the truth, they should remember what America is really all about. They should remember the great idea of freedom for which so many have given their lives. Our purpose now is to reclaim democracy itself. We are here to affirm that when Americans stand up and speak their minds and say America can do better, that is not a challenge to patriotism; it is the heart and soul of patriotism.

You see that flag up there. We call her Old Glory. The stars and stripes forever. I fought under that flag, as did so many of you here and all across our country. That flag flew from the gun turret right behind my head. It was shot through and through and tattered, but it never ceased to wave in the wind. It draped the caskets of men I served with and friends I grew up with. For us, that flag is the most powerful symbol of who we are and what we believe in. Our strength. Our diversity. Our love of country. All that makes America both great and good.

That flag doesn't belong to any president. It doesn't belong to any ideology and it doesn't belong to any political party. It belongs to all the American people.

My fellow citizens, elections are about choices. And choices are about values. In the end, it's not just policies and programs that matter; the president who sits at that desk must be guided by principle.

For four years, we've heard a lot of talk about values. But values spoken without actions taken are just slogans. Values are not just words. They're what we live by. They're about the causes we champion and the people we fight for. And it is time for those who talk about family values to start valuing families.

You don't value families by kicking kids out of after-school programs and taking cops off our streets, so that Enron can get another tax break.

We believe in the family value of caring for our children and protecting the neighborhoods where they walk and play.

And that is the choice in this election.

You don't value families by denying real prescription drug coverage to seniors, so big drug companies can get another windfall.

We believe in the family value expressed in one of the oldest Commandments: "Honor thy father and thy mother." As President, I will not privatize Social Security. I will not cut benefits. And together, we will make sure that senior citizens never have to cut their pills in half because they can't afford lifesaving medicine.

And that is the choice in this election.

You don't value families if you force them to take up a collection to buy body armor for a son or daughter in the service, if you deny veterans health care, or if you tell middle class families to wait for a tax cut, so that the wealthiest among us can get even more.

We believe in the value of doing what's right for everyone in the American family.

And that is the choice in this election.

We believe that what matters most is not narrow appeals masquerading as values, but the shared values that show the true face of America. Not narrow appeals that divide us, but shared values that unite us. Family and faith. Hard work and responsibility. Opportunity for all so that every child, every parent, every worker has an equal shot at living up to their God-given potential.

What does it mean in America today when Dave McCune, a steel worker I met in Canton, Ohio, saw his job sent overseas and the equipment in his factory literally unbolted, crated up, and shipped thousands of miles away along with that job? What does it mean when workers I've met had to train their foreign replacements?

America can do better. So tonight we say: help is on the way.

What does it mean when Mary Ann Knowles, a woman with breast cancer I met in New Hampshire, had to keep working day after day right through her chemotherapy, no matter how sick she felt, because she was terrified of losing her family's health insurance?

America can do better. And help is on the way.

What does it mean when Deborah Kromins from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, works and saves all her life only to find out that her pension has disappeared into thin air and the executive who looted it has bailed out on a golden parachute?

America can do better. And help is on the way.

What does it mean when 25 percent of the children in Harlem have asthma because of air pollution?

America can do better. And help is on the way.

What does it mean when people are huddled in blankets in the cold, sleeping in Lafayette Park on the doorstep of the White House itself and the number of families living in poverty has risen by three million in the last four years?

America can do better. And help is on the way.

And so we come here tonight to ask: Where is the conscience of our country?

I'll tell you where it is: it's in rural and small town America; it's in urban neighborhoods and suburban main streets; it's alive in the people I've met in every part of this land. It's bursting in the hearts of Americans who are determined to give our country back its values and its truth.

We value jobs that pay you more, not less, than you earned before. We value jobs where, when you put in a week's work, you can actually pay your bills, provide for your children, and lift up the quality of your life. We value an America where the middle class is not being squeezed, but doing better.

So here is our economic plan to build a stronger America:

First, new incentives to revitalize manufacturing.

Second, investment in technology and innovation that will create the good-paying jobs of the future.

Third, close the tax loopholes that reward companies for shipping our jobs overseas. Instead, we will reward companies that create and keep good paying jobs where they belong: in the good old U.S.A.

We value an America that exports products, not jobs and we believe American workers should never have to subsidize the loss of their own job.

Next, we will trade and compete in the world. But our plan calls for a fair playing field because if you give the American worker a fair playing field, there's nobody in the world the American worker can't compete against.

And we're going to return to fiscal responsibility, because it is the foundation of our economic strength. Our plan will cut the deficit in half in four years by ending tax giveaways that are nothing more than corporate welfare and will make government live by the rule that every family has to follow: pay as you go.

And let me tell you what we won't do: we won't raise taxes on the middle class. You've heard a lot of false charges about this in recent months. So let me say straight out what I will do as President: I will cut middle class taxes. I will reduce the tax burden on small business. And I will roll back the tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals who make over $200,000 a year, so we can invest in job creation, health care and education.

Our education plan for a stronger America sets high standards and demands accountability from parents, teachers, and schools. It provides for smaller class sizes and treats teachers like the professionals they are. And it gives a tax credit to families for each and every year of college.

When I was a prosecutor, I met young kids who were in trouble, abandoned by adults. And as President, I am determined that we stop being a nation content to spend $50,000 a year to keep a young person in prison for the rest of their life when we could invest $10,000 to give them Head Start, Early Start, Smart Start, the best possible start in life.

And we value health care that's affordable and accessible for all Americans.

Since 2000, four million people have lost their health insurance. Millions more are struggling to afford it.

You know what's happening. Your premiums, your co-payments, your deductibles have all gone through the roof.

Our health care plan for a stronger America cracks down on the waste, greed, and abuse in our health care system and will save families up to $1,000 a year on their premiums. You'll get to pick your own doctor and patients and doctors, not insurance company bureaucrats, will make medical decisions. Under our plan, Medicare will negotiate lower drug prices for seniors. And all Americans will be able to buy less expensive prescription drugs from countries like Canada.

The story of people struggling for health care is the story of so many Americans. But you know what, it's not the story of senators and members of Congress. Because we give ourselves great health care and you get the bill. Well, I'm here to say, your family's health care is just as important as any politician's in Washington, D.C.

And when I'm President, America will stop being the only advanced nation in the world which fails to understand that health care is not a privilege for the wealthy, the connected, and the elected -- it is a right for all Americans.

We value an America that controls its own destiny because it's finally and forever independent of Mideast oil. What does it mean for our economy and our national security when we only have three percent of the world's oil reserves, yet we rely on foreign countries for fifty-three percent of what we consume?

I want an America that relies on its own ingenuity and innovation, not the Saudi royal family.

And our energy plan for a stronger America will invest in new technologies and alternative fuels and the cars of the future -- so that no young American in uniform will ever be held hostage to our dependence on oil from the Middle East.

I've told you about our plans for the economy, for education, for health care, for energy independence. I want you to know more about them. So now I'm going to say something that Franklin Roosevelt could never have said in his acceptance speech: go to

I want to address these next words directly to President George W. Bush: In the weeks ahead, let's be optimists, not just opponents. Let's build unity in the American family, not angry division. Let's honor this nation's diversity; let's respect one another; and let's never misuse for political purposes the most precious document in American history, the Constitution of the United States.

My friends, the high road may be harder, but it leads to a better place. And that's why Republicans and Democrats must make this election a contest of big ideas, not small-minded attacks. This is our time to reject the kind of politics calculated to divide race from race, group from group, region from region. Maybe some just see us divided into red states and blue states, but I see us as one America red, white, and blue. And when I am President, the government I lead will enlist people of talent, Republicans as well as Democrats, to find the common ground so that no one who has something to contribute will be left on the sidelines.

And let me say it plainly: in that cause, and in this campaign, we welcome people of faith. America is not us and them. I think of what Ron Reagan said of his father a few weeks ago, and I want to say this to you tonight: I don't wear my own faith on my sleeve. But faith has given me values and hope to live by, from Vietnam to this day, from Sunday to Sunday. I don't want to claim that God is on our side. As Abraham Lincoln told us, I want to pray humbly that we are on God's side. And whatever our faith, one belief should bind us all: The measure of our character is our willingness to give of ourselves for others and for our country.

These aren't Democratic values. These aren't Republican values. They're American values. We believe in them. They're who we are. And if we honor them, if we believe in ourselves, we can build an America that's stronger at home and respected in the world.

So much promise stretches before us. Americans have always reached for the impossible, looked to the next horizon, and asked: What if?

Two young bicycle mechanics from Dayton asked, what if this airplane could take off at Kitty Hawk? It did that and changed the world forever. A young president asked, what if we could go to the moon in ten years? And now we're exploring the solar system and the stars themselves. A young generation of entrepreneurs asked, what if we could take all the information in a library and put it on a little chip the size of a fingernail? We did, and that too changed the world forever.

And now it's our time to ask: What if?

What if we find a breakthrough to cure Parkinson's, diabetes, Alzheimer's and AIDs? What if we have a president who believes in science, so we can unleash the wonders of discovery like stem cell research to treat illness and save millions of lives?

What if we do what adults should do and make sure all our children are safe in the afternoons after school? And what if we have a leadership that's as good as the American dream so that bigotry and hatred never again steal the hope and future of any American?

I learned a lot about these values on that gunboat patrolling the Mekong Delta with young Americans who came from places as different as Iowa and Oregon, Arkansas, Florida and California. No one cared where we went to school. No one cared about our race or our backgrounds. We were literally all in the same boat. We looked out, one for the other and we still do.

That is the kind of America I will lead as President: an America where we are all in the same boat.

Never has there been a more urgent moment for Americans to step up and define ourselves. I will work my heart out. But, my fellow citizens, the outcome is in your hands more than mine.

It is time to reach for the next dream. It is time to look to the next horizon. For America, the hope is there. The sun is rising. Our best days are still to come.

Goodnight, God bless you, and God bless America.
Copyright © 2004, The Associated Press



John Edwards' Convention Speech

Wednesday Night at the Democratic National Convention
The Associated Press

July 28, 2004 — A text of a speech by Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, running mate of John Kerry, as prepared for delivery Wednesday night at the Democratic National Convention:

Thank you. Now, you know why Elizabeth is so amazing.

I am a lucky man: to have the love of my life at my side. We have been blessed with four beautiful children: Wade, Cate, Emma Claire, and Jack.

My mother and father, Wallace and Bobbie Edwards, are here tonight. You taught me the values that I carry with me in my heart: faith, family, responsibility, and opportunity for everyone. You taught me that there's dignity and honor in a hard day's work. You taught me that you look out for your neighbors, you never look down on anybody, and you treat everyone with respect.

Those are the values John Kerry and I believe in, and nothing makes me prouder than standing with him in this campaign. I am so humbled to be your candidate for Vice President of the United States.

I want to talk about our next president. For those who want to know what kind of leader he'll be, I want to take you back about 30 years. When John Kerry graduated college, he volunteered for military service. He volunteered to go to Vietnam and to captain a swift boat, one of the most dangerous duties you could have. And as a result he was wounded and honored for his valor.

If you have any question about what he's made of, you need to spend three minutes with the men who served with him then and stand by him today.

They saw up close what he's made of. They saw him reach down and pull one of his men from the river and save his life. And in the heat of battle, they saw him decide in an instant to turn his boat around, drive it straight through an enemy position, and chase down the enemy to save his crew.

Decisive. Strong. Aren't these the traits you want in a Commander in Chief?

We hear a lot of talk about values. Where I come from, you don't judge someone's values based on how they use that word in a political ad. You judge their values based upon what they've spent their life doing.

So when a man volunteers to serve his country, and puts his life on the line for others that's a man who represents real American values.

This is a man who is prepared to keep the American people safe and to make America stronger at home and respected in the world.

John is a man who knows the difference between what is right and what is wrong. He wants to serve you your cause is his cause. And that is why we must and we will elect John Kerry as our next president.

For the last few months, John has been talking about his positive, optimistic vision for the country talking about his plan to move this country in the right direction.

But we've seen relentless negative attacks against John. So in the weeks ahead, we know what's coming don't we more negative attacks.

Aren't you sick of it?

They are doing all they can to take this campaign for the highest office in the land down the lowest possible road.

This is where you come in. Between now and November you, the American people you can reject the tired, old, hateful, negative, politics of the past. And instead you can embrace the politics of hope, the politics of what's possible because this is America, where everything is possible.

I am here tonight because I love my country. And I have every reason to love my country because I have grown up in the bright light of America.

I grew up in a small town in rural North Carolina. My father worked in a mill all his life, and I will never forget the men and women who worked with him. They had lint in their hair and grease on their faces. They worked hard and tried to put a little something away every week so their kids and their grandkids could have a better life. They are just like the auto workers, office workers, teachers, and shop keepers on Main Streets all across America.

My mother had a number of jobs. Her last job was working at the post office so my parents could have health care. And she owned her own small business refinishing furniture to help pay for me to go to college.

I have had such incredible opportunities in my life, and I was blessed to be the first person in my family to go to college. I worked my way through, and I have had opportunities way beyond what I could have ever imagined.

And the heart of this campaign your campaign is to make sure that everyone has those same opportunities that I had growing up no matter where you live, who your family is, or what the color of your skin is. This is the America we believe in.

I have spent my life fighting for the kind of people I grew up with. For two decades, I stood with families and children against big HMOs and big insurance companies. And as a Senator, I fought those same fights against the Washington lobbyists and for causes like the Patients' Bill of Rights.

I stand here tonight ready to work with you and John to make America strong again.

And we have so much work to do. Because the truth is, we still live in two different Americas: one for people who have lived the American Dream and don't have to worry, and another for most Americans who work hard and still struggle to make ends meet.

It doesn't have to be that way. We can build one America

We can build one America where we no longer have two health care systems. One for people who get the best health care money can buy and then one for everybody else, rationed out by insurance companies, drug companies, and HMOs millions of Americans who don't have any health insurance at all.

It doesn't have to be that way.

We have a plan that will offer everyone the same health care your Senator has. We can give tax breaks to help pay for your health care. And we will sign into law a real Patients' Bill of Rights so you can make your own health care decisions.

We shouldn't have two public school systems in this country: one for the most affluent communities, and one for everybody else.

None of us believe that the quality of a child's education should be controlled by where they live or the affluence of their community.

It doesn't have to be that way.

We can build one public school system that works for all our children. Our plan will reform our schools and raise our standards. We can give our schools the resources they need. We can provide incentives to put quality teachers in the places and the subjects where we need them the most. And we can ensure that three million kids have a safe place to go after school. This is what we can do together.

We shouldn't have two different economies in America: one for people who are set for life, their kids and grandkids will be just fine, and then one for most Americans who live paycheck to paycheck.

And you know what I'm saying. You don't need me to explain it to you, you know you can't save any money, can you? Takes every dime you make just to pay your bills, and you know what happens if something goes wrong a child gets sick, somebody gets laid off, or there's a financial problem, you go right off the cliff.

And what's the first thing to go. Your dreams. It doesn't have to be that way.

We can strengthen and lift up your families. Your agenda is our agenda so let me give you some specifics.

First, we can create good paying jobs in America again. Our plan will stop giving tax breaks to companies that outsource your jobs. Instead, we will give tax breaks to American companies that keep jobs here in America. And we will invest in the jobs of the future in the technologies and innovation to ensure that America stays ahead of the competition.

We will do this because for us a job is about more than a paycheck it's about dignity and self-respect. Hard work should be valued in this country and we're going to reward work, not just wealth.

We don't want people to just get by; we want people to get ahead. So let me give you some specifics about how we're going to do that.

To help you pay for health care, a tax break and health care reform to lower your premiums up to $1,000. To help you cover the rising costs of child care, a tax credit up to $1,000 to cover those costs so your kids have a safe place to go while you work. And to help your child have the same chance I had and be the first person in your family to go to college, a tax break on up to $4,000 in tuition.

So now you ask how are we going to pay for this? Well, here's how we're going to pay for it. Let me be very clear, for 98 percent of Americans, you will keep your tax cut-that's 98 percent. But we'll roll back the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, close corporate loopholes, and cut government contractors and wasteful spending. We can move our country forward without passing the bill and the burden on to our children and grandchildren.

We can also do something about 35 million Americans who live in poverty every day. Here's the reason we should not just talk about it, but do something about millions of Americans who still live in poverty, because it is wrong. We have a moral responsibility to lift those families up.

I mean the very idea that in a country of our wealth and our prosperity, we have children going to bed hungry. We have children who don't have the clothes to keep them warm. We have millions of Americans who work full-time every day for minimum wage to support their family and still live in poverty it's wrong.

These are men and women who are living up to their part of the bargain: working hard and taking care of their families. Those families are doing their part; it's time we did ours.

We will do that when John is in the White House. We will raise the minimum wage, finish the job on Welfare Reform, and bring good paying jobs to the places that need them. And we will say no forever to any American working full-time and living in poverty not in our America, not in our America.

Let me talk about why we need to build one America. I saw up close what having two Americas does to our country.

From the time I was very young, I saw the ugly face of segregation and discrimination. I saw young African-American kids sent upstairs in movie theaters. I saw white only signs on restaurant doors and luncheon counters. I feel such an enormous responsibility when it comes to issues of race and equality and civil rights.

I have heard some discussions and debates about where, and in front of what audiences we should talk about race, equality, and civil rights. Well, I have an answer to that question. Everywhere.

This is not an African-American issue, not a Latino issue, not an Asian-American issue, this is an American issue. It's about who we are, what our values are, what kind of country we want to live in.

What John and I want what we all want is for our children and our grandchildren to be the first generations to grow up in an America that's no longer divided by race.

We must build one America. We must be one America, strong and united for another very important reason because we are at war.

None of us will ever forget where we were on September 11th. We share the same terrible images: the Towers falling, the Pentagon in flames, and the smoldering field in Pennsylvania. And we share the profound sadness for the nearly three thousand lives lost.

As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I know that we have to do more to fight terrorism and protect our country. And we can do that. We are approaching the third anniversary of September 11th, and I can tell you that when we're in office, it won't take us three years to get the reforms in our intelligence we need to protect our country. We will do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to make sure that never happens again, not to our America.

When John is president, we will listen to the wisdom of the Sept. 11 commission. We will build and lead strong alliances and safeguard and secure weapons of mass destruction. We will strengthen our homeland security and protect our ports, safeguard our chemical plants, and support our firefighters, police officers and EMTs. We will always use our military might to keep the American people safe.

And we will have one clear unmistakable message for al Qaida and the rest of these terrorists. You cannot run. You cannot hide. And we will destroy you.

John understands personally about fighting in a war. And he knows what our brave men and women are going through in another war the war in Iraq.

The human cost and extraordinary heroism of this war, it surrounds us. It surrounds us in our cities and towns. And we will win this war because of the strength and courage of our own people.

Some of our friends and neighbors saw their last images in Baghdad. Some took their last steps outside of Fallujah. And some buttoned their uniform for the final time before they went out to save their unit.

Men and women who used to take care of themselves, they now count on others to see them through the day. They need their mother to tie their shoe. Their husband to brush their hair. And their wife's arm to help them across the room.

The stars and stripes wave for them. The word hero was made for them. They are the best and the bravest. They will never be left behind. You understand that. And they deserve a president who understands that on the most personal level what they have gone through what they have given and what they have given up for their country.

To us, the real test of patriotism is how we treat the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to defend our values. And let me tell you, the 26 million veterans in this country won't have to wonder if they'll have health care next week or next year they will have it always because they took care of us and we will take care of them.

But today, our great United States military is stretched thin. More than 140,000 are in Iraq. Nearly 20,000 are serving in Afghanistan. And I visited the men and women there and we're praying for them as they keep working to give that country hope.

Like all of those brave men and women, John put his life on the line for our country. He knows that when authority is given to the president, much is expected in return. That's why we will strengthen and modernize our military.

We will double our Special Forces, and invest in the new equipment and technologies so that our military remains the best equipped and best trained in the world. This will make our military stronger so we're able to defeat every enemy in this new world.

But we can't do this alone. We have to restore our respect in the world to bring our allies to us and with us. It's how we won the World Wars and the Cold War and it is how we will build a stable Iraq.

With a new president who strengthens and leads our alliances, we can get NATO to help secure Iraq. We can ensure that Iraq's neighbors like Syria and Iran, don't stand in the way of a democratic Iraq. We can help Iraq's economy by getting other countries to forgive their enormous debt and participate in the reconstruction. We can do this for the Iraqi people and our soldiers. And we will get this done right.

A new president will bring the world to our side, and with it a stable Iraq and a real chance for peace and freedom in the Middle East, including a safe and secure Israel. And John and I will bring the world together to face our most dangerous threat: the possibility of terrorists getting their hands on a nuclear, chemical or biological weapon.

With our credibility restored, we can work with other nations to secure stockpiles of the world's most dangerous weapons and safeguard this dangerous material. We can finish the job and secure all loose nukes in Russia. And we can close the loophole in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty that allows rogue nations access to the tools they need to develop these weapons.

That's how we can address the new threats we face. That's how we can keep you safe. That's how we can restore America's respect around the world.

And together, we will ensure that the image of America the image all of us love America this great shining light, this beacon of freedom, democracy, and human rights that the world looks up to that that beacon is always lit.

The truth is every child, every family in America will be safer and more secure if you grow up in a world where America is once again looked up to and respected. That's the world we can create together.

Tonight, as we celebrate in this hall, somewhere in America, a mother sits at the kitchen table. She can't sleep. She's worried because she can't pay her bills. She's working hard to pay the rent and feed her kids. She's doing everything right, but she still can't get ahead.

It didn't use to be that way in her house. Her husband was called up in the Guard and he's been serving in Iraq for more than a year. She thought he'd be home last month, but now he's got to stay longer.

She thinks she's alone. But tonight in this hall and in your homes you know what? She's got a lot of friends. We want her to know that we hear her. And it's time to bring opportunity and an equal chance to her door.

We're here to make America stronger at home so she can get ahead. And we're here to make America respected in the world so that we can bring him home and American soldiers don't have to fight the war in Iraq and the war on terror alone.

So when you return home, you might pass a mother on her way to work the late-shift you tell her... hope is on the way.

When your brother calls and says that he's working all the time at the office and still can't get ahead you tell him... hope is on the way.

When your parents call and tell you their medical bills are through the roof you tell them ...hope is on the way.

When your neighbor calls you and says that her daughter has worked hard and wants to go to college you tell her... hope is on the way.

When you talk to your son or daughter who is serving this country and protecting our freedoms in Iraq you tell them...hope is on the way.

And when you wake up and sit with your kids at the kitchen table, talking to them about the great possibilities in America, you make sure that they know that John and I believe at our core that tomorrow can be better than today.

Like all of us, I have learned a lot of lessons in my life. Two of the most important are that first, there will always be heartache and struggle you can't make it go away. But the other is that people of good and strong will, can make a difference. One lesson is a sad lesson and the other's inspiring. We are Americans and we choose to be inspired.

We choose hope over despair; possibilities over problems; optimism over cynicism. We choose to do what's right even when those around us say, "You can't do that." We choose to be inspired because we know that we can do better because this is America where everything is still possible.

What we believe what John Kerry and I believe is that you should never look down on anybody, that we should lift people up. We don't believe in tearing people apart. We believe in bringing people together. What we believe what I believe is that the family you're born into and the color of your skin in our America should never control your destiny.

Join us in this cause. Let's make America stronger at home and respected in the world. Let's ensure that once again, in our one America our one America tomorrow will always be better than today.

Thank you and God bless you.



Al Sharpton's convention speech

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

A text of a speech by Al Sharpton, delivered at the Democratic National Convention Wednesday night, as transcribed by e-Media, Inc.:

Thank you.

Tonight I want to address my remarks in two parts.

One, I'm honored to address the delegates here.

Last Friday, I had the experience in Detroit of hearing President George Bush make a speech. And in the speech, he asked certain questions. I hope he's watching tonight. I would like to answer your questions, Mr. President.

To the chairman, our delegates, and all that are assembled, we're honored and glad to be here tonight.

I'm glad to be joined by supporters and friends from around the country. I'm glad to be joined by my family, Kathy, Dominique, who will be 18, and Ashley.

We are here 228 years after right here in Boston we fought to establish the freedoms of America. The first person to die in the Revolutionary War is buried not far from here, a Black man from Barbados, named Crispus Attucks.

Forty years ago, in 1964, Fannie Lou Hamer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party stood at the Democratic convention in Atlantic City fighting to preserve voting rights for all America and all Democrats, regardless of race or gender.

Hamer's stand inspired Dr. King's march in Selma, which brought about the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Twenty years ago, Reverend Jesse Jackson stood at the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco, again, appealing to the preserve those freedoms.

Tonight, we stand with those freedoms at risk and our security as citizens in question.

I have come here tonight to say, that the only choice we have to preserve our freedoms at this point in history is to elect John Kerry the president of the United States.

I stood with both John Kerry and John Edwards on over 30 occasions during the primary season. I not only debated them, I watched them, I observed their deeds, I looked into their eyes. I am convinced that they are men who say what they mean and mean what they say.

I'm also convinced that at a time when a vicious spirit in the body politic of this country that attempts to undermine America's freedoms -- our civil rights, and civil liberties -- we must leave this city and go forth and organize this nation for victory for our party and John Kerry and John Edwards in November.

And let me quickly say, this is not just about winning an election. It's about preserving the principles on which this very nation was founded.

Look at the current view of our nation worldwide as a results of our unilateral foreign policy. We went from unprecedented international support and solidarity on September 12, 2001, to hostility and hatred as we stand here tonight. We can't survive in the world by ourselves.

How did we squander this opportunity to unite the world for democracy and to commit to a global fight against hunger and disease?

This court has voted five to four on critical issues of women's rights and civil rights. It is frightening to think that the gains of civil and women rights and those movements in the last century could be reversed if this administration is in the White House in these next four years.

I suggest to you tonight that if George Bush had selected the court in '54, Clarence Thomas would have never got to law school.

This is not about a party. This is about living up to the promise of America. The promise of America says we will guarantee quality education for all children and not spend more money on metal detectors than computers in our schools.

The promise of America guarantees health care for all of its citizens and doesn't force seniors to travel to Canada to buy prescription drugs they can't afford here at home.

We did it with a go-it-alone foreign policy based on flawed intelligence. We were told that we were going to Iraq because there were weapons of mass destruction. We've lost hundreds of soldiers. We've spent $200 billion dollars at a time when we had record state deficits. And when it became clear that there were no weapons, they changed the premise for the war and said: No, we went because of other reasons.

If I told you tonight, Let's leave the Fleet Center, we're in danger, and when you get outside, you ask me, Reverend Al, What is the danger? and I say, It don't matter. We just needed some fresh air, I have misled you and we were misled.

We are also faced with the prospect of in the next four years that two or more of the Supreme Court Justice seats will become available. This year we celebrated the anniversary of Brown v. the Board of Education.

The promise of America provides that those who work in our health care system can afford to be hospitalized in the very beds they clean up every day.

The promise of America is that government does not seek to regulate your behavior in the bedroom, but to guarantee your right to provide food in the kitchen.

The issue of government is not to determine who may sleep together in the bedroom, it's to help those that might not be eating in the kitchen.

The promise of America that we stand for human rights, whether it's fighting against slavery in the Sudan, where right now Joe Madison and others are fasting, around what is going on in the Sudan; AIDS in Lesotho; a police misconduct in this country.

The promise of America is one immigration policy for all who seek to enter our shores, whether they come from Mexico, Haiti or Canada, there must be one set of rules for everybody.

We cannot welcome those to come and then try and act as though any culture will not be respected or treated inferior. We cannot look at the Latino community and preach one language. No one gave them an English test before they sent them to Iraq to fight for America.

The promise of America is that every citizen vote is counted and protected, and election schemes do not decide the election.

It, to me, is a glaring contradiction that we would fight, and rightfully so, to get the right to vote for the people in the capital of Iraq in Baghdad, but still don't give the federal right to vote for the people in the capital of the United States, in Washington, D.C.

Mr. President, as I close, Mr. President, I heard you say Friday that you had questions for voters, particularly African- American voters. And you asked the question: Did the Democratic Party take us for granted? Well, I have raised questions. But let me answer your question.

You said the Republican Party was the party of Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. It is true that Mr. Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, after which there was a commitment to give 40 acres and a mule.

That's where the argument, to this day, of reparations starts. We never got the 40 acres. We went all the way to Herbert Hoover, and we never got the 40 acres.

We didn't get the mule. So we decided we'd ride this donkey as far as it would take us.

Mr. President, you said would we have more leverage if both parties got our votes, but we didn't come this far playing political games. It was those that earned our vote that got our vote. We got the Civil Rights Act under a Democrat. We got the Voting Rights Act under a Democrat. We got the right to organize under Democrats.

Mr. President, the reason we are fighting so hard, the reason we took Florida so seriously, is our right to vote wasn't gained because of our age. Our vote was soaked in the blood of martyrs, soaked in the blood of good men (inaudible) soaked in the blood of four little girls in Birmingham. This vote is sacred to us.

This vote can't be bargained away.

This vote can't be given away.

Mr. President, in all due respect, Mr. President, read my lips: Our vote is not for sale.

And there's a whole generation of young leaders that have come forward across this country that stand on integrity and stand on their traditions, those that have emerged with John Kerry and John Edwards as partners, like Greg Meeks, like Barack Obama, like our voter registration director, Marjorie Harris, like those that are in the trenches.

And we come with strong family values. Family values is not just those with two-car garages and a retirement plan. Retirement plans are good. But family values also are those who had to make nothing stretch into something happening, who had to make ends meet.

I was raised by a single mother who made a way for me. She used to scrub floors as a domestic worker, put a cleaning rag in her pocketbook and ride the subways in Brooklyn so I would have food on the table.

But she taught me as I walked her to the subway that life is about not where you start, but where you're going. That's family values.

And I wanted somebody in my community -- I wanted to show that example. As I ran for president, I hoped that one child would come out of the ghetto like I did, could look at me walk across the stage with governors and senators and know they didn't have to be a drug dealer, they didn't have to be a hoodlum, they didn't have to be a gangster, they could stand up from a broken home, on welfare, and they could run for president of the United States.

As you know, I live in New York. I was there September 11th when that despicable act of terrorism happened.

A few days after, I left home, my family had taken in a young man who lost his family. And as they gave comfort to him, I had to do a radio show that morning. When I got there, my friend James Entome (ph) said, Reverend, we're going to stop at a certain hour and play a song, synchronized with 990 other stations.

I said, That's fine.

He said, We're dedicating it to the victims of 9/11.

I said, What song are you playing?

He said America the Beautiful. The particular station I was at, the played that rendition song by Ray Charles.

As you know, we lost Ray a few weeks ago, but I sat there that morning and listened to Ray sing through those speakers, Oh beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountains' majesty across the fruited plain.

And it occurred to me as I heard Ray singing, that Ray wasn't singing about what he knew, because Ray had been blind since he was a child. He hadn't seen many purple mountains. He hadn't seen many fruited plains. He was singing about what he believed to be.

Mr. President, we love America, not because all of us have seen the beauty all the time.

But we believed if we kept on working, if we kept on marching, if we kept on voting, if we kept on believing, we would make America beautiful for everybody.

Starting in November, let's make America beautiful again.

Thank you. And God bless you.



Bill Clinton's convention speech

Posted 7/27/2004

This is the complete text of the speech former President Bill Clinton gave at the Democratic National Convention on Monday, July 26, 2004.

Thank you. I am honored to share the podium with my senator, though I think I should be introducing her. I’m proud of her and so grateful to the people of New York that the best public servant in our family is still on the job and grateful to all of you, especially my friends from Arkansas, for the chance you gave us to serve our country in the White House.

I am also honored to share this night with President Carter, who has inspired the world with his work for peace, democracy, and human rights. And with Al Gore, my friend and partner for eight years, who played such a large role in building the prosperity and progress that brought America into the 21st century, who showed incredible grace and patriotism under pressure, and who is the living embodiment that every vote counts—and must be counted in every state in America.

Tonight I speak as a citizen, returning to the role I have played for most of my life as a foot soldier in the fight for our future, as we nominate a true New England patriot for president. The state that gave us John Adams and John Kennedy has now given us John Kerry, a good man, a great senator, a visionary leader. We are constantly told America is deeply divided. But all Americans value freedom, faith, and family. We all honor the service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world.

We all want good jobs, good schools, health care, safe streets, a clean environment. We all want our children to grow up in a secure America leading the world toward a peaceful future. Our differences are in how we can best achieve these things, in a time of unprecedented change. Therefore, we Democrats will bring the American people a positive campaign, arguing not who’s good and who’s bad, but what is the best way to build the safe, prosperous world our children deserve.

The 21st century is marked by serious security threats, serious economic challenges, and serious problems like global warming and the AIDS epidemic. But it is also full of enormous opportunities—to create millions of high paying jobs in clean energy, and biotechnology; to restore the manufacturing base and reap the benefits of the global economy through our diversity and our commitment to decent labor and environmental standards everywhere; and to create a world where we can celebrate our religious and racial differences, because our common humanity matters more.

To build that kind of world we must make the right choices; and we must have a president who will lead the way. Democrats and Republicans have very different and honestly held ideas on that choices we should make, rooted in fundamentally different views of how we should meet our common challenges at home and how we should play our role in the world. Democrats want to build an America of shared responsibilities and shared opportunities and more global cooperation, acting alone only when we must.

We think the role of government is to give people the tools and conditions to make the most of their lives. Republicans believe in an America run by the right people, their people, in a world in which we act unilaterally when we can, and cooperate when we have to.

They think the role of government is to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of those who embrace their political, economic, and social views, leaving ordinary citizens to fend for themselves on matters like health care and retirement security. Since most Americans are not that far to the right, they have to portray us Democrats as unacceptable, lacking in strength and values. In other words, they need a divided America. But Americans long to be united. After 9/11, we all wanted to be one nation, strong in the fight against terror. The president had a great opportunity to bring us together under his slogan of compassionate conservatism and to unite the world in common cause against terror.

Instead, he and his congressional allies made a very different choice: to use the moment of unity to push America too far to the right and to walk away from our allies, not only in attacking Iraq before the weapons inspectors finished their jobs, but in withdrawing American support for the Climate Change Treaty, the International Court for war criminals, the ABM treaty, and even the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

Now they are working to develop two new nuclear weapons which they say we might use first. At home, the president and the Republican Congress have made equally fateful choices indeed. For the first time ever when America was on a war footing, there were two huge tax cuts, nearly half of which went to the top one percent. I’m in that group now for the first time in my life.

When I was in office, the Republicans were pretty mean to me. When I left and made money, I became part of the most important group in the world to them. At first I thought I should send them a thank you note — until I realized they were sending you the bill.

They protected my tax cuts while:

• Withholding promised funding for the Leave No Child Behind Act, leaving over 2 million children behind.

• Cutting 140,000 unemployed workers out of job training.

• 100,000 working families out of child care assistance.

• 300,000 poor children out of after school programs.

• Raising out-of-pocket health-care costs to veterans.

• Weakening or reversing important environmental advances for clean air and the preservation of our forests.

Everyone had to sacrifice except the wealthiest Americans, who wanted to do their part but were asked only to expend the energy necessary to open the envelopes containing our tax cuts. If you agree with these choices, you should vote to return them to the White House and Congress. If not, take a look at John Kerry, John Edwards and the Democrats.

In this year’s budget, the White House wants to cut off federal funding for 88,000 uniformed police, including more than 700 on the New York City police force who put their lives on the line on 9/11. As gang violence is rising and we look for terrorists in our midst, Congress and the president are also about to allow the 10-year-old ban on assault weapons to expire. Our crime policy was to put more police on the streets and take assault weapons off the streets. It brought eight years of declining crime and violence. Their policy is the reverse, they’re taking police off the streets and putting assault weapons back on the streets. If you agree with their choices, vote to continue them. If not, join John Kerry, John Edwards and the Democrats in making America safer, smarter, and stronger.

On Homeland Security, Democrats tried to double the number of containers at ports and airports checked for weapons of mass destruction. The $1 billion cost would have been paid for by reducing the tax cut of 200,000 millionaires by $5,000 each. Almost all 200,000 of us would have been glad to pay $5,000 to make the nearly 300 million Americans safer—but the measure failed because the White House and the Republican leadership in the House decided my tax cut was more important. If you agree with that choice, re-elect them. If not, give John Kerry and John Edwards a chance.

These policies have turned the projected $ 5.8 trillion surplus we left — enough to pay for the baby boomers retirement — into a projected debt of nearly $5 trillion, with a $400-plus billion deficit this year and for years to come. How do they pay for it? First by taking the monthly surplus in Social Security payments and endorsing the checks of working people over to me to cover my tax cut. But it’s not enough. They are borrowing the rest from foreign governments, mostly Japan and China. Sure, they’re competing with us for good jobs but how can we enforce our trade laws against our bankers? If you think it’s good policy to pay for my tax cut with the Social Security checks of working men and women, and borrowed money from China, vote for them. If not, John Kerry’s your man.

We Americans must choose for president one of two strong men who both love our country, but who have very different worldviews: Democrats favor shared responsibility, shared opportunity, and more global cooperation. Republicans favor concentrated wealth and power, leaving people to fend for themselves and more unilateral action. I think we’re right for two reasons: First, America works better when all people have a chance to live their dreams. Second, we live in an interdependent world in which we can’t kill, jail, or occupy all our potential adversaries, so we have to both fight terror and build a world with more partners and fewer terrorists. We tried it their way for 12 years, our way for eight, and then their way for four more.

By the only test that matters, whether people were better off when we finished than when we started, our way works better — it produced over 22 million good jobs, rising incomes, and 100 times as many people moving out of poverty into the middle class. It produced more health care, the largest increase in college aid in 50 years, record home ownership, a cleaner environment, three surpluses in a row, a modernized defense force, strong efforts against terror, and an America respected as a world leader for peace, security and prosperity.

More importantly, we have great new champions in John Kerry and John Edwards. Two good men with wonderful wives — Teresa a generous and wise woman who understands the world we are trying to shape. And Elizabeth, a lawyer and mother who understands the lives we are all trying to lift. Here is what I know about John Kerry. During the Vietnam War, many young men — including the current president, the vice president and me —could have gone to Vietnam but didn’t. John Kerry came from a privileged background and could have avoided it too. Instead he said, send me.

When they sent those swift-boats up the river in Vietnam, and told them their job was to draw hostile fire — to show the American flag and bait the enemy to come out and fight John Kerry said, send me. When it was time to heal the wounds of war and normalize relations with Vietnam — and to demand an accounting of the POWs and MIAs we lost there — John Kerry said, send me.

When we needed someone to push the cause of inner-city kids struggling to avoid a life of crime, or to bring the benefits of high technology to ordinary Americans, or to clean the environment in a way that creates jobs, or to give small businesses a better chance to make it, John Kerry said send me.

Tonight my friends, I ask you to join me for the next 100 days in telling John Kerry’s story and promoting his plans. Let every person in this hall and all across America say to him what he has always said to America: Send me. The bravery that the men who fought by his side saw in battle I’ve seen in the political arena. When I was president, John Kerry showed courage and conviction on crime, on welfare reform, on balancing the budget at a time when those priorities were not exactly a way to win a popularity contest in our party.

He took tough positions on tough problems. John Kerry knows who he is and where he’s going. He has the experience, the character, the ideas and the values to be a great president. In a time of change he has two other important qualities: his insatiable curiosity to understand the forces shaping our lives, and a willingness to hear the views even of those who disagree with him. Therefore his choices will be full of both conviction and common sense.

He proved that when he picked a tremendous partner in John Edwards. Everybody talks about John Edwards’ energy, intellect, and charisma. The important thing is how he has used his talents to improve the lives of people who — like John himself — had to work hard for all they’ve got. He has always championed the cause of people too often left out or left behind. And that’s what he’ll do as our vice president.

Their opponents will tell you to be afraid of John Kerry and John Edwards, because they won’t stand up to the terrorists — don’t you believe it. Strength and wisdom are not conflicting values — they go hand in hand. John Kerry has both. His first priority will be keeping America safe. Remember the Scripture: Be not afraid.

John Kerry and John Edwards have good ideas:

• To make this economy work again for middle-class Americans.

• To restore fiscal responsibility.

• To save Social Security; to make health care more affordable and college more available.

• To free us from dependence on foreign oil and create new jobs in clean energy.

• To rally the world to win the war on terror and to make more friends and fewer terrorists.

At every turning point in our history we the people have chosen unity over division, heeding our founders’ call to America’s eternal mission: to form a more perfect union, to widen the circle of opportunity, deepen the reach of freedom, and strengthen the bonds of community.

It happened because we made the right choices. In the early days of the republic, America was at a crossroads much like it is today, deeply divided over whether or not to build a real nation with a national economy, and a national legal system. We chose a more perfect union.

In the Civil War, America was at a crossroads, divided over whether to save the union and end slavery — we chose a more perfect union. In the 1960s, America was at a crossroads, divided again over civil rights and women’s rights. Again, we chose a more perfect union. As I said in 1992, we’re all in this together; we have an obligation both to work hard and to help our fellow citizens, both to fight terror and to build a world with more cooperation and less terror. Now again, it is time to choose.

Since we’re all in the same boat, let us choose as the captain of our ship a brave good man who knows how to steer a vessel though troubled waters to the calm seas and clear skies of our more perfect union. We know our mission. Let us join as one and say in a loud, clear voice: Send John Kerry.



Hillary Clinton's convention speech

Posted 7/27/2004

Twelve years ago, when our country needed new leadership, Americans elected a Democrat who gave us eight years of peace, prosperity, and promise. Tonight I have the pleasure of introducing the last great Democratic president.

But first I want to say a few words about the next great Democratic president, John Kerry.

We meet at a moment of great peril, but also of great hope. Together we can widen the circle of opportunity for all Americans, transcend our differences and divisions, and give our children a safer and more secure future. That’s the promise of America. And John Kerry will renew that promise.

He will lead the world, not alienate it. Lower the deficit, not raise it. Create good jobs, not lose them. Solve a health care crisis, not ignore it. I know a thing or two about health care. And the problems have only gotten worse in the past four years.

We need to rededicate ourselves to the task of providing coverage for the 44 million Americans who are uninsured and the millions of others who face rising costs. We need to lift the ban on stem cell research, and find cures that will help millions of Americans.

Health care is a serious issue that requires serious solutions and that’s what John Kerry will give us. John Kerry will give America something else, a great vice president. I’ve served with John Edwards. He’s smart, he’s energetic, he’s empathetic. And he understands the challenges that hard- working Americans face in their daily lives.

Americans will be proud to have the Kerry-Edwards team in the White House, and they’ll be proud to have their extraordinary partners, Teresa Heinz Kerry and Elizabeth Edwards, there as well.

We’ve been through our share of challenges as Americans, from a Civil War to a Great Depression to World Wars and more. Today we face a new threat.

Being a senator from New York, I saw first-hand the devastation of 9/11. I visited ground zero right after we were attacked. I felt like I was standing at the gates of Hell. I hope no American ever has to witness a sight like that again. That tragedy changed all of us. I know it changed me. And every day now, as a mother, as a senator, and as an American I worry about whether we are acting as wisely as we can to protect our country and our people.

Last week, the bipartisan 9/11 commission issued its report. It was a sober call to action that we ignore at our peril. John Kerry understands what’s at stake. We need to fully equip and train our firefighters, police officers and emergency medical technicians — our first responders in the event of a terrorist attack.

We need to secure our borders and our ports, as well as our chemical and nuclear plants. We need to reorganize our federal government to meet the new threats of these times. We need to make sure that homeland security is properly funded and that resources go to the areas at greatest risk.

We need to take care of our men and women in uniform who risked their lives for our country. These brave Americans deserve better. We need to increase our troop strength, raise their pay, and provide veterans, the National Guard, and Reserve with the benefits they’re entitled to.

Do you know what we need to meet these challenges? We need John Kerry. John Kerry is a serious man, for a serious job. So let’s work our hearts out and send him to the White House in 2004. And I’m optimistic we will because I know a great leader when I see one. And so does America.

In 1992 and 1996, Americans chose a president who left our country in far better shape than when he took office. He still spends his days working to empower the powerless, promote racial, religious, and ethnic reconciliation, inspire young people to citizen service, and bring life saving medicines to people living with HIV/AIDS around the world.

He showed Democrats how to win again. And so will John Kerry. Please welcome the 42nd president of the United States, Bill Clinton.



Jimmy Carter’s Convention Speech

Associated Press
Jul. 26, 2004 07:45 PM

My name is Jimmy Carter, and I'm not running for president. But here's what I will be doing: everything I can to put John Kerry in the White House with John Edwards right there beside him.

Twenty-eight years ago, I was running for president, and I said then, "I want a government that is as good and honest and as decent and as competent and as compassionate as are the American people." I say this again tonight, and that is exactly what we will have next January with John Kerry as president of the United States.

As many of you know, my first chosen career was in the United States Navy, where I served as a submarine officer. At that time, my shipmates and I were ready for combat and prepared to give our lives to defend our nation and its principles.

At the same time, we always prayed that our readiness would preserve the peace. I served under two presidents, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, men who represented different political parties. Both of whom had faced their active military responsibilities with honor.

They knew the horrors of war, and later, as commanders-in-chief, they exercised restraint and judgment and had a clear sense of mission. We had confidence that our leaders, military and civilian, would not put our soldiers and sailors in harm's way by initiating "wars of choice" unless America's vital interests were endangered.

We also were sure that these presidents would not mislead us when it came to issues involving our nation's security. Today, our Democratic party is led by another former naval officer - one who volunteered for military service. He showed up when assigned to duty, and he served with honor and distinction.

He also knows the horrors of war and the responsibilities of leadership, and I am confident that next January he will restore the judgment and responsibility to our government that is sorely lacking today. I am proud to call Lieutenant John Kerry my shipmate, and I am ready to follow him to victory in November.

As you know, our country faces many challenges at home involving energy, taxation, the environment, education, and health. To meet these challenges, we need new leaders in Washington whose policies are shaped by working American families instead of the super-rich and their armies of lobbyists. But the biggest reason to make John Kerry president is even more important. It is to safeguard the security of our nation.

Today, our dominant international challenge is to restore the greatness of America - based on telling the truth, a commitment to peace, and respect for civil liberties at home and basic human rights around the world. Truth is the foundation of our global leadership, but our credibility has been shattered and we are left increasingly isolated and vulnerable in a hostile world. Without truth - without trust - America cannot flourish. Trust is at the very heart of our democracy, the sacred covenant between the president and the people.

When that trust is violated, the bonds that hold our republic together begin to weaken. After 9/11, America stood proud, wounded but determined and united. A cowardly attack on innocent civilians brought us an unprecedented level of cooperation and understanding around the world. But in just 34 months, we have watched with deep concern as all this goodwill has been squandered by a virtually unbroken series of mistakes and miscalculations. Unilateral acts and demands have isolated the United States from the very nations we need to join us in combatting terrorism.

Let us not forget that the Soviets lost the Cold War because the American people combined the exercise of power with adherence to basic principles, based on sustained bipartisan support. We understood the positive link between the defense of our own freedom and the promotion of human rights. Recent policies have cost our nation its reputation as the world's most admired champion of freedom and justice. What a difference these few months of extremism have made!

The United States has alienated its allies, dismayed its friends, and inadvertently gratified its enemies by proclaiming a confused and disturbing strategy of "pre-emptive" war. With our allies disunited, the world resenting us, and the Middle East ablaze, we need John Kerry to restore life to the global war against terrorism.

In the meantime, the Middle East peace process has come to a screeching halt for the first time since Israel became a nation. All former presidents, Democratic and Republican, have attempted to secure a comprehensive peace for Israel with hope and justice for the Palestinians. The achievements of Camp David a quarter century ago and the more recent progress made by President Bill Clinton are now in peril.

Instead, violence has gripped the Holy Land, with the region increasingly swept by anti-American passions. Elsewhere, North Korea's nuclear menace - a threat more real and immediate than any posed by Saddam Hussein - has been allowed to advance unheeded, with potentially ominous consequences for peace and stability in Northeast Asia. These are some of the prices of our government's radical departure from the basic American principles and values espoused by John Kerry!

In repudiating extremism we need to recommit ourselves to a few common-sense principles that should transcend partisan differences. First, we cannot enhance our own security if we place in jeopardy what is most precious to us, namely, the centrality of human rights in our daily lives and in global affairs. Second, we cannot maintain our historic self-confidence as a people if we generate public panic. Third, we cannot do our duty as citizens and patriots if we pursue an agenda that polarizes and divides our country. Next, we cannot be true to ourselves if we mistreat others. And finally, in the world at large we cannot lead if our leaders mislead.

You can't be a war president one day and claim to be a peace president the next, depending on the latest political polls. When our national security requires military action, John Kerry has already proven in Vietnam that he will not hesitate to act. And as a proven defender of our national security, John Kerry will strengthen the global alliance against terrorism while avoiding unnecessary wars.

Ultimately, the issue is whether America will provide global leadership that springs from the unity and integrity of the American people or whether extremist doctrines and the manipulation of truth will define America's role in the world.

At stake is nothing less than our nation's soul. In a few months, I will, God willing, enter my 81st year of my life, and in many ways the last few months have been some of the most disturbing of all. But I am not discouraged. I do not despair for our country. I believe tonight, as I always have, that the essential decency, compassion and common sense of the American people will prevail.

And so I say to you and to others around the world, whether they wish us well or ill: do not underestimate us Americans. We lack neither strength nor wisdom. There is a road that leads to a bright and hopeful future. What America needs is leadership. Our job, my fellow Americans, is to ensure that the leaders of this great country will be John Kerry and John Edwards. Thank you and God bless America!



Dennis Kucinich at the Democratic National Convention

July 29, 2004:

We, Democrats, in convention united. We who built this country with the sweat of our brow, we, the steelworkers, autoworkers, the miners, the aircraft workers, communication workers, the laborers, the people who teach the children, who farm the land, who drive the trucks, who clean the streets; we who hunger for justice, who nurse the sick, who represent the oppressed, who serve the meals, who stand at check out counters, who build the bridges, who sleep under the bridges, who hunger for food; we, who put out the fires, who police the streets; who protect this nation and the freedoms we celebrate tonight: the soldiers, the sailors, marines and airforce. We Democrats assemble united for John Kerry, united to recreate our nation with the power of the ballot, to transform it with the power of the human heart and the power of the human spirit. Out of many, we Democrats are one.

We are left, right, center. We are one. We are black, white, red, brown, yellow. We are one. One for jobs and health care for all. One for peace and fair trade. One for our children's future. And we are one for John Kerry. We will carry America for Kerry and Kerry will carry America for us. We remember who we are. We are the party of the people. We are the party of FDR and the New Deal. The party of JFK and the New Frontier. Of Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society. Of Martin Luther King's Dream, of Robert Kennedy's striving spirit. Of Caesar Chavez's 'si se puede!' Of Eleanor Roosevelt and human rights. Infused with the passion of Paul Wellstone from Minnesota, the humanity of Jimmy Carter from Plains, the engaging brilliance of Bill Clinton from Hope. And we are the party of John Kerry, the next great Democratic president of the United States.

The history of social and economic progress in America was written by the Democratic party. Democrats are the party of the minimum wage. The forty hour week. Time and a half for overtime. We are the party of the right to organize, the right to collective bargaining, the right to strike, the right to a safe workplace, the right to a secure retirement. We are the party of workers' rights, civil rights, and women's rights. We are the party of national health care for senior citizens, of social security, public education and rural electrification. When we show up holding the banner of social and economic justice, we win. And now must create a new America.

In our National Anthem, when Francis Scott Key asked "does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave, o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?" He connected freedom and bravery, democracy and courage. Courage America! Courage to replace an administration which has dishonored our constitution and attacked our Bill of Rights. Courage to reject doctrines which separate us from the world. Courage to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, biological and chemical weapons, land mines and small arms. Courage to work with the International Criminal Court, to reduce global warming and face seriously the challenge of climate change. Courage America. Courage to take principles of nonviolence and make them part of the everyday life of our nation, to work with the nations of the world to put an end to war. Courage
America -- to create a nation where our government achieves legitimacy not from the money it spends on arms, but from the resources it channels into education, health care, job creation, housing, environmental protection and new sustainable energy policies. Courage to give John Kerry the chance to restart the 21st century.

Courage America.

Courage to shake off the administration's deceptions, their attacks, and their fear-mongering.

Courage America.

This administration rushed us into a war based on distortions and misrepresentations. We must hold them accountable. Iraq had nothing to do with 911 or with al Qaeda's role in 911. We have found no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. I was mayor of Cleveland, and I tell you I have seen weapons of mass destruction -- in our cities. Poverty is a weapon of mass destruction. Joblessness is a weapon of mass destruction, homelessness is a weapon of mass destruction, racism is a weapon of mass destruction, fear is a weapon of mass destruction. We must disarm these weapons -- and re-arm ourselves with quality public schools and dedicated teachers, good housing and quality health care, decent jobs and stronger neighborhoods.

It's been said: "Once we walk there will be a path." So let us blaze a new path with John Kerry and John Edwards. This convention will lead us toward the victory not just of a party, but the victory of the American people over fear, a victory of hope over despair, of faith over cynicism. A victory for health care, for civil liberties, for workers' rights, for human rights, for the environment, for peace.

Courage America.

Courage America.

John Kerry America.



Vermont Gov. Howard Dean's speech

July 27, 2004

A text of a speech by former Democratic presidential candidate and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. As prepared for delivery at the Democratic National Convention:

I was hoping for a reception like this. I was just hoping that it would be on Thursday night, instead of on Tuesday night.

I may not be the nominee, but I can tell you this: For the next hundred days, I'll be doing everything I can to make sure that John Kerry and John Edwards take our country back for the people who built it. Because tonight, we're all here to represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic party.

I'm proud of John Kerry's leadership, and I intend to stand shoulder to shoulder with him as we fight for the things Harry Truman promised in 1948: health insurance for every American, a real jobs plan to create jobs instead of destroy them. Standing up for middle class and working Americans who got a tax increase, not a tax cut. And a foreign policy that relies on telling the truth to the American people before we send our brave American soldiers to fight in foreign lands. I'd like a commander-in-chief who supports our soldiers and our veterans, instead of cutting their hardship pay when they're abroad, and their health benefits when they get home.

I'm Howard Dean. And I'm voting for John Kerry.

I'm voting for John Kerry and John Edwards because I'm tired of seeing hardworking Americans struggling with jobs that pay less than they did four years ago. I'm voting for John Kerry and John Edwards because I want a president and vice president as good and as strong as the American people. And I'm voting for John Kerry and John Edwards because I want to see America restored as the moral leader of the world.

America's greatness rests on far more than the power of our arms. Our greatness is also measured by our goodness. It is in the capacity of our minds, the size of our hearts, and the strength of our democracy.

As I've traveled America, I've seen that strength. I've seen it in the people I've met and their desire to take our country back for the American people. I saw it in a college student in Pennsylvania who sold her bicycle and sent us a check for $100 with a note that said, "I sold my bicycle for democracy." I saw it in a woman from Iowa who handed me $50 -- all in quarters. She saved it from her monthly disability check, because she wanted to make America well again. And I saw it in the 19-year-old from Alabama who had never been involved in politics before he got in his car and drove up to Vermont, because he didn't feel like he was being heard in Washington.

He was just one of so many. They learned that politics was too important to be left to the politicians. They didn't just pack their bags, they packed their hopes that we can take our country back. And you know what? We will.

We're not going to be afraid to stand up for what we believe. We're not going to let those who disagree with us shout us down under a banner of false patriotism. And we're not going to give up a single voter, or a single state. We're going to be proud to call ourselves Democrats, not just here in Boston. We're going to be proud to call ourselves Democrats in Mississippi, proud to call ourselves Democrats in Utah and Idaho. And we're going to be proud to call ourselves Democrats in Texas.

Never again will we be ashamed to call ourselves Democrats. Never. Never. Never. We're not just going to change presidents, we're going to change this country and reclaim the American dream.

To everyone who supported me -- you've given me so much, and I can't thank you enough. But this was never about me. It was about us. It was about giving new life to our party, new energy to our democracy, and providing hope again for the greatest nation on earth.

And so, today, even though you have already given so much, I want to ask you to give one more thing: Give America President John Kerry. Together, we can take our country back. And only you have the power to make it happen.


Pentagon Report Set Framework For Use of Torture

Administration Lawyers Approved Torture

By Jess Bravin
The Wall Street Journal

Monday 07 June 2004

Security or Legal Factors Could Trump Restrictions, Memo to Rumsfeld Argued.

Bush administration lawyers contended last year that the president wasn't bound by laws prohibiting torture and that government agents who might torture prisoners at his direction couldn't be prosecuted by the Justice Department.

The advice was part of a classified report on interrogation methods prepared for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld after commanders at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, complained in late 2002 that with conventional methods they weren't getting enough information from prisoners.

The report outlined U.S. laws and international treaties forbidding torture, and why those restrictions might be overcome by national-security considerations or legal technicalities. In a March 6, 2003, draft of the report reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, passages were deleted as was an attachment listing specific interrogation techniques and whether Mr. Rumsfeld himself or other officials must grant permission before they could be used. The complete draft document was classified "secret" by Mr. Rumsfeld and scheduled for declassification in 2013.

The draft report, which exceeds 100 pages, deals with a range of legal issues related to interrogations, offering definitions of the degree of pain or psychological manipulation that could be considered lawful. But at its core is an exceptional argument that because nothing is more important than "obtaining intelligence vital to the protection of untold thousands of American citizens," normal strictures on torture might not apply.

The president, despite domestic and international laws constraining the use of torture, has the authority as commander in chief to approve almost any physical or psychological actions during interrogation, up to and including torture, the report argued. Civilian or military personnel accused of torture or other war crimes have several potential defenses, including the "necessity" of using such methods to extract information to head off an attack, or "superior orders," sometimes known as the Nuremberg defense: namely that the accused was acting pursuant to an order and, as the Nuremberg tribunal put it, no "moral choice was in fact possible."

According to Bush administration officials, the report was compiled by a working group appointed by the Defense Department's general counsel, William J. Haynes II. Air Force General Counsel Mary Walker headed the group, which comprised top civilian and uniformed lawyers from each military branch and consulted with the Justice Department, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Defense Intelligence Agency and other intelligence agencies. It isn't known if President Bush has ever seen the report.

A Pentagon official said some military lawyers involved objected to some of the proposed interrogation methods as "different than what our people had been trained to do under the Geneva Conventions," but those lawyers ultimately signed on to the final report in April 2003, shortly after the war in Iraq began. The Journal hasn't seen the full final report, but people familiar with it say there were few substantial changes in legal analysis between the draft and final versions.

A military lawyer who helped prepare the report said that political appointees heading the working group sought to assign to the president virtually unlimited authority on matters of torture - to assert "presidential power at its absolute apex," the lawyer said. Although career military lawyers were uncomfortable with that conclusion, the military lawyer said they focused their efforts on reining in the more extreme interrogation methods, rather than challenging the constitutional powers that administration lawyers were saying President Bush could claim.

The Pentagon disclosed last month that the working group had been assembled to review interrogation policies after intelligence officials in Guantanamo reported frustration in extracting information from prisoners. At a news conference last week, Gen. James T. Hill, who oversees the offshore prison at Guantanamo as head of the U.S. Southern Command, said the working group sought to identify "what is legal and consistent with not only Geneva [but] ... what is right for our soldiers." He said Guantanamo is "a professional, humane detention and interrogation operation ... bounded by law and guided by the American spirit."

Gen. Hill said Mr. Rumsfeld gave him the final set of approved interrogation techniques on April 16, 2003. Four of the methods require the defense secretary's approval, he said, and those methods had been used on two prisoners. He said interrogators had stopped short of using all the methods lawyers had approved. It remains unclear what actions U.S. officials took as a result of the legal advice.

Critics who have seen the draft report said it undercuts the administration's claims that it recognized a duty to treat prisoners humanely. The "claim that the president's commander-in-chief power includes the authority to use torture should be unheard of in this day and age," said Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York advocacy group that has filed lawsuits against U.S. detention policies. "Can one imagine the reaction if those on trial for atrocities in the former Yugoslavia had tried this defense?"

Following scattered reports last year of harsh interrogation techniques used by the U.S. overseas, Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, wrote to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice asking for clarification. The response came in June 2003 from Mr. Haynes, who wrote that the U.S. was obliged to conduct interrogations "consistent with" the 1994 international Convention Against Torture and the federal Torture Statute enacted to implement the convention outside the U.S.

The U.S. "does not permit, tolerate or condone any such torture by its employees under any circumstances," Mr. Haynes wrote. The U.S. also followed its legal duty, required by the torture convention, "to prevent other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment which do not amount to torture," he wrote.

The U.S. position is that domestic criminal laws and the Constitution's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishments already met the Convention Against Torture's requirements within U.S. territory.

The Convention Against Torture was proposed in 1984 by the United Nations General Assembly and was ratified by the U.S. in 1994. It states that "no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture," and that orders from superiors "may not be invoked as a justification of torture."

That prohibition was reaffirmed after the Sept. 11 attacks by the U.N. panel that oversees the treaty, the Committee Against Torture, and the March 2003 report acknowledged that "other nations and international bodies may take a more restrictive view" of permissible interrogation methods than did the Bush administration.

The report then offers a series of legal justifications for limiting or disregarding antitorture laws and proposed legal defenses that government officials could use if they were accused of torture.

A military official who helped prepare the report said it came after frustrated Guantanamo interrogators had begun trying unorthodox methods on recalcitrant prisoners. "We'd been at this for a year-plus and got nothing out of them" so officials concluded "we need to have a less-cramped view of what torture is and is not."

The official said, "People were trying like hell how to ratchet up the pressure," and used techniques that ranged from drawing on prisoners' bodies and placing women's underwear on prisoners heads - a practice that later reappeared in the Abu Ghraib prison - to telling subjects, "I'm on the line with somebody in Yemen and he's in a room with your family and a grenade that's going to pop unless you talk."

Senior officers at Guantanamo requested a "rethinking of the whole approach to defending your country when you have an enemy that does not follow the rules," the official said. Rather than license torture, this official said that the report helped rein in more "assertive" approaches.

Methods now used at Guantanamo include limiting prisoners' food, denying them clothing, subjecting them to body-cavity searches, depriving them of sleep for as much as 96 hours and shackling them in so-called stress positions, a military-intelligence official said. Although the interrogators consider the methods to be humiliating and unpleasant, they don't view them as torture, the official said.

The working-group report elaborated the Bush administration's view that the president has virtually unlimited power to wage war as he sees fit, and neither Congress, the courts nor international law can interfere. It concluded that neither the president nor anyone following his instructions was bound by the federal Torture Statute, which makes it a crime for Americans working for the government overseas to commit or attempt torture, defined as any act intended to "inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering." Punishment is up to 20 years imprisonment, or a death sentence or life imprisonment if the victim dies.

"In order to respect the president's inherent constitutional authority to manage a military campaign ... (the prohibition against torture) must be construed as inapplicable to interrogations undertaken pursuant to his commander-in chief authority," the report asserted. (The parenthetical comment is in the original document.) The Justice Department "concluded that it could not bring a criminal prosecution against a defendant who had acted pursuant to an exercise of the president's constitutional power," the report said. Citing confidential Justice Department opinions drafted after Sept. 11, 2001, the report advised that the executive branch of the government had "sweeping" powers to act as it sees fit because "national security decisions require the unity in purpose and energy in action that characterize the presidency rather than Congress."

The lawyers concluded that the Torture Statute applied to Afghanistan but not Guantanamo, because the latter lies within the "special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, and accordingly is within the United States" when applying a law that regulates only government conduct abroad.

Administration lawyers also concluded that the Alien Tort Claims Act, a 1789 statute that allows noncitizens to sue in U.S. courts for violations of international law, couldn't be invoked against the U.S. government unless it consents, and that the 1992 Torture Victims Protection Act allowed suits only against foreign officials for torture or "extrajudicial killing" and "does not apply to the conduct of U.S. agents acting under the color of law."

The Bush administration has argued before the Supreme Court that foreigners held at Guantanamo have no constitutional rights and can't challenge their detention in court. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on that question by month's end.

For Afghanistan and other foreign locations where the Torture Statute applies, the March 2003 report offers a narrow definition of torture and then lays out defenses that government officials could use should they be charged with committing torture, such as mistakenly relying in good faith on the advice of lawyers or experts that their actions were permissible. "Good faith may be a complete defense" to a torture charge, the report advised.

"The infliction of pain or suffering per se, whether it is physical or mental, is insufficient to amount to torture," the report advises. Such suffering must be "severe," the lawyers advise, and they rely on a dictionary definition to suggest it "must be of such a high level of intensity that the pain is difficult for the subject to endure."

The law says torture can be caused by administering or threatening to administer "mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the sense of personality." The Bush lawyers advised, though, that it "does not preclude any and all use of drugs" and "disruption of the senses or personality alone is insufficient" to be illegal. For involuntarily administered drugs or other psychological methods, the "acts must penetrate to the core of an individual's ability to perceive the world around him," the lawyers found.

Gen. Hill said last week that the military didn't use injections or chemicals on prisoners.

After defining torture and other prohibited acts, the memo presents "legal doctrines ... that could render specific conduct, otherwise criminal, not unlawful." Foremost, the lawyers rely on the "commander-in-chief authority," concluding that "without a clear statement otherwise, criminal statutes are not read as infringing on the president's ultimate authority" to wage war. Moreover, "any effort by Congress to regulate the interrogation of unlawful combatants would violate the Constitution's sole vesting of the commander-in-chief authority in the president," the lawyers advised.

Likewise, the lawyers found that "constitutional principles" make it impossible to "punish officials for aiding the president in exercising his exclusive constitutional authorities" and neither Congress nor the courts could "require or implement the prosecution of such an individual."

To protect subordinates should they be charged with torture, the memo advised that Mr. Bush issue a "presidential directive or other writing" that could serve as evidence, since authority to set aside the laws is "inherent in the president."

The report advised that government officials could argue that "necessity" justified the use of torture. "Sometimes the greater good for society will be accomplished by violating the literal language of the criminal law," the lawyers wrote, citing a standard legal text, "Substantive Criminal Law" by Wayne LaFave and Austin W. Scott. "In particular, the necessity defense can justify the intentional killing of one person ... so long as the harm avoided is greater."

In addition, the report advised that torture or homicide could be justified as "self-defense," should an official "honestly believe" it was necessary to head off an imminent attack on the U.S. The self-defense doctrine generally has been asserted by individuals fending off assaults, and in 1890, the Supreme Court upheld a U.S. deputy marshal's right to shoot an assailant of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Field as involving both self-defense and defense of the nation. Citing Justice Department opinions, the report concluded that "if a government defendant were to harm an enemy combatant during an interrogation in a manner that might arguably violate criminal prohibition," he could be justified "in doing so in order to prevent further attacks on the United States by the al Qaeda terrorist network."

Mr. LaFave, a law professor at the University of Illinois, said he was unaware that the Pentagon used his textbook in preparing its legal analysis. He agreed, however, that in some cases necessity could be a defense to torture charges. "Here's a guy who knows with certainty where there's a bomb that will blow New York City to smithereens. Should we torture him? Seems to me that's an easy one," Mr. LaFave said. But he said necessity couldn't be a blanket justification for torturing prisoners because of a general fear that "the nation is in danger."

For members of the military, the report suggested that officials could escape torture convictions by arguing that they were following superior orders, since such orders "may be inferred to be lawful" and are "disobeyed at the peril of the subordinate." Examining the "superior orders" defense at the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals, the Vietnam War prosecution of U.S. Army Lt. William Calley for the My Lai massacre and the current U.N. war-crimes tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, the report concluded it could be asserted by "U.S. armed forces personnel engaged in exceptional interrogations except where the conduct goes so far as to be patently unlawful."

The report seemed "designed to find the legal loopholes that will permit the use of torture against detainees," said Mary Ellen O'Connell, an international-law professor at the Ohio State University who has seen the report. "CIA operatives will think they are covered because they are not going to face liability."



Remedies for Prisoner Abuse

Washington Post | Editorial

Monday 07 June 2004

The only way to staunch the continuing damage of the prisoner abuse scandal is for the Bush administration to fully document and publicly report on the dozens of cases of homicide and physical abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan, prosecute all those directly responsible, and hold accountable the senior military and civilian officers whose decisions and policies led to the lawlessness. President Bush should meanwhile rewrite prisoner interrogation policies so that they conform to U.S. and international law and should publish the revised procedures so that Americans, and the world, can be assured of their propriety.

For now, there is little reason to hope for such essential corrective actions. On the contrary: There is disturbing evidence that senior U.S. military commanders ignored or covered up serious crimes against prisoners, including homicides, until the disclosure of shocking photographs from the Abu Ghraib prison forced them to act, and that even now the Pentagon's intent is to restrict charges to a small number of mostly low-ranking soldiers and resist all scrutiny of senior commanders and policies. Mr. Bush, for his part, continues to damage his credibility and America's global prestige by insisting that the trouble concerns only a handful of soldiers at one prison in Iraq - though more than 100 cases of misconduct in Iraq and Afghanistan have now been reported - and to ignore the need to correct his policies.

The Pentagon boasts that a half-dozen investigations related to the prisoner abuses are underway, in addition to criminal procedures. But these studies are narrow, undermined by conflicts of interest, and leave large areas uncovered - particularly the possible culpability of senior officers. One officer, Maj. Gen. George R. Fay, the deputy chief of Army intelligence, has been charged with investigating the interrogators in his own chain of command. He is likely to recommend action against a couple of intelligence officers, but he is not capable of seriously reviewing the decisions and policies he or his superiors made. Only one review includes figures outside the military chain of command, but this advisory panel, including two former secretaries of defense, has a mandate only to advise Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld about gaps in existing inquiries and possible changes in policy, and it has only two months to report.

The advisory panel could play an important role if it pointed out to Mr. Rumsfeld what is clear to most outside experts: Credible investigations of both the criminal cases and the chain of command will require high-level and independent reviews. Regarding the abuse cases, this could take the form of a military court of inquiry headed by a senior officer outside Army intelligence or Central Command, which oversees Iraq. Such a panel could conduct a fresh review of the cases and determine, for example, whether it was correct to close dozens of them without any charges being brought. It could also find out why a number of prisoner death cases remained dormant - with no death reports filed and in several cases no autopsies conducted - until after the release of the Abu Ghraib photos.

A separate independent investigation is needed to probe how the Bush administration altered standard Army interrogation policies after 2001 and whether the new policies helped to create the climate of lawlessness that clearly prevailed in a number of detention centers in Iraq and Afghanistan. The connection between CIA interrogations and other secret operations and the abuse of foreign detainees also should be established. Outside expert judgment is needed about whether the secret interrogation techniques now approved for use - reportedly including hooding, placing prisoners in stress positions, sleep deprivation and intimidation by dogs - are legal under the Geneva Conventions or related U.S. laws.

Since the administration is unwilling to undertake such a review, Congress must act. Under the leadership of Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), the Senate Armed Services Committee has made a start at this, and Mr. Warner has promised more public hearings. But a means is needed to draw conclusions, hold officials accountable and take corrective action - including the rewriting and disclosure of interrogation policies. Even as the committee's probe continues, Mr. Warner and other congressional leaders should consider how those tasks can be accomplished.



BERG was executed by AL-CIA-DUH, alias CIA/Mossad "intelligence operatives"- hired killers - dressed up in Terrorist Costumes. They needed something so joe sixpack would say "Torture?? So what!! Look what those heartless Muslims do. Lets kill them all".

May 12, 2004

Nick Berg decapitation video declared "a fraud" by medical doctor

The first casualty of war is the truth and this one has been no exception. La Voz de Aztlan obtained a copy of the video showing the beheading of American Nick Berg of Philadelphia and immediately something very odd was readily apparent. Not only were the purported screams of Nick Berg not in synchrony with the decapitation but there was also a total lack of blood spurting out as his jugular and other veins and arteries were being cut.

We forwarded the video to Doctor Raul Castro Guevara, a surgeon and forensic expert in Mexico City for his expert opinion. He wrote back and commented, "No hay manera que el individuo en el video estaba vivo y su corazon funcionando cuando le estaban cortando la cabeza. En estos casos, el corazon impela sangre con gran presion, y se corta las arterias del pezqueso, hay una gran cantidad de sangre que salpica por todos lados. En mi opinion el video es un fraude."

Doctor Raul Castro Guevara is saying that there is no way that the individual in the video was alive and his heart pumping while his neck was being cut. The doctor adds that in these cases, while the heart is pumping, cutting a person artery in the neck, would cause copious amounts of blood to spurt all over the immediate environment. He says that in his opinion the video is a fraud.

We hope that our readers view the video and see for themselves. We will provide a copy to any of our subscribers that have been supportive of our publication. Send a request to La Voz de Aztlan at Fake_Video@Aztlan.Net

If you are able to view the video, please pay close attention to the five so called Al queda terrorists making the political statement. Look at their height, weight, skin color and their mannerisms. Do you think these people are Arabs, Iraqis, or CIA/Mossad Mercenaries?


The Webfairy
What bothers me about the Berg story?
Thu May 13, 2004 01:46

Thank you for the timeline.
This is SO PHONEY!!!!!

He was executed by AL-CIA-DUH, alias CIA/Mossad "intelligence operatives" -- hired killers -- dressed up in Terrorist Costumes. They needed something so Joe sixpack would say "Torture?? So what!!" Look what those heartless Muslims do. Lets kill them all.

The picture on the front page of today's paper suffered intentional degration. Video is clearer than that by nature.

Robert wrote:

Dear Webfairy
I appreciate your insight and approach. What bothers me about the Burg story is the orange jump suit. He was released on the 9 and executed on the 10. In that time period he was striped and dressed in an orange jump suit - a US military prison uniform. Not something you drive around in Iraq.

Why change clothes? - Unless to conceal him inside a US prison. Does all CIA (all the time) do have an endless supply of orange jump suits in every cell in every city?

He was captive less than 24 hr. Why change clothes. Why a US military prison uniform?

Berg Time Line

• Dec. 21. Nicholas Berg goes to Iraq to explore business opportunities.

• Feb. 1. After making contact with a company that indicates there likely will be work for him, Berg leaves Iraq.
• March 14. Berg returns to Iraq.

• March 24. Berg tells his parents he is coming home on March 30 to be in a friend's wedding. The same day, he is detained by Iraqi police at a Mosul checkpoint. At some point during his 13-day detention, U.S. officials take custody of him.

• March 30. Berg's father, Michael, goes to John F. Kennedy International Airport, but Berg is not on his scheduled flight.

• March 31. In West Chester, the FBI interviews Michael and Suzanne Berg. A spokesman said the agency was "asked to interview the parents regarding Mr. Berg's purpose in Iraq."

• April 5. The Bergs file suit in federal court in Philadelphia, contending that their son was being held illegally by the U.S. military in Iraq.

• April 6. Nicholas Berg is released.

• April 9. Berg communicates for the last time with his parents, telling them he will come home through Jordan.

• Saturday. Berg's decapitated body is found near a highway in Baghdad.

• Monday. State Department officials notify the Berg family of his death.

• Yesterday. Berg's death is announced.


Beheaded Man's Firm Was On Right-Wing 'Enemies' List

by Fintan Dunne, Editor EXCLUSIVE
Research by Kathy McMahon
12th May, 2004 10amET

The family firm of beheaded American Nick Berg, was named by a conservative website in a list of 'enemies' of the Iraq occupation. That could explain his arrest by Iraqi police --a detention that fatally delayed his planned return from Iraq and may have led directly to his death.

Nick Berg, 26 disappeared into incommunicado detention after his arrest by Iraqi police on March, 2004. He vanished again after his release 13 days later. His body was found last Saturday in Baghdad, and a video of his beheading --supposedly by a radical Islamic group-- was posted on the Internet on Tuesday.

The official story of his gruesome murder has many dubious aspects, not least the real reason why Iraqi police detained the young man at a checkpoint. New research by BreakForNews has uncovered a plausible explanation.

The web site and forum has a reputation for right-wing views, often-fanatical Republican and relentless pro-war activism.

On 7th March 2004, just three weeks before the first anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, an 'enemies' list of anti-war groups and individuals was posted on the Free Republic forum.

It began: "Here you are, FReepers. Here is the enemy."

The list had been copied from publicly available endorsements of a call to action for an upcoming anniversary antiwar protest on 20th March, 2004. The protest was being organized under the banner of the A.N.S.W.E.R Coalition (Act Now to Stop War & End Racism).

Among those listed as having endorsed the call to action was this entry: "Michael S. Berg, Teacher, Prometheus Methods Tower Service, Inc."

That's Nick Berg's father, Michael who acts as business manager for his son in their family radio operations firm, Prometheus Methods Tower Service.

Both father and son cared deeply about Iraq. But they were on opposite sides of opinion on the occupation. Michael was ardently antiwar, whereas his Bush- supporter son was in favor of the war to the extent that he had already visited Iraq seeking to help with rebuilding efforts.

Just seven days after "Michael Berg" and "Prometheus Methods Tower Service" had come up on that Iraq war 'enemies' list, his son Nick Berg returned to Iraq under the business name of Prometheus Methods Tower Service.

The scene was set for tragically mistaken suspicions --which were to end in the horrifying death of an honorable and blameless American. A humanitarian who had traveled several times to Third World countries --such as Ghana, to teach villagers construction techniques.

The web traffic to the Free Republic forum --and it's forum membership-- include significant numbers of serving and former US military.

Many members take their online activism very seriously. Some delight in causing mischief for those they think are identified as "enemies."

Within minutes of getting their hands on the antiwar names, one was boasting of having contacted the military about active service personnel who were on the list:

"I forwarded the list to the ISC (the command you listed), the district officer... the district legal office and the investigative services office."

The response:

"The poor moron is not going to know what hit him. Is this being mean-spirited? NO! Someone against our military does not belong in the military!"

Another was already investigating a member of the Coast Guard on the list:

"I took a look at his yahoo and he has a site which is not real fond of the war on drugs OR the war on terrorism.... That particular coastie needs some serious trouble to come his way...."

" I spoke on the phone to a senior chief yesterday in Virginia.... [who] could not believe what the guy was doing. He was both astounded and angry. I think [he] is in for some big, big trouble."

If that list could end up on an Internet forum, then it could just as readily end up with the FBI, and eventually in the hands of those in Iraq who are keen to track or harass antiwar activists entering the country.

Alternatively, the enthusiasts on Free Republic have the contacts and the clear determination to have ensured the list quickly got to the right places.

At the time the list was posted, Nick Berg had just come back from an Iraq trip lasting from late December to Feb. 1. He had reported no problems whatsoever with Iraqi police during that visit.

Yet, within two weeks of the list being posted, Nick Berg --back in Iraq on his final fatal trip-- was reportedly detained in Mosul at an Iraqi police checkpoint. The official explanation is that authorities thought his identification might have been forged and were checking his authenticity.

But a more likely reason is that by then authorities in Iraq had discovered that a 'Berg' of Prometheus Methods Tower Service was in the country, and issued a detention instruction to Iraqi police because they misidentified Nick Berg as an antiwar activist entering Iraq to work for the 'enemy'.

That could explain why he was held incommunicado for 13 days, without recourse to a lawyer; why the FBI visited his family to question them; why it took a US court order secured by the family to pressure his release.

And why he was cruelly murdered soon after that release, like many others around the world who suffer such a fate at the hands of state-condoned death squads --sometimes just hours after their release from official detention.

That's the final sordid twist in this grisly story.

If the world was an uncomplicated place, then this tale would end with the mistaken arrest of Nick Berg.

We could finish by noting that Nick's father is reportedly accusing the US government of contributing to his son's death. Unable to find work in Iraq, Nick Berg's last trip was set to be a short one. He planned to return to the US on the 30th of


Michael Berg charges that his son's detention until 5th April, was a violation of civil rights which fatally delayed his exit from Iraq and instead left him dangerously stranded in the middle of the explosion of violence which erupted in early April, 2004.

But there are much graver aspects to all this. Another chilling perspective is best summarized by the wry cynicism of Michael Rivero at

In a commentary on the beheading of Nick Berg, Rivero writes:

"How wonderfully lucky for Bush and the NeoCons that such a great piece of pro-war distract-from-the-torture-scandal event happens at this particular moment."

Rivero's world-weary realism strikes a chord with his popular website's visitors, but will undoubtedly shock unseasoned observers. However he is far from alone in questioning the official line. Others have noted the too-white hands and military

at-ease stance of the hooded captors in the video.

The killing has certainly eased the international discomfiture of the US.

The problem with assumptions that al-Queda is responsible for Berg's beheading, is that Musab al-Zarqawi is mentioned in a caption on the videotape of the killing.

Al-Zarqawi came to our attention in January, 2004 when the US military claimed to have intercepted a letter of his written to the al-Queda leadership. But the content of the letter read like a US military propaganda statement on the situation in Iraq.

In the letter al-Zarqawi wrote of Iraqis coming to welcome the US presence in Iraq, and about how al-Queda was loosing ground in it's war against the US.

In February, 2004 an article "The Zarqawi Gambit," by Greg Weiher on Counterpunch was deeply skeptical of the letter:

"..if you were Karl Rove, you couldn't design a better scenario to validate the administration's slant on the war than this.

That's a good reason to maintain a healthy skepticism. In fact, there are a number of good reasons to take this story with a grain of salt (maybe a three- or four-pounder)."

The US has been keen to paint the opposition to the occupation as composed of many foreign fighters tied to al-Queda. The letter was clearly fabricated for propaganda purposes, with al-Zarqawi as it's new al-Queda star.

But if al-Zarqawi is merely a flimsy propaganda creation, then what confidence can we have in the official line that al-Zarqawi and al-Queda murdered Berg.

The only plausible alternative is a covert, black operation orchestrated as part of the seedier arm of US foreign policy --which generally only come to light when candid photographs, for example, reach the public domain.

But that's an explanation which many would reject on the grounds that no force allied to the US --no matter how black its operations-- would have members so callous as to even countenance the cold-blooded beheading of a US citizen.

However, there is a mindset amplified by war passions and found among the gung-ho brutes who beat Iraqis to death; found among the thuggish mercenary death squads who roam to slay at will; and found among the cold-blooded sociopaths who have planted bombs for political strategic reasons.

It's war. And war begets a wartime mindset.

Nick Berg's detention indicates that authorities regarded him an an antiwar activist and possibly also as an 'enemy.'

That original post on Free Republic contains a telling indication of a mindset, which in the heat of war could well kill an American it regards as the "enemy."

A mindset which has now reacted to Michael Berg's loss of his son like this:

"I wonder what he thinks about his Muslim buddies now... "

A mindset displayed by the search keywords used on Free Republic to categorize the list of antiwar supporters. The keywords are:


Copyright © 2004 Attribute for Fair Use.


Fishy Circumstances and Flawed Timelines Surround American's Beheading

UPDATE 12:45PM Central:
This just in -- U.S. spokesman says decapitated American was never held by U.S. forces

With several news outlets reporting that Berg's family is angry from the US government over their son's violent death and revelations that "Berg was detained by Iraqi police at a checkpoint in Mosul on March 24. He was turned over to U.S. officials and detained for 13 days" (in other words, he was detained by the US military just prior to his death) -- (AP 5/11/04) we have to question what really happened and who was really behind Berg's horrific murder.

We have received several emails from listeners questioning what really happened including this one:

Me and a friend were discussing recent news events and trying to piece together the information presented to us, thought you might want to look into this further, they said in the news that Nicholas Berg was killed 2 weeks ago (i think), however in the video the culprits who killed him said they were "avenging Iraqi prisoner abuse" but those photos weren't released until last week, so my question is how is that even a possible motive if he was killed prior to the abuse photos being released?? maybe I am misinformed but thought id ask the question to someone who would look into it

And this one:

Hey Alex, I know people like me who have learned not to trust our government tend to see a conspiracy under every rock. With that said... The picture the media is now showing of the guy the terrorist beheaded as revenge for what went on in the Iraqi prisons looks odd to me. If you look at the men dressed in black, they all seem well fed. Actually most look fat. That bothers me, because these guys are fighting a war and eating on the run. They are constantly on the move and should be either very fit and trim or scrawny and malnourished because of the same reasons. One thing they should not be is fat like couch potatoes. If you look at all of the photos of the prisoners who were naked who supposedly were just plucked of the street, most of them are thin.

Just an observation Alex

And this one:

1) extremely convenient "wag the dog" timing at the height of furor regarding U.S. torture of Iraqis

2) CNN poll question: "Is the Berg killing a reason for withholding any remaining Iraq prisoner abuse pictures?" Bush has been reported to be struggling with question of whether Pentagon should release additional torture photos. Given that the alleged decapitation of Berg was allegedly prompted by the first wave of torture photos, Bush could now cite "national security" issues for witholding additional materials.

3) Berg's last known whereabouts was in U.S. custody.

4) Berg shown in video wearing orange jumpsuit known to be of U.S. issue (compare with pictures at Guantanamo).

5) Berg mysteriously captured by Al-Quaeda (still wearing jumpsuit). Either he escaped from U.S. captors or U.S. let him out -- with orange suit and all -- to be immediately apprehended by Al-Quaeda (before he had a chance to change).

6) Tape obviously spliced together and heavily edited. Goes from a) Berg sitting in chair talking about family, to b) Berg sitting on floor with hooded "militants" behind, to c) blurry camera movement, to d) almost motionless Berg on floor as head cut off.

7) Audio clearly dubbed in.

8) "Arab" reader flips through pages of "statement" and keeps ending up on the same page. Perhaps doesn't even known enough Arabic to recognize what page he's on?

9) "Arabs" have lily-white hands and (other exposed) skin.

10) "Arabs" have Western-style body posture and mannerisms.

11) When Berg decapitated, there was almost no blood. If Berg were still alive at this point, with the cut starting at front of throat, blood would have been spraying everywhere. Berg's severed head, the floor, Berg's clothes, and even the hand of the "Arab" who decapitated Berg had no visible blood on it.

12) Berg's body didn't move while on the ground. Although held down, Berg would have tried to instinctively wiggle and writhe away from captor's grip.

13) Camera angle made it impossible to see if Berg's eyes were even open.

14) Alleged "scream" from Berg sounded to be that of a woman and was clearly dubbed in.

15) Berg goes to great trouble to identify himself, providing information about his family. Why? To elicit greater sympathy? Or to provide a positive ID. FBI visited Berg family in an attempt to "verify his identity". Guy in video looks very little like Berg photos provided by family.

I believe that Berg (or this lookalike character) was first killed (perhaps by lethal injection, poisoning, etc.), then decapitated after dead (explains lack of blood spraying everywhere). Berg was killed by Al-Quaeda (known to
be a CIA - Mossad joint venture). Berg video released at height of furor over U.S. torture of Iraqis and just before Bush was to decide whether to release additional torture videos. Now torture videos will be witheld from public for reasons of national security. Now "patriots" everywhere will laud the virtues of U.S. torture of "enemies".

Sensitivity level of public gets heightened in terms of what's acceptable treatment of prisoners. Juxtaposed with decapitation, piling naked men into pyramid is nothing. Such treatment will be considered more and more acceptable even in domestic situations. George W. Bush sleeps well tonight while Berg family lives in torture. Serves Berg's father right for opposing Bush and the war of aggression against Iraq.


Jeff Rense has compiled some important information on Berg's detainment and questioning what really happened in his article, "

Why Did The US Take Custody Of Nick Berg?"

Two things are for sure:

First, Berg parents feel that their son was abandoned and betrayed by the US Government.

Second: NeoCons have already started to use Nick Berg's murder to justify torture and more war

Related Articles:
Berg Time Line

Nick Berg was on his way out of Iraq. He had been released from the prison where he had been held for 13 days by Iraqi police for reasons he said he did not know.

Nick Berg's Parents Say US Abandoned Him

Pa. family angry with American government over son's brutal death

Qaeda Leader Beheads U.S. Civilian in Iraq

Awful images change perception of the war

NeoCons use Nick Berg's murder to justify torture and more war


Fri May 14, 2004 03:29

Nicholas Berg

Berg's encounter with 'terrorist' revealed


WEST CHESTER, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- When Nicholas Berg took an Oklahoma bus to a remote college campus a few years ago, the American recently beheaded by ...

Government sources told CNN that the encounter involved an acquaintance of Zacarias Moussaoui -- the only person publicly charged in the United States in connection with the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.

WEST CHESTER, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- When Nicholas Berg took an Oklahoma bus to a remote college campus a few years ago, the American recently beheaded by terrorists allowed a man with terrorist connections to use his laptop computer, according to his father.

Michael Berg said the FBI investigated the matter more than a year ago. He stressed that his son was in no way connected to the terrorists who captured and killed him.

Government sources told CNN that the encounter involved an acquaintance of Zacarias Moussaoui -- the only person publicly charged in the United States in connection with the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.

According to Berg, his son was taking a course a few years ago at a remote campus of the University of Oklahoma near an airport. He described how on one particular day, his son met "some terrorist people -- who no one knew were terrorists at the time."

At one point during the bus ride, Berg said, the man sitting next to his son asked if he could use Nick's laptop computer.

"It turned out this guy was a terrorist and that he, you know, used my son's e-mail, amongst many other people's e-mail who he did the same thing to," Berg said.

Government sources said Berg gave the man his password, which was later used by Moussaoui, the sources said.

The sources said the man who used Berg's e-mail knew Moussaoui, now awaiting trial on federal charges that could bring a death sentence. But the sources would not disclose details of how the men were connected.

Moussaoui, 36, was arrested in August 2001 after he aroused suspicion at a Minnesota flight school when he arrived for 747 simulator training without holding a pilot's license. A French national of Moroccan descent, Moussaoui has admitted in open court that he belonged to al Qaeda, the radical Islamic group behind the September 11 attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people.

But Moussaoui has fiercely denied being involved in the September 11 plot, and the prosecutors' theory of his role has shifted from being a possible 20th hijacker that day to possibly piloting a fifth hijacked jetliner targeting the White House.

Berg said his son cooperated fully with an FBI investigation into the matter.

"He was happy to cooperate, and that was never an issue," he said. He emphasized that the individual was not a friend of his son's or even an acquaintance -- "just a guy sitting next to him on the bus."

"Whoever was next to my son was treated with great respect and friendship. Like I said, he knew no dangers from people. The FBI were satisfied with that."

CNN Justice correspondent Kelli Arena contributed to this report.


The Terror Watch
A chronology of events leading up to 9/11
by Jim Crogan

* 1999: Ihab Mahammed Ali, an al Qaeda member arrested in Orlando, Florida, and later named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Africa, is called before a grand jury. He denies participation in bin
Laden's network and is charged with perjury. The FBI learns that Ali had obtained flight training at the Airman Flight School in Norman, Oklahoma. Ali became al Qaeda's first pilot. Accused September 11 terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui also took flight lessons at the Airman school.




The Airman Flight School is centrally located in Norman, Oklahoma, and only minutes away from Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City. Norman is the home to the University of Oklahoma; its residents enjoy all the conveniences of a major metropolitan area. Norman averages more than 300 days of VFR weather per year, for year-round flight training. On IFR days, students in advanced courses continue training on instruments.

Link to the DOD Berg Murder Video:



Video - Windows Media Player


Diplomat's E-Mails Show Berg in Custody

Associated Press Writer

A U.S. diplomatic official in Iraq told the family of slain American Nicholas Berg that he was being detained by the U.S. military when they lost contact with him for several days in early April, according to e-mails provided by the
family Thursday.

U.S. government officials have said Berg, who was found dead last weekend in Baghdad, was detained by Iraqi police and was never in the custody of American forces.

He is believed to have been kidnapped within days of his release by either Iraqi police or coalition forces, and later beheaded by militants who videotaped the slaying.

To back its claims that Berg was in U.S. custody, the family showed The Associated Press an April 1 e-mail from Beth A. Payne, the U.S. consular officer in Iraq.

"I have confirmed that your son, Nick, is being detained by the U.S. military in Mosul. He is safe. He was picked up approximately one week ago. We will try to obtain additional information regarding his detention and a contact person you can communicate with directly," the e-mail said.

In two e-mails later that day, Payne wrote that she was still trying to find a local contact for the family.

Berg's brother, David Berg, called on the government to come clean about its contacts with the slain American before he died. The family has blamed the government for keeping him in custody for too long while anti-American violence escalated in Iraq


The picture the media is now showing of the guy the terrorist beheaded as revenge for what went on in the Iraqi prisons looks odd to me. If you look at the men dressed in black, they all seem well fed. Actually most look fat. That bothers me, because these guys are fighting a war and eating on the run. They are constantly on the move and should be either very fit and trim or scrawny and malnourished because of the same reasons. One thing they should not be is fat like couch potatoes. If you look at all of the photos of the prisoners who were naked who supposedly were just plucked of the street, most of them are thin. Just an observation Alex

And this one:

1) extremely convenient "wag the dog" timing at the height of furor regarding U.S. torture of Iraqis

2) CNN poll question: "Is the Berg killing a reason for withholding any remaining Iraq prisoner abuse pictures?" Bush has been reported to be struggling with question of whether Pentagon should release additional torture photos. Given that the alleged decapitation of Berg was allegedly prompted by the first wave of torture photos, Bush could now cite "national security" issues for witholding additional materials.

3) Berg's last known whereabouts was in U.S. custody.

4) Berg shown in video wearing orange jumpsuit known to be of U.S. issue (compare with pictures at Guantanamo).

5) Berg mysteriously captured by Al-Quaeda (still wearing jumpsuit). Either he escaped from U.S. captors or U.S. let him out -- with orange suit and all -- to be immediately apprehended by Al-Quaeda (before he had a chance to change).

6) Tape obviously spliced together and heavily edited. Goes from a) Berg sitting in chair talking about family, to b) Berg sitting on floor with hooded "militants" behind, to c) blurry camera movement, to d) almost motionless Berg on floor as head cut off.

7) Audio clearly dubbed in.

8) "Arab" reader flips through pages of "statement" and keeps ending up on the same page. Perhaps doesn't even known enough Arabic to recognize what page he's on?

9) "Arabs" have lily-white hands and (other exposed) skin.

10) "Arabs" have Western-style body posture and mannerisms.

11) When Berg decapitated, there was almost no blood. If Berg were still alive at this point, with the cut starting at front of throat, blood would have been spraying everywhere. Berg's severed head, the floor, Berg's clothes, and even the hand of the "Arab" who decapitated Berg had no visible blood on it.

12) Berg's body didn't move while on the ground. Although held down, Berg would have tried to instinctively wiggle and writhe away from captor's grip.

13) Camera angle made it impossible to see if Berg's eyes were even open.

14) Alleged "scream" from Berg sounded to be that of a woman and was clearly
dubbed in.

15) Berg goes to great trouble to identify himself, providing information about his family. Why? To elicit greater sympathy? Or to provide a positive ID. FBI visited Berg family in an attempt to "verify his identity". Guy in video looks very little like Berg photos provided by family.

I believe that Berg (or this lookalike character) was first killed (perhaps by lethal injection, poisoning, etc.), then decapitated after dead (explains lack of blood spraying everywhere). Berg was killed by Al-Quaeda (known to
be a CIA - Mossad joint venture). Berg video released at height of furor over U.S. torture of Iraqis and just before Bush was to decide whether to release additional torture videos. Now torture videos will be witheld from public for reasons of national security.

Now "patriots" everywhere will laud the virtues of U.S. torture of "enemies". Sensitivity level of public gets heightened in terms of what's acceptable treatment of prisoners. Juxtaposed with decapitation, piling naked men into pyramid is nothing. Such treatment will be considered more and more acceptable even in domestic situations. George W. Bush sleeps well tonight while Berg family lives in torture. Serves Berg's father right for opposing Bush and the war of aggression against Iraq.

Jeff Rense has compiled some important information on Berg's detainment and questioning what really happened in his article, " Why Did The US Take Custody Of Nick Berg?"

Two things are for sure:

First, Berg parents feel that their son was abandoned and betrayed by the US Government.

Second: NeoCons have already started to use Nick Berg's murder to justify torture and more war

CIA did it to take the heat off the Pentagon"--NBC reporter

Berg Story Debunked - Statement Did NOT Say 'al Qaeda'

FLASHBACK: Office of Strategic Information
If you liked the lie about the murder of Kuwaiti babies after Iraq's invasion of the oil-rich emirate in 1990, you'll love the Office of Strategic Information.

Think it's far-fetched that someone would stage a beheading to support the war effort? Not when you consider that the US Government has an entire agency paid to come up with such swindles!

Berg Executioner wore gold ring - forbidden by Islam•29&TagID==2

Take a look at the chair Nick Berg sat in Sloppy. Very sloppy.

Diplomat's E-Mails Show Berg in Custody
A U.S. diplomatic official in Iraq told the family of slain American Nicholas Berg that he was being detained by the U.S. military when they lost contact with him for several days in early April, according to e-mails provided by the family Thursday.

Contractors Behead Fellow Contractor
Suspicion grows that the too-convenient-for-Bush murder of Nick Berg is another in a long chain of false-flag operations.

Text of E-Mails From U.S. Consulate to Bergs

Did the CIA kill Nick Berg?
How is it Nicholas Berg ended up a captive of -- so were are told -- psychopathic fundamentalist Muslims? Did he simply walk into a den of vipers or is there something else behind his abduction and murder?

Two More VERY Suspicious Berg Video Anomalies

Why Was Berg's (A Civilian) Body Flown To Dover AFB?

Nick Berg - 911 - OKC Bombing Connection

Nick Berg - Expendable


Is it time for Bush to press the panic button?

"Gee, if this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier...just as long as I am the dictator." -- G W Bush

I imagine that on Inauguration day, 2001, it must have looked easy. By March of 2001, when the US Government started quietly informing other governments that Afghanistan was to be invaded in October, it must have seemed as if the long-laid plans to conquer the Mideast's oil were moving along smoothly, unseen by an American public distracted by stories of Gary Condit and Chandra Levy. Cheney's Energy Task Force was pouring over maps of Iraq's oil fields, and the long-awaited pipeline into the Caspian Sea was ready to start construction as soon as there was a new government in soon-to-be-conquered Afghanistan.

Then came 9-11, right on time to anger the American people into supporting a war against, well, nobody really knew, but danged there was sure a lot of evidence left around to find that pointed to Arabs as the culprits. Evidence that pointed in another direction was classified by the US Government and the war was on, spurred on by letters written to look like they came from semi-literate Arabs, but containing Anthrax from a US Government lab.

But the first rumblings were already starting that the public was doubting the rationale for the war. The case was far from made that Afghanistan had anything to do with 9-11, especially since the named hijackers came from other countries. And right on cue, a video tape of Osama confessing showed up to put the doubts to rest. Except that the tape turned out to be a fraud, and mistranslated at that.

At this point, the prudent man would have paid careful attention to the anti-war protests thronging the streets of the world, and reasoned that public support for the war was already dwindling, because faith in the official story was already dwindling. But Bush must have been getting some bad info. Bush himself has admitted that he does not read newspapers, relying totally on his advisors to tell him what is happening in the world. And those advisors, some of them veterans of the first Bush Presidency, probably were seeing the world as they wanted it to be, rather than as it really was.

History will probably record that the greatest single error the Bush war machine made was to underestimate the impact of the internet. They didn't understand the internet, or the internet culture, its sociology, and most important, how access to the internet transformed Americans from mere accepters of broadcast information into active and critical participants in the information process. No doubt there was a tendency to dismiss internet news sources as just hobbies run by computer geeks for other computer geeks. Certainly nothing to worry about. Blogs were not mainstream media, according to the mainstream media. Bush and the NeoCons didn't really know what to do about the internet, so wishful thinking made it unimportant. That was their critical error, because while the polls kept showing more people were still getting their news from the TV set than from computers, the margin kept getting smaller. And, the polls didn't reflect the fact that people watching the TV sets were not as mentally involved with the information flow as internet users were. While fewer in numbers, people who were getting their news from the internet were more involved with that news... and they were talking to people they knew who did not have internet feeds.

Thus it was that after the fall of Afghanistan, blogs carried the news that the new puppet-President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, and the US special envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, had both been part of the special oil company working group which had gone before Congress in 1998 recommending a change in the government of Afghanistan in order to facilitate the construction of a pipeline. The US mainstream media never made the connection. The blogs did, and word began to get out. And as Americans began to learn that there were things happening in the world that the TV set was not telling them, they started to ignore the TV set and pay more attention to the internet news sources.

The government and mainstream media struck back against the blogs in predictable fashion, warning parents that the internet was a haven for child molesters and suggesting that only unfit parents would ever consider the internet a trustworthy news source. Paid public relations operatives were hired to dump obvious disinformation onto the net with which to tar it, but a strange thing happened. Unlike TV, where those who have contradictory facts are successfully isolated from all the other viewers, the internet allowed readers who recognized the false information for what it was to immediately present the facts to the entire world. Unlike the tame and manicured lawn of TV, the internet became a jungle where only facts survived for very long. The government had no more luck controlling the internet than the old USSR had controlling the Samizdat; the network of FAX machines that allowed Soviet Citizens to learn the truth of what their government was doing.

All of a sudden, the ages-old mechanism of "what government says, the people think" was broken. The mainstream TV networks had lost their monopoly on the flow of information. The public was able to decide for itself what was newsworthy. The high ground in the war for the minds of America had shifted to the internet, and the US Government was losing that war.

The internet gave the country a collective memory outside government control. When Fox News ran a story blowing the lid off the largest spy ring ever found in the US, run by Israel, pressure from Israeli supporters forced Fox News to remove the story from their own web site. This did not have the desired effect of erasing the story, because the story was already on dozens of blogs on the net. Worse, the Fox News removal underscored the dangerous degree to which Israel was influencing the US mainstream media, forcing into the public awareness what had previously been hidden.

Other stories, downplayed by the mainstream media, or in many cases outright ignored, came to world attention on the internet. Typical was the news that the very first people arrested on 9-11 were not Arab terrorists, but 5 Israelis, later revealed to be Mossad agents, covered as employees of a moving company whose owner abandoned his business and fled to Israel. Americans began to realize that Israel still had a massive spy ring across America, and more alarmingly, the US Government was unable to do anything about it. As was admitted in the Fox News story, evidence that linked the arrested Mossad agents to 9-11 was being classified by the United States Government. Banished from the mainstream media, this information lives on by way of the internet.

In the last several weeks, a strange phenomenon has started to happen. Mainstream news sources have become aware that they can no longer avoid reporting the unpleasant news stories, without their avoidance itself becoming news on the blogs. As a result, blogs now drive the mainstream news. The mainstream media have been maneuvered into having to make a choice between continuing to support the agenda of their owners/handlers, or saving what is left of their credibility by running the stories that the public will be aware of anyway through the internet.

While some media companies are still toeing the line, such as the Sinclair Group that ordered its ABC Affiliates not to run the Nightline Program listing the war dead, other mainstream media outlets, including Nightline and "60 minutes II" are running stories, such as the abuse of Iraqi POWs, which are clearly damaging to the administration's war efforts.

Bush and the NeoCons are in a corner. The time when they can count on the media to promote their particular point of view is fast running out. The time when the media could successfully sell a particular point of view is fast running out.

Bush may be thinking about hitting the "panic button".

What I refer to is, of course, a last ditch attempt to prop up his sagging poll numbers and revive support for the wars of conquest by staging yet another phony "terror" attack, framing it on the intended invadee. Planes crashing into buildings is now passé, and repeating that stunt would only underscore the utter uselessness of the millions of dollars spent on increased airport security. So, scratch that one. Maybe a truck with a bomb in it on the Golden Gate Bridge? Those San Franciscans got lots of other bridges anyway and there are lots of great places for the news crews to shoot from at the Presidio. Ah, but maybe that's not scary enough. Not every city has a bridge, and Tacoma survived the collapse of "Galloping Gerty" without major trauma. Soooooooooo, mebbe a suitcase nuke welded to the keel of a cargo ship? Not scary enough; most of the nation is landlocked. They don't worry about cargo ships coming into town from far away. So, that leaves us with everyone's favorite boogeyman, BIOLOGICAL TERROR!

If you are out to scare the crap out of people in order to enslave them, germs make a great tool. But, you don't want to use a germ that might possibly race out of control and kill off more of your gross domestic product than the despot's plan allowed for. Things like that look bad on a resume. That's where Anthrax comes in. Anthrax has a low secondary communicability. That is, the spores will infect people, but infected people will not infect other people easily. Anthrax is not actually a terror weapon, it is a battlefield weapon, specifically chosen to render an army ill but NOT to easily escape into the surrounding population. Real terrorists, of course, would choose a pathogen with a high degree of secondary communicability so that the target population does the work of spreading it around. Fake terrorists choose a pathogen that won't spread beyond its intended target.

Anthrax has, of course, been bannered around by the mainstream media as the "most likely terror weapon" for years now. Shots for it have been mandated for the military, making the vaccine company rich, but in truth, how does the US know that this one pathogen, out of dozens that a real terrorist might use, is the one to protect the military against? Let me repeat that: Out of all the pathogens available (and more useful) to real terrorists, how does the US Government know that Anthrax is the one pathogen the troops need protection from?

Makes you think, doesn't it?

And as the recent exposures of fake terrorism in Macedonia, coupled with the admission that at least two of the Madrid bombers were actually informants, it is clear that we all live in an age where governments manufacture terror with which to try to control their populations.

So, let's look at this from the NeoCon point of view. Their wars are stalled, the world knows the wars are based on lies and deceptions, and Americans are starting to resent spending their money and children's blood to conquer the Mideast for the NeoCon's masters. They NEED an event that will scare the people of the United States into accepting whatever dictates they are handed. For the scare to work to that extent, especially in a nation of skeptical taxpayers, the threat must be seen as immediate, threatening them personally. A germ is such a fear-maker because it cannot be seen. The population cannot know for certain that it isn't present in the air around them. They cannot know they are not breathing it in at that very moment.

Therefore, when Bush hits his panic button, look for a staged terror attack involving a biological threat, possibly Anthrax (of which the US has the largest stockpile in the world) to hit several cities at once coast to coast. Bush and the NeoCons will announce an immediate state of emergency, requiring suspension of all civil rights while house to house searches are made for the "terrorists", who are "known" to be in possession of more of these ampoules of germs. And because the "terrorists" are using the internet to coordinate the attacks, look for the government to shut down all parts of the internet that are not running a commercial for some corporation.

I hope I am wrong. And frankly, if I am right I am not sure how Bush and the NeoCons can make this work if the mainstream media has started to split away from the PNAC agenda. But the Bush Administration has shown a blind optimism as to what is really going on, preferring to see the world as they want it to be rather than it is, and I would not be surprised if a last act of desperation is forthcoming from this President.




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