Four Years

Siun at firedoglake writes about the way President’s Bush speeches and President Bush’s policies exist in different realities. He loves to talk about “freedom,” for example, but his own policies both foreign and domestic are hardly supportive of freedom. One wonders what he thinks the word means.

This pro-war op ed in the New York Post makes me wonder what time-space continuum the writer is occupying. Saddam’s regime was toppled! Its machinery of war and internal repression was dismantled! Decades of one-party rule – the “Republic of Fear” – came to an end! Political power was taken from the brutal and corrupt ruling elite and transferred to the Iraqi people as a whole!

Bombs at a Shiite mosque in Kirkuk killed at least 20 people today. Is this what newly empowered Iraqis chose for their own country? Somehow, I don’t think so.

You see that a lot with righties; they use words — freedom, victory, democracy — without seeming to have thought real hard about what they mean. It’s as if the word imposes the reality instead of describing the reality; if we claim Iraqis have “freedom,” then it must be so. If you try to impress upon righties that Iraqis are not free and that “victory” in the context of Iraq is meaningless, they accuse you of hating America.

There’s not much I can say about Iraq that I haven’t already said. So I’m going to quote Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer (1951) instead.

It is the true believer’s ability to “shut his eyes and stop his ears” to facts that do not deserve to be either seen or heard which is the source of his unequaled fortitude and constancy. … And it is the certitude of his infallible doctrine that renders the true believer impervious to the uncertainties, surprises and the unpleasant realities of the world around him.

Thus the effectiveness of a doctrine should not be judged by its profundity, sublimity or the validity of the truths it embodies, but by how thoroughly it insulates the individual from the self and the world as it is ….

The effectiveness of a doctrine does not come from its meaning but from its certitude. No doctrine however profound or sublime will be effective unless it is presented as the one and only truth. …

It is obvious, therefore, that in order to be effective a doctrine must not be understood, but be believed in. We can be absolutely certain only about things we do not understand. A doctrine that is understood is shorn of its strength. …

If a doctrine is not unintelligible, it has to be vague; and if neither unintelligible nor vague, it has to be unverifiable. One has to get to heaven or the distant future to determine the truth of an effective doctrine. When some part of a doctrine is relatively simple, there is a tendency among the faithful to complicate and obscure it. Simple words are made pregnant with meaning and made to look like symbols in a secret message. There is thus an illiterate air about the most literate true believer. He seems to use words as if he were ignorant of their true meaning. Hence, too, his taste for quibbling, hair-splitting, and scholastic tortuousness.

Bush’s Iraq War policy is not policy; nor is it a plan or a strategy. It is a doctrine, as Hoffer just defined doctrine. It is something to be believed in, not understood, and if you don’t share the faith you hate America.

Against the Law

Adam Cohen writes in the New York Times about possible criminal prosecutions stemming from the U.S. attorney purge. These are:

1. Misrepresentations to Congress. The relevant provision, 18 U.S.C. § 1505, is very broad. It is illegal to lie to Congress, and also to “impede” it in getting information. Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty indicated to Congress that the White House’s involvement in firing the United States attorneys was minimal, something that Justice Department e-mail messages suggest to be untrue….

… 2. Calling the Prosecutors. As part of the Sarbanes-Oxley reforms, Congress passed an extremely broad obstruction of justice provision, 18 U.S.C. § 1512 (c), which applies to anyone who corruptly “obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so,” including U.S. attorney investigations.

David Iglesias, the New Mexico United States attorney, says Senator Pete Domenici, Republican of New Mexico, called him and asked whether he intended to bring indictments in a corruption case against Democrats before last November’s election. Mr. Iglesias said he “felt pressured” by the call. If members of Congress try to get a United States attorney to indict people he wasn’t certain he wanted to indict, or try to affect the timing of an indictment, they may be violating the law.

3. Witness Tampering. 18 U.S.C. § 1512 (b) makes it illegal to intimidate Congressional witnesses. Michael Elston, Mr. McNulty’s chief of staff, contacted one of the fired attorneys, H. E. Cummins, and suggested, according to Mr. Cummins, that if he kept speaking out, there would be retaliation. Mr. Cummins took the call as a threat, and sent an e-mail message to other fired prosecutors warning them of it. Several of them told Congress that if Mr. Elston had placed a similar call to one of their witnesses in a criminal case, they would have opened an investigation of it.

4. Firing the Attorneys. United States attorneys can be fired whenever a president wants, but not, as § 1512 (c) puts it, to corruptly obstruct, influence, or impede an official proceeding.

I say this could put the peach back into impeachment, so to speak.