Two Editorials

An editorial in Sunday’s New York Times tears Dick the Dick a new one —

The Associated Press reported that Mr. Cheney’s office ordered the Secret Service last September to destroy all records of visitors to the official vice presidential mansion — right after The Washington Post sued for access to the logs. That move was made in secret, naturally. It came out only because of another lawsuit, filed by a private group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, seeking the names of conservative religious figures who visited the vice president’s residence.

This disdain for accountability is distressing, but not surprising. Mr. Cheney has had it on display from his first days in office, when he refused to name the energy-industry executives who met with him behind closed doors to draft an energy policy.

In a similar way, Mr. Cheney seems unconcerned about little things like checks and balances and traditional American notions of judicial process. At one point, he gave himself the power to selectively declassify documents and selectively leak them to reporters. In a recent commencement address, he declaimed against prisoners who had the gall to “demand the protections of the Geneva Convention and the Constitution of the United States.”

Mr. Cheney is the driving force behind the Bush administration’s theory of the “unitary executive,” which holds that no one, including Congress and the courts, has the power to supervise or regulate the actions of the president. Just as he pays little attention to old-fangled notions of the separation of powers, Mr. Cheney does not overly bother himself about the bright line that should exist between his last job as chief of the energy giant Halliburton and his current one on the public payroll.

From 2001 to 2005, Mr. Cheney received “deferred salary payments” from Halliburton that far exceeded what taxpayers gave him. Mr. Cheney still holds hundreds of thousands of stock options that have ballooned by millions of dollars as Halliburton profited handsomely from the war in Iraq.

Every now and then someone will bring up the stock option issue, and it gets slapped down almost immediately. In any other administration this would be a major scandal. But with the Bushies it barely qualifies as background noise.

Another editorial in the Times discusses the shocking and growing backlog of disability claims submitted by our troops —

Whenever and however American troops withdraw from Iraq, a flood of wounded and psychologically damaged veterans will present the nation for decades to come with costly needs that already are overwhelming government services.

The backlog of disability claims stands at more than 405,000, with cases averaging 177 days to be processed — almost twice the backlog for civilians. Experts estimate that an additional 400,000 claims will be filed in the next two years. …

… Clearly, the administration has failed in more than its battle strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan. While talking a lot about supporting the troops and using them shamelessly in Congressional battles and election years, the administration has systematically shortchanged the wounded and maimed who make it back from harm’s way. The nation has a moral obligation to help them face a whole new challenge of survival.

Snark away.

Tenet Talks

Former CIA Director George Tenet’s hotly anticipated book about What He Did to Get Us Into War will hit the shelves on Monday, and the New York Times has an advance copy. Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti write,

George J. Tenet, the former director of central intelligence, has lashed out against Vice President Dick Cheney and other Bush administration officials in a new book, saying they pushed the country to war in Iraq without ever conducting a “serious debate” about whether Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat to the United States.

The 549-page book, “At the Center of the Storm,” is to be published by HarperCollins on Monday. By turns accusatory, defensive, and modestly self-critical, it is the first detailed account by a member of the president’s inner circle of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the decision to invade Iraq and the failure to find the unconventional weapons that were a major justification for the war.

“There was never a serious debate that I know of within the administration about the imminence of the Iraqi threat,” Mr. Tenet writes in a devastating judgment that is likely to be debated for many years. Nor, he adds, “was there ever a significant discussion” about the possibility of containing Iraq without an invasion.

Well, OK, so we knew that. But it’s nice to have corroboration.

Tenet admits to making the famous “slam dunk” remark that Bob Woodward wrote about in one of his books. But he says it was taken out of context and, in any event, played no part in the decision to go to war.

Mr. Tenet described with sarcasm watching an episode of “Meet the Press” last September in which Mr. Cheney twice referred to Mr. Tenet’s “slam dunk” remark as the basis for the decision to go to war.

“I remember watching and thinking, ‘As if you needed me to say ‘slam dunk’ to convince you to go to war with Iraq,’ ” Mr. Tenet writes.

As violence in Iraq spiraled beginning in late 2003, Mr. Tenet writes, “rather than acknowledge responsibility, the administration’s message was: Don’t blame us. George Tenet and the C.I.A. got us into this mess.”

Shane and Mazzetti say that Tenet portrays President Bush “in a largely positive light” but is much less kind to Cheney, Wolfowitz, Feith, and others who, before and after 9/11, largely ignored al Qaeda because they were obsessed with Saddam Hussein. Tenet also settles some scores with Condoleezza Rice and Stephen Hadley.

And Tenet corroborates what many former Clinton Administration officials said about the Bushies ignoring warnings that al Qaeda was really, truly dangerous and needed to be made a high priority.

The book recounts C.I.A. efforts to fight Al Qaeda in the years before the Sept. 11 attacks, and Mr. Tenet’s early warnings about Osama bin Laden. He contends that the urgent appeals of the C.I.A. on terrorism received a lukewarm reception at the Bush White House through most of 2001.

“The bureaucracy moved slowly,” and only after the Sept. 11 attacks was the C.I.A. given the counterterrorism powers it had requested earlier in the year.

There’s a bit more background about the book and the “slam dunk” remark in this Washington Post article.

Update: Paul Kiel writes,

George Bush insulates himself from reality! The administration didn’t seriously entertain the notion that Iraq didn’t have WMD’s! Dick Cheney is an asshole!

OK, so the revelations in George Tenet’s new book aren’t going to shock anyone, but they are notable considering the source.

Yeah, pretty much. There was some hope Tenet would reveal something new, but it doesn’t seem that he did.

Libby, Libby, Libby

I take it some significant stuff happened at the Scooter Libby trial today. I’m still trying to take it in, as I was focused elsewhere most of the day. But it appears Scooter is toast. Lots of updates at firedoglake.

Chris Matthews has finally figured out that the story about Joe Wilson being sent to Niger by his wife was a red herring tossed by Cheney’s office to discredit Joe Wilson. He should have gotten that straight three and a half years ago, but better late than never.

The trial so far has pictured Dick the Dick as the instigator of the plot against the Wilsons. Dan Froomkin writes that the testimony

…gives credence to the widespread view that Vice President Cheney oversees his own intensely secretive, highly defensive and sometimes ruthless operation within the White House — and that he does so with President Bush’s approval, but often outside the view of Bush’s top aides.

Slaying the Jabberdick

From Think Progress:

Under oath, Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff Scooter Libby told a grand jury that he first learned that Joe Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA agent from conversations with the media. In fact, he first learned that information from Vice President Cheney himself. …

– “Vice President Cheney himself directed Scooter Libby to essentially go around protocol and deal with the press and handle press himself…to try to beat back the criticism of administration critic Joe Wilson.”

– Cheney personally “wrote out for Scooter Libby what Libby should say in a conversation with Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper.”

– “Scooter Libby destroyed a note from Vice President Cheney about their conversations and about how Vice President Cheney wanted the Wilson matter handled.”


Norah O’Donnell is asking Andy Card and Leon Panetta if the president is going to have to ask Dick Cheney to resign as a result of what’s being alleged at the Libby Trial. (They both punted.)

And just think — Dick the Dick is supposed to show up and sit next to Nancy Pelosi at the SOTU tonight. Wheeee!

“The Last Regular Republican”

Sidney Blumenthal’s latest column deserves a close reading. It shines a light on another part of our recent political history, when the Republican Party was taken over by the Goldwater-Reagan “pseudo conservative” faction. Further, it shows us how the Bush II Regime tied the Reaganite conservatives back to the Nixonian imperial presidency, giving us the worst of several possible worlds in one toxic White House.

When the late Gerald Ford became President, he chose Nelson Rockefeller as his vice president. And this mightily pissed off the Reagan faction, including Reagan himself. Reagan actually snubbed the President on a visit to Washington.

Reagan’s motive, however, was ultimately personal pique – he was “disappointed that he had been passed over himself,” according to his biographer Lou Cannon. Reagan thought of himself as the rightful heir apparent and Ford as nothing but a “caretaker”.

Ford had a dismally low regard for Reagan, dismissing the threat of his potential challenge. “I hadn’t taken those warnings seriously because I didn’t take Reagan seriously.” Ford considered Reagan “simplistic,” dogmatic and lazy. Reagan, for his part, argued that Nixon’s 1972 mandate was not a Republican victory but an ideological one for junking the old Republicanism and that Ford was betraying it. “The tragedy of Watergate,” Reagan said, was that it “obscured the meaning of that ’72 election.”

Reagan’s assessment of the 1972 election makes absolutely no sense to me. About the only thing Nixon had in common with Reagan was red- and race-baiting. Nixon was an internationalist who favored détente with the Soviet Union and who visited the other Evil Empire, China. And Nixon had no ideological problem with applying some “big government” solutions to domestic problems. Nixon’s administration established the Environmental Protection Agency, for pity’s sake. I think Reagan was hallucinating.

Reagan accused Ford of fatally weakening national security. He opposed Ford’s pursuit of détente with the Soviet Union through Strategic Arms Limitation Talks that led to treaties reducing the production of nuclear weapons and Ford’s signing of the Helsinki Accords in August 1975, which held the Soviet Union for the first time to standards of human rights. Reagan’s critique appeared against the backdrop of the collapse of South Vietnam and the scene on April 30, 1975, of helicopters evacuating US personnel from the roof of the US Embassy.

Here’s where it gets interesting:

In April 1975, the Senate Operations Committee under the chairmanship of Sen. Frank Church, D-Idaho, released 14 reports on the abuse of intelligence. It chronicled “excessive executive power”, “excessive secrecy”, “avoidance of the rule of law”, “rogue” operations and even spying on domestic politics. “Whatever the theory,” the report concluded, “the fact was that intelligence activities were essentially exempted from the normal system of checks and balances. Such executive power, not founded in law or checked by Congress or the courts, contained the seeds of abuse and its growth was to be expected.”

Meanwhile, Donald Rumsfeld – moved from White House chief of staff to secretary of defense as his deputy, Dick Cheney, was promoted to the chief of staff job – created a Team B of hawks within the Pentagon who attacked the CIA’s National Intelligence Estimate for supposedly underestimating the Soviet Union’s military strength. Rumsfeld began making speeches assailing detente, claiming that the Soviets were flagrantly violating treaties negotiated by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, another hate object of the right who was long associated with Vice President Rockefeller.

The CIA officially responded by calling the Team B report “complete fiction.” And CIA Director George HW Bush said that Team B set “in motion a process that lends itself to manipulation for purposes other than estimative accuracy.” Nonetheless, Rumsfeld’s inflation of the Red menace, based on faulty data, turned up the flame under Ford. Rumsfeld had his own motive: He wanted to be named vice president, a nomination that in the end went to Sen. Bob Dole, considered acceptable to Reagan.

To appease the Right, Ford pressured Rockefeller not to run as vice president in 1976, an act Ford himself called “cowardly.” Bob Dole would would be Ford’s running mate. Now, get this:

Rockefeller advised Ford: “I’m now going to say it frankly … Rumsfeld wants to be President of the United States. He has given George Bush [another potential vice-presidential choice] the deep six by putting him in the CIA, he has gotten me out … He was third on your list and now he has gotten rid of two of us … You are not going to be able to put him on the [ticket] because he is defense secretary, but he is not going to want anybody who can possibly be elected with you on that ticket … I have to say I have a serious question about his loyalty to you.”

Just think … President Rummy.

Rummy lost his government job when Jimmy Carter was elected. He played some small roles in the Reagan Administration, such as special envoy to the Middle East (1983–1984, during which time the famous Rummy-Saddam handshake took place), but for most of the Reagan years and after Rummy retreated to private industry until Junior brought him back to Washington in 2001. Blumenthal continues,

Cheney and Rumsfeld, since their days in the Nixon White House, had observed the imperial presidency besieged. Under Ford, they saw it reach its low ebb, and they were determined to restore the presidency as they imagined it should be – unchecked by an intrusive Congress, shielded from the press, and unobstructed by staff professionals in the intelligence community who did not clearly understand the present dangers that required just such an executive.

After the 2000 election, Vice President-elect Cheney held a dinner at his house where he held forth that the new administration would finish off Saddam Hussein, a job that the elder Bush had left undone, opening him to charges of softness. Rumsfeld, appointed by the new president as secretary of defense at the suggestion of Cheney, named one of the key members of the Ford-era Team B, Paul Wolfowitz, as deputy secretary. At the first meeting of the National Security Council with Bush, Wolfowitz raised the question of invading Iraq.

And there you have it. Through the Bush II White House, the drown-government-in-the-bathtub Right was tied together with the Nixonian “Executive Power Ãœber Alles” Right. This gives us secretive, oppressive, antidemocratic government that can’t govern. Nice.

Blumenthal writes that “Ford was the last regular Republican to serve as president.” If you’re much younger than I am you may not remember what a “regular Republican” is.

Duty. Honor. Country. And Dick.

Dick the Dick says veeps don’t respond to congressional subpoenas.

I don’t know how many times a sitting president or vice president have been subpoenaed. But seems to me that if We, the People, want accountability from the Executive branch, then the president and vice president have a duty to answer to the people, as represented in Congress.

We could be in for a fun couple of years.

Losing China Again

Awhile back I wrote a post that explained how, during the Cold War, Republicans claimed credibility as the “war-national security” party when it was three Democratic presidents who had led the nation through World War I and II.

In a nutshell, it was through a campaign of hysterical charges and bald-faced lies.

In the 1930s it was the American Right, not the Left, who thought Hitler was an OK guy who could be appeased into leaving us alone. Before World War II conservatives were staunch isolationists who opposed any move by Franklin Roosevelt to send aid to Europe or prepare for war.

Here’s just a bit from “Stabbed in the Back!” by Kevin Baker in the June issue of Harper’s, which I urge you to read if you haven’t already.

In the years immediately following World War II, the American right was facing oblivion. Domestically, the reforms of the New Deal had been largely embraced by the American people. The Roosevelt and Truman administrations—supported by many liberal Republicans—had led the nation successfully through the worst war in human history, and we had emerged as the most powerful nation on earth.

Franklin Roosevelt and his fellow liberal internationalists had sounded the first alarms about Hitler, but conservatives had stubbornly—even suicidally—maintained their isolationism right into the postwar era. Senator Robert Taft, “Mr. Republican,” and the right’s enduring presidential hope, had not only been a prominent member of the leading isolationist organization, America First, and opposed the nation’s first peacetime draft in 1940, but also appeared to be as naive about the Soviet Union as he had been about the Axis powers. Like many on the right, he was much more concerned about Chiang Kai-shek’s worm-eaten Nationalist regime in China than U.S. allies in Europe. “The whole Atlantic Pact, certainly the arming of Germany, is an incentive for Russia to enter the war before the army is built up,” Taft warned. He was against any U.S. military presence in Europe even in 1951.

Baker explains the whole sorry episode very nicely. Briefly, in the late 1940s the former appeasers of Hitler got worked up over the Soviet takeover of eastern Europe and Mao Zedong’s takeover of China. One of the catchphrases of the day was “Who lost China?” as if China had been ours to lose. Right-wingers were convinced these things would not have happened except for (liberal) traitors in the government who either allowed them to happen or arranged for them to happen. (They seemed unable to consider that people and events in the USSR, eastern Europe, and China may have been factors.) And the Right put up such a stink about this that by the 1960s Dem politicians were challenged to prove they were as “tough on Communism” as Republicans, never mind that Democrats had a much longer and stronger record on foreign policy and as protectors of national security than Republicans at the time.

I bring all this up because Glenn Greenwald’s post of this morning makes me wonder if we’re just replaying old tapes.

Glenn’s post documents that during the Clinton Administration, Republicans in Congress downplayed the threat of terrorism even as President Clinton urged more aggressive counterterrorism measures. “[T]o the extent Republicans spoke about Clinton’s anti-terrorism efforts at all, it was to criticize them for being too bellicose, too militaristic, and just unnecessary,” writes Glenn. Particularly during his second term Clinton urged Congress to become more pro-active about terrorism. With a handful of exceptions, Republicans in Congress ignored the warnings.

During his first presidential campaign George W. Bush ignored terrorism as an issue even though he offered other specific criticisms of Clinton policies.

Get this:

The 2000 Republican Party Platform contains 13 specific criticisms of the Clinton Administration’s foreign and military policies. Not a single one mentions or refers in any way to Al Qaeda or terrorism generally. After that, there is an entire section entitled “The Middle East and Persian Gulf” that deals extensively with Iraq and the alleged threat posed by Saddam Hussein, but it does not say a word — not a single word — about Islamic extremism, Al Qaeda, or Osama bin Laden.

Even the section of the Platform entitled “Terrorism, International Crime, and Cyber Threats” makes not one reference to Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda, or Islamic extremism. It does not contain a single claim that the Clinton administration was insufficiently aggressive towards Islamic terrorists, nor does it advocate increased militarism in the Middle East or against terrorists. In fact, to the extent Republicans advocated a new approach at all, it was to emphasize the need for the very “law enforcement” and “domestic preparedness” approaches which they now claim to disdain.

During his debates with Vice President Gore, George Bush was asked to explain his views toward the Middle East. He said not one word about Islamic terrorism. He did say things like “I’m worried about overcommitting our military around the world. I want to be judicious in its use. . . . It needs to be in our vital interest, the mission needs to be clear, and the exit strategy obvious.” And also, “And so I don’t think our troops ought to be used for what’s called nation-building. I think our troops ought to be used to fight and win war.”

Condi Rice also
showed no interest whatsoever in al Qaeda or bin Laden.

When George W. Bush became President, one of his first acts was to kneecap the Hart-Rudman Commission recommendations then before Congress and assign the task of forming national security policies to Dick Cheney, who as of September 11, 2001, had not yet made a start. In spite of the warnings of outgoing Clinton officials that al Qaeda was a terrible threat, in April 2001 the Bush Administration’s first annual terrorism report left out Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden had been discussed extensively in Clinton-era reports. A senior State Department official told CNN the Clinton Administration had made a mistake by focusing so much on bin Laden and “personalizing terrorism.” The Bush Administration planned to focus on governments that sponsored terrorism, not on stateless terrorist organizations like al Qaeda.

And, of course, through the summer of 2001 the Bush White House blissfully ignored warning after warning that bin Laden was determined to strike in the United States.

Yet no sooner had the dust settled at Ground Zero that the Republicans declared themselves to be the All-High God-Appointed National Security Honchos, rightie fingers pointed at Bill Clinton, and Prince Pissant persuaded the American people that he, and he alone, could protect them from terrorism.

ABC’s controversial 9/11 film
has inspired many other bloggers to write about actions Clinton had taken against terrorism, and al Qaeda in particular, before he left office. Here’s an old article by William Rivers Pitt that provides details, plus there are a wealth of good links in the comments to Glenn’s post.

You could argue that Clinton could have done more. But you cannot argue, based on their own record, that the Republicans or President Bush have more credibility in national security and counter-terrorism than Democrats do. If facts are our guide, Republicans ought to have less credibility in national security and counter-terrorism than Democrats do.

The only reason the Right gets away with claiming credibility in national security is through a relentless campaign of hysterical charges and bald-faced lies — just like the bad old days, when Joe McCarthy was shrieking about traitors in the State Department who lost China.

Appease This

Eugene Robinson demonstrates why he’s one of my favorite columnists.

Ever since the president settled on “Islamic fascists” as the enemy in his war on terrorism, he has taken every opportunity to evoke the specter of World War II. We are engaged in “the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century,” Bush told the Legionnaires. …

… Rumsfeld went furthest of all in claiming that it is, in fact, 1939 — that the jihadist terror movement presents the same kind of threat to the world that Hitler did when he invaded Poland. He set up a straw man, warning that those who do not see the threat as clearly as he does are as blind as those who tried to appease Hitler. But he doesn’t specify who he’s talking about. Who wants to appease terrorists? Is it Democrats? Nervous Republicans who’ve seen the latest polls?

Nobody wants to appease terrorists. But some people have a different idea of how to fight them. The president is right when he says this conflict is unlike other wars, but he seems to miss the essential difference: It has to be fought in a way that doesn’t create two new terrorists for each one who is killed.

That’s not what the president wants to talk about, though. Between now and November, he wants to talk about a war that we can all agree on, even if it has no bearing on the war being fought today. Yes, Mr. President, Hitler was bad. And your point would be?

Here’s a maha rule: Labeling something isn’t the same thing as understanding it.

Some years ago I got into a flame on a U.S. Civil War usenet forum when someone wrote that all you need to know about antebellum slaveowners was that they were fascists. And I wrote back, no, they weren’t. The political and economic philosophies of the old plantation class differed in several significant ways from those of Hitler or Mussolini. Calling the slaveowners “fascists” doesn’t tell you anything about them at all. (Then, of course, I was accused of defending slavery because I said slaveowners weren’t fascists.)

The two of us were using the word fascist for different purposes. I was using it to refer to a particular ideology defined here as “A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.” Whatever else you want to say about the antebellum slaveowners, they sure as shootin’ didn’t like centralization of authority under a dictator. They were rabid antifederalists and anti-statists, and in many ways they were the forefathers of today’s libertarians.

But the other writer was using fascist as a synonym for demon. I suspect that if I had pressed him to define fascism as a political/economic ideology (I may have; I don’t remember) he couldn’t have done it. Demonization absolved the writer from understanding how and why a particular group of human beings oppressed another group of human beings.

It makes about as much sense to call Islamic jihadists “fascists” as it does to say that all those Mississippi plantation owners were fascists. As Eugene Robinson says,

Perhaps because the term “fascist” doesn’t really describe the transnational jihadist movement, Bush went further with the Legionnaires. He called the jihadists “the successors to fascists, to Nazis, to communists and other totalitarians” as well. The fact is that the jihadists are pretty much sui generis — they aren’t fascists or Nazis and certainly aren’t communists, but yes, you could make a good argument for “totalitarians.” I guess one out of four isn’t bad.

If you spend much time on Internet forums or blogs at all, sooner or later you’ll run into the “fascism is socialism” theory common among mal-educated righties. The theory works this way: Since fascism is totalitarian, and since socialism is just watered-down communism (according to rightie ideology), and communism is totalitarian, then socialism and fascism are exactly the same thing. And they all belong on the Left, with liberals, which means liberals are totalitarians. And since totalitarianism is on the Left, then the Right stands for freedom and democracy. And, of course, the next step after that is to claim that we must allow the President to break wiretap laws and violate the Fourth Amendment to preserve our freedom.

People who think this way judge action to be good or evil not by what is done, but who does it. What “they” do is evil. What “we” do is good. (Even if it’s the same thing “they” did.)

What Jimmy Carter said about fundamentalists could be true of any group of people. He said:

The fundamentalists believe they have a unique relationship with God, and that they and their ideas are God’s ideas and God’s premises on the particular issue. Therefore, by definition since they are speaking for God anyone who disagrees with them is inherently wrong. And the next step is: Those who disagree with them are inherently inferior, and in extreme cases — as is the case with some fundamentalists around the world — it makes your opponents sub-humans, so that their lives are not significant. Another thing is that a fundamentalist can’t bring himself or herself to negotiate with people who disagree with them because the negotiating process itself is an indication of implied equality. And so this administration, for instance, has a policy of just refusing to talk to someone who is in strong disagreement with them — which is also a radical departure from past history. So these are the kinds of things that cause me concern. And, of course, fundamentalists don’t believe they can make mistakes, so when we permit the torture of prisoners in Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib, it’s just impossible for a fundamentalist to admit that a mistake was made.

Let’s change a few words–

The [nationalists] believe they have a unique relationship with [their nation], and that they and their ideas are [the only legitimate ideas] on the particular issue. Therefore, by definition since they are [correct] anyone who disagrees with them is inherently wrong. And the next step is: Those who disagree with them are inherently inferior, and in extreme cases — as is the case with some [nationalists] around the world — it makes your opponents sub-humans, so that their lives are not significant. Another thing is that a [nationalist] can’t bring himself or herself to negotiate with people who disagree with them because the negotiating process itself is an indication of implied equality. And so [nationalist leader], for instance, has a policy of just refusing to talk to someone who is in strong disagreement with them — which is also a radical departure from past history. So these are the kinds of things that cause me concern. And, of course, [nationalists] don’t believe they can make mistakes, so when we permit [atrocities], it’s just impossible for a [nationalist] to admit that a mistake was made.

You could substitute any knee-jerk ideology, Left or Right, for “nationalists.” You could substitute any religion that insists on orthodoxy, which is most of ’em. Unquestioning and fanatical acceptance of just about any belief system will take you to the same place — where “we” are righteous and “they” are demons.

Ironically, that’s the place where “demons” are born. The first step in becoming a perpetrator of oppression and atrocities is to start making judgments about who’s fully human and who isn’t.

Studying the political, historical, cultural, social, and economic factors that foster oppression could help us learn how to prevent oppression, or at least recognize when a society is moving into the danger zone in which systemic oppression can occur. However, such study requires acknowledging that one’s enemies or oppressors are human. The Right fosters a rhetorical culture in which such recognition is a sign of weakness and “appeasement.”

Appease, btw, is another word that has a different meaning to righties than to the rest of us. The dictionary says it means —

1. To bring peace, quiet, or calm to; soothe. 2. To satisfy or relieve: appease one’s thirst. 3. To pacify or attempt to pacify (an enemy) by granting concessions, often at the expense of principle.

For our purposes that third definition is the most operative one. And offhand I can’t think of anyone suggesting that terrorists will leave us alone if we grant them concessions.

But to a rightie, “appease” doesn’t mean making consessions or buying off our enemies. It means being soft. For example — Sean Hannity said,

But in all seriousness, it drives you crazy when we talk about being weak on defense, you’re appeasers, the NSA program you don’t want, the Patriot Act program you don’t want, data mining you don’t want. You want to close Guantánamo Bay. I think that’s weak on the most important issue of our time: our national security. I think the Republicans, if they get that message out, and the president started that today, we will win.

I don’t see how any of that translates into “concessions” to terrorists. And (as Alan Holmes rebutted) I am not aware of anyone who doesn’t think potential terrorists shouldn’t be under surveillance or that that government shouldn’t pursue any possible source of intelligence. We want these things done, but we want it done under the law. Nobody says that apprehended terrorists shouldn’t be locked up, but we need to be careful that the people we are locking up really are dangerous terrorists.

If anything, it’s righties who fit the dictionary definition of “appeasers.” They are appeasing their own worst instincts at the expense of long-established American principles about liberty and justice.

Of course, the real purpose behind demonization — or the fascistization, if you will — of Islamic radicals is to clothe anti-Muslim bigotry as righteousness and claim entitlement to do anything we want to Muslims and Muslim nations in the name of fighting terrorism. It also enables demonizers to deny the reality that “anything we want” might incite once-moderate Muslims into violence against us. Even to consider that our actions might have unfortunate political consequences is tantamount to “appeasement” as righties use the word.

Eugene Robinson:

To those who point out that Iraq wasn’t a nexus of terrorism until we invaded, Cheney responds, “They overlook a fundamental fact: We were not in Iraq on September 11th, 2001, and the terrorists hit us anyway.”

Huh? The terrorists who attacked on Sept. 11 didn’t come from Iraq. Except in Cheney’s mind, I don’t know where the fact that we were attacked by terrorists trained in Afghanistan (and sent by Osama bin Laden, who’s probably now in Pakistan) somehow mitigates the fact that we’ve made Iraq a hotbed of terrorism.

Yet Cheney’s words reflect a common logical fallacy on the Right. Again, this is all about assuming entitlement to do whatever we want in the Middle East; our actions don’t have consequences, after all.

Related stuff to read:

Fareed Zakaria, “The Year of Living Fearfully,” Newsweek

Will Fear Strike Out?” Buzzflash editorial

Jason Miller, “Inalienable Human Rights are not Privileges,” Thomas Paine’s Corner

Matthew Schofield, “Mideast strife is bad news for peacemakers, good news for extremists,” McClatchy Newspapers

Mark Hosenball, “Iraq: A Sweeping, Secret New Report,” Newsweek

H.D.S. Greenway, “Hypocrisy in sowing democracy,” The Boston Globe

David Rohde, “In Afghanistan, a Symbol for Change, Then Failure,” The New York Times