Bugbears and flimflam


The spy who wasn't

The military has quietly dropped spying charges against James Yee, Muslim chaplain at the Guantanamo prison camp. This is another example — as if any more were needed — of how badly served we have been by the Bush administration.

Capt James Yee

In September 2003 the military arrested Captain James Yee, a Muslim chaplain at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on suspicion of spying. He was alleged to have taken classified documents and of unlawfully delivering baklava to detainees. It created quite a stir; I wrote I about here. Even then it sounded a bit flakey, pun intended.

Officials said they were going to charge him with espionage, sedition, and other crimes that could have resulted in a death penalty. It appeared that a nest of spies had infiltrated ultra-secret, ultra-secure Guantanamo Bay.

Over time, the charges metamorphosed into "mishandling classified papers, downloading pornography onto a computer and having an adulterous affair with a female officer at Guantanamo Bay" (Washington Post, 20-Mar-04). Delay followed delay until the commander of the prison decided to drop all the charges, ostensibly because the court martial might expose "sensitive documents."

I think it's safe to say that the story about dropping the charges will get far less attention in the media than the story about Captain Yee's arrest.

In the name of the "war on terror" the Bush administration imagines terrorists lurking everywhere and runs roughshod over civil rights, singles out Muslims and people of middle-eastern descent for discriminatory treatment, and makes assertion after assertion attempting to justify its actions, most notably for the invasion of Iraq.

As each justification for the Iraq war has been shown to be specious or false, the Bushies substitute another that usually proves equally weak. Most recently, Bush himself offered the "good thing" rationale:

Bush standing in front of coalition flags
There have been disagreements in this matter, among old and valued friends. Those differences belong to the past. All of us can now agree that the fall of the Iraqi dictator has removed a source of violence, aggression, and instability in the Middle East. It's a good thing that the demands of the United Nations were enforced, not ignored with impunity. It is a good thing that years of illicit weapons development by the dictator have come to the end. It is a good thing that the Iraqi people are now receiving aid, instead of suffering under sanctions. And it is a good thing that the men and women across the Middle East, looking to Iraq, are getting a glimpse of what life in a free country can be like.
Speech marking one-year anniversary of Iraq invasion

Bush and his apologists frequently respond to criticism of his handling of Iraq by asking rhetorically if anyone thinks the world would be better off with Saddam in power. President Bush:

But no one can argue that the Iraqi people would be better off with the thugs and murderers back in the palaces. Who would prefer that Saddam's torture chambers still be open? Who would wish that more mass graves were still being filled? Who would begrudge the Iraqi people their long-awaited liberation?

But whether Saddam was a "bad guy" was never the question, and it is pure flimflammery to pretend that that's what the argument is about. The issue has always been one of means, not ends. The criticism is that the way Bush went about this — unilaterally, for all practical purposes; using hyped or selective intelligence; squandering international goodwill and moral leadership; making misleading statements; with unrealistic assumptions and inadequate planning for the aftermath; etc. — was reckless and wrong-headed. In short, that Bush provided bad leadership.

There are lots of "bad guys" around the world. The issue is why this administration chose to invade Iraq — and none of the other bad guys' countries — at the time it did and in the way it did. It's very clear that ideology played a big role, probably a decisive role, and that's wrong.

Yet, in the Alice-in-Wonderland world of Karl Rove and his political apparatchiks, this abysmal leadership is being portrayed as "steady leadership." They are about to launch a 90-day campaign to portray the presumptive Democratic candidate, John Kerry, as indecisive and lacking conviction. (NY Times, 20-Mar-04)

Ramirez cartoon Michael Ramirez, LA Times, 11-Mar-04 (Click image to enlarge)

Sad to say, in this effort they will be aided by John Kerry who has been unable to explain his voting record and who is prone to making idiotic statements like "I actually did vote for the $87 billion [Iraq supplemental] before I voted against it."

This election campaign will be a clash between the "moral clarity" (read: "unthinking certainty") of George Bush and the nuanced reasoning of John Kerry. Unfortunately, the former lends itself to simple and simplistic sound-bites and the latter lends itself to extended discourse. Guess which one looks better on TV? The Bushies are going to have a field day, and John Kerry had better get his act together really fast or the Bushies are going to paint him as a bloviating opportunist.