Friday, May 20, 2005

Joshua Green on DeLay: "The Hammer Falls" (Rolling Stone), Mark Danner on the Downing memo -- "The Secret Way to War" (The New York Review of Books)

After the revelations of the past few weeks, there is no longer any doubt that Rep. Tom DeLay is the most corrupt official in Washington -- which is saying a lot, given the ethical standards of Capitol Hill. The Republican majority leader, known as "The Hammer," has broken nearly every House ethics rule on the books in recent years, enjoying lavish trips paid for by corporate lobbyists and foreign agents. DeLay stayed at the luxurious Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel in Hawaii as a guest of the American Association of Airport Executives, who picked up the $52,000 tab for eight members of Congress. He went golfing in Scotland, Russia and South Korea with family members and aides, racking up $283,000 in expenses that were covered by a host of special interests, including Enron, AT&T and the Nuclear Energy Institute. His wife, Christine, and daughter Danni Ferro have received $500,000 from his campaign for their political work on his behalf -- including a late-night party for corporate donors at the Rio Hotel and Casino
in Las Vegas, where a lobbyist poured champagne over Danni's head while she was in a hot tub on the balcony of DeLay's suite. The majority leader -- a master at covering his tracks by laundering corporate gifts through seemingly innocuous groups like the National Center for Public Policy Research -- insists that his first-class jet-setting is undertaken solely for "educational" purposes.
The accusations against DeLay are hardly new. The congressman from Texas has been
openly flouting the law for years, receiving an unprecedented three rebukes in a single week from the House ethics committee after he bribed a fellow Republican to vote for a bill and sold his own vote on another in exchange for a corporate donation. What is new, however, is the momentum that is gathering to oust DeLay for his unethical conduct.
With more abuses coming to light each day, even members of his own party are calling for him to resign. DeLay is "an absolute embarrassment to me and to the Republican Party," Rep. Christopher Shays, a Republican from Connecticut, said recently. The man who has long bullied supporters and opponents alike -- once going so far as to order the Department of Homeland Security to help hunt down and arrest Democrat legislators in Texas -- suddenly appears likely to face censure and even indictment.
"Tom DeLay is like a wounded gazelle on the plains of Africa with all the jackals around,"
says James Thurber, director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University. "I think it's going to be very hard for him to survive."
But while the sudden downturn in DeLay's fortunes dominates the headlines, the behind-
the-scenes campaign that helped bring about his downfall has gone almost unnoticed. During the past year, a small group of Democrats has been quietly working to call public attention to DeLay's wrongdoing -- and to mobilize public sentiment against him. For the first time since their defeat last November, the Democrats are proving that they too can play rough, demonstrating the kind of determined opposition that many political observers were beginning to doubt them capable of.

The above is from Joshua Green's "The Hammer Falls: Are the Democrats tough enough to bring down Tom DeLay?" from Rolling Stone.

Though the Downing memo wasn't addressed until Douglas Jehl's article today, Rolling Stone points out that the memo was mentioned as an aside previously in the New York Times:

But the U.S. media world has just so far simply shrugged. Where did the major dailies play the story? Washington Post: A-18. New York Times: A-9 (buried in a political analysis handicapping of Blair's electoral chances.) The LA Times: A-3.

Rolling Stone steers you to Mark Danner's "The Secret Way to War" from The New York Review of Books:

It was October 16, 2002, and the United States Congress had just voted to authorize the President to go to war against Iraq. When George W. Bush came before members of his Cabinet and Congress gathered in the East Room of the White House and addressed the American people, he was in a somber mood befitting a leader speaking frankly to free citizens about the gravest decision their country could make.
The 107th Congress, the President said, had just become "one of the few called by history to authorize military action to defend our country and the cause of peace." But, he hastened to add, no one should assume that war was inevitable. Though "Congress has now authorized the use of force," the President said emphatically, "I have not ordered the use of force. I hope the use of force will not become necessary." The President went on:
Our goal is to fully and finally remove a real threat to world peace and to America. Hopefully this can be done peacefully. Hopefully we can do this without any military action. Yet, if Iraq is to avoid military action by the international community, it has the obligation to prove compliance with all the world's demands. It's the obligation of Iraq.
Iraq, the President said, still had the power to prevent war by "declaring and destroying all its weapons of mass destruction"--but if Iraq did not declare and destroy those weapons, the President warned, the United States would "go into battle, as a last resort."
It is safe to say that, at the time, it surprised almost no one when the Iraqis answered the President's demand by repeating their claim that in fact there were no weapons of mass destruction. As we now know, the Iraqis had in fact destroyed these weapons, probably years before George W. Bush's ultimatum: "the Iraqis"--in the words of chief US weapons inspector David Kay--"were telling the truth."
As Americans watch their young men and women fighting in the third year of a bloody counterinsurgency war in Iraq--a war that has now killed more than 1,600 Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis--they are left to ponder "the unanswered question" of what would have happened if the United Nations weapons inspectors had been allowed--as all the major powers except the United Kingdom had urged they should be--to complete their work. What would have happened if the UN weapons inspectors had been allowed to prove, before the US went "into battle," what David Kay and his colleagues finally proved afterward?

Thanks to a formerly secret memorandum published by the London Sunday Times on May 1, during the run-up to the British elections, we now have a partial answer to that question. The memo, which records the minutes of a meeting of Prime Minister Tony Blair's senior foreign policy and security officials, shows that even as President Bush told Americans in October 2002 that he "hope[d] the use of force will not become necessary"--that such a decision depended on whether or not the Iraqis complied with his demands to rid themselves of their weapons of mass destruction—the President had in fact already definitively decided, at least three months before, to choose this "last resort" of going "into battle" with Iraq. Whatever the Iraqis chose to do or not do, the President's decision to go to war had long since been made.

Click the link to continue reading Danner's essay.

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