I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The crime of exposing the truth about Iraq

(Updated below - Update II)

Two weeks ago, Dick Cheney said (while visiting with Rush Limbaugh) that things in Iraq were going "remarkably well" -- the same thing we have been hearing for several years now from the administration and their most rabid and dishonest followers. Yesterday, The New York Times published a chart prepared by the United States Central Command which demonstrates precisely the opposite -- namely, that the situation in Iraq is steadily deteriorating, not improving, and is close to full-blown chaos (this report received little attention because the media was focused on the much more important matter of John Kerry's joke).

Put another way, this report demonstrates -- yet again -- that the top officials in our government are blatantly lying about the conditions in Iraq and that that country is inexorably descending into civil war and complete chaos. What is the response of the administration to this revelation? As always, they want to criminally investigate and prosecute those who revealed the truth, as someone in the Pentagon shared with Fox News, which then dutifully reported:

The Pentagon is looking into how classified information indicating Iraq is moving closer to chaos wound up on the front page of Wednesday's New York Times, and is not ruling out an investigation that could lead to criminal charges.

Fox News is fulfilling its journalistic function by pursuing the administration as to why Cheney and other top officials lied about conditions in Iraq pursuing the story of the evil of The New York Times in publishing this information:

The New York Times had not yet responded to a request for comment by FOX News about how it obtained the chart, but a spokeswoman for the newspaper said it will.

As always, the administration wants to threaten, intimidate and prosecute the disclosure not of any information which can be used to harm the troops or U.S. military actions, but instead, it wants to pursue those who reveal the truth and who thereby enable Americans to learn of the administration's deceit and corruption:

A spokesman for U.S. Central Command, which has responsibility for operations in Iraq, confirmed to FOX News that a chart published in The Times is a real reflection of the thinking of military intelligence on the situation in Iraq as of Oct. 18, adding that an effort is underway to find out who leaked the chart and if the breach of operational security constitutes a crime.

The published report includes a classified one-page slide show from an Oct. 18 military briefing. The slide show is titled: “Iraq: Indications and Warnings of Civil Conflict,” and shows spiraling violence in Iraq and a worsening position for American efforts.

To Bush followers, the gravest crime is to reveal information that is politically damaging to this administration. Whenever that occurs, they call for the criminal prosecution of the offenders, and this case is no different. As always, Michelle Malkin is leading the lynch mob, calling the Times the "paper of sedition" and saying that Osama bin Laden need not spy because he can just "read The New York Times for all [of his] jihad needs." She also calls for the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute. National Review's Mario Loyola appears to believe that those responsible for this disclosure should be executed:

I want to know whether there is any level of national secret the Times is not willing to betray for the political advantage of its pet causes. . . . And while we're at it, I would love to understand why the law doesn't prohibit the propagation of strategic national secrets in wartime — which has always been understood as treason.

Everyone knows what we do with traitors, and when someone accuses a newspaper of engaging in "treason," it is not exactly difficult to know what they are urging.

As is always the case, what the Bush administration and its followers are furious about is not that there have been any disclosures of national security secrets which can harm the U.S. It is not exactly a secret that Iraq is disintegrating and spiraling towards civil war, any more than it was a secret that the Bush administration eavesdrops on the conversations of suspected terrorists or monitors their banking transactions. What they are furious about -- and want to threaten and even imprison people for -- is not any harm to national security, but harm to the political interests of the Bush movement.

This is what the ideal world of the Bush follower looks like: If the Government is waging a war and things are going horribly, the Government has the right to lie to its citizens and claim that things are going remarkably well. If a newspaper is furnished with documents prepared by the military that shows that the Government is lying and that things are actually going very poorly, the newspaper should then be barred from informing their readers about that truth -- and ought to criminally prosecuted, perhaps even executed, if they do so.

It truly takes an authoritarian mind of the most irredeemable proportions to watch our political leaders have their lies exposed about a war and have as their first reaction the desire that those who exposed the lies be prosecuted and imprisoned. But it isn't just Bush followers here who are demanding that, but the Bush administration itself, through the military, that is threatening to do so.

This development ought to receive a lot more attention. Now that it is revealed that even our own military believes that Iraq has been steadily collapsing into civil war and chaos, the Bush administration is seeking to punish those who revealed these truths to the American people, because they want to preserve the right, particularly before an election, to have their blatant lies about the war remain unchallenged. Nobody outside of the dwindling circle of mindless Bush followers would find that to be anything other than repugnant.

UPDATE: Speaking of the President's most authoritarian and dishonest followers, Glenn Reynolds predictably promotes this post from Gateway Pundit, which also raises the accusation of "treason" against the Times and then says this:

How the Times gets away with continually leaking classified information to the public; information that consistently demeans our soldiers and assists our enemies is beyond belief. Will the government ever take action and hold leakers responsible?You have to wonder.

The disclosed document prepared by the military "demeans our soldiers" and "assists our enemies." And it should therefore be a serious criminal offense for Americans to know that the military's views of the war are the precise opposite of what our political leaders are claiming.

UPDATE II: War supporter Ralph Peters also spilled the beans today about Iraq on the Op-Ed page of USA Today: "Iraq is failing. No honest observer can conclude otherwise. . . Iraq could have turned out differently. It didn't. And we must be honest about it. We owe that much to our troops. They don't face the mere forfeiture of a few congressional seats but the loss of their lives. Our military is now being employed for political purposes. It's unworthy of our nation."

CNN reporter Michael Ware, in Baghdad, also lets out the big secret: "When you walk on an Iraqi street today. When you go down any avenue here in Baghdad, the most dominant feeling. The most gripping emotion amongst people is fear and that feeling is legitimate."

Another anti-American traitor is Newsweek's Baghdad Bureau Chief, Scott Jonhson, who explained in a radio interview with The Young Turks this morning that he has been travelling to Iraq over the course of the last several years and that the chaos, insecurity and instability in that country are at its worst point ever.

Of all the despicable and contempt-producing acts we've witnessed over the last five years, I think that the absolute lowest -- and it is hard to choose -- is the continuous insistence from the administration and its followers that things have been going oh-so-well in Iraq, all because they were afraid of the political consequences of telling the truth or acknowledging their errors. They were so personally invested in the success of the war that they preferred to perpetuate a disaster, a true atrocity, rather than face up to the fact that this war was a grave mistake and is failing.

As a result, we have stayed in Iraq, changed nothing, and have completely destroyed that country, plunging it into chaos and violence so severe that nobody can even theorize how it might end. The war has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, and we have no way out. The level of deceit and indifference from those who continued to claim that things were going well there long after there was any reasonable ground for believing that -- all to protect themselves politically -- is so criminal and soul-less that it is hard to put into words.

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