S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Generals, the Angler, and the Diplomat

Inspecting secrets - Most governmental agencies have Inspector Generals, whose job it is to do internal investigations of those same agencies. How well they do fulfill this responsibility depends, in some cases, on how they feel about the agency's right to keep bad things secret from the public. In other words the IG must have a sense of duty to his nation, rather than first loyalty to the head of the agency. My S/SW blog post of June 11 asks, "Does the Inspector General system work?" It got a lot of attention from readers, almost double the average number of daily site visits. Government agencies seemed particularly interested, and they are still making occasional visits to that post, as I noted last Friday. Obviously these people want to know what the public might know about their secrets. I do not claim to be a journalist, let alone an investigator. I leave that to others, whose work I highlight today. First a question.
Q & A - The question - What does the investigative reporting of Seymour Hersh, the Washington Post investigative series on Vice President Cheney and the new book "Statecraft," by Ambassador Dennis Ross have in common?

My answer - When certain secrets come out the country benefits:

Secrets in the past - It was important to learn, for example, what the consequences were to someone in the military chain of command who exposed the Abu Garaib prison scandal. The past of Abu Garaib still haunts us. The secret story has been a Seymour Hersh trademark and his invaluable gift to the nation. Please take the time to read this chilling Abu Garaib expose. His latest is in The New Yorker's "The General's Report" by Seymour M. Hersh June 25, 2007. To quote just a bit of it,

If there was a redeeming aspect to the affair, it was in the thoroughness and the passion of the Army’s initial investigation. The inquiry had begun in January, and was led by General Taguba, who was stationed in Kuwait at the time. Taguba filed his report in March. In it he found:

[quote] "Numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses were inflicted on several detainees . . . systemic and illegal abuse."

Taguba was met at the door of the conference room by an old friend, Lieutenant General Bantz J. Craddock, who was Rumsfeld’s senior military assistant. Craddock’s daughter had been a babysitter for Taguba’s two children when the officers served together years earlier at Fort Stewart, Georgia. But that afternoon, Taguba recalled, “Craddock just said, very coldly, ‘Wait here.’ ” In a series of interviews early this year, the first he has given, Taguba told me that he understood when he began the inquiry that it could damage his career; early on, a senior general in Iraq had pointed out to him that the abused detainees were “only Iraqis.” Even so, he was not prepared for the greeting he received when he was finally ushered in.

“Here . . . comes . . . that famous General Taguba—of the Taguba report!” Rumsfeld declared, in a mocking voice. The meeting was attended by Paul Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld’s deputy; Stephen Cambone, the Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence; General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (J.C.S.); and General Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, along with Craddock and other officials. Taguba, describing the moment nearly three years later, said, sadly, “I thought they wanted to know. I assumed they wanted to know. I was ignorant of the setting.”

Secrecy in the present - It has important since this administration came to power to finally learn how Vice President Cheney has been operating - as the Secretive Veep. The Washington Post's new series this week is dynamite stuff, so much so that quite a bit of it has been quoted in the mainstream media. It was, thus, a familiar story to me. The series is called "Angler - The Cheney Vice Presidency" (6/24/07). To summarize the Post's excellent work,

Dick Cheney is the most influential and powerful man ever to hold the office of vice president. This series examines Cheney's largely hidden and little-understood role in crafting policies for the War on Terror, the economy and the environment.

. . . Over the past six years, Cheney has shaped his times as no vice president has before. This article begins a four-part series that explores his methods and impact, drawing on interviews with more than 200 men and women who worked for, with or in opposition to Cheney's office. Many of those interviewed recounted events that have not been made public until now, sharing notes,e-mails, personal calendars and other records of their interaction with Cheney and his senior staff. The vice president declined to be interviewed.

Two articles, today and tomorrow, recount Cheney's campaign to magnify presidential war-making authority, arguably his most important legacy. Articles to follow will describe a span of influence that extends far beyond his well-known interests in energy and national defense.

Secrecy in the future? In the future it will be important to rebuild the competence and stature of the executive branch of government. It is no secret that the 2000 and 2004 elections have been disastrous for U.S. foreign policy. After election next year, the new president will need the best help available to build an effective and competent diplomatic corps to clean up the inherited foreign policy mess left by this administration. Dennis Ross makes no secret of his goal for his new book, "Statecraft: And How to Restore America's Standing in the World" He wants the next chief executive to have the benefit of his years and years of experience and insight into the art of effective diplomacy. Ross, in my opinion is one of the best. I highly recommend reading his book, or at least listen to him on C-SPAN or a short CBS Video. Remembering my bias in favor of Dennis Ross' wisdom, but in a spirit of fairness, I offer this link to a lengthy critique of Ross' work from Boston Professor Richard Landes.
To quote on "Statecraft,"

How did it come to pass that, not so long after 9/11 brought the free world to our side, U.S. foreign policy is in a shambles? In this thought-provoking book, the renowned peace negotiator Dennis Ross argues that the Bush administration’ s problems stem from its inability to use the tools of statecraft— diplomatic, economic, and military— to advance our interests.

Also in the future - On 6/20/07 - Carl Hulse at the New York Times wrote a piece on a Congressional request for GAO investigation of" law breaking following signing statements." Still fierce elder statesmen Senator Robert Byrd and Representative John Conyers are the ones pushing for this investigation.

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