Sunday, June 07, 2015

Wayback machine: State of War

Fair warning: this blog may begin to feel like a Wayback Machine this summer. Why? Because Erudite Partner (aka Rebecca Gordon) has a contract for another book. Skyhorse Publishing has decided she's a "fearless author" and has her writing a work to be called American Nuremberg in their new investigative series.

Tony Lyons, president of Skyhorse Publishing, and David Talbot, the founder of Salon, announced a partnership today to launch Hot Books, a new Skyhorse book imprint that will publish investigative books on controversial issues. Skyhorse will be joining with Salon to create a co-branded digital platform for Hot Books.

Hot Books will seek to ignite national debate on the most urgent problems facing the country, filling the investigative gap left by newspapers and magazines as they cut their budgets for in-depth reporting. ...

Ambitious, but no doubt we need more investigation.

Rebecca's new topic is an "indictment of the U.S. officials who should stand trial for post-9/11 ... crimes."
The Wayback aspect of this is that I'm assisting by looking into some of the excellent reporting written in the decade after 9/11. This feels plenty relevant, with Jeb Bush stumbling over whether he'd have supported invading Iraq in 2003 "knowing what we know now." I call "bullshit!" It was completely possible, with a modicum of information about Iraq, to know then that the Iraq adventure was FUBAR from the start.

It was also possible to know -- not perhaps in detail, but certainly in outline -- that our spooks and our various military units were perpetrating horrors on captives in Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo, and various other dubious locations well before Seymour Hersh broke the Abu Ghraib torture scandal in 2004. The major media were still cowed and cowardly, but a lot of the terrible facts seeped out.

One of the good journalists in that awful time was the New York Times' James Risen. His 2006 book, State of War royally pissed off the CIA; they didn't give up trying to force him to reveal his sources under threat of jail until this year! That was probably over disclosures of dumb dirty tricks on Iran, but Risen also blew the whistle on NSA surveillance of all of us everywhere despite the qualms of his employers. He also described the outline of the CIA torture program almost a decade before the Senate torture report.

As many of us were at the time, Risen was clearly trying to fathom why particular U.S. leaders responded to 9/11 by adopting so many illegal and clumsy stratagems. In addition to the particular culpability of individuals within the Bush crew, he also indicts the structure and apparatus of the lumbering imperial colossus:

The absence of effective management has been the defining characteristic of the Bush administration's foreign policy and has allowed radical decisions to take effect rapidly with minimal review.

The ease with which the Bush administration has been able to overcome bureaucratic resistance throughout the government has revealed weaknesses of both the military's officer corps and the nation's intelligence community.

Though several "security" fiefdoms have been built and defended since those days, it is not clear that our political leaders are either smarter or more committed to moral conduct than was the Bush crew in 2001. Nothing structural has been put in place to prevent continuation or revival of the worst abuses. No prosecutions -- "looking forward, not backward" -- means there's no institutional impediment to doing this all again -- and more.

1 comment:

SF Rob said...

Kudos to Rebecca, and to you for embarking on this research. (You're both so !@#$ erudite it hurts my brain). When I try to think about why the Beltway and Pentagon keep making "stupid" mistakes even within their own frame of reference, I am reminded of Col. Andrew Bacevich's comments that so long as he was in the armed forces, he could never have seen what he came to understand after he left the military. And his argument that from his (realist conservative, antiwar) viewpoint the whole "intelligence community" -- CIA, DIA, NSA, NSC, etc. -- should be eliminated because they will always see things through a wrong lens.