For almost four decades, the FOIA has allowed U.S. citizens to piece together a partial record of some of the monkeyshines their government has gotten up to in their name. To be sure, material released under the act is usually censored for "security reasons," and thus often resembles a work of abstract art -- massive blocks of impenetrable black ink randomly interposed between snippets of meaningless typescript.
But the American bureaucracy is vast, and in its nooks and crannies there are many dedicated public servants who, unlike their betters at the top, believe in executing -- no, not mentally retarded prisoners -- but the laws of the land. These patriots have acted in the true FOIA spirit, guarding legitimate secrets but declining to cloak crimes, fraud and moral idiocy with fake "security" concerns. Over the years a mountain of malfeasance has been unearthed by the act, to the greater glory of American freedom -- and the teeth-grinding chagrin of the nation's leaders.
To Our Readers |
Has something you've read here startled you? Are you angry, excited, puzzled or pleased?
Do you have ideas to improve our coverage?
Then please write to us.
All we ask is that you include your full name and the name of the city from which you are writing.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Email the Opinion Page Editor
But now the Divine Defender has decided enough is enough. Last week, he took time out from bombing the bejesus out of his fellow fundamentalists in Afghanistan and ordered his fellow fundamentalist in the Justice Department, Attorney General John Ashcroft, to gut the FOIA.
Ashcroft -- yes, the same man who anointed himself with cooking oil when he was elected to the Senate, to signify that the Lord had given him "dominion" over the masses; the same man who proclaimed that Jesus was the King of America -- says that he alone must now pass judgment on any "significant" FOIA requests: i.e., anything that might prove embarrassing to the Divine Defender or his patrons.
The act must be curtailed, says the Oily One, to protect "threats to the national security, the effectiveness of law enforcement" and -- here's the money shot -- "commercial interests." Given the fact that national security and criminal investigations were already well-protected under the FOIA, it's not too hard to see which particular lily is being gilded with this authoritarian gloss.
Or as the Defender himself once said, just days after the Supreme Court mullahs anointed his head with Oval Oil: "If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier -- just as long as I'm the dictator."
And they say wishes never come true.
"You must learn to leave the table when love's no longer being served." -- Charles Aznavour
And it looks like amour is off the menu in the affair between the Bushes and the bin Ladens, the London Times reports. The Saudi Binladin Group -- owned by the family of a certain rogue financier currently being sought for questioning (or quartering, as the case may be) in Afghanistan -- is withdrawing its multi-million dollar investments from the Carlyle Group, the shadowy firm of wheeler-dealers run by former Reagan-Bush operatives -- including that smoothest of operators, George Herbert Daddy Warbucks Bush.
Carlyle, a many-headed corporate hydra, is one of America's largest defense contractors; thus every bomb that goes ka-boom in Kabul means more ka-ching in Bush family coffers. In the old days, this kind of thing was frowned upon as unseemly war profiteering -- but of course, as Sonny Boy never ceases to remind us, this is "a different kind of war."
The kind of war, for example, where a putative president nobly demands "great sacrifices" from the American people -- such as the lives of their sons and daughters -- while he goes pimping for yet another massive tax cut skewed overwhelmingly in favor of his fellow aristos in the nation's wealthiest 1 percent. That's the real "Bush Doctrine" in action: "Let someone else go fight and die; we'll stay home and slice the pie" -- as he and his fellow chicken hawk, Dick "Deferment" Cheney, did during the Vietnam War.
But we digress. Naturally, big-time international players like the bin Ladens found Carlyle an attractive prospect -- especially after Daddy Warbucks himself came a-courting to the family's Saudi digs. There followed much corporate canoodling, and the ritual crossing of palms with silver: a marriage made in heaven, it seemed.
But Carlyle is apparently beginning to feel a bit of heat from the connection, which is now being dissolved by the usual face-saving "mutual consent." Perhaps Charlotte Beers, the PR honcho that Sonny recently appointed assistant secretary of state for media manipulation -- sorry, for "public diplomacy" -- told them it wasn't such a hot idea to have the names "Bush" and "bin Laden" bouncing around together on the company's bottom line.
That doesn't play well out in the "Heartland." It reminds people of Sonny's prissy elitist roots and his family's intimate connection with foreign financiers, rogue or otherwise. This in turn interferes with the elegant simplicity of the administration's propaganda line: "The Noble American Cowboy vs. the Alien Evildoers." Or as Beers herself describes the White House psy-ops campaign: "It's the battle for the 11-year-old mind."
At any rate, the bin Ladens are out. But perhaps they can console themselves by turning to another well-connected corporate hydra that's not only making a killing out of this war, but is even now spreading its tentacles throughout the Central Asian oil fields, where "the fire next time" is sure to come. That would be Dick Cheney's old popsicle stand -- the Halliburton Corporation.
Or as the White House bagmen used to sing back in Warren Harding's day: "My God, how the money rolls in!"