Wednesday, October 14, 2009

“The Dark Side” by Jane Mayer – The Easy American Coup

What is glaringly clear from reading the first eighty pages of The Dark Side is how easy it was and how so few individuals it took to subvert the Constitution, American law and American ideals. I have always assumed, without knowing the details, that it would take at least a hundred well placed appointments to take over the United States Government. That's apparently not true. All you need is a chance of history that puts a man like G. W. Bush in the White House with a man like Dick Cheney as Vice President and a hand full of lawyers.

It's clear that Dick Cheney manipulated Bush, probably from the instant that Bush asked him to find a Vice President candidate for his running mate and he chose himself. But, Dick Cheney saw Bush as egotistical and self-serving, and also naive and ignorant of government protocol and procedures and especially ignorant of American Constitutional Government, and easily manipulated. Bush really had no idea what the Presidency was all about. From the first moment, Cheney was more than happy to let Bush take the spotlight, be “the decider,” while he operated the prompts behind the scenes, controlling access and the paper flow to Bush; limiting Bush's choices. Bush probably thought Cheney was loyal to his legacy, loyal to the Office of the President and loyal to the Constitution, making all the right decisions on things Bush knew nothing about. Cheney gave these things little thought. His primary agenda was executive power.

David Addington, Cheney's Vice President Legal Council, was the workaholic lawyer with an overpowering personality behind Cheney, with Cheney's full support, who dominated the legal advice and forming the doctrine that Bush signed off on. Bush probably had no idea that it was Addington's particularly skewed view of Constitutional law he was endorsing. Addington controlled the legal arguments.

John Yoo, the Vice Deputy of the Department of Justice Office of Legal Council, came next. He, and Patrick Philbin, also of the Office of Legal Council and a pre-Bush associate of Yoo's, wrote the secret memos that justified torture and extreme Presidential powers.

Alberto Gonzales, Legal Council to the President, came next, but he was in over his head in the Addington dominated group. He would have followed along like a puppy no matter what Addington suggested.

Timothy Flanigan, also Legal Council to the President, joined the small group and he also appears to be a follower rather than equal to Addington and Yoo.

Last was William “Jim” Haynes, the Pentagon General Council, who was appointed at Addington's suggestion. He appears to have only filled a seat at the table, but he was a primary force in controlling access and the paper flow to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld who, similar to Bush, was all ego and self-serving and cared little about legalities.

These five attorneys formed “The War Council” and, along with Dick Cheney as the point man, controlled American policy on nearly every front; from policy formation, budgets, implementation and war and limiting Congressional oversight through their secrecy.

No wonder Cheney is afraid of Attorney General Eric Holder. If Holder investigates Cheney's cabal, he'll find the dirt and enough evidence to convict him and his little group.

Of course, the group had their friends, who are no less culpable. Friends such as I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby in the VP Office, and Paul Wolfowitz, Eric Edelman, Stephen Cambone, Douglas Feith, General Boykin in Defense, and John Bolton in State and others spread around. They were more than happy to let these others do the dirty work while The War Council bolstered their efforts with mistaken and illegal justifications in the dark.

I wonder if Addington gave any thought to Presidential term limits, four or eight years. I'll bet he did. He strikes me as someone who wouldn't want it to end. He strikes me as someone who wants a King or dictator rather than a President. I'll bet he even studied how extending power might have been accomplished, avoiding the problematic and inconvenient Democratic elections. He likely dreamed about it.

I hope Attorney General Holder investigates the little cabal that created the mess and prosecutes the deserving. We need to make sure this kind of thing never happens again. What if Sarah Palin, even more naive and ignorant than Bush, becomes President? It's scary to think what attorneys would be manipulating her!


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