In another shot to the heart of the Bill of Rights and to the distress of civil liberties groups, the Supreme Court has broadened the powers of police search by “ruling that drug-sniffing dogs can be used to check out motorists even if officers have no reason to suspect they may be carrying narcotics.” This 6-2 decision (Rehnquist did not participate) came down upon hearing the case of Illinois v. Caballes. Pulled over for doing 71 mph in a 65 mph zone, Caballes’ car was then subjected to a drug dog search because troopers said he “seemed nervous.” This latest move not only redefines police powers but the word “reasonable” as well.
This is the last paragraph of a story in today’s Washington Post about Cheney’s hawkish comments regarding Iran:
The Pentagon has denied a report in the Jan. 24 issue of New Yorker magazine that the United States is conducting secret reconnaissance missions in Iran to identify potential nuclear targets.
The Pentagon never made such a denial. Here is what actually happened: on Jan. 17, Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita released a statement about the New Yorker article, which was written by Seymour Hersh. The statement disputes Hersh on a few specifics — this meeting didn’t occur, this relationship doesn’t exist. But it does not specifically address the central claim that the U.S. is conducting secret missions in Iran. The DiRita statement does say, “Mr. Hersh’s preference for single, anonymous, unofficial sources for his most fantastic claims makes it difficult to parse his discussion of Defense Department operations.” But that is a lot different from saying that there are no secret U.S. military operations in Iran.
Yesterday, Don Imus asked Vice President Dick Cheney what mistakes he’d made in planning the war in Iraq. His reply? Blame Saddam. He said, “I think the hundreds of thousands of people who were slaughtered at the time, including anybody who had the gumption to stand up and challenge [Saddam], made the situation tougher than I would have thought…I would chalk that one up as a miscalculation, where I thought things would have recovered more quickly.”
Cheney might want to think about pointing that finger a little closer to home. Here are some replies that may have been a little more honest from the Vice President:
“We didn’t send enough troops in to quell the insurgency in the first place.”
L. Paul Bremer, the former head of the administration’s coalition provisional authority, admitted in October 2004 that the United States failed to deploy enough troops to Iraq in the beginning. According to Bremer, the lack of adequate forces hampered the occupation and efforts to end the looting immediately after the ouster of Saddam Hussein. “We paid a big price for not stopping it because it established an atmosphere of lawlessness. We never had enough troops on the ground,” he said.
“We thought political allegiance was a more important job requirement than know-how and left reconstruction in the hands of inexperienced party loyalists.”
The Washington Post reported last year the $13 billion reconstruction project in Iraq was headed up by young, inexperienced politicos whose main qualification was they’d applied for jobs with the Heritage Foundation. Clueless, they were unable to get the project up and running. Today, only $2.2 billion of the funds allocated for the reconstruction of Iraq have been distributed. In September, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) called that record “beyond pitiful and embarrassing; it is now in the zone of dangerous.” Two years after the invasion, Iraqis are suffering from major food shortages and the country is producing less electricity than it was before the war. In addition, the deterioration of water and sewage systems has led to the spread of hepatitis and outbreaks of typhoid fever.
“We set up a legal framework for torture, which led to widespread abuse such as that seen at Abu Ghraib, which turned many Iraqis against us and strengthened the insurgency.”
Then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales approved a series of memos which created a framework for torture. One memo contended the president “wasn’t bound by laws prohibiting torture and that government agents who might torture prisoners at his direction couldn’t be prosecuted by the Justice Department.” Another said that the pain caused by an interrogation must include “injury such as death, organ failure, or serious impairment of body functions — in order to constitute torture.” In July 2002, he also held secret meetings to discuss just how far the U.S. could go in interrogating suspects. Far from urging restraint, Gonzales was aggressive, wondering if in fact they were going far enough.
In his announcement today that he would be stepping down as FCC chairman, Michael Powell engaged in some self-congratulatory words about having “completed a ‘bold and aggressive agenda.’” Powell certainly had his own agenda (though with questionable priorities). And it certainly was both bold and aggressive. Fox Television provides a good example of just how much networks were in fear of Powell’s wielded power. A recent rebroadcast of a Family Guy cartoon “blurred a character’s posterior, even though the image was seen five years ago when the episode was originally aired.”
But in his censorship crusade, there were many duties and responsibilities that Powell never answered, let alone completed. Worse still, his championing of media consolidation came with seemingly little consideration of what happens when one agenda dominates the news. He won’t be missed.