Tag Archives: Bush

Panama, Noriega and the US: The Story Behind the Story.

Manuel Antonio Noriega is about to return to Panama 22 years after he was taken in shackles to the United States. Here’s a reprise of a magazine story I wrote about him. Was Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega really a drug trafficker? Or is it possible he was set up by the U.S. government? Try asking a few dozen people who should know.
FROM NEW TIMES: UNCERTAIN JUSTICE

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Filed under 1, Bush, Intelligence, Journalism, Latin America, Politics

Health Care and US

First comes the news—The U.S. Supreme Court will decide–four months before 2012 presidential elections-whether President Obama’s health care reform measures are constitutional in whole or in part.

Next comes the frank question: Will the Supreme Court make a decision based on the merits, or will this politically divided legal entity go with the flow of its Republican-influenced majority?

The New York Times had some interesting points to make on the subject after reporting the fact. The health care bill has brought sweeping changes to the United States already that will be difficult to roll back.

The Times reports:

“No matter what the Supreme Court decides about the constitutionality of the federal law adopted last year, health care in America has changed in ways that will not be easily undone. Provisions already put in place, like tougher oversight of health insurers, the expansion of coverage to one million young adults and more protections for workers with pre-existing conditions are already well cemented and popular.
And a combination of the law and economic pressures has forced major institutions to wrestle with the relentless rise in health care costs.”

The first question at hand for the Supreme Court is to consider the fact that the bill forces people to buy health insurance. It does so in many ways as a compromise replacement for what should be in place—universal health care. But in the twisted, vested-interest, insurance-industry controlled, Republican Congress, we’re stuck with the bill we’ve got. And the same uninformed Americans who “think” that President Obama is an alien and that man never landed on the moon also buy the notion that universal health care is akin to godless communism.

That would be fine if we were talking about a loony fringe – but we’re talking about a crowd that comprises most of the Republican Party.

Another question: if one part of the bill is struck down, should the entire bill be declared unconstitutional?

Back then to the Supreme Court. What faith do we have in a humanistic outcome? Who knows. This is not quite the Rehnquist Court of November 2000 that engineered the closest thing to a coup that the United States has ever seen—throwing the presidential election to George W. Bush.

But this is a court with four stalwart Republican votes, John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito, and four liberal Democrats: Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer. The odd man out as always is the middle-range Anthony Kennedy, who will likely decide whether health care stands and how the result plays out in the presidential election.

In a beautiful world, the choice should be on the merits. The New York Times in an editorial maps out the reality of the choices.

“This can be a highly politicized court, and, for the public good and its own credibility, it must resist that impulse. If the court follows its own precedents, as it should, this case should not be a close call: The reform law and a provision requiring most people to obtain health insurance or pay a penalty are clearly constitutional.”

Problem is that the similarly configured Renquist court did lose credibility. How will it rule this time?

Good luck to us all.

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Filed under 1, Elections, Obama, Politics

Nothing Like the Real Thing (As opposed to Dick Cheney’s Version of History)

Dick Cheney is on the circuit talking about events surrounding his possible departure from the vice presidential re-election campaign in 2004.

Here’s a piece of a chat I had with John Roberts in April 2008 on CNN about Cheney discussing The Italian Letter, the book I wrote with my colleague Knut Royce:

PETER EISNER, CO-AUTHOR, “THE ITALIAN LETTER”: We found out that, as a result of Cheney’s role in developing the march toward war in Iraq, Rove started to question, has he gone too far; is he a little bit too much out there for us for running again in 2004?

So, Rove started to talk to people, particularly Grover Norquist, and, in turn, to conservative financial backers, just gently, to say, do we really want him on the ticket? It’s an outrageous thing to say. And it really upset Cheney, when he found out about it. And it was squelched quickly. But the bad blood between Rove and Cheney, as a result, exists to this day.

ROBERTS (voice-over): The Rove-Cheney drama is just the latest revelation in a complicated story that began more than four years ago and continues to this day. But how did we get here?

One of many key players in the run-up to the war, the White House Iraq Group — its mission, claims Eisner, to sell the war in Iraq to the American public by whipping up fear about Iraq’s nuclear program. In 2003, what looked like the perfect smoking gun emerged, a letter now known as the “Italian letter,” supposedly documenting Niger’s intentions to sell uranium to Saddam Hussein.

The only problem, the letter was a fake.

Truth is, even Cheney’s conservative buddies in the Bush administration thought he was off the deep end. Former aides to Cheney thought that by the time he reached the presidency, his personality and actions had changed, and they questioned his rationality for pushing the Iraq War. After my comments on CNN, Cheney and the White House issued a denial. Now, struggling to find news in Cheney’s tell-little memoir, they drag out the resignation passage, revealing little, if anything.

Cheney and his cohorts manufactured the cause for war in Iraq, and it wasn’t just cherry-picking. They promoted a story that the US intelligence community agreed had never existed — Saddam purchasing yellowcake in Niger. To this hour, he and Bush and their cohorts say they “acted on the best intelligence available at the time.” That is a lie.

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Filed under Bush, Intelligence, Middle East, Politics

Aristide poised to return–the Haitian enigma

Haiti’s deposed president, Jean Bertrand-Aristide, appears poised to return to Haiti after a seven-year forced exile. Undoubtedly his presence in Port-au-Prince will change the dynamics of Haitian politics, despite any protestations he will stay on the sideline.

Aristide, the former priest who twice was elected president of his country, was essentially tricked out of office in 2004 by U.S. operatives during the George W. Bush administration and flown out of the country.

I accompanied him with a group of his supporters — including Rep. Maxine Waters of California and Randall Robinson, the founder of TransAfrica–who helped negotiate his release from virtual house arrest in the Central African Republic. I spoke with Aristide for hours in Africa and on the cross-Atlantic journey; he was cordial, considerate, intelligent, empathetic, yet at the same time enigmatic at every turn, never absolutely clear on his analysis of Haiti and his role there.

The Bush administration blocked Aristide’s return to Haiti and convinced the South African government to take him in. There he has been ever since, and the U.S. government again has been setting up roadblocks to his return to Port-au-Prince, where he says he will stay out of politics.

Amy Wilentz — there is no better analyst of Haiti that I know of — has written an analysis of Aristide and what he means to Haiti on the NY Times op-ed page.

In two lines, she encapsulates the problem:

Finding himself alone in a political sea of the entitled and the empowered, Mr. Aristide believed that all he could trust in the end was the brute power of the street — the “rouleau compresseur,” as it is called in Haitian politics, or the steamroller.

He was almost pathologically reluctant to work toward agreement among his advisers, among equals. He shares this distaste with many Haitians, who believe that theirs is a fatally polarized society and that consensus-building here almost inevitably leads to capitulation to the elite, and by extension to the international community.

Haiti has elections this weekend, which may be beside the point: ongoing inequity and suffering. More than a year after the Haitian earthquake, the situation for hundreds of thousands there remains dire. Track the non-profit medical-relief organization, Partners in Health, for Haiti and its needs.

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Filed under Bush, Haiti, Journalism