Another rat hiding in the bushes

The Disappearance of George P. Bush

Created 2006-12-16 12:36

It was the year 2000. The new millennium. It featured a rising new star from a prominent American family. His name was George. George P. Remember George P.? The incessantly publicized and promoted son of Florida's Governor Bush? The most dominant face of George W. Bush's 2000 Presidential campaign?

George P. was everywhere. Enticing the wealthy. Hugging the poor. Kissing elderly ladies, winning the hearts of adoring young girls. George P. was the bait. The lure. And America was his catch of the day. In our multi-cultural nation, this blended prince encompassed the best of America's two prominent landscapes: the ever-growing Latino population and the doggedly dominant Anglo. The half that was Anglo spanned generations of wealth and power. The half that was Latin softened his ego, making his combination just "right."

The media couldn't get enough of George P. He was the "fourth-coming." The likely successor to the mantle of the multi-generational dynasty whose fortune had amassed in unorthodox ways. Of course the unorthodox ways were of no interest to the press, whose sole focus was on the contentious election for the first President of the new millennium. The 2000 Presidential election was the nation's most divisive in history. It tore at the fabric of its democracy, tarnished the Supreme Court, and damaged the electoral system for decades, if not centuries to come.

Still it made a hit out of George P. Bush. For a couple years he was on his way to becoming the family's biggest star. But when Uncle W. took the nation to war, except for a carefully toned down appearance in the election of 2004, and some attention when he got married, George P. was neatly hidden from sight. He had to be. If he remained visible the questions would arise. Why isn't George P. serving in Iraq? George P.'s young enough. If he's a patriot, why doesn't he volunteer for the war?

Legitimate questions. So legitimate that the entire brood of military-age Bush grandchildren and cousins are no where to be found. They are hidden. Kept under wraps lest the question of their patriotism be decried. Except of course, First Twins Jenna and Barbara, whose sometime errant behavior throws them back in the public eye.

Certainly the military absences of Bushes, Cheneys, Rumsfelds, Wolfowitzes, Perles, Coulters, Limbaughs, O'Reillys, Hannitys, Crystals, Feiths, Ashcrofts, etc., are no news to those who pay attention. But it was particularly telling today as I watched Donald Rumsfeld's long goodbye. As I listened to his words and to the words of those who paid tribute at his farewell 'celebration' as Secretary of Defense.

I watched as Mr. Rumsfeld read from his speech, and I lamented the fact that he couldn't ad-lib a few simple lines about the families of the fallen. He was typically staccato and emotionless as he read the few short sentences about the sacrifices they had made. I couldn't imagine for a second, with the sad exceptions of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, any leaders who would have NEEDED to read these words. I couldn't imagine for a second why these words, if they were true, weren't burnt into the consciousness of Mr. Rumsfeld. I couldn't understand how it could be that these sentiments weren't crystal clear to him, and so deeply a part of his psyche, that no paper should be needed. But that wasn't the case...

These were the words Donald Rumsfeld NEEDED to read:

"As I end my time here some ask what will I remember. Well, I will remember all those courageous folks that I've met deployed in the field. Those in the military hospitals that we visited. And I will remember the fallen. And I will particularly remember their families (TURNING PAGE) from whom I have drawn inspiration."

These are the words Mr. Rumsfeld NEEDED to read. They came at the very end of his speech where it would have been the most simple, if the words were truly heartfelt, to put aside his papers and speak from his heart. His heart????

A further observation at today's ceremony was the absence, or so it appeared, of Mr. Rumsfeld's own military-age grandchild.

To be honest, I'm not proposing that Mr. Rumsfeld's grandchild or anyone else's child should serve in this war because I passionately oppose it. However, Mr. Rumsfeld does not. Mr. Rumsfeld has advocated that other people's children and grandchildren fight in this war, and he has ordered their deployment to do so. Therefore I am compelled to remind Mr. Rumsfeld of the words he spoke on March 23, 2002 in an interview for "Time For Kids" with twelve-year-old "TFK" reporter, Alexandra Tatarsky.

Rumsfeld said, "Will young people end up in the armed services? I hope so! We have wonderful young men and women serving their country with great dedication and courage and pride. I sure hope one of my grandchildren will want to serve!" (,6260,220114,00.html [1])

Well, Mr. Rumsfeld, your grandchild was too young to serve in 2002 when you gave that interview, but that grandchild is old enough to serve today. So I ask you, Mr. Rumsfeld: Do you really hope your grandchild will serve in this war? Have you actually suggested to your own child that her child should enlist in the military and serve?

Honestly, Mr. Rumsfeld, I doubt that you have!

One final note:. Recently, Virginia Senator-elect Jim Webb, a man I deeply respect, had a short conversation with George W. Bush. I would like to offer MY VERSION of how that conversation might have gone:

G.W. Bush: How's your boy?

Sen. Webb: He's in harms way, Mr. Bush. How are your girls?

G.W. Bush: (Silence)


Linda Milazzo is a Los Angeles based writer, educator and activist. Her writing has appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines and domestic and international journals. She's a member of CodePink Women For Peace and Progressive Democrats of America. Over the past three decades Linda has divided her time between the entertainment industry, community projects and education. A political and social activist since the Vietnam War, Linda attributes her revitalized-fully-engaged-intense-head-on-non-stop-political activism to the UNFORTUNATE EXISTENCE OF GEORGE W. BUSH and her disgust with greed-ridden American imperialism, environmental atrocities, egregious war, nuclear proliferation, lying leaders, and global tyranny!



Beyond Repair

Americans Have No Idea How Bad It Is

Iraq is Beyond Repair

December 13, 2006

During the Opium Wars between Britain and China in the 19th century, eunuchs at the court of the Chinese emperor had the problem of informing him of the repeated and humiliating defeat of his armies. They dealt with their delicate task by simply telling the emperor that his forces had already won or were about to win victories on all fronts.

For three and a half years White House officials have dealt with bad news from Iraq in similar fashion. Journalists were repeatedly accused by the US administration of not reporting political and military progress on the ground. Information about the failure of the US venture was ignored or suppressed.

Manipulation of facts was often very crude. As an example of the systematic distortion, the Iraq Study Group revealed last week that on one day last July US officials reported 93 attacks or significant acts of violence. In reality, it added, "a careful review of the reports ... brought to light 1,100 acts of violence".

The 10-fold reduction in the number of acts of violence officially noted was achieved by not reporting the murder of an Iraqi, or roadside bomb, rocket or mortar attacks aimed at US troops that failed to inflict casualties. I remember visiting a unit of US combat engineers camped outside Fallujah in January 2004 who told me that they had stopped reporting insurgent attacks on themselves unless they suffered losses as commanders wanted to hear only that the number of attacks was going down. As I was drove away, a sergeant begged us not to attribute what he had said: "If you do I am in real trouble."

Few Chinese emperors can have been as impervious to bad news from the front as President George W Bush. His officials were as assiduous as those eunuchs in Beijing 170 years ago in shielding him from bad news. But even when officials familiar with the real situation in Iraq did break through the bureaucratic cordon sanitaire around the Oval Office they got short shrift from Mr Bush. In December 2004 the CIA station chief in Baghdad said that the insurgency was expanding and was "largely unchallenged" in Sunni provinces. Mr Bush's response was: "What is he, some kind of a defeatist?" A week later the station chief was reassigned.

A few days afterwards, Colonel Derek Harvey, the Defence Intelligence Agency's senior intelligence officer in Iraq, made much the same point to Mr Bush. He said of the insurgency: "It's robust, it's well led, it's diverse." According to the US political commentator Sidney Blumenthal, the President at this point turned to his aides and asked: "Is this guy a Democrat?"

The query is perhaps key to Mr Bush's priorities. The overriding political purpose of the US administration in invading Iraq was to retain power at home. It would do so by portraying Mr Bush as "the security president", manipulating and exaggerating the terrorist threat at home and purporting to combat it abroad. It would win cheap military victories in Afghanistan and Iraq. It would hold "khaki" elections in which Democrats could be portrayed as unpatriotic poltroons.

The strategy worked - until November's mid-term elections. Mr Bush was victorious by presenting a false picture of Iraq. It is this that has been exposed as a fraud by the Iraq Study Group.

Long-maintained myths tumble. For instance, the standard stump speech by Mr Bush or Tony Blair since the start of the insurgency has been to emphasise the leading role of al-Qa'ida in Iraq and international terrorism. But the group's report declares "al-Qa'ida is responsible for a small portion of violence", adding that it is now largely Iraqi-run. Foreign fighters, their presence so often trumpeted by the White House and Downing Street, are estimated to number only 1,300 men in Iraq. As for building up the Iraqi army, the training of which is meant to be the centrepiece of US and British policy, the report says that half the 10 planned divisions are made up of soldiers who will serve only in areas dominated by their own community. And as for the army as a whole, it is uncertain "they will carry out missions on behalf of national goals instead of a sectarian agenda".

Given this realism it is sad that its authors, chaired by James Baker and Lee Hamilton, share one great misconception with Mr Bush and Mr Blair. This is about the acceptability of any foreign troops in Iraq. Supposedly US combat troops will be withdrawn and redeployed as a stiffening or reinforcement to Iraqi military units. They will form quick-reaction forces able to intervene in moments of crisis.

"This simply won't work," one former Iraqi Interior Ministry official told me. "Iraqis who work with Americans are regarded as tainted by their families. Often our soldiers have to deny their contact with Americans to their own wives. Sometimes they balance their American connections by making contact with the insurgents at the same time."

Mr Bush and Mr Blair have always refused to take on board the simple unpopularity of the occupation among Iraqis, though US and British military commanders have explained that it is the main fuel for the insurgency. The Baker-Hamilton report notes dryly that opinion polls show that 61 per cent of Iraqis favour armed attacks on US forces. Given the Kurds overwhelmingly support the US presence, this means three-quarters of all Arabs want military action against US soldiers.

The other great flaw in the report is to imply that Iraqis can be brought back together again. The reality is that the country has already broken apart. In Baghdad, Sunnis no longer dare to visit the main mortuary to look for murdered relatives because it is under Shia control and they might be killed themselves. The future of Iraq may well be a confederation rather than a federation, with Shia, Sunni and Kurd each enjoying autonomy close to independence.

There are certain points on which the White House and the authors of the report are dangerously at one. This is that the Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki can be bullied into trying to crush the militias (this usually means just one anti-American militia, the Mehdi Army), or will bolt from the Shia alliance. In the eyes of many Iraqis this would simply confirm its status as a US pawn. As for talking with Iran and Syria or acting on the Israel-Palestinian crisis it is surely impossible for Mr Bush to retreat so openly from his policies of the past three years, however disastrous their outcome.

Patrick Cockburn is the author of 'The Occupation: War, resistance and daily life in Iraq', to be published by Verso in October.

Reba in Paris


Photojournalist Killed in Mosul

One of more than 130 media workers killed since beginning of Iraq war



An undated photograph shows Aswan Ahmed Lutfallah, 35, a television cameraman working for the Associated Press who was shot to death by insurgents while covering clashes Tuesday Dec. 12, 2006 in the northern city of Mosul. Lutfallah had been employed by AP Television News as a cameraman in Mosul since 2005. He is survived by his wife, Alyaa Abdul-Karim Salim, a 6-year-old son and a daughter who was born this year. (AP Photo)

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- A cameraman working for The Associated Press was shot to death by insurgents while covering clashes Tuesday in Mosul, police said. He was the second employee of the news cooperative killed in the northern city in less than two years.

Aswan Ahmed Lutfallah, 35, was having his car repaired in an industrial area in the eastern part of the city at about 10:30 a.m. when insurgents and police began fighting nearby and he rushed to cover the clash, police Brig. Abdul-Karim Ahmed Khalaf said.

Insurgents spotted him filming, approached him and shot him to death, Khalaf said, citing an initial report. Lutfallah had not reported any prior threats against him.

Lutfallah had been employed by AP Television News as a cameraman in Mosul since 2005. He is survived by his wife, Alyaa Abdul-Karim Salim, a 6-year-old son, Yusof, and an infant daughter, Rafa.

"Our hearts go out to Aswan's family and his Iraqi AP colleagues," said AP President and CEO Tom Curley. "The murder of yet another journalist underscores the particular dangers of this conflict and the sacrifices of those committed to reporting the story."

A funeral in Mosul was planned for Wednesday.

In five shootings in other neighborhoods of the city on Tuesday, gunmen killed four civilians and a policeman, said police Brig. Abdul Kerim al-Jubouri.

Violence in Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, appears to have decreased since November 2004, when the city's entire 5,500-member police force deserted during a major insurgent uprising. But Iraqi security forces still struggle to maintain order in the city of Sunni Arabs, Shiites and Kurds.

On April 23, 2005, cameraman Saleh Ibrahim was killed after an explosion in Mosul. He was a father of five in his early 30s. AP photographer Mohammed Ibrahim was wounded.

The circumstances of the death and injury are still unclear.

Lutfallah was the third AP employee killed in the Iraq war. In 2004, Ismail Taher Mohsin, a driver, was ambushed by gunmen and killed near his home in Baghdad.

Lutfallah's death brings to 29 the number those who have lost their lives on assignments for the AP since the news cooperative was founded in 1846.

Before Tuesday's killing, Reporters Without Borders had recorded at least 93 journalists killed in Iraq since the war started nearly four years ago. Forty-five media assistants also have been killed, according to the Paris-based advocacy group.

The Committee to Protect Journalists had put the figure at 89 journalists and 37 media support workers killed in Iraq.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006 · Last updated 1:17 p.m. PT

Uhm, why are all followers of any religion "the same"?

Why are Jews attending a conference on the Holocaust in Tehran at which star guests include deniers of the genocide? Clue: they also want an end to the Israeli state.

A handful of Orthodox Jews have attended Iran's controversial conference questioning the Nazi genocide of the Jews - not because they deny the Holocaust but because they object to using it as justification for the existence of Israel.

With their distinctive hats, beards and side locks, these men may, to the untrained eye, look like any other Orthodox believers in Jerusalem or New York. But the Jews who went to Tehran are different.

Some of them belong to Neturei Karta (Guardians of the City), a group of a few thousand people which views Zionism - the movement to establish a Jewish national home or state in what was Palestine - as a "poison" threatening "true Jews".

A representative, UK-based Rabbi Aharon Cohen, told the conference he prayed "that the underlying cause of strife and bloodshed in the Middle East, namely the state known as Israel, be totally and peacefully dissolved".

In its place, Rabbi Cohen said, should be "a regime fully in accordance with the aspirations of the Palestinians when Arab and Jew will be able to live peacefully together as they did for centuries".

Neturei Karta believes the very idea of an Israeli state goes against the Jewish religion.

The book of Jewish law or Talmud, they say, teaches that believers may not use human force to create a Jewish state before the coming of the Messiah.

An opportunity for thinkers who cannot express their views freely in Europe about the Holocaust
Manouchehr Mottaki
Iranian foreign minister, describing the conference

But how does Neturei Karta and other Orthodox Jews such as Austria-based Rabbi Moishe Ayre Friedman justify attending such a controversial conference?

Rabbi Friedman told BBC Radio Four's PM programme that he was not in Tehran to debate whether the Holocaust happened or not, but to look at its lessons.

He says the Holocaust was being used to legitimise the suffering of other peoples and he wanted to break what he called a taboo on discussing it.

The main thing, he argued, was not Jewish suffering in the past but the use of the Holocaust as a "tool of commercial, military and media power".

In what many other Jews would consider the height of naivety, he commended Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for wanting "a secured future for innocent Jewish people in Europe and elsewhere".

In his speech to the conference, Neturei Karta's Rabbi Cohen said there was no doubt about the Holocaust and it would be "a terrible affront to the memory of those who perished to belittle the guilt of the crime in any way".

However, he also argued that the genocide had been divine will. "The Zionists, with their secular pompous approach behave in complete opposition to this philosophy and dare to say 'Never Again'.

"They have the audacity to think that they can prevent the Almighty from repeating a Holocaust. This is heresy."

Neturei Karta have been condemned by other Orthodox Jews as an extreme fringe movement while the Tehran conference has been denounced by the Israeli parliament.


conscientious objectors need our support


War Resisters' International, London, 12 December 2006

COLOMBIA: Conscientious objector Luis Fernando Callejas recruited to military by force

War Resisters' International learned today that Luis Fernando Callejas (COL14912), who will turn 25 on 13 December, was recruited by force on 9 December during a search of Colombian military in Cali. Between 11 and 12 at night, soldiers of the 3rd brigade of the Colombian military carried out a search of the neighbourhoods of Mariano Ramos and Republica de Israel of Cali, and rounded up youth of recruitment age.

Luis Fernando Callejas is officially a "remiso" (draft evader), and did so far not publicly declare his conscientious objection. However, according to information received from his sister, Luis Fernando Callejas has repeatedly expressed his opposition to taking part in the armed conflict in Colombia, and does not want to be part of a process of dehumanisation and terror.

War Resisters' International is very concerned about the safety of Luis Fernando Callejas. According to Colombian and international law, recruitment by detention as practised in his case is illegal, although it is common practise in Colombia. The present detention of Luis Fernando Callejas is therefore arbitrary.

The forced recruitment is a violation of the "right to personal liberty (Article 7), the protection of human dignity (Article 11) and the right to freedom of movement (Article 22), guaranteed in the American Convention on Human Rights, in connection with Article 1.1 of that same legal instrument", according to a decision of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in a very similar case from Guatemala (CASE 10.975, 6 October 1993). This alone should be reason enough for the immediate discharge of Luis Fernando Callejas from the military. Although Art. 18 of the 1991 Constitution states that "(...) freedom of conscience is guaranteed. No one will be obliged to act against their conscience", Colombia does not recognise the right to conscientious objection.

According to a 1945 Law, those who fail to respond to call-up are considered remiss (remiso) and cannot enter university or obtain a passport (Ley 1a de 1945). Those who refuse to perform military service are considered deserters.

The penalties for desertion are prescribed by arts. 115 to 117, Chapter III, of the Military Penal Code. Art. 115 prescribes a penalty for desertion of six months' to two years' imprisonment. If the desertion occurs in wartime, during a domestic uprising or public unrest or while in the vicinity of rebel forces the punishment may be doubled (art. 116). If a deserter returns voluntarily within eight days of desertion the penalty may be reduced by a half (art. 117).

War Resisters' International calls for urgent protest letters and faxes to the Colombian authorities:

  • Comandante Tercera Brigada del Ejercito Nacional. Cali, Valle de Cauca, Fax: +57-2-3307161

  • Dr Angelino Garzón, Gobernador del Valle de Cauca, Carrera 6 entre calles 9 y 10, Edificio Palacio de San Francisco, Santiago de Cali, Fax +57-2-885 8813, email: An email protest letter can be sent at

War Resisters' International calls for the immediate release and discharge from the military of Luis Fernando Callejas.

More information on conscientious objection in Colombia is available at

Andreas Speck
War Resisters' International

Archives of co-alert can be found at

paper trails paper trails, forward to paper-dictator trials?

Bush's criminal confessions

Despite its penchant for secrecy, the Bush White House has left a remarkable paper trail of crimes in its "war on terror."

By Karen Greenberg

Dec. 11, 2006 | Confession, the time-honored, soul-soothing last resort for those caught in error, may not survive the Bush administration. It has, after all, long made a mockery of such revelations by manufacturing an entire lexicon of coercive techniques to elicit often nonexistent "truths" that would justify its detention policies. And yet, without being coerced in any way, administration officials have been confessing continually these past years -- in documents that may someday play a part in their own confrontation with justice.

The Bush administration trail of confessions can be found in the most unlikely of places -- the very memos and policy statements in which its officials were redefining reality in their search for the perfect (and perfectly grim) extractive methods that would give them the detainee confessions they so eagerly sought. These were the very documents that led first to Gitmo, then to Abu Ghraib, and finally deep into the hidden universe of pain that was their global network of secret prisons.

Strangely enough, the administration confessional was open for business within weeks of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It could be found wrapped in persistent assertions of immunity, assertions that none of their acts to come could ever be brought before the bar of justice or the oversight of anyone. The first of these documents was issued on Sept. 25, 2001. Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo, writing for the Office of Legal Counsel, laid out the reasons for the president of the United States to assume broad executive powers in the war on terror. The last footnote of the memo declared, "In the exercise of his plenary power to use military force, the President's decisions are for him alone and are unreviewable."

This notion of unreviewable behavior, then still buried in the land of footnotes, has characterized the administration's general stance on its war on terror policies. On Jan. 9, 2002, just as Guantánamo opened for business as a detention facility supposedly beyond the review of American courts, John Yoo and fellow Office of Legal Counsel member Robert Delahunty explained why a breach with international law would not constitute a crime for the Bush administration. In their secret memo, the United States, through the Justice Department, was to exempt itself ahead of time from the laws it was about to break. In essence, it was to give itself the equivalent of a hall pass for future illegal activities in the new policies and practices of detention.

The memo contorted the Geneva Conventions into a pretzel of excuses for America's impunity on the matter of war crimes; it offered tortured reasoning about the inapplicability of Common Article Three of the Conventions -- guaranteeing humane treatment during armed conflict to those individuals who are not engaged in battle (non-combatants, prisoners-of-war, those who have laid down their arms, etc.) -- to the conflicts then at hand. Thus, the Taliban was redefined not as a state but as a failed state; al-Qaida became a non-state actor; the Conventions, they now claimed, were created largely for civil wars, not for "other types of internal armed conflict." As the memo asserted over and over again, "As a constitutional matter, the President has the power to consider performance of some or all of the obligations of the United States under the Conventions suspended."

In this way, any captives from our Afghan war were redefined as possible subjects for utterly lawless behavior, while the president was given the right not to follow international law. They put the matter this way: "The President could justifiably exercise his constitutional authority over treaties by regarding the Geneva Conventions as suspended in relation to Afghanistan."

Foreshadowing the infamous "torture memo" of 2002 in which the same group of advisors redefined torture, nearly casting it out of legal existence, this early opinion stated that American officials could only be held accountable in the following circumstances: "causing great suffering or serious bodily injury to POWs, killing or torturing them, depriving them of access to a fair trial, or forcing them to serve in the Armed Forces." The memo concluded with what would become the legal mantra of the Bush administration -- the assertion of immunity, stating that "customary international law has no binding legal effect on either the President or the military because it is not federal law."

As Guantánamo received its first planeloads of prisoners, Alberto Gonzales, then counsel to the president, and William J. Haynes, counsel to the Department of Defense, took the idea of administration immunity for war crimes to a new level. They used their high offices to clear the way for the substandard treatment of detainees. Trusted with the justice and safety of the nation, they both concurred with their colleagues at the Office of Legal Counsel: "We conclude that customary international law does not bind the President or the US Armed Forces in their decisions concerning the detention conditions of al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners."

Though confidently proposing ways that any future prosecution for war crimes could be avoided, these memo-style declarations of immunity proved insufficiently comforting to an administration that had, by its own implicit admission, chosen to take a giant step into realms outside anyone's previous definition of the law.

They soon grasped a simple point: Declaring themselves immune was one thing; ensuring immunity, quite another. To fully protect their clients -- the president of the United States as well as high Pentagon and CIA officials -- administration lawyers confronted the potential problem of domestic legal constraints on the mistreatment of detainees.

Gonzales tried to strengthen the assurances of Bush's legal team by concluding that declaring exemption from the Geneva Conventions in turn "substantially reduces the threat of domestic criminal prosecution." Attorney General John Ashcroft concluded that the president's determination in detention matters "was fully discretionary and will not be reviewed by the federal courts." Ashcroft made the stakes clear: If the prisoners in U.S. hands were considered prisoners of war, American law would "not accord American officials the same protection from legal consequences." Thus it became doubly crucial to redefine them not as POWs but as "enemy combatants."

To the Bush administration, words, it seemed, were everything. And if the laws, domestic and international, depended upon definitions, then the definitions of words would simply have to change across the board. So it was unavoidable that the first casualty in the president's Global War on Terror, which also became his global war for immunity, would be language itself. The captives who arrived at Gitmo were not to be called prisoners, nor was the facility itself to be referred to as a prison; it was a "detention facility" and the inmates were "detainees" and "enemy combatants." If other words were used -- prison, prisoner, prisoner-of-war -- then high officials and members of the Armed Forces would not, as Ashcroft explained, be immune from the law.

In the same vein, torture was to be banned from the premises (but only as a word); instead coercive techniques that for centuries plainly came under the rubric of torture were relabeled "counter-resistant coercive interrogation techniques." The infamous "torture memo" of August 2002 drew narrow parameters around the definition of torture, which was now to be limited to "serious physical injury such as death." Repeatedly, the memo asserted that other methods "do not amount to torture." And it essentially turned the very definition of torture over to the torturer. Abetted here as elsewhere by the media, the Bush administration also successfully delegitimized the statements of the detainees themselves, consigning them to the trash heap of history -- all of them were the accounts of well-drilled liars, false accusations inspired by al-Qaida training manuals.

And yet, even reclassifying words and redrawing the lines of the law did not sufficiently assuage their fears -- and here's where the hidden confessional element of all this crept into play. They were clearly hounded by what can only be called a kind of lurking institutional conscience, a sense that the acts already being committed in their name (or future ones) might someday be declared illegal under laws and agreements they were trying unilaterally to abrogate, resulting in prosecutions.

So, to ensure that their legal reasoning and linguistic demands would hold sway in the policy world, Bush administration officials found they had to go even further. They determined to find a way to control the environment of detention as completely as possible. First, of course, they chose an American base in Cuba to be the jewel in the crown of the detention system they were putting in place globally because it seemed to lie "in legal limbo" outside any international or domestic legal system. Second, "ghost prisons," some in facilities borrowed from allies known to employ torture themselves, were established so that the techniques for extracting confessions, even though no longer defined as torture, could not be seen or known about. Third, just to be sure about things, the United States launched a campaign to free itself from any future international prosecution for war crimes under the auspices of the new International Criminal Court (ICC). In return for money and services, after cases of remarkable diplomatic arm twisting, 102 countries agreed, one by one, to an American demand for immunity from future ICC prosecution.

Then, the Bush administration charged ahead, convinced that it had addressed its legal liabilities and given itself that eternal hall pass. In truth, however, it had been confessing all along, laying out a remarkable record of tacit admission to criminal activity. The administration had, for example, informed the military commanders at Gitmo that they should consider themselves to be "guided by the Geneva Conventions but not bound by them." At Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib, interrogation needs took precedence over matters of detention -- and it was all on the official record.

The administration's urge to claim immunity, which is, in essence, the confession of crimes about to be committed (or already committed), has not waned over the years. If anything, it has gotten stronger. Only recently, for instance, John Yoo, now a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, insisted once again that extralegal measures were necessary in the war on terror. "Is a second [9/11] attack," he wrote, "an acceptable price to pay for rejecting coercive interrogation?" He then suggested, among other ways of avoiding prosecution for such acts, a possibility that may loom ever larger before George W. Bush's second term in office is over -- the issuing of presidential pardons.

The president has weighed in aggressively on the issue as well, publicly embracing the idea of immunity. Twice, in his not-to-be-overlooked Sept. 6 speech on the existence of the CIA "program" for "high-value detainees," the president insisted upon immunity for those involved in detention and interrogation. In this speech, in which he announced his intention to submit the Military Commissions Bill to Congress, he explained, "[S]ome believe our military and intelligence personnel involved in capturing and questioning terrorists could now be at risk of prosecution under the War Crimes Act -- simply for doing their jobs in a thorough and professional way. This," he declared, "is unacceptable." Moments later he reiterated his firm opposition to any such prosecutions. "I'm asking that Congress make it clear that captured terrorists cannot use the Geneva Conventions as a basis to sue our personnel in courts -- in U.S. courts. The men and women who protect us should not have to fear lawsuits filed by terrorists because they're doing their jobs."

What more could a prosecutor want than a trail of implicit confessions, consistent with one another, increasingly brazen over time, and leading right into the Oval Office? For five years now, the Bush administration has given itself an inviolable command: Declare immunity for what you have done, what you are doing, and what you are about to do. When the president's Military Commission Bill did pass, its many astounding "reforms" actually codified immunity retroactively for a range of abuses against detainees.

To overlook the trail of confessions that is part and parcel of the administration's torture narrative is to perform an act of extraordinary rendition not just on the truth but also on the importance of confessions themselves. Professional interrogators, priests, psychiatrists and others who deal with confession regularly say that people normally want to talk, that they want to tell you their story, that confession is a deep and satisfying part of all our lives.

In the case of the Bush administration, it is the documents themselves that seem to want to confess, that are bursting with the desire to talk, to tell the story of these last years of illegality. Americans, and the Congress they have just elected, should take heed. The time has come, after five years, to restore language, law, and accountability to the American ethos by insisting that declarations of immunity be seen for what they are: Confessions about actions that are both reviewable and unpardonable.

This article originally appeared on

our new guy? wotta concept.

Obama's magic

With his rock star visit to New Hampshire, the highflying senator continues to tantalize Democrats with intimations of a White House run -- and a buzz not felt in American politics since JFK.

By Walter Shapiro

Dec. 12, 2006 | As Barack Obama addressed the largest pre-presidential-primary crowd in modern New Hampshire history Sunday afternoon, Democratic state party chair Kathy Sullivan was sitting directly behind the Illinois senator. From her vantage point, Sullivan saw exactly what Obama saw -- 1,500 rapt faces staring up at him with curiosity, affection and hope. Turning to her seatmate Sylvia Larsen, the president of the state Senate, Sullivan whispered, "Imagine what it must be like to be him."

For Obama, the "Imagine" has almost reached John Lennon levels. His political ascent has already reached those star-studded heights where even political insiders like Sullivan cannot fully comprehend the pressures from the adoration and expectations that envelop him. He was not supposed to run for president this time, for Obama was the Democratic future held in reserve for 2012 or 2016. We are witnessing something rare -- a would-be candidate tantalizingly signaling his potential availability and the rank-and-file of the Democratic Party responding beyond his most rapturous dreams. As Chicago-based media consultant David Axelrod, one of Obama's closest advisors, said in an interview Monday, "I wasn't alive then, but this is the closest thing to a draft since Adlai Stevenson in 1952." (Stevenson, the reluctant governor of Illinois, was nominated on the third ballot at the Democratic Convention.)

Obama's best-selling book may be called "The Audacity of Hope," but a presidential campaign by the fledgling senator (he was elected in 2004) might best be dubbed "The Hope of Audacity." Virtually every major politician believes in destiny, but few test fate's limits so early in his or her career. Facing more than an invasion-size armada of 100 reporters at a press conference Sunday afternoon, Obama said, "I am suspicious of hype. The fact that my 15 minutes of fame have extended a little longer than 15 minutes, I think, is surprising to me and completely baffling to my wife."

Axelrod insists that Obama has not definitely made a decision to become part of the 2008 field, partly because of that wariness about the hype and the hoopla. "Anyone who tells you that he is 100 percent certain that Senator Obama's running doesn't know him," Axelrod said. "He's still working it through." Part of working it through, though, was promising a major announcement before "Monday Night Football," which turned out to be a jokey declaration that the Illinois senator was "ready for the [Chicago] Bears to go all the way."

Since two presumed 2008 contenders, Mark Warner and Russ Feingold, have disavowed their candidacies in recent months, there is a danger in assuming that anybody seriously contemplating a presidential bid is destined to run. But few in Democratic politics still believe that Obama is just aimlessly window-shopping outside the White House. A major Democratic strategist, who is affiliated with another presidential candidate, ran into Obama on Capitol Hill last week and was told by him, "I hope that when your conflict-of-interest period is over, we can work together." The easy translation: "After your candidate loses in the early primaries, I hope that you will sign on with me."

There is an unplanned quality to the Obama movement that should not be dismissed. Obama's current ascent began three months ago when he was the headliner at Sen. Tom Harkin's steak fry, the biggest political event on the Democratic calendar in Iowa, the first caucus state. Harkin presumably picked Obama -- a non-presidential candidate -- to avoid offending Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, who is running for the Democratic nomination and would be suspicious of any potential rival.

As Sullivan tells it, her invitation to Obama to come to New Hampshire for a post-election fundraiser was an impulsive gesture. The Thursday after the election -- buoyed by the Democrats' landslide sweep in the state -- she received a call on her cellphone from an unfamiliar area code. "Kathy, this is Barack Obama," the voice on the other end said, before adding, "I might be coming to New Hampshire." It was yet another signal of Obama's fast-growing fascination with running in 2008. Already envisioning a modest-size victory celebration in New Hampshire, she told him, "We were talking about having a little event, and you might want to come up and help with the fundraising."

No one anticipated that 1,500 tickets (at $25 a piece) would be all sold by the middle of last week -- and fire codes and the lack of a larger venue forced the state party to stop there. (Earlier Sunday morning, Obama attracted another 750 people to a book signing in Portsmouth.) New Hampshire, as the fabled home of the first presidential primary, has a vibrant political culture, but an outpouring like this is unprecedented in my experience covering the last seven primaries here. All day Sunday, long-memoried political reporters struggled to find a parallel. When, for example, Bill Clinton ran for president here in the 1992 primary, he never attracted a crowd beyond, say, 700 people. When John McCain was riding high before he won the 2000 Republican primary, he might have spoken to a thousand voters in a high-school gym. And those were free events on the eve of a primary. Last time around, John Kerry was speaking to crowds of roughly 100 people in fire stations around the state, little more than a month before the primary. Small wonder that local politicians like state Sen. Lou D'Alessandro, a major John Edwards backer in 2004, were harking back to John Kennedy's 1960 appearance at the University of New Hampshire to find an event that matched Sunday's Obama appearance.

There is a palpable uneasiness in New Hampshire and elsewhere with the notion of Hillary Clinton being prematurely anointed as the 2008 Democratic nominee. It is not accidental that Obama is the third candidate this year who has been ballyhooed as the challenger with enough heft to take on the Clinton dynasty. First came Warner, followed by Al Gore -- still a possible candidate, whose luster dims the longer he remains indecisive on the sidelines. Helping propel the Obama bandwagon is that the senator, like Gore, passionately opposed going to war in Iraq in 2002. Part of the rationale for the anti-Hillary star search is the feeling that the New York senator cannot win, barring a full-scale collapse of the Republican Party. "If the country has changed, maybe she could get in," said Nancy Lloyd, who runs a bed-and-breakfast in Jaffrey, as she waited to hear Obama. "But if they are going to fight all the old battles and smear her, Hillary should stay out."

Without ever mentioning Clinton by name, Obama repeatedly spoke in New Hampshire about this weariness with old battles. At his press conference, he lamented "the small, petty slash-and-burn politics that we have been seeing over the last several years." In his formal speech, which he delivered wearing a dark jacket and crisp, open-necked white shirt, Obama declared, "Politics is not a sport and the debates we have in Washington are not about who is up or down, they are not about personal attacks, they are not about tactical advantages ... They are about who we are as a people."

This was about the level of issue-oriented specificity in Obama's speech and his other public remarks. What Obama is offering is a different kind of hope than the standard Democratic variety. He embodies the idea of a style of governing that goes beyond the nonstop rat-a-tat invective that dates back to the Clinton era battles against Newt Gingrich. Obama, the mixed-race son of Kenya and Kansas, who grew up in the multicultural melting pot of Hawaii, also represents a politics that transcends the two-century-old battles over race and ethnicity. Asked about his middle name "Hussein" at Sunday's press conference, Obama, provoking laughter from the reporters, flatly declared, "The American people are not concerned with middle names."

Obama's vagueness provoked a certain degree of grumbling among the Democrats lucky enough to snag tickets. "I came with questions and I left with questions," said Anne Stowe, a high-school mathematics teacher from Nashua. "I'm not certain that I know who he is and what he stands for."

The morning after Comet Obama flashed across the New Hampshire skies, Democrats were still trying to sort out exactly what had happened. As Sullivan said, referring to the massive turnout for Obama, "People have been constantly asking me, 'Why, why, why?'" By way of explanation, she mentioned Obama's status as the first prominent post-Vietnam era politician and the way he reflects the changing ethnic and racial makeup of the country. The New Hampshire party leader also acknowledged that she understood the complaints that Obama was light on the issues. "But he has the vision and he has the magic," she added. "And maybe that comes first."

Something near-magical did happen in New Hampshire on Sunday, when more than 2,000 Democratic voters turned out at two events to see a would-be presidential candidate, who had been in the Illinois state Senate just two years ago. Magic can easily dissipate in politics, especially during a long and grueling campaign year like 2007. But something is happening around Obama that we have not seen in American politics for decades. And no matter what happens from here, the significance of Obama-mania, in terms of the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, the politics of race and the coming of a new generation, may long endure.

photo credits and information: Photo: AP /Jim Cole
Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., acknowledges the crowd at the state Democratic election celebration in Manchester, N.H., Dec. 10, 2006.

Unscathed: The Reality

Pinochet's Death Spares Bush Family

By Robert Parry
December 12, 2006

Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s death on Dec. 10 means the Bush Family can breathe a little bit easier, knowing that criminal proceedings against Chile’s notorious dictator can no longer implicate his longtime friend and protector, former President George H.W. Bush.

Although Chilean investigations against other defendants may continue, the cases against Pinochet end with his death of a heart attack at the age of 91. Pinochet’s death from natural causes also marks a victory for world leaders, including George H.W. and George W. Bush, who shielded Pinochet from justice over the past three decades.

The Bush Family’s role in the Pinochet cover-up began in 1976 when then-CIA Director George H.W. Bush diverted investigators away from Pinochet’s guilt in a car bombing in Washington that killed political rival Orlando Letelier and an American, Ronni Moffitt.

The cover-up stretched into the presidency of George W. Bush when he sidetracked an FBI recommendation to indict Pinochet in the Letelier-Moffitt murders.

Over those intervening 30 years, Pinochet allegedly engaged in a variety of illicit operations, including terrorism, torture, murder, drug trafficking, money-laundering and illicit arms shipments – sometimes with the official collusion of the U.S. government.

In the 1980s, when George H.W. Bush was Vice President, Pinochet’s regime helped funnel weapons to the Nicaraguan contra rebels and to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, an operation that also implicated then-CIA official Robert M. Gates, who will be the next U.S. Secretary of Defense.

When Pinochet faced perhaps his greatest risk of prosecution – in 1998 when he was detained in London pending extradition to Spain on charges of murdering Spanish citizens – former President George H.W. Bush protested Pinochet’s arrest, calling it “a travesty of justice” and joining in a successful appeal to the British courts to let Pinochet go home to Chile.

Once Pinochet was returned to Chile, the wily ex-dictator employed a legal strategy of political obstruction and assertions of ill health to avert prosecution. Until his death, he retained influential friends in the Chilean power structure and in key foreign capitals, especially Washington.

Pinochet’s History

Pinochet’s years in the service of U.S. foreign policy date back to the early 1970s when Richard Nixon’s administration wanted to destroy Chile’s democratically elected socialist government of Salvador Allende.

The CIA launched a covert operation to “destabilize” Allende’s government, with the CIA-sponsored chaos ending in a bloody coup on Sept. 11, 1973. Gen. Pinochet seized power and Allende was shot to death when Pinochet’s forces stormed the Presidential Palace.

Thousands of political dissidents – including Americans and other foreigners – were rounded up and executed. Many also were tortured.

With Pinochet in control, the CIA turned its attention to helping him overcome the negative publicity that his violent coup had engendered around the world. One “secret” CIA memo, written in early 1974, described the success of “the Santiago Station’s propaganda project.” The memo said:

“Prior to the coup the project’s media outlets maintained a steady barrage of anti-government criticism, exploiting every possible point of friction between the government and the democratic opposition, and emphasizing the problems and conflicts that were developing between the government and the armed forces. Since the coup, these media outlets have supported the new military government. They have tried to present the Junta in the most positive light.” [See Peter Kornbluh’s The Pinochet File]

Despite the CIA’s P.R. blitz, however, Pinochet and his military subordinates insisted on dressing up and acting like a casting agent’s idea of Fascist bullies. The dour Pinochet was known for his fondness for wearing a military cloak that made him resemble a well-dressed Nazi SS officer.

Pinochet and the other right-wing military dictators who dominated South America in the mid-1970s also had their own priorities, one of which was the elimination of political opponents who were living in exile in other countries.

Though many of these dissidents weren’t associated with violent revolutionary movements, the anticommunist doctrine then in vogue among the region’s right-wing military made few distinctions between armed militants and political activists.

By 1974, Chilean intelligence was collaborating with freelancing anti-Castro Cuban extremists and other South American security forces to eliminate any and all threats to right-wing military power.

The first prominent victim of these cross-border assassinations was former Chilean Gen. Carlos Prats, who was living in Argentina and was viewed as a potential rival to Pinochet because Prats had opposed Pinochet’s coup that shattered Chile’s long history as a constitutional democracy.

Learning that Prats was writing his memoirs, Pinochet’s secret police chief Manuel Contreras dispatched Michael Townley, an assassin trained in explosives, to Argentina. Townley planted a bomb under Prats’s car, detonating it on Sept. 30, killing Prats at the door and incinerating Prats’s wife who was trapped inside the car.

On Oct. 6, 1975, a gunman approached Chilean Christian Democratic leader Bernardo Leighton who was walking with his wife on a street in Rome. The gunman shot both Leighton and his wife, severely wounding both of them.

Operation Condor

In November 1975, the loose-knit collaboration among the Southern Cone dictatorships took on a more formal structure during a covert intelligence meeting in Santiago. Delegates from the security forces of Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia committed themselves to a regional strategy against “subversives.”

In recognition of Chile’s leadership, the conference named the project after Chile’s national bird, the giant vulture that traverses the Andes Mountains. The project was called “Operation Condor.”

The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency confidentially informed Washington that the operation had three phases and that the “third and reportedly very secret phase of ‘Operation Condor’ involves the formation of special teams from member countries who are to carry out operations to include assassinations.”

The Condor accord formally took effect on Jan. 30, 1976, the same day George H.W. Bush was sworn in as CIA director.

In Bush’s first few months, right-wing violence across the Southern Cone of South America surged. On March 24, 1976, the Argentine military staged a coup, ousting the ineffectual President Isabel Peron and escalating a brutal internal security campaign against both violent and non-violent opponents on the Left.

The Argentine security forces became especially well-known for grisly methods of torture and the practice of “disappearing” political dissidents who would be snatched from the streets or from their homes, undergo torture and never be seen again.

Like Pinochet, the new Argentine dictators saw themselves on a mission to save Western Civilization from the clutches of leftist thought.

They took pride in the “scientific” nature of their repression. They were clinical practitioners of anticommunism – refining torture techniques, erasing the sanctuary of international borders and collaborating with right-wing terrorists and organized-crime elements to destroy leftist movements.

Later Argentine government investigations discovered that its military intelligence officers advanced Nazi-like methods of torture by testing the limits of how much pain a human being could endure before dying. Torture methods included experiments with electric shocks, drowning, asphyxiation and sexual perversions, such as forcing mice into a woman’s vagina.

The totalitarian nature of the anticommunism gripping much of South America revealed itself in one particularly bizarre Argentine practice, which was used when pregnant women were captured as suspected subversives.

The women were kept alive long enough to bring the babies to full term. The women then were subjected to forced labor or Caesarian section. The newborns were given to military families to be raised in the ideology of anticommunism while the new mothers were executed.

Many were taken to an airport near Buenos Aires, stripped naked, shackled to other prisoners and put on a plane. As the plane flew over the Rio Plata or out over the Atlantic Ocean, the prisoners were shoved through a cargo door, sausage-like, into the water to drown. All told, the Argentine war against subversion would claim an estimated 30,000 lives.

The 1976 Argentine coup d’etat allowed the pace of cross-border executions under Operation Condor to quicken.

On May 21, gunmen killed two Uruguayan congressmen on a street in Buenos Aires. On June 4, former Bolivian President Juan Jose Torres was slain also in Buenos Aires. On June 11, armed men kidnapped and tortured 23 Chilean refugees and one Uruguayan who were under United Nations protection.

A Grudge

Despite protests from human rights groups, Pinochet and his fellow dictators felt immune from pressure because of their powerful friends in Washington. Pinochet’s sense of impunity led him to contemplate silencing one of his most eloquent critics, Chile’s former Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier, who lived in the U.S. capital.

Earlier in their government careers, when Letelier was briefly defense minister in Allende’s government, Pinochet had been his subordinate. After the coup, Pinochet imprisoned Letelier at a desolate concentration camp on Dawson Island, but international pressure won Letelier release a year later.

Now, Pinochet was chafing under Letelier’s rough criticism of the regime’s human rights record. Letelier was doubly infuriating to Pinochet because Letelier was regarded as a man of intellect and charm, even impressing CIA officers who observed him as “a personable, socially pleasant man” and “a reasonable, mature democrat,” according to biographical sketches.

By summer 1976, George H.W. Bush’s CIA was hearing a lot about Operation Condor from South American sources who had attended a second organizational conference of Southern Cone intelligence services.

These CIA sources reported that the military regimes were preparing “to engage in ‘executive action’ outside the territory of member countries.” In intelligence circles, “executive action” is a euphemism for assassination.

Meanwhile, Pinochet and intelligence chief Manuel Contreras were putting in motion their most audacious assassination plan yet: to eliminate Orlando Letelier in his safe haven in Washington, D.C.

In July 1976, two operatives from Chile’s intelligence service DINA – Michael Townley and Armando Fernandez Larios – went to Paraguay where DINA had arranged for them to get false passports and visas for a trip to the United States.

Townley and Larios were using the false names Juan Williams and Alejandro Romeral and a cover story claiming they were investigating suspected leftists working for Chile’s state copper company in New York. Townley and Larios said their project had been cleared with the CIA’s Station Chief in Santiago.

A senior Paraguayan official, Conrado Pappalardo, urged U.S. Ambassador George Landau to cooperate, citing a direct appeal from Pinochet in support of the mission. Supposedly, the Paraguayan government claimed, the two Chileans were to meet with CIA Deputy Director Vernon Walters.

An alarmed Landau recognized that the visa request was highly unusual, since such operations are normally coordinated with the CIA station in the host country and are cleared with CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

Though granting the visas, Landau took the precaution of sending an urgent cable to Walters and photostatic copies of the fake passports to the CIA. Landau said he received an urgent cable back signed by CIA Director Bush, reporting that Walters, who was in the process of retiring, was out of town.

When Walters returned a few days later, he cabled Landau that he had “nothing to do with this” mission. Landau immediately canceled the visas.

The Assassination

It remains unclear what – if anything – Bush’s CIA did after learning about the “Paraguayan caper.” Normal protocol would have required senior CIA officials to ask their Chilean counterparts about the supposed trip to Langley.

However, even with the declassification of more records in recent years, that question has never been fully answered.

The CIA also demonstrated little curiosity over the Aug. 22, 1976, arrival of two other Chilean operatives using the names, Juan Williams and Alejandro Romeral, the phony names that were intended to hide the identity of the two operatives in the aborted assassination plot.

When these two different operatives arrived in Washington, they made a point of having the Chilean Embassy notify Walters’s office at CIA.

“It is quite beyond belief that the CIA is so lax in its counterespionage functions that it would simply have ignored a clandestine operation by a foreign intelligence service in Washington, D.C., or elsewhere in the United States,” wrote John Dinges and Saul Landau in their 1980 book, Assassination on Embassy Row. “It is equally implausible that Bush, Walters, Landau and other officials were unaware of the chain of international assassinations that had been attributed to DINA.”

Apparently, DINA had dispatched the second pair of operatives, using the phony names, to show that the initial contacts for visas in Paraguay were not threatening. In other words, the Chilean government had the replacement team of Williams and Romeral go through the motions of a trip to Washington with the intent to visit Walters to dispel any American suspicions or to spread confusion among suspicious U.S. officials.

But it’s still unclear whether Bush’s CIA contacted Pinochet’s government about its mysterious behavior and, if not, why not.

As for the Letelier plot, DINA was soon plotting another way to carry out the killing. In late August, DINA dispatched a preliminary team of one man and one woman to do surveillance on Letelier as he moved around Washington.

Then, Townley was sent under a different alias to carry out the murder. After arriving in New York on Sept. 9, 1976, Townley connected with Cuban National Movement leader Guillermo Novo in Union City, New Jersey, and then headed to Washington. Townley assembled a remote-controlled bomb that used pieces bought at Radio Shack and Sears.

On Sept. 18, joined by Cuban extremists Virgilio Paz and Dionisio Suarez, Townley went to Letelier home in Bethesda, Maryland, outside Washington. The assassination team attached the bomb underneath Letelier’s Chevrolet Chevelle.

Three days later, on the morning of Sept. 21, Paz and Suarez followed Letelier as he drove to work with two associates, Ronni Moffitt and her husband Michael. As the Chevelle proceeded down Massachusetts Avenue, through an area known as Embassy Row, the assassins detonated the bomb.

The blast ripped off Letelier’s legs and punctured a hole in Ronni Moffitt’s jugular vein. She drowned in her own blood at the scene; Letelier died after being taken to George Washington University Hospital. Michael Moffitt survived.

At the time, the attack represented the worst act of international terrorism on U.S. soil. Adding to the potential for scandal, the terrorism had been carried out by a regime that was an ostensible ally of the United States, one that had gained power with the help of the Nixon administration and the CIA.

Threat to Bush

Bush’s reputation was also at risk. As authors Dinges and Landau noted in Assassination on Embassy Row, “the CIA reaction was peculiar” after the cable from Ambassador Landau arrived disclosing a covert Chilean intelligence operation and asking Deputy Director Walters if he had a meeting scheduled with the DINA agents.

“Landau expected Walters to take quick action in the event that the Chilean mission did not have CIA clearance. Yet a week passed during which the assassination team could well have had time to carry out their original plan to go directly from Paraguay to Washington to kill Letelier. Walters and Bush conferred during that week about the matter.”

“One thing is clear,” Dinges and Landau wrote, “DINA chief Manuel Contreras would have called off the assassination mission if the CIA or State Department had expressed their displeasure to the Chilean government. An intelligence officer familiar with the case said that any warning would have been sufficient to cause the assassination to be scuttled. Whatever Walters and Bush did – if anything – the DINA mission proceeded.”

Within hours of the bombing, Letelier’s associates accused the Pinochet regime, citing its hatred of Letelier and its record for brutality. The Chilean government, however, heatedly denied any responsibility.

That night, at a dinner at the Jordanian Embassy, Senator James Abourezk, a South Dakota Democrat, spotted Bush and approached the CIA director. Abourezk said he was a friend of Letelier’s and beseeched Bush to get the CIA “to find the bastards who killed him.” Abourezk said Bush responded: “I’ll see what I can do. We are not without assets in Chile.”

A problem, however, was that one of the CIA’s best-placed assets – DINA chief Contreras – was part of the assassination. Wiley Gilstrap, the CIA’s Santiago Station Chief, did approach Contreras with questions about the Letelier bombing and wired back to Langley Contreras’s assurance that the Chilean government wasn’t involved.

Following the strategy of public misdirection already used in hundreds of “disappearances,” Contreras pointed the finger at the Chilean Left. Contreras suggested that leftists had killed Letelier to turn him into a martyr.

CIA headquarters, of course, had plenty of evidence that Contreras was lying. The Pinochet government had flashed its intention to mount a suspicious operation inside the United States by involving the U.S. Embassy in Paraguay and the deputy director of the CIA. Bush’s CIA even had in its files a photograph of the leader of the terrorist squad, Michael Townley.

Yet, rather than fulfilling his promise to Abourezk to “see what I can do,” Bush ignored leads that would have taken him into a confrontation with Pinochet. The CIA either didn’t put the pieces together or avoided the obvious conclusions the evidence presented.

The Cover-up

Indeed, the CIA didn’t seem to want any information that might implicate the Pinochet regime. On Oct. 6, a CIA informant in Chile went to the CIA Station in Santiago and relayed an account of Pinochet denouncing Letelier.

The informant said the dictator had called Letelier’s criticism of the government “unacceptable.” The source “believes that the Chilean Government is directly involved in Letelier’s death and feels that investigation into the incident will so indicate,” the CIA field report said. [See Kornbluh, The Pinochet File.]

But Bush’s CIA chose to accept Contreras’s denials and even began leaking information that pointed away from the real killers.

Newsweek’s Periscope reported in the magazine’s Oct. 11, 1976, issue that “the Chilean secret police were not involved. …. The [Central Intelligence] agency reached its decision because the bomb was too crude to be the work of experts and because the murder, coming while Chile’s rulers were wooing U.S. support, could only damage the Santiago regime.”

Similar stories ran in other newspapers, including the New York Times.

Despite the lack of help from Washington, the FBI’s legal attaché in Buenos Aires, Robert Scherrer, began putting the puzzle together only a week after the Letelier bombing.

Relying on a source in the Argentine military, Scherrer reported to his superiors that the assassination was likely the work of Operation Condor, the assassination project organized by the Chilean government.

Another break in the case came two weeks after the Letelier assassination on Oct. 6, 1976, when anti-Castro terrorists planted a bomb on a Cubana Airlines DC-8 before it took off from Barbados. Nine minutes after takeoff, the bomb exploded, plunging the plane into the Caribbean and killing all 73 people on board including the Cuban national fencing team.

Two Cuban exiles, Hernan Ricardo and Freddy Lugo, who had left the plane in Barbados, confessed that they had planted the bomb. They named two prominent anti-Castro extremists, Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada, as the architects of the attack.

A search of Posada’s apartment in Venezuela turned up Cubana Airlines timetables and other incriminating documents. Although Posada was a CIA-trained Bay of Pigs veteran and stayed in close touch with some former CIA colleagues, senior CIA officials again pleaded ignorance.

For the second time in barely two weeks, Bush’s CIA had done nothing to interfere with terrorist attacks involving anticommunist operatives with close ties to the CIA. [For more on Posada, see's "Bush's Hypocrisy: Cuban Terrorists."]

But the Cubana Airlines bombing put federal investigators on the right track toward solving the Letelier assassination. They began to learn more about the network of right-wing terrorists associated with Operation Condor and its international Murder Inc. However, CIA Director Bush continued to assert the innocence of Pinochet’s regime.

On Nov. 1, 1976, the Washington Post cited CIA officials in reporting that “operatives of the present Chilean military Junta did not take part in Letelier’s killing.” The Post added that “CIA Director Bush expressed this view in a conversation late last week with Secretary of State Kissinger.”

Regarding the Letelier murder, George H.W. Bush was never pressed to provide a full explanation of his actions.

When I submitted questions to Bush in 1988 – while he was Vice President and I was a Newsweek correspondent preparing a story on his year as CIA director – Bush’s chief of staff Craig Fuller responded, saying “the Vice President generally does not comment on issues related to the time he was at the Central Intelligence Agency and he will have no comment on the specific issues raised in your letter.”

My editors at Newsweek subsequently decided not to publish any story about Bush’s year at the CIA though he was then running for President and citing his CIA experience as an important element of his resumé.

The Carter Interregnum

After Jimmy Carter became President in 1977, federal investigators cracked the Letelier case, successfully bringing charges against Townley and several other conspirators.

Prosecutor Eugene Propper told me that Bush’s CIA did provide some information about the background of suspects, but didn’t volunteer the crucial information about the Paraguayan gambit or supply the photo of the chief assassin, Townley. “Nothing the agency gave us helped us break this case,” Propper said.

Though U.S. prosecutors grasped the criminal nature of the Pinochet government, the wheels of justice turned slowly. Before the prosecutors could climb the chain of command in Chile, the Republicans had returned to power in 1981, with George H.W. Bush serving as Vice President and acting as a top foreign policy adviser to President Ronald Reagan.

Despite the mounting evidence of Pinochet’s guilt in a terrorist act on U.S. soil, the dictator emerged from his pariah status of the Carter years to regain his position as a favored ally under Bush and Reagan.

When help was needed on sensitive projects, the Reagan administration often turned to Pinochet. For instance, in 1982, after Reagan decided to tilt Iraq’s way during the Iran-Iraq War, one of Pinochet’s favored arms dealers, Carlos Cardoen, manufactured and shipped controversial weapons to Saddam Hussein’s army.

Regarding these Iraqi arms shipments, former National Security Council aide Howard Teicher swore out an affidavit in 1995 detailing Reagan’s decision and describing the secret roles of CIA Director William Casey and his deputy, Robert Gates, in shepherding the military equipment to Iraq.

Teicher said the secret arming of Iraq was approved by Reagan in June 1982 as part of a National Security Decision Directive. Under it, Casey and Gates “authorized, approved and assisted” delivery of cluster bombs and other materiel to Iraq, Teicher said.

Teicher’s affidavit corroborated earlier public statements by former Israeli intelligence officer Ari Ben-Menashe and Iranian-born businessman Richard Babayan, who claimed first-hand knowledge of Gates’s central role in the secret Iraq operations.

In his 1992 book Profits of War, Ben-Menashe wrote that Israeli Mossad director Nachum Admoni approached Gates in 1985 seeking help in shutting down unconventional weapons, especially chemicals, moving through the Chilean arms pipeline to Iraq.

Ben-Menashe wrote that Gates attended a meeting in Chile in 1986 with Cardoen present at which Gates tried to calm down the Israelis by assuring them that U.S. policy was simply to ensure a channel of conventional weapons for Iraq.

Though Gates denied Ben-Menashe’s and Babayan’s allegations in 1991 – when Gates underwent confirmation hearings to be CIA director – he has never been asked to publicly respond to Teicher’s affidavit which was filed in a Miami court case in 1995.

Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee were aware of the discrepancies between the Teicher and Gates accounts when Gates appeared at a Dec. 5, 2006, confirmation hearing to be Secretary of Defense, but no one asked Gates to respond to Teicher’s sworn statement.

A source at the United Nations also has told me that some of the documents captured in Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 shed light on the Cardoen arms pipeline, but those records have never been made public.

Key Leads

Other potential avenues for understanding Pinochet’s covert role in supporting anticommunist strategies in the Reagan-Bush era opened recently, as former DINA chief Contreras turned on his old boss.

In a court document filed in early July 2006, Contreras implicated Pinochet and one of his sons in a scheme to manufacture and smuggle cocaine to Europe and the United States, explaining one source of Pinochet’s $28 million fortune.

Contreras alleged that the cocaine was processed with Pinochet’s approval at an Army chemical plant south of Santiago during the 1980s and that Pinochet’s son Marco Antonio arranged the shipments of the processed cocaine. [NYT, July 11, 2006]

At the time of this alleged cocaine smuggling, Pinochet was a close ally of the Reagan administration, providing help on a variety of sensitive intelligence projects, including shipping military equipment to Nicaraguan contra rebels who also were implicated in the exploding cocaine trade to the United States. [For details on the contra-cocaine scandal, see Robert Parry's Lost History.]

Contreras said Eugenio Berrios, a chemist for Chile’s secret police, oversaw the drug manufacturing. Berrios also was accused of producing poisons for Pinochet to use in murdering political enemies. Berrios disappeared in 1992. [For details on the Berrios mystery, see’s “Pinochet’s Mad Scientist.”]

As this drip-drip-drip of evidence accumulated implicating Pinochet and his American allies in serious crimes and international intrigue, it fell to the second generation of George Bush presidents to put a finger in the dike.

Near the end of the Clinton presidency in 2000, an FBI team reviewed new evidence that had become available in the Letelier case and recommended the indictment of Pinochet.

But the final decision was left to the incoming Bush administration – and George W. Bush, like his father, chose to protect Pinochet. In doing so, the younger George Bush also protected his father’s reputation and the legacy of the Bush Family.

Freed from Washington’s legal pressure, Pinochet was able to fend off intermittent attempts in Chile to bring him to justice during the last half dozen years of his life.

“Every day it is clearer that Pinochet ordered my brother’s death,” human rights lawyer Fabiola Letelier told the New York Times on the 30th anniversary of the Letelier-Moffitt assassinations. “But for a proper and complete investigation to take place we need access to the appropriate records and evidence.” [NYT, Sept. 21, 2006]

Ultimately, Pinochet escaped a formal judgment of guilt for his many crimes, dying on the afternoon of Dec. 10, 2006, at the Military Hospital of Santiago from complications resulting from a heart attack.

As Pinochet took his last breath, the Bush Family, too, had reason for a sigh of relief.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at It's also available at, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'