Sunday, October 08, 2006
An Un-Mitigated Disaster: An Interview with Dave Lindorff
Award winning investigative journalist Dave Lindorff has been working in journalism for 30 years. He is a regular columnist for Counter Punch (www.counterpunch.com), he also frequently writes for Salon magazine In These Times (www.inthesetimes.org), as well as for Businessweek (where he also spent several years as a correspondent in Hong Kong for the magazine), and the Nation.
Lindorff is the author of four books including: This Can’t be happening! (Common Courage Press, 2004), Marketplace Medicine: The Rise of for-profit hospital chains (Bantam, 1992), and Killing Time: An Investigation into the death Row case of Mumia Abu-Jamal (Common Courage Press, 2003).
Lindorff is a two time Fulbright scholar and graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Lindorff has been uncovering the truth about the bush administrations lies and cover-ups. In his most recent book, co-authored by Barbra Olshansky: The Case for impeachment: The Legal Argument for Removing President George W. Bush from Office (St. Martins Press, 2006), Lindorff lays out the reasons why President Bush should be impeached.
I spoke with Dave Lindorff via phone about the unabated power of the Bush White House, the war in Iraq, and what awaits America in the future.
Christopher Brown: Friday September 29th, 2006 signaled the death of the writ of habeas corpus. By a vote of 65 to 34 the Senate approved the Military Commission Act; essentially saying the president of the United States can detain someone indefinitely. A press that has become obsessed with a representative and his emails with a congressional page overshadowed this extremely important piece of legislation. Why has the media missed another opportunity to shed light on the erosion of our constitutional rights, and instead decided to focus on instant message sex talk?
Dave Lindorff: Let me jump aside on that and give you an illustration of how absurd it’s become. I got invited to speak at one of the World Can’t Wait rallies, this one happened to be in Philly (Philadelphia). So, I was on the stage and on the very public space of mall in front of the municipal offices building right across the street from City Hall. It was permitted rally there were a couple hundred young people there. As I was talking I noticed that there was a camera crew pointing a video camera at me, and I thought that was good. But, I went down afterwards figuring, hustler that I am, that I’d get an extra interview. But when I got up to them I realized the camera didn’t have any station letters on it, like they all do, advertising themselves. So I asked the guys who they were from and they didn’t answer at all. And instead, they turned the camera right on my face from a few feet away; and I said “your police aren’t you?” and they sort of grinned but they didn’t answer me.
I subsequently got confirmation from a guy who is an inspector, who is the head of the Philly Counter-terrorism Strike Task Force. And it turns out that they were working for him! So here’s this crew from the police department, unmarked they had no badges or anything, and they had another guy with them taking still pictures with their very high class SLR camera, with a telephoto lens, taking pictures of the audience, taking pictures of the speakers, videotaping the speakers, videotaping the audience, and so I ask this guy, this inspector; “Why are you doing this; You gave a permit to this group; you obviously didn’t think that they are a terrorist group or you wouldn’t have given them a permit for this demonstration?” and he said; “Well, you know there are anarchists who come to these events and they, you know, sometimes break windows and cause problems.” So I said; “Why are you taping the speakers?”
You know I’m laughing but this is the City that gave us The Bill of Rights and here’s what they’re filming. And I asked him what was gonna happen to the tape and he says: “Oh we’re just gonna tape over it at the next demonstration. We don’t keep those” Yeah right!
And what was pointed out to me by somebody later is the Terrorism Strike Force in all the cities around the country, and most police forces have them now because we have all this home-land security money to do it, are linked directly into what are called joint strike forces with home-land security, federal home-land security. So, you know that these tapes are going to drift over into federal possession.
Now you put that together with Bush’s new powers to declare everybody who criticizes him as a supporter of terrorism, and lock them up without a key and without a lawyer and it gets pretty heavy. And yet, when I called up the Inquirer (The Philadelphia Inquirer), the fifth largest media market in the Country, and asked them first of all why they weren’t at the rally, and they didn’t have a good answer to that. And then I said; “Well let me talk to your police reporter.” Because the police were taping it illegally, spying on the speakers and the attendees. And when I talked to the police reporter, she had no interest at all she said; “Well they’re allowed to do that. If I were walking down the street and took a picture of you that would be legal.’ She didn’t see anything wrong with it, and there’s not a story that’s going to appear. She actually seemed annoyed when I suggested that she call the Counter Terrorism Strike Force to confirm that they were the one’s that were doing it.
So it’s a mentality, when I confronted the civil affairs officer on hand at the rally, they usually have one of those guys wearing a police badge standing around watching, and asked him about these guys he says; “Oh your so 70s it’s the 21stCentury get with it.”
That’s the mentality were in a world where all of this stuff is suppose to be normal. It is “1984.” And that’s why the newspapers don’t cover it; they don’t consider this stuff to be out of line at all.
CB: President George W. Bush has made over 850 signing statements to assert that he has the power to disobey newly enacted laws is “an integral part” of his “comprehensive strategy to strengthen and expand executive power” at the expense of the legislative branch. Is the president using these signing statements to slowly condition Congress into accepting the White House’s broad conception of presidential power, which includes a presidential right to ignore laws he believes are unconstitutional?
DL: Yes, he’s usurping the power of the Congress and the courts. You’re right; it’s a sort of gradual process of convincing the Congress that it’s a vestigial body, and the courts don’t have any right to second-guess him.
CB: This past Wednesday, Iraqi authorities said they have suspended an entire brigade of as many as 1,200 police offices for suspected connections to a mass kidnapping and murder; the current death toll is 2,736 U.S. troops since the beginning of the war in March 2003; 2,667 Iraqi civilians died in the month of September, and another 2,994 were injured; several retired generals have demanded that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld step down; more than half of Americans want a timetable set for withdrawal in Iraq; can it be said that it is better to cut and run than to stay and pray?
DL: Well of course it is, there’s nothing wrong with it. The term cut and run comes from the Navy and there’s nothing shameful about it at all. It actually dates back to when ships, sailing ships, in navies had anchors that had to be hauled up slowly by a bunch of sailors, and if a ship came under attack in the harbor, where it was a sitting duck, there was no time to get it moving or under sail by pulling up the anchor so they would slice the rope and let drift free so they could get the boat moving and make it a harder target to hit. And cutting and running meant getting the hell out of being a sitting duck. The alternative to cut and run is sitting duck, which is nothing to brag about and that is what basically are troops are in Iraq at this point. They’re sitting ducks. The reason we had high casualties this week is that Bush had to order them into Baghdad to put a damper on the civil war that we’ve started and so they’re getting killed in higher numbers because they’re sitting ducks. If anybody thinks that’s a good policy I’d like to hear them explain it.
CB: With the constant refrain of fear mongering that the Bush administration has thrust upon the American people, and the need to stay “ever vigilant,” “to fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them here,” are we in a run-up to a war with Iran or Syria?
DL: Oh I think it absolutely is. I have a piece in The Nation that I wrote about two weeks ago that looks at that. One little piece of it, which was the moving up of the deployment of an aircraft battle group in Norfolk, VA that is now going to be shipped early to arrive around late October off the coast of Iran.
That story came out about the same time as a cover story in Newsweek that said, a fleet of minesweepers was being sent to the Persian Gulf. Now think about that, there’s no reason to have minesweepers for the Iraq doesn’t have any navy and there’s no reason to have it for the Afghanistan conflict because Afghanistan is landlocked. So who are they sending minesweepers over for battle with? It’s Iran. Because, when we attack Iran there response is not going to be to fight us frontally, they’re not that stupid they’ll use alternative methods. One of the methods they have is to mine the Straits of Harmouz and shut down oil shipments out of the Persian Gulf. Because they won’t be able to ship any oil, so why would they want Saudi Arabia and Kuwait ship oil?
So that’s one thing they could do is destroy the Global economy. A second thing they could do is unleash the Shia militias, the Badda brigades, the Sadr brigades in Iran that are currently ignoring American troops and killing Sunnis, and have them turn on American troops. And when that happens there will be a lot higher casualties on Americans than there are now, probably on the number that we were getting in Vietnam. And yet, I think and I’m not the only one saying this I think Robert Shear said it Gary Hart has said it, Sam Gardner the retired Coronial from the naval military college has said it, it appears that the Bush administration and the Pentagon are going full tilt and are probably pass the point of no return on planning an aerial attack on Iran.
I think it is going to come before the election. I think that Bush is becoming increasingly desperate that he’s going to lose the House and be subject to impeachment. And I think that this guy is such a criminal that he’s liable to put us in this disastrous third war, even as we’re losing two, simply to protect his ass as president, as a criminal president. I think all signs are pointing in that direction.
CB: What about the report by the 16 U.S. spy agencies, in a National Intelligence Estimate, that was leaked to the press which said that; the U.S. invasion of Iraq has increased the overall terrorist threat by spawning a new generation of Islamic radicalism. After he initially refused to release the full report, President Bush reluctantly decided to release only portions of it; why will the President not release the full report?
DL: Clearly it’s going to be more devastating for him because these are his own agencies saying that he’s blown it. Its an un-mitigated disaster; half a trillion dollars, 2,700 American lives, and 100,000 Iraqi lives later their documenting the fact that he’s made one gigantic, colossal disaster.
It documents that he is the worse president in the history of the country, that’s what it does.
CB: Dave Lindorff, you and Barbra Olshansky co-authored a book entitled; “The Case For Impeachment: The legal argument for removing President George W. Bush from office.” If the Democrats take back the House and John Conyers is appointed chair of the judicial committee, will impeachment be seriously raised?
DL: I am absolutely convinced that we will have impeachment hearings. And the reason I say that is there are already 39 members of an impeachment caucus in the House, including Charlie Rangel, he’s one of the most powerful men in Congress and John Conyers too.
All it takes is one member of the House, one member of those 39 people to submit a bill of impeachment, and not only that there are people who are running for Congress now who are likely to win their seats, like a guy named Tribiano from Michigan, who’s out front in his race, and been campaigning on a platform that the first thing he’ll do, after taking office, is submit a bill of impeachment. There will definitely be people who will submit impeachment bills to a Democratic House; those bills will go to John Conyers judiciary committee; and they will lead to impeachment hearings. And the only question is whether the judiciary committee, under John Conyers, will vote themselves subpoena powers so that they can mandate that the low and middle level people who know the secrets of the White House, to come in and testify under oath under penalty of perjury. That’s what brought down Richard Nixon and that’s what I think will bring down George Bush.
CB: What is the solution to resolving the crisis in the Middle East and the terrorist threat in the United States, in your opinion?
DL: Well the terrorist threat is a joke. There is no terrorist threat that there has been around the World for decades. I mean, terrorism has been something that’s been with us; it’s been with the Spanish with the Basques; with the British with Northern Ireland; it’s been a fact of life in Palestine; it’s been a fact of life in Indonesia; it’s just something that happens.
I mean look at Oklahoma City, it only takes a couple of nuts with a chip on they’re shoulder to blow up a building and kill hundreds of people. You don’t destroy a 200-year old experiment in democracy because of that. And that’s where we’ve gone off the track.
The point is, it’s not about fighting terrorism, but is about rectifying the disaster we’ve created in the Middle East. Obviously the solution is that there has to be an equitable peaceful solution to the Palestine/Israel problem which means; there has to be two states in some fashion; there has to be a solution to the situation in Iraq because the U.S. has to get out of there and second of all reparations to that poor country for the damage we’ve caused; and at that point we can start to solve the problems that we’ve created there.