Joe Conason's Journal

Cheney does a bad Churchill imitation. Plus: Hitchens' Kissinger isn't any better.

By Salon Staff

Published August 26, 2002 6:08PM (EDT)

Now Cheney Plays Churchill
In his speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Dick Cheney pretended to address critics of the administration's "pre-emption" policy. He spoke as if this were World War II and he (or Bush) were facing down the forces of appeasement (who were mainly right-wing Republican politicians from the West back then).

The analogy doesn't hold anyway, among other reasons that by the time the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the (real) Axis of evil was swarming across Europe and Asia. Saddam is holed up in Baghdad these days, and none of his neighbors appear to consider him threatening. What the vice president neglected to do in Nashville was effectively rebut the salient arguments for a broad alliance, sanctioned by the U.N., and for a serious effort to resume weapons inspections before any invasion commences. That he chose instead to knock down straw "appeasers" suggests that the war faction has no adequate responses -- and that they plan to invade as soon as possible anyway.
[2:35 p.m. PDT, Aug. 26, 2002]

Sunday funnies
Despite his passion for right-wing causes over here, Christopher Hitchens still plays the "leftist" in the pages of various publications in his native land. And so he does again in the Sunday pages of the Observer, where he begins the challenging task of fabricating a "radical" argument in support of White House policy on Iraq. Such is the function of the leftish jester in any conservative royal court. It's rude of the jester to presume that his audience is composed of idiots, but that too is normal for Hitchens. Here he strives to line up all his "enemies" on the "pacifist" side of his murky argument, possibly annoying his fans on the American right by revising Henry Kissinger's position for the sake of his own self-image.

Even more bizarrely, Hitchens claims that "the Israeli hard-liners are skeptical also," as if the Likudnik hawks in Washington and Jerusalem weren't the loudest advocates of unilateral invasion. Anyone as confused about this aspect as Christopher might consult the revealing story in the Nation by Jason Vest.

A more coherent position was delineated on Sunday by James Baker. Let's take a head count: Powell, Scowcroft, Schwarzkopf, Baker ... when will the parade of Poppy's surrogates end? The public scolding of Dubya by his Dad's men is looking more and more like an episode of "Father Knows Best." It could get even worse, should ol' Bar decide to wade in and grab Junior by the ear. But Bush's legal advisors are telling him he can plunge into full-scale war without allies, without the United Nations -- and without so much as a nod from Congress. That's one more page of the Constitution in the shredder.

Sunday's Times also brought the paper of record up to date on one of the greatest lingering scandals of 20th-century law enforcement: the career of John Edgar Hoover. Over the past month or so, freedom of information releases have revealed how Hoover insisted on promoting organized-crime killers as Bureau informants and protecting favored mobsters. In one telexed memo, this criminal bureaucrat blandly commended his agents for their role in the murder convictions of four men they knew were innocent. Two died in prison and two others are now suing the federal government for half a billion dollars. The only reason that at least one was not executed is that Massachusetts outlawed the death penalty. We already know that the conservative argument that capital punishment isn't applied to the innocent is false. Now we know that a conservative hero framed four men and almost sent one of them to the electric chair. The only question is why this story didn't make it to Page 1.
[11:07 a.m. PDT, Aug. 26, 2002]

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